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21 Feb 2005 : Column 118W—continued


Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the medical units serving in Iraq. [214355]

Mr. Caplin: In MND(SE) the five General Support Medical Regiment (RAMC) and the Hospital Squadron from 33 Field Hospital are the main medical units. They are supported by a number of augmentees from all three services. In addition, at Basrah Airport there is a RAF medical facility formed from a variety of RAF medical services and each United Kingdom battlegroup has its own intrinsic medical support in the form of a Regimental Aid Post.

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what reports he has received from British troops in Iraq on the effectiveness of (a) SA80A2 rifles, (b) Minimi light machineguns and (c) grenade launchers; what length of training troops received in the use of each weapon prior to deployment; and if he will make a statement. [214690]

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Mr. Ingram: As part of the lessons identified process following Op Telic, which draws on the experiences of those in theatre, it was concluded that the SA80 A2 had performed well in theatre. The Minimi light machine gun and the underslung grenade launcher, procured as urgent operational requirements, also performed well. Indeed, these are now being brought into full service following the success of the UOR variants.

No individual conversion training is given to soldiers issued with SA80 A2 as the drills for using the weapon are very similar to the Al version. Personnel are required to be advised of the new cleaning regime required for the modified parts of the weapon together with being issued updated user publications during unit briefings.

Soldiers are required to complete the mandatory weapon handling test and familiarisation firing of the weapon before being issued with the Minimi light machine gun or grenade launcher. This has been conducted either prior to deployment or in theatre as part of reception staging and onward integration training.

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) Iraqi and (b) non-Iraqi nationals are held in prisons administered by United Kingdom armed forces; how many of these prisoners are female; how many are aged under 16 years; how many have been transferred from United States administered prisons; how many have been (i) tried and (ii) sentenced since March 2003; how old the (A) oldest and (B) youngest detainee is; and if he will list the offences under which detainees are being held. [215865]

Mr. Ingram: As at 7 February 2005, there were thirty three internees held in the UK Divisional Temporary Detention Facility in Iraq, which is the only such facility administered by the UK. Thirty-two are Iraqi nationals and one has both Iraqi and British nationality. None of the internees are female, and none have stated that they are under eighteen. Three were transferred from US custody in December 2004.

None of these internees have been tried or sentenced. They are held in custody as security internees on the grounds that they are deemed to be an imperative threat to security. Any Iraqis taken into custody by UK forces who are not deemed to be an imperative threat to security, but are suspected of criminal activity, are transferred to the Iraqi authorities at the earliest possible opportunity.

The oldest internee currently held by the UK has stated that he is sixty-two. The youngest we are aware of has stated that he is twenty.

Landing Ships Contract

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State forDefence what the original contract price was for the delivery by Swan Hunter of two landing ships dock (auxiliary) vessels; and whether there has been a change in that contractual price since award of the contract. [214223]

Mr. Ingram: The original contract with Swan Hunter for design and build of two LSD(A)s was valued at £148 million. This has since been increased to £232 million,
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with a further £3 million added to cover enhancements that have included aspects to ensure the vessels comply with the latest statutory safety requirements.


Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the total manpower is of in role (a) airborne engineer forces, (b) airborne Army logistic forces, (c) parachute artillery forces and (d) airborne Army medical forces; and what the cost was of each of those forces in the last year for which figures are available. [201011]

Mr. Ingram: The military manpower numbers for the relevant formations, for Financial Year 2003–04, are shown in the following table:


Unit title
Manpower totals
(a)23 Engineer Regiment176
(b)13 Air Assault Support Regiment RLC590
(c)7 (Para) Royal Horse Artillery447
(d)16 Close Support Medical Regiment273

The information relating to the costs of these forces is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Medical Supplies Agency

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people work for the Medical Supplies Agency; how many are employed in Scotland; what the personnel costs of the agency are; and what the figures were in 2003–04. [214750]

Mr. Ingram: Medical Supplies Agency (MSA) currently employs 312 staff, seven of whom are employed at the Medical Distribution Centre, Greenock, Scotland. In accordance with MSA Annual Report and Accounts 2003–04, 380 staff were employed in 2003–04 with nine employed at the Medical Distribution Centre, Greenock. The MSA total staff cost for 2003–04 was £8.489 million with a forecast of £8.996 million for this year.

Mobile Phones

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many mobile telephones have been reported lost or stolen from the Department in each year since 1997; and what the cost was in each year; [214884]

(2) what the cost of staff mobile phone bills was in each year since 1997. [214888]

Mr. Caplin: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 16 December 2004, Official Report, columns 1226–227W, to the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis).

NATO Transformation Programme

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress made on the NATO Transformation Programme in respect of British forces. [216109]

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Mr. Hoon: NATO has made good progress since the Prague Summit in 2002 in transforming its capabilities through initiatives such as the Prague Capabilities Commitment, the NATO Response Force (NRF), and the streamlining of its command structures.

Key to the transformation process is the delivery of flexible, deployable, sustainable, technologically advanced and interoperable armed forces that are capable of undertaking the full spectrum of modem military missions required by the new international security environment. The United Kingdom's armed forces are, of course, already well down this route as a result of the changes introduced in the 1998 Strategic Defence Review (Cm 3999), the SDR New Chapter of 2002 (Cm 5566) and the 2004 Future Capabilities Paper (Cm 6269).

The UK's armed forces are well suited to, and continue to play a leading role in providing capability to the NRF, NATO's principal tool for the transformation of its military capability.

Network Interoperability

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans there are for improving network interoperability; what Ministry of Defence agency is responsible for funding the Joint Network Management System and Multiple Tactical Datalink Management Systems; what the nature is of the relationship between these two systems; how they will interact with the US Joint Interface Control Officers Support System; what the time scale is for each project; and if he will make a statement. [214269]

Mr. Ingram: Improving interoperability between networks is a key theme of Network Enabled Capability, and there are a number of initiatives to this end. The Joint Network Management System is a programme funded by the Defence Communication Services Agency to manage tactical datalink networks in the UK. The Multiple Tactical Datalink Management System (MTDMS) forms part of a programme funded from the Equipment Plan to provide a deployable tactical datalink management capability for out of area operations. Neither programme has yet received final approval to proceed but our current planning assumption is that they will be introduced in 2006. The two systems address different requirements but they are required to be interoperable as there are circumstances when the MTDMS could be used in the UK. The MTDMS is intended to be usable in operations with US forces and we are therefore monitoring closely the development of the US Joint Interface Control Officers Support System.

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