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Opposition Policies

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) pursuant to the answer of the Minister for the Cabinet Office of 11 December 2000, Official Report, columns 47-48W, what costings of (a) Liberal Democrat and (b) Conservative Party policies his Department has (i) undertaken and (ii) co-ordinated in the previous 12 months; and if he will place copies of such costings in the Library; [146673]

Mr. Straw: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith), on 14 February 2001, Official Report, column 183W.


Serco Contracts

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the contracts that exist between Serco and the Department, its executive agencies and associated public bodies; and if he will list those which have existed in the last three years. [151350]

Dr. Moonie: The information is not readily available in the form requested. However, since 1 April 1998, the Ministry of Defence has placed 107 contracts with Serco

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companies, of which 69 are extant. I will write separately to my hon. Friend with a list of such contracts and will place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House. The information sought on the number of contracts placed by the Department's executive agencies and associated public bodies with Serco companies is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Mustard Gas

Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what evidence his Department has (a) collated and (b) evaluated regarding the burning of mustard gas at military establishments and its effect upon neighbouring civilian populations. [148906]

Dr. Moonie: Following the decision by the United Kingdom to abandon its offensive chemical weapons capability in 1956 there was a requirement to dispose of the stockpile of the chemical blister agent mustard which had been built up at the time of World War II.

In accordance with the practice of the day these stockpiles were burnt in either open pits or incinerators. No evaluations were made at the time of the effects on neighbouring civilian populations. However, the RAF has conducted extensive research into its historical disposal of chemical weapons.

Today any historical chemical weapons which are recovered are taken to CBD Porton Down for safe disposal. Part of the disposal process of any of these weapons which contain mustard includes incineration. This is undertaken in an on-site incinerator which meets all the standards set by the Environment Agency.

Depleted Uranium

Valerie Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what checks are carried out on (a) batches of depleted uranium raw material and finished ammunition and (b) imported ammunition; [150081]

Mr. Spellar: It has long been known in the scientific community, the nuclear industry and by the Ministry of Defence that depleted uranium (DU) might contain minute traces of isotopes other than U-238, U-235 and U-234.

Two types of DU based ammunition are in-service with British Forces: the UK manufactured 120mm anti-armour round and the US manufactured 20mm RN Phalanx round.

My Department procures all ammunition to given specifications. It is the manufacturers' responsibility to establish the suitability of raw materials used in manufacture.

Phalanx ammunition is sold to the UK via the US Department of Defence (DOD). All of DOD's DU comes from three Department of Energy (DOE) gaseous diffusion plants: Paducah, Kentucky; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Portsmouth, Ohio. All three of these plants received recycled uranium that contained trace amounts of transuranics.

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RO buy their DU from Starmet Corporation who in turn buy it from DOE. They have no practical way of determining exactly where the input material came from. They believe that it was mostly from Paducah, Kentucky, but it was all produced at their plants at Concord and Barnwell in the US.

Starmet have found traces of transuranic elements in their DU. However, the amounts were so small that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission simply amended Starmet's licence to accommodate the traces. Given that the amounts of contaminates are so small, and pose no additional risk to health, it is not considered worthwhile to try to remove them.

On receipt by my Department, and periodically thereafter, all ammunition, including that containing DU, is subject to inspection in accordance with stringent guidelines. Where appropriate, in-service surveillance, proof and maintenance firing is undertaken to ensure that the ammunition continues to meet the required quality standards throughout its life. Before issue for use, DU ammunition is inspected, and the radiation dose rates are monitored to ensure that it meets transportation criteria. DU ammunition is also subject to regular dose rate monitoring in accordance with Departmental procedures while in storage depots.

There are no specific checks undertaken which determine whether or not the DU contained in UK in-service ammunition is contaminated with other radioactive materials. However, any significant increase in the quantity of high activity radionuclides would be detected by our routine radiation monitoring.

In view of the recent public interest in DU contamination by other radioactive materials, my Department intends to confirm the data provided by the manufacturer which was published on 7 February 2001, Official Report, columns 519-22W. We will analyse the composition of CHARM 3 ammunition using an independent laboratory, and publish the results.

Sierra Leone

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many of the personnel who have contracted malaria as a result of deployment to Sierra Leone did not receive anti-malarial treatment until they were in Sierra Leone; and if he will make a statement. [150672]

Dr. Moonie: As of 21 February, there were 113 confirmed cases of malaria among Service personnel who deployed to Sierra Leone. On the basis of the investigations undertaken by my Department, of these 113 cases, there are no more than 10 personnel who did not receive their anti-malarial treatment until after arriving in Sierra Leone. In all but one case this was as a result of their deploying at very short notice. Within 24 hours of these personnel arriving in theatre, however, the French drug Savarine was procured locally and distributed. Steps were immediately taken to procure Mefloquine, the preferred anti-malarial treatment, from the UK and all personnel taking Savarine transferred to Mefloquine within four days. The other individual was temporarily absent from his unit on duty just prior to deploying and missed the issue of Mefloquine. He was issued with Mefloquine as soon as the problem came to light between two to five days after his arrival in theatre.

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No anti-malarial drug is 100 per cent. effective and the degree of protection can be subject to a wide range of factors; for example, the geographical location, the season, and the activities undertaken by the individuals concerned. Therefore, as well as anti-malarial drugs, other types of protection and environmental controls are used. Even with such precautions, however, malaria is not wholly preventable.

Tank Fleets

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 8 February 2001, Official Report, column 631W and his subsequent letter, (1) if he will list the serviceability targets for each year from 1995 to 2001 inclusive for (a) Warrior variants, (b) Challenger 1, (c) Challenger 2, (d) Saxon variants, (e) AVF 430 variants, (f) Sabre, (g) Striker, (h) Scimitar, (i) Spartan, (j) Sultan, (k) Samaritan and (l) Samson; and if he will make a statement; [151037]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 26 February 2001]: The decision to change the system of reporting equipment availability was taken in May last year. The change was made following the adoption of the Formation Readiness Cycle which places different units in the Army at different readiness states. Some of these states require equipment to be available immediately (ie capable of undertaking the task to which it has been allocated), while for others a much longer lead time will be acceptable.

The serviceability targets for the equipment types listed by the right hon. and learned Member, which reflect this change in the reporting system, are shown in the table.


Vehicle type Serviceability target 1995-2000Immediate availability target 2000 to date(4)
Warrior Variants7575
Challenger 1(5)8080
Challenger 2(6)8080
Saxon Variants7070

(4) This target is set by the Equipment Managers and applies to all vehicles regardless of the readiness state of the Unit to which they are allocated.

(5) Challenger 1 withdrawal programme is almost complete.

(6) Challenger 2 was introduced into service in 1998.

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