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11 Jun 2003 : Column 915W—continued

Machine Guns

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Minimi LMGs (light machine guns) will be procured for the armed forces; and how many Light Support Weapons will be taken out of front line service. [117499]

Mr. Ingram: We are planning to procure 2,472 Minimi light machine guns. These will supplement the role fulfilled by the Light Support Weapon, all of which will remain in service.

Merlin Capability Sustainment Plus Programme

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what improvements in capability are being examined as part of the Merlin Capability Sustainment Plus programme. [117495]

Mr. Ingram: The Merlin Capability Sustainment Plus programme Assessment Phase is primarily investigating the most cost-effective way to sustain Merlin Mkl's multi-role capability for future operations. It will also, however, investigate the scope for focussed enhancements to improve the utility and versatility of the aircraft, particularly in surface surveillance, interoperability and survivability, building on experience in the Gulf.

Northern Ireland

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the organisations which have had primacy of intelligence gathering operations in Northern Ireland since 1973. [116869]

Mr. Paul Murphy: I have been asked to reply.

The Army had lead responsibility for intelligence work in Northern Ireland from 1972 to 1976. Otherwise, the police—first the RUC and then the PSNI—have had primacy in intelligence gathering in Northern Ireland.

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Porton Down

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 4 June 2003, Official Report, column 451W, and letter from the Chief Executive of DERA, dated 22 July 1998, what factors have led to changes in numbers of procedures on animals at Porton Down since 1993; and if he will make a statement. [118582]

Dr. Moonie: The variations in the number of procedures returned annually to the Home Office by Dstl Porton Down in the years 1993 to 2002 reflects the changes in the research programme as determined by the requirements of the Ministry of Defence.

Over the last nine years the increase in the overall number of animal procedures returned is mainly accounted for by the increase in the number of mice used. This is a direct result of an increased emphasis on research to develop effective vaccines and other medical countermeasures against biological agents. The programme is progressing well. One new vaccine is already in clinical trails and another is expected to start trials later this year.


Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the estimated in-service date is for the (a) PAAMS, (b) A400M, (c) COBRA and (d) MRAV; what the original in-service date was of each; and if he will make a statement. [109086]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 1 May 2003]: The information requested is shown below:

ProjectCurrent Forecast ISDOriginal Approved ISD

(14) The ISD for MRAV is currently under review.


Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the security of supply for propellants for the British armed forces. [115484]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 3 June 2003]: In 1999, the House of Commons Defence Select Committee (HCDC) examined security of supply of propellants as part of its inquiry into the proposed closure of Royal Ordnance Defence (ROD) Bishopton for commercial reasons. The Committee accepted that there were no strategic or defence reasons for the retention of ROD Bishopton. The subsequent review by the National Audit Office of the analysis underpinning the evidence presented by the Ministry of Defence of the HCDC concluded that this remained sound. Security of supply is taken into account when competing all requirements for ammunition including the propellant component; this is an integral part of the vetting process before tenders are progressed. In the event of bids being

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received from manufacturers or countries that could pose potential risk to security of supply, then these are discounted before the tender process is taken forward.

RAF Training Sorties

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many RAF training sorties were undertaken in (a) Scottish and (b) UK airspace during each of the last 12 months. [118318]

Dr. Moonie: Information on the geographical location of training sorties flown over the United Kingdom or Scotland is not recorded separately. To produce an estimate of the number of sorties undertaken in UK airspace, details of overseas sorties have been removed from statistics which show the total number of all training sorties flown.

MonthSorties originated in UK Airspace
April 200215,788
May 200217,579
June 200214,562
July 200217,204
August 200215,649
September 200217,835
October 200217,333
November 200213,726
December 200210,327
January 200313,300
February 200313,556
March 200314,363


Includes fixed and rotary wing RAF aircraft

Scientific Exchanges

Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many scientific exchanges there were in 2002 between UKAWES and US weapons laboratories. [118399]

Dr. Moonie: In 2002 there were 182 visits by Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) staff to the United States and 103 visits by US officials to AWE.

SOMCHEM-designed Modular Charge System

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the (a) financial and (b) operational consequences are of failure of the SOMCHEM-designed modular charge system to meet the performance specification; [115485]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 3 June 2003]: The Defence Procurement Agency is working closely with Royal Ordnance Defence, the prime contractor for the Extended Range Ordnance/Modular Charge System project, to address technical problems which are delaying programme delivery. The Somchem-designed modular charge system has contributed to these problems, and the resulting programme, financial and

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operational implications are currently under review. Although Rheinmetall offers an alternative modular charge system, this is unlikely to meet Ministry of Defence requirements, and there are therefore no plans at present to procure such a system.

Sri Lanka

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the total value of arms sales originating from the UK to the Sri Lankan government in each of the past five years. [117517]

Mr. Ingram: The value of licences issued and actual goods exported to individual countries has, since 1999, been published in the Government's Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls. Copies of these reports are available from the Library of the House and via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at The value of goods exported in 1998 was £1 million. Figures for 2002 are currently being collated for the Report to be published later this year.

Strategic Tanker Programme

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the strategic tanker programme. [117667]

Mr. Ingram: The Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft is planned to replace our VC10 and TriStar Air Refuelling aircraft towards the end of the decade. Final bids for this prospective PFI programme were received on 30 April 2003 and our assessment is underway.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the UK forces' requirements in relation to the strategic tanker programme. [117668]

Mr. Ingram: The United Kingdom Forces' future requirements for fast jet and large aircraft refuelling are planned to be met by the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA). FSTA is currently in its assessment phase which includes assessment of the requirements.

Final bids for this programme were received on 30 April 2003 and they are currently being assessed.

UN Personnel (Congo)

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many UN personnel are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; how many more are due to be sent there; and under whose command they will operate. [117696]

Mr. Ingram: The information is not readily available in the format requested. However, the UN Security General's report on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) dated 27 May, outlined a current mandate of 7,800 personnel and requested an increase to 10,800 in the coming months, to facilitate the additional requirement in Ituri.

In addition the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1484 of 30 May authorised an Interim Emergency Multinational Force to help stabilise the situation in the town of Bunia in Ituri, pending the

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deployment of additional forces by the UN. This should be an ESDP operation with France as framework nation.

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