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4 Nov 2008 : Column 292W—continued

Parades Commission: Public Relations

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what public relations companies are contracted to the Northern Ireland Parades Commission to provide a media handling service; and how much they were paid in each year since 2004-05. [232869]

Paul Goggins: This is an operational matter for the Parades Commission. I have asked the Parades Commission secretary to reply to the hon. Member directly, and will arrange for a copy of the letter to be placed in the Library of the House and the Official Report.

Police Service of Northern Ireland: Homosexuality

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of whether institutionalised homophobia exists within the Police Service of Northern Ireland. [227412]

Paul Goggins: The PSNI equality and diversity unit is responsible for monitoring incidences of recorded bullying and harassment on the grounds of homophobic behaviour. From 1 January 2005 to 22 October 2008 there have been four cases raised by three individuals.

The PSNI does not believe that there is any evidence to support a view that it is institutionally homophobic.

Young Offenders

Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of residents in young offender centres in Northern Ireland had been diagnosed with addictions in each of the last five years. [228236]

Paul Goggins: Since October 2005, on committal, young offenders are asked if they are dependent on any substance and the following table details the number of young offenders recording a dependency for each of the previous three years.

October to September each year
Category of substance 2005 - 06 2006 - 07 2007- 08

















Prescription drugs








Other substances




Lead responsibility for the provision of addiction services for prisoners in Northern Ireland was transferred to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety on 1 October 2008. I have, therefore, copied your question and my response to Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey.


Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many enemy combatants have been captured by UK forces during operations in Afghanistan in each month of the last two years. [230814]

Mr. Hutton: I have nothing to add to the answer that I gave to the hon. Member on 14 October 2008, Official Report, column 1016W.

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Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the ratio is of (a) British combat armed personnel to UK Chinook helicopters deployed in Afghanistan, (b) British combat armed personnel to UK Apache helicopters deployed in Afghanistan and (c) UK Apache helicopters to UK Chinook helicopters deployed in Afghanistan. [232248]

Mr. Hutton: The ratio of UK Apache helicopters to UK Chinook helicopters deployed in Afghanistan is approximately 1:1.

I am withholding information regarding the ratios of UK deployed personnel and Chinook and Apache helicopters as its disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness and security of the armed forces.

Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment he has made of the security situation in Afghanistan. [232430]

Mr. Hutton: Afghanistan continues to present significant security challenges, particularly, in the south and east of the country where the Taliban continue to use intimidation and violence against the local population. In Helmand, progress has been made along the Helmand river valley and we are expanding control with the Afghan Security Forces taking an ever more active role.

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many studies his Department has (a) initiated and (b) completed on the lessons learned for his Department from the war in Afghanistan; and if he will place a copy of each completed study in the Library. [232934]

Mr. Hutton: The Department continually studies every aspect of our continuing operations in Afghanistan to identify and learn lessons in order to improve our operational capability. This work contains sensitive information and is therefore being withheld as its release would or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness and security of our armed forces. The Department does routinely engage with the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committees on such matters as lessons learned from operations, and these reports are already widely available in the public domain.

Armed Forces: Coroners

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in what circumstances his officials may decide the conclusions of a Board of Inquiry into a fatal incident are unsafe; what steps he is required to take to inform the coroner before or after an inquest has been held; by what procedures he may instruct the president of a board of inquiry to consider new evidence; and by what procedures a bereaved family may challenge the findings or recommendations of a board of inquiry. [230788]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Each board of inquiry's (BOI) provisional report is submitted to the relevant convening/reviewing authority for approval before the report is declared final. In considering the provisional report, the convening/reviewing authority may require the board to undertake further work because fresh evidence has come to light, because some evidence available to the BOI has been omitted, or because some relevant aspect
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has not been covered adequately and therefore the BOI has not met its terms of reference. Following completion of further work a revised provisional report must be submitted to the convening/reviewing authority for further consideration. This process may be undertaken as often as necessary to ensure the BOI has met its terms of reference. Where further work is required, the convening/reviewing authority should give specific instructions in writing to the BOI. Where it is considered that the BOI has met its terms of reference and no further work is required, the convening/reviewing authority makes its comments on the report and declares the provisional report as the final report and it notifies the president of the BOI that the inquiry has concluded and that the board is released from its duty. A copy of the final report is then made available to both the coroner and the next of kin if they wish to receive it.

Some coroners await the completion of the BOI report before they hold the inquest, although there is no requirement for any coroner to do so and, indeed, some choose not to. Where the coroner chooses to await the completion of a BOI before holding the inquest, the coroner is provided only with a copy of the final BOI report. Where a BOI is completed after the inquest is held there is no requirement to inform the coroner of its findings.

Where a BOI is held into the circumstances surrounding a death the MOD recognises that the bereaved families of Service personnel will have an interest in its conclusions and our policy is that we offer a personal briefing and a copy of the BOI report to the next of kin. Where the family wishes subsequently to question any aspect of the BOI they may do so in a number of ways: during the briefing given to them on the board's findings, conclusions and recommendations; through their Visiting Officer; by contacting the relevant single Service authority using the details provided with their copy of the BOI report; through their Member of Parliament; or by contacting the Ministry of Defence in writing by letter or email using the Ministry of Defence website.

Should new information come to light after the completion of the final report which the convening authority judges to cast doubt on the conclusions of the BOI, a new inquiry may be convened to review the findings in light of the new information.

