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Strategic Defence Review

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he will publish the new chapter of the Strategic Defence Review. [25803]

Mr. Hoon: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 3 December 2001, Official Report, columns 5–6W, to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock).

Submarines (Female Personnel)

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he proposes to allow female personnel to serve in submarines. [25690]

Mr. Ingram: We are committed to equality of opportunity in the armed forces, and all posts are open to women unless there are specific reasons to the contrary. Women are not presently permitted to serve in submarines because of medical concerns for the safety of a foetus and hence of the mother. These concerns arise from the contaminants which build up in the atmosphere of our submarines, all of which are nuclear powered and may remain submerged for up to 90 days for operational reasons. These contaminants include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and about 30 other substances potentially harmful to a foetus. Medical studies have shown that these contaminants may occur at levels which, while they are not harmful to adults, exceed those considered safe for the foetus of a pregnant woman. There is no reliable test for detecting pregnancy in its very early stages.

The medical advice on this issue has recently been subjected to independent review by the Defence Scientific Advisory Council and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; both have supported the key conclusions of the earlier research work. Accordingly, I have agreed that women should continue to be excluded from service in submarines for the time being. However, the medical research and advice will be kept under active review, together with other relevant factors such as the experience of other Navies.

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Departmental Homes

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many of his Department's homes have been empty in each year since 1990; what action is being taken to reduce their numbers; and if he will make a statement. [25813]

Dr. Moonie: Data for service family accommodation in UK for 1990 and 1995–2001 are given in table 3.31 of UK Defence Statistics 2001, which is available in the Library of the House. The data for the period 1991 to 1994 is available in earlier editions of Defence Statistics. A summary is given in the table:


Year to AprilVacant service family accommodation

Over many years, the continuing decline in service families' demand for married quarters has offset reductions in the Defence housing stock. However, the Defence Housing Executive is making good progress with a substantial programme of surplus property disposal. Over 6,700 houses were disposed of in the 15 months to 31 March 2001, and a further 3,500 have been identified for disposal by 31 March 2002.


Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 5 December 2001, Official Report, column 349W, on Kosovo, what plans he has to investigate the failure on 6 November to meet the target time in which priority one casualties require to be repatriated. [25206]

Mr. Ingram: A priority one patient is defined as somebody for whom speedy evacuation is necessary to save life or limb, to prevent serious illness or to avoid serious permanent disability. The Royal Air Force aim to return such patients to the UK within 24 hours of a request for medical evacuation. The actual time taken to return a patient to the UK will reflect a number of factors, including the stability of their condition—to move a patient too soon can be as dangerous as to move them too late—the distance to be travelled and the weather.

Of equal importance is the treatment the patient receives pending their return. In the case to which you refer, all the procedures followed have been, as always in such cases, subject to close scrutiny to ensure all was done that could be done to provide the best levels of medical care as quickly as possible. The patients were properly cared for within the intensive treatment unit of the integrated US/UK medical unit at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, and there were no delays in the return leg of the aeromedical evacuation flight.

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Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what plans her Department has to tackle the trade in bushmeat; [25812]

Hilary Benn: Responsibility for addressing the international trade in bushmeat lies with HM Customs and Excise, who implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

In this context, DFID is involved in various initiatives that contribute to the conservation of wild animals and their habitats (see Annexe 1). We fund projects and studies that address sustainable forest management and bushmeat production where this is key to tackling poverty. We currently fund three projects in West Africa with direct links to bushmeat. Part of the Mount Cameroon Project (MCP) is supporting local communities to manage forest resources sustainably; this accounts for an estimated £50,000 p.a. of the projects funds. The Cameroon

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Community Forestry Development Project has been assisting government to develop protocols for community timber management; now that these are in place, the project team is working to establish community wildlife protocols for sustainable bushmeat harvesting. Both projects will finish this year, though we expect to contribute to a forestry sector programme in 2003, which will include a substantial community natural resource management element.

