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8 Nov 2004 : Column 551W—continued

Press Officers

Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many press officers are employed in his Department; and how many were employed in each year since 1996–97. [195355]

Mr. Caplin [holding answer 1 November 2004]: On 2 November 2004 there were 16 press officers employed in the Ministry of Defence's central press office in London.
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The number of press officers employed by the MOD in each year since 1996–97 is shown in the following table:
Press officers

The information in the table above relates to those employed in a press officer role at any time during the financial year. Furthermore, these figures relate solely to those press officers employed in the Department's central press office in London. The information does not include those employed as press officers in Regional Press Offices, Defence Agencies, the Permanent Joint Headquarters, single Service Commands and at unit level, some of whom have a press officer task in addition to their main role. Accurate information on this is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

RAF Aldergrove

David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what environmental impact assessment has been made of the effect on service personnel and their families at RAF Aldergrove of the proximity of asbestos storage and destruction at Crosshill Quarry, Crumlin. [196074]

Mr. Ingram: None. It is the responsibility of the person making the planning application to conduct an environmental impact assessment. The Ministry of Defence has however, considered the health and safety implications of the proposed storage facility for service personnel and their families.

Ranger Stuart McMaster

Rev. Ian Paisley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department has pressed for a criminal investigation of the circumstances of the death of Ranger Stuart McMaster at Skydive Ranch in Canada in 2002. [194984]

Mr. Ingram: The death of Ranger Stuart McMaster has been investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), who concluded that the circumstances of the death were not suspicious. Subsequently, the Royal Military Police Special Investigation Branch conducted additional inquiries to support HM Coroner's investigations. Should any new and substantive evidence come to light from any source, this will be considered and, if appropriate, referred back to the RCMP.

Request for Resources 1

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much of his Department's 2003–04 Request for Resources 1 underspend has been carried forward to the current financial year in (a) cash terms and (b) resource terms. [196468]

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Mr. Ingram: None. Approval for carry-forward will be sought in Winter Supplementary Estimates to be put to the House later this month. End Year Flexibility entitlements, based on provisional outturn figures, were published in the Public Expenditure Outturn White Paper in July 2004 (Cm 6293).

Salisbury Plain

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what management procedures are in place in the Salisbury Plain training area to restrict military training on environmental grounds in response to severe weather conditions; and how quickly the military can respond to those procedures. [196020]

Mr. Caplin: As the hon. Member will have seen during his visit on 29 October, the Army Training Estate (Salisbury Plain) takes extremely seriously its environmental responsibilities. It has well established procedures to ensure that training plans can be adjusted quickly to take account of changing conditions. These procedures are kept under constant review and are adjusted and improved where appropriate.

Second World War 60th Anniversary

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what activities his Department's plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. [196582]

Mr. Caplin: I refer my hon. Friend to the announcement I made on 9 June 2004, Official Report, column 309. I shall be making a further announcement very shortly.

Soldiers (Media Contact)

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what rules apply to serving soldiers speaking to the media about deployments and other operational matters; and if he will make a statement. [196269]

Mr. Ingram: The general rules for service and civilian MOD personnel governing contact with the media, and for writing or speaking in public, were re-issued on 29 October 2004 as Defence Council Instruction (DCI) General 200/04.

The key principle is that service and civilian MOD staff should only contact the media (or write or speak in public) on defence matters if they have prior authorisation. This principle is not new, and reflects previous versions of the DCI, and relevant sections of Queen's Regulations for the Armed Forces and the Civil Service Code.

The normal channels for contact with the media are the main defence press office, subsidiary press offices and press information centres or spokespeople with deployed forces. Nonetheless, large numbers of other personnel do have contact with the media on particular occasions in approved circumstances. Joint Warfare Publication (JWP) 3–45 extends and adapts the general provisions of the DCI to cater for the needs of deployed forces.
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The rules are designed to ensure that standards of political impartiality and public accountability are maintained, and to enable appropriate support to be given to personnel.

The substantive content of the DCI and of the JWP will be made available in the 'Publications and Reports' section of the MOD website, and copies will be placed in the Library of the House.


Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much financial assistance has been granted to British war (a) veterans and (b) widows living in Zimbabwe in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available; and what plans the Government have to provide further financial assistance. [195046]

Mr. Caplin: Information is not available in the form requested. However, 40 pensions are currently in payment to former service personnel resident in Zimbabwe. We do not have readily available information for previous years or on the value of the pensions in payments and this could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Disabled veterans and the widows of veterans may be entitled to a war pension or an Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) pension if a disablement or death was caused by service. We do not have information available for the number or value of such AFPS pensions in payment. However, the information available relating to war pensions in payment to people resident in Zimbabwe is set out in the following tables.
Table 1: The number of war pensions in payment with Zimbabwe as the recorded country of residence

Type of pensioner
Numbers as at end of MarchWar disablementWar widow

1. All data have been rounded to the nearest five.
2. Figures exclude those cases with no recorded country of residence.
3. In each year, there were a small number (less than five) of entitled ongoing war disablement pensioners whose cases were dealt with manually rather than on the computerised payment systems. These are not included in the table.

Table 2: Average weekly amount of pension entitlement for war pensioners with Zimbabwe as the recorded country of residence

Average weekly amount as at
Type of pensioner
end of MarchWar disablementWar widow

1. The average has been calculated using the mean of all weekly entitlement information for those war pensioners included in Table 1.
2. Amounts include both the basic war disablement or war widows' pension and additional allowances.

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In addition, records show that 18 payments of £10,000 each have been made under the Far East Prisoner of War and Civilian Internee Ex Gratia Payment Scheme to ex-servicemen or to the widows of servicemen living in Zimbabwe.

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