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British Detainees

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if all British detainees in (a) Afghanistan and (b) Cuba have been allowed contact with family members in the UK. [34933]

Mr. Bradshaw: The International Committee of the Red Cross has access to detainees in both Afghanistan and in Guantanamo Bay, and is able to pass messages from family members to the detainees and vice versa.

Ian Stillman

Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will ensure the British high commission in New Delhi provides interpreter help for Ian Stillman; and if he will make a statement. [34982]

Mr. Bradshaw: It is for Mr. Stillman's lawyer to make the necessary application to the court for an interpreter. It is not the policy of the FCO to provide, from official funds, interpreters, or signers for the deaf, for individuals in court cases abroad.

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Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many consular visits there have been to Ian Stillman since he lost his appeal. [34981]

Mr. Bradshaw: No consular visits have taken place since the appeal judgment was announced on 11 January. The last consular visit was due to take place on 19 December but Mr. Stillman was in Shimla receiving dental treatment. The next consular visit is due on 19 March.

Consular visits to British nationals in jail in India normally take place on a quarterly basis.

Private Military Companies

Mr. Pound: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will publish the proposed Green Paper on private military companies outlining options for the control of private military companies; and if he will make a statement. [35976]

Mr. Straw: We have today published a consultation document entitled: "Private Military Companies: Options for Regulation".

This paper originates in a request made by the Foreign Affairs Committee in its second report on Sierra Leone. I regret very much that the Government did not meet the timetable originally promised for this document.

Over the years the House has concerned itself from time to time with the activities of freelance mercenary soldiers. There were a number of disturbing and sometimes disgraceful incidents in Africa during the 1960s and 1970s. These gave rise to justifiable indignation and a strong wish to curb this unsavoury business.

The situation has changed since the 1970s. Africa's problems are different and so also is the nature of outside intervention. In some cases at least it is companies more than individuals who have been at issue there recently.

The term "private military companies" covers many different sorts of organisation. Some are respectable and well-established names; some are transient and not always reputable companies. Public attention has focused most sharply on companies who have provided soldiers ready to take part in combat. There are many different opinions—some of them strongly held about such activities, an issue which is explored in the paper.

These sort of activities attract attention and controversy but they are neither the most numerous, nor necessarily the most important part of the private military sector. A growing number of companies who would not take part directly in combat nevertheless provide important military services such as training, planning, logistics, weapons procurement and intelligence. In today's world such services can be significant force multipliers and may have a considerable impact on fighting capability. It is timely that we should consider this growing industry and look at the question of whether some form of regulation would be appropriate.

Mercenary activity is an old phenomenon but a corporate sector providing military services is relatively new. Given the professionalism and high reputation of Britain's armed services it is not surprising that this is an

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area in which British companies are active. The idea of regulating this sector is also relatively new. It raises many difficult legal and practical issues. There are many different interests and points of view of which we should take account. We therefore wish to embark on a wide process of consultation before formulating a policy. Against this background the paper outlines the issues, the recent history and the current debate, and finally sets out some of the options for regulation—but does not make any specific proposals. Before doing that I would like to hear the views of those directly concerned and indeed of all interested parties.

This is a serious subject which merits careful examination. The private military sector is a growing phenomenon which could develop in a helpful or an unhelpful way. I shall be surprised if we emerge from the debate with the conclusion that the best solution is to do nothing at all.

I look forward to receiving contributions to the debate from Members of this House and elsewhere—and I will welcome views from the widest range of sources. I hope that in due course, as the discussion develops this House will also provide time for a full and open debate.



Shona McIsaac: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what technical programme his Department conducts to assure the safety and serviceability of the Trident warhead; and if he will make a statement. [36107]

Dr. Moonie: The Government attach great importance to maintaining the safety and serviceability of the United Kingdom's nuclear weapons. The Strategic Defence Review in 1998 confirmed the need for a robust capability to underwrite the safety and reliability of Trident, in the absence of nuclear testing. A scientific methodology is being developed to continue to give this assurance with high confidence. A detailed technical review of the scientific methodology behind this programme will be published shortly in a major scientific journal.

To ensure that we continue to be confident of the safety and reliability of our nuclear weapons, it is essential to understand the properties of warhead materials such as high explosive and plutonium under a very wide range of physical conditions, and how these properties change with age. Confidence in the safety and performance of Trident is based ultimately on predictions from high fidelity numerical models run on super computers. The Atomic Weapons Establishment has recently announced a major investment in a new super computer that will substantially upgrade its capability. However, experimental studies are still essential to validate the computational models and improve understanding of basic theory. As a continuing part of this programme the UK will shortly collaborate with the US in conducting a plutonium hydrodynamic experiment at the U1A facility in Nevada. This experiment will not produce nuclear yield and will be fully consistent with our obligations under the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. Historical nuclear test data and information from the forensic examination of warheads withdrawn from the stockpile provide further information for the process.

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Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has made to his German counterpart about the German Parliament's approval of the A400M Project. [33088]

Dr. Moonie: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 29 January 2002, Official Report, columns 215–16W. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence raised the A400M project with his German counterpart when they met on 18 January and since then, during a telephone exchange when he again expressed the hope that the issue could be resolved quickly.

NATO Budget

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list common budget contributions by NATO members to the three NATO budgets in (a) 1997, (b) 1998, (c) 1999, (d) 2000, (e) 2001 and (f) 2002; and if he will indicate the provisional projections for future years. [33193]

Mr. Hoon: Budget ceilings for NATO's three budgets were set as follows:

Security investment programme (million of NAU)(4)Military budget (million of NAU)(5)Military budget (million of NAU)(6)Civil budget (million of Belgian francs)
2002185.0192.816.8(7)euro 166.9 million

(4) The value of NATO Accounting Units has varied from £2.680 in January 1997 to £2.122 in January 2002.

(5) These figures include an account supporting NATO's Airborne Early Warning Force to which the UK does not contribute. Our contribution to this force is made in kind, by the assignment to SACEUR of the RAF's E3D Sentry aircraft.

(6) Post-Kosovo, a separate military budget account to cover Balkans operations was established.

(7) For 2002, the civil budget was set in euros—euro 161.4 million, plus euro 5.5 million for additional security enhancements at NATO HQ required after 11 September 2001.

Ceilings for 2003 have still to be settled, but we would expect them to be of the same order as those for 2002.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with his NATO counterparts regarding NATO member contributions to the 2002 NATO budgets; and if he will make a statement. [33192]

Mr. Hoon: I have had no discussions with NATO Defence Ministers on contributions to the three NATO budgets for 2002. The 2002 budget ceilings for the NATO Security Investment Programme and the Military Budget were noted during the NATO Defence Ministers' meeting on 7 June 2001, when the UK was represented by our Permanent Representative. NATO's Civil Budget is a matter for the Foreign Secretary.

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