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The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne): On 5 February 2003 the the Secretary of State for Defence announced the Governments agreement to a request from the US to upgrade the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System radar at RAF Fylingdales. The UK already makes a contribution to US capability in the area of missile warning, through our operation of the radar at RAF Fylingdales. That upgrade process is now complete and we expect that the radar will switch its operations to the new equipment from August 2007. There is no change to the existing UK-US mission for the radar and the station remains under full UK command. Its primary mission is to warn of ballistic missile attack, with secondary functions of space surveillance and satellite warning. The radar will contribute to the US ballistic missile defence system, alongside a global network of other US-owned sensors based on land, at sea and in space and the data it produces is shared between the UK and US military authorities. The UK will have full insight into the operation of the US missile defence system when missile engagements take place that are wholly or partly influenced by data from the radar at RAF Fylingdales.
Also, at RAF Menwith Hill, equipment will be installed and operated by the US Government to allow receipt of satellite warnings of potentially hostile missile launches, and will pass this warning data to both UK and US authorities. The data will also be fed into the US ballistic missile defence system for use in their response to any missile attack on the US. This will guarantee the UKs continued access to essential missile attack warning data, as well as enhancing the USs ability to deal with any attack aimed at their country.
The Government welcome US plans to place further missile defence assets in Europe to address the emerging threat from rogue states. We welcome assurances from the US that the UK and other European allies will be covered by the system elements they propose to deploy to Poland and the Czech Republic and we have been exploring ways in which the UK can continue to contribute to the US system as well as to any future NATO missile defence system.
These developments reflect the Governments continuing commitment to supporting the development of the US missile defence system. We continue to regard this system as a building block to enhance our national and collective security. NATO has made no decisions about acquiring missile defence for the alliance, and we want to examine how the US system can be complemented and built upon to provide wider coverage for Europe. We have no plans to site missile interceptors in the UK but will keep this under review as the threat evolves. We also want to reassure Russia about the defensive nature and intent of the US system as it develops and to take forward alliance cooperation with them in the field of missile defence.
The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): On 31 July, Operation Banner will come to an end; the Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy having delivered continuous support to the police and civil authorities in Northern Ireland for 38 years. It will have been the longest continuous deployment of UK Armed Forces in their history.
As we move into a new era with fewer than 5,000 troops resident in Northern Ireland, trained and available for deployment worldwide, the military will retain some limited but specific responsibilities with the capability to deploy in situations of extreme public disorder in support of the Police Service of Northern Ireland under a new operation to be known as Operation Helvetic. The troops deployed in such circumstances would come from wherever they are available at the time. In addition, provision of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) will continue.
Across the UK the Armed Forces can provide support to the civil authorities during emergencies under normal Military Aid to Civil Authorities tasking arrangements. Where there is an imminent threat to life, such as major accident or natural disaster, the authorities can call upon local military commanders for support. After 1 August the vast majority of military support in Northern Ireland will be broadly comparable to the assistance that is currently provided in Great Britain, tailored for the particular circumstances in Northern Ireland. Additionally, whilst the Armed Forces are not responsible for maintaining national security in the UK, that does not mean that they would not and could not provide specific support in this area to a civil authority when requested to do so. Again the approach in Northern Ireland will be brought more closely into line with that on the mainland.
As indicated in the Good Friday Agreement, military helicopters will continue to be based in Northern Ireland, but with a worldwide deployable role. As a consequence,
essential flying training will continue in order to maintain the skills of the aircrew and, with Northern Ireland designated as Low Flying Area 19, the training emphasis will be similar to other areas within the UK. Helicopters will also continue to be used in Northern Ireland in support of the civil authorities. It is important to note that the civil authorities in Northern Ireland do not have access to large numbers of civilian helicopters and we will continue to provide support to them.
1 August marks the beginning of a new era for the UK Armed Forces in Northern Ireland when, as with other parts of the country, the military will become very much part of the community. The impact of the commitment since 1969 has been considerable on both the military themselves and on the MOD civilians supporting them. They and the community at large have suffered both death and injury. We should take this opportunity to remember the commitment, bravery and sacrifice of all those who have served over so many years in helping deliver the current, more settled and more optimistic circumstances. Our recognition will culminate in a Commemorative Service to be held in the spring of 2008 as announced by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence in his statement of 9 May 2007, Official Report, column 11WS.
The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): I am able to inform the House today of the findings of the Royal Air Force board of inquiry into the loss of the RAF Hercules XV206 in Afghanistan on 24 May 2006.
The board of inquiry was convened on 25 May 2006 and has considered a mass of evidence. The board has established that on 24 May 2006, an RAF Hercules C130K on a routine operational passenger and freight flight landed at Lashkar Gar Tactical Landing Zone. On landing the aircraft suffered significant damage to the front port main landing gear, resulting in debris puncturing the port wing fuel tanks, which in turn caused an uncontrollable wing fire leading to the loss of the aircraft. The board has concluded that these events followed the detonation of an explosive device buried under the surface of the tactical landing zone. Following extensive investigation the board concluded that the device was an anti-tank land mine.
A Military Aircraft Accident Summary is being placed in the Library of the House and on the MODs website. In addition, a redacted version of the main body of the board of inquiry report will also be available on the website. As you will appreciate, the safety of our people is a principal consideration and we have removed from the report any information that might endanger the security or capability of UK and coalition personnel or be of use to an enemy. We have, however, tried to be as open as possible and have carefully considered the public interest arguments both for and against disclosure of the information in the report. We have ensured that each redaction can be justified by an appropriate exemption in the Freedom of Information Act.
