Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence

Letter from the Ministry of Defence Liaison Officer to the Clerk of the Committee

Gift of Operational Ration Packs (ORPs) to the USA

  Thank you for your letter of 14 February in which you seek additional information following receipt of our Departmental Minute of 6 February, concerning the gifting of ORPs to the Government of the USA. [1]

  The response to your specific questions are detailed below.

1.   Why did it take the Department five months to inform the House of this gift?

  Given the unusual nature of this transaction, there was some debate within the MoD and with HM Treasury on how best to account for the ORPs that MoD provided to the US to assist with the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. The conclusion reached was to gift the ORPs, hence the Departmental Minute submitted on 6 February, and to write off the transport costs in the Department's 2005-06 accounts.

2.   What was the total cost of the gift, airlift costs included?

  The cost of providing the ORPs to the Government of the USA was £5,130,971, of which £3,114,845 represented the value of the ORPs gifted and £2,016,126 was the cost of airlift.

3.   What are the Department's observations on media reports that delivery of the packs was delayed, once they had arrived in the USA, because of US Department of Agriculture objections to EU products? Does the Department have any information on whether, and how, the packs were eventually used?

  At the specific and urgent request of the US authorities, the MoD delivered around 475,000 ORPs between 5-7 September 2005. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) then began to distribute the ration packs to the disaster area. This process was stopped on 8 September when the US Department of Agriculture realised that the ORPs did not comply with their regulations concerning the import of processed meat, and a ban on the import of ruminant products from Europe, including the UK, introduced after the BSE crisis. The UK was not aware that there was a danger of the packs being impounded until after they had been delivered and, once informed of the problem the UK stopped any further deliveries.

  The remaining ration packs, approximately 330,000, were initially impounded in Arkansas. However, the Department understands that the US Authorities have been in touch with various international and non-governmental organisations on ways to make use of the ration packs outside the US. A number have already been distributed, to NGOs for distribution to populations in need and to the OSCE for use in Georgia; we understand that the US authorities expect all the ORPs to be distributed this way.

  I hope that this provides you with all the information you need.

6 March 2006

1   Note: See Ev 31


previous page contents

House of Commons home pageParliament home pageHouse of Lords home pagesearch pageorderingindex

© Parliamentary copyright 2006
Prepared 20 April 2006