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10 Nov 2008 : Column 771W—continued

Departmental Manpower

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people who were not born in the United Kingdom his Department employs. [234247]

Paul Goggins: The Northern Ireland Office does not hold a central record of how many people who were not born in the United Kingdom are employed within the Department.

Departmental Mass Media

Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland which organisations provided media monitoring services to (a) his Department, (b) its agencies and (c) its non-departmental public bodies in each of the last three years; and what the total cost was of each contract over that period. [231328]

Paul Goggins: Details of organisations which provided media monitoring services to the Northern Ireland Office, its agencies and non-departmental public bodies are included in the following table:


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Cost by financial year (including VAT)
£
Organisation 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08

Anderson Spratt Group(1)

282

846

846

NIMMS(2)

327

4,438

E Map Services(2)

523

2,555

News Extract(2)

512

3,756

1,235

Energy Data Services(3)

23,663

2,600

Stakeholder Communications Ltd.(4)

65,106.50

76,438.04

57,370.21

(1) Commissioned by Youth Justice Agency.
(2) Commissioned by Probation Board N.I.
(3) Commissioned by Northern Ireland Information Service.
(4) Commissioned by Parades Commission.

Departmental Older Workers

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people over the age of (a) 55 and (b) 60 work for his Department; and what percentage of employees these groups represent. [234255]

Paul Goggins: Within the Northern Ireland Office 252 staff are aged 55 and over. This represents 12 per cent. of the total number of staff. The number of staff aged 60 and over is 74, this represents 3 per cent. of the total number of staff.

Departmental Pay

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many non-pensionable bonuses were awarded to members of staff in his Department in the last 12 months; and at what cost. [234232]

Mr. Woodward: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer given to the hon. Member for Upper Bann (David Simpson) on 30 October 2008, Official Report, columns 1169-70W.

Female Staff

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of employees working for his Department are female. [234254]

Paul Goggins: As at 1 November 2008, 62 per cent. of employees within the Northern Ireland Office are female.

Fingerprints

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) how many times suspects have been wrongfully arrested in Northern Ireland on the basis of mistaken belief by police officers of identity that was later found to be incorrect after fingerprinting in the last 12 months; [233611]

(2) whether he plans to introduce MIDAS handheld fingerprint scanners for use by police officers in Northern Ireland. [233738]

Paul Goggins: That is an operational matter for the Chief Constable. I have asked him to reply directly to the hon. Member, and a copy of his letter will be placed in the Library of the House.


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Judges: Appointments

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the criteria will be for the appointment of judges in Northern Ireland following the devolution of policing and justice. [234162]

Paul Goggins: Under section 5 of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002, the selection of a person for judicial office, within the remit of the Judicial Appointments Commission for Northern Ireland (up to and including High Court judge), is to be made solely on the basis of merit. Subject to that, the Commission is to engage in a programme of action to secure as far as reasonably practicable that those holding judicial office are reflective of the community in Northern Ireland. The requirements of section 5 apply both before and after the devolution of policing and justice.

Parades: Belfast

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what reports he has received of the behaviour of some participants in the Belfast Pride Parade on 2 August 2008 towards those who were protesting against the parade. [232877]

Paul Goggins: The Secretary of State did not receive any reports on the behaviour of participants in the Belfast Pride Parade. Monitors in attendance at the parade would have reported directly to the Parades Commission.

Police

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many police officers there were in Northern Ireland per 1,000 population in (a) 2002 and (b) 2007. [232837]

Paul Goggins: That is an operational matter for the Chief Constable. I have asked him to reply directly to the hon. Member, and a copy of his letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Public Relations

Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much was paid to public relations companies by his Department in each year since 1998-99. [232873]

Mr. Woodward: The following table provides details of the Northern Ireland Office's expenditure on external contracts with public relations companies (excluding Agencies and Executive NDPBs) since 2002-03:

Value of contracts (£)

2002-03

39,672

2003-04

160,397

2004-05

153,723

2005-06

91,858

2006-07

140,806

2007-08

121,504


The value of external contracts with public relations companies prior to 2002-03 would be available only at disproportionate cost.


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Tourism

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent discussions he has had in order to promote Northern Ireland as a tourist destination to the rest of the United Kingdom. [234180]

Mr. Woodward: I always take the opportunity to promote Northern Ireland as a tourism destination whenever circumstances permit. However, tourism is a devolved matter in Northern Ireland and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment has formal responsibility for the marketing and development of Northern Ireland tourism.

Written Questions: Government Responses

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many and what proportion of written questions for answer on a named day he has answered on the due date in Session 2007-08. [234179]

Mr. Woodward: Of the 89 named day questions received, my Department has answered 45 on the due date. This represents 51 per cent.

These figures cover named day questions tabled up to and including 6 November.

