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Service Medical and Dental Officers

The Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid): The supplement to the 2005 report of the Armed Forces' Pay Review Body making recommendations on the pay of service medical and dental officers has been published today. Copies of the supplement are available in the Vote Office and the Library of the House.

The review body's final recommendations are to be accepted in full, with implementation effective from 1 April 2005.

The review body recommends an increase of 3.225 per cent. for all regular and reserve defence medical services medical and dental officers. The review body also recommends a pay increase of 3.225 per cent. for medical and dental cadets. In addition, the review body recommends that there should be an increase of 3.225 per cent. in the values of trainer pay and distinction awards. The review body has also endorsed the introduction of the defence medical clinical excellence award scheme to mirror arrangements already in place in the NHS.

The cost of these recommendations to the defence budget will be some £4.6 million. This will be met within existing departmental expenditure limits.

Tornado Future Support Strategy

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): On 1 November 2004, I informed the House that there would be a series of announcements relating to the defence logistics transformation programme. On 25 November, I set out, in broad terms, the future arrangements for military aircraft support.

As a further development of these arrangements, I am today announcing our plans for the support of the RAF's fleet of Tornado aircraft. It is our intention to reduce the complexity of the Tornado support arrangements by placing, incrementally, where it offers best value-for-money for defence, contracts with BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce Defence Aerospace, leading to the eventual placement of a single support contract with each company to provide improved platform and engine availability.

This approach has the potential to improve significantly the availability and capability of our front-line aircraft. As the next stage in this process, we are now entering into a period of detailed discussions with the companies concerned to agree acceptable arrangements to deliver these benefits.

Formal and informal consultation with the trades unions will continue as the implementation of this strategy is taken forward.


Bellwin Scheme (Carlisle, Cumbria, Cumbria Police, Allerdale, Copeland, Eden and South Lakeland Councils)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Jim Fitzpatrick): Carlisle and large areas of Cumbria experienced exceptional storm and flood damage between 7 and 12 January 2005. Given these circumstances, I am satisfied that financial assistance under the Bellwin scheme is justified. A scheme will therefore be established under section 155 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. Grants
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will be paid to the authorities to cover 85 per cent. of the eligible costs above a threshold, which they have incurred in dealing with the storm and flood damage.

Home Ownership

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. John Prescott): I have today, with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, published a document setting out the Government's proposals for extending home ownership.

Copies of the document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.



The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): When the King of Nepal dismissed the multi-party government and assumed direct power on 1 February this year, the UK expressed grave concern, saying that these moves would increase the risk of instability in Nepal and undermine the institutions of democracy and constitutional monarchy in the country. We also said we would be assessing the impact of the move on our security and developmental assistance.

Three months on we remain concerned about the continued detention of a number of political and civil society activists and ongoing restrictions on the press. We acknowledge the King lifting the state of emergency and releasing a number of political leaders from detention. We welcome agreement to the establishment of an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights office in Nepal. We also welcome the publication by the political parties of a joint position on 8 May. We hope the King will respond to these efforts by engaging in a renewed dialogue with them. However, there is still a long way for the King to go in restoring representative government and democratic freedoms. This includes releasing the remaining political prisoners detained since 1 February, the easing of restrictions on the media and efforts to reintegrate the parties back into the political process. The Royal Nepalese Army also has a long way to go in improving its human rights record, tackling the culture of impunity and cooperating with human rights organisations. Our objective remains to see the restoration of basic civil and political freedoms. We will continue to cooperate with our key international partners in working towards this objective and will be monitoring the situation on the ground with close attention.

I said on 22 February in a statement that we would review the impact of the King's actions. Against the background of recent developments, we are continuing to keep our security assistance to Nepal under review but now intend to provide a package of bomb disposal equipment, which we had previously planned to gift. The Ministry of Defence is today laying before the House a parliamentary minute which gives the details of the proposed package.
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Windfarm (Scout Moor)

The Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks): I have decided to grant consent under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 to Scout Moor Wind Farm Ltd. to build 26 turbines with a capacity of 65 MW, at Scout Moor, near Rochdale.

My decision was taken after extensive and thorough consideration of the representations I received, both for and against consent being granted. The extensive, independent public inquiry ensured that community and environmental concerns were heard.

I am aware that this decision will come as a disappointment to those local people who opposed the application. Conversely, the decision will be welcomed by those local people who supported the application. Today's approval takes into account the concerns raised, and includes a number of conditions recommended by the inquiry inspector to mitigate any impacts.

This wind farm will generate clean, renewable electricity and make a vital contribution towards reducing carbon emissions and meeting the UK's international obligations on tackling climate change.

Copies of the decision letter and consent together with copies of the inspector's report are being placed in the Library of the House.


Employment and Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): The Employment and Social Policy, Health and Consumer's Affairs Council will be held on 2 and 3 June in Luxembourg. Employment and social policy issues will be taken on 2 June. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and my hon. Friend the Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs will represent the UK. Health issues will be taken on 3 June.

The agenda items are as follows:

Integrated guidelines for growth and employment (2005–08). Proposal for a Council decision on guidelines on member states' employment policies.

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