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19 Feb 2007 : Column 221W—continued

Ministerial Meetings

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what meetings (a) he, (b) Ministers and (c) officials from his Department have held with representatives of the defence industry since 1 August; when each meeting took place; what the subjects were of each meeting; and who attended each. [105457]

Derek Twigg: Defence Ministers have held the following meetings with defence manufacturers between 1 August 2006 and 8 December 2006.

Minister for the Armed Forces

Minister for Defence Procurement

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Under-Secretary of State for Defence

Each of the Defence Ministers may also have met with defence manufacturers on other less formal occasions during the period, including while visiting company premises or at party political events.

Details of every meeting between officials and representatives from defence manufacturers is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. However there will have been numerous regular and ad hoc meetings since 1 August 2006.

Navy: Vacancies

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on which occasions a ship at sea recorded the percentage of gapped posts higher than 5 per cent. in the past 12 months. [119276]

Mr. Ingram: Submarines are 100 per cent. manned when deployed on operations. Surface ships use flexible manning systems and sail with the manning levels appropriate to their tasking. They routinely operate with greater than 5 per cent. gapping as a result of personnel being ashore for training, medical, or compassionate reasons, or assigned to augment other, higher priority tasking elsewhere. Detailed statistics on gapping from front-line units are not collated because only exceptionally, as in the case of HMS Cumberland referred to in my answer of 28 November 2006, Official Report, column 629W, are gapping levels reported by units.

New Technologies

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what procedures his Department has in place to identify new technologies of defence interest. [103659]

Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence undertakes a number of different approaches to identifying new technologies, primarily through its research programme. This is an important activity that both exploits the opportunities presented by new technologies and counters any threats that they may represent.

The two principal elements of activity conducted by the MOD are ‘Technology Watch’, a deep awareness of technical developments in areas of known defence importance, and ‘Horizon Scanning’, a broad but shallow awareness of technical developments across the scientific and technical disciplines. MOD’s strategy
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towards identifying new technologies was recently published in chapter B12 of the Defence Technology Strategy (DTS).

In addition to these activities, and as part of the full implementation of the DTS, the MOD is running two initiatives to identify new technologies relevant to defence that exist in the UK’s wider science community: the Competition of Ideas and the Grand Challenge

The Competition of Ideas aims to inspire the best innovators from across the UK to bid for a contract to develop their ideas to help meet key defence challenges.

The Grand Challenge is a major science and technology competition, open to the whole UK science and technology base, which aims to seek new technological approaches to the problem of urban surveillance.

Nuclear Weapons

Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps the Government have taken since the 2005 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference to pursue good faith negotiations for nuclear disarmament. [120660]

Des Browne: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave most recently in evidence to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee on 6 February.

Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made on each of the 13 practical steps towards nuclear disarmament agreed at the 2000 non-proliferation treaty review conference. [118565]

Des Browne: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 8 January 2007, Official Report, column 97W, to the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey).

Open Source Software

Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of his Department's computer systems use open source software; what percentage of the systems planned to be installed use such software; and whether he plans to increase the use of open source software in his Department. [111161]

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

The use of open source software across Government Departments is subject to guidance from the Office of Government Commerce (OGC).

All software is required to be evaluated and accredited before use on the Defence network. This includes an analysis of the security risk to IT systems, and would ensure that all technical countermeasures had been applied. Open source software products are unlikely to have been evaluated to the required extent and therefore the overall cost of evaluation, coupled
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with any lack of support contracts, may offset any benefit in reduced overall licensing costs to the MOD.

None of the infrastructure systems currently supported by the Defence Communication Services Agency's Defence Information Infrastructure (DII) IPT, use open source software and there are no plans to replace such systems with open source products. Selection of the software underpinning the future Defence information infrastructure has been left in the hands of the DII Future(F) delivery partner, but currently there is no intention to make use of open source software.

None of the bidders for the DII(F) contract was proposing an open source solution.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he will answer question 101404 on the disclosure of information, on the secondment of British personnel, tabled by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South on 20 November. [112858]

Des Browne: I replied to the hon. Member today.

Phalanx C-RAM Anti Mortar System

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department has evaluated the Phalanx C-RAM Anti Mortar System for use in the defence of British bases in Iraq and Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. [104487]

Mr. Ingram: The Department is continually evaluating the capabilities that contribute to or could contribute to the deterrence of, and protection of bases from, indirect fire in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what provision is being made for the early identification and treatment of post-traumatic stress in personnel in and returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. [119389]

Derek Twigg: It is our policy that mental health issues should be properly recognised and appropriately handled and that every effort should be made to reduce the stigma associated with them.

We have put measures in place to increase awareness at all levels and to mitigate against the development of PTSD and other stress-related health issues. These include pre-and post-deployment briefing and the availability of support, assessment and (if required) treatment, both during and after operational deployments. This is available to all personnel, whether regular or mobilised reservist.

