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Written Answers

Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 18 June 2003

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Written Answers To Questions

Wednesday 18 June 2003

Deputy Prime Minister

Regeneration (North-West)

10.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on regeneration in the North West. [119758]

"Sustainable communities in the North West—Building for the future" accompanied the publication of the national action plan launched in February. This sets out proposals in the North West, complementing the work of the Local Strategic Partnerships and investment of the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund.

Regional Government

11.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his referendum proposals for regional government in the North West. [119759]

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced on Monday 16 June that the level of interest in the North West region is sufficient to warrant a referendum about whether to establish an elected regional assembly. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister directed the Boundary Committee for England to undertake a local government review in the region as a precursor to a referendum.

Homelessness

12.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, if he will make a statement on trends in the numbers of homeless households in priority need since May 1997. [119760]

The latest Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's Statistical Release on statutory homelessness, covering figures for England in the first quarter of 2003, was published on 17 June. Table 1 of the statistical release shows the number of households accepted by local housing authorities in England as homeless and in priority need under the homelessness legislation for each year from 1997–98 to 2002–03, with a quarterly breakdown of figures for each quarter since 1 January 2000. Copies of the statistical release are available in the Library of the House.

Affordable Housing

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to require property developers to provide more affordable homes in private housing schemes. [119755]

The recently published Sustainable Communities Plan sets out our intentions with regard to increasing the number of affordable homes. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is updating existing planning guidance and will support this with practical advice about what works well and where. The latest statistics shows a steep rise in permissions for affordable homes to around 18,500. Through the update we want to see this improved yet further.

Arson

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what percentage of fires (a) on farms and (b) in retail premises were caused by arson in each year from 1997 to 2001; and what the estimated cost to the fire service was in each year. [120031]

The information requested is in the following tables. Malicious fires are those where malicious or deliberate ignition was proved or suspected.Information on the cost to the fire service is not available before 1999. The estimates in the table are derived from applying an average fire service response cost for commercial fires of £12,950 to each farm and retail fire attended.

Fires in agricultural premises, UK, 1997–2001
TotalMaliciousPercentage maliciousEstimated costs (£000)
19971,66374745
19981,31565950
19991,435650458,418
20001,380651478,430
20011,267486386,294
Fires in retail premises, UK, 1997–2001
TotalMaliciousPercentage maliciousEstimated costs (£000)
19975,7872,32140
19985,6992,22939
19995,6992,2363928,956
20005,3582,2004128,490
20015,6872,4744432,038

Notes:

Data for 2001 are provisional.

The definition of retail premises includes vehicle trade premises

Council Tax

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the expenditure was by local authorities on council tax benefit administration for the financial years 1999–2000 to 2002–03. [119995]

Council tax benefit administration costs as reported by local authorities are as tabled:

£ million
1999–2000178.8
2000–01194.8
2001–02218.7
2002–031208.3
1 Budgeted figures

Source:

RO4 forms 1999–00 to 2001–02 and RA form 2002–03

Equality

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans his Department has to establish a single equality body to deal with all equality issues. [114613]

I have been asked to reply.I announced a consultation on the future of Great Britain's equality institutions on 22 October 2002,

Official Report, column 246W, looking at the possibility of creating a single equality body among other options. We received nearly 300 written responses to this consultation which closed in February and are currently considering in detail the views expressed. We will make an announcement on the broad shape of future arrangements for equality institutions in due course.

Estate Agents Act

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to amend the Estate Agents Act 1979. [118133]

I have been asked to reply.The Office of Fair Trading is currently investigating the market for estate agents in England and Wales, including the effectiveness of the Estate Agents Act 1979.I will consider carefully any recommendations the Director General of Fair Trading makes about future regulation of this market.

Fire Service

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the number of firefighters who will be made redundant in each fire authority in England under the new arrangements; and if he will make a statement. [119677]

No such estimate has been made as part of the process of introducing integrated risk management. The Deputy Prime Minster has repeatedly made it clear that the modernisation of the fire service can be achieved without the need for compulsory redundancies.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the effect on fire service 999 emergency response times in Harrogate and Knaresborough of the new risk management plans. [119678]

No assessment has been made of the effect on fire service 999 emergency response times in Harrogate and Knaresborough. Under integrated risk management, it will be for fire authorities to set local standards for responding to fires and other emergencies in the light of a full assessment of the risks faced by their communities.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will place in the Library (a) the Burchill proposed costing for each fire authority in England and (b) the fire authority costing for the proposals put forward by the fire authorities. [119680]

The proposals put forward by Professor Frank Burchill for the resolution of the pay dispute between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and their local authority employers contained no detailed costings. The proposals put forward by the employers, accepted by the FBU on 12 June 2003, do not include costings, but the employers have assured me that the deal is deliverable within current budgets, supported by £30 million of transitional funding from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, repayable over the Spending Review 2002 period.

Home Starter Initiative

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many key sector workers were housed and what amount was spent on affordable housing in rural areas under the Home Starter Initiative since September 2001. [117988]

As at 31 May 2003, £5.253 million has been spent under the Starter Home Initiative to assist 287 key workers in local authorities with rural districts.

Official Spelling

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make it his policy that all official (a) correspondence, (b) reports and (c) documentation from his office uses the English spelling of words where this differs from the American version. [118748]

In line with the guidance issued by the Cabinet Office to departments on the Handling of Ministerial and Order correspondence it is the policy of the Office of the Prime Minister to use the English spelling of English words. Where we employ specialist proof readers, and typesetters we direct them to use the Oxford English Dictionary as their reference and to use the guidance issued on Plain Written English. Within the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister the spell check facility on our IT systems is set to the UK English dictionary.

Regional Assemblies

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent representations he has received on holding a referendum for elections to a regional assembly in Yorkshire and the Humber. [118361]

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister is considering views, information and evidence that has been received about the level of interest in each English region (outside London) in holding referendums on elected regional assemblies. Decisions will be announced shortly as to which region(s) should proceed towards referendums and a summary of responses to the soundings exercise will be published at the same time.

Right To Buy

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many houses were sold under (a) the Right to Buy and (b) the right to acquire in each of the last five years; what his estimate is of those totals over the next three years; what plans he has to revise the guidance to tenants in respect of these schemes; and what plans he has further to amend the (a) discount and (b) clawback period in respect of these schemes. [119603]

Right to Buy

1. Sales

The following are the most recently available figures for sales under the Right to Buy scheme in England:

Number

1997–9841,329
1998–9940,272
1999–200054,251
2000–0152,380
2001–0251,968

No estimates have been made of sales over the next three years.

2. Guidance to tenants

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister booklet for tenants "Your right to buy your home" was reissued in August 2002, along with a separate booklet on the 'Rent to Mortgage' scheme. When the booklet is next reprinted, during the next few months, it will be amended to reflect the announcement in March 2003 that the maximum discount available to tenants under the Right to Buy scheme has been reduced in 41 areas under the greatest housing pressure. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister wrote on 6 March 2003 to local authorities in London and the South-East, Eastern and South-Western regions, confirming these reductions; with this letter was enclosed an extra page explaining the changes, for inclusion in copies of "Your right to buy your home" given to tenants.

3. Discounts

The Government will keep the position on maximum discounts under review.

4. Repayment of discount (clawback)

At present, if an individual resells the property which he has purchased under the Right to Buy scheme within three years from the date of purchase, he must repay discount. During the first year, all the discount must be repaid; thereafter, the amount to be repaid reduces by one-third for each complete year that elapses.

The Government's draft Housing Bill, published on 31 March 2003, proposes to extend the repayment period to five years. During the first year, all the discount will have to be repaid; thereafter, the amount to be repaid will reduce by one-fifth for each complete year that elapses.

Right to Acquire

1. Sales

The following are the most recently available figures for sales under the Right to Acquire scheme in England:

Number

1998–990
1999–20005
2000–0118
2001–0237
2002–03111

The right to acquire is a demand led scheme that enables housing association tenants to purchase their rented home at a discount. No estimates have been made of sales over the next three years.

2. Guidance to tenants

The Government have no plans to amend the guidance issued to tenants.

3. Discounts

The Government have no plans to amend the discount offered under the Right to Acquire scheme.

4. Repayment of discount

The Government intend that the measures in the draft Housing Bill designed to modernise the Right to Buy, including increasing the clawback period for repayment of discount from three to five years, will also apply to the Right to Acquire scheme.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many homes were transferred from local authority ownership in (a) all English local authorities and (b) rural English local authorities under (i) the right-to-buy scheme and (ii) registered social landlords in each year since 1996. [117990]

The figures available are tabled.

