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22 Feb 2005 : Column 601W—continued

Research Expenditure

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proportion of his Department's research spending was directed towards conflict prevention in 2003–04. [215889]

Mr. Ingram: Preventing conflict is a key objective for the Ministry of Defence (MOD). It underpins the successful delivery of the defence aim, to deliver security for the people of the United Kingdom and the Overseas Territories, and to act as a force for good by strengthening international peace and stability. Consequently, much of MOD and the armed forces' operational and non-operational activity, together with the associated research work and military equipment development and procurement programmes that support these activities, contribute in some way to HMG's wider conflict prevention efforts around the world. This is particularly true of the work that MOD carries out in conjunction with FCO and DFID through the separately funded Conflict Prevention Pools. More information on this activity can be found on the FCO website.

As we do not collate information on research activity in the way requested, it would be disproportionately expensive to provide a more detailed breakdown.

Salisbury Plain

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much land in the Salisbury Plain area is rented by his Department to farmers; and what the average rent is per hectare. [216052]

Mr. Caplin: 25,110 hectares of land on Salisbury Plain are let to farmers on agricultural agreements. The average rent is £42.97 per hectare.

Shipping Lines

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his Department's spending was in each of the last two years with the shipping lines (a) P&O, (b) Nippin Yusen Kaisha, (c) Mitsui Osaka Shosen Kaisha, (d) Orient Overseas Container Line and (e) Mediterranean Shipping Corporation. [217315]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence has no requirement to retain spend information against individual shipping lines. Also, while some bookings may be made direct with shipping lines, others are placed through agents/freight-forwarders and spend will be recorded against them and not the shipping lines used. As the MOD operates a financial regime of disaggregated budgets, bookings can be made by units throughout the United Kingdom and overseas. For these reasons the spend requested is not held centrally or in a form which could be easily extracted and without disproportionate cost. The only spend information readily available is that against P&O shipping companies for invoices submitted through the Defence Bills Agency which is shown in the table.
Financial£ million

(75)To date.

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Tornado F3

Mr. John Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what contracts were awarded to BAE systems relating to Tornado F3 in December 2004; and whether those contracts were put out to competition. [217162]

Mr. Ingram: The Tornado F3 Sustainment Programme contract was awarded to BAE Systems in December 2004. The contract was not subject to competition as only the Design authority was deemed capable of prime contracting.

Tornado GR4

Mr. John Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether primary star servicings on Tornado GR4 jets are being transferred to front line squadrons. [217196]

Mr. Ingram: Work to consider this option is on-going.

Mr. John Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the Investment Appraisal of the E2E review of air support which recommended rolling forward the Tornado GR4 including transferring work to RAF Lossiemouth. [217197]

Mr. Ingram: It did not. The Investment Appraisal looked at two options for Tornado GR4. These were rolling forward support to RAF Marham or rolling back support to DARA St. Athan. For Tornado GR4 the decision was to roll depth support work forward to RAF Marham.


Aircraft Charters

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much money his Department has spent on chartering aircraft in each of the past five years. [213692]

Maria Eagle: All ministerial travel is undertaken in accordance with the rules set out in the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers, copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House.

Travel by Ministers makes clear that special flights may be authorised when a scheduled service is not available, or when it is essential to travel by air, but the requirements of official or parliamentary business or security considerations or urgency preclude the journey being made by a scheduled service. In respect of overseas travel by Ministers, since 1999 the Government have published an annual list of all visits overseas undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more during each financial year. The list published in 1999 covers the period 2 May 1997 to 31 March 1999. Where RAF/private charter aircraft are used this is shown in the list. The Government have also published on an annual basis the cost of all Ministers' visits overseas. Copies of the lists are available in the Libraries of the House. Information for 2004–05 will be published in due course.

The Department has incurred no costs for chartering aircraft.
22 Feb 2005 : Column 603W

Benefit Processing Centres

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he expects to make a decision on the location of benefit processing centres; and what assessment he has made of the merits of Inverness as a possible site. [216582]

Jane Kennedy: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Jobcentre Plus, David Anderson. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from David Anderson to Mr. David Stewart, dated 22 February 2005:


Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he will reply to the letter of 29 October 2004 from the hon. Member for Northavon on behalf on a constituent, Mr. Matthews, regarding benefit provision for carers. [216897]

Alan Johnson: I replied to the hon. Member today.

Council Tax Benefit

Mr. Edward Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how much council tax benefit remained unclaimed by pensioners in London in each year since 1997, broken down by constituency; and what plans he has to redistribute these sums to the relevant claimants; [215639]

(2) what measures are in place to ensure pensioners are made aware of sums available to them through council tax benefit. [215640]

Mr. Pond: The information is not available in the format requested.

Estimates of the total amount council tax benefit that went unclaimed in 2002–03, the latest year for which information is available, can be found in the Department's report entitled: Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take-Up in 2002–03"; copies of which are available in the Library.

Council tax benefit already makes a valuable contribution in providing financial security for nearly 5 million households responsible for paying council tax. But encouraging those who are still to claim is very much at the heart of our agenda. This is why we launched a campaign in the lead-up to last year's council tax billing round. And why we are continuing to support local authorities in the lead up to, and during, this year's billing round, to make sure they have procedures in place locally to encourage people to apply.
22 Feb 2005 : Column 604W

We have already issued new versions of the posters and flyer with the headline Cut your Council Tax—Find out if you should be paying less" and have arranged for the flyer to go out with the winter fuel payment letters to around 12 million pensioners in around eight million households.

We have contacted over 20,000 organisations that deal with older people, to update them on the continuing campaign to raise awareness of council tax benefit, and have arranged for the flyer to be available via displays in doctors' surgeries. Electronic versions of the flyer are also available for local authorities to download and customise to include in with this year's council tax bills if they do not already have their own local products.

A further round of press advertising, some national but mainly regional, started in January, with a second round of regional advertising due to start in early March, again to coincide with the issue of the council tax bills.

The Pension Service are already doing much to promote council tax benefit take-up, from issuing a housing benefit/council tax benefit claim form to everyone who calls the pension credit application line and wishes to claim, to helping people fill in this form when visiting pensioners to take a claim for pension credit.

The Link-Age Programme (which is building an integrated network of services for older people) is joining up existing service providers to offer a more holistic service to pensioners. Partnerships are being developed between The Pension Service and local authorities and joint teams of staff from both organisations are already operational in over 30 local authority areas, and are being rolled out nationally.

A new £13 million fund—The Partnership Fund—was launched on 25 January 2005, providing up to two years' funding to around 170 organisations across Great Britain to finance local initiatives to improve take-up of older people's benefits, particularly those in hard to reach groups.

The Pension Service have also recently provided local authorities with details of those people in their area claiming pension credit but not claiming housing benefit or council tax benefit, for authorities to use to complement their own take-up activities.

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