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14. Mr. Canavan : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the policy of his Department on, and what regulations are in force in respect of, the recruitment into the armed forces of young people under the age of 18 years.
Mr. Hanley : The minimum age limit for recruitment of non- commissioned personnel into the armed forces is 16 ; for officers, the age limits are higher and vary for each of the services. No recruits under the age of 18 may enter the services without the written permission of their parents or guardian.
15. Mr. Jim Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made as to the effectiveness of the planning cell at the Western European Union headquarters ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Hanley : At the Western European Union Ministerial Council on 9 May the central and eastern European countries of the WEU forum of consultation were offered the status of associate partners in WEU. This represents a significant broadening and deepening of relations between WEU and these countries, although stopping short of full membership for them.
16. Mr. McAllion : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the annual cost to the defence budget of maintaining four Trident submarines in operation and in readiness to launch a nuclear strike against another country.
Mr. Hanley : I refer the hon. Member to the reply given earlier today by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith).
19. Mr. McFall : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with Ministers of other NATO countries regarding assistance towards the dismantling of nuclear weapons in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Mr. Aitken : There have been no such discussions recently. This programme of nuclear assistance is co-ordinated by the NATO ad hoc group on nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union in which the United Kingdom participates.
On 10 November 1992, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence signed a memorandum of understanding with the Russian Foreign Minister, which sets out the terms for the supply of 250 nuclear weapons super-containers and 20 nuclear weapons transport vehicles, which are being gifted to Russia to help with the safe and secure transport of surplus nuclear warheads. The estimated cost of this programme is£35 million at current prices. I am pleased to inform the House that the first batch of 48 super-containers was handed over to Russia on 8 May. Deliveries will continue through the year and are expected to be completed by the end of 1994. This programme of assistance is a significant contribution to nuclear arms control.
Mr. Aitken : My Department's policy is to expose in-house activities to competition from the private sector, wherever possible. Base repair and overhaul of Army equipment is carried out by the Army Base Repair Organisation, a defence agency. ABRO is currently implementing a programme of market testing its services. The pilot market test, of 18 base workshop, was won by the in-house team following a keenly contested competition.
In fact, quite apart from the market-testing initiative, the Army Base Repair Organisation already contracts with
Column 129industry to undertake about a third of its work load, by volume. This dual sourcing between the agency's own workshops and private industry provides an element of competition, and safeguards the ability to surge above the organisation's normal repair capacity during times of crisis.
Mr. Aitken : Work on the defence costs study is continuing. Thirty- one of the 33 individual study teams set up to examine particular areas of defence support have submitted their final reports. Their proposals are now under consideration. This is a complex and necessarily lengthy process and it will be some time before final decisions are taken. We hope to make public the broad outcome of the study before the summer recess. I refer the hon. Gentleman to my closing remarks in the Army debate on 4 May Official Report, 4 May, columns 815-16, in which I outlined a number of messages emerging from the defence costs study.
Dr. David Clark : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 29 April, Official Report, column 399, if he will list the membership of the defence costs study team which is specifically concerned with repair, spares, storage and distribution ; if he will give full details of the instructions given to the team ; and if he will make a statement.
Captain A. Burbridge RN,
Air Commodore D. Anderson,
Mr. J. Morrison,
Mr. S. Goodwin,
Mr. J. Oughton-Efficiency Unit,
Miss A. Perkins--HM Treasury,
Mr. R. Benton--External member.
The Study's remit was to identify means of achieving maximum possible reductions in the costs--including those that might be associated with further adjustments to readiness--associated with repair, spares, storage and distribution in all the services. The study was to range as broadly as necessary but in particular was to propose the appropriate policy and organisation/administration for : Third and fourth line repair ;
Spares procurement and stockholding ;
Non-explosive storage ;
Explosive storage and processing ;
Mr. Hanley : The total strength of the armed forces as at 1 March 1994 was some 256,000. Further details are contained in the monthly "Tri- Service Personnel Statistics Return on Strengths, Intake and Outflow of the UK Regular Forces", a copy of which is placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. Hanley : The "Statement on the Defence Estimates 1994" indicates the forecast manpower levels for service personnel at 1 April 1995 and for civilian personnel at April 1996. Manpower levels for later years will be affected by a range of factors, including of course, the outcome of the defence costs study.
Mr. Hanley : The Government remain committed to retaining the minimum nuclear capability necessary for credible and effective deterrence. Our plans have most recently been set out in the "Statement on the Defence Estimates 1994", copies of which are in the Library of the House.
Mr. Aitken : I am pleased to report that 1993 was another record year, with British defence equipment manufacturers winning export orders worth around £6,000 million. These figures build on our success in 1992, and maintain the United Kingdom's position as the world's second- largest supplier of defence equipment.
28. Mr. Wigley : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions RAF personnel at RAF Valley have been called out for mountain rescue and air-sea rescue purposes during the past 12 months.
