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Reserve Forces Specialist Support

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The first agreement for the use of what are familiarly known as "Sponsored Reserves" was signed on 27 October 2000 on behalf of the Meteorological Office and the RAF's HQ Strike Command. Introduced by the Reserve Forces Act 1996, this new form of reserve service extends the ability of the private sector and government agencies to provide specialist support on operations as well as in peacetime. More properly known as special members of a reserve force, sponsored reservists are employed as civilians in peacetime and as volunteer members of a reserve force when deployed to support operations.

The Mobile Meteorological Unit (MMU) provides meteorological support to the RAF in peacetime and to UK and Allied Forces when these forces are operating away from their fixed bases. Some 60 staff of the MMU form a unit of the RAF Reserve. Members will be routinely called out on a rotational basis under the terms and conditions of employment developed from the broad consultation process with industry that followed the Reserve Forces Act's coming into force in

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April 1997. This agreement represents the first use of the SR concept by my department and builds on the established working pattern of the MMU which has supported operations since 1962 with great distinction.

RAMC Site, Millbank: Sale

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What professional advice was given to the Ministry of Defence concerning the sale of the Royal Army Medical Corps site at Millbank, London. [HL4269]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Defence Estates, the Ministry of Defence agency responsible for the disposal of surplus defence sites, includes professional surveyors who managed this case. Marketing advice was given by CB Hillier Parker, term commission consultants.

Army Rifle: Calibre

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what date Ministers in the Ministry of Defence approved the adoption of 5.56 mm as the calibre of army rifle to replace the 7.62 mm self loading rifle. [HL4293]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Research is currently being undertaken in order to provide a detailed answer to this question and I will write to the noble Earl when this work is complete. A copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Fishing Industry: Safety Measures

Baroness Howells of St Davids asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on grant aid to encourage the safe operation of fishing vessels. [HL4548]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The Government wish to see the fishing industry develop a positive safety culture. Former schemes providing grants simply for equipment have not been successful in cutting accident rates. One of the keys to improving safety is good training and that will be our priority. We therefore propose to make up to £0.5 million available in each of the next three financial years to deliver safety training for fishermen in England. These payments, to be funded through the EU structural fund for fisheries, will cover the fees to enable courses to be offered to fishermen without charge.

We are in discussion with the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Fisheries Departments of the developed administrations to develop a suitable new package of training measures.

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These will include courses to update safety awareness among fishermen hitherto exempt from the requirement for safety training; to provide training in accident prevention and risk assessment; and safety training for newcomers to the industry. We will consult the fishing industry on our proposals.

We also intend that grant aid should be available through FIFG to support the trialling of innovative and experimental equipment to improve vessel safety.

Manchester: Employment Schemes for Chronically Sick and Disabled People

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made of the success of rehabilitation programmes in Greater Manchester for helping chronically sick and disabled people to obtain and retain employment; and whether they have any plans to put in place a framework of responsibility to guarantee long-term funding support for approved projects for such help from local agencies.[HL4291]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): There are a number of schemes across Manchester which are successful in helping chronically sick and disabled people to obtain and retain employment. These include Breakthrough UK, who are working with people with learning disabilities as well as those with physical disabilities. In addition, Manchester City Council has recently received approval for a European Social Fund bid for the rehabilitation of mental health users, to enable them to return to work.

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This will be managed by the Manchester Mental Health Partnership. A similar scheme for learning disability users is being currently implemented.

However, while it is the responsibility of individual health and local authorities to provide appropriate services for their residents, the Departments of Health requires all councils, with their National Health Service and other partners, to prepare Welfare to Work Joint Investment Plans by 31 March 2001.

Brain Injury Services in the North West

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evidence they have on the provision in the North West of mix-funding from local health, employment and social services agencies for helping to rehabilitate those with acquired brain injury back into work; and what advice they have received from the Social Services Inspectorate on this issue.[HL4290]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: It is the responsibility of individual health and local authorities to commission appropriate brain injury services for their residents from within the resources available to them. A variety of facilities exist, and are used.

The Department of Health requires all councils, with their National Health Service and other partners, to prepare a Welfare to Work Joint Investment Plan by 31 March 2001. These plans will help provide "joined up" services for people who want to work, stay in work or to move closer to their place of work. The core of the Joint Investment Plan concept is inter-agency working, with a focus on the needs of the user.

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