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Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 15 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many serving members of the armed forces in the Gulf have had training in Arabic. [106911]

[holding answer 7 April 2003]: The information requested is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost. Service records do not give details of how individuals have acquired their language skills. Some personnel will have been trained in Arabic, for example at the Defence School of Languages; others, however, will have acquired their language skills by other means, such as from having lived in an Arabic-speaking country or from an Arabic-speaking parent. Determining how many Arabic speakers among our forces in the Gulf have received training in Arabic could only be done by seeking the information from the individuals concerned.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British (a) tanks, (b) armoured personnel carriers, (c) land vehicles and (d) aircraft have been lost in the Iraq War. [107976]

I am withholding this information in accordance with Exemption la of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, which relates to defence, security and international relations.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on incidences of 'friendly fire' during the current campaign in Iraq. [108849]

All casualties suffered by our armed forces are a serious matter. It is especially tragic that British Servicemen have lost their lives in so-called "friendly fire" incidents. Sadly such casualties are a risk of warfare. The issue of Combat Identification is taken very seriously; we worked closely with the United States to ensure that effective arrangements were in place before the start of operations in Iraq. United Kingdom forces' Combat Identification capability is compatible and comparable with that of our US allies. Combat Identification is not delivered by a single system or piece of equipment, but by a combination of tactics and procedures backed up by technology. Regrettably, no system can be 100 per cent. fail-safe, but we remain confident that the capability with which we have provided our forces is as effective as possible, despite the recent tragic incidents.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what contribution his Department has made to the cost of embedded journalists during the Iraq war. [108952]

Embedded journalists with British forces in Iraq have been provided with a range of facilities, services and equipment in accordance with the instructions in the Green Book—"Working Arrangements with the media in times of Emergency, Tension, Conflict or War". This has included documentation, military clothing, protective equipment, training, accommodation, food and military transport into, within and out of theatre.The exact costs of these services, facilities and equipment have not been separately identified and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the normal duration is of the tour of duty for servicemen serving in the Gulf. [108987]

The normal duration of a tour of duty varies according to the wider manning and training requirements of each service. Deployed operational tours to the Gulf do not normally exceed six months.Our policy for operations in the Gulf, and elsewhere, is to deploy personnel on operations for no longer than is necessary to achieve the military aim and personnel are withdrawn at the earliest opportunity.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the use of the Bugsplat Computer programme to target missiles and bombs in the invasion of Iraq. [109019]

The Bugsplat Computer program is a United States modelling tool developed to assist in assessing weapon effects. The United Kingdom does not use the Bugsplat Computer program.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to send paediatric equipment modules to British Army field hospitals operating in Iraq to assist with the treatment of young children; how many such modules have been sent to Iraq; and if he will make a statement. [109212]

[holding answer 14 April 2003]: The Ministry of Defence has despatched 21 medical modules containing paediatric equipment to our field hospitals in the Gulf region. We are working closely with the Department for International Development to ensure that humanitarian assistance is provided in line with the United Kingdom's obligations under the Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps are being taken to restore the supply of electricity in Basra; and if he will make a statement. [109328]

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 10 April 2003, Official Report, column 350W, to the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge).

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on the establishment of a peacekeeping force in Iraq; and if he will make a statement on the role of British forces in Iraq once hostilities cease. [109329]

During and after hostilities in Iraq, United Kingdom forces will, as part of the coalition, conduct a variety of security tasks with the aim of establishing a safe and secure environment in which the Iraqi people can begin to rebuild their political institutions and economic infrastructure. They will stay as long as is necessary.