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9 Oct 2006 : Column 183W—continued

Former Under-Secretary of State

Mr. Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the (a) diary commitments and (b) travel arrangements were for the Under-Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans for the week beginning Sunday 3 September; [92668]

(2) what understanding his Department had with the Under-Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans about how he would travel from his holiday in Scotland to his official engagements on 6 September. [92669]

Derek Twigg: The diary commitments for my predecessor the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the week commencing 3 September were:

The Ministry of Defence did not arrange travel for his private engagements during the week commencing 3 September. The Department did organise official travel for the planned official engagements on the 6 and 7 September.

Hearing Loss

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South of 20 July 2005, Official Report, column 1753W, on health and safety, what estimate he has made of the number of servicemen and women who have experienced hearing loss as a result of their service in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan. [89843]

Derek Twigg: As my predecessor said, there are currently no specific measures in place to monitor the prevalence of noise-related hearing loss among servicemen and women serving in Iraq. This is also the case in Afghanistan—personnel deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan do not undergo specific pre- or post-deployment hearing tests. No estimate has therefore been made of the number of personnel who have experienced hearing loss as a result of their service in those operational theatres.

However, hearing tests of all service personnel are carried out at periodic medical examinations, which will detect deployment-related hearing loss.

The MOD also has robust hearing conservation procedures in place across the services and I refer the hon. Member to my predecessor’s answer of 21 July
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2005, Official Report, column 2114W to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) which gives information on these procedures.


Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what targets have been set for military reform in the Iraqi provinces of (a) Al Basrah, (b) Al Muthanna, (c) Dhi Qar and (d) Maysan; and what progress has been achieved. [85620]

Des Browne: We work in close partnership with the Iraqi Security Forces and civil authorities, to support the development of robust, self-reliant and credible Iraqi security forces.

The UK is responsible for training and sustaining the 10th Division of the Iraqi army based in Multi- National Division South East (MND(SE)). Significant progress in reforming the Iraqi army has been made, with nine out of 10 Battalions for the Southern Division already formed and basic trained. The formation and training of the remaining Battalion is due to be completed by the end of the year.

The coalition targets set for the Iraqi army and Iraqi Police Service (including the Department of Border Enforcement) in the four provinces command of MND(SE) are set against a range of key capability areas, including leadership, command and control, intelligence and logistics.

Preconditions are also set, and jointly assessed with the Iraqi Government, of the necessary security and governance preconditions for the hand-over of Provinces to full Iraqi control. These assessments include: the insurgents' threat level; the Iraqi Security Forces' ability to take on the security task; the capacity of provincial bodies to cope with the changed security environment; and the posture and support available from Coalition Forces.

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Iranians have been arrested in and around Basra since the end of Saddam Hussein's regime. [89290]

Des Browne: Available records show that one Iranian national was detained by UK forces in Multi-National Division (South East). He was interned in the divisional temporary detention facility in Shaibah in 2003 and subsequently released. We do not hold records on individuals arrested by the Iraqi Police Service.

Iraq Medal

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 10 July 2006, Official Report, column 1437W, on the Iraq medal, whether journalists and support staff serving in (a) Iraq and (b) other war zones are eligible for the relevant campaign medal; and what the average time taken to award the medal was. [90529]

Derek Twigg: Only Ministry of Defence accredited war correspondents who were deployed to Iraq during the period of fighting which took place from March to April 2003 are eligible to receive the MOD Iraq medal.
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The MOD currently have no other situations world-wide where accredited war correspondents are being deployed.

All applications for the MOD Iraq medal are processed, on an individual application basis, by the Ministry of Defence Medal Office which is part of the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency. Initially there were delays in issuing the Iraq medal, mainly due to the huge demand for it, but also because this coincided with the integration of the Department's individual service medal offices into one tri-service medal office. Currently, applications for the MOD Iraq medal are generally turned around within a period of six weeks.


Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British military personnel are serving at the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force. [92519]

Mr. Ingram: As of 26 September there were 821 British military personnel at Headquarters ISAF in Afghanistan. This number will fluctuate subject to usual operational factors, such as leave and post rotations.

The number of British military personnel will decrease significantly when the UK relinquishes the leadership of ISAF Headquarters in February next year.

