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Departmental Expenditure

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will place in the Library copies of his Department's Chart of Accounts for financial years 1997–98 to 2005–06; [24601]

(2) if he will list his Department's top level budget holders and their related intermediate and working level management groupings for financial year 2005–06. [24605]

Mr. Ingram: Yes. I will provide copies from financial year 2000–01 when the Chart of Accounts was first adopted for financial management purposes in the Ministry of Defence. This will also provide the budgetary structure down to basic level Budget. It will take some time for all the information to be collated. Once this has been done, I will place copies in the Library of the House.

Future Aircraft Carriers

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the timetable is for the Department's aircraft carrier programme. [26572]

Mr. Ingram: The Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF) project is in its assessment phase, the aim of which is to balance the key parameters of performance, cost and time. The main investment decision will be taken when we know with confidence the risks involved in building the carriers, when we have a proper understanding of the costs involved and the implications in terms of the wider interface with other projects. At that time, ship build time scales and consequent in-service dates (ISDs) will be set.


Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what estimate (a) he has made and (b) the Iraqi authorities have made of the number of civilian casualties during the events of 19 September 2005 in Basra; [20522]

(2) whether he has requested the return of the (a) car and (b) equipment seized at the time of the arrest of the two military intelligence officers on 19 September 2005 in Basra; [20521]

(3) whether the raid on the Jamiyat prison on 26 September 2005 was approved in advance by (a) Officials and (b) Ministers in his Department; [20520]

(4) what reports he has received of torture being conducted at the Jamiyat prison in Basra; [20519]

(5) whether either of the two military intelligence officers arrested in Basra on 19 September 2005 were (a) carrying non-UK passports and (b) not of UK nationality; [21098]

(6) whether compensation will be offered to Iraqi citizens affected by British military action in Basra on 19 September 2005; [20835]

(7) what reasons have been given by Iraqi police for their arrest of the two British officers in Basra on 19 September 2005; [20834]
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(8) whether Basra's principal council has requested that the two military intelligence officers arrested on 19 September 2005 handed over to Iraqi authorities. [20833]

John Reid [holding answer 21 October 2005]: Commanders in the field have full authority to take action to protect life. On 19 September, a day of fast moving events, the Ministry of Defence was consulted throughout. The acting commander of British forces in MND (SE) was able to take the difficult decision to mount the operation to enter the police station in the knowledge that he had the full support of the chain of command. The two British soldiers arrested in Basra on 19 September by the Iraqi Police Service are both UK nationals and were not carrying the passports of any other nation.

The car that the two British soldiers were travelling in was not seized. Although some of the personal equipment worn or carried by the British soldiers was removed by the Iraqi Police Service, most was recovered. All the equipment subsequently found in the police station was retrieved.

Due to the difficulty in obtaining reliable information it is not our policy to comment on civilian casualties. In this case, although we are aware of media reports, we have not been provided with any evidence relating to the deaths of Iraqis.

The Ministry of Defence has well-established procedures for handling claims for compensation in Multi-National Division (South East) and indeed any other theatre in which we operate. If there are any legitimate claims for negligence that arise out of the events of 19 September, they will be considered in the normal way.

I am aware of serious allegations of prisoner abuse at the Jameat including two alleged deaths in custody. UK support to the Iraqi Police Service in Basra and elsewhere is designed among other things to enhance police governance, accountability and respect for human rights. We take this very seriously. We have been pressing the Iraqi authorities very hard in both Basra and Baghdad to investigate these allegations thoroughly and then to take appropriate action and we will continue to do so.

The Iraqi Government have said that the two soldiers were arrested because the Iraqi Police Service initially believed them to be terrorists and they were not able to immediately confirm their status as British soldiers. Having confirmed their identity we were extremely concerned when they were not released in accordance with Iraqi law. We have subsequently agreed with the Iraqi Government that in future any such incident will be dealt with in accordance with the relevant articles of Iraqi law, which affirm that the UK retains sole jurisdiction over its armed forces personnel.

We never received a formal request from either Basra's principal council or the Iraqi Government to hand the individuals over to the Iraqi authorities. Furthermore an Iraqi judicial inquiry concluded that under Iraqi law there were no grounds for such action, given the immunity of Multinational forces personnel from the Iraqi legal process.
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British forces were fully within their rights to act in the way they did and I fully support their actions.

Landing Ships Dock (Auxiliary) Programme

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he has received further requests from Swan Hunter for additional funding to complete the two ships being built by Swan Hunter as part of the Landing Ships Dock (Auxiliary). [24834]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to my reply of 3 November 2005, Official Report, column 1264W.

RMP Historic Investigation Team

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) on whose authority it was decided to set up 6 Royal Military Police Historic Investigation Team; and which (a) Government Ministers and (b) Law Officers were involved in discussions leading to its creation, with specific reference to discussions between Defence Ministers and Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office; [27058]

(2) what the remit is of 6 Royal Military Police Historic Investigation Team; and what circumstances have led to its mission and co-operation with the Police Service of Northern Ireland; [27057]

(3) how many cases and operations 6 Royal Military Police Historic Investigation Team is expected to investigate; and how many soldiers and former soldiers are expected to be involved in those investigations; [27056]

(4) what the estimated annual budget is of the 6 Royal Military Police Historic Investigation Team; and if he will make a statement. [27086]

Mr. Ingram: The 6th Regiment, Royal Military Police (6 RMP) Historic Inquiry Team (HIT) have been established as the HQNI focal point for providing information to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) review of all 'troubles' related deaths. They are not undertaking any investigative responsibilities in relation to this review.

The RMP maintain close liaison with all Home Office police forces and routinely assist both in civil police investigations and requests for information involving service personnel. The current PSNI review is no different from any other Home Office police investigation and requests for information are being met with full and open disclosure.

The PSNI are expected to review some 2,000 cases, though each case-file may contain more than one incident of death. The RMP have approximately 930 military police case files, which contain information relevant to these deaths. In addition, 6 RMP maintain the Northern Ireland Operational Archive, which stores material such as patrol reports, log sheets and patrol data. The RMP HIT remit is to trawl this material in response to requests for information from the PSNI. The number of cases involving military personnel has not yet been quantified.

The 6 RMP HIT was formed by means of a routine internal reorganisation of existing manpower in order to meet changing priorities within an existing area of
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military police support. The Commanding Officer of 6 RMP made the decision to form the 6 RMP HIT so that the support to the PSNI inquiries could be delivered in the most effective way possible, and this decision was endorsed by the Chief of Staff, Headquarters Northern Ireland.

As the 6 RMP HIT has been created through an internal reorganisation of existing regimental resources, no additional cost has been incurred and an increase to the extant 6 RMP budget is not considered necessary at this stage.

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