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28 Nov 2002 : Column 376W—continued

Defence Fire Service

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals there are to privatise the Defence Fire Service; and who would have control of the service if there were a major crisis. [83227]

Mr. Ingram: The Airfield Support Services Project (ASSP) is seeking to achieve the most viable and cost effective solution for the provision of airfield support service to the Ministry of Defence world-wide with options that include both Public Private Partnership and in house solutions. There is also a complementary work stream, Fire Study 2000, that has looked specifically at the organisation and operation of the Defence Fire Service, which is to inform the Public Sector Comparator for ASSP.

Bids from the three consortia involved in ASSP were received at the end of April and are now being evaluated. Main Gate approval is currently planned for the second half of 2003. No decisions have been taken at this stage. Whatever solution is taken forward, we would ensure that we preserve our ability to manage crisis situations.

Unexploded Ordnance

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of magnetic profiling in searching for unexploded ordnance at military training areas; [83704]

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Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence has had, for a number of years, a magnetic profiling capability which is widely recognised as an effective method of establishing the degree of contamination within an area of land. The British Army does not currently employ geophysical instrumentation in ordnance clearance operations at military training grounds as it is not considered to provide the degree of accuracy required for the location of smaller types of ordnance. The Ministry of Defence currently possesses both Global Positioning System and magnetometry scanning capabilities. It is planned that more advanced equipment will be introduced in the next training year which will provide improved information on the presence of UXO within a given area.

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if his Department has the capability to carry out airborne surveys of military training sites to detect (a) exploded and (b) unexploded ordnance. [83356]

Mr. Ingram: Although we do not possess equipment designed specifically to detect unexploded ordnance from the air, the Ministry of Defence has used high- resolution photographic reconnaissance imagery to assist in explosive ordnance disposal work.

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many hectares per day the British army clears of unexploded ordnance when they carry out clearing operations in Archers Post, Kenya. [83705]

Mr. Ingram: Every British army unit conducting live firing activities on Archers Post conducts, on their completion, a clearance operation designed to ensure that all unexploded ordnance has, as far as possible, been marked and destroyed. In addition, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron of the Royal Engineers undertakes Exercise Pineapple annually in Kenya. The historical average, over the four-week period of the exercise, is that an area of up to three square kilometres is cleared, though this is subject to variation.

McKinsey and Company

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what reports he has commissioned from McKinsey and Company in the past four years. [80973]

Mr. Ingram: Since September 1998, Ministry of Defence records indicate that four contracts have been let to McKinsey and Company to produce the following reports:

Medical Manning and Retention Review

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what targets have been set in relation to his commitment to implement the recommendations of the Medical Manning and Retention Review; if he will publish (a)

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the Review recommendations and (b) the proposed pay scales for personnel in the Defence Medical Services; and if he will make a statement. [83467]

Dr. Moonie: I will write to the hon. Member and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Military Vehicle Contracts

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which firms are bidding for military vehicle contracts; and what is (a) the size of their work force and (b) the country in which they are based. [81694]

Dr. Moonie: Current competitions for military vehicles include (a) HILLS (High Velocity Missile, Improved Medium Mobility, Lightweight Mobile Launcher, Shoulder Launch System) (b) Wheeled Tankers (c) Cargo Tracks and Wheeled Recovery Vehicles and (d) The Future Command Liaison Vehicle. I am withholding information relating to proposed purchases for Special Forces use under Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, which covers defence, security and international relations.

ProjectCompanyWork force(1)Country in which company based
HILLSAutomotive Technik Ltd.Under 250UK
Wheeled tankersMarshall Specialist Vehicle Ltd.Under 500UK
Wheeled tankersOshkosh Truck CorporationUnder 250USA
Support vehiclesOshkosh Truck CorporationUnder 250USA
Support vehiclesStewart & Stevenson TVUnder 250USA
Support vehiclesMAN Truck & Bus UK Ltd.(2)Under 2,000UK
Support vehiclesMercedes-Benz UK Defence(3)UK
FCLVAlvis Specialist Vehicles(4)500UK

(1) Approximate UK work force numbers

(2) Includes ERF Ltd. work force

(3) Figure not available

(4) Alvis have taken over VDS but at present there is a XChinese wall" between the two competing components

(5) UDLP are setting up a base in the UK. US work force numbers are 5,000

Ministerial Visits

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many times he has visited east Lancashire in his official capacity; and what the purpose was of each visit.[82403]

Dr. Moonie: None.

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Nuclear Weapons Tests

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will offer saliva tests to assess the extent of exposure to radiation experienced by British Service personnel and medical auxiliaries present at atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. [84258]

Dr. Moonie: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 17 January 2002, Official Report, column 408W to the hon. Member for Angus (Mr Weir).

Parliamentary Questions

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the longest gap was between the submission of a written question in the last parliamentary session and his Department providing (a) a substantive reply, (b) a holding reply and (c) a Xwill write" response. [83252]

Dr. Moonie: The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Ministers aim to answer named day written questions on the day named and ordinary written questions within five working days.

Young Recruits

Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what advice he has taken on whether the limitation of the right of under 18-year-olds to leave the armed forces if they consider that they have made a mistaken decision to join is compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998. [83233]

Dr. Moonie: All three services operate schemes which enable under 18-year-olds to leave the armed forces if they consider that they have made a mistaken decision to join. These schemes were not introduced as a consequence of the Human Rights Act 1998, and indeed the Royal Navy and Army schemes for 'unhappy under-18s' predate it. However, in common with other personnel policies, the schemes remain under review by the Ministry of Defence to ensure that they comply with extant legislation. The Ministry of Defence's position is that schemes do not in any way contravene the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998, given that under-18s, all of whom enter the amed forces voluntarily under their own informed will, have ample rights and opportunities to leave before reaching age 18.

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