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Leisure and Recreation Facilities

4. Mr. David Ruffley (Bury St. Edmunds): What recent representations he has received regarding the use of his Department's leisure and recreation facilities by civilian members of the public; and if he will make a statement. [100956]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Peter Kilfoyle): We welcome public use of the Department's leisure and recreational facilities provided that it does not conflict with the Department's operational purposes, safety or security requirements, or the interests of the Department's landlords, tenants or conservation. Where such use is agreed, fees are usually charged and an appropriate insurance policy is put in place. Representations are received frequently from members of the public wishing to use such facilities. Such requests are either agreed or denied based on the above constraints.

Mr. Ruffley: May I draw the Minister's attention to the £4 million new facility at Wattisham MOD base in my constituency, which is a physical and recreational training centre comprising a 25 m swimming pool, physiotherapy and weight-training rooms and a sports hall? Is he aware that some of my constituents have pointed out that, given that taxpayers paid for that excellent new facility, local civilians in the Needham market area should be allowed access to it? As everyone is interested in getting value for taxpayers' money, will he consider implementing arrangements at the Wattisham base to allow local civilians to use those fine facilities?

Mr. Kilfoyle: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's comments about Wattisham. He may not know it, but that is one of two pilot schemes, which are evidence of the success of the smart construction initiative. I have been

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there and seen the fine work being done. I would be more than happy for the people of Wattisham to be able to access those facilities, subject to the constraints that I mentioned, and subject to the unit commander reaching agreement with local community representatives on the use of those facilities.

Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve

5. Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): What assessments he has made of the prospective level of recruitment and retention in the TAVR during each of the next three years. [100957]

6. Mr. Nick St. Aubyn (Guildford): If he will make a statement on the level of recruitment to the Territorial Army. [100958]

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. John Spellar): My Department has recently completed an assessment of anticipated recruitment and retention for the reserves as part of the armed forces' forward manpower planning. We are confident that, over the next three years, the reserve forces will be able to both recruit and retain sufficient numbers of volunteers to fulfil and sustain the roles set out for them in the strategic defence review.

Mr. Hughes: That is an encouraging answer. However, I gather that only three out of five reservists are available to go into service, having finished their training, and that in the field hospital just over the river in my constituency in Walworth, for example, only about half have signed up for humanitarian aid or multinational work because ofthe financial implications of that. Will the Minister re-examine the terms and conditions that can be offered to doctors, nurses and the like, who want to be available as reserves to do humanitarian work with our services, but at present cannot do that without prejudice to their jobs or their careers?

Mr. Spellar: The hon. Gentleman touches on an important point. I am pleased to say that we have had constructive discussions with the NHS regarding the availability of those who work in the NHS and who are also members of the reserve forces. It would be fair to say that there were difficulties in the past, but those have decreased and we are getting far fewer complaints in that regard. If, however, the hon. Gentleman wants to raise specific concerns with us, I should be more than happy to look into them, recognising that there has been a great improvement in relations, to the benefit of both the NHS and the defence medical services.

Mr. St. Aubyn: Will the Minister confirm that, for the first time since the second world war, whole units of the Territorial Army are being called up for a peace-keeping role in Kosovo and Bosnia? Will he also confirm that the cuts in the Territorial Army, which his Government have imposed, will represent savings of less than 1 per cent. of the total defence budget in any one year? Finally, will he recognise the effect on towns such as Guildford of cutting the historic tie between the TA and our town, and the effect that that will have on future recruitment not just in the Territorial Army, but in the main Army?

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Mr. Spellar: The hon. Gentleman asks a number of questions. He spoke about calling up units. That was part of the legislation agreed by both parties under the previous Administration for reserve forces.

Mr. St. Aubyn: But not for cuts.

Mr. Spellar: I will come to the hon. Gentleman's second question. He insists on asking three questions in one, but I shall answer serially. The restructuring under the strategic defence review was to reshape our reserve forces to meet the needs of the post-cold war era, rather than the pre-cold war era, and therefore to focus less on home protection and reinforcement of infantry, and far more on the specialist roles of the various reserve services. We have been doing that successfully, to ensure that our reserve forces are both usable and used.

Departmental Land

7. Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): What progress has been made since 1 May 1997 in disposing of land and housing held surplus to requirements. [100959]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Peter Kilfoyle): My Department has made good progress in disposing of surplus land since 1 May 1997. During the financial years 1997-98 and 1998-99, disposal receipts from such sales totalled some£302 million.

Mr. Pike: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Two of the three barracks in which I did my national service in the Royal Marines--Eastney and Deal--are now closed. Can my hon. Friend confirm that the Government's record of selling such assets and using the proceeds to regenerate local communities is far better than that of the previous Government?

Mr. Kilfoyle: I am bound to agree with my hon. Friend, but whether the Opposition would accept that is a different matter. Following the comprehensive spending review and the strategic defence review, we have set in train a process whereby, over a four-year period, we will raise more than £700 million in capital receipts from surplus assets. Moreover, we have a large number of brownfield sites dotted about the country and we fully intend to bring as many of those as possible back into practical use, rather than leaving them to rot away and waste, as was the case under the previous Government. The brownfield land alone would be enough to build 26,000 new homes.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): Given that those figures are below the trend line required to meet the £700 million requirement; given that the first part of the figures would have included receipts generated from the defence cost studies process; given the time it takes to get property receipts into the budget; given that the Department is struggling hugely to meet its £2 billion a year efficiency savings programme, and, as we have just heard, that we have given a commitment to strengthen our military capability which is bleeding away as experience bleeds out of the armed forces and as the retention figures deteriorate, will the Department go back to the Treasury

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to insist that the defence budget is not required to meet any undershoot if it fails to meet the property savings targets?

