For reasons of confidentiality we are unable to release specific details of casualties without their explicit consent, or that of their family. Aggregated data on casualties is also included on the Ministry of Defence website at:
Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received from his US counterpart on military (a) force levels and (b) strategy in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. 
Des Browne [holding answer 7 February 2008]: I meet regularly with my NATO counterparts, including the US Defence Secretary, to discuss issues of mutual interest, including Afghanistan. NATO Defence Ministers last met on 7-8 February to discuss Afghanistan and other issues.
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Since the introduction of the free mail service for members of HM armed forces deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan began on 3 September 2007, the volume of mail to Afghanistan has increased by 95 per cent. compared to the same period in 2006-07.
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I am withholding the number of imagery analysts deployed in theatre as its disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces. However, the number of analysts required in theatre is kept under regular review by the Permanent Joint Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence.
Mr. Gerald Howarth:
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library copies of his Department's annual Royal Air Force (a) manpower strength planning assumptions, (b) manning and
training margins, (c) baseline strength projection and (d) aircrew sustainability assessment for financial years 1997-98 to 2006-07. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The reports requested contain large amounts of unrounded data. The unrounded data would need to be rounded in line with National Statistics protocols, and the forecast assumptions would need to be redacted, prior to the documents being placed in the Library, both of which actions could be done only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library copies of his Departments quarterly forecast of Royal Air Force manpower for each quarter since the beginning of 1997-98. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The reports showing the quarterly forecasts of RAF manpower contain large amounts of unrounded data. This data would need to be rounded prior to the documents being placed in the Library, in line with National Statistics protocols, and could be done only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The future aircraft carriers have been designed to support a Joint Force Air Group including the Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) and a mix of helicopters which we expect will initially include Sea King Mk 7 and Merlin. We will set the in-service date for the JCA capability when the programme reaches sufficient maturity and we make the main investment decision, and we will continue to manage carefully the transition from Harrier to JCA.
Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises in the north east arising from the ordering of the two aircraft carriers. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: BAE Systems Submarine Solutions has recently selected two north east companies, McNulty and A&P, to form the Tyne Carrier Association, which will make a significant contribution to the manufacturing phase of the Future Carrier project (CVF). In addition, we would expect there to be extensive opportunities for further sub-contracts arising from CVF, both in the north east and throughout the UK.
Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the effects of the placing of the order for two aircraft carriers on the skills base of the UK maritime industry; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: We expect current programmes, including the future aircraft carrier programme, to ensure the retention of key skills and capabilities in the UK maritime industry in the short to medium term. The Defence Industrial Strategy defined the key maritime industrial skills and capabilities we need to retain on shore to support the needs of the Royal Navy in the longer term. We are therefore working with the shipbuilding industry to agree the core work load required to sustain these high-end design, systems engineering and combat systems integration skills across the maritime sector.
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: There are no estimates of the value of such work to the North East economy. However, industry in the North East is expected to be involved in the carrier project through the Tyne Carrier Association which BAE Systems Submarine Solutions intends to form with McNulty and A&P. In addition, we would expect there to be opportunities for further subcontracts and involvement of the supply chain, both in the North East and throughout the UK.
Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his Department plans to spend on improving (a) accommodation and (b) training facilities for armed forces personnel in Northern Ireland in 2008-09. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: We plan to spend the following on constructing new and upgrading existing accommodation and training facilities in Northern Ireland in 2008-09. It should be noted that these are estimated figures only at this stage.
|Amount to be spent
Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many former service personnel who served in Northern Ireland have received compensation from the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme in the last 10 years. 
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in relation to the compensation scheme for former civilian internees of the Japanese during the second world war, on what grounds applications from British nationals whose births were registered in British consulates abroad or on board British ships may be
rejected; where the original birth certificates are lodged in the UK birth registers; and if he will make a statement. 
Derek Twigg: The eligibility requirements for former civilian internees under the Government's ex-gratia payment scheme for former far east prisoners of war and civilian internees are that the applicant was British at the time of internment, that they were interned by the Japanese in a specifically designated camp and that they have a close link with the UK. A close-link has, since July 2005, been determined by residence-based criteria. We do not consider that the place at which a birth was registered or at which the birth certificate is held establishes a close link to the UK. The hon. Member will be aware that a criterion based on birthlink to the UK, where there was no residence link to the UK, has already been found unlawful on the basis of indirect racial discrimination.
