Excerpts from Jan. 12 Debate in Parliament
(Source: House of Commons; published Jan. 13, 2009)
We reproduce below selected excerpts from the January 12 defense debate in the House of Commons, during which British ministers (State Secretary for Defence John Hutton, and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Quentin Davies) made statements on several major defense procurement programs and on military operations.

The full debate (and related ministerial answers) can be found here on the House of Commons website.

--Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab):
My right hon. Friend rightly spelled out the need for more heavy-lift aircraft, but he mentioned using C-130s; where does that leave the A400M programme?

--Mr. Hutton:
That is a very good question. The A400M programme is now likely to be subject to considerable delay— [Interruption]—because of problems that EADS is having in producing the aircraft, not because of any policy decision made by the UK Government or any other partner nations involved in the project. We cannot accept a three or four-year delay in the delivery of those aircraft. That would impose an unnecessary, unacceptable strain on our air assets. We, along with all our partner nations, will have to consider very carefully what the right response to the problem is.

Joint Strike Fighter
--Mr. Hollobone:
What impact will sterling’s collapse have on the UK’s contribution to the joint strike fighter?

--Mr. Hutton:
To answer that, we would have to think of what the exchange rate will be in five or 10 years’ time, and I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman or I would want to engage in that kind of speculation.

--Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con):
The Minister with responsibility for defence procurement has considerable understanding of the German political system, so may I ask him what steps he is going to take in the continuing discussions among the partner countries in the Eurofighter consortium to ensure that the discussions on the shape, size and timing of tranche 3 are concluded well ahead of the German elections?

--The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Quentin Davies):
The right hon. Gentleman has been assiduous in pressing me on that, and I understand and respect the reasons for his doing so. He knows a lot about the background. I am sorry to say that I cannot take him much further forward today. Those discussions with the Germans and our other partners are continuing, and until we have concluded them we cannot make any announcement about the draw-downs of tranche 3. Of course, as soon as I can make a statement to the House, I will do so.

Nimrod MR4A, Rivet Joint
--Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con):
Under the Helix project, the Ministry of Defence is shortly to take a decision on the replacement of three Nimrod R1 aircraft. There is a danger that the Government will order the Boeing Rivet Joint aircraft, which is much older than the Nimrod R1, when instead they could use the MRA4 platform, which would guarantee the jobs that the Government rightly want to achieve at this time of credit crisis. Will they seriously consider the MRA4 platform, and not purchase an older aircraft from overseas?

--Mr. Davies:
I have noticed the hon. Gentleman’s early-day motion on the subject. He makes a forceful and formidable case, as the House always expects him to, in favour of the MRA4 rather than the Rivet Joint. There are points to be taken into account on the other side of the argument, as I know he will appreciate, and no decision has yet been taken.


Nimrod MRA4 Aircraft
--Mr. Hoyle:
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what estimate he has made of the cost of (a) adopting and (b) maintaining annually the (i) Nimrod MRA4 platform and (ii) American Rivet Joint for his Department's purposes; (2) how many jobs would be (a) created and (b) maintained as a result of ordering the Nimrod MRA4 aircraft; (3) what estimate he has made of the service life of the (a) Nimrod MRA4 and (b) American Rivet Joint aircraft; and if he will make a statement; (4) what range of attack weapons the (a) Nimrod MRA4 and (b) American Rivet Joint aircraft can carry.

--Mr. Quentin Davies:
The Nimrod Maritime Reconnaissance and Attack (MRA4) and the US Rivet Joint aircraft perform entirely different functions.
The MRA4 aircraft is being procured to provide maritime patrol, anti-shipping, anti-submarine and search and rescue capability. It will take over from the Nimrod Maritime Reconnaissance (MR2) aircraft. The cost of the programme for the nine MRA4 aircraft currently on order is some £3.6 billion. Support costs are currently being examined. When it comes into service, the MRA4 will carry Stingray torpedoes but through life it can be adapted to carry an extensive range of weapons and equipment including anti-ship and anti-submarine weapon systems. Its current estimated service life is 25 years. We estimate that there are around 800 jobs associated with MRA4 production at Woodford working for the contractor, BAE Systems.

The US Rivet Joint system provides an integrated airborne electronic surveillance capability. It is not equipped with attack weapons. The costs of adopting and maintaining the Rivet Joint aircraft to meet the UK's Helix airborne electronic surveillance requirement are being assessed, along with those of using the Nimrod MRA4 and Nimrod R1 platforms, as part of the preparations for a main investment decision expected in 2009. The Helix programme envisages the provision of capability out to the 2025 period.

Armoured Fighting Vehicles: Procurement
--Mr. Gerald Howarth:
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much has been spent on the procurement of the Future Rapid Effects System Utility Vehicle variant to date.
--Dr. Fox:
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what total expenditure has been to date on the FRES utility variant programme; and if he will make a statement.

--Mr. Quentin Davies:
Expenditure on the Future Rapid Effects System Utility Vehicle by variant up to the end of November 2008 was some £132 million.

--Nick Harvey:
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for the procurement of a new fleet of reconnaissance vehicles for the Army.

