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7 Jan 2003 : Column 78W—continued


Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proportion of Iraq is covered by no-fly sanctions; and if he will make a statement. [88530]

Mr. Ingram: The no fly zones cover all the area of Iraq north of 36th parallel and south of the 33rd parallel. The purpose of our patrols of the Iraqi no fly zones is entirely humanitarian. They are conducted in support of UN SCR 688, which demanded that Saddam Hussein end the brutal repression of his own people.

MOD Land (Inglis Barracks)

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to put on the market MOD land used by BFPO on its two sites at Inglis Barracks; what arrangements will be made for the role of the land, to take account of the needs of the local community; and if he will make a statement. [88615]

Dr. Moonie: Marketing of the site is expected to commence mid 2005.

The current intention is that the site would be sold with the benefit of a development brief and, or, an outline planning approval which I understand will be the subject of detailed negotiations with the Planning Department of the London Borough of Barnet and where necessary, the Greater London Assembly and Transport for London. These negotiations should address the needs of the local community by taking into account the policies contained within the Borough's Unitary Development Plan.

Operation Fresco

David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) weekly and (b) total cost of Operation Fresco has been, since it began. [89281]

Mr. Ingram: Information on the weekly costs of Operation Fresco is not available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

In the run up to the strike the MOD incurred expenditure of around #8 million associated with the initial purchase of the urgent operational equipment such as protective clothing, breathing apparatus and hydraulic cutting equipment. No other detailed costs are yet available.


Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will take steps to ensure that British service

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personnel are not exposed to organophosphate pesticides when on operations in the Middle East. [88056]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 19 December 2002]: The use of pesticides remains an essential component of force protection against the threat of insect borne disease. It is the policy of the Department only to procure pesticides approved under the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 or to seek approval from Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to store items in United Kingdom, for use in overseas locations. Those pesticides are only supplied to and used by trained personnel, who are fully equipped with the appropriate personal protective equipment.


Rachel Squire: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the plans of the Sea Technology Group and their impact in relation to the funding, operation and staffing levels of QinetiQ. [88697]

Dr. Moonie: The Sea Technology Group is part of the Defence Procurement Agency which is an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Defence.

The Group is responsible for providing technical standards, advice and safety regulation for maritime platforms and places a wide a range of contracts with the commercial sector, including QinetiQ, and with other Government agencies to fulfil this role.

There are no plans to change the role of the Sea Technology Group or its relationships with existing suppliers. Contracts are placed with QinetiQ and other suppliers on the basis of the capabilities they offer and the support requirements of the MOD. We maintain a dialogue with QinetiQ and other suppliers about our forward plans but it is a matter for the company to determine the appropriate funding, operation and staffing levels based on the work it wins or expects to win from the MOD and others.

Rachel Squire: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the recent funding decisions by (a) his Department and (b) the Sea Technology Group which affecting QinetiQ. [88698]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence continues to determine its requirements as a customer for support from industry, including QinetiQ, in the normal way.

In common with other defence suppliers, it is a matter for QinetiQ to determine the appropriate staffing and resource levels it needs to meet any requirements placed upon it by MOD.

I refer my hon. Friend to the additional information I have provided today in answer to her question on the relationship between the Sea Technology Group of the Defence Procurement Agency and QinetiQ.

Royal Navy Vessels

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent IT upgrades have been made to Royal Navy vessels; how this improves capability; and if he will make a statement. [86299]

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Mr. Ingram: The Navy Star Programme provides key IS support to RN vessels. A common IT infrastructure is being progressively deployed across the fleet. With the exception of two vessels, the programme will be complete by 2005. The rate of deployment is constrained by the availability of suitable fitting opportunities. All ship's staff have access to the system, which supports a comprehensive range of administrative and operational support applications, as well as standard OA facilities. An e-mail capability provides connectivity to shore users, including families and friends for welfare purposes. The system is refreshed on a cycle of upgrades to sustain and improve capability.

A significant number of Royal Navy Command Support Systems, used for the planning and execution of maritime and amphibious operations, have been deployed operationally (39 ships and 10 shore units). An incremental rollout programme delivers regular capability enhancements. The most recent of these enhancements has been to upgrade the hardware in 2001 and 2002 to provide the latest commercial off-the-shelf systems, giving better performance and reliability. Software has also recently been improved with the release of Version 7 software. This will give direct benefit to the new Landing Platform Dock (Replacement) amphibious ships and also the aircraft carriers in their role as NATO High Readiness Force (Maritime) Commander.

In addition to the above, the Ship Command System in the aircraft carriers and TYPE 42 destroyers, including the Landing Platform: Helicopter—HMS Ocean, is undergoing a programme to replace obsolescent display screens. The Endurance and Archer class inshore training vessels have also had electronic planned maintenance systems fitted to improve availability.

A large proportion of the electrical/electronics systems fitted within RN vessels and their weapons systems use computers or incorporate software or firmware to support their specific functionality. Such equipment is not considered to fall within the heading of 'information technology, and accordingly, has not been included in this answer.

Subcontractors (Prompt Payment)

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what arrangements are in place to guarantee prompt payments to subcontractors working on Defence Estates projects. [88597]

Dr. Moonie: Defence Estates is bound by the statutory requirements of the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 that imposes an obligation on it and its contractors to pay all valid invoices within 30 days.


