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Written Answers

Volume 457: debated on Wednesday 7 March 2007

Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 7 March 2007

Defence

Afghanistan: Peace Keeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the timetable is for the (a) reporting and (b) publication of the Board of Inquiry report into the destruction of the Hercules Aircraft on a landing strip in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. (124205)

The Board of Inquiry continues to work to determine the cause of this event. The findings of the Board will be released as soon as possible after conclusion of the inquiry; a redacted copy of the report will be made available on the MOD website.

Animal Experiments

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which officials in his Department are involved in reviewing the need for further research using live goats, as part of the contract renewal process. (124243)

Armed Forces: Deployment

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for how many months the (a) 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh (The Royal Welsh Fusiliers), (b) 1st Battalion The Scots Guards, (c) 19th Regiment Royal Artillery, (d) 5th Regiment Royal Artillery and (e) 39th Regiment Royal Artillery will have been on operational duty at the end of their immediate future tour in Afghanistan over the last 30 months; and how the harmony guidelines are applied to (i) those units and (ii) the armed services in general. (124661)

[holding answer 2 March 2007]: Information on how many months each unit will have been on operational duty at the end of Op. Herrick 6 over the previous 30 months is shown as follows:

Ser

Unit

Months on operations

1

1st Battalion the Royal Welsh

10

2

1st Battalion the Scots Guards

6

3

19 Regiment Royal Artillery

12

4

5 Regiment Royal Artillery

6

5

39 Regiment Royal Artillery

12

Army harmony guidelines are that individuals should not exceed 415 days of separated service in any period of 30 months. At unit level, tour intervals should be no less than 24 months.

The decision on who should deploy is made by Joint Commitments in consultation with Headquarters Land Command, ratified by the chain of command.

Royal Navy harmony guidelines are that no individual should exceed 660 days of separated service in a three-year rolling period. Over a similar time span, ships or other units should not be deployed for more than 60 per cent. of their time.

Harmony Guidelines for the RAF are based on formed unit tour intervals rather than individual personnel, whereby formed units, or sub-elements within them should spend four months on deployed operations followed by 16 months at base.

The RAF Individual Separated Service assumption is that an individual should spend no more than 140 days of duty detached away from home in a rolling 12-month period. This allows for a four-month operational tour followed by three weeks of separated service due to routine tasks, unestablished commitments, unit assistance, pre-detachment training etc.

These are guidelines only and there will be shorter tour intervals where operational demands require it.

Armed Forces: Families

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many people his Department employs for liaison with the families of armed forces personnel; and what aspects of service life and issues these staff are responsible for dealing with; (121891)

(2) how much has been spent on family liaison in 2006-07.

The welfare and community support of service personnel and their families is core MOD business. This includes family liaison, which has always been exercised by personnel who have command responsibility as an integral part of their duties.

Each of the three services has robust structures in place to support and liaise with families and service individuals; the support offered is wide-ranging and tailored to the requirements of the individual concerned. Examples of this include the support provided to families when the service spouse is deployed on operations. In such circumstances, units organise families’ briefing sessions, coffee mornings, crèches and community social events. Assistance is also provided to enable families to keep in touch with their loved ones through the provision of publicly funded internet and email terminals at local community and education centres.

Specialist charitable organisations such as the Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmans’ Families Association and the Army Welfare Service are also available to offer assistance. Services offered overseas include the running of the confidential helpline and the provision of contracted community support, some medical care and social work elements. In the UK, they may come into contact with families for a whole host of reasons. The issues dealt with span the full spectrum of service and private life issues that may affect individuals or families from time to time.

Armed Forces: Housing

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many properties his Department leases from Annington Homes; where they are located; and how much his Department spent on (a) leasing and (b) maintaining and refurbishing them in each year since 1996. (119265)

As at 25 December 2006 the Ministry of Defence (MOD) leased 41,831 properties from Annington Homes. The contract with Annington Homes was signed on 5 November 1996.

The service family homes leased from Annington are spread across some 540 sites in England and Wales which serve RAF stations, Army Barracks and Naval bases, as well as Reserve Forces and Cadets Association centres. Some are official residences. A more detailed breakdown of the location of these properties will take more time to collate. I will write to the hon. Member when this has been done and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

The Ministry of Defence spent the following amounts on leasing family quarters from Annington Homes Ltd.:

£ million

1996

16.80

1997

110.96

1998

109.03

1999

107.87

2000

112.48

2001

115.42

2002

122.34

2003

130.76

2004

130.91

2005

136.43

2006

142.42

Rent was calculated from 5 November 1996 to 24 December 1996 for the first year and from 25 December to 24 December for each subsequent year.

The information in respect of maintenance and refurbishment of properties leased from Annington Homes is not available for all years, as it was collected and managed by individual Housing Directorate regions and their contractors in differing formats. However, the MOD spent the following amounts:

£ million

2001-02

123.0

2002-03

92.0

2003-04

103.0

2004-05

191.6

2005-06

1109.2

1 Includes upgrade expenditure of £10.2 million (2004-05) and £21.1 million (2005-06) although some of this may have been expended on houses still owned by the MOD.

Armed Forces: Officers

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many officers who attended the Higher Command Staff Course in each year between 1997 and 2006 remained in the armed services 12 months later; and how many are still in the armed services. (123750)

The following table shows the number of officers who attended the Higher Command Staff Course between the years of 1997 to 2006; those who remained in the armed services 12 months later; and those who are still serving as at 1 January 2007.

Year of course

Number attended course

Still serving after 12 months

Still serving as at 1 January 2007

1997

20

20

10

1998

20

20

10

1999

20

20

10

2000

20

20

15

2001

25

25

20

2002

20

20

15

2003

20

20

20

2004

25

25

20

2005

25

25

20

2006

25

n/a

25

Grand total

220

n/a

170

n/a = Not applicable.

Note:

All numbers are rounded to nearest five. Due to the rounding methods used, totals may not equal the sum of the parts.

Armoured Fighting Vehicles

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) when he expects the first Panther Command and Liaison Vehicles to be accepted into service; how many such vehicles he expects to be in service; and to which units he expects them to be deployed; (124795)

(2) what the fuel consumption of a fully kitted-up Panther Command and Liaison Vehicle is when used (a) on surfaced roads and (b) off-road.

On current plans a total of 401 vehicles will be procured. First deliveries are planned to take place at the end of 2007. It is currently intended to deploy Panther to Training Establishments, Brigades and the Remainder of Field Force Users and RAF.

The fuel consumption of a fully kitted-up Panther vehicle when used on a surfaced road is estimated to be 6 km/ltr when travelling at a constant speed of 80 km/h. The off-road consumption is estimated to be 2 km/ltr.

Armoured Fighting Vehicles: Deployment

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions two or more (a) Challenger 2, (b) Warrior, (c) FV430, (d) Sabre, (e) Samaritan, (f) Samson, (g) Scimitar, (h) Spartan and (i) Sultan vehicles were used in operations while on deployment in (i) Iraq, (ii) Afghanistan, (iii) Kosovo and (iv) Cyprus in each year since 1999. (125564)

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

Army: Incentives

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence under what conditions a British Army recruit is eligible for a Golden Hello pay bonus. (124496)

[holding answer 5 March 2007]: “Golden hellos” are incentives paid to aid recruitment into specific branches of the Army where there are manning shortfalls. Recipients may be direct entrants or internal transferees. To qualify, an individual must be a UK passport holder and possess the academic or vocational qualifications required by the trade/branch they are seeking to join.

Astute Class Submarines

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his timetable is for a decision on whether to order Astute class SSN boat 4. (124585)

Three Astute Class submarines are on order with BAE Systems (Submarine Solutions), and further boat orders are currently being considered, subject to affordability. We are working with Industry as part of the Defence Industrial Strategy to achieve an affordable and sustainable submarine programme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the estimated cost of Astute class SSN (a) boat 1, (b) boat 2 and (c) boat 3 is; and what the original expected costs were. (124586)

The contract with BAE Systems is for the design and manufacture of three Astute Class submarines. The NAO’s Major Project Report for 2006 reported an expected total cost of £3,656 million against a recosted approval of £2,578 million.

Departments: Equal Opportunities

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department has a gender (a) strategy and (b) equality action plan in place. (125105)

[holding answer 5 March 2007]: The Ministry of Defence has a unified philosophy towards equality and diversity. In support of this approach the MOD Diversity Panel, co-chaired by the Permanent Under Secretary (PUS), and the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and which includes a mix of internal and external members who have a range of experience in diversity issues, have endorsed a Unified Diversity Strategy. This strategy provides the strategic framework and incorporates our Diversity Vision; Diversity Mission; Objectives; Working in Partnership; Taking Responsibility; Complying with the Legislation; communicating and Building Commitment; Measuring Progress and the Business Case for Diversity.

In April 2006, we published our first overarching MOD Equality and Diversity Scheme 2006-2009, together with a set of Action Plans for 2006-07. The Scheme encompasses the armed forces, civilians, the Ministry of Defence police and our executive agencies. This Scheme reflects not only the Department’s statutory duties in respect of race, disability and gender but also those diversity strands not yet covered by specific public sector duties (age, sexual orientation and religion and belief).

Our first annual Action Plan included our gender equality priorities. We will be publishing a report against the targets that we set for 2006-07 later in the year as well as issuing a new Action Plan for 2007-08. The Defence Analytical Services Agency will be collecting statistical data on the recruitment, retention and progression of women. The aim of all this work is to achieve real improvement in outcomes for the various diversity groups.

