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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie): The MOD form 680 procedure allows defence exporters voluntarily to seek preliminary Government advice at the marketing stage on the likely prospects for eventual approval of an export licence. The procedure is also the mechanism by which the MOD authorises the release of United Kingdom classified military information in support of marketing activity.
Our export controls are greatly strengthened if our exporters market and promote their products responsibly and have the information necessary to do so. The procedure does not exempt industry from the need to apply for an export licence, but it does provide an indication of whether a licence is likely to be issued. It saves industry time, money and potential embarrassment in pursuing export prospects for which a licence is not likely to be issued. Licences are still decided on a case-by-case basis as each application is submitted.
Dr. Moonie: The assessment took place in July 1997, as the hon. Gentleman said. Sustainable development was not a specific factor to be taken into account when considering F680 applications, although the impact on the economy of the recipient country was. Anything else in his question is a matter between the company that sold the equipment and the Tanzanian Government who bought it, not a matter for the Ministry of Defence. As I said, we do not give clearance: we give guidance.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie): Every proposal is considered individually. The criteria for that case-by-case consideration is that of the effect of the development on the ability to train our pilots safely, and on operational capability. The Ministry of Defence is also mindful of the potential impact on microwave link communication and Met Office radars.
The presence of wind turbines in most areas of the United Kingdom would present no difficulty to low-flying aircraft, and those and other naturally tall structures are taken into account as part of routine planning. In certain circumstances, wind turbines have the potential to affect radar adversely. Research is currently under way with the Department of Trade and Industry into the impact of wind farms on radar.
The three specially designated tactical training areas are located in central Wales, northern Scotland and the border area of northern England and southern Scotland. Within those areas, military fast jets may fly at 100 ft. There are clearly specific considerations to be taken into account in those areas.
Ms Drown: I thank the Minister for that reply. Whereas the Ministry of Defence has objected to nearly half the applications for wind farms in this country, there are 6,000 wind farms in Denmark, none of which has been objected to on the ground that radar might be interfered with. Given that the Government need to increase renewable energy drastically if we are to meet our Kyoto
Dr. Moonie: I am not sure about lessons from the Danes. One lesson that I might take from them is that they build their windmills in flat areas similar to the countryside around Swindon rather than on hill crests in Scotland, where they would impinge on the environment in which I like to take my leisure.
We give careful consideration to such developments and we do not object to proposals lightly. In fact, we are carrying out further research to see whether we might narrow the areas that give rise to objections. However, I repeat the truism that in low-flying tactical training areas, where aircraft fly as low as 100 ft, structures that may be 200 or 300 ft high are not likely to be welcome.
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): Is the Minister aware that aircraft, especially from RAF Marham, regularly fly very low over the north-west part of my constituency and across the Wash? Is he aware that there is a planning application for a number of wind turbines onshore, in the area around Hunstanton, and that another has been submitted for 60 turbines offshore in the Wash, very near the RAF bombing range? What is his view, especially on the latter application and its potential effect on the viability of that bombing range?
Dr. Moonie: I cannot say that I have looked into the bombing range, although given the number of precision munitions that we buy nowadays, we might be able to build closer to it than we could in the past. Of the18 offshore applications received so far, we have objected to five. That shows that we take seriously our role as a Government who are trying to support renewable energy.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): Last month saw an historic transformation of the NATO-Russia relationship, with the first meeting at the Rome summit of the new NATO-Russia Council. That is a major step towards the alliance's long-standing goal of building a secure, co-operative and democratic Euro- Atlantic area. We welcome the very positive approach that has been adopted by Russia in establishing the NRC, and all allies look forward to working with Russian colleagues as equal partners in areas of common interest.
Hugh Bayley: I welcome closer co-operation with Russia on security matters, but I have two questions for the Secretary of State. If Russia were to be attacked by another country, would the NRC be convened immediately, and what obligations, if any, would NATO have to go to Russia's defence?
Mr. Hoon: There is no specific agreement to cover either of those eventualities; I can see no specific reason why it would be necessary to convene an NRC meeting in the event of Russia being attacked, but if the existing members of the council judge that useful and appropriate,
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Clearly, the warming of relations between Russia and NATO is critical at a time when we face the threat of international terrorism on an unprecedented scale. However, does the Secretary of State agree that it is also important to remember that NATO is first and foremost a military alliance? While welcoming former adversaries into association with NATO, we must also bear it in mind that, should democracy in Russia take a backward step, our arrangements should not compromise the ability of the original NATO countries to defend themselves.
Mr. Hoon: That must be right. However, it is equally right to pursue the opportunity for closer co-operation between NATO and Russia, not least because it flowed from the appalling events of 11 September. Specifically, there is an agreement to discuss techniques and measures to deal with global terrorism, which must be welcome to all concerned.
Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan): Given the formation of the NATO-Russia Council and the likelihood of a large increase in NATO membership at the Prague summit at the end of the year, has my right hon. Friend made an assessment of the need to change the decision-making structures of NATO in the interests of security and military efficiency?
Mr. Hoon: NATO's specific decision-making structures must remain a consensus of all member states. However, the United Kingdom strongly supports the need to look again at the way in which NATO reaches its decisions and the alliance's bureaucratic supporting structure. That should follow any enlargement, should it occur at Prague.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of Statefor Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie): The Defence Diversification Agency has held a number of discussions about its role at Aberporth, where it currently provides a part-time technology diversification manager. The post is funded by the Welsh Development Agency, which recently invited us to make a proposal for expanding the service, as we shall now do.
Mr. Thomas: I thank the Minister for his reply. He will know of the difficulties caused by the withdrawal of funding for MOD apprenticeships at Aberporth earlier this year, but he may not be aware of the threat to 450 jobs at Dewhurst in Cardigan. Does he therefore agree that the progression of the Aberporth scheme under the technology diversification manager is essential to realise its assets and that the appointment of a full-time manager would help enormously in that task? Will he work with
Dr. Moonie: I pay tribute to the interest and application that the hon. Gentleman has devoted to the issue as the local Member. An approach by the Welsh Development Agency to the Defence Diversification Agency indicates that the organisation is held in high regard locally. Although the DDA has not been operational for long, the signs are that it will be remarkably successful in bringing technology into the MOD and spreading it out. We will take every possible step to ensure that the proposal proceeds.