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Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many of the 215 unidentified smaller commitments referred to in the letter dated 17 November from the Minister for the Armed Forces to the hon. Member for Mid Norfolk are for amounts (a) over £1 million but up to and including £50 million and (b) over £50 million but less than £100 million; and what the estimated aggregate commitment is in each of these two categories. 
Mr. Ingram: There were (a) 127 items between £1 million and £50 million, with an estimated aggregate commitment of £1.214 billion, and (b) eight items between £50 million and £100 million, with an estimated aggregate commitment of £525 million.
Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on which dates he has held meetings with the First Minister of the Scottish Executive since 1 January; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received from the Council for British Archaeology concerning the proposed recovery of HMS Sussex; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Caplin: The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) set out their concerns in a letter to the Department on 11 October 2002. My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) responded initially on 4 November and then in detail on 18 November 2002. Following a further letter from the CBA on 23 January 2003, officials from all the Government Departments involved in the Sussex Project met with the CBA and other interested bodies on 27 May 2003. CBA wrote again on 2 July 2003 and a reply was sent on 23 July 2003. Further briefing was provided to the CBA on 19 October 2004, following which CBA submitted a number of questions in a letter to the Chief Executive of the Disposal Services Agency on 19 November 2004, which were responded to on 26 November 2004.
Mr. Ingram: There are currently two non-infantry units employed in the infantry role in Iraq: the 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, consisting of 400 personnel, and the Royal Dragoon Guards, consisting of 440 personnel.
Mr. Caplin: Information regarding soldiers who have served in Iraq and who have gone absent without leave is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost. There are no incidences of soldiers who have deployed to Iraq since March 2004 having been charged with desertion.
United Kingdom armed forces continue to contribute to the establishment of a stable, free and democratic Iraq though the provision of security, development of Iraq's security forces, and support to the Iraqi Government.
3 Feb 2005 : Column 1016W
Mr. Ingram: The costs of operations are calculated on a net additional basis and audited figures are published each year in the Ministry of Defence's Annual Report and Accounts. Costs for financial year 200304 were:
|Operations in Iraq||1,051|
|Expenditure on capital equipment||260|
Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what health and safety requirements there are for the firing of naval munitions; and whether these requirements prohibit the firing of specific munitions. 
Mr. Ingram: There is a Comprehensive Safety Certification process for all naval munitions and weapon systems which must be completed before they can be used for operations or training. The process renders the risk to equipment and personnel as low as reasonably practical (ALARP), in accordance with statutory Health and Safety requirements. In addition, there is extensive guidance, both general and specific to platforms and to weapon systems, contained in various Royal Navy publications such as BRdl043Gunnery and Guided Weapon PracticesUser Instructions. None of these requirements prohibits the firing of any specific in-service naval munitions.
Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) whether the Panther command liaison vehicle is intended to be from the same family as the Panther armoured reconnaissance vehicle; 
The only Panther vehicle the Army is receiving is the Panther command and liaison vehicle. This will be used mainly for a variety of command and
3 Feb 2005 : Column 1017W
liaison roles, and is not primarily a reconnaissance vehicle. It will, however, be used in some formations for tasks such as engineer reconnaissance.
Panther is a wheeled vehicle, and its required top speed is 110 km/h on tarmac roads and 30 km/h cross country. It is being procured in two variants, known as Group 2 and Group 3, and depending on the role it will be crewed by between two and four soldiers. Group 2 variants, which are to be used in higher threat roles, will be armed with a General Purpose Machine Gun mounted in an Overhead Weapon Station with a thermal imager, while Group 3 variants will have no vehicle armament. Panther will have suitable armour for its role, but the specification of the armour is classified.
BAE Systems Land Systems is the lead contractor for the project, and 401 Panther vehicles (326 Group 2 and 75 Group 3) have been ordered, at a basic cost (excluding VAT) of £320,000 each for Group 2 and £240,000 each for Group 3. This does not include the cost of Bowman radios and some other equipment. The overall cost of the programme is £193 million.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what factors underlay the decision not to assist Swan Hunter with the overrun in budget to build the Largs Bay and Lyme Bay vessels at its Wallsend yard; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ingram [pursuant to the reply, 10 January 2005, Official Report, c. 81W]: I regret that a clerical error in the Ministry of Defence led to an answer being laid which had been overtaken by events. I referred to continuing discussions with Swan Hunter, which had in fact concluded. I now wish to correct the record and confirm that a £84 million amendment was made to the contract with Swan Hunter following value for money considerations and to ensure the delivery of the new Landing Ship Dock (Auxiliary) capability. This decision followed the programme encountering technical difficulties. The revised contract is not a financial support package for Swan Hunter but one that offers the best value for money to the taxpayer in the delivery of these ships.
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