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Troop Deployment (Christmas and New Year)

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the (a) RAF, (b) Army and (c) Royal Navy he expects to be (i) serving abroad and (ii) deployed on front-line duties between 24 December and 2 January 2002; what percentage of trained strength of each force this represents; what provisions he has made to ensure family contact over that period; and if he will make a statement. [18932]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 10 December 2001]: The current estimate of the number of personnel who will be serving abroad and deployed on operations overseas over the Christmas and new year period is shown in the table.

Royal NavyArmyRoyal Air Force
Estimated number serving abroad6,30022,3006,300
As a percentage of trained strength172213
Estimated number of those serving abroad deployed on operations3,0009,3503,200
As a percentage of trained strength896

We attach great importance to ensuring service personnel deployed overseas are able to keep in touch with their families, especially over Christmas and new year. It is for this reason that personnel on operations over Christmas are, as last year, being given a further 20 minutes free phone call home in addition to the standard 20 minutes free weekly phone call. Free 'blueys' (aerogrammes), 'e-blueys' and concessionary parcel rates as well as internet and e-mail access are also available as part of the standard Operational Welfare Package.

Armed Forces Pension Scheme

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made on the review of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme; what restrictions have been placed on the review in respect of its potential cost; and if he will make a statement. [22800]

Mr. Ingram: With regard to progress on the review of the Armed Forces Pension Scheme, I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 25 October 2001, Official Report, column 319W, to the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne).

With regard to the potential cost of the proposed new scheme, it is Government policy that improvements in public service pensions should generally be paid for either by savings elsewhere in the scheme, or by scheme members through contributions. In addition, the review took account of the fact that the current Armed Forces Pension Scheme is one of the most expensive in the public sector. In the proposals issued for public consultation in

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March of this year, we sought to re-balance the benefits to reflect the needs of the modern armed forces, with regard both to those who can expect to serve a full career and those who we require to leave earlier. These proposals were cost neutral. We will, of course, consider carefully the views submitted in response to the consultation.

C-17 Globemaster

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many C-17 Globemasters are owned by the British armed forces; if Globemasters are deployed in Afghanistan; what plans his Department has for further purchase of the Globemaster; and if he will make a statement. [23223]

Mr. Ingram: We have leased four C-17 Globemasters from the US, but currently do not plan to purchase these, or any additional C-17s. The four RAF Globemasters have not been deployed in Afghanistan but have been used in support of the on-going campaign against international terrorism.

Smart Procurement

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much Smart Procurement has saved his Department since its inception; how much it is projected to save over the next five years; and if he will make a statement. [23225]

Dr. Moonie: Since the introduction of Smart Acquisition, the Ministry of Defence has identified £2.4 billion of savings in equipment procurement in the 10-year planning period between 1998 and 2008. The savings are set out in more detail in the Comptroller and Auditor General's Major Projects Report 2001 which was published on 23 November. Some £1.5 billion of these savings were made against planned expenditure between 2002 and 2007. Over the last three financial years, savings on the costs of in-service support of equipment attributable to Smart Acquisition, have totalled some £350 million. It is anticipated there will be on-going savings of £250 million per annum over the next few years.

Work is also under way to develop broader metrics and targets for assessing the benefits of Smart Acquisition.

Porton Down

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 15 November 2001, Official Report, column 823W, on Porton Down, if further staff from his Department are to be assigned to work full-time to conduct the comprehensive survey of the service volunteer programme at the chemical defence establishment, Porton Down. [22874]

Dr. Moonie: We currently have no plans to do so.

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 19 November 2001, Official Report, column 10W, on Porton Down, on what dates the in-depth searches of his Department's archives were conducted. [22876]

Dr. Moonie: Searches of the Ministry of Defence archives have been carried out over the past two years since allegations emerged that participants in the Service

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Volunteer programme were recruited under the pretext of common cold research. The precise dates on which such searches have been carried out are not recorded.

Tactical Training Areas

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions his Department has made a formal objection to the siting of wind turbines in tactical training areas; which sitings were objected to; and on what grounds. [23136]

Dr. Moonie: Over the last two years, the Ministry of Defence has objected to 26 proposals to site wind farms within the tactical training areas (TTA). The details of these are withheld for reasons of commercial confidentiality in accordance with Exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. The objections relate to the physical obstruction that would be caused by the wind farms within areas where fixed wing aircraft are engaged in operational low flying (OLF) training down to 100 ft minimum separation distance (MSD). Outside the TTA low flying fixed wing aircraft are not permitted to fly below 250 feet MSD. In order to preserve the tactical freedom to practise OLF it is important that the number of tall obstacles, such as wind turbines, is minimised within those areas. For this reason an objection is often, but not always, raised to proposals to locate turbines in any of the TTA.

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his Department's policy is regarding the siting of wind turbines in tactical training areas. [23138]

Dr. Moonie: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 22 March 2001, Official Report, column 297W, to my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Chapman).

Territorial Army

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the Territorial Army were involved in assisting the regular Army with operations during the foot and mouth outbreak in Scotland. [23205]

Mr. Ingram: Some 90 members of the Territorial Army were involved in assisting the Regular Army with operations during the foot and mouth outbreak in Scotland.

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the Territorial Army from Scottish bases have been called upon to assist the Army in overseas operations in each of the last five years; and on how many occasions. [23357]

Dr. Moonie: I will write to the hon. Member and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Afghanistan

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on coalition plans for the removal of unexploded ordnance from Afghanistan. [23046]

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Mr. Ingram: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 5 December 2001, Official Report, columns 343–44W, to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly) and the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling).

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many children have been (a) killed and (b) maimed by cluster bombs in Afghanistan since 11 September. [23044]

Mr. Ingram: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer that I gave on 12 December 2001, Official Report, column 860W, to my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones) and for Coventry, South (Mr. Cunningham).

RAF Staff College Site, Bracknell

Mr. MacKay: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the timescale for disposal of the RAF staff college site, Bracknell. [23539]

Dr. Moonie: Defence Estates had planned to market the former RAF Staff College site with the benefit of planning permission early in 2002. However, delays in the adoption of the Local Plan, and obtaining planning permission, means this timetable may slip to late 2002, with completion expected in 2003. The site is available for development with the current Local Plan period to 2006.


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