Copies of the documents referred to are available in the Library of the House, and also at:

www.mod.ukDefenceInternet/AboutDefence/WhatWeDo/Personnel/EqualityAndDiversity/MinistryOfDefenceUnifiedDiversityStrategy.htm

http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/WhatWeDo/Personnel/EqualityAndDiversity/EqualityAndDiversityScheme20062009.htm

http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/What WeDo/Personnel/EqualityAndDiversity/Equality AndDiversityScheme20062009ActionPlan20062007.htm

Departments: Vehicles

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many vehicles belonging to his Department were (a) lost and (b) stolen in each year since 1997; and what the (i) make and model and (ii) value was of each vehicle. (121373)

Vehicles lost and stolen are classed as vehicle ‘write offs’. Departmental accounts do not differentiate between specific categories of ‘write off’ and therefore the information requested can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

EC Defence Policy

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what facilities are available to the EU in the Operations Centre for European Security and Defence Policy; what the budgeted cost is of those facilities for the 2007-08 financial year; and what proportion of the resources and budget are provided by the UK. (124328)

The civil/military cell in the EU Military Staff has the capacity rapidly to set up an operations centre for a particular operation. The decision to do so would be taken by the Council, upon the advice of the Military Committee, in particular where a joint civil/military response is required and where no national HQ is identified.

The facilities for an operations centre contain the desks, IT and communications to support up to 89 civilian and military staff. They are part of the premises occupied by the EU Military Staff at the Kortenberg building in Brussels. The cost of maintaining the Kortenberg building in the 2007 calendar year is €5.15 million. This cost is met from central EU funds. It is not possible to isolate the cost of the operations centre.

Member states make contributions to the EC Budget as a whole and it is not possible to separate individual member states' contributions to specific areas within the budget. After taking account of the abatement, the UK’s financing share of the 2007 EC Budget is estimated to be 12.49 per cent.

HMS Sussex

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the Government’s policy is on the wreckage of the ‘Sussex’ lying off the coast of Gibraltar since 1694; (124917)

(2) what progress has been made in salvaging the wreck of the ‘Sussex’ which sank in 1694 off the coast of Gibraltar.

Given that the excavation involves what is believed to be a Royal Navy shipwreck, the Ministry of Defence has retained ownership of the project and is closely monitoring its progress. Some preliminary work has been conducted at the site including a survey of the area. Operations are currently suspended pending the resolution of certain outstanding heritage issues between Odyssey Marine Exploration and the Spanish authorities.

Identification Friend or Foe Systems

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) whether the Successor Identification Friend or Foe System is suitable for individual vehicle identification in land combat operations; (122222)

(2) whether the Successor Identification Friend or Foe System is compatible with the combat identification systems used by (a) the United States armed forces and (b) other NATO countries;

(3) what proportion of Army vehicles have been fitted with the Successor Identification Friend or Foe system; and what plans he has to fit systems to those which have not.

Successor Identification Friend or Foe (SIFF) is an airborne and maritime IFF system. It is not suitable for identification of ground vehicles, and therefore it is not fitted to any Army vehicles. SIFF is compatible and interoperable with the common standard of combat identification systems used by NATO countries, including the United States.

Indonesia

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether (a) he and (b) his Ministerial colleagues met TNI Commander Marshall Djoko Suyanto of Indonesia during his visit to the UK; and if he will make a statement. (125899)

Neither myself, nor my ministerial colleagues, met with the TNI Commander Air Chief Marshal Djoko Suyanto during his recent visit to the UK.

Mental Health

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to the answer of 28 November 2006, Official Report, column 625W, on mental health, how many (a) psychologists, (b) psychiatrists, (c) mental health nurses and (d) occupational therapists each service employed; and what assessment he has made of how many are required in each year since 1997. (119213)

The following tables illustrate the requirement and trained strength figures of uniformed regular psychiatrists and mental health nurses in each service for each year since 1998, all of whom were or are uniformed. Further to the statement on 9 February 2006, Official Report, column 1402W, and as explained to the hon. Member in a follow-up letter, the figures for 1997 are unavailable.

In the following tables the figures are for 1 April in that year.

As stated on 29 January 2007, Official Report, column 25W, the DMS uniformed regular requirement figures have been reviewed and the new manning requirements for 2007 for all cadres will be formally announced in the near future.

RN psychiatrists

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Requirement

3

n/a

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

Manning

1

n/a

1

1

1

2

1

1

2

RN mental health nurses

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Requirement

n/a

n/a

22

22

22

22

22

22

22

Manning

10

n/a

13

10

10

18

29

24

21

Army psychiatrists

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Requirement

11

n/a

25

25

25

17

15

17

15

Manning

8

n/a

8

6

6

6

5

7

6

Army mental health nurses

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Requirement

n/a

n/a

76

76

76

50

48

61

53

Manning

42

n/a

36

38

41

39

42

43

43

RAF psychiatrists

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Requirement

4

n/a

7

8

8

8

9

9

9

Manning

4

n/a

5

4

3

3

4

4

5

RAF mental health nurses

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Requirement

n/a

n/a

30

27

27

38

38

38

38

Manning

24

n/a

26

31

29

30

31

33

33

n/a = Indicates that it was not possible to determine the figure from the recovered archived files.

Source:

DMSD

Mental health occupational therapists are now not employed by the MOD. Our current community-based mental health provision is occupationally orientated and aims to manage patients in their work/home environment. This is done by a multi-disciplinary team consisting of psychiatrists, mental health nurses with access to both clinical psychologists and mental health social workers. The employment of specific occupational therapists is no longer necessary.

The MOD employed mental health occupational therapists up until 2003 at the Duchess of Kent Psychiatric Hospital. The mental health occupational therapists that were employed were civilian. The records for the numbers of mental health occupational therapists could not be recovered without disproportionate effort.

The MOD also employs civilian clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health nurses.

Navy: Military Bases

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what date Serco Denholm Ltd submitted its final bid for the future provision of marine services contract. (123823)

Serco Denholm submitted their technical proposal in March 2004 and their financial bid one month later, in accordance with the Department’s invitation to tender. At MOD’s request, however, bidders submitted revise or confirm bids in December 2004 and revisions continued until July 2005.

Since February 2006, when Serco Denholm were announced as the preferred bidder, further changes have been made to their bid as part of the negotiation process.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 19 February 2007, Official Report, column 218W, what estimate was made in November 2003 of the date when the contract would be awarded. (123906)

When the future provision of marine services invitation to negotiate was issued in November 2003, the estimated date for award of contract was May 2005.

Navy: Reserve Forces

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment he has made of the reasons for the outflow of volunteers from the Royal Navy Reserve. (124592)

There is currently no means of capturing the reasons why personnel leave the RNR and therefore this information is not held centrally. However, from 1 April 2007 a new Leavers Survey will be sent to RNR leavers.

Nimrod Aircraft

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment his Department has made of the suitability and costs involved in using the existing RAF Nimrod MR2 R1 fleet over the new Nimrod MRD4 platform for the HELIX programme; and if he will make a statement. (123864)

During the current Project HELIX assessment phase, the suitability and cost of potential air vehicle solutions are among the factors being investigated. The final decision on the air vehicle to be used will be taken at the main investment decision point.

Nuclear Disarmament

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 8 January 2007, Official Report, column 98W to my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) on nuclear disarmament, what progress the UK has made on Step (a) 6 and (b) 9 of the 13 Steps agreed at the 2000 Nuclear non-proliferation Treaty review conference; and if he will make a statement. (124111)

The UK continues to support and make progress against the ‘13 Steps’ agreed at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference 2000, which are applicable to the UK. We continue to reiterate our unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of our nuclear arsenal leading to nuclear disarmament as required under ‘Step 6’, most recently expressed by the Minister for the Middle East, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva last month. With regards to ‘Step 9’, we have undertaken several unilateral steps towards nuclear disarmament including reductions in warhead numbers, increased transparency by publishing historical accounting records of our defence fissile material holdings and significant reductions of the operational status of our nuclear weapons system. We have also pursued a widely welcomed programme to develop UK expertise in methods and technologies that could be used to verify nuclear disarmament.

Finally, we have pressed consistently for early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the commencement of negotiations, without preconditions, of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in the Conference on Disarmament.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) of 8 January 2007, Official Report, column 98W, on nuclear disarmament, what the (a) evidential and (b) treaty basis is for describing the UK’s announced reduction to 160 operational nuclear warheads as disarmament. (124112)

The planned reduction in the maximum number of operationally available warheads to fewer than 160, announced in December last year represents a 20 per cent. decrease from the previously declared maximum number. I intend that this reduction will take place this year. This reduction is pertinent to the UK’s obligations under the nuclear non proliferation treaty and means that, since coming to power in 1997, the Government will have reduced the overall explosive power of the UK’s nuclear arsenal by around 75 per cent.

Oil: Flax Bourton

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what refined hydrocarbon liquids were received at Flax Bourton oil storage depot in the 12 months to December 2006. (125055)

[holding answer 2 March 2007]: No refined petroleum products were received at the Flax Bourton depot for the purposes of storage over the 12 months to December 2006. Small quantities of product were, however, brought onto the site for local consumption during that period.

