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28 Jun 2005 : Column 1394W—continued

Forces Personnel (Resignations)

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the number of armed forces personnel who have resigned since 2003 to join private security companies. [6904]

Mr. Touhig: This information is not held centrally. Exit surveys are conducted within the Naval Service and RAF but information on where personnel plan to work after they leave the services is not collected. The Army do not currently run an exit survey, however, the possibility of doing so is now under review.
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Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of defence (a) hospital and (b) medical services in Gibraltar. [6371]

Mr. Touhig: The full spectrum of medical support is, and will continue to be provided to British Forces in Gibraltar. The construction of a new primary and secondary Integrated Health Facility, which will replace the current Royal Naval Hospital and Joint Medical and Dental Unit, is estimated for completion in 2007. We remain committed to providing our entitled personnel with medical services at least equivalent to NHS standards, wherever practicable and possible.

Gulf-war Related Illness

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many claims in respect of Gulf War related illness have been (a) rejected and (b) accepted by the Veterans Agency, Blackpool; and how many claims have been allowed the right of appeal. [7396]

Mr. Touhig: Our records show that as at 31 May 2005,1,484 claims have been accepted and 120 claims rejected in respect of Gulf War related illness. All decisions issued by the Veterans Agency carry a right of appeal.


Mr. Pope: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many officials currently in the Department received honours in the recent Queen's Birthday Honours List; and at what rank of honour. [5124]

Mr. Touhig: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to him on 22 June 2005, Official Report, 1059W, by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Incendiary Weapons (Iraq)

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his letter to the hon. Member for Leyton, deposited in the Library, correcting his January parliamentary answer about the use of incendiary weapons in Iraq, how he discovered that his answer was incorrect; when he first discovered that it was incorrect; whether the use of the weapons were in the area of Falluja; whether any civilian settlements were in the area; where the weapons were used; and if he will make a statement. [6232]

Mr. Ingram: On 20 April, my attention was drawn to reports that the US State Department had confirmed the use of MK 77 firebombs in Iraq in 2005, contrary to the answer given to my hon. Friend, the member for Leyton and Wanstead, 11 January 2005, Official Report, column 374W. Ministry of Defence officials sought clarification from the Pentagon and I wrote to my hon. Friend as soon as possible after this had been received in June.

Where, and against which targets the weapons were used is a matter for the US authorities.
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Joint Strike Fighter

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the work his Department has carried out since the publication of the Rand Europe report on the Joint Strike Fighter to evaluate the steps which have to be taken to secure a final assembly, check out and maintenance and repair unit for this aircraft at BAE Wharton. [6834]

Mr. Ingram: We have a requirement for a Maintenance, Repair and Upgrade capability to provide sovereign support for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) throughout its planned service life. Following on from the Rand study, further investigations are underway between BAES, DTI and MOD, to explore the possible synergy between this and a Final Assembly and Check Out facility based in the UK.

Military Readiness

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the finding of the National Audit Office report Assessing and Reporting Military Readiness, paragraph 2.39, concerning shortages of essential personnel; what estimate he has made of the extent of these shortages; how many units and of which types, are (a) facing such shortages and (b) under strength; and of how many medical staff his Department is short. [7548]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 27 June 2005]: The current shortages of personnel, by Service, within the areas of undermanning noted in paragraph 2.39 of the National Audit Office report Assessing and reporting Military Readiness, are given as follows. These numbers have been rounded to the nearest 10.
Royal Navy and Royal Marines
Medical personnel (including nurses, surgeons and anaesthetists)80
Signals and communications personnel140
Vehicle maintenance technicians30
Medical Personnel (including nurses, surgeons and anaesthetists)630
Intelligence personnel440
Vehicle maintenance technicians380
Royal Air Force
Medical personnel (including nurses, surgeons and anaesthetists)80
Vehicle maintenance technicians30
Weapon systems operators120

