Dr. Moonie: A new competition for the Bowman communications system was announced on 25 July 2000. The competition has progressed ahead of schedule, with bids being received from Thales, General Dynamics company CDC, and TRW in February this year. All three bidders briefed Ministers recently and the Department is now in the final stages of a complex bid assessment process. We will announce a preferred supplier once we
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The EU has a very small military staff to support its ability to take decisions which have military implications. This staff will undertake the high level consideration of options to support political/military decision making.
Heads of State and Government agreed at Nice that the EU military staff will not have an operational planning function. They also agreed that NATO will carry out operational planning for EU-led operations that have recourse to NATO assets and capabilities. Operational planning for other operations may be carried out in existing national and multinational headquarters, such as the UK's permanent joint headquarters at Northwood.
The EU Headline Goal required the identification of a pool of forces potentially available for EU-led operations. Nations nominated their contributions to this pool at a Capability Commitments Conference in November 2000. Further improvements are to be identified at a second Conference later this year.
Dr. Moonie: A significant step forward has recently been achieved on the A400M programme. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence joined several European colleagues at the Paris Airshow on 19 June in signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for this programme. This MoU commits the UK to buying
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25 A400M aircraft in order to satisfy the UK's Future Transport Aircraft requirement, alongside commitments from other partners. Signature of the A400M MoU paves the way for placement of the contract with Airbus Military Company. Signature of the contract is conditional on satisfactory completion of contractual negotiations, on which some important issues remain to be resolved but we are striving with our partners to ensure contract placement as soon as possible.
Dr. Moonie: Recruitment into training is generally satisfactory. We have increased the targets for medical cadets and trainee nurses and I am happy to say we have attracted a good response. Recruiting fully or partially trained personnel, particularly doctors and nurses, is more difficult. A new initiative has commenced with the aim of improving recruitment of fully trained personnel and will continue over the next year. We are, of course, continuing to work closely with the NHS on the issue of recruitment, as well as on many other matters.
33. Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made by his Department in setting compensation claims for those service men and women discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality following the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. 
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Dr. Moonie: The analysis of BAE Systems Marine's unsolicited bid continues and we intend to announce our decision as soon as is practicable. At our request RAND are studying a range of alternative procurement strategies for our future warship programmes, with particular focus on options for the type 45 destroyers. This study will help inform our decisions. Wider economic impacts of the way ahead, and value for money, will be taken into account when the Government reach their conclusions on the way ahead and all interested Government Departments are being consulted.
Dr. Moonie: Our forward shipbuilding programme for the Royal Navy is the largest for many years. We plan to introduce over 30 new ships into service in the next 1520 years. This includes two large, more capable carriers due to enter service in 2012 and 2015 respectively, up to 12 new type 45 destroyers due to enter into service from 2007 onwards, and the new future surface combatant class. In addition, there are three new astute class nuclear-powered attack submarines due to enter service from 2005 and we will be considering placing an order for further astute submarines next year.
Our procurement programme also involves major enhancements to our naval support and amphibious capabilities. Two new auxiliary oilers are expected to enter service in 2002 when we will also begin leasing three new offshore patrol vessels. In 2003, we will have two new multi-role survey vessels in service and two new landing platform docks. By 2006, we expect to have four new alternative landing ship logistics in-service.
All these vessels will be built in UK yards and this programme provides an excellent opportunity for the British shipbuilding industry. In addition, we will have all six ro-ro vessels, comprising the strategic sealift service, available for the Ministry of Defence under PFI arrangement from 2003 onwards.
Mr. Hoon: I was unable to attend the North Atlantic Council Defence Ministers meeting on 7 June, but I am in regular contact with the Secretary General of NATO, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, and have discussed events in Macedonia with him.
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Dr. Moonie: My Department evaluates its training facilities constantly in order to ensure that we have sufficient and appropriate facilities to allow our troops to meet their training objectives. Work is in progress in a number of areas which will help maximise the utility of our existing facilities.