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25 Jun 2007 : Column 126W—continued

Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft

Willie Rennie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the new in-service date set for the Joint Strike Fighter has had any effect on the plan B for the aircraft to be provided for the new aircraft carriers. [144383]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 21 June 2007]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State in the other place on 8 January 2007, Official Report, column WA8. We will not be setting in-service dates for the Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) until we take the main investment decision, and we will take that decision when the project is sufficiently mature. The Joint Strike Fighter remains our preferred solution to meet the JCA requirement and our current plans for JCA remain coherent with the CVF programme.

Marchwood Railway Station

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence from what budget construction of the military railway station at Marchwood was funded. [143333]

Mr. Ingram: There is no military railway station at the Sea Mounting Centre at Marchwood. There are, however, facilities where freight can be unloaded by rail. As these were constructed in the 1940s, information relating to the construction costs incurred is no longer held by the Ministry of Defence.


Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the establishment of the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines is. [145056]

Des Browne: The Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines (FPGRM) establishment is 33 officers and 504 other ranks.

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Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether all units of Royal Marines serving on Royal Navy frigates belong to the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines. [145057]

Des Browne: All Royal Marines serving on RN Frigates belong to the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines (FPGRM).

Marines: Terrorism

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines is tasked with maritime counter-terrorist duties. [145055]

Des Browne: The FLEET Protection Group Royal Marines is not tasked with maritime counter-terrorist duties.

Marines: Training

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what specialist training Royal Marines serving with the Fleet Protection Group receive in (a) boarding, (b) counter-insurgency operations and (c) site protection. [145058]

Des Browne: The Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines (FPGRM) receive role specific training in order to allow them to conduct their mandated tasks.


Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the chain of command is for personnel of a boarding party deployed from a Royal Navy ship. [145059]

Des Browne: The Royal Marine Officer commands the boarding team during the boarding operation up to the point that the FLEET Protection Group Royal Marines team is inserted and the target vessel is secured. The Royal Navy Boarding Officer will then be handed tactical command for the search operations on the vessel. Both Officers, when in charge, are responsible to the Commanding Officer of the Ship.

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Nimrod Aircraft

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what investigation was undertaken into the ruptured super-heated air pipe on Nimrod XV227 in November 2004; what conclusions were reached; and what steps have been taken in response. [142810]

Mr. Ingram: During a post flight check on Nimrod XV227 on 22 November 2004, it was discovered that a portion of Supplementary Cooling Pack ducting had failed. A unit inquiry was held which concluded that it was caused by pitting and cracking corrosion leading to failure. The unit inquiry made the following recommendations and the table identifies actions taken in response.

Recommendation Action taken

The ruptured duct is replaced with new manufactured items on a fleet-wide basis as soon as possible.

Recommendation closed. All such ducts fitted to in-service aircraft have been replaced with newly manufactured items.

A lifing policy is introduced for the ruptured duct and all similar ducts.

See comments on maintenance policy recommendation. Action ongoing.

A maintenance policy should be instigated for the ruptured duct and all similar ducts.

A study into the need for a preventative maintenance/lifing policy for this and similar ducts has been concluded by the Designer (BAE Systems). Their report, which is due to be issued imminently, is based on the results of a detailed analysis of a sample of ducts taken from a number of MR2 aircraft. This analysis has taken time to complete, but the report is expected to recommend that a lifing policy be introduced. Ducts due for replacement would be replaced during scheduled maintenance activities and it is anticipated that such a duct replacement programme would be in place by December 2007. Action ongoing.

The extent of the hot air leak warning system is reviewed to ensure that all possible duct failures are covered.

Recommendation closed. A review of the aircraft warning systems revealed that the affected Supplementary Cooling Pack Duct was the only duct whose failure would not have been detected.

A hot air leak warning system is introduced for the ruptured duct and cross-air bleed ducts.

Recommendation rejected. The duct failure was an isolated incident and was in the only part of the system where a leak would not have been detected. All of these ducts have been replaced with newly manufactured items that, based upon the previous 25 fault-free years that the original duct had been fitted, are expected to last well beyond the planned MR2 Out of Service Date (early part of the next decade). Moreover, fitting a discrete hot air leak warning system would be a complex modification that would have to be embodied across the fleet during its maintenance cycle and therefore take several years to embody. Considering the Out of Service Date of the Nimrod MR2, the fitting of such a system was not considered to be practicable. Action closed.

This incident is highlighted as a training point for Air Engineers.

The incident was immediately publicised through the Air Engineer command chain at RAF Kinloss. Action closed.

The Aircrew Flight Reference Cards (FRC) regarding Supplementary Cooling Pack malfunctions are amended to reflect the information in the aircrew manuals.

Amendments were made to Aircrew Flight Reference Cards and Aircrew Manuals to reflect the incident. Action closed.

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Tornado Aircraft

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average total operating cost per hour is of the Tornado aircraft. [145102]

Mr. Ingram: The total cost per funded flying hour of the Tornado F3 and the Tornado GR4 is £40,440 and £32,680 respectively. This includes forward and depth servicing, fuel costs, crew costs, training costs and the cost of capital charge and depreciation.

Type 45 Destroyers: Procurement

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the timetable is for making a decision on whether to order the seventh and eighth Type-45 destroyer. [145842]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 17 April 2007, Official Report, column 537W, to my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mrs. Curtis-Thomas).

