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Ballistic Missiles

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): No.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Earl Howe: There is no agreed definition of these terms. In the context of missile defence systems, however, the terms are usually understood to refer solely to the different technical characteristics of various types of missile. The use of the terms in this context has consequently no implications for the type of warhead that might be carried nor the purpose to which they might be put.

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Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the distinction between "theatre ballistic missiles" as referred to in the 8 June NATO meeting communiqué, where they are contrasted with "strategic ballistic missiles", differs from the distinction between "strategic roles" and "sub-strategic roles" for UK Trident ballistic missiles; what is "NATO's sub-strategic force posture"; and whether it consists of "theatre ballistic missiles".

Earl Howe: Distinctions between strategic and theatre ballistic missiles are usually drawn on the basis of technical characteristics of different weapon systems. This is quite separate from the distinction between strategic and sub-strategic roles, which relates to the purpose of the action to which a weapon could contribute. NATO's sub strategic force posture comprises the forces committed to the sub-strategic role, which are at present dual capable aircraft equipped with nuclear bombs.

Conventionally Armed Stand-Off Missile

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Ministry of Defence is contemplating acquiring a conventionally armed stand-off missile with a concrete penetrating warhead, and whether this would be for the purpose of counter-proliferation; if so whether they are contemplating buying it from the United States; and if so, whether this is being considered in the context of the US Counter-Proliferation Initiative; and

    What Israeli firm or firms are taking part in the study of the possible British requirement for anti-missile defences or for a conventionally armed stand-off missile with a concrete-penetrating warhead.

Earl Howe: Her Majesty's Government announced on 29 November last year that industry would be invited to tender for the supply of a Conventionally Armed Stand-Off Missile for the RAF. This will enhance the RAF's stand-off attack capability and allow precision targeting of high value, strategic and tactical assets, without exposing our aircraft and aircrews to unacceptably high levels of attrition. The importance of such a capability was demonstrated during the Gulf conflict.

Invitations to tender were issued on 9 December to some 15 contractors at home and overseas, including the United States, Europe and Israel. Bids are due to be returned by 11 July, and the Israeli company Rafael is among those expected to respond. Responses will be carefully considered on their merits, the most important being total cost to public funds, operational effectiveness and such technical aspects as performance, reliability and compatibility with our delivery aircraft.

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Ballistic Missile Defence

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United Kingdom taxpayer's investment in the research and development of the US Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation is in the Defence Estimates and if so where; whether patents have been or are being taken out; and what control they have over the transfer of these technologies, over the uses to be made of them, and over subsequent commercial exploitation.

Earl Howe: There is no direct UK investment in the US ballistic missile defence programme. Collaboration between the UK and the US on ballistic missile defence is carried out under the terms of the 1985 Strategic Defence Initiative Memorandum of Understanding, the UK contribution to which is formed by various core programme research items. The arrangements surrounding intellectual property rights incorporated in the Memorandum of Understanding are both classified and confidential to the parties.

Counter Proliferation Initiative

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there has been, or is intended to be any United Kingdom involvement in the Counterforce element of the United States counter-proliferation initiative, as there has been in the missile defences element, and whether this too may involve technology transfer to third parties.

Earl Howe: I have nothing to add to my predecessor's answer of 4 July on this subject.

NHS Suspension Procedures

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total cost to the National Health Service in the last financial year of payments of staff suspended on full pay, including the cost of locums; and whether there is any limit on the length of time of paid suspensions.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): This information is not available centrally. The responsibility for the operation of suspension procedures lies solely with National Health Service employers.

Guidance was issued in Circular HSG(94)49 to NHS employers on 31 October 1994 on suspension procedures for hospital and community medical and hospital dental staff, copies of which are available in the Library.

The guidance stipulates no minimum period during which suspension procedures are to be completed. While decisions on the procedures to be followed for reinstatement rest with the employing authority, the guidance does however contain an indicative timetable, which is strongly recommended to NHS employers for incorporation into any local procedures they may draw up in consultation with their staff. The guidelines state

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that every attempt should be made to conclude the investigation and, where appropriate, the subsequent disciplinary process as speedily as possible.

Child Support Agency

Lord Houghton of Sowerby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the approximate proportion of cases which when settled by the Child Support Agency result in a positive net increase in the resources available for the support of children.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): Parents have a responsibility to maintain their children. The agency is responsible for implementing the legislation which is aimed at providing such maintenance to relieve the burden which otherwise would fall on the taxpayers who also have children of their own to support. So, any money secured by the agency either benefits the parent with care and children directly or reduces benefit expenditure on those families which would otherwise arise.

All individual cases in which maintenance has been assessed by the agency have the opportunity to benefit from regular payments of maintenance. For parents in receipt of income support, it may not lead to an immediate net increase in their income, but it does provide a sound basis for their future personal and financial planning. The levels of maintenance will be reviewed at least every two years to reflect up to date circumstances.

Parents in receipt of family credit or disability working allowance, or not receiving any income related benefit will gain an immediate net increase in income from maintenance paid, subject to this exceeding any maintenance that was already in payment under a pre-CSA arrangement.

On this basis, we estimate that, where the amount of new maintenance arranged exceeds the pre-CSA maintenance, there has been a net increase in the resources available for the support of the children in almost 20 per cent. of cases assessed by the agency. During 1994–95, in some 77 per cent. of the cases taken on by the agency, no maintenance at all was being paid.

War Crimes Act 1991

Lord Houghton of Sowerby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they can now give a date and place for the first prosecution under the War Crimes Act 1991.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): Seven cases are still being closely examined by Leading Counsel and Junior Treasury Counsel, who have recommended certain further urgent inquiries. These are in hand. Decisions will be taken as soon as all relevant matters have been fully considered.

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Iranian Oil and Gas Field Development

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice has been given by the governments of the European Union to European oil companies bidding to develop the Iranian Sirri-E and Sirri-A oil and gas fields, following the ban by President Clinton on United States companies participating in development agreements in Iran and the withdrawal of Conoco from these projects.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): Her Majesty's Government have not been approached by oil companies for advice about the Iranian Sirri E and Sirri A oil and gas fields. We are not aware whether approaches have been made to other European Union governments.

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