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Sierra Leone

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many UK personnel are deployed in Sierra Leone; what has been the cost of deployments; and if he will make a statement. [36954]

Mr. Ingram: We currently have some 360 shore-based personnel deployed in Sierra Leone, and we will maintain our presence at that level over the period of presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2002. We are also contributing 15 military observers and seven headquarters staff to UNAMSIL, the UN operation in Sierra Leone. The cost of the deployments, excluding the provision of equipment to the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), was £16.9 million in the last financial year, and is estimated to be around £30 million in the current financial year.

On the current situation in Sierra Leone, I refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave in the House on 11 February, Official Report, columns 15–16 to the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson) and the right hon. Member for North-East Hampshire (Mr. Arbuthnot).

Battle of Trafalgar

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar; and if he will make a statement. [36554]

Dr. Moonie: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 15 January 2002, Official Report, columns 125–26W to the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington).

Service Applications

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the increase in other ranks applications to the three services in 2000–01 which has not led to entries; and if he will make a statement. [36826]

25 Feb 2002 : Column 700W

Mr. Ingram: Records of the numbers of Other Ranks applications and intakes for the years 1999–2000, 2000–01 and part of 2001–02 show the following:

Services1999–20002000–012001–02(6)
Naval
Applicants13,25113,0348,579
Intake4,5454,1753,227
Conversation Rate (per cent.)34.3 32.0 37.6
Army
Applicants37,99233,81225,590
Intake15,43613,8439,384
Conversion Rate (per cent.)40.6 40.9 36.7
RAF
Applicants16,21815,99710,984
Intake3,6133,1932,506
Conversion Rate (per cent.)22.3 20.0 22.8

(6) Figures for 2000–02 only cover the period up to 31 December 2001


It should be remembered that not all successful applicants may necessarily join the armed forces in the same year that they applied, due to the time needed to process the applications fully.

The figures demonstrate the conversion rates of applicants to intake has remained reasonably constant for the Naval Service and for the RAF. The change in conversion rate for the Army is associated with the introduction of an enhanced selection scheme aimed at reducing wastage during initial training. Only those assessed at Recruit Selection Centres as having more than a 90 per cent. chance of passing Phase 1 training are now selected. The higher quality of recruits ensures that final output to the field army (ie. the gains to the trained strength) remains largely the same despite the smaller intake.

House Purchase Assistance

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to review his policy with respect to making long-service advance of pay for house purchase available to the Royal Navy at the age of 23 and to the Army and RAF at the age of 35. [36829]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 7 February 2002, Official Report, column 1086W, to the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson).

Unaccompanied Tours (Military Units)

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the interval between six-month unaccompanied tours is for units; and if he will make a statement. [36828]

Mr. Ingram: The table shows the average interval between six-month unaccompanied tours broken down by individual corps over a 12-month period, as at 31 December 2001, the most recently available information.

Average tour intervals (as at 31 December 2001)

ArmMonths
Royal Armoured Corps15
Royal Artillery49
Royal Engineers24
Royal Signals23
Infantry18
Royal Logistic Corps24
Average24

Tour intervals are calculated on the basis of deployments of six months. The latest average unit tour interval in the Army is consistent with the Strategic Defence Review target of 24 months. However, there are variations between units within the Arms, with some units not achieving the SDR target.


25 Feb 2002 : Column 701W

Afghanistan

Hywel Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his latest estimates are of civilian casualties as a result of US and UK military action in Afghanistan. [37300]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence 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).

Pay 2000

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many budget holders have not received budgets for the 2002–03 financial year which take full account of the costs of Pay 2000; and if overspend on this item will be an allowable expense. [36844]

Mr. Ingram: Budgets for the 2002–03 financial year have not yet been finalised. When they are, they will take full account of all aspects of pay costs.

Recruitment

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which regiments have had their recruiting capped in the last six months; and if he will make a statement. [36846]

Mr. Ingram: Individual regiments are not capped with regard to recruiting, but their priority for recruiting effort will vary dependent on their manning position at any particular time. The Army is currently recruiting to all employment areas.

Operation Amber Fox

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had regarding the possibility of the EU taking over Amber Fox in Macedonia; and if he will make a statement on his assessment of this development. [36845]

Mr. Hoon: I have had a number of discussions about the future of Operation Amber Fox. The Macedonian Government have invited NATO to extend the mandate of Task Force Fox for a further three months from 25 March 2002, with an option to extend for a further three months beyond that. NATO has accepted the invitation and Germany will continue to lead the operation. Therefore Task Force Fox remains a NATO mission.

Attributable Invalidity Pensions

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many service personnel in receipt of service attributable invalidity pensions incorrectly paid tax but had the mistake rectified by the Army Pay Office in Stanmore before the case of Major Perry was identified. [34475]

25 Feb 2002 : Column 702W

Dr. Moonie: The Army Pensions Office at Stanmore was closed in 1983 and the pension work transferred to the Army Pensions Office in Glasgow. To establish the number of service personnel in receipt of service attributable invaliding pensions who incorrectly paid tax, but had the mistake rectified by the Army Pay Office at Stanmore, would require a manual search of all pension files where awards were made before 1983. This could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Kirkcudbright

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the development of new accommodation facilities at Kirkcudbright range will be completed. [37386]

Mr. Ingram: The development of new accommodation facilities at Kirkcudbright Training Camp will take place in three phases. We had hoped that Phase 1 of the new accommodation would be completed by the end of March 2003, but the restrictions on access to the site caused by the outbreak of foot and mouth disease prevented the survey and other preparatory work being carried out, and it is unlikely that this work will be completed until the end of October 2003. We estimate that Phase 2 will be completed by the end of 2007, and the final phase by the end of 2009.

PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL

Departmental Events

Mr. Bercow: To ask the President of the Council if he will list the (a) conferences, (b) seminars, (c) workshops, (d) exhibitions and (e) press conferences which have been sponsored by his Department and which took place on non-departmental premises in each of the last four years, giving the title, purpose, date and cost of each. [34185]

Mr. Robin Cook: There were none.


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