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The Royal Navy did not operate any anti-submarine sonar during the NATO exercise off southern Spain between 2426 January. Furthermore, there is no current evidence to show that Royal Naval sonar has ever been responsible for whale strandings.
Lord Drayson: We acknowledge that underwater sound has the potential to cause problems for the marine environment. For this reason, the Royal Navy uses sonar in an environmentally responsible way. Military sonar testing and operation is one of the most regulated uses of sound in the ocean.
Lord Drayson: Comprehensive instructions are issued to all our ships' commanding officers for the operational use of sonar in the marine environment. We have adopted a precautionary principle to mitigate effects on the marine environment and are committed to taking all reasonable and practical measures to protect the environment. This guidance employs the key principles of "plan, look, listen, and act", and reflects the best scientific advice available.
Lord Drayson: Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) are conducted as a routine element of any UK-led naval exercise. They cover the marine habitat of the operating area and the species likely to be encountered. EIAs are used to better tailor the activity
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and ensure that any possible damaging effects are identified during the planning stage of the exercise, and mitigated to reduce their impact to an absolute minimum.
What strategies the Royal Navy are employing to minimise the damage caused to wildlife by military exercises; and whether they include (a) avoiding marine mammal habitats; (b) avoiding breeding grounds; and (c) listening with passive sonar to ensure that animals are not at risk before switching to active sonar. [HL4848]
Lord Drayson: For UK-led Royal Navy military exercises, operating procedures are designed to reduce the potential for an adverse environmental impact to a minimum. These include the use, wherever possible, of passive sonar to detect and monitor marine mammals prior to active sonar operations.
We have a fully developed environmental policy and equipment is operated in compliance with current UK environmental legislation, as well as the international conventions signed by the UK. Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) are undertaken for a wide range of our activities in the marine environment, including sonar. Such EIAs cover the marine habitat of the operating area concerned and the species likely to be encountered.
Whether the Serious Organised Crime Agency will take on (a) all the staff of; (b) all the resources of; and (c) all the functions of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit; and what steps are being taken to ensure that the services currently carried out by the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit continue. [HL4530]
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): SOCA's approach to reducing the harm done to the UK by serious organised crime differs from that of the precursor agencies: NCS (National Crime Squad), NHTCU (National Hi-Tech Crime Unit), NCIS (National Criminal Intelligence Service), parts of HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) and INDIS (Immigration and Nationality Directorate Intelligence Service). All staff of the precursor agencies who are transferring to SOCA have
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been through a preliminary exercise to map them into posts in SOCA. The resources made available to SOCA will be greater than the sum total of the resources available to the precursor agencies. The majority of the facilities of NHTCU will fall to the e-crime team in the intervention directorate of SOCA. The NHTCU's previous role in relation to the use of the internet for paedophilia will pass to the new Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. There are a few national functions that NHTCU historically held which may pass to the e-crime team. Responsibility for these functions is being discussed between ACPO, NHTCU, SOCA and the Home Office.
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