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Water: Low Incomes

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government have taken to assist low income families with the costs of sewage and water pipe repairs. [227815]

Jane Kennedy [holding answer 21 October 2008]: There is no specific assistance available to low income families towards the costs of sewage or water pipe repairs. All water companies do however offer some degree of free or subsidised repair and replacement for domestic customers’ water supply pipes. This is undertaken as a leakage control measure as part of the water companies’ statutory duty to promote the efficient use of water by their customers. The exact nature of the repair policy and any restrictions to that policy are dependent on the water company and its operating conditions.


Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on what date (a) his Department and (b) the Advisory Committee on Pesticides was first informed by the manufacturers that the hormone-based weed killer aminopyralid or similar chemical formulations were capable of surviving ingestion by horses or cows, and being composted in manure, and then having adverse effects on crops treated with the manure. [229905]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The properties of the group of herbicides to which aminopyralid belongs—pyridine carboxylic acids—have long been recognised. As a result of this, when the Advisory Committee on Pesticides considered the evaluation of aminopyralid in 2005 it concluded that products containing it should carry warnings on their labels that manure that could contain aminopyralid should not be used on susceptible crops, or on land intended for growing such crops, until all plant material had fully decomposed.

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on what date members of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides were first informed that aminopyralid or similar chemical formulations had been found to cause adverse effects outside the United Kingdom on crops when manure made from animal waste from animals that had grazed pasture treated with these chemicals was spread on land growing such crops. [229907]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The potential of aminopyralid and other pyridine carboxylic acid herbicides to produce the effects observed were taken into account when the Advisory Committee on Pesticides considered this pesticide in 2005. That this group of chemicals can produce these effects has been known since at least the 1980s.

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Written Questions: Government Responses

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he will answer question (a) 224594, (b) 224593, (c) 224886, (d) 224812, (e) 224627, (f) 224808, (g) 225455, (h) 225510, (i) 223902, (j) 224809, (k) 223900, (l) 224810, (m) 223893, (n) 223899, (o) 223901, (p) 224196 and (q) 224595. [226823]

Huw Irranca-Davies: I can confirm the following:


Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which districts of Helmand Province are deemed to be (a) under UK, ISAF and NATO forces or the Afghan Government control, (b) under Taliban control and (c) in indeterminate control; and if he will make a statement. [227374]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 21 October 2008]: International Security Assistance Force, the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of Afghanistan have established a security presence in the districts of Lashkar Gar, Nahr-e Saraj (Gereshk), Musa Qal'ah, Sangin, Garmsir, Kajaki, Nawah-ye Barakzai and Nad Ali. Operations against the Taliban in Helmand continue, with the purpose of bringing more of the province under the control of the Afghan Government.

However, the insurgents continue to pose a threat through improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers and opportunistic attacks.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the number of casualties of (a) insurgents and (b) civilians in Helmand Province in Afghanistan in 2007-08. [227973]

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Mr. Hutton: We do not routinely collate data on the number of insurgents killed by UK forces in Afghanistan. Collecting and verifying data is extremely difficult given the nature of the conflict. As we have said repeatedly, our long-term strategy towards defeating the insurgency in Afghanistan is through a wide range of military and non-military activity and not through an attritional, purely military campaign.

We regret incidents where civilians are accidentally killed as a result of actions by international forces. Procedures are in place, and being constantly updated in the light of experience, both to minimise the risk of these casualties occurring and to investigate any incidents that do happen. Wherever possible, local populations are warned of impending operations. We should remember the insurgents are the real threat to the safety and security of the Afghan people by their indiscriminate use of violence. ISAF forces are not present on a permanent basis in many parts of Helmand province, which makes it difficult to monitor atrocities against the civilian population by the Taliban. It is therefore impossible to estimate with any confidence the number of civilian casualties in Helmand province in 2007-08 that have been caused by the current conflict.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what reports he has received of recent comments by President Zardari about the position of the Taliban in the conflict in Afghanistan; what assessment he has made of those comments; and whether he has responded to them. [229819]

Mr. Hutton: Since the welcome return of a democratically elected Government in Pakistan, the Government have maintained close contact with President Zardari, his Cabinet and senior officers in the Pakistan military. International co-operation is central to our efforts in the region and I welcome the Government of Pakistan’s commitment to countering terrorism as a top priority. While I cannot discuss specific comments that President Zardari has made recently, we continually emphasise the important role that a stable and democratic Pakistan has to play in delivering success in Afghanistan and that both our and Pakistan’s interests are placed in jeopardy by Taliban operating from within its borders.

