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Written Questions

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many questions for written answer he replied to by means of a letter placed in the Library rather than by a substantive answer in the Official Report in (a) Session 1998-99, (b) Session 1997-98 and (c) Session 1996-97; and if he will make a statement. [99840]

Mr. Kilfoyle: Out of a total of 2,351 Commons written questions tabled to Defence Ministers during Session 1998-99, our database records that 198 were answered by means of a letter placed in the Library rather than by a substantive reply in the Official Report. The database did not capture such information prior to the 1998-99 Session, and consequently it could only be provided at disproportionate cost for previous sessions.

Defence Housing Executive

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the cost of developing the new national computer network within the Defence Housing Executive. [100288]

Mr. Kilfoyle: It is assumed that this question refers to Project DOMIS, the PFI procurement which is intended to replace the Defence Housing Executive's (DHE's) existing computer system to provide an enhanced housing service to members of the armed services and their families.

The system will link DHE's 202 offices throughout mainland UK and provide a modern, efficient housing allocation service together with improved management information.

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The Project has not yet reached the stage of placing a contract. The costs to date of the in-house team and consultants who are developing the requirements amount to £2.1 million.

RN Vessels (UN Operations)

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which Royal Navy vessels have been involved in United Nations operations in the last two years; and how long was each operation. [101663]

Mr. Hoon: No Royal Navy vessels have operated directly under UN command in the last two years, but they have supported a number of UN mandated operations or enforced UN security resolutions.

HMS Glasgow joined Australian-led forces operating in support of the UN mandated International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) from 18-30 September 1999.

HMS Cumberland, Nottingham, Newcastle, Coventry, Birmingham and Exeter have participated in the Multinational force enforcing sanctions against Iraq under UN Security Council Resolution 665.

Humanitarian patrols of the Iraqi no-fly zones, in support of UN Security Council Resolution 688, have also been carried out by aircraft operating from HMS Invincible in February and March 1999. Aircraft operating from HMS Invincible who was replaced by HMS Illustrious also carried out patrols of the Iraqi no-fly zones over the period January to March 1998.

Air Sea Rescue Service

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of the UK Air Sea Rescue Service. [101333]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 6 December 1999]: I can only comment upon the military Search and Rescue (SAR) contribution, as the overall responsibility for civil SAR rests with the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Although the primary responsibility of the military SAR force is to rescue downed military aircrew, in peacetime the force also makes a significant contribution to rescuing civilians.

The Strategic Defence Review (SDR) confirmed that the operational side of the RAF SAR should be maintained as a military task, with the priority of rescuing service personnel in the United Kingdom and surrounding seas. The military SAR force continues to provide an unequalled service with a capability which is second to none.

The feasibility of contractorising the maintenance of SAR aircraft will be examined as part of the Sea King replacement strategy.

HMS Chatham

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the cost of the refit of HMS Chatham; and if he will make a statement. [101670]

Mr. Spellar: Expenditure to date on HMS Chatham's refit is some £22 million, which includes an element for additional work which could not have been foreseen

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before the refit began. Final payment will be made on completion of the guarantee period, which expires in December 2000.

HMS Brave

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the cost of HMS Brave being held in extended readiness. [101671]

Mr. Spellar: HMS Brave entered extended readiness in April 1999. Since then, £0.38 million has been spent in keeping her in this state. This figure includes the cost of preparations for extended readiness and the cost of the tow from Devonport to Portsmouth. The estimated cost to hold her in extended readiness for the next year will be a further £0.4 million.

Forces Legal Aid

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if (a) staff (i) in the NAAFI, (ii) in DERA and (iii) of civilian contractors and (b) their dependants are eligible for forces legal aid; [102585]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 13 December 1999]: Legal aid is available, from Service sources, for those who are to be tried by court-martial, who wish to appeal to the Courts-Martial Appeal Court, who are to be tried by a standing civilian court (the equivalent of a magistrates court which sits outside the UK), or who are to be tried by a criminal court outside the UK for an off-duty offence.

The criteria that must be met by anyone applying for Service legal aid are that they must be subject to Service law (that is, are bound by one of the three single Service Discipline Acts), and assistance must be in the interests of justice. Individuals will be required to show that they have insufficient means to obtain assistance without help from public funds (and, in the case of an incident abroad, that the host country has no equivalent scheme for non-nationals). Depending on their personal means and commitments, individuals will be required to provide a personal contribution. The MOD scheme broadly mirrors the criteria applied by the civilian legal aid authorities in England and Wales.

Those covered under the Service scheme are Service personnel in the UK and overseas, and attached civilians (including defence Agency personnel) and dependants abroad. However, there has been a long-standing policy that UK personnel employed abroad by a number of specified organisations, including the NAAFI, can make use of the Service legal aid scheme, subject to the funds being subsequently repaid. (It is a matter for the organisations concerned whether they or the individuals involved undertake the required reimbursement.) Civilian

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contractors, whether engaged either in work in the UK or abroad, are not eligible for Service legal aid as they are not subject to Service law.

The sums available this year for Service legal aid are £100,000 for the Royal Navy, £770,000 for the Army and £146,000 for the Royal Air Force.

The increase in Service legal aid as a result of the legislation proposed in the Armed Forces Discipline Bill will depend on the number and nature of cases handled.

Army Foundation College

Mr. Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence where the new Army Foundation College is to be based. [102579]

Mr. Spellar: At the present time no conclusions have been reached as to the site for the new Army Foundation College.

Mr. Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the site for the new Army Foundation College is designated (a) green field or (b) brown field. [102578]

Mr. Spellar: It has not yet been determined where the new Army Foundation College is to be and therefore the designation of its site is not yet known.

Mr. Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will publish the conclusions of the value for money exercise conducted in determining the location of the new Army Foundation College. [102580]

Mr. Spellar: The information contained in the Investment Appraisals that have so far been undertaken in examination of the options for a second Army Foundation College will form the basis of advice to Ministers and are being withheld at present under Exemption 2 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.


Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his Department's agencies and non-departmental public bodies have spent on external consultants and advisers since May 1997. [102073]

Mr. Kilfoyle [holding answer 13 December 1999]: I will write to the hon. Member and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

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