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Youth Employment

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many white males aged (a) 16 to 17 years and (b) 18 years old are not in education, employment or training. [107607]

Bill Rammell: The number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) is measured using estimates from the Department's Statistical First Release “Participation in Education, Training and Employment by 16 to 18 Year Olds in England”. These estimates cannot be broken down by ethnic group.

The Youth Cohort Study, which looks at young people's education and labour market experience, can be used to estimate the proportion of young people who are NEET by certain characteristics. The most recent YCS estimates are that 8 per cent. of white males were NEET at academic age 16 in 2004 and that 12 per cent. of white males were NEET at academic age 18 in 2006. YCS cannot be used to estimate the actual number of young people NEET.

Connexions services have recently begun reporting information on young people NEET by age, gender and ethnic background, and this is expected to be complete by April 2007.


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Defence

Operational Bonus

16. Siobhain McDonagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with Treasury Ministers on the potential effect of tax credit regulations on the operational bonus. [105388]

Des Browne: The new tax free operational allowance announced to the House on 10 October was designed to ensure that people’s tax credits would not be affected and they would get the full benefit of the new allowance—I am confident that this has been achieved. The first payments were made in November and some 19,000 personnel have now received the operational allowance.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had with Treasury Ministers on ensuring that the operational bonus is not affected by tax credit regulations. [105389]

Des Browne: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh).

Iraq

18. Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent reports he has received from the Chiefs of Staff on the security situation in Iraq. [105390]

22. Mr. Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent reports he has received from the Chiefs of Staff on the security situation in Iraq. [105394]

Des Browne: I refer the hon. Members to the answer I gave earlier today to the hon. Members for Billericay (Mr. Baron) and Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh).

Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the security situation in Iraq. [105385]

Des Browne: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Baron).

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the cost of the (a) security and (b) non-security element of the Basra equivalent of the Baghdad Security Plan; whether security personnel will carry out the non-security element of the plan; how many Iraqi civilian jobs will be created as a result of the plan; and if he will make a statement. [106655]

Des Browne: No estimate has been made of the security costs of Op. Sinbad as this role is conducted by deployed military resources with no additional cost incurred.

The UK has allocated some £2 million for quick impact projects and some $60 million of US administered Commanders Emergency Response
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Programme funds has been allocated for the non-security element of Op. Sinbad and further development activities in Basra. To date, some 7,080 locally employed civilians have been employed in support of the non security element of Op. Sinbad. We are not able to estimate how many Iraqi civilian jobs will be created as a result of Op. Sinbad but we would expect our efforts to stimulate the local economy thereby creating significant opportunities for local Baswaris, particularly over the medium to long-term.

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what role UK forces were asked to undertake as a contribution to the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration process in tackling armed militia groups in Iraq; what tasks UK armed forces have undertaken to this end; and if he will make a statement. [106656]

Des Browne: UK forces have not been asked specifically to undertake any role as a contribution to Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration. Nevertheless UK forces are working, in concert with Iraqi Security Forces, to generate a security situation in which Prime Minister Maliki’s Reconciliation initiative can progress and develop.

Troop Transportation

19. James Brokenshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the arrangements in place for transporting troops by air to and from Afghanistan and Iraq. [105391]

Mr. Ingram: The movement of troops into and out of both Iraq and Afghanistan is generally working well. This was recently demonstrated during successive reliefs in place for forces in both theatres. We continuously monitor the performance of the airbridge and take steps to minimise any disruption when necessary and possible.

Afghanistan

20. Dr. Blackman-Woods: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the contribution of British armed forces to security and stability in Afghanistan. [105392]

Des Browne: Our armed forces are making a substantial contribution to bringing security and stability to Afghanistan, helping the democratically-elected Government of Afghanistan to extend its authority across the entire country.

Aircraft Carriers

21. Angela Watkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent progress has been made in acquiring additional aircraft carriers. [105393]

Mr. Ingram: Our plans to acquire two new Future Aircraft Carriers are progressing well, following the move into the Demonstration Phase announced on14 December last year. This Phase will deliver a mature design, provide more detailed cost definition, reduce
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risk and produce a contractual framework that will allow a decision to be made to commit to manufacture.

Accounting Requirements

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what financial information is produced by management groupings, which, under the Simplify and Improve initiative, are not required to produce annual accounting statements. [106946]

Mr. Ingram: Management groupings which no longer complete annual financial accounting statements as part of the process of producing the MOD's Annual Report and Accounts, continue to produce the management accounting information needed for local and departmental financial management purposes. They continue to record and forecast costs as part of the Department's in-year management processes, and to use detailed financial data, as appropriate, for local decision-making. In addition, where these management groupings have agency status, they continue to produce annual accounts in accordance with the accounts directions issued by HM Treasury.

Aircraft

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on the fitting of anticipators to rotary aircraft. [107187]

Mr. Ingram: MOD's policy states that rotary wing engine governing systems must control rotor speed effectively through all stages of flight. To meet this policy, engine governing systems may include anticipators where appropriate.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he has received any proposals from Boeing on restoring to operational use the eight HC3 Chinook helicopters. [107236]

Mr. Ingram: Yes.

