To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 27 January 2004, Official Report, column 245W, where information on the foreign aircraft hired by his Department is held; on what basis the decision was reached that information on the use of foreign aircraft could be provided only at disproportionate cost; who took this decision; and whether the Department has previously provided information on hire of foreign aircraft.
Information relating to the charter of the majority of aircraft for the Ministry of Defence is held by the Defence Transport and Movements Agency (DTMA). As the Department operates disaggregated budgets, it is possible that other parts of the Ministry of Defence could have chartered aircraft over the last five years and in that event, such information is not held centrally. The Department has no requirement to record specifically information relating to makes, types and origins of aircraft chartered. The Department competes its charter business in accordance with European rules and often through a broker in order to achieve value for money. Safety is of paramount importance and the nationality of the aircraft is but one consideration in the assessment of suitability for task.
The decision that information on foreign aircraft chartered could be provided only at disproportionate cost was made by the Chief Executive of the DTMA. It was based on a calculation that the exercise would entail one member of DTMA being removed from normal duties to work only on this task for a minimum of five working days. This period would exceed the cost threshold of £600 and have a detrimental effect on the daily work of air movements. DTMA would also have to contact all other parts of the Department, and re-engage with brokers, in order to identify all foreign charters. This would be at additional cost.
Some information on chartered aircraft has previously been provided in answers to Questions from hon. Members, where such information was available centrally and did not involve disproportionate cost to recover it.