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23 May 2006 : Column 1603W—continued


Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the original projected cost was of the police training college in Northern Ireland; and what the estimated final cost is. [69463]

Paul Goggins: The original outline business case estimated a cost of £74.6 million for construction of the college. With professional fees and land costs, this gave a total projected cost in the 2002 outline business case of £102.9 million. The 2005 outline business case estimated the cost, on the basis of prices at the fourth quarter of 2006, at £134.15 million. This business case has yet to be considered at a meeting of the project board.

Costs increased between 2002 and 2005 due to inflation, security requirements associated with the site and new requirements associated with simulated training areas.

The Government have advised the policing board and PSNI that it will make available £90 million for the college.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on recruitment to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. [65306]

Paul Goggins: In 1998 when the Patten Commission was conducting its investigation, only 8.3 per cent. of regular officers were from the Roman Catholic community. In less than five years, under the temporary 50:50 provisions Catholic composition among regular officers has risen to 19.68 per cent. with a total of 2,219 recruits having been selected for appointment on a 50:50 basis.

Our goal is to increase Catholic representation to30 per cent. by 2010-11; the date envisaged by Patten to achieve this aim. The Government recognise that 50:50 recruitment is an exceptional means to addressing an
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exceptional problem and we firmly believe that these temporary provisions are justified to rectify an acute historical imbalance in the composition of the Police Service in Northern Ireland. These exceptional measures are reviewed every three years, with the next, and hopefully final, such review due later this year. While we envisage that the provisions will be renewed in March 2007, this will be subject to detailed review of the policy, extensive consultation, and debate in both houses. If the 50:50 provisions were not in place then it would not be possible to achieve our 30 per cent. target by 2010-11. I am pleased to say that we are very much on target to reach this goal with a further interim target of 23.5 per cent. set for March 2008.

In the first eight competitions there were over 28,000 applications from non-Catholics, of which 541 will have been rejected directly as a result of these temporary provisions. In other words less than 2 per cent. of all non-Catholic applicants will have been rejected as a direct result of the 50:50 provision.

Although the Patten Report focused on the imbalance between the number of Catholics and Protestants in the composition of the Police Service, it rightly recognised the importance of gender and ethnic minority representation. It is notable that female composition has risen from 13 per cent. to 20.42 per cent. and the ethnic minority background composition compares favourably with the overall level of the working age ethnic minority population in Northern Ireland and continues to rise.

In terms of the steps taken to recruit police officers, the oversight commissioner has commented that the advertising programme has been both imaginative and assiduous. It has varied between competitions, but has included press, television, billboard, cinema and online advertising, all designed to reach groups currently under-represented in the Police Service.

The responses from all communities have been extremely positive and the results have exceeded expectations. The latest campaign (10) saw the highest number of applications yet, with 7,691 applications competing for 220 places. 37 per cent. of these applications were from the Catholic community which is the highest rate to date and the number of ethnic minority applications doubled.

In addition to a large number of Northern Ireland applicants, applications have been received from Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, as well as from a number of other countries.

Security Forces (Republic of Ireland)

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on how many occasions security forces from the Republic of Ireland have crossed into Northern Ireland while on operation (a) with and (b) without the consent of UK authorities in each of the last 10 years. [70452]

Paul Goggins: The police service of Northern Ireland continue to have a good operational relationship with both the military and ‘an garda siochana’ in the Republic of Ireland. This relationship has involved a number of operations in which officers have crossed into Northern
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Ireland with the consent of UK authorities to frustrate and detect criminality. It would not be possible to quantify the number of occasions during which this has occurred in the last 10 years.

PSNI is not aware of any occasions during which operations from the Republic of Ireland have crossed into Northern Ireland without consent.

Staff Surveys

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many staff surveys have been conducted in (a) each department in Northern Ireland and (b) his Department in each of the last three years. [70491]

Mr. Hanson: The following table details the number of staff surveys undertaken by each of the 11 NICS core departments and the Northern Ireland Office during the last three years. The information has been provided on a financial year basis.

The information covers surveys undertaken at an NICS-wide, departmental, directorate, divisional and branch level unless where indicated otherwise.

Department 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06





















































(1 )Branch level survey information could be provided only at disproportionate costs

Sustainable Development Strategy

Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he will publish the Implementation Plan for the Sustainable Development Strategy for Northern Ireland. [70947]

Mr. Hanson: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland launched the Sustainable Development Strategy on 9 May and also announced a transfer of responsibility for the Strategy to the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to place sustainable development policy at the heart of Government. I intend to publish the initial Implementation Plan as soon as possible.

