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The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): The Ministry of Defence fully supports Government policy and targets for renewable energy. We do not oppose wind farm developments unless the safety of MOD personnel or the public, UK defence systems or our operational capability appear to be adversely affected. That applies to both onshore and offshore developments.
Mr. Liddell-Grainger : Is the Minister aware that there is a helicopter range just off the coast of Somerset, and that West Somerset district council is about to receive an application for 12 wind turbines, 300 ft high and 128 ft across, just down the coast from the range? Has the Minister not thought what damage could be done, first to the helicopters and secondly to the wind farm, should things go wrong?
Mr. Ingram: I have. As I made clear in my answer, we have to ensure that there is compatibility between these twin objectives. I am advised that we have received applications for some 15 wind farm developments in Somerset; all the 11 objections raised were connected with radar interference, and none related to interference with range activities. It is not only the Ministry of Defence that is concerned about radar interference; civilian operations can also be affected by wind farms. We have to weigh our clear objective on renewable energy against the way in which wind farms can affect military or civilian overflights.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): In that case, does my right hon. Friend recognise that it would be helpful if the Government were involved in the research on the effect on radar of wind farms at sea? It is clear that sufficient work has not yet gone into ensuring that we are well aware of the impacts of those structures, both on shipping and on radar installations.
My hon. Friend is very experienced in these matters, and I bow to her greater immediate knowledge. She may have seen some research that I have not seen. All of us in the Government must make sure that we have a guaranteed approach that takes into account all the points of scientific and practical interest
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which must be resolved. I am sure that those who have direct responsibility for carrying out the risk research will hear what my hon. Friend says, and I know that she will continue to pursue Government action on the matter.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): The Government have just announced a major increase in the deployment at RAF Scampton. Star Energy has made an application to site half a dozen wind turbines, each as tall as Lincoln cathedral, within half a dozen miles of that major RAF base. Will the Minister explain his strategy? Will his officials take an interest in the matter? Is there a minimum distance requirement connected with radar or operational safety with which he can acquaint the House? This is obviously a matter of the utmost importance.
The hon. Gentleman is right: it is a matter of the utmost importance that when we are relocating activity, in this case in the RAF, we take account of the region into which it is being moved. New applications for wind farms are covered by the response that I gave to the previous questions: we need to make sure that there is compatibility between the twin, or in some cases multiple, objectives that the Government are trying to deliver. We therefore take an interest in these matters. A decision has been made about RAF Scampton and is in the process of being finalised, and any change to the environment is something in which we would take a close interest.
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The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): The summit at Istanbul will address NATO's current operations. It will also offer the opportunity to strengthen NATO's partnerships with other countries and continue the drive to transform the alliance and its capabilities. In addition to the Heads of State and Government meeting, Defence Ministers will meet to review progress and direct the further reform of NATO.
Mr. MacDougall : Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the summit is taking place at a vital time for both NATO and the wider worlda time when NATO and UK forces are involved in Afghanistan and the Balkans? Will he comment on NATO's role and value in the international environment?
Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for asking that question and making important points about the future commitment of NATO. It is vital that we sustain and support its existing responsibilities, while recognising that NATO itself must reform to deal with the new types of threat that we face around the world. I am pleased that the UK has been leading the way in that process. Istanbul is a major way stage in that reform.
It is worth recalling that we went to war against Iraq on a threat and a promise. The threat was that of weapons of mass destruction, and the promise that of progress in the middle east peace process. But neither threat nor promise has been fulfilled. No weapons of mass destruction have been found, and none appears likely to be found now. The Iraq survey group has disappeared from view and its head has resigned. The road map has been rolled up. Unilateral action by Mr. Sharon has been approved and a negotiated settlement in the middle east seems further away than ever.
There is more. The coalition of which the United Kingdom is a member is shamed and embarrassed by the treatment of detainees while in the custody of the United States, and we may yet suffer domestic shame and embarrassment when current inquiries are completed. Here in the United Kingdom, there is no acceptable explanation of why Ministers did not see communications from the Red Cross and Amnesty International. The handover date of 30 June now depends on the efforts of Lakhdar Brahimi and the United Nationsthe same United Nations that was sidestepped by the coalition in spring 2003. There is some irony there, which will, no doubt, not be lost in Manhattan.
Violence in Iraq is on the increase, as British troops found at the weekend when they had to bayonet their way to safety. The tragic death this morning of the head of the Iraq governing council is yet another demonstrable success for terrorism. In the minds of many Iraqis, the army of liberation is delivering much less than it promised. At Falluja, the United States has had to acknowledge the failure of the doctrine of
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decisive force. Thousands of Iraqis have died since March 2003, but we do not even afford them the dignity of keeping an accurate estimate of their numbers.
It is indeed a brave new world, and it is hard not to be angryangry for Britain and its reputation; angry for the brave young men and women who are serving in difficult and dangerous conditions in Iraq; angry, too, for a House of Commons that was persuaded to support military action on a flawed prospectus and, as we now know, with no clear strategy for the aftermath of conflict.
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