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20 Nov 2002 : Column 116W—continued

HMS Trafalgar

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the repair work to HMS Trafalgar to begin; and how long it will be out of commission. [81113]

Mr. Ingram: :It is too soon to say when the repair work on HMS Trafalgar will start or how long she will be out of commission. First, we need to assess the full extent of the damage and this work cannot begin until she is in dry dock in Devonport Dockyard. However, she was in any event due to undergo a planned maintenance and docking period starting in Spring 2003 and completing in early 2004.


Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what support the United Kingdom link provide for the military protection and support of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq; and which other nations are expected to provide the major elements of such protection and support. [80961]

Mr. Hoon: The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) has not made any request for the United Kingdom to provide for the military protection and support of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq. We are not aware of such a request having been made to other nations. The Government is committed to assist UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency Iraq Action Team to fulfil their mandate effectively.

IT Security

Brian White: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he has taken to review the security of the Department's IT system; and how many digital attacks there were on the Department's system in (a) October and (b) 2002. [80778]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence is continuously reviewing, and seeking ways to improve, the security of its communications and information systems. Electronic protective measures employed to safeguard classified data include the use of firewalls to protect systems, the identification and authentication of users and audit of user activities.

The Ministry of Defence, in common with any organisation that is connected to the Internet, is subject to widespread and frequent attempts to probe its electronic boundaries. It is Ministry of Defence policy not to make detailed comment on the protection

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measures applied to communications and information systems, or on techniques such as computer hacking, as these could assist potential enemies to penetrate these elements of national security.

During October 2002, no incidents of computer hacking were reported. So far this year 10 incidents of computer hacking have been reported, of which one was a website defacement. None of these had any significant impact on the conduct of military operations or other core Defence business.

Office Technology

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the corporate headquarters office technology system; and what his assessment is of its level of usage by MoD staff. [80972]

Dr. Moonie: The Corporate Headquarters Office Technology System (CHOTS), first introduced in the Ministry of Defence in the early 1990s and rolled out progressively since, is MOD's workhorse computing platform for office automation within the Head Office of the Department, and is installed in or linked to major Commands and HQ locations, at 23 main sites and 128 minor sites both in the United Kingdom and overseas. It comprises some 13,000 workstations and supports over 25,000 user accounts, and is used predominantly for the preparation of documents, spreadsheets and presentation material, for e-mail preparation, transmission and reception, and for internal web site hosting and browsing. The system enjoys a high level of usage by MOD staff, running at typically 80per cent. of capacity. Typical average e-mail traffic within the system is presently in the region of 2.25 million per month.

Retired Officers Scheme

Dr. Andrew Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of the Retired Officers scheme. [81662]

Dr. Moonie: The Retired Officer Scheme has served us well for more than four decades, but a continuing manning deficit coupled with the emergence of increasingly stringent employment legislation has caused us to examine alternative means of capitalising on the valuable experience of those retiring from the Armed Forces. In addition to this source of expertise we would also like to attract people with suitable experience from industry, the Civil Service, and from the wider Defenceenvironment. After full consultation it has been decided that there will be no further recruitment into the Retired Officer Scheme. Instead, people will be recruited both internally and externally into Military Support posts within the mainstream Civil Service. Some former RO posts that may require a uniquely military background, or a specific military qualification, will become the responsibility of the respective Service Secretaries. Serving Retired Officers will be invited to assimilate into the new arrangements, although they will be free to remain as established Retired Officers should they wish to do so.

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Service Personnel (Deaths)

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the arrangements are for the investigation of the cause of death of service personnel serving overseas in (a) Germany, (b) Bosnia, (c) Kosovo, (d) Afghanistan and (e) other principal countries of posting; by what means he ensures the protection of rights to an independent, prompt and effective investigation under the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. [80647]

Dr. Moonie: Rules governing jurisdiction for investigation of un-natural deaths of Service personnel outside the United Kingdom are detailed in the Queen's Regulations for each service. These state that the position on jurisdiction is as follows:

Investigations are conducted by the Special Investigations Branch (SIB) of the relevant UK Military Police, where appropriate in conjunction with the local civilian police force.

Where the body is returned to the UK it automatically becomes subject to an inquest by HM Coroner or (in Scotland) the Procurator Fiscal. All cases of sudden death are investigated to Home Office standards using accepted best practice.


Domestic Violence

2. Judy Mallaber: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what action his Department is taking to help victims of domestic violence. [81539]

Mrs. Roche: Tackling domestic violence is a major priority. We have improved access to housing for women fleeing violence and made their support a priority for the new Supporting People programme. We will shortly publish new, practical guidance to local authorities on preparing for Supporting People, and are putting in place plans for further action, which will be announced shortly.

Housing Shortage

12. Hugh Bayley: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what additional help will be given to cities and towns in the north of England which have an acute shortage of affordable housing. [81549]

Mr. McNulty: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has allocated #193 million of the Housing Corporation's approved development programme for

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2003–04 to the northern regions. This represents an increase of 24 per cent. on the current year for the provision of affordable housing.

Grant Distribution System

13. Mr. Syms: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when his Department will announce the level of floors to grant changes as a result of the Government consultation reviewing the formula grant distribution system. [81551]

Mr. Raynsford: We will announce our proposals for the levels of grant floors to Parliament as part of the provisional 2003–04 local government finance settlement. We expect to do that around the beginning of December, subject to parliamentary business.

Affordable Housing

14. Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many new affordable housing units were built in rural areas in each of the last five years. [81552]

Mr. McNulty: Latest available information on the number of new dwellings constructed within local authority districts covering rural areas by both registered social landlords and local authorities in England is:


Equivalent information for 2001–02 is not currently available.

21. Mr. Burstow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many new affordable homes were built in the United Kingdom in the past 12 months. [81561]

Mr. McNulty: Over 24,500 new homes were constructed by both registered social landlords and local authorities in the UK during 2000–01, the latest period for which full data are available.

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