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31 Oct 2006 : Column 334W—continued


Military Vehicles

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many OMC/Alvis Mamba/RG-31 mine-protected vehicles were purchased for Army use; on what date they were purchased; what the total purchase price was; (a) by which formations, (b) for what purposes and (c) when the vehicles were used; and if he will make a statement; [80568]

(2) what modifications were made to the OMC/Alvis Mamba/RG-31 mine-protected vehicles in order to enhance mine protection and the TMRP-6 threat; how many vehicles were modified; what the total cost was of those modifications while on the Army inventory; and if he will make a statement; [80569]

(3) what (a) maintenance and (b) other difficulties were experienced by Army formations in their use of the OMC/Alvis Mamba/RG-31 mine-protected vehicles while on their charge; what steps were taken to resolve those difficulties; what outcomes resulted from those steps; and if he will make a statement; [80570]

(4) when and to whom the inventory of OMC/Alvis Mamba/RG-31 mine-protected vehicles was disposed of; how much was received; what the end destination of the vehicles was; and if he will make a statement; [80571]

(5) if he will assess (a) ease of maintenance and (b) reliability of the (i) OMC/Alvis Mamba and (ii) current version of the RG-31M. [80573]

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the reasons are for replacing the Mamba vehicle with the mine-protected vehicle; and what the estimated cost is. [81608]


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Mr. Ingram [Pursuant to the reply, 25 July 2006, Official Report, c. 1539-43W]: I stated that the 14 Mamba Mine Protected Vehicles were disposed of in 2004 for a total of £44,000, this was incorrect. The actual total was £448,000.

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Snatch One, Two and Three Land Rovers are in Iraq and Afghanistan; and how many of each are operational. [93927]

Mr. Ingram: For UK holdings, I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) on 14 June 2006, Official Report, column 1230W. In respect of Iraq and Afghanistan I am withholding details of the military capability deployed on operations since its disclosure would reveal the strength and capability of UK forces operating in theatre, and could have a bearing on operational security.

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the first batch of Panther vehicles is expected to be deployed; which type of vehicle they will replace; and if he will make a statement. [93929]

Mr. Ingram: On current plans the in service date for Panther is November 2007; the deployment of this vehicle on operations will then depend on judgments by the permanent joint headquarters.

Panther will replace a variety of vehicles operating in the command and liaison role including CVR(T) Spartan, Landrover, Saxon, FV432 and FV436 vehicles. I refer the hon. Lady to the answers I gave on 3 November 2005, Official Report, column 1263W, and 14 December 2005, Official Report, columns 2041-42W.

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) when the development of the replacements for the OMC/Alvis Mamba/RG-31 mine protected vehicles became Project Tempest; and when and to whom the main development and construction contracts were awarded for the Truck, Mine Protected Vehicle; [80542]

(2) when the decision was made to purchase replacements for the OMC/Alvis Mamba/RG-31 mine protected vehicle; what the original performance specifications for the replacement vehicle were; and on what grounds these were decided; [80541]

(3) how many Truck, Mine Protected Vehicles were purchased by his Department; and what the total cost of the vehicles supplied was when they were taken on charge; [80544]

(4) what the total cost of Project Tempest was, excluding the acquisition costs of the Truck, Mine Protected Vehicle; [80543]

(5) where Truck, Mine Protected Vehicles have been deployed since they have been taken on charge; for what periods and with what formations; where they are now deployed; and how many are currently still on charge and in active service; [80547]

(6) whether any aspects of the technology and design of the Project Tempest Truck, Mine Protected Vehicles were classified; [80546]


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(7) in whom the intellectual property of Project Tempest was vested; and what agreements were made by his Department to recover (a) fees and (b) other income from subsequent use of the design and technology employed in the project. [80545]

Mr. Ingram: Reliability and safety problems with the previous Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV), Mamba, led the Department to consider refurbishment and modification of Mamba or its replacement. Replacement through a competitive Urgent Operational Requirement was chosen as the best option with bids assessed against the user’s requirements of survivability (predominantly against mines), mobility, fightability and supportability. In November 2001 the bid from Supacat of the Tempest vehicle, based on an early version of the Force Protection Inc Cougar, was selected. Tempest was the name of the vehicle not the programme, but it is no longer used and the vehicle is now known in UK service simply as the MPV.

