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25 Nov 2008 : Column 1168W—continued

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Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment he has made of (a) the security situation and (b) the threat posed by the Taliban in Helmand province; and if he will make a statement. [234318]

Mr. Hutton: Helmand province continues to present significant security challenges due to the insurgents' use of intimidation and violence against the local population and their increasingly unconventional tactics such as the use of improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers and opportunistic attacks.

These attacks continue to cause concern and demonstrate the Taliban's ability to strike in an indiscriminate fashion. But this does not amount to the Taliban posing a realistic strategic threat to the democratically elected Afghan government.

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many military personnel are (a) embedded with Pakistani military units and (b) based in Pakistan to co-ordinate military operations in support of UK military operations in Regional Command South. [236450]

Mr. Hutton: There are currently no UK military personnel embedded with Pakistani combat units, though one is attached to a training unit. As part of normal military relations, UK non-embedded military staff based at the British high commission in Islamabad provide a liaison and co-ordination function between the Pakistani military and UK and NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Armed Conflict: Children

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what factors were considered by the Government in responding to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child regarding the optional protocol of the Child in relation to armed conflict; and whether the Army Terms of Service (Amendment etc.) Regulations 2008 were taken into account. [238827]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The UK submitted its first report on the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict in June 2007 and was examined by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on this report in September 2008.

In producing the UK report and preparing for the examination, the Ministry of Defence considered the need to demonstrate how our legislation, policies and practices were compliant with the requirements of the optional protocol. The main areas considered were: the recruitment of under-18s into the armed forces and the safeguards in place to ensure recruitment is totally voluntary; the measures taken to ensure that those personnel under the age of 18 are not deployed on operations; the treatment of child soldiers encountered on operations; the training provision for service personnel on the provisions of the optional protocol; and the treatment and care of service personnel under the age of 18.

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The Army Terms of Service (Amendment etc.) Regulations 2008 came into effect on 6 August 2008, and were taken into account during the process of preparing for the examination. The regulations brought the minimum commitment period for under-18 soldiers back into line with the provisions that existed prior to 1 January 2008, i.e. that they should serve for a minimum of four years from their 18(th) birthday. The Ministry of Defence provided information concerning these changes to the Committee, both in the written response to the list of issues and during the hearing itself.

The Ministry of Defence believes all our policies are robust and fully compliant with national and international law, including our obligations under the optional protocol.

The Committee issued its concluding observations on 3 October 2008, in which they made a number of recommendations which require detailed consideration by the UK. The Ministry of Defence is currently engaging with other relevant Government Departments to determine how best to take this work forward.

Armoured Fighting Vehicles

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many unarmoured Jackals there are in service. [238664]

Mr. Quentin Davies: There are 13 unarmoured Jackals in service within the UK training fleet, 12 of which are currently undergoing an improvement programme to fit armour. This will be completed by the end of the year. The remaining unarmoured Jackal is used for maintenance training. There are no unarmoured Jackals deployed on operations.

Defence Evaluation and Research Agency: Property

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what price was realised from the sale of the Pystock site in Hampshire following the privatisation of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency; and what covenants were placed on the sale. [238841]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The price received by QinetiQ, the successor to the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), from the sale of the Pystock site is a matter for the company. Some details can be found in QinetiQ’s published accounts for 2006.

In addition to covenants relating to clawback there were also covenants in the title documentation relating to the protection of certain strategic assets.

The Ministry of Defence did not publish a break down of the individual site values contained in the bulk transfer of property to QinetiQ plc as part of the privatisation of DERA. As made clear at the time the valuations are considered commercially confidential.

Departmental Consultants

Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies and non-departmental public bodies spent on external consultancy in each year since 1997-98; and if he will make a statement. [239058]

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Mr. Kevan Jones: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 18 November 2008, Official Report, column 418W, to the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey).

Departmental Marketing

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many staff in his Department are responsible for branding activity; and what the cost of employing such staff was in 2007-08. [237456]

Mr. Kevan Jones: In the financial year 2007-08 seven members of staff had some responsibility for brand management issues as part of their wider duties in the central MOD Media and Communication organisation.

The total cost of these seven staff was £395,000 based on average capitation rates. Only a small proportion of this cost is attributable to brand management activities. It is not possible to say how much as the time spent varies from week to week.

Some Defence agencies, top level budget areas, trading funds, joint headquarters, single service commands and some military units also have individuals whose responsibilities include brand management. Details of this are not held centrally and could be provided only at a disproportionate cost.

Departmental Postal Services

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department uses the Royal Mail as the primary company for sending its post, parcels and packages. [238119]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The MOD primarily uses the services of Royal Mail Group companies for sending its external post, parcels and packages.


Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) required and (b) actual number of (i) first line and (ii) second line staff for resettlement support is. [237807]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The information requested is provided in the table:

1st Line 2nd Line

Required Actual Required Actual














(1) Information relating to the Army 1st Line resettlement support staffing is being collated and I will write to the hon. Member when this work is complete.

Ex-servicemen: Official Cars

Mr. Flello: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what provision his Department makes for the use of official cars by retired senior military officers; what the cost of such provision was in each of the last five years; and whether the arrangements for such provision have changed in the last 10 years. [238492]

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Mr. Kevan Jones: Within the UK, cars are provided by the MOD White Fleet contract which is a lease/hire agreement for the provision of non-operational vehicles. These cars are provided only for official departmental business. Retired senior military officers would therefore be eligible to use a car if they were on formal departmental business. This includes retired officers, who are employed by the MOD, such as recruiting and liaison staff attending ceremonial functions or official functions; and those employed as lecturers and part time teachers travelling to teach service personnel.

Detailed records of any such use are not held centrally. The White Fleet contract has been in place since 2001, and since then the arrangements have not changed.

Iceland: European Fighter Aircraft

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Typhoon aircraft are to be deployed to Iceland on NATO Quick Reaction Alert duty; on what date; and for how long. [238049]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The peacetime airborne surveillance and interception capability in Iceland is a NATO task. The deployment of four Typhoons was scheduled to take place in December. Following discussions within NATO the deployment will not now take place.

Iraq: Military Aircraft

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Harrier aircraft were deployed in support of Operation Telic; and for what period. [238821]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 24 November 2008]: Up to 21 Harrier aircraft were deployed in support of Operation Telic between February and May 2003.

In my answer to the hon. Member for North-East Milton Keynes (Mr. Lancaster) on 17 November 2008, Official Report, column 135W, I incorrectly stated that the Harrier force has never been deployed on Operation Telic.

My answer should have read that the Harrier force has not been deployed continuously on operations since the start of Operation Telic.

Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he has taken to regulate the operation of private military and security companies working in Iraq. [233433]

Bill Rammell: I have been asked to reply.

We currently have no legislation dealing directly with the overseas operations of UK-based private military and security companies (PMSCs). Options for regulation were considered in a Green Paper published in 2002 entitled 'Private Military Companies: Options for Regulation.' A follow-up review in 2005 explored a number of options for ways in which the industry could be regulated, including self-regulation, licensing of individual contracts and licensing of companies from a register of Government-approved companies. This review
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highlighted the complexity of the issues, especially the definition of what activities should be regulated and how any regulations would be enforced—all of which continue to be the subject of ministerial and official consultation. The Government have undertaken to keep Parliament fully informed of their proposals in this area. If it is agreed that some form of regulation is appropriate, the Government will put the proposals to public consultation.

However, apart from the national law of the countries in which they are operating, PMSCs are also subject to certain UK legislation. For example, there is legislation penalising grave breaches of the Geneva conventions, as well as torture, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, which applies to acts committed by United Kingdom nationals overseas. We have also considered international regulation based on common international values and norms. We have supported the Swiss Initiative to promote respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law on the part of PMSCs operating in situations of armed conflict or post-conflict.

Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made on the Joint Strike Fighter project; and if he will make a statement. [239453]

Mr. Quentin Davies: The Joint Strike Fighter programme remains on schedule with the first development conventional take off and landing (CTOL- AA-1) and the first development short take off and vertical landing (STOVL - BF-1) variants completing in excess of 83 test flights to date. AA-1 also achieved its first supersonic flight on 14 November 2008.

Navy: Piracy

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what instructions have been issued to UK naval forces in respect of the terms of engagement to employ when encountering vessels engaged in acts of piracy. [238857]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 19 November 2008, Official Report, column 503W, to the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin).

Nimrod Aircraft

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what options for replacement of the Nimrod R 1 capability are under consideration. [238050]

Mr. Quentin Davies: I refer the hon. Member to the answer my right hon. Friend the Minister for International Defence and Security gave in another place on 13 October 2008, Official Report, House of Lords, column WA28, to the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Trafford.

Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many service personnel have been (a) killed and (b) injured while in Snatch Land Rovers in (i) Iraq and (ii) Afghanistan in (A) 2006, (B) 2007 and (C) the first six months of 2008. [238329]

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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Ministry of Defence is currently reviewing its policy on the release of data on fatal incidents on operations. I will write to the hon. Member once the review has been completed.

I am withholding data on injuries caused to UK service personnel in particular vehicle types as its disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.

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