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Support Amphibious and

Battlefield Rotorcraft Project

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to announce an initial acquisition contract for the SABR project; and if he will make a statement. [13281]

Dr. Moonie: The Support Amphibious and Battlefield Rotorcraft programme is designed to replace the capability provided by the Sea King Mk4 and Puma helicopter around the turn of the decade. The project is in its early stages and we have yet to decide how the capability requirement will best be met. It is too soon, therefore, to say when acquisition contracts might be placed.

Recruitment (Ethnic Minorities)

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about (a) the composition of and (b) the work of the Specialist Ethnic Minority Recruiting and Diversity Action Teams. [13113]

Mr. Ingram: The Ethnic Minority Recruiting Teams (named 'Diversity Action Team' in the naval service) consist of a mix of ranks, male and female, who are chosen with the aim of providing approachable role models for potential recruits. Team members are based in areas with high ethnic minority populations.

The naval service team consists of two officers, three senior ratings and five junior ratings with two civilians. The Army team consists of one officer and five senior NCOs, supplemented by a further nine junior NCOs who are volunteers from their units and serve on six month attachments. The RAF team consists of one officer, seven senior NCOs and four junior NCOs.

The teams work with the ethnic minority target audience to raise awareness of the armed forces, help to provide individuals with an accurate picture of life in each service, and provide advice on the career opportunities the services offer. They participate in many events and activities across the UK, such as careers fairs, visits to

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schools and colleges, community cultural and religious centres and youth organisations. They give presentations and talk to ethnic minority youth, offer careers advice and help candidates prepare for interviews, and nurture potential candidates.

European Security and Defence Policy

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps his Department has taken to meet the capability requirement of the European Security and Defence Policy's Headline Goal. [13285]

Mr. Hoon: At last year's Capability Commitments Conference, the UK identified a pool of forces and capabilities as its contribution towards achievement of the Headline Goal. All national contributions to the Headline Goal are made on a voluntary basis. Their commitment to an individual operation would depend on priorities and other commitments at the time.

UK forces can operate across the full range of Petersberg tasks, including the most demanding. In the maximum scale operation envisaged at Helsinki—a corps level deployment of up to 60,000—the UK component could be about 12,500 strong. Maritime and air deployments of up to 18 warships and 72 combat aircraft could be made in addition.

At the forthcoming Capabilities Improvement Conference, I will present further information on UK plans aimed at addressing some of the shortfalls identified since last year's conference. The UK contribution is and will continue to be consistent with our commitments to NATO. It is high quality and focused on key enabling capabilities.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the next meeting between the European Security and Defence Policy's political and military committees and their NATO counterparts will take place. [13284]

Mr. Hoon: The EU's Political and Security Committee (PSC) and NATO's North Atlantic Council (NAC) as well as the EU's and NATO's respective Military Committees meet on a regular basis and at least once per Presidency. Further meetings may be requested.

Both of the mandated meetings have already been held during the current Belgian Presidency, although a further meeting between the two Military Committees is provisionally planned for 3 December 2001. Meetings will be programmed during the forthcoming Spanish Presidency between January and June 2002; a PSC/NAC meeting is provisionally planned for 14 May 2002.

Fylingdales and Menwith Hill

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the role of (a) Fylingdales and (b) Menwith Hill in performing communications services in connection with action against terrorism. [12066]

Mr. Ingram: RAF Fylingdales provides the UK with early warning of ballistic missile attack against the UK and Western Europe, and the US with early warning for North America. It does not perform a communications role.

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RAF Menwith Hill is an integral part of the world-wide US Department of Defense communications network, which supports UK, US and NATO interests. Information concerning detailed operations at the base, including any role in performing communications services in connection with actions against terrorism, is withheld under Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on access to Government Information on the grounds of national security.