Selly Oak Hospital: Infectious Diseases

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many personnel have contracted Acinetobactor baumannii at Selly Oak NHS hospital having returned from (a) Afghanistan, (b) the Balkans, (c) Cyprus, (d) Falklands and Ascension Islands, (e) Iraq and (f) Northern Ireland in each year since 2001; (123813)

(2) how many personnel contracted MRSA at Selly Oak NHS hospital having returned from (a) Afghanistan, (b) the Balkans, (c) Cyprus, (d) Falklands and Ascension Islands, (e) Iraq and (f) Northern Ireland in each year since 2001.

The MOD does not collate information on how many service personnel have contracted MRSA or Acinetobacter baumannii. The data could only be established at disproportionate cost by examining the personal medical file of every service man and woman who has been a patient at Selly Oak, which would additionally require the permission of all individuals.

The Defence Medical Services have robust and stringent infection control procedures which fully meet NHS requirements. We take the issue of infection very seriously and work to ensure the best possible healthcare for all service patients returning from overseas.

Service Personnel: Medical Conditions

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many servicemen who returned from (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan after active duty injured in each year since 2003 are now registered blind or partially sighted; (117292)

(2) how many (a) servicemen and (b) reserve servicemen returned injured during active duty in (i) Iraq and (ii) Afghanistan and were registered disabled in each year since 2003.

Comprehensive data regarding injuries and disabilities are not held centrally, and could only be established at disproportionate cost by examining the personal medical file of every current and former Service man and woman, which would additionally require the permission of all individuals.

However, Defence Analytical Services Agency (DASA) do compile data on medical discharges, based on Medical Board recommendations. The table below presents a tri-Service total number of medical discharges among UK regular Service Personnel in 2003 and 2004 for all eye-related disorders and injuries suffered worldwide. Data for 2005 and 2006 are still being validated and are not ready for release.

Medical Discharges UK Regular Armed Forces1

Primary cause of medical discharge

Disorders of the eye and adnexa

Injury of the eye orbit

2003

15

<5

2004

25

<5

Other causes of medical discharge with disorders of the eye

Of which: secondary to a head injury

Of which: secondary to other conditions

2003

<5

<5

2004

<5

<5

1 Excludes untrained naval service ratings.

Notes:

1. In accordance with DASA policy, figures are rounded to the nearest 5.

2. Figures below 5 are marked as <5 in order to preserve personal confidentiality.

Medical discharges can take place some time after the injury or disease is diagnosed. DASA are currently carrying out a 10-year validation exercise on all medical discharge information held, and updating relevant records. The data used for this answer are taken from a historical dataset for 1995-2004, and the figures presented therefore may be subject to change.

Trident: Contracts

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the first contracts were placed with US contractors on behalf of his Department, under the Polaris Sales Agreement, for work related to the Trident D5 Life Extension programme; and what the total value was of those contracts. (123985)

No order has yet been placed with the US authorities for procurement of Trident D5 Life Extension on behalf of the UK.

Trade and Industry

Combined Heat and Power

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of electricity is sourced from good quality combined heat and power; and what his target is for 2010. (124638)

In 2005, the latest year for which statistics are available, 7½ per cent. of electricity generated in the United Kingdom came from good quality combined heat and power (CHP) schemes. The target is for 10,000 MWe of good quality CHP capacity to be in place by the end of 2010, but there is no separate target for generation.

Conditions of Employment: Parents

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures his Department has in place to allow working parents to take paid leave in order to look after their children when they are ill. (121961)

Staff in the Department have the right to take up to five days’ paid special leave in order to deal with an emergency involving a dependant or to make longer-term arrangements for coping with such emergencies. In addition staff can apply for special unpaid leave.

Energy Supply

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the number and proportion of households in each region and nation of the UK which do not have mains access to (a) gas and (b) electricity. (125181)

As part of its regional and local energy statistics publication programme, DTI has published on its website the number of domestic gas meter points in each Government office area in England, together with Scotland and Wales1. When these are compared with the latest estimates of the number of households in these areas, the following numbers and percentages are derived2.

1 www.dti.gov.uk/energy/statistics/regional/quality/page36160 .html

2 This analysis may overstate the number of households having mains access to gas because households in multi-occupancy of a property may share a gas meter. “Domestic” is defined as consumers of less than 73,200 kWh per year and will include small commercial and industrial businesses. Household estimates are those published in March 2006 for England, June 2005 for Scotland, and 2003 for Wales and are less up to date than the gas and meter statistics.

Difference between number of households and number of gas meter points

Gas meter points as a percentage of the number of households

England

2,700,000

87.4

North East

70,000

93.7

North West

190,000

93.6

Yorkshire and the Humber

160,000

92.4

East Midlands

220,000

88.0

West Midlands

260,000

88.5

East

470,000

80.1

London

290,000

90.9

South East

480,000

86.0

South West

560,000

74.4

Wales

170,000

85.9

Scotland

500,000

77.7

Great Britain

3,380,000

86.5

Corresponding data are not available for Northern Ireland.

A similar regional analysis based on electricity meter points is not possible because, where electricity is supplied through two-rate and three-rate meters (mainly those meters using dynamic teleswitching), there are two meter recordings per address. It is estimated that there are some 1,060,000 domestic customers with two meter point numbers in Great Britain. For Great Britain as a whole, it is estimated that 99.6 per cent. of households have mains access to electricity so fewer than 100,000 households do not. As with gas, some households may share an electricity meter.

Where a household owns more than one property, the statistics take account of meters in all properties.

Energy: Lancashire

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much was spent on (a) electricity and (b) gas by the average household in Lancashire in each of the last 10 years. (125318)

Average fuel bills are only available for gas and electricity distribution regions. The average domestic bills for the North West1 are shown in the following table. The data shown are for standard credit customers in cash terms, they have not been adjusted for inflation.

1 Lancashire is contained in the North West region for gas and electricity.

£

Electricity1 Bill

Gas Bill

19972

283

328

1998

260

314

1999

257

304

2000

249

295

2001

239

294

2002

237

309

2003

235

317

2004

243

330

2005

270

383

2006

327

473

1 The bills for standard electricity do not include customers who are on economy 7 tariffs.

2 Regional average bills are not available prior to 1998. The Electricity average bill given for 1997 is for England and Wales. The average bill shown for gas in 1997 is for Great Britain.

Note:

Data are derived from the DTI's quarterly survey of domestic energy supply companies. Bills relate to the total bill including VAT in cash terms received during the calendar year. For electricity an annual consumption of 3,300 kWh is used, whilst the equivalent figure for gas is 18,000 kWh.

Energy: Small Businesses

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps (a) his Department and (b) Ofgem have taken to improve the level of protection for small business consumers in the energy market. (125219)

The existing level of regulatory protection in respect of gas and electricity broadly reflects that in general consumer law. It is open to Ofgem to consider whether additional regulatory protection is required. I understand that the Chairman of Ofgem will write to my hon. Friend about the information she has sought.

Heating

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research the Government are undertaking on the effect on (a) energy efficiency and (b) carbon emissions of using microgeneration twinned with electric heating. (125320)

The Regulatory Impact Assessment for the changes to Part L of the Building Regulations (which came into operation in April 2006) contained assessments of the energy efficiency and carbon emissions of different heating systems, including electric heating, but no specific assessment was done of twinning electric heating with microgeneration.

We will be undertaking research this year, jointly with representatives of the microgeneration industry and other interested stakeholders, into the wide-ranging benefits of microgeneration, but without a specific focus on the effect of using microgeneration twinned with electric heating.

Industrial Diseases: Compensation

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what advice he has given on probate matters to claimants for deceased mineworkers. (124066)

[holding answer 28 February 2007]: Probate advice to claimants is, of course, the responsibility of their representatives. The CHA requires the provision of valid probate documentation before a payment will be made. This ensures that the Department makes valid payments to the correct claimant.

Occasionally, if requested, the Department will provide standard publicly available information on probate matters in relation to the Schemes.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many miners' compensation cases are in dispute because of probate issues. (124067)

[holding answer 28 February 2007]: To date no miners’ compensation cases have progressed to formal dispute because of probate issues.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many deceased miners’ claims have been accepted as valid but not paid because of probate proceedings. (124068)

[holding answer 28 February 2007]: The Department is not aware of any claims that have not been paid due to probate proceedings.

As at 26 February 2007, 3,214 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease full and final offers are still outstanding and are awaiting receipt of the relevant probate documentation.

In addition, under the Deceased Operational Risk Offer Scheme 11,128 acceptances have been received to date and have qualified in all categories, save for the receipt of Probate or Form of Indemnities.

There are also 79 Vibration White Finger full and final offers which remain outstanding whilst the appropriate probate documentation is received.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many miners’ compensation cases were accepted by his Department as valid claims but subsequently dropped because of probate disputes. (124099)

[holding answer 28 February 2007]: No claims have been dropped by Capita, the Department’s claims handler, because of probate disputes. All claims “struck out” to date have either been withdrawn by the Claimant’s representative or because they failed to meet cut-offs or failed for other reasons.

It is not usual for the Claimant’s representative to attempt to obtain probate until they have had a confirmed acceptance of liability.

Migrant Workers: Pay

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the extent of differences in (a) pay and (b) terms and conditions between established and migrant and newly-arrived workers in the UK economy; and what steps his Department is taking to minimise such differences. (125625)

The Government have not undertaken any specific research on differences in pay, and in terms and conditions between established migrants, and new-arrived workers in the UK. Legislation on employment rights, such as the national minimum wage, does not differentiate between established, migrant and newly arrived workers working legally in the UK.

