3 Nov 1998 : Column: 439

Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 3 November 1998


Stolen Property

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what estimates he has made of the total value of church furniture, ornaments and other items that have been stolen from churches open to the public in the past 12 months. [57069]

Mr. Stuart Bell: This is not a matter for the Church Commissioners. I understand that there is no central register kept of thefts from Church buildings in England. However, figures from the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, which insures most Anglican Churches in England, show that, in 1997, 1,974 cases of theft were reported from Anglican Churches insured by the EIG in England and Scotland. The items stolen were insured for some £1.5m. These records do not show whether the church was open to the public at the time of the theft.

Millennium Arts Festival

Mr. Rowe: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Commissioners are taking to encourage the Church of England to support local schools participating in the JC2000 Millennium Arts Festival for Schools. [57476]

Mr. Stuart Bell: Although not a matter for the Commissioners, I understand from the Church of England Board of Education that a quarter of the Schools in England, many of them Church schools, have already indicated an interest in the JC2000 Millennium Arts Festival for Schools. The Church of England is actively involved, through its network of Diocesan Directors of Education, in the support of 5,000 Church of England schools in England, and many other schools have connections with their parish Church. The Board of Education expresses its support for this exciting and imaginative millennium project.


Defence Estates Organisation

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what performance targets have been set for the Defence Estates Organisation for 1998-99. [58406]

Mr. Spellar: The following key performance targets have been set for the Defence Estates Organisation for 1998-99:

3 Nov 1998 : Column: 440

    Key Target 2:

    Achieve gross disposal receipts of £150 million.

    Key Target 3:

    Complete transfer of title to new owner of 90 per cent. of disposals within three years of property being passed to DEO for disposal.

    Key Target 4:

    Complete initial assessment against Business Excellence Model.

    Key Target 5:

    Complete internal IIP and external customer survey and submit reports to the Owners Advisory Board, together with proposed targets for improvement.

    Key Target 6:

    Appointment of external project managers for capital works projects:

    a: 99 per cent. achievement within one month for appointments made through Term Commissions or Partnering arrangements.

    b: 90 per cent. achievement within 5 months for all appointments.

Mr. Raymond Bristow

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the medical tests conducted on Gulf War Veteran Warrant Officer Ray Bristow of the 32 field hospital in the Royal Army Medical Corps in respect of suspected health damage arising from exposure to depleted uranium dust during the Gulf War. [57090]

Mr. Doug Henderson: The Ministry of Defence is aware that Dr. Asaf Durakovic, a US physician, is reported as having carried out tests for the presence of depleted uranium (DU) on some UK Gulf veterans, including Mr. Raymond Bristow. However, we have not yet seen details of either the tests which have been performed or the results obtained. Accordingly, the MOD cannot comment on Dr. Durakovic's reported findings.

The MOD is well aware that a link has been suggested between possible exposure to DU and the illnesses being experienced by some Gulf veterans. However, this is only one of a number of factors which have been suggested as causes of Gulf veterans' illnesses and, pending further medical and scientific evidence, my Department is keeping an open mind on this issue.

Any Gulf veteran who is concerned that his or her health has been adversely affected by Service during the Gulf conflict, including possible exposure to DU, is urged to seek a referral to the MOD's Medical Assessment Programme.

Royal Irish Regiment

Mr. John D. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many persons in the regular battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment were born in (a) Northern Ireland, (b) the remainder of the United Kingdom, (c) the Republic of Ireland and (d) elsewhere. [57581]

Mr. Doug Henderson: Members of the Royal Irish Regiment (General Service), whose place of birth is recorded as being in the four areas specified, are detailed in the table.

3 Nov 1998 : Column: 441

Place of birthNumber
Northern Ireland348
Remainder of the United Kingdom249
Republic of Ireland33

West Indies Guard Ship

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to alter the rules for engagement for the West Indies Guard Ship; and if he will make a statement. [57748]

Mr. Doug Henderson: There are no plans to do so at present. Nonetheless, Rules of Engagement, including those for the West Indies Guard Ship, are reviewed on a regular basis in the light of changing operational circumstances.


