Previous Section Index Home Page

Depleted Uranium (Dundrennan Range)

Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many DU penetrators have landed on the land area of the base since test firing of DU shells at Dundrennan range began; and, of these, how many have not been located. [151846]

Mr. Spellar: Since test firing of depleted uranium (DU) penetrator rounds first began at Kirkcudbright in 1982, there have been 14 strikes within the range area, including 10 projectiles that struck the ground itself and four that struck the target gantry. The four striking the gantry are believed to have proceeded directly out to sea. Three of those striking the ground have been recovered intact, two are believed to have proceeded out to sea and the other five remain buried in known locations.

The path a penetrator would take when entering the soil at high velocity is not easy to predict so, while their entry point is known with reasonable accuracy, the ultimate position of the buried penetrators is not. Recovery attempts would involve a prohibitively large area and depth to be excavated for each round, incurring exceptional cost and with little chance of success.

As I mentioned in the Adjournment debate on 7 February 2001, we are now planning to undertake a survey using a device called an Exploranium of the areas where fragmentation of projectiles may have occurred--ie firing points, landing areas, target areas--in order to locate remaining and hitherto undetected small pieces of DU. This survey is unlikely to be able to detect the buried rounds because of their depth. The contamination caused by fragments remaining on or just below the surface is regarded by the experts as minimal. However, should any areas be found to be contaminated they will be fenced off.

13 Mar 2001 : Column: 507W

Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if test firing of DU shells at the Dundrennan range is exempt from regulation under the Ionising Radiations Regulations. [151847]

Mr. Spellar: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave, in relation to the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999, to the Member for Ceridigion (Mr. Thomas) on 22 January 2001, Official Report, column 419W. The Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 contain some specific exemptions relating to the Ministry of Defence and military activities, but these have not been invoked in the case of DU firing. It is, moreover, our policy that, where UK statutory regulations are not applicable, we undertake by agreement with the Government Departments concerned that the principles and spirit of the regulations are to be followed, and arrangements introduced will be, so far as is reasonably practicable, at least as good as those required by legislation.

Operational Tour Intervals

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the average (a) length of operational tour and (b) interval between tours was for Defence Medical Services personnel in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement; [151803]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 7 March 2001]: Operational tour lengths for Defence Medical Service personnel can vary from one month to two years, depending on their Service and their particular speciality. For example, on average consultants deploy for one month, nurses deploy for three months while others deploy for six months. Additionally, Royal Navy personnel are considered operational when serving at sea which can last up to two years although they may not be away from the UK for the whole of this period. On average, consultants deploy up to three times a year while others will deploy about once a year. Tour intervals are not always as long as we would wish due to a shortage of manpower in some specialities. It is not possible to provide averages for each calendar year separately, without disproportionate effort, bearing in mind that many deployments span more than one calendar year.

For all personnel, the Royal Navy aims that deployments, as opposed to normal operational tours, should be no longer than nine months and that total deployment time in any three-year period should not exceed 18 months. The Army's preferred tour interval is 24 months. The RAF seeks to maintain periods of at least 18 months between tours and to ensure that no individual is away for more than 140 days per annum or 280 days aggregated over a two-year period.

Plastic Baton Rounds

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what guidance is issued to soldiers carrying plastic baton round weapons concerning children's health and safety; how many PBRs have been fired in each of the last 10 years; and how many (a) deaths and (b) injuries have resulted. [152872]

13 Mar 2001 : Column: 508W

Mr. Spellar: Soldiers are trained in the use of baton guns and when deployed are issued with guidelines about their use. Plastic baton rounds may be fired, if authorised by the commander at the scene, when absolutely necessary to protect against physical violence. In all circumstances, soldiers are trained to use no more force than is absolutely necessary.

The number of PBRs that have been fired over the last 10 years and the deaths and injuries that have resulted are set out in the table:

YearPBRs firedDeathsInjuries (1)

(1) Information on injuries has been provided by the RUC.

(2) As at 28 February 2001.

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many plastic baton rounds were discharged on the evening of 16 February 2001, in Lurgan, Co. Armagh; for what reason they were discharged and by members of which regiment; and what the age was of individuals targeted. [152871]

Mr. Spellar: On 16 February 2001 a group of around 30 stone-throwing youths attacked a patrol from the 3rd Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment as they passed the Kilwilkie Estate, Lurgan, Co. Armagh. Two plastic baton rounds were released in order that the patrol could defend themselves and effect a withdrawal from the area.

The patrol was at the request of the RUC, following a number of telephone warnings about a device on the adjacent railway line.


Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if his Department's annual report on timber procurement to the Committee of Green Ministers will be published. [152045]

Dr. Moonie: Information on the Ministry of Defence's procurement of timber will be included in the annual report from the Green Ministers Committee.


Mr. Frank Cook: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received concerning anti-handling devices on anti-vehicle mines; and if he will make a statement. [152601]

Mr. Spellar: We have received a copy of the Landmine Action report, "Alternative anti-personnel mines--The next generations". As far as we can establish we have received no other representations in the past year.

13 Mar 2001 : Column: 509W

Anti-tank mines in service with the UK armed forces are fully compliant with our obligations under international law, including the Ottawa Convention.

Devonport Dockyard

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to transfer work carried out at Aldermaston to Devonport dockyard. [152857]

Mr. Spellar: There are no plans to transfer work from Aldermaston to Devonport dockyard.

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans there are for Trident submarines to go to Devonport dockyard for routine maintenance work. [152858]

Mr. Spellar: It is planned that all Vanguard Class submarine refitting and refuelling work will be undertaken at Devonport dockyard. Smaller packages of routine maintenance work will normally be carried out at the submarines' home port at the Clyde Naval Base.

Nuclear Submarines

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to store redundant nuclear submarines in the River Tamar prior to disposal. [152860]

Mr. Spellar: We have no plans to store decommissioned nuclear submarines in the River Tamar prior to disposal. Such submarines have been stored safely afloat in the Dockyard at Devonport since 1991. It is the Ministry of Defence's aim to have a land storage facility in place before 2012, although it is likely that the move from afloat to land storage will need to be staged over a period of several years. Meanwhile, the current arrangement for storage afloat at Devonport will continue.

Muslims (Services)

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Muslims serve in HM forces; and what proportion of service personnel this represents. [153062]

Mr. Spellar: The number of Muslims serving in the armed forces is set out in the table:

Naval Service(3)150.04
All Services2110.10

(3) Figures are taken from "live" naval personnel data system, i.e. at the day before the date of the data request (7 March 2001).

(4) Figures are the latest available statistics as at 1 February 2001.

Next Section Index Home Page