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24 Oct 2006 : Column 1737W—continued

Mr. Ingram: All service personnel receive training on the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) during their initial training. It ranges from up to two hours of training for soldiers, through to eight hours of training for junior officers, including a practical exercise on search, arrest and detention. While LOAC and its implications are first introduced during initial training, it is recognised that this is a very complex topic for the inexperienced and requires continual reinforcement during productive service. Therefore, the content and frequency of the training in productive service is appropriate to rank, responsibility and force readiness. Specifically, all army and RM personnel are required to undertake annual refresher training in LOAC each year as part of their Mandatory Annual Training Tests programme. LOAC training includes instruction on the treatment of combatants, POWs and civilians, as well as rules of engagement, the Law of Self Defence and emphasises
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that only reasonable and proportionate force may be used where a necessity of defence arises. Additional and enhanced LOAC training is also provided, again related to rank and role of the individual, in command and staff courses for selected SNCOs and officers.

Prior to deployment on operations all personnel undertake pre-deployment training, which includes LOAC and theatre-specific operational law and cultural awareness briefings. These lessons are also reinforced during in-theatre arrival briefings. Units and personnel specifically detailed to undertake prisoner handling/detainee duties undertake 10 days of specialist training, both theoretical and practical, under the control of the Provost Marshal (Army).This training has been subject to International Committee of the Red Cross and British Red Cross observations, and we have engaged both organisations to ensure UK planning for treatment of detainees is appropriate.

In addition to LOAC training, Service personnel are aware that under the Service Discipline Acts, they are subject to English criminal law wherever they are serving. This provides that any conduct on operations which would constitute a criminal offence if committed in England, can be prosecuted by courts-martial.

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what support will be available to extended families of the Staffordshire Regiment who will be serving in Iraq. [95521]

Derek Twigg: The unit has held pre-deployment briefings for families of its personnel at its home base in Wiltshire and in Wolverhampton to provide information about the operational tour and what support is available to both personnel and families. All families have been issued with deployment packs containing contact details of both the Unit Welfare Officer and the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre, either directly or via the soldiers. The unit has also requested addresses and e-mail addresses of family members, including partners, so that they can provide regular updates from theatre to those families away from the home base in Wiltshire.

The first point of contact for families should normally be the Unit Welfare Office, which remains in the UK when the unit is deployed, though they can also contact the Confidential Support Line, Army Welfare Service or in an emergency the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre.

In the unfortunate event of any casualties, the families and other nominated emergency contacts will be supported by the Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre and Visiting Officers, who will keep them informed of developments and assist the families in accessing any appropriate welfare support.


Mr. Kemp: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 19 December 2005, Official Report, column 2342W, on Iraq/Afghanistan, if he will keep the families of the dead soldiers informed of proceedings; when he expects arrests to take place; which Iraqi police divisions he expects to carry out the
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arrests; whether British troops are expected to be involved; what recent discussions he has had with the Iraqi authorities on this investigation; and what progress has been made in the investigation. [95320]

Mr. Ingram: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 7 June 2006, Official Report, column 624W. My right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary has since discussed this case with the Iraqi Prime Minister and his Interior Minister on 27 August. The British ambassador in Baghdad raised it with the Iraqi Interior Minister in a recent meeting, and we are continuing to provide whatever assistance the Central Criminal Court of Iraq needs. The families continue to be kept fully informed.

Local Purchasing

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on local purchasing in theatres of war. [94873]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 17 October 2006]: It is MOD policy that as much business as possible is awarded to local contractors (companies based in the country), as this aids the local economy while ensuring best commercial practice is followed and subject to the limitations imposed by the local security situation.

Long-term Absence

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what definition his Department uses of long-term illegally absent; and what the punishment is for long-term absence. [91285]

Derek Twigg: In relation to members of the armed forces, offences relating to absence are set out in sections 37 and 38 of the Army Act 1955 (with equivalent provisions under the Air Force Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957). There are two main relevant offences: absence without leave and desertion. There are no separate offences of short-term illegal absence or long-term illegal absence. To be guilty of the offence of being absent without leave, an individual must knowingly and intentionally be away from their unit, or place of duty, without reasonable explanation. A member of the armed forces is guilty of desertion if he is absent without leave either with the intention of remaining permanently absent, or with the intention of avoiding service abroad or to avoid service before an enemy.

The maximum sentence for being absent without leave is two years’ imprisonment. The maximum sentence for desertion is life imprisonment.

Medical Services

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment he has made of the impact of the closure of military hospitals on the standard of medical support for service personnel; [94485]

(2) what assessment he has made of the merits of opening new military hospitals. [94486]

Derek Twigg: The decisions to close all UK military hospitals were taken in the last decade, and remain
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valid today. It had become clear that the existing military hospitals did not have a sufficient patient volume or range of cases to develop and maintain the skills of our medical personnel. This would, over time, have reduced the level of care the Defence Medical Services (DMS) would be able to provide to our military patients both in peacetime and, crucially, on deployed operations.

The creation of Ministry of Defence Hospital Units in NHS hospitals has ensured the high standard of medical support to Service personnel kept pace with the advances in medical practice. Equally, the relatively low total number of military in-patients would barely fill two military wards and is insufficient to justify a dedicated military hospital.


Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many soldiers attending the Operational Training Advisory Group training package for Afghanistan held at Lydd Training Camp between 16 and 21 July were subsequently deployed to Iraq; and what extra theatre-specific training was provided for such soldiers. [91497]

Mr. Ingram: The number of individuals who attended the Operational Training Advisory Group training package for Afghanistan held at Lydd Training Camp between 16 and 21 July, but who subsequently deployed to Iraq is not centrally held. This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Approximately 80 per cent. of the Operational Training Advisory Group training is generic and about 20 per cent. theatre specific but all individuals receive additional theatre specific training during the reception, staging and onward integration process on arrival in an operational theatre. This covers procedures specific to theatre, acclimatisation and cultural awareness. This training lasts between three to five days.

Minister for Women

Sexually Explicit Publications

Ms Abbott: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what assessment she has made of the effect of the unregulated sale and display of magazines and tabloid titles carrying sexually explicit and degrading images of women on efforts to improve gender equality in England. [95565]

Meg Munn: The Government recognise that some images and articles in magazines and newspapers on sale in many newsagents may be offensive to many people. The controls which exist on unsuitable material aim to strike a balance between freedom of expression and protection of the public and to be proportionate to the potential harm that might be caused.

Under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 it is a criminal offence to publish any article which is considered to be obscene; that is, an article which in the view of the court tends to “deprave and corrupt”. The Indecent Displays (Control) Act 1981, also makes it an
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offence to display any indecent matter which is exposed to view in a public place or where it can be seen in a public place—it is for the courts to decide in each case whether the material in question is indecent or not. The Act also applies to the front covers of newspapers and magazines on public display.

If a newspaper or magazine does not contravene the criminal law, it is for the newsagent to decide whether it should be sold and, if so, where it should be displayed in the shop. Most newsagents and supermarkets abide by a voluntary Code of Practice, refusing to sell “adult” magazines to persons under the age of 18 and placing sexually explicit magazines on their top shelves.

Government policies in the round are tackling the portrayal of women in the media.

Work and Pensions

Benefit Payments

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effect of his policy of encouraging the payment of benefit via bank accounts on the number of people going into debt as a result of banks imposing excessive penalty charges when the person exceeds overdraft limits or a direct debit or cheque are returned. [93224]

Mr. Plaskitt: There is no reason to expect that those using an account to receive their benefit or pension are more or less likely to face bank charges than any other account holder.

Paying benefits into bank accounts contributes to the Government's wider financial inclusion agenda. For example, households that operate without mainstream banking services may pay higher charges for basic financial transactions such as accessing cash or paying utility bills; are more vulnerable to loss or theft through lack of security; and may face additional barriers to employment.

The Office of Fair Trading is currently examining charges in retail banking, including penalty charges on current accounts.

Carer's Credit

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in each (a) Government office region and (b) county receive the carer's credit for the state second pension; and what each figure is as a ratio of the population in each region and county. [94836]

James Purnell: The information is not available in the format requested. However, such information as is available is in the following table:

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Government office region Total number of carers Percentage of population estimates

North East



North West



Yorkshire and Humber



East Midlands



West Midlands









South East



South West









Total Great Britain



Notes: 1. Information is for 2003-04 tax year. 2. Carers who do not work or earn below the lower earnings limit build up entitlements to state second pension if throughout the tax year they are looking after a child under age six and get child benefit for that child; or looking after an ill or disabled person and qualify for home responsibilities protection; or entitled to carer’s allowance. 3. Figures are based on a 1 per cent. sample and are therefore subject to a high degree of sampling error and should be used only as a guide. 4. Figures are shown to the nearest thousand. 5. Population estimates relate to people of working age and are taken at mid-2003. Source: Second Tier Pension Provision.

Employers' Liability Insurance

Mr. McGovern: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the number of companies with invalid or insufficient employers' liability insurance. [93779]

Mrs. McGuire [holding answer 16 October 2006]: Research conducted for Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2003 indicated that less than 1 per cent. of companies had failed to take out employers’ liability (compulsory) insurance (ELCI).

HSE is not aware of any complaints concerned with deficiencies in ELCI policies, nor of any prosecutions brought by HSE under the ELCI Act on the grounds of insufficiency.


Mr. Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people receive the retirement pension age addition for those aged 80 years or over in each constituency in Scotland. [95751]

James Purnell: The information requested is in the following table:

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Parliamentary constituencies State Pension age addition recipients

Aberdeen North


Aberdeen South


Airdrie and Shotts




Argyll and Bute


Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock


Banff and Buchan


Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk


Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross


Central Ayrshire


Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill


Cumbernauld Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East


Dumfries and Galloway


Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale


Dundee East


Dundee West


Dunfermline and West Fife


East Dunbartonshire


East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow


East Lothian


East Renfrewshire


Edinburgh East


Edinburgh North and Leith


Edinburgh South


Edinburgh South West


Edinburgh West




Glasgow Central


Glasgow East


Glasgow North


Glasgow North East


Glasgow North West


Glasgow South


Glasgow South West








Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey


Kilmarnock and Loudoun


Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath


Lanark and Hamilton East


Linlithgow and East Falkirk








Motherwell and Wishaw


Na h-Eileanan an lar


North Ayrshire and Arran


North East Fife


Ochil and South Perthshire


Orkney and Shetland


Paisley and Renfrewshire North


Paisley and Renfrewshire South


Perth and North Perthshire


Ross Skye and Lochaber


Rutherglen and Hamilton West




West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine


West Dunbartonshire


Notes: 1. Data are taken from the 5 per cent. extract of the Pension Service Computer System as at September 2005, and the figures are subject to a degree of sampling variation. They are also adjusted to be consistent with the overall caseload from the Work and Pension Longitudinal Study. 2. The figures are rounded to the nearest hundred. 3. Parliamentary constituencies are those for the Westminster Parliament. Source: DWP Information Directorate

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