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18 Oct 2005 : Column 891W—continued

Departmental Priorities

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his Department's highest priorities are for the next 12 months. [18321]

John Reid: The highest priorities for the Ministry of Defence are: continued success in our current operational areas and the modernisation of the UK's armed forces as set out in Delivering Security in a Changing World, Future Capabilities" (Cm 6269).

The Public Service Agreement for the Ministry of Defence sets out our specific objectives and performance targets and can be viewed at 2004 Spending Review: Public Service Agreements 2005–2008" (Cm 6238).

Hercules Crash (Iraq)

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the Board of Inquiry into the Hercules crash in
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Iraq will complete its work; whether its report will go to Ministers before its publication; and when it will be published. [18726]

John Reid [holding answer 17 October 2005]: I will release the findings of the Board of Inquiry as soon as the relevant work is complete.

HMS Cygnet

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State forDefence who the purchaser was of the Bird class patrol vessel HMS Cygnet, disposed of by his Department in 1996; and what broker was used in the transaction. [17711]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 17 October 2005]: The Ministry of Defence's Disposal Services Agency (DSA) sold the Bird class patrol vessel HMS Cygnet in 1996 to ASL Technics. It was a direct sale using competitive tender procedures.

HMS Intrepid

Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what tenders were sought by his Department for the breaking of HMS Intrepid; what responses were received from ship breaking firms based (a) inside and (b) outside the UK; and how many of the bidders were able to demonstrate compliance with the Environment Agency's environmental criteria. [18157]

Mr. Ingram: 39 companies were invited to tender for ex-HMS Intrepid:

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Of these, only nine companies responded:

Of the nine bidders, six firms were based in the UK:

The remaining three were firms based outside the UK:

None were able to demonstrate compliance with the necessary criteria.


Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he was first informed that military equipment supplied by Iran may have been used against British soldiers in southern Iraq; and if he will make a statement. [17155]

John Reid: I first became aware in early summer 2005 of reports suggesting that military equipment originating in Iran may have been used against British soldiers in Southern Iraq. New types of explosive devices are being used—not just against British Forces, but elsewhere in Iraq—and the nature of those devices suggests a connection with Lebanese Hezbollah, which is supported by Iran. We cannot, however be certain of this at the present time, and while we continue to investigate the matter, we will continue to stress to the Iranian authorities the need for non-interference in the internal affairs of Iraq.


Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the use in theatre of unarmoured and armoured Land Rovers in Iraq. [18478]

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Mr. Ingram: British forces use both armoured and non-armoured Land Rovers in Iraq, the choice of vehicle for a particular operation, patrol or other journey being dependent on the commander's assessment of the nature of the task and the current threat. That threat level is kept under continuous review. If the operational situation requires it, additional protection can be—and is—provided.

Joint Combat Aircraft

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to announce the stations at which the Joint Combat Aircraft will be based; and what consultations there have been with local planning authorities prior to such a decision being made regarding (a) noise and (b) other environmental matters. [17940]

Mr. Ingram: I expect to announce the outcome of the JCA basing study later this year. Ministry of Defence officials have held discussions with relevant local authorities, which have included aircraft noise and environmental matters.

Members' Visits

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what level of security clearance hon. Members must have to be allowed to visit departmental sites. [18961]

Mr. Touhig: Any request from a Member of Parliament to visit a Defence establishment is considered on a case by case basis, taking into account the circumstances of the request. These include, for instance, the timing of the visit, practical issues, the effect on operations and security considerations. Members are not required to hold a security clearance when visiting departmental sites; however, the principle of the need to know applies to the protection of, and access to, defence sites and other sensitive Government assets. Visits are at the discretion of Ministers and, where possible, Members are afforded briefings up to the level of RESTRICTED when visiting MOD establishments. This is a facility MOD Ministers have provided to allow MPs a greater insight into defence issues and to allow them better to serve their constituents.

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