On 6 March, I visited Helmand where I was briefed by our military and civilian leaders, and by Afghan Commanders, on the latest developments on the ground, in particular on Operation Moshtarak, and on the challenges faced by our forces throughout Helmand, especially in Sangin.
I was updated on ISAF plans to reorganise responsibilities and command and control in Southern Afghanistan, as the operational situation evolves after Operation Moshtarak and the deployment of additional US forces. Key to this will be building on the increasingly successful partnering of the Afghan security forces, and achieving the right ratios of security forces (international and Afghan) to the civilian population to enable General McChrystal's counter-insurgency approach. And although final decisions have yet to be taken it is likely UK forces will increasingly concentrate in central Helmand.
I was updated on ongoing stabilisation efforts: provision of jobs on projects, efforts to strengthen the local economy, and helping farmers cultivate a range of legal crops rather than poppy. 1,000 Afghan civil order police are now being deployed into the areas cleared in Operation Moshtarak. Over time they will be replaced by 1,000 regular Afghan police. To support this the UK are deploying an additional eight police mentoring teams, additional police advisers for the NATO training mission and the EU police mission, and additional support for the police training centre, a total of over 150 extra personnel.
I was updated on progress with recruiting in the Afghan army, which has increased sevenfold since the end of 2009, with 500 more Afghan army in Helmand since December. Embedded partnering between British forces and the Afghan army is already generating positive results: for example, UK battlegroups report a 30 per cent. improvement in intelligence collection, including on the location of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), after the introduction of joint patrolling with Afghan forces.
I was updated on progress in equipment including faster delivery of Vallon IED detectors towards our target of deploying over 6,500 by July, together with additional sets of ground penetrating radar. Specialised Talisman route-clearance vehicles and equipment will deploy in the next two months. The Ministry of Defence is also committing a further £18 million over the next two years to strengthen pre-deployment training on counter-IED techniques, in addition to the significant investment announced in December.
I was updated on the increased number of hours our Chinook and Apache helicopters can fly each month; the successful introduction of Merlin helicopters; the deployment of Czech helicopters made possible by the British helicopter fund initiative; and the recent increases of Hermes 450 unmanned aerial vehicles and options for accelerating the planned increase of Predator/Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles.
Finally, I visited engineers responsible for sustaining the fleet of protected mobility vehicles including Mastiff and Ridgeback vehicles-offering world-leading protection against IED strikes. Over 100 more of those vehicles have been deployed since last summer. I also inspected the newly introduced Husky utility vehicle, 100 of which are in transit to Afghanistan. I was able to update our forces on the Ministry of Defence's plans for a new light protected patrol vehicle, with Treasury approval of the first 200 vehicles as an urgent operational requirement. The Ministry of Defence judge that this meets the requirement in Afghanistan and will make announcements on further tranches in due course, as is standard practice with major equipment procurements.
I look forward in the coming weeks to discussing the position in Afghanistan with the King of Jordan and Prime Minister Erdogan when they visit London. I also plan to attend the European Council meeting in Brussels on 25 to 26 March.
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what information technology projects initiated by (a) his Department and (b) its agencies were cancelled prior to completion in the last 12 months; and what the cost of each such project was to the public purse. 
Paul Goggins: The following table shows how much the Northern Ireland Office, including its arms-length bodies and the Public Prosecution Service Northern Ireland but excluding its agencies and NDPBs, paid in reimbursable expenses to special advisers in each of the last five years:
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission pursuant to the answer of 3 February 2010, Official Report, column 329W, on 14 Tothill Street, how much has been spent in total to date, including the House of Commons contribution and the House of Lords contribution to the Commission on (a) rent, (b) refurbishment, (c) business rates and (d) utilities in respect of the unoccupied premises at 14 Tothill Street. 
These figures exclude costs incurred by the House of Lords since taking up occupancy on 1 September 2009. Business rates and utility costs, of £340,000 and £72,000 respectively, have also been incurred since the building became partially occupied. These are shared between the Commons (60 per cent.) and Lords (40 per cent.).
Mr. Syms: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Ruislip Northwood of 3 February 2010, Official Report, column 411W, on illegal immigrants, how many House of Commons staff have been appointed and later discovered to be illegal immigrants since 2005. 
