§ Mrs. Ray Michie
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the social and economic impact on remote and island communities of the automation of meteorological stations; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Dr. Moonie
[holding answer 14 April 2000]: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Meteorological Office. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to the hon. Member.
Letter from Peter Ewins to Mrs. Ray Michie, dated 18 April 2000:I am replying to your question to the Secretary of State for Defence about the social and economic impact on remote and island communities of the automation of meteorological stations. This matter falls within my area of responsibility as Chief Executive of The Met Office.The Met Office is looking to improve efficiency and reduce costs in the delivery of weather services. The automation of meteorological stations is not a new initiative but an important part of this strategy.Trials are to commence shortly to assess the feasibility of extending the automation process into areas where, up to now, manual observations have been seen as necessary for our operations. Assuming a satisfactory outcome from the trials, we plan to automate the observing functions at several locations around the United Kingdom, including Tiree Airport.We recognise that the withdrawal of Met Office observers from Tiree, should this be the outcome, could have an adverse impact on the local community, and this I would very much regret. In particular, the services delivered by the Highlands and Islands Airport Ltd are likely to be affected. We are, therefore, discussing options with them to examine how they could continue to provide the Aerodrome Meteorological reports which are necessary for airport operations, in the absence of our observers.