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Air-to-Air Missile

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile to enter service; and if he will make a statement. [29350]

Mr. Ingram: The Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) will enter service with the Royal Air Force later this month. The delivery of the first batch of missiles marks the successful agreement between the Ministry of Defence and the missile manufacturer MBDA. By working constructively together, we have agreed a clear and robust route map to achieve the full operational

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capability required of the missile. Tornado F3 will be the first of our aircraft to be fitted with ASRAAM. The missile will also be one of Eurofighter's principal weapons. ASRAAM will provide a major advance in our short-range air-to-air combat capability.

Conflict Prevention Fund

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on disbursement of the UK Conflict Prevention Fund. [26669]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 11 January 2002]: Policy on the disbursement of the pooled budgets for conflict prevention is determined jointly by the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, working together with the Cabinet Office and the Treasury.

The aim of the pooled budgets is to reduce the number of people whose lives are affected by violent conflict and the potential sources of future conflict. Strategies to achieve this are planned and reviewed through two sub-committees of the Cabinet Office Defence and Overseas Policy Committee, one for sub-Saharan Africa, the other for the rest of the world.

The strategy for sub-Saharan Africa includes, for example, assisting with building indigenous peacekeeping capacity, as well as conflict resolution and security sector reform in Sierra Leone. Strategies for the rest of the world include regional strategies in the Balkans, central and eastern Europe, South Asia and the middle east, and functional strategies like assisting UN peacekeeping reform and controlling small arms and light weapons.

The budgets also contribute to the additional costs of the UK's support to peacekeeping and peace-enforcement operations. In 2001–02 these have included commitments in Sierra Leone, Macedonia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Iraqi no-fly zones. Conflict prevention priorities and strategies are reviewed annually.

RAF Bases

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of flying hours were lost at (a) Lyneham and (b) Brize Norton in each of the last five years on account of (i) ice, (ii) fog and (iii) wind. [26625]

Mr. Ingram: Flying hours are not generally lost due to bad weather, as postponed flights will usually take place on a subsequent occasion. However weather conditions at RAF stations are assessed on an approximately hourly basis. Table 1 shows the percentage of occasions where weather conditions were assessed as 'red', ie the most severe conditions in terms of visibility and cloud cover. Table 2 shows the percentage of occasions when gusts of over 30 knots were registered. Not all flights are necessarily postponed in these conditions.

Table 1

RAF Brize NortonRAF Lyneham

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Table 2

RAF Brize NortonRAF Lyneham

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate how many aircraft movements take place on an annual basis at (a) RAF Lyneham and (b) RAF Brize Norton; and how many of them were (i) in daylight and (ii) at night. [26626]

Mr. Ingram: The number of aircraft movements undertaken at RAF Lyneham was approximately 36,000 during 2001 and at RAF Brize Norton 33,000. About 9 per cent. of these movements were undertaken at night.

Wind Turbines

Jim Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on the support of wind turbine deployers seeking planning consent in consultative statements issued by Defence Estates of district councils as part of the planning consent issue process. [27274]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence has a policy to assess each wind farm proposal on a case-by-case basis. We have an agreement with the wind energy industry that enables Defence Estates Safeguarding section to receive details of wind farms from individual companies some time prior to them applying for formal planning permission.

If the developer subsequently proceeds to seek formal planning permission from the local planning authority (LPA) and the site lies outside a formally safeguarded area then there is no statutory obligation on the authority to consult Defence Estates although most do so. In cases where the MOD does object to a proposal and the developer continues with the project then Defence Estates would seek to be formally consulted by the local authority.

As with all planning application consultations, Defence Estates Safeguarding strives to meet the response deadlines imposed by the planning process. Where we are unable to meet the deadline because the assessment is still being undertaken the LPA are advised to wait for our reply before consent is given. This action ensures that development does not occur that will either cause a safety hazard to military activity or interfere with the ability to train effectively.

Antonov Aircraft

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Antonov cargo planes are on charter to the RAF; how long those charters will last and what their total cost is; for what reason chartering Antonov is necessary; what assessment he has made of the possibility of using C-17s; and if he will make a statement about RAF transport requirements. [28182]

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Mr. Ingram [holding answer 17 January 2002]: Eleven Antonov aircraft sorties have been flown to date in support of UK force deployments to Afghanistan. Six further sorties have been contracted. £4 million has been spent to date.

The nature of airfields available in Afghanistan, together with the threat presented by surface-to-air missiles (SAM) had limited the RAF to the use of Hercules transport aircraft, which are fitted with a defensive aids suite. While the Hercules is a versatile and capable aircraft, the Antonov has a far greater payload, and has enabled the more rapid deployment of equipment, since the company operating the Antonovs has not restricted their use, even with the SAM threat.

A review of the threat to aircraft, and the re-opening of Kabul International airport, is likely to mean that use of the RAF's C-17 aircraft will soon be possible. However, the demanding timetable for the operation in Afghanistan is likely to mean that further Antonov charter will be required.

Berthing Capacity

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what criteria he is using in the review of berthing capacity at Her Majesty's naval bases. [27897]

Mr. Ingram: The aim of the study into berthing capacity at Her Majesty's naval bases is to define the future policy for base porting and the required waterfront infrastructure to support maritime and joint operations. The criteria that will be used for the study include the following:

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he will decide the outcome of his Department's review of berthing capacities at Her Majesty's naval bases. [27896]

Mr. Ingram: The study into berthing capacity at Her Majesty's naval bases is due in the summer of 2002. Decisions on base porting will be informed by this study.

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