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12 Jun 2007 : Column 929Wcontinued
Mr. Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what criteria were used to determine whether a Remploy factory would be eligible for (a) closure and (b) merger. 
Mrs. McGuire: In deciding eligibility for potential closure Remploy took into account several factors: the market for the product made at the factory, the likely ability to achieve acceptable losses per disabled employee in the future, the percentage of cost which is covered by income from customers and the local employment market.
For mergers the company not only took into account the above factors, but also considered the proximity to another factory which was not potentially closing.
We will consider the companys final proposals once they have been submitted later in the year following consultation. No decision by the Secretary of State on the future of the company will take place until then and the Government encourage participation in the
consultation process by contacting Bob Warner on tel: 02476 515810 or writing to him at: Remploy, Stonecourt, Siskin Drive, Coventry, CV3 4FJ.
Mr. Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what representations were made by (a) management and (b) staff regarding the possible closure of the Remploy factory in Hartlepool; 
(2) what consideration was given to merging the Hartlepool and Stockton Remploy factories as an alternative to closure. 
Mrs. McGuire: In drawing up the closure proposals Remploy took into account the market for the product made at their factories, their likely ability to achieve acceptable losses per disabled employee in the future, the percentage of its cost which is covered by income from its customers and the local employment market. The proximity to another factory which was not closing was considered.
The Remploy Boards proposals signal the next phase in the development of a five-year modernisation plana formal consultation with trade unions and employees and a disability impact assessment as part of Remploys Disability Equality Duty obligations.
The Government will consider the companys final proposals once they have been submitted later in the year following consultation. No decisions by the Secretary of State on the future of the company will take place until then.
No representations have been made to Government on the proposed closure of the Hartlepool factory. If there are strong arguments against the proposed closure of the Hartlepool factory, the Board of Remploy would be happy to fully consider them.
The Government encourage participation in the consultation process by contacting Bob Warner Chief Executive of Remploy on tel: 02476 515810 or in writing at: Remploy, Stonecourt, Siskin Drive, Coventry, CV3 4FJ.
Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans his Department has for simplifying the benefits system for people with disabilities. 
Mr. Plaskitt: I refer the hon. Member to the written answer I gave the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) on 27 February 2007, Official Report, column 1208W.
Mr. Dunne: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many days in advance of payment to claimants of (a) income support, (b) jobseeker's allowance, (c) disability living allowance and (d) pension credit his Department transfers funds to banks. 
Mr. Plaskitt: Funds for the payment of DWP benefits and allowances are transferred to banks on day three of the BACS processing cycle. This is normally the same day that payment is credited to the claimant's bank account.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent assessment he has made of the implications of changes in energy prices for the level of the winter fuel allowance. 
James Purnell: The winter fuel payment is a significant contribution to winter fuel bills which account for around 60 per cent. of the years total fuel bill. It has risen from £20 to £200 from winter 2000-01 and to £300 for people aged 80 or over from winter 2003-04.
Fuel prices are volatile, and can fall as well as rise. Although fuel prices have risen since 2003 this follows a period of no change between 1997 and 2003, and following recent falls in wholesale gas prices, companies are now starting to announce reductions in retail prices. It would not be sensible for the rate of winter fuel payments to track the upward and downward movement of fuel prices.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is for ensuring that there are sufficient numbers of pilots qualified and able to serve as fast jet pilots; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ingram: There is a robust process to establish and sustain the requirement for pilots qualified and able to serve as fast jet pilots. The process for the RAF is undertaken by RAF manpower planners who compare the forecast requirement for fast jet pilots against the forecast strength. Any anticipated gap is then adjusted by modifying the forecast number of fast jet pilots required to graduate from the operational conversion unit as necessary. The RN process is very similar. The process helps to predict manning trends such as premature voluntary release, medical discharge, promotion and normal retirement.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) correspondence and (b) discussions his Department has had with (i) European partners and (ii) others to seek the earliest possible compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738 on the protection of journalists reporting on armed conflict; and if he will make a statement 
Mr. Ingram: Her Majesty's Government strongly support UNSCR 1738. We acknowledge the importance of ensuring that journalists, media professionals and associated personnel are provided with the protection they need.
