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15 July 2008 : Column 297W—continued

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The through-life cost of powering the Future Aircraft Carriers with a combination of conventional gas turbines and diesel engines was considered during the assessment and demonstration phases of the project and selected as the
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preferred option for manufacture. On nuclear reactor plants, I refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave on 11 June 2008, Official Report, column 255W, and on 25 June 2008, Official Report, column 304W, to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock).

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the designs for Carrier Vessel Future have retained the option to install (a) catapults and (b) arrestor gear. [218470]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Yes. The adaptable design retains the option to install both catapults and arrestor gear.

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department has considered the potential installation of (a) steam-powered or (b) electro-magnetic catapults for the Carrier Vessel Future. [218471]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Yes. Both these options were considered during the assessment phase of the Future Aircraft Carrier project, prior to the adoption of the current adaptable design, configured for short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft.

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what UK involvement there is in the Electro-magnetic Aircraft Launch System project; and what estimate he has made of UK expenditure on the project to completion. [218472]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The UK has no direct involvement in the US Electro-magnetic Aircraft Launch System project and has not committed funds to this project.

Armed Conflict: Medals

Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the merits of awarding a veteran's badge to those who worked in munitions factories in the UK during the world wars; and if he will make a statement. [217157]

Derek Twigg: The Veterans Badge is designed explicitly to recognise those who have served at any time in the country's armed forces and it would not therefore be appropriate to extend this badge to those who worked in munitions factories in the UK during the World Wars. The Government hold in high esteem the contribution of all those who supported the war effort during these major periods of national conflict which has been recognised in a number of different ways depending on the particular group. Any question of a badge specifically for munitions workers would be a matter for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform which has legacy responsibility for those matters covered by the Ministry of Supply, including those who worked in the munitions industry.

Armed Forces: Delivery Services

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) which commercial undertakings do not acknowledge BFPO addresses for deliveries; [218363]

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(2) what steps he has taken to ensure that servicemen who receive their mail via BFPO addresses are not discriminated against by commercial undertakings; [218364]

(3) if he will make it his policy not to place departmental business with commercial undertakings which do not deliver to BFPO addresses. [218365]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 14 July 2008]: We are aware of a small number of commercial undertakings who do not acknowledge BFPO addresses for deliveries, however companies are free to make their own commercial decisions. In these circumstances, it is MOD policy to work with the organisations to persuade them to adapt their systems to accommodate BFPO addresses. BFPO is in negotiation with the Royal Mail Group, and its IT system providers to develop a technical solution, while continuing to implement successfully ‘work-around’ solutions with individual companies.

Approximately 1,500 commercial undertakings, including major mail order companies and carriers, have entered into contracts with BFPO and offer deliveries to BFPO addresses. A full list of these can be found on the BFPO website at

All MOD contracts are subject to Government procurement regulations and it would be unlawful to discriminate against any company.

Armed Forces: Disability Living Allowance

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) service personnel and (b) veterans are (i) waiting for and (ii) in redress of disability allowances being offered. [203985]

Derek Twigg: The Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA) administers two schemes under which disability allowances may become payable—the armed forces compensation scheme (AFCS) and the war pension scheme (WPS). In the case of AFCS, ongoing disability allowances are payable to the most seriously injured and this payment becomes due on discharge. Therefore there are no such claims for ongoing disability allowances outstanding for serving personnel. However the majority of awards comprise of a lump sum payment which may be paid in service or following service depending on when the individual decides to make a claim. WPS claims are always made and awarded following discharge.

SPVA records show that at 31 March 2008 the number of claims of disability related payments, in the process of consideration, against each scheme was 1,292 for serving personnel and veterans under AFCS and 7,238 for veterans under WPS. This does not constitute a backlog as the claims are at various stages of consideration in line with the normal procedures. In considering claims under both schemes, medical evidence of the condition(s) claimed, prognosis for recovery or enduring disability and evidence of the link to service is required. Depending on the complexity and needs of the individual cases, gaining sufficient information in order to properly inform the correct decision can take a varying amount of time.

With regard to the number of claims under redress both schemes offer an appeals process which utilises the independent Pension Appeal Tribunals (administered by the Ministry of Justice). Personnel may decide to
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appeal for a number of reasons such as the availability of additional information or because they disagree with any aspect of the decision made. The number of appeals currently in progress is 102 for AFCS and 565 for WPS.

Armed Forces: Food

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many operational ration packs his Department disposed of in each of the last five years. [218190]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 14 July 2008]: During the last five years, the MOD's Defence Storage and Distribution Agency has disposed of the following quantities of 24 hour operational ration packs (ORP):












Figures are not held centrally for disposal of ORPs issued to front line Commands and for use on operations.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much it cost his Department to procure an operational ration pack in the latest period for which figures are available. [218191]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 14 July 2008]: The cost of procurement of an operational ration pack is not held centrally and could be provided at only disproportionate cost.

