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David Simpson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will publish information on judges to allow comparison of their sentencing for the same offences. [132253]

Ms Harman: There are no plans to enable analysis of sentences by individual judge. It would not be possible to analyse the sentencing decisions of individual judges in such a way as to allow for any meaningful comparison, as no two offences or offenders are identical. It is the role of the Court of Appeal Criminal Division to ensure consistency of sentencing, either in relation to appeals against sentence or references by the Attorney-General.


Mr. Pelling: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the average cost is of carrying out a Criminal Records Bureau check. [134166]

Ms Harman: My Department pays fees to the Criminal Records Bureau which carries out the checks. These are currently £31 for a standard disclosure and £36 for an enhanced disclosure. The additional cost of processing checks within my Department is not kept centrally and is available only at disproportionate cost.

Vetting: Training

Mr. Pelling: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the average cost was of training officers in the court system to perform Criminal Records Bureau checks in the latest period for which figures are available. [134167]

Ms Harman: My Department currently has 40 staff in its Human Resources Directorate who are trained in assessing criminal records information received from the Criminal Records Bureau. These are supported by administrative staff who have been trained in the checks process. These staff perform criminal records checks duties as part of their job roles. The cost of training these staff is not held centrally and is available only at disproportionate cost.

Deputy Prime Minister

Climate Change

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent discussions he has had with international counterparts on climate change. [134039]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I have just returned from China where my meetings with Premier Wen and State Councillor Tang included discussion on the importance of international co-operation on climate change. I also presented a proposal for Sino-UK collaboration in creating sustainable cities, launched phase II of the UK-China Sustainable Development
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Dialogue and delivered three keynote speeches on sustainability and climate change to international audiences.

Earlier in April, I launched the British Embassy / British Council climate change campaign “Opportunity through Action” in Prague with keynote speeches at a dinner debate and a youth conference. I engaged Czech Prime Minister Topolanek, and Deputy Prime Ministers Bursik and Vondra on the subject of climate change during separate bilateral meetings and later that week I discussed similar issues with Maltese Prime Minister Gonzi and President Adami.

Departments: EC Action

Richard Younger-Ross: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many EU Council meetings he has attended; and who represents him if he is unable to attend. [133754]

The Deputy Prime Minister: Ministers and civil servants attend many meetings as part of the process of policy development and advice. It is not the normal practice of Government to disclose details or attendance at such meetings. However, I can state that the British Government is always represented at EU Council meetings.


Armed Forces: Council Tax

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 16 April 2007, Official Report, column 130W, on the armed forces: council tax, what options are being considered; when he expects to publish his proposals; and what powers there are to ensure that his proposals are implemented across the United Kingdom. [133164]

Derek Twigg: We are discussing with Communities and Local Government both statutory and non-statutory options for providing support for the council tax costs in England of service personnel deployed on operations abroad. We wish to find a solution to this as soon as possible.

Any decision to implement a statutory council tax discount scheme in Wales and Scotland, or a new domestic rate relief in Northern Ireland would be entirely a matter for the Welsh Assembly, Scottish Executive and Northern Ireland Assembly.

Armed Forces: Footwear

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what type of footwear is issued to members of the armed forces as (a) part of their standard kit and (b) when deployed to operations in Iraq; where this footwear is sourced from; and if he will make a statement. [133465]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 24 April 2007]: Footwear supplied to the armed forces is of the following types: Combat; Parade/Ceremonial; and Safety Footwear. The standard issue footwear as part of the Combat Soldier 95 ensemble is the Combat Assault Boot.

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Troops deploying on operations in Iraq are issued with Desert Combat Boots. Lightweight patrol boots are also available depending on the duties being undertaken in theatre.

Most footwear is sourced through the prime contractor, Iturri, a Spanish footwear manufacturer.

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the lifetime of footwear issued to members of the armed forces; how often new footwear is issued to members of the armed forces; and if he will make a statement. [133466]

Mr. Ingram: The life expectancy of footwear varies between each type depending on use and conditions. In broad terms the expectation is: Combat Boots should last between one and five years (although Jungle Boots and Desert Boots may only have a life of six weeks or six months respectively); Parade/Ceremonial Boots are repairable and can last from one to five years plus; Safety Footwear six months to two years.

When boots are no longer serviceable or there has been a change in the users’ needs, replacement boots can be obtained or requested from the Unit Quartermasters both in the UK and overseas.

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what tests were conducted as part of the procurement procedure of the footwear issued to members of the armed forces; what (a) temperature, (b) weather and (c) terrain conditions were used as part of these tests; and if he will make a statement. [133467]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 24 April 2007]: When new footwear requirements, designs and materials are introduced, they are subjected to laboratory testing and trials in the locations and conditions for which the item has been designed. The new version of the desert combat boot, introduced in March 2006, is a modification of the existing design, which has been in use since around 2000. Testing in this case was therefore limited to that done in the laboratory.

