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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 26 October 1999

DEFENCE

Armed Forces Personnel

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will review the policy of allowing armed forces personnel below the age of 18 years to serve in war zones, in peacekeeping or other combat roles; and if he will make a statement. [94344]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 19 October 1999]: The armed forces recruit only volunteers, and those who join under the age of 18 do so only with the written consent of parents and guardians. No personnel are deployed until they are well into their 17th year and only after they have undergone thorough professional training. Our recruitment and deployment policies are in line with international standards set by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the recent International Labour Convention 182 which prohibits the forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.

Training (Armed Forces)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list average training days, by Army trade, for (a) 1997 and (b) 1998. [95411]

Mr. Spellar: The information asked for is not available in the form requested and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. However, the length of time typically taken for a soldier to progress from enlistment to completion of Specialist Training, i.e. to be sent to the Field Army as a trained soldier, is shown in the table, broken down by Arm or Corps. These times do not change significantly from year to year and are based on current information.

Days

Arm or CorpsTime in basic trainingTime in specialist trainingTotal
Royal Armoured Corps90117207
Infantry90138228
Army Air Corps90175265
Royal Artillery90111201
Royal Engineers90505595
Royal Signals90398488
Royal Logistics Corps90282372
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers90559649
Adjutant Generals Corps9062152

Falkland Islands

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Falkland Islanders have enlisted in HM armed forces in each year since 1981. [95312]

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Mr. Spellar: Data readily available indicate that:




In the case of the Naval Service and the Army, information prior to the dates indicated could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Falkland Islanders are currently serving in each service of HM armed forces. [95313]

Mr. Spellar: Data readily available indicate that there are no Falkland Islanders currently serving in the Naval Service, Army or RAF.

Mr. Connarty: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on force levels in the Falkland Islands. [96090]

Mr. Hoon: The Government remain firmly committed to the defence of the Falkland Islands and the right of the Islanders to determine their own future. There are no plans to make changes to the front line strength of our forces stationed there. We have concluded however that minor adjustments can be made to some elements of the Falklands garrison without diminishing our ability to ensure the security of the Islands. These adjustments will reduce the number of service men and service women stationed there by around 100. The first of these adjustments, the withdrawal of a contingent of Royal Engineers, took place in early September. The remaining changes will be implemented over the coming months. These changes are a further demonstration of this Government's efforts to ease the burden on the armed forces where at all possible.

Northern Ireland

Mr. William Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans the General Officer Commanding in Northern Ireland has to close Army bases or establishments in the Province within the next three months. [95341]

Mr. Spellar: The General Officer Commanding in Northern Ireland keeps the operational requirement for Army bases in the Province constantly under review. No decision has been taken to close any base within the next three months.

Manpower Commitments

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list total manpower commitments for the Armed Forces in each year since 1995; and what has been the total manpower available in each year. [95324]

Mr. Spellar: We do not hold information on total manpower commitments in the form that the hon. Member requests. These will vary at any point in a year depending

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on the circumstances. The total trained strength of the Armed Forces, including Gurkhas, on 1 April of each year since 1995 was as follows:

Number
1 April 1995226,328
1 April 1996212,164
1 April 1997197,390
1 April 1998193,914
1 April 1999190,506

Our commitment to achieve full manning in all three Services is a key component of the Strategic Defence Review (SDR). Recruiting is buoyant; for example, the Army have just had their best recruiting year this decade, and each Service is taking vigorous steps to tackle the problem of retention.


Under 18-year-olds

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many under-18-year-old UK service personnel are serving in (a) Northern Ireland and (b) Kosovo. [95684]

Mr. Spellar: As at 1 September 1999, the latest date for which figures are available, the numbers of UK service personnel under 18 years of age serving in Northern Ireland and Kosovo are:



    Kosovo: 49.

Iraq

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the cost of United Kingdom military actions against Iraq in the current financial year; and what proportion of those costs have been borne by (a) UK public funds and (b) other sources. [95547]

Mr. Hoon: Information on the expenditure to date this year on ongoing military operations in the Gulf is not held centrally and could be collated only with disproportionate effort. However, excluding the value of assistance provided through host nation support, expenditure on such operations last year amounted to some £35 million, and is forecast to be some £28 million this year.

Disposal Sales Agency

Mr. Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement setting out the key targets which have been set for the Disposal Sales Agency for financial year 1999-2000. [96020]

Mr. Spellar: Since its launch in October 1994 the Agency has brought in over £400 million in gross sales receipts and has achieved significant efficiency savings through contractorisation of the disposals business. The Key Targets which have been set for the Chief Executive of the Disposal Sales Agency for this financial year are aimed at a continued focus on receipts, much of which has been achieved through British companies participation, and to ensure continual improvement in efficiency and working practices.

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The Chief Executive of the Agency has been set the following key targets for the financial year 1999-2000:



    To reduce the unit cost of generating £1 million of sales to £62,500 from a baseline of £90,500 achieved in 1994-95.


    To undertake customer satisfaction surveys designed to identify key issues and priorities, measure perceptions and expectations, and to communicate results and benefits of actions taken to Agency's customer base.

Bosnia

Ms Dari Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the current security situation in Bosnia and the potential implications for the numbers of UK troops deployed there. [96088]

Mr. Hoon: The UK remains fully committed to supporting NATO operations in Bosnia. In conjunction with Allies, we have just completed a careful assessment of the current security situation in Bosnia. The situation has improved sufficiently in the four years since the deployment of the Implementation Force (IFOR) for NATO to move safely to a restructured force, of some 20,000 members. The implication for UK forces is that 900 personnel will now return to the UK, without replacement, before Christmas. The UK contribution to the Stabilisation Force (SFOR) will then stand at some 3,300.

Defence Evaluation and Research Agency

Ms Squire: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will announce a decision on the way ahead for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency public private partnership proposals. [96089]

Mr. Hoon: Following the announcement on 6 July that further discussions with stakeholders were continuing, we have held consultations with interested parties, including UK industry, our international partners, DERA staff and trade unions. In response to the feedback we have received, and a number of views expressed, we have decided to widen the scope of these discussions to address the issues raised in the consultation process. We will now undertake further work on these issues. This process will continue into the New Year.

We continue to work positively for a PPP result which will strengthen DERA's ability to continue to provide world class scientific research and enable it to be a flexible and responsive organisation which can attract investment and develop new business, while at the same time preserving our essential defence interests and maintaining our valuable collaborative relationships.


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