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Vehicle Fleets

Rev. Martin Smyth: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the annual rate is at which his Department and its agencies renew their vehicle fleets, by (a) volume and percentage for each category of vehicle, (b) type of power unit and (c) type of fuel; and what progress has been made on the replacement of vehicles on a lower emissions basis in the last three years. [96558]

Mr. Rammell: Reducing vehicle emissions is a key transport issue, which has been agreed as a priority across Government. Against a baseline year of 2002/03, all Departments are aiming by 31 March 2006 to reduce road transport vehicle carbon dioxide emissions by at least 10 per cent. and requiring at least 10 per cent. of all fleet cars to be alternatively fuelled. Progress against these targets will be reported in "Sustainable Development in Government" annual reports. The first full report against the Framework will be in 2003, reporting against the baseline year of 2002–03.

In UK the FCO has a rolling replacement programme to renew its fleet vehicles. Details are shown in the following table:

Category of vehicleNumber of vehiclesPercentages replaced on an annual basisPetrolDieselLPG/Electric
Light Goods Vans1415131-electric
Heavy Goods Vehicles5Replaced between 5–7 years5

All UK fleet vehicles meet current government targets for emission levels. 18 per cent. of our fleet is LPG/Electric. Alternative fuel and improved emission levels are always a factor in decisions on the purchase of new vehicles.

There is no standard replacement period for vehicles held by FCO's overseas posts. The timing depends on local circumstances and conditions including the availability of adequate maintenance facilities. The type of fuel used by the fleet of some 1400 vehicles is split between petrol (60 per cent. ) and diesel (40 per cent.). Around 35 cent. of the fleet is purchased in the UK and good environmental performance was one of the criteria used to decide the award of the relevant contracts. Consequently vehicles supplied under these arrangements meet current government targets on emission levels.

Our Agency, the Wilton Park Conference Centre, has three vehicles (two diesel and one petrol). Given the size of the fleet there is no formal replacement programme. Alternative fuel and lower emission options will be considered in future purchases.


Mr. Borrow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action his Department is taking to promote political stability in Venezuela. [98781]

Mr. MacShane: We are in regular and extensive contacts with the Venezuelan Government and opposition, with EU partners and members of the Group of Friends supporting the OAS facilitation efforts, we have stressed the importance of respect for the constitution and for democratic principles.

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Visa Fees

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the real level of UK visa fees; and if he will make a statement. [98430]

Mr. Rammell: It has been the policy of successive Administrations that visa fees be set at a level to ensure that the full cost of providing the entry clearance service worldwide is met from fee income and that the UK taxpayer does not have to meet any of the costs. This continues to be our aim. There is also a Service Delivery Agreement (SDA) with the Treasury that there will be no increase in the real level of fees against a baseline set in 1997. The increase in fees made in July 2002 kept us within this SDA target.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much money was collected in visa fees for the latest year for which information is available; and if he will make a statement. [98473]

Mr. Rammell: Income from visa fees in financial year 2001–02 amounted to £77,403,853.


Anti-rabies Tests

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reason Dundrennan Range was selected as the base range for anti-rabies tests; what statutory agencies were consulted over the testing; what plans there are for further such testing; and if he will make a statement on anti-rabies testing at Dundrennan Range. [88643]

Mr. Morley: I have been asked to reply.

The trial was authorised by Defra Ministers and the Central Science Laboratory obtained licences from the Home Office for working with foxes; from the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) for the use of the experimental poison (T3327) and from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to use means to reduce the risks to resident badgers on the study area. With agreement of MOD, the trial took place at a military training site with very restricted access to the public in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland. Local residents with access rights to the site, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), were informed of the trial, which was carried out between 27 August and 15 September 2002. The poison baits were laid on 4 September and picked up on 7 September. The trial was successful in obtaining data required and there are no plans to repeat such a trial.

Biological/Chemical Weapons

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on the use by HM armed forces of biological and chemical weapons in future conflicts. [98837]

Mr. Hoon: The United Kingdom gave up its offensive biological and chemical weapons capabilities in the 1950s. As a state party of both the Chemical Weapons

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Convention (CWC) and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), the United Kingdom has renounced the use of such weapons.

We have played a leading role in the negotiations both of the BTWC of 1975, for which we are a depository Government, and the CWC which entered into force in 1997. We are fully compliant with our obligations under both conventions and continue to press for their full and effective implementation. The Government's policy is to work toward universal adoption of the CWC and BTWC and universal compliance with their obligations. The strength of our political commitment to both conventions is second to none.

Bullying (Bovington Camp)

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recommendations have been made to improve protection against bullying at Bovington Camp, Dorset since October 2002; and what compensation has been paid to victims. [97832]

Dr. Moonie: So far as I am aware, no recommendations have been made to improve protection against bullying at Bovington Camp, Dorset since October 2002. It is standard practice for each new intake of recruits to be briefed personally by the Commanding Officer within 24 hours of arriving at Bovington on the Army's anti-bullying policy, outlining complaints procedures and welfare support. In addition, on arrival all military instructors must be fully conversant with the Army's zero tolerance stance on bullying and educated to spot the signs of any such behaviour. The Army's policy on harassment or bullying is clear: all incidents and allegations are taken extremely seriously and a thorough investigation is carried out in response to all formal complaints. Furthermore, appropriate action is taken against any individual(s) found guilty of practising or condoning such behaviour.

Information about compensation paid by the Ministry of Defence could lead to the identification of specific individuals. Accordingly, for reasons of confidentiality and the provisions of the Data Protection Act, it is not Ministry of Defence policy to release such information without the consent of the individuals involved.

Crichel Down Rules

Mr. Flook: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many times in each of the last 10 years the Crichel Down rules were applied by the Ministry of Defence; when the last occasion was; and in how many cases in each of the last 10 years MOD land subject to the rules reverted to the original owners. [98853]

Dr. Moonie: Information concerning the number of cases over the last 10 years where land reverted to the original owners is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. The most recent case where the rules were found to apply was to agricultural land at Wroughton and the sale to the former owner completed on 27 January 2003.

The Ministry of Defence considers the application of the Crichel Down rules for all surplus sites as part of the disposal process. Where it is found that the rules apply,

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the site is offered back to the former owner at current market value. The land is not offered back to the former owner where, for instance, the use of the land has materially changed or where there are several former owners and a fragmented sale would realise less than a sale of the whole.

Mr. Flook: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he will decide on the application of Crichel Down rules with respect to land which previously formed part of Marlborough at Falmouth, Cornwall and is now known as Swanvale OPA, Navy No. 2 site; and if he will make a statement. [98854]

Dr. Moonie : I currently expect that in April the Ministry of Defence will be in a position to write to those parties that have expressed a Former Owner interest, advising them of the application of the Crichel Down rules in this case.

Defence Estates, an agency of the Ministry of Defence, are responsible for the disposal of the former Oil Fuel Depot (OFD) at Swanvale, Falmouth. They have instructed consultants, Drivers Jonas, to investigate the application of the Crichel Down rules to OFD Swanvale, and prepare a report. DE anticipate that the final Drivers Jonas report will be received in March, after which it will be necessary to take further legal advice before writing to interested parties.

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