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2 Dec 2002 : Column WA71

Written Answers

Monday, 2nd December 2002.

Midland New Site Airport Proposal: RAF Operations

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Royal Air Force will continue to be able to overfly central and east Warwickshire if a major new airport is built on land between Coventry and Rugby; and [HL105]

    Whether, if the Royal Air Force cannot continue to overfly central and east Warwickshire, they will be able to move their operations elsewhere; and, if so, where; and [HL106]

    To what extent the Royal Air Force's flight and navigational training programmes will be adversely affected if they cannot continue to overfly central and east Warwickshire. [HL107]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The development of the midland new site airport is one of many options being considered by the Department for Transport in its examination of the United Kingdom's future requirement for air transport, The Future Development of Air Transport in the United Kingdom. No decision has yet been taken on whether to build a new airport at a site between Coventry and Rugby, and the study is currently in the consultation phase. It is too early to predict what the impact of such a development on RAF operations might be. The Ministry of Defence will continue to work closely with the DfT throughout the development of the strategy.

MND: US Gulf Veterans Study

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have on the decision of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to compensate Gulf war veterans afflicted with Lou Gehrig's disease, and the reasoning that informed their decision. [HL168]

Lord Bach: On 10 December 2001 the US Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the preliminary findings of a US Government-sponsored study of the prevalence among US Gulf veterans of motor neurone disease (MND), known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in the US. The VA and US Department of Defense both released some information about the study and its implications via news releases available on the Internet at and The Ministry of Defence has received no further information and awaits publication of the detailed research. The MoD cannot take a view on whether there is a link between MND and service in the Gulf until the research has been published.

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It has always been the case in the United Kingdom that because the cause of MND is not known, if it is diagnosed and claimed within seven years of leaving the Armed Forces a war disablement pension, and associated benefits, may be paid. In addition, UK Gulf veterans may qualify for benefits under the Armed Forces Pensions Scheme.

Royal Artillery

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to reorganise the Royal Artillery regiments. [HL320]

Lord Bach: We have been looking at how to optimise the Royal Artillery to meet the demands of the new security environment.

The Army currently has two combined regular multiple launch rocket system (MLRS)/unmanned air vehicle (UAV) (Phoenix) regiments: 32 Regiment Royal Artillery based at Larkhill, Wiltshire and 39 Regiment Royal Artillery at Harlow Hill near Newcastle. Each of these regiments has two batteries of nine MLRS launchers and one battery of three troops of UAVs (Phoenix).

As a result of past successful deployments, the capability of Phoenix has become more widely recognised and valued within the military command structure. It has, therefore, been decided that a revised structure would provide a better focus for UAVs. In line with the direction set in the new chapter to the Strategic Defence Review this new structure will establish UAVs as a valuable asset for surveillance and intelligence gathering in addition to being Royal Artillery target acquisition assets to support the indirect fire system. The impact on the Royal Artillery will be the separation of these capabilities and the creation of discrete regiments: UAV (Phoenix) at Larkhill and MLRS at Harlow Hill. The reorganisation will require inter-regimental moves of complete sub-units but will not have any significant impact on the overall numbers of personnel at each site.

The field standard B2 variant of the Rapier missile system has reached the end of its useful life and will be withdrawn from service by 31 March 2003. The system is currently operated by 22 Regiment Royal Artillery, based at Kirton-in-Lindsey, Lincolnshire. Following the withdrawal of the Rapier FSB2 equipment, 22 Regiment will undertake a tour in Cyprus in the infantry role during the second half of 2003 before it is disbanded in March 2004. Personnel from the regiment will be redeployed to other Royal Artillery units to support the introduction of planned new "network-centric" capabilities as described in the new chapter, including the Watchkeeper UAV.

Our future Rapier air defence capability will be based on the more advanced field standard C model operated by 16 Regiment Royal Artillery and the Royal Air Force Regiment. The capability of 16 Regiment will be enhanced by the creation of a

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fourth battery. In addition, we plan to move 16 Regiment from Woolwich to Kirton-in-Lindsey in late 2004. It will then be close to both the Air Warfare Centre at RAF Waddington and the Joint Rapier Training Unit at Honington, bringing a number of practical benefits.


Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the International Security Assistance Force is to be extended beyond December 2002.[HL365]

Lord Bach: We welcome the decision by the United Nations' Security Council on 27 November 2002 to adopt Resolution 1444, extending the authority of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to deploy for a further 12 months, from 20 December 2002. The extension comes in recognition of the valuable work undertaken by the ISAF in helping to provide a secure environment in Kabul, allowing the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan, headed by President Karzai, to pursue the difficult task of rebuilding the country.

The new resolution reaffirms the remit of the ISAF as covering Kabul and its immediate environs. The resolution recognises that security within Afghanistan is primarily a matter for the Afghans themselves and commends their efforts to establish representative, professional and multi-ethnic security forces.

Germany and the Netherlands have offered to assume jointly the role of ISAF lead nation upon the completion of Turkey's tenure in command. The United Kingdom anticipates remaining a significant contributor to the ISAF. At a force generation conference on 27 November, the United Kingdom offered to provide staff officers, an infantry company and a bulk fuel installation. Together with their associated support forces, these total over 300 troops, which is consistent in size with our current deployment.

Armed Forces: Smallpox

Baroness Goudie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they are taking to protect the United Kingdom Armed Forces from smallpox. [HL367]

Lord Bach: Smallpox is a deadly and highly contagious disease that could be used as a biological weapon. Currently we do not assess that there is any immediate threat to our Armed Forces from smallpox. But the consequences of any release of smallpox could be very serious, so we continue to monitor the threat closely, and take precautions.

We continually review the package of defensive measures against chemical and biological attack available to our Armed Forces, which includes vaccination. We have decided to offer vaccination against smallpox to a small number of specialist

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military personnel who face a greater risk of exposure to smallpox by virtue of their specialisation. This will include those NBC specialists and specialist medical personnel who would form the spearhead of our defensive reponse, including vaccination teams, in the event of a confirmed, suspected or threatened release of smallpox. The Department of Health, with which we are working closely, is planning to vaccinate a similar cohort of healthcare professionals.

As with other vaccines, vaccination against smallpox will be voluntary and on the basis of informed consent.

This work has been taken forward under the cross-governmental civil contingency machinery for which the Home Secretary has overall responsibility.

Electronic Networks: Strategy Unit Report

Baroness Goudie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish the Strategy Unit report on Electronic Networks.[HL366]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Strategy Unit's report Electronic Networks: Challenges for the Next Decade is being published today. The report is an important contribution to the strategic thinking for the new Office of Communications (Ofcom).

The report reviews the likely range of technology and market developments over the next decade and the challenges they raise for Government and the regulator; considers the importance of electronic networks, including the development of broadband, to the UK's productivity and long-run economic growth; and presents a strategic view of the Government's objectives in the development of electronic networks over the next decade, with a particular focus on the regulatory goals and approach.

The majority of the report's recommendations will be for Ofcom to consider and take forward and to report on in its annual report. DTI, working with other government departments and the devolved administrations, will also be responsible for considering and taking forward some recommendations.

Comments on the report are invited and should be sent to the Department of Trade and Industry using the email address [email protected]

Copies of the report have been placed in the Printed Paper Office, the Vote Office and the Libraries of both Houses.

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