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17 Dec 2002 : Column 725W—continued

Reserves Hardship Fund

Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to increase the monetary ceiling of the Reserves' Hardship Fund. [87060]

Dr. Moonie: Reservists called out into permanent service may apply for financial assistance in the event that their military salary is less than their earnings in civilian life. This assistance is paid in the form of a Reserve Standard Award (RSA). RSA is paid in banded rates that are related to a Reservist's rank. The current

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rates are set out in the Reserve Forces (Call-out and Recall) Financial Assistance Regulations (Statutory Instrument 1997/309). Work is in progress to raise the current bands to reflect the increases in inflation since these were brought into effect, and provide for automatic adjustment in line with inflation. It is currently planned to introduce the revised regulations early in 2003. Reservists are also eligible to apply for a Reserve Hardship Award (RHA) if the RSA alone would cause his/her dependents hardship. There is no ceiling for RHA payments.

Sponsored Reserves

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the role will be of the sponsored reserves; and if he will make a statement. [87687]

Dr. Moonie: The sponsored reserves concept involves a service normally provided in peacetime under contract by civilian staff employed by a contractor being provided on operations by staff drawn from the contractor's civilian workforce who have volunteered to become sponsored reservists. It envisages letting contracts for services on condition that the contractor maintains in his workforce an agreed element of staff who will have volunteered to become sponsored reservists. Should it be necessary to do so, these sponsored reservists would be called-out and serve alongside the armed forces. Their role as sponsored reservists is to continue to provide the contracted support services to the armed forces in an operational environment. They receive appropriate military training in peacetime to equip them to deliver the support required when called out for operations. The details of the individual roles of sponsored reservists will be reflected in their civilian employment contract and the contracts between the employer and the Ministry of Defence.


Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the total spending has been on the programme to re-fit Britain's nuclear submarines; and how much has been spent on each submarine. [87584]

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

Mr. Lyons: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what action he plans to take in response to the National Audit Office report on submarine refitting at Devonport. [87765]

Mr. Ingram: The report, while acknowledging that lessons for future projects have been identified by the Ministry of Defence, made a number of further recommendations. These are being considered in detail and, where appropriate, will be applied to MOD projects.

West Freugh Airfield

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many employees at West Freugh Airfield and Range were employed by (a) the Ministry of Defence, (b) QinetiQ and (c) other contractors on 24 July. [87136]

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Dr. Moonie: The following staff were employed at West Freugh on 24 July 2002: 24 from the Ministry of Defence; 141 from QinetiQ; and five from another contractor (SERCo Aerospace).

Wind Farms

Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many objections to (a) offshore and (b) onshore wind farms his Department has lodged with relevant planning authorities. [86639]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence has lodged four formal objections with planning authorities for onshore wind farms and no formal objections for offshore wind farm development.


Anti-TNF Drugs

Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many rheumatoid arthritis patients in Northern Ireland are on consultants' waiting lists to assess their condition for the prescription of anti-TNF drugs; and how much funding is available for the prescription of anti-TNF drugs in Northern Ireland. [86949]

Mr. Browne: There is no waiting list for rheumatoid arthritis patients awaiting assessment for anti-TNF drugs. However, as of December 2002, there are approximately 260 patients who have already been assessed as likely to benefit from anti-TNF therapy, but have not yet begun this form of treatment.

Currently, some #1.14 million is employed by health and social services boards and trusts specifically for anti-TNF drugs. An extra #3 million was recently made available to boards and has been made recurrent, in recognition of the exceptional cost of new, effective but highly expensive drug therapies including anti-TNF drugs. Following the Secretary of State's budget announcement on 11 December 2002, further funding will be made available when requirements have been agreed with service providers.

Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessments are being carried out to ascertain the effectiveness of anti-TNF drugs; and what the timetable is for anti-TNF drugs to be made more widely available. [86950]

Mr. Browne: All patients on drug treatments are regularly monitored and treatment regimens are reviewed to assess effectiveness and possible side effects. Further funding for acute services was announced in the Secretary of State's Budget statement on 11 December 2002. Some of this will be made available for patients who could benefit from anti-TNF and other specialist drugs treatments and also for the infrastructure required to support these treatments. I expect anti-TNF drugs therefore to become more widely available next year.

Asbestos Leakage (SEELB Building)

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when the Health and Safety Executive statement

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of fact and the full report into asbestos leakage at the SEELB HQ building, Dundonald will be published. [86924]

Jane Kennedy: I have been advised that the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) will communicate the findings of its investigation directly to all parties involved in this incident before the end of December 2002.

Armed Forces (Welfare Support)

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what measures the Government have introduced to support the families of (a) UDR and (b) RIR soldiers murdered by terrorists. [85683]

Dr. Moonie: I have been asked to reply.

