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6 Feb 2006 : Column 823W—continued

Future Aircraft Carriers

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what safeguards will be put in place to ensure that there is no conflict of interest in the secondment of the Managing Director of VT Shipbuilding to the position of Chief Executive of the Alliance Management Team for the Future Aircraft Carrier project. [47766]

Mr. Ingram: The new Chief Executive of the Future Carrier (CVF) Alliance Management Team (AMT) will be seconded to the civil service for the period of his appointment and will be required to observe the general conditions of conduct applicable to civil servants. He will not be a member of the VT Board; his shares will be held in a trust; and he will require the Ministry of
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Defence's consent to take up any appointment, other than with his previous employer, within two years of the end of the secondment. Under the CVF governance arrangements, he will report to the Alliance Management Board, consisting of senior company representatives of each of the Alliance participants and chaired by the MOD.

Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress on the future aircraft carrier programme. [44208]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the written ministerial statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 14 December 2005, Official Report, column 148WS, which outlines the major steps forward taken in our plans for the future aircraft carriers (CVF).

Subsequently, we also announced, on 24 January, that we will be co-operating with France during the CVF demonstration phase to produce a common baseline design that both countries can further use to develop their own carriers. This will bring savings in design costs, without slowing the tempo of the project and offers the potential of savings on shared procurements. France will make a financial contribution in recognition of the investment UK has already made in the design (comprising £30 million now and £25 million in July with a further £45 million at the end of the demonstration phase if France decides to commit to manufacture) and will contribute one third of the demonstration phase costs of the common baseline design. France's role has been mutually agreed as one of influence rather than control, and as such they will not be able to direct changes to the design or programme.

Having taken these significant decisions, we are on course to provide the UK armed forces with the largest and most powerful warships ever constructed in the UK, and an expeditionary capability unparalleled outside of the US.

Gulf War Veterans

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Gulf war veterans diagnosed with multiple sclerosis have since developed symptoms of Parkinson's disease. [48862]

Mr. Touhig: Medical records of individuals who have left the services, including veterans of the 1990–91 Gulf conflict, are held by each service at individual central locations; however the Ministry of Defence does not hold records of illnesses arising since an individual has left the service. Medical records for those still serving are not normally held at a central location but at their unit medical centre. The information requested cannot therefore be provided.

Harmony Guidelines

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether it is possible to ascertain whether the Harmony Guidelines related to separated service have been breached on an individual basis for each service. [47422]

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Mr. Ingram: All three services have procedures in place that monitor individual harmony and are able to report when the guidelines have been breached.


Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the HELEN laser at Aldermaston; what its future purpose is; and if he will make a statement; [47819]

(2) what the (a) role is and (b) functions are of the proposed new laser at AWE Aldermaston. [47821]

John Reid: In 2001 a review of the capability provided by the HELEN laser identified a requirement to replace it in order to attain, under laboratory conditions, previously inaccessible temperature and pressure regimes akin to those actually obtained in a nuclear weapon. This was deemed essential to underwrite the continued safety and reliability of the Trident nuclear warhead stockpile in the nuclear test ban era.

Accordingly, we shall be replacing HELEN—which has given 25 years of useful service—with the ORION laser, whose primary role will be to enable the safety and reliability of the Trident stockpile to be underwritten through the remainder of its service life. Until its planned decommissioning in 2008, HELEN will continue to be used for worthwhile experiments both in support of Trident and as a test bed for some of the technologies and equipment to be used on the ORION laser.


Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average number of operational flying hours undertaken by an RAF (a) Chinook, (b) Merlin, (c) Sea King and (d) Puma helicopter was in each month in (i) 2004 and (ii) 2005. [45148]

Mr. Ingram: In answering the question I have assumed that the hon. Gentleman is referring to hours flown on operations. The total number of operational hours flown by aircraft type has been recorded by month since the beginning of financial year (FY) 2005–06. The monthly average 1 for a RAF Chinook, Merlin and Puma, for the period April to December 2005, is shown in the following table:
Average operational hours per individual aircraft type FY 2005–06

Aircraft type
RAF ChinookRAF MerlinRAF Puma
April 20050:0058:4128:42
May 20050:0062:1129:23
June 20050:0072:5131:06
July 20053:5859:3827:09
August 200527:4254:3031:24
September 200576:2067:1627:38
October 200520:49115:1225:36
November 200593:0668:5128:40
December 200533:1038:2523:50

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Prior to April 2005, the hours flown on operations were recorded as an annual total per aircraft type. An average monthly total has been calculated 2 and is shown in the following table:
Aircraft typeFinancial year 2004–05
RAF Chinook56
RAF Merlin10
RAF Puma22

The Sea Kings operated by the RAF are dedicated to the UK Search and Rescue capability and have, therefore, not been included in the figures provided.

2 The calculation used is: total annual operational flying hours divided by 12 giving an average monthly figure which is then divided by the monthly average number of aircraft type deployed on operations.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 11 January 2006, Official Report, column 664W, on helicopters, what the current operational status is of each of the Merlin helicopters operated by each of the services. [45296]

Mr. Ingram: On 23 January 2006, of the 24 Merlin helicopters in the RN operational Fleet, 16 were serviceable. Of the 15 aircraft in the RAF's operational Fleet, five were serviceable.

The number of available RAF Merlin helicopters is lower than usual and reflects post-Operation TELIC recovery, pre-Operation TELIC preparation and an industry programme to bring the RAF Merlin helicopters up to the baseline specification.

It is not Ministry of Defence policy to have all its aircraft available at the front line during peacetime. Rather the Department's maintenance and support policies are designed to ensure that the maximum number of aircraft can be made available at the highest readiness state, should the operational need arise.

HMS Sussex

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what arrangements he has entered into with the US company Odyssey regarding the salvage of HMS Sussex; and if he will make a statement. [48094]

Mr. Touhig: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Caplin), on 2 February 2005, Official Report, column 898W.

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