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Mr. Hoon: The Strategic Defence Review concluded that our national interests are directly affected by events in the middle east. The deployment of United Kingdom armed forced to Oman for exercise Saif Sareea ll graphically illustrated our commitment to stability in the region.
Royal Air Force aircraft continue to patrol the no fly zones over Iraq in support of UN SCR 688, which demanded that Saddam Hussein end the repression of his own people. We also contribute a small contingent of British armed forces personnel to the UN Iraq Kuwait Observer Mission established under UN SCR 687 to monitor the defined border and demilitarised zone between Iraq and Kuwait.
23. Lawrie Quinn: What measures his Department is taking to enhance opportunities within the engineering industry to enter into partnership development roles during the procurement of high-tech equipment and software for the armed forces. 
Mr. Hoon: The Ministry of Defence recognises that partnerships with industry in high-tech areas are crucial to military capability and to the UK Defence Industry. The Ministry of Defence has recently launched the XTowers of Excellence" and Defence Technology Centres. These are mechanisms for partnering with industry and academia in priority high technology areas. We are also taking steps, via the National Defence & Aerospace's Systems Panel, to ensure that Ministry of Defence and Department of Trade and Industry Science and Technology spending is fully co-ordinated.
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38. Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment his Department has made of the impact of the firefighters' strike on the training and operational effectiveness of the armed forces. 
Mr. Ingram: The Armed Forces have been particularly busy over the last few years performing their primary duties in defence of United Kingdom interests and acting as a force for good. The deployment to provide emergency fire cover will inevitably impact on their ability to continue some of these tasks at the same level of effort. The longer service personnel are required to provide fire cover the greater the penalties that will accrue to other activities, and in particular on the Armed Forces personnel employed on these duties in place of professional firefighters.
Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many defence personnel have been trained on equipment introduced in the last 10 years; and what scope there is for training more to help with the current firefighters' strike. 
Mr. Ingram: 31 Breathing Apparatus Rescue Teams (BARTS) and 59 Rescue Equipment Support Teams (RESTS)a total of about 2,500 personnelwill be deployed should a fire strike take place. They will be fully trained, and provided with modern equipment, to undertake fire rescues and release road traffic accident victims.
The 10,000 military personnel trained to operate Green Goddess fire tenders provided by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will provide basic levels of emergency cover in helping to bring fires under control, and they will act in support of BART and REST teams when fire rescue is required.
Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what preparations he has made to ensure the safety and continuity of service to the public in the event of a firefighters' strike; and what the cost is to the Department of these actions. 
Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him on 28 October 2002, Official Report, column 527W, by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. The cost of providing emergency cover will depend on the extent and nature of any industrial action.
Mr. Ingram: The service families taskforce was set up by the Government in 1999 to deal with service family issues that were outside the control of the Ministry of Defence. However, it is now the tri-Service focus for family issues, both internal and external.
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Representatives of service families meet a Minister twice a year to discuss the issues that are of concern to them. In addition, bilateral meetings are held with other Government Departments, as necessary, to discuss changes to any rules and regulations that are considered detrimental to, and discriminate against, service families.
Mr. Hoon: The recent announcement of the selection of the Short Take off and Vertical Landing variant of Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to meet the United Kingdom Joint Combat Aircraft requirement reaffirmed our participation in the JSF programme. This decision has been well received by UK industry.
United Kingdom companies have already secured key roles within the programme as a result of their outstanding technology and ability to deliver value for money. Industry estimates that its involvement could be worth up to #27 billion over the whole life of the programme, creating or securing some 8,500 jobs. In addition, we are working closely with the US authorities to facilitate further involvement of UK companies and we are placing particular emphasis on arrangements to smooth the transfer of technology between the US and UK. This builds on the considerable progress already made under the declaration of principles.
Mr. Hoon: I regularly discuss a range of NATO issues, including enlargement, with my Alliance colleagues; I did so most recently at the informal meeting of Defence Ministers in Warsaw in September. The United Kingdom remains a strong supporter of enlargement and continues to look forward to a robust round at Prague.
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28. Mr. Win Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) service personnel and (b) agency staff in the defence field are employed in Wales; and how many were employed in 1992. 
Mr. Ingram: The number of fire service personnel currently employed in Wales on Ministry of Defence and QinetiQ sites is 105. This figure covers contract, civilian, and service personnel. As at August 2002, there were 3,733 Agency staff based in Wales; this figure includes those staff working for Trading Fund agencies.
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