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Pensions

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate the cost to the armed forces pension

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scheme of providing pensions, at a rate of one half the serving members' pension, to widows and widowers of personnel who retired before 1 April 1973. [27193]

Mr. Ingram: The Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) increased the rate of widows' and widowers' pension from one third of the members pension to one half, from 31 March 1973. Individuals serving on or after this date were provided with the opportunity to make additional contributions so as to qualify former service for the half rate of widows' pension. On this basis, it would be difficult, in equity, to extend the half rate pension to widows whose husbands had left the service before that date and who had not, as a result, contributed financially towards the improvement. It has also been the long- standing policy of successive Governments that discretionary changes to improve the benefits offered by public service pension schemes should be implemented for future service only.

We do not know exactly how many people would be affected by such a change, but we estimate the cost for the Armed Forces Pension Scheme to be £25–30 million per year. The cost would be substantially higher if the improvement were extended to other public service pension schemes.

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate the cost to the Armed Forces Pension Scheme of entitling servicemen and women who retired before 31 March 1973 to buy-in to the scheme's improved benefits in respect of providing widows and widowers a full half pension. [27194]

Mr. Ingram: As such a change would be on a "buy-in" basis, we would expect the cost of extending the half rate pensions to pre-1973 widows and widowers to be covered by contributions. The Ministry of Defence would incur administration costs but these would be relatively small. However, such changes have been ruled out by the long-standing policy of successive Governments that scheme improvements should not be retrospective.

UN Military Staff College

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the status is of the proposed UN military staff college for the training of peace keepers; and if he will propose using the Scottish Centre for Nonviolence as its location. [26683]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 11 January 2002]: The UK's approach to providing support to UN training is through a flexible programme of training aimed at enhancing multinational co-operation and interoperability, and strengthening the integrated civil-military approach to peace support operations. This is achieved through conferences, seminars and workshops, expanding places on, or reorientating, existing courses and the development of bespoke UN courses. This is being carried out very successfully throughout locations within the UK and abroad. While a dedicated UN military staff college remains a possibility, we are not currently pursuing the establishment of one.

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Eagle-Picher

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the accuracy of bombs dropped on Afghanistan with batteries produced by Eagle-Picher; and if he will make a statement. [27258]

Mr. Ingram: Eagle-Picher batteries are used in US munitions, and this is therefore a matter for them.

Search and Rescue Squadron

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will ensure that waterproof helmet-fitted radios are made available for Royal Air Force Search and Rescue Squadron winchmen. [28096]

Mr. Ingram: Subject to a satisfactory outcome of current trials, a helmet-radio assembly for RAF Search and Rescue winchmen will come into service this summer. A fully integrated and waterproof helmet-radio is scheduled to be introduced next year. This will permit full radio and intercom voice communications between the helicopter crew and the winchman.

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many winchmen serve with the Royal Air Force Search and Rescue Squadron. [28095]

Mr. Ingram: There are currently 49 Search and Rescue winchmen within the Royal Air Force.

US Trident Submarines

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions his Department has had with its counterparts in Washington concerning US plans to convert two of its fleet of Trident submarines to conventional use. [28259]

Mr. Ingram: We have not taken part in any formal discussions.

CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

Fraud

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what estimate her Department has made of the cost to its budget since 1 May 1997 of fraud; and if she will make a statement. [27288]

Dr. Howells: The available information is given in the table:

£

1997–981998–991999–20002000–01
DCMS(6)1,909000
Royal Parks Agency0000
Historic Royal Palaces Agency(7)13,600
Non-departmental Public Bodies152,183178,8941,97823,272

(6) Net of amounts recovered

(7) Historic Royal Palaces Agency became an non-departmental public body on 1 April 1998


Film Council

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many full-length feature

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films the Film Council has financially supported in each year since its creation; what the total income for each of those films is; what estimate the Film Council has made of each film's total audience; and if she will make a statement. [27754]

Dr. Howells: The Film Council has directly or indirectly financially supported a total of 58 feature length films to date since its creation. Of these, 15 were directly funded from the Film Council Lottery funds which became operational in October 2000. The remainder were funded through the pre-existing Lottery film franchises or through the interim arrangements with the film production activities of its predecessor bodies—the Arts Council of England (through Lottery funding) and British Screen Ltd. (through grant in aid funding).

The total cash received by the Film Council to 31 December 2001 against the 58 titles is £2,091,739. A film is normally expected to generate income over several years and the income received to date against these titles is therefore only a small part of the expected return on investment.

The Film Council does not produce estimates of total audience for individual films. A film's earning potential spans a number of international markets or countries and a range of media platforms (including cinema, video, DVD, and television) and it is therefore unrealistic to attempt to estimate total audience.

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much money the Film Council received from lottery funds in the last financial year; what amount the Film Council allocated in the last financial year; what amount the Film Council allocated and paid out in the last financial year; and if she will make a statement. [27753]

Dr. Howells: The Film Council was allocated £31.474 million in income from the National Lottery Distribution Fund during the 2000–01 financial year. The Film Council allocated £33.82 million of lottery funding to projects and paid out £20.003 million in the same year.

Lost/Stolen Property

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will list those items valued at more than £50 which have been stolen or lost from her Department in each of the last four years. [27993]

Dr. Howells: Items stolen from the Department over the last four years are as follows: a laptop computer (1998), three personal computer base units and one personal computer monitor (2001). As required each incident was reported immediately on discovery as a security breach.

Refurbishment

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what her estimate is of the cost of buildings refurbishment carried out by her Department in each of the last four years. [27970]

Dr. Howells: The Department has needed to relocate some divisions during the last four years and refurbishment has been necessary in those cases in preference to higher rental costs for property offered by developers. In 1999 the Government Art Collection was

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rehoused at a cost of £144,000. In 2000 the cost of moving towards a single roof solution for the Department was £615,000 and improving facilities in 2000 and 2001 was at a cost of £375,000 and £648,000 respectively.


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