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Attributing shortages to individual units could be achieved only at disproportionate cost. The deficits are managed as equitably as possible by the respective manning agencies to minimise the operational impact.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many times in each year since 1997 the military readiness traffic light reporting system has shown a (a) yellow and (b) red state of readiness for each service. [7893]

Mr. Ingram: The military readiness reporting system has been evolving since it was first included in the Ministry of Defence's Public Service Agreement following the 1998 Comprehensive Spending Review. Performance against PSA readiness targets has been reported to Parliament since 1999–2000 in the Ministry of Defence's Annual Performance Report, which from 2002–2003 has been included in the Annual Report and Accounts. The number of critical weaknesses which would make it impossible to deploy a unit has also been reported publicly in our quarterly PSA reports available on the MOD website since December 2003.

Ministry of Defence Police (Royal Mint Investigation)

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the outcome was of the investigation commenced in July 2002 at the Royal Mint Llantrisant; and on which Government agency's behalf his Department's police handled the case. [6543]

Mr. Touhig: The police investigations at the Royal Mint have now been completed. One person has been charged with a number of offences and is due to appear at Southwark Crown court on 12 September 2005. A second person is the subject of a request for extradition and a file has been forwarded to the Director of Prosecutions, Gambia. The Gambian authorities have issued a judicial order for the arrest of the individual.

The Chief Executive of the Royal Mint Llantrisant launched an internal investigation and reported findings to HM Treasury, who brought in the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). However, when the SFO became aware that the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) provide a policing service to the Royal Mint, it was agreed by both organisations that the MDP would be the most appropriate police force to assist with the inquiry, due regard having been taken of the geographical spread of the required inquiries within the UK and abroad.


Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) advice is given on, and (b) precautions are taken against the spread of MRSA in military ambulances; and if he will make a statement. [6700]

Mr. Touhig: The majority of secondary care for armed forces personnel is provided at Ministry of Defence Hospital Units within host NHS hospitals. Ambulances used for transfer fall under the local health authority and will adhere to the procedures and precautions laid down by the local health authority.
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Some military ambulances are retained by armed forces medical centres. Guidelines to prevent the spread of infection are provided at a single Service level. These include staff protection and ambulance disinfection. The guidelines are in line with the current procedures recommended by the local health authorities.

Ambulances are also used by the armed forces for transfer of a small number of patients in Cyprus and Gibraltar. These ambulances follow the same infection control procedures as the UK based medical centres with staff referring to the local infection control manuals supplied by the single Service Infection Control Teams in the UK. A local infection control nurse is on hand to provide immediate support and advice where necessary.

MRSA has not been identified as a major problem for troops returning from military operations abroad. Nevertheless, when operating in field conditions, staff are instructed on the importance of preventing the spread of any infection and are given specific guidelines to follow to prevent the spread of infection relevant to the particular theatre. Ambulances on operations are cleaned as per single Service guidelines on the decontamination of equipment. All ambulances should be thoroughly cleaned between uses.

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many cases of MRSA have been recorded in his Department's hospitals since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [6701]

Mr. Touhig: The majority of secondary care for armed forces personnel is now provided at Ministry of Defence Hospital Units (MDHUs) which are based within NHS trust hospitals around the UK. MRSA numbers are now monitored by the infection control teams of each NHS trust under the direction of a consultant microbiologist, not the MOD. The MOD therefore does not hold these records.

Royal Hospital Haslar (RHH) is currently an exception to this. Since April 2001 it has been run in partnership with Portsmouth Hospital Trust. The number of cases of MRSA at RHH are only available from the year 2000. Due to reasons of medical confidentiality, numbers are not broken down below five.
Royal Hospital Haslar

2000Less than 5
200520 (to date)

The MOD currently has two military hospitals at its permanent overseas bases in Cyprus and Gibraltar. Records for these bases are only held for the last five years and less than five cases of MRSA have been recorded in Cyprus, and none in Gibraltar. Those cases recorded have been transferred in from other hospitals and no new cases of MRSA have been identified in either hospital in this period.
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