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Air Force Training (Former Warsaw Pact)

Mr. Redmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the dates and locations of scheduled training deployments to the United Kingdom by units from air forces of former Warsaw pact countries in the next 12 months. [9833]

Mr. Soames: No such deployments have been finalised for 1997, although discussions with a number of air forces are continuing.

Ministerial Leave

Mr. Ian McCartney: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many days leave he has taken in the Easter, Whitsun and summer adjournments; and how many days leave he took during the time in which Parliament was prorogued this year; [9800]

Mr. Portillo: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given today by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Vosper Thorneycroft (Official Appointment)

Mr. Derek Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what scrutiny procedures were undertaken in respect of the recent appointment of a senior MOD official to Vosper Thorneycroft; if any recommendation was made to delay the appointment; what (a) formal and

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(b) informal contact the official had with Vosper Thorneycroft while at his Department; and if he will make a statement. [9881]

Mr. Arbuthnot: The official's application to take up the appointment with Vosper Thornycroft (UK) Ltd. was considered under the rules on the acceptance of outside appointments by Crown servants. Although he had frequent contact with his prospective employer, he was not in a position where he could influence the award of defence contracts. Ten competitors of Vosper Thornycroft (UK) Ltd. were consulted about the proposed appointment but none wished to raise objections. It would not have been appropriate, in the circumstances, to have placed any restriction on the proposed employment.

Murdered Tour Guide (Cyprus)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the parents of the murdered tour guide in Cyprus have been informed by Her Majesty's Government that they have the right to claim compensation against the Ministry of Defence. [10326]

Mr. Soames: I understand that the family in question are aware that they have the same rights to make a claim for compensation against the Ministry of Defence as they would have against any other employer or organisation.

Battle of Trafalgar

Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to begin preparations for the commemoration of the bicentenary of the battle of Trafalgar and the death of Nelson. [10865]

Mr. Soames: It is too early for detailed arrangements or plans to have been considered by my Department for this important event in October 2005. However, we expect that there will be major coverage, and we are already looking at the possibility of Navy days being held at Portsmouth that year.


Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the actions his Department has taken on each of the recommendations contained in the Cabinet Office report on the Government's use of external consultants. [10169]

Mr. Arbuthnot: In response to the Cabinet Office's report my Department drew up an action plan, which was forwarded to the Cabinet Office in October 1994. This set out the action my Department would be taking on the recommendations contained in the report. As a follow-up exercise to the action plan, all Departments were required to submit, within two years, an implementation report setting out progress on their action plans. My Department's implementation report was forwarded to the Cabinet Office in March 1996 and I have arranged for a copy to be placed in the Library of the House.


Mr. George: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list for each year since 1979 the adjustments made to the cash plans for defence spending in future years to take into account revised forecasts of the level of

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inflation indicating, in each case, whether the increase or decrease in the cash plan matched exactly the revised inflation forecast. [9468]

Mr. Soames: Like all Departments, the Ministry of Defence determines its spending plans in consultation with the Treasury during the public expenditure survey. Adjustments to the previous years' plans are made for a variety of reasons, of which forecast inflation is only one. Therefore it is not usually possible to identify a specific figure from any given set of spending plans that represents an adjustment solely attributable to changes in forecast levels of inflation. The spending plans announced in November 1996, however, maintained the real value of the money planned for spending in 1997-98 because of the Government's commitment to a period of stability for the armed forces. Lower inflation forecasts enabled this to be achieved at a lower cost than estimated at the time of the 1995 public expenditure survey. Money has also been added to the defence budget to cover special housing costs.


Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what exemptions apply to his Department in respect of the (a) Food and Environment Protection Act 1985, (b) Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 and (c) Plant Protection Products Regulations 1995, in respect of the use of insecticides. [10635]

Mr. Soames: The Food and Environment Protection Act 1985--the 1985 Act--does not apply to land where there is no interest other than a Crown interest or to land which is exclusively in Crown occupation.

The Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986--the 1986 regulations--were made under the 1985 Act and the same exemptions apply.

The Plant Protection Products Regulations 1995--the 1995 Regulations--were made under the European Communities Act 1972, which does not provide for Crown exemption. However, where the 1995 regulations refer to the 1986 regulations, the exemption provided in the 1985 Act would apply.


Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when his Department decided to declassify details of vaccinations used by departmental medical personnel; and what factors underlay this decision. [10650]

Mr. Soames: I announced in my statement to the House on 10 December, Official Report, columns 119-23, our decision to declassify details of the vaccinations used during the Gulf conflict. The decision was taken in the light of a detailed review of the classification of the vaccination programme, given the developments in UK defensive capability against biological warfare agents since 1991.


Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what are the current operating costs of the Polaris fleet; what were the costs in each of the last 15 years at 1996

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prices; and what sum the Government have allocated for (a) decommissioning and (b) scrapping the Polaris (i) submarines, (ii) missiles and (iii) warheads. [10746]

Mr. Soames: The operating costs of the Polaris fleet in each of the last 15 years at 1995-96 prices are as follows:

Financial yearSpend at constant prices

(41) All at 1995-96 prices using GDP deflators.

Details of operating costs during the current financial year are in the course of preparation.

The estimated cost for the defuelling, de-equipping and laying-up of the Polaris fleet of submarines is approximately £71 million at 1996-97 prices, over the next 10 years. No firm estimate is yet available of the likely cost of eventual disposal.

The cost of decommissioning and scrapping Polaris missiles currently totals £8 million. These costs include sums already spent plus values of contracts let. The sum covers missile decommissioning/scrapping costs but excludes warhead disposal.

It is not our practice to reveal costs associated with the warhead.

Vocational Qualifications

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many service men and women and of what rank obtained vocational qualifications in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [10453]

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Mr. Soames: All three services are placing increasing emphasis on accreditation of service training and experience.

It is Navy Board policy to negotiate from civilian awarding bodies the highest level of recognition for naval skills and training which meet operational performance statements. The Royal Navy is vigorously pursuing the issue of VQs, principally in the area of NVQs. Within the Royal Navy there are currently three approved assessment centres for NVQs and a further three are planned for designation during the next year. During the current financial year the Royal Navy expects that nearly 8,000 civilian qualifications will be awarded as a result of in-house training programmes and this figure is expected to increase year on year.

Under the Army's VQ policy, all Army personnel are to be given the maximum opportunity throughout their careers to gain VQs and other forms of professional recognition for their workplace skills, knowledge and experience. The process of mapping Army trades and employments against the national vocational standards is progressing well. Over 1,700 VQs were gained by Army officers and soldiers during the period 1 April to 30 September 1996. It is anticipated that schemes offering appropriate qualifications will be available to most Army personnel within two years.

It is RAF policy that everyone will have the opportunity to achieve an NVQ within 18 months of joining the service and most trades have either incorporated NVQs into their initial training courses or are on the verge of doing so. Many RAF personnel are also achieving further trade based or management VQs throughout their service. A range of schemes are being pursued with a view to increasing the availability of VQs including the NVQ accreditation of prior learning which, since its introduction in 1996, enrolled some 9,800 RAF engineering and supply personnel, of whom over 500 have already been awarded certificates.

In addition to in-house initiatives, across the three services individuals are encouraged to pursue VQs in a private capacity to prepare themselves for outside employment when they leave the service.

Detailed information on the vocational qualifications obtained by different ranks of service personnel during the last five years is not held centrally and could not be provided without disproportionate costs.

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