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16 May 2007 : Column 817W—continued

For operations in Iraq, between 1 January 2006 and 15 April 2007, 866 UK military or civilian personnel were evacuated for medical reasons. Over the same period, 164 UK military or civilian personnel have been admitted to UK Field Hospitals classified as
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wounded in action, of whom 24 were listed as Very Seriously Injured or Wounded and 34 were Seriously Injured or Wounded.

For operations in Afghanistan, between 1 January 2006 and 15 April 2007, 367 UK military or civilian personnel were evacuated for medical reasons. Over the same period, 132 UK military or civilian personnel have been admitted to UK Field Hospitals classified as wounded in action, of whom 18 were listed as Very Seriously Injured or Wounded and 16 were Seriously Injured or Wounded.

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the outcome was of the investigation into the shooting of demonstrators for jobs at Al-Amarah in January 2004; and if he will make a statement. [136679]

Des Browne: Members of the 1st Battalion of the Light Infantry deployed to a riot in Al-Amarah on 10 January 2004 to assist the Iraqi police. Two Iraqis were shot by UK forces, one of whom died. Both were preparing to throw grenades, having already thrown other grenades or explosive devices at UK vehicles, and were a threat to our forces and to local Iraqi civilians.

In accordance with standard procedures, the incident was assessed by the local British commander who concluded that UK forces acted fully within the Rules of Engagement.

Mercenaries: Iraq

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what training in human rights legislation was given to (a) UK troops and (b) private military companies engaged by the UK before they commenced activities in Iraq; and whether private military companies operating at the request of the UK Government are regarded as public authorities for the purpose of the Human Rights Act 1998. [133529]

Des Browne [holding answer 23 April 2007]: Prior to deploying on operations, all armed forces personnel are given training which includes Law of Armed Conflict and theatre-specific operational law and cultural awareness briefings. Once personnel have deployed, an in-theatre briefing is delivered which reinforces the previous training and updates them on any subsequent developments.

The MOD has not employed any private military or security companies in Iraq and therefore has not been involved in the delivery of training to their personnel, or in determining their status in respect to the Human Rights Act 1998.

Military Aircraft: Helicopters

Mr. Scott: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many and what types of helicopter are on order for (a) the Royal Navy, (b) the Royal Air Force and (c) the Army. [136177]

Mr. Ingram: On 30 March 2007 Secretary of State for Defence announced the intention to acquire six Merlin helicopters from Denmark and the modification of eight Chinook Mk3 helicopters to a support helicopter role.


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In addition, the number of helicopters currently on order (defined as contract placed but aircraft not yet delivered) are:


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Royal Navy British Army Royal Air Force

Future Lynx

30

40

Upgrades to Merlin Mkl

30

Conversion of Ex Republic of South Africa Puma

2 a/c delivered

2 a/c still to be delivered this year


There are also some other helicopters on order, information on the number and type of which I am withholding as its disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.

Navy: Land

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions (a) the Royal Navy and (b) the Defence Property Agency have had with Portsmouth university about disposals of departmental (i) land and (ii) property; and if he will make a statement. [136749]

Derek Twigg: Neither the Royal Navy nor Defence Estates have had discussions recently with Portsmouth university about the disposal of land or property owned by the Department.

Nimrod Aircraft

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the initial findings of the Royal Air Force board of inquiry into the loss of the Nimrod XV230 over Kandahar Province in Afghanistan in September 2006; and if he will make a statement. [134922]

Mr. Ingram: The Board of Inquiry continues to work to determine the cause of the accident involving Nimrod MR2 XV230 on 2 September 2006. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment at this stage. The findings of the Board will be released as soon as possible after conclusion of the Inquiry; a redacted copy of the report will be made available to the next of kin, other interested parties and placed on the MOD website.

Nuclear Weapons Treaties

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 8 May 2007, Official Report, column 67, to the hon. Member for Gower, on nuclear weapons treaties, which of the nuclear weapons reductions since 1998 have taken place as a result of multilateral disarmament negotiations. [137112]

Des Browne: The disarmament measures undertaken by the UK, which I referred to in my answer of 8 May 2007, Official Report, column 67W, were pertinent to our obligations towards achieving the general and complete disarmament objectives of Article VI of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, a multilaterally negotiated treaty. None of the measures have taken place as a result of any separate multilateral disarmament negotiations. The UK has for many years retained only the minimum nuclear capabilities we require and as a result we have the smallest stockpile of any of the nuclear weapon states recognised under the NPT. We believe it will only be useful for us to include our deterrent in multinational negotiations once further progress has been made in reducing global nuclear stockpiles. The UK remains committed to progress in multilateral disarmament and plays a strong role in all the relevant forums.