In Ghana we are funding the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) to undertake research into bushmeat production, and particularly into the distribution of the value of bushmeat between producers and traders and how this affects poverty. This study will be completed in 2002, when we will consider the value of an extension into at least one other West African country in 2003–04, with estimated funding of £50,000 to £100,000 p.a.

DFID also supports some 155 initiatives in developing countries to help them manage their forests sustainably, and is also working to help reduce illegal logging. These initiatives promote sustainable forest management and thereby should have an indirect positive impact on wildlife. DFID's main efforts are directed at combating illegal logging at source and addressing the other underlying causes of poor forest management, since most illegally harvested timber (up to 80 per cent. in some countries) is consumed domestically.

Annexe 1: Examples of DFID-supported bilateral projects, and research and studies, that have a strong focus on wildlife/bushmeat species

Name of projectCountryPeriod of supportAmount (£000)
Mbomipa Community Wildlife ProjectTanzania1997–20011,973
Wildlife Intensification for Livelihood Development (WILD)Namibia1999–20021,040
Madikwe Community Wildlife ManagementSouth Africa1997–1999622
Amboro Rural DevelopmentBolivia1996–20003,200
Mount Cameroon ProjectCameroon1995–200210,602
Community Forest Development ProjectCameroon1999–20021,049
Indonesian Multi-StakeholderIndonesia1998–200525,150
Cross River State Community Forestry ProjectNigeria1996–20012,000
Forest Sector Development Project Phase IIGhana2000–0411,963
Joint-funding scheme with WWF:
Coastal forests/Bogoria/UdzungwaKenya/Tanzania1990–2001    6,289
Studies and research:
Livestock-wildlife interactionsAfrica1997–2001
Illegal hunting in Serengeti NPTanzania1997–2000    575
Bushmeat in rural livelihoods of West AfricaGhana/Cameroon2000–02

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions her Department has held with representatives of African Governments regarding the trade in bushmeat. [25786]

Hilary Benn: We fund two bilateral projects in Cameroon related to the issue of bushmeat. Since 1995, the Mount Cameroon Project team has been working closely with the Cameroon Ministry of Environment and Forests to establish field level community management of timber and wildlife resources. The Community Forestry Development Project in Cameroon has been drawing on this experience to help communities manage their wildlife resources under the Forest Law. We also assisted with discussions with the Government of Cameroon over the preparation of an Emergency Action Plan following the 1999 Yaounde Heads of State Declaration, which included measures to ensure that an EC-funded road maintenance project did not lead to unsustainable harvesting of forest and wildlife resources.

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions she has held with logging and mining companies operating in West and Central Africa that operate in areas of high bushmeat trade. [25807]

Hilary Benn: Through our country office in Cameroon we have been holding a series of ad hoc discussions with logging company representatives on how to promote sustainable forest management. These discussions recently culminated in a workshop to review a draft logging manual that pulls together the diverse pieces of legislation into a single coherent text, that the private sector and government can then apply.

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In the upcoming few months we will be financing further specific meetings with logging companies in the context of preparing for a Forest and Environment Sector Programme.

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what assessment she has made of the impact Department-funded infrastructure projects in West and Central Africa have on the trade in bushmeat; [25819]

Hilary Benn: Our Department's procedures require that any new infrastructure project be screened for its potential impact on the environment. If initial screening indicates that the project could have significant impacts on the environment, then further investigation such as Environmental Analysis or a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be undertaken. All projects funded by this Department must comply with in-country guidelines or legislation. While we check the need for an EIA and the adequacy of them where they are required, the assessment itself is often financed and carried out by others.

With regard to bushmeat, we held intensive discussions with the Government of Cameroon over the preparation of an Emergency Action Plan following the 1999 Yaounde Heads of State Declaration, which included measures to ensure that an EC-funded road maintenance project did not lead to unsustainable harvesting of forest and wildlife resources.

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