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Mr. Caplin: The Defence Medical Services provide the Armed Forces with a comprehensive medical service in peace, war and operations other than war to standards at least equal to the National Health Service (NHS). Military Personnel serving at Army Air Corps stations will receive primary health care, including specialist aviation medicine advice, from their units; psychiatric care from their local Defence Community Mental Health Centre; and secondary care from the NHS, including those NHS Trusts which host Ministry of Defence Hospital Units.
The Defence Medical Services ensure and monitor the quality of care provided through robust Clinical Governance process. This includes the practice of evidence based medicine, clinical audit, supervision of clinicians performance, patient feedback, risk management, complaints management and the development of clinical leadership skills.
Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the assistance being provided by the Royal Air Force and his Department to the inquiry into allegations that a Royal Air Force Harrier aircraft was involved in the crash of a civilian Twin Otter near Mehamn in Norway in 1982. 
Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence has undertaken to provide all possible assistance to the Norwegian Parliamentary Commissions inquiry into the Mehamn tragedy. However, owing to the passage of time since the accident, we are having difficulty in finding the records relevant to the questions posed to us by the Commission.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 15 March 2004, Official Report, column 46W, on Defence Bills Agency, how many of the bills processed by the Defence Bills Agency in 200203 related to procurement contracts; what the total value of those bills was; and what the figures were in (a) 200001 and (b) 200102. 
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the standard of the household rubbish collections services at defence housing associated with (a) RAF Leeming, (b) RAF Linton on Ouse, (c) AAC Dishforth and (d) Alanbrooke Barracks; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Caplin: No assessment has been made by the Ministry of Defence of the standard of household rubbish collection services in the areas named, other than that Service families in those locations receive the same service as civilian residents and, like other contributors to council tax revenue, are entitled to present any concerns to the council, either as individuals or residents' groups.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the civilian medical practitioners based at (a) RAF Leeming, (b) RAF Linton on Ouse, (c) AAC Dishforth and (d) Alanbrooke Barracks are stationed at these bases on a full-time basis. 
Mr. Caplin: Civilian medical practitioners at RAF Leeming and RAF Linton on Ouse are employed on a full-time basis. At AAC Dishforth and Alanbrooke Barracks medical cover is provided through civilian GPs working part-time on a job share arrangement or through arrangements with local NHS practitioners.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what provision his Department makes for access to private medical treatment or diagnosis for personnel who are unduly affected by delays in receiving such treatment and diagnosis from the Defence Medical Services. 
Limited use is made of private healthcare providers to enable Service personnel to be diagnosed or treated and returned to medical fitness. The Army Training and Recruitment Agency (ATRA) provide access to private medical care for recruits, and their instructors, who are injured during Phase 1 training in order that they may return to training more quickly. The Royal Navy run a limited scheme whereby essential personnel who are urgently required for operational deployment can be treated by a private healthcare provider in order to allow them deploy medically fit. Defence Medical Service (DMS) Regional Rehabilitation Units are able to obtain diagnostic Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans through local private providers, although any treatment identified by the scans would normally be carried out within the DMS system. RAF station commanders are able to use station funds to provide private treatment for individuals if they are urgently required for military operations.
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Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how the operations and financial transactions of the Defence Scientific and Technology Laboratory will be related to the Ministry of Defence's Top Level Budget for Corporate Science and Technology established on 1 April 2004. 
Mr. Ingram: The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) will remain one of the single largest suppliers of research to the new Top Level Budget (TLB). Dstl is a Trading Fund of the Ministry of Defence and it will continue to carry out all such work which, for reasons of sensitivity or security, must be done within Government. Research tasking will continue to be managed through formal tasking orders placed by the Department on the Dstl Trading Fund in accordance with the established Terms of Business Agreement. The new TLB will maintain financial accounts as the customer and the Trading Fund will maintain separate accounts as supplier. The day-to-day operation of the Trading Fund will be a matter for the Chief Executive, directed at a strategic level by the Ministerial owner's board in the Ministry of Defence. The key change represented by the new TLB is a move towards an output based approach for research planning and delivery and this will impact progressively on all research suppliers including Dstl by bringing a sharper focus on the priority needs of key stakeholders in the defence and security area.
[holding answer 4 May 2004]: HMS Trafalgar returned to sea to test equipment and systems following a major period of maintenance and repair. Before a submarine undertakes such a period at sea it goes through a complex and exhaustive testing procedure by a number of authorities which is fully documented. HMS Trafalgar passed that inspection. If she had any major defects or failing systems she would not have been allowed to return to sea. The allegations made by members of her crew have been assessed by appropriately qualified engineering personnel. The allegations that HMS Trafalgar had major defects which should have prevented her return to sea are unfounded.
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Mr. Ingram [holding answer 4 May 2004]: HMS Trafalgar would not have returned to sea if she had not been seaworthy. Our nuclear submarines have been operating for over 40 years and have a safety record that is second to none. Before any submarine goes to sea, particularly as with HMS Trafalgar, after a period of maintenance and defect repair, it undergoes a rigorous series of safety checks and a number of authorities are involved in that process.
Mr. Ingram: The Royal Navy have been operating nuclear powered submarines for over 40 years and have a safety record that is second to none. We would not send a submarine to sea unless it was safe to do so.
Of the 124 crew members on board HMS Trafalgar, 12 expressed general reservations over the material state of the submarine following a period of maintenance and repair. These concerns centred on three areas. These being:
the release, as a result of human error, of diesel exhaust fumes into the submarine;
a leak into the submarine, resulting from faulty equipment not related to recent maintenance, during pressurisation of the Freon domestic refrigerant gas system; and concerns related to faults to the paint finish of the escape hatch docking seat which had been inspected and judged to be minor and insufficient to prevent successful docking of a rescue submersible if that extremely unlikely event should prove necessary.
Following these individual expressions of concern, made through the appropriate channels, and the levels of stress shown by 11 of these individuals, the Commanding Officer quite properly decided to remove these sailors from the submarine for medical assessment. In doing so, he acted in the best interests of those individuals and the Service. The twelfth member of the crew who discussed his concerns with the Commanding Officer elected to remain on board and sailed with Trafalgar.
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