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Mr. Ingram: The contract between the Ministry of Defence and Electronic Data Services relates not only to Army payroll services, but includes the delivery of information systems and information technology in support of the personnel administration, and pay of all armed forces personnel. The reconstructed contract was signed on 29 June 2001.
Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which risks that his Department considered transferred in the contract between his Department and EDS are disputed by EDS; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which (a) type 22 frigates, (b) type 42 destroyers, (c) type 23 frigates, (d) aircraft carriers and (e) fleet submarines are (i) operational, (ii) in refit and (iii) in maintenance or repair. 
Mr. Ingram: The table shows, as at 19 November 2001, the vessels within each of the categories requested. Those vessels undergoing routine maintenance and repair (column iii) are within the operational control of the Royal Navy and can be made ready within agreed timescales.
21 Nov 2001 : Column: 298W
|(i) Operational||(ii) Refit(4)||(iii) Maintenance and repair|
|(a) Type 22 Frigates||Chatham||Cumberland(5)||Sheffield|
|(b) Type 42 Destroyers||Edinburgh||Cardiff||Gloucester|
|(c) Type 23 Frigates||Argyll||Grafton||Richmond|
|(e) Fleet submarines||Splendid||Sceptre||Tireless|
(4) Including docking periods
(5) Undergoing post docking period sea trials
Dr. Moonie: We expect a decision on which variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, Carrier Version or Short Take Off and Vertical Landing, best meets our requirement for a Future Joint Combat Aircraft to be made by the autumn of next year.
Mr. Hoon: The Ministry of Defence is being advised on the QinetiQ transaction by PricewaterhouseCoopers and UBS Warburg (financial advice), Simmons & Simmons (legal), Arthur Andersen (reporting accountants) and Willis (insurance). QinetiQ also has its own advisers.
21 Nov 2001 : Column: 299W
Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has no immediate plans to change the normal process of recruitment for Defence Fire Service (DFS) firefighters at locations where a requirement to fill vacancies has been identified. Currently, vacancies are managed at unit level and are filled either by internal level transfer, or where this is not possible, by external recruitment. Although temporary recruitment restrictions may occur from time to time under certain circumstances, the MOD intends to continue recruiting as normal until the outcome of the Airfield Support Services Project (ASSP) is known. The matter will then be reviewed at that stage. I refer the hon. Member to the statement on the future of MOD Fire Services made by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces on 13 November 2001, Official Report, columns 23134WH.
Dr. Moonie: There are no arrangements for the fast-tracking of clinical treatment for Service personnel within the NHS. However, special arrangements exist, principally with the NHS Trusts hosting our Ministry of Defence Hospital Units (MDHU), for Service personnel to receive expedited out-patient opinions within the NHS. These latter arrangements apply particularly, but not exclusively, to those required for operational deployments.
Our arrangements with the MDHU host Trusts also include financial arrangements to encourage the Trusts to achieve the waiting time targets, both for out-patient and in-patient appointments, set by the Defence Secondary Care Agency.
21 Nov 2001 : Column: 300W
Mr. Hoon: Assessment work on the new carrier project began in November 1999 when contracts were awarded to two competing consortia headed by BAE Systems and Thales Naval Ltd. The first stage of the assessment was completed in June this year.
Since then officials have been working to determine the most efficient and cost effective way forward for the remainder of the Assessment Phase, taking into account the views of both consortia about the amount of work required to minimise the level of risk in the CVF programme.
For the next 12 months, until November 2002, the competing consortiums will concentrate on refining their designs and on taking key trade-off decisions. During this period, there will be a continuous assessment of the two consortiums' work leading to an announcement of a single preferred prime contractor in early 2003.
The preferred consortium will then continue assessment work through the summer of 2003 in order to provide the robust cost, time and performance information needed to make the main investment decision. This will allow us to make a decision to place a formal build contract in early 2004. The selected prime contractor will be expected to maintain the time, cost and performance proposals agreed at the end of the Assessment phase. Following the announcement of a preferred contractor, there will be maximum competition at the sub-contractor level to ensure that robust prices are achieved.
This approach reflects a sensible revision to the original procurement approach envisaged for the future carrier project. By applying Smart Procurement principles, it will help to ensure the maximum potential for competition throughout the remainder of the Assessment Phase. It will ensure that we achieve best value for money for the taxpayer. As part of the new approach, we will make around a further £20 million available to the contractors during the Assessment Phase.
Both BAE Systems and Thales have welcomed this new approach which demonstrates innovative thinking to deliver value for money. It re-affirms in the strongest possible terms this Government's commitment to ensuring that our armed forces are equipped with battle-winning equipment. Combined with the Future Joint Combat Aircraft, the carriers will provide the UK with a formidable force projection capability.
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