Mr. Hanley : Between 1 April 1993 and 31 March 1994 RAF search and rescue personnel and equipment at RAF Valley were involved in 234 call- outs. The search and rescue helicopters and mountain rescue team responded to 161 call-outs on land, 45 along the coastline and 28 at sea.
Mr. Hanley : The two United States helicopters shot down in northern Iraq on 14 April by United States FI5s are the subject of a United States investigation, in which the United Kingdom and other coalition partners are fully represented. The results of the investigation will be reported to Parliament as soon as possible and it would be inappropriate for my Department to attempt to make an assessment at this stage.
Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the budget of his Department in constant prices (a) in the current year, (b) five years previously and (c) 10 years previously ; and if he will identify the main area in which savings have been made.
1994-95 |1990-91|1985-86 -------------------------------- 22,889 |26,456 |28,951 Notes: (1) All figures are in £ million and are at 1994-95 constant prices. (2) Figures are adjusted for technical changes in the treatment of Armed Forces and civilian pensions described in the 1992 Autumn Statement (Cm 2096) and other classification changes. (3) Figures include expenditure arising from the Falklands and Gulf conflicts and redundancy costs flowing from Options for Change', but exclude Gulf burdensharing contributions from other Governments. (4) Figures for 1990-91 and 1985-86 include expenditure relating to the security and intelligence services.
The defence programme has changed significantly over the period in question largely due to the changing strategic environment as well as changes to commitments and capabilities. More specific details can be found in successive "Statements on the Defence Estimates", copies of which are available in the Library of the House.
Mr. Davidson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will list the countries with which the United Kingdom has had discussions with a view to guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Belize ;
(2) what discussions have taken place to guarantee the defence of Belize in the event of external aggression since the decision to reduce the British military presence in Belize.
Mr. Hanley : The sovereignty and independence of Belize are recognised by all members of the United Nations. Belize is also a member of the Organisation of American States. We have made clear our readiness to participate with others in any consultations Belize may request on its future security. Any such discussions would of course be confidential between the parties concerned.
Dr. David Clark : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will list all of the sources of the data that he uses to assess the operational capability of the armed forces ; and if he will make a statement ;
(2) how he measures the operational capability of the armed forces ; and if he will make a statement.
Column 132military judgment reported up the chain of command ; to list all the original souces could be done only at disproportionate cost. The various quantitative indicators include manning levels, the operational availability of key equipment, the level of warstocks and the recent collective training achieved by headquarters and units. In addition, operational analysis, or war-gaming, can be used to measure the likely operational effectiveness of forces earmarked for contingent military tasks.
Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many bedrooms his Department maintains in (a) the MOD building, Whitehall and (b) elsewhere in central London ; what is the rate of occupancy of these bedrooms ; and what proportion of these are reserved for the use of civil servants and service personnel who are not based in London but are required to visit his Department's offices in London.
Mr. Hanley : There are a small number of bedrooms in MOD main building, Whitehall--including PINDAR--for the use of essential service and civilian personnel and duty staff. None of this accommodation is appropriate for use by Crown servants visiting my Department's offices in London. We are also responsible for a number of Army messes in the London area ; there are 2,032 beds--some in shared rooms--of which 1,883 were occupied on 3 May 1994 by personnel employed or on a course. On that date, 143--7 per cent.--of the beds were available to civilian and military personnel.
Mr. Hanley : My Department introduced new subsistence rates for civilian and service staff on 1 December 1993 to reflect discounted hotel charges. The total cost of bed-and-breakfast accommodation in central London between that date and 31 March 1994 was estimated to be some £626,000.
Mr. Hanley : The PINDAR joint operations centre provides the Government with a protected crisis management facility. While all aspects of Defence support are currently under examination as part of the defence costs study, there are no plans to change the present role of the centre.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 4 February, Official Report, column 997, if he has now received the consultants' reports on the environmental assessment of depleted uranium firing at the Kirkcudbright and Eskmeals ranges ; and if he will make a statement.
Column 133lines of inquiry which need to be followed up and which require additional time. The draft version of the report is now expected to be available to officials within the next few weeks.
Mr. David Shaw : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans his Department has (a) to utilise the Internet, (b) to make available on the Internet press releases and other departmental information to which the public may wish to have access and (c) to use the Internet as a means of increasing the openness of his Department.
Mr. Hanley : My Department currently makes use of the Internet-- particularly the unclassified electronic mail facility with its ability to transmit information rapidly worldwide. Owing to the unclassified, open nature of the network there is, however, no intention of using the Internet for defence communications. Our press releases are issued electronically through the Central Office of Information and are accessible to users of the Internet via Data-Star Dialog (Europe) or Mead/Lexis/Nexis.
Consideration is being given to the provision of access to the Internet through the departmental library as an enhancement to existing information services. The introduction of my Department of further roles for the Internet would however be conditional on the development of adequate security measures to protect sensitive information.
