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10 July 2006 : Column 1432Wcontinued
Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make it his policy that events sponsored by the Government to commemorate the 25(th) anniversary of the Falklands war include Argentine representatives and the families of those killed in the conflict; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Watson: The events commemorating the 25(th) anniversary of the Falklands war in 2007 will remember and honour those who fought and those who died on both sides. No decisions have yet been made on attendance.
Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which matches (a) he and (b) other Ministers in his Department attended at the FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany in their ministerial capacity; at what cost to public funds; and with what contributions from third party organisations. 
Mr. Watson: No Defence Minister has attended any of the FIFA World Cup 2006 matches in Germany.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the (a) armoured personnel carriers and (b) other armoured platforms being considered for the future rapid effects system offer significant mine and improvised explosive device protection. 
Mr. Ingram: The ability to achieve the required level of protection is a key factor in the assessment of the future rapid effects system, candidate systems and technologies and will be taken fully into account in deciding which option to take forward.
Willie Rennie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what contingency plans his Department has developed for the Future Aircraft Carrier project if the UK is unable to negotiate access to US stealth technology and flight control software for the Joint Strike Fighter. 
Mr. Ingram [holding answer 5 July 2006]: As I said in my answer to the hon. Member on 29 June 2006, Official Report, columns 535-36W, we remain fully committed to the Future Aircraft Carrier programme and are optimistic that our negotiations with the US administration on the transfer of technology and software for the Joint Strike Fighter will be successful. None the less, appropriate actions have been and will continue to be undertaken to ensure that we have the necessary contingency plans should circumstances change. We are not prepared to discuss those in any more detail.
Willie Rennie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what research his Department has undertaken into the living conditions of Gurkhas who have completed their service and are living (a) in the UK and (b) abroad. 
Mr. Watson [holding answer 3 July 2006]: No specific research has been carried out. Ex-Gurkhas living in the United Kingdom are covered by similar after-care arrangements to those of their colleagues in other Army regiments. Headquarters Brigade of Gurkhas works with Gurkha Regimental Associations, the Veterans Agency and organisations such as the Royal British Legion, and any issues concerning ex-Gurkhas' living conditions that are relevant to their former service, would be brought to my attention through these sources.
Traditionally, Gurkhas retire to Nepal, where they live as Nepalese citizens in their own country and their living conditions are primarily the responsibility of their own Government. The Gurkha Welfare Trust, whose work is supported by my Department, maintains a network of welfare centres throughout Nepal providing individual and community assistance, and provides any information we require. Additionally, we assess economic conditions in Nepal every year to inform the annual review of Gurkha pension rates.
We know that ex-Gurkhas work in a number of other countries, but it is neither practical nor appropriate for us to seek information on their living conditions there.
Willie Rennie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate his Department has made of the number of Gurkhas who have completed their service who are living (a) in the UK and (b) abroad. 
Mr. Watson [holding answer 3 July 2006]: We do not monitor the movements of ex-Gurkhas after they have left the Army, therefore we can only provide information based on pension statistics. As of today, 20,426 Gurkhas are in receipt of service pensions. Of these, all are drawing their pensions in Nepal except for 99 drawing them in the United Kingdom and 15 in other countries. The Gurkha Welfare Trust pays pensions to a further 10,542 ex-Gurkhas who are not entitled to service pensions.
Willie Rennie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost was of Gurkha pension payments in each year since 1997; and what the additional cost would be of providing pensions to Gurkha soldiers on the same terms as British servicemen and women. 
Mr. Watson [holding answer 4 July 2006]: We pay over 26,000 Gurkha service pensions to retired soldiers and their dependants amounting last year to some £33 million. The figures for earlier years as far back as 1997 are not centrally held and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
The option of transferring Gurkhas to the armed forces pension scheme is being explored as part of the wider review of Gurkha Terms and Conditions of Service, which was announced on 11 January 2005, Official Report, column 10WS, and which is due to be completed later this year. The scope of the review is however restricted to current members of the Brigade of Gurkhas and those who retired on or after 1 July 1997.
Willie Rennie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost would be of compensating all living Gurkhas, who have completed their service, for pension payments received below levels provided to British servicemen and women serving at the same time. 
Mr. Watson [holding answer 4 July 2006]: Gurkha soldiers are members of the Gurkha pension scheme, which reflects their unique terms and conditions of service and is not comparable to the armed forces pension scheme. This position was vindicated by a judicial review in 2003. Compensation would not therefore be appropriate.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the (a) effectiveness and (b) employment relations impact of the Babcock contract for service and repair of Hawk Fighter Jets at RAF Valley in north Wales. 
Mr. Ingram: The effectiveness of Babcock Defence Services in relation to the multi-activity contract at RAF Valley is regularly monitored and evaluated. The Ministry of Defence maintains good relations with Babcock which has met and continues to meet the outputs specified in the contract. Employment relations within Babcock are a matter between the company and its work force. We currently have no concerns regarding their impact on the delivery of the contract.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 2 June 2006, Official Report, column 40W, on helicopter searches, what arrangements exist between the Chiltern Air Support Unit and RAF Benson for the use of facilities at RAF Benson by (a) police helicopters and (b) other aircraft operated by the Chiltern Air Support Unit; and what such arrangements existed in July 2003 . 
Mr. Ingram: A single police helicopter of the Chiltern Air Support Unit has been located at RAF Benson Station since March 1998. This arrangement is undertaken through an operating agreement between the police and RAF Benson. This agreement is in conjunction with a ground lease which has allowed Thames Valley Police to locate their own temporary building at the site. RAF Benson charges the Chiltern Air Support Unit the standard Government departmental charge for aviation fuel. The unit used a Squirrel helicopter at RAF Benson until April 1999, when it was superseded by an EC 135. No other police helicopters or any other aircraft operated by the Chiltern Air Support Unit have ever been located at RAF Benson.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many UK helicopters are deployed in (a) Afghanistan and (b) Iraq; what requests have been made by commanders for further helicopter support; and if he will make a statement. 