RAF Dishforth

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for the long-term future of Dishforth Airfield. [137223]

Mr. Ingram: We are currently reviewing our long-term requirements for all the UK’s military helicopter bases under Project Belvedere. It is too early to say what the outcome of this study will be and what, if any, impact this will have on Dishforth Airfield. An announcement will be made in the House when we are able to say more.

RAF Dishforth: Lynx Helicopters

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) when he expects the Lynx helicopter fleet to move to Dishforth airfield; [136698]

(2) when he expects the Lynx helicopters to be deployed at Dishforth airfield. [137222]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to my written ministerial statement of 9 March 2007, Official Report, column 153WS, in which I advised that we expect the swap of the two Apache squadrons from Dishforth and the two Lynx helicopter squadrons from Wattisham to take place sometime between June and September of this year.

RAF Leeming

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the communications hub to open at RAF Leeming. [136699]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to my written ministerial statement of 8 May 2007, Official Report, column 5WS, and my letter to her of the same date, that the build up of the A6 communications hub at RAF Leeming has already commenced. The initial move was successfully completed on time in April 2006. We expect that the relocation of communications personnel to the RAF Leeming hub will be complete in 2009.


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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the communications hub at RAF Leeming to come into effect. [137225]

Mr. Ingram: The hon. Member will be aware from my written statement of 8 May 2007, Official Report, column 5WS and my letter of the same date that the build up of the A6 communications hub at RAF Leeming has already commenced. The initial move has been successfully completed on time in April 2006. We expect that the relocation of communications personnel to the RAF Leeming hub will be complete in 2009.

Veterans Day

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many queries the service personnel and veterans agency has received about National Veterans Day 2007. [137350]

Derek Twigg: The Service Personnel and Veterans Agency does not keep records of the number of inquiries received relating specifically to Veterans Day 2007.

Deputy Prime Minister

Modern Slavery

16. Lyn Brown: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he is taking to encourage his international counterparts to abolish modern forms of slavery. [137242]

The Deputy Prime Minister: Sadly, the slave trade and slavery did not end with the passing of Acts of Parliament in 1807 and 1833. Human beings are still sold, abused and forced to work against their will. This Government are taking action to tackle these modern forms of slavery, both at home and internationally.

On 27 March, we launched a worldwide lobbying campaign on the ratification and implementation of international standards that prohibit slavery.

I have been holding discussions with key UN and other international organisations on what further steps might be taken at the international level.

The House will be aware that, on 23 March, the Government signed the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. We are now examining what changes might be required to our procedures and legislation to ensure we can fulfil all our obligations and implement the provisions effectively. We will then move towards ratification as soon as we can.

We also published a UK Action Plan which sets out the work we have undertaken and how we plan to take forward this work.

Above all, we are providing essential financial support to end the slavery of ignorance, which blights the lives of so many children around the world: including £8.5 billion on the Education for Every Child initiative, to secure better futures for children across the world.

Animal Rights Activists

17. David Taylor: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he has taken to oversee and co-ordinate
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Government policy in relation to animal rights activists. [137243]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to answer I gave to the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) earlier today.

China

18. Ben Chapman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his recent visit to China. [137244]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I have just returned from my tenth visit to China in 10 years. While there I met with Premier Wen Jiabao, State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan and Mayor Han Zheng of Shanghai.

We discussed a range of international and bilateral issues including foreign policy priorities, co-operation on tackling climate change, and the development of sustainable cities.

Among a range of further engagements, I gave a keynote speech at the World Cities Forum in Shanghai, spoke at the China Council for International Co-operation on Environment and Development conference on a low carbon economy, visited a UK engineering firm, addressed a seminar on risk management and hosted a reception to launch the next phase of our sustainable development dialogue with China.

19. Ms Angela C. Smith: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what action is being taken by the China taskforce to improve operation between the UK and China. [137245]

The Deputy Prime Minister: With its Chinese counterpart, chaired by State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan, the taskforce represents a shared commitment to furthering bilateral relations, and to enhancing cooperation across an increasingly wide range of joint interests.

Key achievements arising from taskforce recommendations have included the establishment of annual UK-China prime ministerial summits, greater co-operation across five key areas of trade, an increased number of exchanges between UK and Chinese universities, proposals to simplify Chinese student visa arrangements and to introduce annual UK-China education summits, the signing of a UK-China sustainable development dialogue and the development of a UK-China working group on climate change.

When I met them in China last month, both Premier Wen and State Councillor Tang praised the work of the China taskforce, commenting that the UK-China relationship is closer than ever.

European Policy

20. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he last met the Minister for Europe to co-ordinate Government policy on Europe. [137246]

The Deputy Prime Minister: In addition to discussions in Cabinet and Cabinet committee meetings, I maintain regular dialogue with ministerial colleagues in respect of my international duties.


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