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17 Nov 2008 : Column 152W—continued

Military Police

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions the Royal Military Police has activated a Home Office Large Major Enquiry System Major Incident Room since Her Majesty's Inspectorate's recommendation of April 2006. [236155]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Royal Military Police have activated the Home Office Large Major Inquiry System once during an investigation into the death of Lance Corporal Alipate Naitaukei Tuisawau in Germany in 2007.

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the Royal Military Police major crime case review policy published in the Provost Manual in October 2006; and if he will place a copy of the policy in the Library. [236156]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Police criminal case reviews are conducted to identify and develop opportunities to progress an investigation; to act as a form of quality assurance in relation to the content and process of an investigation; and to identify, develop and disseminate good investigative practice. The Royal Military Police's (RMP) Review Policy for Serious Criminal Investigations and Critical Incidents explains why, when, how and by whom the RMP's review process will be conducted. The Review Policy was published on 1 November 2006 and I will place a copy in the Library of the House.

Nuclear Submarines

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in what year each successor submarine for the next generation of the nuclear deterrent is planned to enter service. [235626]

Mr. Quentin Davies: As previously stated, the first of the new class of submarines is forecast to enter service in around 2024. Also, as explained in the December 2006 White Paper ‘The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent’, a final decision on the number of submarines that will be procured will be made when we know more about their detailed design. That decision will determine the timetable for entry into service of further submarines.

Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the effects on the (a) size, (b) force structure, (c) manning and (d) annual flying task of the Harrier force which would result from committing the Tornado GR4 Force to the Operation Herrick and Operation Telic theatres concurrently. [236547]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: There are currently no plans to alter the size, force structure, manning and annual flying task of the Harrier Force as the result of the concurrent deployment of the Tornado GR4 Force to Operation Herrick and Operation Telic.


Mr. Crabb: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much the Royal Navy spent on activities to counter piracy in each of the last five years. [235846]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Counter piracy is conducted as part of routine Royal Navy Maritime Security tasking on a continuous basis. It is not currently recorded as a discreet activity.

Mr. Crabb: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent steps he has taken to ensure that UK-flagged merchant vessels are protected from piracy. [235847]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Government's stance on piracy has recently been reviewed. This has resulted in a move to a more proactive posture whereby Royal Navy (RN) units in the region will actively seek out pirates, and we have issued them with more robust guidance to deal with any pirates encountered. The RN will contribute to counter-piracy operations through three international efforts.

The UK is already engaged in efforts to combat acts of piracy off Somalia, through the Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, which has established a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) in the Gulf of Aden. CTF 150 units in this area, including RN vessels, are actively conducting operations to counter de-stabilising activities primarily aimed at deterring and disrupting acts of piracy against merchant vessels of all nations.

Standing NATO Maritime Group 2, including attached RN units, has also deployed to the region with a mandate which allows it to conduct counter-piracy operations from mid-October. NATO is considering the ways in which this mandate can be implemented including the escorting of World Food Programme shipping into port in Mogadishu.

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We have also supported EU planning for a counter-piracy naval operation off the coast of Somalia, and on 14 October the EU Political and Security Committee decided to accept the offer made by the UK to provide the Operation Commander (Rear Admiral Phil Jones) and the Operation HQ (the Multinational Headquarters at Northwood). On 10 November EU Foreign and Defence Ministers met at the General Affairs and External Relations Council and agreed a joint action to set up the operation. A separate decision is expected in December to launch the operation. The UK offer is subject to sufficient forces being generated for an operation likely to begin in December.

RAF Welford

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for how long the interim complement of the Ministry of Defence Police Agency will be stationed at RAF Welford. [236361]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Ministry of Defence Police will not be withdrawn from RAF Welford until the necessary security enhancements have been put in place at the base by the United States visiting force. This includes removing munitions that are currently stored in the open.

Officials are monitoring the situation and are in close contact with the United States visiting force.

Snatch Land Rovers

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) financial and (b) EU regulatory factors were considered when deciding to use Snatch Land Rovers; and whether alternative US-produced vehicles were assessed against the same criteria. [235308]

Mr. Quentin Davies: The decision to deploy Snatch Land Rovers on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan took into account a range of factors, including the nature of the mission and the theatre specific threats at the time. Given that these vehicles were already available in our inventory, no EU regulatory or “financial factors” applied. As my right hon. Friend, the Defence Secretary's written statement on 29 October 2008, Official Report, column 28-30WS made clear, senior operational commanders were clear that they need a vehicle of the size, weight and profile of Snatch Land Rover, capable of transporting men, to fulfil their tasks in theatre.

We have set in train a programme to carry out a series of modifications to enhance Snatch's mobility and protection. This effectively generates a new variant, Snatch Vixen, which will offer the highest levels of protection for its size and weight class.

Snatch Vixen

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the unladen weight is of (a) the Snatch Vixen and (b) each of its variants. [235469]

Mr. Quentin Davies: I am withholding the information requested, as its disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.

