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19 Mar 2003 : Column 777W—continued

Lower-income Families

Paul Farrelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what definition of lower-income families is used in the White Paper on Higher Education. [103783]

Margaret Hodge: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the Member for Birmingham Selly Oak on 6 February, Official Report, column. 358W

Ministerial Visits

Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many (a) schools and (b) universities he and each of his ministerial colleagues have visited in the past 12 months. [102295]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: Ministers have made 152 visits to schools and 30 visits to universities on departmental business since March 2002.

Short-listed Suppliers

Jim Dowd: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to his answer of 25 February, ref 99110, how many short-listed suppliers (a) could and (b) could not meet the terms. [100051]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: There were insufficient companies which met the terms and conditions of the framework exercise to offer an acceptable choice to schools.

The decision to abandon the procurement exercise was made in accordance with all appropriate regulations.

Special Schools

Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many special schools have been operating for (a) visually and (b) hearing impaired children in each year since 1995. [102561]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The following table sets out the number of special schools operating for visually impaired (VI) and hearing impaired (HI) children.

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In addition to VI and HI schools the table identifies the special schools that make a combination of provision, which may also include multi-sensory impairment (MSI).


Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the truancy rates from pupil referral units were in each academic year since 1997. [102559]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Information on pupil attendance at Pupil Referral Units is not collected centrally.


Anti-personnel Mines

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the occasions since UK ratification of the Ottawa Treaty on which UK forces personnel have been involved with operations involving the use of anti-personnel mines by other countries. [102361]

Mr. Ingram: We do not keep records of which other nations use anti-personnel mines. The use of such weapons and compliance with the Ottawa Convention is a matter for individual nations. The United Kingdom's participation in operations with other countries is in full compliance with our obligations under the convention.

Depleted Uranium

Andy King: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether, in the event of military action in Iraq (a) UK and (b) US forces will use tank shells containing depleted uranium. [103670]

Mr. Ingram: United Kingdom Forces currently deployed to the Gulf have depleted uranium tank munitions available as part of their armoury and will use them if necessary.

I am unable to comment on United States Forces' munitions.

Equipment Stocks

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what stocks his Department holds, broken down by unit, of (a) desert boots, (b) desert clothing, (c) Combat 95 clothing and (d) tents; and if he will make a statement. [102807]

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Mr. Ingram: With regard to boots and clothing, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 27 January 2003, Official Record, column 640W to the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch).

With regard to tents, units hold only a small quantity of tents for use as administrative and storage facilities. Information on numbers at each unit is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

European Union

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent the EU is involved in peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. [103864]

Mr. Ingram: There is no peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. The role of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is to assist the Afghan Transitional Authority in the maintenance of security in Kabul and its surrounding areas so that the Authority and United Nations' personnel can operate in a secure environment. The deployment of the ISAF is authorised by the United Nations' Security Council Resolution 1444 and the European Union has no role in the Force.

Exercise Saif Sareea

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps his Department has taken to resolve the (a) logistical, (b) communications and (c) equipment failures identified through Exercise Saif Sareea II. [84534]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 2 December 2003]: Exercise Saif Sareea II was a major success and demonstrated, as planned, key elements of the Joint Rapid Reaction concept. Many of the lessons identified have already been implemented including modifications to the challenger 2 Main Battle Tank to improve its performance in desert conditions and an environmental enhancement pack for the AS90 self-propelled gun. In addition, following the successful trial on Exercise Saif Sareea II Personal Role Radios have been issued to all those ground forces deployed to Kuwait who could potentially be involved in combat.

HMS Albion and Bulwark

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the estimated cost of building HMS Albion and Bulwark was; what their initial expected in-service date with the Royal Navy was; what his estimate of their actual building cost is; whether any additional cost will be met by the Government; and if he will make a statement. [102415]

Mr. Ingram: The maximum estimated cost to the Ministry of Defence at contract award of the Landing Platform Dock (Replacement) programme was £819 million, including the associated landing craft; the current estimated cost to the MOD is £790 million. The Prime Contractor has reported losses on the LPD(R) programme but there will be no additional costs to the MOD under the contract. It would not be appropriate to disclose an estimate of the actual cost to the Prime Contractor as the extent of their cost overrun is

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commercially confidential; I am therefore withholding this information under Exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

The planned in-service dates were originally March 2002 for HMS Albion and March 2003 for HMS Bulwark.


Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether British aircraft participated in recent coalition attacks on Iraqi ground positions; and if he will make a statement. [101594]

Mr. Hoon: British aircraft continue to respond to threats from Iraqi forces while patrolling the no fly zone.

Military Forces Training

Mr. Wareing: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list those countries whose military forces have been provided with training in the United Kingdom since 1997. [103464]

Mr. Ingram: Between January 1997 and March 2003 the Ministry of Defence has provided training in the United Kingdom to members of the military forces of 134 countries. A complete list of countries that have trained in the UK follows:

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