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12 Jun 2006 : Column 995W—continued

Armed Forces Pension Scheme

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the rate of employee contribution is to the Armed Forces Pension Scheme; and if he will make a statement. [75761]

Mr. Watson: The Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) is a non-contributory pension scheme; therefore there are no employee contributions. However, the independent Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB), when making recommendations about armed forces pay, takes into account the comparative value of the AFPS. At the moment the AFPRB assess the AFPS to be 7 per cent. more valuable than comparator schemes.

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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many bearskins have been purchased by the armed forces in each of the last five years; at what cost; and from which country they were sourced. [76167]

Mr. Ingram: The number of bearskin caps purchased for the Guards Regiments in each of the last five years are as follows:

Bearskin caps procured in the last Five years













The average cost of a bearskin cap is £650 each.

The bearskins used are provided by licensed fur traders under the jurisdiction of the Canadian authorities.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make it his policy to use synthetic materials instead of animal fur in the construction of bearskins. [76168]

Mr. Ingram: There have been a number of contracts let with commercial companies to develop a synthetic replacement for bearskins. There has been a trial of caps made from material provided by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Problems were identified with these caps which included unsatisfactory performance in typical wet weather conditions. Nonetheless we are continuing to work with PETA to find an alternative, and all parties concerned with the trials are taking the search for an alternative to bearskins very seriously.

If an alternative is sourced and found to be fit for purpose, replacement of bearskins will be considered. This has already happened in a number of cases as, for example, with the “busby cap” used by the Royal Horse Artillery.


Mr. McLoughlin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the Minister of State for Veterans will reply to the letters of 3 March and 27 April from the right hon. Member for West Derbyshire on the civil defence memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum. [75434]

Mr. Watson: As notified on 24 May 2006, this correspondence was transferred to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy), subsequently replied on 5 June 2006.

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Departmental Pensions

Mr. Rob Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate the pension liability of his Department over the next 30 years. [75276]

Mr. Watson: I refer the hon. Member to the technical note which was placed in the Library of the House on 2 March 2006, Official Report, columns 388-90W, following an oral statement made by the then Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

As pension liabilities are not estimated for individual Departments, but by the pension scheme, no separate figure is shown for the pension liabilities in respect of Ministry of Defence civil servants.


Mr. Dunne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much compensation for discriminatory pension provision has been paid to Gurkha servicemen who retired prior to 1 July 1997; and how much he expects to be paid in total. [75840]

Mr. Watson: None. There is no discrimination.

Hercules C130J/C130K

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many of the Hercules C130J and C130K fleet have been fitted with explosive suppressant foam; and when the rest of the fleet are expected to be fitted with it. [75860]

Mr. Ingram: A programme is currently under way to fit some of our Hercules aircraft with explosion suppressant foam (ESF). I am not prepared to disclose how many or which models of aircraft are being fitted, as this might prejudice the operational security of our armed forces. Any decisions on fitting ESF to the rest of the Hercules fleet will take into account the time it will take to fit, the remaining service life of the aircraft, and any impact on operations, as well as cost.

Imber (Roads Access)

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many days the roads to Imber have been open for visitors in the last 12 months. [76532]

Mr. Watson: In the last 12 months the roads to Imber were open for 41 days during the following periods:

Military Vehicles

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many (a) Combat Engineer Tractors, (b) Tank
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Bridge Transporters, (c) Medium Wheeled Tractors, (d) Foden recovery vehicles and (e) M3 amphibious bridging vehicles are (i) in service and (ii) operationally deployable; [71914]

(2) how many (a) Truck Utility Medium, (b) Pinzgauer 716M Truck Utility Heavy Duty, (c) Truck Utility Light, (d) Heavy Equipment Transporter and (e) BV206 vehicles are (i) in service and (ii) operationally deployable. [71913]

Mr. Ingram: The following table details the numbers of vehicles currently in service and operationally deployable as at 1 June 2006:

Equipment Total fleet size( 1) Operationally deployable( 2)

Combat Engineer Tractor (CET)



Tank Bridge Transporter (TBT)



Medium Wheeled Tractor (MWT)



Foden Recovery Vehicles



M3 Amphibious Bridging



Truck Utility Light (TUL)



Truck Utility (Medium) (TUM)



Truck Utility Medium (Heavy Duty) (TUM HD) (all variants—Pinzgauer)



Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET)



BV206 Vehicles



(1) Includes vehicles that are undergoing planned programmed repair and modification, being used for training, with the Design Authority for trials and testing or in storage.
(2) Includes vehicles that are undergoing repairs at Unit level and undergoing Bowman conversion.
(3) Under the terms of these private finance initiative contracts, the supplier is contracted to maintain agreed availability levels.

