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28 Nov 2005 : Column 115W—continued

WTO Talks

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what specific aims and objectives the Government will press the EU to take up at the World Trade Organisation talks in Hong Kong. [30103]
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Ian Pearson: The Government are committed to achieving an ambitious package at the Sixth World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong that is pro-development will allow a conclusion to the round by the end of 2006 and helps build—through liberalising developed world markets—a more competitive European economy.

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Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what units are planned to be deployed to Afghanistan in 2006; and on what date. [31421]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 24 November 2005]: On current plans, the Headquarters Group of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps and supporting forces will deploy to Afghanistan to command the International Security Assistance Force from May 2006 to February 2007. Joint Force Harrier personnel, predominantly from IV (AC) Squadron, Royal Air Force, will remain in Kandahar until February 2006 when they are planned to be relieved by 1 (F) Squadron. Work to prepare for a possible commitment of British forces to Southern Afghanistan in 2006 is also under way but, as I made clear in my recent statement of 14 November 2005, Official Report, columns 41–42WS, no final decisions have yet been made on such a deployment.

Army Board

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 28 October 2005, Official Report, column 1259W, which case the Army Board requested the Attorney-General to review; and on what date. [26128]

Mr. Touhig: The answer of 28 October stated that on one occasion the Army Board had requested the Attorney-General to review a case. In fact, the Army Board as a formed body did not request that review and has requested no other review. Rather on 25 March 2004, the Adjutant-General, who is a member of the Army Board, requested that the case involving Trooper Williams of 2nd Battalion Royal Tank Regiment be passed to the Attorney-General. The request came after discussion with other senior army officers. Ministers were not involved in the decision to make the request for referral.

Avian Influenza

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he has taken to provide vaccines for the armed forces in the event of an epidemic of avian influenza. [30354]

Mr. Touhig: On 20 July, the Department of Health (DH) announced its intention to purchase a limited amount of H5N1 vaccine as part of its ongoing preparations for a possible influenza pandemic in humans and the Ministry of Defence is ensuring that these plans take account of Defence needs. The MOD has ordered H5N1 vaccine from the DH, who have noted our requirement and included it in the tender bid.
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However, supplies of this vaccine are not currently available. Nor is it known with certainty that it would give protection against an influenza pandemic should the pandemic strain be a variant of the H5N1 influenza that is currently circulating in birds.

The current MOD policy with respect to offering flu vaccine is based on the NHS policy of only offering it to specific groups of personnel (such as key workers in the Defence Medical Services), in accordance with guidelines in the Department of Health Green Book Immunisation Against Infectious Disease".

Civil Service Relocation

Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the capitation cost is of (a) relocating a civil servant in his Department on public interest terms and (b) an average redundancy compensation payment for non-mobile civil servants. [31865]

Mr. Ingram: Both transfer and redundancy costs are dependent upon a wide range of individual factors and arithmetic averages are likely to be of limited relevance and, potentially, misleading if applied to any single site closure or relocation programme.

However, in answer to part (a) , the Department does use an overall average figure of £28,000 as an approximate guide to the costs that might arise when a mobile civil servant moves home at public expense. It is important to understand that this figure is a UK average and covers a span from the relatively inexpensive transfer of a single non-householder (costing around £5,000) up to a married owner occupier (costing some £36,000). But when individual moves are in prospect, the actual costs will depend upon the relative housing costs within the existing and new areas as well as upon the individual personal circumstances of those being transferred. Where a transfer is made to a new location within what is deemed to be reasonable daily travel of the existing home, the value of the allowances paid will generally be lower.

Turning to part (b) , the provision of a meaningful redundancy cost is equally problematic. This is because the amount paid will depend on factors such as length of service, salary and age. To illustrate this, in a recent redundancy exercise involving 17 non-mobile civil servants, the highest total redundancy liability cost was £77,000 and the lowest was £1,000. The overall average for that particular exercise was £24,500.

Commissioner Reports

Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 21 November 2005, Official Report, column 1565W where the reports of (a) the Office of Surveillance Commissioners and (b) the Information Services Commissioner are made publicly available; what estimate he has made of the cost of inspections by HM Inspector of Constabulary; and what budget provision has been made to meet the costs. [31662]

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Mr. Ingram: The reports on the service police produced by the Office of the Surveillance Commissioners and Information Services Commissioner refer to police investigations, operations and/or procedures, and for this reason their reports are not made publicly available.

We are still discussing with HMIC the possibility of inspections and in advance of any agreement it is not possible to say what costs will arise. No specific funds have been set aside for any inspection that may be agreed.

Defence Aviation Repair Agency

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment he has made of the likely effect the closure of the fast jet business at the Defence Aviation Repair Agency St. Athan will have on his Department's ability to meet a sudden increase in workload; [29223]

RAF Bases

(2) what assessment he has made of the capacity at theRAF's bases at (a) Cottesmore and (b) Marham to deal with a sudden increase in (i) Harrier and (ii)Tornado maintenance work. [29222]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 21 November 2005]: The concentration of logistic support 'forward' to MOBs is specifically designed to provide the flexibility to absorb urgent tasking in addition to scheduled maintenance and future upgrade work. Indeed RAF Cottesmore is currently undertaking additional maintenance of Harrier GR7 aircraft in support of operational flying in Afghanistan.

Departmental Estate

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which buildings and sites used by his Department and related agencies (a) have ceased to be used in the last year and (b) will be closed under current plans for relocation. [31781]

Mr. Touhig: The information requested is currently being obtained from a number of separate sources and will take a little time to collate. I will write to the hon. Member and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

Departmental Finance

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the real terms percentage increase in allocated resources for his Department (a) was for the period 1997–98 to 2004–05 and (b) is estimated to be between 2005–06 and 2007–08 (i) for each period and (ii)for each year. [31030]

Mr. Ingram: The period 1997–98 to 2004–05 covers the transition from cash accounting to resource accounting and budgeting (RAB). Using figures on a comparable basis, the defence budget has grown over the period 1997–98 to 2004–05 by 2.6 per cent. in real terms.
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For the period 2005–06 to 2007–08, the real terms percentage increase in the Defence total departmental expenditure limits is predicted to be 2.7 per cent. The annual average growth for each year of this period is 1.4 per cent.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the programmes covered by the capital commitments which are contracted for, but not provided for, in 2004–05. [32712]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 9 November 2005, Official Report, column 555W, to the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram).

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