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Foreign Ship Chartering

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps his Department takes to ensure that foreign ships it charters meet international convention standards for safety and working conditions. [149907]

Mr. Ingram: Vessels being considered for chartering are assessed for technical compliance against a number of key criteria which will include: Marine Superintendent's suitability reports, nature and volume of cargo.

A risk assessment is undertaken, which will include: Port State Inspection records, flag, classification society and age.

When considered necessary, a ship's survey will be undertaken by a recognised marine surveyor prior to any decision to charter.

Human Rights

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what special training has been provided for the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police on the implications of the coming into force of the Human Rights Act. [149661]

Mr. Ingram: Special training on changes to Special Investigation Branch (SIB) policies and procedures consequent upon the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998 has been provided to all SIB units.

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what measures he has taken to guarantee the (a) effectiveness and (b) independence of investigation of suspicious deaths among Service personnel occurring overseas as required by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. [149662]

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Mr. Ingram: The rules governing investigation of suspicious deaths of Service personnel outside the United Kingdom are detailed in the Queens Regulations for each Service. The Investigations Branch of the relevant Service Police conducts investigations, where appropriate, in conjunction with the local civilian police force. All cases of sudden death are investigated to Home Office standards using accepted best practice.

Where the body is returned to the United Kingdom, it automatically becomes subject to an inquest by HM Coroner or (in Scotland) the Procurator Fiscal.

Full account is taken of our obligations under ECHR.

Project Soothsayer

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the progress of Project Soothsayer. [149543]

Mr. Ingram: Project Soothsayer is an important part of our investment in Network Enabled Capability (NEC), and was highlighted as such in the New Chapter to the Strategic Defence Review.

Soothsayer will provide Tactical Electronic Warfare equipment for the United Kingdom land forces, and is now in the demonstration and manufacture phase. The programme is proceeding to plan and is currently on track to meet its initial in-service date of 2006. It is also expected to meet its cost and performance targets.

Rape/Violence Against Women

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made in investigating allegations of rape by UK military personnel in Kenya during the last 20 years. [149663]

Mr. Ingram: As part of their on-going investigations, the Royal Military Police Special Investigation Branch (SIB) deployed a team of 20 to Kenya in October 2003 to conduct witness interviews. The SIB completed in excess of 100 witness interviews prior to Christmas. This process, which involves taking video-taped statements of witnesses and gathering supporting evidence, is likely to continue throughout this year.

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what training is given to UK military personnel stationed abroad on gender sensitivity and issues around violence against women with particular reference to (a) rape, (b) trafficking and (c) forced prostitution. [149665]

Mr. Ingram: No specific awareness training is given to United Kingdom military personnel about violence against women, rape, trafficking and forced prostitution. All members of the armed forces are bound by codes of conduct that set out the standard of behaviour expected of them. They also receive regular diversity training, which includes gender awareness. Personnel posted abroad receive instruction on the customs and culture of the host country including, where relevant, the cultural status of women.

Reserve Forces

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to revise the Reserve Forces

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(Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985, with particular reference to (a) simplifying the procedure, (b) taking into account loss of (i) pension and (ii) benefits and (c) the legal expenses required in progressing a defended case to a final hearing. [146181]

Mr. Caplin: I refer the hon. Gentlemen to the latter part of my reply of 20 January 2004, Official Report, columns 1124–25W.

Once this examination is complete we shall discuss with the Department of Trade and Industry (which is responsible for administering the Reinstatement Committees under the 1985 Act) what, if any, revisions might be necessary.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in what circumstances his Department provides legal assistance to reservists to seek redress when they have lost their employment allegedly as a consequence of mobilisation; and if he will make a statement. [148932]

Mr. Caplin: The Ministry of Defence does not provide legal advice or representation to reservists seeking reinstatement to their civilian employment under the terms of the Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985. It does, however, provide advice to reservists on their legal right to reclaim their civilian employment and how to seek reinstatement. Each reservist receives a copy of JSP 532, "Guidance for Reservists Returning to Civilian Employment Following a Period of Mobilised Service". The Supporting Britain's Reservists and Employers (SaBRE) campaign team provides a help line and a website which gives additional information and advice.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what evaluation has been made of the impact of the SaBRE campaign; and if he will make a statement. [R] [149423]

Mr. Caplin: Since the launch of the SaBRE campaign in October 2002, there have been two substantial pieces of independent research on the impact and effectiveness of the campaign, both commissioned through COI Communications. The reports found that while employers' awareness of the campaign in its first year of existence was low, over 60 per cent. of companies who had been in contact with SaBRE felt that that contact had been positive and worthwhile. The lessons we learn from both these and future studies will form a central part of future SaBRE campaign activity.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many reservists from volunteer reserve units in (a) each of the three armed Services and (b) each of the 11 areas of the country tasked with aiding the civil authorities in handling major incidents have been mobilised for Operation Telic. [R] [149425]

Mr. Caplin: The number of Civil Contingencies Reaction Force (CCRF) members who are serving on Operation Telic by CCRF region is detailed in the table. In the time available, we have only been able to identify those individuals currently mobilised to support Operation Telic. All are members of the Territorial Army.

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2 South East Brigade (Bde)26
49 East of England Bde126
145 Home Counties Bde39
43 Wessex Bde2
143 West Midlands Bde33
160 Wales Bde25
15 North East Bde (N)99
15 North East Bde (S)147
42 North West Bde (N)21
42 North West Bde (S)18
51 Scottish Bde (Highland)45
51 Scottish Bde (Lowland)34
London Regiment150
Northern Ireland(9)0

(9) Only to the extent that once a member is deployed, he is replaced.

Royal Navy

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) frigates and (b) destroyers are in service with the Royal Navy. [150165]

Mr. Hoon: There are 20 frigates and 11 destroyers currently in service in the Royal Navy.


Central Office of Information

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what progress has been made in making the Central Office of Information more responsive to Parliament. [147838]

Mr. Alexander: External performance targets are published each year by means of a written statement. Annual performance against external targets is reported and published in the Central Office of Information (COI) Annual Report and Accounts. This is laid before the House each year before the summer recess following the end of the financial year to which the report relates, and copies placed in the Libraries of the Houses.

Civil Contingencies Bill

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will list the (a) dates and (b) venues of the public consultation in Wales on the draft Civil Contingencies Bill. [150021]

Mr. Alexander: The Public Consultation exercise for England and Wales took place over a period of 12 weeks from 19 June until 11 September.

Of the 379 responses received, 20 were received from organisations based in Wales such as the police, county councils and county borough councils.

Two consultation events took place took during the summer of 2003. The first event was held at Colywn Bay on 21 July for organisations from north Wales. Cardiff hosted the second event on 4 August, which was attended by organisations in south Wales.

The format at both events was the same. The Bill Team gave an extended presentation, followed by a full question and answer session.

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