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Missile Defence

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions the Government have undertaken with NATO member states about the integration of NATO missile defence research with US plans to deploy a missile defence system. [10967]

Mr. Hoon: No such discussions have taken place. The NATO feasibility studies for theatre missile defence, which started in July 2001 and will take 18 months to complete, are looking at options for protecting NATO forces. They are different from plans for a limited missile defence for the United States.

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the Government are intending to participate in the US's expressed plan to develop a missile defence to protect the US and its allies. [10965]

Mr. Hoon: The President of the United States has made clear that he wants the US's friends and allies to be protected against the potential ballistic missile threat. But no specific proposals have been made. We have a long-standing dialogue with the US on missile defence, and are ready to discuss any specific proposals they might make.

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the Government's policy is on the development of a ballistic missile defence shield. [11076]

Mr. Hoon: It remains premature to decide on acquiring a ballistic missile defence capability for the UK or our deployed forces. This is based on our current assessment of the threat, the rapidity with which defensive technologies are changing, and the need to address the threat through a range of measures. Our options for the future remain open.

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what joint US-UK research projects are under development in support of the US missile defence plans; and if he will place an unclassified list of the projects in the Library. [10968]

Mr. Hoon: Joint US/UK research projects in support of missile defence are undertaken under the auspices of the 1985 UK-US Strategic Defence Initiative Memorandum of Understanding. A list of the projects concerned was given in the answer I gave on 26 March 2001, Official Report, column 526W, to the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Mr. Taylor). No further agreements have been signed.

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Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether (a) US and (b) UK policy on missile defence has changed since 11 September. [11778]

Mr. Hoon: UK policy on missile defence is unchanged. The United States Administration has made it clear that it remains committed to the deployment of a limited missile defence system for the United States, but they have not yet decided exactly what sort of system they will seek to deploy.


Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many enemy lock-ons have been detected by British aircraft over Afghan airspace. [11015]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 29 October 2001]: None.

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what stocks of cluster bombs are held by UK armed forces in the Afghan theatre of conflict. [11434]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 30 October 2001]: There are currently a number of BL/RB 755 type cluster munitions on board RFA Fort Victoria, which is in the Afghan theatre of conflict. These weapons are for use by the GR7 Harrier aircraft, which is not deployed with the task force. There are, therefore, currently no plans for their use.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the total cost is of Exercise Saif Sareea II; how much the Government have spent in total in its operations against Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden; and if he will make a statement. [11965]

Mr. Hoon: Our most recent estimate of the cost of Exercise Saif Sareea II is around £90 million. We are confident that when all bills are finally presented, the actual cost will be within that estimate. With respect to Operations in Afghanistan, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 23 October 2001, Official Report, column 114W.

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make it his policy not (a) to authorise and (b) to condone the use of cluster bombs in Afghanistan. [12296]

Mr. Hoon: Cluster bombs are legitimate weapons that have not been prohibited by any Treaty or Convention. Those used in Afghanistan contain bomblets designed to detonate on impact and to destroy buildings and vehicles. They are not designed as anti-personnel weapons and do not contain any landmines. They are the most effective weapon against certain targets. The coalition will continue to use them, with discretion and proportionality, against legitimate and appropriate terrorist and military targets.

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what criteria are used to settle targets for bombing in Afghanistan; what definition of fixed military target is used; how many fixed military targets have been (a) identified and (b) attacked; how many such targets have been attacked more than once; and what assessment he has made of unintended damage to (i) property and (ii) people resulting from such attacks. [12245]

Mr. Hoon: It is not UK policy to comment in detail on targeting issues. Attacks are limited strictly to military objectives, including those objects which by their nature,

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location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralisation, in the circumstance ruling at the time, offer a definite military advantage. Every effort is made to avoid incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects when selecting targets for attack.

As of 31 October, the total number of targets attacked is somewhat in excess of 100, of which around one half have been attacked more than once.

Following an attack on a target, Battle Damage Assessment is conducted to establish the success of that attack. Although we investigate all claims carefully, it is impossible to make a precise assessment of exactly how many civilians may have been killed or injured as a result of coalition action. Painstaking efforts are taken to minimise any unintended injury or damage but, regrettably, on occasion mistakes will happen and where we know this has happened, the coalition has said so publicly. However, we are clear that Taliban reports of civilian casualties are grossly exaggerated.

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what safeguards will be put in place to protect (a) UK and other military personnel and (b) civilians from hazardous residues from depleted uranium in the current conflict in Afghanistan. [12184]

Mr. Hoon: Depleted uranium-based ammunition has not been used in current operations in Afghanistan. We are not aware of any plans for it to be used in future.

In the event that depleted uranium ammunition were to be used in Afghanistan and that UK service personnel might come into contact with it, appropriate guidelines would be issued to ensure that the already low risks to health were minimised.

A great deal of information on depleted uranium has already been put into the public domain. Should the need arise, we would discuss with coalition partners and civil agencies what information needs to be made available to the Afghan civilian population. Regrettably, the activities of the Taliban authorities in restricting the flow of information into Afghanistan could make this unnecessarily difficult for UN and other agencies to achieve.

US Domestic Preparedness Programme

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 24 October 2001, Official Report, column 242W, on the US Domestic Preparedness Programme, what aspects of US homeland security he plans to implement in the United Kingdom. [10964]

Mr. Hoon: Following the events of 11 September, the Government embarked on a wide ranging review of all their established contingency plans to counter terrorism and manage the circumstances in the UK and the threat to UK security. While elements of the US response to terrorism could be relevant to the UK, our domestic security posture reflects the geography of the UK and the threat of terrorism here which are different from those of the US.

We are conducting work, as I informed the House on 4 October, to ensure that we have the right concepts, force structures and capabilities in place to deal with

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asymmetric threats. This work will look both at the defence of the UK and our ability to counter and deter terrorism abroad. It is too early to say what measures we will implement as a result of this work, though consultation with the US and other Allies will make an important contribution.

Departmental Expenditure

Rachel Squire: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the overall expenditure by his Department in consultancy fees was in the financial years (a) 2000–01, (b) 1999–2000, (c) 1998–99, (d) 1997–98 and (e) 1996–97. [12166]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence's annual returns of expenditure on External Assistance, which include the payment of fees to consultants, for the years 1996–97 to 1999–2000, are available in the Library of the House.

The expenditure return for 2000–01 is not yet available, but, in accordance with past practice, copies will be placed in the Library of the House.

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