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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 27 February 2006


War Memorials

18. Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to protect war memorials in buildings being redeveloped. [53952]

Mr. Touhig: Where a building is to be redeveloped, any war memorial is considered as part of the planning process.

We work closely with regimental associations and other interested parties to ensure that memorials in buildings being redeveloped are either incorporated within the refurbished building or moved to a suitable new location.

If the memorial is within a listed building, or is itself listed, the local authority must be approached for listed building consent prior to removal and appropriate re-siting.


19. David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he is taking to promote more efficient procurement by his Department. [53953]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence published its Defence Industrial Strategy in December 2005. This gives greater transparency to future UK defence requirements and sets out the industrial capabilities which need to be retained in the UK to meet those requirements. In doing so, it recognises that both MOD and industry will need jointly to develop and change their acquisition behaviours to adopt a through life perspective.


20. Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of Trident. [53954]

John Reid: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert).

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment his Department have made of the recent Matrix Chambers legal opinion that replacement of the Trident nuclear deterrent breaches Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. [51585]

John Reid [holding answer 16 February 2006]: I am content that the current nuclear deterrent meets the Government's legal obligations. The Government will ensure that any decisions taken on a replacement for our current nuclear deterrent system will also be fully
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consistent with our international legal obligations, including those under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


21. Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on British troop levels in Iraq. [53955]

John Reid: The posture and level of United Kingdom forces in Iraq is kept under regular review. The next major routine roulement of regular UK forces is due to take place during April and May this year.

Mr. Rob Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the estimated cost to the UK of training Iraqi military and security personnel in Iraq and Jordan was up to December 2005. [53843]

Mr. Ingram: Between November 2003 and December 2005 the cross-Government Conflict Prevention Pools contributed over £30 million towards the training and equipping of the Iraqi Security Forces. It is not possible to collate the cost of the UK forces programme of training the Iraqi army because MOD identifies the costs of operations in terms of the net additional costs it has incurred, not the individual tasks associated with operations.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what joint air strikes have been made by Royal Air Force and US forces against insurgents in Iraq; how many such strikes the RAF has been involved in; how many aircraft were used; which munitions were used in the strikes; and if he will make a statement. [54424]

Mr. Ingram: Ordnance has been dropped by RAF aircraft on two occasions since the end of the war-fighting phase. One precision-guided munition was used on each occasion.


22. Mr. Bailey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps the Department is taking to recognise further the contribution of armed forces veterans. [53956]

Mr. Touhig: I have written to all MPs announcing that a Veterans Day will take place on 27 June 2006 and we will be marking that date as Veterans Day in future years. It is important that the nation should have an opportunity each year to recognise the contribution that veterans have made and that they continue to make to our life in the UK today. It will be a day to focus on veterans of all ages, raising public awareness of their achievements and celebrating these. The day will also be an appropriate occasion to celebrate the service given by those currently serving in the armed forces.

In addition, we will use the opportunity to publicise the support and advice available to veterans from official and voluntary sources and the role of ex-service organisations.

Victoria Cross

23. Mr. Flello: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on plans to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Victoria Cross. [53957]

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Mr. Touhig: The 150th anniversary of the institution of the Victoria Cross will be commemorated by a service at Westminster Abbey on 26 June followed by a reception in St. James's Square, both hosted by the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association. The Ministry of Defence is funding the service, helping with the planning and providing musicians for the service and the reception. On 27 June the Trustees of the Imperial War Museum will host a private lunch for holders of the Victoria Cross and the George Cross at the Museum.


Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) legal regime and (b) rules of engagement govern the activities of United Kingdom armed forces in Afghanistan as part of (i) the international security assistance force and (ii) Operation Enduring Freedom; and whether these will change in respect of the forthcoming Allied Rapid Reaction Corps deployment. [48772]

John Reid: British troops in Afghanistan are deployed primarily under the international security assistance force (ISAF). ISAF operates at the request of the Afghan Government and with the authorisation of the United Nations. The latest Security Council resolution on the ISAF (UNSCR 1623) was agreed on 13 September 2005, and will remain in force until October 2006. UK troops deployed under Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) operate in Afghanistan with the consent of the Afghan Government.