Homes transferred from local authority ownerships
Right to buy scheme salesTransfers to registered social landlords
EnglandOf which rural LasEnglandOf which rural Las
1996–9733,206122,5341
1997–9841,329135,7011
1998–9940,2727,21276,54326,425
1999–200054,2519,55696,75515,526
2000–0152,3808,137132,46228,730
2001–0251,9687,74435,68717,370
1 Not available

Rough Sleepers

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what progress he has made in assisting local authorities to reduce the number of rough sleepers. [119458]

As of June 2002, local authority statistics show that 600 people were sleeping rough on any one night. This figure sustained the Prime Minister's target to reduce rough sleeping by at least two-thirds from a baseline figure of 1,850 in June 1998.The Homelessness Directorate within the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister brings together the work of the former Rough Sleepers Unit, the Bed and Breakfast Unit and a team to ensure the effective implementation of the Homelessness Act 2002 and assist local authorities in the development of strategies to tackle homelessness.The Homelessness Directorate has a revenue budget this year of £70 million and is providing grant support to local authorities to help them implement homelessness strategies and where necessary bed and breakfast action plans and rough sleeping strategies. To ensure the two-thirds reduction is sustained, key local authorities have been asked to draw up strategies for their areas for the period up to 31 March 2004 in consultation with local voluntary agencies and other partner organisations.

The Homelessness Directorate is continuing to work closely with local authorities, particularly where rough sleeping remains at a significant level.

Social Exclusion

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the role of transport in tackling social exclusion. [119455]

Good transport provision that enables people to access the services they need when they need them is essential in promoting social inclusion.This was highlighted in the recent Social Exclusion Unit report "Making the Connections: Final Report on Transport and Social Exclusion", which aims to tackle social exclusion by ensuring people can get to work and key services and to reduce the disproportionate impact of traffic on disadvantaged areas. This does not just involve improving transport but changing where and how services are delivered.The report introduces a new framework—accessibility planning—to be led by transport authorities when preparing and implementing their second Local Transport Plans (due in 2005). This process aims to improve joint working between authorities and a range of other local partners in identifying and tackling accessibility problems.This will be complemented by a comprehensive cross-Government programme to make it easier for people on low incomes to access work and key services.

Northern Ireland

Criminal Justice

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on progress in implementing the Review of the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland. [119725]

The Government are making good progress in taking forward the implementation of the Review of the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland. I wish to take this opportunity to announce a number of significant developments.First, the updated Implementation Plan for the Criminal Justice Review is being published today. The updated Implementation Plan sets out an ambitious programme of transformational change designed to modernise and enhance public confidence in the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. It reports on the significant and encouraging progress which has already been made, and sets out clearly how the remaining work will be taken forward and the timescales over which this will be achieved.Copies of the updated Implementation Plan have been placed in the Library.Second, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in consultation with the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney General, has appointed the right hon. the Lord Clyde as independent Justice Oversight Commissioner for Northern Ireland.

The Oversight Commissioner will provide public assurance about the implementation of the changes in criminal justice arrangements and structures in Northern Ireland set out in the updated Implementation Plan.

Copies of the Oversight Commissioner's terms of reference were placed in the Library on 18 December 2002.

Third, the Secretary of State has appointed Mr. Kit Chivers as Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, as required by section 45 of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002.

The Chief Inspector will assist in the establishment of the new independent Criminal Justice Inspectorate recommended in the "Review of the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland". The new Inspectorate will play a vital role in ensuring that individual criminal justice agencies in Northern Ireland are meeting their objectives and those set for them by the Government, as well as ensuring that the criminal justice system works effectively in a 'joined up' way and as a coherent whole. It will also be responsible for ensuring the proper expenditure of public resources.

The functions of the Chief Inspector are set out in sections 46–49 of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002.

Transport

Children's Car Seats

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what duty there is for car hire firms when providing children's car seats to ensure that the seats meet current safety standards; and what requirements there are for car hire firms to ensure that children's car seats are properly fitted and appropriate to the weight of the intended child passenger. [119166]

Under seat belt wearing legislation, the driver of a vehicle is responsible for ensuring that children under 14 years use child restraints or adult belts, as appropriate, in accordance with the regulations. There is nothing in this legislation to require hire companies to provide appropriate child restraints for customers or ensure that they are properly fitted. The provision and fitting of appropriate child restraints is a matter between a hire company and their customers.

A46 And A453

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) when he expects construction work to begin on the planned dualling of the A46 Fosse Way between Widmerpool and Newark-on-Trent; [119171](2) when he expects construction work to commence on the planned dualling of the A453 trunk road between Kegworth and Clifton in Nottinghamshire. [119172] I

[holding answer 13 June 2003]: I have asked the Chief Executive of the Highways Agency, Tim Matthews, to write to the right hon. Member.

Letter from Tim Matthews to Mr. Kenneth Clarke, dated 18 June 2003:

I have been asked by the Secretary of State for Transport to reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions about the start dates for construction work on the proposed dualling schemes on the A46 between Widmerpool and Newark and the A453 between Kegworth and Clifton in Nottinghamshire.

Public consultation on our preferred option for the A46 scheme commenced at the end of March this year and local exhibitions were held in April. The public consultation period ends on 20 June 2003. The future programme depends on how quickly the various statutory processes can be completed but we are currently planning to announce a preferred route in Spring 2004, with a start of works sometime during 2007.

The proposals for the A53 scheme are at an early stage. As a result of recommendations made in the A453 Nottingham to M1 Multi-Modal Study, the Secretary of State for Transport announced last December that he was minded to include a scheme in the Targeted Programme of Improvements (TPI). At the same time, he asked the Highways Agency to carry out further preliminary assessment work. Assuming that a scheme is included in the TPI later this year, construction work is currently scheduled to commence in 2008.

As with the A46, achievement of this date is subject to the satisfactory completion of the required statutory procedures.

If you would like any further details about these proposals, our staff would be pleased to help. The Project Manager for the A46 scheme is Geoff Bethel and the Project Sponsor for the A453 scheme is John Holt. Both can be contacted at the Agency's offices at Broadway, Broad Street, Birmingham B15 1BL; Geoff on 0121 678 8137 and John on 0121 678 8314.

Air Accidents Investigation Branch

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the average length of time is for the publication of reports by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch following the air accident under investigation. [119707]

The average length of time taken to publish a report following an AAIB investigation is 28 weeks.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many reports have been published by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (a) within 12 months of and (b) more than 12 months after the accident under investigation in each year since 1996. [119710]

The information requested is as follows:

Number of field and AARF (Form to Pilot) investigations

conducted within the UK, broken down by time taken to publish

report
Less than 12 monthsMore than 12 months
19963357
199731716
199836027
199933128
200027111
200126131
2002123921
1 In addition, there are 29 investigations to be published that are less than 12 months old.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many staff were employed in the Air Accidents Investigation Branch in each year since 1996. [119711]

The number of staff employed by the AAIB by year since 1996 is in the table.

Number
199642
199744
199846
199944
200044
200146
200250
200346

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many personnel, broken down by grade, are employed in the Air Accidents Investigation Branch. [119875]

The number and grades of staff employed by the AAIB on 16 June 2003 is in the table.

GradeNumber
SGB 12
Divisional Secretary1
Personal Secretary1
Administration Officer5
PGSE1
Executive Officer3
HPTO1
Higher Executive Officer1
G7 (Inspectors)25
G6 (Principal Inspectors)4
G5 (DCIAA)1
G4 (CIAA)1
Total46

Congestion

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what his Department's policy is on exempting motorcycles, scooters and mopeds from further congestion charging schemes; and if he will make a statement; [119927](2) what plans his Department has to promote the use of powered two-wheelers in reducing congestion; if he plans to introduce legislation to mandate exemptions for powered two-wheelers from future congestion charges and road pricing schemes; and if he will make a statement. [119928]

With the help of the Advisory Group on Motorcycling the Government are currently exploring a number of important issues relating to the role of motorcycling in an integrated transport policy, including congestion. The key workstreams should be completed by 2004, when we aim to determine a strategy for motorcycling.We will consult on the scope of a uniform minimum standard of exemptions and concessions once we have had an opportunity to take into account the experiences gained from road user charging schemes in London and Durham. In the meantime it is a matter for those local authorities developing charging schemes to decide how to manage such vehicles within their schemes.

Motorways

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment the Government have made of the (a) availability and (b) accessibility of designated rest areas on motorways; and how many rest areas there are on each motorway. [119858]

Motorists wanting to take a break in the course of their journey can stop at motorway service areas, which are available at approximately 30-mile intervals on most of the motorway network in England. I am arranging for a map showing the location of existing motorway service areas, from which may be deduced the number of rest areas on each motorway, to he placed in the Libraries of the House.

Network Rail

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list (a) Network Rail's rail land disposals, broken down by (i) date and (ii) value, and (b) the occasions on which the Rail Regulator has intervened to block rail land sales, in each of the last five years. [119317]

The Office of the Rail Regulator advises that the regulatory accounts of Network Rail Infrastructure Limited (and formerly Railtrack PLC) show income from land being £73 million for the financial year 2001–02. The unaudited figure for 2002–03 is £51 million. A breakdown of income per land case is not available. Data are not available prior to 2001–02.Since the introduction of the land disposal licence condition by the Rail Regulator in November 2001, the Regulator has received 58 requests for consent from Network Rail (and formerly Railtrack plc). The Regulator has consented to 40 of these requests, refused consent on nine occasions, with nine requests awaiting a decision.This information is set out in the following table.

