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Written Statements

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Armed Forces: Snatch Land Rover


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (John Hutton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The House will be aware of widespread public concern over the 37 deaths of British service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of injuries sustained while using Snatch Land Rovers. I have recently been asked to institute a public inquiry into the use of these vehicles. After very careful consideration, I have decided that a public inquiry would not be the right way to proceed. Given the level of parliamentary and public interest in this issue, I want to explain to the House the reasons for my decision. First, however, I wish to put on record my appreciation of the bravery and dedication of each of those 37 people who have so tragically died in the service of their country.

I have sought comprehensive advice on whether the continued use of Snatch is necessary, particularly given the substantial investment that we have made in new protected vehicles in recent years. The clear advice to me from military operational commanders, unanimously endorsed by the Chiefs of Staff, is that Snatch remains essential to the success of our operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In the light of this authoritative assessment, I have decided that it would be inappropriate and unnecessary to conduct an inquiry. These are matters on which I must rely on the considered judgment of military commanders who have experience of conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan and access to specialised military engineering expertise.

It has been suggested that Snatch should be replaced by more heavily armoured vehicles, such as the Warrior or the very successful Mastiff. These are good vehicles and they have an important role to play in our operations, but they cannot be used for all purposes. Even the new Ridgback, the smaller version of Mastiff, will be three times heavier than Snatch. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the nature of the operating environment means that heavier vehicles, which are often constrained largely to main roads, are simply unable to access the places where we need to be in order to deliver our objectives.

Furthermore, our tasks in Iraq and Afghanistan are largely ones of counterinsurgency. To do this, we need to win the support and confidence of local people. This can only be done by face-to-face interaction, demonstrating to the local people that we are working in their interests. Our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has proven that better armoured vehicles, which tend by definition to be larger and heavier, are viewed by the local population as aggressive and intimidating. Their size and weight mean, too, that they can cause serious damage to roads, buildings, irrigation channels and drainage systems. All these factors can inflame

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local opinion against UK troops—working in favour of our enemy and actually increasing the threat levels to our people.

It is for these reasons that military commanders require a range of vehicles, from which they can choose the one best suited to the required task—and in this context, there remains a critical requirement for a light protected patrol vehicle (LPPV), such as the Snatch Land Rover. Small, mobile and agile, it is ideal for allowing engagement with the local population, often in areas that would be inaccessible to heavier vehicles.

However, Snatch itself is not the unarmoured vehicle that it is sometimes claimed to be; although lightly armoured, that armour has saved many lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, the Snatch’s ballistic protection is derived from composite materials, rather than steel. This limits splintering when penetrated and means that casualty rates are lower than in comparable vehicles.

It is also important to be clear that we cannot assume that if all those 37 service men and women had been in more heavily armoured vehicles they would have survived. We cannot make Snatch, or indeed any other vehicle, invulnerable; any vehicle can be overmatched if faced with an overwhelming attack. It is precisely for this reason that armour can only ever be one factor in the way we protect our people. We employ a layered approach to protection, of which armour is but one part, and the innermost layer. We seek first to avoid being seen by the enemy; then, if seen, to avoid being hit. In both cases, a low profile, coupled with speed and agility, are important factors which critically complement our well tested tactics, techniques and procedures. The recent introduction of the light-strike Jackal vehicle, which has proved very popular, demonstrates the importance that we place on these factors, none of which is characteristic of more heavily armoured vehicles. Finally, if hit, we seek to prevent the vehicle from being penetrated. This is the sole reason for armouring our vehicles.

This is not by any means to say that nothing further can be done to protect those service men and women who need to operate LPPVs. The Snatch Land Rover has undergone a number of technical enhancements since its first deployment to Iraq in 2003. Most recently, we have modified the current variant, the Snatch 2A, to enhance significantly its power, mobility and protection. This effectively generates a new variant, the Snatch Vixen, especially configured for operations in Afghanistan. Some of these vehicles are already in service in Afghanistan and over the coming year we will be increasing the size of the fleet. This, together with the £700 million procurement of new vehicles that the Prime Minister announced in October, will enable us to continue reducing the scope of the Snatch 2A vehicle’s role until it is used only within our camps.

We do not believe that there is a better vehicle than Snatch Vixen currently available anywhere in the world to fulfil the LPPV requirement. But we are also looking to the future and anticipating new threats, and we have begun a programme to develop the next generation of LPPV, which will in due course take the place of Snatch Vixen.

