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This Department accepts that some SFA properties are not of a standard that our service personnel and their families deserve and steps are being taken to address this. Since 2001, in Great Britain nearly 13,000 SFA have been upgraded to S1fC, with some 600 of the worse condition properties to be upgraded this year and a further 800 in each year thereafter. In Great Britain, no service family will be required to live in S4fC accommodation by the end of this financial year.
Regarding overseas SFA, 650 properties will be upgraded to S1fC this year on the overseas estate, of which 500 will be upgraded under the hired accommodation review programme in Germany which also looks to replace flats with houses. In Cyprus, work is under way to upgrade 269 of the worse condition properties.
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Ministry of Defence recognises the immense importance for our deployed personnel and their families of maintaining a fast and reliable mail service to and from operational theatres. The only circumstance in which mail is not moved as the highest priority is when there is an overriding requirement to support ongoing operations, for example the movement of critical combat supplies, or the provision of essential water and rations.
Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the conclusions were of the evaluation in 2007 of the use and effectiveness of procedures for seeking confirmation of self-declared medical and social histories to determine the suitability of an applicant for employment in the army; and what progress has been made in extending these procedures throughout HM armed services. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Since 2004, the Army has sought to obtain a recruit's medical records on arrival at the phase 1 training establishment, together with a completed medical questionnaire during the recruiting process, from the recruit's GP. No formal evaluation of this policy was conducted in 2007. However the Army considers this to be a highly effective way of helping to identify particularly vulnerable recruits during the recruiting process and at the very start of basic training. As a result the Army has been able to ensure that recruits have the appropriate support throughout their time in the Army training system. The procedures were extended to Territorial Army selection in April 2007.
The RAF operates a different system and does not routinely seek to obtain medical information from applicants' GPs, other than for those applying for commissioned officer (or non-commissioned aircrew) service.
Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what procedures are in place in the armed forces to consider and act upon recommendations following Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigations; what HSE reports were received in 2007; and what steps were taken as a result of each. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The procedures for consideration and acting upon recommendations following HSE investigations are contained within Ministry of Defence policy documentation joint service publication 815Defence Environment and Safety Management, Annex L and JSP 375The MOD health and safety handbook, volume 2 leaflet 14.
Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the Atomic Weapons Establishment report on the effects of extreme weather events and flooding at its Burghfield and Aldermaston nuclear warhead development and production sites in July 2007; how much the remedial action taken as a result of the report has cost to date; and what assessment he has made of the sustainability of (a) AWE Aldermaston and (b) AWE Burghfield. 
Mr. Quentin Davies: Following the extremely heavy rainfall on 20 July 2007, immediate action was taken by AWE plc., with the agreement of MOD, to prevent any reoccurrence of the flooding. These measures proved effective when further extreme weather conditions were subsequently experienced across the country.
AWE prepared a comprehensive review, learn and improve (RLI) assessment report following the flooding to ensure the continued safety of both sites. The MOD endorsed this report, and its recommendations, many of which were under way or implemented prior to its publication. The nuclear installations inspectorate has remained content that nuclear site licence requirements have been met both during and subsequent to the periods of exceptional rainfall.
The disruption caused by the flooding had no adverse effect on the UK deterrent programme, and both Aldermaston and Burghfield sites maintained the capability safely to support the deterrent. Knowledge gained from
the events following the flooding has been taken into account in taking forward the programme of investment under way at AWE announced in July 2005, which will ensure that this capability is sustained into the future. Specifically, flood prevention measures continue to be included in designs for replacement facilities and the potential risk from flooding forms a key element of planning applications to the local planning authority.
Mr. Kevan Jones: The MOD has undertaken three studies on the health effects of beryllium between 1979 and 1990 as part of an ongoing commitment to the health and safety of its employees. These studies involved 338 individual tests for an allergy to beryllium. Sixteen positive test results were found from workers at the Atomic Weapons Establishments at Aldermaston and Cardiff. The significance of positive tests remains uncertain and no firm conclusions can be drawn.
MOD continues to evaluate and contribute to the understanding of the possible health effects of beryllium through AWEs contribution to national and international industry working groups on the subject.
The MOD art collection consists of works of fine art in a range of media; sculpture, furniture, clocks, photographs, manuscripts, prints and ships figureheads. Everything in the collection is owned by the taxpayer, as opposed to the various regimental mess and ward room collections, which are owned by mess members.
