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3 Nov 2008 : Column 59W—continued

Armed Forces: Housing

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans his Department has to tackle the issue of empty service properties. [232063]

Mr. Kevan Jones: We have initiatives in place to reduce the number of empty service family accommodation properties. These include bringing forward decisions on the future use of sites. This will help to clarify the requirement for associated service family accommodation. We are also seeking to dispose of surplus properties more quickly.

At two sites, service family accommodation for which there is no medium-term requirement is being made available to the public on short-term leases.

With around 20,000 moves in the UK each year, there will always be a need for a management margin of empty properties to ensure that homes are available when service families need them.

Armed Forces: Intimidation

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps have been taken in response to the recommendation of the Deepcut Review to issue to each recruit an induction booklet explaining procedures and sanctions relating to bullying and harassment. [232345]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: All recruits are given information on arrival including: what is expected of them and how they can be expected to be treated; definitions of bullying and harassment; and what to do if it is experienced; and contact details for sources of support and advice.

The Royal Navy issues the booklet ‘Diversity, Equality and You’, the Army issues the booklet ‘The ARTD Code of Conduct and Behaviour for Recruits’ and the RAF issues the booklet ‘Combating Bullying and Harassment in the Royal Air Force’.

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many complaints by new recruits to the armed forces of bullying or harassment were (a) made, (b) upheld and (c) not upheld in 2007. [232346]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Officials are collating the information requested. When this work is complete I will write to my hon. Friend.

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Armed Forces: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what budget has been allocated to the armed forces for dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (a) in conflict zones, (b) on leave and (c) on discharge from the forces in 2008-09. [225659]

Mr. Hutton: Funding for the treatment of mental health conditions, of which post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is only one (and not the predominant) diagnosis, is provided from a number of budget areas within the Ministry of Defence.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, we deploy highly skilled and experienced uniformed mental health nurses to provide the necessary in-theatre care and treatment for all our personnel. Funding for these personnel, and all associated treatment costs, are provided from overall operational budgets.

In the UK, the majority of treatment is provided on an out-patient basis, through our 15 military Departments of Community Mental Health (DCMH) across the UK (plus satellite centres overseas), and funding for these falls to the Single Service Commands. It is not possible to separate out costs from overall unit medical budgets.

In the relatively few cases where in-patient care is required, it is currently provided under external contract. In the last financial year (2007-08), the total contract costs were £3.87 million. Within this total figure, the costs of treating patients who were admitted with a primary working diagnosis of PTSD was £388,000. Note that PTSD can be caused by a range of circumstances and final diagnosis might differ from the initial assessment.

Once individuals are discharged from the armed forces, responsibility for their health care falls to the NHS—this has been the policy of successive Governments since 1948. There are three main exceptions. First, the Reserves Mental Health Programme (RMHP) provides a mental health assessment plus, if necessary, out-patient treatment at a DCMH, to any current or former member of the UK Volunteer and Regular Reserves who has been demobilised since 1 January 2003 following an overseas operational deployment as a reservist, and who believes that the deployment may have adversely affected their mental health. Medical staffs who provide these assessments and treatment do so as part of their overall duties and are not uniquely engaged on the RMHP; it is not therefore possible to provide an overall cost of the programme without incurring disproportionate cost.

Second, the Medical Assessment Programme (MAP) based at St. Thomas' Hospital, London also offers help for veterans with mental health symptoms. Originally established in 1993 for veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf conflict, the MAP is now available for those with operational service from 1982 (including veterans of the Falklands campaign). Veterans who have recently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan may also attend if their Service Medical Officer or General Practitioner thinks it would help. The total costs of this programme could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Finally, the MOD funds war pensioners undergoing treatment at the Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society (‘Combat Stress’) homes. MOD gave Combat Stress £2.5 million in individual fees in 2006-07 and agreed, in
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October 2007, to a phased increase of 45 per cent. to reflect the build-up of staff and capability.

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the number of former members of the armed forces diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [232096]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The healthcare of veterans is principally a matter for the national health service and the four UK health Departments, reflecting the need to provide expert care close to an individual's home and family. Information has not been collected on how many former members of the armed forces were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in each of the last five years. However, a sample survey on psychiatric morbidity is currently being carried out by the Office for National Statistics; this includes questions allowing identification of veterans, the time at which they served and whether any traumatic experience that may have caused their condition took place in service. This will allow a clearer understanding of the extent and nature of veterans' mental health problems. In addition, in 2003 we commissioned Kings College London to undertake a study of the health outcomes for some 20,000 personnel deployed to Iraq or in a non-deployed comparator group. This includes analysis of mental health outcomes which so far shows that generally there is not a higher incidence of mental health problems among those deployed though there were some specific areas of concern, notably among reservists; we have taken steps to address this by offering those with operational service since 2003 access to defence medical services where appropriate, for assessment and treatment.

We will continue to monitor carefully the research, which has now been extended to cover in addition personnel deployed to Afghanistan.

Armed Forces: Postal Services

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many parcels sent to members of the armed forces serving in operations abroad under the free parcel service were (a) delayed and (b) destroyed in the last period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [232098]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Between September 2007 and August 2008, BFPO customer services has recorded 234 cases where customers have reported lost/damaged/delayed mail under the Families Free Mail Service, against an assessed throughput of 7.2 million items of mail under this service.

