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16 Apr 2007 : Column 134W—continued

Derek Twigg: Injured service personnel receive an overall excellent standard of medical care. Serious cases
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require access to a broad range of skills only available in a NHS specialist trauma centre. This is provided by University Hospital Birmingham Foundation Trust for casualties from overseas. Subsequently, the seriously injured are frequently referred to the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court, offering world class rehabilitation care tailored to the specific needs of the patient. Patients with less serious musculo-skeletal injuries are normally referred to one of our 15 regional rehabilitation units in the UK and overseas.

Mental health services in the UK are delivered through a combination of military community-based out-patient care supporting local in-patient treatment through the Priory Group of hospitals. MOD runs its own 15 Departments of Community Mental Health situated in the UK and overseas. The full range of psychiatric and psychological treatments is available, and where necessary, in-patient facilities are provided by the Priory Group.

Armed Forces: Housing

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many complaints Modern Housing Solutions received in the last 12 months. [129686]

Derek Twigg: Between 21 March 2006 and 21 March 2007 Modern Housing Solutions (MHS) received 8,779 complaints, which range from missed appointments through to noise levels and problems with vehicle parking.

In recent months the number of complaints has fallen considerably given the improved service now being provided. In the first three months of the MHS contract, 3,091 complaints were received. Since the beginning of January until 21 March, 1,621 complaints were received.

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many accidents have been reported due to faulty Modern Housing Solutions property in the last 12 months, broken down by type of property. [129691]

Derek Twigg: During the last 12 months a total of 13 accidents and/or incidents involving occupants in properties maintained by Modern Housing Solutions have been reported. Of these, two have a proven causal link to housing defects.

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many service quarters were adapted for special needs dependants in the latest period for which figures are available; and what the cost was of such adaptations. [129693]

Derek Twigg: There are 125 applications that have been completed, or are in the process of being completed, for special needs adaptations in service families accommodation in the last year. The cost of these adaptations is £467,126.59.

Armed Forces: Israel

Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British troops are training in Israel; and if he will make a statement. [130787]

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Mr. Ingram: Currently, there are no British troops undergoing training in Israel.

Armed Forces: MRSA

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many servicemen injured in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan have contracted (i) a viral infection and (ii) MRSA while receiving treatment for their injuries in UK (A) civilian and (B) military hospitals; and if he will make a statement; [129030]

(2) how many servicemen injured serving in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan who contracted viral infections while receiving treatment for their injuries in UK civilian hospitals have subsequently had limbs amputated as a result of the infection; and if he will make a statement. [129637]

Derek Twigg [holding answers 22 and 23 March 2007]: If an injury sustained in theatre warrants the immediate removal of a limb, the operation will be conducted under field conditions. Service personnel injured while on operation in Iraq or Afghanistan who require further medical treatment are usually aero-medically evacuated to Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham. Once evacuated to the UK, the patient will undergo detailed assessment by the hospital clinical team and further medical treatment, if required, will be carried out. We are aware of no cases of service personnel contracting an infection while in theatre, in transit, or as a military patient being treated in Birmingham that has subsequently led to a limb amputation.

University Hospital Birmingham (UHB) has robust procedures in place to minimise the risk of infection and counter its effects in both its civilian and military patients. UHB does collect overall infection rates, and in total for all patients, it has had 93 MRSA bacteraemia reports across the Queen Elizabeth and Selly Oak hospital sites from April 2006 to the end of February 2007. This equates to 0.09 per cent. of the around 100,000 (mostly civilian) in-patients and day cases treated in this time period and only 0.02 per cent. of the total 500,000 of all patients treated in this period. UHB’s MRSA bacteraemia reports have reduced by 32 per cent. in the last two years.

Neither the UHB nor the Ministry of Defence holds a separate database or a record of military patients who have reported MRSA or other viral infections. Therefore, the precise number of military patients diagnosed with MRSA or viral infections in NHS hospitals is not available centrally. This information could be obtained only by searching through individual medical records with that person’s permission, and this could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Armed Forces: Northern Ireland

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will take steps to reduce troop levels in Northern Ireland. [131004]

Mr. Ingram: On 28 March 2006, Official Report, column 55WS, I announced a structured plan for the phased reduction of troops to peacetime levels in Northern Ireland, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House. Under that plan, by the end of July this year, there will be no more than 5,000 military
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personnel based in Northern Ireland and units based in Northern Ireland in the future will be deployable worldwide to meet the Government’s global defence commitments.

Armed Forces: Pay

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the number of pay errors the Army expects to encounter when the joint personnel administration goes live. [129987]

Derek Twigg [holding answer 26 March 2007]: Data migration for Army personnel has been a challenge due to the sheer volume concerned and the age and diversity of the legacy systems involved. The current estimate is that the proportion of personnel who will experience a variance in basic pay in the first month of transition will be between 0.5 per cent. and 3 per cent. This incorporates Army and RAF reserves, as well as regular Army. For specialist pay the proportion is expected to be between 4 per cent. and 8 per cent. Work between now and the first live pay run in April is expected to result in the variances being at the lower end of the estimates range. In cases of mismatch of either basic pay or specialist pay the individuals affected will be notified by the Army in advance and where necessary local payments will be made to ensure hardship is not an issue. Action will be taken to inform the May pay run.

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what contingency plans his Department has put in place to deal with any errors made when the Army has its first pay run under the new joint personnel administration in April. [131080]

Derek Twigg: Contingency planning has included a number of dummy pay runs during April to check and confirm the status of pay accounts ahead of the first live Army pay run. A further supplementary pay run scheduled for 27 April 2007 will be used to address any significant issues identified in the initial pay runs.