-- Mr. Quentin Davies:
Our plan for a new fleet of reconnaissance vehicles will form part of the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES). Outline plans for this requirement were stated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence in his recent written ministerial statement on 11 December 2008, Official Report, column 65WS.
As part of the wider FRES programme, the FRES Reconnaissance family of vehicles is in its assessment phase. The first variant into service is expected to be the FRES Scout.

Astute Class Submarines: Finance
--Nick Harvey:
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what budget line was used for the £227 million expenditure on Astute overheads identified in the Ministry of Defence Major Projects Report 2007 from the Committee of Public Accounts, HC 433; and what effect this allocation had on expenditure on the UK nuclear deterrent programme in each year from 2005-06 to 2007-08.

-- Mr. Quentin Davies:
The MOD Major Projects Report 2007 (HC433) noted the transfer of £227 million from the Astute budget line to another within the Submarine Production Integrated Project Team. This funding, which was used for the generation and sustainment of nuclear skills necessary to support the submarine-building industry, was not additional expenditure but an existing part of the Astute programme.

The transfer had no direct effect on spending on the UK’s nuclear deterrent. A sustainable submarine industry is, however, essential for the effective delivery of the future submarine programme, so this expenditure will have indirect benefits.

--Dr. Fox:
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his Written Ministerial Statement of 11 December, Official Report, column 65WS, on defence equipment, whether the defence budget will be required to repay the full cost or half the cost of urgent operational requirement purchases over £635 million in financial year 2009-10.

--Mr. Quentin Davies:
We have agreed with HM Treasury an estimate for Reserve expenditure on other UORs in 2009-10 of £635 million. This is in addition to the funding that will be provided from the Reserve for the Protected Mobility package for 2009-10. I can confirm that any excess UOR spend over the estimate of £635 million will be repaid in full (100 per cent.) from the Defence budget in two years’ time (FY2011-12).

Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability Programme
--Mr. Gerald Howarth:
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what estimate he has made of the effect on the project cost of a later than originally planned in-service date of the Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability programme; (2) when he expects the main decisions on funding for the (a) Fleet Tanker, (b) Fleet Solid Support and (c) Joint Sea-Based Logistic elements of the Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability programme to be made.

--Mr. Quentin Davies:
The Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) programme is in its assessment phase.
It is MOD policy not to publish in-service dates or project costs, including demonstration and manufacturing costs, while procurement programmes are still in their assessment phase.

We have reviewed the Fleet Tanker element of the MARS programme and have concluded that there is scope for considering alterative approaches to its procurement. We expect to determine a way forward in 2009, after which the main investment decision will be taken. The later classes of MARS ship, Fleet Solid Support and Joint Sea Based Logistic, are at an earlier stage of their procurement than the Fleet Tankers. It is, therefore, too early to determine when their main investment decisions will be taken.

Military Aircraft: Procurement
--Dr. Fox:
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Future Lynx aircraft his Department plans to procure; and if he will make a statement.

--Mr. Quentin Davies:
Under the revised arrangements for the Future Lynx project announced on 11 December 2008, Official Report, columns 65-66WS, we now plan to buy 34 Future Lynx helicopters for the Army and 28 for the Royal Navy. These new arrangements will provide increased commonality leading to greater versatility and flexibility. The In-Service dates remain as 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Military Aircraft: Warships
--Dr. Fox:
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans his Department has to allow French (a) fixed-wing and (b) rotary-wing aircraft on (i) HMS Prince of Wales and (ii) HMS Queen Elizabeth. [245093]

--Mr. Quentin Davies:
While there are currently no plans for French aircraft to operate from HMS Prince of Wales or HMS Queen Elizabeth, it is standard practice for fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft from allied nations to embark each other's ships for training purposes.

Submarines: Construction
-- Mr. Hancock:
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of how the building process of the Trident II will affect the building process of the Astute-class SSNs.

Mr. Hutton:
Current departmental plans expect that construction of the successor to Vanguard class submarines will occur in parallel with construction of later Astute Class Submarines. The lessons learnt from the Astute programme are being applied to the design and build phase of the successor programme. Any opportunities arising from the successor programme that may benefit the Astute Class will be considered as part of normal business between closely related programmes.

--Mr. Hancock:
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Trident II systems his Department is planning to build; and what his estimate is of the interval between the delivery of each Trident II.

Mr. Hutton:
The Trident II D5 ballistic missile is the delivery system for the UK’s nuclear deterrent that is carried by our Vanguard-class submarines. It is an evolutionary development of the Trident IC4 missile that the UK originally planned to procure but was superseded by a decision in 1982 to procure the Trident II D5 missile. As we made clear in the December 2006 White Paper: “The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent” (Cm 6994), we are participating in a programme to extend the life of the Trident II D5 missile until around 2042.

With regard to the new class of submarines to replace the Vanguard-class, as we have previously stated, the first of class is forecast to enter service in around 2024. Also, as explained in the December 2006 White Paper, a final decision on the number of submarines that will be procured will be made when we know more about their detailed design. That decision will determine the timetable for entry into service of further submarines.

-end of excerpt-

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