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Tanker Aircraft

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress made with procurement of tanker aircraft for air-to-air refuelling. [51494]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 25 April 2002]: The Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft is planned to replace our VC10 and TriStar air to air refuelling/air transport aircraft around the end of the decade. An Invitation To Negotiate for this potential PFI contract was issued to industry in December 2000. Bids were received from two consortia in July 2001 and we are currently in discussions with both bidders.

Fluorescent Particle Trials

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what long term conclusions, with specific reference to those relating to health effects, his Department reached on the Fluorescent particle trials over south-west Britain between 1955 and 1963; what tests relating to germ warfare have taken place since 1972; and if he will make a statement. [52252]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 25 April 2002]: In 1999 the Ministry of Defence commissioned Professor Peter Lachmann, and a team of distinguished scientists, to undertake an independent review of the Fluorescent particle trials which occurred between 1955 and 1963. The MOD accepts the conclusion of this review which was that


A review which summarises the defence trials conducted by the Porton Down establishments, entitled "BW and BW Defence Field Trials Conducted by the UK: 1940–79" can be found in the Library of the House. Subsequent to the trials detailed in this report other defence trials involving simulant organisms have been undertaken on restricted access MOD sites. These trials have assessed the threat posed by specific dissemination methods, evaluated the performance of biological detection systems, considered aspects of decontamination and provided training for operators of the in-service biodetection systems.

29 Apr 2002 : Column 534W

Malaria

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many cases of malaria there have been among UK forces in (a) Afghanistan and (b) Sierra Leone. [52901]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 26 April 2002]: As of 24 April, there have been 159 confirmed cases and six suspected cases of malaria among UK forces who have served on recent and on-going operations in Sierra Leone. No cases of malaria have been reported among UK service personnel deployed to Afghanistan.

Naval Vessels

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Royal Navy ships are (a) being refitted and (b) preparing to be refitted; and when the refit work is due to (i) commence and (ii) finish. [52892]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 26 April 2002]: There are four Royal Navy surface warships currently in refit. These are:


HMS Manchester—type 42 destroyer and HMS Iron Duke—type 23 frigate are undertaking post refit activities and trials prior to returning to the fleet.

In addition to the refits listed above HMS Marlborough—type 23 frigate is currently undergoing a docking period that will complete later this summer.

There are no Royal Navy surface warships currently undertaking preparations for a refit.

The exact dates on which refits will complete will depend on progress and emergent work. However, HMS Liverpool is expected to complete her refit shortly and the other refits will complete by mid 2003.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) when he expects the first cutting of metal for (a) HMS Daring, (b) HMS Dauntless and (c) HMS Diamond; and when these ships will be launched; [52896]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 26 April 2002]: Design and fabrication details are matters for the Type 45 prime contractor, BAE Systems Electronics. However, under current plans, design work will essentially be complete in autumn 2003 and the expected first cutting of metal and launch dates for the first three ships are as follows:

VesselCut steelLaunch
HMS DaringSpring 2003Spring 2005
HMS DauntlessAutumn 2004Spring 2007
HMS DiamondSpring 2005Summer 2007


29 Apr 2002 : Column 535W

Naval Manpower

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the Royal Navy has sufficient manpower to crew all operational surface ships; and if he will make a statement. [52893]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 26 April 2002]: The Royal Navy has sufficient manpower to support the deployment of surface ships as required to meet its current commitments, including the full manning of all operational ships in times of heightened tension.

F680 Application

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what criteria are considered when determining an F680 application. [51735]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence Form F680 Process allows industry to seek preliminary Government approval for the release of classified military information, or advice on the prospects for eventual approval of an export licence application, at the marketing stage. In the case of the latter, the Government consider applications against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria. It is, however, routinely made clear that preliminary advice to companies under this procedure does not constitute an export licence nor guarantee that any future export licence application would result in the issue of a licence.

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) of 30 January 2002, Official Report, column 335W, who decided to give preliminary clearance to supply an air traffic control system to Tanzania under the F680 procedure. [51746]

Dr. Moonie: This was a Government decision following consideration of the application by the relevant Government Departments.

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place a copy of the departmental communication with Siemens Plessey Electronic Systems confirming the preliminary clearance; and what conditions were applied to the preliminary clearance. [51747]

Dr. Moonie: Access to detailed information on F680 clearances is restricted for commercial reasons. I am therefore withholding this information under Exemption 13 of Part II of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which (a) Ministers and (b) other persons are consulted following an F680 application prior to a decision being reached; and if he will place a copy of the document setting out the rules of the F680 procedure in the Library. [51748]

Dr. Moonie: I refer the hon. Member to my answer on 30 January 2002, Official Report, column 336W, to the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry). Ministers are not routinely involved in the assessment of F680 applications. A copy of guidance to industry on the F680 procedure is being placed in the Library of the House.

29 Apr 2002 : Column 536W

PRIME MINISTER

Digital Equipment

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the number of subscriptions to (a) digital terrestrial, (b) digital satellite and (c) digital cable television held by his Department for services in any departmental building from which Ministers work, stating for each subscription its (i) cost and (ii) purpose. [48367]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 10 April 2002]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office on Friday 26 April.

Iraq

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister what recent discussions he has had with the Government of Kuwait on proposed military action against Iraq. [53330]

The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him in the House on 24 April 2002, Official Report, column 331.

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister what his policy is in respect of the assassination of heads of state; and what recent discussions he has had with the US Administration on this policy. [52607]

The Prime Minister: Our policy is to act in accordance with UK and international law. We have had no recent discussions with the US Administration on this issue.


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