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31 Jan 2007 : Column 318W—continued

Scotland

Asylum Seekers

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met (a) the Secretary of State for the Home Department and (b) Scotland's First Minister to discuss the removal of failed asylum seekers in Scotland. [111184]


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David Cairns: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular discussions with Home Office and Scottish Executive Ministers on matters that affect Scotland.

Royal Mail

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much his Department spent using Royal Mail in each of the last five years. [115239]

David Cairns: The Scotland Office and the Office of the Advocate-General use the Scottish Executive's postal facilities for the majority of outgoing mail and reimburse them for usage. The Offices are unable to accurately split the costs by individual provider. Separately, the Offices use Royal Mail for the transportation of ministerial papers.

The total costs for postage and the transportation of ministerial papers for the last five years was follows:

£

2001-02

10,068

2002-03

12,874

2003-04

34,316

2004-05

22,561

2005-06

18,314


Defence

Bermuda Regiment

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the Royal Military Police co-operate with the Bermuda Regiment in enforcing male conscription to the regiment (a) in Bermuda and (b) among Bermudians resident in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement. [111633]

Mr. Ingram: The Royal Military Police has no links with the Bermuda Regiment and does not co-operate with it in enforcing conscription, either in Bermuda or the United Kingdom.

Falkland Islands

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much funding the UK has allocated to the clearance of anti-personnel mines in mined areas in the Falkland Islands between January 2007 and March 2009. [112442]

Mr. Ingram: A jointly funded Argentine and British contract was let in November last year to conduct a survey of the Falkland Island minefields. This survey forms the main part of a joint feasibility study. The principal aims of the survey are to identify the options for anti-personnel mine clearance, what environmental impact clearance may have, and to set out the broad costs involved. Until the results of the survey are known, and the feasibility study is completed later this year, no decisions on funding allocation will be made.


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Iraq

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the standard of accommodation for UK troops serving in Iraq (a) now and (b) in 2003. [114765]

Mr. Ingram: The condition of camps and in particular the accommodation for UK troops in Iraq has been routinely monitored since the start of operations in 2003 and we have striven to make constant improvements where necessary. The exact type of accommodation will vary from base to base and would include for example fixed living accommodation and tented accommodation. To improve comfort levels for troops we seek to reduce the occupancy levels in rooms to below the occupancy rate that the accommodation was designed to hold, where space permits. However, where this is not possible we endeavour to ensure that the design occupancy levels for accommodation are not breached.

To further improve conditions for troops, a package of operational welfare provisions is also afforded to troops. This includes fitness facilities, retail and leisure facilities, TVs, VCRs/DVD machines, playstations, radios, videos/DVDs/games, newspapers, magazines, books, internet facilities, telephone facilities and a host of other facilities.

Officer Training

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many officer cadets are in training at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth; what the service personnel establishment is; what the civilian establishment is; and what the annual running costs were in each of the last five years. [111417]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 25 January 2007]: There are currently 368 Royal Navy and overseas officer cadets in training at Britannia Royal Naval College. BRNC also administers a further 184 cadets who are at university, which brings the total to 552.

There are 173 uniformed members of staff at BRNC comprising: 61 officers, 39 Senior and Junior Ratings, 45 members of the Royal Marines Band and 28 members of the Military Provost Guard Service.

There are 316 members of civilian staff at BRNC comprising: 45 MOD civil servants and 271 contractor staff (Flagship Training Ltd. 97, Sodexho 160, Interserve 14).

The annual running costs for BRNC for the last five years are as follows:

Financial year Cost (£ million)

2001-02

18.1

2002-03

18.6

2003-04

19.8

2004-05

20.1

2005-06

21.0



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Recruitment

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recruitment activity is carried out by the UK armed forces in (a) Bermuda, (b) Gibraltar and (c) other overseas territories; whether recruits to the UK armed forces from Bermuda are exempt from conscription to the Bermuda Regiment; and if he will make a statement. [111517]

Mr. Ingram: Employment in the regular UK armed forces is open to citizens of Commonwealth countries and Republic of Ireland nationals as well as British citizens; all applicants are given equal consideration and all have to meet the same basic entry standards. The armed forces do not generally actively recruit overseas with the exception of Gurkhas from Nepal. However, in recent years the Royal Navy and the Army have sent selection teams to some Commonwealth countries with the permission of the Government concerned, and only then when evidence suggests that there is sufficient interest among the local population to merit a visit. The selection teams screen out those who are not thought capable of meeting the full entry standards, to save them the cost of an abortive trip to the UK to undergo the recruitment process.

There are no planned Royal Navy or Army recruiting visits to any British overseas territory. Royal Air Force careers staff usually visits each sovereign base area once a year. On such occasions a recruiting facility is provided for children of service personnel; a ‘high street’ service is not provided to local residents.

