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9 Dec 2002 : Column 8W—continued

Barracks Opening Hours

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the regular hours of opening for consultation are at (a) Deepcut and (b) Catterick of (i) the regimental medical office, (ii) the Padre, (iii) the unit welfare officer, (iv) the local army welfare worker and (v) the Women's Royal Voluntary Service welfare office. [86074]

Mr. Ingram: The information requested is as follows:

Medical Centre0800–1630 Mon-Fri other times via the Medical Reception Centre Pirbright or Frimley Park Hospital A&E Dept.0800–1630 weekdays Medical non Commissioned Officer on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Garrison Medical Centre and the North Yorkshire emergency doctors can be called on outside normal working hours
PadreNormal working hours, with answerphone. On call 24 hrs by mobile phone.Padres at ITC Catterick teach elements of the training course. They are also available for welfare interviews and visits. The Padres office is open to all trainees at any time during the working day. Contact at other times via mobile phone or alternative telephone numbers.
Unit Welfare Office 0830–1700 Mon-Fri other times on call via mobile phone 0800–1630 Mon-Fri
Army Welfare Service 0830–1630 Mon-Fri, Duty call out via Duty Officer, plus Confidential Support Line 1030–2230Contact is maintained through the Unit Welfare Office.
WRVS1000–1400 and 1800–2200 seven days a week 1000–1400 and 1800–2200 Mon-Fri, 1700–2200 Weekends

(1) Catterick refers to the Infantry Training Centre Catterick, unless otherwise noted. Catterick Garrison maintains parallel services which are also available to the ITC as required.

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Barry Buddon Overspill Site

Patrick Mercer : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects Catterick's overspill site at Barry Buddon to receive its first draft of trainees. [85649]

Dr. Moonie: The Army Training and Recruiting Agency has scheduled the commencement of an Infantry training course to commence at Barry Buddon on 20 January 2003. There are no plans for a further intake of trainees at that location.


Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many complaints have been made of bullying within the Army Welfare Service in each of the last five years, broken down by area office. [86131]

Dr. Moonie: There have been three recorded complaints of alleged bullying/harassment within the Army Welfare Service in the last five years. Due to the small numbers involved, I am not prepared to disclose the locations of these incidents in the event that this leads to the identification of those concerned. I am therefore withholding that information under Exemption 12 (Privacy of an Individual) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. All the incidents were dealt with internally in accordance with established procedures.

Casualty Exercises

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what mass casualty exercises have been undertaken by the Defence Medical Services in the past two years; and how many personnel were involved in each exercise. [80977]

Dr. Moonie: Members of the Defence Medical Services (DMS) participate in military training and exercises, and operational deployments, which can have a mass casualty exercise element to rehearse the procedures to be followed by a military medical facility facing large numbers of casualties. These exercises are based on casualty numbers ranging from 25 to over 100. DMS personnel serving at hospital facilities also participate in mass casualty exercises organised by, or involving the hospital concerned. No central records are maintained of the number of mass casualty exercises in which DMS personnel participate, nor of the numbers who do so.

Chemical Weapons Sites

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what systematic research his Department has undertaken since 1972 regarding the health of (a) those who worked in chemical weapons production plants during the First and Second World Wars, (b) their families and (c) those living in the surrounding area; [85447]

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Dr. Moonie: I will write to my hon Friend and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Children (Armed Conflict)

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the Government will ratify the Optional Protocol on the UN Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict. [85956]

Mr. Ingram: Officials in both the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have almost finalised the work required to enable the Government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. We will begin the ratification process very shortly by laying an Explanatory Memorandum before Parliament.

Decommissioned Submarines

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will (a) assess and (b) certify the seaworthiness of decommissioned submarines prior to offering them for sale. [83961]

Dr. Moonie: It is our policy that decommissioned nuclear submarines are not offered for sale. The four conventional Upholder Class submarines were taken out of active service with the Royal Navy in 1994, but were not decommissioned. The submarines were subsequently placed under a Custody, Care and

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Maintenance contract, which is now managed by BAE Systems, until agreement was reached with Canada in July 1998 for the lease with option to buy the four boats.

In January 1999 a contract was signed between the DPA and now BAE Systems for the reactivation (refurbishment) of the submarines to a standard and to a level of safety acceptable to the Royal Navy. This included MOD safety certification with a safe to dive certificate for a period of not less than three and a half years for each boat.