Mr. Vaz : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) portable telephones, (b) pagers and electronic bleepers and (c) car telephones are currently used by his Department ; what are the annual costs of operating this equipment ; and to which personnel it is made available.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what was the (a) budgeted and (b) total cost of producing the package, "Forward Look of Government-funded Science, Engineering and Technology 1994" ; how many copies have been produced and distributed ; and to whom they have been distributed.
Mr. Waldegrave : The Office of Science and Technology set a budget of £30,000 to produce the 1994 "Forward Look of Government-funded Science, Engineering and Technology". The costs of printing, publishing and distributing were borne by HMSO which aims to recover its costs from sales revenue. HMSO produced a total of 1900 copies of which 1,000 copies were purchased by the OST for official use. After discount the total cost to the OST was £24,000.
Approximately 800 copies of the "Forward Look" have ben distributed to date by the OST to parliamentary bodies, Government Departments, research councils, higher education funding councils, higher education institutes, research and technology organisations, trade and industry
Column 134associations, professional institutions of scientists and engineers, learned societies, members of advisory bodies on S and T, S and T counsellors in United Kingdom embassies and overseas embassies based in London. Copies are on sale through HMSO, its agents and other booksellers.
Mr. Vaz : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many (a) portable telephones, (b) pagers and electronic bleepers and (c) car telephones are currently used by his Department ; what are the annual costs of operating this equipment ; and to which personnel it is made available.
Mr. Waldegrave : There are 189 portable telephones, 195 pagers and nine car telephones currently in use in the Cabinet Office--excluding 10 Downing street--its agencies and the Central Office of Information at an annual cost of approximately £289,000. Information in respect of HMSO is not held centrally.
The equipment is made available to those personnel who need to keep in contact with the office for official purposes.
Mrs. Roche : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1) how many executive search agencies the Civil Service Commission currently uses ; how many it used in (a) 1979 and (b) 1985 ; and what was the annual cost of the use of such agencies in each of those three years ;
(2) for how many recruitment posts the Civil Service Commission employed executive search agencies in (a) 1979, (b) 1985 and (c) the last year for which figures are available.
Mr. David Davis : On 1 April 1991 the Civil Service Commission was replaced by the Office of the Civil Service Commissioners and the Recruitment and Assessment Services Agency. All recruitment costs, including those of using search consultants, are now met by Departments and agencies ; prior to 1991 the general position was that they met the cost of recruitment below executive officer level. There is no information held centrally on the use of search consultants in 1979 or 1985 though it seems unlikely that much, if any, use was made of them at that period. The decision to use search consultants and the choice of consultants is one for Departments and agencies. The Civil Service Commissioners' annual report for 1992-93 records that six search consultants were used for 11 appointments approved by the commissioners at grade 5 level and above in that period. Copies of the report are available in the Libraries of the House.
Mrs. Roche : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what budget the Civil Service Commission had for recruitment in (a) 1979, (b) 1985 and (c) the latest year for which figures are available ; and what was the proportion spent in each of those years on executive search agencies.
Column 135Assessment Services Agency. All recruitment costs, including those of using search consultants, are now met by Departments and agencies ; prior to 1991 the general position was that they met the cost of recruitment below executive officer level.
The Civil Service Commission's budget for recruitment was £5,024, 000 in 1979-80, £10,066,000 in 1985-86 and £12,288,000 in 1990-91. No figures are held centrally for the costs of using search consultants ; these costs are paid direct by the Departments and agencies which use them.
Mr. Bradley : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many review hearings for people awaiting payments due to them under the severely disabled premium awards have been (a) successful and (b) unsuccessful.
Mr. Dunnachie : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will take steps to ensure that any new incapacity assessment for ME sufferers will take account of the variability of ME ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Scott : Departmental studies have researched the extent to which certain factors such as fatigue and variability affect capacity for work. This research has been incorporated into the development of the medical test so far.
People with conditions such as ME may be able to carry out the various activities in the test once but cannot maintain this performance because of cumulative fatigue. The all-work assessment will take into account the fact that a person must be able to repeat activities over a period of time to be capable of work. In the assessment, the Benefits Agency medical services doctor will consider a person's abilities over time, rather than the person's optimum performance.
Mr. Dewar : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many clients are receiving help from the independent living (1993) fund ; how many applications have been refused since the fund started operating ; and what percentage of its first year budget of £4 million has been spent.
Mr. Scott : I am informed by the director of the independent living (1993) fund that, as at 3 May, there were 268 severely disabled people receiving payments from the fund. In a further 135 cases, offers of help had been made, but had not yet been taken up by the client. Since 1 April 1993 the fund has refused 443 applications. I am further informed that the 1993 fund spent £841,858 in its first year of operation ; representing 21 per cent. of the first year budget.