Mechanised Infantry Battalions

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Mechanised Infantry (Warrior) battalions the Army presently has; and (a) where they are based and (b) what role they are currently undertaking. [92324]

Mr. Ingram: The Army presently has four Mechanised Infantry Battalions: none of these operate Warrior armoured fighting vehicles and none are currently operating outside their Mechanised Infantry role. There are nine Armoured Infantry battalions which are Warrior-equipped. Their base and current locations are shown in the following tables:

Mechanised Infantry Battalions Base Location


Osnabruck, Germany


Bulford, UK


Pirbright, UK


Catterick, UK(1)

(1)Currently in Iraq

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Armoured Infantry (Warrior) Battalions Base Location


Munster, Germany


Celle, Germany


Fallingbostel, Germany

1 LI

Paderborn, Germany(1)


Paderborn, Germany(1)


Tidworth, UK


Tidworth, UK


Warminster, UK


Catterick, UK

( 1 )Currently in Iraq

Meteorological Office and Hydrographic Office

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made on the review into the structure of the Meteorological Office and the Hydrographic Office; and if he will make a statement. [89672]

Derek Twigg: Our examination of the future structure and ownership arrangements for the Meteorological Office has concluded that it should remain a trading fund for the present. In the longer term, we will keep open the option of possible conversion into a Government-owned company, but for now the priority for the Met Office is to build on its existing success, by delivering further improvements in its public sector services, and driving commercial growth.

I expect to reach a conclusion about possible changes to the future structure and ownership of the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) in the autumn.

It has, however, been decided that the two organisations should not be merged, although the possibility of co-location with the Met Office at Exeter is one of a number of options under examination for the future location of UKHO.

Middle East

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with his NATO counterparts regarding the involvement of European nations in an international peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon; and which countries have indicated that they will contribute to the force. [89633]

Mr. Ingram: Following discussions with member states, the UN decided to reinforce and adapt the mandate of its existing peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). It is for the UN to say which countries will contribute to this force.

The UK provided HMS York to a UN Temporary Maritime Task Force. This taskforce is expected to be replaced by a follow-on naval taskforce, under UNIFIL command, around mid-October, when HMS York will revert to operations in support of NATO.

Military Vehicles

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the use by Canadian forces of the RG-31 in Afghanistan. [84300]

Mr. Ingram: We do not comment on the relative protection of our vehicles, or those used by our Allies, as to do so would prejudice the safety of our and our allies' personnel.

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We do, though, make regular assessments of the threats facing UK forces and of the potential vehicles available from manufacturers around the world that might help us defeat those threats. We use these assessments to keep our force protection measures, including tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP), and equipment, under constant review.

On 26 June my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence informed the House that the Ministry of Defence was urgently reviewing the options for protected patrol vehicles, with a view to identifying what else could be done as quickly as possible and in the longer term. The RG-31 was considered, alongside a number of alternatives. On 24 July 2006, Official Report, column 75WS, he announced the results of the review.

Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the Government will take urgent action to provide additional protection to Land Rovers being operated by the armed forces. [91015]

Des Browne [pursuant to the reply, 18 September 2006, Official Report, c.2483W]: I stated that weight constraints mean it is not possible to provide additional armour to the Land Rover fleet. This was inaccurate, and I should say that weight constraints on the Snatch Land Rover chassis mean it is not possible for the vehicle to carry significant additional armour.

Personnel Emergency Locator System

Mr. Bacon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made towards the delivery of the 406 MHz Personnel Emergency Locator System; what trials are planned for this system; and if he will make a statement. [90242]

Mr. Ingram: The Personnel Emergency Locator System programme is in its assessment phase. Work to define the user requirement is in the final stages and a broad supplier base has been identified. Initial trials will be undertaken with selected suppliers to assess the level of compliance of their product with the Ministry of Defence requirement. These are expected to take place during the latter part of next year. Further trials with a preferred bidder will aim to demonstrate satisfactory performance of the chosen equipment in realistic environments and full operation of the system, from emergency alert to recovery of the aircrew.

Mr. Bacon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has (a) sought and (b) received from RAF aircrew on the incorporation of voice capability in the 406 MHz Personnel Emergency Locator System. [90243]

Mr. Ingram: The 406MHz Personal Emergency Locator System will be used to assist in location of UK aircrew during peacetime (but not in hostile environments) in the event of a forced landing or evacuation from an aircraft. In specifying the new system, it was agreed by experts in the Equipment Capability Customer area and the Service front line Commands (including RAF aircrew) that a voice capability was not required. The decision was taken because it was assessed that a voice requirement would
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not enhance peacetime search capability, and could potentially (for example by reducing battery life) reduce the effectiveness of the system.

Pilot Training

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many training hours flying time per month fast jet pilots will have access to in 2006-07. [89668]

Mr. Ingram: The 2006-07 planned average flying hours per month per fast jet pilot on operational squadrons is:

Hours per month





Tornado F3


Tornado GR4




The figures do not include operational conversion unit (OCU) flying hours, which are calculated annually and are shown in the following table. As training needs vary considerably, these hours are allocated to the unit and not to individual pilots.

Hours per year

Harrier OCU


Tornado F3 OCU


Tornado GR4 OCU


Typhoon OCU


(1)56(R) Squadron flies an additional 411 hours in support of the Falkland Islands and other operations such as Quick Reaction Alert (QRA).
1. OCUs work on a ‘block’ number of hours allocated to them to accommodate course flying and provide Staff Continuation Training (SCT). SCT also includes teaching sorties.
2. With the continued drawdown of the fleet, there is no longer conversion training on the Jaguar.

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