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 29 March 2007, Official Report, columns 1671-72W, on unmanned aerial vehicles, how much each individual Desert Hawk mini UAV costs; whether UK armed forces have been or will be supplied with any other types of UAV other than Desert Hawk; and whether consideration has been given to the use of light or small propeller driven aircraft for use by the RAF or Army Air Corps for (a) surveillance or (b) close combat support. [142074]

Mr. Ingram: Desert Hawk is employed as a system consisting of eight air vehicles and the associated ground control station, communications and support equipment. The current variant costs approximately £0.4 million per system. A replacement air vehicle would cost in the region of £20,000.

UK armed forces have been supplied with the Phoenix tactical UAV system and the Desert Hawk and Buster mini UAV systems. Also, they will be supplied with Reaper (formally Predator B) and Hermes 450 UAV systems to meet urgent operational requirements. The Watchkeeper UAV system will meet the future tactical UAV requirement.

UK armed forces have some fairly small propeller-driven aircraft in service for surveillance and we keep our requirements for this type of capability under review. Such aircraft would be unlikely to meet our demanding requirements for close air support.


Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for how many days the eight active Type 42 destroyers were (a) at sea and (b) alongside in harbour in (i) the last 12 months and (ii) 2006. [141001]

Mr. Ingram: The information is not held centrally in the format requested. Taking the eight ships as a whole, the approximate percentage of time spent at sea for
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Type 42 destroyers over the last 12 months and for 2006 is 30 per cent. at sea and 70 per cent. in harbour.

Time spent in harbour includes both time spent alongside in the ship’s home port and time spent alongside while deployed elsewhere.

The percentage figures allow for time spent in refit or maintenance periods.

Written Questions

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to reply to Question 125146, on procurement, tabled by the hon. Member for Portsmouth South on 28 February 2007; and what the reasons are for the delay. [144583]

Mr. Ingram: I replied to the hon. Member today. I apologise for the delay in replying which was due to an administrative error.

Trade and Industry


Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress is being made in the development of biofuels from crops and from the breakdown of organic waste. [144208]

Malcolm Wicks: Currently, the major portion of biodiesel production in the UK comes from imported soya, palm and jatrophe oils, along with locally grown oilseed rape, with a smaller contribution from recycled waste vegetable oil and animal fats. Bioethanol is sourced primarily from imports. However, a number of companies have announced plans to increase production of biofuels, either by expansion of existing plants or through construction of new plants which will use UK grown crops such as sugar beet, wheat and oilseed rape as a feedstock. Such biofuel production plants are being stimulated by a mix of Road Fuel Duty reduction and the forthcoming Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation. The Government are also keen to support “second generation” biofuels which use more advanced technologies and have the potential to use straw, wood and biodegradable waste as feedstocks and is supporting a number of projects through the Technology Programme in this area. However, the majority of these processes are currently not proven at commercial scale. There is also significant development of biofuels internationally.

Biofuels: Brazil

Mr. Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will take steps to improve the relationship between biofuels producers in (a) the UK and the North East of England and (b) Brazil (i) to stimulate trade, (ii) to encourage innovation in the industry and (iii) to enhance competitive advantage for the two countries. [145021]

Mr. McCartney: Support for establishing partnerships in investment and trade in renewable energies, particularly ethanol, is one of the recommendations of the UK-Brazil
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Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO). This clearly shows the importance we place on biofuels, and echoes industry’s appetite for bilateral projects. UK banks, consultancy and advisory services companies are active and already doing business with Brazilian partners.

HMG maintains regular dialogue with Brazil, the European Commission, the International Energy Agency and others on ethanol production and trade. Regular discussions also take place between Commission officials about a possible EU-Mercosur trade agreement with regards to bioethanol.

There have been several recent events where Brazilian expertise has been presented to a UK audience to stimulate trade, investment and co-operation in biofuels, including the “Brazil: New Business Opportunities” event on 25 June 2007, organised by the Brazilian embassy in conjunction with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). This JETCO event will see a specific ethanol presentation by the Brazilian Mercantile and Futures Exchange (BM&F), followed by a biofuels workshop attended by the Brazilian Piracicaba Ethanol Cluster and the Brazilian Sugar Cane Industry Union. Over 80 UK companies are scheduled to attend.

There are no specific Government-led international initiatives specifically focused on biofuels for the NE, but UKTI NE region is running a trade mission to Brazil in February 2008 in which biofuels companies can participate.

Coastal Areas: Conferences

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what issues were discussed at the coastal towns conference on 8 May. [139696]

Margaret Hodge: The conference discussed a wide range of the issues facing coastal towns, in particular whether they share common characteristics. The main issues raised were the diversity among coastal towns, for instance in terms of size and industrial structure; the changing demands of the tourist trade, with movement towards shorter visits and increased business tourism, and the response of coastal towns to this; the importance of transport infrastructure and accessibility in attracting private investment and helping coastal towns realise their full potential; the negative effects of poor quality houses in multiple occupation, which are a feature in many coastal towns; and whether central Government and regional development agencies should adopt consistent policies and strategy for coastal towns as a group, or tailor them to individual circumstances.

Departments: Credit Cards

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much was spent by staff in his Department via departmental (a) credit, (b) procurement and (c) fuel cards in each of the last three years. [145300]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The spend within the Department over the last three financial years through individual Government Procurement Cards is:

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The spend to date (22 June 2007) in 2007-08 is £396,584.27.

The Department does not use credit or fuel cards.

The Department also has a corporate card with American Express which is a charge card used for additional travel expenses only. Liability on the card is jointly managed by staff as individuals and the Department.

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