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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many helicopters of each type (a) have and (b) have not been fitted with fuel tank protection, broken down by service; and if he will make a statement. [71154]

Mr. Ingram: All helicopters have some degree of fuel tank protection. Precise details of the specific fuel tank protection measures employed on particular MOD helicopter fleets are being withheld, because their disclosure could prejudice the safety of our Armed Forces.

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Army aviation helicopters had full nuclear, biological and chemical protection (a) on the last date for which figures are available and (b) in 1997. [48777]

Mr. Ingram: It is not possible to protect Army helicopter airframes against nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) contamination. However, any aircrew that operate these airframes in a NBC environment are afforded NBC protection through individual protective equipment and specialist aircrew assemblies which are not integral to the airframes themselves.

Conscientious Objectors

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what remuneration the six members of the advisory committee on conscientious objectors have received in each of the last five years. [71504]

Des Browne: As the committee has not convened in the last five years, the six members have received no remuneration.

Departmental Procurement

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he plans to publish the findings of his Department's review of the extent to which current processes and organisational constructs support, encourage, hinder and obstruct the delivery of excellence in acquisition; and if he will make a statement. [71482]

Mr. Ingram: The hon. Member refers to the Enabling Acquisition Change Review. It is our intention to publish the outcome of that review and to make a statement at that time.

Departmental Publications

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the Answer of 8 May 2006, Official Report, column 29W, on departmental publications, (1) if he will place in the Library copies of The Mole issued since 1 January 2005; [70336]

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(2) if he will place in the Library the (a) latest edition of The Mole and (b) final edition of Compass. [72149]

Mr. Watson [holding answer 18 May 2006]: I will make arrangements for redacted copies to be placed in the Library of the House as soon as practicable.


Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he made of the ethical credentials of Elbit prior to awarding the UK Watchkeeper contract to the company. [71498]

Mr. Ingram: None. The contract for the demonstration and manufacture phase of the Watchkeeper programme was awarded to Thales UK in July 2005. Elbit is a sub-contractor selected by Thales UK for the supply of the air vehicle. The company is also a partner with Thales UK in a joint venture to provide major subsystems for Watchkeeper, also through a sub-contract let and managed by Thales UK.

Helicopter Search and Rescue

Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to the written statement of 9 May 2006, Official Report, columns 12-14WS, on helicopter search and rescue, what assessment he has made of the cost implications of the new arrangements for the helicopter search and rescue service. [72379]

Mr. Ingram: As part of the procurement strategy assessment, an investment appraisal was conducted, which considered the full range of options available. The results were scrutinised by both the MOD and the Department for Transport (DfT) and it was concluded that a private finance initiative is likely to offer the best value for money and strategic fit for the future UK search and rescue helicopter capability.


Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons the head of British forces in Iraq wears US Army rank insignia; and if he will make a statement. [70099]

Mr. Ingram: Senior Commanders in Iraq wear US rank insignia (stars) in addition to their standard rank insignia to assist Coalition and Iraqi partners to identify their position and equivalent rank. This is particularly useful for those coalition Commanders who work in, and regularly visit, Multi National Force (MNF) Headquarters. In addition, the wearing of rank stars aids interaction with Iraqi military hierarchy and politicians—all of whom understand the star structure.

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate has been made of the number of non-state militia operating in (a) Al Basra, (b) Al Muthanna, (c) Dhi Qar and (d) Maysan province in Iraq. [70934]

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Des Browne: Two main militias are known to operate in Multi-National Division (South-East): these are SCIRI's Badr Organisation and Muqtada al-Sadr's Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM), each with a significant following. There are a number of other militia groups with much smaller membership and influence.


Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the technical capability of the weapons being used by insurgents against coalition forces in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. [71908]

Des Browne: Coalition forces continuously monitor and assess the full range of weapons used by insurgents in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Our assessments, including predictions of how the threat might evolve, influence the conduct of military operations as well as equipment countermeasures.

Project Delivery Skills

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of levels of project delivery skills within his Department. [71491]

Mr. Ingram: The December 2005 defence industrial strategy (DIS) white paper recognised the need to address shortages of project, programme management and acquisition leadership skills. Seven specific skills areas within the acquisition organisations have been identified for attention; leadership, programme management, project management, commercial management, procurement, logistics, science and technology management and resource management. senior professionals have been appointed as ‘skills champions’ for each of these areas and will undertake an assessment of the levels of skills currently available in these areas. Their work will include an assessment of skills shortfalls linked directly to MOD’s business needs, and of the likely causes of shortfalls, including problems relating to recruitment, retention and development. This work will be completed by the end of May 2006 and will form the basis of urgent action to train and develop our workforce.

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