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12 Feb 2004 : Column 1634W—continued

Foreign Aircraft

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 27 January 2004, Official Report, column 245W, where information on the foreign aircraft hired by his Department is held; on what basis the decision was reached that information on the use of foreign aircraft could be provided only at disproportionate cost; who took this decision; and whether the Department has previously provided information on hire of foreign aircraft. [154260]

Mr. Ingram: Information relating to the charter of the majority of aircraft for the Ministry of Defence is held by the Defence Transport and Movements Agency (DTMA). As the Department operates disaggregated budgets, it is possible that other parts of the Ministry of Defence could have chartered aircraft over the last five years and in that event, such information is not held centrally. The Department has no requirement to record specifically information relating to makes, types and origins of aircraft chartered. The Department competes its charter business in accordance with European rules and often through a broker in order to achieve value for money. Safety is of paramount importance and the nationality of the aircraft is but one consideration in the assessment of suitability for task.

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The decision that information on foreign aircraft chartered could be provided only at disproportionate cost was made by the Chief Executive of the DTMA. It was based on a calculation that the exercise would entail one member of DTMA being removed from normal duties to work only on this task for a minimum of five working days. This period would exceed the cost threshold of £600 and have a detrimental effect on the daily work of air movements. DTMA would also have to contact all other parts of the Department, and re-engage with brokers, in order to identify all foreign charters. This would be at additional cost.

Some information on chartered aircraft has previously been provided in answers to Questions from hon. Members, where such information was available centrally and did not involve disproportionate cost to recover it.

Information Technology

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list each information technology project being undertaken by his Department and its agencies including the (a) start date, (b) planned completion date, (c) current expected completion date, (d) planned cost and (e) current estimated cost; and if he will make a statement. [154671]

Mr. Ingram: This information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Iraq

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British service personnel (a) have committed suicide in Iraq or since returning to the UK from Iraq and (b) have been returned to the UK from Iraq early because of mental stress. [153691]

Mr. Caplin: During the period 10 January 2003 to 20 December 2003 no member of British service personnel committed suicide in Iraq. Among Service personnel who have since returned to the United Kingdom from Iraq one has died and an open verdict has been recorded by a coroner. In addition six cases have been referred to a coroner for inquest and have not yet been heard.

As of 30 November 2003, the last date for which these data are currently available, 119 personnel had been medically evacuated from Iraq and received treatment for mental health conditions at the Duchess of Kent Psychiatric Hospital.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the training received by Trooper Sarah Masters prior to deployment in Iraq. [154022]

Mr. Ingram: Trooper Sarah Masters was fully qualified and trained to meet "Call Out" criteria for mobilisation as a member of the Territorial Army.

She was mobilised through the Reserve Training and Mobilisation Centre in early February 2003, before transferring to the Reinforcement Holding Unit, where she completed pre-deployment refresher training on her individual military skills and received the mandatory Theatre specific Pre-Deployment Training package.

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Trooper Masters, and her colleagues from the Royal Yeomanry, then spent a three week period undertaking collective training at Salisbury Plain Training Area and Chelsea Barracks, London, before deploying to Iraq, where they undertook a further 10 days of collective training alongside their Regular colleagues.

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the outcome was of the investigation into the deaths of the six Royal Military Police soldiers killed in Iraq on 24 June 2003; what documents relating to the case have so far been made public; whether he plans to make public the relevant communications log; and if he will make a statement. [154451]

Mr. Ingram: I refer my hon. Friend to my answer of 6 November 2003, Official Report, column 770. The SIB investigation is still ongoing and we cannot put a timeframe on how long the investigation might take. Once it has been completed a full report will be given to the families concerned. I will make public as many of its findings as possible, subject to operational and other security constraints. We are providing as much information to the families as we are able, consistent with the need to maintain the integrity of the investigation.

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many UK representatives there are on the Iraq Survey Group; how many there have been in total since the Group was established; what the cost to date has been of UK representation; and what estimate he has made of the total cost of UK participation in the Group. [154455]

Mr. Hoon: There are currently 55 United Kingdom representatives on the Iraq Survey Group. There have been a total of 140 UK representatives who have served in the Iraq Survey Group, 94 Service personnel and 46 civilians. The maximum number at any one time was 76 in October 2003.

The Ministry of Defence identifies the costs of Operations in terms of the net additional costs it has incurred. The costs that the Department would have incurred regardless of the operation taking place, such as wages and salaries, are not included. Savings on activities that have not occurred because of the operation—training exercises for example—are taken into account in arriving at the net figures.

The net additional costs incurred by UK personnel attached to the Iraq Survey Group cannot be differentiated from the total net additional cost of UK personnel deployed to the Gulf region.

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average planned tour of duty is for troops serving in Iraq. [154677]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 18 November 2003, Official Report, column 755W, to the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Matthew Taylor).

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what additional nuclear biological and chemical warfare training soldiers received in the immediate build-up to Operation Telic. [154756]

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Mr. Ingram: All soldiers deploying on Operation Telic were, and remain, mandated to have completed individual training that prepares them for surviving and lighting in a nuclear, biological or chemical environment. They also received a familiarisation briefing immediately prior to deployment on Collective Protection, which focused on how to operate within such an environment.

In addition, Unit Commanders attended a Nuclear Biological and Chemical Defence Cadre, focussing on the threat and possible countermeasures, the lessons of which were then cascaded down to their soldiers.

Building on this foundation of individual training, units reinforced this preparation both before and during deployment.

Mrs. Liddell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make an assessment of the co-operation between UK forces in Iraq and the Civil Defence forces. [143741]

Mr. Ingram: United Kingdom forces are training and mentoring the Iraqi civil defence forces including the Iraq Civil Defence Corps and the Police. To date, in the Multinational Division (South-east) area of responsibility almost all of the ICDC's personnel and approaching half of the police have been trained. In addition 20 Armoured Brigade and the Royal Military Police each have embedded personnel in the respective Iraqi organisations as part of the mentoring process.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 4 February 2004, Official Report, column 887W, on the Iraq Survey Group, how many personnel were employed in the Iraq Survey Group in June 2003, broken down by (a) nationality and (b) speciality; and what the projected figures are for the end of 2004. [154239]

Mr. Hoon: The formation of the Iraq Survey Group was announced on 14 April 2003, and there was a period of transition while elements were being moved into place. We do not hold figures for the transition period that can be broken down by nationality or speciality, but we estimate that there were approximately 450 personnel in the Iraq Survey Group in early June. The United Kingdom contribution would have been Headquarters Staff, interviewers/interpreters and scientific and technical specialists. The current planning assumption is that Iraq Survey Group numbers will remain broadly in line with current numbers for as long as is necessary to complete the Group's task.


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