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Mine Clearance

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment his Department have made of the use of unmanned surface vehicles in mine clearance. [54375]

Mr. Ingram: During war fighting operations minefields are breached rather than cleared, to maintain our tempo and freedom of manoeuvre. On non-war fighting operations comprehensive mine clearance is generally undertaken by humanitarian organisations, rather than the armed forces. Unmanned surface vehicles have some utility in such mine clearance, and humanitarian deminers use unmanned flails as part of the process. However this is still followed up with hand clearance for complete assurance that the area is clear.

Within our armed forces, Royal Engineer Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams use the Redfire remotely controlled vehicle to deal with mines that have strayed out of minefields in the Falklands. Our future armoured minefield breaching vehicle, Trojan, and the Terrier engineer vehicle also have a capability to be fitted for remote operation during minefield breaching operations.

Navigation Data

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library copies of documents (a) DCI 305/4, (b) the GPS Office charter and (c) DIN 2005DIN08–013 relating to global positioning satellite systems. [54378]

Mr. Ingram: The DCI and DIN requested are being withheld because their release would be likely to prejudice the security of our armed forces. The GPS Office Charter contains information which, if released, may compromise international relations. This is being reviewed and I will write to the hon. Member when the review has been completed.
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Nuclear Deterrent

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with (a) Ministers and (b) officials from other Departments on the renewal of the British nuclear deterrent; and if he will make a statement. [54577]

John Reid: No decisions have yet been taken on any replacement for Trident although these are likely to be required in the current Parliament. Preparatory work is being undertaken by officials in a number of departments on possible options for the future of the UK's nuclear deterrent. Ministers have not yet received advice on this issue.


Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the maximum number of employees of QinetiQ with experience of acquisitions and mergers was (a) before and (b) after the sale of 34 per cent. of its shares; [54897]

(2) what acquisitions were bought by QinetiQ (a) before and (b) after the sale of 34 per cent. of its shares. [54898]

John Reid: This is an operational matter for the company; questions should be referred to the chief executive at the following address:

RMP Buildings (Chichester)

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether decisions have been taken about the future use of the land and buildings until recently occupied by the Royal Military Police in Chichester; and if he will make a statement. [54745]

Mr. Touhig: Rousillion Barracks is surplus to Ministry of Defence (MOD) requirements for police use. Although we are still considering wider defence uses for the site, it is likely that it will come forward for disposal. Indeed, the site has already been exposed on the English Partnerships' (EP) Register of Surplus Public Sector Assets. While EP do not wish to acquire the site, we have opened discussions with them (as well as with other stakeholders) as they wish to work with MOD in relation to the sale of an adjacent hospital site.

Sea Harriers

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received from the Indian Government concerning the possible purchase of surplus UK Sea Harriers; and if he will make a statement. [54348]

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Mr. Ingram: The Indian navy has recently expressed an interest in acquiring up to eight surplus Sea Harrier FA2 aircraft for use as training aircraft in support of the existing Indian navy Sea Harrier FRS51 fleet. Discussions between the UK Ministry of Defence and the Indian navy are continuing.


Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the likely impact on UK security of future depletion of natural resources; and if he will make a statement. [54578]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence continually assesses threats, challenges and opportunities for UK security as part of its planning process.

Increased competition for limited natural resources is one factor which could contribute to conflict both within and between states. This and other dimensions of the security challenge are dealt with in Chapter 2 of the 2003 Defence White Paper—Delivering Security in a Changing World" (Cm 6041–1).



Peter Law: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the merits of the Afghan poppy crop being bought by richer nations and converted into morphine for medical uses; and what assessment his Department has made of alternative agricultural options for Afghan poppy farmers. [52427]

Hilary Benn: The Afghan Government has expressed its opposition to licit cultivation of opium. The Afghan Minister for Counter Narcotics, Habibullah Qaderi has said recently:

The UK agrees that licensing opium cultivation in Afghanistan for medical use is not a realistic solution to its drug problem, not least because it risks a high level of diversion of licit opium into illegal channels. The production of opium is also contrary to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

It is also unlikely that licit Afghan opium would be economically viable as Afghanistan could not compete with countries currently producing licit opium such as Australia, France and Spain. Legalisation is against the approach set out in the Afghan Government's internationally endorsed national drug control strategy. Some progress in reducing illegal cultivation is being made but it will take time and will take even longer if farmers and traffickers believe that the ban on cultivation is open to challenge.

Agriculture dominates the Afghan economy. Previously Afghanistan was a major exporter of horticulture and livestock products. However, 25 years of war and civil conflict and the recent drought have
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seriously affected Afghanistan's agriculture sector. Developing this sector is critical for economic growth, poverty reduction and for tackling opium poppy cultivation. Although no other crop can compete with poppy in terms of economic return to farmers, there are several promising and profitable legal alternatives.

DFID leads the British Government's efforts to develop alternative livelihoods to opium production in Afghanistan. In financial year 2005–06, we are spending over £45 million for this purpose. This is an almost tenfold increase on the amount spent in 2003–04. In financial year 2006–07 spending is expected to continue at similar levels. A proportion of this funding will continue to be specifically targeted on improving agricultural opportunities for Afghan farmers. This includes research to help identify, test and implement new crops and technologies. Examples include improvements in health and husbandry for livestock, apricot drying, honey bee keeping, and the introduction of fruit tree nurseries and greenhouses for vegetable production. DFID has also jointly funded with United States Agency for International Development a $25 million nationwide programme to increase access to seeds and fertiliser for over 500,000 farmers for alternative crops.

At the same time as developing agricultural opportunities, DFID is also promoting the development of non-farm alternative livelihoods by supporting national programmes of the Government of Afghanistan which are helping to increase access to credit and improve infrastructure for farmers to transport their produce to markets.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on his Department's activities in Afghanistan. [52734]

Hilary Benn: The Department for International Development is working with the Afghan Government and the rest of the international development community to rebuild the country and reduce poverty. DFID has provided over £300 million in bilateral support since September 2001. At the London conference on Afghanistan on 31 January, we committed a further £330 million over the next three years, as part of a wider UK pledge of some £500 million. In addition to this, DFID provides support to Afghanistan through multilateral channels including the European Community, the United Nations and the World Bank.

Following the launch of the Afghan Government's National Development Framework in April 2002 donors were asked to focus on specific areas of Afghanistan's reconstruction needs. DFID's focus recently has been on building the capacity of the Afghan Government's institutions, supporting better economic management and promoting sustainable livelihoods. The Afghan Government have recently completed their Interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy (IANDS). DFID and other donors are considering how to realign our programmes behind this new strategy.

Further information on DFID's current programme can be found in the Interim Strategy for Afghanistan" 2005–06 placed in the Libraries of the House, or on DFID's website at
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