Research

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the possible effect on the science research base of the recent decision to reduce the Science Research Council’s budget. (124337)

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) on 2 March 2007, Official Report, column 1602.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what method he used to determine the proportion of the recent overall reduction in the Science Research Council’s budget which would be borne by each of the research councils. (124338)

In calculating the distribution of the EYF reductions between the eight research councils, we examined the predicted EYF balances for each council and their allocations for 2007-08, and then we determined the amount of the reductions so as to minimise the overall impact on the research objectives reflected in the Department’s PSA objective.

Rivers: Renewable Energy

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how he applies the Renewable Obligations scheme to river microhydro projects; and whether any changes are planned. (125267)

[holding answer 5 March 2007]: Run of river micro hydro is treated in the same way as all eligible renewables generators whereby they can claim one renewables obligation certificate (ROC) per MW of renewable generation.

There are proposed changes to the renewables obligation (RO), to come into force in April this year, of which three may have an effect on some micro hydro generators. These are;

1. To allow agents to act on behalf of small generators in all aspects of RO participation.

2. To require agents, for the purpose of claiming ROCs, to amalgamate the generation from two or more generators, and

3. Remove the requirement for sale and buy back agreements for generators.

There are further longer-term changes that are being considered with regards to “banding” the RO so that different renewable technologies receive differing levels of ROCs per MW of generation dependent on the technologies need. A public consultation on the level of the technology bands will be issued on this later in the year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the potential for the contribution of river micro hydro technology to community energy supplies. (125268)

[holding answer 5 March 2007]: A study (Potential for Microgeneration: Study and Analysis, 2005) undertaken by the Energy Saving Trust on behalf of the DTI provides estimates of cumulative capacity of micro-hydro installations under different support scenarios. Under the most favourable scenario micro-hydro schemes of under l00MW could provide approximately 100MW of electrical capacity by 2050.

Science: Expenditure

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of the science budget was spent in (a) Scotland, (b) Wales, (c) England and (d) Northern Ireland in each of the last five years for which figures are available. (125215)

[holding answer 5 March 2007]: Science Budget national expenditure for the period 2001 to 2006 are set out in the following table.

Science Budget national expenditures for the period 2001 to 2006

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

£000

%

£000

%

£000

%

£000

%

£000

%

(a) Scotland

162,134

9.0

185,359

9.2

208,604

9.0

234,019

9.7

267,034

9.0

(b) Wales

39,787

2.2

49,605

2.5

49,311

2.1

55,792

2.3

67,002

2.3

(c) England

1,363,412

75.8

1,510,218

75.0

1,702,032

73.7

1,776,909

73.3

2,190,580

74.1

(d) N. Ireland

8,709

0.5

8,482

0.4

12,130

0.5

9,471

0.4

23,171

0.8

(e) Other including overseas, international subscriptions and Research Council central expenditure

223,907

12.5

259,731

12.9

338,800

14.7

346,495

14.3

406,930

13.8

Total1

1,797,949

100

2,013,395

100

2,310,878

100

2,422,686

100

2,954,717

100

1 A small number of minor lines of expenditure where statistics are not collected on a national basis have been excluded from the total. These include funding for the National Academies and for Science and Society activities.

Note:

A full breakdown of Research Council national expenditure was provided in the answer given to the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) on 4 December 2006, Official Report, column 15.

Wind Power

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he has taken to ensure that the terms of the convention on landscape agreed by the Council of Europe in 2000 are taken into account when determining applications for wind farms. (124996)

The European landscape convention includes measures to

“establish procedures for the participation of the general public, local and regional authorities, and other parties with an interest in the definition and implementation of landscape policies”

and

“to integrate landscape into its regional and town planning policies”.

The Government's policies on planning for renewable energy, including on landscape protection, are set out in planning policy statement (PPS) 22. The PPS is supported by a companion guide which provides practice guidance including on assessing the visual and landscape effects of planning applications for wind turbines.

Where the application is accompanied by an environmental statement this will, inter alia, include a description of the environment, which includes the landscape, affected by the application, a description of the likely significant effects of the development on the environment and a description of the measures envisaged to prevent, reduce and where possible, offset any significant adverse effects on the environment. These matters will be taken into account when deciding whether or not to approve an application.

Public consultation is a central part of established plan-making and development control procedures. In particular, the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 requires regional planning bodies and local planning authorities to prepare statements of community involvement in which they set their policy on involving their community in preparing regional spatial strategies, local development documents and on consulting on planning applications.

Wind Power: Housing

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to the Answer of 30 January 2007, Official Report, column 318W, on Wind Microgenerators, what has been the total Government expenditure on support for domestic wind turbines; and what assessment he has made of the value for money of this expenditure in terms of electricity generated and CO2 emissions avoided. (119363)

Since 2002 the Clear Skies programme has provided support for the installation of a range of renewable technologies including micro wind turbines from 0.5kWp to 25 kWp. The Clear Skies programme approved 208 domestic projects with grant commitment of £866,500. 205 installations have currently been completed (with a total installed capacity of 1,363 kWp), and the total grant spend to date is £851,500.

The Low Carbon Buildings programme continues to support the installation of domestic wind turbines. Since April 2006, 1,495 applications have been approved (total capacity of 2,923 kWp) and the total grant commitment is £1,736,723. 94 projects have currently been completed (total installed capacity of 477 kWp) and the total grant paid is £243,673.

The amount of energy produced and carbon saved by installed micro wind turbines will depend on several factors including size, and type of system (building-mounted or pole mounted), location, wind speed, nearby buildings and the local landscape. At the moment there are insufficient data from the existing micro wind installations to provide accurate information on energy yield and carbon savings. In a previous written reply of 31 January 2007, Official Report, column 318W, I explained that micro wind field trials are about to start and that these trials should provide useful data on the performance of micro wind installations.

Culture, Media and Sport

Culture: Local Government

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps are being taken to encourage councils to provide more cultural services. (125281)

The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) has helped to develop a cultural services assessment as part of the Audit Commission’s comprehensive performance assessment of English local authorities.

In addition, DCMS is engaged in a three-year programme, in partnership with the Improvement and Development Agency and national cultural agencies, to develop a self-improvement strategy for local authority cultural services.

However, the extent of local cultural service provision is a matter for local authorities to decide.

The Local Government White Paper: Strong and prosperous communities proposed a new performance framework for local government which included introducing a set of up to 200 national indicators related to the Government’s priority outcomes for local areas.

These priority outcomes will be defined through the current Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

As part of the CSR, DCMS is working to ensure that the new set of national indicators will contain an appropriate focus on local government’s role in relation to national priorities on culture.

Digital Broadcasting

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport whether the free digital box for those who qualify for it has (a) a return path and (b) an IPTV slot. (124658)

[holding answer 2 March 2007]: The Consumer Receiver Requirements (CRR) were drawn up to make sure equipment provided as part of the help scheme would be easy to set up and use. As such they do not allow for internet access.

However, the scheme will allow participants a degree of choice, including a broadband TV option. The scheme will make a contribution to the additional costs for this option.

Digital Television

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what estimate she has made of the number of households which will qualify for assistance in switching over to digital television in (a) Leicestershire, (b) Warwickshire and (c) Northamptonshire, broken down by parliamentary constituency. (125633)

The information requested is as follows.

Constituency

Households (defined as eligible benefit units)

Blaby

9,000

Corby

11,000

Daventry

11,000

Harborough

10,000

Kettering

11,000

Leicester East

11,000

Leicester South

10,000

Leicester West

9,000

Loughborough

9,000

North Warwickshire

11,000

North West Leicestershire

11,000

Northampton North

10,000

Northampton South

11,000

Nuneaton

11,000

Rugby and Kenilworth

11,000

Rutland and Melton

10,000

Stratford-on-Avon

12,000

Warwick and Leamington

12,000

Wellingborough

11,000

Notes:

1. Totals for constituencies rounded to the nearest thousand.

2. Eligibility for help from the Digital Switchover Help Scheme will be by benefit unit rather than the whole household definition used by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Office to forecast future household growth.

3. The definition of a benefit unit is a couple and any dependent children. It excludes adults deemed to be non-dependents who, if eligible, will be able to claim assistance from the help scheme in their own right.

Olympic Games: Greater London

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what criteria are used when deciding the suitability of sponsors for the 2012 London Olympic Games. (124793)

The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is currently in discussions about sponsorship with companies from seven sectors. These sectors are banking and insurance, utilities (electricity and natural gas), automotive, telecommunications, airlines, and sportswear.

To assess the proposals, LOCOG will consider the overall value of the offer, including value in kind that the company can provide. In addition, they will also consider: how the company aligns with Olympic values; how the company aligns with the values of the London 2012 Games; and, how the company intends to activate its sponsorship rights.

Olympic Games: Leicester

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions her Department has had about projects in the Leicester area linked to the Olympic Games. (125631)

My Department has not has not been involved in discussions about specific projects in the Leicester area linked to the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

However, the Government are committed to ensuring that people across the UK can benefit from, and participate in, the 2012 Games. We are working closely with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and the Nations and Regions Group (NRG), chaired by Charles Allen, which brings together representatives from every nation and region. each nation and region is finalising its plans to maximise the impact of the games in that area, as well as the wider opportunities to deliver a sustainable legacy from the games.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what opportunities there are for businesses in (a) Leicester and (b) the East Midlands region to exploit the commercial opportunities of the 2012 Olympic Games. (125636)

Companies, large and small, in a range of sectors from construction to business services will be needed to deliver the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, creating valuable procurement opportunities across the UK. The London 2012 website (www. london2012.org/en/gettinginvolved/Business/) contains the most up-to-date information about business opportunities, including a new e-tendering facility, advance notice of contracts ahead of tender competitions, and information about past and upcoming business events. The website also allows businesses to register their interest in being a supplier to the Games and sign up to receive e-alerts. 467 businesses from the East Midlands have already signed up for this service.

