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9 Dec 2002 : Column 16W—continued

Operation Amber Fox

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 2 December 2002, ref 82556, what factors will determine the length of the period for which Operation Amber Fox will continue under a NATO mandate. [86053]

Mr. Ingram: Operation Amber Fox concludes on 15 December 2002 and will be succeeded by the NATO-led Operation ALLIED HARMONY on 16 December 2002: Operation ALLIED HARMONY is scheduled to operate until 16 June 2003.

The factors which determine the length of the NATO operation remain those normally applied: namely, the assessment of military requirements and the views of the Macedonian authorities. A NATO review of Operation ALLIED HARMONY is planned for February 2003.

We remain keen to see an ESDP operation in Macedonia once permanent EU-NATO arrangements are in place.

Operation Sandcastle

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 27 November Ref. 81327, if he will publish the conclusions of the report. [84722]

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Mr. Ingram [holding answer 2 December 2002]:


Parachute Training

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what changes there will be in the level of actual parachute training as a result of the virtual reality simulator. [85653]

Dr. Moonie: The level of parachute training undertaken from aircraft has not changed as a result of the introduction into service of the parachute Virtual Reality Simulator in 1999. The Virtual Reality Simulator enhances the training and safety of static line square parachute courses, but does not reduce the number of descents or flying hours required to complete the static line square parachute course.


Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the PFI projects approved by his Department since 1st April together with (a) the capital value and (b) the through-project costs estimated in each case. [85499]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence has signed three PFI deals since 1 April 2002. These are as follows with details in rounded resource cost terms:

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(a) Materials Handling Equipment (MHE) Service XFollow-on",which has a capital value of #40 million and estimated through project costs of #50 million.

(b) Field Electrical Power Supplies (FEPS), which has a capital value of #70 million and estimated through project costs of #200 million.

(c) Strategic Sea Lift (Roll-on Roll-off Ferries), which has a capital value of #175 million and estimated through project costs of #950 million.

RAF (Grievances)

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many staff officers are employed by the Royal Air Force in dealing with redress of grievances; and how many cases are outstanding. [85529]

Dr. Moonie: Staff officers throughout the chain of command are involved in processing redresses of complaint among a wide range of other personnel-related duties. Only three staff officers, at HQ Personnel and Training Command, are dedicated to redress work. The number of redresses not yet resolved at Command and Air Force Board level is 359, of which 247 relate to the introduction of Pay 2000.

Separated Service

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much separated service was recorded by the (a) RAF Separated Service Recording System in each year since 1997 and (b) Navy Separated Service Recording System in each year since 2001. [85377]

Dr. Moonie: The following table shows how much Separated Service was recorded by the RAF Separated Service Recording System in each financial year since April 1997.

Incidences of Separated Service for operations and training(2)

Personnel on Separated Service spending
Average trained strength<28 days28–89 days90–139 days140–279 days280+ daysTotal personnel spending time on Separated ServicePercentage of average trained strength who were on Separated ServiceTotal days spent on Separated Service

(2) An incidence of Separated Service is recorded when an individual is absent from their parent unit on duty for three nights or more and a permanent order has not been issued. The table shows separated service for operational and training commitments excluding resettlement and expedition training.

(3) Information up to 30 September 2002 only.

Information from April 2000 excludes weekends where personnel are able to return home while on detached duty.

The Royal Navy Separated Service Reporting System was introduced in October 2001, initially with data held only at unit level. Information was first collected centrally in July 2002 and results from this will become available once the data have been quality assured and analysed. This is expected to be in the first half of 2003.

Skill Force Scheme

Helen Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the pilot Skill Force scheme; and if he will make a statement. [83989]

Dr. Moonie : The Skill Force scheme is now in its third year in secondary schools at its two original locations. A further nine locations are in their second year of piloting and this autumn we are putting Skill Force teams into a

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further 13 locations. This latest expansion is being taken forward jointly between the Ministry of Defence and Department of Education and Skills (DfES) as part of DfES's Behaviour Improvement Programme which, in turn, is part of the Government's Street Crime Initiative.

Independent evaluation of the impact of this exciting scheme is an integral part of the approach we have taken to the piloting of Skill Force. This focuses on testing the scheme's achievement against the key objectives: reducing truancy; reducing exclusions; improving educational and vocational attainment; improving behaviour; and reducing the number of young people who are not in employment, education or training on completion of their mandatory schooling.

The latest evaluation by the British Market Research Bureau reviews the original schemes in Newcastle Upon Tyne and West Norfolk and shows positive results. Attendance rates exceeded 90 per cent. among children who were otherwise expected to display sharply declining attendance through years 10 and 11; for many it would have been expected that declining attendance would have led eventually to exclusion. Exclusion levels have also reduced dramatically; only 13 participants were excluded, compared to 46 who were identified at being at risk of permanent exclusion. One Norfolk Head Teacher said:

Skill Force has been credited as the major factor in raising GCSE A*-C grades from 26 per cent. to 36 per cent. in one of the Newcastle Upon Tyne schools.

In addition, over half of the parents interviewed have reported more positive behaviour and attitudes which they attribute directly to Skill Force.

The report also indicated areas where further development of the Schemes could be undertaken and would be beneficial.

A full copy of the British Market Research Bureau research has already been placed in the Library of the House.

Strategic Sealift Programme

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much was paid by his Department after it assumed responsibility for contract payments in the RoRo strategic sealift programme. [85383]

Dr. Moonie: In March 2001 the Ministry of Defence assumed responsibility for the contracts for the two RoRo vessels to be built at Harland and Wolff and made its first payments in respect of the contracts. The payments amounted to some #3.7 million in respect of the first ship and #3.8 million for the second. As both ships are now nearing completion the total sums paid are approaching the contract prices originally agreed between the shipbuilder and the service provider. Total payments are commercially sensitive and I am withholding this information in accordance with

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Exemption 7 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, which relates to effective management and operations of the public services.

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