The standing level of security at AWE Aldermaston is maintained at a high level, irrespective of fluctuations in the security alert states that may apply to other Government establishments or MOD installations. Security arrangements at AWE Aldermaston are kept under constant review.
Mr. Ingram: There are approximately 400 British service personnel deployed ashore in Sierra Leone at the present time. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced on 1 September, we are in the process of re-configuring our forces in support of the Sierra Leone Army and the Military Reintegration Process, and this figure will reduce to 360 by 1 January 2002. We are also currently contributing 15 military observers and eight headquarters staff officers to UNAMSIL, the UN operation in Sierra Leone.
Mr. Ingram: The Strategic Defence Review confirmed that RNAS Yeovilton will remain a major Royal Naval and Defence establishment, and recommended the transfer of the Sea Harrier squadrons and support staff from RNAS Yeovilton to RAF Cottesmore and Wittering in 2003, as part of the Joint Force Harrier initiative.
The precise mix of aircraft types to be based at RNAS Yeovilton in the next decade remains under review. Any emerging proposals for change would be announced in due course and would be subject, where appropriate, to consultation.
As part of the study into the basing strategy of the Joint Helicopter Command, I have recently agreed to the recommendation, based on operational and cost grounds, that helicopters based at RAF Odiham and 9 Regiment AAC Dishforth should remain in their current locations, rather than move to RNAS Yeovilton.
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Mr. Ingram: The estimated cost for Saif Sareea 2 was £90.3 million. A final figure will not be available until later in the financial year. However, initial post exercise figures indicate a slight reduction in anticipated costs. This is mainly due to the withdrawal from the exercise of some elements for operational reasons.
Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence has no current plans to amend the Armed Forces Pension Scheme or the War Pension Scheme to provide unmarried couples with pension rights equivalent to those of married couples. However, following public consultation on a comprehensive review of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme, we will be considering representations on a range of issues including that of benefits for unmarried partners.
Mr. Ingram: Following Sir Michael Bett's Independent Review of the Armed Forces Manpower, Career, and Remuneration Structures it was recommended that there should be a review of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS). The aim of the AFPS review is to consider future pension arrangements for new entrants and current serving members of the armed forces which will meet the essential needs of the armed services for the foreseeable future for recruitment, retention and motivation in a manner that is fair, cost-effective and affordable. It was agreed that the review would need to examine structures and levels of payment, commutation arrangements, arrangements for future funding, arrangements for dependants, reviews and appeals. An analysis of the comments received on the AFPS review is now being undertaken.
Mr. Hoon: As I said earlier today, given the rapid pace of events, I have concluded that it is no longer necessary for all the units placed on 48 hours notice to move 10 days ago to remain at this state of readiness. With the exception of elements of 2 PARA and 16 Air Assault Brigade and their key enablers, the bulk of these forces will revert to their previous readiness state and will be able to move within one week.
Before any decisions are taken to deploy any of these forces to Afghanistan, we will take account of the situation on the ground, including reports from the detachment in Bagram; the progress of the political process being set in train in Bonn this week; and consultation within the coalition.
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Mr. Hoon: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave earlier today to my hon. Friends the Members for North Durham (Mr. Jones) and for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly), Official Report, column 668.
Mr. Hoon: Since the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September, and NATO's decision to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty on 12 September, there have been extensive and continuing discussions at ministerial, official and military levels on how best to counter the threat posed by international terrorism. I have taken part in both formal and informal discussions with my counterparts from other NATO nations on numerous occasions. An enhanced package of counter-terrorist measures has already been adopted by the Alliance, with a range of further actions under consideration.
Mr. Ingram: The armed forces goal is to achieve an environment free from harassment, intimidation and discrimination. All three services have in place a wide range of measures to support and promote that goal. These include confidential advice and support help lines, a network of equal opportunities advisers, equality training programmes and outreach initiatives.
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Mr. Hoon: The exchange of letters in January 2001 with the then United States Defence Secretary Cohen allows for the UK to have a national joint strike fighter (JSF) support capability, if required. Establishment of a UK design authority would fall under this heading.
Ministry of Defence officials are working closely with their US counterparts to ensure that US information is released in a timely manner to enable UK industry to put forward cost-effective options for JSF support.