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The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The French Presidency Report to the Nice Council on the European Security and Defence Policy has been translated into English. I am placing a copy of the report in the Library of the House.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Ministry of Defence yesterday published a paper entitled Depleted Uranium--Documents explaining the Ministry of Defence position on the risks and health hazards. This demonstrates the Ministry of Defence's determination to be open and transparent on the matter. Copies of the paper have been placed in the Library of the House.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Since June 2000, British forces have provided short-term training to Sierra Leone. Some 6,500 members of the Sierra Leone Army (SLA) have been given basic infantry skills. The training programmes have gone well, with the SLA demonstrating its ability to strengthen control of government-held areas.
To consolidate the achievements to date, provide more officer/NCO and specialist training and put the SLA in a position to train itself in future, we are planning a further package of training by British teams until September. This will prepare the way for handing over to the International Military Advisory and Training Team (IMATT), announced by the Prime Minister in March 2000, which will take on the continuing training task. Some six countries, including a sizeable British contingent, are expected to be represented in the IMATT. We plan to increase the IMATT's overall size from 90 posts originally envisaged to 126. This reflects a detailed assessment of what will be required to consolidate the excellent work that British forces will have achieved through the Short Term Training Teams. We also plan to maintain an operational Headquarters in Sierra Leone for the rest of the year, and to demonstrate, through periodic exercises, the availability of the over-the-horizon rapid reaction capability. These measures will increase the cost of our training and equipment programme by some £5 million.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The United Kingdom has a number of Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force assets assigned to NATO, including our contributions to NATO's standing naval forces, the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps, and the NATO Airborne Early Warning Force. The majority of the UK's other forces are either earmarked for NATO, or could be called upon for NATO operations as appropriate. France is not part of NATO's Integrated Military Structure, and therefore does not formally assign forces to the Alliance.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Ministers at the WEU Ministerial Council in Marseille in November 2000 and at the Nice European Council in December 2000 decided to transfer the functions of the WEU Satellite Centre to the EU. This will take effect from 1 January 2002. The Satellite Centre, based at Torrejon in Spain, is an imagery analysis and training centre: it does not possess its own satellites and does not have subsidiary agencies. In the EU its primary role will be to provide interpretation of satellite and aerial images, acquired from external sources, to the Council of Ministers in support of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Under the EU, as under the WEU, the Satellite Centre is unlikely to have a permanent formal relationship with NATO, but will be able to offer its services to a variety of customers including national governments and international organisations, such as NATO.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): In December 2000, 8.5 per cent of all claimant unemployed people in the UK were in the 27 constituencies where the unemployment rate was above 10 per cent and 17 per cent were in the 62 constituencies where the unemployment rate was above 8 per cent.
There are new jobs coming up all the time, either in neighbouring areas which may be centres of employment opportunity or, indeed, in the constituencies themselves. The Government's welfare to work policies aim to match jobless people with these jobs.
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