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16 Mar 2005 : Column 264W—continued

PFI Contracts

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the private finance initiative contracts which his Department advertised in 2004, indicating in each case whether the output specification included (a) clauses specifically relating to energy consumption and energy efficiency, (b) a requirement for relevant equipment being purchased to be on the Government's Energy Technology List, (c) a requirement to use whole life costing to assess the energy costs for new buildings or major refurbishments and (d) a requirement that new buildings or major
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refurbishments should be constructed to a specific energy standard; and what standard was specified in each case. [221883]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 15 March 2005]: No private finance contracts were advertised in 2004.

Queen's Flight

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions his Department's Ministers used the Queen's Flight in each of the past five years. [213705]

Mr. Caplin: The number of occasions Defence Ministers have used the aircraft of 32 (The Royal) Squadron in each of the past five financial years is as follows:
Financial yearNumber of occasions

Travel by Ministers makes it 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. 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.

South African Nationals

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) whether South African nationals who are serving officers in the British Army are eligible to remain in the British Army while applying for a British passport; [205466]

(2) whether South African nationals who are serving officers in the British Army and are married to British citizens are eligible to remain in the British Army while applying for a British passport. [205467]

Mr. Ingram: Regulations allow for citizens of any Commonwealth country to apply to join the British Army. Once serving it would be for the individual to decide whether he or she wished to apply to the Home Office for naturalisation as a British citizen.

On making an application for naturalisation, an officer may continue to serve in the Army for so long as their commission allows. If an officer's commission
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comes to an end during the process of making an application, this will not influence any decision to extend their service. A commission will only be extended when it is in the Army's interests to do so. Marital status has no bearing on such matters.

Spearhead Regiment

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the spearhead regiment is fully equipped (a) at present and (b) for the next regiment to take over. [221485]

Mr. Ingram: I have assumed that the hon. Lady is referring to the Spearhead Land Element (SLE), a Very High Readiness (VHR) Battalion Group (based on a light infantry battalion) whose role is to deploy at short notice to conduct a wide range of demanding, non-warfighting tasks. I can confirm that the current and future nominated SLE battalions are both fully equipped to undertake the task as SLE.

Strensham Heliport

Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 3 March 2005, Official Report, column 1342W, on near air misses, if he will instruct the Royal Air Force to cease flying over Strensham Heliport until he has had the opportunity to assess the findings of his investigations into the near air misses on 14 December 2004 and 9 February 2005. [221678]

Mr. Caplin [holding answer 14 March 2005]: There are at present no grounds on which we feel it appropriate to create an exclusion zone at the Strensham helicopter landing site. The site has, however, been marked as a warning on low flying charts. The position will be reviewed when the results of the UK Airprox Board investigations are known.

Surface Combatants

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the Medium Versatile Surface Combatant and its relationship to the Future Surface Combatant programme. [220568]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 7 March 2005]: The Future Surface Combatant project is still in its concept phase. Studies continue to develop ideas for the platform solution and no decisions have been taken. Our current assumption for planning purposes is that the Future Surface Combatant requirement will be delivered by a two-class solution. The principal element, now known as the Versatile Surface Combatant, is expected to enter service around 2023, and a 'Military Off The Shelf' variant known as the Medium Sized Vessel Derivative is expected to enter service between 2016–19.

Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps are being taken by the Government to comply with the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. [221694]

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Mr. Hoon: The United Kingdom is fully committed to and in full compliance with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), including under Article VI, and has a good record on disarmament. We have reduced the total explosive power of our nuclear forces by over 70 per cent. since the end of the Cold War and in the 1998 Strategic Defence Review we announced that only one Trident submarine would be on deterrent patrol at any one time. That submarine would normally be on several days' notice to fire with its missiles de-targeted. We have conducted studies on the verification of nuclear disarmament since the Review Conference in 2000 and will report the concluding part of our findings to the NPT Review Conference this May. The UK has ratified and continues to support the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty without further delay and without preconditions.



Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Solicitor-General whether the document from the Attorney-General considered by the Cabinet on 17 March 2003 relating to the legality of the war in Iraq is a paper under the Ministerial Code of Conduct. [221892]

The Solicitor-General: The Attorney-General attended Cabinet on 17 March 2003 and reported that he had answered a parliamentary question on the authority for the use of force in Iraq. He produced the text of that answer for Cabinet, made an oral presentation and was present throughout to answer questions. Paragraph 23 of the Ministerial Code is not relevant in circumstances where the Law Officer provides his advice in person.


Bed Occupancy

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent representations he has received from
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(a) healthcare professionals and (b) other interested parties on the optimal levels of bed occupancy. [218120]

Mr. Hutton: No recent representations have been received from healthcare professionals on the optimum levels of bed occupancy.

I have received written representation from my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe), following the Public Expenditure 2004 Health Committee on 8 December 2004. In addition, right hon. and hon. Members have tabled parliamentary questions on a range of bed occupancy issues.

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