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Galileo Project

6. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): When he last discussed the Galileo project with his EU counterparts. [199358]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): Galileo was most recently discussed by European Transport Ministers—in keeping with both the civil nature of Galileo and the Department for Transport's primary responsibility for the project in the United Kingdom—at the Transport Council in October. Defence officials continue to be fully engaged in cross-Whitehall discussions on this subject.
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Mr. Amess: The Minister knows that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson), confirmed to the Select Committee on Transport that certain partners to the Galileo project—most notably France—seek military applications for it. What measures are the Government taking to ensure that our strategic partners do not seek use of that satellite for military purposes?

Mr. Ingram: We have made it clear that, as far as the UK is concerned, Galileo will be a civil system under civil control. That has been confirmed by successive EU Transport Councils. The requirements for navigation and timing information to support UK armed forces will continue to be met by the global positioning standard—GPS—which remains a de facto NATO standard. The MOD has no current requirement for specific military application of Galileo and is not investing in the project. The EU-US agreement on Galileo/GPS interoperability, which was signed in June, safeguards UK, US, NATO and European military interests.

Barbara Follett (Stevenage) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that contrary to recent speculation, the Galileo project is good value for money and that the UK's defence interests will be protected during its operation?

Mr. Ingram: Yes. I understand my hon. Friend's constituency interest in the matter. I have long known about the project—since before I entered Government—which has been a long running one. It clearly has great utility in the right areas. I have clearly set out the defence position and how we view the project in terms of our needs.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton) (Con): The Minister will know that the Galileo project started under the last Conservative Government. I was involved in the EGNOS—European geostationary navigation overlay service—ground station work, and I am an enthusiastic supporter of the project. I rather regret his, shall we say, defensive approach. There is a clear military connection to Galileo and I hope that the MOD does not try to push its responsibility for such matters solely on to the Transport Council, because in the modern fighting age accurate positioning is ever more vital. Now that the Americans have agreed, there is no conflict with our American partners over GPS and Galileo, which are to be complementary.

Mr. Ingram: I remember opposing the hon. Gentleman when he was Science Minister, and recall how much I welcomed the reversal of roles. I have always viewed him as one of the saner members of the Opposition on a range of issues. I have made our defence view very clear, and GPS remains the system of choice for the UK.
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Battle of Trafalgar Celebrations

7. Mr. Ivan Henderson (Harwich) (Lab): What support his Department is giving to ensure the involvement of the Sea Cadet Association in celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar. [199359]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin): The Sea Cadet Association, with its affiliated sea cadet corps units, is integral to the Government's series of events to celebrate the bicentennial of the battle of Trafalgar. Working with the Royal Navy, the Sea Cadet Association is acting as the lead organisation for all naval cadets involved in this important celebration.

Mr. Henderson: I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Would he consider funding the Sea Cadet Association to enable every unit in this country to take part in those celebrations? It would be a pity if the Government turned a blind eye to units that did not have enough funding to take part in that great celebration next year.

Mr. Caplin: My hon. Friend has made an interesting suggestion about funding for next year. I have not previously considered it, but I undertake to do so, as we have a fund for supporting Trafalgar celebrations. I congratulate my hon. Friend on behalf of the whole House on his chairmanship of the all-party group on sea cadets, which will be a year old in January. Other Ministers and I were disappointed not to be able to attend the reception at which the First Sea Lord spoke.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): Is the Minister aware that this very week is the 200th anniversary of Napoleon's coronation as emperor and that the Government have done far more damage to our Navy than Napoleon ever managed? We now have excellent relations with France, which has more ships in its navy than this country has, and will soon have even more ships. Should we not be grateful to the French for whatever participation they care to undertake next year in the Trafalgar anniversary so that the sea cadets have something else to see?

Mr. Caplin: I think that we are extending my ministerial responsibility for veterans a little far in talking about Napoleon in a question about sea cadets. I hope, however, that the hon. Gentleman enjoys the events planned for the Trafalgar anniversary next year.

Court Martial (Army)

8. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): If he will make a statement on the operation of the court martial system in the Army. [199360]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): The court martial system for the Army is established under the Army Act 1955, which applies worldwide. The Act provides that all offences under English law are also offences under military law. It also provides for service offences such as failure to attend for duty, and misconduct on operations. A court martial system able to try both types of offence is an essential
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element in maintaining discipline to underpin operational effectiveness, and is compliant with the European convention on human rights.

Richard Ottaway: I am well aware that to bring up the case of Trooper Kevin Williams would be to breach the sub-judice rules, so I shall choose my next question with care. Is the Minister satisfied with a system in which commanding officers, whatever the circumstances, may consider that the rules of engagement have been complied with, but in which the Crown Prosecution Service can take a different view and effectively has a right of veto? Is he satisfied that that is a fair and balanced way in which to apply military justice?

