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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 14 June 2010

Culture, Media and Sport

Licensing Laws

Dr Huppert: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport if he will bring forward proposals to amend the Licensing Act 2003 to prevent last-minute licence reviews of events held once a year; and if he will make a statement. [1906]

John Penrose: The Department will be examining the Licensing Act 2003 and other regulatory regimes in order to consider the scope for streamlining and simplification.

We want to ensure a careful balance between supporting the businesses affected by the regulation and ensuring the public are protected. We will consider the options carefully before making any firm decisions.

Olympic Games 2012: North West

Lisa Nandy: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what he expects the legacy of the 2012 Olympics will be for the north- west region; and if he will make a statement. [1698]

Hugh Robertson: The north-west stands to gain from the wide range of opportunities created by the 2012 games, through businesses winning games-related work, increased tourism and cultural celebrations.

52 of the Olympic Delivery Authority's suppliers are businesses registered in the north-west, and more are winning work in the supply chains of its contractors.

The Old Trafford football stadium will be one of the key non-London venues, hosting football matches, and along with Pre-Games Training Camps will provide an opportunity to create further economic benefits, including inward investment, through the international attention that will follow. 68 facilities in the region are included in the official London 2012 Pre-Games Training Camp Guide, and to date memoranda of understanding are in place with 17 of the Oceania National Olympic Committees, the National Olympic Committee of Thailand and Australia's swimming team, formalising their intentions to use facilities in the region in the run-up to the games.

There are 85 games-inspired projects in the north-west which have been awarded the Inspire Mark and during 2012, as part of the UK-wide cultural celebrations, there will be live sites in Manchester and Liverpool. Additionally, there are several cultural legacy projects in the north-west of which, 'WE PLAY' is one. It combines digital, physical and virtual participation opportunities for people from all walks of life.

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Sports Commission

Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport what steps he has taken to create a Sports Commission; and if he will make a statement. [1919]

Hugh Robertson: We are currently working with Sport England, UK Sport and the Youth Sport Trust on options to bring them together under one roof, while retaining the focus on their individual roles and responsibilities. In addition, the Secretary of State has instigated a series of cross-departmental meetings to discuss sport and Olympic-related issues, for example school sport and Olympic security.

We will be looking at plans for a more formal arrangement, based on the Australian Sports Commission, in due course.


Afghanistan and Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

Andrew Stephenson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many serving soldiers have sustained injuries while on active service in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan. [1652]

Dr Fox: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) regularly publishes the casualty and fatality statistics on the MOD website. Between 7 October 2001 to 15 May 2010 in Afghanistan, 376 UK personnel sustained a very serious injury or serious injury. From 1 January 2003 to 31 July 2009 in Iraq, 222 UK personnel sustained a very serious injury or serious innjury.

The figures can be found on the MOD website at the following links:

Mr MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with the US Administration on its proposed changes to the level of US military (a) presence and (b) engagement in Afghanistan in 2011; and if he will make a statement. [1387]

Dr Fox: I have discussed the security situation in Afghanistan with my US counterpart on a number of occasions. I met Secretary Gates in London on 8 June 2010 where we covered a number of topics, including current and future plans on Afghanistan. We also discussed these issues at the NATO Defence Ministers' meeting in Brussels on 10-11 June 2010.

Jonathan Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on the use of armed drones by UK armed forces in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. [1530]

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Dr Fox: Reaper, operated by the Royal Air Force, is the UK's only armed remotely piloted air system (RPAS). Reaper's primary mission is to provide a persistent intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance capability in support of coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan. Being armed, Reaper has the capability to respond to requests for support from commanders on the ground and engage emerging targets.

The rules of engagement used for Reaper weapon releases are no different to those used for manned combat aircraft; the weapons are all precision guided, and every effort is made to ensure the risk of collateral damage and civilian casualties is minimised, which may include deciding not to release a weapon. Reaper is not an autonomous system and does not have the capability to employ weapons unless it is commanded to do so by the flight crew.

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he plans to take to enable the Afghan Government to increase its authority in Helmand and Kandahar. [2001]

Dr Fox: UK forces, alongside Afghan and International Security and Assistance Force allies, will continue to clear the insurgent presence from central Helmand, holding the ground gained to enable governance and socio-economic development to continue. Election shuras have been well-attended, indicating that locals feel secure enough to engage with the Afghan Government in large numbers.

In Kandahar, the UK will continue to support the Afghan Government-led initiative to better connect governance in Kandahar city with its citizens; to listen and respond to their needs; and to deliver to them improved security, governance, and economic opportunities.

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate has been made of the area of Afghanistan under the control of the Taliban (a) in June 2009, (b) in June 2008 and (c) at the latest date for which information is available. [2003]

Dr Fox: It is not possible to provide an accurate or consistent figure for the proportion of Afghanistan that is controlled by the Taliban. However, more of Afghanistan is under the control of the Government of Afghanistan today than it has ever been before.

