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Tornado Service Inquiry

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Bill Rammell): I wish to inform the House today of the findings of the Royal Air Force service inquiry into the crash of the RAF Tornado F3, ZE 982, on 2 July 2009 into a mountainside in Argyll, Scotland. Tragically, both the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Kenneth Thompson, and the navigator, Flight Lieutenant Nigel Morton, were killed. Our deepest sympathies remain with their families and friends.

The purpose of a service inquiry is to establish the circumstances of the loss and to learn lessons from it; it does not seek to apportion blame. The service inquiry was convened on 3 July 2009 and has now presented its findings.

The service inquiry found that Tornado ZE 982 was the lead of a pair of Tornado F3 aircraft flying a routine low level training sortie out of RAF Leuchars on 2 July 2009. From the accident data recorder information available to them, the service inquiry was able to identify the sequence of airborne events and concluded that the cause of the accident was controlled flight into terrain due to insufficient turning room being available within the valley to complete the turn. Effectively, once the aircraft had entered into the final turn it was all but impossible to achieve the turn safely. As a consequence, the aircraft crashed into the north slope of Glen Kinglas,
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Argyll, 14 minutes after take-off. The second Tornado crew witnessed the crash and took immediate recovery action, in due course returning safely to RAF Leuchars. The service inquiry concluded that the aircraft's flying control systems, engines and structure were serviceable and all critical systems operated correctly during the sortie and that there was no evidence to prove that any equipment issues caused the aircraft's loss.

The inquiry findings serve to demonstrate that military flying is never without risk and that low level flying presents additional challenges.

The service inquiry panel made a total of 26 recommendations largely relating to aircrew training and check and assurance processes. These are being addressed and will be implemented, as appropriate, as soon as is practicable.

A redacted version of the Inquiry findings will be placed in the Library of the House today. It will also be made available on the MOD internet site and can be found by following the link below:

Energy and Climate Change

New Nuclear Power Stations (Financing Arrangements)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): My noble Friend the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change today made the following statement:

I have today issued two consultation documents relating to the arrangements for the financing of nuclear decommissioning and waste handling for new nuclear power stations.

It is the Government's policy that the owners and operators of new nuclear power stations must set aside funds over the generating life of the power station to cover the full costs of decommissioning and their full share of waste management and disposal costs. The two consultations published today represent significant progress in the delivery of that policy.

The first consultation is on "a Methodology to Determine a Fixed Unit Price for Waste Disposal and Updated Cost Estimates for Nuclear Decommissioning, Waste Management and Waste Disposal".

This consultation document sets out:

The second consultation is on "the Financing of Nuclear Decommissioning and Waste Handling Regulations" which proposes to implement regulations that will seek to:

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This is also a consultation on a draft order to make certain matters associated with a FDP designated technical matters.

We want to hear from members of the public, industry, financial and other institutions that may be involved in the financing of new nuclear power stations, non-governmental organisations and any other organisation or body with an interest.

The consultations will close on Friday 18 June 2010. Copies of the consultations will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Marine Management Organisation

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies): The new Marine Management Organisation (MMO), established by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, is under a duty to exercise its functions with the overarching objective of making a contribution to the achievement of sustainable development in the marine area.

The Act requires the Secretary of State to give the MMO guidance on the contribution it is to make to the achievement of sustainable development, and a draft of any such guidance must be laid before Parliament.

A draft of the guidance, which has taken into account the comments of a broad range of organisations, MMO delivery partners, and the MMO board, will be laid today and copies made available in the Vote Office and at:

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Conflict Funding (2010-11)

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): I, together with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for International Development, wish to inform the House about our plans for conflict funding for the next financial year.

The 2007 comprehensive spending review settlement set the programme resources available for conflict prevention and stabilisation for FY 2010-11 at £229 million (an uplift of £50 million from FY 2009-10), with an additional
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call on the Treasury Reserve for assessed peacekeeping costs, currently capped at £374 million. Taking into account end-year flexibility arrangements, the UK's total available conflict resource for FY 2010-11 is likely to be £628.5 million. This excludes the net additional costs of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq where separate arrangements are in place to draw on the Treasury Reserve.

We have agreed that we will earmark £450 million to cover the cost of assessed peacekeeping contributions, allowing us to meet our international legal obligations.

We have increased funding from £171 million in 2009-10 to £178.5 million in 2010-11 for discretionary activity funded through the tri-departmental conflict pool (CP). The conflict pool (CP) will continue to fund discretionary conflict prevention, stabilisation and peacekeeping activity under the existing five programmes: South Asia, Middle East, Africa, Wider Europe and strategic support to international organisations.

These allocations will allow the conflict pool to retain a reserve of £9 million to act primarily as a buffer against fluctuations in the exchange rate and increases in assessed peacekeeping or other conflict-related costs. The likely cost of the assessed contributions will be kept under review.

We will continue to prioritise within the resources available. We remain committed to maintaining our significant contribution to international peacekeeping, and to funding essential conflict prevention and stabilisation activity in priority regions.

