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Foot and Mouth

Liz Blackman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether she intends to review the existing contingency plans for foot and mouth disease. [34740]

Margaret Beckett: An interim operational contingency plan is being prepared, based on current policy and experience of the recent disease outbreak, and building on existing relationships with other Government Departments and stakeholders. The plan in no way seeks to prejudge the outcomes of the official inquiries, but is a sensible interim response. It codifies and pulls together the operational response regime that was developed during the recent outbreak to compliment the existing strategic framework and the detailed veterinary guidance and instructions.

DEFENCE

Northern Ireland

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many soldiers were (a) sent to and (b) withdrawn from Northern Ireland in each of the past five years; what plans he has for the further reduction of army presence; what provisions have been made for the return of military personnel; and if he will make a statement. [31630]

Mr. Ingram: The level of armed forces personnel in Northern Ireland fluctuates throughout the year depending on the security situation. I have therefore based the answer on the number of personnel under the command of the General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland (GOC NI) at 31 December in each of the last five years:

As at 31 DecemberNumber of armed force personnel
199717,183
199816,824
199915,910
200015,112
200114,551

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These figures include those troops stationed in Northern Ireland as well as those troops under the command of the GOC NI that are rear based in Great Britain and can be called forward to the Province as and when required. In addition, other troops can be made available to the GOC NI from Land Command if required, for example, during the height of the summer marching season.

The armed forces are in support of the police who have primacy for security and liaison between the PSNI and the Army which ensures military support is kept under review and at the right level. When it is assessed that the level of threat has reduced sufficiently, consideration will be given to further reductions in the number of armed force personnel based in the Province. Should it be assessed that the level of threat has increased, consideration will be given to returning military personnel that are currently rear based.

Scottish Barracks

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans there are to alter barrack accommodation in Scotland; and where these alterations are located. [32449]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 1 February 2002]: Plans to alter or expand barrack accommodation in Scotland were included in the Single Living Accommodation improvements that were announced by the Secretary of State on 14 March 2001.

On current plans the programme in Scotland includes an investment of around £170 million in 5,200 bed-spaces in the period 2002–10. 11 service establishments are involved: HMNB Clyde, HMS Caledonia Rosyth and RM Condor Arbroath, the Army barracks at Edinburgh Castle, Craigie Hall and Glencorse, and the RAF stations at Kinloss, Lossiemouth, Saxa ford, Leuchars and Buchan.

The bed-spaces will be delivered by prime contracts, including the new Defence Estates Regional Prime Contract for Scotland, which is expected to be awarded in autumn 2002.

No-fly Zones (Iraq)

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions (a) coalition aircraft and (b) UK aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone in Iraq have (i) detected violations of the no-fly zones, (ii) a direct threat to coalition aircraft and (iii) released ordnance, in each quarter since January 1999 to date stating for each quarter the tonnage of ordnance released; in percentage terms what has been (A) the nature of the violation detected, (B) the nature of the threat detected and (C) the category of target attacked; and if he will make a statement. [31015]

Mr. Ingram: The information is as follows:

(i) The numbers of southern NFZ violations by quarter since January 1999 are:

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199920002001
First quarter3533
Second quarter902
Third quarter644
Fourth quarter311
Total53810

No-fly zone (NFZ) violations can be detected in several ways, including by tactical aircraft. 100 per cent. of violations were incursions into the NFZ by Iraqi military aircraft.

(ii) We do not hold information in the form requested about recorded threats prior to 2000. In 2000 and 2001 coalition aircraft recorded threats on a total of 918 occasions. Reports from UK aircraft indicated that they were threatened or attacked as follows, by quarter:

20002001
First quarter473
Second quarter871
Third quarter3645
Fourth quarter2815
Total76204

In 2000 and 2001, 7 per cent. of the total were radar threats; 6 per cent. were attacks by surface-to-air missiles; and 87 per cent. others, primarily attacks by anti-aircraft guns.

(iii) The tonnage of ordnance released by coalition aircraft in the no-fly zone, by quarter, is as follows.

1999 2000 2001
CoalitionUKCoalitionUKCoalitionUK
First quarter120.531.5353.550.58.5
Second quarter792145.5611.52.5
Third quarter13523.542.553913
Fourth quarter4512.532661
Total379.588.515520.510725

100 per cent. of ordnance released was in self-defence responses by coalition aircraft against military targets in the Iraqi Integrated Air Defence System.