UK troops in Afghanistan, whether under ISAF or OEF, will continue to act under UK rules of engagement (ROE), which ensure that UK military actions are consistent with UK law. However, as has been the practice of successive Governments, I am unable to comment in detail on the ROE under which our armed forces operate.

The deployment of the HQ Allied Rapid Reaction Corps in command of the ISAF will not change the legal basis for UK forces in Afghanistan.

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what measures UK armed forces are taking to protect (a) sites and (b) artefacts of archaeological or historical value in Helmand province. [50358]

Mr. Ingram: The role of British troops deployed as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Helmand is to support the Afghan Government as it extends its authority across the entire country and to assist its national security forces to maintain security. Responsibility for protection of sites and artefacts of archaeological or historical value lies primarily with the Government of Afghanistan. However, UK troops will show the utmost respect for local people, customs and Afghanistan's culture.

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assistance his Department is giving to non-governmental organisations in (a) Nimrooz, (b) Farah, (c) Ghor, (d) Orunzgan, (e) Kandahar and (f) Helmand province. [50361]

Mr. Ingram: A key role of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan is to provide a stable security environment to facilitate development
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and reconstruction work done by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and others. The UK will deploy the HQ Group of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps to lead the ISAF for a period of nine months from May 2006. British troops deploying to Helmand will support a UK-led Provincial Reconstruction Team, which will help enable NGOs to operate in that province.

The Ministry of Defence also supports a number of NGOs operating across Afghanistan through the Global Conflict Prevention Pool, which is jointly funded and administered with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development.

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the impact of the unrest in Afghanistan on 4 and 5 February on the security situation there; and if he will make a statement. [50364]

Mr. Ingram: The unrest that occurred between 4 and 5 February in Helmand province will have little impact on the overall security situation in Afghanistan.

The incident initially gave cause for concern due to the significant numbers of insurgents and tribesmen involved in what is assessed to be a well planned and executed operation. However, the response by Afghan Security Forces against a determined and well organised enemy, with minimal coalition support, clearly demonstrates the increasing capability of the ANA and ANP.

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 6 February 2006, Official Report, column 817W on Afghanistan, how the expected breach of Harmony guidelines caused by the planned deployment to Afghanistan will be managed. [50728]

Mr. Ingram: Harmony guidelines are measured by average Tour Intervals for units and personnel. Breaches are managed in a number of ways, including through tailoring of force packages to achieve objectives in the most efficient way possible, and sensitive posting and deployment of personnel. Pressure is further alleviated through contributions made by other Allies, which we continue to encourage through the NATO force generation process, and through eventual reductions in UK force commitments elsewhere. Over the longer-term, programmes such as the Future Army Structure will help to bring Tour Intervals in line with Harmony guidelines.

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the threat posed by the infiltration of insurgents from (a) Iraq and (b) Iran into Helmand province in Afghanistan. [51837]

Mr. Ingram: I cannot comment on threat specific assessments for reasons of operational security.

However, I am not aware of any credible evidence to suggest that insurgents or their techniques and procedures have infiltrated Helmand Province from Iraq or Iran. Helmand does not share a border with either country, but the armed forces of Pakistan have made extensive efforts, at considerable loss of life, to improve the rule of law along their border with Afghanistan. Iran has stated that it supports the long-term reconstruction of Afghanistan and the efforts of
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the Government of Afghanistan and international community to build stability and security. We welcome this commitment.

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what activities the International Security Assistance Force will undertake in Afghanistan falling within the definition of providing support to Afghan counter-narcotics forces operations that are not related to (a) the destruction of poppy fields and (b) pre-planned direct military action against the drugs trade. [53831]

Mr. Ingram: Under the terms of NATO's Operational Plan, ISAF troops can support Afghan counter-narcotics forces and operations in a number of ways, including by training Afghan forces, sharing information on the opium trade, supporting the counter-narcotics information campaign, and providing enabling support for Afghan counter-narcotics efforts. ISAF will also help provide the security environment in which the rule of law can be applied, traffickers can be effectively targeted by Afghan forces and a diversified economy capable of providing sustainable legal rural livelihoods for the farmers can be developed.

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