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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the effect the creation of the Towers of Excellence programme has had on his Department's competitive procurement policy; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Moonie: Competition remains the cornerstone of the Ministry of Defence's procurement policy. It will continue to be the primary means of securing value for money in the equipment programme. By generating technological capabilities within MOD's defence equipment supplier base, Towers of Excellence should enable industry to compete more effectively. This will not alter MOD's competition policy; in particular, deciding best overall value for money within competition has always included the consideration of wider factors, including the health of our defence technology base.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the effect the creation of the Towers of Excellence programme has had on the United Kingdom defence industries competitive position in relation to other international contractors; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Moonie: Towers of Excellence (ToE) are an important aspect of the continuing close engagement between Ministry of Defence and industry. This strategy will focus our limited research programme funds on those areas where UK industry can excel, and where MOD requires high value technology to be available to feed into potential future equipment products. The ToE programme therefore has the potential to help reinforce UK industry's comparative advantage in these areas, and improve its competitive position both for future MOD projects and for the wider global export market.
The ToE concept is already at an advanced stage of preparation for launch, and it is expected the first batch of Towers will be launched on a formal basis in the near future.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he intends to reply to the National Audit Office report entitled 'Non-Competitive Procurement in the Ministry of Defence'. 
Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence Accounting Officer and officials were examined by the Committee of Public Accounts on 14 November 2001, based on the National Audit Office report on 'Non-Competitive
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Procurement', which was published on 2 November 2001. When the Committee reports, we shall consider and reply to it in the normal way.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the total external spending by his Department was on public private partnership consultants in each of the last four years; how many full-time equivalent consultants were employed over this period; how many billed consultancy days there were per year; what the implied average cost of each PPP consultant was; how many consultancy firms were used by his Department over this period; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Moonie: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Ingram), on 6 February 2002, Official Report, column 999W.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to implement a system of notifying housing staff of service personnel's postings abroad; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence is currently investigating ways to simplify and streamline the relocation process for Service personnel when they are posted from one location to another; a key element of this is to improve the flow of posting information between the Service posting authorities, Service units and the housing organisations. As part of this work we are investigating the feasibility or providing relevant posting data directly to the housing organisations. Minor changes to the procedure in Great Britain (GB) for applying for family accommodation will enable the Defence Housing Executive to take a more proactive approach by contacting personnel up to six months prior to their anticipated end of tour date to ascertain their intentions and requirements. Other housing providers (outside GB) will consider their application and allocation procedures once the GB model has been refined.
Service personnel being posted abroad, and those returning from overseas postings, will benefit from these improvements.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what percentage of service families are recorded as content with the standard of their family accommodation according to the Independent Housing Survey; and if he will make a statement; 
Dr. Moonie: The 2001 Customer Attitude Survey on family housing recorded 67 per cent. of service families being "content" with the general standard of family accommodation. The results of the survey are used to help ensure that resources are best directed to meet the needs of service families. There are currently no plans to publish it.
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Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) nature and (b) extent is of the British military presence in Gibraltar. 
Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave on 26 November 2001, Official Report, column 669W, to the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch) and on 11 December 2001, Official Report, column 740W to the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray).
Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations have been made by Spain to the Government in respect of future British military deployment in Gibraltar. 
Mr. Ingram: Gibraltar is, and will remain, an important overseas base for the British armed forces. Talks with Spain under the Brussels Process are aimed at reaching a comprehensive agreement covering all outstanding issues related to Gibraltar.
Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 7 March 2002, Official Report, column 476W, on non-governmental organisations, what information he collates on the funding of non-governmental organisations by his Department, with particular reference to those operating on a regional level; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence makes grants to a small number of non-governmental organisations. No information is routinely collated on their funding, nor is information held on the location of their operations.
Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what type of records are destroyed by his Department when they are considered to be of no further administrative use; 
(3) who makes the decision to destroy MOD documents when they are considered to be of no further administrative use; 
(4) for what reason the UK extended the period of the classification of documents relating to the dumping of Axis chemical weapons in the Baltic after World War 2 to 2017. 
Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence and the services create a significant amount of material during the course of business. As a consequence records are initially reviewed locally by those responsible for their creation. Where records are perceived to have no more value they may be destroyed locally. Records thought to have continuing administrative or possible historical value are transferred to the MOD's main archives. They are in due course reviewed by the MOD's staff in a process reflecting the requirements of the Public Records Act, 1958 and 1967.
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I am arranging for a copy of the MOD's historical report on CW sea dumping, details of which were submitted to the Helsinki Commission, to be placed in the Library of the House. The MOD is not familiar with any record, on this subject, closed until 2017. However if the hon. Member would care to provide further details I will look into the matter and write to the hon. Member.
Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the extent of dumping of Axis chemical weapons in the Baltic from 1945 to 1947; and what steps he is taking to address the issue. 
Dr. Moonie: The United Kingdom, the United States of America, Russia and France undertook dumping of confiscated German chemical munitions into the Baltic and Skagerrak between 1945 and 1947. However, after World War Two, it was the administrative practice to destroy records of sea disposals of munitions, including chemical weapons, when such records were perceived to be of no further administrative use. As a result of this practice, a detailed inventory of all conventional and chemical munitions does not exist. Where relevant British records on this subject do survive, they have been declassified and transferred to the Public Record Office in accordance with the terms of the Public Records Act, 1958 and 1967. We do not have details of the quantity or content of munitions dumped by other nations.
The consensus of international scientific opinion is that munitions on the seabed present no risk to human health or the marine environment provided they are left undisturbed. While the United Kingdom has no plans to monitor or remove conventional or chemical munitions dumped on the seabed, I am aware that NATO was approached by the Russian Government in 1997 regarding possible cooperation in the monitoring and prevention of leakage of chemicals from the German chemical weapons stocks sunk in the Baltic and Skagerrak after World War Two. Liaison on this issue with the Russian Government is continuing through NATO's Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society (CCMS), but no decision has yet been reached as to whether NATO will participate in any monitoring or preventative action.
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