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7 Apr 2010 : Column WA425

Written Answers

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Armed Forces: Helicopters

Question

Asked by Lord Astor of Hever

The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): There is no single, formal measure providing a retention rate for aircrew.

Apache aircrew deployable strength has increased from 46 to 108 since 2007 due to increased operational demand. There has been a fourfold increase in flying hours for Apache helicopter aircrew since 2006.

The Attack helicopter force has been steadily growing since the Apache was introduced into service. The original requirement was to provide 40 crews by 2009 and a long-term plan of growing to 60 crews in 2012.

Armed Forces: Imprisonment

Question

Asked by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): The information is not held in the format requested.

Our Armed Forces are prepared to put their lives on the line in service of the country. They willingly accept restrictions to their lifestyle and the unique conditions of service that are required to do the job. Wherever possible we will accommodate individual needs, providing that this does not impact on operational effectiveness.

Service personnel are not allowed to choose which assignments they will undertake or which orders they will follow. As a result, refusing to serve on operations may result in a charge for desertion. In each of the past four years, three personnel from all three services have been charged and found guilty of desertion, with an average length of sentence of about eight months. It is not possible to confirm whether a refusal to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan, on either a first or second tour, was a factor in all of these cases.



7 Apr 2010 : Column WA426

Armed Forces: Snatch Land Rovers

Question

Asked by Lord Astor of Hever

The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): It has been a long-standing policy of this department not to release data on the number of vehicles deployed to Afghanistan as their disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the Armed Forces.

Armed Forces: Travel

Question

Asked by Lord Astor of Hever

The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): I refer the noble Lord to the Answer given in the other place on 25 March 2010, (Official Report, col. 414W) to the right honourable Member for Rotherham (Mr MacShane).

Civil Service: Redeployment

Question

Asked by Lord Astor of Hever

The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): Project Hyperion is the co-location of all Headquarters Land Forces staff to Andover by summer 2010. As part of this process 183 posts were deemed surplus to requirements at Andover. The individuals affected are being offered other employment as suitable opportunities become available. So far, 138 staff have found new jobs, taken early release or retired.

The cost of maintaining staff in the redeployment pool only begins to accrue after their posts have been disestablished. Even then, the department aims to find temporary alternative employment for those concerned while they search for a permanent role. As at 29 March 2010 none of the 45 staff left in the redeployment pool has had their post disestablished.



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Cluster Bombs

Question

Asked by Baroness Northover

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): It is the Government's desire to achieve a global cluster munitions ban as soon as possible.

We have already started working to achieve this. Notably, in November the Government launched a political initiative encouraging Commonwealth states to support the convention. Further targeted lobbying work has been undertaken at the African Union summit in January 2010 and during a range of recent bilateral meetings.

Following Royal Assent to the Cluster Munitions (Prohibitions) Act on 25 March, the UK will ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions imminently. Our UK posts overseas have been instructed to lobby their hosts to support the convention.

We will continue to raise universalisation of the convention with non-signatory states in relevant international meetings and fora, and during bilateral contacts. We will continue to co-operate and work in partnership with non-governmental organisations and like-minded states in these efforts.

Democratic Renewal Council

Questions

Asked by Lord Tyler

Baroness Crawley: The full membership of the Democratic Renewal Council is:

Prime Minister (Chair);Leader of the House of Commons (and Lord Privy Seal); Minister for Women and Equality;First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Lord President of the Council;Chancellor of the Exchequer;Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor; Secretary of State for the Home Department;Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Secretary of State for International Development;Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government; Secretary of State for Northern Ireland;Leader of the House of Lords and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; Secretary of State for Scotland;

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Secretary of State for Wales;Chief Whip (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury); Attorney-General; andMinister of State, Ministry of Justice.

Other Ministers are invited to attend meetings where necessary.

Information relating to the proceedings of Cabinet Committees, including which members attended which meeting, is generally not disclosed. To do so could harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion.

Asked by Lord Bates

Baroness Crawley: Information relating to the proceedings of Cabinet Committees, including when and how often they meet, is generally not disclosed. To do so could harm the frankness and candour of internal discussion.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Questions

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): I visited the east of the country where operation Amani Leo is being carried out when I was in DRC in February. I met people who are living their daily lives amidst the conflict and heard first hand about the dangers they face. When I spoke to MONUC and FARDC commanders who are planning operation Amani Leo I reiterated that human rights abuses will not be tolerated and that conditionality must be applied by MONUC in cases where they are committed. This means that MONUC support will be removed from FARDC battalions that are involved in human rights abuses. I was assured that this message is being delivered to the troops in the field. We remain extremely concerned at the effect this conflict is taking on innocent people. We are monitoring developments and will continue pushing for human rights abuses to be investigated as well as conditionality to be applied.

The FDLR continue to kidnap, kill and rape-particularly in South Kivu which is why the military operations to remove them as a source of instability are necessary. With closer MONUC involvement and a more organised FARDC, Amani Leo is better planned than its predecessor, Kimia II. However, people are still being displaced as a result of military operations. Congolese army troops (FARDC) continue to commit human rights violations. I told President Kabila that the issue of impunity must be addressed and perpetrators of human rights abuses held to account when I met him in February. FARDC has made efforts to implement President Kabila's "zero tolerance" policy, by bringing some offenders to justice. MONUC is demanding that human rights violators are removed from military

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units that they are supporting. FARDC is being more transparent and is now reporting to MONUC cases of human rights abuse as they occur. We understand FARDC has provided figures to MONUC detailing the number of personnel tried in military courts between February 09 and February 10 for human rights crimes including rape, murder and armed robbery. Reporting from our post in DRC and MONUC sources suggests that the situation has improved over the last year.