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Climate Change


The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Ed Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My honourable friend the Member for Lewisham and Deptford and I attended the 14th conference of the parties (COP14) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the fourth meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 4) in Poznan, Poland last week.

The conference reached agreement to accelerate the pace of negotiations next year in order to conclude a new global climate change agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Other key outcomes from the conference included:

a decision to make operational the adaptation fund, which will help developing countries to integrate climate resilience into their development strategies. The UK is providing further financial support to help the fund with its planning and procedures so that it can begin to receive project proposals in 2009; andagreement among key developing and developed forestry countries, brokered by the UK, to a framework for countering deforestation, with the UK announcing a contribution of up to £100 million from the environmental transformation fund for capacity-building to help people in forest countries.

In relation to carbon markets, some progress was made on discussions on including carbon capture and storage and forestry within the Kyoto Protocol’s clean development mechanism (CDM), with parties agreeing that the CDM executive board should assess the implications of the possible inclusion of CCS and forestry in the CDM.

Useful discussions were also held under the Article 9 review of the Kyoto Protocol. Parties considered proposals to extend the current CDM 2 per cent levy, which is used to provide adaptation funding, to the joint implementation and international emissions trading mechanisms. Although no decisions were made, the discussion provided a useful opportunity to discuss aspects of the future financial architecture which will be critical to a Copenhagen deal.

The Poznan conference represents an important staging post on the way to Copenhagen. The UK and EU played a leading role in the conference, further strengthened by the European Council’s agreement to the 2020 climate and energy package. The Government will be working actively over the next 12 months to secure an ambitious global agreement in Copenhagen, consistent with the UK and EU objective of limiting global temperature increase to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

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Correction to Commons Oral Question


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 28 October 2008 (Official Report, Commons, col. 720), in answer to an oral supplementary question from the honourable Member for Birmingham Edgbaston (Gisela Stuart) about voting systems, I said that, “my honourable friend will remember that the closed list system was a manifesto commitment in 1997”.

This was incorrect. The 1997 Labour Party manifesto commitment was for the introduction of proportional representation for European elections and did not detail that a closed list system should be used. It was agreed subsequent to the 1997 election that a closed list system should be used.

Department for Work and Pensions: Autumn Performance Report


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Purnell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am announcing my intention to publish the autumn performance report of the Department for Work and Pensions on Thursday 18 December. The report is intended to supplement the department’s annual report published in May 2008.

The report is the department’s first report under CSR2007 on its cross-governmental public service agreements, its departmental strategic objectives and its value-for-money delivery agreement.

This publication has been specifically designed to be accessed online, on the grounds of sustainability and potential financial savings, and will be available on the department’s website from 18 December. For the convenience of Members, copies will be placed in the Library.

EU: Environment Council


The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Ed Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My noble friend Lord Hunt, Minister for Sustainable Development and Energy Innovation, and I represented the UK at the Environment Council in Brussels on 4 December.

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At this council, member states set out their views on the integrated pollution prevention control (IPPC) directive. Several member states raised concerns about the large combustion plant provision with most asking to postpone these provisions until 2020. The UK intervened to welcome the proposal but also to stress some concerns about the large combustion provisions.

Member states also discussed the action plan for sustainable consumption and production and a sustainable industrial policy (SCP-SIP). The UK intervened to welcome the action plan, in particular the proposal to extend the scope of the eco-design directive, but highlighted concerns about the energy labelling directive. Council conclusions were adopted without amendment.

Council conclusions on the preparation for the 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council were adopted unanimously.

On genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the UK expressed its support for evidence-based, case-by-case decision-making and argued strongly against setting seed-labelling thresholds at the lowest possible level. Instead, these levels should be science based, proportionate and workable in practice. In response to the interventions made by many member states, the presidency proposed some changes to the conclusions, including a satisfactory formulation on seed thresholds. These were agreed unanimously.

Over lunch, member states discussed the climate and energy package and preparations for the December European Council.

There was a discussion of the council conclusions on deforestation and forest degradation to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. The UK argued in favour of maintaining the flexibility to recognise afforestation and reforestation credits in order to maintain the confidence of both rainforest countries and potential investors. Following negotiation facilitated by the presidency, a compromise was achieved that both retains the flexibility around recognition of forestry credits for government compliance and expresses openness to considering their recognition for ETS compliance in the medium to long term and subject to thorough review/experience.

The proposal for a regulation setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the Community’s integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles (CO2 from cars regulation)—originally scheduled as a main agenda item—was not formally discussed at the council as good progress was being made at discussions at COREPER.

