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20 Nov 2008 : Column 665W—continued

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Catterick Barracks

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made in the investigation of allegations of physical abuse and harassment at Catterick Barracks. [237429]

Mr. Kevan Jones: We were already aware of some of the allegations made by the BBC in its ‘The Undercover Soldier’ documentary in September. A Royal Military Police (Special Investigation Branch) (RMP(SIB)) investigation had been initiated in February. For those we were not aware of an RMP(SIB) investigation was launched as soon as the BBC made us aware of their concerns. These investigations are continuing.

The Army Prosecuting Authority has now directed that four individuals, who were the subject of allegations of which we were already aware and which we were investigating, should face trial by court martial.

Central Africa: Air Force

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many RAF (a) C-17 Globemaster, (b) C-130K Hercules, (c) C-130J Hercules, (d) Tristar, (e) VC-10 aircraft and (f) other RAF aircraft listed by type have flown to (i) Democratic Republic of Congo, (ii) Rwanda and (iii) Burundi in each of the last three months. [237843]

Mr. Kevan Jones: No RAF C-17 Globemaster, C-130K and C130-J Hercules, Tristar, VC-10 or other RAF aircraft have flown to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda or Burundi in any of the last three months.


Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much (a) his Department and (b) its agencies have spent on Christmas (a) cards, (b) parties and (c) decorations in the last 12 months. [237489]

Mr. Kevan Jones: MOD expenditure on Christmas cards in 2007 was £700.

This figure includes printing, purchase and postage, but excludes a small amount spent by Defence attaches (for permitted representational purposes) which is not identifiable without disproportionate cost. The sending of Christmas cards at public expense is governed by the principles of Managing Public Money, regulated by departmental guidance on financial procedures and propriety, and must be in pursuit of specific Defence objectives. This year the MOD is increasing its use of E-cards however in some instances like, for veterans, Christmas cards remain the most appropriate means of communication.

Staff Christmas parties and building decorations are paid for from non-public funds or staff subscription. The exception is the contracted-out facilities management services for MOD Whitehall buildings, which did include an annual £5,000 provision for Christmas decorations, of which £4,000 was spent in 2007. This element of the contract has subsequently been removed.

Trading Fund expenditure is not included in this response as they are outside the MOD’s departmental boundary for financial reporting purposes.

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Defence: Procurement

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the cost of (a) the procurement of the new carriers, (b) the procurement of the Joint Strike Fighter, (c) the Trident replacement programme, (d) procurement of the Type 45 destroyers, (e) the Future Rapid Effects System and (f) the costs of upgrading naval bases for the new carriers in each year to 2013. [234216]

Mr. Quentin Davies: We do not as a rule release annual funding profiles as these are planning assumptions that are inevitably subject to a significant amount of variation, and their availability could also prejudice our commercial interests.

Total estimated costs for the projects are as follows:

Floods: Thames Estuary

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library a copy of the advice provided by the Meteorological Office to the Environment Agency on the effects of climate change in the South East in relation to flood risk management in the Thames Estuary. [236754]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The Environment Agency is planning to publish the science reports it commissioned from the Met Office in April 2009, in conjunction with the release of the public consultation of the draft TE2100 plan. In the meantime the Environment Agency will make arrangements to place summary reports of the findings in the Library of the House.

Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made towards apprehending those allegedly responsible for the killing of six members of the Royal Military Police in a police station at Majar al-Kabir, near Basra, Iraq, in June 2003; and if he will make a statement. [237612]

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Mr. Hutton: Following recent operations by Iraqi and Coalition Security Forces in Maysaan Province an individual has been detained in connection with the investigation into the murder of six members of the Royal Military Police at Al Majar Al Kabir on 24 June 2003.

The UK Government remain absolutely committed to bringing to justice all those responsible for these horrific murders and will continue to provide assistance to the Iraqi authorities as required.

Military Aircraft

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his most recent estimate is of the annual cost of (a) maintaining and (b) operating (i) the VC10 and (ii) the Tristar fleet. [236725]

Mr. Quentin Davies: A number of areas within the Department incur maintenance and operating expenditure on the RAF’s VC10 and Tristar fleets. The financial information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at a disproportionate cost. The figures provided in the following table are the estimated logistic support costs of Defence Equipment and Support that can be directly attributed to the two aircraft fleets in the current financial year.

Financial year 2008-09
Aircraft £ million





1. DE and S staff costs are not included.
2. Costs have been rounded to the nearest million.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) Merlin HM MK1 helicopters and (b) Nimrod MR2 aircraft are stationed in the UK. [237072]

Mr. Quentin Davies: Currently, within the effective fleets, there are 33 Merlin HM Mk 1 aircraft and 15 Nimrod MR2 aircraft stationed in the UK.

