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19 May 2008 : Column 6W—continued

Air Force: Military Aid

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the Royal Air Force last conducted humanitarian air drop operations; and in what circumstances. [206630]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The last time that the RAF, jointly with the Army, conducted dedicated humanitarian air drops was in April 1991 in Iraq.

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the Royal Air Force’s capability is to conduct humanitarian air drop operations; and if he will make a statement. [206654]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Humanitarian air drops are conducted jointly by the Royal Air Force providing the aircraft and the Army loading the aircraft and delivering the load.

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) 463L pallets and (b) other pallets used for airdrop operations, the Royal Air Force had in its inventory in each year since 2001, broken down by type. [206656]


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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Unlike commercial airlines, which use pallets, the Royal Air Force uses baseboards to load airdrop goods. Records for the number of baseboards held by the Royal Air Force for each year since 2001 are not held centrally.

Currently, we have 207 baseboards in store and it is estimated that there are in the order of 200 baseboards in use.

Armed Forces: Pay

Gordon Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the procedure is for paying service personnel (a) posted overseas, (b) on active service and (c) in the UK. [206382]

Derek Twigg: All service personnel are paid to their nominated bank accounts through the joint personnel administration (JPA) system whether posted within the UK, overseas or on operations. Recruits provide their bank details on arrival at their initial training or reservists’ units and payments to banks normally commence within three months of enlistment. Thereafter, it is the responsibility of the individual service person to maintain their bank details on the JPA system, including initiating, through their human resource administration staff, payments to overseas bank accounts, when posted overseas. The JPA system also has the capacity to make payments by payable order and for unit administration staff, when required, to make payments in cash.

Armed Forces: Recruitment

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the (a) target, (b) actual and (c) shortfall percentage against target of recruiting of each pinch point trade was in each year since 1997; [200951]

(2) what the outflow (a) rate and (b) number of each pinch point trade was in each year since 1997. [200953]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 15 May 2008, Official Report, columns 1704-8W.

Armoured Fighting Vehicles

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the funding announced for stage 1 of the Future Rapid Effect System will affect funding available for future purchases of mine-protected vehicles. [205583]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The MOD has recognised that there is an urgent need to address the risks faced by our soldiers on current operations. To address this need we are implementing a range of measures including the introduction of protected mobility equipment such as Mastiff, which has proved its value on operations, offering high levels of protection against mines and roadside bombs.

The procurement of protected mobility equipment is managed and funded entirely separately from the Future Rapid Effect System programme and will therefore not be affected.


19 May 2008 : Column 8W

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what mine protection features the Piranha V vehicle will have; [205584]

(2) what additional capability will be afforded to the Army with phase 1 of the Future Rapid Effect System; [205586]

(3) whether the Piranha V will be designed to allow damaged parts to be unbolted and replaced after an explosive strike. [205588]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Piranha V vehicle hull is shaped to offer protection from the mine blast and the underside of the vehicle is reinforced with appliqué armour to offer additional protection to the crew.

Phase 1 of FRES, which I have interpreted as the utility vehicle (UV), will deliver a fleet of wheeled medium weight armoured vehicles with higher levels of deployability and survivability than our current in service lighter armoured vehicles can achieve, with the potential to grow its capability as new technology becomes available. The UV fleet will cover the protected mobility, command and control, medical, repair and recovery and driver training roles. Other elements of the utility fleet to be delivered in later planned increments include specialist communications, electronic warfare and sensor vehicles.

The FRES utility vehicle will be designed for a modular armour solution. This will allow damaged sections to be unbolted and replaced.

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what types of warfare the Future Rapid Effect System medium weight capability will be suitable. [205585]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 6 December 2007, Official Report, column 1402W, which details the type of warfare for which the FRES medium weight capability will be suitable.

Departmental Empty Property

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many empty properties his Department owns, broken down by (a) region and (b) constituency. [197099]

Derek Twigg: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) keeps its estate of around 240,000 under continual review to ensure that it is no larger than is required for defence purposes. Details of all MOD properties that are currently void (not in use for their intended purpose) are not centrally available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Void stock includes properties being held for planned moves of Service Units, sale or release, modernisation or demolition.

Records are held of void Service Family Accommodation properties (SFA) in Great Britain (GB). The majority of SFA in England and Wales are owned by Annington Homes Ltd and leased to this Department until we no longer require them.

It is a key departmental priority to reduce the number of voids and work is in hand to do this. Since March 2007, the number of void SFA properties worldwide has reduced from 13,338 to some 12,240.


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Although records of void SFA are not held by constituency, they are listed by local parish. I have placed the list of void properties by local parish in the Library of the House.

Departmental Orders and Regulations

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many statutory instruments have been (a) made and (b) revoked by Ministers in his Department since 1997. [204769]

Derek Twigg: No information is held for statutory instruments made by MOD Ministers in 1997 and only partial details are held for 1998. However, records show that 154 such statutory instruments have been registered since 1997.