Working with London 2012, the London Business Board and other agencies, the East Midlands Development Agency (emda) has played a leading role in the development of the national Business Opportunities Network. The Network will be launched soon and will build upon existing information on the London 2012 website about business opportunities and timelines.

Businesses in the region will also stand to benefit from the work of the East Midlands Group for the 2012 Games chaired by emda. It will target business opportunities for the region and deliver a business support programme. A regional business opportunities group has also been established to help the region understand how local businesses want to engage with, and contribute to, the Games. It is chaired by one of Leicester’s leading lawyers and comprises representatives from business organisations, the construction sector and the Learning and Skills Council.

Working below the regional level, each county in the region has set up its own steering group. Leicestershire’s is chaired by the chief executive of the local sub-regional partnership (Leicestershire Economic Partnership) and comprises representatives from across all sectors.

International Development

African Union: Peace Keeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made on the effectiveness of the Africa standby force; and if he will make a statement. (125226)

Progress towards the establishment of the Africa Standby Force (ASF) is reasonably good, though sustained effort and commitment will be necessary, including by African Union (AU) member states, to ensure that the AU is able to meet its current target of having a fully capable, three brigade ASF in place by 2010.

DFID is working closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence, through the Africa Conflict Prevention Pool, to provide technical and other assistance to the AU and troop contributing countries in Africa to help achieve this aim.

Democratic Republic of Congo

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the prospects for lasting peace and security in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (125178)

The successful elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2006 were a major step forward in securing lasting peace in the DRC. The people of the DRC have a democratically elected President, parliament and provincial assemblies for the first time since 1960. However, the elections are only the first step towards peace and the DRC Government, with co-ordinated support from international partners, will need to tackle several priority issues to maintain the political settlement achieved through the elections and consolidate peace and security:

Reform of the army, police and justice system, to ensure they provide security for DRC’s citizens and legal and peaceful means of addressing grievances and resolving disputes;

Ensuring the new democratic system is as inclusive as possible so that all groups feel their voices are heard and that the Government are accountable; and

Ensuring that the Government delivers early and tangible benefits to DRC’s population.

I believe that now is a time for cautious optimism for the DRC. Success or failure at sustaining peace ultimately depends on the choice of DRC’s politicians, however, the international community can continue to provide vital political, technical and financial support to help increase the chances of success. DFID has rapidly increased its support to the DRC, from £5.56 million in 2001-02 to £67 million available this year.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Overseas Aid

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much UK aid was given to the Democratic Republic of Congo in each of the last six years; and if he will make a statement. (125176)

Since 2000, DFID bilateral aid to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been as follows:

£ million

2000-01

3.10

2001-02

5.56

2002-03

12.86

2003-04

17.17

2004-05

29.28

2005-06

58.83

We expect to spend £67 million this year through our bilateral programme. We are increasing our support because the DRC has 60 million people, almost all of whom are poor. In addition, progress in this vast country is essential for stability and poverty reduction in the whole of central Africa. Following successful elections, there is a real opportunity to sustain peace in DRC, although the new Government face enormous challenges. Our priority is to help them face these challenges and bring real improvements to the lives of poor people in DRC.

Departments: Energy

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what strategy he has put in place for (a) the use of renewable energy and (b) meeting energy targets in his Department’s buildings; and if he will make a statement. (125403)

As from December 2006, 100 per cent. of electricity used in DFID’s UK buildings is supplied from renewable sources.

We have recently worked with the Carbon Trust to carry out independent energy audits of our buildings, which have concluded that they are “inherently energy efficient”. However, in order to reduce our energy consumption we are currently reviewing options such as the installation of solar thermal panels, wind turbines and combined heat and power units, in order to meet our commitment to the long-term targets for energy efficiency and carbon emissions, as set out in the revised sustainable operations targets for the Government Estate announced in June 2006.

Developing Countries: Diseases

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what funding and resources have been allocated to tackle Yaws disease in developing countries. (125227)

The Global Yaws Control programme was launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1948, in collaboration with United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). DFID's unearmarked core contributions of £12.5 million to the WHO and £19 million to UNICEF for the financial year of 2005-06, support the organisation's efforts to tackle Yaws disease.

DFID has not provided any specific funding or resources to tackle Yaws disease but is increasingly funding the broader health sector plans of developing countries through poverty reduction budget support and sector- wide programming. Such sector programmes will build capacity in health services to diagnose and treat all major causes of illness.

Currently DFID funds two programmes on neglected diseases-The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF) who will receive £2.5 million through to 2010 and The African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) commonly known as river blindness, which has received £7.6 million to date.

DFID also supports research and development of drugs for neglected diseases through its £6.5 million support to Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDI) and £4.5 million to the Tropical Disease Research (TDR) special programme in the WHO for research into neglected tropical diseases.

Namibia: Overseas Aid

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what technical assistance and training has been provided to Namibia as part of the country's land reform proposals. (125293)

In 2004-05, DFID provided £98,000 to support the permanent technical team (PTT) which was set up in 2003 by the Government of Namibia, reporting to the Cabinet Committee, to produce the National Land Reform Action Plan (NLRAP), which it did in mid-2004.

DFID funding was used to support three areas of the PTT's work:

1. Regional workshops to allow widespread dissemination of the NLRAP;

2. Follow-up activities, such as a study on the impact of the NLRAP on farm workers;

3. Supporting the establishment of Land Boards and the implementation of the Communal Land Act, by funding specific studies and providing capacity building and training.

The EC has also allocated €34 million for Rural Development, including Land Reform, in Namibia under the 9th European Development Fund (EDF9) which covers the period 2003-07. The UK share of this is 12.7 per cent.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance is given by his Department to support education programmes in Namibia; and whether any of those programmes are delivered in English. (125291)

DFID no longer has a bilateral programme in Namibia and so is not bilaterally supporting education programmes there. We are, however, doing so through the European Commission (EC) which has allocated €21 million during the period 2003-07 to support education through the ‘Namibia Education Sector Programme’ under the 9th European Development Fund (EDF9). €18 million of this is provided directly to the Government of Namibia as earmarked budget support. The remaining €3 million are allocated to building capacity and providing of technical assistance in the education sector. The UK share of EDF9 is 12.7 per cent.

As the EC’s ‘Namibia Education Sector programme’ provides direct funding to the education budget in Namibia, it is the Government of Namibia's education policies that determine the language of instruction in schools. This recommends the use of mother tongues as the medium of instruction from grades 1 to 3, with grade 4 as a transitional grade. English is used as the medium of instruction from grades 5 to 12.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Avian Influenza

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to help other countries to control avian influenza. (125238)

As an international and EU reference laboratory for avian influenza, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) has responsibility for verifying other countries’ test results. The VLA takes a leading role in developing and defining standards and keeps abreast of the latest information. It has frequent discussions with its counterparts overseas and, as a result, is internationally recognised as a centre of excellence in veterinary research.

Since the H5N1 strain of the virus emerged in South East Asia four years ago, I have had discussions on a regular basis with ministerial counterparts in the EU. Ministers and officials have been actively involved in discussions and the provision of assistance, at an international level, on avian influenza. Examples of this include:

i. At the pledging conference in Bamako, Mali, on 6 to 8 December 2006, the fourth global bird flu summit since late last year, the UK Government committed to assist countries at risk or affected by avian influenza. The Department for International Development will provide £30 million over the next three years to support country, regional or global activities.

ii. The UK presidency of the EU in 2005 provided technical support (central research laboratories (CRL) and veterinary assistance) to many countries.

iii. Under the UK presidency, Commission funds were provided to enable OIE and the International Animal Health Organisation to hold technical programmes on Al in Eastern Europe.

iv. During our presidency, the UK delegation represented the EU at the international partnership on avian and pandemic influenza on 7 October 2006; and the Geneva partners’ meeting on avian and human pandemic influenza on 7 to 9 November.

v. The Government have significantly enhanced the arrangements for surveillance of wild birds, including the investigation of die-offs and sampling at shoots and wetlands. The arrangements have been agreed as part of co-ordinated efforts across the European Union.

vi. UK research bodies are also keen to collaborate with affected and at-risk countries. The Medical Research Council has a £10 million collaborative programme which can support such partnerships as required.

Badgers

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans there are to re-introduce the culling of badgers. (125535)

[holding answer 6 March 2007]: The Government will only consider introducing a policy which would allow the culling of badgers to control and reduce bovine TB, if the available evidence suggests that it would be successful in the long term, and that a cost-effective, practical, sustainable and humane policy could be developed and implemented.

Over the last year, DEFRA has been discussing, with interested parties, the questions around how the TB reservoir in badgers could be addressed. My ministerial colleagues and I have been considering the scientific and organisational questions around badger culling. We will need to reach conclusions on these issues before a decision can be made.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking in response to the recent change in incidence of TB among the badger population. (124906)

I am not aware of a recent upsurge in tuberculosis (TB) cases among the badger population. However, bovine TB is the most serious animal disease in this country at the moment and the main reservoir for the disease in wildlife is in badgers.

