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12 Dec 2005 : Column 1676W—continued

Trading Standards

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he plans to relocate certain responsibilities for supervision of trading standards from local to central Government. [33783]

Mr. Sutcliffe: As announced in the pre-Budget report on 5 December the Government will set up the Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO) to work in partnership with national regulators and Trading Standards and Environmental Health Departments within local authorities to deliver a risk based approach to business inspection and enforcement.

Service delivery will remain at a local level led by Trading Standards and Environmental Health. The LBRO will be tasked with building on existing good practice to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of local authority regulatory services, promoting and supporting risk based approaches at a local level and minimising the inspection burden on business. It will develop a co-ordinated strategy for all Trading Standards and Environmental Health enforcement and inspection activities affecting
 
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businesses that operate in more than one local authority area, building on existing arrangements with local authorities continuing to play a lead role.

Zirconium Silicate (Iran)

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether an export of zirconium silicate from the UK to Iran requires an export licence. [34700]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 6 December 2005]: Zirconium silicate may be controlled under entry 1C234 of the EC Regulation, as follows:

Additionally, its export may potentially be controlled, on a case by case basis, where the goods are to be used in connection with a WMD programme.

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which UK agencies are investigating the circumstances relating to the interception by the Bulgarian authorities at the beginning of September of a truck travelling from the UK to Iran, containing zirconium silicate; and whether these investigations are (a) separate from and (b) in conjunction with investigations by the Bulgarian authorities; and if he will make a statement. [34701]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 6 December 2005]: Investigation of alleged breaches of UK export controls are the responsibility of HM Revenue and Customs. However I believe the goods in question were not controlled under UK export controls and did not therefore require an export licence.

DEFENCE

Blake Inquiry Report

12. Meg Hillier: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the report of the inquiry by Nicholas Blake QC into the investigations of the deaths of young soldiers at Deepcut to be published. [36107]

Mr. Ingram: Nicholas Blake's plan is to publish his report after the House returns in January. His report will be published in full, as will my response to it.

Landing Ships Dock (Auxiliary) Project

13. Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the landing ships dock (auxiliary) project. [36108]

Mr. Ingram: The Landing Ships Dock (Auxiliary) project continues to make progress towards the completion of the four Bay Class vessels. Mounts Bay, the first ship built by BAE Systems in Glasgow, has begun her final sea trials prior to the Ministry of Defence acceptance. Build and testing continues on the remaining three ships.
 
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Friendly Forces (Identification)

14. Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he has taken to improve identification in combat of friendly forces. [36109]

Mr. Ingram: Combat Identification is a vital element of combat effectiveness and we constantly seek to improve our capability which involves tactics and training as well as technology. Recent steps include fielding a Coalition Blue Force Tracking system for helicopters and the Bowman communications system. We also take account of operational experience, and for example are following up as a matter of priority the recommendations of the recently completed Board of Inquiry into the Challenger blue-on-blue incident in Operation Telic.

BAE Systems Puriton

15. Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of BAE Systems Puriton. [36110]

Mr. Ingram: I am aware that BAE Systems Land Systems have announced that their site at Puriton near Bridgwater is to be closed as part of the company's rationalisation plans. This is a commercial decision for the company and we are satisfied with the alternative arrangements they intend to put in place.

Arctic Emblem

16. Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made with the introduction of the Arctic emblem. [36111]

Mr. Touhig: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently met Commander Eddie Grenfell at his request to discuss the Arctic Emblem. Commander Grenfell had submitted a design of his own for consideration. We have since sent him a developed version of this design and I understand he is consulting his fellow veterans.

Once the design has been agreed, we can progress with the contract and manufacturing stages, after which the Emblem will be despatched to eligible veterans. We have already received a number of applications.

Iraq

17. Mr. Rob Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the security situation in Iraq. [36112]

John Reid: I refer the hon. Member to the answer Igave earlier today.

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what date he first asked Sir Ronnie Flanagan to investigate policing in Iraq; and if he will make a statement. [36940]

John Reid: I asked Sir Ronnie Flanagan on 21 October, in his capacity as HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, to conduct the review of policing in Iraq.

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what remit has been given to Sir Ronnie Flanagan for his review of the Iraqi police force; when his report is due; and if he will make a statement. [36052]


 
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John Reid [holding answer 8 December 2005]: We keep progress on Security Sector Reform under close review and as part of that process we have asked Sir Ronnie Flanagan to provide both his objective assessment of the UK's policing programme in Iraq, and recommendations as to how to increase the effectiveness and neutrality of the wider Iraqi Police Service. SirRonnie has not yet concluded his assessments but we expect that he will report early in the new year.

Relief Effort (British Armed Forces)

18. Mr. Neil Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what role British armed forces are playing in aid and rebuilding efforts in countries affected by natural disasters. [36113]

John Reid: The United Kingdom armed forces provide humanitarian assistance in support of the Department for International Development. For example, we have provided significant and wide ranging assistance to the Pakistan earthquake relief effort, which has included: three heavy lift Chinook helicopters, a specialist 86-man light engineering team, a four-person mobile medical team, four logistics planners, three C-130 transport aircraft as part of the NATO air-bridge, and 24,000 vegetarian and halal ration packs.

Recruitment

20. James Duddridge : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, if he will make a statement on recruitment trends for the UK armed forces. [36115]

Mr. Touhig: In the first six months of this financial year the armed forces gained 8,810 new recruits from civilian life. This represents 47 per cent. of the recruiting target and is comparable to the position at the same point last financial year.

Adam Afriyie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on recruitment trends in the UK armed forces. [35348]

Mr. Touhig: In the first six months of this financial year the armed forces gained 8,810 new recruits from civilian life. This represents 47 per cent. of this year'srecruiting target. This level of achievement is comparable to the position at the 6-month point in the last financial year.

Although armed forces recruitment is an area of concern, the level of interest and the number of applications has increased in recent months. It is now a matter of converting this interest into actual recruits. The Services continue to undertake numerous and varied initiatives, both at national and local level, aimed at increasing the level of recruitment.

A sustained Recruiting Training and Retention Plan is providing a coordinated focus on Royal Marine recruiting.

Infantry recruiting has now been highlighted as a main effort for the Army. In January 2006 an Infantry recruiting multi-media recruiting campaign is planned. The campaign is in the early days of development but will be designed to demonstrate the exciting and rewarding lifestyle and ethos of the Infantry.
 
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Recruitment remains buoyant across all branches and trades within the RAF.


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