An Army team is embedded within the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA) to assist with the resolution of issues and their communication. For those serving on operations a fast track process exists to escalate any urgent pay issues directly to the SPVA joint personnel administration operations room. A process is also in place to make emergency payments in cash at unit level if necessary.

The SPVA has developed disaster recovery plans and business continuity plans to mitigate the risk of a full system failure.

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions his Department has had with the Treasury regarding the long service advance of pay. [131094]

Derek Twigg: Ministers and officials in both the Treasury and the Ministry of Defence have regular discussions on a range of matters relating to the terms and conditions of service, including pay and allowances, for service personnel.

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Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made in the roll-out of joint personnel administration to the Army; and if he will make a statement. [128188]

Derek Twigg [holding answer 19 March 2007]: Good progress has been made with the successful initial roll-out of Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) to the Army being achieved as planned at the end of March. A number of essential post go-live consolidation and preparation activities are currently under way, to ready the system introduction of self-service users.

As planned, roll-out to self-service users will be phased and will be completed by 31 July. E-learning packages have been provided to self-service users and instructor-led training has been given to unit administration staff. The first JPA pay run for the Army is scheduled for payment at the end of April. The Army is prepared for JPA and has put processes in place to ensure that a service individual or their family will not be placed in difficulty in the event of any teething problems with the large and complex transition to JPA.

Armed Forces: Public Perception

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps his Department takes to assess public perception of the armed forces; and if he will make a statement. [131716]

Derek Twigg: It is important to the MOD that we hear people's views on defence matters. This helps to inform our policies and keep us in tune with public thinking and concerns. We carry out occasional public opinion research to this end.

Results from our central corporate research on public attitudes to defence, commissioned by our Corporate Communications division, are published on our website and included in the reputation section of our annual performance report and accounts. Other parts of the Department—particularly the service recruiting organisations—also conduct occasional public research in support of their business objectives.

Armed Forces: Personnel’s Perception

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment his Department has made of armed forces personnel's perceptions of (a) the calibre, capability and quality of military equipment and (b) working patterns and pressures of service in the armed forces; and if he will make a statement. [131717]

Mr. Ingram: These issues are covered in the armed forces continuous attitude surveys, copies of which are available in the Library of the House. The latest continuous attitude surveys are expected to be published and placed in the Library of the House in May.

Armed Forces: Rules of Engagement

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence who is responsible for (a) drawing up and (b) agreeing rules of engagement under which British armed forces serve; and whether the rules of engagement are the same in Afghanistan and Iraq. [130680]

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Des Browne: Responsibility for drawing up rules of engagement rests jointly with Ministry of Defence operational, policy and legal personnel. Individual rules of engagement are drawn up for each theatre of operation to ensure that they reflect the specific circumstances faced by UK troops in each theatre and the objectives they seek to achieve. Ministers approve all rules of engagement.

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) whether the rules of engagement have changed in respect of contact with Iranian forces following the recent abduction by Iran of 15 Royal Navy personnel; [130681]

(2) whether the rules of engagement in Iraq have been changed to permit artillery fire against indirect mortar and rocket fire. [130793]

Des Browne: In order to safeguard the security of our armed forces on operations, it is Ministry of Defence policy not to comment on specific operational profiles or the rules therein.

Armed Forces: Selly Oak Hospital

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what surveys have been carried out among injured service personnel treated at Selly Oak hospital to ascertain their views on the quality of the care and treatment they received; and if he will make a statement. [129396]

Derek Twigg: The Royal Centre for Defence Medicine is undertaking a pilot military patient survey of military patients over the period up to the end of June. The survey covers military in-patients treated at hospitals of the University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust, including Selly Oak, which is the principal receiving hospital for military patients.

Emerging results from this pilot survey are being regularly analysed to establish any significant trends and to note any concerns expressed by patients. Our most recent analysis found that 98 per cent. of those who answered the question “Overall, how would you rate the care you received?” responded that it was “excellent”, “very good” or “good”. The survey is anonymous, but concerns expressed by individuals that may have a general application are all addressed, in consultation with NHS management as necessary, as we continue to seek further improvements in the care that our service men and women receive.

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the level of recovery of injured service personnel treated at Selly Oak hospital compared with other previous arrangements. [129397]

Derek Twigg: It is difficult to compare like with like, given the changes that have occurred since the decision to close military hospitals in the mid-1990s, including advances in medicine, on the battlefield and elsewhere, and the level of personal protection now available to our troops. These changes have contributed to substantial improvements in the prospects of survival and recovery from serious wounds.

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The Chief of the General Staff commented in a recent interview,

Armed Forces: Uniforms

John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what clothing contracts let by his Department have been (a) awarded to overseas companies and (b) subcontracted from UK companies to overseas companies in the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [131128]

Mr. Ingram: Information is available only on the number of clothing contracts let over the last four financial years. Records prior to this date are not held centrally and the information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Since April 2003, 40 clothing contracts have been awarded directly to overseas companies at an estimated value of £12.8 million. During the same period 465 clothing contracts have been placed directly with UK companies at an estimated value of £192 million. It is not possible to provide the number of overseas clothing subcontracts placed by UK prime contractors as this information is not held by the MOD. At the time of contract placement, however, these companies indicated that approximately £91.5 million of the work would be undertaken offshore. Records of any subsequent subcontracting arrangements are not held.

Army Board: Members

Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on which occasions the (a) Assistant Chief of the General Staff, (b) Chief of the General Staff, (c) Adjutant General and (d) non-ministerial members of the Army Board have met hon. Members in the last 12 months. [127538]

Derek Twigg: Non-ministerial members of the Army Board have met with hon. Members on the following occasions. Meetings with Defence Ministers are not included:

Chief of the General Staff:

Adjutant General:

Director General Land Equipment:

General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland:

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