12 Mar 2001 : Column: 409W

Written Answers to Questions

Monday 12 March 2001


Joint Service Defence Council

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 8 February 2001, Official Report, column 631W, on the Joint Service Defence Council, what factors led him to authorise the withdrawal of JS DC1 88/00. [152852]

Mr. Spellar: I authorised the temporary withdrawal of Joint Service Defence Council instruction 88/00, pending a review, as a result of concerns that the Ministry of Defence's policy towards membership of societies such as the Freemasons might not be fully compliant with the European convention on human rights.

Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the special adviser working for him will relinquish his post on the dissolution of Parliament. [149320]

Mr. Hoon: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on 13 February 2001, Official Report, column 130W.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the progress of the private-public partnership within DERA. [152775]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 8 March 2001]: I refer my hon. Friend to the announcement I made in the House on 24 July 2000, Official Report, columns 777-79 about our decision to implement the core competence model for the DERA public-private partnership. Under core competence, around three-quarters of the current DERA organisation will be turned into a company, referred to as NewDERA. For strategic reasons, the remainder will be retained within the Ministry of Defence to carry out functions that could not appropriately be transferred to the private sector.

Work to implement the PPP has intensified over recent months and significant progress has been made on separating DERA into two new organisations. An amended trading fund order, entitled the draft Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Trading Fund Order 2001, was laid before Parliament on 17 January 2001. Operational separation of DERA is planned by 1 April 2001. Legal separation follows on 1 July after a period of shadow operation to test the organisations and their infrastructures. We will then carry out the remaining work necessary to prepare NewDERA for sale.

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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the extent to which DERA has met its targets in relation to payment of its sub-contractors; and what steps are being taken to improve the timeliness of payments. [152772]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 8 March 2001]: During the year 1999-2000, as reported in the annual report for that year, DERA paid in excess of 97 per cent. of invoices within the agreed credit period on receipt of an undisputed invoice or date of confirmation of receipt of an acceptable service. The payment process is monitored and DERA is currently exploring the possibility of introducing a fast-track payment system for the large number of low value invoices that it processes and making payments more frequently. DERA currently makes payments twice a week, once by cheque and once by bank automated clearing system (BACS).

Private Simon Jeans

Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the verdict reached by the Croatian court on the killing of Private Simon Jeans in Split, Croatia, in September 1996; what representations he has made to his Croatian counterpart regarding the killing; and if he will make a statement. [153176]

Dr. Moonie: Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Private Simon Jeans, it would, of course, be wholly inappropriate for this Government to attempt to intervene in the judicial process of another country. We have to recognise that the Croatian judiciary, like our own, is independent and not subject to external pressure or direction.

We did, however, make it clear to the Croatian Government, at a senior level, that the case was important and that we were anxious it should be handled both properly and swiftly. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe and the then Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Charles Guthrie, all raised the subject, in addition to the regular dialogue conducted between the Embassy and Defence staff in Zagreb and Split and the Croatian authorities.

Ministerial Visits

Sir Brian Mawhinney: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the Ministers in his Department who visited any of the constituencies which are in the Peterborough Unitary Authority area between 1 January 2000 and 14 February 2001, indicating in each case (a) the date of the visit, (b) the constituencies included in the visit and (c) if the local hon. Member met the Minister. [151022]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 26 February 2001]: The Minister for the Armed Forces visited North-West Cambridgeshire on 31 March 2000 to meet the right hon. Member. No other Defence Ministers have visited constituencies which are in the Peterborough unitary authority between 1 January 2000 and 14 February 2001.

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Lost Medical Records

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions the medical records of a member of the armed services have been declared lost in each year since 1992. [151811]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence does not maintain a central list of lost records. Duplicates of some of the documents contained in Service personnel personal medical folders are held centrally and over the last four years 3,722 requests have been made for copies of these records. Of this total, 95 records could not be traced. In addition, hospital records are forwarded to a central repository, which over the last five years has been unable to trace 429 records from 7,227 requests made. Requests for duplicate copies of medical records do not necessarily indicate that the originals are lost: they may be held in another location or an additional copy may be needed.

Depleted Uranium

Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much depleted uranium is unaccounted for or missing as a result of the malfunction of the test rig which was placed on the sea bed at the Dundrennan range in 2000. [151845]

Mr. Spellar: The depleted uranium samples attached to the test rig damaged by heavy seas in the Solway Firth, and which are now missing, amount to 20.76kg. This is the equivalent of four depleted uranium rounds. If not recovered in a diving exercise planned for the week beginning 5 March, this material will oxidise and disperse in exactly the same way as the existing penetrator rounds, causing a negligible increase above the level of uranium occurring naturally in sea water. Since 1982, when firing of DU rounds into the sea began, there has been no detectable increase in uranium levels in samples of sea water, sea-bed sediment and shellfish taken in the area.

Mr. Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many depleted uranium shells were fired into the Irish Sea in each of the last 10 years. [152629]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 6 March 2001]: No depleted uranium (DU) shells have been fired into the Irish sea in the last 10 years. DU projectiles are fired from Kirkcudbright into the Solway Firth and the numbers fired over the last 10 years are as follows:

YearNumbers fired

(1) to date

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National Missile Defence

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if it is the Government's policy that it remains premature to make any judgment on a proposal for National Missile Defence until such a proposal has been made. [151857]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 7 March 2001]: We share the United States concerns about missile proliferation and we recognise the role that missile defence can play as one part of a strategy to deal with it. We have made it clear that we would want to respond helpfully should the US make a specific request, but until any such proposal has been made it does remain premature to make a specific judgment.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations have been received from BAE Systems and other British companies regarding participation in US National Missile Defence. [152668]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 8 March 2001]: None.

Defence Medical Services

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 15 February 2001, Official Report, column 192W, on Defence Medical Services, if he will list each level of medical downgrading used in the medical downgrading categorisation system stating in each case (a) the nature of duty restriction, (b) the nature of geographical restriction and (c) the level of deployability; and if he will make a statement. [151807]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 7 March 2001]: The various levels of medical downgrading used in the services medical downgrading categorisation systems are set out in detail in service publications. These are currently under review and a revised version is expected to be finalised shortly. As the level of detail involved would require an answer of considerable length, I will write to the right hon. and learned Member and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

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