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4 Jun 2003 : Column 451W—continued

Nuclear Weapons

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with his US counterparts about (a) their intention to repeal the 1993 legislation banning the research, development and production of nuclear weapons and (b) the statement at the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2003 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that the US was reducing reliance on nuclear weapons. [116837]

Dr. Moonie: We have regular contacts with the United States about matters relating to nuclear weapons. I am not aware of any substantive discussions on either of the two issues but the Ministry of Defence is aware of US Administration statements and views.


Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Phoenix Air Vehicles were lost during Operation Telic; and how many have been lost since the Phoenix system entered service. [113955]

Mr. Ingram: 23 Phoenix Unmanned Aerial Vehicles remain lost on Operation TELIC, which count towards a total of 29 vehicles that have not been recovered since the Phoenix entered service in May 1999.

Porton Down

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many procedures have been carried out on animals at Porton Down since 1997; and what breeds of animals were involved. [115585]

Dr. Moonie: The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Porton Down submits annual returns to the Home Office detailing the number of procedures undertaken which involve the use of animals as defined in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

In the years 1997 to 2002 the annual returns to the Home Office, broken down by species, are detailed in the table.

Guinea pig1,1091,039636636727644

More detailed information on the specific breeds used is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.


Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the Ministry of Defence's overseas propellant suppliers. [115483]

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Mr. Ingram [holding answer 3 June 2003]: Propellant, as a component of munitions, is procured through a Framework Partnering Agreement with RO Defence Ltd. (ROD), a British based subsidiary of BAE Systems. The selection of suppliers is a commercial matter for RO Defence and they currently utilise: Nitro Chemie AG (Germany) and Muiden Chemie (The Netherlands). Other sources of propellant used by manufacturers for Ministry of Defence contracts are, Nitro Chemie Wimmis (Switzerland), Nammo (Sweden) and General Dynamics (USA).

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department plans to re-establish a UK-based propellant facility. [115958]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 3 June 2003]: The Ministry of Defence has no current plans to re-establish a United Kingdom-based propellant facility. This is consistent with the MOD's belief, which has been endorsed by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee and the National Audit Office, that there are no strategic or defence reasons to retain an indigenous propellant manufacturing capability. Propellant as a component of ammunition is currently procured from RO Defence Ltd. under the terms of a Framework Partnering Agreement. The sourcing of such material is a commercial matter for RO Defence.

RAF Church Fenton

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on contract negotiations at RAF Church Fenton; and when he expects the negotiations to end. [116749]

Dr. Moonie: The current Joint Elementary Flying Training School (JEFTS) contract which is held by Babcock HCS, is due to expire in July 2003. This includes some flying training at RAF Church Fenton.

From July, the tasks under the current JEFTS contract will be met in two ways. The JEFTS flying at Barkston Heath, Cranwell and Middle Wallop will be re-brigaded under the title of the Defence EFT School, the supporting contractor again being Babcock HCS. The flying currently undertaken by JEFTS at RAF Church Fenton will be carried out under the Light Aircraft Flying Task contract, supported by Vosper Thorneycroft Aerospace, at University Air Squadron sites around the country, including the Yorkshire University Air Squadron site at RAF Church Fenton.

The main contract negotiations have been completed, but an ongoing issue is the possible Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE) liabilities in respect of the Babcock HCS employees at RAF Church Fenton. Due to the complexity of the issue, it is not possible to predict when these negotiations with both contractors will be complete.

Reserve Forces

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on health screening for reservists following their return from the Gulf to civilian life. [116357]

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Dr. Moonie: As part of routine demobilization procedures, members of the reserve forces returning from any operation undergo a routine medical assessment prior to their release from full-time service. The assessment, which is carried out by medical staff, includes the completion of a health declaration by the individual, the listing of any exposures to environmental or industrial hazards, and a medical check including blood pressure measurement, urinalysis and audiometry. All personnel should be offered a consultation with a medical officer at the time of the assessment. Where medical concerns are identified that require further evaluation, medical staff will ensure that suitable arrangements are made. This may include passing information to the individual's civilian GP, having first obtained consent from the individual.

I also refer the hon. Member to my Written Statement of 7 May 2003, Official Report, columns 34–36WS, announcing plans for research into the physical and psychological health of personnel who deployed to the Gulf and that those concerned about possible exposure to depleted uranium are entitled to a urine test. These arrangements apply to reservists as well as regular personnel. I also announced that reservists who deployed and have concerns about their health generally can be referred by their civilian GP to the Medical Assessment Programme which we established following the 1990–91 Gulf conflict.

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 21 May 2003, Official Report, column 786W, on reserve forces, what form the follow-up work with reservists will take. [116386]

Dr. Moonie: As part of the overall process of identifying lessons learned from all aspects of Operation TELIC, we will be interviewing many returning reservists to gauge their views of the mobilisation and demobilisation process. We will also be running a major survey of employers who have been affected by the call-out of reservists.

Royal Air Force (Training)

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the role of RAF Woodvale in the training of RAF recruits. [116663]

Dr. Moonie: RAF Woodvale is the home to Manchester and Salford University Air Squadron (MASUAS), Liverpool University Air Squadron (LUAS) and No. 10 Air Experience Flight (AEF). Both University Air Squadrons at RAF Woodvale train undergraduate student pilots according to the Elementary Flying Training syllabus, which, during a student's time at university, provides them with general handling, instrument flying, formation and navigation. Ex-UAS student pilots are then able to enter the RAF at a stage where they can be streamed and selected for fast jet, helicopter or multi-engine aircraft. The AEF provides air experience for air cadet members of the Air Training Corps and RAF sections of the College Cadet Force.

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With effect from July 2003, RAF Woodvale will also train up to 17 Direct Entrant pilots to their streaming point, since the RAF element of the Joint Elementary Flying School contract is to be absorbed into the contract that covers UAS flying. This will be done within existing contracted flying hours.

The UASs also provide general Service training for potential officers of all branches of the RAF.

Royal Marines (Iraq)

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the scheduled return to the UK of Royal Marines following the end of the Gulf conflict. [112259]

Mr. Ingram: The withdrawal of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines from the Gulf region was completed on 18 May, following an extremely successful operational tour. Royal Marine Commandos were among the first Coalition forces to enter Iraq, working with the United States Marines to secure the Al Faw peninsula, and in particular the key port of Umm Qasr. Following the completion of decisive combat operations, they were subsequently involved in stabilisation operations, and humanitarian tasks.

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