We continue to make progress with our research on vaccine development. We have started testing candidate vaccines in naturally infected cattle and badgers, as well as work on developing novel vaccine delivery systems, and we have committed to future funding of approximately £5.5 million per annum for this.

Nothing has been ruled in or out on the question of badger culling. We need to examine scientific and organisational questions about how the reservoir of the disease in the badger population can be addressed in a way which contains the disease rather than spreading it.

We also need to see cattle controls, including the recent extension of pre-movement testing to younger animals, as sensible precautions in and of themselves. Cattle controls have an important role to play in tackling this disease regardless of any decision on badger control.

Bernard Matthews

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the answer of 28 February 2007, Official Report, columns 1320-1W on Bernard Matthews, if he will bring forward amendments to the Animal Health Act 1981 to provide that the food producer is ultimately liable for the costs of any slaughter in the national interest. (125843)

The arrangements for animal health and welfare are currently under review.

The Government launched a consultation on ‘Responsibility and cost sharing for animal health and welfare: principles’ on 11 December 2006, seeking the views of the livestock industry, including businesses upstream and downstream, and consumer organisations.

A UK Responsibility and Cost Sharing Consultative Forum, made up of high-level UK industry representatives, was established in December 2006 to develop structures and mechanisms through which responsibilities and costs could be shared on animal health and welfare. In addition, DEFRA is working with other interested parties and consumers.

The intention is to introduce a Bill to allow the Government to extend coherent cost sharing principles across all animal health and welfare policies. This will provide the responsibility sharing needed to establish a new relationship with the livestock industry and to provide charging powers, such as individual charging or by establishing a levy mechanism for a group of individuals or an entire sector.

Dog Control Orders

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he plans to take to ensure that local authorities introducing dog control orders adhere to his Department’s published guidelines of ‘proportionate and reasonable’ response to the need for controls. (125504)

Although Dog Control Orders do not need confirmation by the Secretary of State, local authorities (LAs) can only introduce them after completing the procedure prescribed in the Dog Control Order (Procedures) Regulations 2006. The procedure includes a period of local consultation and notification in the local press. This gives dog owners and local residents the opportunity to make representations to the LA on the proposed controls. In our guidance to LAs on this issue, we have strongly advised them to consider any representations prior to making the orders. They should also provide details of alternative areas in the vicinity where owners can exercise their dogs. Failure to take into consideration the views of the local community could lead to the control order being challenged in the courts.

Officers authorised by secondary authorities must also complete a training course, approved by DEFRA, before they are able to issue fixed penalty notices for Dog Control Order offences.

Energy: Costs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the cost per kilowatt hour is of (a) tidal and wave power and (b) nuclear power; and if he will make a statement. (125261)

I have been asked to reply.

The results of modelling of the relative electricity generating costs of different technologies undertaken as part of the Energy Review can be seen at:

www.dti.gov.uk/files/file32014.pdf

The results of the modelling assume the cost of new nuclear power generation to be around £38/MWh, as a central case. The modelling also considered a high case of £44/MWh and a low case of £30/MWh.

The purpose of the modelling was to provide estimates of the relative cost of electricity generation technologies under different scenarios and assumptions to inform policy analysis. The estimates therefore do not represent the government view on the relative costs of the technologies.

The modelling carried out for the Energy Review did not consider the costs of emerging wave and tidal technologies.

However, the results of the Carbon Trust’s “Marine Energy Challenge” research programme show the lowest-cost offshore wave energy converters to be in a range from £120/MWh to £440/MWh, with central estimates in the sub-range of £220/MWh to £250/MWh.

Energy from initial tidal-stream farms was predicted to cost between £90/MWh and £180/MWh, with central estimates in the sub-range £120/MWh to £150/MWh.

The full Marine Energy Challenge report can be seen at:

www.carbontrust.co.uk/Publications/publicationdetail.htm?productid=CTC601&metaNoCache=1

The other form of tidal power is tidal impoundment that is the application of mature and well understood technology. This type of scheme was previously studied during the 1980’s at a number of potential sites, the largest being in the Severn Estuary. The results of the Severn study were reported in Energy Paper 57 HMSO 1989 (ISBN 0 11 412952 5). The unit cost of generation for the Severn scheme was estimated to be £75/MWh based upon 1994 prices.

Farms: Crime

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many crimes were reported on farms in England and Wales in each year since 1997, broken down by (a) type of crime and (b) county; and if he will make a statement. (123537)

Low Carbon Buildings Programme

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much Government funding has been allocated for the low carbon buildings programme during the next five years. (123760)

I have been asked to reply.

The low carbon buildings programme phase 1 and 2 has been allocated £80 million over the next three years to March 2009. There are no plans to increase the budget.

Pollution Control: Incinerators

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will issue guidance on the application of the Waste Incineration Directive (WID) to the conversion of a proportion of the burners in a power station to WID compliance with the purpose of burning refuse-derived fuel in those burners only. (124650)

The Waste Incineration Directive (WID) applies to incineration and co-incineration plants and includes those where waste is used as a fuel or is disposed of at a plant where energy generation or production is the main purpose. The WID, therefore, only requires an operator to upgrade those facilities at a power station in which waste is handled to WID standards.

The third edition of DEFRA’s guidance on the application of the Directive on the incineration of waste was published in June 2006. We do not intend to provide specific guidance on the conversion of power station burners to burn only refuse-derived fuel. However, the Environment Agency will be happy to discuss the details with any operator wishing to undertake such a conversion.

Transport

Blue Badge Scheme: Children

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his plans are to amend the Blue Badge regulations to allow disabled children under the age of two years with mobility needs to have access to badges; and if he will make a statement. (125840)

I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 26 February 2007, Official Report, columns 1011-1012W.

Bus Services: Bedfordshire

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made on the proposed Translink guided busway between Dunstable and Luton. (124607)

The Translink scheme was granted provisional approval in December 2003. Following a public inquiry, an order under the Transport and Works Act 1968 was issued on 2 November 2006 granting Luton powers they would need to commence construction of the scheme. It is now for Luton to prepare a revised business case for the Department to consider before deciding whether to grant funding approval to begin procurement.

Departments: Databases

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what databases are controlled by his Department and its agencies; and what percentage of the data in each database he estimates is inaccurate or out of date. (124026)

London Underground: Rolling Stock

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the letter of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron) of 8 February 2007, how he expects the £3.1 billion spending on London Underground’s train fleet sub-surface upgrade to be divided between (a) new trains, (b) new signalling and (c) other line/network improvements; and if he will make a statement. (125802)

[holding answer 6 March 2007]: Responsibility for London Underground passed to Transport for London and ultimately the Mayor on 15 July 2003. Performance and operation of the PPP Contracts is a matter for London Underground (LU). Delivery of the sub-surface line upgrades rests with LU’s PPP contractors and they will determine the amounts to be spent on the different elements of the upgrade in order to meet the outcomes described in the PPP contracts. As I stated in my letter of 8 February, about £266 million is being invested in new rolling stock (trains) and £433 million will be invested in new signalling, between 2005 and 2010, significant further investment will occur after 2010. It is not possible to disaggregate other investments such as the on-going station refurbishment programme or track replacement costs from the payments made by London Underground to its PPP contractors.

Motor Vehicles: Registration

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what response he has made to the report by Steve Langdon on the misregistration of vehicles; and if he will make a statement. (125866)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent action he has taken to tackle the misregistration of motor vehicles. (125686)

The Government has introduced a series of new measures to tackle misregistration of vehicles, which can take the form of vehicle cloning or registration of vehicles at incorrect addresses.

Measures to tackle vehicle cloning include new powers in the Road Safety Act 2006 to extend the regulation of number plate suppliers throughout the UK. Other measures include the introduction in 2006 of a standard for theft resistant number plates and the tightening up of vehicle registration procedures to prevent the use of scrapped vehicles to disguise the identity of stolen vehicles.

Measures to tackle registration of vehicles at incorrect addresses include identity checks on those registering imported vehicles and liaison with the police on applications from known ‘mail-drop’ addresses.

It is now an offence under the Serious Organised Crime Act (2005) to use an incorrectly registered vehicle.

Official Cars

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much was raised through the sale of cars by the Government Car and Despatch Agency in each of the last five years. (124611)

The Government Car and Despatch Agency sold the following cars:

Number of cars sold

Sale proceeds (£)

2002-03

45

156,699.36

2003-04

38

133,632.31

2004-05

77

223,014.74

2005-06

85

312,053.36

2006-07

75

305,930.15

Road Traffic: Accidents

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many road traffic accidents occurred in Eastbourne constituency in each year since 1997, broken down by (a) date and (b) location. (125664)

The number of reported personal injury road accidents in the parliamentary constituency of Eastbourne in each year since 1997 is given as follows. Separate figures for the date and location of each accident could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Number of accidents

1997

305

1998

359

1999

356

2000

330

2001

321

2002

348

2003

358

2004

340

2005

309

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust: Acute Beds

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations his Department has received on the transport infrastructure implications of the relocation of acute hospital services by West Hertfordshire NHS Trust. (125254)

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Cluster Munitions

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on the outcome of the Oslo conference on cluster munitions; and how her Department plans to implement the agreement reached at the conference. (124549)

The UK is pleased to be able to support the Oslo Declaration, committing us to work towards a new legally binding instrument on cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. The UK's interpretive statement at Oslo explains how this fits with our national policy available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at:

http://www.britishembassy.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&cid=1163677198241.