At any one time a number of the deployable fleet will be undergoing minor repairs in situ at the unit, and a proportion may be involved in scheduled upgrade programmes, for example Bowman conversion. The number of vehicles available for immediate deployment therefore fluctuates continuously. If a unit drops below a pre-determined number of deployable vehicles, due to vehicles requiring repair beyond the capability of the unit and its supporting battalion, a replacement vehicle is provided.


David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many and what percentage of staff in his Department are making additional voluntary contributions to their pension. [73093]

Mr. Watson: The civilian staff within the Ministry of Defence as members of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS), Teachers’ Pensions Scheme, NHS Pensions, UKAEA Principal Non Industrial Superannuation Scheme or Parliamentary Scheme, can pay additional contributions to top up their pension either through the Additional Voluntary Contributions Schemes (AVCS), money purchase arrangements, or by buying added years of service in their pension scheme. As an alternative to membership of the PCSPS recruits from October 2002 have been able to join a stakeholder arrangement—the partnership pension account.

12 Jun 2006 : Column 999W

The number and percentage of civilian staff in the Department who are making additional voluntary contributions to their pension as at April 2006 are shown in the table.

Number Percentage




Added years






Figures exclude trading fund agencies


Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of how many reservists in the armed forces have lost their jobs due to participating in active service; and if he will make a statement. [74822]

Mr. Watson: Under section 1 of the Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985, an employer is required to take back into his employment former employees who have completed full-time service. Of all those mobilised to support operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we are aware of only 28 reservists who have made applications for reinstatement to their civilian jobs under the 1985 Act (eight of which have progressed to Reinstatement Committee hearing). In addition, we are aware that one reservist has lost his job because he was due to report for mobilisation.

Tritium Stocks

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what stocks of tritium the UK holds; and if he will make a statement. [75613]

Des Browne: I am withholding the information requested because it relates to national security and defence in the UK.


Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proportion of the oil used by the Royal Navy was sourced from Venezuela in the last period for which figures are available. [74978]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence purchases fuels and lubricants under contract arrangements with major suppliers or brokers and does not source fuel directly from Venezuela; information on the sources used by commercial suppliers is not held by the Department.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Conference on Disarmament

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on the UK (a) priorities for and (b) assessment of the 2006 Conference on Disarmament. [75139]

Margaret Beckett: The UK is fully committed to progress in multilateral disarmament forums, in particular in the Conference on Disarmament (CD). As we have said on many occasions, our priority is the start of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT), without pre-conditions, which we view as the next logical step towards achieving the goals of nuclear disarmament and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. In this regard, the UK fully supports the US initiative in tabling a draft FMCT text on 18 May. We hope that all CD member states are able to accept the very broad mandate proposed and agree to open negotiations towards a treaty without delay.

The UK believes that the CD sessions held so far this year have seen some of the most constructive dialogue in recent years. We were pleased that so many states participated actively in the recent thematic debate on FMCT and we hope that this level of engagement continues.

Departmental Finance

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Accounts Payable Module in Prism is closing promptly in all cases; and if she will make a statement. [75957]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 8 June 2006]: The Accounts Payable (AP) module in Prism experienced various problems which prevented prompt closure for the months of December, January, February and March. These problems were identified and corrected. Changes have been made to Prism, and to our procedures, which came fully into effect at the end of March. We are now able to detect the errors which caused the problems within the month, enabling them to be corrected before the month-end. The AP module has closed promptly for April and May.

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what delays there are relating to (a) the input and processing of invoices and (b) late payment of invoices; and in which missions. [75958]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 8 June 2006]: This information is not held centrally and could be obtained only by contacting each individual post, which would incur disproportionate cost.

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