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Council of Europe

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Prime Minister what derogations Her Majesty's Government have applied for in respect of the United Kingdom's membership of the Council of Europe and its hosting of appeal courts empowered to uphold the death penalty in other countries; and if he will make a statement. [107625]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 31 January 2000]: The United Kingdom has no derogations in respect of its membership of the Council of Europe. In cases where the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council acts as an appeal court for an independent state, including states which impose the death penalty, it does so as an integral part of the judicial structure of that state rather than of the United Kingdom. It is for these states to decide whether they wish to continue to use the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as their final court of appeal. Her Majesty's Government cannot interfere in the judicial processes of another state. But this in no way implies that the United Kingdom condones the death penalty: the United Kingdom regularly raises these issues, bilaterally and with European Union partners, with such states pressing their Governments to abolish the death penalty.

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Departmental Expenditure Limit

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Solicitor-General what proposals there are to amend the Attorney-General's Department's Departmental Expenditure Limit and Running Costs Limit for 1999-2000. [108702]

The Solicitor-General: Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimates for Class V, Vote 4 (The Crown Prosecution Service) and Class V, Vote 6 (HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor), the Attorney-General's Department's Departmental Expenditure Limit for 1999-2000 will be increased by £6,596,000 from £335,295,000 to £341,891,000.

The Crown Prosecution Service's Running Costs Limit will be increased by £496,000 from £227,625,000 to £228,121,000. This increase is required to fund preparatory work to modernise the Crown Prosecution Service information technology infrastructure.

HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor's Running Costs Limit will be increased by £5,600,000 from £4,735,000 to £10,335,000. Appropriations in aid will also be reduced by £3,400,000. This will fund expenditure arising from the closure of the Government Property Lawyers Agency on 30 September 1999, which was announced to the House by answer to a Parliamentary Question on 11 November 1998, Official Report, column 187W.

The increases will be offset by the surrender of £589,000 of the Attorney General's Department's End Year Flexibility of £612,000 as announced by the Chief

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Secretary to the Treasury on 27 July 1999, Official Report, column 393W. £93,000 of this will be transferred to the Home Office in respect of the CPS contribution towards the cost of Integrating Business and Information Systems in the Criminal Justice System (IBIS).

The remainder of the expenditure will be charged to the Reserve and will not, therefore, add to the planned total of public expenditure.


Asset Sales

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the items in the National Assets Register sold by his Department, its agencies and associated public bodies since 11 February 1999, stating in each case the amount of money realised; if he will estimate the total amount raised from such sales to date; and if he will make a statement. [104483]

Dr. Moonie: This information is currently not held in the format to link assets as shown in the National Asset Register with those assets subsequently declared as surplus to requirements and sold by the Disposal Sales Agency (DSA), and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Information on surplus sales of equipment and stores is contained in the DSA's 1998-99 Annual Report and Accounts held in the Library of the House. The 1999-2000 Annual Report and Accounts will be made available to the Library of the House before the summer Recess this year.

Information on the sale of Defence Estates Buildings and Lands is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Synthetic Aperture Radar

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the ultra-wide band synthetic aperture radar programme; what has been the cost of the system to date; and if he will make a statement. [106158]

Dr. Moonie: I assume that the question refers to the Remote Minefield Detection System (REMIDS) Technology Demonstrator Programme, which is investigating the development of a sensor to detect minefields and mined areas for military purposes. It is using Ultra-Wide Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (UWB SAR) as a preferred technology.

Tests carried out in 1998 at short range from a ground vehicle proved the potential effectiveness of a UWB SAR in the detection role, and successfully detected plastic and metal targets representative of mine-like anti-tank ordnance. The equipment is currently in an early prototype stage and the tests did not represent a realistic environment. However, sufficient information has been generated to proceed with confidence with work on a more powerful airborne system.

Approximately £390,000 has been spent to date.

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East Timor

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what factors underlay the decision to deploy the Gurkha Regiment to East Timor; and if he will make a statement. [107851]

Mr. Spellar: We decided to participate in the operation in East Timor in support of the decisions of the international community and our long standing ally and friend Australia. The decision to deploy the Gurkhas to East Timor was taken principally because they were based in Brunei and therefore already acclimatised and able to deploy quickly. Moreover, some Gurkhas also speak Malay, which is closely related to the Indonesian language and was of considerable use during the operation. The deployment of Brunei based Gurkhas also minimised potential overstretch implications.

Departmental Fees

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which fees his Department, its agencies and associated public bodies collect; how much has been raised and will be raised from each of these fees from 1989-90 to 2004-05; and which of these fees count as negative expenditure. [107979]

Dr. Moonie: I refer the hon. Member to the answer my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle), gave him on 24 January 2000, Official Report, column 63W.

Walk-on Equipment (Chinook)

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the value of walk-on equipment. [108054]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 2 February 2000]: I assume that the question relates to walk-on equipment which may be carried on the Chinook Mk2, such as binoculars, cameras and computers. The presence of such equipment would depend on the purpose of a particular flight and no general statement of value would be meaningful.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recommendations in the Chinook Mk2 test were made on the use of in-flight UHF transmitters and walk-on equipment; and if they were written into the CIA release. [108053]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 2 February 2000]: It was recommended that, because of the vulnerability of the automatic flight system to the Ultra High Frequency band, particular care should be taken when introducing UHF on-board transmitters to the Chinook as Special Trial Fits or walk-on equipment. The Controller Aircraft Release for the Chinook Mk2 in January 1994 stipulated that no carry- on-board equipment was cleared for use. No electronic equipment had been introduced to the aircraft by Special Trial Fit.


Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions his Department has undertaken with the AWS and WRVS regarding the line management

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accountability of WRVS employees; what advice he has received; what decisions have been taken; and if he will make a statement. [107840]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 2 February 2000]: The Ministry of Defence is currently engaged with the Womens' Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) in negotiating the renewal of their contractual relationship. The WRVS, like the Service Sound and Vision Corporation, the Navy, Army and Air Force Institute and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (Forces Help), is a charitable-based organisation working in partnership with the Services. WRVS employees, working with the Army are line managed and appraised annually by their National Director and the Commanding Officer of the Unit to which they are assigned. The WRVS maintains a regular dialogue with the Directorate of Personal Services (Army). This process ensures that the WRVS is apprised of developments in Welfare Policy and practices in the Army.

Welfare is a function of the Chain of Command within the Army. The Army Welfare Service (AWS) fulfils only one part, albeit an important part, of the overall delivery of welfare support within the Army. They are an in-house organisation providing specialist support and advice to Army individuals, their dependent families and the Chain of Command. Their activity is focused on the LAND Command component of the Army, although they can provide a point of contact for the Army based elsewhere. Where the AWS operate alongside the WRVS, they do so in partnership, each bringing particular and complementary skills to the overall welfare delivery. There is no direct line management relationship between the AWS and the WRVS.

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