Des Browne: Working alongside the Government of Afghanistan and our partners from the United Nations and NATO, our strategic aim is a secure and stable Afghanistan, with a self-sustaining economy, strong institutions and broad-based representative government committed to eradicating terrorism, eliminating opium production, reducing poverty, and respecting human rights. We assess progress is being made against these objectives, especially in areas such as the development of democracy, the fostering of minority rights (87 women sit in the Afghan Parliament) and the development of a legitimate economy: for example, the International Monetary Fund estimated Afghanistans economic growth averaged around 22 per cent. between 2002 and 2004, 8 per cent. in 2004-05 and up to 14 per cent. in 2005-06. The security situation has also developed substantially with the expansion of the International Security Assistance Force across the entire country, a development in which the British armed forces played a substantial role.
Des Browne: The deployment to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, was announced on 26 January 2006, Official Report, column 1529-1533). Since then, as part of the routine process of reviewing and evaluating our force structure, the Ministry of Defence has received, and actioned, a number of requests through the chain of command for changes to the military capabilities and equipment deployed. In addition, we conduct more substantial periodic Force Level Reviews which examine equipment and personnel levels.
As a result of these well-proven processes, I have announced; the deployment of some 130 troops of the RAF Regiment, 15 June 2006, Official Report, column 67, a force uplift of some 870 troops, 10 July 2006, Official Report, column 1131-35, the deployment of two extra Chinook Helicopters, 24 July 2006, Official Report, column 76, a new vehicle package (Mastiff and Vector) for operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and the deployment of an additional Harrier, 18 September 2006, Official Report, column 136.
Sir John Stanley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the UK Government have received, under paragraph 3.2 of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the UK and Government of Afghanistan on the transfer of detainees, any request to agree to the transfer of detainees to the authority of another state, including detention in another country. 
Des Browne [holding answer 18 December 2006]: The UK Government have not received any formal requests from the Afghan authorities or third party countries to agree to the transfer of detainees from the Afghan authorities to the authority of another state, including detention in another country. Nor has the UK Government had any formal requests from third party countries for the direct transfer of detainees from UK custody to theirs.
Sir John Stanley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) whether the requirement in paragraph 5.1 of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the UK and the Government of Afghanistan on the transfer of detainees for the UK armed forces to notify the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, normally within 24 hours, and if not, as soon as possible after, of when a person has been transferred to Afghan authorities has been complied with fully in respect of all the detainees concerned; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) how many individuals arrested and detained in Afghanistan by UK armed forces have been transferred to the authorities of Afghanistan since the date on which the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the UK and the Government of Afghanistan on the transfer of detainees came into effect. 
Des Browne [holding answer 18 December 2006]: The Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the UK and the Government of Afghanistan on the transfer of detainees was signed on 30 September 2006. Since then, three individuals have been held in detention by UK armed forces. One was subsequently transferred to the Afghan authorities and two were released.
Although there have been some minor procedural problems with the timely notification of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, both organisations have been informed about these detentions, and all other detentions which took place before the MoU was signed. We are working with both organisations with a view to ensuring that in future all notifications will occur in a timely manner.
Des Browne [holding answer 18 December 2006]: The Secretary of State regularly receives reports on a wide range of operational matters from the Chiefs of Staff including the security situation in Afghanistan.
I am withholding information regarding the number of troops deployed in specific locations in Southern Afghanistan as disclosure of such information would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much of its personnel budget for 2005-06 the Meteorological Office spent in Scotland in (a) monetary terms and (b) as a percentage of the total personnel budget; how much was spent for each category in 2004-05; and if he will make a statement. 
The information that is available is shown in the following table. The information is based on average numbers based in Scotland in each of the financial years and average capitation rates used in those years for accounting purposes.
|Staff costs in Scotland (£ million)
|Percentage of total staff costs
Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) officers and (b) soldiers are in receipt of (i) benefits and (ii) tax credits in (A) 1, 2, 3 PARA, (B) 1(st) Battalion Grenadier Guards, (C) 1(st) and 2(nd )Battalion the Royal Green Jackets, (D) 1(st) Battalion the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment, (E) 9/12 Lancers and (F) 1(st) and 3(rd) Regiments Royal Horse Artillery. 
Derek Twigg: The Ministry of Defence does not hold details of the number of officers and non-commissioned ranks who are entitled to State benefits or tax credits. It is an individual responsibility for a Service person to determine if he or she is entitled to such benefits and whether or not they wish to submit a claim.
Mr. Ingram: The MOD is committed to openly publishing casualty statistics on the number of service personnel killed and wounded on operations. Information on casualties sustained since January 2006 in Afghanistan is available on our website.
Since 28 October 2006 we have been able to provide data on the personnel admitted to medical facilities as a result of disease, as well as for non-battle injury. This additional reporting has been brought about by improvements in tracking of this category of personnel, and brings the reporting of statistics for casualties in Afghanistan into line with reporting for casualties in Iraq.
Furthermore, since 28 October 2006 improvements in the way the data is recorded in theatre, collated, and analysed back in the UK have made it possible for updates to be provided every two weeks, two weeks in arrears, rather than monthly, one month in arrears.
Historic data on casualties which occurred in Afghanistan before 1 January 2006 have now been collated and are currently being reconciled. I will write to the hon. Member when this exercise has been completed.
Mr. Ingram: The protection of our forces remains a top priority and improvements in armoured fighting vehicles training continue to be made following my written ministerial statement of 15 June 2006, Official Report, column 14WS, that the Department would be seeking alternatives to the Private Finance Initiative as a means of securing improvements in the delivery of this training.
Recent improvements in armoured vehicle training have included the introduction into service of a new 120mm Live Crew Gunnery trainer (Sub Calibre Device) for Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank in June 2006 and an improved Warrior Gunnery Turret trainer that is due to enter service in February 2007. In addition, the Defence Procurement Agency is exploring options for an Enhanced Capability for Armoured Training Systems (ECATS) programme which includes determination of the cost boundaries.
About 50 new vehicles, plus training support, are also being provided to meet the pre-deployment
training demands for new vehicles in theatre. I can confirm that, following the statement made on the 24 July 2006, Official Report, columns 74-76WS, refers a pool of about 300 vehicles to be used only on operations is being created including VECTOR, MASTIFF and BULLDOG with a proportion being retained to support pre-deployment training. This pool of vehicles will be resourced from the Conflict Prevention Fund.
The figures shown in the table refer to individual instances of cannibalisation as opposed to the number of aircraft involved. All instances of cannibalisation are authorised and undertaken in accordance with clearly defined regulations. The term cannibalisation can refer to the removal of single or small numbers of components, of any size. It does not necessarily refer to the wholesale utilisation of capital components or airframes.