CaseOutcome
1. LeeConsent granted 14 March 2002
2. NetherfieldConsent granted 14 March 2002
3. SalfordConsent granted 20 March 2002
4. Castle BromwichConsent granted 20 March 2002
5. GrimethorpeConsent granted 27 March 2002
6. Bristol ParkwayConsent granted 30 April 2002
7. Plymouth Intercity HouseConsent granted 3 May 2002
8. Cardiff Virgil StreetConsent granted 3 May 2002
9. Preston Strand Level CrossingConsent granted 3 May 2002
10. SalisburyConsent refused 7 June 2002
11. BirkenheadConsent granted 21 June 2002
12. BorehamwoodConsent refused 27 June 2002
13. StoneConsent granted 27 June 2002
14. East KilbrideConsent granted 19 July 2002
15. Henley-in-ArdenConsent granted 25 July 2002
16. Rufford & ClipstoneConsent granted 09 August 2002
17. Bristol EastConsent refused 13 August 2002
18. HeightenConsent granted 27 August 2002
19. St. Mary CrayConsent granted 29 August 2002
20. Beckenham JunctionConsent granted 29 August 2002
21. Penge EastConsent granted 29 August 2002
22. HoveConsent refused 5 September 2002
23. HastingsConsent granted 19 September 2002
24. DunfermlineConsent granted 7 October 2002
25. Kirkby-in-AshfieldConsent granted 11 October 2002
26. BredburyConsent granted 11 October 2002
27. HexhamConsent granted 18 October 2002
28. SalisburyConsent granted 24 October 2002
29. WoodleyConsent granted 22 November 2002
CaseOutcome
30. FrattonConsent granted 22 November 2002
31. BarkingConsent refused 2 December 2002
32. Shildon SouthConsent granted 11 December 2002
33. HeatonConsent refused 20 December 2002
34. Harwich TownConsent granted 20 December 2002.
35. East GrinsteadConsent refused 20 December 2002
36. FormbyConsent granted 19 December 2002
37. Sutton-in-AshfieldConsent granted 24 January 2003
38. BarryConsent granted 29 November 2002
39. IpswichConsent granted 21 February 2003
40. NorwichConsent refused 21 February 2003
41. HethersettConsent granted 21 February 2003
42. BedfordConsent granted 7 March 2003
43. ChesterConsent refused 23 March 2003
44. WiganConsent granted 18 March 2003
45. BraintreeConsent granted 21 March 2003
46. BostonConsent granted 7 April 2003
47. WolvertonConsent granted 22 April 2003
48. WembleyConsent granted 29 April 2003
49. St. AlbansConsent granted 22 May 2003
50. RutherglenPending
51. Glasgow HayburnPending
52. EdinburghPending
53. CranmorePending
54. SankeyPending
55. CarnoustiePending
56. HeatonPending
57. Cardiff Saunders RoadPending
58. Bognor RegisPending

Paper Supplies

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to his answer of 23 January 2003, Official Report, column 514W, on paper supplies, whether any of the paper or paper products supplied to his Department by Premier Paper are supplied by Stora Enso's Veitsiluoto Mill in Finland; and what assessment has been made of whether this paper contains (a) timber from old growth forests and (b) timber that may have been logged illegally in Russia. [117545]

Paper and paper products supplied to my Department by Premier Paper are not supplied from Stora Enso's Veitsiluoto Mill in Finland.Over 94 per cent. of the paper that we use is made from material containing a high proportion of post consumer waste. Our approach is to phase out virgin paper for non-specialist uses and where it is used we specify that it should be made from pulp that comes from sources that have been independently verified as legal and sustainably managed in accordance with Government Policy. This should ensure that the Department does not purchase any paper that contains

(a) timber from old growth forests and (b) timber that may have been logged illegally in Russia. However, I am taking steps to ensure not only that the policy is understood and implemented but also that it is being policed.

Rail Safety

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans the Government has to amend the Railways (Safety Critical Work) Regulations 1994 in relation to the working time for train drivers; and if he will make a statement. [119720]

[holding answer 17 June 2003]: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are currently reviewing the Railways (Safety Critical Work) Regulations 1994 and considering whether the provisions relating to fatigue are adequate for all safety critical railway workers, including train drivers. As part of this process, the HSE are focusing on the management of fatigue and not just the number of hours worked.

Roadworks

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what percentage of roadworks was conducted by (a) utilities, (b) local authorities and (c) the Highways Agency in the last 12 months. [119558]

Comparative figures are not available at this stage. However, we have appointed consultants —Halcrow—to monitor the number of utility works carried out on roads in England. They will be reporting to us later this summer with figures for the period April 2002 to March 2003. Copies of their report will be placed in the Libraries of the House in due course. Copies of their 2001–02 report have already been placed in the House Libraries.

Royal Mail

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what impact the decision of Royal Mail to switch the transport of mail from rail to road will have on the Government's commitment to expanding the transportation of goods by rail. [119370]

The Government remain committed to increasing rail's modal share of the freight market. The Strategic Rail Authority's "Freight Progress Report", published in May 2003, explains the achievements to date and sets out its future plans for increasing rail's overall share of freight traffic. Copies of the report are in the Libraries of the House.

South Coast Multi-Modal Study

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he will announce his decision on the south coast multi-modal study. [120277]

We are currently considering the final report and recommendations from a number of multi-modal studies together with the views of the respective Regional Planning Bodies. We expect to be in a position to make an announcement before the summer recess.

Strategic Rail Authority

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport on what basis the Strategic Rail Authority has intervened in negotiations and agreements which have been reached between the managements of the train operating companies and the rail unions. [119373]

Negotiations and agreements between rail unions and train operating companies are matters for those bodies. Franchise agreements do, however, require the Strategic Rail Authority to approve any proposed pay agreement that would exceed the average earnings index either in the last 12 months of a franchise or in later years because these would result in liabilities for successor train operators.

Prime Minister

Intelligence Services (Corruption)

To ask the Prime Minister (1) what assessment he has made of levels of corruption within the British intelligence services; and if he will make a statement; [118639](2) whether he has identified corrupt activity within the intelligence services in the United Kingdom over the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [118640]

I refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave to the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) on 4 June 2003, Official Report, columns 147–48, and to the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy) on 4 June 2003, Official Report, columns 151–52.

Iraq

To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the officials, with their responsibilities, who contributed to the final text of the dossiers on Iraq which were published and presented to Parliament before the war in Iraq. [117135]

I refer my hon. Friend to the answers I gave to the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) on 24 February 2003, Official Report, column 254W and on 3 March 2003, Official Report, columns 856–57W.

To ask the Prime Minister what steps he will take to ensure that there is a thorough scientific examination of the quality of the evidence provided to hon. Members for the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. [118468]

I refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave to the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) on 4 June 2003, Official Report, columns 147–48 and the answering right hon. Friend the Leader of the House gave the hon. Member on 5 June 2003, Official Report, column 318.

To ask the Prime Minister whether persons (a) in his office and (b) in the security and intelligence services have been subject to penalty, reprimand or disciplinary action related to their conduct in the preparation of the dossiers on Iraq published before the war. [118880]

I refer my hon. Friend to the answers I gave to the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) on 4 June 2003, Official Report, columns 147–48, to the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy) on 4 June 2003, Official Report, columns 151–52 and to the hon. Member for East Carmarthen and Dinefwr (Adam Price) on 9 June 2003, Official Report, column 573W.

Parliamentary Questions

To ask the Prime Minister if he will make an assessment of the consistency with the terms of (a) the Open Government Code and (b) the Freedom of Information Act 2000 of the content of the parliamentary written answers he has provided since June 2001. [117617]

Answers to parliamentary questions are provided in accordance with the terms of the Ministerial Code. The Freedom of Information Act comes into force in 2005.

Security Services

To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the system within the security services for maintaining contact with the press. [119665]

In line with ministerial responsibilities, media inquiries about the Secret Intelligence Service are handled by the FCO Press Office. Media inquiries about the Security Service are handled by the Home Office Press Office. GCHQ has its own dedicated Press Office which works closely with the FCO Press Office.

House Of Commons Commission

Medical Staff

To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, how many medical staff are employed in the Palace of Westminster; what the (a) hours of employment and (b) grades of qualification of such staff are; what the figures were in 1993; and if he will make a statement. [119114]

The Occupational Health. Safety and Welfare Service, which provides medical services to both Houses, currently has a consultant occupational health physician working one day a week, a medical adviser who works three days a week, and three qualified nurses (one full-time, two part-time). Ir addition, the Occupational Health Manager is a qualified nurse, and is full-time.Records for 1993 are no longer available.

September Sittings

To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, what estimate the Commission has mad of the additional costs arising from the House sitting for a short period in September. [119256]

The overall cost of running the House administration (excluding capital works etc.) in 2002–03 was some £133 million, giving an average daily cost of the order of £365,000. The difference in cost between a sitting day and a non-sitting day is negligible: the major costs of accommodation and staffing are no affected appreciably by the change to Septembe sittings. These figures do not include the cost of paying Members' salaries or allowances, which are not normally regarded as part of the cost of running till House itself.