Agriculture and Fisheries Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome was of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council held in Brussels on 16–19 December; what the

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Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [89057]

Mr. Morley: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels on 16–20 December 2002. The Scottish Minister for Environment and Rural Development and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland also attended.

The Council, after lengthy negotiation, reached conclusions by qualified majority on the linked matters of Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform, urgent measures to bring about the recovery of cod stocks and the setting of total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas for 2003.

On CFP reform, the Council's conclusions were embodied in three new regulations, one addressing the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fishing resources and redefining the basic framework of the CFP, one permitting an emergency Community measure for scrapping fishing vessels, and one amending the provisions concerning Community structural assistance in the fisheries sector. Key features, including some points which the UK fought hard to secure, are:

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On TACs and quotas, the Council started by examining a Commission proposal whose central element was severe cuts, equating to an 80 per cent. reduction in fishing mortality, in the TACs for the cod stocks for which scientists recommended a fishing moratorium, together with the species (haddock and whiting) most closely associated with them, as well as substantial TAC cuts for other associated species. A solution was negotiated under which higher TACs than proposed by the Commission were adopted alongside an emergency recovery measure for cod based on a much simplified approach which the Commission brought forward in the course of the Council.

The recovery measure is incorporated as Annex XVII to the Regulation setting TACs and quotas for 2003, and will control effort from 1 February 2003 by limiting days which may be spent at sea by vessels which catch cod in the North Sea, West of Scotland and Skaggerak and Kattegat. Vessels under 10 metres in length are not subject to these controls. Different limitations (expressed as numbers of days absent from port per calendar month) are set according to the type of gear carried. Hence some vessels (eg pelagic trawlers) fall outside the scheme altogether, while nephrops vessels will be allowed 25 days per month. The number of days to be allowed for whitefish demersal trawlers was absolutely critical for the UK, given the unacceptable and devastating effect the Commission's opening suggestion of seven days per calendar month would have had on our industry. The eventual outcome was that we secured a commitment that under the terms of the various conditions attached to the limitations in the EU measure, UK whitefish demersal trawlers would be allowed a total of 15 days absent from port per month.

The measure allows for some flexibility to move days between months and between vessels. The operational details for these new arrangements will be worked up urgently, in close consultation with the industry. The Council and Commission envisage that, with this emergency measure in place, a more sophisticated regime will be developed for implementation from 1 July 2003, based on proposals to be brought forward by the Commission by 15 February and agreed by the Council by the end of March.

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On this basis, the Council set TACs and quotas for 2003 which broadly maintain 2002 levels for pelagic stocks and nephrops but significantly reduce TACs for key whitefish species such as cod, haddock, whiting and anglerfish. Reductions of the order of 50 per cent. in the TACs for these latter species in the North Sea and West of Scotland represent a considerable gain in fishing opportunities compared with the Commission's original proposals, whilst significantly enhancing the prospects for the recovery of these stocks in the long term. The closure to sandeel fishing of the area off the north east British coast, as applied for the last three years, is renewed for 2003. For Irish Sea stocks, it was agreed that the 2002 cod recovery arrangements, which include a springtime closure of part of the Irish Sea, should continue for 2003 with reduced TACS for such stocks as cod, haddock and whiting.

The Council agreed a re-allocation of existing Spanish structural funds to provide financial support to Spanish fishermen and mussel and oyster growers affected by the Prestige oil spill.

The Council agreed the conclusions of the Commission's action plan for the Mediterranean, which envisages the development of specific management measures for the area.

The Commissioner also presented a draft regulation on the management of fishing effort in western waters. He explained that he considered this to be necessary to eliminate any legal uncertainty concerning the applicability of some of the measures to the activities of Spanish and Portuguese vessels, following the expiry on 31 December 2002 of the transitional period foreseen in the 1985 Act of Accession. No decisions were reached on this proposal, which will be examined by the Council in coming months.

The Council reached unanimous political agreement on measures to update food hygiene rules applying to products of animal origin. It also reached political agreement by qualified majority on measures to update EU rules on the use of additives in animal feed.

The Council also agreed conclusions on animal welfare in third countries and on mutual assistance between member states regarding animal welfare. The Commission reported progress on developing further proposals on the protection of animals in transport.

The Council was unable to reach agreement on a proposal for new rules governing feedstuffs for organic livestock. Under the relevant Comitology procedures, the Commission will adopt the new measure under its

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own powers in January. The Commission, having reported on the progress of its work to develop an EU level Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming, was remitted to continue its efforts and report further by the end of 2003.

The Council approved by qualified majority arrangements to protect the EU market from a surge in low priced cereals from Russia and the Ukraine. The Commission reported agreements reached with the US and Canada to establish reduced tariff quotas for certain cereals and the Council authorised the Commission to implement the deal from the beginning of 2003.

Over lunch, the Commission presented a paper which it proposes to submit to the WTO in the context of the Doha Round negotiations on agriculture. It proposed a number of specific reductions in tariff levels, export subsidies and domestic support. I welcomed the paper as an important first step in the process now leading up to the Cancun Ministerial meeting in September while warning that our negotiating partners were likely to press for a more ambitious outcome.

Under other business, Germany reported national action it had taken to reduce levels of acrylamide in food; and Italy raised concerns over the co-existence of GM and conventional agriculture.

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