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24 Nov 2008 : Column 898W—continued

(e ) Figures for mobile telephones

MOD units are not required to centrally report incidents of loss or theft of mobile phones, and to gather these data would incur disproportionate cost. These figures reflect reports which have been provided where the incidents have security significance or have been associated with the theft of other property.

Lost Stolen



















(1) Up to 5 November 2008

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the evidence provided by the Permanent Secretary to the Public Accounts Committee on 22 October 2008, on the Defence Information Infrastructure programme, who provided the figure of the estimated value of £2.3 billion for the programme contract provided in the answer to the hon. Member for Portsmouth South of 17 July 2006, Official Report, column 210W, on defence information structure; when he was informed that the figure given in that answer was incorrect; what steps were taken to inform the hon. Member for Portsmouth South of that fact; and what steps are being taken to prevent other mistakes in the provision of information to Parliament on his Department's project costs. [236793]

Mr. Quentin Davies: At the time the hon. Member's question was tabled (July 2006), only Increment 1 of the DII Programme had obtained financial approval within the Department and was supported by a contract with the delivery partner. The answer given on 17 July 2006, Official Report, column 210W (which was based on information provided by the DII programme team), was confined to the value of that contract—£2.3 billion. This was in accordance with normal practice, which reflects the fact that giving estimated values for subsequent increments which are not yet approved or under contract could adversely affect the Department's position in future commercial negotiations. The answer was not incorrect. It made it clear that the figure given was the value of the DII Increment 1 contract.

Since 2006, additional increments of DII work have been placed on contract with Atlas, and parliamentary answers on DII(F) contract costs reflect the estimated value at the time, including uplifts for those additional increments. The NAO value for money audit report published on 4 July provides additional estimates of dependent programme costs, and potential DII(F) future increments, both of which lie outside of the current DII programme's approval.

24 Nov 2008 : Column 899W

Departmental Land

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much surplus land (a) his Department and (b) its agencies own; and what the (i) area and (ii) estimated monetary value of each site is. [236430]

Mr. Kevan Jones: A list of the Department’s surplus land and property is regularly updated and placed in the Library of the House. The details provided include the area of each site.

The Department does not publish details of the estimated value of land that is due to be disposed of as this is commercially sensitive and could influence property transactions. Surplus property is normally sold on the open market with the benefit of competition.

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for each of the sites owned by his Department and registered on the Register of Surplus Public Sector Land; what construction projects are planned for each site; and when he expects each site to be returned to use. [236438]

Mr. Kevan Jones: On the assumption that there is no interest from other Government Departments or former owner considerations under the ‘Crichel Down’ rules, the Department sells its surplus sites on the open market as soon as practicable.

Any future use to which the land might be put will ultimately be determined by other Government Departments if transferred after exposure on the Register of Public Sector Land or by the purchaser subject to the rigour of the Town and Country Planning system.

Departmental Press Releases

Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many press releases have been issued by his Department in each year since 1997-98; and if he will make a statement. [238977]

Mr. Kevan Jones: Records are not available for the entire time period. However the statistics for the last three complete calendar years are as shown.

Press releases







It should be noted that press releases are only one part of the press officer function and will not include direct responses to journalist inquiries.

European Fighter Aircraft: Bombs

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects Paveway IV bombs to enter service on Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft. [238051]

Mr. Quentin Davies: The Paveway IV weapon system is expected to enter service on Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft from early in the next decade.

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Ex-servicemen: Counselling

Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps his Department has taken to inform service veterans of services available to them, with particular reference to mental health counselling services. [234035]

Mr. Kevan Jones: When service personnel leave the armed forces, their healthcare needs are the responsibility of the NHS. Service leavers, particularly those who have medical problems or who are considered vulnerable, receive advice about the help available to them by MOD welfare services and are given information about the ex-service charities (such as the Royal British Legion and Combat Stress). This is reinforced by outreach events and information from the Department. More specifically, NHS-led community mental health pilots are running at five sites offering a best practice, culturally sensitive, veterans’ mental health service; another one will begin shortly in Scotland. The service offers wider support of public and charitable providers and is being linked to the Government’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme. A current focus is raising awareness among local health professionals and potential clients.

Ex-servicemen: Radiation Exposure

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the implications for the health of British nuclear test veterans of the research conducted by the Medical Research Council into DNA defects in nuclear test veterans. [236368]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The Ministry of Defence is not aware of any research conducted by the Medical Research Council into DNA defects in nuclear test veterans.

The concerns of the nuclear test veterans, however, are a priority. That is why I have asked my officials to work with experts on scoping a study into the possible links between the service of the veterans and the ill-health suffered by some of their children and grandchildren. The study will need to be sufficiently thorough and robust if it is to have the confidence of all concerned and I am happy that the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association is willing to be involved in this process. We are hopeful that a decision will be made on a way ahead before Christmas.

Future Large Aircraft

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the basic A400M airframe will be configured to deliver an air-to-air refuelling capability; and what his policy is on whether the RAF fleet will be adaptable to such a capability. [238041]

Mr. Quentin Davies: The basic A400M airframe has been designed with an optional air-to-air refuelling (tanker) capability. The design also includes an air-to-air refuelling probe in order to receive fuel. These are only installed and cleared for use in line with specific customer requirements.

