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10 Nov 2005 : Column 704W—continued

Challenger 2 Upgrade

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has (a) to replace and (b) to upgrade the L30A1 high-pressure 120mm rifled gun fitted to the Challenger 2 tank. [25095]

Mr. Ingram: There are no plans to upgrade the L30A1 gun fitted to the Challenger 2 tank. However, studies are being undertaken to provide information for our future direct fire weapon requirements. This might include a potential replacement for the current Challenger 2 gun.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to upgrade the (a) L31 HESH and (b) L34 smoke rounds used by the L30A1 gun. [25099]

Mr. Ingram: We have no plans to upgrade the L31 HESH and L34 smoke rounds. However, the next production run of these rounds will have a slightly modified fill to improve its insensitive munitions performance.
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Child Protection

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence by what mechanism convictions in courts martial are made available to the Criminal Records Bureau for the purposes of child protection. [26290]

Mr. Touhig: Details of convictions are communicated to the military police of the relevant single service. Recordable offences are then passed on to the Police National Computer, from which they are accessible to a Criminal Records Bureau check.

Cut and Sew Contract

Jim Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many garments in each category of the Cut and Sew contract were checked for faults; how many faults were found; and what specific criteria were used to check for different faults. [24731]

Mr. Ingram: The number of checks carried out up to 31 October 2005 are detailed in the table as follows:

Number of
garments checked
1Complex Cut and Sew
e.g. combat jacket
2Simple Cut and Sew e.g. ties133
3Semi-structured e.g. shorts18,657
4Knitted e.g. fleeces16,243

More checks were carried out in Categories 3 and 4 due to new items being added to the contract. Contractor's Workmanship samples are also requested from the Contractor, so that any faults can be rectified before production.

Garments are checked against the contractual specification, which includes certain tolerances to allow for the bulk manufacturing process. Only one fault outside of these tolerances has been identified.

Departmental Telephone Lines

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how the money that is raised from his Department's 0870 prefix contact telephone number is spent. [27131]

Mr. Touhig: The use of 0870 numbers in the Ministry of Defence is determined at the local level in accordance with individual business requirements. Records of 0870numbers and the revenue received from them is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Disablement Benefits

Peter Law: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the implications for hisDepartment's policy on provision of disablement pensions for ex-servicemen and medical auxiliaries of the decision in the case of Daniel Martin at the Pension Appeal Tribunal on 31 October. [25508]

Mr. Touhig: The Ministry of Defence's policy on the provision of war disablement pensions to former members of the armed forces is unchanged. Awards will
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continue to be made where evidence of disablement is shown and where that disablement is due to, or aggravated by, service.


Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what date he expects completion of the review of policy on the issue, control and security of firearms being conducted by the Director General of Training and Education. [26301]

Mr. Touhig: It is anticipated that the review of policy on the issue, control and security of firearms during initial training (Phase 1 and Phase 2), currently being conducted by the Director General Training and Education, in conjunction with the single Services, will culminate in revised policy early in the new year. Stringent regulations are already in place, but the purpose of the review is to ensure best practice is employed in weapon security in converting inexperienced Service personnel in Phase 1 through to trained individuals on completion of Phase 2 who fully understand their responsibilities for personal weapon security.

Forces Mental Well-being Policy

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence by what means and via what institutions the armed services maintain contact with (a) the Department of Health and (b) the devolved Administrations in order to develop the Forces' Mental Well-being policy. [26282]

Mr. Touhig: The Armed Forces Mental Wellbeing policy is developed and monitored through a steering group which comprises representatives from throughout the Ministry of Defence. The steering group monitors activities involving mental wellbeing in the United Kingdom including, for example, the outputs from the National Suicide Prevention Strategy.

Official contact between the Department of Health and MOD is regulated by a concordat that has been in place since 2002. This has led to arrangements with NHS Hospital Trusts, both those which host MOD Hospital Units and others, which enable MOD clinical personnel to be trained and to maintain their skills in the NHS environment. The concordat has now been extended to include the Health Departments for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Future Aircraft Carriers

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State forDefence for what reasons revised in-service dates of2013 and 2016 for the two Future Aircraft Carriers were published on the Department's website on 19 September; and why this information was subsequently removed. [24568]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 7 November 2005]: The dates were published on the website in error. These dates were removed as the in-service dates (ISDs) for the Future Aircraft Carriers will only be set following the main investment decision and once they have been approved by Ministers. This decision has not yet been taken, and will only be taken when we know with confidence the risks involved in building the carriers, when we have a proper understanding of the costs
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involved and the implications in terms of the wider interface with other projects, and for the shipbuilding industry.

Hearing Loss (Service Veterans)

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what research he has commissioned on hearing loss among armed services veterans; and if he will make a statement. [26622]

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 any research on this issue. 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 an Industrial Injuries Advisory Council review. The Ministry of Defence routinely scrutinises the published peer reviewed literature to ensure that compensation policy and approaches continue to take account of contemporary evidence.

HMS Nelson

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many times HMS Nelson has been subject to random drug testing in each of the last three years; and what the results were. [26881]

Mr. Touhig: The dates, numbers and results of Naval personnel who underwent random drug testing at HMS Nelson are as follows:
200322 JulyRM Band Portsmouth540
20032 OctoberHMS Nelson1890
200421 AprilRM School of Music830
20049 NovemberHMS Nelson1880
200512 MayRM School of Music440
20052 JuneRM School of Music10(16)0
200510 AugustNelson UPO320
200525 OctoberNelson PTIs and RN
Boxing Team

(16)new recruits

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will order an urgent investigation into whether there have been (a) breaches of security and (b) drug abuse in HMS Nelson; and if he will make a statement. [26882]

Mr. Touhig: Suspected breaches of security and allegations of illegal substance abuse at MOD establishments are taken very seriously and are rigorously investigated. Following recent media allegations, investigations are already under way at HMS Nelson.

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