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16 Dec 2002 : Column 519Wcontinued
Dr. Julian Lewis : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the respects in which there has been an increase in the availability of Type 23 frigates since the completion of the 1998 Strategic Defence Review,
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referred to in the letter from the Minister of State for the Armed Forces to the hon. Member for Aldershot of 2 December. 
Mr. Ingram: The Type 23 Frigate was designed with the expectation of spending a high proportion of its operational time in the demanding and stressing environment of the North Atlantic. The nature of the threat has evolved with resultant changes to operational priorities and deployments, the consequence of which is that these ships spend less time in the North Atlantic. An opportunity has therefore arisen to extend the interval between major maintenance periods. Improved processes for the specification and management of equipment maintenance are also being introduced. The collective effect of these developments will be to increase the availability of Type 23 Frigate capability for operations.
The university air squadrons also contain engineer, medical and dental studentsa total of 300who are being sponsored through university by the Royal Air Force to meet other specialist requirements. These branch members will have been offered occasional flights, but these could be less than an hour in length.
Dr. Moonie: The 15 university air squadrons recruit up to 300 potential pilots every year in order to achieve their annual target of training, up to Elementary Flying Training Standard, the 80 to 90 graduate pilots required by the first stage of the Flying Training System.
The recruited figure may seem high, but is necessary to meet the Royal Air Force's needs. Predictably, a number will drop out at an early stage, as they find they do not have the aptitude, do not enjoy the experience, fail the initial medical, or have difficulty meeting the concurrent demands of a difficult degree course and membership of a university air squadron.
For those that remain, a commitment to join the Royal Air Force is nurtured and Squadron Commanders have instructions as to how to proceed, should they form the view that a student does not intend to apply to join the Royal Air Force.
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This reply is limited to those university air squadron members that are potential pilots and have undertaken formal flying training. It does not cover members who may have received limited air experience flights, such as potential engineers or medics, or potential navigators who receive a limited amount of flying training.
Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many representations from hon. Members of the European Parliament or the devolved administrations his Department has received about objections by his Department to wind farm planning applications. 
Dr. Moonie: Our records show that, in the last 12 months, the Ministry of Defence has received twenty letters from Members of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly and none from hon. Members of the European Parliament.
Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions his Department has had with (a) the British Wind Energy Association and (b) British business about radar interference and wind farms. 
Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence are members of a Steering Group on Wind Energy chaired by the Department of Trade and Industry. The other members of the Group are the Civil Aviation Authority and the British Wind Energy Association and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. The Group discusses the issues relating to aviation safety that wind turbines can present and has produced an Interim Guidelines document XWind Energy and Aviation Interests55 to assist all those involved in the wind energy industry.
The MOD devotes significant resources to the consideration of wind farm proposals prior to formal planning. Between July 1996 and November 2002, ourexperts considered some 1,900 proposals from developers for wind farms across the United Kingdom and consequently have had many meetings with Wind Energy developers about concerns regarding specific proposals including radar
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Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what further action he is taking to identify possible (a) onshore and (b) offshore wind farm sites about which his Department would have concerns to do with interference with radar. 
Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence is working towards a number of improvements in the way it processes proposals. We aim to increase engagement with the wind industry, for example, where minor adjustments to the siting of turbines may result in an objection being withdrawn. We will also provide more central guidance to those reviewing applications and publicise a help line for the industry. MOD is ready to engage with Regional Chambers as the latter move towards considering optimum sites for the siting of wind farms in the longer term when drawing up their regional energy strategies.
MOD has also reviewed recently the scope for giving developers a clearer picture of the specific areas of the country where onshore windfarm proposals may cause problems. There remains an unavoidable requirement to examine all applications in some detail before decisions can be made on any likely detriment to defence interests.
Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence are members of a Steering Group on Wind Energy chaired by the Department of Trade and Industry. The Steering Group discussions led the DTI to commission research by QinetiQ into the effect of wind turbines on radar and MOD are giving assistance whenever required. The department has no specific budget for conducting research into the impact wind farms have on radar.
Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions his Department has had with other NATO countries about the impact wind farms have in terms of interference with radar. 
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Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 4 December 2002, Official Report, columns 90607, what other states he has assessed as possessing appalling, brutal and terrible regimes. 
The Prime Minister: It is clear from the evidence in the Iraq human rights dossier that Iraq merits special attention. Iraq is the only state to have used weapons of mass destruction against its own people and its neighbours.
Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister which Department is investigating the report submitted by Iraq to UNMOVIC in respect of its weapons programmes and military infrastructure; which United Kingdom experts have been given responsibility to undertake the assessment; what expertise they have in each case; and if he will make a statement on the Iraqi documentary declaration. 
The Prime Minister: Iraq's declaration is being studied by analysts at the Ministry of Defence. The principal experts involved in this work have studied Iraq's weapons programmes for a number of years.
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