Defence

Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) British and (b) NATO troops he expects to be deployed in Afghanistan in each of the next three years. [232930]

Mr. Hutton: NATO currently has approximately 50,000 troops in Afghanistan. The UK is the second largest force contributor to Afghanistan with around 8,000 troops mainly based in the south of the country.

We do not comment on future deployments but our troop contribution to the International Security Assistance Force is kept under regular review.

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 30 October 2008, Official Report, column 1227W, on Afghanistan: peacekeeping operations, what the difference will be in the proportionality of response available to situations on the ground when the aircraft types are changed over. [233925]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 6 November 2008]: There will be no significant difference in the proportionality of response available to situations on the ground when aircraft types are changed. Both aircraft are fully capable of delivering the required effects.

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 30 October 2008, Official Report, column 1227W, on Afghanistan: peacekeeping operations, what the differences in capability are. [233927]


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Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 6 November 2008]: There are no significant differences in the operational capabilities provided by the two aircraft. Both are fully capable of delivering the required effects. I am withholding detailed information on capabilities as its release would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many times the Minister for Defence Procurement has visited Afghanistan. [234053]

Mr. Quentin Davies: I have not yet visited Afghanistan but will be visiting shortly.

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the oral answer to the hon. Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn) of 3 November 2008, Official Report, column 9, on Afghanistan, which eight districts in Helmand province under the control of NATO and the Afghanistan forces he referred to; and if he will make a statement. [234124]

Mr. Hutton: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him on 27 October 2008, Official Report, column 622W.

Armed Forces: Weapons

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many times the Warrior chain gun has fired undemanded since 2000; and what steps are being taken to prevent this happening. [233721]

Mr. Quentin Davies: There have been four confirmed cases of the Warrior chain gun firing un-demanded since 2000. A total of 17 cases were recorded during this period, but after investigation by the MOD’s serious equipment failure investigation team, 13 of these were found to be negligent discharges (human error) or undemanded operation (usually identified during pre-firing checks or maintenance procedures) where the gun operated, but no rounds were fired.

To prevent un-demanded firings MOD is improving a number of vehicle sub-systems. This includes upgrading the chain gun control unit, which controls the firing of the gun, replacing the existing foot firing switch with a hand firing switch to operate the gun, and enhancements to turret electronics to prevent the possibility of short circuits. The modification programme is significantly improving the reliability of the chain gun across both Challenger and Warrior vehicle fleets. I am looking closely at the issue to see if there is more that can be done.

Armed Forces: Young People

John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will initiate a feasibility study on the phasing out of recruitment of under 18 year olds into the armed forces; and if he will make a statement; [233116]

(2) what procedures are in place for advice to be give to under 18 year olds on the risks they are likely to face on recruitment into the armed forces; [233117]


10 Nov 2008 : Column 776W

(3) if he will bring forward proposals to ensure the risks of joining the armed forces are explained by an independent responsible adult to any potential recruit under the age of 18 years before that person signs any binding agreement to enlist; [233118]

(4) whether young people joining the armed forces before their 18th birthday are free to leave as of right; and if he will make a statement. [233115]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: There are no plans to phase out the recruitment of under 18s into the armed forces. If the armed forces were required to raise the minimum age of entry, it would create serious manning problems, since 28 per cent. of all recruits in FY2007-08 were aged under 18. The services, in particular the Army, would be unable to man current structures and maintain current capabilities. It is probable that should the minimum entry age be raised, good quality school leavers would settle into other careers and thus be lost to the services.

All service personnel under 18 years of age who have completed 28 days service have a right of discharge within the first six months of service by giving not less than 14 days notice in writing to the commanding officer if they decide that the armed forces are not a career for them. In addition, service personnel under 18 years three months who have passed their statutory six month period for “discharge as of right”, and have registered, before reaching their 18th birthday, clear ‘unhappiness’ at their choice of career, can request permission to leave the armed forces.

No young person under the age of 18 years may join the UK armed forces unless their application is accompanied by the formal written consent of his or her parents or guardian. This has then to be witnessed by someone of standing in the community, before the applicant can enter service. There is already a robust system in place ensuring that all potential recruits are given full details of all the advantages and risks involved in service life. Throughout the recruit selection process, the staffs at the Armed Forces Careers Offices (AFCO) provide comprehensive written and verbal guidance to all potential recruits, in particular those of less than 18 years of age, and their parents or guardians. This guidance covers the potential recruit’s terms and conditions of service, the commitments that they would be undertaking, and their rights to discharge.

It is defence policy that service personnel under the age of 18 are not deployed on operations outside of the UK, except where the operation does not involve personnel becoming engaged in, or exposed to, hostilities. In addition, in line with UN policy, service personnel under 18 are not deployed on UN peacekeeping operations.


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