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Dr. Moonie: I refer the hon. Member to the answer which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces gave on 23 May 2002, Official Report, column 478W, to the right hon. Member for Berwick- upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith).
10 Jun 2002 : Column 747W
Mr. Ingram: As at 23 May there are three vessels at sea not engaged on front line duties which do not have Lynx embarked (HMS Newcastle, HMS Norfolk and HMS Montrose). The Royal Navy has its full required operating fleet of 116 helicopters of various types, and the required level of spare aircraft. There is no overall shortfall.
Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what measures the Government are taking to (a) increase the lives of rotor heads for helicopters, (b) decrease the manufacturing period and (c) ensure that enough spare parts are available for the front line and reserve. 
Mr. Ingram: A number of factors influence rotor head life including the helicopter's operational role and weight, any changes to capability during its service, the vibration environment of the helicopter and the cost and ease of maintenance. We continue to work closely with industry to improve the techniques and materials used in the manufacture of rotor heads, and gain a better understanding of the stress under which the rotor head operates. These initiatives are designed both to increase the life of the rotor heads and reduce manufacture lead times. Helicopters now entering service, for example Merlin, benefit from this work.
We are also embarking on a number of innovative partnering arrangements with industry that focus both on greater reliability and improved component performance. More broadly based work to improve the responsiveness of the Defence Supply Chain will also enhance helicopter logistics, and ensure that we are better able to support front line forces.
Mr. Ingram: Problems with Lynx main rotor heads have obliged the Joint Helicopter Command to review helicopter deployments, and Lynx helicopters in the rapid reaction forces not currently deployed on operations are subject to restrictions on the number of hours that can be flown. In addition, to protect front line operations and the flying training programme, some ships not on front line service are currently at sea without an embarked Lynx helicopter.
10 Jun 2002 : Column 748W
Mr. Ingram: None. The term "grounded" is normally used only when a whole fleet or mark of aircraft is identified as unsafe to fly because of specific serious engineering or airworthiness problems that call into question the safety of the aircraft type. More generally, the number of aircraft available to operational commanders can vary on a daily basis as aircraft move in and out of maintenance.
Dr. Moonie: The list of nations with which the Government have Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) on defence procurement based on available records is shown as follows. It includes countries with which we have concluded MoUs on either defence equipment co-operation, specific equipment projects or sales of equipment.
10 Jun 2002 : Column 749W
United Arab Emirates
United States of America.
Syd Rapson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what written instructions the Chief Executive of the Defence Aviation Repair Agency has given to employees of that agency on speaking to their Members of Parliament or local councillors. 
Dr. Moonie: Although QinetiQ is currently owned by the Ministry of Defence, the sponsorship of the QinetiQ1 manned balloon altitude record attempt is a commercial activity undertaken by the company, and no defence funding is committed to this venture. For commercial reasons the company has chosen not to put the cost of their participation in QinetiQ1 into the public domain, and therefore I am withholding the information requested under Exemption 13 of the code of practice on access to government information, which relates to the maintenance of commercial confidences.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if (a) his Department and (b) its agencies have a policy of not considering applications for employment by persons over a particular age. 
Dr. Moonie: Under the Ministry of Defence's equal opportunities policy discriminatory practices, procedures, decisions or actions in recruitment based on gender, marital status, race or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, age, disability or anything else unconnected with an individual's ability to do the job are unacceptable.
When advertising for civilian staff it is the MOD policy that age limits do not appear in adverts, except when they can be fully justified in terms of allowing the MOD time to benefit from any training investment it might need to make.
The Armed Forces regard the ability to recruit sufficient people of the right age as critical in order to retain the correct balance of youth and experience required to maintain operational effectiveness. All three
10 Jun 2002 : Column 750W
Services keep the age limit criteria for entry under regular review. Maximum age limits are imposed in order to maintain a balanced age/rank structure, with individuals benefiting from a visible career structure. The Services wish to recruit individuals who are operationally fit and are likely to give a good return of service. When considering upper age limits, the length and cost of training an individual is also taken into consideration.
Mr. Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what legal advice he has sought on the administration of armed forces pensions, regarding section 315 of the Income and Corporation Tax Act 1988 and preceding laws, since 1972. 
Dr. Moonie: Since 1998, when the Ministry of Defence first recognised the current problem with the mistaken taxation of attributable service invaliding pensions, it has sought legal advice on a number of aspects of the application of the Income and Corporation Tax Act (ICTA) 1988, or preceding laws. These have centred on establishing clearly the nature and extent of our responsibilities for remedying the effects of the error, in particular in the following areas:
Clarification of the eligibility of different categories of dependant of a deceased pensioner for a refund in respect of the mistaken taxation of the deceased's pension.
Clarification of the MOD's responsibilities for tracing surviving dependants, or estates of individuals who died before refunds of tax could be made.
The extent of the Government's legal responsibility to backdate refunds, outside the normal Inland Revenue six-year time limit.
Mr. Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps his Department is taking to ensure that individuals who have been identified as having been incorrectly taxed on retired pay awarded since 1952 have been correctly reimbursed in accordance with section 315 of the Income and Corporation Tax Act 1988 and preceding statutes which shared the same wording. 
Dr. Moonie: The reimbursement of armed forces pensioners identified as having been taxed incorrectly falls to the Inland Revenue and as such, no steps of the manner the hon. Gentleman describe are taken by the Ministry of Defence. On identifying a pension that has been taxed in error, the Ministry of Defence does, however, provide full details to the Inland Revenue of the annual pension paid from the date upon which an error occurred, so that any reimbursement due can be correctly calculated and paid.
10 Jun 2002 : Column 751W
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