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Pay and Personnel Agency

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list (a) those targets of the Pay and Personnel Agency for 1998-99 which (i) were and (ii) were not achieved, giving the factors affecting the outcome in each case and (b) action taken by the agency to improve target achievement performance in 1999-2000; and if he will make a statement. [111759]

Dr. Moonie: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Pay and Personnel Agency. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to the right hon. and learned Member.

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Letter from M. A. Rowe to Mr. Menzies Campbell, dated 6 March 2000:

    The Pay & Personnel Agency is responsible for providing pay and personnel services for the Ministry of Defence. The Agency's performance against its key targets for 1998/99 was reported in the Agency's Annual Report and Accounts, House of Commons Paper No. 595, which was laid before the House on 16 July 1999.

    The key targets covered performance in the areas of service delivery, customer satisfaction, efficiency, systems, and people. All targets were achieved except those covering the timeliness of payments, where performance ranged from 97.3% to 99.9% against the aim of 100%, and the achievement of Investors in People accreditation. With several million payments to make each year across all areas of the PPA's business these shortfalls were the result of inevitable but minimal processing errors. Recognising this realism but also the need not to abandon the aim of payment on time every time, the key service delivery targets for the current year have included just a single Agency wide target of 100%. During 1998/1999 the Agency launched a major internal efficiency review which has now delivered efficiency savings well above the Departmental target but which persuaded us to defer the Investors in People assessment in view of the temporary turbulence caused by the review. Training was also a factor and the Agency is carrying out an intensive training programme which is intended to improve performance across the range of services provided and which will contribute to the Agency's aim to achieve Investors in People accreditation before the end of this financial year.

Weather Information

Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what arrangements will exist for the provision of weather information for aircrew using the Northumberland low-flying area following the planned closure of the manned Meteorological Office stations at RAF Boulmer and at Newcastle. [112824]

Dr. Moonie: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Meteorological Office. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to the right hon. Member.

Letter from Peter Ewins to Mr. Alan Beith, dated 6 March 2000:

    Forecasts for LFA 12 are prepared by our forecasters at military airfields. They use a range of data including observations from Newcastle Weather Centre and RAF Boulmer, and also computer-generated forecasts, rainfall radar, satellite imagery and observations from other sites, like Carlisle, Eskdalemuir, Spadeadam and Newcastle airport.

    The provision of these forecasts will not be adversely affected by changes we are making to our network of weather centres and observations sites. Nor will their quality. We recognise that our customers, both public and private, are under pressure to reduce their costs, which, in turn, will continue to place downward pressure on Met. Office prices. We are, therefore, continuing to put emphasis on the lowering of unit costs, while at the same time improving the quality of output. Increased automation and rationalisation of our forecasting and observations networks are important parts of this strategy.

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    In summary, the 'human' elements of the observations from Boulmer and Newcastle Weather Centre are not crucial to the task of forecasting for LFA 12 and, given the other advances that are being introduced, I can assure you that there will be no degradation in the service provided to aircrew using the area.


Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many de-mining staff his Department has in (a) Mostar and (b) Pristina. [113353]

Dr. Moonie: There are no British military Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel in Mostar. One team of four personnel is currently based in Pristina, and there are three further teams at other locations in Kosovo.

Under UN arrangements in Kosovo, demining is predominantly the task of a number of commercial contractors and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). British military EOD teams undertake demining tasks in support of KFOR operations, although they have also responded positively to local requests to clear unexploded ordnance where there was a pressing humanitarian need.

Food Products (Welfare Standards)

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will set out the prescribed welfare standards which govern imported food products supplied to HM Forces. [112967]

Dr. Moonie: The supply of food products to HM Forces by its contractor "3663" is governed by contract conditions based on UK and EC trade quality standards. In the case of meat sourced in EC countries this is based on standards laid down by the EC Meat Commission and set down in The Meat Buyers Guide.


Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to deploy (a) HMS 'Ocean' and (b) other RN ships to Mozambique. [112970]

Mr. Hoon: We have diverted the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Fort George from the Gulf. The ship is currently en route to Mozambique to assist in the international relief effort; we have no plans to divert HMS 'Ocean' or other RN ships at this time.


Commission Reform

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on progress made on Commission reform since the joint declaration at the British-Italian summit of July 1999. [112343]

Mr. Vaz: The Council of Ministers has discussed Commission reform on several occasions since the British-Italian Summit in July 1999. This year, in January, the Commission published the Kinnock report, which the Government strongly support.

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"Your Britain, Your Europe"

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the basis of his oral statement of 15 February 2000, Official Report, column 760, that 3.5 million jobs depend on UK membership of the European Union. [112388]

Mr. Vaz: The figure reflects the jobs ultimately dependent on British exports to the other 14 members of the European Union. It includes jobs in indigenous British businesses exporting to the rest of the EU, inward investors locating here as a result of our being the gateway to the whole of the Single Market, and enterprises who in turn make supplies to those companies. It excludes jobs dependent on exports to the fast-growing markets of the EU applicant countries.

The figure is in line with independent research carried out for Britain in Europe by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and by Professor Iain Begg at the South Bank University. Both of these reports conclude that over three million jobs are linked with our membership of the European Union.

Press Rebuttal Unit

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what guidance he has issued to his Department's EU Press Rebuttal Unit; what is its cost in the current financial year; how many staff are assigned to it; and how many rebuttals it has issued to date. [112424]

Mr. Vaz: I have decided to rebut press articles which contain factual inaccuracies about Government policy towards Europe or our membership of the EU. This entails no extra costs to the FCO budget. There are no dedicated FCO staff assigned to this task. Since the beginning of the year, I have written 17 rebuttals, of which seven have been published.

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