Under any other business, the European Commission presented communications on: the dismantling of ships; the EU strategy on invasive alien species; the EU and the arctic region; and the implementation of European Community environmental law. Additionally, the European Commission presented a Green Paper on biowaste management in the European Union, the preparations of the EUROMED conference and the EU-Africa climate change summit. Finally, the Irish delegation discussed the fall in demand for recycled materials. All AOB items were noted by member states without substantial discussion.

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EU: Transport Council


The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Geoff Hoon) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I attended the EU Transport Council in Brussels on 9 December.

The council discussed the regulation amending the four regulations adopted in 2004 that established the single European sky (SES). The amending regulation consolidates and strengthens the earlier regulations, with the aim of improving the performance and sustainability of the European aviation system: Ministers were in agreement on the technical elements of the new proposal. I joined several other Ministers in expressing strong support for the package. It was not, however, possible for member states to reach a general approach, as an issue regarding applicability of the new legislation to Gibraltar was raised just before the council. The Spanish Minister and I undertook to resolve this issue bilaterally, so that council agreement on this important proposal can be achieved soon.

The council was given a presidency progress report on an amending regulation extending the responsibilities of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The council reached a partial general approach (on extension of EASA’s scope to air traffic management and air navigation services). The progress report also covered the provisions on extension of scope to aerodrome safety matters. The presidency underlined the agency’s important work of inspection and certification in these areas, as an integral part of the single European sky package.

The council adopted two decisions authorising the Commission to open negotiations towards comprehensive aviation agreements with Tunisia and Algeria. The UK supports these mandates.

The presidency and the Commission reported on the successful outcome of negotiations on an EU/Canada aviation agreement. I thanked the Commission for its work on this good agreement, which may be signed during the Czech presidency.

The presidency tabled a report on progress to date in consideration of a proposed directive to amend directive 1999/62 on charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructure (the “Eurovignette” directive). The proposal aims to provide member states with the flexibility to introduce charges for lorries, to internalise the costs of congestion, noise and air pollution. The presidency noted that considerable progress had been made towards agreement on a number of issues, but further discussion would be needed on questions such as the inclusion of congestion charging, the methodology for calculating the level of external cost charges and the question of hypothecation (earmarking) of income from charges. The UK supports the principles underlying the proposal but opposes mandatory hypothecation of revenues. The Czech Republic will aim to reach agreement on this proposal in council during its presidency.

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The presidency gave a progress report on the proposed directive on cross-border enforcement in the field of road safety, noting that there had been a wide consensus on the need to take action in this area and hoping that further progress will be made during the Czech presidency.

The council adopted conclusions on the greening of transport, the Commission’s strategy for the internalisation of external costs in transport and the reduction of rail noise on existing rolling stock. The UK supported the conclusions.

The council adopted a resolution on the establishment of a European regional data centre for the long-range identification and tracking (LRIT) of ships. This is the implementation in Europe of a safety of life at sea (SOLAS) regulation adopted by the IMO in 2006. The resolution is acceptable to the UK.

Adopted by the council without debate (as “A points”) were common positions on proposals on flag state requirements and the civil liability of shipowners, both of which are part of the third maritime legislative package. The other six proposals in the package had already been adopted by the council, and the presidency announced agreement on those between the council and the European Parliament in the Conciliation Committee the previous day.

Freedom of Information Act 2000


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My right honourable friend the Minister of State (Michael Wills) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today I have deposited copies of The Freedom of Information Act 2000Statistics on Implementation in Central Government: Q3July-September 2008 in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. This is the quarterly monitoring statistics report analysing the performance of central government in the fourth full year of freedom of information.



The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Bridget Prentice) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 28 August 2008, the Ministry of Justice published its response to its consultation paper Administration of Estates—Review of the Statutory Legacy (CP(R) 11/05) and announced that the levels of the statutory legacy would be increased from £125,000 to £250,000 where the deceased leaves a surviving spouse or civil partner and children and from £200,000 to £450,000 in other cases. The department also announced that the actuarial tables for converting a surviving spouse’s or civil partner’s life interest on intestacy into a capital sum were to be updated.

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Subject to parliamentary approval, these changes will come into force on 1 February 2009. They will be effected by two statutory instruments. The first, the Family Provision (Intestate Succession) Order 2008, will increase the statutory legacy. It was laid in draft on Wednesday 12 November. The second, the Intestate Succession (Interest and Capitalisation)(Amendment) Order 2008, will update the actuarial tables. It was laid on 11 December 2008.

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