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Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in (a) Afghanistan and (b) Pakistan on Taliban activity in the border regions. 
Bill Rammell [holding answer 3 November 2009]: I held recent discussions on insurgent activity in Afghanistan and Pakistan with Mr. Wardak, the Afghan Minister of Defence, at the NATO ministerial meeting in Bratislava on 29-30 October and with Mr. Mukhtar, the Pakistan Defence Minister and General Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff of Pakistan, on 6 October during my visit to Pakistan with the Home Secretary.
Andrew Gwynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of provision of (a) sleeping bags and (b) other kit for troops on active operations in Afghanistan. 
Mr. Quentin Davies: The Defence Clothing Team (DCT) provides a range of environmental clothing, including boots, to meet both summer and winter deployments. All armed forces personnel receive a deployment pack, commonly known as the 'black bag' worth £3,000, which provides sufficient clothing and personal equipment to carry out combat operations.
The 'black bag' includes a warm weather sleeping bag for use in the summer conditions found in Afghanistan. In addition, troops are issued a temperate sleeping bag as part of their standard kit issue. Experience has shown the temperate sleeping bag to be capable in temperatures down to around -30°C. Clothing and sleeping bags are designed to be used as layered systems in order to achieve the desired protection and will not work as effectively if not worn as a system.
Additionally, those personnel who are in Afghanistan during the colder months receive extra equipment in their deployment pack, such as 'softee' thermal jackets and trousers, cold weather socks, gloves, headwear, windproof trousers and jackets and cold weather boots. This is the equipment used by our commando forces in Arctic terrain. When worn with the CS95 ensemble, this equipment provides suitable environmental protection for the cold weather temperatures that occur in the winters in Afghanistan.
The DCT and senior military staff regularly visit theatre to assess equipment and continue to seek further improvements. The DCT aims to visit every six months to cover summer and winter tours. The last winter visit took place in December 2008.
Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for the future strength of (a) the RAF Auxiliary Reserve, (b) the Royal Naval Reserve, (c) the Air Cadets and (d) the Sea Cadets. 
The strength of the Royal Naval Reserve is determined by the needs of the naval service for reserve personnel to support current and future operations. Force numbers are always under review but at this time there is no plan to change its size.
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the (a) required and (b) actual number is of (i) pieces of night vision equipment, (ii) pieces of body armour and (iii) small arms in the army. 
Mr. Quentin Davies: In terms of night vision optics, the Army currently has 14,634 Common Weapon Sights, 1,777 Maxikite 1 and 4,388 Maxikite 2. Some of these will be upgraded under the Future Infantry System Technology (FIST) programme designed to further improve the equipment available to the infantry soldier. The remainder will then be redistributed to those units and individuals employed in other roles where these capabilities are either non-existent or in short supply. The FIST requirement for night vision optics is shown in the following table. Deliveries of this new equipment are due to begin in September 2010.
|Body armour type||Current fleet size||Current endorsed requirement|
|(1) The second tranche of 5,000 Osprey Assault is due to be delivered in the first quarter of next year.|
|Weapon||Current fleet size||Requirement|
None of the figures above includes equipment procured for use in Afghanistan through the urgent operational requirement process. I am withholding the information
as its disclosure would or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.
Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proportion of the proceeds of the sale of Defence Estates stock has been used to upgrade the estate in each year since Defence Estates was established; what proportion of the defence estate has been upgraded in each year over that period; when he expects the upgrading of the entire estate to Grade 1 standard to be completed; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: As part of the periodic spending review, the Department agrees disposal targets with HM Treasury and a net departmental budget is set accordingly. There is no direct link between the amount spent on upgrading the estate to the disposal of surplus land and buildings. Exceptionally, the receipts from the disposal of Chelsea Barracks were ring-fenced for investment in service accommodation. Internal budgets are agreed on the basis of Defence priorities.
From 1 April 1998 to 31 March 2009, the Department achieved disposal receipts totalling £3.4 billion. In 2008-09, the Department spent some £3 billion on the estate including investment to upgrade both the technical estate and accommodation.
