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4 Feb 2004 : Column 889W—continued

Personal Radio Systems

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether individual soldiers are permitted to buy components for their army-issued personal radio systems. [152378]

Mr. Ingram: No. There are well-established procedures in place for units to address shortages of equipment through the Ministry of Defence supply system.

Project ISOLUS

Mr. Alan Reid: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list sites owned by his Department that are being considered for storing radioactive waste as part of project ISOLUS. [152380]

Mr. Ingram: 117 Ministry of Defence owned coastal sites are being considered for suitability to store radioactive material from nuclear-powered submarines under Project ISOLUS. Many have been dismissed and I will make an announcement once it has been established which of the remaining sites, or others that may yet be identified, warrant further consideration.

I refer the hon. Member to the statement I made on 6 January 2004, Official Report, column 68WH, that further public consultation will be carried out on any new options that have merit.

RAF Flying Posts

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many RAF flying posts there are this year; and how many are planned for each of the next three years. [152222]

Mr. Ingram: I will write to the hon. Member and place a copy of my reply in the Library of the House.

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RAF Halton

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will publish the report of the Defence Aviation Safety Centre into the possible impact on public safety of the relocation of glider squadrons to RAF Halton. [147968]

Mr. Ingram: The Defence Aviation Safety Centre conducted a risk management survey on both RAF Henlow and RAF Halton in late 2003. Copies of the section of the report relating to RAF Halton and specifically the measures to ensure that the Station operates safely have been placed in the Library of the House today. It is expected that the recommendations proposed for RAF Halton will be fully adopted to ensure that the Station continues to operate safely.

RAF Leeming (Security)

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) whether there were breaches of security at RAF Leeming during the evening of 29 November and early morning of 30 November 2003; and whether an unauthorised person was able to approach within about 50 m of the vehicles of the Nuclear Weapons Convoy while parked at RAF Leeming; [147075]

Mr. Ingram: I can confirm that an unauthorised person gained entry to RAF Leeming while a convoy of military vehicles stopped overnight on 29 November 2003 at the base. The person was subsequently escorted off the premises by the Ministry of Defence Police. In accordance with Government policy, I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons at any particular place or time. Security at MOD establishments, including RAF Leeming, is kept under constant review. It would not be appropriate to disclose details of security reviews or their recommendations and I am therefore withholding the information requested under Exemption 1a of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

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However, stringent security and protection standards are applied by the MOD whenever United Kingdom Defence Nuclear Materials are used, stored and transported. These security standards are compatible with IAEA INFCIR/225, and the MOD applies further safeguards during transit and storage of nuclear warheads, which are equivalent to the standards applied by the United States Department of Energy to their nuclear warheads.

RAF Stations

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many RAF stations there were in the UK in (a) 2003 and (b) 1993; and how many accommodated flying operations in each year. [151629]

Mr. Ingram: In 1993, there were 83 RAF stations in the UK; in 2003, there were 47. In 1993, 36 stations had active runways or helicopter landing pads; in 2003, 28.


Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) exercises and (b) training course places involving reservists have been (i) cancelled and (ii) withdrawn in each of the three armed services in the last two years. [149305]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 26 January 2004]: The information requested is not centrally held and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Royal Gibraltar Regiment

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for changes in (a) manning levels and (b) overall structure of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment; and if he will make a statement. [151188]

Mr. Ingram: The staff of Headquarter British Forces Gibraltar are currently reviewing the military and ceremonial tasks of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment to identify the appropriate levels of readiness; to re-validate structures and manpower levels of the Regiment; and to develop the training requirements.

Royal Navy

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on lean manned ships for the Royal Navy; and if he will make a statement. [152244]

Mr. Ingram: In the Naval Service, the Type 23 frigates are commonly known as Lean Manned ships. The increased use of automation enabled a smaller ship's complement, with an emphasis on skilled maintainers and operators. A consequent reduction in the proportion of junior personnel available for manual tasks has been alleviated by providing additional civilian manpower to undertake cleaning, painting and dining hall support when the ships are in harbour.

Sea Harrier

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the Sea Harrier will be withdrawn from service. [152604]

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Mr. Ingram: The first of three Sea Harrier Squadrons will be withdrawn from service on 31 March 2004. It is planned to retire the second Squadron in March 2005 and the final Squadron in March 2006.

Survey Vessels

Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the total value was of the contract awarded to Vosper Thorneycroft to design and construct HMS Echo and HMS Enterprise. [149617]

Mr. Ingram: The contract for design, construction and 25 years' support for HMS Echo and HMS Enterprise was awarded in July 2000 at a value of £130 million. The breakdown of this figure into individual elements is commercially sensitive and I am withholding it in accordance with Exemption 7 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, which relates to effective management and operations of the public service.

Training Exercises

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which countries have cancelled training exercises involving HM forces in the past two years; and for what reasons. [152220]

Mr. Ingram: Of the 350 exercises listed annually in the United Kingdom Defence Exercise Programme, 69 were cancelled in 2002, and 151 in 2003. Of those exercises cancelled in the last year, some 10 per cent. were cancelled by nations other than the UK hosting exercises in their own country or sponsoring exercises elsewhere. While specific reasons for cancellation are not available in many cases, and could be provided only at disproportionate cost, many nations' exercise programmes (like the UK's) have been affected in recent years by competing operational priorities.

Type 45 Destroyer

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what date the first Type 45 destroyer will be delivered to the Royal Navy; and whether this is the date originally specified. [150869]

Mr. Ingram: The currently approved in service date for the First of Class, HMS Daring, is November 2007. This date has not changed since the Type 45 was approved at Main Gate in July 2000, although it is currently under review.

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