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Service Attributable Pensions

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many Army service personnel have been granted service attributable pensions under the armed forces pension scheme since 1973; [32682]

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Dr. Moonie [holding answer 12 February 2002]: War Disablement Pensions (WDP) were recognised as being tax-free both before 1973 and since. As WDPs are exempt from tax, the War Pensions Agency has no mechanism to deduct tax and no record of any deductions. There may have been occasional individual problems with regard to tax affecting WDPs but we are aware of none.

We would need to conduct a manual search of current and closed pension files in order to identify the number of Army Service Attributable Pensions (SAP) correctly treated for tax purposes since 1973. The current problem has arisen principally with respect to Service Invaliding Pensions (SIP). It is possible, however, that in a small number of Army cases an error may have arisen for SAPs in those cases where the scheme rules require the SAP to be paid at the SIP rate where the latter is higher. This is because the pension will have been recorded as a SIP within our computer systems and Inland Revenue may have been advised of eligibility for tax on that basis.

The number of SIP cases identified as a result of our review of the some 20,000 relevant live Army pension files, following recognition of the error in 1998, is as set out.

Pre-1973Post-1973Totals
Pensioners182795977
Widow(er)s24226
Estatesnilnilnil
Totals2067971,003

We do not consider it practicable to conduct a search of the very large number of Army pension files where the recipient is now deceased. We are in the process of conducting a sample search of those files dating from the 1940s where we have been able to establish that a SIP might have been in payment and might therefore have been incorrectly taxed. This work should be completed shortly and should provide a clearer perspective on the scope of the problem. It has not so far proved practicable to, similarly, identify 'at risk' cases before this period.

For those cases where the pensioner is deceased, as well as for any other cases where a pensioner or spouse considers that his/her pension was incorrectly taxed, we have invited claims support by basic service identification. We will consider these claims as quickly as possible.

We expect the numbers of outstanding cases where SIPs/SAPs were wrongly taxed to be small as, to qualify for such a pension, personnel had to serve 14 years before 1945, 12 years before 1973 and 5 years before 1988. This would exclude those who only served as conscripts, volunteers or national servicemen, as well as many regulars.

Unmanned Aircraft

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what involvement his Department has had with the development of unmanned aircraft; with which partner

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countries; how much has been spent in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement. [36952]

Dr. Moonie: The Phoenix system, the Ministry of Defence only in-service unmanned air vehicle (UAV), entered service in 1998. Development of future UAV capability is being pursued through two projects: "Watchkeeper", which is planned to deliver a tactical UAV towards the end of this decade; and the Future Offensive Air System (FOAS) programme, where we are assessing the feasiblity of UAVs contributing to our future strike capability from about 2020 onwards.

The MOD's expenditure on UAV development over the last three years was approximately £9 million in 1999–2000, £17 million in 2000–01, and £18 million in 2001–02. This does not include the cost of broader-based research, which could bring benefit in due course to a range of capability areas including UAVs.

To date, our UAV development work has been conducted on a national basis. However, we have recently initiated information exchanges with the USA, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Australia in order to support our mutual interests in UAV development, acquisition, and operation.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his Department has spent on the (a) organic air vehicle and (b) micro air vehicle development in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement. [36951]

Dr. Moonie: I assume the hon. Member is referring to unmanned aerial vehicles and that the term organic air vehicles relates to small UAVs developed as an integral part of a military platform. Against this common understanding, there has been no expenditure by the Ministry of Defence specifically on the development of organic or micro air vehicles in the last three years. There are elements of the research programme that may in the longer term prove applicable to organic or micro air vehicles but no specific apportionment of expenditure is possible.

