Previous Section Index Home Page

3 Apr 2008 : Column 1212W—continued

Military Aircraft

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) target and (b) actual percentage serviceability rate is of each (i) helicopter and (ii) air transport aircraft in the Armed Forces. [196620]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The target and actual serviceability rates shown in the following table are the average for the month of February 2008:

3 Apr 2008 : Column 1213W
Aircraft Target percentage serviceability rate Actual percentage serviceability rate

Hercules C130K



Hercules C130J


















Gazelle (5 Regiment)



Gazelle (Other)









Merlin Mk1



Merlin Mk3



Sea King Mk3



Sea King Mk4/6



Sea King Mk5/7



Lynx Mk3/8



Lynx Mk7/9



These figures do not include aircraft in the depth fleets or the eight RAF Chinook Mark 3 helicopters that are being converted to a battlefield support role. Two of the six ex-Danish Merlin helicopters have now entered squadron service and are included in the above figures.

The figures do not reflect the fact that unserviceable aircraft can often, if required, be made serviceable at very short notice to meet the operational need.

Royal Irish Regiment: Manpower

Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the ratio of female to male soldiers was in the Home Service (a) part-time and (b) full-time Royal Irish Regiment on 1 July 2000. [198731]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: A breakdown of the number of male and female soldiers in the Home Service element of the Royal Irish Regiment (HS R IRISH) is not available for 1 July 2000.

However, figures are held as at 1 January 2000 which show that the ratio of female to male within the part-time element of the HS R IRISH was approximately 1:9. The female to male ratio within the full-time element of the HS R IRISH was approximately 1:10.

Sea King Helicopters

Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) which marks of Sea King helicopters have been fitted with high intensity strobe lights; and when this equipment was installed; [196367]

(2) when high intensity strobe lighting was (a) removed and (b) refitted to the second Sea King marks trials aircraft; and under whose authority this action was taken; [196368]

(3) whether the retro fitting of his Department’s Sea King helicopters with high intensity strobe lighting was approved at all stages of planning and installation by the helicopters’ manufacturers. [196369]

3 Apr 2008 : Column 1214W

Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 26 March 2008]: High Intensity Strobe Lighting (HISL) was progressively fitted to all Marks of the UK MOD Sea King fleet between 1983 and 2001:

The Mark 2 to Mark 7 conversion programme that was undertaken between 1999 and 2002 was conducted in two phases, giving rise to two different build-standards of trials aircraft. The trial installation of HISL was undertaken during the first phase before the equipment was transferred to the second phase trials aircraft and re-tested, prior to release to service. This approach was agreed jointly between the MOD and the helicopter Design Organisation (Westland Helicopters, now AgustaWestland).

The retro-fitting capability was introduced as a Service Modification—either a Service Engineering Modification (SEM) or Naval Service Modification (NSM)—where design, test and installation is undertaken by MOD personnel. In all cases, the Department is required to seek independent airworthiness advice before the modification is released to service. Additionally, MOD personnel are required to seek advice from the helicopter Design Organisation, as was the case for all Marks of HISL modification. For all Marks except Mark 5 and Mark 6 aircraft, the HISL modification has retrospectively been formally accepted onto the aircraft drawings by the helicopter manufacturer through a process called Cover Modification.


Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what orders for bearskin caps for the Guards Regiments are (a) outstanding and (b) planned. [197731]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: There are no outstanding orders for the procurement of bearskin caps. Future requirements are kept under review.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps are being taken by his Department to identify an alternative material to bearskin for Guards Regiments caps. [197767]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The MOD has been actively seeking an acceptable alternative to real fur for some years and continues to invest in samples and treatments of imitation bearskin. Although successful in identifying fur alternatives for other aspects of ceremonial dress, replicating the complex structure of bear's fur has proven to be a significant challenge and no suitable fur alternative to the Guards bearskin cap has yet been identified. A number of trials have taken place but unfortunately proved unsuccessful. Further trials will take place once suitable products have been identified.

3 Apr 2008 : Column 1215W

Wind Power

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he plans to object for operational flying reasons to the proposed erection of six wind turbines at Guestwick in Norfolk. [198733]

Derek Twigg: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) raised objections to the planning application for the erection of wind turbines at Guestwick in January 2005, given the anticipated effect of the turbines on the operation of air traffic radars at RAF Coltishall and RAF Marham. Our concerns were considered in conjunction with the applicant and Broadland district council. It was agreed that our main concerns would be addressed if the development of the turbines was deferred until flying operations had ceased at RAF Coltishall.