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the statement of 7 June 2007, Official Report, columns 26-8WS, on improved support for families, what response he has received from the Scottish Executive on whether provision could be made for inquiries into the deaths abroad of service personnel to take place in Scotland. [232460]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: No reply has yet been received from the Scottish Executive to the letter sent by my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State, to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Communities (Mr. MacAskill MSP) on 27 March 2008.

Armed Forces: Death

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library a copy of Joint Service Publication 751 dealing with the return of possessions to the bereaved families of service personnel. [232666]

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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: A updated copy of JSP 751 will be placed in the Library of the House; chapter 12 of this document outlines the procedure to be followed for the return of personnel effects following the death of a service person.

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what guidance is given to members of the armed forces on their choice of notified next of kin; what opportunities there are to revise and update named individuals according to circumstances; and what provision is made for the designation of other individuals to be notified in the event of death in service. [232807]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The definitions and guidance for nominations of next of kin (NoK) and emergency contacts (EC) are laid out in annex A to chapter 1 of Joint Service Publication 751. All service personnel are fully briefed during training on the importance keeping details of their NoK/EC up to date, and update briefs are delivered prior to deployment. Service personnel are required to record their NoK and EC details via the self-service facility on the Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system. They can also telephone the JPA Centre (JPAC) inquiry centre where an operator will update their records for them whenever the requirement arises. Individuals can nominate a number of ECs who will be informed, in addition to the NoK, in the event of death.

Armed Forces: Intimidation

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the result was of the review of monitoring arrangements of the extent of bullying in the armed forces referred to in paragraph 75 of the Government's response to the third report from the Defence Committee of Session 2004-05, on duty of care, Cm. 6620; and what steps he has taken to reduce under-reporting of bullying. [232578]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: In 2006 the Joint Service Publication (JSP) 763 'The MOD Harassment Complaints Procedures' was issued. This provides guidance to all MOD Service and civilian personnel about making, responding to, advising on, investigating, and deciding on, complaints of harassment and bullying.

Reporting of incidents of bullying and harassment improved following the issue of JSP 763. Annex P to JSP 763 describes how logs are to be kept recording all complaints (formal and informal) reported through unit equality and diversity advisors. Statistics from the logs are consolidated at single Service level biannually and subsequently analysed on a tri-Service basis to identify trends and lessons learned.

Armed Forces: Recruitment

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what changes have been made to the standard pre-recruitment information pack for the armed forces following the review conducted in 2007; what information is available to parents of recruits on access to the Service Complaints Commissioner; and if he will place in the Library a copy of the information pack. [230910]

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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Information about the role of the Service Complaints Commissioner (SCC) is communicated through a number of means. Joint Service Publication 831 Service Complaints (Redress of Individual Grievance) sets out the policy and process for making and handling Service complaints, and includes a chapter on the role of the SCC. This is available on the Defence intranet and to all serving personnel. A booklet covering the main points of the complaints process, with a leaflet explaining the role of the SCC has been issued for distribution to all Service establishments. A team profile is under development on the Defence intranet to make information relating to Service complaints available electronically. This profile will also provide a link to the SCC's website. The SCC has visited establishments of all three Services, and continues to do so regularly, to meet serving personnel and the chain of command to raise awareness of her role.

There is no standard tri-Service pre-recruitment pack and the three Services have different approaches to providing information to recruits about how to make complaints in confidence:


During Phase 1 training Royal Navy and Royal Marine Rating and Other Ranks recruits at each establishment are briefed on both equality and diversity related complaints and Service complaints generally.


All recruits and trainees receive briefings that inform them of the function of the complaints procedures and the various channels which are available to raise a complaint. These include: the chain of command, Women's Royal Voluntary Service, the Padre, the Unit Welfare Officer, a Medical Officer and the confidential Support Line.

This is currently in the process of being reinforced by the inclusion of detail covering the role of the SCC in the "Army Recruiting and Training Division Code of Conduct and Behaviour for Recruits," leaflet and the Recruiting Group publication, "A Guide for Guardians and Parents". With the Commissioner's agreement, a paragraph outlining her role will be included in letters sent to parents.


There are two training establishments for the RAF, Cranwell and Halton.

At RAF Cranwell, the Officer and Aircrew Cadet Training Unit is responsible for conducting the initial training of all officers and non-commissioned aircrew.

Since January 2008, all cadets at RAF Cranwell have been briefed during their first week of training on the role and contact details of the SCC.

At RAF Halton, comprehensive measures are in place to ensure that new recruits are aware of the complaints procedures. These include two 45-minute briefings on the RAF's Equality and Diversity Policy, and the distribution of a booklet entitled “Combating Bullying and Harassment in the Royal Air Force” to all recruits. The issue is also addressed in the Station Commander's Supervisory Care Directive, which is mandatory reading by all instructors at RAF Halton and is available to all recruits.

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Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will set a date on which the minimum age for the voluntary recruitment of persons into Her Majesty's Armed Services will be raised in accordance with the terms of the United Nations Optional Protocol on the Rights of Children in Armed Conflict. [232347]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The minimum age for entry to the UK armed forces is 16, which reflects the normal minimum school leaving age. All recruitment to the UK armed forces is voluntary and recruitment of those aged under 18 requires parental consent. The Government made clear in their interpretive declaration when ratifying the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict that the armed forces would continue to recruit from age 16, but made a clear commitment to take all feasible measures to ensure that those who had not yet reached the age of 18-years-old did not take a direct part in hostilities. The Government remain committed to meeting their obligations under the protocol and there are no plans to change the interpretive declaration.

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