The MOD already affords journalists the same protection rights as civilians in conflict areas, providing they do not take action adversely affecting their status, in accordance with article 79 of additional protocol 1 of the Geneva conventions. To assist the process of ensuring that international law is respected and enforced, and to raise awareness of violence directed against journalists in conflict zones, the UK tabled UNSCR 1738 jointly with our EU partners in December 2006. This called on parties involved in conflict to stop deliberate attacks against journalists and respect them as civilians under international law.
While we have had no recent correspondence with our EU partners about resolution 1738, we continue to work with them and others to support efforts to promote and strengthen respect for international law.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) correspondence and (b) discussions his officials have had with (i) NATO partners and (ii) others (A) on respect for the professional independence and rights of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel during armed conflict and (B) to obtain universal compliance with obligations under international law to end impunity and prosecute those responsible for serious violations of international law against such persons; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ingram: Her Majestys Government are committed to promoting freedom of expression worldwide and to defending and protecting the professional independence and right of journalists and media professionals to work without fear of reprisal during armed conflict. Although we have had no recent correspondence on these matters with NATO partners or others, we work with them and others to support efforts to promote and strengthen international law. An essential part of this is our strong support for the international criminal tribunals which are a key element of international efforts to combat the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what measures have been introduced by his Department to ensure the UK's compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738, on the protection of journalists in armed conflict; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ingram: UK armed forces protect journalists in the same way they protect civilians in theatre, provided they do not take action adversely affecting their status under international law. This is enshrined in our instructions on the practical arrangements for enabling correspondents to report from operational theatres and in the training provided to our personnel.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the British Government provide pensions to any Burmese soldiers who fought alongside the British in the second world war. 
Derek Twigg: The British Government no longer provide pensions to Burmese soldiers who fought alongside the British forces in the second world war. Responsibility for the payment of these pensions was transferred to the Government of Burma in 1947, ahead of Burma gaining independence in January 1948.
Mr. Fraser: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average tour interval was for (a) Army, (b) Royal Navy, (c) Royal Air Force and (d) Royal Marine personnel in the latest period for which figures are available. 
Mr. Ingram: The average tour interval for land units is 26.5 months.
|Arms and services tour intervalsFebruary 2007|
|Infantry||Royal Armoured Corps||Royal Artillery||Royal Engineers||Royal Signals||Royal Logistic Corps|
For Royal Navy personnel, deployments are not to be longer than nine months. A ship's programme aims for 60 per cent. of the time on deployment and 40 per cent. of the time alongside at the base port over a two-year rolling period. Current activity for surface ships is approximately 53 per cent. away, 47 per cent. at home.
Tour intervals for the Royal Marines in 3 Commando Brigade RM varies between units but on average is 34 months, although this does not reflect individual company deployments which have been more frequent.
Data on RAF average tour intervals are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) longest, (b) shortest and (c) average period of time was taken to make repairs to a forces' accommodation property after a call out in the last period for which figures are available. 
Derek Twigg: I will write to the hon. Member and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many staff were employed at the Modern Housing Solutions helpdesk in Speke, Liverpool in each month since it was established. 
Derek Twigg: The information requested is set out in the following table:
There was no specific go-live date for the helpdesk. The contract was dated 14 November 2005 and was rolled out on a regional basis from January 2006. Modern Housing Solutions built up the helpdesk during that period. Staff were in place before the contract was signed as MHS knew from April 2005 that it was the preferred bidder.
When MHS began delivering services, the number of calls received was higher than anticipated, requiring additional staff to be employed on the helpdesk. Over time, however, the need has reduced for these additional staff, resulting in a reduction in staff between April and May 2007.
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