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Parliamentary Staff

Mrs. Calton: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, what arrangements are in place for monitoring pay and positions by ethnicity, gender and disability on the parliamentary estate; and if he will make a statement. [56494]

Mr. Kirkwood [holding answer 16 May 2002]: The House of Commons Commission is committed to fairness in its employment policies. On its behalf, officials monitor all recruitment exercises by ethnicity, gender, and disability status at both application and appointment stages. In addition, there is regular monitoring of staff across all pay bands, broken down by ethnicity and gender for each department.

In 1999 and 2001, the Board of Management reviewed the findings of two consultancy studies of all aspects of performance appraisal for senior posts and for two mid-range pay bands. These reviews focused on the fairness and effectiveness of the system in general and in particular on equality aspects.

There has been a recent programme of further training for reporting officers involved in conducting performance appraisals, with the aim of promoting consistency across the House at all levels in the application of the House's performance review markings and performance pay decisions. Officials are currently reviewing the pay system for the main pay bands, in consultation with the trade unions. The review will include an exercise in equality proofing as carried out in the Civil Service.


Optional Protocol

Ms Drown: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he plans to remove the Government's Declaration to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict; and if he will make a statement. [38771]

Mr. Ingram: The declaration made on signing the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict was designed to clarify the United Kingdom's understanding of the requirements of the Optional

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Protocol. It made clear our determination to accord special consideration to members of the armed forces under the age of 18, but also our understanding that the Protocol would not exclude members of our armed forces aged under 18 from taking a direct part in hostilities in certain narrowly defined circumstances (thereby maintaining operational effectiveness). The declaration defined these circumstances as being

There are no plans to withdraw the declaration.

New guidelines are being finalised as part of the process leading to the United Kingdom's ratification of the Optional Protocol. These guidelines are designed to ensure adherence to the Optional Protocol while reflecting the practical position set out in the United Kingdom's declaration, thus maintaining operational effectiveness. Officials in both the Ministry of Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Office continue to work actively towards ratification, and we hope to ratify soon. As part of the ratification process, an Explanatory Memorandum will be laid before Parliament to explain the significance of the Optional Protocol.

Gulf War

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many UK military personnel he estimates were exposed to dangerous and harmful gases resulting from destroyed Iraqi chemical factories in the Gulf War; and what changes there have been in this number in the last three years. [54580]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence is not aware of any United Kingdom military personnel having being exposed to dangerous and harmful gases resulting from destroyed Iraqi chemical factories during the Gulf conflict. However, on 10 March 1991, US forces demolished Iraqi rockets containing chemical warfare agents near the Khamisiyah Ammunition Depot, Iraq. The MOD's initial assessment of the implications for UK personnel of the demolitions was published in December 1999 in a paper entitled: "Review of Events Concerning 32 Field Hospital and the Release of Nerve Agent Arising from US Demolition of Iraqi Munitions at the Khamisiyah Depot in March 1991". The paper is available in the Library of the House and on the internet at The paper's main conclusion was that up to 9,000 UK troops might theoretically have been exposed to nerve agent following the demolitions but that the level of exposure would have no detectable effect on human health.

On 25 April 2002, the US released a technical report about the Khamisiyah demolitions based on a revised theoretical model of the plume of nerve agent which may have been released by the demolitions. On 3 May 2002, the US Secretary of Veterans Affairs announced that the death rate for US personnel who were near Khamisiyah is similar to that for other US Gulf veterans. The US report

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is currently being analysed by MOD officials and the implications for UK personnel will be made public when available but at this stage there is no evidence to link the Khamisiyah demolitions with the range of symptoms of ill health being experienced by some Gulf veterans.


Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the original target flying hours were for the leased C17s; what the actual flying hours have been; and if he will make a statement; [55205]

Dr. Moonie: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 15 May 2002, Official Report, column 640W.


Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what undertakings were received by Her Majesty's Government from the Afghan Interim Authority on the international human rights standards applicable to captives transferred from United Kingdom authorities to the Afghan Interim Authority. [56278]

Mr. Hoon: The Afghan Interim Authority have given us assurances that they will abide by their international obligations in handling detainees who are released by the British forces from detention and taken into custody by the Interim Administration.

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what guidance he has given to military personnel on the applicability of the provisions of the European convention on human rights to persons captured in Afghanistan by UK forces. [56275]

Mr. Hoon: All military personnel are issued with guidance which ensures that their actions are fully in compliance with our international obligations, including where appropriate the ECHR.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Tomahawk missiles have been fired in Operation Veritas. [57532]

Mr. Hoon: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 11 December 2001, Official Report, column 743W, to the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams).

Disclosure of Interests

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what rules apply to the disclosure of interests on the part of those serving on public bodies which are responsible to his Department. [56450]

Dr. Moonie: All advisory and executive non- departmental public bodies are required to adopt a board members' code based on guidance produced by the Cabinet Office, and they should have registers of interests. The definition of interests is ultimately for individual Departments since they are best placed to decide what might be thought to influence members of their bodies.

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The following table lists the non-departmental public bodies sponsored by the Ministry of Defence and indicates whether they have a current Code of Practice.

Code of Practice
Executive NDPBs
Fleet Air Arm MuseumYes
National Army MuseumUnder review
Oil and Pipelines AgencyYes
RAF MuseumYes
Royal Marines MuseumYes
Royal Navy MuseumYes
RN Submarine MuseumYes
Advisory NDPBs
Advisory Committee on Conscientious ObjectorsYes
Armed Forces Pay Review BodyYes
Advisory Group on Medical CountermeasuresUnder development
Animal Welfare Advisory CommitteeUnder development
Central Advisory Committee on War PensionsYes
Dartmoor Steering GroupYes
Defence Nuclear Safety CommitteeUnder development
Defence Scientific Advisory CouncilYes
Independent Board of Visitors to the Military Corrective Training CentreUnder development
National Employers Liaison CommitteeYes
Nuclear Research Advisory CouncilUnder development
Review Board for Government ContractsYes
Royal Military College of Science Advisory CouncilUnder development
War Pensions Committees (13 bodies)Yes

I will arrange for copies of all current Codes of Practice for NDPBs sponsored by the MOD to be placed in the Library of the House.

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