A £2.7 million contract for eight MPVs was awarded to Supacat shortly afterwards with Technical Solutions Group Inc. (a subsidiary of Force Protection Inc.) supplying the base vehicle. The MPVs are supported under a contractor logistic support arrangement with Supacat Ltd. I am unable to provide the cost of the contract as this would, or would be likely to, prejudice commercial interests.

MPVs are used by Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams for specialist tasks such as EOD reconnaissance, rescue and recovery and route proving. MPVs were deployed to Bosnia from January to May 2004; and Iraq from July 2003 to November 2004. There are still eight MPVs in service including a number currently in Afghanistan.

MPV was a commercial off the shelf equipment with some UK specific EOD modifications. Supacat Ltd. own the MPV intellectual property, although the MOD has free user rights for repair and maintenance. The majority of its specification is not classified but I am unable to comment on its detailed specifications and in particular its protection, as this would, or would be likely to prejudice the security of our armed forces.

Mines

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the threat from sea mines since 1998; and what the results were. [94946]

Mr. Ingram: As stated in Cm 6269, “Delivering Security in a Changing World: Future Capabilities”, the reduced threat and changed requirement for large scale operations means that we can meet our operational and standing tasks with a fleet of 16 mine counter-measures vessels.

Minimum Wage

Ms Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many employees in (a) his Department and (b) related agencies and non-departmental public bodies were affected by the increase in the minimum wage on 1 October. [96447]


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Derek Twigg: Pending the outcome of negotiations on the main pay award for MOD civilian staff from 1 August, the salaries of 1,693 MOD staff in the most junior pay band were increased from 1 October to meet the rise in the national minimum wage.

None of MOD's Trading Funds or non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) were affected by the rise.

The armed forces are exempt from the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998.

Officers

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many commissioned officers were (a) female and (b) non-white in 2006. [94913]

Derek Twigg: At 1 April 2006 there were 3,540 female and 710 recorded non-white commissioned officers in the UK Regular Forces. Figures have been rounded to the nearest 10.

Operational Bonus

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what impact the operational bonus announced on 11 October will have on the payment of the X factor to members of the armed forces in (a) the 2006-07 financial year and (b) future financial years. [94387]

Derek Twigg [holding answer 16 October 2006]: The introduction of the operational bonus will have no impact on the payment of X factor in 2006-07. The value of X factor will remain at 13 per cent. of basic pay for regular service personnel up to the rank of lieutenant colonel and equivalent at the mid pay point, beyond which it tapers. X factor is regularly reviewed by the Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB). The next review is due in 2007-08. My Department will therefore be submitting a paper of evidence on X factor to the AFPRB in 2007 to inform the body’s deliberations for its 2008 report.

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the cost of the new operational bonus from 2007-08 will be met from (a) existing departmental budgets and (b) additional funds. [94522]

Mr. Ingram: The cost of the new operational bonus, to be called “Operational Allowance”, will not be met from existing departmental budgets, but from the Treasury Reserve.

Porton Down

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 8 May 2006, Official Report, column 41W, on Porton Down, why the number of (a) mice used in procedures has increased since 2000 and (b) non-human primates used in procedures has increased since 2003; and if he will make a statement. [95716]

Mr. Ingram: The increase in the numbers of procedures involving both mice and non-human primates is directly related to the size and maturity of the on-going medical countermeasures research
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programme. Mice are used mainly in studies to identify and assess candidate pre-treatments and therapies against biological warfare agents.

Non-human primates are involved in studies to develop advanced animal models for efficacy assessment of post exposure therapies for biological and chemical warfare agents, and studies to assess the visual effects resulting from exposure to very low levels of nerve agents.

Recent products from the Defence research programme include a therapy to treat those suffering from botulism. This is now available to treat UK servicemen, should botulinum toxin ever be used as a weapon against them, and has already been used to treat patients in both UK and Thailand who were subject to naturally occurring cases.

