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Naval Projects

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment he has made of the effect of the collapse of the Common New-Generation Frigate programme on future European collaborative naval projects; [100758]

Mr. Hoon: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Defence Procurement Agency. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to the Hon. Member.

Letter from Sir Robert Walmsley to Mr. Mike Hancock, dated 15 December 1999:

    The total programme cost for the 12 currently planned Type 45 warships including their missiles is approximately £6Bn. This includes approximately £1.2Bn for the development, design and build of the first of class ship and £1Bn for the development and initial production of the Principal Anti Air Missile System (PAAMS). The balance of £3.8Bn contains funding for further missile procurement, allows for the incremental acquisition of the combat system. The ship design will incorporate significant growth margins to allow for this incremental capability development. A typical cost per ship is thus difficult to asses but the average is expected to be within a target cost of about £270M, excluding missiles.

    You also asked what assessment had been made of the effect of the collapse of the Common New Generation (CNGF) Programme. The tri-national project office, before it closed on 29 October 1999, provided an assessment of the lessons learned to each of the three partner nations. These reported lessons are being carefully considered and we will be compiling our own UK national lessons learned paper in order to ensure that they are applied appropriately to other collaborative projects. At this stage, I would assess the key lessons to be:

    a. The operational requirement should be agreed in detail, and be confirmed as affordable against agreed budgets. This information (on requirement and cost) should be communicated to Industry at an early stage to avoid over-ambitious performance specifications being set at the outset that have subsequently to be adjusted (with consequent delay) as financial realities are brought to bear;

    b. early in the programme, a credible industrial organisation must be established which meets the requirements of industry and of all particular governments. For the UK, this means the appointment of an effective prime contractor not a joint venture company;

    c. work share arrangements should not be allowed to distort industrial management of the programme. The involvement of trans-national companies and OCCAR are likely to be helpful in ensuring work share issues are resolved efficiently and economically.

    Applying these principles proved intractable in the context of HORIZON but was possible with the PAAMS Anti-Air Warfare missile component of the CNGF programme and you will be aware that a Development and Production contract for PAAMS was successfully placed last August on behalf of the three nations. This illustrates that the HORIZON outcome need not inhibit successful collaboration in Europe in future.

Missile Assessment

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the advantages of (a) the Meteor missiles made by Matra BAe Dynamics and (b) its US rival; and if he will make a statement. [100597]

15 Dec 1999 : Column: 213W

Mr. Kilfoyle: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Defence Procurement Agency. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from Sir Robert Walmsley to Mr. Paul Marsden, dated 15 December 1999:

    We are currently evaluating the Best and Final Offers we have received in response to the above competition to satisfy the RAF's requirement for a BVRAAM for Eurofighter. The evaluation will take into account a wide range of factors including missile performance, cost, industrial factors and overall value for money and will set out the respective advantages of each option. It remains our intention to announce the outcome of the competition in the new year.

RAID System

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the RAF are participating in the Rangeless Airborne Instrumented Debriefing Systems mission. [101659]

Mr. Kilfoyle: There are no RAF Rangeless Airborne Instrumented Debriefing Systems (RAIDS) 'missions' as such involving RAF personnel. However, the RAF has procured eight RAIDS pods and two ground stations and is conducting a trail of their utility. A wider procurement of RAIDS pods is in process. A number of RAF personnel across a number of units and organisations are involved in the trial but none of them is solely assigned to RAIDS.

Family Contact

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what provisions have been made to ensure family contact on 25 December 1999, 31 December 1999 and 1 January 2000 for those members of the armed forces who will be separated from their families on those dates. [101728]

Mr. Hoon: We recognise the importance of Service personnel away from home being able to keep in touch, particularly during holiday periods. To this end, all personnel deployed on eligible operations are given 20 minutes worth of free welfare telephone calls home each week. In the past, this facility has been provided using a mix of private and military services, and, whenever operational constraints have allowed, has also been made available to personnel to allow them to make additional telephone calls home at their own expense. All personnel deployed away from home over the Christmas and New Year period will have access to this minimum level of service, either as their primary means of calling home or as a fallback when other systems are not working.

We are currently in the process of deploying a new communication system, called Project WELCOME, which is being introduced to give personnel who are deployed away from home on operations guaranteed access to a welfare telephone, whatever the operational situation. This new system will be fully operational in the Gulf by Christmas and will be introduced into other theatres as soon as the necessary equipment is available and appropriate contractual arrangements can be made.

15 Dec 1999 : Column: 214W

In addition to this, to cope with the increased demand over the Christmas and New Year, we have:

    Introduced 'electronic blueys' into the Falkland Islands, following a successful trial in the Balkans.

    Arranged for the deployment of seven extra satellite phones into Kosovo.

    Negotiated with The Sun newspaper, BT and Siemens to provide a video conferencing link which will enable troops to book a 10-minute slot free of charge to link up with their families at home and talk on camera. The service will operate in Kosovo during the period 22 to the 26 of December and in Bosnia during the period 29 December to the 2 of January. It is anticipated that approximately 1,000 troops in each theatre will be able to take advantage of this service.

    Agreed with BT to provide all troops serving in isolated locations throughout the Balkans who are having to use the BT satellite phones with a free five minute phone card valid for use on or after the 25 of December.

    Agreed with Cable and Wireless that all single and married unaccompanied personnel serving in the Falkland Islands will be given 20 minutes of welfare telephone calls free.

Ministerial Meetings

Mr. David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what arrangements (a) he and (b) Ministers in his Department have put in place for the taking and keeping of minutes of meetings between Ministers and people outside his Department. [102376]

Mr. Kilfoyle: Decisions on the format of minutes of meetings will depend on the nature of the discussion.

Departmental Employees (Ethnic Minorities)

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of the total workforce in his Department is of ethnic minority origin; and what steps he is taking to encourage the employment of people from the ethnic minorities in his Department. [102737]

Mr. Kilfoyle: Considerable efforts are being made in my Department to increase the proportion of ethnic minority staff we employ from our current level of 1.5 per cent. of the total civilian workforce. Our longer term aim is to reflect the diversity of MOD's recruitment catchment populations in our total civilian workforce. To this end our outreach work includes: establishing links with local racial equality councils and community organisations; targeted advertising; participating in careers fairs aimed principally at the ethnic minorities; sharing experience with like-minded employers through membership of Race for Opportunity; and providing work placements for ethnic minority graduates in association with the Windsor Fellowship. Internally, ethnic minority representation goals have been set and specific recruitment goals are being developed for recruiting areas which take account of relocations and re-organisations, and the representation of the ethnic minorities among the working population in catchment communities. Work is also underway, in conjunction with the Services, to improve the MOD's image as an equal opportunities employer in respect of both civilian staff and Armed Forces personnel.

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