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Emergencies: MoD/DFID Collaboration

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Gilbert: We are eager to see our Armed Forces used to alleviate the effects of disasters or in response to other complex emergencies where they can make an appropriate and effective contribution to complement the efforts of the civil sector.

To co-ordinate better our response to emergencies, we have been reinforcing our links with the Department for International Development, DFID, in this area. Senior officials in DFID have visited our Permanent Joint Headquarters for talks with the Chief of Joint Operations, and, in addition, there have been policy discussions between senior officials of the two departments. There is now a regular dialogue between MoD and DFID, including frequent contacts between our respective operational planning staffs. We are confident that these would lead to an effective co-ordinated response to an emergency in the event that the use of military assets was appropriate.

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Apache Regiments

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the Strategic Defence Review, how many Apache helicopters the three proposed Apache regiments will have; and[HL2962]

    Following the Strategic Defence Review, where the three proposed Apache regiments will be based and train.[HL2963]

Lord Gilbert: The three Apache regiments will each comprise two squadrons of eight aircraft, giving a front line strength of 48 aircraft. The current plan is for two regiments of Apache to be based at Wattisham, and one at Dishforth, with initial individual training conducted at Middle Wallop, and continuation training conducted at the operational bases. However, this arrangement is being examined as part of the Joint Helicopter Command implementation study. The scale and locations required for collective training are also under study.

Trident

Lord Bassam of Brighton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in discussions with the United States of America on the decision not to proceed with the United Kingdom's planned final Trident missile purchase.[HL3213]

Lord Gilbert: Our decision not to proceed with the planned final Trident missile body buy will have implications for the UK/US procurement programme and the long term Trident support arrangements of both countries. We have, therefore, agreed with the United States that, to safeguard production capabilities, we will continue with the planned procurement of missile components. Some of these will be required by the UK as in-service spares; the remainder we will sell back to the United States in future years for use in their continuing production programme. This arrangement has been enshrined in a Memorandum of Understanding that the US Deputy Secretary for Defense and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence have signed.

Overall, our decision to maintain our Trident missile inventory at 58, rather than increasing it to 65 as previously planned, will require the write-off of surplus expenditure to the value of some £40 million, over half of which results from advance commitments to the final buy by the previous government. Our decision is expected to save in the region of £50 million.

Gulf Veterans' Medical Assessment Programme

Lord Bassam of Brighton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When will they announce a new head of the Gulf Veterans' Medical Assessment Programme[HL3214]

Lord Gilbert: Following an open competition, we have now appointed Professor Harry Lee to be the head

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of the Gulf Veterans' Medical Assessment Programme, MAP. Professor Lee has had a distinguished medical and academic career specialising in general medicine, renal medicine and infectious diseases. He is scheduled to take up his post at the MAP on 1 September.

Telecommunications Masts: Planning Controls

Lord Bassam of Brighton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have received about the current planning controls on the erection of telecommunications masts.[HL3173]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): We have received a number of representations from local authorities, from industry and from the working group which has been considering the effectiveness of our Code of Best Practice for telecommunications prior to approval procedures.

After careful consideration, we have concluded that the use of permitted development rights continues to be appropriate for this type of development but that there is scope for improving procedures in order to address a number of concerns.

In doing this, we aim to strike the right balance between facilitating a competitive national telecommunications network and protecting our environment. We have today published a consultation paper on proposals for changes to the control of development by licensed telecommunications operators under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995. Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Library.

The main change proposed is a new two-stage procedure for ground-based masts erected under permitted development rights, to allow time for greater public consultation over their siting and appearance. This will give the public a clear opportunity to comment upon the installation of a mast in sensitive cases where such development would impact upon their amenity. We also propose to increase the protection currently afforded to sites of special scientific interest in this context by making telecommunications development in these areas subject to similar constraints as already apply in areas such as national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. This would include development such as the installation of masts and antennas being made subject to a full planning application in SSSIs.

Planning Guidance Note 17 on Sport and Recreation

Lord Bassam of Brighton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they proposes to revise Planning Guidance Note 17 on Sport and Recreation.[HL3174]

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Lord Whitty: We will shortly be publishing a research report which examines the Effectiveness of Planning Policy Guidance on Sport and Recreation. The findings and recommendations in that research point clearly towards the need to revise PPG17. We agree. The PPG, which dates from September 1991, urgently needs to be brought up to date, not least to take account of the Government's sustainable development objectives. Work on a revision will therefore start later in the summer, and we hope that a draft revised PPG17 will be issued for public consultation around the turn of the year.

Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre Executive Agency

Lord Stallard asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What performance targets they have set the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre Executive Agency for 1998-99.[HL3177]

Lord Whitty: The Agency's principal financial target for 1998-99 is to achieve a minimum contribution to the Exchequer of £963,000.

Operational targets have been set to increase occupancy of the Churchill Auditorium to 190 days; the Fleming Room to 210 days; and the Mountbatten Room to 165 days.

The Agency is also being required to achieve additional room hire revenue from banqueting of £75,000, and has the following key customer service targets to meet:


    1. An overall score for quality of service from client questionnaires of at least 78 per cent.


    2. 98 per cent. of clients to report that they would use the centre again.


    3. The number of complaints received to be less than four per 100 events.


    4. An average response time when answering complaints of less than four working days.


    5. An overall score for quality of service by the catering staff of at least 88 per cent.

Regional Development Agencies: Chairmen

Lord Bassam of Brighton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they propose to appoint chairs for the boards of the proposed regional development agencies.[HL3175]

Lord Whitty: Formal appointments to the boards of the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) cannot be made until the Regional Development Agencies Bill, currently before Parliament, has received Royal Assent. However, we propose to engage a chairman designate for each RDA on an advisory basis prior to Royal Assent to assist in preparations for the establishment of the RDAs.

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Our choices are as follows:

Eastern RDAVincent Watts--Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia
East Midlands RDADerek Mapp--Formerly Chairman of Tom Cobleigh plc. Currently part-time Executive Chairman of Leapfrog Day Nurseries
North East RDAJohn Bridge--Chief Executive of the Northern Development Company
North West RDALord Thomas of Macclesfield--Formerly Managing Director of the Co-operative Bank and founding Chairman of the North West Partnership
South East RDA Ltd.Allan Willett--Chairman and founder of Willett International
South West RDASir Michael Lickiss--Chairman of Edexcel Foundation (previously BTEC)
West Midlands RDAAlex Stephenson--Managing Director of Rover Group Power Train
Yorkshire and Humber RDAGraham Hall--Chief Executive of Yorkshire Electricity Group plc

There was a strong list of candidates in each region and we were able to appoint people of the highest calibre to lead each RDA. Candidates for chairman of each RDA were sought from a wide range of sources, including a public advertisement, nominations from regional and national stakeholders, and details of people who had previously expressed an interest in public service. Independent assessors were involved both in the short listing process and in interviews. All appointments have been made on merit and in accordance with guidance issued by the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

There will also be a development agency in London. The creation of the London Development Agency will take account of the new arrangements for the government of London including the way that appointments are made.


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