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Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty

34. Mr. Gapes: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the policy of the Government on the future of the anti-ballistic missile treaty. [143748]

Mr. Hoon: The UK is not a signatory of the ABM Treaty. We recognise that the Treaty was signed in different times, but appreciate the support it has provided for strategic stability.

The Treaty has been amended in the past. Further amendments would of course be a matter for the US and Russia.

Defence Medical Services

35. Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what further action he is taking to improve Defence Medical Services. [143750]

Dr. Moonie: Following the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) we provided additional funds to address manpower and equipment shortfalls in the Defence Medical Services (DMS). We are continuing to implement these measures and the overall new strategy for the DMS as announced by my right hon. Friend the Lord Robertson the then Secretary of State for Defence on 14 December 1998, Official Report, columns 328-29W. Together these encompass a wide range of initiatives including, for example, the new Centre for Defence Medicine which is to open in Birmingham in April. Further measures to improve recruitment and retention of DMS personnel are being developed, and additional proposals may, of course, emerge from the quinquennial review of the Defence medical agencies that I announced on 15 December 2000, Official Report, columns 276-77W.

NATO Procurement

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of defence procurement co-operation within NATO. [143722]

Dr. Moonie: The UK is currently involved in over 50 equipment programmes in co-operation with our NATO allies. We recognise the importance of co-operation, and are engaged in a number of initiatives

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aimed at improving the management of such programmes, as well as identifying further opportunities to co-operate where it makes military and economic sense to do so.

Civilian Staff

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of civilian staff his Department and its agencies employ at locations in the north-east of England. [143736]

Dr. Moonie: As at 1 October 2000 the Ministry of Defence had 0.5 per cent. of its civilian and agency employees at locations in the north-east of England.

US Defense Secretary

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he last discussed Britain's military relationship with the United States with his American counterpart. [143724]

Mr. Hoon: I last spoke to Secretary of Defense Cohen at the NATO Defence Ministerial meetings on 6 December 2000. We discussed various issues, notably European defence.

RAF Museum Hendon

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future development of the RAF Museum Hendon. [143732]

Dr. Moonie: The RAF Museum Trustees have substantial development plans for the Hendon site. These include the provision of extensive additional accommodation to house their growing collection of aircraft and further improvements to the Museum's educational facilities. These plans recently received generous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and continue to have the full backing of the Ministry of Defence.

In addition, the MOD has now been able to provide funds to allow free admission for children and pensioners and a reduced entry fee for adults from later in the year.

Private Security Industry

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the private security industry is used to guard MOD installations; and if he will make a statement. [144857]

Dr. Moonie: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer my hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces gave to the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) on 2 March 2000, Official Report, columns 328-29W. Private security companies are used on certain unarmed guarding tasks by the Ministry of Defence. A number of locations where they are employed are sites controlled by Defence Estates and awaiting disposal; at these sites the role of commercial guards is to prevent vandalism and to control access on health and safety grounds. Where private security companies are employed at occupied sites they form part of an integrated guard force appropriate to the establishment concerned. Their employment is governed by guidance to ensure that their performance meets the Department's security standards, and in accordance with

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an undertaking given by Ministers to the HCDC in 1995 that 75 per cent. of the Department's unarmed civilian guarding would be regained by the MOD Guard Service.

Depleted Uranium

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will initiate a programme of mass screening for traces of depleted uranium poisoning for all UK soldiers who served in the Gulf War and who served or are serving in Bosnia and Kosovo; and if he will make a statement. [144722]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 11 January 2001]: I refer my hon. Friend to the statement made by my hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces on 9 January 2001, Official Report, columns 877-79.

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what medical evidence he has received on the effects on the human body of radiation from non-soluble ceramic, alpha-emitting, depleted uranium lodged in the lungs. [144738]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 11 January 2001]: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Valerie Davey) on 12 December 2000, Official Report, column 70W, and to the statement by my hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces on 9 January 2001, Official Report, columns 877-79.

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had with his NATO counterparts about the health effects of depleted uranium on military personnel and civilians during the wars in the Balkans. [144737]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 11 January 2001]: None. However, the Ministry of Defence is aware of concerns among NATO countries in Europe of the potential health effects of depleted uranium on military personnel who served in the Balkans. Our response to these concerns was set out in the Minister for the Armed Forces' statement to the House on 9 January 2001, Official Report, columns 877-79.

The North Atlantic Council met on 10 January to consider the possible environmental health risks associated with the use of depleted uranium munitions in the Balkans. After that meeting, the Secretary General affirmed that NATO allies are committed to ensuring the health and safety of their Service personnel and to avoiding any ill-effects for the civil population and personnel of non-governmental organisations as a result of NATO military operations. Allies agreed that NATO should continue to cooperate fully with investigations by nations or multinational organisations on the possible effects of exposure; to produce information on the use of depleted uranium munitions during Operations Deny Flight and Deliberate Force in 1994 and 1995; to consult fully with all present and past NATO SFOR and KFOR contributing countries, with a first briefing to be given at a regular meeting of troop contributors on 12 January; to make available to each other, and more widely, information on any health risks associated with the use of depleted uranium munitions; and to establish a working

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group, which will include participation by non-NATO contributors to KFOR and SFOR, to act as a clearing house for the exchange of information.

