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West Freugh Airfield

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the development opportunities that would be made possible by commercial development of West Freugh airfield in Wigtownshire. [27030]

Dr. Moonie: The opportunities for commercial development of West Freugh airfield in Wigtownshire have been assessed several times in recent years. In each case, it has been concluded that there are few commercial opportunities for development of the airfield.

Defence Contracts

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many defence contracts are out to tender; and what the estimated value of each contract is. [27500]

Dr. Moonie: The tender process is continuous and the Ministry of Defence awards a total of about 40,000 contracts worth about £8 billion per annum. Information on tenders outstanding at any given time is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Tungsten Armour Piercing Round

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what effect the decision to purchase a tungsten armour piercing round will have on existing use of depleted uranium rounds; and if he will make a statement; [27495]

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Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence already has tungsten armour piercing rounds which are used by Challenger 2 tanks. The further purchase of tungsten ammunition has been proposed for the test and calibration firing of Challenger 2 tanks. Such a buy would have no effect on the use of depleted uranium rounds, since the rounds are used in different roles. The Charm 3 round, which incorporates a depleted uranium penetrator, is a war fighting round, while the tungsten rounds are used in the calibration of the Challenger 2 weapons system.

QinetiQ

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he plans to float QinetiQ. [27416]

Dr. Moonie: There has been no change from the policy described in the DERA PPP consultation document published in April 2000. Our preference is to seek a flotation on the stockmarket as soon as QinetiQ's potential is suitably developed and as soon as we can ensure best value for the taxpayer. As identified in the consultation document, and subsequent statements on the way forward, we have kept open the option of seeking a strategic partner for the business as an intermediate step.

We have emphasised throughout this process that the precise timing and nature of the transaction will be dependent on value for money considerations and this continues to be the case.

Gurkhas

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many special arrangements are in place to pay pensions to retired Gurkhas who are sick or disabled; [27497]

Mr. Ingram: My right hon. Friend the then Minister for the Armed Forces completed a thorough review of Gurkha pensions and gratuities only two years ago. The outcome was a significant improvement in the payments made as a result of a death in service, which brought death in service gratuities for Gurkhas to the level of comparable British Army service personnel, and increases to pension payments of at least 100 per cent.

Gurkha pensions are not paid at the same rates as British service men as the context in which they are paid is very different. Discharge in Nepal, and the link to Indian Army rates is the basis on which the Gurkhas serve. The levels of pension paid to our Gurkhas reflect the cost of living in Nepal, where they are discharged. Gurkha pensions now compare favourably to professional salaries there. They are also paid earlier than that of a British soldier. Gurkhas receive their pension at the end of their 15 years of service rather than the 22 years required of their British counterparts. In addition, up to 100 per cent. of the Gurkha pension can be passed on as a family pension to a soldier's widow until her death or remarriage and then to unmarried children up to the age of 25 years.

Sick or disabled Gurkha pensioners are able to nominate an individual, usually a family member or friend, to collect their pensions in cash from one of the

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three pension paying offices in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Itahari, or from one of the 24 Area Welfare Centres situated throughout Nepal. A significant number of sick and disabled Gurkha pensioners choose to receive their pension this way, but it is impossible to identify the precise number without making manual checks to over 25,000 pension records. The information could, therefore, be provided only at disproportionate cost.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Civil Servants

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many people were employed in his Department in each of the last four years. [23802]

Mr. Bradshaw: The numbers of staff in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are shown in table C of Civil Service Statistics 2000, published on 31 August 2001. Copies are available in the Libraries of the House.

Scottish Executive Officers

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether Scottish Executive Officers who work internationally under arrangements reached between the Scotland Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office report to the Scotland Office; and how many of them are accorded diplomatic status. [23603]

Mr. Straw: Scottish Executive Officers work internationally under the arrangements agreed in the Concordat on International Relations. The Framework for co-operation is between the devolved Administrations and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Accordingly, Scottish Executive Officers report to both. The FCO has assisted the Scottish Executive to set up an office in Brussels and has given five staff in Scottish Executive EU Office diplomatic status. The Scottish Executive Officer in the British Embassy in Washington also has diplomatic status.

Zimbabwe

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations his Department has made to the Zimbabwe authorities regarding the treatment of members of the foreign and domestic press. [23884]

Mr. Bradshaw: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary issued a strong statement on 24 November expressing his concern at the comments of the Zimbabwean Government spokesman which implied that foreign and local journalists were assisting terrorists. The British High Commissioner in Zimbabwe made formal representations to the Foreign Ministry in Harare on 26 November, and wrote to the Zimbabwean Foreign Minister the same day, expressing the British Government's deep concern at threats to the independent media in Zimbabwe.

We have since taken every opportunity to reiterate this concern. Others share our concerns. The European Union has made the issue central to its formal consultations

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with the Zimbabwe Government under the Cotonou Agreement. Freedom of the media is a key element of recently-passed United States Congressional legislation on Zimbabwe. And Commonwealth Ministers issued a strong statement of concern about the situation in Zimbabwe at their meeting in London on 20 December, including the pressures on the independent media in that country.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions his Department had with the Home Office concerning the deportation of Gerald Mutekiwa (a) before his deportation and (b) after his deportation. [26621]

Mr. Straw: The Foreign Office provides the Home Office with regular political reporting on Zimbabwe. The Home Office leads on asylum policy. The Home Office did not discuss Mr. Mutekiwa's case with the Foreign Office before his deportation. Following allegations that Mr. Mutekiwa had been mistreated on his return to Zimbabwe, the Home Office asked the British High Commission in Harare to investigate the allegations. It is doing so.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has received on the treatment of Gerald Mutekiwa by Zimbabwean security police after being deported from the United Kingdom. [26622]

Mr. Straw: I have received reports yet to be substantiated that Mr. Mutekiwa was mistreated on his return to Zimbabwe. The British High Commission is currently investigating.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what actions his Department is taking to ensure the security of persons deported from Britain to Zimbabwe. [26617]

Mr. Straw: The Home Office are responsible for asylum policy. The Foreign Office, the British High Commission in Harare and the Home Office are in regular contact about the overall security situation in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions his Department has had with British representatives in Zimbabwe concerning the security of persons deported to Zimbabwe from the United Kingdom. [26616]

Mr. Straw: We are in on-going contact with the British High Commission in Harare about the overall security situation in Zimbabwe and, as appropriate, about how this might relate to individuals.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last spoke to the President of Malawi concerning the situation in Zimbabwe. [26618]

Mr. Straw: I discussed the situation in Zimbabwe with President Muluzi on 9 January.

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Zimbabwe about the medical condition of Mr. Fletcher Dulini-Neube MP. [26880]

Mr. Bradshaw: None.

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