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Submarines: Safety

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the safety of fire suppressant gas used in Royal Navy submarines. [235632]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: All materials introduced to Royal Navy (RN) submarines, including fire suppressant gases, are subject to a rigorous and robust toxicity assessment process.

The design of RN submarine systems is such that any leak would be quickly detected and emergency actions taken, including the use of back up breathing systems, before the atmosphere within the submarine became un-breathable.

The fire suppressant gases used in RN submarines are halon 1301, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. The quantities of halon and carbon dioxide held onboard are such that, even if the total volume is discharged into the submarine atmosphere, it remains safe to breathe. Nitrogen is not a toxic gas, but has the potential to asphyxiate if there is sufficient volume. The risks associated with nitrogen have, however, been assessed against the safeguards in system design and mitigating procedures, and are as low as reasonably practicable.

Trafalgar Class Submarines

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in what year the final Trafalgar-class submarine will go out of service. [235625]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: On present plans, which are routinely updated as required, the last Trafalgar class submarine to be withdrawn from service will be HMS Triumph in 2022.

Turks and Caicos Islands: Hurricanes and Tornadoes

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) nature and (b) duration of the assistance provided by Royal Navy vessels to the Turks and Caicos Islands was in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. [235580]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Royal Navy vessels HMS Iron Duke and RFA Wave Ruler provided humanitarian assistance to Turks and Caicos in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike for a period of five days. Teams from both vessels were ashore during this period helping repair infrastructure. At the same time, assets from HMS Iron Duke and Wave Ruler undertook a damage assessment of the islands as well as transporting fuel, water and supplies to some outlying islands.


Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what work has been carried out continuously to record the gapping of ships; [235423]

(2) how many ships have experienced gapping during the last 12 months; and what (a) ships and (b) percentages were involved. [235424]

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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Detailed statistics of manpower gapping for individual Royal Navy ships are not recorded centrally. Manning levels of ships are adjusted according to their task. They routinely operate gapped posts, but the operational task on which a ship is deployed (or for which it is being generated) will determine its manning priority profile. This ensures that the unit has the appropriate manpower for the task.

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) surface ships, (b) submarines and (c) auxiliary vessels are available for deployment; and what the equivalent numbers were in 1997. [235431]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The following figures indicate the number of vessels in service with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary as at 1 April of each year. All vessels in service at any given time are available for deployment at periods of notice appropriate to their states of readiness:

Surface ships Submarines Auxiliary vessels









(1) An additional six roll-on/roll-off vessels available for charter when required.

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the current tasks set by his Department are for the Royal Navy’s (a) destroyers and frigates and (b) submarines; and how many of each of these classes of warship are required to be on station to fulfil each task. [235627]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The current tasks for destroyers, frigates and submarines are as shown.

I have included the number of destroyers and frigates on station but I am withholding detailed information on the numbers of submarines on task as its release would, or would be likely to prejudice national security.

17 Nov 2008 : Column 156W
DD/FF current tasks Number on station

Op TELIC (Nth Arabian Gulf)

One permanently committed

Op CALASH (Indian Ocean —counter terrorism and capacity building coalition)

One permanently committed

NATO Response Force

One nominated and permanently assigned to a standing force

Atlantic Patrol Task (South)

One permanently committed

Support to Strategic Deterrence

One nominated, at extremely high readiness and activated when required

Atlantic Patrol Task (North)

One core hurricane season only (May to November)

Integrity of the UK

Three nominated, one immediate, two extremely high readiness and activated when required

ESDP Counter Piracy

One temporarily assigned pending confirmation of the requirement


Strategic Intelligence

Support to Strategic Deterrence

Integrity of the UK


Falkland Islands Contingency

The number of units on station does not reflect the generation factors which are the number of hulls essential to produce the required units for each station. These factors vary and are dependent on whether a task is rouled (continuous) or non-rouled. The figures also exclude the units held at very high readiness for contingent operations.


Audit: Standards

Frank Dobson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had with (a) individual firms of accountants and (b) representatives of the accountancy profession of the standard of auditing of the accounts of (i) Northern Rock, (ii) Bradford and Bingley, (iii) HBOS and (iv) Royal Bank of Scotland respectively. [235550]

Ian Pearson: Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings and discussions with a wide variety of organisations as part of the process of policy development and delivery. As was the case with previous administrations, it is not the Government's practice to provide details of all such meetings and discussions.

Bank of England: Accountability

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Bank of England's executive will be accountable to the Financial Stability Committee. [231014]

Ian Pearson: The Financial Stability Committee will be established as a sub-committee of the Court of Directors of the Bank of England. The committee will include all the executive members of the Court, and will be chaired by the Governor. In addition to the Bank's executive, the Committee will include a majority non-executive membership, bringing outside expertise and insight to the Committee. Executives, and the Financial Stability Committee as a whole, will be accountable to the Court—the Bank's governing body—for their performance.

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