§ Mr. Carmichael
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 2 February 2004,Official Report, column 746W, on foreign ships, what 1178W plans he has to change the process by which his Department charters foreign ships; how many foreign vessels were rejected for charter last year because they failed to meet the standards set by his Department; and what plans he has to increase the proportion of British ships flying the Red Ensign used by his Department. 
§ Mr. Ingram
The process for chartering freight-carrying commercial ships is reviewed on a regular basis and was last reviewed during 2003, following the Iraq campaign, when a more robust risk-based assessment was incorporated. Specialist ships are chartered to deliver specific technical capability, primarily outside the United Kingdom and often with limited global availability.
As I said in my previous reply, information on why ships fail consideration of charter is not held centrally. This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
The selection of ships for charter is dependent on a whole range of factors, of which flagging is but one. The Ministry of Defence charters ships in accordance with the European Union guidelines and to give bias to ships flying the Red Ensign would, therefore, run counter to such arrangements.