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TRIPS Council

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the outcome of the TRIPS Council between WTO member states on 19 September. [8313]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 23 October 2001]: I have been asked to reply.

The TRIPS (Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights) Council on 19 September concentrated on issues about access to medicines.

The meeting reached no conclusion and the matter has been referred to the Chair of the World Trade Organisation General Council to take forward discussions regarding a ministerial declaration. The next TRIPS Council will be on 26 to 30 November 2001.


Service Personnel (Gosport)

Mr. Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what changes are planned for the numbers of service personnel to be based in service establishments in the Gosport constituency. [9771]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 19 July 2001, Official Report, columns 334–35W to my hon. Friend the member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) in which I advised the House that as part of the implementation of the Defence Training Review the Ministry of Defence is conducting a series of studies into rationalisation of training facilities. Under this programme HMS Sultan in Gosport will be the benchmark or Public Sector Comparator for electro- mechanical engineering training. As Project Definition work is not due to be completed until next March it is, however, too early to judge the outcome of this study.

Skynet 5

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what assessment he has made of the employment implications for United Kingdom companies with special reference to Astrium Ltd. of the awarding of his Department's Skynet 5 Military Satellite Communications contract to a majority UK-based communications company; [10169]

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Dr. Moonie: Proposals have been received from two consortia: Paradigm Secure Communications (led by Astrium) and Rosetta Global Communications (led by Lockheed Martin, British Telecom and BAE Systems). The evaluation of Skynet 5 is very complex and will primarily take into account financial, commercial and technical issues. The assessment will also consider the industrial implications of each proposal. Both bidders have been invited to submit 'Best and Final Offers' by the end of November 2001. All aspects of the bids will be fully assessed before a decision is reached. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the bidders' proposals while the competition is taking place. However, on current plans I expect to announce the preferred bidder in the early part of 2002.

Internees (Far East)

Peter Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what advice the Department of Social Security gave to the Association of British Civilian Internees Far East Region in November 2000 on the interpretation of which categories of claimant could count as British in order to qualify for the ex gratia payments announced on 7 November 2000. [10226]

Dr. Moonie: The ex-gratia scheme for former captives of the Japanese is administered by the War Pensions Agency, which was an executive agency of the Department of Social Security until 8 June 2001 when the agency transferred to the Ministry of Defence.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 22 October 2001, Official Report, column 2W.


Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the source of the 0.3 tonnes of plutonium still to be moved from AWE Aldermaston to Sellafield as of 14 March 2000; what quantities of plutonium have been moved to Sellafield and placed under safeguards since this date; and what plans there are to move further quantities of military plutonium to Sellafield. [8962]

Mr. Ingram: Taken in their totality, acquisitions of plutonium for the nuclear weapons programme were predominantly from Sellafield. A number of other sources are described in the Ministry of Defence report of April 2000, entitled 'Plutonium and Aldermaston, an Historical Account'. It is however impossible to identify the specific original source of the 0.3 tonnes of weapon grade material to which my hon. Friend refers. Of this 0.3 tonnes, some 235 kilograms have been moved to Sellafield and placed under International Safeguards—this represents some 162 kilograms since 14 March 2000. It is intended that the balance of 65 kilograms will be moved in due course.


Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if his Department has plans to migrate to Microsoft Windows XP and MS Office XP; what estimate of the costs involved has been made; and what alternatives have been examined. [8782]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is planning to integrate its corporate information systems under a single Defence Information Infrastructure programme, the requirements for which are still being

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formulated. If approved, this programme will assess various options including software provision and any potential move to Microsoft XP products, taking account of costs and benefits.

Separately, MOD has recently agreed a defence-wide licensing agreement reflecting the considerable number of Microsoft products already used within the MOD. This agreement would allow MOD to migrate to new products if shown to be cost-effective.

Armed Forces (Pensions)

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what abatement is made in respect of pay levels in the armed forces to take account of the benefits from the non-contributory pension scheme. [9392]

Mr. Ingram: It is the remit of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB) to consider broad pay comparability, and this includes taking account of the deferred pay represented by pension provision. The AFPRB currently applies an abatement to comparators' earnings to account for the early and fast accrual of benefits under the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) compared with those available in the civilian sector. The level of abatement set in the AFPRB's 30th Report (2001) is 7 per cent.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate has been made of the costs of increasing death-in-service benefits of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme; and if he will make a statement. [8739]

Mr. Ingram: Within the current Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS), the death-in-service gratuity for non- attributable deaths is significantly lower than in most other comparable pension schemes. The recent consultation document setting out our initial findings from the review of the AFPS therefore recommended that the death-in-service gratuity should be increased to three times pensionable salary. Overall, the changes would represent a substantial improvement in terms for family and dependants. The additional cost of this enhancement has been estimated at some £9 million per annum.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the review of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme will report. [8742]

Mr. Ingram: The period of public consultation was due to end formally on 31 July but was extended informally to admit some late replies. The Ministry of Defence is now undertaking an analysis of the responses with a view to identifying significant issues and recommending how it might move ahead on these. This will require detailed discussions to agree responses that meet our recruitment and retention needs, but which are also consistent with wider public sector pensions policy. In addition, we intend to engage in further discussions with the ex-service community during this process, both to discuss their particular concerns and inform them of our thinking. This approach means that it is not possible to set a definitive time scale but our current plan is that we should seek to report on the review by the late spring of next year.

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Service Accommodation

Peter Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to ensure that substandard service living quarters are upgraded; and within what time scale. [9770]

Dr. Moonie: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced a significant new programme of investment at the Defence Estates Conference for Industry on 14 March 2001.

The upgrade programme will involve a major investment year on year for the next decade, which will build up to new investment levels of approximately £200 million per year on new and upgraded accommodation.

A number of upgrade and rebuild programmes are already under way. We are preparing a competition for a major Single Living Accommodation Modernisation Prime Contract, to be awarded by the end of 2002.

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