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Mr. Spellar: The Ministry of Defence does not keep central records of non-critical computer systems as it would be uneconomic to do so. However, no operation has been curtailed due to a computer system failure in the last year.
The Ministry of Defence regularly assesses the criticality of all its computer systems. Based on these assessments there are contingency plans in place to ensure vital functions are provided with an alternate means of processing the data in the event of a computer failure.
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22. Mr. Borrow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received calling for improved support for homosexual service men and women; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Spellar: My right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary announced our renewed policy on homosexuals in the Armed Forces in January this year. Since then, we have not received any representations for improved support for homosexual servicemen and women. Sexual orientation is now viewed as an entirely private matter. All Service personnel, regardless of their sexual orientation, have full access to the entire range of Service welfare agencies, including confidential helplines.
25. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent meetings he has had with his opposite numbers in EU member states to discuss European security and defence identity issues; and if he will make a statement. 
27. Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the armed forces of the United Kingdom's continental European allies in the context of the European security and defence identity. 
To this end, EU member states made a commitment to improving their military capabilities by signing up to a collective target--known as the Headline Goal--at the Helsinki Summit in December 1999. This goal is complementary to NATO's Defence Capabilities Initiative.
In line with the measures endorsed at the recent Feira European Council, we expect EU member states to nominate their voluntary contributions to this goal at the Capabilities Commitment Conference later this year.
28. Mr. Ernie Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made by each of the three armed services in meeting their targets for recruitment among Britain's ethnic minorities. 
37. Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made by each of the three armed services in meeting their targets for recruitment among Britain's ethnic minorities. 
Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made by each of the three armed services in meeting their targets for recruitment among Britain's ethnic minorities. 
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Mr. Hoon: The competition for the Strategic Sealift (RORO) service is very close and more than one bidder has made improved offers which cannot be taken into account under the existing procedures. Moreover, circumstances have changed significantly since the original bids were submitted on 14 January; not least as a consequence of the British Aerospace merger with Marconi Electronic Systems. We have therefore decided that, to ensure the best value for money to the taxpayer, we should conduct a further round of bidding.
This will allow UK shipyards the opportunity to show that they can be competitive, but we have not changed the specification for the competition. The decision will still be taken on best value for money grounds, and all bidders will be treated fairly under the European public procurement rules which still apply to the competition.
After consulting the bidders and explaining the reasons for this further round, the Ministry of Defence has invited the four competing consortiums to "Revise and Confirm" their bids by 6 July 2000. It remains the MOD's intention to place a contract later this year.
Mr. Spellar: All three Services have a clear policy, which is promulgated to all personnel, that no form of harassment, victimisation or other unacceptable social conduct will be tolerated and all allegations of ill treatment are thoroughly investigated. It is the duty of all those in a position of responsibility to protect others from physical and mental bullying and to report any incident promptly. Appropriate action is taken against the perpetrators. Potential recruits are made fully aware of this policy. The policy of zero tolerance towards ill treatment was re-emphasised when the new code of social conduct was issued to all Service personnel in January. In the last two years, all three Services have set up Confidential Helplines which can be used by any member of the Armed Forces or their families, if necessary anonymously, who believe they are being ill-treated.
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Mr. Spellar: Some 27 per cent. of the trained Army is committed to Operations. This figure includes units preparing for, deployed on, and recovering from, operations. Of these, 20 per cent. of the trained Army is currently deployed on operations. The total is down from a peak of 47 per cent. committed at the height of the Kosovo campaign in July 1999 and below that inherited from the previous administration.
Mr. Spellar: The Army achieved 15,026 soldier enlistments during the last financial year. This was lower than the numbers enlisted in 1998-99 (15,609), but output to the Field Army in 1999-2000, which is the more important figure, was up by over 1,000 on the previous year. This is partly as a result of changes made to the selection criteria for new entrants and other changes introduced in the initial training regime. In respect of Officer recruiting, the numbers entering Sandhurst last year were 646 and output from the College was 534 against targets of 777 and 620 respectively. However, this year, the Army expects that numbers entering Sandhurst will be on target. Also the numbers of inquiries for officer careers are up on previous periods, as is the number of successful candidates at the Regular Commissions Board, which is a precursor to Sandhurst entry. Advertising for Army careers, for both soldier and officer candidates, is being more specifically targeted this year.
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