Mr. Maples: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what meetings he or his ministers or officials had arranged, prior to 17 October, with representatives of the Chilean Navy; when such meetings were due to have taken place and where; and if the possible purchase by the Chilean Navy of British destroyers or frigates was to be discussed. [57523]

Mr. George Robertson [holding answer 2 November 1998]: Before 17 October, many regular and routine meetings took place between UK and Chilean officials on a range of defence matters both in the UK and Chile.

Representatives of the Chilean Navy were scheduled to meet my officials for exploratory discussions relating to their frigate replacement programme during a planned visit to the UK at the beginning of November. This will now not take place as originally planned.

Mr. Maples: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what meetings he or his ministers or officials have had with representatives of the Government of Chile since 1 May 1997; what was discussed at each such meeting; who was present; and what agreements were reached. [57524]

Mr. George Robertson [holding answer 2 November 1998]: I, my Ministerial colleagues, the Chiefs of Staff and my senior officials have met Chilean Defence Ministers and Commanders in Chief on 21 occasions in the UK, Chile and elsewhere since 1 May 1997.

Discussions covered a wide range of matters of mutual defence interest, including defence exports. No formal agreements were concluded, although the two sets of annual defence cooperation talks established proposals for military assistance and defence cooperation over the forthcoming year. In addition, regular routine meetings have taken place between UK and Chilean officials on a range of defence matters.

Helicopters (Northern Ireland)

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what sums have been paid to farmers in Northern Ireland as compensation for livestock damaged by

3 Nov 1998 : Column: 442

low-flying helicopters in each of the last 10 years; and what guidance is issued to helicopter pilots to minimise such damage. [56294]

Mr. Spellar: Prior to March 1994 the records relating to compensation paid out for damage to livestock by low-flying helicopters were maintained manually and to retrieve the information requested would, even if possible, involve disproportionate cost. However, figures for the total amount of compensation paid to claimants in Northern Ireland due to helicopter activity from April 1989 to March 1994 are set out.

1 April 1989-31 March 1990594,899
1 April 1990-31 March 19911,240,680
1 April 1991-31 March 19922,796,735
1 April 1992-31 March 19934,170,361
1 April 1993-31 March 19946,456,702

For the remainder of the 10-year period computer records show compensation paid out to claimants for damage to livestock as follows:

1 April 1994-31 March 19955,743,922
1 April 1995-31 March 19961,426,424
1 April 1996-31 March 1997442,040
1 April 1997-31 March 1998460,021
1 April 1998-30 September 1999184,953

The form in which the information is compiled does not indicate whether the claimants who received compensation payments were farmers. The figures also include elements of loss/damage to fencing, silage, land etc. To produce a breakdown of the individual amounts paid in each case to reflect the amount of compensation paid for animals only would again involve disproportionate cost.

The guidance issued to helicopter pilots with regard to minimising damage applies to all pilots, regardless of where they are serving, and is highlighted at an early stage of their training. Damage to crops and livestock can be caused only by low-flying. Pilots are reminded that, when such activity is necessary, whether due to prevailing operational commitment or weather constraints, appropriate action should be taken, in particular where there is a known or perceived sensitive area--for example, hospitals, stables etc.--to minimise the impact of their actions on the local community.

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many helicopters are presently in use in Northern Ireland; and how many (a) flights took place, (b) flying hours were recorded and (c) complaints were received in each of the last three years. [56379]

3 Nov 1998 : Column: 443

Mr. George Robertson: There are currently 40 helicopters operated by the Royal Air Force, Army Air Corps and Royal Navy which have an operational tasking in Northern Ireland. Records of individual flights in the Province over the last three years are not maintained; however, 81,174 flying hours were recorded in the period concerned. These are as follows:

DatesFlying hours
1 January 1996-31 December 199628,911
1 January 1997-31 December 199730,083
1 January 1998-30 September 199822,180

Formal records on complaints about military helicopters were not kept until the beginning of 1997. In that year 749 complaints were recorded, and at the end of August in the current year, 475 complaints had been recorded.

Next Section Index Home Page