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Armed Forces: Protective Clothing

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the timetable is for introducing flame retardant clothing to all operational (a) RAF, (b) Royal Navy and (c) Army Air Corps air crews. [122202]

Mr. Ingram: All operational air crews of the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and Army Air Corps currently have flame retardant flying clothing in the form of the Mkl6/Mkl7 flying overalls.

Additionally, a fire retardant version of Combat Soldier 95 has been developed for aircrew operating in areas where it is deemed more appropriate to wear than flying overalls. All sets for rotary wing aircraft have been delivered to the Joint Helicopter Command. Those for fixed wing aircrew are being delivered in two batches: one is currently being delivered and one will be delivered in April.

Armed Forces: Security

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what extra security has been provided at regional airports used for troop movements by charter flights; and if he will make a statement. [122251]

Mr. Ingram: All UK airports from which flights regulated under the National Aviation Security Programme operate must meet the requirements of the Programme, and are subject to routine inspection, audits and tests by the Department for Transport. The security measures applied at Regional Airports used for troop movements are commensurate with the current threat.


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Armed Forces: Telephones

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will review the adequacy of the welfare benefits of Commonwealth citizens serving in the UK armed forces, with particular reference to free telephone calls. [122613]

Derek Twigg: With one exception, Commonwealth citizens serving in the UK armed forces receive the same welfare benefits when on operations as UK based personnel. This includes 30 minutes of welfare telephone calls per week to anywhere in the world.

The exception is that Commonwealth citizens have not been able to send and receive Free Forces Air Letters to and from their country of origin. From 2 April 2007, personnel on operations will be able to send these letters to their countries of origin free of charge.

Army: Suicide

Mr. MacDougall: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many suicides there have been in the British Army since 2001. [123348]

Derek Twigg: Between 1 January 2001 and 31 December 2005, the latest date for which validated centrally-compiled data are available, there were 52 coroner-confirmed suicide and open verdict deaths among regular Army Service personnel. This figure does not include deaths due to violent or unnatural causes that are still awaiting a coroner’s verdict.

Army: Vetting

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what police checks are carried out on army recruits from Commonwealth countries; [122696]

(2) if he will establish background police checks on army recruits from the Commonwealth. [122697]

Derek Twigg [holding answer 23 February 2007]: As part of the Army recruitment process, Commonwealth citizens who apply while outside the UK, are required to provide a certificate from their home nation police force which confirms that a check has been carried out on the individual within the three to four months preceding their application. In addition, all recruits, regardless of nationality and place of application, are required to declare whether or not they have any unspent convictions. Security Vetting is carried out by the Defence Vetting Agency for all recruits entering vetted trades such as the Royal Signals, and Criminal Records Bureau checks are made on all Medical Services recruits. There are no plans at present however to establish further background police checks for Commonwealth recruits.

Challenger Tanks

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many Challenger 2 main battle tanks he expects to be operable and in service in February 2008; [123817]


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(2) how many Challenger 2 main battle tanks are operable and in service. [123818]

Mr. Ingram: ‘Operable’ and ‘In service’ are synonymous regarding Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks and are defined as equipment that is not in deep maintenance, repair, storage or retained for training.

There are currently 282 Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks in service with the Army. It is expected that the number of Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks in service in February 2008 will be approximately the same as the numbers available today, bar minor fluctuations. For instance, there were 276 Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks in service in December 2006.

Defence Export Services Organisation: Manpower

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many staff are employed by the Defence Export Services Organisation; and what its budget is for 2006-07. [123685]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 27 February 2007]: On 1 February 2007, the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) employed 466 staff. Over 200 of these were working on Government-to-Government projects, the costs of which are met by the customer Governments. For DESO’s 2006-07 budget, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 4 September 2006, Official Report, column 1691W, to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable).

Departments: Theft

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what items valued at above £100 were reported as stolen from his Department's buildings or premises in the last 12 months. [121983]

Derek Twigg: The information is not held in the format requested and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Helicopters

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans are there to replace the Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor system on the Apache helicopters. [123036]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 28 February 2007]: There is a programme to replace the Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (TADS/PNVS), known collectively as Modernised TADS (M-TADS). The M-TADS system is to be fitted to all 67 UK Apache AH Mk1 helicopters over a two-year period, starting in February 2009.

Identification Friend Foe Systems

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether British land forces are dependent on (a) orange panels and (b) other eye dependent systems for combat identification in any land theatre. [122219]


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Mr. Ingram: Combat Identification—the ability to distinguish friend from foe during operations—is delivered through a combination of good situational awareness, tactics, techniques and procedures and target identification methods which include use of infra-red and visible spectrum panels. It follows that UK land forces are not solely dependent on such panels for Combat Identification.

Iraq: Peace Keeping Operations

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether armed forces personnel in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan under mortar or rocket attack may retaliate; whether they are provided with any means of (i) locating the source of mortar or rocket fire and (ii) tracking subsequent movement of those who carried out the attack. [122356]

Mr. Ingram: Armed forces personnel are able to use force in self-defence and in accordance with Rules of Engagement. I am withholding information on our locating and tracking capability as it would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) troops and (b) military vehicles there are in (i) Basra and (ii) Southern Helmand, broken down by type. [122486]

Mr. Ingram: There are currently around 7,100 UK troops in Iraq and its territorial waters and around 5,000 UK troops in Afghanistan. There are currently around 1,400-1,500 military vehicles in Iraq and around 1,000-1,100 military vehicles in Afghanistan. These figures can fluctuate according to operational requirements, and do not include capabilities such as trailers, bicycles, quad bikes and generators.

