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KFOR

18. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the role of KFOR. [156945]

Mr. Spellar: NATO forms the core of the international peacekeeping mission to Kosovo in which some 43,000 military personnel from 39 countries are deployed. The mission is seeking to build a secure environment within Kosovo in which all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origins, can live in peace and, with international aid, democracy can begin to grow.

KFOR's mandate comes from UN Security Council Resolution 1244 of 12 June 1999 and is guided by a Military Technical Agreement signed by NATO and Yugoslav commanders on 9 June 1999.

Armed Forces (Training)

22. Mr. Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the training provided by British armed forces to the armed forces of other countries. [156949]

Mr. Spellar: Our armed forces provide a wide range of training, both in the UK and abroad, to those of other countries. This training is a key element of our relationship with many countries. It is an integral part of UK defence policy and makes an important contribution to the Government's conflict prevention initiative.

Operational Commitment

23. Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the level of operational commitment of the armed forces is. [156950]

Mr. Spellar: As at 1 March 2001, some 22 per cent. of the trained Army were committed to operations. This compares favourably to the figure of 26 per cent. that we inherited on 1 May 1997.

For the other Services, 10 per cent. of the Naval Service were committed to operations as at 1 January this year; this figure, which is the latest available, reflects the position over the Christmas and New Year break. For the RAF 10 per cent. of the trained strength was committed to operations as at 1 March this year. Unfortunately, for the Naval Service and RAF comparable figures for 1 May 1997 are not available.

NATO (Nuclear Weapons Policy)

24. Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will request NATO to review its nuclear weapons policy. [156951]

Mr. Hoon: NATO's 1999 Strategic Concept emphasised that the Alliance's nuclear forces will continue to play an essential part in preserving peace and preventing coercion, and will be maintained at the minimum level necessary to ensure credible deterrence. I see no reason to request a further review of that position.

Defence Co-operation (France)

26. Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on defence co-operation with France. [156953]

23 Apr 2001 : Column: 89W

Mr. Hoon: Co-operation between France and the UK on defence matters is very good. This is emphasised by important bilateral agreements, including navy to navy and army to army Letters of Intent (LOI); an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) covering the European Air Group; a LOI on co-operation in crisis management and operations; and a Mutual Logistics Support Agreement.

These agreements cover a wide range of activity and build on already close defence links and successful combined operations e.g. Bosnia, West Africa, Kosovo.

Other areas of co-operation include the Franco British Joint Commission on Peacekeeping, established in 1996; joint work to develop and better co-ordinate our activities in Africa and Central and Eastern Europe.

New areas of co-operation that we are considering, as part of the UK's multinational defence co-operation initiative, include fuel supplies, medical issues, arms control and Combat Search and Rescue, and will further strengthen our bilateral relationship.

Throckmorton Airfield

27. Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on his long-term plans for the use of Throckmorton airfield in Worcestershire. [156954]

Dr. Moonie: The site is used as an outdoor 'quiet electromagnetic test range' for testing technologies developed at the associated DERA site at Malvern, the main benefit being the large amount of open space available. It is envisaged that this activity will continue into the foreseeable future. Several commercial tenants currently use the former hangars for business activity--employing about 100 local people in total--and the option to further develop this activity exists.

A part of the site is currently being used by MAFF in support of foot and mouth related activities. It is not anticipated that this usage will have any impact on long-term plans for the site, which offers a brown field location that has the potential to be used, in full or part, to assist in the economic development and prosperity of this region. DERA continues to discuss with both Regional and Local government representatives possible future developments in the context of the County and Local Structure Plans.

It is intended that Throckmorton airfield, now known as DERA Pershore, becomes part of NewDERA plc on 1 July 2001.

Compensation

29. Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many compensation claims from ex-service personnel are outstanding against his Department. [156956]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence claims database does not distinguish between claims from former and serving members of the armed forces. The total number of outstanding claims from serving and former Service personnel against the Ministry of Defence is 2,341.

Defence Establishments (Shoeburyness)

32. Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made in providing employment and promoting development on the defence establishments in Shoeburyness. [156959]

23 Apr 2001 : Column: 90W

Dr. Moonie: As a consequence of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative, operations at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) range, Shoeburyness, known also as New Ranges, will be carried out by NewDERA under an arrangement which is currently being negotiated. The intention is that NewDERA will have the flexibility to conduct operations on ranges while meeting the needs of the Ministry of Defence and maintaining value for money for the taxpayer. Meanwhile DERA is continuing to work with SERCO Ltd. to rationalise the New Ranges estate to introduce new businesses which are able to co-exist with continuing range activities. There are currently 10 tenants on the site and this number is expected to increase. Recent new tenants include two from the transport industry. Old Ranges at Shoeburyness was sold in March 2000 to Gladedale Homes Ltd. and the Ministry of Defence has no further interest in the site.

Foot and Mouth

33. Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans there are to deploy the Territorial Army to assist in combating the foot and mouth outbreak. [156960]

Mr. Hoon: Individual members of the Territorial Army are already engaged in combating the foot and mouth outbreak in affected parts of the country. This is on a voluntary basis. Generally, their engagement is during their allocated Territorial Army time, that is the weekends and weekday evenings they would ordinarily spend on TA duty.

Sir John Stanley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) prior to the present outbreak of foot and mouth, what contingency plan his Department had for providing military assistance to the civil power in combating foot and mouth; and when this plan was last updated; [158332]

Mr. Spellar: There are well-established procedures in place to enable civil authorities to raise requests for military assistance in a wide variety of circumstance. Other Government Departments are aware of these arrangements, and they were implemented rapidly and effectively during the current outbreak of the disease. The procedures ensure that past experience and the current capabilities of the armed forces are drawn upon in order to make the most effective and appropriate contribution to crisis management and (in this case) combating the spread of the disease. In particular, the armed forces are skilled practitioners in a number of important roles such as logistic support and command and control. These skills are exercised on a regular basis and, in the event of a crisis, their high state of readiness can be drawn upon.

Army Manpower

34. Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the manpower strength is of the Army. [156961]

23 Apr 2001 : Column: 91W

Mr. Spellar: As at 1 March 2001, the full-time trained strength of the Army was 100,199 and the size of the Territorial Army was 40,684.

Kosovo

35. Mr. Bradshaw: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the number of British troops deployed in Kosovo. [156962]

Mr. Spellar: On 17 April, there were 3,343 British troops deployed to KFOR.


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