In fact, the local planning authority refused planning consent in March 2005. Since then we have not been consulted further on this proposal. However, should the development referred to be brought forward we would need to review our position using current assessment process.

MOD fully supports the Government's policy on renewable energy. We operate a free planning consultation service for wind farm developers and consider every proposal on a case-by-case basis.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan: Drugs

Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much the UK has spent on the Afghan Drug Programme in each year since 2003; what drug programmes his Department has funded in Afghanistan since 2003; and if he will make a statement. [197784]

David Miliband: In 2004-05 the UK spent £6.1 million on a counter narcotics programme in Afghanistan. In 2005 the Afghan Drugs Inter-Departmental Unit was created to manage the UK’s increased counter narcotics effort in Afghanistan. Since that time, the Government have developed a single, integrated counter narcotics programme for Afghanistan and spent the following sums:

£ million







UK spend has been directed towards supporting the Afghan National Drugs Control Strategy, which has eight pillars of activity: (1) raising public awareness, (2) promoting international and regional co-operation, (3) promoting alternative livelihoods, (4) reducing demand for drugs, (5) law enforcement, (6) establishing an effective criminal justice system, (7) targeted eradication of opium and (8) building effective Afghan government institutions.

3 Apr 2008 : Column 1216W

Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much the Government spent on programmes to reduce opium production in Afghanistan in each year since 2001. [198016]

David Miliband: Before 2004, the UK did not have a dedicated counter narcotics programme in Afghanistan. In 2004-05, the UK spent £6.1 million on counter narcotics work in Afghanistan.

In 2005 the Afghan Drugs Inter-Departmental Unit was created to manage the UK’s increased counter narcotics effort. Since that time, the Government has directly spent the following on counter narcotics programmes in Afghanistan:

£ million







Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to regulate the activities of UK private security firms operating in (a) Afghanistan and (b) elsewhere overseas; and if he will make a statement. [196221]

Dr. Howells: In late 2004, my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary (Mr. Straw) requested a review by officials of the options for the regulation of the overseas operations of private military and security companies (PMSCs) registered in or operating from the UK. This applies to PMSCs operating both in Afghanistan and elsewhere overseas. This was to follow up on the Green Paper of 2002, 'Private Military Companies: Options for Regulation' and to respond to the increase in activities of PMSCs in areas of conflict overseas.

The review was completed in mid-2005 and suggested a number of options for ways in which the industry could be regulated. The review also highlighted complex issues, particularly around the definition of what activities should be regulated and how any regulations would be enforced. These issues, along with the options for regulation, continue to be the subject of Ministerial correspondence and official consultation. The Government have undertaken to keep Parliament fully informed of its proposals in this area. If it is agreed that regulation is appropriate, the Government will put the proposals to public consultation.

Ballistic Missile Defence

Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the legal status is of the US facilities at RAF Menwith Hill and RAF Fylingdales; and on what international treaties their status is based. [197911]

Des Browne: I have been asked to reply.

RAF Fylingdales is under the direct command of RAF Air Command. RAF Menwith Hill is made available to the United States Visiting Force (USVF) under the terms of the NATO Status of Forces
3 Apr 2008 : Column 1217W
Agreement (SOFA) 1951, and other arrangements which are appropriate to the relationship that exists between the UK and the US for the purpose of our common defence. The Secretary of State for Defence retains legal possession and control over all Ministry of Defence sites, including those made available to the USVF. The bases operate with the full knowledge and consent of the Secretary of State and in full accordance with UK law.

Chevening Scholarships Programme

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment was made of the relative effectiveness of Commonwealth Scholarships and Chevening Scholarships for Commonwealth countries prior to the decision to terminate these scholarships. [196632]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The purpose of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) scholarship schemes is to build personal relationships with international leaders of the future. Following a recent review of all scholarship funding, in accordance with the FCO’s global strategy and priorities, it was concluded that the Chevening scholarship scheme achieved this purpose more effectively than the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.

Colombia: Military Aid

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received on UK military assistance to the High Mountain Battalions of the Colombian Army from the recent delegation of Colombian trades unionists hosted by his Department; and if he will make a statement. [197297]

Dr. Howells: The issue of UK assistance to specific parts of the Colombian army did not arise during my meeting with the delegation of Colombian trades unionists, whose visit was co-organised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC), nor did it in their subsequent meetings with FCO officials.

The delegation welcomed the efforts of the international community including the UK to help generate lasting peace in Colombia. However, they also outlined their concerns on the difficult environment for their members, concerns that we share. This is why we will continue to discuss with the Colombian TUC and their UK counterparts how this Government can offer their practical support to Colombian trade unionists.

Next Section Index Home Page