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The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC), having recently reviewed its papers on the Hinduja Foundation's contribution of £1 million to the Faith zone, has concluded that VAT is chargeable in respect of that contribution. NMEC reached this conclusion on the basis that the allocation of free tickets represented a benefit. The company has made a voluntary disclosure to HM Customs and Excise. NMEC has now brought this payment into account for VAT purposes and will make the appropriate payment when all related aspects are agreed with HM Customs and Excise. NMEC is satisfied that in respect of the earlier treatment of the Hinduja Foundation's contribution and the later allocation of tickets there was no deliberate attempt by NMEC staff to avoid VAT. There was an innocent error which, having been identified, is now being corrected.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Ministry of Defence does not hold centrally information on all serving personnel who have been diagnosed with a cancer. To facilitate research into the health of Gulf veterans, the Ministry of Defence arranged for all Gulf veterans' records to be flagged on the Office for National Statistics' NHS Central Register (NHSCR) database, as well as a similar comparison group of personnel who were also in service on 1 January 1991. This should ensure that the Ministry of Defence is notified of cancer registrations and deaths together with the causes of death in England, Wales and Scotland. Similar information on cancer registrations is not available for Northern Ireland for security reasons, nor for serving personnel diagnosed overseas. Although flagging is complete for 98 per cent of all records, NHSCR cancer registration data are currently complete up to 1996. My officials will review the available data and I will write to the noble Countess setting out such information as is available, placing a copy of my letter in the Library of the House, when I am in a position to do so. Click here to view the research.
For the period 1 April 1991 to 8 March 2001, 26 Gulf veterans who were still serving at the time of death were confirmed as having died from cancer (International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Chapter II, Codes 140-239--Neoplasms). The equivalent figure for cancer deaths in the comparison group is 25. The excess in Gulf veterans is not statistically significant.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We place the highest priority on tackling racism within the Armed Forces. It is right that services should reflect more closely the ethnic balance of our society and should set a positive example to others in the promotion of racial equality. The Army's equal opportunities policy sets out to provide equal opportunities for all personnel within an environment free from all forms of discrimination, harassment and intimidation. The result of the considerable equal opportunities initiatives undertaken by the Army over the last four years has shown an increase in its ethnic minority strength from 1,066 (1.0 per cent of total strength) on 1 April 1997 to 2,057 (1.9 per cent) on 1 February 2001.
The Armed Forces are making a particular effort to recruit men and women from the UK's ethnic minority communities. This significant, long-term investment is bearing fruit. All three services have established ethnic minority recruiting teams located in areas of high ethnic population and all undertake numerous and varied initiatives aimed at encouraging ethnic minority personnel into joining the Armed Forces. This has resulted in a slow but steady year on year increase in both the number and percentage of ethnic minority recruits since 1997-98.
Although progress with recruitment of ethnic minority personnel is slower than we would wish, we remain fully committed to pursuing our 2002 goal of 5 per cent. The figures are moving in the right direction--a tribute to the dedication of the staff involved. The recruiting goals, and indeed their time frame, were and are deliberately aimed at stretching the Armed Forces, so that we could drive hard to reach recruiting levels that match more closely the population which the Armed Forces serve. There is nothing short term about this approach.
As a result of both the equal opportunities initiatives and the recruiting effort, the ethnic minority proportion of the Armed Forces has risen from 1.0 per cent (2,184 personnel) on 1 April 1997 to 1.5 per cent (3,086 personnel) on 1 February 2001.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are pleased to announce that the emerging findings of these reviews are being published today for public consultation. We appreciate that both reviews are taking longer than originally intended, but they have raised complicated issues and we are determined that we should find the right package of benefits appropriate for our Armed Forces in modern society.
The review teams have carried out detailed analysis of the current arrangements and the options for modernisation. They have set out options in each area, working closely with the services personnel staff. The next stage in the review process is to seek the views of individual service personnel, ex-service and widows organisations and the general public. This will include wide circulation of material describing the proposed changes, both in hard copy and on a range of web sites. We will also be going out to interested organisations to explain our proposals, answer any questions and seek views. Because of the complexity of the proposals we have allowed over four months for consultation. After this time we will publish a summary of the responses and consider how to take the package forward in the light of them.
Copies of the consultation documents will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will also be available on the MoD website. The Joint Compensation Review consultation document will also be available on the DSS War Pensions Agency website.
The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government's response to the Joint Report on Strategic Export Controls (HC 467, Session 1999-2000) was published in December 2000 (Cm 4872). The response outlined the Government's objections in principle and in practice to the committee's proposals for prior parliamentary scrutiny of export licence applications. However, the Government will carefully consider the revised proposals published in the Quadripartite Committee's report of 14 March 2001 (HC 212) and respond in due course.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The entry in the Export of Goods (Control) Regulations 1994, as amended, under which the export of goods is controlled is known as their rating. The export of weapons and components of weapons is controlled under entries ML1, ML2, ML4, ML5, ML12, ML18, ML19, ML21, ML22, PL5002, PL5006, PL5017, PL5018 and PL5030. Records for cases involving the relevant ratings to Morocco have been searched. Since 2 May 1997 the Government have approved the issue of one standard individual export licence for the refurbishment of weapons to Morocco. This licence covered the export of spares and components and was issued to a UK exporter for the refurbishment of 105mm guns already in the possession of the Moroccan Government. The guns were originally supplied by the UK Government.
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