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18 Jun 2007 : Column 1440W—continued

BAE Systems Arms Contracts

22. Greg Mulholland: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the role of his Department in the negotiation of BAE Systems arms contracts. [142931]

Des Browne: BAE Systems is the largest supplier of defence equipment to the Ministry of Defence, providing products and services in the air, sea, land and space sectors. As with all contracts placed by MOD acquisition staff, the contracts with BAE Systems are negotiated against a strict set of terms and conditions in order to deliver acquisition programmes to meet operational, programme requirements and to achieve best value for money.

As with other UK defence companies, we also support the company's efforts in the defence export market through the Defence Export Services Organisation.

CAT Scanners

23. Rosie Cooper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress is being made in ensuring the provision of CAT scanners in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan. [142932]

Derek Twigg: Computerised tomography scanners are now fully operational in both Iraq and Afghanistan.


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Bevin Boys

24. Mr. Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made towards recognising the contribution of the Bevin Boys to the second world war effort; and if he will make a statement. [142933]

Derek Twigg: Following the Prime Minister's Statement on 24 January that the Government would be announcing proposals to give recognition to the Bevin Boys, it has been agreed that responsibility for implementing the Prime Minister's decision should lie with the Department of Trade and Industry, as the Department responsible for the coal mining industry. I understand that a statement giving specific detail on the Government's proposals is imminent.

Veterans: Mental Health

Mr. Joyce: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what provision his Department has made for the mental health care of veterans. [142925]

Derek Twigg: I announced on 11 June that the Ministry of Defence was expanding the medical assessment programme at St. Thomas's Hospital, London, to provide assessments to any veteran suffering from mental health problems as a result of service in operations since 1982. For the longer term, the MOD is working with the four UK Health Departments to pilot a new community-based service that will provide NHS health professionals with access to expertise in military mental health.

Armed Forces: Housing

Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many units of family accommodation at Pirbright barracks are occupied by squatters; and what steps are being taken to ensure such accommodation is not occupied by squatters or vandalized. [141849]

Derek Twigg: We are aware of two incidents of squatters having taken over empty Service Families Accommodation (SFA) at Pirbright, both of which occurred in the early part of last year. The properties were “outside the wire”.

In both cases, the squatters were removed and steps taken to ensure that the properties are not occupied or vandalised by squatters again.

Armoured Fighting Vehicles

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what programmes his Department is funding to look at counter measures against the RPG29 and other shaped charge threats to British armoured vehicles. [142922]

Des Browne: We constantly assess the threats facing our forces on operations and have a number of programmes in place to ensure we are fielding the most suitable protection measures.

For reasons of operational security, I cannot provide any further detail on the programmes or protection measures employed by our forces.


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Departments: Property

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much was raised from the sale of departmental property in each of the last five years. [139319]

Derek Twigg: The proceeds from the disposal of surplus defence land and buildings are as follows:

Financial year £ million

2001-02

185

2002-03

281

2003-04

207

2004-05

216

2005-06

258


It should be noted that 2001-02 includes disposals in the UK and North West Europe only. Disposals in the rest of the world cannot be obtained without incurring disproportionate cost.

2006-07 figures will be available once the agency accounts of Defence Estates—the Ministry of Defence organisation responsible for the defence estate—have been audited. A copy will be placed in the Library of the House.

Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many weapons mounted installation kits and general purpose machine guns are in theatre in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan. [142525]

Des Browne: The Ministry of Defence is currently conducting a policy review of what information can be disclosed about operational equipment without compromising operational security or effectiveness. Until that review is complete, I am withholding this information as its release would, or would be likely to, prejudice capability, effectiveness and security of our armed forces.

Military Bases: Cyprus

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence upon what grounds and for what reason a currency other than sterling will be used by British troops based on UK sovereign territory in Cyprus from next year; what consultations have taken place in connection therewith; with whom those consultations have taken place; and if he will make a statement. [143140]

Derek Twigg [holding answer 15 June 2007]: Appendix O to the 1960 treaty establishing the Republic of Cyprus states

Since 1960 the SBAs, including the large numbers of Cypriot citizens and British military personnel resident there, have used the Cyprus pound and not the pound sterling. The Republic of Cyprus is expected to replace the Cyprus pound with the euro from 1 January 2008. If this happens then the legal tender in the SBAs will become the euro. Use of a currency in the SBAs other
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than that circulating in the Republic of Cyprus would be impractical, and would run counter to the 1960 treaty.

UK military and UK based civilian staff will continue, as now, to be paid in pounds sterling and they can continue, as now, to elect to have a portion of their salary paid in the local currency into a local bank account. The same process applies in other overseas locations including Germany which also now uses the euro.

HMG has consulted both the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and the European Commission on the practical aspects of euro use.

Veterans Day

Mr. Touhig: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what funding his Department has allocated for local events to mark Veterans Day 2007; and whether all the funding has been allocated to local events. [142431]

Derek Twigg: £250,000 was initially allocated to regional events meeting the criteria set for Veterans Day 2007. However, in view of the high number of compliant bids received, this has been increased and a total of £319,000 has now been awarded. We have had to give priority to those proposals that have clearly supported the objectives set out for Veterans Day. The closing date for applications has now passed.