I am withholding specific details as this information would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the British armed forces have been killed in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan while engaged in the operation or recovery of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs); what type of UAV was involved in each case; whether this type of UAV remains in service; and when he expects to introduce an alternative system. [123693]

Derek Twigg: The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. As I stated previously on 19 February 2007, Official Report, column 231W, the requirement for reconnaissance, surveillance and wider force protection capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan is kept under constant review.

Military Bases: Stafford

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what progress he has made towards ceasing the storage and distribution operations at the military
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base in Stafford; and what alternative uses he proposes for the storage and distribution facilities there; [123044]

(2) what plans he has for locating additional military units at the military base in Stafford; [123045]

(3) what progress he has made in establishing a new Signals Regiment at the military base in Stafford. [123046]

Mr. Ingram: Forty-two per cent. of the stocks from the Defence Storage and Distribution Agency facility at Stafford have been transferred to other Defence Storage and Distribution Agency sites. The remainder of the transfer is on target and programmed to complete by the end of September 2007.

In terms of alternative uses for the storage and distribution facilities at Stafford and plans to locate additional military units at the military base, a study team is currently assessing a number of site options, including the defence site at Stafford, as potential bases for certain units who may return from Germany to the UK. Decisions are not expected before summer 2007. There is an additional aspiration to create, in the longer term, a West Midlands Super Garrison, of which Stafford may be a part. Work is ongoing to develop the Super Garrison plan.

The new Signals Regiment (22 Signal Regiment) is now 80 per cent. in situ in Stafford. The final aspects of establishing the regiment are progressing on time with Full Operating Capability expected in December 2007.

Rendition

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether any special agreements or other arrangements under the provisions of Article 3 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation have been made in relation to overflight through the UK, its overseas territories and bases by US state aircraft. [122837]

Mr. Ingram: The UK has bilateral arrangements with over 30 countries, including the United States, under which routine flights by military aircraft are cleared to overfly and land in the UK without seeking prior permission. All foreign and Commonwealth military aircraft transporting VIPs or carrying dangerous air cargo need to seek advance clearance.

Territorial Army: Recruitment

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the merits of raising the upper age limit for people applying to the Territorial Army. [122615]

Derek Twigg: Proposals to raise the upper age limit for people applying to the Territorial Army are currently under consideration. I shall inform the House when any decision is made.

Uniforms

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make estimate the cost of equipping a member of the (a) Line Regiment, (b) Guards Division and (c) Horse Guard with their full equipment. [123269]


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Mr. Ingram: Any regiment can be called for operational duty and will be provided with combat clothing either in temperate or desert material, depending on where they are required to deploy. The approximate cost of a set of temperate combat clothing is £760, and the approximate cost of desert operations combat clothing is £2,200. The average cost of parade wear uniform (Army No2 Dress-Khaki) is £100.

The average additional cost of equipping a Footguard for ceremonial duty is £1,000, and the average cost of ceremonial clothing and accoutrements for a member of the Household Cavalry is £6,000.

The provision of a more detailed breakdown of the wide range of equipment used by service personnel would require detailed analysis and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Working Hours

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proportion of personnel in (a) the Royal Air Force and (b) the Army worked excessive hours in each year since 2001. [116679]

Derek Twigg [holding answer 18 January 2007]: Estimates of the working hours of service personnel are published annually. Section 2.4 of the most recent report, 2005-06, contains a time series from 2002-03 of estimated proportions of personnel working ‘excessive hours’ by service. Previous estimates are available in historic reports but the responses are not ‘weighted’ so are not strictly comparable.

Copies of the “Survey of Continuous Working Patterns” reports from 2001-02 are available in the Library of the House.

Health

Autism

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps are being taken to treat autism in (a) England and (b) Coventry. [123807]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Autism Research Co-ordination Group, created by the Government, brings together a range of information from the field of autism. The group’s first annual report, published in July 2006, noted that the causes remain unknown and that there is no effective medical treatment.

In order to clarify the nature and extent of existing government policy in relation to adults with autistic spectrum disorders, the Department published a document for commissioners and providers of all services that support people with autism. This clarification note, “Better Services for people with an autistic spectrum disorder: A note clarifying current Government policy and describing good practice”, was published on 16 November 2006. The Department would expect the national health service and local authorities to use this document when planning services to support the development of people with autism.

The National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services, (2004) included an exemplar patient journey for children with autistic
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spectrum disorders. The exemplar demonstrates how autism services for children should be provided.

In Coventry, the local authority, Coventry teaching primary care trust and Coventry and Warwickshire partnership NHS trust recognise the needs of their population with autistic spectrum disorder and plan services accordingly. The Coventry Autism Support Service provides support for the school-age population and the Corley Centre offers specialist day and residential provision and outreach to neighbourhood schools. Both Children and Adult Mental Health Services and Connexions within Coventry have specialist autism workers and young people and their families can be sign-posted to post-16 provision.


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