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Science and Technology Committee Report on Nanotechnologies and Food (Government Response)

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Gillian Merron): We are today laying before Parliament the Government's response (Cm 7857) to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee report on Nanotechnologies and Food, which was published on 8 January 2010.

Nanoscience and nanotechnologies have advanced in recent years to the stage where there are a range of innovative products on the market that contain nanomaterials, ranging from cosmetics to surface coatings for glass. While developments in the food industry are generally at an early stage, applications of nanotechnology in this sector have the potential to bring about benefits to both industry and consumers.

The Science and Technology Committee's inquiry is therefore timely and their report provides a detailed and extremely thorough analysis on a range of issues including support for innovation, research into health and safety implications, regulation and public engagement.

The Government's response welcomes the Committee's report and its recommendations. Some of the issues that have been raised by the Committee are specific to food while others are wider in scope. The Food Standards Agency has therefore liaised closely with other Government Departments-the Departments for Business, Innovation and Skills, and for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-in considering the Committee's recommendations and developing the overall response.

In several places the response cross-refers to the Government's UK Nanotechnologies Strategy "Small Technologies, Great Opportunities", which was published on 18 March 2010. The Government's position on nanotechnologies is set out in the strategy as follows:

This approach applies equally in the food sector, where the role of public engagement is of particular importance. The Committee rightly highlights the heightened public sensitivities about new food technologies and the value of effective public communication and openness. Therefore, in addition to taking forward the other recommendations in the report, the Food Standards Agency will be working closely with industry, consumer groups and other stakeholders to ensure that the public have accurate and impartial information about the way that nanotechnologies are being applied to food.

Today's publication is in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.

Government Response to the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic (Independent Review)

The Secretary of State for Health (Andy Burnham): I am pleased to announce that an independently chaired review of the UK response to the 2009 HlNl ("swine flu") pandemic has been established. This review has
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been jointly commissioned, and the chair appointed, by all four of the UK Health Ministers. The review will be chaired by Dame Deirdre Hine. The review team are situated within the Cabinet Office, which will lead the review with the full co-operation of all the UK Health Departments.

As part of the normal procedure following a major emergency event, the review will consider the effectiveness of the UK response to the 2009 pandemic and make recommendations to inform planning for any future pandemic. We expect the review team to conduct a paper review of all the key elements of the response and to interview key individuals involved. However, it will be for Dame Deirdre to determine precisely how she wishes to proceed.

The chair will start work as soon as possible. In order that the review can inform future pandemic planning and to ensure that its findings are placed in the public domain as soon as possible, Ministers have asked that the review complete its work in time to publish a report before the summer parliamentary recess (in any of the four nations of the UK).

I would like to take this opportunity to express the Government's thanks to all of those who have assisted and advised on the response to the swine flu pandemic.

NHS Prescription/Dental Charges and Optical Vouchers

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Mike O'Brien): I am announcing a freeze in prescription charges for 2010-11. The prescription charge will remain unchanged at £7.20 for each quantity of a drug or appliance dispensed. The cost of a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) will remain at £104.00 for an annual certificate. PPCs offer savings to those who need frequent prescriptions throughout the year. The cost of the three-month PPC, which is useful for those with a shorter-term need for prescription items, will remain at £28.25.

Alongside this, I am confirming that we will not be introducing any changes to the age-exemption criteria for free prescriptions in April 2010. We are considering how best to implement changes to the age at which people qualify for free prescriptions, in line with the changes to state pension age for women.

NHS dental charges will also be frozen at their current rates for the 12 months beginning 1 April 2010. The dental charge payable for a band 1 course of treatment will remain at £16.50, and the charge for a band 2 course of treatment will remain at £45.60. The charge for a band 3 course of treatment will remain, for a third year, at £198.

Charges for elastic stockings and tights, wigs and fabric supports supplied through hospitals will also remain unchanged.

The range of NHS optical vouchers available to children, people on low incomes and individuals with complex sight problems to help with the purchase of glasses also remain unchanged in 2010-11.

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Home Department

Hillsborough Independent Panel

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson): On 15 December 2009 I announced the establishment of the Hillsborough Independent Panel and the appointment of the Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool as the panel's chairman. The appointment of seven panel members was announced in my written statement of 26 January 2010.

In view of the range of skills needed and the hundreds of thousands of documents within the panel's scope, my announcement on 26 January referred to the likelihood of further appointments, including the appointment to the panel of a suitably experienced lawyer. I can now confirm that Raju Bhatt, a founder and partner of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors and one of the founding members of Inquest Lawyers Group, has been appointed as a member of the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

This announcement completes the process of appointments to the panel, each of which is for a period of two years.

I am confident that the panel members have the skills and experience they need to be successful in the challenging tasks the panel faces, and that it will continue to act with independence, rigour, and sensitivity. The panel will, itself, consider the range of professional expertise it may wish to call upon in due course.

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