HC Deb 26 May 1994 vol 244 cc233-4W
Mr. Sykes

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will now give further details regarding the introduction of a system for broadcasting details of firing intentions in local sea areas; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hanley

I am pleased to announce, as foreshadowed in my answer to the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) on 3 March,Official Report, columns 871–72 that from Wednesday 1 June 1994 the Royal Navy is to introduce a new information service for advising fishermen and other mariners of gun and missile firings in designated exercise areas around the United Kingdom. The time and approximate geographic locations of all planned live firings—other than with small arms—and underwater explosions will be broadcast twice a day by the Royal Navy: where appropriate this will also include the times of firing flares, other illuminants, and naval gunfire support firings using sea ranges and inert ammunition. This new broadcasting of information is to be known colloquially as GUNFACTS, A broadcast scheme for transmitting information of this nature has been operating in the heavily used Portland exercise area for almost two years, and has proved successful in ensuring that civil craft using these waters are aware of Royal Navy firing activity. The aim now is to extend the arrangements operating in the Portland areas to cover all exercise areas around the United Kingdom in which gunnery and missile firings and underwater explosions take place.

The introduction of the United Kingdom-wide broadcasting arrangements for GUNFACTS does not reflect any shortcomings in the Royal Navys existing range safety procedures, which are already rigorous and comprehensive: the intention is, rather, to complement the existing measures. As such, the introduction of this scheme represents a further step forward in maritime safety and underlines our continuing commitment to ensure safe operations by the Royal Navy at sea.

Mrs. Lait

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, when the first test firing of a United Kingdom Trident II D5 missile is expected to take place; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Aitken

HMS Vanguard is scheduled today to launch an unarmed Trident II D5 ballistic missile off the coast of Florida as part of her demonstration and shakedown operation. I shall inform the House of the outcome of the firing in due course.