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25 Jan 2001 : Column WA21

Written Answers

Thursday, 25th January 2001.

Chinook Helicopter Mk II: Conversion Training

Lord Chalfont asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Chinook helicopter simulator training facility and its related training programme were upgraded to cater for the Mk. II version of the helicopter; and when Flight Lieutenants Tapper and Cook completed their upgraded training programme.[HL324]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The reconfiguration of the Chinook simulator to Mk2 standard was completed in the last quarter of 1993. The instructing training staff of the Operational Conversion Flight had completed conversion to the Mk2 version in August 1993.

Flt Lt Tapper and Flt Lt Cook completed their conversion training programmes on 28 February 1994 and 17 March 1994 respectively.

European Security and Defence Policy: Intelligence Management

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the commitments which the United Kingdom has entered into, under the European Security and Defence Policy, for the gathering, analysis and distribution of intelligence material for European Union purposes.[HL405]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: At the European Council at Nice, EU member states agreed the terms of reference of the EU Military Staff, which would perform "early warning, situation assessment and strategic planning for Petersberg tasks".

To carry out this task the staff will rely on appropriate national and multinational intelligence capabilities. The detailed arrangements for handling intelligence material will be subject to stringent safeguards and will take full account of existing national and multinational agreements.

Rendlesham Forest Incident

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of any involvement by Special Branch personnel in the investigation of the 1980 Rendlesham Forest incident.[HL303]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Special Branch officers may have been aware of the incident but would not have shown an interest unless there was evidence of

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a potential threat to national security. No such interest appears to have been shown.

Lord Hill-Norton aked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether personnel from Porton Down visited Rendlesham Forest or the area surrounding RAF Walton in December 1980 or January 1981; and whether they are aware of any tests carried out in either of those two areas aimed at assessing any nuclear, biological or chemical hazard.[HL301]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The staff at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) Chemical and Biological Defence (CBD) laboratories at Porton Down have made a thorough search of their archives and have found no record of any such visits.

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of any uncorrelated targets tracked on radar in November or December 1980; and whether they will give details of any such incidents.[HL302]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Records dating from 1980 no longer exist. Paper records are retained for a period of three years before being destroyed. Recordings of radar data are retained for a period of thirty days prior to re-use of the recording medium.

Unidentified Flying Objects

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the highest classification that has been applied to any Ministry of Defence document concerning Unidentified Flying Objects.[HL304]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: A limited search through available files has identified a number of documents graded Secret. The overall classification of the documents was not dictated by details of specific sightings of "UFOs".

Arms Brokering and Trafficking: Licensing

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to implement licensing for arms brokering and trafficking, which they announced at last year's Labour Party Conference.[HL343]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The new licensing controls on arms brokering and trafficking announced last September will be introduced under new powers on trafficking and brokering to be contained in an Export Control Bill; The Queen's Speech announced that the Government will publish this Bill in draft during this session of Parliament. Full details of the new controls proposed on arms

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brokering and trafficking will be set out when the draft Bill is published. The Government are committed to introducing the Bill to Parliament as soon as time is available in the legislative programme.

Mobile Operators: 3G Services Revenues

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What their response is to estimates from Forrester Research that, by 2005, 3G ("third generation") revenues earned by mobile operators will not make up the shortfall in their traditional revenue streams.[HL388]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: It would not be appropriate to speculate on the estimates from Forrester Research. It can be assumed, though, that operators have made the necessary calculations on how best to recoup the investments they are making to launch 3G ("third generation") services.

Aeroplane Seating

Viscount Waverley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is considered the necessary space, for health reasons, between seats in the economy section of aeroplanes on long haul flights of 6, 12 and 18 hours

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    for persons of 1.90 metres, 1.95 metres and 2.00 metres in height.[HL393]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): There is at present one minimum seat spacing requirement in aircraft cabins, though this exists to allow safe evacuation of an aircraft in an emergency, rather than for any health reasons. Until further research has been carried out we cannot say if there is a minimum amount of space between seats that would be necessary for health reasons, though a distinction should be made between health and comfort. There are indications to suggest that immobility, rather than seat pitch, is the main risk to health.

Ministers of Religion: Membership ofHouse of Commons

Baroness Cohen of Pimlico asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When will they introduce legislation to remove the disqualification on certain clergy from sitting in the House of Commons.[HL495]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): We have today introduced a Bill which will reform the existing unfair and outdated legislation. It will remove any disqualification from membership of the House of Commons that arises by reason of a person having been ordained or being a minister of a religious denomination.

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