Armed Forces: Conditions of Employment

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent steps the Government have taken to uphold the military covenant. [228113]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The Government are fully committed to meeting their responsibilities for serving personnel, veterans and their families. This includes a long-standing programme of improvements covering, for example, service pay, accommodation, health and welfare provision, force protection and personal equipment. This was reinforced in July 2008 when we published the Service Personnel Command Paper. The paper sets out our commitment to a package of over 40 measures in the fields of education and skills, childcare provision, benefits, career building, support for our Foreign and Commonwealth Service personnel and a doubling of the lump sum payments for the most serious injuries under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme. It also outlines further improvements we have made recently in
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health, housing and support for bereaved families. This is the first cross-Government strategy for service personnel and it sets the standard for the level and scope of support that they, their families and veterans can expect.

We recognise that there is a wider national responsibility for supporting our armed forces and the independent Report of Inquiry into National Recognition of our Armed Forces published in May sets out a number of recommendations to encourage both wider public support for the armed forces and recognition of their contribution to the nation; the Government have made clear their broad support for the recommendations of this report and will publish their detailed response shortly.

Service chiefs have confirmed that the military covenant is not broken.

Armed Forces: Diabetes

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether (a) the Army, (b) the Royal Navy and (c) the Royal Air Force have policies in place to prevent discrimination against personnel with diabetes on the basis of their condition. [229438]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The armed forces' policies are intended to protect sufferers of diabetes from military circumstances which may adversely impact upon their condition and to ensure the effectiveness of the armed forces. For example, a diabetic individual deployed on operations may experience difficulties in monitoring blood or urinary glucose levels; accessing medication; taking regular meals; maintaining a regular sleep pattern; accessing shared-care diabetic clinics; and accessing specialist services such as ophthalmology or chiropody. Such circumstances would adversely impact upon their diabetic control, thus increasing their risk of micro and macrovascular complications. Furthermore, an uncontrolled diabetic may constitute a risk not only to themselves, but also to others in a military or operational context. The single services manage individuals who develop diabetes during their service careers, according to their specific operational requirements and each case will be considered on an individual basis.

Armed Forces: Health Services

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the defence casualty welfare package includes; and how much the daily payment towards meeting expenses incurred for the use of (a) television, (b) internet and (c) telephone at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at Selly Oak is. [220597]

Mr. Kevan Jones: There is a range of existing support for patients that includes both direct financial and indirect financial elements; the drawing together of these elements is informally called the casualty welfare package.

The financial allowances that military patients receive are dependent on their individual circumstances. All patients hospitalised for one or more nights receive incidental expenses (£5 per 24-hour period) and those hospitalised for periods of 10 days or more receive longer separation allowance (ranging from £6.38 to £26.94 per day). Operational casualties hospitalised after starting to receive the operational allowance will continue to receive the allowance for the duration of their planned deployment (£13.08 per day).

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Armed Forces: Helicopters

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many days on average an RAF helicopter was (a) on operations, (b) engaged in non-operational flying, (c) available but not flown, (d) in scheduled maintenance, (e) undergoing other repair activity, (f) undergoing unscheduled maintenance, (g) awaiting spares and (h) not worked in each of the last three years, broken down by type of helicopter. [230173]

Mr. Quentin Davies: The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Armed Forces: Housing

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many units of (a) single living and (b) service family accommodation in the UK were occupied at the latest date for which figures are available. [220659]

Mr. Kevan Jones: In the UK, in excess of 80,000 single living accommodation bed-spaces and 40,000 service family accommodation properties are currently occupied.

Armed Forces: Manpower

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many pinch point trades there were in each service in each year since 2003. [230168]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The inclusion of a trade on the pinch point register is subjective. There are a variety of factors, not of all which reflect a manning shortfall that will determine the inclusion of a trade. Single services review their list quarterly. Recent improvements in the analysis of problem trades has narrowed the focus on trades to specific rank ranges or has sub-divided a trade in order to better focus resources at the problem. This has led in part to the gradual rise in the number of pinch points. For example Merlin Aircrew has now been sub-divided into Merlin pilots, Observers and Aircrewman. By narrowing the focus into rank areas such as Infantry Pte-LCpl resources are better focused and the impact more apparent.






















Armed Forces: Pensions

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much was paid (a) by (i) employees and (ii) employers into and (b) to those receiving pensions payments from the armed forces pension scheme in each of the last five years. [229434]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The armed forces pension scheme (AFPS) is a non-contributory scheme. When pensions become payable the cost is met from Government revenues
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at that time. There is no pension fund or deficit. Income from employers' contributions is used to offset the costs of paying benefits to pensioners each financial year. Minimal income is received from armed forces personnel who opt to make additional voluntary contributions (AVCs) or to purchase added years.

The amounts contributed and paid under the AFPS for financial years 2002-03 to 2006-07 are set out in the following table:

2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07

Employer contributions (£ billion)






Employee contributions from AVCs/purchase of added years (£ million)






Pensions in payment (£ billion)






Note: The AFPS Resource Accounts for financial year 2007-08 have yet to be finalised and published.

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