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DERA

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the qualifications held by senior civil servants which are relevant to their duties in the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. [52047]

Mr. Spellar: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to my hon. Friend.

Letter from John Chisholm to Dr. Ian Gibson, dated 31 July 1998:



    Senior civil servants employed in DERA are assessed and appointed against the criteria applied across Government, which embrace experience, competence and, on initial recruitment, appropriate academic and professional qualifications.


    In addition, DERA's specialist staff generally have one or more of a wide spectrum of scientific, engineering and other degrees, about half at PhD level. The majority are also either members or fellows of prestigious learned and professional institutions. A number also hold visiting Professorships.


    I hope this is helpful.

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what redundancies have (a) taken place and (b) are pending in the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. [52045]

Mr. Spellar: Since DERA was formed in 1995, there have been 878 redundancies, of which 65 were compulsory. At present there are 13 members of staff in a surplus position who might be made redundant if suitable alternative employment cannot be found.

As a result of the outcome of the review of the DERA's land ranges, announced today, a further reduction of 291 jobs is planned. The implementation of the reduction is dependent on the outcome of the detailed consultation with staff and Trades Unions but will certainly involve some redundancies.

31 Jul 1998 : Column: 713

Mr. McWilliam: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the future of DERA's land ranges at Eskmeals, Shoeburyness and Pendine. [55200]

Mr. Spellar: The initial period of consultation on the second stage of the review to address the long term future of DERA's land ranges is now complete. In order to maintain the necessary facilities, and to keep the affordable within projected income, we have decided to concentrate as much of the test and evaluation work as possible at Eskmeals and to use the ranges at Shoeburyness and Pendine only as required. The proposals put forward in January have been modified slightly in the light of the consultation process, with the retention of 6 additional jobs at the range at Shoeburyness and 10 at Pendine, and the loss of 20 jobs at Eskmeals. Plans for the Environmental Test Centre and demilitarisation facilities at Shoeburyness are unchanged. The planned figures are shown in the following table:

Staff levels
SiteCurrentFutureDifference
Shoeburyness
Range18231-151
Environmental Test Centre6934-35
Demilitarisations7272--
Pendine11530-85
Eskmeals140120-20
Total578287-291

The implementation of these measures will be phased to ensure that customer requirements are still met during the process. It is anticipated that most of the changes will have taken place by April 1999, though the exact timing is dependent on the work programme and on the completion of the next stage of detailed consultation with staff and Trades Unions.

Submarines

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions permission has been (a) granted, (b) deferred and (c) refused to lift submarines on the shiplift at Faslane; and if he will make a statement. [52167]

Mr. Spellar: The Clyde Naval Base Shiplift has been used to lift submarines on 15 occasions. Of these, 13 have been on VANGUARD Class SSBNs and 2 on SSNs. No planned or unplanned lifts have been refused permission. The shiplift returned to operational use in June 1998 having been withdrawn from service from October 1997 to March 1998 to allow modification to the platform rails. Two dockings planned in this period were deferred. Docking dates frequently change from a variety of reasons, not directly linked to the Shiplift. The docking programme is optimised for submarine operational commitments, for which SSBNs have the priority, the tasking of submarine maintenance and repair staff on other priority tasks, and the maintenance requirements of the shiplift.

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the estimated cost of each of the Astute class submarines currently on order. [53760]

31 Jul 1998 : Column: 714

Mr. George Robertson: The total cost of procuring the first three Astute Class submarines is expected to be around £2 billion. This includes design, build and some in-service support as a package.

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will make a statement on his Department's future plans for the storage of spent submarine reactor cores at BNFL Sellafield; [54080]

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

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the locations of each used submarine reactor core. [54096]

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

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how much his Department has spent to date on the new fuel transport flasks for the transport of submarine reactor cores; and what he estimates the total cost of this project will be; [54082]

Mr. Spellar: Good progress is being made towards introducing the new used core transport package flasks for the transport of spent submarine reactor cores at the end of 1998. Manufacture of the flasks is nearing completion and they will soon be tested before delivery. I am withholding the cost of the contract under Exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information relating to Third Party's commercial confidences.

Transport Aircraft

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what options he is assessing for replacing RAF transport aircraft. [51066]

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

Guardsmen Fisher and Wright

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) on how many occasions and on what dates the Army Board has considered the question of discharge of Guardsmen Fisher and Wright; and what plans it has to consider this matter further; [48364]

31 Jul 1998 : Column: 715

Mr. Doug Henderson: I will write to my hon. Friend and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

RAF Aircraft (Gulf)

Mr. Ainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make statement about the RAF aircraft deployed in the Gulf. [52542]

Mr. George Robertson: At present 6 RAF Tornado aircraft and 243 personnel are based in Saudi Arabia, 2 VC-10 tankers and 36 personnel are based in Bahrain and 12 RAF Tornados and 380 personnel are based in Kuwait. These forces remain in the Gulf to demonstrate our determination that Iraq should comply with all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

In addition, HMS Grafton maintains a Royal Naval presence in the Gulf and will shortly be joined by HMS York. The Armilla patrol has displayed the UK's commitment to the region since 1980 and plays an important part in enforcing United Nations sanctions.

Chemical Weapons

Mr. Livingstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what date he agreed with the US Defence Secretary to increase co-operation to combat chemical and biological weapons; for what reasons he has agreed to increase such co-operation; what are the objectives of the increased co-operation; and if he will list the areas of chemical and biological warfare which are covered by this agreement. [49494]

Mr. George Robertson: I agreed with Secretary Cohen on 3 June, during my recent visit to the United States, that our two countries would enhance our co-operation efforts to combat chemical and biological weapons.

There is a clear and growing international consensus that the possession of chemical and biological weapons is unacceptable. Recent events in Iraq have demonstrated why co-operation between the US and UK in this area is absolutely vital. The US and UK already work closely together in this area, and technical and research co-operation in areas such as vaccines is well established. The June agreement will provide more precise high level policy and strategic direction. A full range of activities will be addressed. This will ensure both nations benefit fully from military and technical expertise and understanding in responding to all chemical and biological warfare risks.

The detailed programme of co-operation has not yet been established.

Mr. Livingstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what progress has been made in appointing an independent scientist to review the trial reports of the germ warfare trials in the south of England which took place between 1964 and 1977; and if he will make a statement; [54534]

31 Jul 1998 : Column: 716

Mr. Doug Henderson: I will write to my hon. Friend and a copy of my letter will be placed in the library of the House.


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