Culture, Media And Sport

Analogue Switch-Off

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what assessment she has made of public awareness of analogue switch-off; and what percentage of the UK population she estimates are aware of the proposed deadline for switch-off. [119651]

No formal assessment has been made. Research commissioned from MORI by DCMS in spring 2002 into consumer attitudes to digital television found that 56 per cent. of people were aware of analogue switch off between 2006 and 2010, which compared with 44 per cent. in 2001. No figures are available for 2003.

Hms Vengeance

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) if she will place HMS Vengeance on the Historic Ships List; [120057](2) if she will make a statement on the criteria for eligibility to place a ship on the Historic Ships List; and what powers she has to make exceptions to these rules. [120058]

The Government welcomes the efforts of those involved in the preservation of the country's maritime heritage. However, decisions on which ships should be included in the Core Collection and Designated Vessels lists, and the specific and well established criteria which inform those decisions, are a matter for the National Historic Ships Committee (NHSC) and not for Government. These lists and criteria are reviewed regularly by the NHSC.

Digital Broadcasting

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture. Media and Sport what estimate she has made of the percentage of residents in (a) north west England. (b) Cumbria and (c) South Lakeland who are able to receive digital audio broadcasting on terrestria' transmitters. [119254]

This Department does not hold these figures. They are held separately by the BBC and Digital Radio Development Bureau (DRDB). According to the BBC and DRDB:

BBC

  • (a) North west England: approximately 75 per cent. of the population is currently reached, (expected to rise by end of 2004 to about 85 per cent.);
  • (b) Cumbria: no coverage at present;
  • (c) South Lakeland: no coverage at present, (but expected to reach half the population by the end of 2004).
  • Commercial Radio

  • (a) North west England: approximately 75 per cent. of the population is currently reached;
  • (b) Cumbria: approximately 33 per cent. of the population i currently reached;
  • (c) South Lakeland: There is limited coverage, but detailed information on population coverage is not available.
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what the level of take-up of digital television services has been from 1998 to the most recent date for which figures are available, broken down by region. [119648]

    This information is not available currently. Subscriber figures for the take up of digital television services are not available on a regional basis, as the data is commercially sensitive and therefore confidential to the pay television companies. However the Office for National Statistics hope to be able to produce figures on the level of take up of all digital television services on a regional basis in the future.

    Digital television receiving platformPossible viewing householdsActual viewing households
    digital terrestrial television (figures based on core coverage from main six digital multiplexes)17.5 million (73 per cent.)1.4 million (5.7 per cent.)
    digital satellite (figures do not take into account planning restrictions or restrictive covenants)23.5 million (98 per cent.)7.36 million of which: 6.7 million (subscribers) (27.2 per cent.) 660,000 (free to view only) (2.7 percent.)
    digital cable6 million (25 per cent.)2.1 million (8.5 per cent.)
    DSLNot known(0.05 per cent.)

    To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport with reference to the Digital Action Plan, what her definition of digital television being affordable is; and what criteria she used to come to this definition. [119650]

    We have said that switching to digital television must be an affordable option for the vast majority of people; and as a target indicator of affordability, 95 per cent. of consumers must have access to digital equipment. One of the key tasks for Government in the Digital Action Plan is to conduct a comprehensive review of progress towards digital switchover, with particular reference to the accessibility, availability and affordability tests announced in September 1999. I have asked the Digital Television Consumer Expert Group announced on 17 June to help the Government with this.

    Television Licences

    To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport whether recent changes to the concessionary TV licence fee regulations will require people who are over 65, who previously had concessionary TV licences and who work part-time, to pay full rates; and if she will make a statement. [119381]

    The recent changes to the Accommodation for Residential Care (ARC) concessionary television licence scheme, to introduce preserved rights to the concession for existing beneficiaries, have not altered the categories of resident eligible for the concession. These are disabled persons, mentally disordered persons and retired persons aged 60 years or more. The BBC has statutory responsibility for the administration of the television licensing system, including responsibility for determining entitlement to the ARC concession in individual cases. However, I understand that residents aged 60 years or more who are either not in paid employment, are in paid employment but work no more than 15 hours per week,

    To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many and what percentage of (a) people and (b) households in the United Kingdom (i) receive and (ii) can receive digital television by (A) digital terrestrial, (B) digital satellite, (C) digital cable and (D) other means, broken down by region. [119649]

    The information is not available in the form requested. The coverage information available from the Independent Television Commission is calculated using the 24 million UK households.For the first quarter of 2003 the estimated UK figures are:or are in paid employment but do not work in their lifetime career, are considered to fall within the category of retired persons aged 60 years or more.

    To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport whether sheltered housing schemes which bought TV licences at full cost before 1 April will have the fees reimbursed to take account of recent changes in regulations; and if she will make a statement. [119382]

    The BBC has statutory responsibility for the administration of the television licensing system. This includes responsibility for determining refund policy. However, I understand that, in cases where residents in sheltered housing have obtained full fee licences but have since become entitled to preserved rights to the Accommodation for Residential Care concession, the BBC's policy is to offer refunds for full, unexpired calendar months from 1 April this year, when the amending regulations came into effect.

    Treasury

    Access For Disabled People

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what actions he has taken or is taking to ensure that the websites of his Department, its agencies and non-departmental public bodies are accessible to partially sighted and blind people; and if he will make a statement. [117357]

    The Chancellor's departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies are working together to ensure that both their current and future websites are accessible to the blind and partially sighted.The Inland Revenue's site has been won the RNIB's accessible website award, HM Customs and Excise are current redesigning their site to conform with the RNIB's `See it Right' standard and HM Treasury's site has been designed to meet the world wide web consortium's web accessibility (W3C WAI) guidelines and was recently recognised by a National Audit Office report as one of the most accessible in government.The National Savings and Investment website has been built to meet the W3C WAI guidelines and the Valuation Office (VOA) is working to be fully compliant with the Office of the E-envoy guidelines.The Debt Management Office's website is currently being re-designed. Accessibility to the website is a priority and the DMO will be following the RNIB Accessibility Best Practice guidelines in taking forward this work. National Statistics currently meets all but one of the priority W3C WAI objectives and will be seeking to address areas of non-compliance when it redevelops its website, subject to specific data visualisation and presentation issues. The Royal Mint's current site is programmed to meet W3C WAI objectives and accessibility will be central to the forthcoming redevelopment of the site. The main websites of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) and OGC

    £
    Department(i) 2003–04(ii) 2004–05
    HM Treasury00
    Inland RevenueNot yet availableNot yet available
    HM Customs and Excise2,570,0004,300,000
    Office of National Statistics00
    Debt Management Office529,000This information cannot be disclosed. Exemption 6 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information applies
    Government Actuary's Department59,00062,000
    Valuation Office Agency270,000Not yet available
    Royal MintThis information cannot be disclosed. Exemption 7 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information appliesSee column (i). Exemption 7 applies
    Office of Government Commerce00
    OGC Buying Solutions40,0000
    National Savings and Investments (NSI)2,000,0003,000,000

    Bae Systems

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish his assessment of the proposals submitted by BAE Systems for the provision of Hawk training aircraft to the Royal Air Force; what matters he raised in representations to the Secretary of State for Defence concerning the BAE Systems proposals; and if he will make a statement. [119853]

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what instructions he has issued to the Ministry of Defence relating to the purchasing of the BAE Advanced Jet Trainer; [119726](2) if he will make a statement on the factors that will determine Treasury approval for the Ministry of Defence to purchase a new Advanced Jet Trainer for the RAF. [119727]

    The Ministry of Defence is carefully evaluating the proposals submitted by BAE Systems on the Advanced Jet Trainer. The Secretary of State for Defence will consult Treasury Ministers and other colleagues when this evaluation is complete. buying solutions have been built in line with the Office of E-envoy guidance and while some older sites are not yet fully compliant, a website accessibility champion at OGCbuying.solutions, and a team including an expert on the application of the relevant standards for web design at OGC, will be responsible for ensuring the accessibility of all sites to partially sited or blind people.

    Advertising

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the total expenditure on advertising by the Department was in (a) 2001–02 and (b) 2002–03; and what the level of planned expenditure is for (i) 2003–04 and (ii) 2004–05. [114426]

    For (a), I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave him on 19 June 2002, Official Report, columns 387–390W; and for (b), to the Financial Secretary's answer to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) on 5 March 2003, Official Report, columns 1061–63W. The information relating (i) to 2003–04 and (ii) 2004–05 is given in the table.HM Treasury will take all relevant factors into account when considering proposals to provide the armed forces with an Advanced Jet Trainer, including the impact that any decision might have on the economy of the UK. Our objectives on this are clear and are shared across Government. We are determined to ensure that the armed forces get the best possible equipment at the best possible value for money to the taxpayer. We are committed to the Defence Industrial Policy launched last year, and to a globally competitive aerospace industry.

