§ Norman Baker
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 15 October 2002,Official Report, column 540W, on military companies, how many private military companies he estimates provide forces for combat; and how many United Kingdom nationals in total he estimates are so employed. 
§ Mr. Ingram
As I explained in my answer of 15 October to the hon Member, the FCO Green Paper entitled "Private Military Companies: Options for Regulation" published on 12 February 2002 highlighted the problem of defining a private military company. I noted that in practice, a wide spectrum of people and companies may be involved in the supply of military and security services. The Green Paper also notes that the distinction between combat and non-combat operations is not always clear. Companies may employ only a relatively small core of full-time staff and recruit personnel for individual contracts on a case-by-case basis. United Kingdom nationals could also potentially operate overseas on a freelance basis, but such activity is difficult to monitor. Given these difficulties, it is not possible to provide any meaningful estimates of the number of companies that provide forces for combat or how many United Kingdom nationals are so employed. The absence of any register of companies describing themselves as Private Military Companies further undermines any attempt to produce a meaningful estimate.