Deepcut Army Barracks

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in which years since 1990 a civilian firefighter has been (a) employed at and (b) resident in Deepcut Army Barracks; and what financial arrangements cover (i) salary and (ii) accommodation. [85321]

Mr. Ingram: There have been Defence Fire Service civilian officers at Deepcut Army Barracks for each year during the period in question, with three officers being stationed there at present. During that time 15 individual officers have occupied accommodation in the officers mess, one of whom is currently in residence. No precise records have been kept of their periods of tenure but generally they range between a few months and three years depending on the terms of their posting and their individual accommodation requirements. All those serving at Deepcut are paid according to the national salary pay scales with accommodation charges being levied at agreed departmental rates.

European Security and Defence Policy

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in (a) France and (b) Germany about the implications for NATO's naval capabilities of the creation of (i) an EU rapid reaction capability and (ii) a Franco-German defence union. [86479]

Mr. Hoon: MP: None.

Fire Services

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what training the Armed Forces have received for dealing with a fire at (a) a chemical and (b) a nuclear facility. [85458]

Mr. Ingram: As regards the Defence Estate all Ministry of Defence firefighting units are fully trained to deal with fires involving chemicals and, where there is a nuclear facility, personnel are provided with special instructions and training on the actions to be taken should an incident occur.

In relation to the current firelighters dispute, chemical incident and decontamination procedures were part of the 5-week Enhanced Trained Non- specialist (ETNS) training course undertaken by all members of Breathing Apparatus Rescue Teams (BARTs) and Rescue Equipment Support Teams (RESTs) deployed during the fire fighters dispute. This provided both theoretical training and a series of practical exercises including chemical incident scenarios. The subject has also been

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included in the Continuation Training Programme issued to all Joint Operational Control Centres and carried out at Temporary Service Fire Stations.

ETNS personnel have not been trained in nuclear incident procedures. Military fire fighting teams would be reliant upon the response of specialist teams from the nuclear agencies in the event of such an incident.

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what access the armed forces has to equipment necessary to deal with a fire at (a) a chemical and (b) a nuclear facility. [85459]

Mr. Ingram: All Ministry of Defence firefighting units are fully equipped to deal with fires on the defence estate involving chemicals and special equipment is provided to those sites where there is a nuclear facility.

In relation to the current firefighters dispute, Rescue Equipment Support Teams are equipped with Chemical Protection Suits and decontamination showers. Military firefighting teams that have been deployed are not equipped to deal with nuclear incidents and would be reliant upon the response of specialist teams from the nuclear agencies in the event of such an incident.

Syd Rapson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if naval personnel acting as firefighters during the dispute will lose their long service at sea bonus. [85412]

Mr. Ingram: Longer Service at Sea Bonus (LSSB) is paid, after the qualifying period, to Naval personnel if their permanent place of duty is an LSSB qualifying unit (broadly speaking, most ships, submarines and Naval Air Squadrons). These personnel will continue to receive LSSB if detached temporarily for firefighting duties during the current dispute.

Personnel not entitled to LSSB can qualify for Longer Separated Service Allowance to compensate for extended periods away from their permanent place of duty.

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the effect of the firefighters' dispute on (a) naval training and (b) naval deployment. [84366]

Mr. Ingram: The Armed Forces will continue to perform their duty to the public by providing emergency fire cover for as long as required. But as I stated in the House on 4 November 2002, Official Report, column 16:

Specifically for the Royal Navy, the firefighters' dispute has caused some reductions in operational programmes, notably the removal of frigates from NATO's Standing Force Atlantic and from the South Atlantic, but other Royal Navy vessels and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary remain deployed in the Caribbean, the Gulf, the Far East, the Mediterranean and the North and South Atlantic.

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The throughput of vessels through operational sea training has been reduced as personnel have been withdrawn from ships. This means that there will be increased demand for training in 2003 as ships return to the operational cycle.

For the individual service person, the effects of the firefighters' dispute on training and deployment are interlinked. Some training is being disrupted with consequential effects on drafting, career progression and promotion. The Royal Navy is making appropriately trained personnel to the fleet. The effect on individuals will be minimised by giving them priority on future courses; and there are existing safeguards for those whose career progression may be adversely affected.

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