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13 Jun 2005 : Column 11W—continued

Apache Helicopters

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment his Department has made of the suitability of the Apache attack helicopter to carry out the (a) search and rescue and (b) other roles of the Lynx helicopter; [2325]

(2) what roles the Apache helicopter fleet will perform in addition to its anti-tank and ground attack roles; [2326]

(3) what steps he is taking to maintain the Royal Navy's search and rescue capability when Lynx helicopters are replaced by Apaches. [2327]

Mr. Ingram: A 24 hour military and civil Search and Rescue (SAR) service around the UK is presently provided by RAF, Royal Navy and Maritime and Coastguard Agency helicopters to assist people in
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distress. Although the Lynx can be used for SAR if required, it is not designed for that role. This role is undertaken by the larger Sea King which is due to remain in service after the withdrawal of the current Lynx.

Limits on the range, endurance and cabin size of any small helicopter prevent them being the ideal platform for SAR. In the military operational environment however, any passenger carrying helicopter such as the Lynx, Merlin or Chinook can be used to rescue personnel if required. The Apache is not a passenger helicopter and therefore there are no plans to use it for either the civilian SAR or military rescue requirements.

Currently the main roles of the Army Lynx are attack, reconnaissance, control of firepower and movement of personnel and equipment. The primary role for the Apache is as an attack platform (anti-tank and ground attack). In addition, if required, it can also carry out the control of firepower (artillery and close air support) and Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) tasks that are currently undertaken by the Army Lynx.

Armed Forces (Recruitment)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on recruitment rates to the armed forces. [2785]

Mr. Touhig: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer Igave on 7 June 2005, Official Report, column 463W, to the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Dunne).

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps the Government are taking to encourage young people to join the armed forces. [2961]

Mr. Touhig: All three services undertake numerous and varied initiatives, both at national and local level, aimed at increasing the level of recruitment to the armed forces. Included among the many current initiatives are:

British Infantry (Response Capability)

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Defencewhat assessment he has made of the ability of the British infantry to respond to additional urgent deployments. [3701]

Mr. Ingram: The Infantry is structured to ensure that we have forces of appropriately high readiness in place to meet urgent contingent operations.
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Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many consultants were employed by his Department in each of the last three years; and what their names were. [1334]

Mr. Touhig: Specific data on the number and names of consultants employed is not held within the Ministry of Defence. However, I can advise that summaries of MOD expenditure on External Assistance, of which consultancy is a part, are available in the Libraries of both Houses for the years 1995–96 to 2003–04.

DC10/TriStar Fleets

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the Royal Air Force DC10 and TriStar fleets to be phased out-of-service. [2639]

Mr. Ingram: I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the VC 10; the RAF does not have any DC10 aircraft in its inventory. On current plans the VC 10 and TriStar fleets will reach their out of service dates towards the middle of the next decade.

Departmental Estate

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list those sites in England and Wales within his responsibility which have been identified as surplus to requirements; what plans have been identified as to their possible future use; what consultative process will be followed in each case; and if he will make a statement. [2059]

Mr. Touhig: Details of Ministry of Defence properties and land currently listed for disposal are available in the Library of the House. It should be noted however that the need to retain such properties and land is constantly under review. Consequently the sites in disposal change frequently. The list is generally updated quarterly.

Whenever it is decided that the Ministry of Defence has no further need for any particular site, it is our policy to consult widely, with English Partnerships, local authorities and all other interested parties, before deciding as to their possible future uses. These are, of course, often specific to individual sites and can relate to their size, location or the nature of any facilities present.

First World War Veterans

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations his Department has received from the facility at Hayes relating to the award of medals to servicemen and women from the First World War; and what plans his Department has for the future storage of the index cards stored there. [3410]

Mr. Touhig: The Ministry of Defence has received no representation from the former TNT archive at Hayes about the award of medals to servicemen and women from the First World War.

The index cards to the First World War Army medal rolls are already preserved in a microfilmed format and available to researchers at The National Archives (in Class WO 372) and through the National Archives
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website online. The microfilming process captured the information held on the front of the cards, all but a very small percentage of the backs of the cards being blank.

The Ministry of Defence has no further administrative use for the cards and, with The National Archives, has actively sought to identify a suitable institution prepared to accept the original cards, understanding the value attached to such records by many people. The Imperial War Museum has accepted the women's cards and the remainder of the collection has been transferred into the custody of the Western Front Association.

Freedom of Information

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many requests his Department received under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 up to 30 April; in how many cases no substantive information has been provided; and what the average time taken to respond to such requests is. [2351]

Mr. Touhig: Up to 30 April the Ministry of Defence had logged 2,237 requests under the Freedom of Information Act. MOD reports its performance quarterly to the Department for Constitutional Affairs and an assessment of the outcomes for the first three months of 2005 has been completed. DCA will be publishing robust statistics on FOI requests and outcomes for the first three months of operation of FOI at the end of this month and every subsequent quarter.

Outcomes for April, including timeliness and numbers of requests refused, have not yet been collected and verified. MOD does not collect data for the purpose of calculating the average time taken to respond. The emphasis is rather on determining whether the Department has responded within the statutory requirements of the FOI Act.

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