The average cost of the components required to make one ORP are as follows:


24 hour general purpose ORP


24 hour Sikh/Hindu ORP


24 hour Halal ORP


24 hour vegetarian ORP


Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his Department's policy is on the use of operational ration packs which are approaching the end of their shelf life. [218192]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 14 July 2008]: All operational ration packs (ORP) components are intended to achieve a minimum of 24 months shelf life after production. A selection of each pack date is sent for analysis by the MOD contracted chemist at the 18 month point. Depending on the recommendations made by the chemist the rations are then recommended for re-inspection in six months, three months or certified as no longer suitable for issue. This process is repeated until the rations are certified as no longer suitable for issue. A monthly report is issued to all units in the armed forces through front line Commands detailing the material condition of each pack date. Action is then taken to ensure that stocks are managed accordingly.

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Armed Forces: Housing

Mr. Henderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many houses on the Ministry of Defence estate in (a) the North of England and (b) Cumbria will be refurbished in each of the next five years. [217309]

Derek Twigg: Refurbishment of property is not readily distinguishable from other maintenance or upgrade expenditure when compiling data and planning for Service Families Accommodation (SFA).

The Upgrade Programme prioritises those properties identified as being in the greatest need.

There are no properties on the current upgrade programme in the north of England (defined as north of the Mersey/Humber).

Armed Forces: Manpower

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the Answer of 3 July 2008, Official Report, column 1035W, on armed forces: manpower, if he will make it his policy to collect such information centrally and place it in the Library. [218122]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Medical Employment Standard (MES) codes (and supporting codes showing Medical Limitations) are used to define an individual’s medical fitness and enable the communication of the necessary information to their career manager/chain of command without any breach of medical confidentiality. These codes are used to ensure that an individual is appropriately employed without unnecessarily endangering their own health or that of others. Historically, the codes have evolved along single-service lines and this presents difficulties in deriving a consistent, central view of medical employability across the services which has made it impractical to provide the information requested. Currently, the MES codes do not equate to medical ‘deployability’ (i.e. the fitness of an individual to deploy on operations).

A working group has been set up to define and plan a set of Joint MES codes and Medical Limitations against which all service personnel will be assessed for their deployability and employability status. This definition work is due to be complete by the end of 2008 and the changes will be implemented on relevant IT systems as soon as possible thereafter. Once in place, this system will provide centrally held information on fitness for employment and deployability. Once the system is in place we will consider the most appropriate means by which this information could be placed in the Library of the House.

It is the Department’s intention to maximise the employability and deployability of all individuals at all times. This means that an individual who is unfit for frontline operational duty may still be employable within his/her service. Each case is considered and managed on its individual merits.

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many service personnel there are, broken down by (a) service, (b) branch, (c) regiment and (d) trade. [218497]

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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I have placed the information requested in the Library of the House.

Armed Forces: Scotland

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will provide figures of sales and receipts of (a) substitute single living accommodation and (b) substitute service family accommodation housing in (i) Scotland and (ii) Northern Ireland in each year since 1995. [218439]

Derek Twigg: As substitute service family accommodation (SSFA) and substitute single service accommodation (SSSA) are sourced from the local commercial rental market, such properties are not owned by MOD and no receipts accrue to this Department. We cease paying rent when families vacate.

SSFA and SSSA are not used in Northern Ireland.

Army: Recruitment

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons the Army will not recruit a person with a known nut allergy. [218350]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 14 July 2008]: All Army personnel, regardless of their chosen trade, must be fit to serve anywhere in the world, in all environments and in locations where medical care may be limited or remote, and medical re-supply uncertain or impossible.

Regrettably, it is not possible to guarantee that food provided through the military catering system is nut-free. Labelling alone would not therefore provide a sufficient safeguard for an individual with a nut intolerance attempting to self-regulate their diet. Neither would it be practical to make special arrangements to accommodate people with such an allergy. It would therefore be highly irresponsible of the Army to employ an individual with such a condition.

For these reasons any recruit with a past history of food allergy is automatically graded as unfit for service, unless there is irrefutable evidence that they are no longer sensitive.

AWE Management: Manpower

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what changes there were in the staffing levels of the Atomic Weapons Establishment in each year since 2003; and what the reasons for each annual change were. [218756]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave on 17 June 2008, Official Report, column 849W and 7 July 2008, Official Report, column 1144W.

Defence: Foreign Investment in UK

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will discuss with the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Chancellor of the Exchequer the potential for national security implications to arise from overseas shareholdings in British defence companies. [217505]

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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: As the Government’s Defence Industrial Strategy (Cm6697) made clear, we welcome overseas investment in the UK’s Defence technological and industrial base. Transactions in the defence arena are closely monitored by Government Departments. Where a potential acquisition by a foreign company raises national security concerns, the Enterprise Act 2002 empowers the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, normally following consultation with Defence Ministers, to intervene in order to remedy those concerns, usually through statutory undertakings provided by the acquiring company.

Defence: Procurement

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to publish the revised version of the Defence Industrial Strategy. [218219]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I refer the hon. Member to the answer my noble Friend, Baroness Taylor of Bolton gave in the other place on 16 June 2008, Official Report, House of Lords, column 795, to the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever.

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