We will pursue the aim agreed at Oslo with all the users and producers through the convention on certain conventional weapons and other relevant fora.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with her (a) US, (b) Russian, (c) Chinese and (d) Israeli counterparts on the outcome of the Oslo conference on cluster munitions; what the outcome was of those discussions; and if she will make a statement. (124550)

I have not discussed cluster munitions with my US, Russian, Chinese or Israeli counterparts since the Oslo conference (22-23 February). The UK delegation to the conference on disarmament in Geneva has spoken to the aforementioned countries on the outcome of the Oslo conference and on addressing the issue of cluster munitions within the convention on certain conventional weapons. We continue to remain in close contact with these and other interested Governments on this important issue.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on the outcome of the Oslo conference on cluster munitions held on 22 and 23 February. (125337)

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Mr. Michael Moore) today (UIN 124549).

Colombia: EC Aid

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions her Department had with the Colombian Defence Minister during his recent visit on (a) UK and (b) EU support for Plan Colombia, part II; and if she will make a statement. (124584)

My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Kim Howells, held constructive talks with the Colombian Defence Minister, Juan Manuel Santos, during his recent visit to London. There was no specific mention of Plan Colombia, part II. However, issues discussed during the meeting included the peace process in Colombia and human rights reforms in the Colombian military. My hon. Friend the Minister of State also expressed the UK’s continuing support on counter-narcotics and stated that the UK was keen to encourage other EU member states to support Colombia in its counter- narcotics efforts.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Human Rights

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what her most recent assessment is of the observance of (a) human rights and (b) women’s rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (125177)

The human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is still poor. Congolese civilians, particularly in eastern DRC, continue to suffer abuses committed by members of the Congolese armed forces and militia groups. A climate of impunity prevails.

Widespread sexual violence is still prevalent, especially in the east. It is perpetrated mainly by the armed forces and frequently goes unpunished. Representation of women in Government, Parliament and the commercial sector is still low, despite strong assertion of equal rights in the new constitution. The UK is continuing its efforts to mainstream gender in its development assistance, but the most immediate impact will be felt through bringing about army reform and strengthening the justice sector.

The UK will continue to remind the DRC authorities of the need to protect the rights of all vulnerable groups and to bring to justice all perpetrators of abuse.

Departments: St George's Day

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans her Department has to celebrate St. George’s Day. (125786)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has no central plans to celebrate St. George’s Day. FCO staff overseas may be involved in celebrating local St. George’s Day activities.

Hissene Habre

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with (a) the Government of Senegal and (b) her EU counterparts on the trial of the former president of Chad, Hissene Habre, and potential EU assistance in that trial. (125235)

The UK has regular consultations with EU colleagues on the progress of Hissene Habre’s trial, most recently in the Africa Working Group on 28 February. We will continue, with the EU, to discuss and review the development of the trial.

Our ambassador in Dakar made representations to the Government of Senegal in October 2006 to urge them to pass the required legislation to enable the trial of Hissene Habre to be held in Senegal with minimum delay. We welcome the passing of the necessary legislation by the Sengalese National Assembly on 31 January 2007 to permit a trial to take place in Senegal and urge the Government of Senegal to expedite the process.

Indonesia: Defence Equipment

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions concerning strategic exports Ministers in her Department had with Indonesian Ministers during their visit to the UK in January; and if she will make a statement. (125897)

On 31 January I had discussions with the Indonesian Trade Minister on promoting bilateral trade and investment.

On the same day, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary took part in a bilateral forum with the Indonesian Foreign, Trade and Defence Ministers, which covered the Doha Development Round and the possibility of a Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and the Association of South East Asian Nations.

No strategic export sectors were discussed.

Iran: Hezbollah

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what her assessment is of the impact of recent efforts to enforce UNSCR 1559 and 1701 on the transfer of (a) funds and (b) weapons to Hezbollah from Iran; and if she will make a statement; (123957)

(2) what estimate has been made of the level of funding provided to Hezbollah by Iran since August 2006; and if she will make a statement.

Following UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1701, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has deployed over 11,000 troops in South Lebanon. UNIFIL also operates a Maritime Task Force, which assists the Government of Lebanon in implementing UNSCR 1701. In addition, the Lebanese armed forces have deployed 8,500 troops in South Lebanon and 8,500 troops along the Lebanon/Syria border. The UK and other international partners are working with the Government of Lebanon to strengthen Lebanon’s border monitoring capability further. We continue to receive credible reports that Iran continues to supply Hezbollah with financing and weapons, but we cannot reliably estimate the level of this.

We call on Iran and other regional states and Hezbollah to comply with UNSCRs 1559, 1680 and 1701.

Iraq: Politics and Government

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with her Iraqi counterpart on the proposed referendum on the future of the Kirkuk; and if she will make a statement. (123956)

I discussed the proposed referendum on the future of Kirkuk during my meeting with Prime Minister Maliki and Foreign Minister Zebari during their visit to the UK in July 2006 and my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Middle East (Dr. Howells) discussed the proposed referendum during his visit to Kurdish-administered Iraq in July 2006. We continue to raise the prospects for Kirkuk in our meetings with the Iraqi and Kurdish regional governments.

Japan: Dolphins

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what reports she has received on the recent slaughter and sale of dolphins off the Japanese coast; (125722)

(2) what recent meetings she has had with Japan on the slaughter and sale of dolphins.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made no assessment and has had no meetings.

Stock assessments of whales and small cetaceans are the responsibility of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), of which the UK is an active member. The UK opposes the hunting of dolphins and porpoises by Japan and regularly raises the matter with Japanese representatives at the IWC.

Kamal Al-Labwani

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on what occasions representatives of the UK Government have been present at legal proceedings in Syria concerning Dr. Kamal al-Labwani; what assessment she has made of the legal proceedings; and if she will make a statement. (123739)

Representatives of the Government have been present regularly at legal proceedings in Syria concerning Dr. Kamal al-Labwani.

Dr. Kamal al-Labwani, a Syrian national, is being detained at the Adra criminal prison. He was arrested in October 2005 on his return from the United States. He is being tried under article 264 of the Syrian Penal Code, accused of inciting a foreign power to commit an aggressive act against Syria. He is also accused of spreading lies and false information against the state.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether representatives of the UK Government will attend future legal proceedings in Syria concerning Dr. Kamal al-Labwani; and if she will make a statement. (123740)

Representatives of the EU and the US embassy in Damascus will continue to attend the trial of Dr. Kamal al-Labwani. An official from our embassy in Damascus attends the trial regularly as part of the EU delegation.

Lebanon: Syria

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 24 October 2006, Official Report, columns 1765-6W, on the international arms embargo, what progress has been made by the Government of Syria and the Government of Lebanon in (a) setting up an effective interdiction regime to give effect to the arms embargo set out in UNSCR 1701 and (b) establishing joint Lebanese-Syrian border patrols. (123981)

Following UN Security Council Resolution 1701 the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has deployed over 11,000 troops. UNIFIL has been successful in large parts of its mandate, especially in helping the Lebanese armed forces extend to the South of Lebanon and tighten sea and air borders. The international community continues to work with the Government of Lebanon to improve the security of its borders. However, we have seen little progress on setting up an effective interdiction regime by the Government of Syria, and joint Lebanese/Syrian border patrols have not been established.

NATO: EC Action

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs who represented the United Kingdom at the informal translatlantic meeting of EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation foreign ministers of 7 December 2005. (122986)

My right hon. Friend, the then Foreign Secretary (Mr. Straw) attended the informal transatlantic dinner event.

Palestinians

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on the extent of UK involvement in security-related projects in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. (123955)

We remain concerned at the security situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and continue to work closely with international partners to improve the situation on the ground.

The UK plays a significant role in supporting the Palestinian security forces (our bilateral funding this financial year has been over US$1.6 million). The major projects are: US$320,000 for the maintenance of secure communications equipment for the Palestinian Authority Security Forces; US$600,000 for two secondees to the EU Police Co-ordination for the Palestinian Police Service (EUPOL COPPS); and US$700,000 for non-lethal equipment for the Presidential Guard. In respect of this last item, we informed the House about this project on 8 February. All these projects have been or will be financed through the Global Conflict Prevention Pool.

We also strongly support EU security work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Our assessed contribution to the European Security and Defence Policy Missions, EU Border Assistance Mission and EUPOL COPPS, amounts to US$3.8 million.

The UK is also working closely with US Security Co-ordinator General Dayton and his team in support of Security Sector Transformation within the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Karni Crossing Project to improve the flow of goods from Gaza. We have seconded a military liaison officer and a police adviser to General Dayton’s team. A training officer is due to go out to the region shortly.

