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Police and Crown Prosecution Service Press Briefings

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): The Crown Prosecution Service did not give briefings to the press at the time of Mr Skellet's arrest. It would be highly unusual for the Crown Prosecution Service to issue such a briefing. Police briefings are given from time to time but I see no need for a judicial inquiry into such briefings. I do, however, keep under review the use of such briefings in particular cases, as part of my responsibilities in the area of contempt.

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Dubai: Detention of British National

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have made to the Government of Dubai concerning the arbitrary detention of a British citizen, covered in the Opinions of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention No 17 of 17 September 1998, and on the continued imprisonment of this person one year beyond the end of his sentence, calculated in accordance with the law of Dubai; and what response they have received from the authorities of Dubai.[HL1594]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): The British national in question is serving a six-year sentence for fraud in Dubai. The date of his release is, of course, a matter for the Dubai authorities in accordance with the relevant local law. The lawyers acting for the British national are aware of the position on the release arrangements and are best placed to advise the detainee on his legal position. The Dubai authorities are in direct touch with the lawyers and these have not suggested that Dubai is breaching its international obligations in its handling of this case; nor treating the detainee in question any differently to local prisoners. However, we have asked the Dubai authorities to provide further information with regard to the release date. On the point about arbitrary detention, the Dubai authorities explained their position to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in a letter on 9 November 2002.

We will continue to provide the detainee with all consular assistance we properly can.

Equatorial Guinea: Forced Labour

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will discuss with the Government of Equatorial Guinea allegations concerning the use of forced labour and concerns about payments by oil companies and the current allocation of natural resources and oil revenues. [HL1674]

Baroness Amos: We have raised the issue of oil revenues at all recent meetings with the President and the Government of Equatorial Guinea, pressing for greater transparency and wider benefits for the general population. While we do not have specific information about the use of forced labour, we are seriously concerned about the Government's human rights record, and have registered these concerns bilaterally and with our EU partners.

Defence Information Technology Systems Expenditure

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the expenditure on information technology systems for each of the past six years for

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    the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, the Defence Scientific and Technical Laboratory and QinetiQ.[HL1191]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): In the period from financial year 1997–98 to financial year 2000–01, the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) spent the following amounts on corporate information technology systems:

    FY 1997–98 £45.7 million

    FY 1998–99 £64.7 million

    FY 1999–2000 £66.8 million

    FY 2000–01 £55.6 million

On 1 July 2001, DERA was split into QinetiQ and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). At this point, around 75 per cent of DERA's staff and assets transferred into QinetiQ.

In financial year 2001–02 and financial year 2002–03 QinetiQ and Dstl spent the following amounts on corporate information technology systems:

QinetiQ Dstl
FY 2001–02 £36.9 million£15.4 million
FY 2002–03 £32.3 million£16.4 million(estimates to year end)

The amounts above include capital expenditure and the costs of provision of corporate network services (including telephones), but exclude any IT costs incurred as a direct result of the separation of DERA into QinetiQ and Dstl.

The split of DERA occurred part way through financial year 2001–02. In order to allow for a comparison between financial years, DERA's IT costs for the period 1 April to 30 June 2001 have been apportioned between QinetiQ and Dstl in line with the division of DERA's staff and assets between the two organisations. This apportionment has been used to produce the whole year figures for each organisation for financial year 2001–02 above.

Marchwood Military Port: Security

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, in a period of heightened tension, it is possible for protestors or anyone else, to gain unauthorised access to Marchwood military port.[HL1531]

Lord Bach: The security of all Ministry of Defence establishments is kept under constant review and is enhanced as necessary. It would not be realistic to attempt to secure the very extensive outer perimeters of any MoD site to a level that would guarantee that it could never be penetrated, or exclude the possibility of material damage in a non-sensitive area. We rely on defence in depth, priority being given to the protection of life and to those assets critical to the delivery of defence capability.

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The measures in place at Marchwood military port were commensurate with the threat posed by the demonstrators in that there was no loss or compromise of MoD equipment in transit and no injuries, either to authorised personnel or to the demonstrators. In all cases where protestors had put themselves at risk by chaining themselves to equipment or lodging themselves in precarious positions on or around loading ships, their safety remained paramount.

As a result of the increasing level of attempted incursions by anti-war demonstrators additional resources have been brought in to guard the Marchwood perimeter. Due to service personnel being committed to Operation Telic or Operation Fresco additional Ministry of Defence Police and MoD Guard Service personnel have been made available from other establishments.

Anthrax Vaccination of Service Personnel

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What figures they have for the take-up of the anthrax vaccine, in percentage terms, by service personnel now deployed or deploying to the Gulf in the Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Army respectively.[HL1312]

Lord Bach: All personnel deploying to the Gulf are offered anthrax vaccination. It is their personal choice whether or not they accept the vaccination. Information is held centrally on the total numbers of personnel who have been offered, and have accepted, anthrax vaccination. The numbers of personnel in each service who have been offered, and have accepted, anthrax vaccination as at 12 February 2003, are shown below:

ServiceTotal Personnel OfferedNumber acceptedPercentage uptake
Naval Services3,5891,34637.5
Joint NBC Regt23915163.2

Information regarding the take-up of the anthrax vaccine by service personnel who have deployed, or are deploying, to the Gulf is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Iraq: No-fly Zones

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On how many occasions in the past three months Iraq anti-aircraft facilities have locked on or otherwise presented serious threat to Royal Air Force aircraft engaged in legitimate duty within the no-fly zone over both the north and south of Iraq. [HL1411]

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Lord Bach: Threats to coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones in Iraq include anti-aircraft artillery and/or surface-to-air missile fire, and acquisition by radar.

We do not hold separate threat figures for individual nations' aircraft; they are recorded for the coalition as a whole.

Between 1 November 2002 and 10 February 2003 Iraqi air defence systems threatened coalition aircraft conducting patrols of the no-fly zones on 120 occasions—24 in the north and 96 in the south.

Reservists: Call-up

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many reservists, of the 2,000 called up so far, have appealed against call-up; and what action the Ministry of Defence will take if employers sue the Ministry over the length of time their employee is away. [HL1449]

Lord Bach: As at 7 February, 4,769 call-out notices had been issued in support of Operation Telic. Of these, 138 were revoked before the individual reported for service. On the same date, there had been 175 applications from reservists seeking either an exemption or deferral of call-out of which 115 had been upheld. In addition, there had been 207 applications from employers, of which 108 had been upheld. A further 68 reservist and 54 employer applications were awaiting adjudication.

Reservists are called out under the authority of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 (RFA 96). The Act recognises that successful call-out depends on a three-way relationship between the Government, the reservists themselves and their employers. RFA 96 therefore provides a number of safeguards for employers, including the right to apply for exemption from, deferral, or revocation of the call-out of their employee. Employers may also claim, up to set amounts, for the additional costs incurred because a member of their staff has been called out. The costs of advertising and retraining the employee on their return are also provided for. Should an employer be dissatisfied with the Ministry of Defence's decision in any given case, they have a right to appeal to an independent Reserve Forces Appeals Tribunal.

These safeguards should remove the need for any employer to resort to legal action. However, the department would handle any such action in the normal way.

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