All significant operational deployments have mental health professionals as part of the deployed medical team. The team might comprise psychiatrists and/or mental health nurses. This team will continue the educational process during the operational tour and will also brief the chain of command about operational mental health issues detected. Individuals might be referred to the team for assessment and management
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and the therapeutic options will include psychological treatments, use of medication or aero-medical evacuation of the individual out of theatre back to further care at their home base.

Back in the UK, treatment will normally be provided through one of the MOD’s 15 Departments of Community Mental Health around the UK (with satellite centres based in Germany, Cyprus and Gibraltar). In the small number of cases when in-patient treatment is required, this will be provided in facilities run by the Priory Group, under the terms of a contract with MOD.

Finally, the MOD has recently launched a new initiative—the Reserves Mental Health Programme—which is open to reservists who have been demobilised since January 2003 following overseas operational deployment as a reservist and who have concerns that their mental health has suffered primarily as a result of their operational service leading up to their demobilisation. They will be invited to attend the Reserves Training and Mobilisation Centre at Chilwell, Nottinghamshire, where members of the Defence Medical Services will carry out an assessment of their mental health. If it is considered that they are eligible for out-patient treatment by the Defence Medical Services, this will be provided at one of the Departments of Community Mental Health, at the most convenient site to meet the individual’s circumstances whenever possible. More details of the programme are available at:

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) immediate and (b) long-term provisions his Department plans to put in place for soldiers returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with (i) post traumatic stress disorder, (ii) schizophrenia and (iii) psychotic disorder. [118937]

Derek Twigg: The Ministry of Defence has a broad spectrum of assessment, treatment and care available for Service personnel seeking assistance with any mental health condition. Service personnel have access to mental health professionals in the theatre of operations, in the United Kingdom, and other base areas overseas. In theatre, military Field Mental Health Teams provide assessment, treatment and support to Service personnel deployed on major operations. These teams are manned by qualified Registered Nurses and Community Mental Health Nurses who have access to theatre-based medical staff and support from United Kingdom-based specialists.

Some personnel will be referred direct from theatre to a military Department of Community Mental Health that is local to his or her home unit. Here the individual will have access to a multidisciplinary team made up of Psychiatrists, Nurses, Psychologists and Social Workers; the individual’s specific needs will determine which discipline(s) will best suit the requirement.

Those requiring inpatient assessment and treatment will, depending on their needs, be admitted to an Independent Service Provider hospital in the United Kingdom (or for some patients based in Germany, to the Military Mental Health Unit, Wegberg). If this is required, the individual is aeromedically evacuated
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under the care of specially trained clinicians. When treated in an ISP hospital, uniformed Service Liaison Officers act as a representative for the patient and liaise with the hospital and military authorities on relevant matters of the individual’s care.

While the specific conditions mentioned in the question are rare in the military population, they do sometimes occur. Service personnel with suspected or confirmed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders have access to all the specialist assessment and treatment facilities that I have described. Where relevant, assessment and treatment are delivered in accordance with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines.

All military psychiatry and mental health services are occupational in nature and the aim is to return to full military functioning. When illness is chronic, demanding and debilitating and as such may prevent the individual from returning to service, the Service mental health, social work and resettlement specialities will work with the individual with a view to making the transition from Service to civilian life, and will liaise closely with NHS teams, social services and other authorities. The primary aim of all concerned is to provide a seamless transfer of the patient’s care from the military to the NHS.

RAF Innsworth

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with Army personnel on their possible use of the RAF Innsworth site; and if he will make a statement. [118707]

Derek Twigg: I will write to the hon. Member and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

Releases into the Atmosphere

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list each episode where (a) chemical particles and (b) live organisms were released by his Department, its predecessors or those acting on their behalf over parts of the UK over the last 30 years. [106532]

Mr. Ingram: An unclassified report summarising the BW Defence Field Trials conducted by the MOD between 1940 and 1979 was published in February 1999. A copy is available in the Library of the House, reference DERA/CBD/CR990038. Many of the reports of the individual trials are now also available in the National Archive. By the late 1970’s the programme was drawing to a close with a small number of trials involving Bacillus globigi, E.coli and killed Serratia Marcesens on restricted access MOD sites. In 1976, 77 and 78 these trials were undertaken on the range at Porton Down (no dates are given in the relevant technical reports). Also in 1976, trials were conducted at HMS Phoenix NBCD school Portsmouth on 5, 7, 9, 12, 14 and 15 May.

In subsequent years, some small scale trials involving chemicals or micro-organisms have taken place on MOD land, but the information requested is not collated centrally and there is no indication that the
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details required have been retained within the MOD. A review of the information held within MOD and the compilation of any information located would involve disproportionate cost.

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