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Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many post offices (a) opened and (b) closed in Wales in each of the last three years. 
Mr. Alexander: I am informed by the Post Office Ltd. that historical data on the numbers of post office openings and closures are not maintained separately. The numbers of post offices operating in Wales over the last three financial years were as follows:
|End March 1998||1,513|
|End March 1999||1,501|
|End March 2000||1,470|
|End March 2001||1,402|
I am informed by the Post Office that an on-going revision of data has affected individual country totals. I also understand that, across the UK as a whole, of the closures in the year ending March 2001, the Post Office designate only four as permanent.
A £2 million fund to support relocation and refurbishment initiatives by volunteer or community groups to maintain or reopen post office facilities in rural areas where the traditional post office is closing received parliamentary approval in July.
29 Oct 2001 : Column: 507W
John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she expects to receive the findings of the study which her Department is undertaking on interference to radar and navigational aid from wind turbines. 
Ms Hewitt [holding answer 25 October 2001]: The consultants are expected to report towards the end of next year.
Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the number of Employment Tribunal applicants employed by Royal Mail/Consignia in each of the last three years; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Alexander: Operational issues of this kind are a matter for Consignia.
I am advised by the company that the number of employment tribunals for each of the last three years is as follows:
Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many working days were lost through industrial action in the Post Office in each of the last 10 years. 
Mr. Alexander: Operational issues including industrial relations are a matter for Consignia.
I am advised by the company that the number of working days lost through industrial action in each of the last 10 years is as follows:
|Number of days lost|
Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the total number of employees in the Post Office was in each the last five years. 
Mr. Alexander: Operational issues are a matter for Consignia.
I am advised by the company that the number of full-time equivalent employees in each of the last five years is as follows.
29 Oct 2001 : Column: 508W
Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many British businesses invoice in euros. 
Nigel Griffiths: No official data are available on the number of British businesses that invoice in euros.
Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures she is taking to protect postal workers from exposure to material contaminated with biological or chemical agents. 
Ms Hewitt [holding answer 26 October 2001]: Practical measures to protect postal workers are a matter for the companies concerned who are strongly advised to follow the guidance issued by central Government, their agencies and the police. This advice is being kept under review.
In the case of Consignia, the company is carrying out an assessment with the Health and Safety Executive of what measures are needed to protect its employees.
9. Derek Twigg: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the current security situation in Afghanistan. 
35. Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the security situation in Afghanistan. 
Mr. Hoon: For three weeks, United States and British forces have been engaged in military action against Usama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban regime that shelters them in Afghanistan. The aims of the military action are clear: to destroy the terrorist camps; to pressure the Taliban regime to end its support for Usama bin Laden; and to create the right conditions for future operations in Afghanistan to maintain that pressure.
We have achieved the first and third of these objectives. The terrorist camps that were known to be in use at the start of military campaign have successfully been put out of action. The coalition has achieved air superiority at medium and high level.
We are also making good progress against the second objective. We are now focusing on Taliban forces in the field, weakening their ability to retain control of key points of Afghanistan.
29 Oct 2001 : Column: 509W
24. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the implications of the military action in Afghanistan for future defence policy. 
Mr. Hoon: The Strategic Defence Review and the experience and lessons from subsequent operations such as those in Kosovo have left us well placed to take on and defeat international terrorism. We have significantly improved important military capabilities including reconnaissance; intelligence; surveillance; target acquisition; precision strike; rapid deployment; and command and control. But the attacks on the United States have shown that we must build on this success and go further.
With operations continuing, it would be premature to draw conclusions on the implications for our future defence policy. We are, however, carrying out further work to ensure that our concepts, force structures, and capabilities are exactly those that we need in order to deal with asymmetric threats of the kind that we saw on 11 September. This work will look both at the defence of the UK and at our capability to counter and deter terrorism abroad.
The Ministry of Defence and the Services have well- practised systems for learning and implementing lessons from operations. These will be applied to Operation Veritas. This will ensure that our plans and policies evolve and that we are prepared for the challenges that we may face in the future.
16. Mr. Michael Jabez Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress the veterans forum has made in addressing the needs of veterans; and if he will make a statement. 
23. Lawrie Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress the veterans forum has made in addressing the needs of veterans; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Moonie: I have chaired two meetings of the veterans forum at which I have agreed with representatives of the veterans' organisations a vision and initial work programme for the initiative. A key objective has been that the initiative should be taken forward as a partnership between ourselves and the veterans' community. We are addressing issues of identity, communication, recognition and care and the action plan we have developed for the future will be focusing in particular on those veterans who are most vulnerable.
Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his strategic priorities as Minister for Veterans Affairs are. 
Dr. Moonie: As Minister for Veterans Affairs my four strategic priorities are:
29 Oct 2001 : Column: 510W
17. Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the total value is of (a) operating and (b) planned private finance initiative/public- private partnership contracts relating to the Royal Air Force. 
Dr. Moonie: The total value of the signed PFI deals which are specific to the RAF or where the RAF is the major user is around £850 million in net present value terms. It is not possible to make a meaningful estimate of the total through-life costs of planned PFI contracts at present. A number of projects are under consideration. They include the provision of our future air-to-air refuelling capability and the UK Military Flying Training Services, where the RAF will be a major customer. Each of these projects could involve through-life costs of £10 billion or over. The RAF has also benefited from tri-Service deals such as the provision of commercial vehicles, materials handling and the Defence Fixed Telecommunications Services.
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