Defence Aviation and Repair Agency

Mr. John Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the outcome was of the investment appraisal conducted by the Defence Aviation Repair Agency into options to provide modern infrastructure for its Aircraft Business Unit, referred to on 20 November 2000, Official Report, column 8W. [12445]

Mr. Ingram: The investment appraisal looking into the infrastructure options for DARA's Fixed Wing Aircraft Business Unit is due to be completed in January 2002.

UK Service Men (Race Relations)

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what advice his Department provides to UK service men to inform them of their rights under the Race Relations Act 1976 when working on sovereign bases overseas; and if he will make a copy available in the Library. [12735]

Mr. Ingram: The armed forces aim to achieve a working environment free from harassment, intimidation and unlawful discrimination wherever personnel are located. Guidance disseminated by the armed services reflects this policy and makes clear that any individual has the right to pursue a complaint through the internal redress procedures. All such complaints are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. Although the Race Relations Act 1976 may not in all circumstances apply to personnel serving in the sovereign bases overseas, our own policies and internal procedures do not differentiate between service personnel in different locations.

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if it is possible for UK service men serving on sovereign bases overseas to bring a case against the Ministry of Defence under the Race Relations Act 1976. [12758]

Mr. Ingram: The Race Relations Act 1976 makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate on racial grounds against an employee in relation to employment at an establishment in Great Britain. In this context sovereign bases do not form part of the territory of Great Britain.

Section 8 of the Race Relations Act provides that employment will be regarded as being at an establishment in Great Britain unless the employee does his work wholly outside Great Britain. Therefore, whether a member of the armed forces serving on a sovereign base (or elsewhere outside Great Britain) could bring a complaint under the Race Relations Act 1976 would depend upon whether the alleged act or acts of discrimination took place at a time when he or she worked wholly outside Great Britain. If the complaint related to a period when that person did not work wholly outside Great Britain then the Act would be applicable.

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Aircraft Carriers

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what allowance he has made for using existing aircraft on the new aircraft carriers. [13007]

Dr. Moonie: The Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF) will be configured to operate the Future Joint Combat Aircraft (FJCA) as its primary aircraft. In addition to FJCA, the current CVF requirement document sets out a number of aircraft which should be considered for operation in a secondary role. This includes existing fixed and rotary wing aircraft which are compatible with carrier operations. Use of existing aircraft will depend, among other things, on their operational capability when CVF enters service—currently planned for 2012.

Gibraltar Regiment

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to recruit from the Gibraltar regiment in order to offset the shortfall in armed forces personnel. [13010]

Mr. Ingram: There are no such plans.

Armed Forces (Non-married Partners)

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many servicemen and women are living with partners to whom they are not married but who are recognised as falling within the scope of benefits payable under the Armed Forces Pension Scheme. [12641]

Mr. Ingram: None. Unmarried partners are not currently recognised as eligible for benefits under the terms of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme. We have no reliable data on the numbers affected. All three services are currently involved in work to examine whether or not unmarried people living in partnership should receive benefits similar to those received by married couples. This work is designed to provide more factual and authoritative information than is currently available, including on numbers.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the armed forces occupy married quarters with partners to whom they are not married. [12639]

Dr. Moonie: Entitlement to Service Families Accommodation (SFA) is based mainly on marital status and includes lone parents with dependent children for whom they have prime responsibility. It is also applied to certain single service personnel when serving in specific appointments. Service personnel are not allowed to occupy SFA to cohabit with a partner who is not their legal spouse. If such cases come to light, they are advised that they are in breach of their licence, and unless they regularise the position, they are issued with a notice to vacate the property.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the rules governing death-in-service benefits for the non-married partners of servicemen and women are within the scope of the review of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme. [12640]

Mr. Ingram: Following a review of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme, proposals for a new scheme were issued for public consultation in March of this year. These

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proposals did not specifically cover benefits for unmarried partners though the issue had been considered during the initial stage of the review when it was considered that change was not appropriate. The issue was raised in responses to the public consultation and will be given further consideration as we take the review forward.

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