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5 Feb 2003 : Column 282W—continued

Nobel House

Ms Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to refurbish Nobel House; and when the refurbishment is due to take place. [95733]

Alun Michael: The Department is investigating options for the refurbishment of Nobel House but decisions have yet to be taken.


Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what plans she has to improve reporting and monitoring practices in respect of seals; [80855]

Mr. Morley [pursuant to his answer, 26 November 2002, Official Report, c. 240W]: Paragraph five of my answer was incomplete and should read as follows:

The rest of the answer remains correct.

Sugar Beet

Mrs. Shephard: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has for alternative industrial uses of sugar beet; and if she will make a statement. [94894]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 31 January 2003]: Sugar beet has potential for the production of bioethanol and the Government announced in the pre-Budget report that it intends to introduce a 20p per litre reduction in duty on bioethanol compared to ultra low sulphur petrol. Industry and other stakeholders are being consulted about when this incentive should be introduced. Production of bioethanol from lignocellulosic materials is likely to offer additional environmental advantage and the Government will consider best how to give it further support. There is potential to exploit other molecules from sugar beet, some of which have high value, and this is already known to the industry. The Government-Industry

5 Feb 2003 : Column 283W

Forum on Non-Food Uses of Crops was set up in 2001 to review market opportunities for non-food crops and make recommendations to Government on policy affecting their use. The Forum has looked at several non-food crop applications, including bioethanol.

Veterinary Inspectors

Mr. Wiggin : To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures the Department can take to remove veterinary inspectors who misuse their powers. [94515]

Mr. Morley: Veterinary Inspectors are appointed by the Secretary of State under the Animal Health Act 1981.

There are three main categories of veterinarians who are appointed to carry out inspection duties under the Act:

Any breach or misuse of powers under the Act is taken very seriously by the Department. Additionally, the veterinary profession is governed by The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 which provides disciplinary powers under the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons professional code of conduct.

The Divisional Veterinary Manager (DVM) is responsible for work carried out in his/her Division. In instances where LVIs or TVIs infringe or fail to comply with their terms and conditions of appointment, perform duties unsatisfactorily or are guilty of conduct which makes suspension or termination of the appointment desirable they may be suspended and ultimately terminated.

SVS Veterinary Officers are serving civil servants. They are bound by the terms and conditions set out in the Defra Staff Handbook. In addition they are bound by the terms of the Official Secrets Act. Breach of the forgoing may result in termination of appointment and in certain circumstances criminal or civil proceedings.


Armed Forces (Deployments)

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British troops are deployed in Afghanistan; in which regions they are deployed; and what tasks are assigned to them. [95320]

Mr. Ingram: There are some 300 British troops deployed in Afghanistan, mostly with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The ISAF is tasked with maintaining security in support of the Transitional Islamic Authority of Afghanistan, led by President Karzai. Its deployment is limited to Kabul and its immediate environs by UN Security Council Resolution 1444.

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Aircraft Serviceability Rates

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what targets have been set for DARA regarding aircraft serviceability rates; and if he will make a statement. [95137]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 4 February 2003]: The term serviceability has a strict meaning in military aviation and serviceability targets apply only at unit level. Therefore, the Ministry of Defence does not set targets for the Defence Aviation Repair Agency expressed in terms of serviceability. However, as my answer on 23 July 2002, Official Report, columns 911–12W, to the hon. Member for Lincoln (Ms Merron) pointed out, the agency works to a range of key targets that are designed to help improve quality, efficiency, and overall performance levels.


Patrick Mercer : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects Airwave to enter service. [95177]

Mr. Ingram: Airwave is a Home Office PFI contract with mmO2 managed by the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO). The Ministry of Defence is buying into the service as a Department of Trade and Industry approved public safety user.

The Airwave service is being rolled out across the United Kingdom between 2001 and 2005 to a programme agreed between PITO, mm02, and the Home Office police constabularies. Airwave has already entered service in some of these constabulary areas.

Access to the Airwave service is available now to Ministry of Defence users, through a Defence Communications Services Agency enabling contract. The service is being taken up in accordance with individual project plans, and in line with the service rollout time scales.

Updates to the Airwave service rollout plan can be obtained from PITO.

Armed Forces (Gulf)

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what memoranda of understanding have been reached with the United States regarding the command and control of British troops in the Gulf region; what provisions exist for the maintenance of UK national control over operations in the event of hostilities; and if he will make a statement. [94606]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 31 January 2003]: Should it become necessary to commit British forces to military action against Iraq the Government will ensure that command and control arrangements providing appropriate levels of national direction of British forces are put in place.

Armoured Vehicles

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the investigations into improving the counter-surveillance capability of the Challenger 2 to be completed. [95185]

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Mr. Ingram: We continually investigate ways of further improving the counter-surveillance capability of our in-service equipment; Challenger 2 is no different in this respect.

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the modifications to the Challenger 2 main battle tank will be completed. [95259]

Mr. Ingram: Modifications to armoured vehicles continue throughout their in-service life, either because of faults that are identified, or new technologies provide improved capability that can be inserted through incremental acquisition. Challenger 2 is no different in this respect. In the case of specific modifications to improve the performance of Challenger 2 in desert conditions, the Ministry of Defence continues to expect measures to be completed in time for possible future operations.

Carrier Programme

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the prime contractor for the carrier programme. [93600]

Mr. Ingram: I refer my hon. Friend to the statement made in the House by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on Thursday 30 January 2003 Official Report, columns 1026–41.

Future Aircraft Carrier

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what policy his Department has on the use of British manufactured goods on the future aircraft carrier. [90431]

Mr. Ingram: It remains Government policy that the fabrication and assembly of new warship hulls for the Royal Navy should be undertaken in United Kingdom shipyards, and this, of course, applies to the construction of the future aircraft carriers. However, the policy does not apply to all of the vessels' sub-systems.

As the Defence Industrial Policy Paper published last October, made clear, competition remains the bedrock of our procurement policy, although the benefit to the UK economy from MOD contracts is taken into account when assessing bids. In order to provide the Armed Forces with the equipment they require at the best value for money for the taxpayer, prime contractors are expected to use competition extensively to select sub-contractors. British industry is well-placed to compete for the equipment and sub-systems that will be required for the future aircraft carrier.

A copy of the Government's Defence Industrial Policy has been placed in the Library of the House.

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