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7 Feb 2007 : Column 920W—continued


Elections: Fraud

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what steps her Department is taking to collate information from the Crown Prosecution Service on the level of electoral fraud and the number of investigations into alleged fraud. [119499]

Bridget Prentice: My Department has previously obtained information from the CPS on the number of prosecutions for election offences. My officials, together with those in the Electoral Commission, are currently exploring with the CPS whether we can differentiate between allegations of electoral fraud and other election offences, as well as include cases of electoral malpractice where the charges may have been brought under offences not specific to elections.


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Parliamentary Boundaries

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer of 31 January 2007, Official Report, column 337W, on parliamentary boundaries, how much in compensation was paid to the Boundary Commission by the failed claimants. [119695]

Bridget Prentice: £5,000 has been agreed in respect of Boundary Commission costs incurred in preparing the acknowledgement of service and summary grounds of opposition. Payment is due by 21 February 2007.

Prisoner Voting

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether British citizens imprisoned in jails overseas are eligible to vote in UK general elections if they have been resident in the UK in the last 15 years. [117622]

Bridget Prentice: The Representation of the People Act 1985 (as amended) provides a facility for British citizens overseas to retain their voting rights if they have been resident in the UK in the previous 15 years, so long as they are not otherwise subject to a legal incapacity to vote. The Representation of the People Act 1983 makes convicted prisoners detained in a penal institution (or unlawfully at large from one) legally incapable of voting in a UK general election. However, ‘penal institution’ is defined in the 1983 Act by reference to Prisons Acts, which do not extend to foreign jails.

Accordingly, British citizens imprisoned in jails overseas are eligible to vote in UK general elections if they are otherwise eligible to vote as an overseas elector under the relevant provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1985.

Public Defender Service

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what her plans are for the Public Defender Service; and if she will make a statement. [119917]

Vera Baird: I am currently considering the future shape of the PDS and an announcement will be made shortly.

Religion: Discrimination

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if the Government will support repealing the residual discriminations in UK law and constitution in respect of (a) dissenters, (b) non-conformists and (c) Roman Catholics when a legislative opportunity arises. [119001]

Bridget Prentice: Restrictions in the UK law and constitution on religious grounds are almost entirely limited to issues relating to accession to the Throne. The Government currently have no plans to bring forward legislation on this issue.


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Defence

Arms Training

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what his assessment is of the impact on arms training of the current operational tempo; [111203]

(2) how many battle group and above formation training exercises were cancelled in each of the last four years; and where each was due to take place. [111415]

Mr. Ingram [holding answers 25 January 2007]: All arms training continues to be maintained at a level sufficient to ensure that our troops are fully equipped to deal with the exigencies of life in theatre. The Army plans its training activities and exercises many years in advance. Changes in circumstances, including those arising from operational commitments, will always mean that a few exercises have to be postponed or cancelled. All units deploying on operations receive the training necessary to complete the tasks required of them, including combined arms training at Battlegroup and Brigade level.

The number of Battlegroup and above formation exercises cancelled in each of the last four years and where each was due to take place are shown in the following tables.

2003-04
Number of exercises Level of exercise Location of exercise

2

Battlegroup

Canada

2

Battlegroup

United Kingdom

2

Battlegroup

Kenya

1

Formation

Poland


2004-05
Number of exercises Level of exercise Location of exercise

2

Battlegroup

Canada

1

Battlegroup

Kenya

1

Battlegroup

United Kingdom


2005-06
Number of exercises Level of exercise Location of exercise

3

Battlegroup

Canada

1

Battlegroup

Kenya


2006-07
Number of exercises Level of exercise Location of exercise

2

Battlegroup

Canada

2

Battlegroup

Kenya

1

Formation

Canada


Defence Schools Presentation Team

Robert Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which schools were visited by the Defence Schools Presentation Team in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the future of the Defence Schools Presentation Team. [111735]

Derek Twigg: For the last three years the Department has funded the Defence Schools Presentation Teams (DSPT) which tour secondary schools giving a half day interactive presentation on defence issues to 14 to 16-year-olds. There are five such
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teams covering different areas of the country, and during 2006 they booked over 490 visits including Comprehensive, Grammar, Independent, single sex, and Faith Schools (Church of England, Catholic, and Muslim). These presentations are extremely well received and do allow us to get our messages over about the importance of defence. Almost all schools ask for a repeat visit the following year which has lead to a yearly increase in presentations. Civilian and military staff are seen as excellent role models and there are consequently significant benefits for future recruiting. The actual investment in the Defence Schools Presentation Teams has been about £1.9 million per year. I have placed in the Library of the House a chart detailing the tasking of the five teams during 2006. Those serials which have been crossed out indicate a cancellation by the school prior to the event.