    Birth Statistics

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many children were born in 2002–03; and how many women had their first child in that year. [119919]

    The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

    Letter from Len Cook to Mr. Willetts, dated June 2003:

    As National Statistician I have been asked to reply to your recent question on the number of children born in 2002–03, and how many women had their first child in that year.

    Births data for the first quarter of 2003 are not yet available. In the calendar year 2002 there were 596,122 live births in England and Wales. The latest year for which estimates are available that give whether a birth is a mother's first live birth or not is 2001. For that year it is estimated that 248,000 women had a first live birth in England and Wales. There were 594,634 live births in 2001.

    Capital Gains Tax

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the total yield in a full year of imposing capital gains tax at present rates on the disposal by individuals of their only or main residences. [119369]

    The latest estimated costs of exempting gains arising on disposal of a main or only residence were given in Chapter A of Budget 2003.These costs are not the same as the yield from abolition of the relief as consequential effects on the housing market would substantially reduce the yield. Reliable estimates of the yield from imposing capital gains tax at present rates on the disposal by individuals of their only or main residences are available only at disproportionate cost.

    Child Benefit

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what provisions he plans to ensure that child benefit continues to be paid without interruption to the father of dependent children when his wife dies. [118984]

    Where a child benefit claimant dies and their partner wants to claim child benefit instead, he or she needs to make a new claim. They have up to three months to do this and not suffer a break in their right to payment. The Inland Revenue will do all it can, in such cases, to ensure claims are processed as quickly as possible and to maintain continuity of payment.The surviving partner should also claim child tax credit.

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to allow those already in receipt of child benefit and who are eligible for child tax credit to receive the credit without resubmitting information provided for receipt of child benefit. [119522]

    To claim child tax credit the claimant, or claimants, are asked to provide their details and those of the children they want to claim for. The child information required has been kept to a minimum. It includes information not relevant for child benefit purposes such as whether disability benefits are received for a child.Although, in most cases, the person entitled to child benefit for a child will be the same as the recipient of child tax credit for him or her, that is not always the case. So it is right that people should be asked to confirm the details of the children they are claiming for.

    Construction Industry

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much arrears of national insurance contributions was reclaimed from employers in the construction industry in each year since 1999. [118829]

    The Class 1 and Class 1 A national insurance contributions recovered from employers recorded as being within the construction industry are shown in the table. These figures represent national insurance contributions recovered by Employer Compliance officers and relate to a range of circumstances where employers failed to account properly for Class 1 and Class lA national insurance.

    £ million
    1999–200012.3
    2000–019.3
    2001–029.2
    2002–0310.8

    Correspondence

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he intends to reply to the letter to him dated 6 May 2003 from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to Julie Walker; and if he will reprove the Tax Credit office for failing to fulfil its commitment to reply within 15 working days. [119859]

    The Inland Revenue replied to the right hon. Member on 13 June 2003 and very much regret having been unable to do so sooner. The Tax Credit office aims to reply to 80 per cent. of complaints within 15 working days and will measure their performance and report against that aim in due course.

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he intends to reply to the letter to him dated 1 May 2003 from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to Teresa Cole; and if he will reprove the Tax Credit office for failing to fulfil its commitment to reply within 15 working days. [119860]

    The Inland Revenue replied to the right hon. Member on 13 June 2003 and very much regret having been unable to do so sooner. The Tax Credit office aims to reply to 80 per cent. of complaints within 15 working days and will measure their performance and report against that aim in due course.

    Inheritance Tax

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what reason the cost of professional advice in executing a will subject to inheritance tax is not allowable against the value of the estate. [119301]

    IHT is charged on the value of the estate at death net of liabilities existing at that time. Expenses incurred after death do not affect the deceased person's net assets at death, and accordingly, have never been deductible, with the single exception of an allowance for reasonable funeral expenses.

    Inland Revenue (Business Support Teams)

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many small businesses have received assistance from the Inland Revenue's Business Support Teams in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [119447]

    [holding answer 16 June 2003]: The Inland Revenue set up its Business Support Teams in 1999 to provide help and support to businesses and employers, particularly new and small businesses, on dealing with income tax and national insurance contributions, and payroll matters.In 2000–01 they assisted:

    Number
    Employers with fewer than 10 employees37,565
    Employers with 10 or more employees25,131
    Businesses7,539
    Prospective businesses1,815
    In addition, 37,547 individuals representing both employers and businesses attended technical presentations given by Business Support Teams.In 2001–02 they assisted:

    Number
    Employers with fewer than 10 employees41,652
    Employers with 10 or more employees20,280
    Businesses20,891
    Prospective businesses3,568
    In addition, 45,767 individuals representing both employers and businesses attended technical presentations given by Business Support Teams.In 2002–03 they assisted:

    Number
    Employers with fewer than 10 employees40,839
    Employers with 10 or more employees18,135
    Businesses36,074
    Prospective businesses5,318
    In addition, 64,418 individuals representing both employers and businesses attended technical presentations given by Business Support Teams.

    Iraq

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether there are restrictions on imports and exports to Iraq, save those set out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483. [117030]

    I have been asked to reply.On 22 May 2003 the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1483 (2003). Among other things this Resolution lifted all trade and financial restrictions on Iraq, but retains the arms embargo. The terms of UNSCR 1483 will be implemented by the issue of a revocation Order under 1939 Act and following Privy Council approval, of the Orders made in Council under the UN Act 1946 all of which will come into force on 14 June 2003.Import and export restrictions will continue to apply in respect of goods subject to control as detailed in Orders made under the Import, Export and Customs Powers (defence) Act 1939.

    Millennium Development Targets

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has held with other Governments on financing the Millennium Development targets. [117970]

    The UK Government continues to press the urgent case for an International Finance Facility to raise the additional finance needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 in all relevant national and international fora and with both developed and developing country governments.Support has been achieved through events such as the Chief Secretary's visit to Ethiopia, Ghana and South Africa earlier this month; an official level visit to Rwanda to address the eighth meeting of the HIPC Finance Ministers on the IFF; and a Treasury representation at the Annual Economic Commission for African Finance Ministers in Addis Ababa. At this meeting Ministers issued a Communique stating "we strongly welcome the proposed International Finance Facility as the first of its kind designed to mobilise additional resources for the poorest countries to meet the MDGs."The Development Committee and the IMFC discussed the IFF at the Spring Meetings in April and the Development Committee will raise it again at the Annual Meetings. Agreement was made in the Communique of the last G7 Finance Ministerial meeting to continue to focus on the Millennium Development Goals, and their financing, including facilities. At the G8 Summit in Evian, Heads of State requested that Finance Ministers report back on the IFF in advance of the Annual Meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in September 2003. The Treasury also continues to discuss the IFF in European meetings, including ECOFIN, at both Ministerial and official level.

    Motorcycle Equipment (Vat)

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to reduce the rate of VAT levied on motorcycle (a) protective clothing, (b) replacement helmet visors, (c) safety equipment and (d) security equipment; and if he will make a statement. [119717]

    Under our long-standing formal agreements with our European partners, we are permitted to keep our existing zero rates but may not extend them or introduce new ones. As such, it is not possible to remove VAT from the items mentioned. Member states are permitted to introduce reduced rates of VAT on a prescribed list of goods and services set out in Annex H of the EC Sixth VAT Directive. However, none of the items mentioned currently feature on this list, and we cannot therefore apply a reduced rate to them at this time. The Annex H list is due to be reviewed by the European Commission later this year, and we will consider any representations for new reduced rates in the context of this review.

    Mutuality Principles

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the potential of the principles of mutuality in the delivery of local government services. [119749]

    In order to improve service delivery at local and community level, the Government have looked at new structures for collaboration between local authorities and other organisations, including mutual organisations. We are aware of the potential of the mutual sector to complement local authority services in areas such as child care provision, social housing, leisure and community transport. We encourage local authorities to explore such options and opportunities in order to bring improvements in the delivery of local government services.

    National Insurance (Top-Up Payments)

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the total value is in (a) real terms and (b) cash terms of the total amount paid in national insurance top-up payments in each year since 1992–93. [119915]

    The information is given in the table.

    £million
    National insurance class 3 contributions receipts, UK
    Financial year(a) Real terms (2001–02 prices)(b) Cash terms
    1992–936854
    1993–945041
    1994–957058
    1995–966354
    1996–977465
    1997–987770
    1998–995955
    1999–20006259
    2000–016058
    2001–027575

    Note:

    Real term prices calculated using the HMT GDP deflator series.

    Source:

    The Government Actuary's Department has provided these estimates.

    Tax Credits

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has for reducing delays for people applying for tax credits. [119514]

    I would refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave on 12 June 2003, Official Report, column 823, to the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk), and the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), on 12 June 2003, Official Report, column 828.

