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Baroness Amos: The Strand 2 provisions of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement describe the role and functions of the North-South Ministerial Council, and paragraph 16 provides for it "to be supported by a standing Joint Secretariat, staffed by members of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the Irish Civil Service". It is the role of the joint secretaries to discharge that support function in ways appropriate to prevailing circumstances.
Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 12 July (WA 118119) concerning the North-South Ministerial Council Secretariat in Armagh, what are the "other wider functions" of the staff; when they have undertaken those functions; and under what instructions. [HL3821]
Baroness Amos: It is common for members of both the Northern Ireland and Irish Civil Services particularly at senior levels, to carry out functions of a representational or corporate nature which go wider than their day-to-day duties, and which may not be specified in the broad description of their particular posts. It would not be possible to list every occasion when officials of the secretariat have undertaken such wider functions, or to specify what instructions, if any, they would have acted under on such occasions.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The support vehicle invitation to tender stated a requirement for medium and heavy variants of Recovery vehicles and this has remained extant. Bidders have since been asked to indicate the effect to their stated unit prices of a reduction of up to 20 per cent in the Recovery Vehicle fleet, to allow a full value-for-money assessment to be undertaken.
Lord Bach: Recruitment to the Army occurs when the applicant has passed through the recruiting selection centre process, has been accepted and is allocated a place on a training course. Enlistment occurs when the recruit begins their phase 1 basic training. The Army has an enlistment target figure of around 11,300 for the current financial year and since 1 April more than 1,500 have enlisted.
There is currently a pause on some recruits starting their phase 1 training. Some of those who have successively passed through the recruit selection procedure may be given a date to commence phase 1 training later in the year. This is a short-term measure that has been introduced to help maintain balance in Army manpower numbers, and is likely to continue until October. It does not equate to banning recruitment. There is no ban, freeze or cap on Army recruitment and no one expressing a wish to join the Army is turned away.
Lord Bach: As at 30 April 2004 external legal costs of £17,538 had been incurred in dealing with the Gulf War veterans' intention to claim common law compensation against the Ministry of Defence. Internal costs would be included within the Ministry's overall administration figures. The current position is that the department has not received any writs or detailed claims stating specific allegations of negligence sufficient to start considering these claims.
What has been the cost to date to the Ministry of Defence of making representations to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal when Gulf War veterans' claims have been contested; and in how many cases the ministry was successful; and [HL3775]
Lord Bach: The internal costs of administering war pensions claims, including the department's processes for preparing cases for hearing at the Pensions Appeal Tribunal, are not separately identified by individual case or category of claim. Gulf War cases are administered as part of the normal arrangements for administering war pensions claims and resources are not provided specifically for these cases, either for assessment of claims or arising out of appeals to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal. Individual cases only incur separately identifiable additional costs if they progress to the High Court. The final external legal costs for the one Gulf War illness war pensions case heard by the High Court are expected to be approximately £150,000; the department's challenge to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal decision on this case was not successful.
As at the end of May 2004, there had been some 770 appeals to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal from veterans who had served in the Gulf against the Department's decision on their claims. The department's decision has been upheld in some 55 per cent of cases.
Whether they have made an estimate of the cost of additional support for sick Gulf War veterans and their families since the first reports of ill health were received; and, if so, whether the amount exceeds that incurred by the Ministry of Defence and the War Pensions Agency in defending claims of ill health at tribunals and in the courts. [HL3777]
Lord Bach: The Government established the Gulf Veterans Medical Assessment Programme (GVMAP) in 1993 to address the health concerns of individual
22 Jul 2004 : Column WA72
veterans: as at 16 July 2004, 3,235 Gulf veterans had attended the GVMAP. The GVMAP does not provide treatment; it assesses patients' health and recommends treatment if appropriate. The cost of the GVMAP since it began in 1993 is not available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
The Defence Medical Services are responsible for the health of those veterans of the Gulf conflict who are still serving, while the NHS is responsible for treating Gulf veterans who have left the Armed Forces. No central estimate has been made of the costs of support for sick Gulf veterans and their families.
Gulf veterans who suffer illness or injury as a result of their service are eligible to claim a war pension and an attributable pension under the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS). Widows' pensions can similarly be claimed where the spouse's death was caused or hastened by service. War pensions are paid on the basis of an assessed level of disablement which is causally linked to service.
The rate of pension paid therefore depends on the circumstances of the individual case. The maximum war pension (including allowances) for a severely disabled person is currently over £460 per week. Substantial AFPS pensions are paid on top of this at a level dependent on rank and level of disablement. Other support is also available, for example to assist transition back into civilian life on leaving the Armed Forces. Information is not kept on the costs of internal administration of individual claims.
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