Previous Section Index Home Page

Chemical and Biological Weapons

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to make further studies of the UK's preparedness for defence against chemical and biological weapons. [8122]

18 Oct 2001 : Column: 1307W

Mr. Hoon: The 1998 Strategic Defence Review (Cm 3999) identified the importance of the UK's defence response to the potential use of weapons of mass destruction. The threat posed by chemical and biological weapons is under continuous review and we constantly monitor the preparedness of the UK's armed forces to meet it. The strategy paper "Defending against the Threat from Biological and Chemical Weapons" of 21 July 1999, cited on 21 July 1999, Official Report, column 537W, explained in more detail our policy, and the ways in which we planned to develop our capabilities further to protect our armed forces. The United Kingdom has also been active in promoting wider preparedness in this area within NATO.

I announced on 2 October that we would be continuing work on the defence of the UK and our capabilities to counter and deter terrorism abroad in light of the 11 September attacks. This work will look at our concepts, force structures and capabilities to ensure that we can meet the challenge of asymmetric threats.

Our current contingency plans, which have been reviewed recently, include being able to deal with a wide range of terrorist threats that we might face in the UK or overseas.


Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment has been made of the practicability of military operations in the passes of Afghanistan after winter conditions have made them impassable. [8475]

Mr. Hoon: The climate and topography of Afghanistan are two of the many factors we take into account when considering possible options for coalition military action.

Aston Down

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will publish the procedures by which the decision was taken to shut MOD Aston Down. [8574]

Mr. Ingram: The process that led to the close of the Ministry of Defence site Aston Down stemmed from the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) Study 2G1. This study recommended the formation of the Defence Storage and Distribution Agency (DSDA) and also recommended that savings equivalent to the closure of a minor depot could be made. As one of the minor units joining the new agency, MOD Aston Down was therefore considered, along with two other minor units, a candidate for closure.

In order to determine how best to make these savings a further study was undertaken. This study was known as the DSDA Rationalisation Study—Phase 1 (DRS1). The study was wide ranging and among other things considered the MOD's future storage requirement against storage capacity and sought to identify the way in which this could be produced in the most cost-effective manner.

Ministers decided that, subject to consultation, savings equivalent to the closure of a minor depot could be best achieved by shutting down the MOD site at Aston Down. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (Mr. Spellar), the then Minister for the Armed Forces, wrote to my hon. Friend on 10 January 2000 to communicate this and initiate the consultation period, during which all interested parties were given the opportunity to comment on

18 Oct 2001 : Column: 1308W

the proposals to the Chief Executive. In the event the only comments received were from the Council of Civil Service Unions regarding the position of their members. During the consultation period, SERCO, the company running Aston Down under contract, made alternative proposals for future use of the site. SERCO's offer to purchase the site was eventually withdrawn. Once the period of consultation had ended a decision was made to close the MOD site at Aston Down.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the duties by which SERCO operated the contract to run MOD Aston Down. [8576]

Mr. Ingram: The Operation and Maintenance tasks at Aston Down were first contractorised in 1986 and SERCO (then RCA) won the competition.

In all there have been four consecutive contracts let competitively with SERCO for the Aston Down requirements covering the periods 1986–89, 1989–93, 1993–96 and 1996 to 31 March 2001 when the Depot officially closed.

The tasks carried out by SERCO under the contract(s) were, as follows:

SERCO are currently on the site providing a site protection and guarding service while the property is being marketed for disposal.

Aircraft (Repair and Maintenance)

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the budget for repair and maintenance of armed forces aircraft in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [8480]

Mr. Hoon: The maintenance of military aircraft is undertaken at a variety of locations: operating units (1st and 2nd Line); the Defence Aviation Repair Agency (3rd Line); and various aerospace companies in the UK and abroad (4th Line). Maintenance work falls into a number of categories: some is preventive or routine, other work is based around fault diagnosis and rectification.

The wide range of information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Death-in-service Payments

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made in granting Anna Homsi further payments relating to the death in active

18 Oct 2001 : Column: 1309W

service of Brad Tinnion; when he expects to make further payments and at what amount; and if he will make a statement. [8205]

Mr. Ingram: We have completed our detailed work to consider the options for responding to Ms Homsi's request for further payments with respect to the death of her partner, Bombadier Tinnion, and her responsibility for their daughter. This has taken slightly longer than expected but we expect to be able to advise Ms Homsi of our decision by the end of this month.

Maritime Wrecks

Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he will publish his response to the public consultation on diving on maritime wrecks. [8073]

Dr. Moonie: The report on the findings of the public consultation on the protection of military wrecked vessels is still being considered. The House will be informed of the outcome shortly. A copy of the report on the public consultation will be placed in the Library of the House.



Local Government Funding (Education)

Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when it is intended that the proposed changes to the education funding formula for local government will take effect. [4581]

Dr. Whitehead [holding answer 19 July 2001]: After considering the consultation responses to the Green Paper on local government finance, we have concluded that while reforming the education funding system is an important priority, we must ensure that there is sufficient time to develop proposals and to consult on them before a new system can be introduced. We have therefore decided to delay introduction of a reformed system until 2003–04.

Traveller Encampments

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the terms of reference are of his Department's review of policy towards traveller encampments; when he intends to publish the conclusions of the review; and if he will make a statement. [7155]

Ms Keeble [holding answer 15 October 2001]: Research has been conducted to review the effectiveness of the current DTLR/Home Office Good Practice Guidance on Managing Unauthorised Camping. A summary of the findings will be published shortly, during the week commencing 29 October, and a copy placed in the Library of the House.

The terms of reference for the research were to:

18 Oct 2001 : Column: 1310W

Next Section Index Home Page