Military Aircraft: Repairs and Maintenance

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) target and (b) actual number of (i) BAE and (ii) RAF maintenance staff is at RAF Marham. [237066]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The number of RAF service personnel and BAE Systems personnel employed on forward and depth maintenance at RAF Marham are set out in the following table.

Target Actual

BAE Systems personnel



RAF service personnel(1)



(1) Actual figures include 20 RAF personnel on temporary detachment from RAF Coningsby.

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Military Bases: Helicopters

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) when he expects to announce decisions arising from Project Belvedere; [237373]

(2) what the latest estimate is of the costs of Project Belvedere; [237374]

(3) how many officials are working on Project Belvedere; and who is in charge of their work; [237375]

(4) what progress has been made on Project Belvedere; [237376]

(5) what estimate he has made of likely helicopter noise levels in the area surrounding whichever base is decided on under Project Belvedere; [237378]

(6) how many helicopters would move to the centralised base under Project Belvedere. [237380]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The Belvedere Programme is a complex study considering a number of airfields for the future Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) Battlefield Helicopter force and results are not expected to be announced until late summer 2009 following which further work to assess costs and environmental impact for the recommended option will be completed. The recommended option will be put to Ministers for announcement to Parliament in the usual way.

I am unable to comment on cost estimates at present as the final costs of the programme will depend on the basing option selected and there are currently a range of options being considered. As a final option has not yet been selected no decision has been made on the numbers of bases required and nor, therefore, on the numbers of helicopters that are to be based on each.

An assessment of the potential changes in noise levels at existing and potential helicopter bases is being initiated by the project team. Their assessment will, in turn, closely inform the evaluation of options.

The Belvedere Team consists of a dedicated team of 12 military and civilian officials, headed by a senior civil servant under the direction of a three Star military officer as the senior responsible owner (SRO). The SRO in turn, works under the strategic direction of the Defence Operating Board.

Navy: Detainees

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what procedures Royal Navy personnel are instructed to follow in circumstances where they detain people who then claim asylum; and how many people have claimed asylum after being taken into Royal Navy custody since 2001. [237600]

Mr. Kevan Jones: Naval personnel are issued with guidance on the applicable law and principles relating to the handling of persons claiming asylum including criminal suspects. Commanding officers of RN ships are not empowered to decide on whether an individual is entitled to refugee status; that is a matter for the Home Office. As a matter of practice the RN, after taking advice from other Government Departments, facilitates the asylum seeker’s disembarkation at the next safe port of call in order that the individual can pursue their claim.

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There is no record of any individual claiming asylum since 2001, having been first detained on a RN ship.

Navy: Piracy

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many incidents involving pirates the Royal Navy has been involved with in each of the last three months. [237810]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The number of pirate related incidents in each of the last three months which have involved the Royal Navy are:










(1) Incidents so far

Nuclear Weapons: Decommissioning

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he has taken to increase the skills available to his Department, its agencies and bodies for which he is responsible for the dismantling of redundant (a) nuclear warheads, (b) nuclear submarine reactors and (c) nuclear production sites. [237105]

Mr. Quentin Davies: In common with the broader UK nuclear industry, the MOD recognises the long-term challenge of sustaining key nuclear skills. We are working closely with Cogent, the sector skills council that covers the nuclear industry, and with the industrial supply chain, including AWE plc. and Rolls-Royce Submarines as key suppliers on the Nuclear Weapon and Nuclear Propulsion programmes respectively. In addition, we liaise with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the Department of Energy to ensure a coherent and co-ordinated approach with the civil nuclear industry and the sharing of best practice.

Within the MOD, a firm baseline for current and future skills requirements has been established and actions are being taken to address shortages. For example, we have significantly increased graduate recruitment and post-graduate training in the nuclear area and we are implementing advanced modern apprenticeships at a number of UK locations.

Racial Harassment

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many complaints of racial abuse relating to staff for which his Department is responsible have been (a) investigated and (b) upheld in the last 12 months. [236892]

Mr. Kevan Jones: One complaint of racial abuse has been raised by a civilian member of staff in the last 12 months, which is currently the subject of investigation.

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Somalia: Piracy

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many pirates have been captured off the coast of Somalia by HMS Cumberland; where they are being held; under which legal framework; and if he will make a statement. [237194]

Mr. Kevan Jones [holding answer 18 November 2008]: On 11 November Royal Marines from HMS Cumberland interdicted a Yemeni flagged fishing vessel which had been seized by suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden. Eight suspected Somali pirates were held on board the Yemeni vessel and a Somali skiff during the investigation. They were then transferred by Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel RFA Wave Knight to Kenyan authorities in Mombassa on 18 November. All Royal Navy counter-piracy operations are conducted in accordance with UK domestic and international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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