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Interception Of Communications

Volume 298: debated on Monday 14 July 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he takes to ensure that the terms of the Geneva International Telecommunications conventions are complied with by (a) UK nationals involved in military activities and (b) US nationals based in the UK involved in military activities. [7625]

Article 48 of the International Telecommunication Union Convention allows members complete freedom with regard to military radio installations, except that these should as far as possible observe statutory provisions relative to giving assistance in case of distress and to measures to prevent harmful interference, and regulations concerning the types of emission and the frequencies to be used.Every military radio user requires authorisation from the Ministry of Defence, which is responsible for ensuring that all military use of the radio spectrum in the United Kingdom complies with the Convention and for allocating frequencies to users.Visiting forces' radio systems are authorised for use by the Ministry of Defence on the basis of a technical assessment. If the deployment of radio equipment is approved in principle the procedure for assigning frequencies should prevent operation of the equipment from causing harmful interference to existing equipment.If interference is reported in spite of the procedures the complaint will be investigated.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what date the security of tenure agreement between the UK and US Governments which allows the use of RAF Menwith Hill by US personnel comes to an end. [7629]

There is no security of tenure agreement in place at RAF Menwith Hill. The assurances that were given to the US authorities in 1955 and again in 1976 that the site would be made available to the US Forces by Her Majesty's Government for a period of 21 years, and which are known as the security of tenure arrangements, were given to facilitate the commitment of US funding to the station. They were an administrative mechanism, and did not constitute any form of renewable lease for the site.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what safeguards are in place to prevent American personnel based in the United Kingdom under the Visiting Forces Act 1952 committing offences under the Interception of Communications Act 1985; and what mechanisms are in place to detect any such offences. [7619]

Under the terms of the agreements that we have with the US authorities, the US visiting forces are subject to the laws of the UK in the same way as their British counterparts and this includes respecting the provisions of the Interception of Communications Act. We are content that the US authorities adhere scrupulously to these agreements.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what provisions exist for (a) the UK Government and (b) UK nationals to secure compensation for damage or losses caused by US personnel based in the UK who are on duty. [7631]

Provisions contained in the NATO Status of Forces Agreement deal with compensation issues. The agreement establishes a mutual waiver under which contracting parties will not claim from each other if the damaged property was owned and used by its Armed Forces. If the property is owned by a UK National, the Ministry of Defence will investigate a claim and pay any compensation due, in accordance with United Kingdom law. The United States will reimburse the United Kingdom 75 per cent. of the sum paid. This arrangement is of course reciprocal. Alternatively, a third party can issue proceedings against the US State Department through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions have taken place between the UK and US Governments regarding RAF Menwith Hill since 1 May; and if he will make a statement. [7627]

Discussions between UK and US officials take place on a regular basis in order to ensure that arrangements at the stations work smoothly.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what statutory provisions govern the powers of United States service men at Royal Air Force Menwith to intercept communications. [7494]

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he has taken to ensure that American personnel based at Menwith Hill do not monitor United Kingdom diplomatic and economic communications. [7623]

Senior UK personnel are integrated into every level at RAF Menwith Hill and we are thus in a position to be entirely confident that British staff are aware of all facets of operations and that no activity considered inimical to British interests is carried out there.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what factors underlay the decision to redesignate Menwith Hill Station as RAF Menwith Hill. [7621]

RAF Menwith Hill is a Crown freehold site belonging to the Ministry of Defence. The designation RAF Menwith Hill came into effect on 19 February 1996. This was simply an administrative change to bring the base into line with other RAF sites made available by the Ministry of Defence to the United States Government.