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Israel: Illegal Settlements

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have consistently called on the Israeli Government to freeze all settlement activity and dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001, as required under phase 1 of the road map. We will continue to do so.

Passports

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We cannot offer a definitive Answer to this Question. However, it is our view, subject to the results of ongoing work, that there are a number of factors which have contributed to the increase in the recorded figures for passports lost, stolen or unavailable since 1998. Key among these are likely to be an increase in identity fraud and an increase in the number of reports being made to and recorded by the UK Passport Service.
 
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As recognised by the Cabinet Office Identity Fraud: A Study published in July 2002, identity fraud is a serious and growing problem for the UK and it is possible that this has contributed to the increase in passports being reported as lost or stolen. However, there is no evidence currently available which could establish the degree to which the increase in identity fraud has resulted in the increase in reports of lost and stolen passports.

Both the UK Passport Service and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have undertaken campaigns in recent years to encourage members of the public to report the loss or theft of passports. These campaigns will also have contributed to increased reporting and will be reflected in the figures we have given.

Furthermore, the current passport issuing system, which was installed in UK passport offices between October 1998 and November 2001, provides for a more consistent and structured way of recording reports of losses than was available on the previous system. This provides figures which more accurately reflect the true extent of reported losses.

The UK Passport Service is far from complacent about the large number of passports which become separated from their rightful bearer. Instances of forgery and manipulation of UK passports are kept under constant review as are the security features in the passport book itself. The current digital passport has a number of very advanced security features which make it extremely difficult to alter or replace the genuine details.

The number of passports reported stolen, lost or unavailable in the first quarter of 2003 was 46,273.

Future Joint Combat Aircraft

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): To date, a total of £345 million has been spent on the assessment of (£144 million) and demonstration (£201 million) phases of the future joint combat aircraft (FJCA) programme. This total comprises our contributions to the JSF programme as the means of meeting the FJCA requirement, the cost of studies on alternative aircraft options and costs associated with UK national activities. The forecast procurement costs to completion are estimated to be up to £10 billion based on the current planning assumption of procuring 150 aircraft.
 
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Bilateral Defence Acquisition Committee

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: The Bilateral Defence Acquisition Committee was established as a result of the agreement between my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and President Bush on 17 July 2003. The first meeting took place on 9 February and the second took place on 3 June. Its deliberations are a matter for our two Governments, but we will of course keep industry informed of relevant developments. Representation at meetings is dependent upon the subjects being discussed. The terms of reference were signed by Dr Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, US DoD and Sir Kevin Tebbit, the Permanent Secretary, UK MoD at the first meeting on 9 February.

The terms of reference are as follows:

The Bilateral Defence Acquisition Committee (BDAC) is a senior forum between the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MoD). Its purpose is to increase the effectiveness of defence acquisition co-operation between the two nations, as agreed in an exchange of letters between the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of the United States. It includes representation from each nation's foreign policy establishments. Consistent with the exchange of letters, the BDAC will, as a minimum:

Develop and co-ordinate efforts to improve information and technology exchange including the timely release of classified and sensitive information.

Clarify existing arrangements for the US and UK defence industrial information sharing and release to ensure consistent and reciprocal treatment.

Address co-operative lifecycle acquisition activities from research and development and test and evaluation, to co-operation in procurement and in logistics support.

The BDAC will initially meet quarterly to ensure that action is pursued vigorously to implement, in practical measures, the spirit of enhanced co-operation and openness represented by the exchange of letters. At least one meeting each year will be chaired by the United States Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Permanent Secretary of the United Kingdom MoD. Other meetings will be chaired by the DoD Under-Secretary of Defense for Acquisition,
 
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Technology and Logistics and the MoD Deputy Chief of Defence Staff for Equipment Capability. Meeting venues will alternate between the two nations.

These terms of reference were signed on 9 February 2004 and will be reviewed at a minimum every two years.

Nuclear Submarines

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: Most of the radioactivity is contained within the reactor pressure vessel, which is in the submarine's reactor compartment, and consists of irradiated steel as a result of exposure to neutrons during reactor power operations. As this activity occurs throughout the body of the steel it could not be removed by heavy shot blasting. Outside the reactor pressure vessel, but within the reactor compartment, is the primary circuit, which circulates hot water from the reactor pressure vessel to heat exchangers. While this circuit has not been significantly exposed to neutron activity, its internal surface is contaminated with radioactive corrosion products that are deposited in the cooler pipework outside the reactor pressure vessel. As the contamination is internal to the sealed primary circuit, the heavy shot blasting technique could not be used.

Right-to-Buy Scheme

Lord Hanningfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): The Government's assessment of the impact of their proposed changes to the right-to-buy scheme are set out in the Explanatory Notes published when the Housing Bill was introduced into the House of Lords on 13 May 2004. Copies were made available in the Library of the Houses.

To summarise, the Government believe that the changes will have a limited effect on public expenditure and little effect on public service manpower, will limit the returns available to companies that seek to exploit the rules, and are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
 
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