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Mr. Hoon: All staff in the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons are paid on a performance-related basis that includes a mixture of consolidated base pay awards and non-consolidated bonuses both of which are linked to individual performance and delivery.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made with mine clearing in Afghanistan; and whether the UK troops being deployed to Afghanistan in the coming months will be involved in mine clearing. 
Mr. Ingram: DfID has provided support to mine clearance in Afghanistan over a number of years and takes the lead on larger-scale humanitarian decontamination operations. The following table shows the contributions covering the last three years.
|HALO Trust||Mines Advisory Group (MAG)||United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS)|
Information obtained from the 2005 Landmine Monitor report estimates that the area of landmine contamination has been reduced from 1,350 square kilometres to 715 square kilometres. In 2004, over 33 square kilometres of mined areas and nearly 70 square
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kilometres of battle areas were cleared, destroying over 5,000 antipersonnel mines, 500 antivehicle mines and 1 million other explosives. Significant decreases in new casualties from landmines, Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) and cluster munitions compared with 2003 were also reported.
Teams from the UK Explosive Ordinance Disposal group will react to newly discovered minefields and UXO where there is a threat to coalition forces or their mission. In emergencies, civilian groups can request support from the UK EOD. UK forces co-ordinate with the UN, DfID and civilian contractors to ensure that the threat to local populations from minefields is minimised. This approach will continue as the UK presence increases, though the situation will be kept under review.
Mr. Arbuthnot: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 24 January 2006, Official Report, columns 2829W, on Afghanistan, whether the breakdowns by severity of injuries sustained by service personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq are based on the same definitions; and if he will provide equivalent figures for each theatre of conflict where British troops are deployed. 
John Reid: Standard definitions are used to describe the severity of injuries sustained in military service and these are applied consistently in all circumstances. I stated in my answer of 2 February 2006, Official Report, column 70405W, that the Ministry of Defence has pledged to provide regularly updated injury statistics for operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan and to publish these on the MOD website. Similar arrangements will apply in future to all major operational deployments overseas, once the system has been successfully introduced.
Mr. Ingram [holding answer 13 February 2006]: The Ministry of Defence contracts for the supply of general munitions with BAE Systems Land Systems under the terms of the Munitions Framework Partnering Agreement.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions his Department has had with (a) the US Defense Department and (b) the US Air Force in the last 12 months on the use of the airfield on Ascension Island. 
Mr. Ingram [holding answer 13 February 2006]: There have been no discussions with the US Defense Department or the US Air Force in the last 12 months on the use of the airfield on Ascension Island. However, representatives from the Permanent Joint Headquarters met with the US Air Force Space Command at Peterson AFB Colorado Springs on 5 January 2006 to identify options for efficiencies through burden sharing of facilities on the Island, including those on the airfield.
Mr. Ingram: The DVA carries out a range of checks appropriate to the level of clearance required and the circumstances and background of the subject to be vetted and this includes overseas checks where appropriate.
Mr. Touhig: Based on the numbers of staff as at the end of January 2006, around 82,000 staff receive an annual consolidated pay rise based on satisfactory performance. This includes civilian staff covered by the main departmental pay deal, those working in trading funds and the senior civil service. These staff also have performance management arrangements in place from which they are eligible for non-consolidated awards. There are also civilian staff including police, fire, teachers and medical staff whose pay is linked to counterparts outside the Department which means their pay is determined by whatever system is in place for their analogous link.
Over 53,000 United Kingdom Servicemen and women deployed to the Gulf in 199091. We do not know how many UK Gulf veterans are ill or what illnesses they have reported because there is no single database, not least with respect to those who have left the armed forces whose current records the Department does not hold. However, at the end of September 2005, some 2,960 Gulf veterans were in receipt of a war disablement pension and 2,445 veterans had received a gratuity for
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disablements assessed at under 20 per cent. There will be some overlap between those figures, as some individuals will have received first a gratuity and then, if this disablement has become more severe, a pension. The awards will not necessarily relate to the individual's service in the Gulf and we would expect a substantial proportion to relate to non-Gulf service.
In some cases veterans' illnesses are due to disorders which are unrelated to service. The majority will be musculo-skeletal conditions relating most commonly to injuries sustained in training, operations or fitness activities. Others are recognised medical conditions such as PTSD, where service links may again be accepted. A third group relates to multi-system, multi-organ, non-specific, medically unexplained symptoms and illnesses which epidemiological evidence shows are not specific to, but are more common among those who served in 199091.
The pattern of ill health is not unique to UK Gulf veterans, and is repeated among 199091 Gulf veterans from the other coalition countries. Evidence so far suggests that this is unaffected by the specific experiences and exposures of the personnel concerned. Similar symptoms and illness are also reported among personnel who did not deploy. There is no consensus either in the US or the UK as to the causes of the non-specific conditions commonly covered by the umbrella term Gulf War Syndrome".
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