I remind the House that the purpose of the inquiry in identifying those factors which contributed to the loss is to identify lessons to be taken forward, rather than to apportion blame. The board made a number of recommendations that we will study closely. Indeed, we have acted on many of them already. The main recommendation was that we review the force protection procedures at tactical landing zones. Air Command and Permanent Joint Headquarters have developed revised force protection procedures and tactics to be employed at tactical landing zones in operational theatres. These are now being used by force protection teams on operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
The board of inquiry concluded that, had the aircraft been fitted with explosion suppressant foam, it would not have prevented the loss, as explosion suppressant foam does not prevent fuel leaking if the tank is punctured.
The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): On 22 May 2007, Official Report, column 67WS, the MOD announced its intention to create a new defence support group by merging together ABRO, retained DARA business units and certain other defence support facilities. I can now confirm that, following the successful conclusion of trade unions consultation, the MOD will proceed with implementation of this merger. The new support group will begin formal trading by April 2008, subject to securing the necessary parliamentary approval.
I can also confirm that work continues to progress the sale option for DARAs Rotary Wing and components businesses. Vector Aerospace have been selected as the preferred bidder, and I hope to be able to make a definitive announcement on the way forward later this year, subject to trade unions consultation, completion of due diligence, and the satisfactory conclusion of negotiations that demonstrate the sale provides best value for defence.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg): I previously advised the House on 19 June 2007, Official Report, column 1752W, on 30 January 2007, Official Report, column 155W and on 8 January 2007, Official Report, column 91W that the Department has been reviewing its methods of collating figures on service personnel diagnosed with a mental health disorder. I am pleased to be able to inform the House that the review process has now been completed, and that the Defence Analytical Services Agency (DASA) will be publishing its first quarterly report based on an improved method of collecting information on its website www.dasa.mod.uk today. Copies will also be made available in the Library of the House.
The Department has moved from a system of recording and reporting mental health statistics relating solely to Operation TELIC (Iraq) to a new
system covering all in-service personnel assessed with a mental health disorder at the Ministry of Defences out-patient Departments of Community Mental Health (DCMH). The report also includes a return for new in-patient admissions under the MODs contract with the Priory Group. The new reporting system has several advantages over the old:
It is more comprehensive because it covers all service personnel;
It is more robust because it verifies individual records of mental disorder against other datasetssuch as deployment databases;
There is less potential for subjective bias, because individual staff members in the DCMHs are no longer being asked to make a judgment as to whether a mental disorder is attributable to a specific operation.
The findings to date show that the numbers of service personnel assessed with a mental disorder in the first quarter of 2007 are lowaround 5.8 per 1,000 strength, or 0.58 per cent. of the total armed forces population. The numbers of service personnel assessed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during the same period are around 0.3 per 1,000 strength or 0.03 per cent. of the total armed forces population. The actual numbers of individuals affected is 41 from Iraq and 13 from Afghanistan.
Any casualty of combat is clearly a matter of regret, and we are committed to helping those whose mental health suffers. The publication of the first results of our new method of collecting and analysing data demonstrates our continuing commitment to understanding the true relationship between service on deployed operations and mental ill-health and to making the results available to inform Parliament and the public.
In recent years, the Department has developed pre and post deployment briefing and training to all personnel, but in particular to medical staff and the chain of command, to increase awareness of mental illness, and to mitigate the development of PTSD and other stress-related disorders occurring among service personnel. It has configured our mental health services to provide community-based mental health care in line with national best practiceestablishing 15 military Departments of Community Mental Health across the UK (plus satellite centres overseas). It has introduced a Reserves Mental Health Programme to assess and, if appropriate, treat recently demobilised reserves. It has expanded the scope of its Medical Assessment Programme (MAP) at St. Thomass hospital to provide assessments by an expert in military mental health for any veterans suffering from mental health problems since 1982. And it has been working with UK Health Departments and clinical experts to establish a new community-based arrangement that will make available to NHS health professionals expertise in the assessment and treatment of veterans mental health problems; pilots to trial this arrangement will be launched shortly.
The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): I am pleased to announce that a 10 year partnering contract worth up to £1 billion has been signed with Rolls-Royce, for the in-service support of Nuclear Steam Raising Plants which power the Royal Navys submarines. This contract is a key deliverable under the Defence Industrial Strategy published in December 2005.
This landmark 10-year contract marks a significant departure from former practices and will transform Rolls-Royces relationship with the Department in this sector. It will sustain the UK capability in the long term, enable the risks and rewards to be managed jointly, and is a further example of partnering in action. Rolls-Royce and MOD will work together as a single, high-performing team, to improve performance and drive down costs. Savings of over £120 million are anticipated over the term of the contract.
The Nuclear Steam Raising Plant drives not only our current submarines but will also power the new Astute submarines. Rolls-Royce has been supplying Nuclear Steam Raising Plants to the Royal Navy for almost 50 years from their production site at Raynesway in Derby, and this new contract will help secure the future of staff working in this part of the business.
The contract sustains the UKs capability to support Nuclear Steam Raising Plants, as stated in the defence industrial strategy, and uses the principles of the MODs procurement reform programme to develop more effective relationships with one of our top ten major industrial partners.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Joan Ruddock): My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter responded to a written answer on 6 June to the hon. Member for Milton Keynes South West, Official Report, column 556W, about the tonnages of waste from local authority areas within Greater London that were sent for disposal to a number of landfill sites in 2003 and 2005.
|Stewartby (L Field)|
|Calvert Pit No 4|
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): Wilton Park is an academically independent Executive Agency of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Its annual report and accounts for 2006-07 are laid before Parliament today.
Wilton Park has had a successful year, continuing to deliver high-value conferences contributing to our overall Foreign Policy effort. Wilton Park has significantly improved its financial performance over the past year and has met its financial targets.
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