Somalia: Official Visits

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on the visit of the President of the Transitional Federal Republic of Somalia to the UK on 21 to 22 February. (123972)

President Yusuf of the Transitional Federal Republic of Somalia visited the UK as a guest of the Government. His programme included calls on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development and my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham. He also called on the Foreign Affairs Committee and spoke at Chatham House.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions the Minister for Africa had on the independence of Somaliland from Somalia when she met the President of the Transitional Federal Republic of Somalia on 22 February; what the outcome was of the discussions; and if she will make a statement. (123973)

The independence of Somaliland was not discussed in any detail when President Yusuf of the Transitional Federal Republic of Somalia met my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, on 22 February. We continue to encourage the Transitional Federal Government and institutions to discuss with the Somaliland authorities all issues of mutual interest.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1744, on Somalia; and what assessment she has made of its possible implementation. (123975)

We welcome the unanimous adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1744, sponsored by the UK, on 20 February 2007. It authorises the African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), as well as reiterating the need for reconciliation and a political process in Somalia and permitting support to the Transitional Federal Government and institutions to develop their own security sector. We commend the AU for establishing AMISOM and welcome the expected contributions from AU countries.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1725, on Somalia; and if she will make a statement. (123976)

UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1725 has largely been overtaken by the adoption of UNSCR 1744 on 20 February 2007, following recent events in Somalia. Part of UNSCR 1725’s focus was on the Union of Islamic Courts which has ceased to exist as an entity. Another part of its focus was on a peacekeeping mission of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Somalia, which has now been replaced by the African Union Mission in Somalia.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions the Minister for Africa had on efforts to establish an African Union peacekeeping force for Somalia with the President of Transitional Federal Government of Somalia when they met on 22 February; what the outcome was of those discussions; and if she will make a statement. (123977)

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, discussed the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) with President Yusuf of Somalia when they met on 22 February. They agreed the arrival of AMISOM would help the security situation in Somalia and allow Ethiopia to withdraw. Lord Triesman also welcomed President Yusuf’s earlier announcement of a National Reconciliation Congress, which will contribute to stabilising the political situation. The UK stands ready to assist this process.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representation the Government have maintained at African Union discussions on establishing a peacekeeping force for Somalia; what role those representatives played at the discussions; and if she will make a statement. (123978)

Our embassy in Addis Ababa has been closely involved in discussions on the establishment of the African Union (AU) mission in Somalia (AMISOM) with our counterparts in the AU and other international partners also supporting AMISOM. In particular, they have stressed the importance of AMISOM replacing Ethiopian troops in order to avoid a security vacuum.

The embassy’s contribution is directed at encouraging potential troop contributing countries to commit troops, supporting the AU in developing detailed deployment plans and working with the AU’s other international partners, notably the EU, UN and the United States, to join in this effort in order to seize this historic opportunity to bring peace and stability to Somalia. UN Security Council Resolution 1744 of 20 February, which was sponsored by the UK, authorised the deployment of AMISOM.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the progress of efforts to secure an African Union peacekeeping force for Somalia; and what resources the Government have offered to contribute to this force. (123979)

We welcome the expected contributions to the African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia from Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Burundi and Malawi and hope further countries will also offer troops.

In addition to advisory support to the AU through our representation to the AU, based in our embassy in Addis Ababa, we are considering a significant financial contribution in this financial year to help fund the cost of the mission. We will consider further support as detailed plans for the mission develop.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of progress towards the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia; whether she has discussed this issue with her (a) Ethiopian, (b) Somali, (c) European Union and (d) United States counterparts; and if she will make a statement. (123980)

Ethiopian troops have begun to withdraw from Somalia, in line with the Ethiopian Government’s stated intention. My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, and UK Government officials have had discussions with representatives of Ethiopia, Somalia, the European Union and the United States. There is general agreement that Ethiopia needs to continue to withdraw as the African Union mission in Somalia deploys, to avoid a security vacuum in Somalia.

South America: Cocaine

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps her Department is taking to tackle cocaine imported into the UK from South America. (125851)

Preventing the importation of cocaine from Latin America into the UK is a top priority for the UK’s international counter-narcotics efforts. The UK works closely with host Governments to disrupt trafficking, and to seize consignments of illicit drugs and their financial proceeds. We are helping to build capacity among the region’s law enforcement agencies and judiciary, with the provision of training and equipment. We work closely with other partners including the EU and US to maximise joint effort.

The UK devotes considerable resources within the region in its fight against cocaine and in helping to reduce harm to the UK. Through its Drugs and Crime Fund, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has allocated some £1.7 million to specific projects to support counter-narcotics efforts in the Latin American region since 2005. For the financial year commencing April 2007, a sum of £960,000 has provisionally been allocated.

The Government take a broad approach to tackling the trade in illicit drugs, through a mix of political engagement, capacity building and law enforcement support in producer, transit and consumer countries. This includes working with Governments of producer and transit countries in Latin America, as well as with Governments in countries along the main trafficking routes for drugs from Latin America (especially through the Caribbean and West Africa).

Sudan: Asylum

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of (a) levels of internal conflict within the Central African Republic and (b) the impact of the conflict in Darfur on security and numbers of refugees in the Republic. (124701)

The UK is concerned over the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR). We were pleased to see reports of the peace agreement made on 2 February between President Bozize and various rebel groups operating in the CAR, which provides for an immediate cessation of hostilities. We hope that this will promote the advance of national reconciliation and the agreement of a comprehensive accord to be signed by all the national stakeholders.

The CAR suffers from internal conflict and from the impact of instability in the region. The UK will continue to work with the UN and other member states to determine how the deployment of a peacekeeping force to Chad and the CAR could best improve security in the region.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent estimate she has made of the number who have (a) died, (b) become internally displaced and (c) become refugees into neighbouring countries as a result of the conflict in Sudan. (124850)

There are no reliable figures for the number of persons that have died across Darfur as a result of the conflict. However, a frequently-quoted, and plausible, figure is 200,000. An estimated 2 million people have been displaced in Darfur and a further 2 million remained displaced as a result of the earlier conflict between the north and south; though many of the latter are now returning. As a result of the Darfur conflict there are 233,000 Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad. There are 340,000 refugees from southern Sudan in neighbouring countries.

Every death and every displacement in Sudan is a tragedy. We call on all sides to cease the violence in Darfur immediately, to renew the political process and accept the African Union/UN peacekeeping force for Darfur.

Sudan: Human Rights

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the UN on those cited for human rights abuses in Darfur as a result of the International Criminal Court investigation. (125031)

The Government welcome the fact that the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor’s investigation has got to the point at which he is able to ask for the issuing of summonses. It is now for the judges to decide whether to approve this request. The UK has not discussed the individuals under investigation with the UN given the ICC’s independent status. However, UK officials are in regular contact with officials of the ICC about a range of issues and the court continues to have the Government’s full support for its activities.

Sudan: Peace Keeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has held with counterparts on the United Nations Security Council on a peacekeeping force for (a) the Central African Republic and (b) Chad to prevent incursions from Darfur. (124628)

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, travelled to New York on 21 February to discuss the deteriorating situation in the region with the UN. In addition, Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials have regular consultations with colleagues from other Security Council member states on the current situation in Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR).

We remain very concerned about the humanitarian situation in eastern Chad and CAR and the over spill of violence from Darfur. We take every opportunity to call on the Governments of Chad and Sudan to implement their commitments to respect each other’s borders and honour their obligations to protect their citizens.

On 27 February, Assistant Secretary-General Hedi Annabi briefed the Security Council in closed consultations on the Secretary-General’s recommendations for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force in Chad and CAR following a second Technical Assessment Mission to the two countries.

The UK will continue to work with the UN and other member states to determine if and how the deployment of a peacekeeping force could best improve security in the region.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government’s policy is on the Government of Sudan’s position on an African Union/United Nations force in Darfur. (124754)

The Government of Sudan agreed in Addis Ababa in November 2006 to a phased increase of UN support to the African Union (AU) Mission in Sudan, subject to clarification on the size of the final stage, which is a hybrid UN/AU force. The details of the hybrid are currently being worked out between the AU and UN. We call upon the Government of Sudan to facilitate the implementation of these once they have been finalised.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the United Nations mission in Sudan. (124755)

The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) plays a crucial role in supporting the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in January 2005. It has supported the political process and reported on ceasefire violations. It has also provided much-needed security for the CPA to progress. We, along with partners in the international community, work closely with UNMIS and the Government of Sudan to that end. UN agencies provide substantial humanitarian assistance in the south.

The UN Secretary-General stated in his report on Sudan of 25 January that the Ceasefire Joint Military Committee, chaired by UNMIS, was facilitating dialogue between the military forces of the north and south and resolving military violations of the CPA.

The UN also plays an important role in Darfur. It provides much of the humanitarian assistance there and co-ordinates the work of other agencies. It performs well in difficult circumstances. It is also implementing its phased support package to the African Union (AU) Mission in Sudan and is working with the AU to secure the agreement of the rebels to the Darfur Peace Agreement. We are encouraging it to undertake both these tasks as rapidly as possible.

Sudan: Peace Negotiations

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support the UK Government have provided to bring together the Darfur rebel groups and the Government of Sudan. (124753)

The UK has been at the forefront of efforts to bring peace to Darfur. We assisted the African Union (AU) mediation between the Government of Sudan and the rebel movements at the Abuja peace talks, which concluded in May 2006, with funding of £1 million and expertise. We maintained a permanent observer presence throughout the talks, including by our UK Special Representative. Since then we have been funding work to help the AU explain the benefits of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) to the people of Darfur. And we are funding an expert to support the AU on the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development attended the UN high-level meeting in Addis Ababa on 16 November 2006, which agreed that the AU and UN would bring the Government of Sudan and the rebel movements together in a renewed political process. We have been pressing the AU and UN for urgent progress. UN and AU Envoys (Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim) visited Sudan on 11-17 February to take this process forward with the parties.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has pressed the UN Secretary-General for rapid action and my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, visited the UN on 21 February to press for further progress. Officials from our embassy in Khartoum met the UN and AU envoys during their visit. The UK’s Special Representative for Sudan, Christopher Prentice, will remain in close contact with them and our other international partners, as well as with the Government of Sudan and the rebel movements, to press for results.