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Dr. Moonie: AWE plc, which manages AWE on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, has conducted a feasibility study into whether it would be cost-effective to undertake all operations at a single site. However, this is simply a feasibility studyno decision has been made and no proposals exist to move to a single site, consequently there is no documentation pertaining to the closure of AWE Burghfield.
Dr. Moonie: The existing Royal Air Force refuelling fleet is made up of two aircraft types comprising 19 VC10s and six TriStars. On current plans, all the VC10s are due to go out of service by the end of this decade with the TriStars leaving service shortly afterwards. Precise dates can be amended as necessary to ensure a smooth transition to the new air-to-air refuelling capability to be provided by the future strategic tanker aircraft when it enters service.
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Dr. Moonie: The table shows the number of air-to-air refuelling sorties that have occurred in each of the last 12 months since June 2001. These figures exclude 456 sorties where no fuel was transferred, including sorties carried out for training purposes.
Dr. Moonie: I presume that the hon. Member is referring to the future strategic tanker aircraft project for which the potential aircraft solutions are the Airbus A330 and the Boeing 767. The future strategic aircraft will provide air-to-air refuelling capability in support of our fast jet and large aircraft fleets. It will not be a suitable platform from which to undertake helicopter refuelling.
Dr. Moonie: I presume that the hon. Member is referring to the future strategic tanker aircraft project for which the potential aircraft solutions are the Airbus A330 and the Boeing 767. We are evaluating the potential for the future strategic tanker aircraft capability to be provided via a PFI service based contract. Under such an arrangement costs will depend upon usage of the service. Based on our expected usage over the anticipated 27-year duration of the contract, we currently estimate the whole life cost of the capability to be around £13 billion at outturn prices.
Dr. Moonie: I presume that the hon. Member is referring to the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft project for which the potential aircraft solutions are the Airbus A330 and the Boeing 767. Officials of the Ministry of Defence regularly discuss the project with their counterparts in the Treasury as a matter of routine. Ministers of the two Departments have not recently discussed the project.
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announce the preferred bidder for the project; when production of the A340 Air Tanker project will commence; and when it will be fully operational; 
(3) for what reason the A340 Air Tanker project is to be delayed. 
Dr. Moonie: I presume that the hon. Member is referring to the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft project for which the potential aircraft solutions are the Airbus A330 and the Boeing 767. This prospective PFI project is currently in a competitive assessment phase and two consortia have submitted bids for the contract. I announced to the House on 17 June 2002 that commercial discussions with industry are taking longer than anticipated to complete. It is not yet possible to confirm when we will be in a position to announce the preferred contractor and move to financial close on the contract. We are working closely with industry to ensure that sound decisions are taken as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we have delayed the planned introduction of the PFI service until 2008. This will allow further time for these complex negotiations to be completed. The service is expected to be fully operational by 2012. We do not expect to achieve any overall cost saving as a result of the delay.
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Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the effect the change in ownership of QinetiQ will have on the number of ranges and range activities; and if he will make a statement. 
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Dr. Moonie: As a consequence of the Strategic Defence Review, an additional £140 million over four years was invested in the Defence Medical Services. We will be considering the conclusions of the recent Medical Quinquennial Review in our next planning round, which I announced in a written answer on 11 April 2002, Official Report, column 558W to my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Wright).
Mr. Ingram: The Quinquennial Review of the Oil and Pipelines Agency (OPA) has started. The aim of the review is to examine how the OPA has performed against the Managing Agency Agreement instituted between the Ministry of Defence and the OPA, and to recommend whether there is any potential to improve the cost-effectiveness of its service to its customers.
The review will proceed in two phases. In the first phase a number of 'framework' issues will be examined, including whether its present position as a non- departmental public body (NDPB) is the most appropriate arrangement for delivery of the required services. It will also examine whether existing Government arrangements require adjustment. The report of this first phase of the review is expected in August 2002.
In the second phase, the review will address, in the light of the answers to the 'framework' issues examined in the first phase, a number of questions concerning the operational efficiency of the OPA, including the scope for Strategic Partnership and further streamlining of business processes both within the OPA and between the OPA and the Ministry of Defence. The report of the second phase of the review is expected in September 2002.
The review will be carried out by a small team, which will consult closely with the OPA management and other stakeholders, including the OPA's customers. The Ministry of Defence is interested also to hear the views of other organisations or individuals who would like to make a contribution to the review. Those wishing to do so should send their contributions to the OPA QQR Team, Room 24, DFG HQ, West Moors, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 6QS.
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