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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: We deploy British military engineers on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to conduct close engineer support (such as mobility support, counter mobility support, explosive ordnance disposal, boat support, and search) and general engineer support (such as infrastructure development, construction, geographic support, and civil-military cooperation). We cannot provide the total number of engineering personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan for each year since 2001 as these records are not held centrally and cannot be provided without disproportionate cost. We can, however, provide the details of the main engineering units deployed to Iraq since 2003 and Afghanistan since 2006. In addition to these units, there are also Royal Navy/Royal Marine, Army and Royal Air Force Engineers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan undertaking maintenance tasks in support of both rotary and fixed wing aircraft and vehicle squadrons.

Engineering units deployed to Iraq

Engineering units deployed to Afghanistan


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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what risk assessments have been carried out on (a) RAF and (b) Army accommodation in Basra with particular reference to (i) overhead protection and (ii) protection from shrapnel; what action (A) was taken and (B) is planned as a result; and if he will make a statement. [153460]

Des Browne: There is no distinction made in an operational theatre on the standard of accommodation, or protection afforded to it, on the basis of service.

Commanders in theatre keep all force protection measures including that of accommodation under constant review, against an ever-evolving threat and a number of measures are being developed to further improve protection.

Force protection arrangements in Basra employ multiple layers of defence. This is in addition to operations to disrupt attacks against UK forces and other protective equipment, tactics, techniques and procedures designed to minimise the chance of a successful attack. Details of these measures cannot be released as disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness and security of the armed forces.

Iraq-Kuwait Conflict: Depleted Uranium

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent estimate he has made of the number of UK service personnel who served in the 1990-91 Gulf conflict and as a result of injuries sustained there have embedded uranium shrapnel. [151763]

Derek Twigg: We are not aware of any incidents involving injury to UK service personnel in the 1990-91 Gulf conflict resulting in embedded depleted uranium shrapnel injuries. This is supported by the recent findings of the Depleted Uranium Oversight Board (DUOB) which was established in 2001 to oversee a screening programme for veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf conflict and subsequent Balkans operations concerned about possible exposure to depleted uranium. I announced the publication of the final report of the DUOB on 26 March 2007, Official Report, column 64WS.

Military Aircraft

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the current percentage shortfall is of required spares for (a) C17A Globemaster, (b) Hercules C-130K, (c) Hercules C-130J, (d) Tristar, (e) VC-10 and (f) Nimrod MR2. [148380]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Aircraft spares for the C-17A Globemaster and the Hercules C-130 are provided under aircraft availability contracts with industry and spares stock levels are not measured.

Aircraft spares for the TriStar, VC-10 and Nimrod MR2 are also partly provided direct from industry. However, spares demands satisfied from MOD stocks
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in June 2007, expressed as a percentage, were 74 per cent. for the TriStar, 78 per cent. for the VC-10 and 81 per cent. for the Nimrod MR2.

Spare parts availability for all of these aircraft has been sufficient to meet operational commitments.

Minesweepers

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many minehunters were (a) on active service and (b) in reserve in (i) 1997 and (ii) 2007; what plans he has to change the numbers; and if he will make a statement. [153441]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: In 1997 there were 18 Mine Counter-Measure Vessels (MCMVs) in service and capable of mine-hunting operations. There are currently 16 MCMVs in service. There were no such vessels in reserve either in 1997 or 2007.

There are currently no plans to change the number of MCMVs.

Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency: USA

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 29 July 2007, Official Report, column 903W, on Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency: USA, if he will place in the Library the results of the negotiations being held with the US authorities concerning the Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency and the US authorities. [153745]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The revised Memorandum of Agreement will be made available in the Library of the House once the revised Agreement between the Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency and the US authorities has been finalised, and all parties, including the US, have been consulted.

Navy: Fisheries

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answers of 4 June 2007, Official Report, column 175W, on Navy: fisheries, when he expects to collate and make available the information requested; and if he will make a statement. [150570]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The collation of the information has now been completed. I wrote to the hon. Member on 25 August.

Navy: Frigates

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to commence the industrial procurement process for the Future Surface Combatant. [147862]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Until an investment decision has been taken, as part of the current planning round which is due to complete in early 2008, the timeline for the Future Surface Combatant project cannot be determined.


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Nuclear Weapons

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what guidelines his Department follows on the proximity of storage of nuclear weapons to (a) residential properties and (b) other nuclear weapons. [153671]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: UK nuclear weapons, in common with all MOD conventional weapons, are stored according to their conventional explosives content in explosives facilities which are assessed and licensed in accordance with the requirements of the Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations (MSER) 2005. The MOD applies these regulations through Joint Services Publication 482—MOD Explosives Regulations. JSP 482 stipulates specific safety separation distances to be maintained between explosives and residential properties and public roads and between adjacent explosives storage and processing facilities.

Nuclear warheads are stored safely in accordance with arrangements prescribed by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate. Specific regulations are covered by the Ionising Radiation Regulations 1999.

RAF Brize Norton: Charities

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the reasons were for the decision of Defence Estate officials to waive the liability charge for the Sgt Biddiss Charity event held at RAF Brize Norton. [152353]

Derek Twigg: Defence Estates officials reviewed in detail the background to the event. Based on that review they concluded that the event justified the waiving of the small marginal cost. This action was acceptable within their delegation.

Sierra Leone: Peacekeeping Operations

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British armed forces personnel were wounded during operations in (a) Sierra Leone, (b) Bosnia and (c) Kosovo in each year since 1997. [153328]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my predecessor on 11 June 2007, Official Report, column 763W, to the hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper).

Territorial Army: Deployment

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which Territorial Army sub-units had members mobilised on operational service in the last three years; and which have members currently on operational service. [152660]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 26 July 2007]: All major Territorial Army (TA) units have mobilised personnel on operational service over the last three years in various proportions. To identify the sub-units
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within these units from which each mobilised member of the TA has originated would incur disproportionate cost.

There are currently 571 members of the TA in overseas operational theatres (as at 3 July 2007).

Territorial Army: Resignations

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average length of service was for each rank of the Territorial Army on resigning for the latest period for which figures are available. [152638]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: This information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Trident Missiles

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions his Department has had with (a) the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, (b) the Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield and (c) others on the safety of the Trident warhead assembly/disassembly plant at Burghfield, with particular reference to (i) working practices and (ii) facilities. [152499]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The safety of the assembly/disassembly facilities at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) is not in question. The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate maintains a continuous dialogue with the nuclear site licensee (AWE plc) and with the MOD on all aspects of the safety of facilities and operations at AWE, where safety is paramount to all stakeholders.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what date his Department received the first communication from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate on the safety of the warhead assembly/disassembly facility at Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield. [152503]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate maintains, and has since first licensing, a continuous dialogue with the nuclear site licensee at Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield, and with the MOD on all aspects of the safety of facilities and operations, including the warhead assembly/disassembly facility.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to replace the warhead assembly/disassembly facility at Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield. [152505]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: A number of options remain under consideration. Final decisions have yet to be taken.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the merits of using (i) probabilistic risk assessments and (ii) deterministic risk assessments for assessing risk at Atomic Weapons Establishment Burghfield; and if he will make a statement. [152506]


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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: No specific research has been commissioned into these techniques and none is needed. The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate licence conditions for the Atomic Weapons Establishment demand that appropriate safety cases are generated as a matter of routine in the evaluation of risk. Deterministic and probabilistic risk assessments are tools employed in defining and ranking the postulated hazards. The use of such risk assessment techniques is considered best practice within the nuclear industry. Their use by AWE plc is regularly benchmarked against—and compares favourably with—other nuclear operators.


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