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The information requested about the number of instruments which have been revoked in the period could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many weapons caches have been found in (a) Basra, (b) Maysan, (c) Dhi Qar and (d) Al Muthanna in each year since 2003. [200962]

Des Browne: Data on weapons cache finds have only been recorded since 1 January 2004. The number of weapons cache finds by Multi National Forces in Basra, Maysan, Dhi Qar and Al Muthanna in each year since 2004 are as follows:

Finds of weapons caches Al Muthanna Basra Dhi Qar Maysaan Grand t otal

2004

6

64

76

18

16

2005

5

46

50

27

128

2006

4

44

23

4

75

2007

1

15

2

4

22

2008

0

9

3

0

12


In addition, some 150 weapons caches were discovered in Basrah during April 2008(1) as part of the ongoing operations in the City led by the Iraqi Security Forces.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the anti-insurgency strategies being employed by British and United States forces in Iraq. [203680]

Des Browne: The coalition’s strategy is to transfer security responsibility to the Iraqis so that they can take the lead in defeating the main threats to security and stability. Our assessment, reflected in the recent testimony given by Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus to the US Congress, is that the strategy is working and significant progress has been made across Iraq in improving security, including in Basra as a result of the recent Iraqi-led operation Charge of the Knights. Coalition forces continue to provide support to the Government of Iraq and their security forces as they seek to extend and consolidate security and underpin it with political and economic progress.

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many interpreters his Department employs in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan; and how much they cost in the latest period for which figures are available. [204559]

Des Browne: We currently employ 108 interpreters in Iraq and 316 interpreters in Afghanistan. The total cost paid to cover salary and overtime for April 2008 was around £92,510 in Iraq and around £175,840 in Afghanistan.

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the Mesopotamia Group has requested rotary wing air escort since the start of the ISAF Contracted Air Transport contract. [204569]

Des Browne: Mesopotamia Group has not requested rotary wing air escort since the start of the ISAF Contracted Air Transport contract.

Military Aid

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what material handling equipment is available to his Department for humanitarian airdrop operations. [206655]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Should an aircraft carry out a humanitarian airdrop, the necessary resources, including material handling equipment, are available to complete the task.

Reserve Forces

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of participants in trips and functions under the SaBRE campaign came from (a) small, (b) medium and (c) large businesses in the last period for which figures are available. [204608]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Under its ‘Employers Abroad’ scheme, SaBRE (Supporting Britain’s Reservists and Employers) arranges for employers of reservists, and other influential business and commercial figures, to visit their employees who are mobilised and serving on operations in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Available records, for the period from January 2006 to May 2008, show that places available to employers on UK briefing visits and ‘Employers Abroad’ visits were allocated as follows:


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Percentage

Small employers (1-49 employees)

5

Medium employers (50-249 employees)

9

Large employers (250 plus employees)

86


The ‘Large employers’ category covers representatives of focal organisations for over 200,000 small and medium sized enterprises, such as the Federation of Small Businesses, the British Chambers of Commerce, and the Trades Union Congress. SaBRE organises and assists in a great number of functions within the UK, many of which are not solely for employer support. It is not possible to ascertain how many invitations to these events go to small, medium or large enterprises.

Treaty of Lisbon: Foreign Policy

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the legal status is of the declaration attached to the treaty of Lisbon which states that nothing in the treaties affects the existing powers of the member states to formulate and conduct their foreign policy. [191937]

Mr. Jim Murphy: I have been asked to reply.

The Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) was established by the Maastricht treaty. Under the Lisbon treaty it will remain a common policy based on the general rule that decisions must be taken unanimously by the member states. As Article 1 (27) of the Lisbon treaty makes clear, the special nature of CFSP is safeguarded with its decision making arrangements different and separate from all other areas of EU policy.

The declarations on CFSP further express the political commitment of all 27 member states that foreign policy is the responsibility of the member states and that the treaty does not affect member states' ability to formulate and conduct their own foreign policy.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Environment Protection: Seas and Oceans

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what legal advice he has received on whether an environmental damage assessment is required in relation to fishing and related activities within the proposed offshore special area of conservation sites at (a) Braemar Pockmarks, (b) Scanner Pockmark, (c) North Norfolk sandbanks and Saturn Reef, (d) Haig Frais, (e) Stanton Banks, (f) Darwin Mounds and (g) Wyville Thomson Ridge. [204638]

Jonathan Shaw: The Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 2007 (OMCRs) came into force on 21 August 2007 and provides for controls on certain activities that have an effect on important species and habitats in the offshore marine environment through a number of offences that aim to prevent environmentally damaging activities, and for
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the carrying out of appropriate assessments of plans or projects where required by Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (the habitats directive).

Legal advice in drafting and implementing these regulations has been ongoing to determine how they might apply to fisheries and best meet the UK obligations under Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds (the birds directive), the habitats directive and the common fisheries policy.

The UK has not yet submitted the sites mentioned to the European Commission to be considered for designation as marine Special Areas of Conservation. If and when they are submitted they will receive the full protection afforded by the OMCRs.


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