Des Browne: We regularly review force levels, in consultation with commanders and based on military advice, and amend our plans as necessary. However, it has been the general policy of successive Governments not to divulge details of the military capability, including numbers of specific vehicle assets, deployed on operations, since to do so would reveal the strength and capability of UK forces operating in operational theatres, which could have bearing on our operational security, and thereby place our servicemen and women in additional unnecessary danger or potential harm. Where Ministers have, upon occasion, seen fit to release details of military capability in operational theatres, this has been in circumstances where such additional risk is judged not to apply, and greater detail can be offered in order to better inform the parliamentary debate.
Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment he has made of the work of his Department in assisting organisations who aim to enable veterans and survivors of (a) war and (b) the holocaust to share their experiences with children and young people; 
(2) what support his Department gives to organisations that aim to enable veterans of (a) war and (b) the holocaust to share their experiences with children and young people. 
Mr. Watson: There are a number of programmes designed to enable veterans to share their experiences with young people. Funding has been made available to support such programmes through the Veterans Challenge Fund and through regional funding for Veterans Day events. As part of its Their Past Your Future programme linked to the commemoration of the 60(th) anniversary of the end of the second world war, the Big Lottery Fund has also provided money to facilitate world war two veterans sharing their war experiences with children and young people.
We are currently discussing with the Holocaust Education Trust how we might bring together veteran liberators and holocaust survivors as part of future Veterans Day events.
Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to commemorate the courage and sacrifice of British servicemen made during the second world war, with particular reference to the saving of victims of the holocaust. 
Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to commemorate the role of British servicemen during the second world war in saving victims of the holocaust. 
Mr. Watson: We owe a debt of gratitude to all those servicemen and women who served our country during world war two. The events in 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of that war provided a national commemoration of their service and sacrifices. Notable among the achievement of the armed forces was the role they played in liberating and caring for victims of the holocaust. This milestone in the war was marked in one of the commemorative booklets which the Department published on world war two under the title The Liberation of the Death and Concentration Camps, Europe, June 1944 - May 1945. Copies are still available by request to the Veterans Helpline (08001692277)
The launch this year of an annual Veterans Day on 27 June to celebrate the contribution made by all veterans has provided another opportunity to commemorate such important events in the history of our nation. In future years we hope to bring together veteran liberators and holocaust survivors as part of Veterans Day commemorative events.
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many armed forces personnel in (a) the Army, (b) the Royal Air Force and (c) the Royal Navy who were medically discharged from the armed
services for injuries sustained in Iraq in each year since 2003 are being treated at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at Selly Oak hospital, Birmingham; 
(2) how many armed forces personnel in (a) the Army, (b) the Royal Air Force and (c) the Royal Navy who have been medically discharged from the armed services for injuries sustained in Afghanistan in each year since 2002 are being treated at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at Selly Oak hospital, Birmingham. 
Des Browne: None. Once an individual is discharged from the armed forces the responsibility for continued medical care transfers to the NHS.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department has carried out strategic analyses of the experiences from the use of improvised explosive devices by the counter-insurgency in Iraq; whether he has made an assessment of whether the tactics used by the insurgents in that theatre are likely to be met elsewhere in future British Army deployments; and what the implications are for (a) force structures, (b) equipment, (c) tactics and (d) training for (i) medium-weight armoured formations and (ii) other formations intended for deployment as a rapid reaction force. 
Mr. Ingram: We constantly assess all threats to UK forces deployed in theatre at the strategic, operational and tactical level, including evaluating whether these threats are likely to migrate to other theatres in the future.
The Ministry of Defence has an established process to review operational experiences, which provides the primary mechanism whereby we can translate lessons and best practice into enhanced capability. As a result force structures, for both deployed and reaction forces, equipment, tactics and supporting training are continuously evolving in order to meet counter-insurgency threats in the most effective manner. The MOD does not comment in detail on specific measures taken in order to preserve operational security, and to protect the effectiveness, capability and security of UK and coalition forces.
Mr. Crabb: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the costs to the UK of security operations in Iraq since 2003. 
Des Browne: The cost of military operations in Iraq for the years 2002-03 to 2004-05 are:
This gives an overall total of £3,068 million.
The costs of operations are calculated on a net additional basis and audited figures are published each year in the Ministry of Defence's Annual Report and Accounts.
The MOD requested resources of £1,098 million for 2005-06 in the Spring Supplementary Estimates published in February. Final figures will be published in the MOD's 2005-06 Annual Report and Accounts later this year.
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which journalists who were not employed directly as media personnel by the Ministry of Defence have (a) applied for, (b) received, (c) not yet received and (d) declined the Iraq medal. 
Mr. Watson: In June 2004, media organisations with employees who deployed as war correspondents with United Kingdom forces during Operation Telic were informed of their entitlement to the award of the campaign medal in accordance with DCI Gen 170/04. As a result, the Ministry of Defence received 74 requests for the medal with clasp from entitled media personnel, of which 62 had been distributed to the recipients as at 3 June 2006. The remaining 12 are held pending collection or confirmation of required postal address. Five entitled war correspondents notified the MOD that they did not wish to be considered for the award.
The term war correspondent includes media support staff as well as journalists and broadcast reporters; thus, camera/sound crew, producers, editors, photographers and other support staff are included in the definition. These personnel are also entitled to the medal as detailed in the DCI and are included among the 74 requests made to the MOD.
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