Private Military Companies

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many private military companies have been employed by the Government since 1997; and in what capacity. [37172]

Mr. Ingram: Ministry of Defence records do not separately identify contracts with "private military companies". As the Command Paper "Private Military Companies: Options for Regulation" published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 12 February makes clear, the term "private military company" covers a wide range of people, corporations and activities. The MOD has and continues to seek the involvement of private sector companies who can provide assistance with military support activities, for example maintenance and training. Types of activity where the MOD is involving the private sector in public-private partnerships were listed in my answer to the hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) on 7 February 2002, Official Report, columns 1082–84W.

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Armed Forces Personnel (Northern Ireland)

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many soldiers there were in Northern Ireland, excluding those troops under the command of the GOC NI that were based in Great Britain, at 31 December in each of the last five years. [37689]

Mr. Ingram: The number of armed forces personnel (Army, Navy and RAF), under the command of the General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland (GOC NI), stationed in Northern Ireland for the last five years are set out in the table:

As at 31 DecemberNumber of armed force personnel
199716,082
199814,983
199914,319
200013,763
200113,595

As already explained on 6 February 2002, Official Report, column 995W, the GOC NI also has under his command troops that are rear based in Great Britain that can be called forward to the Province as and when required. In addition other troops can be made available to the GOC NI from Land Command if required, for example during the marching season.

Missiles

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when (a) ASRAAM, (b) Storm Shadow and (c) Brimstone missiles will be available for operational service. [35650]

Dr. Moonie: ASRAAM is in service and is available for use now if need but safety, training, integration and other clearance activities mean that we are unlikely to deploy the missile before this summer.

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to purchase upgraded Tomahawk cruise missiles from the US Administration. [36553]

Dr. Moonie: The United Kingdom has already purchased some remanufactured Tomahawk land attack missiles to replace those used during the Kosovo campaign. A contract for a further purchase has recently been signed. No decision has yet been taken on whether the UK should purchase the next generation, Tactical Tomahawk, missile.

Eurofighter

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what date the RAF will take delivery of its Eurofighter aircraft. [35647]

Dr. Moonie: The RAF is expecting to receive its first Eurofighter aircraft in June this year. Given the inherent risks in a programme of this size and complexity, we have sought confirmation from industry that the programme remains achievable.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects training of pilots and ground crew to fly and service the Eurofighter to begin; and if he will make a statement. [37660]

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Dr. Moonie: On current plans ground crew training will begin in September 2002. Aircrew ground-based training will commence in May 2002. Flying training in Eurofighter will commence when aircraft are available. Deliveries are due to commence in June but we recognise the risks to this date and our planning is sufficiently flexible to accommodate delay if necessary.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the estimated final cost is of the 232 Eurofighters that have been ordered; and if he will make a statement. [37666]

Dr. Moonie: The estimated final cost of the Eurofighter procurement programme for the Royal Air Force, based on 232 aircraft, is £18,869 million. This figure excludes initial in-service support. Fifty-five aircraft have so far been ordered for the RAF. Detailed costings are provided in the National Audit Office's Major Project Report 2001, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much is being withheld on the Eurofighter contract; when his Department expects the money to be released to the contractor; and if he will make a statement. [37667]

Dr. Moonie: Payments on Eurofighter contracts are made when milestones are achieved. Some milestones are overdue, but the value of payments relating to those milestones is commercially sensitive. Therefore, I am withholding this information in accordance with Exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information that relates to third party commercial confidences.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the Eurofighter programme agreed milestones, from development to in-service at full squadron strength; and if he will make a statement. [37668]

Dr. Moonie: The main development contracts were placed in 1988 and the first development aircraft flight took place in 1994. In 1995, the contracts were re-orientated following the end of the Cold War, and the production contracts were awarded in 1998. The next major milestone will be the first flight of an instrumented production aircraft, trials of which will permit acceptance into service of series production aircraft. Royal Air Force Eurofighters will initially operate from the BAES site at Warton before the first squadron forms at RAF Coningsby in 2004. Full operational capability is expected to be achieved during the second half of the decade.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when Ministers were first informed of problems relating to foreign suppliers with regard to the Eurofighter programme; what action was taken; and if he will make a statement. [37659]

Dr. Moonie: Eurofighter is a collaborative project involving many companies from all four partner nations. The Eurofighter prime contracts are with international industrial consortiums based in Germany. In working with the prime contractors to resolve problems we do not distinguish between UK and non-UK suppliers.

