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1 May 2003 : Column 447W—continued

Civil Contingencies

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what research work is conducted into (a) civil contingency planning and (b) anti-terrorist measures; which Department is responsible; what funds are allocated; who sets the research priorities; and if he will make a statement. [110544]

Mr. Ingram: Lead responsibility for counter-terrorism and civil contingency planning in the United Kingdom rests with the Home Office. Along with many other Government Departments and Agencies, the Ministry of Defence provides support to that planning, drawing upon a wide range of relevant scientific and military expertise. Scientific research funded from the Defence budget supports the development of a number of military capabilities applicable to counter-terrorism,

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as described in "The Strategic Defence Review: A New Chapter" (Command 5566) presented to Parliament on 18 July 2002.

Departmental Annual Report

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the 2002 annual report of the Department will be published. [107868]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence's annual report is published each autumn and covers the previous financial year. The annual report for 2001–02 was published on 22 November 2002. We plan to publish the report for 2002–03 in October of this year. A summary of the Department's performance against its Public Service Agreement at the mid-year point will be included in the Government's defence expenditure plans for 2003–04 to 2005–06 to be published by 16 May in common with all other spring departmental reports.

European Amphibious Initiative

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what developments have been made regarding the European Amphibious Initiative; and if he will make a statement. [109082]

Mr. Ingram: Since the inception of the European Amphibious Initiative (EAI) at the end of December 2000, progress has been made in determining doctrine, concepts, and procedures—although opportunities to conduct a dedicated EAI exercise have been limited.

Work to date has centred on a structured series of Steering and Working Group meetings between the Naval staffs of the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Additionally there is a more tactical level annual EAI Seminar, followed by an Amphibious Force Commanders' conference.

It was planned to use Exercise Destined Glory 02, a NATO amphibious exercise in the Mediterranean, to test the practical implementation of evolving concepts and other work, but the commitment of the Royal Marines to operations in Afghanistan meant that UK participation was greatly reduced. Since then continuing high operational tempo has made it impossible to plan a further exercise.

At the most recent Steering Group Meeting, member nations resolved to take the initiative forward, and the aim, operational commitments permitting, is to hold an EAI exercise in 2004.

European Security and Defence Identity

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy objectives for a European security and defence identity. [110795]

Mr. Hoon: The European Security and Defence Identity was initiated within NATO to enable European Allies to make a more coherent and effective contribution to the missions and activities of the Alliance and to respond to European requirements. In addition to its objective to improve European military capabilities, it recognised the European Union's resolve, supported by the United Kingdom Government, to

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have a capacity for autonomous action so that it could take decisions and approve military action when the Alliance as whole was not engaged. Our policy is for NATO and the EU to be strategic partners in crisis management and the development of military capabilities. This partnership is underpinned by the recent implementation of the 'Berlin Plus' arrangements through which the EU has assured access to NATO planning capabilities and a presumption of availability of NATO common assets and capabilities. This will ensure that the EU's European Security and Defence Policy continues to develop in a manner that is supportive of, and supported by, NATO.


Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the provenance of the missile which hit the al-Nassar market in the Shula area of Baghdad. [108013]

Mr. Hoon: There is no evidence to suggest that allied weapons caused the damage in the al-Nassar market in the Shula area of Baghdad. The crater in the market place is inconsistent with that normally created by an air-to-ground missile. Moreover the nearest target attacked by coalition aircraft at the time of the explosion was some 8 km away from the market.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment the Government have made of the likely time scale for the administering and governance of Iraq to be put into the hands of the Iraqi people and the total withdrawal of coalition forces. [110348]

Mr. Hoon: As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear at the Hillsborough summit, our aim is for Iraqis to take charge of the administration and Government of Iraq as soon as possible. The process of establishing a transitional Government, representing all Iraq's ethnic groups, regions and diaspora, began with the National Dialogue Conference on 15 April 2003. It is impossible to know with certainty precisely how long this process will take. We anticipate that coalition forces will remain in Iraq as long as their presence is necessary to help the Iraqi people in the political and economic reconstruction of their country.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans the Government have for the total withdrawal of British forces from Iraq. [110350]

Mr. Hoon: Our Military Campaign Objectives contain a commitment to withdrawal of British military forces from Iraq as soon as is practicable. It is too early at this stage to predict when the appropriate circumstance will arise to allow a full withdrawal. We will maintain an appropriate military presence in Iraq as long as is necessary to enable the conditions within which the Iraqis can get their country running effectively, politically and economically.

We have kept the House fully informed of deployments to the middle east and of subsequent withdrawals of forces from the region. We will continue to keep deployments to the region under review and will keep the House informed of future withdrawals.

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Military Training

Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment his Department has made of environmental damage to (a) Woodbury Common, (b) Dartmoor and (c) Salisbury plain training areas caused by military exercises. [109637]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence has always been committed to minimising any environmental damage caused by our training activities, an approach which has now been formalised through the Defence Estate Strategy and taken forward through the implementation of ISO 14001, the Environmental Management System.

A wide variety of military training activity is undertaken on Woodbury Common, Dartmoor and Salisbury Plain Training Areas and specific surveys of the environmental impacts of this military training are carried out as part of Departmental management plans. As part of existing management plans, recent surveys have been undertaken to ensure environmental impacts are managed within agreed limits in consultation with statutory bodies.

National Insurance

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what mechanisms are in place for monitoring the payment of national insurance by families of soldiers when living abroad; and if he will make a statement. [110390]

Dr. Moonie: There are no mechanisms in place to monitor the payment of national insurance by families of soldiers or other Service families when living abroad. The continued payment of United Kingdom national insurance when living overseas will depend upon an individual's employment circumstances and the country they have moved to.


Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the objectives of Her Majesty's Government's policy towards NATO reform. [110797]

Mr. Hoon: The United Kingdom's principal objective towards NATO reform is to ensure the continued effectiveness and relevance of an enlarged Alliance.

The NATO summit in Prague, which took place during November last year, focused on transformation, and Alliance leaders agreed a comprehensive package of measures aimed at ensuring NATO has the flexibility and capabilities to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. These measures include: enlargement; a streamlined Command Structure; the creation of a NATO Response Force; a new capabilities initiative; and the modernisation of NATO's internal structures and processes.

Nordic Brigade

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what developments the UK has made in respect of the Nordic Brigade; and if he will make a statement. [109083]

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Mr. Hoon: Last year, at the Nordic Defence Ministers' meeting in Alesund, I signed a Letter of Intent that provides the basis for the United Kingdom's co-operation with NORDCAPS (the Nordic Co-ordinated Arrangement for Military Peace Support). NORDCAPS provides the formal planning and co-operation framework for a possible Nordic Brigade for Peace Support Operations.

NORDCAPS builds on the co-operative arrangements that we have enjoyed with our Nordic partners in the Balkans. Our involvement does not commit the United Kingdom to a military contribution to NORDCAPS. We support this initiative in addition to our existing bilateral links with the Nordic countries.

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