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Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what effect the planned conversion to the BOWMAN digital communications system will have on missions undertaken by 16 Air Assault Brigade in 2006; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ingram: The BOWMAN conversion programme has been drawn up to take full account of planned operational deployments. 16 Air Assault Brigade is scheduled to complete the full BOWMAN conversion package by the middle of 2007. Elements of the Brigade completed part of the conversion to the BOWMAN family of radios at the end of 2005, thus ensuring that, if deployed, they are equipped with an effective and appropriate suite of communications systems.
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) letters from hon. Members, (b) letters from members of the public and (c) Parliamentary Questions from (i) hon. Members and (ii) Lords were dealt with by his Department in each year since 1995; in
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respect of the percentage his Department took (A) more than one month and (B) more than three months to provide a substantive answer; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Touhig: The Cabinet Office, on an annual basis, publishes a report to Parliament on the performance of Departments in replying to Members/Peers correspondence. The Report for 2004 was published on 6 April 2005, Official Report, columns 137140WS. Reports for earlier years are available in the Library of the House.
Details of the number of letters from members of the public are not held centrally, though every effort is made by the Department to handle all correspondence effectively and efficiently.
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For parliamentary questions, Defence Ministers aim to ensure that Members receive a substantive response to their named day question on the day named and endeavour to answer ordinary written questions within a working week of being tabled. Unfortunately this is not always possible but the Department makes every effort to achieve these timescales.
Information relating to the percentage of answers that took more than one month and more than three months to answer is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. However, I am able to provide details of the total number of parliamentary questions from hon. Members and Lords dealt with by the Department in each year since 1995. This is set out in the following table:
|Ordinary Written||Named Day Written||Oral||Lords Written||Lords Oral||Total|
I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning) on 2 November 2005, Official Report, columns 10671068W, in which I advised of our plans to introduce a new toolkit to better track and handle all parliamentary questions and correspondence later in the year; this should enable us to better monitor our performance
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 23 November 2005, Official Report, column 2053W, on the Falklands garrison, if he will break down the costs of maintaining the Falklands garrison in 200405 by main cost area. 
|Consumables (including fuel)||13.2|
|Cost of capital||9.4|
Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the (a) total and (b) net cost of (i) integrating the proposed identity card scheme into his Department's IT systems and (ii) the ongoing operation of the scheme within his Department. 
Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what information he has (a) sought and (b) received from (i) the US armed forces and (ii) other coalition armed forces concerning the administration to their forces of nerve agent pre-treatment tablets during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 
Mr. Touhig: My Department has no record of formal information exchange at a policy level with the US armed forces or other coalition armed forces concerning the use of Nerve Agent Pre-treatment Sets tablets by their armed forces during Operation TELIC. Day-to-day desk officer level exchanges of information may have taken place but this has not been formally recorded.
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what rules of engagement will govern the handling of captured prisoners by British forces under International Security Assistance Force command; and whether those rules will differ from those relating to prisoners captured by British forces participating in Operation Enduring Freedom. 
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the request by United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) for a deployment of an EU force for the purpose of enhancing MONUC's quick reaction capability during and immediately after the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of Congo; 
Mr. Ingram: The request, from the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, sought possible support for its mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo by having available a force that could, if necessary, be deployed during the forthcoming election period. No decision has been taken on the nature of the EU response. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Defence, discussed this request during his meeting with the French Defence Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, on 24 January. They agreed that the EU should look to consider the request favourably. Any request for UK forces to be involved would need to be assessed taking into account our heavy operational commitments at that time.
Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether Ministers from his Department met representatives from the Public and Commercial Services Union during the Union's lobby of Parliament on 25 January; and if he will make a statement. 
The Department was disappointed that the TUs took the Day of Action as they had been fully consulted on the proposals for restructuring in the Ministry of Defence. MOD has had a number of meetings with the TUs to address their concerns and will continue to work with them through discussion, to deliver a more effective, efficient service.
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