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Church of England: Human Rights Act 1998

Baroness Perry of Southwark asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The exercise of public functions by an organisation may bring those activities within the ambit of the Human Rights Act 1998. It would, however, be for a court or tribunal to decide in individual cases whether an organisation is a public authority or, if not, whether it is nevertheless to be regarded as a public authority because it performs certain functions of a public nature. The application of the Human Rights Act 1998 is among the matters at issue in the case of Aston Cantlow and Wilmcote with Billesley Parochial Church Council v Wallbank and another which is to be heard by the House of Lords later this year.

Queen's Counsel: Appointment in Scotland

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

The Lord Chancellor: The provision of legal services in Scotland, which includes the appointment of Queen's Counsel, is a devolved matter within the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. The First Minister of the Scottish Executive makes recommendations annually to Her Majesty the Queen about which advocates in Scotland she should appoint as Queen's Counsel. These recommendations are made after detailed discussion with the Lord President of the Court of Session, who has himself consulted all sectors of the legal profession in that jurisdiction.

Queen's Counsel: Appointment in Northern Ireland

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

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The Lord Chancellor: There have been two Queen's Counsel competitions in the past five years. On each occasion after careful consideration I agreed with the recommendations made by the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland.

Defence Medical Services

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the response from civilian consultants joining the Defence Medical Services as a result of the £50,000 golden hello recruitment scheme announced on 19 November 2002.[HL1268]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): Some 450 expressions of interest have been received to date from civilian consultants and general medical practitioners in response to our golden hello recruitment scheme announced on 19 November 2002. Of these, 33 were from civilian consultants who were found to meet the recruitment criteria. So far, two of these consultants have applied to join the Armed Forces.

Royal Artillery Multi-launch Rocket System

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Royal Artillery multi-launch rocket system is to be included in the troop deployment to Iraq.[HL1271]

Lord Bach: There are currently no plans to include the Royal Artillery multi-launch rocket system in the troop deployment to Iraq.

Armed Forces Pension and Compensation Arrangements

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in light of the difficulties troops deploying or about to deploy to the Gulf are experiencing in securing life assurance cover, they will expedite the introduction of the enhanced death-in-service benefits proposed in their current review of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme; and whether the enhancement will apply to troops now on or deploying for active service.[HL1311]

Lord Bach: We have no plans to enhance the current death-in-service benefits ahead of implementing the findings of our reviews of the Armed Forces pension and compensation schemes. Current attributable benefits paid to a widow under the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) and the War Pensions Scheme (WPS) are among the more generous of the

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public service schemes. While the current rate of death-in-service benefit is low at between one and one-and-a-half times the individual's representative rate of pay, it needs to be seen in the context of the other benefits available under our compensation arrangements.

Where the member dies in service from attributable causes and leaves a widow, widower and/or dependent child, a short-term family pension, equal to the service person's annual rate of pensionable pay, is payable for up to 182 days. The short-term pension maintains the household income level in the early months of bereavement. In addition to the basic death-in-service lump sum, an attributable gratuity is also payable equal to the annual rate of a full career pension. Thereafter, a long-term widow's or widower's, and children's pensions are paid. Attributable widow(er)'s pensions are significantly enhanced, index-linked and paid for life, regardless of whether the widow(er) remarries or cohabits. The attributable widow's and widower's pension is 90 per cent. of the member's full career pension, less an abatement to reflect the amount by which the War Pensions Scheme war widow's or widower's pension exceeds the basic state widow's pension. Attributable children's pensions are also enhanced, index-linked and are paid until age 17 and may continue if higher education is undertaken. Apart from these valuable occupational pension benefits, the WPS provides additional compensation for families of those service personnel whose death is attributable to their service. This includes a tax-free War Widow's Pension.

The department's reviews of the Armed Forces pension and compensation arrangements have included consideration of the level of death-in-service benefits. We expect to finalise proposals for the new AFPS and make a public announcement of the key proposals, early this year. However, the new schemes are not expected to be available before 2005–06.

In the meantime, should service personnel consider that the AFPS and WPS benefits do not meet their personal circumstances, they should continue to make personal life insurance provision. As I indicated in the House on 29 January 2003 (Official Report, cols. 1129–32), we recognise that some service personnel who are being deployed to the Gulf are having difficulty in securing new life assurance cover in order to enhance their families' financial security. Insurance cover is still available but the Government are examining options should this situation change.

SA80 and Challenger 2

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps are being taken in connection with reports in the media suggesting that the standard rifle and the Challenger tanks are of unsatisfactory quality.[HL1412]

Lord Bach: The standard assault rifle issued to United Kingdom Armed Forces is the Small Arms (SA) 80. The SA80 modification programme has significantly improved the reliability and performance

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of the weapon. Extensive trials carried out across all climatic conditions before the modified weapon was introduced, and more recent trials and demonstrations in Afghanistan and Oman, have established the weapon is reliable, accurate and can be maintained in an operational environment.

Challenger 2 is a world-class battle-winning tank. There were no major mechanical problems with Challenger 2 tanks on Exercise Saif Sareea II, but the exceptionally dusty conditions in Oman resulted in higher use of air filters than had originally been planned for. As a result of the lessons identified during the exercise, modifications to improve the performance of the tank in desert conditions are under way.

Reservists: Household Insurance Cover

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the position for reservists who live alone and, on being called up by the Ministry of Defence, are forced to leave their property unoccupied for an extended period, thereby breaking the terms of their household insurance agreement.[HL1444]

Lord Bach: Prolonged absence from a property should be notified to the property insurer, which may require additional security measures to be taken as a condition of continued insurance cover. There may also be an increase in insurance premium and/or an increased excess payable by the insured in the event of a claim. To compensate personnel, regardless of marital status, for the effects of separation from home life, reservists who meet the eligibility criteria receive longer separated service allowance (LSSA) or (for those serving seagoing units) longer service at sea bonus (LSSB). These are payable at three rates (basic, middle and higher) dependent on periods of accumulated separation (for LSSA) or length of sea service in qualifying units (for LSSB). In addition, when called-out, reservists are paid the full X-factor, which is an additional 13 per cent. of their basic pay. The X-factor takes account of the relative disadvantages of conditions of service experienced by members of the Armed Forces compared with those in civilian life.


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