Armed Forces: Casualty Reporting

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps his Department takes to make publicly available information on the number of British (a) casualties and (b) fatalities incurred in (i) Iraq and (ii) Afghanistan since the commencement of operations. [105717]

Mr. Ingram: The MOD is committed to openly publishing statistics on the number of service casualties on operations. Information on casualties and fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan is published on the MOD website:

Data are published for Iraq since the commencement of operations in March 2003 and for Afghanistan since 1 January 2006. Work is ongoing to ascertain whether casualty data for Afghanistan pre-2006 are sufficiently robust to enable figures to be published in the same format as for Iraq; I will write to inform the hon.
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Member when this work is complete. Casualty data on the MOD website are updated on a two weekly basis, two weeks in arrears.

Details of fatalities are released to the media following an incident and updates are made to the website above, which has lists of UK military fatalities from both theatres.

Armoured Vehicles

Mr. Scott: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Challenger main battle tanks and Warrior armoured fighting vehicles are (a) available to the Army and (b) deployed on operations. [107298]

Mr. Ingram: There are currently 345 Challenger 2 main battle tanks and 794 Warrior armoured fighting vehicles (all variants) available to the Army. Of these 276 Challenger 2 tanks and 687 Warrior armoured fighting vehicles are in service and therefore either currently deployed or available for immediate deployment. ‘In service’ is defined as equipment that is not in deep maintenance, repair, storage or training.

I am withholding information regarding the number of Challenger 2 main battle tanks and Warrior armoured fighting vehicles deployed on operations as disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice operational security and could place our servicemen and women in danger of potential harm.

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the main investment decision for the future Rapid Effect System has been made; and when the British Army will be given the opportunity to trial the new vehicle. [102214]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 29 November 2006]: The Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) is currently in its initial assessment phase, so the main investment decision has not yet been taken. The programme is moving forward with evaluation of options in close dialogue with industry. On current plans a series of trials will be run in 2007 to assess the current performance of candidate utility vehicles and their potential to meet our requirements.

Biofuels: Military Bases

Willie Rennie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) whether steps are being taken to utilise used cooking and fuel oils from military bases for recycling as an ingredient in biofuels; [105155]

(2) what arrangements are in place for (a) the (i) safe and (ii) environmentally sustainable disposal of cooking and fuel oils and (b) the reuse of cooking and fuel oils from military bases. [105156]

Derek Twigg [holding answer 7 December 2006]: The MOD's Disposal Services Agency and the Defence Fuels Group are currently investigating the possibility of recycling used cooking oils as bio-diesel. Fuel oils are sold on for use as marine diesel, for use in the domestic heating market or for use as incinerator fuel.

Individual units dispose of cooking and fuel oils locally, commonly through multi-activity contracts.
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All contractors must comply with environmental legislation governing the transport and disposal of used oils.

Cluster Munitions

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on the use of cluster munitions. [105194]

Mr. Ingram: Cluster munitions are lawful weapons that provide a unique capability against certain types of legitimate military targets. When used by the UK armed forces, they are employed in a manner consistent with our obligations under international humanitarian law.

I also refer the hon. Member to the written ministerial statement on 4 December, Official Report, columns 1-2WS, by my hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East, (Dr. Howells).

Iraq: Troop Withdrawal

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will submit for the approval of both Houses of Parliament any plans for troop withdrawal from Iraq before those plans are implemented; and if he will make a statement. [104973]

Des Browne: I will inform Parliament of plans for any adjustments to UK troop levels as on previous occasions. Hon. Members will, as usual, have the opportunity to ask questions or seek clarification following any statement.

Non-lethal Operations

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what types of non-lethal spray weapons are carried by military personnel during operations. [107726]

Des Browne: Non-lethal spray weapons are not routinely carried by British forces during operations.

Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans his Department has to review its contribution to nuclear arms reduction under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. [104982]

Des Browne [holding answer 7 December 2006]: The United Kingdom takes its disarmament obligations under the NPT very seriously and has an excellent record in this area. Over the past decade we have: reduced significantly the maximum number of operationally available warheads; ceased production of fissile material for nuclear weapons; completed the withdrawal of our maritime tactical nuclear capability and the RAF’s WE177 freefall bomb, with the result that we are the only nuclear weapon state to have reduced its nuclear deterrent capacity to a single system, which is based on the Trident D5 missile. We continue to press for multilateral negotiations towards mutual, balanced and verifiable reductions in nuclear weapons. Our current priority is to push for
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negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, without pre-conditions, at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. We also announced on4 December this year that we will make a further 20 per cent. cut in the maximum number of operationally available warheads to fewer than 160.

Nuclear Submarines

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment he has made of the cost-effectiveness of adopting existing submarine-launched cruise missiles to carry nuclear warheads; [107861]

(2) what assessment he has made of the potential (a) advantages and (b) disadvantages of a nuclear deterrent of nuclear cruise missiles carried on submarines. [107862]

Des Browne: The White Paper (CM 6994) on the future of the UK's nuclear deterrent published on4 December set out (at paragraph 5-3 and 5-4, Box 5-1 and Annex B, paragraph 6) our assessment of the effectiveness of a nuclear deterrent based on cruise missiles. We concluded that, in terms of both cost and capability, retaining the Trident D5 ballistic missile is by far the best approach.


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