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Mr. Caplin: The Ministry of Defence is working closely with the Electoral Commission to improve awareness in the Service Community of the options to register to vote. An internal information campaign will begin early next year to coincide with the publication of a Defence Council Instruction explaining those options.
Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his Department's policy is in relation to the storage and deletion of e-mails; and whether this policy has been reviewed in the past 12 months. 
Mr. Caplin: The Ministry of Defence's policy on the storage and deletion of e-mails is that e-mails which need to be kept should be saved into departmental records systems. Those emails which do not need to be kept should be disposed of regularly to avoid overloading mailboxes. This policy has not changed in the last 12 months.
Mr. Ingram: There is no standing European Rapid Reaction Force. What has sometimes been referred to as a "European Rapid Reaction Force" is in fact a catalogue of forces which member states could make available to the EU should they choose to participate in any particular EU-led operation. The United Kingdom currently declares to this catalogue up to 12,500 troops, 18 warships and 72 combat aircraft.
However a pool of capability to respond very rapidly, within 1015 days, to escalating crises is being established by the EU Battlegroups initiative. Member states have committed a total of 13 national and multinational Battlegroups (which will involve some of the national capabilities declared to the catalogue). During the Initial Operating Capability period (200506), the EU will be able to deploy one
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Battlegroup at any one time. During the Full Operating Capability period (from 2007), the EU aims to be able to deploy two Battlegroups concurrently.
The UK has committed one national Battlegroup and one multinational (with the Netherlands based on long-standing cooperation in the UK/Dutch Amphibious Force). We expect to hold one of these Battlegroups on standby for six months in any two-year period. The national Battlegroup will be on standby during the first six-month rotation (Jan-Jun 2005). The multinational Battlegroup will be available after 2007. To meet these commitments, UK troops will be drawn from the Joint Rapid Reaction Force as appropriate at the time.
Any decision to commit UK troops and assets to any EU-led operation (including any EU Battlegroup operation) rests entirely with the Government and is made on a voluntary, case-by-case basis, as for NATO and UN operations. Moreover, an EU operation can only be launched with the unanimous consent of the 25 member states.
Mr. Ingram: No evidence has been destroyed. The right hon. Member is aware that the wreckage of ZD576 has been retained in secure storage at RNAY Fleetlands; and that all documentation pertaining to the incident held by the central Secretariat is being retained in accordance with the commitment made to the House of Commons by the then Minister for the armed forces.
Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what consultations have taken place between the Alliance to build the Future Aircraft Carriers in UK shipyards; when these consultations began; and what role was played in these consultations by the Department's commercial partners in the Alliance; 
Mr. Ingram: During the competitive stages of the Assessment Phase (November 1999 to December 2002) separately both BAE Systems and Thales UK produced shipbuild strategies in consultation with United Kingdom shipyards as part of their proposals. Since January 2003, and the announcement of the Alliance approach to delivering the Future Aircraft Carriers (CVF), the companies have issued formal requests for information to UK shipyards in mid-2003 and early-2004. These have been supported by regular interactions between the companies and the shipyards. No restrictions have been placed on the commercial partners in these discussions provided the carriers are acquired in accordance with the defence industrial policy for Royal Navy warships to be built in UK shipyards.
Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence following the decision to cancel the Future Surface Combatant; what plans he has to procure a variant of the Type 45 Destroyer; how many ships he expects to be involved; what he estimates the cost to be; and when he expects these vessels to enter service. 
Mr. Ingram: The Future Surface Combatant (FSC) programme has not been cancelled. However, the project is being reviewed together with all other military maritime programmes as part of the Maritime Coherence study, and a range of options is being considered. The project is still in its concept phase and no decision has yet been taken about the time scale for delivering the FSC capability, nor about the platform solution.
Mr. Ingram: The Future Surface Combatant (FSC) will be needed to replace the capability currently provided by the Type 22 and Type 23 Frigates as they progressively leave service from around the middle of the next decade. The FSC project is being reviewed together with all other military maritime programmes as part of the Maritime Coherence study, and a range of options is being considered. The project is still in its concept phase and no decision has yet been taken about the timescale for delivering the FSC capability, nor about the platform solution.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the report of the independent public inquiry into Gulf War Syndrome chaired by Lord Lloyd; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the findings of the Lord Lloyd Inquiry into Gulf War illnesses, with particular reference to his response to the recommendations. 
I refer my hon. Friend and the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 13 December 2004, Official Report, column 911W, to my hon. Friend the Member for Cunningham, South (Mr. Donohoe).
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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will accept (a) Gulf war syndrome and (b) acute vaccination reaction as being attributable to service when applications are made for a war pension. 
Mr. Caplin: Under the terms of the War Pensions Scheme, claimed disablements are accepted in terms of the underlying medically recognised pathological process. "Gulf War Syndrome" is not medically recognised and we cannot therefore use the term.
The fact that there is, at present, no proper basis for recognising "Gulf war syndrome" as a diagnostic label does not prevent payment of compensation for symptoms claimed under that term or more generally as "Gulf illness". Any ill-defined symptoms that cannot be attributed to a specific recognised diagnosis are considered under the recognised diagnostic label "signs, symptoms and ill-defined conditions", and awards will be made where they are found to be disabling and due to service.
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