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Mrs. Virginia Bottomley: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what steps she takes to ensure that replies to letters from hon. Members are given within a reasonable period of time; and which Departments have taken over nine months to reply to letters in the last three years. 
Marjorie Mowlam: All Departments are working hard to improve their handling of hon. Members' correspondence. For our part, the Cabinet Office has issued new guidance to Departments and is currently working hard on identifying and sharing examples of good practice in handling Members' correspondence.
The annual Cabinet Office report to Parliament provides information on the total number of late replies sent by Departments (i.e. the number of replies which are not sent within the target time set by Departments). We do not hold information centrally on late replies in any other format. The report for the 2000 calendar year is due to be published before Easter.
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17. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the defence budget, expressed as a percentage of GDP, was in (a) 2000-01 and (b) 1996-97 in (i) the UK, (ii) France, (iii) Germany and (iv) Belgium. 
30. Mr. Forth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the level of the defence budget expressed as a percentage of GDP in each of the last four financial years for which figures are available. 
Mr. Hoon: British troops are in Sierra Leone to assist the democratically elected Government to establish effective and accountable armed forces. We have between 550 and 600 troops on the ground in Sierra Leone at any time. These are divided into the UK contribution to the international military advisory and training team, soldiers providing the short-term training teams, and a brigade headquarters. In January we deployed a field surgical team to cover the gap in medical cover due to the roulement of UN medical facilities.
Mr. Hoon: I last visited Sierra Leone on 31 January, accompanied by my hon. Friend, among others. We were both able to see the excellent work of the UK armed forces who were training the Sierra Leone Army. Our forces have made a significant difference to the capability and confidence of the Sierra Leone Army units that have so far gone through the training package.
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Mr. Spellar: The Royal Navy has conducted a comprehensive study of its training estate to identify the estate necessary for training beyond 2010. HMS Excellent, the training establishment based at Whale Island, is part of that study, but no decision on its future has yet been made.
22. Mr. McFall: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the number of jobs that have been (a) created and (b) sustained as a result of procurement decisions announced since May 1997. 
33. Mr. Borrow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the number of jobs (a) created and (b) sustained as a result of procurement decisions announced since May 1997. 
Dr. Moonie: Over 60,000 new contracts are placed each year and the Ministry of Defence does not record the number of jobs created or sustained as a result of each individual procurement decision. It is estimated that the number of UK jobs dependent on defence expenditure and equipment exports is approximately 345,000.
23. Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what changes in defence policy priorities there have been since the publication of the strategic defence review; and if he will make a statement. 
But we are not complacent and recognise the need to adapt to a changing world. That is why we recently updated our analysis. The results were published on 7 February in two papers, "Defence Policy 2001" and "Future Strategic Context for Defence".
Mr. Hoon: I had a meeting with Mr. Bronislaw Komorowski, the Polish Defence Minister at last October's NATO Informal Ministerial meeting in Birmingham. Mr. Komorowski fell ill prior to my visit to Poland in February. In his absence I discussed a range
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Mr. Spellar: As at l May 1997, some 26 per cent. of the trained Army were committed to operations. As at 28 February 2001 this had reduced to 22 per cent. Figures for the Naval Service and RAF have been routinely collected only more recently and information for 1997, therefore, is not available. Currently some 10 per cent. of the Naval Service is deployed on operational tasks and some 10 per cent. of the RAF is committed to operations.
Dr. Moonie: Current plans, as a consequence of the public-private partnership initiative, are that operations at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) range, Shoeburyness, known also as New Ranges, will be carried out by NewDERA under an arrangement which is currently being negotiated. The intention is that NewDERA will have the flexibility to conduct operations on ranges while meeting the needs of the Ministry of Defence and maintaining value for money for the taxpayer. Meanwhile, DERA is continuing to work with SERCo Ltd. to rationalise the New Ranges estate to introduce new businesses which are able to co-exist with continuing range activities. There are currently 10 tenants on the site and this number is expected to increase. Recent new tenants include two from the transport industry. I understand that the hon. Member recently opened the catering training establishment.
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