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North/South Implementation Bodies

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The functions of North/South implementation bodies are not "partitioned". Equality schemes for the bodies do not apply to the exercise of their functions outside Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland: Smoking

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, in collaboration with other departments and agencies, is finalising a five-year Tobacco Action Plan which has been the subject of widespread consultation across Northern Ireland. The plan, which identifies pregnant women as one of three key target groups, also addresses smoking in public places and passive smoking in the context of action to protect non-smokers from tobacco smoke.

Following publication, an implementation group will be established to take forward the agreed action points.

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Motoring Offences: UK Citizens Abroad

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What investigations they have conducted to ensure United Kingdom motorists receive access to justice in foreign courts; and[HL1739]

    In what circumstances a United Kingdom citizen, disqualified from driving by a foreign court, would be able to appeal to a United Kingdom court against disqualification; and[H17409]

    Whether translation facilities are available to United Kindom citizens charged with motoring offences in other European member states.[HL1741]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): A defendant's right to a fair hearing and to the assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court are both enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, to which all the member states of the European Union are signatories.

Following a consultation exercise in 2001, the Govenment have introduced measures to implement the 1998 EU Convention on Driving Disqualifications in the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill currently before Parliament. Under the convention, a disqualification imposed in another member state will also be recognised and enforced in the driver's state of residence.

The Bill provides a right of appeal for any UK resident aggrieved at the decision to enforce a foreign disqualification in the UK. An appeal may be made on any of the grounds laid down in the Bill for recognising a disqualification. This includes determining whether a defendant was duly notified by the state of the offence of the proceedings against him and entitled to take part in them, which provides an important safeguard where a disqualification has been imposed in absentia. The appeal will not extend to the circumstances of the original offence. Rights of appeal against conviction will already have been dealt with in the state of the offence.

Armed Forces Overseas Allowances: Gulf Service

Lord Rogan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether reserve members of the Armed Forces who are called up for service in the Gulf will be entitled to overseas allowances; and, if not, why not; and[HL1673]

    Whether members of the Armed Forces currently based in the United Kingdom will be entitled to overseas allowances if and when deployed to the Gulf; and, if not, why not; and[HL1671]

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    Whether members of the Armed Forces currently based overseas and in receipt of overseas allowances will still benefit from these allowances, if and when deployed to the Gulf; and, if not, why not.[HL1672]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): Regular and reserve personnel deployed to the Gulf from the United Kingdom will usually not receive local overseas allowance (LOA) as the operational welfare package (OWP) is being made available to the great majority of those engaged on operations. LOA is constructed around the lifestyle of personnel based overseas, but the needs of those deployed on operations are quite different and are addressed by the OWP. The package will be delivered in stages, commensurate with the operation. The intention is to implement the communication elements of the package as soon as possible, taking account of the lack of infrastructure and harsh environment in many deployed locations. This will allow deployed personnel 20 minutes of publicly funded telephone calls per week; free forces aerogrammes and concessionary parcel rates; access to the internet and e-mail; and newspapers. Additionally, BFBS TV and radio; televisions, video recorders and videotapes; Expeditionary Forces Institute shops; and publicly funded laundry will be provided as soon as practicable.

Local overseas allowance (LOA) is not part of the military salary or a reward for overseas service. It is a tax-free cost of living addition paid only in circumstances were personnel are likely to incur greater day-to-day expenditure overseas than they would in the United Kingdom. This is not generally the case for those deployed on operations. It is accepted that those personnel who are temporarily deployed away from their permanent, LOA earning, duty station, while no longer incurring the full range of additional costs associated with that station, still have ongoing financial commitments overseas, and that many have families who remain at the permanent duty station. Consequently, all service personnel continue to receive the full LOA rate for the first 17 days of their deployment. Additionally, married accompanied personnel continue to receive the full LOA rate unless their accompanying spouse also leaves the permanent duty station for more than 17 days, at which point an abatement of approximately 35 per cent is applied. Single or married unaccompanied personnel lose 20 per cent of their full LOA rate after the first 17 days.

Gulf Service Units: E-mail Facilities

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many e-mail terminals will each service unit in the Gulf possess for welfare e-mails; and whether there will be any security censorship of these messages.[HL1679]

Lord Bach: Subject to operational requirements and technical feasibility, one e-mail terminal will be made available for around every 100 personnel. E-mail messages will not be censored.

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Challenger 2 Tanks

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How long the remaining modifications to convert the Challenger 2 tanks for desert operations will take on arrival in the Gulf theatre.[HL1675]

Lord Bach: A range of modifications to improve the performance in desert conditions of the Challenger 2 tanks deploying to the Gulf will be completed in time for any future operations. I am withholding details of how long the remaining modifications will take once the tanks arrive in theatre under Exemption 1 (Defence, security and international relations) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

MoD Test and Evaluation Requirements: QinetiQ LTPA

Lord Carter asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Ministry of Defence has now signed the long-term partnering agreement with QinetiQ for the delivery of its test and evaluation capability.[HL1967]

Lord Bach: The Ministry of Defence has just successfully concluded a long-term partnering agreement (LTPA) with QinetiQ for the delivery of the MoD's test and evaluation requirements. MoD customers examined a number of options for the delivery of future test and evaluation services and concluded that a long-term partnering agreement with QinetiQ was the approach most likely to maximise value for money and ensure the continuing success of these key capabilities.

The new contract, which will take effect from 1 April 2003, will replace the current short-term facilities management contract which was put in place at QinetiQ vesting and which expires on 31 March.

The LTPA contract, which is worth up to £5.6 billion to QinetiQ over its 25-year life, will progressively introduce efficiency measures and innovation in order to reduce overall test and evaluation costs. The contract, which will be the subject of periodic review at agreed intervals, is expected to deliver savings to MoD of around £700 million (at current prices) over its lifetime.

The LTPA establishes a framework within which the MoD's relationship with its contractor can grow, over time. QinetiQ will be given opportunities to develop further innovation and make proposals to achieve better value for money and, based on performance, there will be opportunities for business growth.

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Reservists: Operations in Sierra Leone and DRC

Baroness Thornton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements are in place to allow reservists to be called out to support operations in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [HL1970]

Lord Bach: A new call-out order has been made under Section 56 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 so that reservists may continue to be called out to support operations in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This order will take effect from 1 March 2003, the date the previous order expired. There are no plans to call reservists up compulsorily under this order, as it is expected that the small numbers needed will be met through volunteers for service in those countries.

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