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Iraq: Suspected Vehicles

Lord Redesdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): We currently assess that the vehicles were built in Iraq using Iraqi components and standard industrial components that had been obtained from several different countries including the United Kingdom. The components of British origin would not have been restricted under the sanctions regime. Our investigations into the vehicles continue.

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Armed Forces: Suicide

Lord Rogan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many deaths by suicide were recorded among members of the Armed Forces since January 2003, and for each year for the past five years.[HL3614]

Lord Bach: In the period 1998 to 2002 there were 78 suicide and open verdict deaths among UK regular service personnel. The Ministry of Defence does not currently have information on verdicts made by coroners (England & Wales and N. Ireland) or the Procurator Fiscal (Scotland) for accidental or violent deaths that have occurred in 2003. A breakdown of the suicides and open verdict deaths by year of occurrence is given below.

Suicide and open verdict deaths in the UK regular Armed Forces, 1998–2002

Year of DeathNumber


Suicide and open verdicts are subject to change as outstanding coroners verdicts are confirmed. This could lead to further increases in due course.

Iraq: Interpreters

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure in Iraq that British forces searching private or religious premises are always accompanied by an interpreter.[HL3758]

Lord Bach: The policy of United Kingdom forces in Iraq is, as far as possible, always to include interpreters on searches where locals were involved. The vast majority of interpreters are locally employed civilians, often accompanied by colloquial speakers. In rare circumstances—such as emergencies—there may be instances where an interpreter is not present, but these are not the normal practice.

Iraq: People Captured by British Forces

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people, other than prisoners of war, have been captured by British forces in Iraq and are still being held by them.[HL3803]

Lord Bach: United Kingdom forces have transferred individuals they have captured to the custody of the United States. As at 15 July, the United States were holding, on behalf of the UK one prisoner of war and 71 other persons captured by British forces who are

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either suspected of committing criminal offences or are interned where necessary for imperative reasons of security in accordance with the fourth Geneva Convention.

RAF Fylingdales: Early Warning Radar System

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bach on 12 June (WA 62), whether the details of the upgrade are confidential between the United States and the United Kingdom Governments; and how any necessary planning permissions will be obtained, given that they should be subject to public consultation.[HL3913]

Lord Bach: The Ministry of Defence last month passed to the local planning authorities an environmental and land use report giving details of the work involved in the upgrade of the radar at RAF Fylingdales, to support its conclusion that the upgrade does not require formal planning consultation. This report is available to the public on the Ministry of Defence website. Details of the separate bilateral agreement regarding the roles and responsibilities of each government in respect of the upgrade remain confidential while negotiations are in progress and are being withheld under Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice to Government Information.

Sponsored Reserves

Baroness Golding asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements exist betwen SERCo Aerospace and the RAF for the provision of sponsored reserves.[HL4042]

Lord Bach: On 14 April 2003 a contract was signed between SERCo Aerospace and the RAF for the provision of sponsored reserves (contract support personnel who may be called out for service). SERCo Aerospace is a commercial company contracted to provide engineering support to the BAe 125 aircraft of the Comms Fleet, 32 (The Royal) Squadron, based at RAF Northolt. The new arrangement enables personnel to be deployed to an operational theatre with the protection of reserve status. Individual voluntary contracts have been signed and four personnel have been issued with call-out notices to deploy overseas.

The use of sponsored reserves is designed to cover specialist support roles where the call-out is not dependent on a level of crisis. Delegation of call-out powers has been authorised to the Air Secretary and authorised officers on his staff, in the same way as for other sponsored reserves. Call-out notices are served routinely every few weeks under existing delegated powers, and there are currently other sponsored reservists under contract with the Royal Navy as well as with the RAF. Naval sponsored reserves exist as part of the Strategic Sealift project, as well as

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providing hydrographic support to survey vessels, and RAF sponsored reserves have signed agreements with the Mobile Meteorological Unit.

Armed Forces: Initial Training

Baroness Golding asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment has been made of the review of initial training in the Armed Forces.[HL4081]

Lord Bach: On 10 February 2003 we published the report of an appraisal of the care of recruits in initial training, carried out by an independent team. Today we are publishing the report of a follow-up appraisal carried out by the same team, which has continued to monitor progress, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House.

The overall assessment arrived at by the re-appraisal is that the initial training system is proving highly successful in continuing to deliver a large number of high-quality, motivated young people for service in the Armed Forces, most recently in the very demanding combat and environmental conditions of the Gulf. All three Services' training organisations, however, are still very tautly resourced, notably in the area of supervisory and instructional manpower, for their very high throughput of trainees. The most significant risks are carried in the larger Army training establishments. The team concludes that a good deal has been done, but that further progress will require additional investment of manpower and resources.

