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Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many employees under contract from temping agencies were working in his Department; and how much will be spent on temporary staff (a) in total and (b) as a percentage of the total staffing budget in each of the last five years for which figures are available. 
Mr. Ingram [holding answer 22 May 2002]: This information is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost. Temporary staff are generally used as an interim measure to fill posts that cannot be filled conventionally in the required timescale or to cover short term peaks in workload.
Mr. Ingram: At 1 May 2002 the Defence Housing Executive managed some 52,100 homes for Service families in mainland UK. Of these some 3,400 properties are in Scotland. An additional 3,200 properties in Northern Ireland are managed by the staff of the General Officer Commanding, Northern Ireland.
Mr. Ingram [holding answer 22 May 2002]: On operational deployments medical support to the Armed Forces is provided by the Defence Medical Services, or in some circumstances through joint arrangements with allies and partners, particularly on sustained operations where this represents a sensible use of medical resources.
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Healthcare for personnel who are not deployed is normally provided by Service and civilian Ministry of Defence personnel and through the NHS, although some limited use is made of the private sector to meet particular needs. In Germany, healthcare is provided under arrangements that also involve the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen's Families Association and five German hospitals.
Mr. Ingram: Under the Government's Wider Markets Initiative, the RAF seeks to maximise use of irreducible spare capacity. Sustained commercial activity on an RAF station is usually exposed to full and open competition. Short-term use of the Ministry of Defence assets, including its estate, is subject to an appropriate licence, lease or contract. In all circumstances, military operations would retain primacy.
Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent approaches have been made by private airlines to develop commercial civilian services from (a) RAF Kinross and (b) RAF Lossiemouth. 
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will state, for each train operating company, (a) when the franchise was first renewed, (b) the length of the original franchise awarded, (c) the dates on which the franchise has since been awarded, (d) when the franchise is next due to be awarded, (e) the changes in the ownership which have taken place since the franchise was first awarded and (f) changes in the franchise since December 2001. 
Mr. Jamieson: The information requested has been placed in the Library of the House and most of it is also available on the SRA's website as SRA.gov.uk except for details of changes to franchise agreements since December 2001 which are held on the Strategic Rail Authority's Public Register, available for inspection at their offices or for purchase.
Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what recent assessment has been made of the success of (a) the postal vote and (b) other experimental voting systems; and what assessment has been made of extending the postal vote to general elections. 
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Dr. Whitehead: The Electoral Commission began its evaluation on 3 May of the electoral pilot schemes which took place in the recent local elections, and will provide a detailed assessment of the impact of new voting methods to the Secretary of State by 2 August 2002. Early indications are that all-postal ballots can increase turnout and the various electronic means of voting were positively received. We will wish to consider the Commission's evaluations carefully before making decisions on the future use of postal voting in elections.
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many cases of vandalism of railway tracks were reported in each of the past five years; what the average annual cost of repairing vandalism to the rail network has been in the last five years; and what initiatives are being pursued to prevent vandalism of the rail network. 
(Vandalism offences include offences such as criminal damage, arson, graffiti, vandalism rolling stock, etc., endangering safety, obstructing trains, throwing missiles and stonethrowing.)
Railway Safety have estimated that the repair bill for the industry resulting from vandalism is some £25 million per year.
Current initiatives to reduce vandalism of the rail network include:
"Leave Sites Safe and Secure"a Railtrack campaign to clear lineside debris which could be used in acts of vandalism. The overall aim of the campaign is to remove or safely secure all lineside materials by October 2002. The railway industry is working closely with HM Railway Inspectorate (HMRI) to achieve this objective;
"National Route Crime Week" 1725 June sponsored by the National Co-ordinating Group for Trespass and Vandalism (an SRA/Railway Safety body). There will be a number of activities including an open debate at the Health and Safety Commission's (HSC) Rail Industry Advisory Committee meeting on 25 June;
Industry programmes for reducing vandalism, including a range of targeted engineering measures such as improved railway fencing and caging bridges at vulnerable locations. HMRI monitor these programmes and take action if necessary.
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what advice he has commissioned on rail safety and the state of Railtrack's assets since the appointment of an administrator for Railtrack. 
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major accidents and in particular acting on the recommendations by Lord Cullen. It is for the Health and Safety Executive to ensure that the safety case for Railtrack is complied with.
Mr. Byers: Railtrack has told the Department that they continue to attract good numbers of high quality candidates for vacancies at all levels of the organisation. They are doubling their graduate intake from 35 to 70 and are particularly pleased with the number and strength of the applications received. Since 8 October Railtrack have recruited 69 qualified engineers. They are on course to achieve the target of 1,000 engineers in post within 18 months. Overall turnover rates, at some 10 per cent remain steady, with engineers lower at 6 per cent.
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what advice on safety he received in the weekly and four-weekly management reports from Railtrack in Administration. 
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what advice the former Deputy Chief Inspector of Railways gave to the Administrator of Railtrack and himself following his appointment last year to ensure that safety in the railways is maintained. 
Mr. Byers: Alan Cooksey, the Health and Safety Executive's former Deputy Chief Inspector of Railways was recruited by the Administrator to ensure that technical safety issues are properly considered. His responsibilities are to the Administrator and not to the Secretary of State.
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