|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
27 Oct 2003 : Column 6Wcontinued
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how long an army reservist would need to serve in hostile or war conditions before life insurance under the Army PAX scheme would cover war risks. 
Mr. Ingram: PAX provides Personal Accident and Life cover for regulars and RPAX for reservists. Cover under these schemes is the same for all three Services. Membership of these schemes is voluntary and thus the decision to purchase this cover rests with the individual.
A reservist's eligibility for war risks cover under PAX and RPAX is governed not by how long they have served in hostile or war conditions but by the length of time their cover has been in force. Under new arrangements which came into effect on 1 July 2003, PAX and RPAX exclude war risks for the first six months of a new cover purchased at any time other than during initial training.
This qualifying period was introduced as a result of the trend which Service personnel deployed to war zones have recently shown to buy short-term cover at the last minute. This increases insurers' exposure to risk, making them unable to accrue long-term premium income from which claims can be paid, and causing them to increase premiums or to close their schemes altogether to new applicants. The six-month qualifying period helps to avoid such closures and to protect the interests of prudent long-term scheme members by keeping premiums affordable.
Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if his Department will provide a precise figure for the number of nuclear warheads stockpiled by the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hoon: In line with the policy set out in the Strategic Defence Review, we have fewer than 200 operationally available warheads. It would not be in the interests of national security to be more precise than this, and I am therefore withholding the information under Exemption 1 (Defence, Security and International Relations) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.
27 Oct 2003 : Column 7W
Mr. Hoon: I am withholding the information requested under Exemption 1 (Defence, Security and International Relations) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information for reasons of national security.
Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many United States nuclear weapons are based in the United Kingdom; what the purpose is of their deployment; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hoon: As stated in NATO's Strategic Concept (paragraph 63), 'nuclear forces based in Europe and committed to NATO provide an essential political and military link between the European and the North American members of the alliance. The alliance will therefore maintain adequate nuclear forces in Europe.'
Numbers of US nuclear weapons in the United Kingdom can and do vary, and the capability for deployments of such weapons to and from the UK remains extant regardless of the particular number of weapons in the UK at any given time.
It is NATO and national policy not to comment on the detail of such nuclear deployments. I am therefore withholding the information under Exemption 1 (Defence, security and international relations) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.
Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department gives preference to British defence companies (a) when selecting producers for equipment and (b) for project procurement; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ingram: Open and fair competition remains the bedrock of the Ministry of Defence's procurement policy. However, we are also prepared to use other approaches for our acquisition requirements where they offer better long term value for money. The MOD's non-warlike acquisition requirements are subject to the EC Public Procurement Regulations that require such opportunities be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union.
27 Oct 2003 : Column 8W
The Government's Defence Industrial Policy Paper (published in October 2002) recognises that, although acquisition decisions will be driven principally by key factors such as cost and operational effectiveness, they also need to take into account wider factors, such as industrial capabilities, which are desirable to retain in the United Kingdom. The Government are committed to a strong and healthy UK defence industry owing to the economic value that the industry brings to the UK by creating employment, technology and intellectual property in this country. Globalisation of the defence business means that the UK defence industry embraces suppliers that bring benefit and create value within the UK, regardless of the nationality of their shareholders.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the terms of the contract for the procurement of Meteor missiles are, with particular reference to the total agreed to purchase cost; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ingram: The Meteor contract with MBDA UK Ltd covers development, the delivery of development hardware to support aircraft integration programmes (on each of Typhoon Eurofighter, Rafale and Gripen), production of the missiles and Contractor Logistics Support. The total current contract cost is some £1.2 billion, to which the UK has committed some £700 million.
At this time, only the UK has committed to the delivery of production missiles and to the associated Contractor Logistic Support (for a period of 10 years). Production options in the contract include a number of pricing break points, with the overall unit production prices reducing as those break point quantities are exceeded. Under the terms of the Meteor Memorandum of Understanding, all Partner Nations will pay the same unit production price for Meteor missiles ordered during the option period. If current estimates of Partner Nations' production quantities are fulfilled, the unit production cost for the UK's missiles will reduce from that currently budgeted.
The United Kingdom is a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention which outlaw the use and possession of chemical and biological and toxin weapons respectively. The UK gave up such capabilities in the 1950s.
As the Government has made clear on many occasions, we would be prepared to use nuclear weapons only in extreme circumstances of self-defence. As our overall strategy is to ensure uncertainty in the mind of any aggressor about the exact nature of our response, and
27 Oct 2003 : Column 9W
thus to maintain effective deterrence, we do not define the exact circumstances under which we would be prepared to use nuclear weapons.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the progress being made on moving away from the use of order books and giros by the Post Office. 
The huge numbers of customers involved in the conversion process mean the changes are being phased over the period to 2005. This approach will ensure the process is carried out efficiently and with the minimum of disruption. Customers do not need to do anything until they receive a letter from the Department.
With Direct Payment there are accounts that allow people to continue to be able to collect their money at the Post Office. This has been made possible by the successful introduction of universal banking service in April this year.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|