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RAF: Glider Instruction

Lord Marsh asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It is not compulsory for RAF personnel to receive instruction in the flying of gliders. Glider flying training is available to service personnel as an adventurous training activity. This training is provided at the Joint Services Adventurous Training (Gliding) (JSAT(G)) centre at RAF Bicester. There are however 10 instructors for the JSAT(G) centre who are required to undertake training and qualify as gliding instructors. Additionally, there are 900 volunteer instructors for the Air Cadet Organisation Volunteer Gliding Schools.

Flying Clubs: RAF Support

Lord Marsh asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The RAF Gliding and Soaring Association (RAFGSA) receives no direct financial support from the Royal Air Force. The RAFGSA, along with other non-public service sport and recreational clubs, is provided with facilities where surplus capacity exists. In the specific case of the RAFGSA's club at Bicester, it is provided with the use of the airfield and a hangar and it is also provided with some manpower support from irreducible spare capacity at the Joint Services Adventurous Training (Gliding) centre at Bicester.

Flying Clubs: Membership

Lord Marsh asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The RAF Gliding and Soaring Association is a non-public organisation and consequently my department does not hold records. However, I am advised by the RAFGSA that its current membership is 909, of which 183 are associated with its club at RAF Bicester.

RAF Little Rissington: Glider Flights

Lord Marsh asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Records are not retained at RAF Little Rissington for longer than one year. The number of launches in 1999 was 4,232, all of which were by the Air Cadet Volunteer Gliding School using self-propelled gliders. The level of activity in previous years would have been at the same level and the Air Cadet Volunteer Gliding School plans to continue at this level for the next five years. The RAF is considering a proposal to allow the RAF Gliding and Soaring Association's Bicester Gliding Club and the Joint Service Adventurous Training (Gliding) Centre, both currently based at Bicester, to relocate to RAF Little Rissington The annual flying activity of JSAT(G) is estimated in the region of 4,500 aerotow launches and 300 self-propelled flights during weekdays. A further 9,000 winch launches and 900 aerotug launches would be made by the RAFGSA, which operates seven days a week during the period of March to the end of October.

RAFGSA: Membership Qualification

Lord Marsh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the required qualifications for membership of the Royal Air Force funded Bicester Flying Club, which has recently moved to RAF Little Rissington. [HL2401]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The RAF Gliding and Soaring Association (RAFGSA) requires that at least 51 per cent of its membership are serving or retired members of the services or MoD civil servants. External members are allowed by invitation. The RAFGSA advises that 76 per cent of its members belong to the Armed Forces.

RAF Menwith Hill

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House the contractual or other documents relating to the occupation of land known as RAF Menwith Hill by third parties.[HL2469]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: As with all sites made available for use by the United States visiting forces in the United Kingdom, RAF Menwith Hill is made available in accordance with the NATO Status of Forces Agreement of 1951, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House, and other arrangements appropriate to the relationship which exists between the Governments of the United Kingdom and United States for the purposes of our common defence. These other arrangements are confidential and are withheld under exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

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There are also four grazing licences let over RAF Menwith Hill, in accordance with departmental policy to use the defence estate in the most efficient and economical way practicable. We consider these to contain commercially confidential information and to be private between the Ministry of Defence and the individuals concerned. I am withholding these documents under exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Gulf War Veterans: Defence Select Committee Report

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the comments made by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee (7th Report, HC125) about the Government's efforts to improve the quality of life of Gulf War veterans with still undiagnosed illnesses; and whether they accept the recommendation that there should now be improved financial provision and better access to medical treatment for such veterans.[HL2490]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Gulf veterans who are ill because of their military service may already qualify for government financial assistance; all are entitled to be referred to the Gulf Veterans' Medical Assessment Programme and those who are ill have access to medical treatment, either from the NHS or the Defence Medical Services.

The Government welcome the Defence Select Committee's report Gulf Veterans' Illnesses which was published on 11 May. Full consideration is now being given to the recommendations made in the report. In line with standard parliamentary procedure, the Government will respond to the committee once this process is complete. It is expected that this will be in the form of a memorandum in July, which the committee may then publish.

Defence Housing Executive Properties:Gas Safety

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether all Defence Housing Executive properties served by gas have an annual safety check; and whether the occupants are given a landlord's gas safety certificate[HL2529]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: As a landlord, it is DHE's policy fully to comply with all requirements of gas safety legislation. In implementing this policy the agency arranges for an annual safety check on gas-fired appliances which are part of the building structure in inhabited premises. This will include gas-fired boilers, gas fires and gas cookers where these have been supplied by DHE. Of course, this necessitates the occupant allowing reasonable access for the inspection engineer.

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The agency also complies with the legislation in requiring the engineer to leave a copy of the landlord's gas safety certificate with the occupant at the time of the successful inspection and before leaving the premises.

Protection of Military Remains Act

Lord Onslow of Woking asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What use has been made of the powers contained in the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.[HL2557]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The powers of the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 have been used to process applications for licences to recover crashed military aircraft: 1,366 such applications have been approved and 176 rejected. There have been two successful prosecutions against individuals who have committed offences under the Act. To date there has been no designation under the Act of either a military vessel or of a controlled site containing a military vessel.

E-commerce: Government Statistical Data

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether their statistical data relating to e-commerce and the sector are adequate; and, if not, what action they propose to take to improve the situation.[HL2532]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): A Government Statistical Service interdepartmental group is reviewing means of meeting requirements for statistics in this rapidly developing area. In general, e-commerce transactions are covered by existing statistical collection but they are not separately identified.

Information on Internet access is available from the Family Expenditure Survey. The expenditure diary on the Family Expenditure Survey has been amended to identify Internet transactions by households separately. The time use survey will collect data on the amount of time spent on the Internet.

For the e-commerce enabling industries such as computer software, pilot data collection by the Office for National Statistics on individual products and services is planned. Research is also in hand in co-operation with Internet service providers to access information that they hold on patterns of Internet use. A report Whose Net? Characteristics of Internet Users in the UK, is available on website This report was commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry from De Montfort University and involved the co-operation of 12 leading Internet service providers.

Data on the usage by business of information and communication technologies and e-commerce

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applications are collected in the DTI's International Benchmarking Study which compares UK performance with that in other leading economies.

The best approach to the collection of data from business which identifies the value of electronic transactions separately is still to be established. It is important to achieve the right balance between the value added through the availability of such statistics and the extra costs and burdens involved.

International comparability is particularly important for business statistics on e-commerce, as many different types of transactions and network can be involved. The UK has been participating fully in the derivation of internationally acceptable definitions of e-commerce. Other countries' experience in collecting relevant data is also being taken into account, though typically these are very recent developments.

More information can be found in an article "E-commerce@the.ONS.UK" in the April 2000 edition of Economic Trends, also available on the e-envoy's website.

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