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission pursuant to the answer of 22 February 2010, Official Report, column 38W, on Members: allowances, how much has been spent under each budgetary heading referred to in the answer.  [Official Report, 11 March 2010, Vol. 507, c. 11-12MC.]
Mr. Winnick: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what guidance the House authorities have issued on arrangements to enable staff of the House, excluding its Officers, who wish to continue to work beyond the age of 65 years to do so; and if he will make a statement. 
Nick Harvey: The House of Commons service currently has a "no retirement age" policy for most of its staff. This will be extended to include all staff from 1 April 2010 when the retirement age of 65 for the senior commons structure is removed.
Mr. Winnick: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission how many House of Commons staff, excluding Officers of the House, there are over the age of 65 years; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Amess: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission with reference to the answer of 20 July 2009, Official Report, columns 747-8W, on standing committees: internet, what progress the Commission has made on placing on Parliament's website the transcripts of Standing Committee debates held prior to 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
Nick Harvey: Standing Committee debates held prior to 1997 have been digitised (421 volumes covering the period 1919 to 2004-05) and have now gone through the necessary quality assurance procedures. These data, along with many other related stand-alone sites will be brought into the main site over the next few months as part of the implementation of a new, improved content management system.
Mr. Syms: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission how many days staff of the House of Commons Service spent on trade union activity in the latest year for which figures are available; and what recent estimate has been made of the annual cost to the public purse of such activity. 
Mr. Hurd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for which Google Adword online advertising keywords his Department and its agencies have paid in the last 12 months; and at what cost. 
Dan Norris: The Department has spent £156,000 on Google Adwords in the last 12 months. A list of the keywords used has been placed in the House Library. We are unable to disclose the individual cost against specific keywords as this information is commercial in confidence.
Huw Irranca-Davies: We have not made any recent estimates of the amount of land available for afforestation. The Forestry Commission is currently working with DEFRA and Natural England to develop a high-level spatial framework to guide where woodland creation could best deliver a range of benefits. This work is likely to be completed over the coming year.
Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of former set-aside land (a) has gone back into agricultural production since the abolition of the set-aside scheme in 2008 and (b) remains as fallow land. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: The June Agricultural Survey only records aggregate areas and does not collect information on individual fields. Hence, it is not possible to say how much of the set-aside land recorded in 2007 was located on fields that remained fallow in subsequent years. Nor is it possible to say how much of the former set-aside land is now cropped. However, in 2009 there were 254,000 hectares of uncropped land in the UK, which is equivalent to 58 per cent. of the 2007 set-aside area.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which extraction quarries are currently licensed in Nottinghamshire; and which of them have received aggregate levy sustainability fund Objective 5 money for community projects. 
There are currently 31 aggregates extraction sites in Nottinghamshire, of which 19 are active (Abbey Quarry, Bellmoor; Besthorpe; Bestwood 2; Burntstump; Carlton Forest; East Leake; Finningley; Girton; Langford Lowfields; Linby; Lound/Blaco Hill;
Misson Bawtry Road; Misson Newington; Misson West; Nether Langwith; Ratcher Hill; Rufford; Scrooby; and, Scrooby Top) and 12 that are currently inactive (Carlton in Lindrick; Cromwell; Holme Pierrepont; Hoveringham; Mattersey (two sites); Rampton; Serlby; Sturton le Steeple; Styrrup; Warsop; and, Yellowstone).
None of the sites has received funding directly from the communities theme ("Objective 5")-aggregate levy sustainably fund funding is directed, via Nottinghamshire county council, to community projects.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many current aggregate levy sustainability fund Objective 5 projects in Nottinghamshire are taking place at sites within one kilometre of a quarry. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: Nottinghamshire county council has targeted communities "within 2 km of mineral extraction sites and any known extraction routes" for its funding from the communities theme ("Objective 5") of the aggregate levy sustainability fund.
Of the current (2009-10) projects, three are directly associated with former aggregates workings within this limit, and the remaining 15 fall within defined target areas of active and spent quarries and any known extraction routes.
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