Most of the works in the MOD art collection archive have been presented, donated or bequeathed to the Admiralty or to the War Office over the last 300 years. Works representing the activities and history of the RAF are less well represented in the archive. Items from the archive are displayed all over the defence estate and in residences of senior officials. As a general rule, taxpayers money is not used to acquire works of art; but to protect, conserve and display those works for which the MOD is responsible. The very best works of art are on long-term loan to various public art galleries and museums.
Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the five most serious disciplinary breaches in his Department were in the last 12 months; and what steps were taken in response to each breach. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: The most serious of disciplinary offences in the MOD are identified as those amounting to gross misconduct. Charges of gross misconduct are considered by deciding officers at senior civil service (or equivalent) level.
Although there is no official categorisation of such offences into an order of seriousness, the most serious gross misconduct offences in the last 12 months have included negligence causing injury to others, failure to declare criminal convictions and a number of thefts of MOD property and fraud. These cases resulted in dismissal. Procedures and policies are revised as appropriate in the light of such cases.
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what sanctions are available in cases of departmental staff found to have committed disciplinary offences; and how many times each has been used in each of the last three years. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: The Ministry of Defence has a range of penalties that may be applied to those civil servants found to have committed disciplinary offences. Minor offences attract a formal warning, but the number of such warnings has not been recorded centrally. For more major offences, penalties include reprimand; loss of pay (for one, five or 10 days); downgrading with a ban on promotion for up to three years; or dismissal. Penalties may be accompanied by restitution if appropriate according to centrally available records, the number of such penalties has been as follows:
It is possible that these figures do not give a fully complete view, as they were managed locally and not all may have been reported to the central conduct unit. Since October 2007, all cases have been centrally monitored and recorded by the People Pay and Pensions Agency.
Mr. Quentin Davies: The Ministry of Defence has a lease/hire agreement in place for the provision of the majority of non-operational cars (white fleet vehicles). It does not therefore own such vehicles under this arrangement. As at 20 October 2008 there were 7,177 cars leased under the contract for the UK, of these 3,730 were British built.
Some units may arrange for the ad hoc supply of a very small quantity of cars to be provided through local arrangements. These details are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Information on the small number of cars owned by Ministry of Defence for use on operations is being withheld as its release would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the annual (a) staffing and (b) other office costs of the office of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Minister for Veterans is. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: The staffing cost of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Minister for Veterans for the financial year 2007-08 was £395,297. In addition to the development and delivery of policy, the staff work load incorporates the processing of over 1,650 parliamentary questions and around 3,300 letters from MPs and peers each year. The cost includes a proportion of support staff costs shared between defence ministerial offices. Additional office costs separately identifiable for financial year 2007-08 were £33,368; this figure excludes shared building and office services.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many officials from his Department have been seconded to work for private companies in the last five years, broken down by (a) grade, (b) salary band and (c) company. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: Centrally held records since 1 April this year show that the Department currently has no officials seconded to work for private companies. Secondments prior to 1 April 2008 were arranged locally by business partners and this information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 21 October 2008, Official Report, column 191W, on departmental sick leave, what management areas would need to be surveyed to determine the number of staff on gardening leave. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: In order to ascertain the number of staff who are on gardening leave at a particular time, it would be necessary to survey the individual line managers of some 750 staff in the redeployment pool (who are given priority in consideration for new posts), spread across all areas of the Department, to find out whether they were currently unable, exceptionally, to provide such staff with work.
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many ex-armed services personnel have received specialist advice at each of the six pilot schemes offering such advice in the community. 
Mr. Kevan Jones:
The health care of veterans is a matter for the national health service and the four UK health departments. Information has not yet been collected
on how many ex-armed service personnel have received specialist advice at each of the pilots launched so far. Independent evaluation is an integral part of the project and one of the key aims will be to generate this information.
Mr. Kevan Jones: The NHS sites participating in the community mental health pilot scheme for veterans are: Stafford, Camden and Islington, Cardiff, Bishop Auckland, Plymouth and Scotland. In addition, to assist those veterans not in the catchment areas of one of the pilots, we have expanded our medical assessment programme based at St. Thomas' hospital, London, to include assessment of veterans with mental health symptoms with operational service since 1982.
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