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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the contract penalties to the prime contractor are relating to the missing of development and contractual milestones in respect of the Eurofighter programme; and if he will make a statement. [37665]

Dr. Moonie: Eurofighter contract payments are subject to the achievement of milestones, and liquidated damages apply if aircraft deliveries are delayed. The amounts involved are commercially sensitive and I am withholdng this information in accordance with Exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information that relates to third party commercial confidences.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what contingency plans he has made in the event that the Eurofighter programme is delayed; and if he will make a statement. [37664]

Dr. Moonie: Eurofighter is not expected to begin displacing existing front line aircraft for some time. If the build-up of Eurofighter capability is delayed, there is scope for existing aircraft to continue in service.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what briefings by his Department's staff have been given to hon. Members on the Eurofighter programme in the last six months; which hon. Members have been sent briefings; when the briefings were sent out; and if he will make a statement. [37670]

Dr. Moonie: The hon. Members for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) and for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) received oral briefings as part of a visit to the Royal Air Force at High Wycombe on 13 December 2001. The briefings were wide ranging and included references to Eurofighter.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) when his Department was first informed of delays to the Eurofighter programme; and if he will make a statement; [37661]

Dr. Moonie: The prime contractors have not formally advised the Ministry of Defence that delivery of the first Eurofighter to the Royal Air Force will be delayed. Nevertheless, we know through our continuous monitoring of industry's progress that achieving the June in-service date is becoming increasingly challenging. The risk of delay is not unusual in a project of this size and complexity, but we have made it clear that we expect the prime contractors to take all necessary action to mitigate this risk.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the total cost to his Department of expenditure on the Eurofighter programme has been to date; and if he will make a statement. [37663]

Dr. Moonie: Expenditure to the end of January 2002 totalled £6,300 million.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what variations have been made since the contract for the Eurofighter programme was first signed; and if he will make a statement. [37669]

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Dr. Moonie: There have been no significant variations to the Eurofighter aircraft specification or contracts since re-orientation of the programme in 1995 to take account of the changed strategic context following the end of the cold war.

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if BAE Systems face penalty payments in connection with the Eurofighter programme. [37167]

Dr. Moonie: The prime contract for Eurofighter, which is with Eurofighter GmbH of which BAE Systems own 33 per cent., includes provision for liquidated damages to be paid in the event that deliveries are delayed. In addition, payments on the contract are made only when milestones and deliveries are achieved.

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what arrangements will be followed to introduce the Eurofighter into RAF service; and if he will make a statement; [37164]

Dr. Moonie: Instrumented production aircraft flights, which provide technical information on performance and safety, are expected to commence in March and will allow the first series production aircraft to be accepted and operated by the Royal Air Force. Arrangements for the introduction to service include the setting up of facilities at BAES's Warton site to support operation of the aircraft during its initial months in service, and the establishment of a Royal Air Force unit at Warton for initial training and operational evaluation. Thereafter, Royal Air Force units will be established at Coningsby in 2004, followed by Leeming and Leuchars. Full operational employment of the aircraft is planned to take place during the second half of the decade.

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if the projected in-service dates for the Eurofighter will be achieved; [37166]

Dr. Moonie: Industry is working hard to achieve the June 2002 delivery date called for in the contract, and we continue to emphasise its importance. Nevertheless, we know through our continuous monitoring of industry's progress that achieving the June in-service date is becoming increasingly challenging.

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons the cost of Eurofighter has increased; and if he will make a statement. [37691]

Dr. Moonie: I refer my hon. Friend to the detailed explanation of cost changes on the Eurofighter programme that was included in the National Audit Office's Major Project Report 2001, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House.


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