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Defence Housing Executive:Key Targets 2003–04

Baroness Golding asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: The following key targets have been set for the Defence Housing Executive for 2003–04:

    Key Target 2: Less than 3.3 per cent of occupants should experience significant defects within 14 days of moving in

    Key Target 3: To complete the planned upgrade of 1,200 properties by 31 Mar 2004.

    Key Target 4: To complete— at least 95 per cent of emergency repairs within 24 hours of notification; at least 90 per cent of urgent repairs within five working days of notification; at least 95 per cent of routine repairs within two months of notification.

    Key Target 5: To reduce the management margin progressively towards 10 per cent by November 2005, to better balance supply and demand while delivering other key targets (the DHE's interim target for 31 March 2004 is to have a management margin of 11.4 per cent).

    Key Target 6: To reduce dissatisfaction: with the quality of the property provided as SFA by 1 per cent to 17 per cent of occupants by 31 Mar 2004; with the service that occupants receive from DHE personnel by 1 per cent to 19 per cent of occupants by 31 Mar 2004.

Copies of the DHE's corporate plan will be placed in the Library of the House.

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Iraq: Al Majarr Al Kabir, 24 June 2003

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide an update on events in Al Majarr Al Kabir, Iraq, on 24 June 2003.[HL3763]

Lord Bach: On 24 June last week, in another place, my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary informed the House that six Royal Military Police soldiers had been killed, and eight other United Kingdom service personnel had been wounded in incidents in Iraq earlier that day. Since then, we have been working hard to establish what took place. It may be some time before we have a full picture; indeed, we may never know with absolute certainty precisely what happened.

However, we will do all we can to establish the facts, and to hold to account those responsible. Accordingly, we have launched an investigation, and the Special Investigation Branch has appointed a senior investigating officer. We are also looking at the wider, operational aspects of what took place, to determine whether there are any lessons we need to learn. It may be some time before this work is complete, and we do not therefore intend to respond to every piece of media speculation or conjecture in the interim.

It would, however, be right for us to set out our current understanding of events leading up to, and on the day of the incidents themselves. In doing so we should point out that our understanding may change as new information comes to light.

The RMP were engaged in assisting with the regeneration of the local Iraqi police service by ensuring that they had proper training, equipment and infrastructure to operate as professionally as possible. This task included routine visits to police stations in the area. The police station in Al Majarr Al Kabir is one of a number that the RMP planned to visit last Tuesday.

Al Majarr Al Kabir is a town of approximately 60,000 people, situated to the south of Al Amarah, in Maysan province. The town has always been fiercely independent and was free of Saddam's regime by the time coalition forces reached it. The main focus of military operations in the area in recent weeks had been the implementation of a weapons amnesty, and thereafter, the recovery of illegal weapons.

These weapons searches were unpopular with the local population, although none had been conducted in the town itself. Local religious leaders had called for further searches to be resisted, and on 22 June, a 1 Para patrol in the town were faced with a hostile crowd of some 500 people. The soldiers fired baton rounds in order to enable them to be able to withdraw from the town. At a meeting the next day, officers from 1 Para agreed with the town council that weapons searches would be suspended, and that the council would itself take responsibility for recovering "heavy" weapons.

With this agreement in place, the following day the RMP section "booked out" at around 0910, planning to visit three towns in the area—Al Majarr Al Kabir

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being the first. Routine force protection measures in place required that they should all be armed, should have their body armour and helmets with them, should have working communications, and that there should be at least two vehicles—in fact they had three.

We judge that they would have reached the town at around 0940–0955, shortly before a 1 Para patrol also entered the town. We cannot yet be certain, but it may be that the attack on the Para patrol took place before the attack on the RMP. The attack on 1 Para commenced at around 1030, when the patrol was stoned by a large crowd. At some point a crowd also appears to have massed outside the police station. While attempting to move their vehicles inside the police compound, the RMP came under fire, and it seems at least one of them was killed at that point. The crowd evidently then stormed the police station. British forces were informed a short while later by local Iraqis that all six of the RMP personnel had been killed.

We understand that attempts were made to contact the RMP section as events unfolded. This is one of the details we will be trying to establish as part of the investigation.

In the follow-up to these incidents, Iraqi leaders in the province are continuing to work closely with us. We will not lose sight of our overall aim to support a better Iraq, and an Iraq that is for the Iraqi people. British forces in Iraq continue to do an excellent job in taking this important work forward.

As they do so, our thoughts remain with those that have lost their lives, and their loved ones who mourn them. Bill

Defence Estates: Key Targets 2003–04

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What key targets have been set for Defence Estates in financial year 2003–04.[HL3765]

Lord Bach: As detailed in the Defence Estates corporate plan 2003–08, the following key targets have been set for the agency:

    (a) Key Target 1. To improve single living accommodation by delivering 1,000 grade 1 bedspaces under Project SLAM, and report on the provision of 1,500 bedspaces under parallel single living accommodation projects. To ensure that at least 65 per cent of MoD sites of special scientific interest in the United Kingdom meet the criteria for satisfactory condition;

    (b) Key Target 2. To provide an estate of the right size by producing and gaining agreement to a core sites implementation plan by 31 March 2004;

    (c) Key Target 3. To achieve accrued estates disposal receipts of £661 million by 31 March 2008, including £187 million by 31 March 2004;

    (d) Key Target 4. To achieve the key milestones planned during 2003–04 to allow for the

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    implementation of the Ministry of Defence estates change initiatives of Project Alexander, Regional Prime Contracting and Project Aquatrine by 31 March 2006;

    (e) Key Target 5. Pursue activities leading to the sustainable use of MoD estate assets over time by implementing environmental management systems, on 40 per cent of all MoD sites by 31 March 2004.

In addition, recognising the role of the agency in delivering a new way of managing the defence estate, the following development targets have been set for the agency to achieve by 31 March 2004:

    (a) To establish a new baseline of estate assets by function, condition and fitness for purpose;

    (b) To achieve the level of DE service delivery agreed in customer supplier agreements;

    (c) To produce a methodology for assessing value for money efficiencies from the introduction of prime contracting.

Copies of the new Defence Estates corporate plan will be placed in the Library of the House.

Nuclear Industry

Lord Jenkin of Roding asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United Kingdom is represented, and, if so, at what level, on the Generation IV International Forum for the discussion of the next generation of nuclear electricity generating plants; and how the deliberations and recommendations of the forum are contributing to the Government's policy of keeping the nuclear option open.[HL3402]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The UK with eight other countries joined the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) in July 2001. The initiative foresaw a need for advanced nuclear energy systems in the future to help meet growing international demands for carbon free energy; and that to meet public concerns, future systems wherever deployed must meet exceptionally high standards of safety, sustainability and proliferation resistance, while operating economically in liberalised markets. The aim is to develop a framework for collaborative R&D on Generation IV reactor systems that could be deployed from around 2030. UK participation in the charter is without commitment to building a Generation IV design in the UK.

Senior representatives from DTI, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and industry participate in GIF policy and expert groups. They ensure that UK nuclear technology and regulatory experience can be shared internationally and that DTI ministers and senior energy officials are kept fully apprised of the work of the forum.

It will be for the Health and Safety Executive (with the approval of the Health and Safety Commission) to decide the appropriate level of the HSE's Nuclear

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Installations Inspectorate's involvement with any emerging research programmes relating to possible deployment of new designs in the UK in both the medium and long term.

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