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Naval Contracts

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much compensation has been awarded for insufficient work load in each of the last three years to (a) DML in Devonport, (b) SLM in Portsmouth and (c) BRCD; and if he will make a statement. [36300]

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Mr. Ingram: In the last three years a total of £2.1 million has been paid to the dockyard companies in compensation where they have been unable to otherwise recover overheads due to changes in the naval maintenance programme. Such payments are made only where it has not been possible to reflect the changing work load in the annually agreed charging rates or to mitigate its impact by allocating other work. I am withholding details of individual payments to the companies in accordance with Exemption 7 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information relating to commercial activities.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what guarantees his Department has given to (a) DML in Devonport, (b) SLM in Portsmouth and (c) BRCD as to their future work load in the next three years; and if he will make a statement. [36301]

Mr. Ingram: As part of the 1997 dockyard sale agreements undertakings were given to the two dockyard companies, DML at Devonport and BRDL at Rosyth, as to their share of the future naval ship maintenance work load for an agreed period. Similar arrangements apply to FSL, who operate within Portsmouth Naval Base, under the GOCO (Government Owned Contractor Operated) contract awarded to them in 1998.

The Warship Support Modernisation Initiative, which is looking at ways to modernise support arrangements across all naval bases and dockyards, involves negotiations with the companies with a view to increasing the proportion of the surface ship refit and repair programme opened up to competition. Any undertakings on future work load will be dependent on the outcome of this initiative.

Tipnor Shooting Ranges

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for the future of the Tipnor shooting ranges in Portsmouth; and if he will make a statement. [36302]

Mr. Ingram: In November 1998, against a background of the Strategic Defence Review, the Navy Board directed the chief executive of the Naval Recruiting and Training Agency (NRTA) to study the size and shape of the future training estate and to make recommendations for improvement given the lower trainee throughput that is expected in 2010–15. The consequent review was in advance of, and is informing, the current tri-Service Defence Training Review (DTR).

In July 2001 I announced proposed changes in the naval training estate. All naval training estate is now being considered in detail and this includes the Tipner firing range at Portsmouth. While alternative options are being studied, no decision has yet been made on the future of these ranges. Due account will be taken of proposed local transport improvement schemes and other local environmental issues before any decision is reached.

Naval Air Services

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the latest projection is of the in-service dates for the naval version of the Joint Strike Fighter and the new aircraft carrier; and if he will make a statement. [36306]

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Dr. Moonie: On current plans the in service date for the first of the two new aircraft carriers and the Joint Strike Fighters which will operate from it is 2012.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to announce the decision on which version of the air strike fighter for the new aircraft carrier to be commissioned by the Royal Navy will be used; and if he will make a statement. [36308]

Dr. Moonie: We expect a decision on which variant of the Joint Strike Fighter best meets our future Joint Combat Aircraft requirement to be taken by autumn this year.

Surge Production Capacity

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what categories of military equipment there are contractual arrangements with the manufacturer to provide surge production capacity for times of conflict. [35038]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence aims to ensure that sufficient production capacity is available to meet current defence planning assumptions. I am withholding the information with regard to specific arrangements for surge production under Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Public Appointments

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people have been appointed by him to official bodies and NDPBs coming under the aegis of his Department in the last three years; and who they were. [33349]

Dr. Moonie: Information about the numbers and remuneration of ministerial appointments to public bodies, including the names of chairpersons, is included in the annual Cabinet Office publication "Public Bodies". Copies are available in the Libraries of the House and it is also published on the Cabinet Office's website, The next edition of "Public Bodies", which will include information on appointments as at 31 March 2001, will be published shortly.

There have been 190 appointments to Ministry of Defence non-departmental public bodies over the period January 1999 to December 2001, including those sponsored by the War Pension Agency, which was part of the then Department of Social Security until July 2001.

I will write to my hon. Friend with details of the individuals appointed and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Accountancy Services

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the total cost to his Department was for accountancy services in each of the last four years. [34159]

Dr. Moonie: This information is not held centrally in the form requested and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. However, information on expenditure on external assistance, categorised by type of work and top level budget holder, is contained in the Ministry of Defence's annual return of expenditure on external assistance. Copies have been placed in the

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Library of the House, covering the period 1996–97 to 1999–2000, and the return for financial year 2000–01 is currently being staffed.

MOD Housing

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many MOD houses are empty; and if he will make a statement; [34032]

Dr. Moonie: At the end of January 2002 there were some 10,500 empty married quarters in mainland UK. Of these, over 3,800 are in the course of disposal; some 2,000 are currently awaiting incoming families; a further 2,200 are being held for future unit deployments and some 1,100 are empty awaiting modernisation.

Some 4,500 married quarters in mainland UK have been empty for six months or more at the end of January 2002. Currently, 2,350 of this total are in the course of disposal. A further 1,600 are either awaiting future deployments or are empty pending refurbishment. The remaining 550 are subject to a rolling review of their long term retention.

Over many years, there has been a continuing decline in demand for service family housing. Currently, however, the Defence Housing Executive is making good progress with a substantial disposal programme. The number of disposals achieved since 1 January 2000 will shortly reach 10,000, with some thousands more to be disposed of during 2002–03.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many MOD houses have been sold to the private sector, by year, since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [34608]

Dr. Moonie: In 1996, the great majority of the defence housing stock was sold to Annington Homes Ltd. (AHL) and leased back for service use. In response to the subsequent fall in demand from service families, many properties which are surplus to longer term service requirements have been, or will be, disposed of, but most such disposals result in release of the property back to AHL and thus do not constitute sales by the Ministry of Defence to the private sector. Disposals of non-AHL residential properties by MOD over the period are as follows.

2001–02(28) 175

(28) So far

Service Pensions

Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what underlay the decision for service pensions to be inherited by the person who was the spouse at the time of service; [35309]

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Mr. Ingram: It was a normal and well-established principle of occupational schemes, including those in public sector, that to qualify for a widow's or widower's pension, the widow or widower of the pension had to be married to him or her at the time he or she was engaged in the occupation covered by the scheme. The Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) was similar to other public service schemes in this aspect. At the time, it was seen as reasonable to limit pensions to those widows or widowers who had shared at least some of their husband's or wife's service life.

Post-retirement widow and widower pensions (PRWP) were introduced as a requirement of the Social Security Pensions Act 1975. Provision was made in the AFPS for the payment of pensions to widows or widowers of service pensioners who married (or remarried) after retirement, but this change benefited only the widows of those giving service on or after 6 April 1978, and the widowers of those giving service on or after 6 April 1989. Only service on or after those dates was taken into account when calculating the level of pension and there is no distinction between servicemen and other public sector employees in this respect.

The armed forces pension review has looked at PRWP but has no plans to extend the provision to those who left before the qualifying dates. The review, however, has recommended, under the new scheme, paying a pension to a child born after the pensioner's retirement. Under the current scheme only children born, or conceived, while the member was serving are covered.

In divorce settlements, pension sharing has been available in respect of divorce and nullity proceedings that begin on or after 1 December 2000. Under pension sharing, a percentage of the capitalised value of the pension rights which an AFPS member has accrued to date may be allocated to his or her former spouse to provide that former spouse with pension rights of her or his own. Pension sharing is not available to unmarried partners.

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