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19 Feb 2007 : Column 194W—continued

19 Feb 2007 : Column 195W

The UK will continue to make clear our objections to those countries that support whaling, both before and during the next annual meeting of the IWC in Alaska in May.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with (a) Ministers, (b) officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and (c) Cabinet colleagues on whaling over the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [120588]

Mr. Bradshaw: Since the last annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), I have written to colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the Department of Trade and Industry encouraging them to lobby countries to join the IWC and also to stress to those countries that continue to support whaling the importance the UK attaches to whale conservation.

I asked that they particularly point to the significant economic and social benefits arising from both whale conservation and the whale-watching industry and to express the view that the decision to resume or support the resumption of commercial whaling could seriously undermine those benefits.

The Secretary of State has also had correspondence with the Prime Minister on this matter, resulting in the latter's agreeing to sign a foreword to the DEFRA leaflet “Protecting Whales—A Global Responsibility” published recently.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) when he next intends to discuss the international moratorium on whaling with representatives of the Governments of (a) Dominica, (b) Gabon, (c) Gambia, (d) Grenada, (e) Kiribati, (f) Mali, (g) the Marshall Islands, (h) Mauritania, (i) Mongolia, (j) Morocco, (k) Nauru, (l) Nicaragua, (m) Norway, (n) Palau, (o) the Russian Federation, (p) St Kitts and Nevis, (q) St Lucia, (r) St Vincent and the Grenadines, (s) Senegal, (t) the Solomon Islands, (u) Suriname, (v) Togo, (w) Tuvalu, (x) Korea, (y) Iceland and (z) Guinea; [120520]

(2) when he next plans to discuss the international moratorium on whaling with (a) his Japanese counterpart and (b) representatives of the governments of (i) Antigua and Barbuda, (ii) Benin, (iii) Cambodia, (iv) Cameroon, (v) Côte d'Ivoire and (vi) Denmark. [120587]

Mr. Bradshaw: I have raised the issue of whaling at every appropriate opportunity with pro-whaling members of the IWC. In support of the UK's position I also raised the issue of IWC membership at a recent meeting of EU Environment Ministers in Luxembourg and sent copies of our recent publication “Protecting Whales—A Global Responsibility” to 57 countries, both anti and pro-whaling, encouraging them to join the effort to protect these species.

DEFRA officials also ensure that Foreign and Commonwealth Office posts in the relevant capitals are briefed, and engage in discussion with their counterparts on whaling at every appropriate
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opportunity. This ensures that these countries are in no doubt of the importance that the UK attaches to whale conservation.

The UK will continue to make clear our objections to those countries that support whaling, both before and during the next annual meeting of the IWC in Alaska in May.

Wind Power

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) public and (b) other bodies must (i) be consulted and (ii) give their approval before building an offshore wind farm; what the average approval and consultation times are; and if he will make a statement. [119387]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Department shares the responsibility, with DTI and DFT, for the PSA target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 12.5 per cent. below 1990 levels and move towards a 20 per cent. reduction in carbon dioxide emissions below 1990 levels by 2010.

To achieve these targets, an increasing amount of electricity will need to be supplied from renewable sources. Both DEFRA and DTI are responsible for issuing the relevant statutory licences for offshore wind farms - DEFRA in relation to construction in tidal waters and at sea and DTI in relation to energy generation.

Applications and their accompanying environmental impact assessments are subject to consultation with a range of public and non-public bodies (see following table). This list is not a definitive one—names can be removed or added to the list and wind farm developers are also required to issue public notices in connection with each application.

DEFRA and DTI work hard to resolve concerns raised by statutory consultees before licences are granted.

The standard consultation period is eight weeks. However, issues raised during this time are often complex and can take several months to resolve. Currently, the approval process takes a minimum of 12 months.

We are planning to use the marine Bill to simplify the regulation of offshore wind developments.

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Offshore wind farms—DTI/Defra licence consultee list
Natural England Statutory consultee

Countryside Council for Wales (where appropriate)

Statutory consultee

Environment Agency

Joint Nature Conservation Committee (where appropriate)

Statutory consultee

English Heritage

Cadw (where appropriate)

Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Statutory consultee

Trinity House Lighthouse Services

Chamber of Shipping

Royal Yachting Association

Local port authority (if appropriate)

National Federation of Fishermens' Organisations

Local Sea Fisheries Committee

British Marine Aggregate Producers Association

Welsh Assembly Government (where appropriate)

Ministry of Defence

Department for Transport


Civil Aviation Authority

National Air Traffic Service

Local airport (if appropriate)

Local planning authorities (as appropriate)

Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (scientific advisers to Defra)

Wood Fibre

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent meetings he has held with stakeholders to discuss the forecast increase in demand for wood fibre by the renewable energy industry; and what action he plans to take in response to the situation. [118631]

Barry Gardiner: Forestry Commission England intends to publish a woodfuel strategy which will address the issue of increasing woodfuel available from existing woodlands. In Scotland the Scottish Executive is about to publish its Biomass Action Plan and this will lay out its proposals for developing the bioenergy sector in Scotland. Long-term availability of biomass will also be considered in the UK Biomass Strategy which the Government intend to publish before May 2007.

Officials from DEFRA and the Forestry Commission hold regular discussions with those involved with feedstock procurement for these projects. The Secretary of State has not held any recent meetings to discuss demand for wood fibre specifically. However, I have discussed woodfuel with both the England Forest Industry Partnership and the industry body, CONFOR (Confederation of Forest Industries).


Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what operational requirements have affected the decision not to send Bell Griffin HAR2 helicopters from Cyprus to Afghanistan. [119066]

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Mr. Ingram: The Bell Griffin HAR2 helicopter is not being sent to Afghanistan because there is no requirement for them.

Agency Personnel: Scotland

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much of its personnel budget for 2005-06 the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory 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. [107935]

Derek Twigg: As part of the ongoing Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) site rationalisation plan all Dstl jobs were relocated from Glasgow and Dunfermline to Dstl Porton Down by 31 March 2004. However, the redundancy/early retirement costs were paid in the financial year of 2004-05.

Currently, Dstl only has two members of staff based in Scotland, both of whom are on secondment to the MOD. In the financial years 2004-05 and 2005-06 Dstl spent £3,500 of its personnel budget in Scotland, this was 0.09 per cent. of the total Dstl personnel budget. This funding was spent on the participation of Dstl in recruitment fairs.

Armed Forces: Body Armour

Mr. Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many sets of body armour have been issued to British troops and then recalled for the purpose of distribution to other personnel in the last five years. [119196]

Mr. Ingram: Body armour is not centrally recalled for the purpose of redistribution.

Details of the body armour supplied in the last five years are shown in the table:

Type Sets Component Parts

Enhanced Combat Body Armour (ECBA)


Kestrel Body Armour


Osprey Body Armour


Notes: 1. ECBA component parts comprise fillers, plates, desert covers, woodland covers, civilian blue covers and UN blue covers. 2. Over the last five years approximately 168,500 ECBA ballistic plates have been supplied. These are generally issued at a rate of two plates each, which equates to approximately 84,250 individuals. However there are occasions where individual plates may be issued, such as replacements for damaged plates, and some will be held as stock.

It is policy that all personnel deploying on operations are issued with their personnel set of ECBA. In addition to this standard issue capability, two additional variants of body armour have been developed to meet different operational requirements known as Kestrel Osprey body armour. These different types of body armour allow force commanders to choose the appropriate balance between protection and mobility depending on the specific operational circumstances, threats and missions. There are enough
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sets of all types of body armour in Iraq and Afghanistan to supply all those that need them.

In the early stages of Telic, there was an acknowledged initial shortfall of ECBA in theatre. The allocation of ECBA was, therefore, decided locally by commanders on the ground, based on role: dismounted close combat soldiers, primarily infantry, were given the highest priority, followed by soldiers mounted in unarmoured vehicles, mounted armoured soldiers considered the lowest risk.

Armed Forces: Casualty Reporting

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 8 January 2007, Official Report, column 78W, on armed forces casualty reporting, when the casualty information for Afghanistan prior to 2006 will be reconciled. [119227]

Derek Twigg: We intend to provide further information on casualties in Afghanistan prior to 2006 on the MOD website in March of this year. Our initial priority is to publish information for seriously injured (SI) and very seriously injured (VSI) casualties, and we intend to release further information in due course. I will write to the hon. Member when this exercise has been completed and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

Armed Forces: Children

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to base the contribution from parents of children receiving boarding school allowances on salaries rather than being 10 per cent. of earnings. [119084]

Derek Twigg: Currently, we have no plans to base the parental contribution for continuity of education allowance on the salaries of service personnel. I should also point out the contribution is not based on a service person's earnings.

We recognise that service parents may find it difficult to maintain the continuity of their children's education, due to the nature of their employment and the unique demands of military life. It is for this reason that there are various educational allowances available to eligible service personnel to help meet some of the costs of ensuring continuity of their children’s education. Continuity of education for their children would not otherwise be possible in the state maintained day school sector if these children accompanied their parents to postings in both the UK and overseas. However, the Ministry of Defence does not reimburse the full cost of school fees and parents are required to pay a minimum 10 per cent. parental contribution for each child when they claim a service education allowance. Also, when assessing each claim, any grant or scholarship made by the school, official benefactors, local education authorities or other public bodies, and any discounts offered to the service parent by the school, is deducted from the fees before the 10 per cent. minimum parental contribution is calculated. It is a matter for the service parent to decide which state or private sector boarding school they wish their children to attend. In doing so, service parents will consider the full cost of their child's education, a significant part of which will be schools fees, for which all parents must pay a minimum 10 per cent.

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Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what percentage of occasions the time taken for the transfer of student records between UK schools and service children's education schools exceeded 15 days in each year in the last three years. [119269]

Derek Twigg: This information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. However in response to the HCDC—House of Commons Defence Committee report on the Education of Service Children, the Government recently acknowledged the Committee's concerns that service children are being disadvantaged when they move school because some schools fail to transfer the pupils' records on time. The Government will continue to do all that they can to explain and publicise the 15-day transfer rule to all schools to ensure that they meet this target and will continue to use Teachernet, Schoolsweb and Spectrum to do this.

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the percentage of pupils achieving at least five GCSE grades A* to C was in each service children's education secondary school in each of the last five years. [119270]

Derek Twigg: The percentage of pupils achieving at least five GCSE grades A* to C in each service children's education secondary school in each of the last five years was:

2002 2003 2004 2005 2006

St. John's School, Cyprus






King Richard School, Cyprus






Gloucester School, Germany






King's School, Germany






Prince Rupert School, Germany






Windsor School, Germany






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