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My Lords, the Government have said that they intend to respond to the Select Committee's report, which was published on 5th February 2002, before the six months allowed for responses to such reports have elapsed. That remains our intention. Moreover, I hope that it will be possible to publish our reply and debate the issue in your Lordships' House before the Summer Recess.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that encouraging reply. However, in the light of the fact that correspondents' letters addressed to the Government on this matter are being answered by the Air Staff secretariat, can he give the House an assurance that, before the response arrives in the House, Ministers, and not only officials, will have read the Select Committee's report and that they will not simply be relying on an Air Staff briefing?
My Lords, I can reassure the noble Lord that all Ministers in the Ministry of Defence have read the Select Committee's report. But that will not preclude us from listening to the advice of our officials before final decisions are taken. I know that the noble Lord will agree that that is the best way to proceed, not least because of the time that he spent as a distinguished Minister in the MoD some years ago.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that staff at Boscombe Down reported to the MoD that they could not recommend controller aircraft release for the Chinook Mk2 owing to the unquantifiable risk associated with the unverifiable nature of the FADEC software, and does he agree that they recommended that it be rewritten? Can the Minister say now, or in the future response to which he has just referred, whether the software has been rewritten and independently verified and who authorised the return of those aircraft to operational service against the advice of Boscombe Down?
My Lords, with great respect to the noble Lord, whose questions I always listen to with enormous interest, the answer to his question will be very much a matter for this House when we come to debate the report. I am conscious that today the Question is about the timetable. This Question should not be an excuse for a dress rehearsal for a debate that the House will have.