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Written Statements

Volume 596: debated on Thursday 4 June 2015

Written Statements

Thursday 4 June 2015

Defence

Chemical Weapons Convention

The UK’s chemical protection programme is designed to protect against the use of chemical weapons. Such a programme is permitted by the chemical weapons convention, with which the United Kingdom is fully compliant. Under the terms of the convention, we are required to provide information annually to the organisation for the prohibition of chemical weapons. In accordance with the Government’s commitment to openness, I am placing in the Library of the House a copy of the summary that has been provided to the organisation outlining the UK’s chemical protection programme in 2014.

[HCWS15]

National Employer Advisory Board

Following open competition, I am pleased to advise the House of the appointment of seven new members to the National Employer Advisory Board (NEAB). They are:

Mr Bagnall

Mr Bird

Mr Carter

Mr McTague

Mr Randeniya

Mr Sproule

Mr Walkinshaw

They join the other seven members of the board, which is chaired by Mr Richard Boggis-Rolfe. The NEAB provides informed independent strategic advice to the Ministry of Defence and the reserves community about how they can most effectively develop their relationship with employers across the UK and particularly employers of members of the armed forces and veterans. I take this opportunity to thank the NEAB for its work which is greatly valued by the Ministry of Defence.

[HCWS16]

Energy and Climate Change

Energy Council

In advance of the forthcoming Energy Council in Luxembourg on 8 June, I am writing to outline the agenda items to be discussed.

Under the first item on the agenda, the Council will hold a policy debate on implementation of the EU energy security strategy, focusing on achievement in strengthening energy security in Europe since adoption of the strategy in 2014, priorities for next steps to be taken and how to ensure synergies between the various tools that can contribute to energy security in the EU. The UK considers that there have been a number of developments in the EU that will have a positive impact on energy security, including the agreement of the 2030 climate and energy framework and the development of the energy union. Looking ahead, the UK considers that delivering a fully functional single energy market, building resilience into the system and diversifying energy supplies should all continue to be priorities.

The Council will then be asked to adopt conclusions on the implementation of the framework strategy for the energy union focusing on empowering consumers and incentivising investments in the energy sector. The UK agrees that more needs to be done to enhance competitiveness in the internal energy market to deliver benefits for consumers and that particular priority needs to be given to the facilitation of new interconnection and investment projects.

The Commission will then report on developments in external energy relations, including recent trilateral talks on energy issues between the EU, Russia and Ukraine, and developments in the energy community.

The Czech delegation will update Council on discussions held at the plenary meeting of the European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF) which took place in Prague in May.

Finally, the Luxembourg delegation will inform the Council of the priorities for their presidency in the first half of 2016.

[HCWS13]

Justice

Service Personnel Deaths (Inquests)

Together with my hon. Friend the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, I present our latest joint statement on the progress of coroner investigations into the deaths of UK service personnel on active service overseas. Our armed forces demonstrate great courage, commitment and self-sacrifice in their service to our country, and it is right that they receive our heartfelt gratitude. Most of all we remember and honour those who have laid down their lives in the service of their country, and the families they leave behind.

This statement sets out the progress of investigations being held by the senior coroners for Oxfordshire, for Wiltshire and Swindon and for other coroner areas in England and Wales as at 22 May 2015.

Tables to supplement this report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. These give details of all cases, including whether there has been or will be a service inquiry—known as a board of inquiry in the earlier years covered.

The defence inquests unit of the Ministry of Defence continues to work closely with coroners—including the dedicated cadre of coroners with special training in service personnel inquests—to make sure that everything possible is done to progress and complete investigations quickly and thoroughly. There is now provision under section 12 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 for investigations to be held in Scotland, where appropriate, rather than in England and Wales.

We are thankful to all who are involved in the course of these investigations: to those who provide support and assistance to bereaved families; to the coroners and their staff who seek to conduct thorough investigations which put the bereaved families at their heart; and for the Chief Coroner for his leadership and oversight of the coroner service.

Repatriations of service personnel who have died overseas have mainly taken place at RAF Brize Norton and RAF Lyneham. To enable the senior coroners for Oxfordshire and for Wiltshire and Swindon to conduct inquests into these deaths alongside their local case load, additional funding has been provided to both areas since 2007 by the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Justice.

Current status of inquests

Since our last statement on 29 January 2015 there have been six inquests into the deaths of service personnel on operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. This brings the total of inquests into the deaths of service personnel who have died on active service in Iraq or Afghanistan or who have died in the UK of injuries sustained on active service to 624. Three deaths of injured service personnel have not led to a formal inquest. Two of these were taken into consideration at inquests into other deaths which occurred in the same incidents. The third case concerned a serviceman in Scotland who made a partial recovery but later died from his injuries, and it was decided not to hold a fatal accident inquiry.

Coroners’ investigations which have been opened

As at 22 May, seven coroner investigations are open into the deaths of service personnel in Afghanistan.

The senior coroner for Oxfordshire has retained five of these. The other two investigations are being conducted by the senior coroners for Gateshead and south Tyneside and for West Sussex, whose courts are closer to the next of kin. A pre-inquest hearing date of 2 November 2015 has been set for one of these inquests. Hearing dates have not yet been listed for the remaining six inquests.

We will continue to inform the House of progress.

Attachments can be viewed online at:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2015-06-04/HCWS14/

[HCWS14]