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Radium Luminising

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on his Department's programme to clean up and restore sites where radium

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luminising has taken place, indicating the location of each site, the steps taken to decontaminate the site and the cost to date of restoration work. [3979]

Mr. Soames: Radium luminising took place during the 1940s and 1950s prior to the introduction of controls under the Radioactive Substances Act 1960. No record of facilities or sites specifically engaged in this work were therefore maintained, but where past practices involving the use of radium luminised materials have resulted in contamination of the site, this is addressed as part of the land quality assessment--LQA--process with decontamination being undertaken where necessary.

A prioritised LQA programme for the Defence estate is being prepared, with high priorities assigned to sites where there are plans for significant change of use, including sale, or where contamination is suspected. Where radium contamination is identified in an LQA, the need for clean-up and remediation will be determined, taking into account the future use of the site. This will be undertaken on a case-by-case basis.

The steps to decontaminate a site will depend on the circumstances, but in all cases such work is in accordance with relevant legislation. Contaminated arisings are disposed of in accordance with letters of agreement issued by the environmental agencies and their predecessors.

The cost restoration work could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

RAF Stafford

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what quantities of radioactive materials are currently stored at RAF Stafford; what plans have been developed for the disposal of this material; what are the estimated costs of the storage and disposal of the materials; and what environmental audit his Department has conducted of the site. [3984]

Mr. Soames: I will write to the hon. Member and a copy of the letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

RAF Carlisle

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence to which sites the contaminated wastes removed from RAF Carlisle have been taken; in what way the wastes were packed and transported; what environmental assessment has been conducted of the disposal sites in regard to their long-term security; what has been the cost to date of the decontamination programme at RAF Carlisle; when he expects it to be completed; and at what final cost. [3920]

Mr. Soames: I will write to the hon. Member and a copy of the letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Special Air Service

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the shortfall at 1 November in the Special Air Service. [4068]

Mr. Soames: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 18 January 1996, Official Report, column 735.

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Female Service Personnel

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many female service personnel were in the armed forces on 1 October 1991 and 1 October 1996.[4451]

Mr. Soames: This is a matter for the chief executive of the Defence Analytical Services Agency, DASA, under its framework document. I have asked the chief executive to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Paul Altobell to Dr. David Clark, dated 15 November 1996:


Dr. Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many female officers are currently in the armed forces. [4427]

Mr. Soames: This is a matter for the Defence Analytical Services Agency--DASA--under its framework document. I have asked the chief executive to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Paul Altobell to Dr. David Clark, dated 15 November 1996:


Channel Islands (War-time Occupation)

Mr. Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 12 November, Official Report, column 113, on records relating to the war-time occupation of the Channel Islands, if he will make a statement on the particular contents of the files to be made available at the Public Record Office; and what factors underlay the delay in their release. [4428]

Mr. Soames: The files to be released are already held by the Public Record Office and the information sought will be readily gleaned from an examination of the papers on their release next week. The files in question were originally closed under the provisions of the Public Record Act 1958 for reasons of personal sensitivity. That sensitivity having lapsed, the files are now being released under the open government initiative.

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Tanks

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what are the techniques and equipment used by the armed services to transport tanks. [4426]

Mr. Soames: This is a matter for the Defence Transport and Movements Executive--DTMX--under its framework document. I have asked the chief executive to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Michael Hodson to Dr. David Clark, dated 15 November 1996:


Royal Navy

Mr. Dover: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how the role of the Royal Navy will be affected by withdrawal from Hong Kong. [4493]

Mr. Soames: The UK's wider interest in security in the region will not diminish when the sovereignty of Hong Kong is transferred to China next year. The Royal Navy will continue to deploy to the far east, as it has done traditionally. In addition to our continuing commitment to the five powers defence agreement--FPDA--we will continue our programme of bilateral defence contacts with our friends in the region.

Reserve Forces Call-out

Mr. Pearson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons those members of the reserve forces whose main qualifications are in transporting nuclear weapons have been sent letters asking them to volunteer to be considered for call-out for service in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. [4291]

Mr. Soames: Volunteers from the reserve forces, in particular the Territorial Army, continue to make a significant contribution in support of British operations in the former Yugoslavia. In line with this, volunteers are being sought to fill eight posts in December this year for which the driver qualification C + E--heavy goods

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vehicles--is required. Letters have therefore been sent to some 50 members of the Regular Reserve who hold this qualification. There is no specific qualification within the British Army relating to the transport of nuclear weapons, and none of those to whom letters have been sent were selected on the basis of previous experience in this field.


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