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25 Apr 2006 : Column 1022W—continued

Departmental Expenditure

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his Department's expenditure was on civil air travel in 2004–05. [64248]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence spent approximately £109.6 million on civil air travel in financial year 2004–05. This figure is provisional and subject to final audit.

Depleted Uranium

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what research has been conducted since December 2004 to establish the number of UK depleted uranium shells recovered from (a) UK waters and (b) overseas waters. [64604]

Mr. Ingram: The only records of the recovery of United Kingdom depleted uranium shells from the marine environment are for two recoveries from the Solway Firth. One shell was recovered from the foreshore of the Kirkcudbright Training Area in 1994 and the second was recovered from the sea during trawling in 1997.

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment the Defence Radiological Protection Services has made of uranium in urine of military personnel and civilian employees of his Department on operations where there is a potential for exposure; and if he will make a statement. [64761]

Mr. Touhig: Very small amounts of natural uranium occur in the human body from normal dietary sources. Of the several hundred United Kingdom troops and civilians who have had assessments of the level of uranium in their urine following operational deployments to areas where depleted uranium munitions have been used, 384 have been tested under the biological monitoring arrangements made by what was the Defence Radiological Protection Services and is now part of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. No depleted uranium has been detected in anyone other than a small number of personnel who received shrapnel injuries in an incident involving friendly fire.

Fast Jet Aircraft (Pilot Blackout)

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many incidents of pilots of fast jet aircraft blacking out have occurred in the past 10 years. [63806]

Mr. Ingram: The number of incidents of pilots of fast-jet aircraft blacking out in the past 10 years is not held centrally by the RAF. However, in 2004 the Ministry of
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Defence conducted a survey of all RAF aircrew to determine the prevalence of gravity-induced loss of consciousness (G-LOC). Of the 2,259 aircrew who responded to the survey, 454 (20.1 per cent.) admitted to having lost consciousness for a number of seconds following G exposure at least once during their career. There have been no recorded RAF aircraft accidents within the last 10 years where G-LOC has been a contributing factor.

To reduce the risk of G-LOC, all RAF fast-jet pilots undergo theoretical and practical training in countering the effects of high G. Future options for high G training are under consideration.

Gulf Veterans

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many veterans have voluntarily presented themselves to the Gulf Veterans' Medical Assessment Programme in each year since 1993. [64763]

Mr. Touhig: The total number of veterans seen at the Gulf Veterans Medical Assessment Programme since 1993, is 3,445. This figure includes 3,275 veterans of the 1991 Gulf Conflict (Operation Granby), 136 Porton Down Volunteers, and 34 veterans of the current operation in Iraq (Operation Telic). The figures for each year since 1993 are further broken down as follows:
Op GranbyPorton DownOp Telic

Royal Irish Regiment Home Service Battalions

Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the statement of 9 March 2006, Official Report, columns 961–3W, how many full-time members of the Royal Irish Regiment Home Service Battalions have indicated a preference to transfer to General Service under the terms of the package announced. [65929]

Mr. Ingram: Information on how many full-time members of the Royal Irish Regiment Home Service have indicated a preference to transfer to the General Service is not yet available. Those affected have been asked to register an expression of interest through their chain of command by 30 April 2006.
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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the operational criteria are for decisions on whether submarines should berth at Southampton rather than Portsmouth; and if he will make a statement. [64778]

Mr. Ingram: Operational" criteria as such are not generally considered when deciding which Z berth to use. The strict limitations on nuclear powered submarine operational activities at Z berths mean that these locations are used for planned crew stand-off periods, materiel re-supply and personnel changeovers only.

It is possible that, for example during the briefing or debriefing phases of an exercise, proximity to other forces may dictate the choice of berth. But otherwise the selection is made on the basis of berth availability, submarine programme and local interference considerations.

The decision on whether to use Portsmouth or Southampton for visits by United Kingdom nuclear powered submarines will be based on the criteria listed above.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what infrastructure is necessary to deal with effluent from nuclear powered submarines around Z berths; and what the (a) capital and (b) running costs are. [64783]

Mr. Ingram: No infrastructure is required around Z berths to deal with radioactive effluent from operational nuclear-powered submarines as discharges of this type are prohibited at these berths.

Other effluent, such as sewage or bilge water, is managed in the same way as for conventionally powered warships and civilian vessels, and depending on the location of the Z berth it is discharged either by direct connection to an installed shore-based facility or by tanker collection. In commercial ports the Ministry of Defence pays for effluent disposal services; these vary from port to port and generally depend on volume. In the naval bases effluent disposal facilities are shared with surface warships and the associated costs cannot therefore be identified separately.

Telephone Calls

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many minutes of free overseas telephone calls UK forces personnel are entitled to each week while on overseas tours. [65959]

Mr. Touhig: As part of the Operational Welfare Package, personnel serving on operations overseas are allocated 20 minutes of free telephone cards to anywhere in the world every week they are away. In addition, personnel serving over the Christmas/new year period are given an additional 20 minutes.

Personnel who are serving in non-operational areas are granted a cost towards telephone calls as part of their local overseas allowance; this cost is to make up the difference between the overseas location and the United Kingdom towards 20 minutes worth of telephone calls.
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Type 23 Frigates

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the last Type 23 Frigate is expected to leave service. [64611]

Mr. Ingram: On present plans the final Type 23 Frigate, HMS St. Albans, will be withdrawn from service in 2029.

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Type 23 frigates will be fitted with Sonar 2087; and what the total cost of the project is expected to be. [64612]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 14 March 2006, Official Report, column 2150W, to the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis).

There is an operational requirement for eight of the 13 in-service Type 23 frigates to be modified to operate the Sonar 2087 system. The decision on which ships are to be modified is determined by the fitting opportunities within the frigate upkeep programme.

The total cost of the project is currently expected to be £355 million.

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