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Hawk Aircraft Exports (India)

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the outcome of his most recent discussions with the Indian Government about the sale to them of Hawk aircraft. [146745]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 23 January 2001]: During my recent visit to India, which was both productive and valuable, I was pleased to be able personally to assure the Indian Government of HMG's support for greater co-operation between UK and Indian defence companies. This includes BAE Systems' proposal to supply the Hawk advanced jet trainer aircraft to the Indian Government in conjunction with Indian Industry, on which the Indian Government have indicated that they intend to take a final decision shortly.

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment he has made of the influence of issues relating to the supply of American components to the Indian Government on Indian policy concerning purchase of Hawk aircraft; [146746]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 23 January 2001]: Indian policy on the purchase of Hawk aircraft is a matter for the Indian Government. All relevant issues are taken into account in assessing how to maximise UK Government support for the BAE Systems Hawk proposals.

Sierra Leone

Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the reports that UNAMSIL peacekeepers will be deployed to the RUF-controlled areas of Sierra Leone. [146480]

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Mr. Hoon: As part of the Abuja ceasefire, the RUF committed themselves to allow freedom of movement throughout the country. We urge them to implement this commitment. It is for the UN force Commander to decide how and when to deploy his forces.

US National Missile Defence

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions have taken place between his Department and the incoming US Administration with regard to national missile defence. [146722]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 23 January 2001]: We discussed national missile defence regularly with the previous US Administration and expect to do so with the new US Administration.

Porton Down

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Erewash (Liz Blackman) of 21 November 2000, Official Report, column 101W, regarding Porton Down, (a) what plans his Department has to write to hospitals and general practices in the UK to inform them of these arrangements and (b) who will analyse the data from the consultations at St. Thomas' Hospital. [146686]

Dr. Moonie: The Department of Health sent an electronic message about the medical assessment programme for Porton Down volunteers to directors of public health in England on 21 November 2000. This message was then forwarded to general practitioners, chief executives of health authorities, chairs of primary care groups, primary care medical advisers, project managers/nurse leads in walk-in centres and leads at nurse-led personal medical services pilots. A copy of the message was also sent to the Library of the House and is available on the Department of Health website at cmo3.htm. The Health departments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have disseminated this message to GPs and health board directors of public health within their area of responsibility.

The Porton Down volunteers' medical assessment programme has only just started and it is therefore too early to consider the analysis of its data. The data about specific individuals' referral to the medical assessment programme will be medically confidential. However, it is planned to aggregate and anonymise the data to form a case series for analysis. Such data could, with volunteers' consent, be made available to independent researchers.

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if service volunteers under the age of 18 years have taken part in experiments at the chemical defence establishment, Porton Down, since 1971; and what analysis and research his Department has carried out into the ages of service volunteers who took part in experiments at the chemical defence establishment, Porton Down. [146648]

Dr. Moonie: The policy of the chemical and biological defence sector of DERA at Porton Down has always been to refuse any prospective participants of the service volunteer programme if they were proven to be under the age of 18. This policy has been published in Defence Council instructions dating from 1971 and in the later

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1992 Army general and administrative instructions. Information on age limits was also included in information produced by Porton Down following the formalisation of their protocol systems in the 1980s.

No formal analysis of the experimental records relating to the service volunteer programme has been undertaken to determine the ages of volunteers who have participated in the studies. However, there are some entries in the records which indicate that volunteers were returned to their units on the basis of their age being below an 18-year-old threshold.

Meteorological Office

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what additional costs he anticipates arising from the geographical dislocation of the Meteorological Office from the European Meteorological Centre, following his decision to relocate the Meteorological Office to Exeter. [146768]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 23 January 2001]: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Meteorological Office. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Peter Ewing to Mr. Nick Hawkins, dated 24 January 2001:

Veterans Cell

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the work of the Veterans Cell in his Department. [146466]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence's "Policy for People", outlined in the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, highlighted the Department's commitment to place people at the heart of our plans. The Veterans' Advice Unit was established in October that year as an initiative resulting from this policy. Staffed by one Warrant Officer from each of the 3 Services, the unit provides a helpline where veterans and their dependants can seek guidance on how to obtain expert advice on matters which concern them. The unit has close links with other Government

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Departments and agencies, as well as with ex-service organisations. It plays an important part in helping us to gauge the views of veterans and to understand the problems they face. Since its foundation, the unit has received over 16,000 inquiries.

Far East Prisoners of War

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many spouses of former far east prisoners of war have remarried and are thus ruled ineligible for the ex-gratia payment. [146740]

Dr. Moonie: As I indicated to the House on 7 November 2000, Official Report, column 165, where the surviving spouse of a former far east prisoner of war (or of a member of any of the other groups included in the scheme) has since remarried, he or she remains eligible for the ex-gratia payment which is being made to the surviving members of the British groups who were held prisoner by the Japanese during the second world war.

Haslar Hospital

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the impact on military personnel and people in the Solent area from the closure of Haslar Hospital and expenditure at Queen Alexandra, Southampton and Winchester hospitals; and if he will make a statement. [146606]

Dr. Moonie: The decision and announcement in late 1998 that the Royal Hospital Haslar would close followed careful consideration of all the implications and subsequently has been a matter of extensive discussion between the Ministry of Defence, Department of Health and NHS locally. We are satisfied that the arrangements will be entirely appropriate in terms of treatment of service personnel. The impact of the closure of Haslar on the local civilian population and expenditure at Queen Alexandra, Southampton and Winchester hospitals is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. We have reached agreement with the Department of Health on the funding we will transfer to compensate for the costs the Portsmouth and South-East Hampshire health authority will incur for NHS patients who have hitherto been treated at Haslar without charge to the health authority.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans there are to move service nurses to Selly Oak hospital from Haslar Hospital; and if he will make a statement. [146621]

Dr. Moonie: Nurses, doctors and other medical staff are moving from a number of defence medical units, including the Royal Hospital Haslar, to form the initial staffing of the Centre for Defence Medicine, which is being established in partnership with the University Hospital Birmingham NHS trust with its headquarters at the Selly Oak hospital. By April 2001, when the centre formally opens, Defence Medical Services personnel will be managing a surgical ward at the Selly Oak hospital, with other staff employed in the acute areas of the trust.

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