There are a number of measures to support the families of members of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) and the Royal Irish Regiment (R IRISH). Widows/widowers may be compensated under two schemes, the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) and the War Pensions Scheme (WPS). In addition, the R IRISH have a unique, stand alone Regimental Welfare Organisation that is specifically structured to provide dedicated welfare support to its bereaved families. This welfare structure, which is directly funded by the Ministry of Defence, links into the various agencies that provide support to the rest of the Army.

Apart from Government support, there are two regimental benevolent funds in operation, the UDR Benevolent Fund and the R IRISH Benevolent Fund. The aims of both funds are the same, namely to provide help and support to the families and soldiers of the regiment, former soldiers and their families and the bereaved families of those soldiers or former soldiers killed as a result of terrorist action.


Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will calculate what revenue would be generated in Northern Ireland by increasing (a) domestic regional rate, and (b) non-domestic regional rate by one percentage point above current levels. [86647]

Mr. Pearson: The revenue generated by increasing the domestic regional rate by 1 per cent. would be #1.2 million and the revenue generated by increasing the non-domestic regional rate by 1 per cent. would be #2.1 million.

Spending Review

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list for his Department (a) those Comprehensive Spending Review 1998 targets that were outstanding at the time of the statement on the Comprehensive Spending Review 2002, (b) progress on such targets since then and (c) the expected date when targets not yet achieved will be met. [87699]

Mr. Pearson: All targets set in the context of the 1998 CSR relate to responsibilities devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive in December 1999. The CSR targets were superseded from 2001–02 onwards by the

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Executive's Programme for Government which sets priorities, objectives and targets for the Northern Ireland departments.

Wind Farms

David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the grid references are of the location of the landfall for the proposed offshore wind farm at Tunes Plateau; if Coleraine, Limavady, Londonderry and Moyle local authorities will be consulted on the proposed development of the wind farm; and if he will make a statement on the planning process for the proposed development. [87305]

Mr. Pearson: It is not possible to provide grid references of the location of any landfall for the Tunes Plateau offshore wind farm because a wide range of potential options are still being considered from an engineering and environmental perspective. No decision on any potential landfall can be made until completion of the following studies:

Coleraine, Limavady, Londonderry and Moyle councils were fully consulted during completion of the scope for the environmental impact assessment and will continue to be consulted as further information about the impact of this project comes to light.

Any developments relating to wind farms which require planning permission will be processed in accordance with current planning procedures; and policies in relation to public advertisement, neighbour notification and council consultation will apply. To date the Department of the Environment has not received such an application.

David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the source and amount of grants provided to the proposed offshore wind farm development at Tunes Plateau; and what the expected long-term savings to the electricity consumer in Northern Ireland through the proposed development of a wind farm at Tunes Plateau will be. [87288]

Mr. Pearson: A private sector consortium comprising B9 Energy, Renewable Energy Systems and PowerGen are carrying out, at their own expense, extensive feasibility studies into the possible development of an offshore wind farm at Tunes Plateau. The project has pre-qualified with the Department of Trade and Industry to be considered for assistance from the UK offshore wind Capital Grant Scheme to ensure that grant aid could be provided from that fund if the development proceeds and it proves necessary.

The precise nature and size of any offshore wind farm will emerge following the conclusion of the feasibility assessment that is currently ongoing. Until the completion of the feasibility assessment no precise calculations can be made about the volume of electricity

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that might be generated from the project. Calculations of long-term savings in electricity costs could only be made in the context of certainty regarding the final design of, and output from, the project and taking into account factors such as the costs of grid connection, the alternative costs of electricity from other sources and fossil fuel prices (which are subject to fluctuation).

David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the (a) life span, (b) financial costs and (c) environmental impact of decommissioning offshore wind farm sites. [87289]

Mr. Pearson: The design life of offshore wind turbines and infrastructure assets is typically considered to be 20 to 25 years.

Capital costs for offshore wind farms are of the order of #1,000,000/megawatt (MW) installed. This will vary considerably from site to site according to the foundation designs employed, the depth of water at the site and other aspects of the nature of the project site. The report, XAssessment of Offshore Wind Energy Resources", commissioned jointly by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment and the Department of Public Enterprise in the Republic of Ireland, estimated that costs per installed megawatt (MW) (excluding decommissioning) for typical projects around the island of Ireland ranged from #840,000 to #1,080,000.

There has not yet been an off-shore wind farm decommissioned anywhere in the world, it is not therefore possible to accurately determine the costs of decommissioning.

The environmental impact of decommissioning an offshore wind farm is very site-specific and directly related to the foundation options employed during construction.

However the actual environmental impacts of offshore wind farms including impacts associated with decommissioning have been assessed in the report XAn Assessment of the Environmental Effects of Offshore Wind Farms" completed by the Environmental Technology Support Unit in 2000 for Metoc (ETSU/W35/00543/RP, 2000).

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