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PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS

24 Feb 12. The Defence Committee published The Armed Forces Covenant in Action? Part 1: Military Casualties: Government Response to the Committee’s Seventh Report of Session 2010–12, as its Tenth Special Report of Session 2010–12, HC 1855, at 10.00 am on Monday 27 February 2012. No embargoes in this case.

22 Feb 12. The Government must improve on its current reactive posture to the threat of a major electro-magnetic pulse event , says the Defence Committee in its report, entitled, “Developing Threats: Electro-Magnetic Pulses (EMP)”. Technologies such as GPS, vital to the financial markets as well as the military, are known to be vulnerable to the effects of space weather or the EMP resultant from a nuclear weapon exploded at altitude. It is also possible to build non-nuclear devices which can disrupt electronic systems, though so far only over a limited area. A severe space weather event is not necessarily seen as a military problem in the first instance, but it would be likely to meet the definition of an “emergency” under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and call for the help of the Armed Forces. Chair of the Committee, Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, says, “The reactive posture described by the Government appears somewhat complacent. Space weather is a global threat and may affect many regions and countries simultaneously. It is time that the Government began to approach this matter with the seriousness it deserves.” The Committee is very concerned that there appears to be no one Government Department identified to take immediate lead responsibility should there be a severe space weather event. It is not good enough to say that that will depend on where the greatest impact fell. The Government must make clear exactly where lead responsibility in relation to EMP disturbances lies both nationally and within the MoD. Defence alone cannot protect against the threat of EMP. It must be a concern of the National Security Council and civil contingency planners, with proper standards of protection developed with the vital service industries most at risk. The effects of a High Altitude Electro-Magnetic Pulse Event as a result of a nuclear weapon exploded at high altitude, would be so serious that only government action could be expected to mitigate it. Chair of the Committee, Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, says, “We are concerned that the Government does not regard EMP from a nuclear blast as currently being a high risk and so we urge that more vigorous action should be taken to prepare for such an attack. Similarly, an urgent reassessment should be made of the risk from non-nuclear EMP attack on vital national facilities.” Security of satellites is a matter of growing concern as our reliance upon such systems and the sheer number of satellites in orbit increase. The Government must consider the long-term security of satellite technology and ensure that national interests are protected where we rely on other nations for data, such as GPS. In the event of very severe space weather, even hardened satellite technology might be at risk of degradation. The MoD cannot therefore rule out the loss or degradation of satellite based-communications systems, and must plan for this eventuality.

House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for Tuesday 22 February 2012

Nuclear Submarines

Alison Seabeck: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what estimate he has made of the cost of establishing new facilities for the arming of nuclear submarines due to
(a)a change in Government policy after a referendum in Scotland and
(b) a major incident which disables existing facilities; [90638]
(2) at how many sites nuclear submarines can be armed in addition to existing bases. [90639]

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the likely cost of relocating the facilities and functions of the Royal Armaments Depot at Coulport to another part of the UK. [91254]

Peter Luff[holding answer 19 January 2012]:T

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