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Written Answers

Thursday, 11th November 1999.

General Pinochet

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any guidance has been given to Cabinet and other Ministers about making comments about General Pinochet[HL4655]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The only Minister with responsibility for making decisions in relation to extradition in this case is my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. His practice is not to make public comments on matters about which he will in due course have to make decisions of a quasi-judicial nature, except of course for those comments which are appropriate when announcing decisions he has made. He has adhered to this practice in the case of Senator Pinochet and will continue to do so.

So far as comments by other Ministers are concerned, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is well aware of the need to ensure that in making any decision in extradition cases he has regard only to relevant factors.

This, of course, reflects the longstanding convention that decisions in extradition cases are not made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary as part of the collective responsibility of the Government, but represent his personal responsibility.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Home Secretary intends to exercise his discretion relating to the requested extradition of General Pinochet at any time other than the end of the legal proceedings relating to his extradition.[HL4656]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has not made any decision about when to exercise his discretion relating to the requested extradition of Senator Pinochet. He is required to approach any such decision within the limits imposed by law, and intends to do so.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What response they have to the request made by the Chilean Foreign Minister, Mr Valdes, that General Pinochet be released on humanitarian grounds.[HL4657]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Her Majesty's Government received representations from the Government of Chile on 14 October 1999 concerning

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the continued detention of Senator Pinochet in the United Kingdom pending the extradition proceedings currently in progress. Her Majesty's Government replied on 5 November 1999. The contents of that reply are confidential to its recipients.

Computer Hacking: Demonstration on 18 June

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many firms reported to the police that their computers had been hacked into during the demonstrations in the City of London on 18 June; what proportion of firms actually hacked into this represents; and what steps the police have taken to identify the parties engaged in these activities.[HL4677]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I understand that neither the City of London nor the Metropolitan Police forces have received any reports of computer hacking arising from the disturbances on 18 June.

"Cyberwar" Equipment

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether British firms are sufficiently protected against electronic intrusion by United States electronic "Cyberwar" equipment, including equipment based in the United Kingdom and in its Dependent Territories, or dependent on equipment so based.[HL4680]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I shall write to the noble Lord as soon as possible.

I shall place a copy of the letter in the Library.

Armed Forces: Personnel below Age 18

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their reasons for sending members of the Armed Forces who are under 18 years of age into armed conflict.[HL4283]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We recruit volunteers into the Armed Forces from the age of 16. Some of these personnel will join their units having completed training well into their 17th year but prior to their 18th birthday. While the number involved is relatively small, these are trained personnel who, having joined their units, contribute to the operational effectiveness of that unit. Removing these personnel from units could undermine unit cohesiveness as well as effectiveness and could exacerbate the problems of retention and overstretch.

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Armed Forces: Minimum Age of Engagement

Lord Taylor of Gryfe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to alter the minimum age of engagement and enlistment into the armed services.[HL4606]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Recruits may join the Armed Forces from the age of 16 provided they have completed their compulsory secondary education. Volunteers under 18 are only recruited with parental consent and we ensure that all recruits fully understand their military obligations prior to enlistment. This policy accords with international standards laid down in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and International Labour Organisation Convention 182. Accordingly we have no plans to alter our recruitment policy.

Armed Forces: Minimum Period of Service

Lord Taylor of Gryfe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to alter the minimum period of service in the armed forces.[HL4607]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The minimum commitment period for soldiers was raised earlier this month from three to four years. There are currently no plans to amend further the minimum period of service for other Armed Forces personnel.

Defence Export Sales Organisation: Indonesia

Lord Taylor of Gryfe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the budget for the year 1999-2000 for the Defence Export Sales Organisation office in Indonesia; and[HL4608]

    What is the budget for the year 2000-01 for the Defence Export Sales Organisation office in Indonesia.[HL4609]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I refer the noble Lord to the Answer given by my right honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence on 4 November to my honourable friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Stinchcombe) (Official Report, Commons, col. 254). The budget for DESO representation in Indonesia in 2000-01 is not yet finalised.

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Armed Forces: Deaths Attributable to Service

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    For each of the last five years, how many Armed Forces service personnel deaths were attributable to their service.[HL4580]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The number of Armed Forces service personnel deaths who died in service for reasons attributable to service in each of the last five years is set out in the following table.

Description19951996199719981999*
Hostile Action04102
Training & Exercise41496
Other3414113018
Total3819163926

*To date.

These figures do not include former Armed Forces personnel who died for reasons attributable to service after retirement.


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Baltic States: Military Assistance

The Earl of Carlisle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they provide the three Baltic states with the vehicles (peacetime establishment) of a combat vehicle reconnaissance regiment (track) (CVR(T)), together with a Royal Armoured Corps training team.[HL4660]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government have no plans to provide the Baltic states with tracked combat reconnaissance vehicles nor is it planned to send a Royal Armoured Corps training team. Through its Outreach programme the United Kingdom has provided a great deal of defence assistance to the Baltic states. This has included long and short-term training teams, which have largely provided training in basic infantry skills. It is the principal aim of Outreach to provide training and assistance to states in central and eastern Europe and not equipment.

Iraq: Cost of Air Operations

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the cost to the British taxpayer of the United Kingdom's support for United States air action in Iraq; whether it has been subjected to political or military cost/benefit analysis; and, if so, with what result.[HL4552]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Coalition patrols of the no-fly zones remain an essential humanitarian task in support of UN Security Council Resolution 688. They prevent Saddam Hussein from using his air force to repress the Iraqi people in the north and south of Iraq.

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Information on the expenditure to date this year on ongoing military operations in the Gulf is not held centrally and could be collated only at disproportionate cost. However, excluding the value of assistance provided through host nation support, the cost to the UK of air operations in the Gulf amounted to some £35 million in the last financial year and is forecast to be some £28 million this year.


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