3 Dec 2002 : Column 67WS
The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Mr. Douglas Alexander): The aggregate amount of civil defence grants to be made for the financial year 200304 is £19,038,000 of which £100,000 will be retained as discretionary grant for special projects and special events deemed of benefit to the wider emergency planning community in England and Wales.
The remaining £18,938,000 will be allocated to individual authorities as set out in the table below.
The grants have been allocated in the same way as last year, but with each authority receiving an equal share of the additional £70,000 available. Every authority thereby receives a slight increase in grant of £386.
|Local Authority||Grant Allocation 2003-04 (£)|
|Barking and Dagenham||75,969|
|Bath and North East Somerset||90,011|
|Blackburn with Darwen||70,658|
|Brighton and Hove||81,172|
|Corporation of London||60,145|
|East Riding of Yorkshire||72,166|
|Greater Manchester FCDA||64,060|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||76,719|
|Hull (Kingston upon Hull)||72,265|
|Isle of Wight||72,230|
|Isles of Scilly||53,708|
|Kensington and Chelsea||74,788|
|Kingston upon Thames||67,654|
|Neath Port Talbot||70,259|
|Newcastle Upon Tyne||102,823|
|North East Lincolnshire||71,624|
|Redcar and Cleveland||69,693|
|Rhondda Cynon Taff||82,319|
|Richmond upon Thames||69,424|
|South Yorkshire FCDA||84,356|
|Telford and Wrekin||72,385|
|Tyne and Wear FCDA||34,892|
|Vale of Glamorgan||72,385|
|West Midlands FCDA||60,386|
|West Yorkshire FCDA||61,593|
|Windsor and Maidenhead||66,796|
3 Dec 2002 : Column 69WS
3 Dec 2002 : Column 70WS
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): When the destroyer HMS NOTTINGHAM grounded in Australian waters on 7 July 2002 she sustained severe damage and flooding in the forward part of the ship. She is now on passage to the UK on a heavy lift ship and is expected to arrive in United Kingdom waters on 7 December. She will then be unloaded and towed into HM Naval Base at Portsmouth where a contract has been placed for her repair with Fleet Support Limited. The repair workwhich will cost around £26M, including all materials supplied by the Departmentis expected to last up to 18 months. HMS NOTTINGHAM is expected to return to operational service in November 2004.
HMS NOTTINGHAM is a highly capable Type 42 destroyer designed to provide area air defence either independently or as an integral component of larger joint or coalition maritime task groups. Her key weapons, sensors and Command System were significantly upgraded during an extensive refit in 19992000. These improvements will enable the ship to keep pace with the increasing demands of maritime air defence during the next 10 years and will aid interoperability with key allies, in particular the USA. HMS NOTTINGHAM's contribution will be crucial to bridging the air defence gap during the drawdown in Sea Harrier air defence aircraft beginning in 2005 and the introduction of the Type 45 Destroyer from 2007.
To ease the short-term programming gap in the fleet created by HMS NOTTINGHAM's unavailability, HMS GLASGOW, an older and less capable Type 42 is being regenerated from a planned state of lower readiness. An alternative solution which would have given HMS GLASGOW a similar capability upgrade to that received by HMS NOTTINGHAM in 1999 was considered, but the repair of HMS NOTTINGHAM was deemed to provide best value for money.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie): On 25 April 2002 Official Report, columns 42627W, I informed the House that the problem of mistaken taxation of some Service invalidity pensions was more extensive than previously understood. I reported that we had set up an internal review, independent of the staffs involved, to establish the extent of the taxation errors and expose any related problems. This review is now complete.
The review has established that the taxation problem is more extensive than I indicated in April. It is now clear that some RAF pensions are affected, and that the RN pensions affected are not limited to the period 197399. In addition, the review has found that further work is needed on Army pensions; this is required both to re-examine more thoroughly certain cases adjudged when first reviewed as correctly taxed, and to examine for the first time some other cases previously not thought to be at risk.
3 Dec 2002 : Column 71WS
The findings of the review mean that the number of files needing examination has proved considerably larger than I stated previously. I now expect it will not be possible to complete a comprehensive check for all three Services before next summer. I regret that this work cannot be done faster, but it is vital that it be done accurately, by suitably cleared staff who are also familiar with the relevant documents. The pace of the work is also affected by the lack of comprehensive computerised information distinguishing invalidity pensions from others. This has made it necessary to handle many tens of thousands of files which are not at risk in order to identify those that are. This difficulty continues to affect progress.
We are very much aware of the importance of giving as much priority as possible to examining the cases of our oldest pensioners. Although over 70 per cent. of errors identified so far affect younger pensioners, discharged in or after 1990, we anticipate that errors still to be found will include some affecting the oldest age-group. I much regret that in several of the cases recently re-examined a pensioner, previously misadvised that his pension was correctly taxed, has died before an error was recognised. In such cases the tax refund is to be paid, with due apology, to the pensioner's widow or estate.
A further problem brought to light by the review is that some of the pensions taxed in error were also affected by an underpayment of Armed Forces Pension Scheme benefits. Over 350 pensioners have so far been identified in this category, most of whom were discharged in the 1990s. The average underpayment in these cases was around £4,500. The cost to date of rectifying tax errors has been some £5M, which happens also to be an average of some £4,500 per pensioner.
The review includes a full analysis of the causes of errors and the necessary remedial action; the latter is already in hand. The procedures used in the conduct of the review have been validated by the National Audit Office. The NAO's letter of validation and the report of the review have been placed in the library of the House.
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