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RAF: New Equipment Purchases

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): To meet the Royal Air Force's requirement for a Conventionally Armed Stand-Off Missile, the Government have decided, following the conclusion of a very successful competition, to buy Storm Shadow missiles from British Aerospace Dynamics, subject to the negotiation of satisfactory terms. This decision will provide the Royal Air Force with a highly capable stand-off missile able to mount precision attacks on high priority targets, the need for which was demonstrated in the Gulf War. This decision will give excellent value for money for the taxpayer. It will also cement the recently announced merger of the missile businesses of British Aerospace and Matra of France. This will strengthen British Aerospace's ability to play a leading role in a restructured European industry.

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The order will directly sustain some 1,600 jobs in our defence industry and work to the full value of the order will be placed with British companies.

The RAF also requires an Advanced Air-launched Anti-armour Weapon to defeat enemy battle tanks and other armoured vehicles and which can be deployed rapidly to and around the battlefield. The Government have decided that, subject to the negotiation of satisfactory contract terms, we will buy Brimstone from GEC Marconi Dynamics to meet this requirement. The company has won this tender in the face of fierce international competition, demonstrating that the UK is at the cutting edge of world missile seeker technology. We believe that the order will directly sustain some 700 jobs in our defence industry and, as with Storm Shadow, British companies will obtain work to the full value of the order.

The Royal Air Force's Maritime Patrol fleet provides a key part of the UK's anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capability. It also contributes significantly to our ability safely to deploy and sustain Contingency Forces, including the Joint Rapid Deployment Force. In addition to their operations in the North Atlantic, Nimrod aircraft played vital roles in the Gulf War and more recently over the Adriatic supporting operations in Bosnia. The Nimrod MR2 aircraft have been in service now for a quarter of a century; we need to replace them from the turn of the century.

The Government have decided to purchase 21 Nimrod 2000 aircraft from British Aerospace, subject to the satisfactory completion of contract negotiations. As prime contractor, British Aerospace will be wholly responsible for systems integration and for the airframe. Rolls Royce will supply the engine and Racal the radar, whilst key elements of the mission system will be provided through a strategic partnership between GEC and Boeing. The order will directly sustain around 2,600 UK jobs. Once again, work to the full value of the order will be placed with British companies.

These three orders have a combined value approaching £4 billion, and will sustain around 5,000 British jobs. They underline the Government's determination to deliver the benefits promised by Front Line First by sustaining and enhancing the fighting strength of our Armed Forces.

Public Record Office

Lord Denning asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of a proposal that the ancient records of the realm now in the Public Record Office in Chancery Lane should be transferred to a new building at Kew and that the building itself in Chancery Lane should be converted into Courts of Law, and whether such a proposal can only be implemented by a new Act of Parliament amending the original Acts under which the building was constructed.

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Earl Howe: Responsibility for the use of the Public Record Office building in Chancery Lane has been delegated under the terms of the framework document to the Property Advisers to the Civil Estate under its Chief Executive, Mr. Neil Borrett. The agency is therefore responding to the Question.

Letter to Lord Denning from the Chief Executive, Property Advisers Civil Estate, Mr. N. E. Borrett, dated 25th July 1996.


    Public Record Office--Chancery Lane


    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Earl Howe, has asked me to respond to your Question regarding the above.


    The Public Record Office can confirm that the proposal to transfer the records to Kew was made in an Efficiency Scrutiny Report in 1990, and that the transfer is in progress and will be completed by December 1996.


    The Public Record Office in Chancery Lane was purpose built for document storage and public search rooms. It is thought unlikely that the building will be suitable for re-use as courtrooms.


    Future uses are being investigated, including whether any further powers will be required.

Ministers' Moral Responsibilities

Lord Ashbourne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the promises made by Her Majesty the Queen on her Coronation apply equally to Her Majesty's Government.

Earl Howe: Members of Her Majesty's Government are not required on appointment to swear a ministerial equivalent of the Coronation Oath but they do of course take very seriously the moral duties and responsibilities associated with their position in that Government.

Government Decision-Making

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish a Cabinet Office Manual, analogous to the manual published by the New Zealand Government, providing a comprehensive, easy-to-use guide to central government decision-making.

Earl Howe: Both Questions of Procedure for Ministers and Cabinet Committee Business, issued by the Cabinet Office, provide guidance to departments on the process of central government decision-making. A new edition of a further guidance document, Guide to Legislative Procedures, will be issued shortly. Copies of the first two documents have been placed in the Libraries of the House. Copies of the third will be placed when it is issued to government departments.

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Civil Servants: Alleged Political Pressure

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, as reported in The Times of 11th July 1996, complaints have been made by senior civil servants under pressure from Ministers "to prepare material for election manifestos, alter official reports to provide a party political slant, give briefings on political responses to Opposition policies and Opposition speeches, supply material subsequently used in party election broadcasts and write political speeches when political advisers, who are not civil servants, are absent", and if so, whether such complaints are well founded.

Earl Howe: No evidence to support such complaints has been given to the Government.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it would be in accordance with the duties and responsibilities of Ministers as set out in Questions of Procedure for Ministers and the Civil Service Code for Ministers to ask civil servants to prepare material for election manifestos, to alter official reports to provide a party political slant, to give briefings on political responses to Opposition policies and Opposition speeches, to supply material subsequently used in party election broadcasts, or to write political speeches when political advisers are absent.

Earl Howe: Paragraph 3 of the Civil Service Code, which came into effect on 1st January 1996, reiterates certain duties and responsibilities of Ministers as set out in Questions of Procedure for Ministers, including the duty not to use public resources for party political purposes, and to uphold the political impartiality of the Civil Service. Ministers are expected to act in accordance with these duties and responsibilities.

U2 Aircraft

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is the case, as reported in Aviation Week and Space Technology, 18th March 1996, that they are studying the purchase of six to nine U2s from the US, and, if so, what will be the cost of these aircraft and to what extent will they depend on US facilities for their functioning and maintenance.

Earl Howe: The MoD is assessing a wide range of options, including the U2 aircraft, which have the potential to satisfy the UK Airborne Stand-Off Radar (ASTOR) requirement. All aspects of each option, including life cycle costs and the facilities required for operation and support, will be evaluated thoroughly before a decision on the way forward is made.

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Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapon Proliferation: NATO Study

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the recommendations of the NATO Senior Defence Group on Proliferation for "improvements in alliance military capabilities to address the risks posed by the proliferation of NBC weapons and their delivery means" and to what financial or other commitments would these recommendations bind the UK, and other European members of NATO, and over what period.

Earl Howe: In the context of the Alliance policy framework on proliferation, initiated at the NATO Summit in 1994, the NATO Senior Defence Group on Proliferation (DGP) has recently completed a programme of work to consider the military response to the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and their means of delivery. The work identified the capabilities needed and the principles that should guide the Alliance response. While confident that NATO's forces remain robust, the DGP concluded that further action was required in a number of areas, particularly to enhance NATO's ability to perform its new roles and missions.

At their meetings in June, NATO Foreign and Defence Ministers endorsed a comprehensive programme of work recommended by the DGP, the details of which are classified, to take forward the actions and to ensure that the capabilities identified are considered alongside other Alliance priorities in the normal way. No financial or other commitments have been made at this stage, but the DGP work provides an important framework for the further work now envisaged.


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