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Joint Combat Aircraft

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the implications for the operational capabilities of the joint combat aircraft of United States refusal to include Rolls-Royce engines in its design. [54017]

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Mr. Ingram: The United Kingdom has supported the continuation of F136 as a competitive alternative to the Fl35 and as a through life risk reduction measure for the JSF programme. However, JSF is being designed so that the F135, Pratt and Whitney and F136, General Electric/Rolls-Royce engines would have been fully interchangeable, so the UK's requirements for JSF will continue to be met by the F135 alone if the United States decides to stop development of the F136 due to budget pressures. Our preference, however, was for the dual engine approach and strong representation was made to the US administration supporting this.

Missile Systems

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for future upgrades to UK missile systems; and what plans he has to develop a strategy to incorporate emerging technologies into existing weapons systems. [54425]

Mr. Ingram: A number of upgrades to missile systems are planned to meet emerging requirements. These include incremental technology insertion programmes to upgrade the RAF's Storm Shadow missiles, and the Royal Navy's and Seawolf missiles.

Our approach to incorporating emerging technologies into existing weapons systems will be taken forward as part of the wider work to develop a co-ordinated strategy for complex weapons.

Niche Technologies

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps his Department is taking to assist the development of niche technologies through small and medium-sized enterprises. [54415]

Mr. Ingram: As part of the Defence Industrial Strategy, the Ministry of Defence is working with industry and universities to identify sources of innovation and to identify where technologies of vital strategic importance are located. We recognise that we must work together more effectively with industry (including small and medium-sized enterprises) and universities, to stimulate innovation and exploit research and technology to meet defence needs. Specifically, we are developing a better understanding of the innovation process and mapping out the technology trees for major capabilities, systems and platforms.

MOD has placed at least an estimated 10 per cent. by value of its extramural research and development contracts with SMEs in recent years as laid out in the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) performance figures for 2003-04 and 2004-05 a copy of which is in the Library of the House. This exceeds the SBRI target for Government Departments of at least 2.5 per cent.

Royal Ordnance Sites

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which trade unions are involved in the proposed closure of Royal Ordnance sites; and which sites are under discussion. [53370]

Mr. Ingram: The trade unions involved with the BAE Systems Land Systems (BAES LS) rationalisation are AMICUS, Prospect, GMB and T and G.
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The focus of these discussions is a matter between the trade unions and the company.

Standing Naval Tasks

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the standing naval tasks carried out by the Royal Navy in each year since 1997 and those scheduled for discontinuation. [54014]

Mr. Ingram: The Royal Navy conducts a variety of naval tasks, either as standing strategic, home or overseas commitments, or as enduring contingent operations overseas. Except where stated, the tasks listed below have been maintained from 1997:

Standing Strategic Tasks:

Standing Home Commitments:

Standing Overseas Commitments:

Contingent Operations Overseas:

None of these tasks are scheduled for discontinuation.


Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the planned out of service dates are for (a) HMS Illustrious, (b) HMS Ark Royal and (c) HMS Ocean. [54013]

Mr. Ingram: On present plans the out of service dates are as follows:


Biomass Conversion

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated to assess the direct transformation of biomass into hydrogen. [52591]

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Malcolm Wicks: The DTI commissioned two reports in 2004 in relation to hydrogen: Hydrogen Energy Support in the UK" and A Strategic Framework for Hydrogen Energy Activity in the UK". These reports have been published on the Department's website. The second report identified six potential hydrogen energy chains for the use of hydrogen as a transport fuel. One route is to produce hydrogen biomass (with optional carbon capture and storage).

On 15 June 2005, I announced the Government's response to the second report A Strategic Framework for Hydrogen Energy Activity in the UK" which included a funding package of £15 million over four years for a UK wide hydrogen and fuel cell demonstration programme. The details of the demonstration scheme is currently being developed, and requires EC State Aid approval.

Basic research in universities is supported through the UK Research Councils. The EPSRC is funding two relevant SUPERGEN consortia:

In addition the following projects were funded by EPSRC:

Blue Skies Initiative

Dr. Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many homeowners have received grants from the Blue Skies Initiative since its inception; and if he will make a statement. [55194]

Malcolm Wicks: Under the Clear Skies initiative of the 6,860 homeowners that have been accepted for a grant 5,458 homeowners have so far claimed and received it.

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