Mr. Ingram: The hon. Gentleman referred to the Williams case, and I can only repeat the comments of my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General when Trooper Williams was charged—the possibility of a court martial in connection with the incident was ruled out by the decision of the soldier's commanding officer to dismiss the case. Following subsequent consultation involving the Attorney-General and the CPS, a decision was made to pursue the case in the civil courts.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex) (Con): What assurances can the Minister of State for the armed forces provide that when soldiers are placed in the most difficult, dangerous and confused situations, and when split-second decisions have to be made, the decisions made by their commanding officers will not be overruled by civilian courts, thus seriously undermining operational morale and possibly endangering soldiers' lives?

Mr. Ingram: I do not think I have anything further to add to my earlier answer. We have made it clear how the process works. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is saying that due process should not take place if alleged wrongdoing has occurred. We clearly have an obligation to ensure that we apply the highest standards of law at all times, and to make sure that it is applied fairly and equitably to all involved in the process, in order to defend the interests of possible victims of wrongdoing and of those who may be accused of carrying out those acts.

Defence Procurement

9. Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Lab): What steps he is taking to increase procurement from British-based suppliers. [199361]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): One of the objectives of our defence industrial policy is to sustain and enhance the competitiveness of the United Kingdom defence industry, which will further strengthen its ability to meet our defence requirements. We made it clear in our policy that when considering how best to satisfy our defence needs, we take into account the impact on the UK industrial base, including the effects on jobs, technology and intellectual assets.
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Andy Burnham: The Minister mentioned jobs. He does not need me to remind him of the significance of the Eurofighter-Typhoon programme to manufacturers throughout the north-west and to the whole supplier chain in the north-west. I understand that decisions on tranche 2 are imminent, if press reports are to be believed. May I urge my right hon. Friend to make that vital decision for British industry this side of Christmas and make many people throughout the north-west very happy indeed?

Mr. Ingram: Whenever we make such a positive decision, it would make people happy, but it would be nice to give them a good Christmas. Every effort is being made to deliver an early decision. The aircraft is a superb piece of equipment. It is highly acclaimed within the RAF and I am sure it will serve us and meet the needs of the RAF for many years and decades into the future.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): Continued successful procurement from British-based firms requires them to have access to the intellectual property and intellectual ownership of the key technologies. BAE Systems has long failed to get proper access to the technology in the case of the joint strike fighter, a programme in which it is involved. Have the Government any success to report to the House?

Mr. Ingram: We continue to work strenuously to achieve that relationship. The hon. Gentleman knows the background to the case. The efforts of Ministers and the Government cannot be called into question, and I pay tribute to everyone who continues to put pressure where that is needed to ensure that we get access. That is an important aspect of our future procurement approach and we will continue to apply maximum pressure to achieve the best results for the UK.

Mr. David Watts (St. Helens, North) (Lab): Following an earlier response to my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle), will the Minister reconsider whether the decision to give a contract to someone who intends to supply from China meets his Department's proposals to support jobs and manufacturing industry in Britain?

Mr. Ingram: Because of the extensive questioning about the contract, it has been thoroughly trawled over and re-examined to make sure that everything was done properly. I am fully satisfied that that is the case. I repeat that the successful bidder for the contract is a UK-based company.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): The Minister knows that the Government are already reducing procurement from British suppliers among other ways by cutting the future surface combatant programme. When was the decision made to end all work on the programme? How much had been spent, or wasted, before the decision was made? Since the future vessel was intended to replace the Type 22 and Type 23 frigates, what impact will the decision have on the future capabilities of the Royal Navy? With that decision, the Government sneaked out yet another defence cut.
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Mr. Ingram: There is always a balance of priorities to be made in Government. I welcome the hon. Gentleman—I think this is his first Defence questions on the Opposition Front Bench. Long may he continue there. He will learn, I hope, that it is a matter of balancing priorities. There is only so much money in any Department's budget. We cannot buy everything that we desire. With regard to our naval capacity, there are two new aircraft carriers, the Type 45, the Astute programme—the biggest warship building programme since the second world war. We should be congratulated on that, rather than criticised.

Mr. Siôn Simon (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): When recently commissioning the large support vehicle, did the Minister prefer a foreign bidder disguised as a British bidder to a real British bidder based in Birmingham? Does the Minister think that the Government are getting things the wrong way round? Should we not do what everybody else does—pretend to look at the foreign bidders and actually commission the British bidder?

Mr. Ingram: I used to enjoy my hon. Friend's columns in The Daily Telegraph—but I do not know whether I enjoyed his question. I draw his attention to someone who I think is an important contributor to the debate on the contract to which he refers, the Amicus general secretary, Derek Simpson, who said:

Those who represent a large part of the industrial sector—the trade unions—are much in favour of what we have done on this occasion. I think that my hon. Friend is supported by Amicus, and perhaps he should have a word with its general secretary about this matter.

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