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Baroness Hayman: It is not yet possible to say when, or if, a suitable method of controlling the Asian Longhorn Beetle will be found. The research work is, however, well supported and progress is being made. Researchers in China are assessing various natural predators which attack the beetle during its larval and pupal stages. One such predator Dastarcus longulus, has been found to kill between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of the larvae and pupae in some areas in China. However, more research is required to discover if the populations of these natural predators can be manipulated to control the beetle effectively. In the USA, work has concentrated on using insect pathogens for controlling the beetle. Results so far indicate that one particular fungus, Beauveria bassiana, may have some potential.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: There are no plans to reorganise the Defence Estates agency, which was established in April 1999 to provide central management and oversight of the defence estate. The noble Lord may however, wish to be aware that on 7 June 2000 a document entitled In Trust and On Trust: The Estate Strategy was published which is a major output from the 1998 Strategic Defence Review. This document will establish improved procedures for delivering a more efficient and effective estate.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: There is no evidence of the decision, if any, that the pilots made to overfly the Mull. However, if overflying the Mull through cloud was indeed their intention they should have established flight at safety altitude under instrument flight rules.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: There are no specific geographical limits on possible EU-led military operations. We are making a planning assumption, for the purposes of an initial analysis of requirements, that within the agreed range of EU-led operations, the most demanding will occur in and around Europe. Forces should also be able to respond to crises worldwide albeit at lesser scale.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The UK currently contributes some 3,300 personnel to KFOR. We have maintained that flexibility and capability are the keys to successful operations in the Balkans. In this spirit, we have agreed to a NATO request to supply additional troops to cover the municipal election period in Kosovo, to ensure that the region's first steps towards democratisation are sure ones.
Subject to confirmation of the election date, the 2nd Battalion the Light Infantry will deploy to Kosovo in mid-September for a period of two months. They will be at the disposal of Commander KFOR, Lt. General Juan Ortuno. We have no doubt that they will maintain the excellent tradition of UK forces in the region who, with their outstanding professionalism, dedication and skill, continue to make an outstanding contribution to the regeneration of Kosovo.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The cost of testing carried out at CBD Porton Down on seventeen samples provided in connection with the possible use of chemical weapons in southern Sudan in 1999 was approximately £7,000.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The methods used involved gas and liquid chromatography, combined with mass spectrometry for chemical agents and riot control agents, and atomic absorption spectrometry for arsenic. We have arranged for a copy of the report by CBD Porton Down to be placed in the Library of the House.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The UK signed the Memorandum of Understanding for the industrialisation and production phase of MR TRIGAT in June 1999 in the expectation that we would shortly proceed to contract and maintain the programme to deliver a modern anti-tank guided weapon capability by 2005 (when stocks of the existing MILAN system start to run down).
Regrettably, MOU signature by all five participating nations has still not been achieved. Some 12 months after our MOU commitment we are no nearer to contract placement than we were then. This additional delay, to a programme that is already 10 years behind its original schedule, and the additional risk and uncertainty it creates is unacceptable. The UK's priority has to be to deliver the capability and equipment needed by our Armed Forces in an acceptable timescale.
We have therefore decided that the UK should withdraw from the MR TRIGAT industrialisation and production programme and will pursue an alternative national procurement of an anti-tank guided weapon system. We plan to issue an invitation to tender in the next few weeks for the supply of commercially available systems to meet the requirements of our infantry light forces by 2005. In parallel, we are reviewing our requirements for an anti-tank capability for mechanised and armoured infantry
We recognise that this decision will be a disappointment to our partners and to those areas of UK industry that had expected to benefit from MR TRIGAT. The UK remains committed to the principles of European collaboration provided it is in the UK's best interests. Regrettably it was not possible to proceed on this basis with MR TRIGAT, but there are a range of other programmes on which we remain engaged to good effect with our European partners.
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