There are no special arrangements regarding Bermudan citizens and conscription to the Bermuda Regiment. However, those wishing to apply to join the UK armed forces must produce an official letter of confirmation of non-reserve liability from the Bermuda authorities before the application can proceed.

Royal Navy

Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Royal Navy vessels are (a) mothballed and (b) in a reduced state of readiness, broken down by class of ship; and what the predicted financial saving as a result of this policy is in each year until 2012. [117181]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 22 January 2007]: “Mothballed” is not a term used by the MOD. I have interpreted it as referring to ships capable of being returned to operational service but for which there is no requirement to do so at this time. The only Royal Navy warship in this category is the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible.

Five other surface warships of destroyer/frigate size and above are at low or very low readiness; four of these are in refit. I am withholding further details as this could enable deductions to be made that could be prejudicial to national security.

The normal readiness cycle of every Royal Navy ship is comprised of a mixture of periods of lower readiness, typically for maintenance or refit, and periods of higher readiness. The extent to which costs are reduced during periods of lower readiness is not
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calculated separately and depends on a number of factors including the type of ship, the readiness state to which it is reduced, and the length of time spent at lower readiness.

Secondments

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence to which organisations staff in his Department are seconded; and if he will make a statement. [112027]

Mr. Ingram: This information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Unfit for Service

Mrs. Riordan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people were advised that due to a medical condition they were unfit for service in the (a) Army, (b) RAF and (c) Navy in each of the last five years, broken down by medical condition. [116616]

Mr. Ingram: The Defence Analytical Services Agency has recently carried out a full validation review, with the medical directorates in each service, of the data they hold on medical discharges from the UK armed forces and their causes for the 12-year period 1994-2005. The results for this period will be compiled for analysis over the coming months. The data for 2006 are not currently available for a similar validation exercise.

Transport

Cross Country Franchise

Alison Seabeck: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the proposed new timetable for the cross country franchise will require the splitting up of any services. [111507]

Mr. Tom Harris: In order to offer faster journey times between Birmingham and Scotland, and to provide a more operationally robust timetable on the west coast main line, direct services which currently continue towards the southwest and Bournemouth from Scotland via Preston will terminate at Birmingham New Street. A new hourly through service will be introduced from Manchester to Bristol, removing the need for passengers to change trains, and from Manchester to Bournemouth, improving direct links between popular destinations in north-west and south-west England; an hourly direct service will operate between Scotland and south-west England via Leeds.

Leeds Traffic Area Office

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the legality of centralising licensing work to the Leeds traffic area office has been challenged by a traffic commissioner. [111807]

Dr. Ladyman: The legality of centralising work to the Leeds office was challenged by the traffic commissioner for the south-east and metropolitan
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traffic area. The Department's view is that the proposed arrangements are legal but require the co-operation of each of the traffic commissioners.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps the Maritime and Coastguard Agency takes to ensure that foreign seafarers serving on UK ships understand the working language on board their vessel. [117628]

Dr. Ladyman: The standard of English language is assessed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in one of the following ways.

If this is not the case, then there are a number of ways evidence of English language ability may be provided:

Seafarers have to demonstrate to the MCA compliance with one of the above methods of proving ability in English language before a certificate of equivalent competency is issued.

Motorcycling

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what factors were taken into account when deciding to ban the wearing of tinted visors by motorcyclists. [117690]

Dr. Ladyman: Motorcyclists are currently permitted to wear tinted visors provided that they are capable of transmitting at least 50 per cent. of the available light. In 2002 the Government reviewed whether to allow darker tinting during daytime only. Motorcyclists favoured this approach but road safety bodies raised concerns about the dangers which could arise if darker visors were worn in day time during poor or changing
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light conditions. After careful consideration, and on the grounds of road safety, it was decided to maintain the current limitation.

Motorways

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how his Department ensures value for money when work for hedge-cutting and fence maintenance on motorways is contracted out; who inspects the standard of work carried out on fence maintenance and hedge-cutting on motorways; and what measures are taken to ensure that hedge-cutting and fence maintenance on motorways is conducted to pre-set standards and budgeted costs. [117640]

Dr. Ladyman: All motorway maintenance contracts are awarded by competitive tender to contractors whose staff hold the relevant safety, quality and environmental accreditations. Most contracts include an annual lump sum which is designed to cover minor maintenance work such as hedge-cutting and fence repairs. Under some older contracts fence and hedge maintenance is procured by issuing works packages of varying sizes. The Highways Agency has specific standards for landscaping work of this type to which its agents, who manage the contract, are expected to conform. In addition, Highways Agency staff carry out periodic inspections to check the general condition of the network, where any problems with the standard of fence and hedge maintenance would be identified.


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