Promotion

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) allowance is made in initial training and (b) seniority in rank is granted for previous service when non-commissioned officers below the rank of warrant officer are selected for commissioned service in (i) the Royal Navy, (ii) the Royal Marines, (iii) the British Army and (iv) the Royal Air Force. [R] [91488]

Derek Twigg: In the Naval Service, there are two schemes for entering the officer corps from the ranks:

Individuals selected for the officer corps via the UY/CC schemes are treated in exactly the same way as individuals entering from outside the service and undertake the same initial training and are awarded the same rank and seniority on entry (currently based on age) as their civilian counterparts.

Individuals selected for the officer corps via the SUY/SCC schemes undertake phase 1 training but thereafter receive bespoke training (where required) based on their experience and the nature of the post to which they are appointed. Given the greater relative experience of SUY/SCC officers over those selected by direct entry or via the UY/CC route, and in recognition of their likely employment (often as deep specialist officers), former ratings and other ranks (below the rank of Warrant Officer) gain a minimum one year’s seniority advantage over their peers by passing out of phase 1 training as a Lieutenant RN or Captain RM.

In the Army there are two categories of personnel commissioned from the ranks: Late Entry (LE) Officers and those soldiers who attend the full Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) Commissioning Course before the age of 29 and go on to be treated as Direct Entry (DE) Officers:

In the RAF, non-commissioned personnel who are selected for commissioned service in the general branches are made no allowance in terms of their initial training. If, however, they are entering as a nurse, they undertake the shorter SERE (Specialist Entrant—Re Entrant) course. This recognises their specialist skills and is tailored to the career pathways available to the specialist branches.

Non-commissioned airmen/women are commissioned under the terms set out in the following table:

Former rank( 1,2) Rank on graduation from IOT Promotion to Flight Lieutenant after:( 3,4,5)

Flight Sergeant/Chief Technician

Flying Officer

1 year

Sergeant

Flying Officer

18 months

Corporal

Flying Officer

2 years

Senior Aircraftsman/Junior Technician

Flying Officer

2.5 years

(1) All serving airmen and ex-non-commissioned personnel, except those commissioned as graduate entrants iaw para. 0221 will attend Initial Officer Training as Officer Cadets (OCs). Para. 0221 states that: candidates from civil life, serving officers and airmen who hold a qualification equivalent to a degree which is acceptable for graduate entry into one branch may also be eligible for graduate entry into other branches. (2) Former rank also refers to Normal Paid Acting Rank. (3) Serving and ex-non-commissioned personnel entering a ground branch who obtained a degree prior to initially joining the service will have the period of commissioned service they are required to complete before promotion to flight lieutenant reduced by six months. (4) Excludes ex-serving nurses who, in recognition of their professional qualifications, will have their seniority assessed under the provisions of para 0387, which states that: In the Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service (PMRAFNS), officers are awarded a time credit for full-time civil nursing experience in a recognized appointment after registration as a Registered General Nurse. Time credits are set against the normal time-promotion progression to assess rank and seniority on entry. Subject to a maximum total of six years they are awarded in accordance with the following scale: (a) The first two years in full. (b) Officers who possess a Registered Nurse Tutors Certificate on entry; the first three years—in full. (c) Any later experience—in half. (5) Or attaining the age of 24, whichever is the later.

RAF Machrihanish

Mr. Alan Reid: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with which public agencies the future of RAF Machrihanish has been discussed; what plans he has for RAF Machrihanish; and if he will make a statement. [95702]

Derek Twigg [holding answer 20 October 2006]: Ministry of Defence officials have discussed the future of Machrihanish with representatives of the Scottish Executive, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the local enterprise network and local authority. I hope soon to
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be in a position to make a formal announcement to the House on the way forward.

Retired Field Marshals

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent he draws on the experience and views of retired field marshals when considering defence policy. [97183]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence draws upon a wide variety of expertise and opinions in formulating Defence policy. The former Chiefs of Defence Staff are regularly briefed by the Chief of Defence Staff and have the opportunity to input their views on defence policy.


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