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Bowman Personal Role Radio

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the Bowman Personal Role Radio. [149426]

Dr. Moonie: I am pleased to announce that the contract for the Bowman Personal Role Radio was signed on 2 February. British-based Marconi has been selected to supply the short-range tactical radio, which will be used within small military teams. The project has made excellent progress since we took the decision to introduce it ahead of the main Bowman programme and we expect to see the first deliveries before the end of the year. The contract award is good news for British industry--creating or sustaining around 80 jobs at Marconi and its UK sub-contractors--and of course for the front line which will see this capability introduced earlier than had been previously planned.

The competition for the main Bowman system is also progressing well. Bids for the supply and support contract are due on 7 February from TRW, Thales and Computing Devices Canada.

Service Discipline Acts (Journalists)

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if journalists working alongside British forces in times of conflict are subject to the Service Discipline Acts. [148203]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 5 February 2001]: The Service Discipline Acts provide for the cases in which people accompanying British forces are subject to those Acts. This will be the case if a person accompanies British forces on active service or if a person is authorised by the Defence Council to accompany British forces outside the United Kingdom for the purposes of his profession or employment. In these circumstances a correspondent would be subject to the Service Discipline Acts.

During armed conflicts involving British forces, there is an established procedure under which correspondents are accredited as accompanying British forces. Only with such accreditation are correspondents accepted to accompany British units in the front line during the build-up to potential conflict or in war. As part of the procedure a correspondent applying for accreditation is given a copy of the MOD's regulations for correspondents accompanying an operational force. This includes information that an accompanying correspondent will be subject to Service law. For accreditation as an accompanying correspondent the applicant must also give some undertakings, including to comply with the relevant Service Discipline Act, while subject to naval, military or air force law.

Journalists who are in the theatre of operations of British forces but who are not accompanying them are not subject to the Service Discipline Acts.

Arctic Campaign Star

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the awarding of a campaign star to veterans of the Arctic campaign in the Second World War; and if he will make a statement. [149197]

6 Feb 2001 : Column: 463W

Dr. Moonie: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Campbell) on 5 February 2001, Official Report, column 360W.

Falcon System

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the Falcon studies will be completed; and if the Falcon system has the same capability as the Bowman system. [148555]

Dr. Moonie: The concept studies for Falcon are expected to complete in autumn 2001. Falcon and Bowman are separate but complementary communications capabilities which will operate together to support command and control across the whole spectrum of land tactical operations. In broad terms, Bowman will support tactical operations up to brigade level and will provide some elements of divisional communications infrastructure. Falcon meanwhile will support higher formations strategic and operational communications from corps level down to brigade.

Export Licences

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will name the division within his Department with responsibility for handling export licences and the name of the civil servant who leads it. [148597]

Dr. Moonie: Overall responsibility for export licensing of strategically controlled goods rests with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Within my Department, the Directorate of Export Services Policy (DESP) is responsible for seeking and co-ordinating the views of a range of advisers within the Department to produce agreed MOD advice on all export licence applications circulated for advice by the Department of Trade and Industry. The Directorate is headed by a senior civil servant, Mr. M. K. Jenner.

Armed Forces Discipline

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the disciplinary offences falling to summary discipline procedures for each of the armed services and the punishments which may be imposed. [148201]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 5 February 2001]: A list of disciplinary offences falling to summary discipline procedures and the punishments available will be placed in the Library of the House.

An offence should be tried by court martial if it is likely to merit punishment in excess of a Commanding Officer's powers of punishment, when imprisonment might be awarded, or if there are legal complexities, or where the accused elects trial by court martial.

Officer Legal Training

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many officers received legal training in 2000; how long this training took; what it cost; and who the trainers were. [148202]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 5 February 2001]: All Service lawyers undertook Continuous Professional Development during the year. The Royal Navy, unlike the

6 Feb 2001 : Column: 464W

Army and the Royal Air Force, selects officers from within the Service to receive professional legal training. This is provided by the College of Law and the Inns of Court School of Law, with pupillage in chambers. There are seven officers currently undergoing this training, whose course fees and supporting material are costing a total of approximately £34,000 for the current financial year. In addition, officers received training from a variety of internal and external sources in relation to the new procedures brought in by the Armed Forces Discipline Act 2000 as well as more general training to enable them to understand the legal aspects of their administrative and command functions. It is not possible to provide details of the associated lengths of training, the costs and the trainers, since this information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Welfare Phone Facilities

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to extend welfare phone facilities to those on exercises. [148923]

Mr. Spellar: Consideration is being given to extending free welfare telephone facilities to Service personnel for exercise deployments outside the country in which they are based, where the deployment is expected to last for two months or more. This facility would apply to both land-based and maritime exercises and would give exercising personnel the same access to free welfare telephone facilities as those on operational deployments.


First Point International

Sir Richard Body: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will carry out an investigation into the operations of the company First Point International, and the reasons for defaulting on its creditors. [148904]

Dr. Howells: A winding-up order was made against First Point International Limited on 10 May 2000. The Official Receiver is under a statutory duty to investigate the causes of the company's failure and the promotion, formation, business, dealings and affairs of the company, and to make any appropriate reports to the court. There is therefore no need for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to mount a separate investigation of these matters.

Coal Mining Subsidence

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he expects to receive the Coal Authority's Sixth report on its administration of the Coal Mining Subsidence Damage Repair and Compensation Scheme. [149587]

Mr. Hain: I have now received this report from the Coal Authority, and have arranged for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses today.

Industrial Gas Prices

Mr. Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the effect

6 Feb 2001 : Column: 465W

the new Bacton-Zeebrugge gas pipeline link between Britain and continental Europe has had on industrial gas prices in the UK. [148300]

Mr. Hain: A major cause of the price rise has been arbitrage across the UK-Belgium interconnector with high oil related gas prices in continental Europe. This has been made worse by the lack of liberalisation and competition in the Continental market and the consequent absence of real gas to gas competition.

The high wholesale price has led to sharp increases in the price of gas to industry--particularly companies with contracts tied to the spot price.

While arbitrage is an accepted market mechanism, the Government have had concerns about aspects of the operation of the interconnector. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry therefore wrote to Commissioner Monti requesting a Commission competition inquiry into the interconnector. I am pleased to say that on 1 February the Commission announced that they would be looking into this.

In the meantime the Government will be pressing for increased liberalisation and competition in the Continental market. We firmly believe that this is the key to a long term solution.

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