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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 16 December 2002


AFB 130A

Mr. Keetch : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many soldiers signed an AFB130A in each year since 1997. [87254]

Dr. Moonie: An Army Form B130A (AFB130A) is completed when soldiers are to be discharged under the following Queen's Regulations 1975:

The overall total discharged under these paragraphs for which an AFB130A was completed in each year since 1997 is as follows:

Number discharged

It should however be noted that an AFB130A may have been signed in other cases in which discharge action was terminated. These figures are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Amphibious Groups

Dr. Julian Lewis : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the state of availability is of Royal Navy amphibious groups. [84367]

Mr. Ingram: The Royal Navy is able to mount an Amphibious Task Group within the readiness requirements of Defence Planning Assumptions from high readiness units earmarked for the Joint Rapid Reaction Force.

Barracks (Right of Access)

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in what circumstances at (a) Deepcut and (b) Catterick Barracks specified areas of the camp may be declared out of bounds; and what safeguards are in place to ensure a soldier's right of access to (i) the regimental medical office, (ii) the Padre, (iii) the unit

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welfare officer, (iv) the local army welfare worker and (v) the Women's Royal Voluntary Service Welfare Office. [86075]

Mr. Ingram: At both Deepcut and Catterick, certain areas of the camps and surrounding areas are placed out of bounds to personnel for security, health and safety or similar reasons, on a temporary or semi-permanent basis. The offices specified in the question would only be placed out of bounds in exceptional circumstances, such as a security alert or other emergency. None of these offices are routinely out of bounds and all personnel have unrestricted access during normal opening times.

Beaufort Trench Outlet Pipe

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what environmental tests have been made in relation to the outlet pipe in the Beaufort Trench; and what assessments have been made of (a) human health and (b) the immediate area surrounding the River Dee and (c) contamination of (i) land and (ii) aquatic and ornithological life. [85446]

Dr. Moonie: holding reply Monday 9 December 2002: I will write to my hon Friend and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

British Forces Broadcasting Service

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make arrangements to allow England rugby and football matches to be watched on the British Forces Broadcasting Service. [86902]

Dr. Moonie: The British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) is provided through a contract let by the Ministry of Defence with the Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC), which is an independent limited company with charitable status. The service provides, subject to practicality and affordability, radio and television broadcasts to most locations overseas where significant numbers of British forces are stationed, such as Germany and Cyprus, together with areas of deployed operation such as Afghanistan. There are currently two radio and two television channels, although the second TV channel, which is specifically aimed at the 18–30 age group, is at present only available to deployed operational areas, eg Balkans, Middle-East, Afghanistan.

Authority to transmit any particular television or radio programme or sporting event rests with the Rights Holder for the programme or event concerned and all broadcasters, including SSVC, must negotiate accordingly with Rights Holders for licences to broadcast.

SSVC already provides live television coverage of all England (and other Home Nation) international rugby and football matches, subject to scheduling practicalities where fixtures clash, and makes arrangements to do so with the Rights Holders through the primary broadcaster, eg the BBC, ITV etc.

SSVC and the Ministry of Defence are working to further develop the BFBS with a view to providing additional television channels including, in due course, a dedicated sports channel.

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Defence Spending (Scotland)

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much of the defence budget was spent in Scotland in the most recent year for which figures are available (a) in actual terms and (b) as a percentage of the total defence budget; and if he will make a statement. [86394]

Mr. Ingram: The information is not held in the format requested and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Initiatives

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list his Department's initiatives which are designed to achieve best value for money. [85457]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence continuously reviews its business processes and organisation to ensure that military capability is delivered with best value for money for the taxpayer. As part of the 2002 spending review, the MOD agreed the following Public Service Agreement value for money target for 2002–03 to 2005–06:

A wide range of initiatives is in hand to achieve this target, and to deliver business improvement generally across defence on a continuous basis. Key improvements include the following initiatives:

By 31 March 2006, to reduce by 20 per cent. (relative to April 2000, 14 per cent. relative to April 2002) the output costs of the Defence Logistics Organisation, while maintaining support to the Front Line.

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By 31 March 2006, to reduce MOD Head Office and other management costs by 13per cent.

By 31 March 2006, to identify for disposal land and buildings with a net book value of over #300 million.

Performance against the targets will be reported annually through the Department Performance Report. Further information on the MOD's value for money Public Service Agreement target is available on the MOD website www.mod.uk.

Depleted Uranium

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans there are to substitute depleted uranium rounds with safer and equally penetrative rounds; and if he will make a statement. [86388]

Dr. Moonie: There are currently no plans to substitute DU rounds. At present no satisfactory alternative material exists to achieve the level of penetration needed to defeat the most modern battle tanks. DU ammunition therefore currently remains our most operationally effective capability and the use of non-DU ammunition would significantly threaten operational success and would potentially lead to increased United Kingdom casualties. However, I can confirm that research is continuing into more effective alternatives to DU ammunition.

Devonport Dockyard

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what major improvements have been made to the facilities for non-Vanguard submarines at Devonport dockyard; and if he will make a statement. [86709]

Mr. Ingram: A contract was placed with Devonport Management Ltd in 1997 to upgrade their existing facilities to provide the sole refitting and refuelling facilities for Vanguard and all other Royal Navy nuclear submarines.

The major improvements made to date to the specific facilities for non-Vanguard submarines, or to facilities shared by both Vanguard and non-Vanguard submarines, are as follows:

FacilityImprovement made
14 and 15 DocksThe construction of seismically qualified dock structures, caissons and cradles for the submarines to sit in. 14 Dock has also been adapted to accommodate the new Astute class submarines.
New Equipment and Maintenance Support Facility (NEMSFAC)New shared facility for maintenance and storage of equipment.
Power Range Testing Berth (PRT)Upgraded berth at which the refuelled reactors are first tested after refit.
Low Level Refuelling Facility (LLRF)New facility used to store new and used fuel for all submarines.
Nuclear Transfer Route (NTR)To enable access between the refuelling docks and LLRF. In place for 14 Dock, work in hand for 15 Dock.
CranesSeismically qualified dockside cranes fitted to 14 Dock; installation work about to commence for 15 Dock.
Electrical services to submarine berthsRing main around dockyard upgraded.

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