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BAE Systems: Warship Export Licences

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): Licences to export arms and other goods whose export is controlled for strategic reasons are issued by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry acting through DTI's Export Control Organisation (ECO). The ECO's computer databases have been searched for details of Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs) issued between 1 January 1991 and 2 January 2001, and Open Individual Export Licences (OIELs) issued between 1 January 1994 and 2 January 2001 to BAE Systems and Marconi (Projects) Ltd, using the Military List entries ML9 and PL5033, which relate to warships. Computer records for OIELs are only available from 1 January 1994. Before then, the ECO only kept paper records of OIELs, and it would entail disproportionate cost to examine these to determine which, if any, were issued to BAE Systems or its associated companies. The search has been carried out on BAE Systems and Marconi (Projects) Ltd in the light of the recent amalgamation of British Aerospace and Marconi Electronic Systems. However, this search may not cover all BAE Systems' predecessor yards. The ECO records the details of the company applying for a licence, and is able to amend its records or re-issue a licence, as appropriate, in the event of a change of name or ownership. However, ECO does not systematically maintain records of such changes in name or ownership, and it is not therefore able to search its computer records to establish the information in the form requested.

In the light of the search results, inquiries are being made under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. As confidential information is involved, the party concerned is being asked if it objects to its disclosure. I will write to the

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noble Lord in the light of the reponse, and will place a copy of that letter in the Library of the House.

Great Britain Bus Timetable

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are taking any steps to secure the continued publication of the Great Britain Bus Timetable until the national information scheme PTI 2000 is working to a high standard.[HL338]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The Great Britain Bus Timetable is a commercial venture by Southern Vectis and as such decisions about its future are a matter for the company. However, the Government regard the timetable as a useful tool for those travelling by bus around the country, and as a reference work for tourist information offices, libraries and so on. We have given financial support in the past, as have others in the transport industry, and would be disappointed if publication were to cease. DETR officials are in discussions with Southern Vectis about the options, in the light of other initiatives, including the advent of traveline (formerly PTI 2000).

Sea Harrier FA2 and Harrier GR7: Replacement

Baroness Gale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether an aircraft has been selected to meet the requirement to replace the Sea Harrier FA2 and Harrier GR7 aircraft of the joint force Harrier.[HL379]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The MoD noted in the Strategic Defence Review that the US Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) was a strong contender to meet the requirement to replace the Sea Harrier FA2 and Harrier GR7 aircraft of the joint force Harrier in the early years of the next decade.

In the light of further work on the various alternatives to meet the Future Carrier Borne Aircraft requirement, and of the successful progress of the JSF Concept Development phase, it has now been concluded that JSF is the option with the best potential to meet our needs. It has accordingly been decided to join the US as a collaborative partner in the next stage of the programme (Engineering and Manufacturing Development)--subject, of course, to the decisions of the incoming US Administration on the future of the programme.

JSF is a single seat, supersonic aircraft, incorporating advanced "stealth" technology, capable of performing multi-role operations from aircraft carriers and land bases. Analysis of the available options demonstrated that, on a through life basis, JSF should meet most cost-effectively our military requirements. It promises to be an oustanding aircraft.

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The UK has been a full collaborative partner with the US in the Concept Development phase of the JSF programme since 1996. On Wednesday 17 January in Washington, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with the US Government that covers the next phase of the programme, Engineering and Manufacturing Development.

On current plans, contracts are expected to be awarded for this phase of the programme later this year. Signature of the MoU will enable the UK to participate in the selection of the prime contractor, for which two consortia, one led by Boeing and the other by Lockheed Martin, are competing. Demonstrator aircraft from both consortia have successfully completed a series of intial flight trials.

The MoU covers only the next development phase of the programme. Defence Secretaries Cohen and Hoon have therefore agreed a set of principles that will provide a framework for UK involvement in the JSF programme in the longer term. The principles we have agreed will safeguard UK national interests, ensuring that we retain the military and industrial capability to manage the aircraft effectively through life.

UK participation as a full collaborative partner in the JSF programme will represent a significant opportunity for UK industry. UK companies have already played a significant role in the programme to date. They are well placed in both of the bidding consortia to win, on merit, substantial high quality work, both in the next phase and over the life of potentially the largest military procurement programme ever. Some 70 British companies,

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including BAE SYSTEMS, Rolls Royce, Smiths Industries, Messier Dowty International, Cobham PLC, TRW ASG (Lucas Aerospace) and the Martin-Baker Aircraft Company, are well placed in the bidding consortia to win subcontracts on merit.

The cost to the UK of the next programme phase will be of the order of £1.3 billion, plus a further £600 million worth of work to meet UK national requirements.

A number of our European allies are considering participation in the JSF programme. JSF will play a crucial part in developing the transatlantic partnership, in enhancing NATO interoperability and in improving European military capability.

JSF will form a major part of the UK's future offensive air capability, along with Eurofighter and other air systems, for several decades to come. It has not yet been decided how the total capability requirement will be met over that period. Nor has it been decided at this stage what JSF variant will best meet the UK's requirements, nor the numbers of aircraft that might eventually be purchased. For the Future Offensive Air Systems project, the MoD are continuing to study a range of options, including manned aircraft, cruise missiles and uninhabited combat air vehicles. Allied to these studies will be a programme of technology demonstration, some of which may be collaborative, offering scope for work by the UK aerospace industry.

We shall place in the Library, and on the MoD website, copies of the MoU relating to the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase of JSF, and of the exchange of letters with Defence Secretary Cohen.

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