Previous Section Index Home Page

21 Nov 2002 : Column 216W—continued

Farmers (Thailand)

Richard Younger-Ross : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representation he has received regarding the Minute between the UK and Thailand Government signed on 19 October concerning those clauses that will help Thai farmers to export to the United Kingdom and Europe. [81205]

Dr. Moonie: None. The Joint Minute signed between Thailand and the United Kingdom on 19 October contains no clauses referring to Thai agricultural goods. It states the Government's intention to continue to offer advice and training in areas such as peace support operations and to share our experience of initiatives such as the Strategic Defence Review. It also refers to the modernisation of the Royal Thai Armed Forces and our support of BAE SYSTEMS legitimate efforts to supply a range of defence equipment. I will place a copy of the Joint Minute in the Library of the House.

Fijian Soldiers

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to make it easier for Fijian soldiers serving in British regiments to travel freely while on leave. [80698]

21 Nov 2002 : Column 217W

Mr. Ingram: Fijian personnel serving in the British Army may travel on leave within the United Kingdom without restriction. Those who wish to travel abroad during their leave periods, other than to their country of origin, are subject to the same visa and entry requirements as other Fijian nationals travelling abroad. Visa and entry requirements are constantly changing and may only be guaranteed by the embassy, consulate or high commission of the country an individual wishes to enter.

There are no specific plans, at present, to make any changes in this regard.

Fire Tenders (Northern Ireland)

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the Department first used the term Yellow Goddess to describe a liveries military fire tender in Northern Ireland; and what other colours are available for fire tenders employed on overseas postings. [80618]

Mr. Ingram: The term Yellow Goddess was first used in 2002 to describe the livery of the fire tenders deployed to Northern Ireland and manned by the army. All fire tenders used by the Defence Fire Service on bases in the United Kingdom and overseas are red.

Firefighters' Dispute

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence under what powers the Government have authorised the employment of members of Her Majesty's armed forces for fire fighting duties; and if he will make a statement. [81722]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 19 November 2002]: The involvement of the armed forces followed a request from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to assist with the provision of emergency fire and rescue cover in the event of a firemen's strike. A Defence Council Order for this purpose was signed under the Emergency Powers Act 1964.

The order permits troops to be used on non-military tasks which constitute urgent work of national importance, ensuring that instructions given to troops are lawful and subject to the provisions of the Service Discipline Acts.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to train defence personnel in the use of civilian fire equipment; and what estimates have been made of the time required to train personnel to an equivalent standard (a) to their current capacity to handle Green Goddesses, (b) to that of retained firefighters and (c) to that of full-time firefighters. [81958]

Mr. Ingram: In view of the additional challenges presented by the eight-day strike threatened by the Fire Brigades Union to begin on 22 November, a number of red fire engines have been made available from the National Fire College and the Scottish training college.

These will be deployed in a role similar to that of the Green Goddesses, while exploiting the advantages they offer in this role. Two days conversion training for existing Green Goddess crews began on 18 November to enable their deployment, should it be necessary, on 22 November. It would take on average a minimum of

21 Nov 2002 : Column 218W

five weeks to train crews to the standard of retained firefighters and 12 weeks to that of full-time firefighters. Training times would, however, be dependent upon factors such as the numbers to be trained, the availability of personnel (instructors and trainees) and equipment and the time required to resource the training locations.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) soldiers, (b) sailors and (c) airmen are (i) deployed on firefighting activities, (ii) trained to use civilian fire equipment and (iii) currently training to use civilian fire equipment. [82011]

Mr. Ingram: Approximately 2,700 Royal Navy personnel, 7,400 Army personnel and 2,200 Royal Air force personnel (some 12,300 personnel in total) are currently available for firefighting duties during Fire Brigade Union strike periods. In addition, 6,700 personnel are employed in support roles. Of the 12,300 personnel, 2,134 are trained in specialist roles to use civilian-type fire equipment (rescue equipment/cutting gear, chemical protection suits etc). They make up the flexible response Breathing Apparatus Rescue Teams and Regional Equipment Support Teams. The total is broken down by service as follows:


As at 19 November, 240 personnel were undergoing conversion training from Green Goddesses to red fire appliances. Once trained, they will be able to operate the red fire appliances in a role similar to that of the Green Goddesses.

Gurkha Welfare Trust

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what financial assistance his Department gives to the Gurkha Welfare Trust; and if he will make a statement. [82225]

Dr. Moonie: The Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) is a registered charity independent of the Ministry of Defence. It was established in 1969 to provide financial, medical and community aid to alleviate hardship and distress among Gurkhas and their families when they leave the British Army. The Department recognises the valuable work of the Trust and makes an annual grant in order to pay for the administrative costs of its field arm, the Gurkha Welfare Scheme (GWS). This year the Grant was #710,417. Our Defence Attache in Kathmandu heads the GWS. It spends over #6 million each year in Nepal and our contribution enables nearly all the money raised by the Trust through charitable donations and public appeals to be used for welfare purposes. This includes the payment of welfare pensions to Gurkhas who, in common with many other soldiers recruited to British colours for wartime service, were discharged before completing the requisite period of employment to qualify for a Service pension. The GWS provides, even in the most remote areas of Nepal, primary health care, first aid and emergency treatment, doctors' clinics and elementary dentistry, all free of charge. It is also involved in community projects and the

21 Nov 2002 : Column 219W

award of one-off hardship payments in respect of individual catastrophes. No genuine case of hardship is ever turned away and its work not only benefits our ex-Servicemen, but is also of value to the infrastructure of Nepal as a whole.

L104A1 Anti-riot Gun

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the means are of assessing a candidate applying for a competency qualification to fire the L104A1 anti-riot gun; what the minimum number of rounds is a candidate must fire to complete the training course; how many rounds must be fired in test conditions; what the pass score is; what the percentage rate of successful candidates is; and how many hours' training is required before a candidate is ready to take the test. [80625]

Mr. Ingram: All soldiers are, by virtue of their training and experience, considered capable of being trained as a baton gunner. Individuals do not apply to take the L104A1 competency qualification, rather, assessments are made by commanders who then choose who should be trained as a baton gunner. To complete the L21 training course, a minimum of 20 rounds must be fired of which five rounds must be fired under test conditions achieving a grouping of 200mm. There is no score pass or percentage pass rate as such, as training is continued until the standard has been achieved. In addition to the basics of small arms training, it takes a further five hours to train a soldier to safely handle and fire a baton gun.

Medical Down-Grading

Mr. Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of Her Majesty's forces are medically down-graded. [80794]

Dr. Moonie: The numbers of trained UK regular personnel in the armed forces who were medically down-graded in October 2002 are given in the following table:

OfficersOther ranksTotal


1. These figures exclude FTRS, Gurkhas, R Irish (Home Service) and reservists who have been mobilised for duty.

2. The Army figures are based on the Pulheems Efficiency Standard, and are all those who are not marked as being fit everywhere.

3. The RAF figures are based on the Medical Employment Standard, and are all those who have a 3, 4 or 5 against their ground work capability.

4. The Navy figures are based on their Medical Category and are all those who do not have a P code of P2.

5. As the services have different methods of determining who is medically down-graded the figures are not comparable across the three services.

Next Section Index Home Page