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3 Feb 2003 : Column 56Wcontinued
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for how long the (a) Royal Navy and (b) Royal Marines components of the Middle East Task Force will be able to maintain the deployment. 
Mr. Ingram: We continue to hope that Saddam Hussein will disarm voluntarily, but it is evident that we will not persuade him to do so unless we present him with a clear and credible threat of force. No decision has been taken to commit British forces to military action, nor is such a decision inevitable or imminent. It is therefore premature to speculate about the duration of military deployments or about the rotation or replacement of those forces involved.
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment he has made of the practicability of Iraqi (a) aircraft and (b) missiles using (i) chemical weapons and (ii) biological agents to attack Royal Navy warships; 
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Mr. Ingram: The threat to United Kingdom assets is kept under review. I am withholding details of the assessment of threat levels in accordance with Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, which relates to defence, security and international relations.
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) chemical and (b) biological weapons have been identified as parts of Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological warfare arsenal since the end of the Gulf War. 
Mr. Ingram: Arrangements between the media and the Ministry of Defence are conducted in accordance with the details laid out in the Green Book,"Working Arrangements with the Media in times of Emergency, Tension, Conflict or War". This covers the practical arrangements for enabling media representatives to report events both at home and abroad and includes our plans for representative numbers of correspondents to accompany British forces in the frontline. It also outlines the policy that would facilitate or restrict the activities of journalists during operations. A copy of the Green Book is available on the Ministry of Defence website, at www.mod.uk.
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On 17 January, the Director General Corporate Communications wrote to media representatives to inform them of the broad arrangements we intend to put in place in the event of military action. If and when the situation demands, editors will be called forward for fuller briefing on evolving events in order to clarify the detailed working arrangements for inclusion of UK media with our armed forces.
The above arrangements do not imply that military action is any more likely. It is simply a question of prudent preparation. It remains the case that military action is neither imminent nor inevitable.
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the capability of the Royal Navy to mount a seaward defence of British military bases (a) in Gibraltar and (b) in Cyprus following the assembly of the Middle East Task Force. 
Mr. Ingram: Seaward defence of United Kingdom bases in both Gibraltar and Cyprus is provided in a joint manner, using Maritime, Air and Land assets. The ability to defend British military bases is kept under review. I am withholding details of the capability in accordance with Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information (Defence, Security and International Relations).
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many flights by (a) his Department's Ministers and (b) other Ministers were made last year using aircraft belonging to his Department; and how many non-scheduled special flights carrying ministers were made in 2002. 
Dr. Moonie: Since 1999 this Government have published an annual list of all visits overseas undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more during each financial year. The Government have also published on an annual basis the cost of all Ministers' visits overseas. Copies of the lists are available in the Libraries of the House.
3 Feb 2003 : Column 59W
|Newestin service date||Oldestin service date|
|Lynx Attack Helicopter Mark 7||May 1982 as Mark 1, converted to Mark 7 October 1991||June 1979 as Mark 1 converted to Mark 7 July 1998|
|Gazelle Attack Helicopter Mark 1||November 1980||May 1973|
|Sea King Helicopter Mark 4||January 1987||June 1980|
|Sea King Helicopter Mark 4||October 1990||July 1980|
|Serial||Squadron||Operation||Date of deployment|
|1||847 NAS||Palliser||5 May4 June 2000|
|Silkman||218 November 2000|
|Agricola||16 November 200022 May 2001|
|Oracle 1||1 November 20014 June 2002|
|Telic||16 January 2003|
|2||846 NAS||Northern Ireland||1 April 19944 March 1999|
|Northern Ireland||28 June16 July 1999|
|Northern Ireland||26 June14 July 2000|
|Northern Ireland||23 June18 July 2001|
|Northern Ireland||26 March20 October 2002|
|Palliser||5 May4 June 2000|
|Silkman||218 November 2000|
|Palatine||27 June10 November 2002|
|3||845 NAS||Palatine||11 November 19921 January 2001|
|Oracle 1||11 November 20014 June 2002|
|Telic||16 January 2003|
Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions have taken place with United States military representatives on the development of non-lethal weapons; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence has held discussions on non-lethal weapons with United States military representatives bilaterally, multilaterally and in NATO. The United Kingdom considers that non-lethal weapons have potential military uses, where such uses are compatible with international legal obligations. No joint developments of non-lethal weapons with the United States are currently planned. All potential new weapons are subject to stringent review at all stages of the research and procurement process to ensure compliance with the United Kingdom's obligations under international and domestic law.
Mr. Ingram: HMS Ocean recently completed her first docking period at Portsmouth as part of a planned maintenance cycle. Under this maintenance cycle Ocean will undergo a further docking period in about four years and a refit, which is a more substantial package of work, in about eight years time.
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Mr. Ingram: The Royal Navy aircraft carriers have the capability to operate in the Landing Platform Helicopter role as a secondary role, as demonstrated by HMS Ark Royal in her current deployment as part of Naval Task Group 2003.
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