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Pensions

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his answer of 13 November 2000, Official Report, column 526W, on pension expenditure, if he will provide corresponding estimates for each year from 1992-93 to 1995-96 inclusive. [139074]

Mr. Rooker: By 2002-03 GDP is forecast to reach a level 32 per cent. higher in real terms than it was in 1992-93.

Expenditure as a percentage of GDP

Retirement pensions(1)Means-tested benefits for pensioners(2)Other benefits paid to pensioners(3)Total
1992-934.351.190.025.56
1993-944.341.250.025.62
1994-954.181.220.025.42
1995-964.141.180.025.35

(1) Includes Retirement Pension basic and earnings-related components.

(2) Includes Income Support, Social Fund Payments, Housing Benefit paid to people aged 60 and over.

(3) Includes non-contributory Retirement Pension and Christmas Bonus.

Note:

Excludes special needs benefits such as Attendance Allowance.


Benefit Fraud

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security on how many occasions he has used his powers to require local authorities to take specific measures to tackle housing benefit fraud; and if he will list in each case the date those powers were exercised and the local authority concerned. [139072]

Mr. Rooker: To date we have made one such Direction, to Northampton Borough Council, in August 2000.

17 Nov 2000 : Column: 808W

DEFENCE

RAF Aircraft

Mr. Quentin Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many RAF aircraft, and of which types, have been (a) retired from service and (b) put into reserve, in each of the past three years. [138426]

Mr. Spellar: The information requested in the table.

Number withdrawn from service(4) Number placed in storage(5)
Aircraft Type199719981999199719981999
Bulldog T10021000
Gazelle HT Mk312110000
Nimrod MR20(6)1(6)1000
Tornado GR1000000
VC10012000
Wessex020000

(4) Aircraft withdrawn from service during the year prior to disposal or transfer to an upgrade programme. Excludes aircraft lost in crashes.

(5) Aircraft placed in storage during the year. Excludes aircraft withdrawn from service and awaiting disposal.

(6) The Nimrod MR2 fleet is being reduced prior to the introduction of the Nimrod MRA4. These airframes have been transferred to the Nimrod MRA4 programme.


Tucano Aircraft

Mr. Quentin Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the Tucano aircraft to be returned to service; and if he will make a statement on the airworthiness of the Tucano fleet. [138428]

Mr. Spellar: Following the temporary cessation of Tucano flying on 4 September 2000 the first Tucano aircraft were returned to service on 29 September 2000. There is a rolling programme under way to bring the entire fleet back into service and the full training fleet of aircraft should be available by the end of February 2001.

Mr. Quentin Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the cost of repairs to the faults recently identified in the RAF's Tucano aircraft. [138427]

Mr. Spellar: The cost of repairs to the rudder controls on aircraft currently in the Tucano training fleet is estimated at around £250,000. Modified parts with a greatly extended service life will subsequently be fitted across the Tucano fleet. The total cost of the repair and subsequent modification programme to all RAF Tucano aircraft will be in the order of £1 million.

Harpoon Missiles

Mr. Quentin Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the service life is of the Royal Navy's stocks of Harpoon missiles; and what upgrade and refurbishment work is planned. [138430]

Mr. Spellar: Ship launched stocks of Harpoon missiles are planned to provide offensive anti-ship capability to the Royal Navy until 2025. Submarine-launched stocks of Harpoon missiles are currently planned to go out of service in 2003.

Regular maintenance and minor modification is carried out as required; there are presently no plans for a major missile refurbishment programme. Some modification work is being undertaken on Type 22 and Type 23 frigates

17 Nov 2000 : Column: 809W

to enhance the missile system capability within coastal waters. Other options for increasing the Royal Navy's offensive capability are being considered, which may lead to an upgrade of some of the existing missile stock.

RN Personnel

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent Royal Navy personnel are capable of diving in conditions other than shallow and benign waters; and if he will make a statement. [138995]

Mr. Spellar: RN personnel divers can dive in sea conditions up to sea state five and to depths of up to 80 m. In extremis RN divers can operate in poorer sea states to prevent loss of life.

Condoms

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he will give a substantive reply to the question from the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead, to which he gave a holding answer on 25 July 2000, Official Report, column 554W. [139150]

Mr. Spellar: I will write to my hon. Friend shortly.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Arms Exports (Israel)

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list those arms and components for military or security equipment licensed for sale to Israel since 1997. [135470]

Dr. Howells: Details of export licensing decisions between 2 May 1997 and 31 December 1999 have been set out in the Government's Annual Reports on Strategic Export Controls, published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; copies are in the Library of the House. The reports list by country of destination the numbers of export licences issued and refused in each equipment category and give details of the military equipment for which licences have been granted. They also set out the value of defence exports to each country.

As regards the period 1 January to 31 October 2000, 153 Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs) and 12 Open Individual Export Licences (OIELs) were issued covering the export to consignees or end-users in Israel. The information is as summarised broken down according to the entries in the Military List under which the goods on each licence are controlled (known as their rating). It could not be broken down in the manner requested as the equipment covered by most entries in the Military List could be used for military or security purposes.

Individual licences may cover a range of goods with various ratings (and OIELs may also cover a range of countries). Where this is so, the licence is included in the Table in the total for all of the relevant ratings.

17 Nov 2000 : Column: 810W

Individual licences issued between 1 January and 31 October 2000 covering the export to consignees or end-users in Israel of goods on the Military List

RatingNumber of SIELs issued covering goods with this ratingNumber of OIELs issued covering goods with this rating
ML112
ML231
ML390
ML492
ML5241
ML662
ML982
ML10384
ML11212
ML1310
ML1411
ML1590
ML16140
ML1840
ML2140
ML2203
PL501764
PL500601

This information does not cover any Media OIELs that may have been issued during this period. Media OIELs authorise the export to all destinations of protective clothing, mainly for the protection of aid agency workers and journalists when working in areas of conflict.

In addition, Israel is a permitted destination on certain Open General Export Licences covering the export of goods on the Military List; copies of all Open General Export Licences are placed in the Library of the House.

Post Office Closures

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the factors underlying the rate of post office closures since 1997. [136710]

Mr. Byers: Post office closures remain below past peak levels. In 1991-92, 478 offices closed and in 1984-85 395 closed. The number of rural office closures in the first half of the current financial year is running at a lower level than in the same period last year. I have asked the Post Office for an analysis of the factors underlying Post Office closures. This analysis is to include age of person moving out of the business, property sold, location and reason. In addition, we are implementing in full the recommendations of the Performance and Innovation Unit report to modernise the post office network and strengthen its future viability.


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