Mr. Kilfoyle: I hate to disillusion the hon. Gentleman, but the reality is that we shall meet our targets. We are ahead of the targets and doing extremely well with property sales. Some large sales are looming, which I think will take us beyond the figures that we have anticipated. I am confident that we shall meet all the ambitions that we have set out in the strategic defence review.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): Through the success of my hon. Friend in the sale of housing and land that are no longer needed, will he ensure that overseas housing is brought up to a habitable standard and then ensure that our armed forces are treated as well overseas as in the United Kingdom, which will help with retention?

Mr. Kilfoyle: We are well aware of the problems for retention if we do not have a reasonable standard of accommodation both for single personnel and for those occupying married quarters. We are in discussions to ensure that we have a consistent standard of habitable accommodation for those serving at home and those serving abroad.


8. Mr. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): If he will make a statement on the southern and northernno-fly zones in Iraq. [100960]

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): The no-fly zones have served a vital humanitarian purpose for the past eight years in helping to limit Saddam Hussein's brutal repression of his own people. I very much regret Saddam's efforts to shoot down coalition aircraft carrying out these legitimate patrols. Let me make it clear. If Saddam stops trying to kill our aircrew, we will stop attacking the systems he uses to threaten them.

Mr. Brake: I thank the Minister for his response. Will he explain what further action he can take to stop Iraq's campaign of repression in the south, where I understand that villages are still being destroyed? I understand also that villagers are expelled at gunpoint and that water supplies are cut off. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain also whether he expects the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission to be more or less successful than the UN Special Commission in its monitoring role? Will he outline what the composition of that organisation is likely to be?

Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman will know that the United Kingdom has been heavily engaged in trying to promote a new resolution in the Security Council. We are in the end game of that process. I anticipate that there will be further discussions on that issue today in the UN in New York. As for the outcome, we are confident that the resolution that we have helped to draft will provide a sensible basis for dealing with Iraq and will provide an opportunity and a road towards lifting the sanctions while securing the interests of those countries in the region, which remain extremely concerned about the ability of

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Saddam Hussein to produce weapons of mass destruction. It is important that we find a new basis for dealing with Iraq. Until that happens, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept from me that we shall continue to put pressure on Saddam Hussein to maintain the no-fly zones, and to preserve the situation in the north and the south as our response to an overwhelming humanitarian necessity, where Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime are seeking to destroy the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of his own people.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): I want to express my appreciation for the air and ground crews who operate missions over north and south Iraq. They endure considerable periods of separation from their families, especially over Christmas, on operations that are not without risk to the aircrews who fly them. Can the Secretary of State assure the House that sufficient Tornado offensive support airframes are available, especially while the mid-life update of the aircraft is taking place, to permit Tornado operations elsewhere if the need arises?

Mr. Hoon: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his good wishes. I shall ensure that they are communicated to our forces in that region, who operate in extremely dangerous circumstances, putting their lives at risk to protect people on the ground. They will appreciate his sentiments. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there will be sufficient airframes to do that valuable and important job.

As I said earlier, we want to maintain the pressure on Saddam while ensuring that we do our best to protect those on the ground whose lives have been threatened in the past, and who continue to be threatened by Saddam Hussein's regime.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): I congratulate the Government on the United Nations resolution, which combines humanitarian relief with a strategy to deal with Saddam's continuing capability to use weapons of mass destruction, and the possibility that he is developing a nuclear capability while continuing to develop chemical and biological weapons. Will my right hon. Friend remind people again of the latest report of Mr. van der Stoel, the UN Rapporteur on human rights, who makes it clear that repression, torture and inhumane treatment, as well as ethnic cleansing, continue in Iraq?

Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I agree with her comments. We hope that we can persuade all members of the Security Council to agree to the resolution. The matter remains under discussion, but we are working as hard as we can on what, I believe, is an excellent statement of the international community's position.

I also agree with my hon. Friend about the latest evidence to emerge from Iraq. Some people claim that the international community is responsible for the plight of the Iraqi people, but there is a clear difference between the availability of medical and food supplies in the north of Iraq, which is not controlled by Saddam's regime, and that in rest of the country. That nails the lie that the

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international community is responsible for the Iraqi people's plight. The responsibility lies with Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): The majority in the House support the Government's action. However, will the Secretary of State listen to the advice that we received last week from the equivalent of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Assemblee Nationale in Paris? I shall quote from it--I ask hon. Members to excuse my translation. It states:

It goes on to call for all sanctions to be lifted.

Does the Secretary of State accept that the peoples and Parliaments of the European Union perceive the interests of those European nations differently? That is why France takes a different line from Britain in the Security Council. Does he accept that undermining NATO with a Euro army will also undermine our national interest?

Mr. Hoon: I congratulated my right hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) on his ingenuity. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not extend the same courtesy to him. The answer to his point is simple: there is a range of views in western European democracies, and it would be unfortunate if they were not expressed. That is different from the position in Iraq, where there is no possibility of expressing such a range of views. It is inevitable that tensions will arise when the country is led by a man such as Saddam Hussein. Those tensions will continue unless and until there is a democratic Government in Iraq.

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