MONUC also carries out disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration (DDRRR) work with foreign armed groups, principally the FDLR and Lord's Resistance Army. In 2009 the combination of enhanced DDRRR work and military operations resulted in a threefold increase over 2008 in successful repatriations of FDLR fighters back to Rwanda. The UK continues to fund DDRRR work and I visited one of the UK-funded radio transmitters used for DDRRR communications when I was in DRC seeing how UK money is being put to good use.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Lord Brett: The UK is one of the largest donors to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), spending £105 million in 2009-10. The UK works closely with the Government of the DRC, though we recognise the Government's weak capacity and the high risks of our engagement. Implementation of UK programmes is managed by international organisations, including the World Bank and United Nations agencies. This helps us to ensure that UK taxpayers' money is managed properly and put to good use.

UK aid is yielding results in the DRC. Our health programme is reaching 2 million people with basic services and has provided 3 million mosquito nets to prevent malaria, a major cause of death in DRC. We also work with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Belgian Technical Co-operation and the DRC Ministry of Energy and Water to provide safer water and sanitation facilities for some 4 million people.

We have made no specific assessment of Mr de Gucht's remarks.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: The security situation across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains a serious concern for the UK and we continue to monitor the situation closely.



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(a) I visited the Kivus where Operation Amani Leo is currently under way when I was in DRC at the end of February. In Bunyakari I spoke to UN peacekeeping mission to DRC (MONUC) troops and the Congolese army (FARDC) 8th brigade who told me that while operations had opened up the main road and improved trade and communications insecurity was still high with FDLR attacks including rape, looting, house burning a daily occurrence. My meetings with local people confirmed the dangers and difficulties they face. I reiterated to MONUC and FARDC commanders that there must not be a repeat of the human rights abuses of Kimia II and that conditionality, whereby support offered by MONUC to FARDC battalions will be withdrawn where human rights abuses are committed, must be applied and acted upon where warranted. They assured me that this message is being delivered to troops and battalions in the field.

In the North of North Kivu the main threats come from kidnappings by the Allied Democratic Forces/National Liberation Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU) and banditry committed by the PNC (Congolese Police Force), elements of FARDC, and the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) being pushed north by the military operations.

(b) The FDLR has a presence in the north of Katanga, with some moving south as they are pushed out of their bases in the Kivus. Exploitation of minerals remains a source of insecurity as various armed actors and criminal elements seek to profit from mines.

(c) There are border issues with Angola in Bas Congo, and the Angolans are also in dispute with DRC over access to oil in the ocean.

The Government clampdown of the Bundia Dia Kongo group in 2008 has left a lingering tension in Bas Congo. The activities of Bundia Dia Kongo and the DRC Government remain concerning. Underlying tensions do not seem to have been resolved, though there have been no recent signs of violence.

(d) The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is present and terrorising the local population in Dungu. Human Rights Watch released a report recently which says that 321 civilians were killed by the LRA during a four day rampage in the Makombo district in December 2009. Fear of LRA attacks is preventing the local population from leaving the relative security of the towns and villages meaning fields are left uncultivated. Roads in the region are in a poor state and there are no mobile phone networks outside of Dungu; early warnings and a rapid response to attacks are nearly impossible. As I stated on 30 March "The LRA continues to pose a serious threat to civilians. They also put at risk both the conduct of humanitarian operations and the stability of the region".

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool



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Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: The exploitation of civilians, use of forced labour and exploitation of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are of serious concern to the UK.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) January 2010 report highlighted the natural resource sector as a particular area where armed groups use forced labour. I spoke to Prime Minister Muzito when I was in DRC about the importance for the country of mineral sector reform. We are working with the International Community to help the Government of DRC reform their natural resource sector.

I also spoke to President Kabila about ending impunity for all human rights abuses including the use of child soldiers. We support the work of UN peacekeeping mission to DRC (MONUC) in reintegrating militia groups which has led to children being released into the care of child protection organisations. Through the EU advisory and assistance mission for security reform in the Democratic Republic of Congo (EUSEC) we are funding a biometric census project which provides accurate personnel figures for FARDC regiments and allows child soldiers to be successfully identified and removed.

Alongside abduction one of the major factors that persuades children to join militia groups is the lack of access to education. As part of our work to address this, the Department for International Development provides £500,000 funding to projects improving access to primary education.

We do not have any plans to ask the World Trade Organisation to establish a study group on the protection of workers.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has made recent rapprochements with both Rwanda and Uganda, the UK Government welcome these and strongly support the greater regional co-operation they signify. DRC and Rwanda have now exchanged ambassadors. The DRC-Uganda rapprochement has led President Kabila and President Museveni to publicly pledge co-operation across the board.

Our embassies and High Commissions in the Great Lakes region of Africa remain in constant contact with host governments over the best means to end political violence and promote stability and development in the DRC and more widely in the region.

We have raised the issue of regional co-operation amongst Great Lakes countries at all levels in the UN. Most recently when I was in New York in March I spoke to the UN Secretary-General Ban Kin Moon about the region. During my recent visits to DRC and Uganda, and in a meeting last month with the Rwandan Foreign Minister I have urged the importance of regional co-operation.


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