The following tables illustrate what proportion of Service Family Accommodation (SFA) has been upgraded as well as how much new or improved Single Living Accommodation (SLA) has been delivered since 2001. Figures prior to 2001 are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
|Properties upgraded to highest standard for condition, SFA (GB)|
|New or improved bed-spaces delivered, SLA|
Most of the 14,000 SFA that we have brought up to Standard 1 for Condition since 2001 have been upgrades of existing properties rather than the construction of new properties. 90 per cent. of SFA is now at the two highest standards for condition. Our aim is to ensure
that by March 2013 very little, if any, of the occupied SFA estate should be below Standard 2 for Condition. Subject to changing demand for SFA in the future and the availability of funding, we aspire that by 2020 all occupied properties in the UK will be at Standard 1 for condition.
Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 3 November 2009, Official Report, column 831W, on armed forces: housing, what the average monthly rent for properties in the Greater London area rented under the substitute single living accommodation scheme is. 
Mr. Kevan Jones [holding answer 9 November 2009]: As at 23 October 2009, the average monthly rent for substitute service single accommodation properties in the Greater London area was £1,121.37. Utility bills are paid by the Ministry of Defence. Service personnel can claim the following allowances to assist with the cost of living in the Greater London Area: Food and Incidental Allowance, Get You Home Travel, Home to Duty Travel and Recruitment and Retention Allowance (London). Service personnel are reimbursed the cost of telephone line installations and monthly line rentals.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what research his Department has (a) commissioned, (b) funded and (c) undertaken on the mental health needs of service personnel and veterans since 2001; and what his most recent estimate is of the number of service personnel and veterans with such needs. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: The MOD fully supports the need for high quality research which examines the mental health of service personnel and veterans. We have funded the Kings College London Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR) to undertake major research into the health of those who have served on recent operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of their findings have already been published in the peer-reviewed medical literature, including major pieces of work published in 2006. Within KCMHR, the Academic Centre for Defence Mental Health (ACDMH) has been established as an in-house mental health research resource which is looking into a variety of smaller scale aspects of dealing with the mental health of service personnel.
This contains links to a wide range of individual research papers. The 2006 KCMHR 10-year report provides a particularly useful summary of research during the first 10 years since its foundation in 1996.
More recent research includes a paper on the prevalence of common mental disorders and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the UK Military (Iversen et al., BMC
Psychiatry 2009, 9:68). This concluded that the rate of common mental disorders in the sample was 27.2 per cent.; this figure is in keeping with a substantial review of European adults, carried out in 2005, that also found 27 per cent. suffered with a common mental disorder. This study confirmed previous findings which show that depression and alcohol abuse are the most common mental disorders in the UK military, not post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as previously assumed by some commentators. The paper's results support MOD's provision of a compressive mental health service rather than a service which is overly focussed on treating PTSD.
Research commissioned from other academic institutions includes an investigation by Manchester university into the levels of suicide amongst those leaving the UK armed forces over the period 1996-2005, compared with matched personnel remaining in service and the general population. This work was published in the peer-reviewed journal Public Library of Science (PloS) Medicine in March 2009. The results showed that overall rates of suicide of those who left were little different from the equivalent serving or civilian general populations. We also commissioned research into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from Royal Holloway and University College London, comparing immediate and delayed onset PTSD in military veterans. The study looked at clinical course, symptoms, risk factors, stressors and disabling effects. We understand its findings will be published in peer reviewed literature shortly.
Papers currently undergoing peer review or awaiting publication address further the mental health of service personnel and veterans, in both the National Service era and post-National Service. We shall continue to support well-founded research into these issues, to inform our policies to provide care for those whose mental health has been affected by serving in the armed forces.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people have joined the (a) army, (b) navy and (c) RAF from (i) the North West, (ii) Lancashire and (iii) Chorley in each year since 1997. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: This information is not held in the format requested, however the following table provides details of those recruited through the Armed Forces Careers Offices (AFCO) in Lancashire, to give an indication of armed forces recruitment in this area.
This information will not provide a comprehensive picture of the recruitment of individuals who live in Lancashire as it does not include those Lancashire residents who may have chosen to join through AFCOs elsewhere or through some other means, such as the internet. In addition, RN/RM and Army officer figures are not provided as these officers tend to be recruited through a wider variety of means and any information provided would not be meaningful in this context.
|Financial year||Preston (Tri-Service AFCO)||Blackburn (Army AFCO)||Blackpool (Army AFCO)||Burnley (Army AFCO)|
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