The Ministry of Defence welcomes the NATO measures outlined above.

Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many depleted uranium rounds have been fired (a) by the Navy on operational sea training from their Phalanx and Goalkeeper weapons systems and (b) by the Army at Lulworth and Bovington. [145225]

Mr. Spellar: The Royal Navy has fired 270 rounds of DU ammunition on operational sea training so far this year. Historic information on DU ammunition firings is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. In the Royal Navy only the Phalanx gun system has a DU ammunition variant and no DU ammunition is held for Goalkeeper.

DU ammunition is not fired by the Army on the ranges at Lulworth and Bovington.

Dr. Jack Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence at which of his Department's test locations in the United Kingdom the firing of depleted uranium projectiles has taken place; how many test firings have been made at each location; what arrangements are in place for the protection and monitoring of people and the environment; and if he will make a statement. [144771]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 11 January 2001]: The majority of test firing of depleted uranium (DU) projectiles has been undertaken at two locations in the UK. These are at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) range, Eskmeals and the Army's Kirkcudbright training range. My answer to the previous question in respect of Eskmeals refers. Operations at Kirkcudbright, which commenced in 1981, are currently undertaken by staff from DERA Eskmeals. The current programme is expected to be completed by the end of this year. In addition, some experimental firing of depleted uranium ammunition took place between 1988 and 1990 at the, now, DERA range at West Freugh. Ammunition from Phalanx was fired into Luce Bay to examine ricochet effects. Indoor firing also took place between 1982 and 1983 at the former Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) site at Foulness, which since 1999 has been part of the DERA Shoeburyness site. The building in which the firing took place was designed to prevent any escape of particulate DU into the atmosphere. It is no longer in use and was decontaminated in 1997.

The number of test firings that has taken place is as follows:

Rounds
Eskmeals3,246
Kirkcudbright(14)6,907
West Freugh315
Foulness(15)200

(14) To date

(15) Approximately


Statutory regulations govern the use of DU on ranges in the UK. These are the Radioactive Substances Act 1993, which controls radioactive waste discharges to the environment and the Ionising Radiations Regulations

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(IRR) 1999, which are part of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and enforced by the Health and Safety Executive. The work undertaken by DERA fully meets the provisions of this legislation.

All staff involved in the depleted uranium firing programme were (and are) fully briefed on the safety aspects of working with DU before commencing work with this material. Although there is no legal requirement to do so, DERA local policy dictates that all staff working with DU are designated Classified Workers under both the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 and preceding legislation. As such, staff are subject to a 'pre- employment' medical examination and are kept under surveillance by a medical practitioner appointed by the Health and Safety Executive.

Exposure of individuals to ionising radiation is monitored by the use of thermoluminescent dosemeters supplied by DERA Radiation Protection Services (DRPS). Exposure to aerosol DU oxides is monitored by the use of personal air samplers. In addition, all members of staff working with depleted uranium in any calendar month are required to provide a sample of urine for uranium analysis at an independent laboratory. This is augmented by the use of the whole body monitoring facilities.

Extensive environmental monitoring of the Eskmeals and Kirkcudbright sites has been carried out and annual reports produced since the start of the firing programme, originally by the Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston. In 1993 WS Atkins Limited were commissioned to produce an independent Environmental Impact Assessment for both sites. This report concluded that activities at both locations produced a negligible impact on the local environment. It also made certain recommendations which were subsequently adopted for the ongoing environmental monitoring programme, now overseen by the DERA Radiation Protection Service (DRPS). The monitoring programme includes a strict, long-term environmental sampling routine in which checks are performed on many indicators such as grasses, streams, shellfish etc. None of the samples has ever indicated any concentration above the background level except for contamination in soil around firing and target sites.

Copies of the annual reports are in the Members' Library at the House of Commons and are circulated to local Councils, MPs, and Environmental Protection Agencies.

Dr. Jack Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the firing of depleted uranium projectiles first took place at Eskmeals; whether such tests have been discontinued; what independent environmental monitoring takes place at this site; if the results are published; and if he will make a statement. [144772]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 11 January 2001]: Depleted uranium projectiles were fired into a semi- enclosed Butt at VJ Battery on the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) range, Eskmeals (formerly part of the MOD's Directorate of Proof and Experimental Establishments) during the period between March 1981 and September 1995 when firing ceased.

Extensive environmental monitoring has been carried out and annual reports produced since the start of the firing programme, originally by the Atomic Weapons

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Establishment Aldermaston. In 1993 WS Atkins Ltd. were commissioned to produce an independent Environmental Impact Assessment for DERA Eskmeals. The report of the assessment concluded that activities at the site produced a negligible impact on the local environment. It also made certain recommendations which were subsequently adopted for the ongoing environmental monitoring programme, now overseen by the DERA Radiation Protection Services. Copies of the annual reports of this monitoring programme are placed in the Members' Library at the House of Commons and are circulated to local councils, MPs, and Environmental Protection Agencies.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will publish the health and safety procedures for those operatives who are dealing with spent depleted uranium shells and munitions boxes that have came into contact with depleted uranium (a) in theatres of action and (b) in domestic ordnance facilities. [145134]

Mr. Spellar: I will write to my hon. Friend and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.


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