The Department will be introducing a new schools e-learning product. Through creating an educational website called “Defence Dynamics”, our main focus will be to provide Secondary School teachers of 14 to 16-year-olds with pre-packaged electronic lesson plans for GCSE exams with Defence themes. It has been planned as a ten year programme. Defence Dynamics will start with the delivery in September 2007 of 40+ lesson plans with audio-visuals in Science, Maths and English based on scenarios that reflect the professional work of the MOD and the armed forces worldwide. The material will be developed to support the requirements of the school curriculum and across a range of subject areas in the longer term. MOD will be working closely with DfES and the devolved Government education Departments in the UK. Initially the Defence Dynamics programme will run for two years with the aim to develop this for the long-term. An e-learning approach has been used successfully in Australian schools since 2002.

The intention is to disband the touring Defence Schools Presentation Teams in July 2007 (the end of this academic year) and launch the new schools e-learning product in September 2007. The Department will, through this be maintaining its engagement with schools and switching to an approach that will enable us to reach many more children than are visited by the touring Defence Presentation Schools Teams, and at a significantly lower cost (£200,000 pa).

Disabled Submarine Evacuation

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 1 November 2006, what plans (a) his Department and (b) QinetiQ have for publishing the conclusions of research into safe procedures for escape from disabled submarines involving experiments on live goats. [113933]

Mr. Ingram: The MOD does not publish the conclusions of research into safe procedures for escape from disabled submarines in open literature. Some information is communicated via Information Exchange Agreements and other arrangements to other submarine operating nations.

Hercules Aircraft

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Hercules aircraft accepted from the
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contractor after being fitted with foam protection to their fuel tanks (a) were ready for active service and (b) required repairs due to fuel leaks. [117932]

Mr. Ingram: I am withholding the number of Explosion Suppression Foam (ESF) equipped Hercules C-130 aircraft that are available for operations, as this information could prejudice the security of our armed forces.

Fuel leaks were reported on two Hercules C-130 aircraft fitted with ESF. Both aircraft were returned to the contractor for repair and subsequently returned to the Front Line Command.

Kosovo: Peace Keeping Operations

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the status is of the British military presence in Kosovo; and what plans the Government have for changes to the number of British forces in Kosovo. [118354]

Mr. Ingram: There are around 175 UK personnel in Kosovo working within the NATO-led KFOR and the UN Mission in Kosovo. No changes to this commitment are currently planned.

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the status is of KFOR; what discussions he has had with his European Union and NATO counterparts on the future of the KFOR deployment; what the outcome was of those discussions; and if he will make a statement. [118355]

Mr. Ingram: KFOR is the NATO force in Kosovo and currently comprises some 16,000 troops. The Defence Secretary regularly meets with his NATO and EU colleagues to discuss, inter alia, progress on and the future of, the KFOR mission.

Decisions on the future of KFOR deployment will be made by NATO.

Military Aircraft: Transport

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether an RAF air transport flight rescheduled (a) 24 hours or fewer, (b) 12 hours or fewer and (c) six hours or fewer before its departure is considered to have departed on time if it subsequently departs at its rescheduled time. [118830]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 5 February 2007]: No. Any rescheduled RAF or transport flight which departs within 24 hours or less of the originally scheduled departure time is recorded as “delayed”.

Military Attachés

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in which countries British military attachés are posted; and what plans he has to change the number of such posts. [114590]

Mr. Ingram: The 80 countries listed are those where the UK currently has a resident accredited Defence Attache/Adviser. This global Defence Diplomacy network is subject to regular review as part of the
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normal planning process and to meet changing foreign and defence policy priorities. A recent FCO decision to withdraw its contribution to the cost of maintaining the Attache/Adviser network has necessitated such a review and this is underway. Decisions on any subsequent adjustments will not be made before the summer.


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