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Security of supply and the availability of sufficient high quality ammunition to frontline commands remains a top priority. The majority of the UK general munitions requirement is secured through a Framework Partnering Agreement with BAES Land Systems Munitions. This agreement is due to end in 2010 and we are currently working with industry to develop the future solution that will ensure continuing security of supply and deliver value for money to the taxpayer beyond 2010. We expect to make an investment decision in spring 2008.
As a result of the pace of current operations, we have seen a large increase in the demand for munitions, both for operations and for training in preparation for operations. Despite this significant challenge, we have consistently supplied sufficient volumes of ammunition to meet these commitments. Industry, both in the UK and overseas, has shown great commitment and flexibility in rising successfully to this challenge.
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) financial support and (b) child care provision his Department provides for the families of service personnel deployed on operations. 
Derek Twigg: Service personnel deployed on operations benefit from a variety of allowances including Longer Separation Allowance, Operational Allowance and Council Tax Relief; which are clearly of benefit to their families too. The Deployment Welfare Package also includes support for the families of those deployed through the Families Welfare Grant. In addition, the immediate family of an accompanied Regular Service person who is deployed on operations is entitled to travel at public expense to allow the family to benefit from support of their close relatives during extended periods of deployment by their Service spouse or civil partner.
The Government announced on 8 November 2007 work to develop the first-ever cross-Government Strategy for supporting our service personnel, their families and veterans. The Command Paper will outline steps taken so far and future initiatives to enhance the Governments support.
Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many people with coeliac disease were discharged from the (a) Royal Air Force, (b) Army and (c) Royal Navy in each of the last five years; 
Derek Twigg: The Defence Analytical Services Agency is currently validating its 2006 and 2007 discharge data and as such no figures are available for this time period. In 2003-05, there was one medical discharge where the principal disability leading to discharge was coeliac disease.
The armed forces as far as possible aim to meet the needs of those personnel who, during their service, develop medical conditions such as coeliac disease which require careful dietary management. Should an individual develop a medical condition which may require special dietary management during service, their condition would be catered for wherever practicable and the necessary foodstuffs and/or medication provided. Specific advice is also provided to personnel with special dietary requirements by dieticians, via their medical officer.
Derek Twigg: Between 6 April 2005 and 31 December 2007, the following payments have been made under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme to claimants recorded on the Compensation and Pension System Database as living in the London region:
Thirty-five payments have been made as a result of injury claims.
Less than five payments have been made as a result of survivors' claims.
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the incidence of corneal ulcers is among (a) contact lens wearing and (b) all British service
personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; and what steps his Department is taking to reduce this rate. 
Derek Twigg: The Defence Medical Services have treated a total of 30 cases of corneal ulcers in personnel who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres of operation, all of whom are contact lens wearers. 28 of these served in Iraq, and two in Afghanistan.
The Defence Medical Services (DMS) are always looking at ways in which cases of corneal ulcers can be reduced in service personnel. There is evidence of improving safety and efficacy of laser eye surgery and DMS specialists are currently engaged in reviewing this evidence in the military context.
Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the adequacy of the (a) free and (b) fee paying communication facilities for service personnel on operational tours. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The ratio of internet access points to personnel was originally set when it was expected that the provision would be used for little more than email. Ratios of internet provision have since been improved to reflect the greater demand on the service in line with increased popularity. The ratio of access points to individuals is currently 1:50 which is assessed to be sufficient for welfare purposes in accordance with current patterns of usage. Options to improve ratios further are under consideration as part of the process of continuous improvement. There is no fee-paying aspect to the MOD provided welfare internet service.
Personnel are provided with an allocation of 30 minutes of free telephone calls per week. The Department is increasing the number of welfare telephones by 20 per cent. which is assessed to be adequate based on current demand.
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of the (a) armed forces, (b) Army, (c) Navy and (d) Royal Air Force are (i) deployed on operations and (ii) conducting other military tasks. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The percentage of each service deployed on operations or undertaking other military tasks in the second quarter of 2007-08 (the latest period for which validated data is available) is as follows:
|Other military tasks