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23 Feb 2007 : Column 943W—continued

Army: Training

Mr. Fraser: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) annual and (b) in-year changes were made to the budget for army training in each of the last five years. [121875]

Mr. Ingram: Training for the Army is funded from the Defence Budget and the Conflict Prevention Fund. Training consists of a mixture of individual, unit and larger formation activities and is supplemented by appropriate training for specific operations. Plans are adjusted frequently in light of changing operational circumstances and budgets are held and managed locally in many cases. Control figures are not therefore held on the totality of training costs and could be provided only at disproportionate costs.


Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 26 January 2007, Official Report, columns 2072-73W, on cluster munitions, what level of failure rate he defines as being within acceptable bounds; and if he will make a statement. [121645]

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Mr. Ingram: There have been a number of trials of the 155mm L20A1 Extended Range Bomblet Shell, which contains M85 bomblets and when the totality of test and acceptance firings is analysed over the life of the munition, the average bomblet failure rate is approximately two per cent. As part of its on-going quality and performance regime the MOD continues to actively monitor the performance of this system and explore ways of reducing the failure rate still further in partnership with the supplier.

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 1 February 2007, Official Report, column 504W, on cluster munitions, what new capabilities are being introduced to replace (a) the M26 Rocket System and (b) the BL 755 and RBL 755 cluster bombs; and if he will make a statement. [121646]

Mr. Ingram: The M26 Rocket System is being replaced by the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS). The BL755 and RBL 755 cluster bombs are being replaced by the Brimstone advanced anti-armour weapon.

Defence Export Services Organisation: Freedom of Information

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how much has been spent by the Department on appealing a decision by the Information Commissioner (decision notice FS50073980) to release a copy of the March 2004 edition of the Defence Export Services Organisation staff directory under the Freedom of Information Act 2000; which outside counsel were hired to mount the appeal; and what fees have been paid to such counsel in this case; [121766]

(2) which companies were given access to the March 2004 edition of the Defence Export Services Organisation staff directory; on what basis such access was granted; and what restrictions were placed on the further circulation of this staff directory to other parties; [121767]

(3) what the security classification is of the March 2004 edition of the Defence Export Services Organisation staff directory. [121768]

Mr. Ingram: Work associated with the appeal against the Information Commissioner’s decision in favour of disclosure of the 2004 staff directory for the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) is being carried out by staff from a number of areas within the Ministry of Defence. The majority of the effort rests with the directorate which leads on policy issues relating to operation of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, but staff within DESO itself, from the directorate of legal services and the security directorate are also involved. This work is a normal part of the function and responsibilities of these staff, and it is not possible to attribute costs specifically relating to this appeal. Senior Counsel for the Ministry of Defence in this case is Mr. Jonathan Crow QC, who is supported by Ms Kate Gallafent. Further support is being provided by a solicitor in the Treasury Solicitor’s Department. Information on the fees paid to Counsel
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in relation to this case is not recorded separately by the Department and it will take time to collate. I will write to the hon. Member when the figures are available.

The March 2004 edition of the DESO staff directory was widely circulated to the UK defence industry, to which nearly 2,000 copies were distributed. This edition, which did not carry a security classification, was distributed with no express restrictions on further circulation, unlike the most recent editions.

Future Command and Liaison Vehicle

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will reconsider the decision on deploying the Panther vehicle in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement; [120205]

(2) how many personnel will be carried in the Panther vehicle when used as a command vehicle and fitted with Bowman; [120206]

(3) whether the Bowman operator will (a) face the equipment or (b) be at right angles to the equipment when the Panther vehicle is used as a command vehicle; [120207]

(4) if the Panther vehicle will have an overhead weapon station when used as a Command vehicle and fitted with Bowman. [120208]

Mr. Ingram: The deployment of Panther to Iraq and Afghanistan is a matter for military commanders and will depend upon the judgment made by the Permanent Joint Headquarters, once the vehicle has been accepted into service. Those vehicles deployed in a high threat environment will be fitted with an overhead weapon station. As a Command and Liaison vehicle, Panther will carry a minimum of two and a maximum of four personnel.

The commander will operate the Bowman system through the Vehicle User Data Terminal which will be positioned directly in front of him.

Hercules Aircraft

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the RAF has placed an urgent operational requirement for all Hercules aircraft to be fitted with explosive suppressant foam. [117912]

Mr. Ingram: RAF Strike Command raised urgent statements of user requirement for the fitting of explosion suppressant foam to that number of Hercules aircraft required to support current operations. These were all approved as urgent operational requirements.

Members: Correspondence

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he will answer the letter from the hon. Member for Chichester of 18 October 2006 on behalf of his constituent Lt. Colonel Murray Smith. [120893]

Derek Twigg: I wrote to the hon. Member on 22 February 2007.

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Parliamentary Questions

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many parliamentary questions were tabled to his Department in 2006, broken down by (a) ordinary written and (b) named day; what percentage of ordinary written questions were answered within 10 working days; and what percentage of named day questions were answered by the specified date. [115323]

Derek Twigg: Our records show, in 2006 the total number of parliamentary questions tabled to the Ministry of Defence was 4,120. Of these, 3,184 were ordinary written and 936 were named day. I am unable to provide further details as the information is not held in the format requested and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

The Department aim to ensure that Members receive a substantive response to their named day question on the named day and to endeavour to answer ordinary written questions within a working week of being tabled. Unfortunately, this is not always possible but this Department makes every effort to achieve these time scales.

Service Personnel: Medical Treatment

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what psychological decompression arrangements are in place for reserve servicemen returning from duty in (a) Afghanistan and (b) Iraq. [117296]

Derek Twigg: Decompression is a process designed to place individuals into a formal, structured and monitored environment in which to begin ‘winding-down’ and rehabilitating to a normal, routine, peace-time environment. Decompression is a discretionary activity conducted on a “needs” basis as judged by the in-theatre commander. It is conducted in-theatre, or at a location between theatre and the home base, and allows individuals time to begin rationalising their operational experiences in the company of their immediate comrades.

