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12 Feb 2003 : Column 740W—continued


Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 27 January, Official Report, column 638W, on the Eurofighter, what criteria were used in selecting areas for the testing of Eurofighter. [97601]

Mr. Ingram: The three managed areas designated for the training of fast jet crews were selected on the basis that they were sufficiently large to enable training at high speeds, were relatively close to operating bases, and minimised the effect on civilair routes.

It is anticipated that the majority of supersonic flights will take place over the sea in the two more southerly areas. The third most northerly area is essential for backup training, particularly when sea and wind states are determined to be too high for safe training over the water. Supersonic flight will not be permitted over land.

Eurofighter Typhoon

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the Eurofighter Typhoon to be operational and at what stage ground strike capability will be added. [97232]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 11 February 2003]: We expect Typhoon to be available for operational deployment in the second half of this decade. The aircraft will be multi-role. Designed primarily for air superiority, it will be fitted with an initial ground attack capability. Thereafter, it will benefit from progressive enhancements to its ground attack capabilities as part of the aircraft's planned procurement programme.

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Field Hospitals

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) anaesthetists, (b) doctors, (c) surgeons, (d) trained nurses and (e) commissioned nurses there are in each reserve field hospital unit. [96934]

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Dr. Moonie: The strength of (a) anaesthetists, (b) doctors, (c) surgeons and (d) commissioned nurses within each reserve field hospital, as at February 2003, is given in the table. There are no other rank trained nurses in reserve field hospitals.

Field hospital201202203204205207208212243256CVHQAMS
Number of anaesthetists522112242612
Number of doctors23221314167152092011
Number of surgeons442230174420
Number of commissioned nurses11911262589570104906686147

Flags of Convenience

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many ships chartered for military operations are registered under flags of convenience. [96511]

Mr. Ingram: The definition of flag of convenience is loose and ambiguous and indeed, the Department for Transport does not officially recognise this terminology. I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 7 February 2003, Official Report, column 464W, to my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Prosser), regarding the flag states of the vessels chartered for use in the Mediterranean/Gulf regions.

Future Integrated Soldier Technology Programme

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what criteria will inform his decision on selection of the prime contractor for the Future Integrated Soldier Technology programme, with particular reference to (a) price and (b) technical specification; [95423]

Mr. Ingram: The Future Integrated Soldier Technology (FIST) programme will bring the benefits of technology improvements to the infantry soldier by providing an integrated suite of equipment which will enhance mission effectiveness in dismounted close combat. An announcement on the Prime Contractor for the Assessment Phase (AP) of the FIST programme will be made shortly.

Expenditure of up to £30 million is anticipated during AP. Demonstration and Manufacture costs are expected to be up to around £800 million dependent on the precise configuration of the suite of equipment identified during the AP. The cost and scope of work to be performed will be more closely defined during the AP.

Evaluation of the competing proposals will be based on a number of criteria. Both bids are based on the same level of funding in the AP so price will not be a discriminator, and technical specifications will only be developed as a product from the AP. Selection will be informed by assessments of the bidders' planning and scheduling proposals, their proposals on technology exploitation during AP, their preparedness to engage in effective partnering arrangements, and their acceptance of contractual terms and conditions.

Wider factors, consistent with our Defence Industrial Policy will also be considered including potential export value to the United Kingdom defence industrial base. Current analysis of the potential export market suggests opportunities in the region of £3 billion over 15 years.

Gas Masks

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Service personnel have been supplied with gas mask filters that are out of date; and if he will make a statement. [96930]

Mr. Ingram: To the best of our knowledge, no Service personnel have been issued with gas mask filters which are out of date, and no defect reports have been received from units about either respirators or respirator filters. I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to him on 11 February 2003, Official Report, column 633W.

HMS Nottingham

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 28 January 2003, Official Report, column 747W, on HMS Nottingham, what changes to current departmental expenditure commitments he plans to make. [96893]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 11 February 2003, Official Report, column 635W, to my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey).

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Landing Ship Dock Auxiliary Vessels

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects construction to be completed on the new Landing Ship Dock (Auxiliary) vessels (LSD (A)). [95417]

Mr. Ingram: Construction of the first Landing Ship Dock (Auxiliary), RFA LARGS BAY, is due to complete in March 2004. The vessel will then undergo a series of sea trials prior to its acceptance into service in autumn 2004. Construction of the remaining three vessels is planned to complete during 2004 and 2005, followed by sea trials and acceptance into service.

Medical Discharge (RAF)

Janet Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence under what circumstances an RAF employee can be asked to forfeit his entitlement to medical discharge. [97511]

Dr. Moonie: RAF Personnel do not have an entitlement, either statutory or regulational, to medical discharge.

The discharge of personnel below the minimum Royal Air Force medicalstandard is decided at the Personnel Management Agency, following consideration of an individual's case by a Medical Board. The individual is invited to provide a personal statement as part of this process.

Merlin Helicopter

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Merlin helicopters are grounded in order to provide spare parts for operational Merlin helicopters. [96942]

Mr. Ingram: The term 'grounded' is normally used only when a whole fleet or mark of aircraft is identified as unsafe to fly because of specific serious engineering or airworthiness problems which call into question the safety of the aircraft type. No Merlin helicopters are being used to provide spares for operational aircraft.

Middle East (Equipment Suitability)

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the (a) quality and (b) suitability for the climate and conditions of the equipment supplied to army personnel in preparation for deployment to the middle east. [96663]

Mr. Ingram: All our troops are provided with personal equipment that is right for the operation to be undertaken. The clothing, boots and other personal equipment that is provided to each soldier has been tested, and procured to a high quality and reliability standard. The views of soldiers are taken into account during this process. We hold stocks of all types of personal equipment for the variety of operations that might occur but, because it is not sensible to tie up assets for all contingencies, these basic stocks are supplemented as operations become better defined. Adequate stocks of desert equipment for Army personnel will be available for Operation Telic.

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