30 Apr 2001 : Column: 445W

Written Answers to Questions

Monday 30 April 2001


Air Accident

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the E5 fault code found on the FADEC of RAF Chinook ZD576. [158185]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 23 April 2001]: The E5 fault code which was found in the memory of the DECU of RAF Chinook ZD576 indicated that a soft fault had occurred at some point over the life of the DECU since delivery. A "soft fault" cannot affect the safe operation of the control system and is therefore one that has no impact on the normal control of the aircraft.

The rotational speed (N2) of each engine's Power Turbine Spool is detected by two sensors. The E5 code would be displayed either because of a power interrupt (switching from the Auxiliary Power Unit to main generators, or the reverse) or if a discrepancy of 5 per cent. or more is detected between the two N2 signals. When such a discrepancy is detected the lower N2 signal is disregarded (or locked out). If the other signal is then lost, the original locked-out signal will be re-acquired. Should both signals be lost, the fuel to the engines will be maintained at the pre-failure rate.

The "E5" fault on the pre-production software that caused the Wilmington incident was significant as the system at that time operated differently. The team undertaking the test at Wilmington did not appreciate the significance of the E5 signal, which was displayed due to a discrepancy of 5 per cent. or more between the two N2 signals, causing the lowest signal to be latched. The team then removed a connector which resulted in the loss of the only remaining N2 signal. With the one signal latched, and the loss of the remaining N2 signal, unlike the system now, the pre-production software did not re-acquire the original locked-out signal. Instead the DECU "saw" an N2 value of zero, and in order to restore the N2, the system provided more fuel to increase the speed of the power turbine. This caused the rotors to accelerate which seriously damaged the aircraft.

After the Wilmington incident the software was amended hence a similar incident could not have caused the Mull of Kintyre accident. Moreover, as I informed the hon. Member on 21 February 2000, Official Report, column 730W, the Air Accidents Investigation Board's report of their technical investigation into the accident found no evidence of a technical malfunction that could have contributed to the accident, with the possible exception of a radar altimeter system fault.


Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the total cost of changing the name New DERA to QuiniteQ will be. [158864]

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Mr. Hoon: [holding answer 26 April 2001]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 24 April 2001, Official Report, column 233W, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George).

Marine Richards

Sir John Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he will complete his (a) disciplinary and (b) other inquiries into the death of Marine Richards; and how many cases involving deaths of service men in the UK have yet to have all proceedings and investigations completed. [159682]

Mr. Spellar: The disciplinary and other inquiries related to the death of Marine Richards are legal procedures and are wholly outside MOD Ministers' control in terms of their scope, their duration, and the conclusions they reach. The next stage in the process is the Coroner's Inquest, scheduled for 4-25 June 2001. Due process demands that only after its conclusion can a Military Police investigation be completed. This will be submitted to Headquarters Royal Marines who will then consider whether to recommend disciplinary action against any person or persons in connection with the death. If such a recommendation is made disciplinary action should follow, either summarily or by court- martial. Once any legal or disciplinary proceedings have been concluded, a Board of Inquiry will be convened. Its findings will be conveyed and explained to Marine Richards' next of kin. Though it is impossible to estimate accurately, these procedures are at the least expected to take a number of months to complete. They continue, however, to be pursued with as much speed and diligence as are consistent with thoroughness and proper respect for the rights of all those involved.

We have taken "proceedings and investigations" yet to be completed to include outstanding Coroners' inquests, service and civil police investigations and service Boards of Inquiry. These include not just training accidents but numerous other cases such as road traffic accidents and incidents involving personnel not on duty. For service men in the UK, the figures are:

Sir John Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what lessons he has drawn from the death of Marine Richards; and what procedures have been put into place to avoid deaths in similar circumstances. [159683]

Mr. Spellar: The key lesson reinforced by Marine Wayne Richards' tragic death is that, whenever live ammunition is carried during training, procedures to prevent its being mistaken for blank must be continually monitored and frequently reviewed to ensure they are as fail-safe as humanly possible. The Arm's independent Training Accident Investigation Team (TAIT) report, completed a month after this fatality, recommended improvements to the orders and procedures for carriage and identification of live ammunition on Woodbury Common. These improvements have been implemented, together with a timetable of frequent checks on compliance with revised orders and procedures, and were jointly reviewed by the TAIT and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in January 2001. The HSE raised no substantive comments.

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The TAIT report has also been promulgated through the Army chain of command, and general recommendations aimed at preventing any recurrence have been issued throughout the armed services.

COSMIC Security Classification

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the types of information covered by the COSMIC security classification. [159675]

Mr. Spellar: The term COSMIC is not a classification but a qualifying marking used by NATO. It signifies that the information is the property of NATO and remains the property of the originator and may not be passed outside NATO without the originator's consent. This qualifying marking is used only with top secret information, the unauthorised disclosure of which would result in exceptionally grave damage to NATO. "COSMIC top secret" is the highest classification marking in NATO and it is equivalent to "UK top secret".

Depleted Uranium

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to the Minister of State's letter of 15 March, D/Min (AF) TS 0301/01/M, what consideration he is giving to the problem of lymph node analysis. [158779]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence continues to consider what appropriate research is required in respect of DU, and we propose to expose our conclusions to independent scrutiny in due course. In the meantime, I have nothing further to add to the information given to my hon. Friend by my hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces in his letter of 15 March, a copy of which will be placed in the Library of the House.

European Armaments Agency

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made on the establishment of a European armaments agency; and if he will place in the Library a copy of the 'Masterplan for the European Armaments Agency'. [159282]

Mr. Hoon: Work by the nations of the Western European Armaments Group to examine the possible creation of a European Armaments Agency is making steady progress, with the aim of providing advice to national defence Ministers on its principles of operation this autumn. I am placing a copy of the "Masterplan for the European Armaments Agency" dated 17 November 1998 in the Library of the House. Revisions to the Masterplan which take into account developments since its original publication, including to its timetable of activities, are under discussion by the Group's officials.


Aid Policy

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what account she takes of religious freedom in developing countries when deciding levels of UK development assistance; [159395]

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Clare Short: The objective of my Department is the elimination of poverty. Our central focus is therefore respect for the human rights of the poor. Frequently the poorest are ethnic and religious minorities that face discrimination and social exclusion. Our strategy on human rights is set out in "Realising human rights for poor people" published in October 2000.

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