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Written Answers to Questions

Friday 26 January 2001

DEFENCE

Sierra Leone

Mr. Rammell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future provision of training for the Sierra Leone army. [147833]

Mr. Hoon: Since June 2000, British forces have provided short-term training to Sierra Leone. Some 6,500 members of the Sierra Leone Army (SLA) have been given basic infantry skills. The training programmes have gone well, with the SLA demonstrating its ability to strengthen control of Government-held areas.

To consolidate the achievements to date, provide more officer/NCO and specialist training and put the SLA in a position to train itself in future, we are planning a further package of training by British teams until September. This will prepare the way for handing over the international military advisory and training team (IMATT), announced by the Prime Minister in March 2000, which will take on the continuing training task. Some six countries, including a sizeable British contingent, are expected to be represented in the IMATT. We plan to increase the IMATT's overall size from the 90 posts originally envisaged to 126. This reflects a detailed assessment of what will be required to consolidate the excellent work that British forces will have achieved through the short-term training teams. We also plan to maintain an operational headquarters in Sierra Leone for the rest of the year, and to demonstrate, through periodic exercises, the availability of the over-the-horizon rapid reaction capability. These measures will increase the cost of our training and equipment programme by some £5 million.

These further measures demonstrate the Government's continuing commitment to help the Government of Sierra Leone and the UN to restore peace and stability throughout Sierra Leone.

Civil Airports

Mr. David Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the programme of closures of meterological outstation observing offices at civil airports; when he expects this to be complete; and what arrangements are being made to continue the provision of the information which these offices previously provided to their internal and external customers. [146644]

Dr. Moonie: This is a matter for the chief executive of the Meteorological Office. I have asked the chief executive to write to the hon. Member.

26 Jan 2001 : Column: 728W

Letter from Peter Ewins to Mr. David Atkinson, dated 26 January 2001:






DERA

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the value of DERA's assets is; and what percentage of these assets are in Scotland. [147013]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 25 January 2001]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to him on 22 January 2001, Official Report, column 423W.

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Pegasus Engines

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost is of the upgraded Pegasus engines for the Royal Air Force's future fleet of BAE System Harrier GR9A; and if he will make a statement. [147079]

Mr. Spellar: The estimated cost of upgrading Pegasus engines for the Royal Air Force Harrier aircraft will be approximately £120 million. Aircraft equipped with the upgraded engine will be designated GR9a.

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

French Beef

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the report of the French food agency into the screening of French cattle for BSE; and if he will make a statement. [144332]

Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 8 January 2001]: My officials have studied this report, which details the interim analysis of the results of the first 15,000 cattle investigated in an intended study of 40,000 cattle in the regions of Lower Normandy, Brittany and the Loire. The survey is intended to target the populations of cattle where there may be an increased probability of finding BSE cases--found dead, culls and emergency slaughtered cattle.

This comprehensive report indicates that there probably has been significant under-reporting of suspect BSE cases in France in the past. The targeted surveillance programme identified 32 positive cases, whereas in the same regions and over the same time period (7 August to 24 October 2000), the clinical surveillance programme identified only 11 BSE cases.

Fishmeal

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to seek a UK derogation on the EU ban on fishmeal in animal feed. [146406]

Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 22 January 2001]: I will consider the UK position in the light of the outcome of the current consultation exercise on the feed ban, the results of Commission missions to member states, and other developments.

Beef Imports

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which Government department is responsible for monitoring imports of over-30-month beef at its point of entry into the UK. [146409]

Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 22 January 2001]: Over-30-month beef does not have to be monitored at the point of import as there are no import requirements relating to the age of beef. Controls on the age of beef relate to its sale for human consumption which is a matter for the Food Standards Agency.

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what record the Government keeps of how much imported over-30-month beef is entering the United Kingdom. [146410]

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Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 22 January 2001]: Records of beef imports into the UK are not broken down by age.


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