There remain areas of Afghanistan not under the direct control of the Afghan Government but this does not necessarily mean they are under the control of the Taliban.

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he is taking to reduce numbers of British casualties in Afghanistan. [2004]

Dr Fox: We take the protection of our armed forces very seriously, and strive to reduce the risk they face and improve their protection. The best force protection involves using a range of equipment, combined with the right training and tactics. The combined effect of our continuous improvements to equipment, better tactics and ongoing research, together with a greater number of helicopter flying hours, and the deployment of a
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Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) Task Force, contribute to managing the threat our troops face.

The biggest challenge we face is the threat from IEDs. On 10 June, the Prime Minister announced that we will spend an additional £67 million on countering the IED threat. This will include more protected vehicles for use by our C-IED teams, more Remote Control Vehicles, and enhancing our military working dog capability. This investment, together with enhancements that have already been made to our IED equipment, training and other capabilities will continue to make a difference.

Afghanistan: Police

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what information his Department holds on the proportion of members of the Afghan police force in Helmand province who are of each ethnicity. [2133]

Dr Fox: The ethnicity of members of the Afghan national police is a matter for the Government of Afghanistan. The Ministry of Defence does not hold data on the ethnicity of the Afghan national police in Helmand.

Union Flag

Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on flying the Union flag each day from each official building for which his Department is responsible. [1818]

Mr Robathan: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport issues guidance for the flying of the Union flag on UK Government buildings. The guidance encourages the Union flag to be flown 365 days a year, and as a minimum all Departments must fly the Union flag on the 19 special designated days including the Queen's birthday, Remembrance day and other special occasions as required such as the State Opening of Parliament. More information on the guidance is available on the DCMS website

The Ministry of Defence's main building in Whitehall flies the Union flag every day and it is our policy to fly the Union flag as often as possible from all our buildings capable of doing so.

Departmental Private Education

Mr Hanson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much was spent by his Department on private or independent education of children of serving military or defence personnel in each of the last five years. [1624]

Mr Robathan: A payment may be paid to some service personnel, and some Ministry of Defence civilian employees appointed overseas, to allow their children to achieve a stable education. Limits apply in respect of the amount that can be claimed and all claims are subject to a parental minimum contribution of 10%.

For service personnel, details of continuity of education allowance are only held for financial years 2007-08 and 2008-09. The amount paid is shown in the following table:

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Financial year £ million





The amount of civilian schooling allowance paid is in the following table:

Calendar year £ million











Departmental Public Expenditure

Chris Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how he plans to reduce his Department's running costs by at least 25 per cent. [1675]

Dr Fox: The Department is considering how the savings will be achieved through its contributions to the strategic defence and security review and the Government's spending review, both of which are expected to report towards the end of the year.

Departmental Redundancy Pay

Mr Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his most recent estimate is of the annual cost to his Department of redundancy payments for (a) front line and (b) other staff employed by (i) his Department and (ii) its agencies. [632]

Dr Fox: We hold information centrally only on the Department-wide Voluntary Early Release schemes instigated to deliver the Spending Review 2004 and 2007 reductions in the Ministry of Defence's (MOD) civilian staff. The total liability cost averaged some £44 million a year over the period 2005-06 to 2009-10.

Beyond this, a number of smaller-scale voluntary release schemes have been run across the wider MOD to achieve specific business needs. The cost of these is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

As part of the Government's commitment to greater transparency, we plan to publish information on the cost and numbers of exit packages, including redundancy and early retirement, in our Annual Report and Accounts from 2010-11.

HMS Sultan

Caroline Dinenage: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many service families based at HMS Sultan School of Navy Engineering are living in married quarters in Gosport constituency. [2207]

Mr Robathan: The number of Service Family Accommodation (SFA) properties in the Gosport constituency is 1,026, of which 840 are currently occupied by service families.

SFA is not reserved for specified units but entitled service families are usually accommodated within 10 miles
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of their permanent duty station. Therefore, personnel based at HMS Sultan are likely to be accommodated across the wider Portsmouth area.

Luke Coffey

Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether Mr Luke Coffey has been subject to positive vetting; and whether he will have access to situation reports from military commanders. [1917]

Dr Fox: Mr Coffey has been subject to the necessary security vetting for him to undertake his role as a special adviser. He will have access to documentation appropriate to his appointment and defence vetting status.

Nuclear Weapons

Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the total planned expenditure for the W-76 warhead life extension programme is; and how much has been spent to date on this programme. [2040]

Dr Fox: The W-76 warhead life extension programme is a US programme and I cannot comment.

Trade Unions

Mr Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to consult trade unions in (a) his Department and (b) its agencies on lost reduction plans. [602]

Dr Fox: We are working with the trade unions in accordance with agreed arrangements. We will consult them regarding the implementation of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, and the implications for staff of the associated settlement for Defence in the wider Government Spending Review.

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