War Pensions

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many ex-service personnel are waiting for financial entitlements from the Veterans Agency; [131714]

(2) how many service personnel are awaiting (a) war disablement pension payments and (b) Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments from the Veterans Agency. [131729]

Derek Twigg: At the end of March 2007 there were 6,016 claims being processed for a war disablement pension or associated supplementary allowances under the War Pension Scheme.

Under the War Pension Scheme (WPS), only medical discharge cases involve serving personnel—all others will involve ex-service personnel. At the end of March 2007 there were 348 WPS medical discharge cases under consideration. Some of these individuals may have left the service.

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme deals with claims from both serving and ex-service personnel. At the end of March 2007 there were 111 medical discharge cases and 400 injury/illness cases being processed under this scheme.

Of the 400 injury/illness claims being considered 156 cases were from ex-service personnel and 244 cases were from service personnel.

Clearance times under these schemes reflect the fact that many claims require extensive medical evidence to be gathered under various sources, and it is often necessary to seek further information in the light of the initial evidence received. Evidence then needs to be collated and assessed before a decision is taken.


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Some 35,500 WPS claims and 4,800 AFCS claims were received in 2006-07, so it is inevitable that at any one time there will be several thousand being processed. This is normal work in progress, not a backlog.

The WPS key target for 2006-07, to reduce the average time it takes to issue decisions on claims to war pensions to no more than 53 working days, was exceeded with an achievement of 49 working days. The AFCS key target for 2006-07, to issue decisions on AFCS claims in an average of no more than 35 working days, was exceeded with an achievement of 34 working days.

Not all claims being processed will result in a payment.

Culture, Media and Sport

Arts Council

Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport pursuant to the answer of 11 June 2007, Official Report, column 739W, on the Arts Council, how many projects of all sizes were cancelled by Arts Council England in each of the last five years. [143017]

Mr. Lammy: On average, the Arts Council receives approximately 8,500 applications a year, resulting in awards for 4,500 projects on average.

It is not possible systematically to identify records on the Arts Councils grants systems of awards that were cancelled. Consequently to provide an answer would involve manually examining hundreds, if not thousands of records, which would incur disproportionate costs.

Casinos

Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will bring forward proposals to establish a parliamentary committee to consider the Casino Advisory Panel's report in respect of the regional casino and that of the House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee. [143186]

Mr. Caborn: Ministers are currently considering the options in the light of the defeat of The Gambling (Geographical Distribution of Casino Premises Licences) Order 2007 in the House of Lords on 28 March, and there is no set timetable for an announcement.

Departments: Pay

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many staff in her Department received bonus payments in 2006-07; what proportion of the total workforce they represented; what the total amount of bonuses paid was; what the largest single payment was; and if she will make a statement. [143098]

Mr. Lammy: The Department makes bonus payments to its staff for two purposes:


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(a) Staff bonuses
2006-07

Number of staff awarded special bonuses

111

Percentage of workforce

21.5

Total value of special bonuses (£)

69,565


(b) Performance bonuses
2006-07

Number(1) of staff awarded performance bonuses

154

Percentage of workforce

29.9

Total value of performance bonuses(£)

343,595

(1) 2006-07 relates to the financial year Notes: 1. In any one year, some staff may receive both a special bonus and an end year performance bonus. 2. Performance bonus payments relate to performance in the previous year.

The largest single bonus payment was £10,000.

Digital Broadcasting

Mr. Jamie Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what work her Department has undertaken with (a) Age Concern, (b) the Royal National Institute for the Blind, (c) the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, (d) Copeland Borough Council, (e) the Citizens' Advice Bureau and (f) other public sector or charitable organisations in relation to digital switchover in October 2007. [142842]

Mr. Woodward: DCMS and Digital UK work closely with leading charities through the Digital Switchover Consumer Expert Group. Representatives include Age Concern, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf and the Citizens' Advice Bureau.

Digital UK is running an ongoing programme of drop-in sessions at a number of locations in the Border TV region and is in Whitehaven this week with the national roadshow.

Copeland borough council hosts the Digital Switchover Steering Group which meets every month. There are a number of joint events with Digital UK, including public meetings. In addition, Digital UK contributes to the council's newsletter with contributions, information and updates on switchover in the area.

In Copeland, Digital UK co-locate their offices with Age Concern North West Cumbria (ACNWC) and all ACNWC staff have been trained to provide support on the digital switchover. Digital UK also work closely with the West Cumbria Society for the Blind, with whom they held a joint event at the beginning of the month. Digital UK also hold joint events with the Cumbria Deaf Association and have worked with the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

Mr. Jamie Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what work her Department is undertaking to develop public service applications delivered via digital television; and if she will make a statement. [142847]


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Mr. Woodward: A return path, which would facilitate interactivity with public service applications via digital television, is not currently a requirement for set-top boxes provided by the Digital Switchover Help Scheme. However, officials continue to have discussions with various parties about how these services might be delivered, and the requirements for Help Scheme set-top boxes are kept under review so that equipment will be updated so as best to meet the needs of the groups the scheme is intended to serve.


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