Lord Drayson: My Lords, the noble Baroness will understand that I am not able to comment on that because the board of inquiry into the loss of the Nimrod has not reported; of course, I will be able to once that has taken place.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, the issue of the development of ballistic protection for armoured vehicles is a top priority for us for research and development. When that leads to a solution that we believe can be fielded to meet an urgent operational requirement, there is absolutely no limitation. All operational requirements have been met.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, on the composition of Lieutenant-General Fulton's inquiry, I am happy to write to the noble Lord and place a copy of the letter in the Library. On the review by this House of the outcome of the inquiry, I would welcome feedback from opposition spokesmen on what they want the composition to be. I am open to suggestions from noble Lords on what they think would be the appropriate...
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I can give the noble and gallant Lord the assurance that he seeks that all the transport aircraft have the appropriate defensive aid suites for the missions on which they are engaged.
Lord Drayson: Yes, my Lords, I am confident. The provision of protected patrol vehicles such as Bulldog, Mastiff and Vector is a top priority for me. The progress that we have made—for example, fielding Mastiff from start to finish in under six months—shows the priority that we give to this.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I understand the noble Lord's concern. I do not accept the picture that he paints of the Bowman system, which has appropriate management that reports to me as the Minister responsible for the equipment. The issues to which he refers relate to the complexity of fielding the Bowman system and the fact that it needs to be continually upgraded in the future. Much as we are used to...
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I assure the noble Countess that, alongside the investment that we put into force protection equipment—physical assets such as body armour and so forth—we invest equally in medical care. Some of the innovations that we have used, such as technologies to control heavy blood loss, have made a real difference to outcomes and survival rates. Mental health is also very important. We...
Lord Drayson: My Lords, the value of the boats and other seized equipment was approximately £500,000. As I said yesterday, there will be an inquiry into the incident, led by Lieutenant-General Rob Fulton. As it will consider operationally sensitive material, it will not be possible to publish all the conclusions, but they will be presented to the Select Committee on Defence in another place. I have asked...
Lord Drayson: My Lords, with regard to the noble and gallant Lord's first question, we will happily publish the inquiry's terms of reference. As I said yesterday in the House, the inquiry will not be a witch hunt. I do not believe that it is appropriate for me to answer the noble and gallant Lord's other question.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, we are embarking on a significant shipbuilding programme to provide the Royal Navy with the forces that it requires. This incident did not relate in any way whatever to the number of frigates, and there were no issues relating to the provision of equipment. I will provide the noble Baroness with a written answer concerning the number of frigates.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, as I said in the House yesterday, the inquiry will cover all operational aspects of the incident. As I said yesterday, and as has been said a number of times by the Government, this incident took place well within Iraqi territory.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, my understanding is that the six weeks started yesterday. It is a short period. An inquiry, as opposed to a board of inquiry, was launched so that the process could happen more quickly. That is a response to the very important issue with which we are dealing here and I think that it reflects the Government's commitment to get to the bottom of the cause as quickly as possible and to...
Lord Drayson: My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord is absolutely right. It is important for us to retain the perspective that the Navy has carried out such boardings and will continue to do so in situations where there is risk to the personnel. It has done so in an outstanding manner.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, we continue to press the Iranian Government with regard to the return of our boats and equipment. However, the terms of yesterday's Statement related to our focus—that is, our people.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I can confirm that the total amount involved in the 2004 incident and the incident that took place recently is approximately that quoted by my noble friend. We will continue to put full pressure on the Iranian Government on this and other matters relating to their international commitments. We do that through multilateral efforts. I believe that the rapid progress we made in...
Lord Drayson: My Lords, there have been responses, but they have not been satisfactory. The equipment has not been returned.
Lord Drayson: No, my Lords, it is not.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and gallant Lord for the points that he makes. The Secretary of State absolutely has the full confidence of the defence chiefs and his ministerial colleagues.
Lord Drayson: No, my Lords, I am not telling the House that. The situation at present is that the Secretary of State is awaiting a submission from PJHQ on the precise details of when, how, and under what circumstances boarding operations should be recommenced.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I agree with everything that my noble friend has said, and with the perspective into which he puts these matters. It is important for the House to keep media issues in perspective. It is important for us to focus on what is really important.