    To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what target he has for the time taken to process claims for tax credits. [119521]

    I would refer the hon. Member to the Inland Revenue Departmental Report 2003 (Cm 5925) and to the Inland Revenue Service Delivery Agreement 2003–06 (updated May 2003). Both are available on the Inland Revenue website at: www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk

    Wales

    Agency Workers

    To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many agency workers have been employed by the Department in each of the last two years; and at what cost to public funds. [115204]

    During the last two financial years five posts in my Department have had to be covered by agency workers at some stage or other. The number of individual agency workers who were employed in each year, and their cost, was:

    Agency workers employed
    Financial yearNumberCost £
    2001–021135,000
    2002–031056,600

    Employment

    To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what projects are being put in place in Wales to increase employment opportunities for people over 55. [118050]

    New Deal 50 plus is the programme that helps increase the employability of unemployed people aged 50 and over including the over 55s. Five thousand people in Wales have found employment under New Deal 50 plus since the programme was set up in 2000.Unemployed people in Wales aged 50 and over also have immediate access to the work-based training grants (WBLA). Such access is not available in England or Scotland.The Age Positive team, which is part of the Department for Work and Pensions, promotes age diversity in employment. The team aims to increase the number of people aged 50 and over who are in employment, encourages employers to use age-diverse practices, analyses the position of older workers in the employment market and shares good practice internationally. An Age Positive campaign was launched in Cardiff on 9 June 2003.

    Overseas Visits

    To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list (1) (a) the location, (b) the purpose and (c) the cost of each overseas visit made by members of his Department since 1999; [115144](2) how much his Department has spent on overseas visits in each year since 1999. [115146]

    I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) by the Minister of State for the Cabinet Office on 22 January 2003, Official Report, column 334W. The Wales Office is committed to ensuring that staff use the most efficient and economic means when accompanying Ministers on overseas visits. All travel is undertaken fully in accordance with the rules set out in the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers, copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House.

    Rural Economy

    To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with (a) First Minister of the National Assembly, (b) the National Farmers Union of Wales, (c) the Farmers Union of Wales and (d) the Country Land and Business Association on the impact on the Welsh rural economy of the decreasing number of agricultural holdings in Wales; and if he will make a statement. [119336]

    [holding answer 16 June 2003]: I have regular meetings with the First Secretary to discuss a variety of issues in relation to agriculture. I have not yet met with any of the farming unions or the Country Land and Business Association.As with most rural issues, agriculture is fully devolved to the Assembly and it would therefore be for the Welsh Assembly Government to handle these issues. However, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales has regular meetings with the Assembly Minister for Environment, Planning and the Countryside to discuss a variety of issues. My ministerial colleague and I would be happy to meet with representatives from the Farming Unions and the Country Land and Business Association.

    Rural Proofing

    To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he last met the chairman of the Countryside Agency to discuss rural proofing. [115575]

    I have not met with the chairman of the Countryside Agency to discuss rural proofing. The Countryside Agency is an English body, which is responsible for countryside issues in England only. The Welsh equivalent is the Countryside Council for Wales, which is the Government's statutory adviser on sustaining natural beauty, wildlife and the opportunity for outdoor enjoyment in Wales and its inshore waters.As with most rural issues, the matter is fully devolved to the Assembly and it would therefore be for the Welsh Assembly Government to handle these issues. However, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales has regular meetings with the Assembly Minister for Environment, Planning and the Countryside to discuss a variety of issues. My ministerial colleague and I would be happy to meet with representatives from the Countryside Council for Wales.

    International Development

    Democratic Republic Of The Congo

    To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what assessment he has made of the humanitarian situation in Ituri, Democratic Republic of the Congo. [119553]

    A DFID humanitarian adviser has recently returned from an assessment mission in Ituri. The first humanitarian priority for people in Ituri is basic security. The fighting in the area frequently targets civilians. Casualties and victims among civilians are far more numerous than those among fighters. After security, medical services, clean water, sanitation. Distribution of relief items and shelter are priorities. People displaced by fighting are in the most urgent need. As a result of the assessment mission, we have allocated up to £5 million to finance proposals we expect to receive shortly from UNICEF, Save the Children and other agencies working in the area. We have already agreed a grant of £450,000 to Merlin for emergency health care in Ituri. In addition, DFID recently provided £1 million to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) for its Emergency Humanitarian Initiative in Ituri and other emergency situations in the DRC.The UK is working at different levels to try to address these needs. We are supporting the wider peace process in the DRC and are contributors to the UN Mission in Congo (MON UC) and the Interim Emergency Multinational Force (IEMF) to try to bring about an improvement in security.

    To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what assessment he has made of (a) the availability of clean water and (b) the availability and distribution of other essential provisions for displaced persons in Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo. [119554]

    Following on from the report of DFID's humanitarian adviser who visited north Kivu and Ituri during the week of 2 June 2003, we have assessed that clean water and relief items, including food, are a priority. Following this assessment mission, we have allocated up to £5 million to finance proposals from international NGOs and UN agencies to meet urgent humanitarian needs in Ituri.We have also provided £1 million to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) for Emergency Humanitarian Interventions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and have agreed with the UN that Ituri will be a priority for these funds.

    To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what support his Department is giving to displaced persons in Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo. [119555]

    A DFID humanitarian adviser visited Ituri in early June 2003 to have detailed discussions with humanitarian agencies about their support needs. As a result, we have allocated up to £5 million to finance proposals we expect to receive shortly from UNICEF, Save the Children and other agencies working in the area. We have already agreed a grant of £450,000 to Merlin for emergency health care in Ituri. In addition, DFID recently provided £1 million to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) for its Emergency Humanitarian Initiative in Ituri and other emergency situations in the DRC.The UK is also contributing to the Interim Emergency Multinational Force for the stabilisation of Bunia, and is committed to helping the parties to the wider conflict in DRC to reach a lasting and peaceful solution through the early establishment of the proposed Transitional National Government. Only by achieving this can displaced people return home confident of their security and prospects for the future.

    Export Control Act

    To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what discussions the Department has had with the Department of Trade and Industry on the secondary orders for the Export Control Act 2002; and whether the Department proposed under changes to the draft orders before they were published. [119325]

    Strategic export control policy is agreed by the four Departments involved in export licensing and policy—DFID, DTI, FCO and MOD. DFID was fully consulted prior to the publication of the January 2003 consultation document on secondary legislation.

    Food Aid

    To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what steps he is taking to ensure that food aid from UK charities and non-governmental organisations is reaching people in the affected areas of Zimbabwe. [119544]

    It is a fundamental principle of the international humanitarian system that food aid be distributed to all those in most need of assistance—regardless of political affiliation. Food aid provided by the UN, bilateral donors and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is distributed in accordance with clear criteria of vulnerability. The selection of beneficiaries is developed and checked through registration exercises within the community, and food is distributed by NGOs outside of government systems.Both the UN and DFID have detailed monitoring mechanisms in place to check that food is being distributed according to the agreed humanitarian principles and selection criteria, and that problems are investigated as they arise and adjustments made on an on-going basis. The UN and NGOs are committed to investigating all complaints and problems that arise and to resolve these wherever possible.UK NGOs and charities are playing a vital role in responding to the crisis in Zimbabwe, and DFID's country team supports and assists those present in Zimbabwe. DFID would be grateful for details of any specific concerns or complaints so that these may be investigated.

    Iraq

    To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what sources of expertise the Department has used for measures to restore water services in Iraq. [118940]

    The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UN agencies, and the Coalition Provisional Authority have made available information on water services in Iraq.DFID's support for the water and sanitation sector in Iraq is channelled through the ICRC, UN agencies and NGOs, which have their own sources of technical expertise working in collaboration with Iraqi water managers on the ground. A DFID adviser, working with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, specialises in infrastructure issues, including water supply.

    Liberia

    To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development whether his Department has suspended humanitarian aid to Liberia due to the recent escalation of fighting in Liberia. [119359]

    We have increased our support to UN and other humanitarian aid agencies by £1.5 million in response to the displacement by fighting of up to 200,000 people into and around Monrovia. The first two grants we have made from this sum are to ICRC and Merlin. This is additional to the £1 million we provided for International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières in Liberia earlier this year.This year we have also given a total of £3 million to humanitarian agencies in Guinea and Sierra Leone for programmes directed at or including Liberian refugees.

    To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what support the Department is providing to refugees who have fled recent fighting in Liberia. [119360]

    We have provided a total of £3 million this year to UN and other agencies for programmes in Sierra Leone and Guinea providing services either wholly or partly for Liberian refugees.We have also provided £1 million for International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières in Liberia. In response to the recent advances by opposition forces, we have allocated an additional £1.5 million, focusing on assistance to internally displaced people in and around Monrovia, whose situation is causing greatest concern.

    To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development whether the Department supports projects working with the Government of Liberia to reduce poverty in Liberia. [119363]

    We have no projects directly with the Government of Liberia. The nature of the present Government and the absence of security prevents the establishment of projects to promote development and poverty reduction.Our activity in Liberia is confined to support for international agencies providing humanitarian relief. We have provided a total of £2.5 million this year for this purpose, including £1.5 million in response to the recent displacement of people into and around Monrovia.The UK strongly supports the efforts of ECOWAS to negotiate a ceasefire. This the necessary first step towards peace and security, which are the conditions needed for development and poverty reduction programmes to be put in place.

