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Military Threat

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the potential threat from (a) Iraq, (b) Iran, (c) Syria, (d) Libya and (e) North Korea. [60257]

Mr. Hoon: We assess that there is no immediate threat of military attack by Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya or North Korea to the United Kingdom mainland, although Iraq threatens RAF aircraft patrolling the Iraqi No-Fly Zones daily.

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An assessment of the ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programmes of a number of countries was included in a "Supplementary Memorandum to the House of Commons Defence Committee: The Ballistic Missile Threat" of 18 March 2002 and, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a "Joint Memorandum to the House of Commons Defence Committee: Missile Defence" of 11 February 2002.

We continue to monitor developments closely, particularly as they might affect deployed forces.

Armed Forces (Minority Representation)

Dr. Palmer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what future targets have been set to achieve higher ethnic minority representation in the armed forces; and if he will make a statement. [61246]

Mr. Ingram: The armed forces are seeking an approach that recognises and values diversity, without in any way compromising their commitment to comply with equality legislation and eradicate any form of harassment, intimidation or unlawful discrimination. The new diversity policy has been embodied in a revised Armed Forces Personnel Strategy Guideline, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House; this sets out the armed forces' diversity goal, and the principles which underpin it, and seeks to define diversity in a military context, demonstrating its importance for the achievement of operational effectiveness while recognising the unique circumstances of the armed forces.

The armed forces are determined to become more representative of the ethnically diverse society they serve. Targets remain an important means of achieving this. For the future, I have agreed that this year's target should be for each service to increase recruitment of ethnic minorities by a further 1 per cent. of all recruits, subject to an overall target of 6 per cent. This marks the continuation of the major drive by the armed forces over the past four years to attain a proper share of talent available in the ethnic communities. Future goals for ethnic minority representation and recruitment will be set in the coming year, taking account of the results of the ethnic origin resurvey of armed forces personnel currently under way, ethnic minority recruiting achievement and evidence on ethnic minority numbers likely to emerge from the 2001 national census.

War Widows Pilgrimage Scheme

Dr. Palmer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received to extend the War Widows Pilgrimage Scheme; and if he will make a statement. [61247]

Dr. Moonie: Following a recent approach by the Royal British Legion, I have agreed to an extension of the War Widows Pilgrimage Scheme for a further two years, until 31 March 2005. The Government greatly appreciate the excellent work of the Royal British Legion who administer this subsidised scheme on our behalf. To date the scheme has enabled more than 4,000 widows to visit their husband's grave in many parts of the world.

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Porton Down

Dr. Palmer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for epidemiological research on Porton Down volunteers; and if he will make a statement. [61248]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence has accepted a recommendation by the Medical Research Council (MRC) to fund research to be undertaken by Dr. Kate Venables of Oxford University and colleagues from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and from Imperial College, London. This research will consist of a one-year pilot study to assess the incidence of mortality and cancer among a selected group of 500 Porton Down volunteers compared with a control group of 500 other members of the armed forces and a small scale questionnaire study to evaluate volunteers' own views of their health status.

The pilot study will commence later this month and will take about a year to complete. The MRC will be in a position towards the end of the pilot study to advise MOD whether the available historical data are of sufficient quality and quantity to allow a full scale epidemiological study to proceed.


Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what contact was made between his Department and BioReliance after the visit of his Department's officials in late 2001. [57315]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) on 23 May 2002, Official Report, column 478W.


Paddington Rail Crash

Mrs. May: To ask the Solicitor-General on what basis the CPS decided that the investigation of the case of corporate manslaughter arising from the Paddington rail crash should be re-opened. [59817]

The Solicitor-General: The CPS has advised the police to undertake limited inquiries to determine whether or not there is an impediment in linking the management of the signal sighting around Ladbroke Grove, in particular Signal SN109, with the actual circumstances of the Ladbroke Grove collision. This was on the basis of having considered further legal advice.

Mrs. May: To ask the Solicitor-General when the CPS (a) decided and (b) informed the British transport police that the investigation of a corporate manslaughter charge in relation to the Paddington rail crash should be re-opened. [59818]

The Solicitor-General: The CPS considered the advice that it would offer to the British transport police over a number of weeks, and kept the British transport police informed of its developing thinking. A decision was made recently and formal notification of its advice was made by the CPS to the British transport police on 21 May.

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Letters to interested parties, including victims' relatives, were dispatched that day. If any further evidence is obtained that will, of course, be considered by the CPS. The HSE has in any event announced its intention to issue proceedings against Railtrack and Thames Trains for offences contrary to sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.

Freedom of Information

Harry Cohen: To ask the Solicitor-General what plans she has to propose changes to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to align its provisions with the Council of Europe Recommendation on Freedom of Information; and if she will make a statement. [59206]

Yvette Cooper: I have been asked to reply.

None. I am advised that the Freedom of Information Act 2000 is fully consistent with the Council of Europe Recommendation on access to official documents (Rec. (2002)2).



Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) what estimate she has made of (a) the number of people who play hockey, (b) the number of children and young people who play hockey and (c) the trend in levels of participation in hockey; [58323]

Mr. Caborn [holding answer 21 May 2002]: The Government Plan for Sport sets out a framework and range of policies aimed at increasing participation in all sports particularly among young people with an emphasis on the part that sport can play in tackling a range of objectives including social exclusion, crime reduction and better health. The implementation of programmes to promote and develop particular sports is a matter for the relevant governing bodies.

Following a Special General Meeting on 4 May 2002, the English Hockey Association is currently being restructured into a new organisation to be called "Hockey England Ltd.". I am assured that, despite this restructuring, the new governing body intends to continue actively to promote the sport at all levels in the future. Its main funding comes from annual subscriptions paid by member clubs, of which there are approximately 1,650 representing some 165,000 active club members playing in some 4,300 teams. In addition, elite English hockey players and the governing body's grass roots activities will continue to receive support and funding from Sport England. When the restructuring has been completed the new governing body expects to be a strong, financially solid organisation providing for hockey requirements at all levels in England. It believes that the game will

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continue to be played by people of all ages and both sexes with a high proportion of participants from ethnic minorities.

The governing body has a network of regional development managers across England in the north, south, east, west and midlands. Each of these managers has a specific brief to aid and assist the development of hockey in the regions, with specific emphasis on youth and in the inner cities in particular.

The General Household survey carried out in 1996, the latest year for which this survey collected figures for sports participation, indicated that in England 118,000 adults had played hockey at least once in the previous four weeks. Sport England's Young People in Sport Survey carried out in 1999 indicated that 409,300 young people aged six to 16 participated in hockey out of school lessons at least 10 times in the previous 12 months, while in school lessons 1,200,000 young people participated at least 10 times in the last 12 months. The governing body's view is that the numbers involved in men's, women's and mixed hockey will remain constant and that participation by juniors is likely to rise due largely to the increasing use of artificial pitches.

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