The future strategic tanker aircraft is being procured to meet the Department's currently envisaged air-to-air refuelling requirements. Therefore, while the A400M
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could be fitted with an air-to-air refuelling (tanker) capability, the Department currently has no plans to adapt them for this role. The Department also has no plans to clear the refuelling probe capability for A400M. The fleet will however remain adaptable to have these capabilities enabled if required.

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what financial penalty clauses apply to his Department should it decide to (a) reduce orders under and (b) withdraw from the A400M Programme. [238303]

Mr. Quentin Davies: The A400M development and production contract, placed by OCCAR on behalf of the partner nations, contains provisions which allow nations to reduce aircraft numbers and provide suitable compensation for Airbus Military. The costs will vary depending on the timing of any reduction.

The contract contains provisions which allow nations to withdraw from the programme. Again, the cost of compensation will vary depending on the timing of the withdrawal.

Notwithstanding the contractual aspects, under the terms of the A400M development and production Memorandum of Understanding, all nations collaborating on the programme are obliged to hold their partners harmless from any associated impact resulting from a reduction in off-take or withdrawal from the programme.

Future Large Aircraft: Safety

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the cost of fitting a fuel inerting gas system to a A400M. [237068]

Mr. Quentin Davies: I am withholding the cost of fitting an A400M aircraft with a fuel inerting gas system as this is commercially sensitive.

Harrier Aircraft: Manpower

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what force size of Harrier pilots is required to achieve harmony for 11 pilots in theatre. [236790]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: A total of 55 Harrier pilots would meet Royal Air Force harmony guidelines to support 11 Harrier pilots in theatre. In my answer on 17 November 2008, Official Report, columns 134-35W, I stated that there were currently 12 Harrier pilots deployed in Afghanistan. The exact number of deployed pilots has fluctuated between 11 and 12 depending on circumstances. Inquiries made to answer this question have revealed that the figure of 12 pilots in my earlier answer was incorrect and I can confirm that there are actually 11 Harrier pilots currently in Afghanistan.

Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) pursuant to the answer of 17 November 2008, Official Report, column 147W, on Iraq: peacekeeping operations, how many Jaish-al-Mahdi prisoners have been released as a result of these discussions; [239015]

(2) pursuant to the answer of 4 November 2008, Official Report, column 304W, on Iraq: peacekeeping
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operations, whether the discussions with representatives of Jaish-al-Mahdi included discussions on the withdrawal of the British Army to Basra airport. [239171]

Mr. Hutton: Decisions on the disposition, role and number of UK forces in Iraq are taken by the UK Government, based on advice from military commanders on the ground and in conjunction with our coalition partners and the Government of Iraq.

With the full knowledge and support of both our coalition partners and the Iraqi Government, discussions with senior figures in Jaish al-Mahdi in Basra commenced in the summer of 2007 and continued until the end of that year. Over that period, 88 individuals were released from the divisional internment facility. For each of these individuals, the decision to release was taken by the Divisional Internment Review Committee on the basis that these individuals no longer represented an imperative threat to security.

Military Aircraft

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many and what percentage of (a) Merlin HM MK1 and (b) Nimrod MR2 are (i) in service, (ii) in the forward fleet and (iii) fit for purpose. [237071]

Mr. Quentin Davies: The information requested for Merlin Mk1 and Nimrod MR2 aircraft that are in service, in the forward fleet and considered fit for purpose (FFP) is provided in the following table. ‘In service’ has been taken to mean the effective fleet which covers all aircraft barring those which are redundant, declared as surplus or awaiting disposal. Aircraft in the forward fleet are those that are available to the front-line command for operational and training purposes, including those that are classed as ‘short-term unserviceable’. Aircraft defined as fit for purpose are those considered capable of carrying out their planned missions on a given date: these statistics are taken daily and reported as monthly averages.

Merlin HM Mk1( 1) Nimrod MR2( 2)

Effective fleet



Forward fleet



Fit for purpose (FFP)



Forward fleet as a percentage of effective fleet



FFP as a percentage of forward fleet



(1 )Data as of 31 October 2008.
(2 )Data as of 14 November 2008.

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment he has made of the merits of extending the life of the C-130K fleet; [237383]

(2) what assessment he has made of the merits of purchasing one or more additional C-17s; [237384]

(3) what his latest estimate is of the in-service date of the A400M aircraft. [237385]

Mr. Quentin Davies: It is planned that the Hercules C-130K fleet, the out-of-service date of which remains 2012, will be replaced by the A400M, which has a
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planned in-service date of 2011. However, following the recent announcement of delays by Airbus Military in the A400M programme, we are considering a number of options as a contingency to mitigate any potential capability gaps that may arise. Options we are considering include an extension to the life of the C-130K fleet and leasing or procurement of additional C-17 capacity. We are monitoring the situation closely and are pressing Airbus Military for further information so we can make a detailed assessment of the impact on A400M production deliveries and the planned in-service date.

Military Bases: Helicopters

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the levels of noise pollution from helicopters in the areas around (a) RAF Benson and (b) RAF Odiham. [237379]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Initial environmental baseline studies have been completed which include estimates of the existing noise climates (computer modelling) at all the sites being considered by programme Belvedere (a
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programme to rationalise the battlefield helicopter estate of Joint Helicopter Command). The programme includes RAF Odiham and RAF Benson.

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 the options.

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