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6 Feb 2006 : Column 833W—continued

Sonic Boom Technology

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether any naval vessels equipped with underwater sonic boom radar technology were operating in the vicinity of the Thames (a) estuary or (b) mouth on (i) 19 and (ii) 20 January; and what assessment he has made of the effect of sonic boom technology on marine wildlife. [46249]

Mr. Ingram: No Royal Navy vessels were using military sonar in the vicinity of the Thames estuary or the mouth of the Thames on either 19 or 20 of January.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) takes its responsibilities for the environment very seriously. However, there continues to be a vital requirement for the United Kingdom to maintain a maritime capability to protect crucial lines of communication, to participate in operational activities and to be able to address potential mine and submarine threats, now and in the future. To ensure that our military capabilities in these areas are fully maintained, it is imperative that we continue to use active sonar, both now and in the foreseeable future.
 
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Furthermore, sonar is essential to protect UK waters and ensure safe navigation. That said, this certainly does not imply that our sonar activities are undertaken without the fullest possible respect for the environment.

Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) are undertaken for a wide range of our activities in the marine environment, including sonar. Such EIAs cover the marine habitat of the operating area concerned and the species likely to be encountered. The EIAs are used to better tailor the activity and ensure that potentially damaging effects are identified during the planning stage of the exercise and reduced their impact to an absolute minimum. With the same aim in view, we have also issued instructions to all our ships' Commanding Officers for the operational use of sonar in the marine environment. This guidance employs the precautionary principle of 'Plan, Look, Listen and Act'.

While we believe that our operating procedures reflect the best scientific advice and provide a sustainable balance between the need for effective military training and the need to protect our marine environment, we are certainly not complacent. The MOD continues to be closely involved in research, in the UK, with the US and NATO authorities, and in other international forums into the possible effects of sonar noise on marine life. Should any new research provide evidence of a link between our method of using sonar and a detrimental effect on marine life, we would, of course, consider what further mitigation measures might be possible. In the meantime, the current measures reflect the best scientific advice available.

Statutory Instruments

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the statutory instruments introduced by his Department since 6 May 2005. [46197]

Mr. Touhig: The Ministry of Defence has introduced the following statutory instruments since 6 May 2005.


 
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Territorial Army

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the strength is of the territorial army in (a) England, (b) Scotland, (c) Wales, (d) Lancashire and (e) Chorley; and how many posts are vacant. [38266]

Mr. Touhig: The information is not held centrally in the format requested. Official strength figures for the Territorial Army (TA) are collated for the United Kingdom and not its constituent nations, counties or towns. As at 1 December 2005, the total strength of the TA was 37,430 against an establishment of 41,610.

This figure includes 1,180 mobilized personnel and 5,750 members of the Officer Training Corps but excludes 1,070 Non Regular Permanent Staff. Full Time Reserve Service personnel are also excluded The figures have been rounded to the nearest 10

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in which units of the Territorial Army the 12,000 fit and deployable personnel are deployed. [43689]

Mr. Touhig: The 13,450 personnel available to be deployed as at 1 January 2006, are from across all units of the Territorial Army.

This figure excludes those who have not completed their mandatory training, those who are in the process of being discharged; all currently mobilized and deployed personnel, those who have exceeded the Ministry of Defence limits 1 on mobilized service of a total of 12 months in every 60; and all members of the University Officer Training Corps.


 
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Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many (a) drivers and (b) clergy in the Territorial Army have been mobilised more than once in the last five years; [46449]

(2) how many (a) administrative, (b) ammunition, (c) construction, (d) catering, (e) petroleum, (f) policing, (g) medical, (h) logistical, (i) legal, (j) linguistic and (k) electrical engineering specialists in the Territorial Army have been mobilised more than once in the last five years. [46471]

Mr. Touhig: The information requested is contained in the table below. Figures include individuals who may have reported for mobilization but subsequently did not mobilize for medical or other reasons. Information on individuals in this category is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.
Specialist areaNumber of personnel
Drivers145
Clergy2
Administrative18
Construction1
Catering0
Petroleum1
Policing5
Medical88
Logistical276
Legal0
Linguistic0
Electrical Engineering3


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