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when, since January 1999, coalition aircraft patrolling the (a) northern and (b) southern no-fly zones in Iraq have hit targets that were different from the intended target, stating in each case (i) the nature of the intended target, (ii) the nature of the actual target hit, (iii) the estimated number of civilians killed and (iv) the reason why the unintended target was hit; and if he will make a statement. [31016]

Mr. Ingram: All targets attacked in self defence by coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones are military elements of the Iraqi Integrated Air Defence System.

On the rare occasions where ordnance has failed to hit the intended target, it has almost invariably landed on open ground. It is extremely difficult to assess collateral damage, or numbers of civilian casualties caused by the remainder, despite the painstaking Battle Damage Assessment (BDA) that the coalition carries out every time ordnance is released. However, it is possible to

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demonstrate categorically that many of the Iraqi claims of collateral damage and civilian casualties are untrue. There have, for example, been several instances when Iraqis have claimed civilian casualties when coalition aircraft have not been flying, or when BDA has confirmed that only military targets were hit. Indeed, there is good evidence that, on several occasions where Saddam has made claims of civilian casualties, it has been caused by Iraqi artillery shells or missiles, recklessly fired at coalition aircraft, falling to earth in built up areas.

In all cases of failure to hit the intended target by ordnance released from UK aircraft, the failure was caused by ordnance malfunction. We do not hold information for coalition partners.

Coalition aircraft only attack military targets in self-defence. We make every effort to select targets and to employ precision guided munitions in order to minimise the possibility of collateral damage and civilian casualties. Despite these efforts, regrettably, on occasions civilians may have suffered as a result of coalition activity. However, this would be completely avoided if the Iraqis desisted from attacking coalition aircraft.

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of changes to the nature and strength of Iraqi air defences since January 1998; whether improvements to the Iraqi air defence system constitute a threat to coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones; what contribution strikes against Iraqi air defences by coalition aircraft in response to violation of the no-fly zones have made to his assessment; and if he will make a statement. [31017]

Mr. Ingram: Since January 1998, Saddam has continually sought to upgrade his air defence system. Developments since January 1998 include increased use of digital technology and greater mobility and dispersal of radars and weapons.

Its capability is very carefully monitored to assess the impact of any changes on coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones. The danger to our aircraft is demonstrated by the fact that the Iraqi air defence system has threatened coalition aircraft on around 1,000 occasions over the last two years. The coalition has on occasion responded purely in self-defence using high precision weapons against elements of the Iraqi Air Defence System. There is no doubt these self-defence responses do have an impact in terms of reducing the threat posed to aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones. Other important initiatives, including the UN-sponsored arms embargo on Iraq, also have an impact on the capability of Saddam's air defence infrastructure.

As long as the Iraqis persist in attempts to shoot down our aircraft, the coalition will continue to take action in self-defence to ensure the safety of our aircrew.

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what activities are deemed violations of the no-fly zones in Iraq; from what date every such activity has been deemed to be a violation; what changes have been made to the definition of a violation of the no-fly zones since January 1998; what changes have been made to authorised reaction to any particular violation since January 1998; and if he will make a statement. [31013]

Mr. Ingram: A violation of the no-fly zones is defined as entry into a zone by Iraqi military aircraft. These activities have been considered violations since the

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inception of the zones, in April 1991 (north) and August 1992 (south) respectively. There have been no material changes to this definition since January 1998.

From time to time minor adjustments are made to the authorised self-defence responses to violations of the no-fly zones. I am withholding details for reasons of operational security in accordance with Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. However, the basis for any coalition response—self-defence—remains unchanged.

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what activities are deemed to be threats to coalition aircraft in the no-fly zones in Iraq; from what date every such activity has been deemed to be a threat; what changes have been made to the definition of a threat in the no-fly zone since January 1998; what changes have been made to the authorised reaction to any particular threat since January 1998; and if he will make a statement. [31014]

Mr. Ingram: Threats to coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones in Iraq include attacks from Iraqi aircraft, Anti-Aircraft Artillery and/or Surface To Air Missile fire, and acquisition by radar. These activities have been considered threats since the inception of the zones, in April 1991 (north) and August 1992 (south) respectively.

Detailed procedures governing the operations conducted by coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones are reviewed and amended from time to time. I am withholding details for reasons of operational security under Exemption 1 of Part II of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. But there have been no fundamental changes to the definition of a threat justifying a response in self defence since January 1998.


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