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Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list formal consultations being sponsored by his Department and its agencies; and what the (a) commencement date and (b) deadline for responses is in each case. 
Mr. Touhig: The Ministry of Defence is currently undertaking one formal consultation the title of which is the Met Office Proposal for Changes to its Civil Centre Network". It is being carried out by the Met Office, which is a Trading Fund of the Ministry of Defence.
The consultation period began on 5 July 2005 and the original deadline for responses was 20 October 2005. However, as a result of the comments received during the consultation period, and based on further analysis and research undertaken by the Met Office with its commercial customers (particularly in respect of potential impact on revenue), I have agreed that the Met Office should further develop an additional option. As a result, a consultation document (Met Office Proposals for changes to its civil centre networkConsideration of further option") with further details of this new proposed option was issued on 24 October and the consultation period has been extended until 15 November to allow comments on it.
Copies of both consultation documents are available on the Met Office website at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/2005/consultation.pdf and http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/2005/CivilCentreConsultationNewOption251005.pdf respectively.
Mr. Touhig: There are two defence-related properties located within the Kettering constituency: a fuel depot and an Air Training Corps (ATC) establishment in Northampton Road, Kettering, which is the property of the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association.
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) for what reason the signing of the contract to begin future aircraft carrier construction has been postponed; and on what date he expects it to be signed; 
Mr. Ingram [holding answer 27 October 2005]: The future aircraft carrier (CVF) project is in its assessment phase, the aim of which is to balance the key parameters of performance, time, cost and risk.
As with all projects in the assessment phase, in-service dates (ISDs) are not fixed until the main investment decision. Estimated costs are being constantly refined and it will not be bounded until the main investment decision. The decision on construction strategy and associated contracts will form part of our main investment decision.
Mr. Ingram [holding answer 27 October 2005]: Given that both we and France are embarking on major, complex carrier procurement projects, we are examining areas of mutual benefit and opportunities to deliver economies. It is for industry to put forward proposals which will be judged on their merits and in light of national policies. It has been agreed with France that for co-operation to work, it must deliver cost savings and must do so without delaying UK or French programmes.
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether a decision has been taken to equip the future aircraft carriers to operate conventional carrier aircraft as well as VSTOL aircraft. 
Mr. Ingram: [holding answer 27 October 2005]: The future carriers are being designed to operate STOVL aircraft with an innovative design providing the ability to adapt them to operate conventional aircraft if required.
Mr. Touhig [holding answer 1 November 2005]: Information on all the illnesses reported by members of the armed forces is not held centrally. For serving personnel, medical records are normally held locally by service medical officers. For individuals who have left the services, the normal practice is to offer the records to their GPs for permanent retention.
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) medical and (b) scientific research his
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Department has (i) commissioned and (ii) evaluated to support the use of 50 decibels as the threshold for veterans claiming compensation for noise-induced sensorineural hearing loss as a result of their military service. 
Mr. Touhig: Neither the Ministry of Defence, which is responsible for veterans matters, nor the former Department of Social Security, which was responsible for the War Pensions Scheme until 2001 and remains responsible for the related civilian Industrial Injuries Scheme, have commissioned medical or scientific research on this issue. However, the Government's approach to noise-induced sensorineural hearing loss assessment is based on contemporary scientific evidence and understanding. This has been confirmed in recent years by several reviews carried out by independent audiological experts including the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council which confirmed the appropriateness of the threshold in November 2002.
Mr. Touhig: In April 2005 Modern Housing Solutions, a joint venture company (comprising Carillion, WS Atkins and Enterprise) was appointed Designated Contractor for the Housing Prime Contract. The Ministry of Defence has, since that date, undertaken the normal internal approvals processes and contract award is expected before the end of this calendar year, with the successful contractor being fully operational by the end of financial year 200506.
John Reid: The US provides funding in a number of areas to support the Coalition mission in the UK-led Multi-National Division (South East) but the US provides no direct funding for the UK military deployment in Iraq.
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) when and at what level discussions have taken place with representatives of the Irish Government following their submission for posthumous pardons in respect of 26 soldiers of Irish regiments executed in the Great War for cowardice and desertion; and if he will make a statement; 
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(2) if he will place in the Library copies of submissions received from the Irish Government requesting that consideration be given to granting posthumous pardons in respect of 26 soldiers of Irish regiments executed in the Great War for cowardice and desertion. 
Mr. Touhig: Officials from the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are involved in continuing discussions with the Irish Government about their submission and our response to it. It would not be helpful to those discussions for us to consider releasing the Irish Government's submission before we have decided what our final response should be and advised them of it.
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