Armed Forces: Security

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received on the broadcast of the Undercover Soldier programme by the British Broadcasting Corporation; what measures are in place to control covert recording of (a) sensitive and (b) defence establishments; and if he will make a statement. [232095]

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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: We have received fewer than 10 representations since the broadcast of the Undercover Soldier programme by the British Broadcasting Corporation.

A range of measures are in place for the protective security of MOD establishments. These include perimeter and access control measures to prevent unauthorised access.

Departmental guidance instructs all MOD civilian and Service personnel (including recruits) on the risks and threats associated with image and audio recording and of the appropriate countermeasures. The use of any device to capture images is prohibited on MOD premises and, unless specifically authorised, privately owned mobile phones are not to be used to capture images of MOD information, equipments, personnel or activities.

Armed Forces: Training

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the status is of the behavioural standards identified in the Defence Instructor Handbook; if he will introduce a code of practice throughout the training estate to ensure that breach of such standards is admissible in evidence in a charge of ill-treatment of subordinates; and if he will place in the Library a copy of the Defence Instructor Handbook. [230820]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The behavioural standards identified in the Defence Instructor Handbook as the Defence Code of Practice for Instructors are currently presented as a guide to prohibited practices between instructors and student and are applicable across the initial training environment. Failure to adhere to the code would be viewed as a professional failing which could be addressed through the application of appropriate administrative action or dealt with as a disciplinary matter. A breach of the code could be used as evidence to support a charge. I will place copies of the Handbook in the Library of the House.

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps have been taken in response to recommendation 8 of the Blake review for a regular Army Training and Recruitment Agency audit of the physical and psychological environment of the training estate to be conducted. [232431]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Army Recruiting and Training Division (ARTD), formerly the Army Training and Recruitment Agency, uses the army assurance framework to meet the audit requirements of recommendation 8. The approach is designed to support a culture of continuous improvement and addresses all aspects of training including the trainee learning experience. This includes regular inspections by various parties, as follows:

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The audit of the physical training estate is conducted through the integrated estate management plans (IEMPs). Since 2003 the MOD has improved some 20,000 single living bed spaces for the armed forces, and this will increase to 50,000 by 2013. In total the MOD plans to spend some £8.4 billion on living accommodation over the next decade, which includes £3 billion on delivering new build and upgraded accommodation. Phase One trainees are housed in dormitories which are partitioned into three separate areas, each with four beds, with individual wardrobes and storage cupboards providing a degree of individual privacy. On each floor there are four dormitories, with dedicated sanitary facilities, utility rooms, baggage stores, and communal and recreation areas. A platoon office and a ‘duty of care' en suite bedroom are located on each floor, to ensure good visibility of personnel passing through the communal areas.

Armed Forces: Vetting

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Criminal Records Bureau checks have been conducted in connection with the appointment of instructors in each of the armed services; and how many and what proportion of appointments have been blocked as a result of vetting procedures. [230790]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: In addition to the previous categories of personnel (service and civilian) for whom Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks could be made, since July 2007 we have been able to carry out CRB checks on those who care for, train, supervise or are solely in charge of service personnel aged under 18 in the armed forces, and on the supervisors or managers of such individuals.

Centrally held information on behalf of the Royal Navy and Army does not separately identify instructors from other categories of personnel who are also checked. The number of checks of RAF personnel which have been conducted in connection with the appointment of instructors. This number is 443, of whom five have been blocked as a result of the vetting procedures (just over 1 per cent.). A further 100 RAF checks are currently being processed.

China: Military Alliances

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received from the Chinese Government on military co-operation. [232062]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: We have received no such representations.

However, as I said in my answer to the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) on 6 October 2008, Official Report, column 242W, my right hon. Friend’s predecessor met the Deputy Chief of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff in June this year and discussed a range of issues relating to Afghanistan.

This meeting fell within the bounds of the Government’s policy on our bilateral defence engagement with China,
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which I explained in detail during the Adjournment debate on 28 October 2008, Official Report, column 225WH.

Colchester Garrison: Housing

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether service personnel at Colchester Garrison have been accommodated in hotels in the last month. [232421]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Some service personnel were temporarily accommodated in hotels in the last month due to emergency works at the Colchester Garrison Warrant Officer’s and Sergeants’ Mess. The maximum number of personnel affected at any one time was 27.

Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the proposal to establish a Co-operative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence under the auspices of NATO; and what the terms of reference are for this Centre of Excellence. [230577]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The United Kingdom is fully supportive of the Estonian Cyber Defence initiative and their endeavours in this important area.

NATO describes the Mission and Focus of the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (Estonia) as:


Given the need to coordinate Cyber Defence with a number of other Government Departments and Allies, our preferred means of support is via virtual participation, rather than attach personnel permanently to Estonia. The United Kingdom is not a founding signatory nation to the NATO Centre of Excellence but we will keep our position under review.

Defence Equipment

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the short examination of the equipment programme, announced by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces on 19 June 2008, to be completed; whether he plans to publish the findings; and if he will make a statement. [231768]

Mr. Quentin Davies: The examination of the equipment programme is continuing. I envisage that the results of the examination will provide an important input to our 2009 planning round, which will be completed in spring 2009. We will announce significant decisions affecting projects as soon as we are able to do so.

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Defence Estates: Animal Welfare

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which Minister in his Department has responsibility for animal welfare on the defence estate. [232039]

Mr. Kevan Jones: As the Under-Secretary of State and Minister for veterans I have responsibility for the welfare of military working animals.

Farmers who hold a tenancy for land on the defence estate are responsible for the welfare of their animals.

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