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the monthly expenditure on footwear for members of the armed forces was in (a) 1999 and (b) 2006; and if he will make a statement. [133468]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 24 April 2007]: The current five-year enabling arrangement for supplying footwear to the armed forces was awarded in 2004. The estimated value of the contract is between £8 million and £9 million per year.

The information prior to 2004 is not held centrally and could be provided at only disproportionate cost.

Armed Forces: Health Services

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what ring-fenced capacity in each speciality his Department requested from the Department of Health in each year since 2001; and what the cost of this capacity was. [132629]

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Derek Twigg: There is no ‘ring fenced’ capacity but the MOD has negotiated accelerated access to hospital assessment and treatment from the five Ministry of Defence Hospital Units (MDHU) host trusts and the University Hospital Birmingham Foundation Trust (UHBFT). The cost of this delivery in 2006-07 was just under £30 million.

The historic figures for the MDHU spend on accelerated access are as follows:

£ million













Furthermore, MOD and the Department of Health have agreed an integrated plan for reception arrangements for military patients (RAMP), to manage the reception of injured military personnel in NHS hospitals. This covers the reporting of patients, their medical reception, movement, tracking, care and administration within the NHS.

The military managed ward (MMW) located in the orthopaedic/trauma ward in Selly Oak hospital (part of UHBFT) provides clinical care, by a combined team of military and civilian personnel, for military patients whose clinical condition allows for them to be nursed in this ward.

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many civilian medical personnel assisted in the provision of medical support on military operations overseas in each year since 2001, broken down by operation. [132851]

Derek Twigg: The number of individual civilian medical personnel who have been employed on operations overseas in each calendar year is shown in the following table:

Oculus—Balkans Telic—Iraq













Armed Forces: Housing

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions his Department has held with (a) the Local Government Association, (b) veterans' associations, (c) the Gurkha Welfare Association and (d) others on the housing needs resulting from army discharges. [130526]

Derek Twigg: Discussions take place regularly with the Department for Communities and Local Government and other interested parties, these include a quarterly meeting involving representatives from the
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veterans' and wider charitable organisations. I met with my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Local Government and Community Cohesion (Mr. Woolas) on 13 March to discuss housing issues. Recent discussions have covered a wide range of subjects including veterans' homelessness projects of current interest and research into levels of homelessness among veterans and the measures to address these.

There have been no recent direct discussions with the Local Government Association or Gurkha specific charitable organisations.

Armed Forces: Inheritance Tax

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) whether inheritance tax is payable on the estate of service personnel who are killed (a) on active service and (b) on overseas service outside the theatre of war; [132854]

(2) under what circumstances inheritance tax is waived on the estate of service people killed in the line of duty. [132855]

Derek Twigg: Under S154 of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984, liability to inheritance tax does not apply in relation to the death of service personnel, where the Secretary of State for Defence, or the Defence Council, certifies that the individual died from a wound inflicted, accident occurring, or disease contracted, either on active service against an enemy, or on other service of a warlike nature. This includes current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Should an individual die from an injury or disease contracted at some previous time, with death being due to, or hastened by, the aggravation of the injury or illness which occurred during a period when the aforementioned conditions applied, then consideration is given on a case-by-case basis to granting an exemption from a liability to inheritance tax.

As part of the assistance provided to bereaved families, the MOD Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) considers whether the circumstances of a death of anyone currently serving in the armed forces allows an exemption from inheritance tax and, where appropriate, provide the executor or family member with a certificate of exemption which can be passed to the relevant tax office.

For claims arising as a result of injuries or illness sustained in previous conflicts or in retirement, applications for an exemption have to be made to the JCCC by the executor/next of kin following the death of the individual concerned.

Armed Forces: Military Aircraft

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Lockheed WP-3D Orion aircraft he plans to purchase for the (a) Royal Air Force and (b) Royal Navy. [134330]

Mr. Ingram: The WP-3D variant of the US Lockheed Orion aircraft family was developed for the US Government as a weather research aircraft. There are no plans to procure any of these aircraft for the Royal Navy or Royal Air Force.

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Armed Forces: Pensions

Peter Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will take steps to implement the proposal in Early Day Motion 67 that all ex-servicemen and women should be treated equally in the payment of pensions regardless of when they served in Her Majesty’s armed forces. [133648]

Derek Twigg: The situation remains as set out by my right hon. Friend, the Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Ingram) on 31 January 2007, Official Report, columns 337-40, during the adjournment debate secured by my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell (Mr. Challen).

BAE Systems

Mr. Carswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many meetings his private office has had with representatives of BAE Systems in the last 12 months; and what was discussed at each such meeting. [129443]

Mr. Ingram: Over the period 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007, officials from the Private Office of the Minister for Defence Equipment and Support held a total of 12 meetings with representatives of BAE Systems. These meetings were to make arrangements for, or follow up on, actions from meetings between the Minister and BAES management. No other MOD ministerial Private Office staff met representatives of BAES Systems in this period.

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