Alongside the re-appraisal report, we are publishing a departmental progress report, which provides an overview of the action we have taken since February. A wide range of measures has been set in hand to improve processes and procedures, in line with the recommendations of the first appraisal report. These have included work to identify the resource implications of the recommendations. One of the most significant criticisms in February was of inadequate numbers of instructors, especially at some of the large Army training establishments. The Army has identified a requirement for additional instructors and support staff. One hundred and six of these vacancies were assessed as urgent. Most have been filled already and all will be filled by 11 August. This is a significant achievement on the Army's part, at a time of major operational commitment overseas, and reflects the very high priority that the Army puts on the initial training and care of its soldiers.

Inevitably, however, as the re-appraisal indicates, it takes time for all the policy changes that we are putting in place to be implemented, especially where extra resources or new infrastructure are required. As the re-appraisal notes, the increased numbers of instructors and supervisory staff are still building up. They and other improvements we are putting in place have the potential to significantly improve the training environment. But we are certainly not complacent and recognise that progress must be maintained and extended. In line with the latest recommendation of the team, we will carry out a further assessment of progress in summer 2004.

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Iraq: Multinational Division

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in establishing a multinational division in Iraq.[HL4079]

Lord Bach: United Kingdom forces continue to make good progress in helping Iraq become a stable and united state.

The vast majority of Iraqis welcomed the fall of the Saddam regime. The newly formed Governing Council has given Iraqis a representative voice after decades of oppression. The coalition will work with the Governing Council to rebuild Iraq. It will hand over to an elected government as soon as possible. The UK is playing a major role, and has seconded experts to work in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad in a wide range of fields: political, financial, legal, security, health, education, roads, forensics, war crimes, prisons, culture and communications. We are also assisting in the training of a new Iraqi army and the Iraqi police.

Since the collapse of the former regime and the announcement of the end of decisive combat operations on 1 May, the coalition's main effort has been directed towards establishing a safe and secure Iraq. Security is an essential part of the political and economic rehabilitation of the country, and coalition stabilisation operations continue. Those who violently oppose the coalition represent a desperate minority. In the south, UK forces have developed close links with local communities, and have helped to improve the availability of water, food, power and medical supplies, which had previously been used as a means of control by Saddam Hussein. Iraqis are making the most of their new freedoms. However, the security environment remains difficult in places, particularly in Baghdad and the surrounding area. We are assisting our coalition allies in a number of ways, including sharing British expertise in urban operations, derived from many years' experience in Northern Ireland and the Balkans.

The roulement of UK forces set out in my Written Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract, of 11 June (Official Report, cols 33-35 WA) continues. Today, about 11,000 UK servicemen and women drawn from all three Services remain in the Gulf region and Iraq. The deployment of 3 (UK) Division, 19 Mechanised Brigade and 101 Logistic Brigade is nearing completion. The Royal Navy is maintaining a presence of five vessels in the Gulf. The Joint Helicopter Force of 18 helicopters based at Basra continues to support forces on the ground. We are considering the scope for rear-basing two RAF Tornado GR4 in the UK, leaving six in theatre with a number of supporting aircraft, in line with the reduced requirement for sorties.

UK forces are already working closely with military contingents from a number of countries, and further forces are due to deploy over the coming weeks. Headquarters 3 (UK) Division formally took over command of the Multinational Division (South East)

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(MND(SE)) on 12 July. This division is now responsible for coalition forces in four provinces in Southern Iraq, namely Al Basra, Maysan, Dhi Qar and Al Muthanna. Nine countries have committed troops, and discussions continue with a number of others. When fully assembled, non-UK multinational contributions to MND(SE) should total some 5,500 military personnel.

In Al Basra province a Czech field Hospital and a company of military police, over 300 Czech personnel in all, will be attached to Headquarters MND(SE). The Czech Field Hospital has been doing valuable work in Iraq since May. 38 Engineer Regiment of 19 Mechanised Brigade will work alongside a 140-strong Norwegian company in the Al Basra and Maysan provinces. We also expect the deployment of around 40 New Zealand engineers with a small support staff for humanitarian and reconstruction tasks. Also in Maysan province, a Danish battlegroup of some 450 personnel including a 30-strong Lithuanian contingent has for some weeks been operating out of Al Qurnah. In Al Muthanna province, a 1,100-strong Dutch battlegroup, comprising a Marine battalion, engineer company, medical facility and a military police platoon, will be based in As Samawah. In addition, three Dutch Chinook helicopters will be deployed to Tallil. The Italian mechanised brigade in Dhi Qar province will be 2,800 strong, and will be supported by a Romanian mechanised battalion and military police company (520 personnel), and a 130-strong security force company of Portuguese National Guard in a policing role. These contributions to MND(SE) represent a powerful symbol of the international community's commitment to the future of Iraq.

The rotation of the UK divisional headquarters, the deployment of international contingents, and the inception of MND(SE) makes this an appropriate juncture to take stock of planned force levels. This process is continuing. If necessary, we will make further adjustments to our deployed forces. We remain committed to maintaining appropriate forces in Iraq for as long as necessary and no longer.

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