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9 Dec 2002 : Column 20W—continued

Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what tactical nuclear devices his Department holds. [86218]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence holds no tactical nuclear devices.

Tomahawk Missiles

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which submarines are expected to be equipped with Tactical Tomahawk Block IV missiles; and if he will make a statement. [85375]

Mr. Ingram: No decisions have yet been taken on the purchase of Tactical Tomahawk (Block IV) missiles. However, it is planned that all ASTUTE and TRAFALGAR Class submarines will be capable of firing torpedo tube launched Tactical Tomahawk missiles.

UN (Culture of Impunity)

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on the request from the United Nations that each member state should adopt exclusionary measures to protect its armed forces against the development of a culture of impunity; and what his policy is if criminal convictions result in individual service personnel being excluded from membership of HM armed forces. [85968]

Mr. Ingram: There is no culture of impunity in the United Kingdom armed forces, whose members are subject to the ordinary law of the land. Criminal convictions are judged according to their seriousness: minor offences would not necessarily exclude a person from membership of the armed forces; more serious offences, including those leading to a sentence of imprisonment, may be expected to result in dismissal.

Virtual Air Traffic Control Tower

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the costs were of the upgrades to the virtual air traffic control tower; and by how much this project went over budget. [85453]

Dr. Moonie: The total cost of the upgrades to the virtual air traffic control tower at the Centralised Air Traffic Control School, RAF Shawbury was #1.15 million inclusive of VAT. The project was completed in November 2001 within the approved budget.



Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight will receive a reply

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from the Legal Services Commission to his letter of 31 July and his subsequent letters of 26 September, 11 October and 30 October. [85720]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The correspondence from the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight has now been dealt with by the Legal Services Commission's (LSC) Reading Office and a response sent on 6 December. The commission regrets the delay in reply.

Staff turnover has affected recent customer service performance at the LSC's reading office. The LSC is conducting a major review with a view to resolving these difficulties.

Legal Aid

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department under what circumstances it is possible for a person earning #90,000 per year to obtain legal aid. [82570]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Such a decision would be very rare. Under the Access to Justice Act 1999, public funding (formerly called legal aid) is provided under the Community Legal Service (CLS) and the Criminal Defence Service (CDS). CLS funding, which covers civil proceedings, is only available for cases within the scope of the scheme subject to a statutory means test and funding assessment. Under the present system a person with an income of #90,000 per year would rarely qualify for civil public funding. It could be possible in cases involving public family law, such as care and supervision orders, child assessment orders, emergency child protection orders; and Mental Health Review Tribunals.

Any individual charged with an offence and appearing before the courts can receive publicly funded representation without reference to their means where it is in the interests of justice for help to be granted. When the CDS was introduced in April 2001, the means test for criminal legal aid was abolished. It was replaced with a power for judges in the Crown Court to order a convicted defendant to pay some, or all, of the costs incurred in defending him, by way of a Recovery of Defence Costs Order.

Thus a person with a high income might receive public assistance, but can be required to repay that support. Typically a court will exercise that power if the defendant is found guilty. A defendant found not guilty will almost certainly not have to repay legal aid costs. But this represents no effective change on the position before April 2001. It has always been, and remains, the case that a defendant found not guilty, who pays for his own defence, will almost certainly have the costs of his defence repaid by Government to the extent that such costs accord with legal aid rates.

Sexual Assaults

Vera Baird: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to issue guidance on the inferences to be drawn from the timing of complaints by victims of sexual assaults. [84610]

Hilary Benn: I have been asked to reply.

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We have no plans to issue any guidance on this issue. This is a matter of evidence that needs to be decided on the facts of each individual case.



Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will name the 10 Iraqi women to whom he referred in his oral answer to the hon. Member for Linlithgow, on 4 December; and what reports the Government have received on the circumstances of their leaving Iraq. [86430]

The Prime Minister: On 2 December I met a group of Iraqi women who had suffered human rights violations by Saddam Hussein's regime. All the women had had direct experience of Saddam Hussein's brutality.

Some of the women present gave a press briefing on 21 November which highlighted the brutality of the Iraqi regime and drew attention to the plight of Iraqi women who have witnessed killings and other atrocities under Saddam's dictatorship. They also gave details on the circumstances under which they left Iraq. These were Safia Al Souhail, Fatima Bahr Al Ulum, Ala Talabani, Berivan Doski and Melina Bakoos. Because of the risk of reprisals against their families and friends in Iraq, it would be wrong to name those women who have not made their names public.


Access Rights

Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress is being made towards giving a right of access to open countryside and common land in the lower north-west area; and if this will be implemented by summer 2004. [85346]

Alun Michael: The provisional map of access land for the lower north-west was issued on 18 November. There is now a three-month period when anyone with a legal interest in the land may lodge an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate against the inclusion of their land as access land on the provisional map. We expect a conclusive map to be issued at the end of 2003, but this depends on the number of appeals. On current plans, I intend to open the new statutory right of access in the lower north-west and upper north-west together during the autumn of 2004. This will be followed by the north-east and the south-west in the first six months of 2005, with all access land opened by the end of 2005.


Tony Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she will reply to the letters of 2 December 2001 from the hon. Member for Workington which were passed to her for reply on 8 March. [85486]

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Alun Michael: Unfortunately the Department has no record of receiving this correspondence. However, I have asked Correspondence Section to contact my hon. Friend as a matter of urgency to obtain copies of his letters so that we may deal with them speedily.

Farmed Salmon

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what information her Department has collated about the level of toxins found in farmed salmon; what assessment she has made of the risk to human health; and if she will make a statement. [84187]

Ms Blears: I have been asked to reply.

I am advised by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that the Government have been monitoring and releasing information on chemicals in food, including farmed salmon, for over 10 years. Information on fish, including farmed salmon, has been published in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's Food Surveillance Paper No. 31, and Food Surveillance Information Sheets Nos. 71, 89, 105, 145, 184 and 191. The most recent information has been published by the FSA in its Food Survey Information Sheets Nos. 4/00, and 5/00, and the FSA Press Release of 10 May which issued precautionary advice for certain population groups on eating shark, swordfish and marlin. Copies of all these papers will be placed in the Library. The FSA is also aware of a range of published studies that have been carried out both in the United Kingdom and abroad.

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The FSA advises that consumers should eat at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily, as part of a healthy, balanced diet. The FSA has however been asked about the risks and benefits of eating larger amounts of fish, including oily fish such as salmon, and currently is seeking advice on this from its independent experts.

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