HL Deb 11 October 1999 vol 605 cc73-4WA
Lord Kirkwood

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are funding any development of personnel mine clearing devices; if so, what type of device they are supporting; and what level of reliability for clearance they require. [HL4029]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

Her Majesty's Government are supporting work in mine detection and mine clearance for both military and humanitarian purposes.

The Ministry of Defence is conducting research aimed at producing an advanced hand-held mine detector which should locate both metallic and nonmetallic land mines. Research is also being conducted into techniques for the location of minefields from the air and these may be capable of locating anti-personnel mines. Neither system would clear mines. The Ministry is also conducting research toward a vehicle-based route clearance system; the removal of anti-personnel land mines might be an aspiration for a later enhancement of this system. The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency recently developed a pyrotechnic torch to destroy mines once they have been located. Since the effectiveness of these programmes in clearance of mines for military activities may reveal operational capability, I am withholding information on their performance under exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

The Department for International Development (DFID) is supporting trials of equipment to improve the safety and efficiency of humanitarian mine clearance. The equipment includes vegetation cutting, flail systems, body protection and a multi-sensor system for minefield detection. DFID is also launching this month a scheme to support the development of equipment to prototype stage.

DFID-funded mine clearance is required to meet the standards set out in the United Nations International Standards for Humanitarian Mine Clearance Operations.