The unit chain of command will use this time to monitor and identify, based on the tempo of operations and knowledge of the soldiers concerned, those apparently most vulnerable to any form of post-operational stress, or stress related condition. Engagement with unit medical staff will be most important and a two-way passage of information between the chain of command and medical chain will be critical.

The policy is defined in a Permanent Joint Headquarters Deployed Operating Instruction and applies to all service personnel serving on PJHQ-commanded operations, whether regular or reserve. Currently, decompression for units returning from both Iraq and Afghanistan have been taking place in Cyprus, lasting for a period of between 36-48 hours, and involving significant numbers of the deployed force.

Reservists who are part of a formed unit will decompress with that unit. Those that are not considered to require to undergo decompression, they will receive briefings as part of the demobilisation package at either RTMC Chilwell (for Army and Royal
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Marine Reserves); HMS Nelson (for Royal Navy Reserves), or at their individual squadron (for RAF Reserves). The demobilisation process will include post-operation administration; a medical assessment; and further briefings on stress, the return to work and family, plus aftercare and welfare. This demobilisation period allows further social reintegration and observation, and is also the point where communications between the service and the individual (and their employer) is established. Thereafter, monitoring will take place through the chain of command of their parent reservist unit. The Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM) provides the same service for all personnel aeromedically evacuated from operations.

Urgent Operational Requirements

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence under what (a) rules and (b) circumstances senior Army officers may raise urgent operational requirements; and if he will make a statement. [118887]

Mr. Ingram: An Urgent Statement of User Requirement can be raised by commanders in theatre during an operation or by commanders in the Permanent Joint Headquarters or Front Line Commands before or during an operation. Subject to endorsement by the chain of command, this is then progressed as an Urgent Operational Requirement.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress his Department has made in fulfilling its commitment to map the potential use of biomass across the main procuring departments of the Government estate; and if he will make a statement. [122043]

Ian Pearson: Procedures are already in place across the Government and the wider public estate to ensure that alternative technologies are fully considered when undertaking major refurbishments of properties and for new builds. These technologies include locally generated renewable energy systems such as biomass-fuelled heating. For the remainder (and majority) of the Government Estate, which is neither the subject of new build or refurbishment, steps are being taken to ensure that alternative technologies are also considered and, where appropriate, adopted on these sites.

In the Government's ‘Response to the Biomass Task Force Report’ in April 2006, we committed to mapping the suitability of the DEFRA estate for conversion to biomass heating. My Department has recently completed the initial tranche of the mapping of its estate and feasibility studies are currently being undertaken at the sites where biomass heat opportunities were identified. A lessons learned exercise has also been undertaken and the improvements identified from this process have been implemented within the second, and final, tranche of the DEFRA mapping exercise (which is due for completion by the end of February). Having
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developed, tested and refined the mapping protocols, DEFRA is currently in the process of rolling-out the mapping exercise to other Government Departments, and it will be providing technical support and guidance to Departments on biomass and other low carbon technologies.

Christchurch Bay: Flood Control

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent reports the Environment Agency has produced on the potential risk of a breach of flooding into Christchurch Bay from the sea. [122571]

Ian Pearson: The Environment Agency (EA) has recently completed a “Hengistbury Head Consequences of Breaching” report which was prepared with the assistance of their framework consultants Halcrow Group Ltd.

This inception study provides a relatively high-level assessment of the consequences of a breach of water levels, wave generation and resultant flood risk within Christchurch Harbour. It excludes any analysis of the probability of a breach occurring at Hengistbury Head, focusing instead on what might happen if a breach took place.

The EA is currently discussing the report and its findings with relevant local authorities. Talks are focussing on how its recommendations for further detailed analysis might be taken forward as part of the forthcoming second generation of Shoreline Management Plans (SMP2).

Energy: Conservation

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans he has for the future of the Energy Efficiency Contribution and Warm Front Scheme after 2008. [122328]

Ian Pearson: The Government believe that the third phase of the Energy Efficiency Commitment (EEC3) after 2008 could deliver savings of approximately 0.9 to 1.2 million tonnes of carbon (MtC) by 2010.

Discussions with stakeholders during 2006 have helped the Government to develop proposals for EEC3. An initial consultation took place between 31 July and 23 October 2006, and a summary of responses was published on 12 January 2007. This exercise sought early views, which have helped to inform the statutory consultation we are launching in the spring.

Warm Front remains the Government's key programme for tackling fuel poverty in the private sector in England. 1.2 million vulnerable households have already been provided with assistance since 2000, and the scheme will continue to build on this progress. Warm Front is projected to deliver 0.5 MtC of carbon savings by 2010 through domestic energy efficiency improvements.

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what he expects the Government's next steps on the implementation of
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article 13 of the Energy Services Directive to be following the conclusion of the current metering and billing consultation. [122533]

Ian Pearson: The consultation sought views on the billing and metering measures in last year's Energy Review as well as the Energy Services Directive. We will use the opportunity provided in the forthcoming Energy White Paper to report further about these measures.

Environment Protection: Finance

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which programmes his Department funds to support local and regional environmental initiatives. [121836]

Ian Pearson: The majority of Government funding for local and regional environmental initiatives is through the Revenue Support Grant made to local authorities. This covers a number of areas including local environmental quality and waste services.

DEFRA also provides funding to a range of non-departmental public bodies including the Environment Agency, Natural England and Regional Development Agencies.

In addition, a number of specific programmes are directed towards local and regional environmental initiatives. These include:

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