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Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what representations she has made to the Botswanian Government regarding the Botswanian Government's plans to withdraw water from the Sanbushaman of the central Kalahari at the end of January. [26882]

Clare Short: Our high commissioner to Botswana has discussed issues relating to the San with the Government of Botswana at both ministerial and local authority level. In December 2001, together with two other EU heads of mission, he visited Ghanzi where the district council is responsible for the provision of basic services to the San living in the central Kalahari Game Reserve. The group had discussions with local officials and NGOs involved with the San and visited some San settlements. Our high commission continues to monitor the situation.

Departmental Sickness Absence

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will commission and publish an independent report on the reasons for the level of sickness absence in her Department. [26968]

Clare Short: The average rate of sickness absence in DFID in 1999 (the latest year for which published figures are currently available) was 7.31 days per staff year. This compares with a civil service-wide average of 10.1 days.

The Cabinet Office already commissions and publishes an independent annual report "Analysis of Sickness Absence in the Civil Service". This report includes details of the causes of absenteeism. The report for the year 2000 will be published shortly.


Military Bases

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what environmental impact assessment he carries out when considering the closure, move or expansion of a military base. [26345]

Dr. Moonie: It is the Ministry of Defence's policy to carry out environmental policy appraisals of all new or revised policies and equipment acquisition programmes and environmental impact assessment of all new projects and training activities. The strategic environmental appraisal of the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) was carried out to examine the potential environmental effects of the programmes and plans therein. High-level environmental assessments were also carried out on the SDR proposals for both the built and rural estate.

Environmental impact assessments are carried out when considering specific proposals for the closure, move or expansion of a military base. A wide range of factors are also taken into account including location, alternative

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uses and planning issues, land quality assessment, asset condition, historic buildings, legal constraints and non-MOD facility sharing. The scope of the assessment depends on the potential environmental impact of the proposal. Full Environmental Impact Assessment Reports and Environmental Statements are produced for developments that would fall under the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations but for Crown exemption, and Appropriate Assessments carried out for developments and activities for sites designated under the Conversation (Natural Habitats etc.) Regulations.

Cyber Attacks

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the protection of MOD defence computer networks from potential cyber attacks since 11 September. [26634]

Mr. Ingram: The Defence Manual of Security mandates the baseline security requirements which must be met before Communications and Information Systems (CIS) are allowed to handle official information: these requirements have already been framed with the protection of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) computer networks from potential cyber attacks in mind.

The MOD is continuously reviewing and seeking ways to improve the security of CIS. Since 11 September, MOD has:

International Security Assistance Force

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many non-EU troops have been committed to the International Security Assistance Force; and if he will make a statement. [26643]

Mr. Hoon: The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been authorised by the United Nations, and enjoys wide support among the international community. In addition to the UK, which has agreed to serve as lead nation for the ISAF's initial three months, some 17 countries are contributing assets to the force. The ISAF will be about 5,000 strong, with the UK contributing around 1,800 personnel (together with an additional 300 airfield enablers to assist in activating and running Kabul international airport). Although separate from operations being conducted in support of the campaign against international terrorism, it deploys with the full support of the United States and enjoys very close relationships with US Central Command (which has deployed a liaison team to Major General McColl's headquarters).

In addition to the substantial contribution being made by European Union nations, ISAF will comprise troops from New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. It is too early to be specific about precise numbers, since national contingents are still being finalised.

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Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the nations which have offered to contribute to the International Security Assistance Force; and if he will make a statement. [26644]

Mr. Hoon: The international community responded swiftly and generously to our request for contributions to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), with over 20 nations initially expressing an interest in contributing. In the event, following detailed discussions and planning, we have been able to take up offers from 17 nations: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. 15 of these have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to participate in the ISAF, and we expect Belgium and Bulgaria to do so shortly. In addition, the US have provided a liaison team.


Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what work has been carried out on HMS Ocean at Devonport Dockyard; if there has been work additional to that set out before its arrival at Devonport; how much the work will cost in total; and if he will make a statement. [26710]

Mr. Ingram: Details of the work planned to be undertaken during HMS Ocean's Assisted Maintenance Period (AMP), and the estimated cost, were provided in the answer I gave the hon. Gentleman on 9 November 2001, Official Report, column 433W.

The opportunity has been taken to undertake some limited additional work during the AMP, although some of the work originally planned will now be undertaken during the reprogrammed Docking Period. The total cost of the AMP will remain within the limits previously stated.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects HMS Invincible to be surplus to Royal Navy requirements; and if he will make a statement. [26709]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 19 December 2001, Official Report, column 342W, to the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray).

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much has been spent on (a) the overhaul of HMS Invincible to prepare her for the new Merlin helicopters and (b) other work on HMS Invincible; and if he will make a statement. [26713]

Mr. Ingram: The refit of HMS Invincible is expected to cost in the order of £70 million with approximately £9 million of this required to prepare her for Merlin. These figures excluded Ministry supplied equipment, and associated naval staff training and trials costs.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the work being carried out on HMS Ocean at Devonport Dockyard to be completed; when he expects it to return to service; and if he will make a statement. [26712]

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Mr. Ingram: HMS Ocean is currently undergoing an Assisted Maintenance Period (AMP) at Devonport. The AMP is scheduled to complete in early February following which she will be available for operational tasks.


Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people have been killed and injured as a result of bombing raids on Iraq since 1991 and what discussions have been held with the UN co-ordinator in Iraq about the documentation and verification of the casualty figures. [27174]

Mr. Ingram: The coalition only ever targets, in self-defence, Iraqi military facilities that pose a threat to its forces carrying out legitimate patrols of the no-fly zones. The coalition goes to exceptional lengths to ensure civilian casualties are kept to the absolute minimum possible, including the employment of very carefully controlled targeting procedures and precision guided munitions.

In practice, it is extremely difficult to give estimates of civilian casualties, despite the painstaking battle-damage assessment (BDA) that the coalition routinely carries out every time ordnance is released. The Ministry of Defence has no objective means of verifying Iraqi claims of civilian casualties; I am not therefore in a position to provide the information requested by my hon. Friend. However, we can demonstrate categorically that many of the Iraqi claims of civilian casualties are either exaggerated or wholly untrue.

On a number of occasions the Iraqis have claimed that coalition aircraft have caused civilian casualties when allied aircraft have not released any munitions, or even been flying. On 19 June 2001, for example, it seems very probable that the civilian casualties, which the Iraqis claimed were caused by coalition activities, were in fact caused by an Iraqi munition. No ordnance was dropped by the coalition on 19 June. There have also been many instances when the Iraqis claimed civilians have been killed, where our BDA has clearly indicated that only military facilities were attacked.

There have been no discussions with the UN Co-ordinator in Iraq about the documentation or verification of civilian casualties. The UN Co-ordinator in Iraq is responsible for implementing the humanitarian programme under the UN Oil for Food arrangements. He has no role in the no-fly zones.

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions during 2001 the UK was involved in missions that involved (a) bombing and (b) firing into Iraq. [27173]

Mr. Ingram: During 2001, the coalition responded in self-defence against the Iraqi air defence system on 44 occasions. Of these, UK aircraft released precision guided munitions on 14 occasions. In the majority of the remaining 30, UK aircraft provided indirect support to other coalition aircraft but did not release weapons.

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the cost of enforcing the no fly zones in Iraq since the war officially ceased. [27172]

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Mr. Ingram: Information is not recorded separately that identifies expenditure incurred in maintaining the no fly zones. However, the table sets out the overall additional expenditure incurred by the Ministry of Defence as a direct result of operations in the Gulf from 1992–93 onwards.

£ million

(9) Estimate

(10) Calculated on a Resource Accounting basis; all previous figures are cash-based

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