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RFA Wave Knight

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent RFA Wave Knight has been damaged in dry dock; what the estimated cost is of repairs; when she will enter service; and if he will make a statement. [33190]

Mr. Ingram: RFA Wave Knight has recently sustained minor damage in two separate incidents while in a flooded dry dock at Inchgreen, Greenock preparing for Contractor's Sea Trials. On the first occasion, on 19 January 2002, the ship listed to starboard, sustaining minor damage to her paint work in the area of the bilge keel. On the second occasion, in the gales of 28 January, the stern of the vessel made contact with the dock wall, causing scratches to the paint work and minor damage to fittings caused by movement of a gangway.

The cost of repair has not yet been determined. An indemnity scheme exists, under the contract with the shipbuilder, and it is not expected that any costs borne by the defence budget will be significant.

Wave Knight's in-service date of summer 2002 is unlikely to be affected.

Depleted Uranium (Afghanistan)

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans his Department has to monitor the (a) short, (b) medium and (c) long-term effects of depleted uranium upon service personnel in Afghanistan. [33508]

Mr. Ingram: There are at present no indications that United Kingdom personnel serving in Afghanistan are exposed to a hazard from depleted uranium. It has not been used by coalition forces in recent operations. In the event that we assess that there is a risk of exposure that

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might be hazardous to health, guidance will be issued on measures to protect health, and if necessary we will introduce biological monitoring on a voluntary basis for individuals who are exposed to such a risk. Short-term monitoring of individuals' health is undertaken as a matter of course.

Submarine Officers

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 19 December 2001, Official Report, column 337W, on submarine officers, how long the training period for general naval duties is; and if he will make a statement. [33858]

Mr. Ingram: In my previous answer to the hon. Member, I explained that all Royal Navy officers undergo a period of general naval training prior to discipline- specific training.

Naval general training is undertaken at Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth over a period of 27 weeks and includes six weeks of initial sea training. It is followed by a four month period of common fleet training and specialist fleet training of between two and six months, depending on specialisation. Officers then proceed to the appropriate professional training for periods between three and 28 months, before commencing their first complement appointment on the Royal Navy's trained strength.

Chemical Warfare Specialists Deployment

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the deployment of (a) soldiers from the Ninth Special Chemical Weapons Unit of the Czech Republic to Kuwait over the next two months and (b) German chemical warfare specialists to the area at the request of the United States; whether the United Kingdom Government have responded to related requests from the US; what assessment he has made of the purpose of such requests; and if he will make a statement. [34467]

Mr. Ingram: It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the deployment of forces by our NATO allies overseas since this is a matter for the Governments of the nations concerned.

However, I can confirm that we have received no request from our US allies to make similar deployments to Kuwait. Any such request would be considered on its merits and in the light of available resources.

Armed Forces Pay/Pensions

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received on conditions of pay and pensions in the armed forces. [34013]

Mr. Ingram: We receive a large number of representations from individuals, as well as from veterans' organisations and professional bodies. These have mainly concerned pensions matters, including pension troughs, pensions for pre-1975 service taxation of attributable Army pensions, armed forces pension scheme discretionary awards system. There have been a small number of representations concerning pay matters, including the new Pay 2000 arrangements.

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TRANSPORT, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND

THE REGIONS

Ship Safety Standards

Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what recent action the Government have taken to enforce minimum international safety standards on ships using British ports and waters. [32126]

Mr. Jamieson: Ships using British ports and waters are subject to a rigorous regime of inspection to check that they comply with minimum international safety standards.

Ships that are found on inspection to fall short of international safety standards are detained until the defects leading to detention are put right. Ships failing to comply with the terms of release are refused access to British and European ports until the safety standards are met.

The details of ships detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) are published on national and European websites and the ships are targeted for further inspection. Significant breaches of regulations are investigated and followed up by prosecution where appropriate. Details of prosecutions are also published.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what action will be taken against foreign ships sailing into British ports which fall below safety standards; and if he will make a statement. [32691]

Mr. Jamieson: Foreign ships calling at British ports are subject to a rigorous regime of inspection to check that they comply with minimum international safety standards.

Ships that are found on inspection to fall short of international safety standards are detained until the defects leading to detention are put right. Ships failing to comply with the terms of release are refused access to British and European ports until the safety standards are met.

The details of ships detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) are published on national and European websites and the ships are targeted for further inspection. Significant breaches of regulations are investigated and followed up by prosecution where appropriate. Details of prosecutions are also published.

Two sets of international rules relating to seafarer training and certification and safety management will be introduced in 2002 and will be enforced through the inspection regime.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many foreign ships have fallen short of safety standards while in British ports in each year since 1997; what measures have been put in place to deal with these ships; how much money has been spent dealing with such ships; and if he will make a statement. [32690]

Mr. Jamieson: The number of times foreign ships have been detained for falling short of safety standards following inspection in British ports is given in the table, for each year since 1997.

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Number of detentions
1997–98179
1998–99155
1999–00106
2000–01116
2001–02(4)

(4) This figure is not yet available.


Ships that have been detained are not permitted to sail until the deficiencies are put right. A ship that does not comply with the conditions of release from detention may be banned from operating to ports in the UK and Europe.

Information on the results of inspections is shared with other European coastal countries and widely published. Ships with a poor inspection history are targeted for further inspection within the region, with the risk of further sanctions.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) investigates any significant breach of safety regulations and may prosecute if appropriate.The budget in 2001–02 for inspection and enforcement of international, European and national rules on safety and pollution prevention for all ships using British ports is £2,924,000. The money spent on inspection and enforcement relating to foreign ships only is not available.

Disabled Rail Passengers

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 19 December 2001, Official Report, column 533W, on the needs of disabled passengers in train operating company franchises, on what date he expects the revised code of practice to be published; what representations (a) his Department and (b) the Strategic Rail Authority have received regarding the modification of this code of practice; and whether train operating companies will also be expected to modify provisions for the disabled through the franchise agreement process. [32414]

Mr. Spellar: The revised code of practice was published on 6 February. The Strategic Rail Authority consulted widely on the content of the revised code, including such bodies as DPTAC, the DRC, and the railway industry. Over 200 responses were received.

All licensed operators on the national rail network are required to review their Disabled Peoples Protection Policies (DPPPs) to reflect the revised code. Enforcement of these revised DPPPs will be through licence conditions rather than franchise agreements, though having appropriate licences is a condition precedent of entering into a franchise agreement.


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