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United Nations (Surveillance)

Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) whether staff at GCHQ complied with a request from the US National

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Security Agency to assist with a surveillance operation on members of the UN Security Council in January 2003; [157402]

Mr. Straw: It is the well-established and long-standing practice of successive Governments not to comment on details of the intelligence relationship between the UK and US.

Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether (a) written and (b) oral assurances were given to staff at GCHQ that action to assist with surveillance of UN Security Council delegations would be legal. [157404]

Mr. Straw: It is the well-established and long-standing practice of successive governments not to respond to speculation about alleged operational activities by the UK security and intelligence services. However, I can provide reassurance that they work entirely within a legal framework which complies with the European Convention on Human Rights and are subject to very rigorous oversight both by Parliamentarians and senior members of the judiciary as provided by statute. Training in the awareness of these legalities is mandatory for all GCHQ operational staff. The Director of GCHQ and I take our responsibilities for GCHQ's compliance with its legal obligations very seriously indeed.


Mr. Best: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of Uzbekistan about human rights. [157017]

Mr. Rammell: We remain deeply concerned by the human rights situation in Uzbekistan and regularly discuss human rights with the Uzbek Government both bilaterally and with our EU partners.

Last year I discussed our concerns about the human rights situation in a meeting with the Uzbek Ambassador on 8 October, urging the Uzbek authorities to implement the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture's recommendations immediately. At the EU Uzbekistan Co-operation Council on 27 January, the EU reiterated its serious concern about the human rights situation in Uzbekistan. The Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien) raised human rights issues with the Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister on 4 February.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office frequently discusses human rights with the Uzbek Ambassador in London and raises human rights issues and individual cases with our EU partners. Our Ambassador in Tashkent continues to raise individual cases, as well as our general concerns, at ministerial level both bilaterally and in conjunction with EU colleagues.

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Private Finance Initiative

19. Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many of his Department's Private Finance Initiative projects are currently outstanding. [156747]

Mr. Ingram: I take this question to refer to those projects that are in competition but have not yet been signed. There are 11 such Private Finance Initiative projects.


21. Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the current shipbuilding programme for the Royal Navy. [156749]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence has embarked on the largest procurement programme of new ships for the Royal Navy in many years, including orders for six Type 45 destroyers, three Astute Class submarines and four Landing Ships Dock (Auxiliary).

Future plans include the purchase of two new aircraft carriers, further orders of Type 45 destroyers and Astute Class submarines, the Joint Casualty Treatment Ship, and the progressive replacement of existing RFA vessels through the Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability project.

Looking further ahead, we expect to replace the capability provided by the Type 22 and 23 Frigates with the Future Surface Combatant. It is too early to say how the new capability will be met or when orders will be placed because the project is still at the concept stage.

Defence Industrial Policy (Trade Unions)

22. Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps the Department has taken to involve trade unions in the defence industrial policy. [156750]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence exchanges views with Trades Unionists on a range of defence industrial issues. The Trade Unions have welcomed the Defence Industrial Policy that we published in October 2002.

Defence Ministers meet regularly with Trade Unionists. Last Tuesday, 24 February, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence met with the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Union and separately with the General Secretary of Amicus.

Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

23. James Purnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on defence procurement and its effect on small and medium-sized enterprises. [156751]

Mr. Ingram: Ministry of Defence procurement policy, reinforced by the Government's Defence Industrial Policy, seeks to secure best value for money for the taxpayer and a healthy and competitive defence industry at Original Equipment Manufacturer Level and at the level of Small and Medium Enterprises.

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The MOD recognises the importance of Small and Medium Enterprises in driving innovation and contributing to the delivery of defence capability. Defence contract opportunities are advertised through publications such as the MOD Defence Contract Bulletin and the Official Journal of European Union. The MOD's Defence Suppliers Service and the Defence Diversification Agency provide information and assistance to smaller firms interested in becoming defence suppliers.

The MOD also works with the DTI and its Small Business Service (SBS) to maintain awareness of initiatives aimed at harnessing innovation.

In autumn 2001 a joint MOD/ Industry Code of Best Practice was published covering relationships at all levels within the supply chain including those with Small and Medium Enterprises.


24. Mr. McLoughlin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the provision of full chemical and biological protection to soldiers serving in Iraq. [156752]

Mr. Hoon: Even though the threat from chemical and biological agents has reduced considerably since the end of hostilities, a full suite of chemical and biological protection is available for all Service personnel serving in Iraq.

This consists of a protection suit and respirator, issued as personal equipment; plus collective warning and detection devices for units, such as the Chemical Agent Monitor and the Man-portable Chemical Agent Detector. A number of medical treatments are also available. Most armoured vehicles operating in Iraq are fitted with NEC filters.

Sufficient stocks of all such protection equipment, including additional suits, are available in theatre.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether cluster bombs manufactured in Israel and packaged at the Royal Ordnance facility in Glascoed were used by British forces during the recent conflict in Iraq. [154891]

Mr. Ingram: The cluster artillery shells fused and packaged by BAE Systems Royal Ordnance at Glascoed, following shell manufacture by Israel Munitions Industry, were not used in Iraq during the recent conflict. They have been put into store to maintain operational stock levels.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the estimated replacement costs of military equipment damaged and destroyed owing to use in Iraq since the start of the war in Iraq is (a) in total and (b) for (i) tanks and other armoured vehicles, (ii) aircraft and (iii) helicopters. [154952]

Mr. Ingram: We expect to spend some £50 million replacing equipment damaged or destroyed during Operation Telic. The replacement of two Sea King Mk7s lost in Iraq will account for around £35 million of this total. We do not intend to replace the Tornado GR4 aircraft, the Challenger 2 tank and other armoured

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vehicles that were destroyed since we have sufficient numbers within our existing fleets to meet future requirements.

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many medical evacuations there have been of British military personnel in Iraq since 1 May 2003; and if he will give the reasons for each evacuation. [155783]

Mr. Ingram: There have been 1,109 medical evacuations of British military personnel in Iraq between 1 May 2003 and February 2004. The evacuations took place for a number of reasons, ranging from trauma to routine medical complaints.

Army Training

25. Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on Army training. [156753]

Mr. Ingram: There are two types of Army training: individual training and collective training. Army individual training is undertaken within the Army Training and Recruiting Agency and is split into a number of phases. Initial training, teaches soldier recruits and officer cadets basic military skills. Phase 2, or specialist training, is special to arm training to prepare soldiers for their first appointment in the Field Army. Career training (Phase 3) is continuation and professional development training to enhance individual soldiers' and officers' career progression and to meet the Army's need for specialists.

The collective training programme is constructed to train the Army for current operations, to prepare it to contribute to Joint Rapid Reaction Force Readiness and Development, and to support Alliance commitments. The ability to deliver trained, ready forces for any contingency remains a key Army priority.

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