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War Cemeteries in France: Prevention of Vandalism

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: Both my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence and my honourable friend the Minister for Veterans have received written assurances that the French Government are taking every step possible to identify and punish the culprits for these acts of wanton vandalism. So far they have detained nine individuals in connection with such vandalism. The Minister for Veterans has suggested that he and his French counterpart might visit one of the cemeteries together in the near future.

Gulf War Veterans: Case of Shaun Rusling

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: I have received the noble Lord's letter of 8 September, with which he encloses a copy of Mr Rusling's letter to him dated 3 September. I will be replying shortly. I have received no other representations.

Negotiations with Mr Rusling's lawyers are now complete. Legal costs paid up to 12 September 2003 amount to £123,697.77. The final figure, including our own external legal costs, is expected to be approximately £150,000.00. Joan

Future Aircraft Carrier

Lord Burlison asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: Further to the Statement to the House by my right honourable Friend the Defence Secretary on 30 January 2003, (Official Report, cols. 1026-42), in another place, we are pleased to announce that the Ministry of Defence has agreed contracts with BAe

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SYSTEMS (BAeS) and Thales United Kingdom for the third stage of the assessment phase for the future aircraft carrier (CVF) programme. This stage will be used to increase the maturity of the carrier design, and will pave the way for placing contracts for the demonstration and manufacture (D&M) phase in spring 2004. The work will be managed by a single, integrated team staffed by BAeS and Thales UK.

Since the end of January, progress has been maintained in developing the design of the warship. In parallel, positive discussions have been conducted with BAe SYSTEMS and Thales UK on how to take forward the alliance approach to the programme set out by the Secretary of State in January. Discussions will continue between all three parties to refine the precise terms of the alliance and the D&M contract, and will complete early next year. These discussions will be conducted concurrently with the stage 3 design work, and will place the department in a strong position to proceed quickly to place the D&M contract expected in spring 2004. Joan

Armed Forces: Review of Pension and Compensation Arrangements

Lord Burlison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the review of the Armed Forces pension and compensation schemes.[HL4507]

Lord Bach: The Ministry of Defence has completed its reviews of the current Armed Forces pension and compensation arrangements. We have taken account of views expressed during the public consultation in 2001, and in particular those serving in the Armed Forces, those representing the ex-service community, and the recommendations made by the House of Commons Defence Committee in March 1 2002. In reaching our decisions we have also taken account of the changes in policy likely to emerge from the Inland Revenue paper on tax simplification 2 . Our proposals are also consistent with the policies recently published by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. 3 The new schemes are designed to be fairer, to reflect modern practice and to meet the needs of the Armed Forces in the 21st century, and offer a high level of assurance for service personnel. The Government intend to introduce the primary and secondary legislation required to implement these new schemes as soon as parliamentary time allows.

    (1) HCDC Third Report: The MoD Reviews of Armed Forces Pension and Compensation Arrangements (HC 666) - 9 May 2002. HCDC Fifth Special Report: The MoD Reviews of Armed Forces Pension and Compensation Arrangements: Government's Response (HC 1115)

    (2) Simplifying the taxation of pensions: increasing choice for all (December 2002)

    (3) Simplicity, Security and Choice: working and saving for retirement—Action on occupational pensions. (June 2003)

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A new Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) will be introduced for new entrants on 6 April 2005 and we will give current members of the Armed Forces the opportunity to transfer to the new scheme as soon as possible but no later than 6 April 2007. This decision to transfer will be entirely voluntary for each individual member. The new AFPS will remain a defined benefit scheme but will be based on final pensionable pay and will provide the same benefits for officers and other ranks. There are substantial new arrangements for dependants: a death-in-service benefit of four times pensionable pay (increased from up to one and a half times pensionable pay previously); an increase of 25% in widow(er)'s pension compared to the current scheme; and an extension of dependants' benefits to unmarried partners where there is a substantial relationship.

These changes reflect key concerns raised during consultation and address the need to make proper provision for those who are left behind when personnel are killed in service.

The scheme has retained its normal retirement age of 55, but preserved pensions will be paid at age 65. The current early immediate pension provision has been replaced with an early departure scheme which is expected to ensure compliance with expected revisions to Inland Revenue policy with respect to the earliest date at which normal pension benefits can be paid. The early departure scheme will offer a similar structure of benefits to the immediate pension, but with changes which help to fund some improvements in pension benefits and the cost of pensioners living longer. Overall, the changes will be broadly cost-neutral, taking account of the steps taken to cover increasing longevity costs. ra

The new compensation scheme will be introduced in April 2005 and will replace provisions under the War Pensions Scheme and attributable benefits under the current AFPS for incidents arising from that date. The new scheme reflects modern practice. It is fair, transparent, simple to understand and offers consistent outcomes, with more focus on the more severely disabled. It is a no-fault scheme. It provides a lump-sum payment for pain and suffering which is a new benefit not available under current arrangements. In addition, a guaranteed income stream (GIS) will be awarded alongside higher level tariff awards for those who suffer significant loss of earnings capacity. Unlike the current arrangements, there will be in-service lump-sum awards for pain and suffering, including for injuries resulting from warlike activities. Benefits will be provided for dependants where deaths result from service but will be extended to include unmarried partners, where there is a substantial relationship. There will be a time limit to claim of five years, with exceptions for late-onset conditions. Claims will be assessed using the "balance of probabilities" standard of proof, in line with civil law and common practice

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elsewhere. There will be an independent appeals tribunal system, compliant with European Convention on Human Rights, available for claimants who consider that their claim has not been handled fairly by the MoD.

The Ministry of Defence will also be extending the provisions introduced on 20 March 2003 which provided benefits to unmarried partners for attributable deaths related to conflict. The current AFPS will provide attributable benefits to unmarried partners where there is a substantial relationship for all attributable deaths with an effective date of 15 September 2003. The current AFPS does not provide unmarried partner benefits for non-attributable deaths, but this benefit will be available under the new AFPS.

We are making available more detailed information from the consultation process and further detailed explanation of the schemes at A copy will be placed in the Library of the House. lynne

Immigration Advisory Service

Lord Chan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the new arrangements for the funding of the Immigration Advisory Service by the Legal Services Commission will affect the work of the service.[HL4014]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): The terms of the contract that will be awarded to the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) following the transfer of funding from the Home Office to the Legal Services Commission have yet to be finalised. Ministers will write to the IAS and the noble Lord in the near future, when the position and impact on work will be clearer.

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