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Courts Martial

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what changes will be made in courts martial as a result of the incorporation into UK law of the European Convention on Human Rights. [135060]

Mr. Spellar: Changes have already been made so that courts martial procedures are compatible with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which concerns the right to a fair trial. These were included in the Armed Forces Act 1996, which introduced reforms to reinforce the independence of the courts martial system. The changes came into effect on 1 April 1997.

No further changes to the legislation on the conduct of courts martial are planned as a result of the incorporation into UK law of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Eurolift Project

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress made at EU level on the Eurolift project for the establishment of an EU air transport command. [135661]

Mr. Hoon: There is no Eurolift project for the establishment of an EU air transport command. The European Air Group, which comprises seven European nations--Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and UK--is, however, conducting a study into options for improving interoperability and co-ordination

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of military airlift between member nations. The study is not expected to be completed before the end of this year, so it would be premature to judge the outcome at this stage.

Fuel Crisis

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence of those troops being trained for duties in the event of another fuel crisis, how many have been trained to assist the police in relation to public order offences. [136067]

Mr. Spellar: None.

RAF Benson

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence by how many (a) civilians and (b) RAF personnel the two Lynx deep-servicing lines at RAF Benson are undermanned; and if he will make a statement. [134299]

Mr. Spellar: There are no Lynx deep servicing lines at RAF Benson.

Army Training Estates Review

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the outcome of the Army Training Estates Review; and if he will make a statement. [134302]

Mr. Spellar: There are currently two similarly named reviews being carried out within the Ministry of Defence.

First, Land Command is conducting an Army Training Estate Site Utility Review. This aims to identify Land Command training areas, camps and ranges which are no longer required in order that they can be closed or sold, thereby saving maintenance costs and where possible generating revenue. The review team will make their recommendations by the end of this calendar year. Secondly, the Army Training and Recruiting Agency is conducting a review into the strategic development of the Agency over the next few years and this may have an impact on its estate. Work is still at a very early stage and no decisions have been taken.

Russian Plutonium/Chemical Weapons

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the locations where the Russian plutonium stockpiles covered by the UK's programme of help with disposal of such material have been disposed of. [134352]

Mr. Spellar: I will write to the hon. Member and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the locations where the Russian chemical weapons covered by the UK's programme of help with disposal of such weapons have been disposed of. [134351]

Mr. Spellar: In July, as part of Spending Review 2000, up to £12 million was allocated to the Ministry of Defence for high priority chemical demilitarisation and co-operative biological non proliferation projects in Russia. This funding will be available over a three-year

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period starting in April 2001. A study of possible options for UK assistance is currently under way. No decisions on specific projects have yet been taken.

Atlantic Star

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make it his policy to recommend the award of the Atlantic Star to Russian convoy veterans for their service in the Arctic Ocean during World War II; and if he will make a statement. [135881]

Mr. Hill: I have been asked to reply.

The Registry of Shipping and Seamen (RSS), part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency issues all campaign stars in respect of Merchant Seamen. The qualifications for the Atlantic Star require that the 1939-45 Star must first have been earned by six months' service at sea and then must be followed by a further six months' service at sea before 8 May 1945, with at least one voyage in the qualifying area ie across the Atlantic, South Atlantic or service in convoys to North Russia. This award is available to all British seafarers who fulfil the criteria.

Merchant Shipping Notice M.279, which sets out the criteria for campaign stars for Merchant Seamen, was published in 1946 and is still in use to assess awards. It remains official policy to award the Atlantic Star to Russian convoy veterans who are British seafarers provided they make a request and fulfil the necessary criteria.

Evidence of service is taken either from the discharge book of the veteran, or, if this is not available, from the discharge summaries and ships log books which are held at RSS Cardiff.

ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORT AND THE REGIONS

Train Safety

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will review the effectiveness of hammers carried on trains for use in emergencies to break window glass; and if he will make a statement. [134340]

Mr. Hill: This and other matters relating to the evacuation of trains in an emergency are under review by the Health and Safety Commission. The Railways (Safety Case) Regulations 2000, which were laid before the House on 2 October following proposals from the Commission, will require train operators to revise their safety cases to include, among other things, details of the train evacuation equipment and arrangements which they have in place or propose. These revised safety cases will have to be submitted to the Health and Safety Executive for formal acceptance.

The Commission expects shortly to receive a report from a railway industry working group which is considering these issues. The Commission and Executive will take any further action which may be appropriate in the light of the industry's proposals and any relevant recommendations which may arise from Lord Cullen's public inquiry.

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Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what arrangements are made to test the effectiveness of safety equipment carried on passenger trains. [134339]

Mr. Hill: There are many different types of safety equipment carried on passenger trains. Arrangements for testing the effectiveness of the safety equipment are laid out in the maintenance regime for each train type. The train owner, operator or maintenance contractor is responsible for ensuring that the appropriate arrangements are undertaken.

Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has held with Railtrack on the subject of cracked or faulty railway lines; what assurances he has secured from Railtrack; and if he will make a statement. [135932]

Mr. Hill: There are regular meetings between Ministers and Railtrack at which a variety of issues have been discussed, including the issue of broken rails.

Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what investigations are being undertaken on the safety of the railway track in (a) north-east Scotland and (b) elsewhere in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [135934]

Mr. Hill: HSE's Principal Inspector of Railways in Scotland met with the Senior Railtrack Management on 25 October 2000. Railtrack Scotland has carried out visual examinations on sites with track already identified as needing replacement, and are in the process of establishing a programme for other sites. Railtrack is taking whatever action is necessary to identify all track defects and where they cannot be remedied speedily, the necessary mitigation measures (i.e. speed restrictions, increased inspection, traffic limitations) will be implemented to maintain the safety of passengers. HSE is also meeting with senior management at Railtrack HQ on national initiatives being taken to maintain the infrastructure.

Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he was first advised by the shadow Strategic Rail Authority of the extent of the problems with broken rails; and if he will make a statement. [135933]

Mr. Hill: In its first interim report into the Hatfield derailment on 20 October, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) informed Ministers that Railtrack were concerned about a specific form of rolling contact fatigue--sometimes referred to as gauge corner cracking--and that as a result had imposed emergency speed restrictions across the railway system. However, Ministers have been aware of the general issue of broken rails for a considerable amount of time, including the concerns raised by the HSE and the Rail Regulator.

Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many broken rails were discovered on the railway network in Scotland in (a) 1990 and (b) in each year from 1995 to date; and if he will make a statement. [135935]

Mr. Hill: The Health and Safety Executive does not hold records on broken rails dating back to 1990. Figures for broken rails based on geographical areas supplied to HSE's Railway Inspectorate by railway operators

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commenced from 1 April 1996. The number of broken rails for Scotland for the period of 1 April 1996 to 31 March 2000 are shown in the following table.

Broken rails in Scotland 1996-97 to 1999-2000

Total broken rails in Scotland
Year RailtrackGlasgow Underground
1996-97572
1997-98490
1998-99880
1999-2000800


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