    To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development if he will make a statement on the impact of recent fighting in Liberia on the Department's work in (a) Liberia and (b) Sierra Leone. [119358]

    There has been no direct impact on our work in Sierra Leone. We have, this year, contributed £1.4 million to UNICEF, ICRC and UNHCR in Sierra Leone. The grant to UNHCR is specifically for care of Liberian refugees. Those to ICRC and UNICEF are for services that include refugees. The instability in Liberia underlines the importance of the strengthening of the security sector in Sierra Leone, which is a key part of our programme.We have no bilateral programme in Liberia. We support humanitarian programmes managed by UN and other agencies. Earlier this year, we provided £1 million to ICRC and Medecins Sans Fronti"res. In response to the recent worsening of the situation, we have agreed an additional £1.5 million for humanitarian activity. The first two grants from this sum have been to ICRC and Merlin.

    Work And Pensions

    British Sign Language

    To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer of 7 April 2003, Official Report, column 85W, on British sign language, what action is being taken to ensure that (a) rural areas and (b) Cornwall are represented on the consultation regarding the additional funding for raising awareness of British sign language; and if he will list those being consulted on how the additional funding should be allocated. [118479]

    We are in the process of establishing a BSL working group comprising organisations of and for deaf people and Government Departments to facilitate the process of consultation. The organisations represented on the working group are the British Deaf Association, the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People, the Federation of Deaf People, the National Deaf Children's Society, The Royal National Institute for Deaf People and the UK Council on Deafness. The working group will be coming forward with proposals for our approval.

    Carers

    To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on his policy on the eligibility of carers of people who are affected by asbestosis for carers benefit. [117109]

    People aged 16 or over who care for a person with asbestosis are entitled to carer's allowance if they meet the usual qualifying conditions for the benefit. The person they care for must also receive either attendance allowance, the middle or highest rate care component of disability living allowance or the equivalent rate of constant attendance allowance paid under the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit scheme or the War Disablement Pensions scheme.

    Crisis Loans

    To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what criteria the Department has for awarding crisis loans. [119123]

    Crisis loans can be paid to anyone in an emergency or as a result of a disaster, when they have no other means of preventing serious damage or risk to their, or a member of their family's, health or safety. The applicant does not have to be in receipt of any benefit or pension, but any income or capital which they have will usually be taken into account by the decision maker.Part 3 of the Discretionary Social Fund Guide (para 4700 et seq.), a copy of which is in the Library provides examples of the circumstances in which a crisis loan can be awarded.

    Child Support Agency

    To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimates he has made of the rate of (a) cash and (b) case compliance under the new Child Support Scheme. [112336]

    The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive, Mr. Doug Smith. He will write to the hon. Member.

    Letter from Doug Smith to Mr. Webb, dated 23 May 2003:

    The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in replying to your recent parliamentary question about the Child Support Agency promised a substantive reply from the Chief Executive.

    You asked what estimates have been made of the rate of (a) cash and (b) case compliance under the new Child Support Scheme.

    I will be providing the Secretary of State with a full set of information after the first quarter of the Agency's business year. The Secretary of State intends to report this information to the House.

    Defence

    Armed Services Accommodation

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much was spent on renting private accommodation for armed services personnel (a) in the last financial year and (b) this financial year to date. [119394]

    The following figures show expenditure on substitute Service accommodation in Great Britain rented by the Ministry of Defence from the private sector when accommodation according to entitlement, within daily travelling distance from the work place, could not otherwise be provided for Service personnel and their families.

    £million
    Financial year 2002–0333.8
    1 April to 31 May 20035.7
    Roughly one third of the figures quoted is for family accommodation.

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much (a) single living accommodation and (b) service family accommodation was empty in each month since July 2002; and if he will make a statement. [119395]

    The figures for empty single living accommodation are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.The approximate figures for vacant Service Family Accommodation (SFA) in mainland United Kingdom at the end of each month from July 2002 to May 2003 are as follows:

    Number
    July 20029,000
    August 20029,100
    September 20029,100
    October 20029,200
    November 20029,300
    December 20029,300
    January 20039,100
    February 20039,200
    March 20038,200
    April 20038,200
    May 20038,300
    Since January 2000, some 12,000 surplus SFA have been released for disposal. The disposal programme will continue, but the numbers released are constrained by Service deployment uncertainties.

    Bskyb

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the effects of the recent decision by BSkyB to turn off BBC TV and radio on the provision of a TV and radio service for the British forces living and working in Italy. [119724]

    The Ministry of Defence is aware of changes introduced recently by various broadcasters, including the BBC, to restrict reception within Europe in compliance with international rights and licence agreements. It is with these agreements in mind that the Ministry of Defence provides bespoke radio and television services overseas to British service personnel and their families (the "entitled audience") under the banner of the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) through a contract with the Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC) which is an independent limited company and registered charity. The availability of BFBS services to any specific location is, however, subject to practicality and affordability. The MOD is, in conjunction with SSVC and British command staffs based in Naples, currently reviewing the means by which it may be possible to extend the BFBS television service to entitled personnel in the Naples area and other locations in Italy. The deliberations are being undertaken independently of, and without reference to, any changes introduced by other broadcasters.

    Colchester Garrison

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what arrangements he has made for security and management matters at the Colchester Garrison resulting from the disposal for civilian occupation of dwellings previously occupied by Service families; and if he will make a statement. [119771]

    There are regular routine patrols by Military and Ministry of Defence police. However, the properties in Colchester that are included in the disposals programme are not 'on camp' but are a mile or so from the unit and near a main road and there have never been any access restrictions. Vigilance is maintained, where properties are unoccupied, in order to discourage vandalism, and no serious problems have been reported.

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 9 June 2003, Official Report, column 649W, on Colchester Garrison, (1) how many of the four-bedroomed services family houses are to be disposed of; how many other dwellings are to be disposed of; when this will occur; and what the arrangements are for the disposal; [119902](2) if he will offer the empty service family houses at Colchester Garrison to Colchester borough council. [119901]

    40 Service family houses in Colchester are being disposed of in March 2004, of which 24 are four-bedroomed and 16 three-bedroomed. These properties have been selected for disposal because they are of lesser quality than other properties in the area and are in an estate which is not popular with Service families.The Ministry of Defence will hand the surplus properties back to their owner, Annington Homes Limited (AHL) in accordance with the sales agreement of November 1996, when AHL purchased most of the Service family housing in England and Wales. AHL will decide whether to retain or sell them, and the MOD has no influence over this decision. The local authority may wish to negotiate with AHL over the lease or purchase of the properties.

    Congo

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British troops will be deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force. [116959]

    [holding answer 9 June 2003]: The United Kingdom currently contributes six UK military personnel to the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC) that has been operating in the DRC since 13 November 1999.In addition, as I announced in the House on 12 June 2003,

    Official Report, column 849), the UK has offered a small contribution to the EU-led multinational force being deployed to Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have offered five staff officers for the Force Headquarters in theatre, a liaison officer to work with the UN, some Hercules transport aircraft to help deploy the force and a small detachment of engineers. The precise number of personnel will not be known until we have completed a detailed analysis of the engineer tasks to be undertaken in Bunia. This is not a UN force but is EU-led as a European Security and Defence Policy operation.

    Defence Estate (West Sussex)

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the extent is of the defence estate in West Sussex. [119660]

    The extent of the defence estate in West Sussex is currently 678.5 hectares. This can be broken down as follows:

    Occupied bySiteHectares
    ArmyRoussillion barracks, Chichester11
    ArmyBaker barracks, Thorney Island667
    Meteorological officePease Pottage, near Crawley0.03
    Meteorological officeBirchfield house, 'field road, Charlwood0.02
    Reserve ForcesLittle High street, Worthing0.06
    Reserve ForcesKilnmead, Crawley0.37
    Properties occupied by the Army Cadet Force and Air Training Corps have not been included.

    Environmental Monitoring (Dundrennan)

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on recent environmental monitoring results at Dundrennan. [119342]

    On 24 February 2003, we published our report on the use of new and more sensitive monitoring equipment to search for any previously undetected depleted uranium fragments around the gun positions and along the firing lines. The results of this survey confirm the findings of the routine environmental monitoring programme and the adequacy of the existing safety precautions. A copy of this report has been sent to the local council.

    Executive Agencies

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people work for the Defence Export Services Organisation; how many are employed in Scotland; what the personnel costs of the agency are; and how these figures compare to 2002. [119276]

    The Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) employed 615 service and civilian personnel at the end of April 2003, compared with 595 a year previously. Three DESO personnel, employed through the Disposal Services Agency, were employed in Scotland at each of these points.The personnel costs of the organisation for the relevant years, part of which are met from receipts, are as follows:

    Personnel cost
    Financial year£million
    2001–0226.8
    2002–0328.8

    Note:

    Figures for numbers employed are full-time equivalents. Personnel numbers and costs include Disposal Services Agency staff.

