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Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the United Kingdom armed forces from the (a) Royal Navy, (b) RAF and (c) Army are assigned to operations in and around Afghanistan; what percentage of coalition forces in Afghanistan this represents; and if he will make a statement. [57517]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 21 May 2002]: As at 20 May 2002 there are 3,100 Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel, 630 RAF personnel and 1,550 Army personnel operating in and around Afghanistan. Our forces in Afghanistan currently represent around 20 per cent. of the coalition forces operating there.

The United Kingdom attaches great importance to the task of helping to break the link between Afghanistan and terrorism for good, and we are making a substantial contribution to coalition operations in Afghanistan, both through warfighting and security assistance duties.

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Numbers in theatre vary according to the operational tempo, and so the figures here merely represent a snapshot in time.


Treasury Solicitor's Framework Document

Kali Mountford: To ask the Solicitor-General what changes the Attorney-General plans to make in the Treasury Solicitor's framework document. [58711]

The Solicitor-General: In his quinquennial review of the Treasury Solicitor's Department, Sir Quentin Thomas recommended that the framework document for the Treasury Solicitor's Department should be revised to provide the agency with the flexibilities it required to continue to meet the growing demand for efficient and high quality legal services from Government Departments and other publicly funded bodies in England and Wales. I am pleased to announce the publication of a revised framework document, a copy of which I have placed in the Library.

The framework document has also been published on the Treasury Solicitor's website (


Global Environmental Facility

David Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) how much assistance the Government have given to the global environmental facility since 1997; [58567]

Clare Short: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) on 16 May 2002, Official Report, column 748W.

Debt Relief

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the impact of vulture funds on debt relief for countries; what action she is taking on this issue; and if she will make a statement. [57850]

Mr. Boateng: I have been asked to reply.

Under the enhanced heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative eligible countries should receive debt relief from all creditors. However, a number of commercial creditors decline to provide debt relief and sue the HIPC for payment. Vulture funds specialise in purchasing debt at a discount in the secondary market and

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then suing for repayment in full. At their last meeting, HIPC Finance Ministers raised the issue of lawsuits against them from various creditors in their declaration. The UK Government has proposed that the international community should consider giving technical assistance to any HIPC being sued by a commercial creditor and provide expert financial advice on debt restructuring to prevent future claims.



Barbara Follett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what further steps are being taken to combat the smuggling of cocaine into the UK by air passengers from Jamaica. [59245]

Mr. Boateng: I have today signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Jamaica to enable joint action to combat the use of air passengers to smuggle cocaine into the UK concealed in their bodies. The UK will be providing technical assistance and intelligence support to enable the Jamaican authorities to detect potential cocaine couriers before they board flights to the UK and take appropriate enforcement action.

Action in Jamaica will be supported by increased activity by Customs here in the UK. As part of the recent Budget package, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has increased the resources available to Customs for law enforcement action at the frontier. Customs will be deploying more than 30 additional specialist anti- smuggling staff to combat a range of smuggling threats. Their first priority will be to enhance controls on flights arriving from Jamaica, focusing on identifying any couriers who have escaped detection in Jamaica and on the smuggling of cocaine in passengers' baggage and air freight.

Customs will continue to work closely with a number of police forces, including the Metropolitan police's Operation Trident team, to maximise the impact of their efforts on cocaine smuggling and on associated, often violent, criminality across the UK.


Gareth Thomas: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will make a statement on the continued use of retentions in relation to public procurement contracts; [58141]

Mr. Andrew Smith: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) on 29 January 2002, Official Report, column 168W.

National Insurance

Mr. Flight: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will place in the Library the Treasury's calculations for establishing the total cost to the public sector of the 1 per cent. rise in employers' national insurance contributions from April 2003. [53626]

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Mr. Andrew Smith: The estimate of just over £1 billion is based on a percentage of total employer national insurance contributions attributed to the public sector using assumptions supplied by the Revenue departments.

Mr. Steen: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate his Department has made of the percentage of additional class 1 secondary national insurance contributions to come from (a) public sector employers and (b) private sector employers in 2003–04. [58042]

Dawn Primarolo: It is estimated that the changes to employer NICs announced in the Budget will add around 0.7 per cent. to pay costs on average next year. The cost to public services will be just over £1 billion which compares with a planned rise in spending on public services of nearly £20 billion. The changes will help to fund improvements to public services and a real terms increase in spending on health over the next five years of over 40 per cent.


Mr. Boswell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received since June 2001 on delays in crediting (a) contracting-out rebates and (b) employers' contributions to pension schemes; and if he will make a statement. [56589]

Ruth Kelly [holding answer 16 May 2002]: The information on (a) is not available and could be supplied only at disproportionate cost.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has advised me that on (b) the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority (Opra) received reports about delays in employer payments to occupational pension schemes, stakeholder and personal pension schemes. Since June 2001, reports have been received by Opra as follows:

Occupational pension schemes10,257
Personal pensions152,510
Stakeholder pensions8,271

Of these, only a small proportion was serious enough to lead to a sanction.

Economic and Monetary Union

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on discussions which have taken place between officials in his Department and those from Sweden on the timing of referenda on EMU membership. [57882]

Ruth Kelly: The Treasury has frequent discussions on a wide range of issues with its European counterparts.

Exotic Animals

Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how many consignments of exotic animals HM Customs and Excise have checked and inspected, broken down by month in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement; [57666]

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Mr. Boateng: There are no central records which separately identify checks and inspections of exotic animals or investigations into illegal imports of wild animals. Details of prosecutions since 1997 involving imports of live animals are

Training in CITES related issues is part of the standard training of the approximately 3,800 Customs detection staff and other staff whose work involves CITES issues.

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