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people work for the Ministry of Defence police; how many are employed in Scotland; what the personnel costs of the agency are; and how these figures compare to 2002. [119277]

    As at 1 June 2003, 3,267 police officers and 320 civilian staff were employed by the Ministry of Defence Police Agency, as compared to 3,322 police officers and 278 civilian staff on 1 June 2002. As at 1 June 2003, 776 police officers and 38 civilian staff were employed in Scotland, as compared to 801 police officers and 38 civilian staff on 1 June 2002. The personnel costs of the MDP agency for financial year 2001–02 were £153 million. The chief constable's accounts for financial year 2002–03 are currently being audited by the National Audit Office.

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people work for the Defence Aviation Repair Agency; how many are employed in Scotland; what the personnel costs of the agency are; and how these figures compare to 2002. [119278]

    As at 1 April 2003 there were 4,060 people working for the Defence Aviation Repair Agency (DARA) of which 306 employees were employed in Scotland. The annual personnel costs of the agency as at 1 January 2003 were £110 million. For the comparable 12 month period as at 1 April 2002 there were 4,343 DARA employees of which 317 were employed in Scotland. The comparable annual personnel costs of the agency as at 1 January 2002 were £120 million.

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people work for the British Forces Post Office; how many are employed in Scotland; what the personnel costs of the agency are; and how these figures compare to 2002. [119279]

    The British Forces Post Office (BFPO) agency employed a total of 554 (557 in the previous year) staff (full-time equivalent) as at 31 March 2003.In Scotland the BFPO agency currently employs nine full-time staff (this figure is unchanged from 2002). Eight staff are employed at its Defence Mail Centre in Glasgow, plus one driver who works for our Defence Courier Service.The personnel costs for BFPO for the respective reporting years ended 31 March were:

    £million
    2001–0212.009
    2002–0313.461

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people work for the Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency; how many are employed in Scotland; what the personnel costs of the agency are; and how these figures compare to 2002. [119280]

    The Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency was disestablished in October 2000. Part of the organisation was restructured and became the Defence Clothing Integrated Project Team (IPT) in April 2001.

    As at April 2003 there were 233 people working for the IPT. There are no staff employed in Scotland. The annual personnel costs of the IPT for financial year 2003–04 are estimated to be approximately £6.3 million. For the comparable 12-month period as at April 2002 there were 268 IPT employees, again with no employees in Scotland. The comparable annual personnel costs of the IPT for financial year 2002–03 were approximately £5.9 million.

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people work for the Defence Engineering and Science Group; how many are employed in Scotland; what the personnel costs of the agency are; and how these figures compare to 2002. [119282]

    The Defence Engineering and Science Group is not an agency. It is a classification for a group of professional civil servants employed across a wide range of agencies and organisations in the Ministry of Defence.Since last year we have changed the method of recording information on our civilian employees and the figures also now exclude Trading Fund Agencies. The baseline figures for 2002 therefore now comprise 8,585 engineers and scientists, of whom 899 were employed in Scotland. The figures for 2003 are 8,314 and 677 respectively.The personnel costs for these engineers and scientists cannot be uniquely or separately identified and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people work for the Army Base Repair Organisation; how many are employed in Scotland; what the personnel costs of the agency are; and how these figures compare to 2002. [119283]

    ABRO (formerly known as the Army Base Repair Organisation), employed 2,600 staff, as at 1 June 2003. Of the total ABRO staff, 147 individuals are employed at Stirling, ABRO's sole workshop facility in Scotland.The forecast pay cost of ABRO staff for the current financial year of 2003–04 is £63.8 million. This figure includes £3 million for Stirling.In the financial year 2002–03 ABRO employed an average of 2,545 staff, of whom 145 worked in Stirling. The total pay cost for ABRO in 2002–03 was £63.9 million, which included £2.99 million spent by Stirling.

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many people work for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency; how many are employed in Scotland; what the personnel costs of the agency are; and how these figures compare to 2002; [119290](2) how many people work for the Defence Scientific and Technical Laboratory; how many are employed in Scotland; what the personnel costs of the agency are; and how these figures compare to 2002. [119281]

    The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency was disestablished on 1 July 2001, when two new organisations, QinetiQ and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), were created. QinetiQ is a plc, and all operational inquiries should be addressed to the Chief Executive. Dstl remains a part of the Ministry of Defence.On 1 June 2003, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) employed 3,145 staff (compared to 3,037 in January 2002). Of these, 46 (compared with 54 in January 2002) were employed in Scotland. Dstl's paybill (which includes total pay, casual allowances, ERNIC and pension costs) averaged £9.03 million per month (compared with £8.56 million in January 2002) over the year to 31 March 2003.

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place copies of the Naval Manning Agency's annual reports for 2000–01 and 2001–02 in the Library. [119627]

    Copies of the Naval Manning Agency's annual reports are routinely placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The 2001–02 report was available in the Library of the House on 10 October 2002.

    Gulf Deployment

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) plans and (b) provision his Department has made for transporting troops no longer involved in active operational duties in the Gulf back to the UK; what the timetable is for returning troops home; and if he will make a statement. [110542]

    United Kingdom Military Campaign Objectives contain a commitment to withdraw British Military Forces from Iraq as soon as practicable. Regular announcements on 11 April 2003, Official Report, columns 38–39WS, 30 Apri12003, Official Report, columns 15–16WS and 11 June 2003, Official Report, columns 52–53WS, have been made outlining in some detail the plans and arrangements for moving UK forces to and from the Middle East, and these will continue.The planning process is dynamic and we will continue to review our force levels to ensure that we maintain an appropriate military presence for as long as is necessary.

    Infantry Regiments

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to reduce the number of infantry regiments. [119619]

    Iraq Survey Group

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent the costs of the Iraqi survey group will be met by (a) coalition forces and (b) the proposed Iraqi assistance fund. [114561]

    On current plans, costs in respect of units and personnel contributed to the Iraq Survey Group will be met by the contributing nations. Costs in respect of the continued disarmament of Iraq, for example decontamination of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) sites or long-term storage of WMD materials, may be met from the Development Fund for Iraq, consistent with the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people and as set out; in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483 (2003).

    Weapons Of Mass Destruction

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps the Government will take to verify the origin of material linked to weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. [111113]

    Coalition forces in Iraq have dedicated resources to conducting investigations into sites, personnel, documentation and other forms of evidence that may be connected to programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The objective of these investigations will be to account for Iraqi WMD and related facilities and ensure that these are no longer a threat. Where possible and practicable, we will also aim to identify the origin of any materials linked to Iraqi WMD programmes where these materials may have been supplied in breach of sanctions imposed by the United Nations or other international agreements.

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many alleged sites of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq identified by the Government are fully secured by coalition forces; and how many have yet to be (a) secured and (b) inspected. [113011]

    As at 7 June 2003, Coalition forces had initiated investigations into 140 sites within Iraq, from a list of over 500, which may be connected to programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction. Additionally, investigations had been initiated into a further 74 sites identified since the conflict began. We anticipate that further sites will be identified as investigations progress. Where these sites are thought to contain materials which may relate to weapons of mass destruction programmes, or otherwise contain hazardous substances, Coalition forces are taking action to secure them.

    Unexploded Ordnance

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department is working with NGOs in Iraq to educate the public about the dangers of unexploded ordnance. [117037]

    Providing a safe, secure and risk free environment for the Iraqi people is a key aspect of restoration activity for the Coalition. The United Kingdom itself has made a significant effort to educate the local population in its area of operations about the dangers of mines and unexploded ordnance. A Theatre Mine Risk Education Programme has been developed with the support of UNICEF and the ICRC. A poster and leaflet campaign has been carried out, head teachers in Basrah have been briefed and military teams are delivering mine and unexploded ordnance awareness training to Primary and Secondary schools on a daily basis using material approved by the ICRC. In addition to this local radio stations are informing the local population about unexploded ordnance and encouraging them not to tamper with anything that has either been marked as or may look like unexploded ordnance.

    Medical Distribution Network

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the British army is doing to restore the medical distribution network in Iraq. [117057]

    United Kingdom forces are working with the local health authority and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to re-stock the central Basrah warehouse, from which drugs and pharmaceuticals were supplied before the war. They have also provided security for the warehouse and for deliveries to local medical facilities. These medical facilities have been visited on a regular basis. UK forces are also working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and NGOs to correct any deficiencies there might be in drugs for chronic illnesses. Along with the WHO, we are monitoring humanitarian donations ensuring that they are appropriate and properly used. The Office of the Provisional Coalition Authority in Baghdad intends to reintroduce routine re-supply in the near future.

    Weapons Of Mass Destruction

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many of the bunker-buster missiles used in Iraq were tipped with depleted uranium. [118323]

    There is no air-launched ordnance containing depleted uranium in United Kingdom service.

    Operation Telic

    To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) reservists and (b) regulars on Operation TELIC have been medically downgraded, broken down by service; what percentage of the force deployed by each service these figures represent; and if he will make a statement. [119010]

    The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.