Previous Section Index Home Page

Fleet Air Arm

29. Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of the Fleet Air Arm. [66989]

32. Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of the Fleet Air Arm. [66992]

Mr. Ingram: The future of the Fleet Air Arm is assured as an integral part of the Royal Navy, under Flag Officer Maritime Aviation and CINCFLEET. Maritime aviation capabilities are provided on a tri-service basis, but led by seasoned Royal Navy and Royal Marines aviators in all three Service Commands. The three pillars of the Fleet Air Arm are the battlefield helicopters of the Commando Helicopter Force in Land Command, fixed-wing squadrons in Strike Command, and naval helicopters in the Fleet.

Plans to build two large aircraft carriers are well advanced, with selection of a prime contractor expected in early 2003. Two of the four planned Harrier GR9 squadrons in the Joint Force Harrier will be predominately manned by Fleet Air Arm personnel, the other two predominantly by RAF. The first Merlin Mark 1 helicopter squadron is already in HMS Ark Royal, and plans are in hand to replace Maritime Lynx helicopter

15 Jul 2002 : Column 23W

beginning in 2007. The first upgraded AEW Sea King flight will go to sea later this year, and the Joint Strike Fighter will be introduced from 2012.

European Defence Capabilities

30. Roger Casale: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made on improving defence capabilities among European partner countries in the last three years. [66990]

Mr. Hoon: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones).

18. Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made in improving defence capabilities among other allied European countries in the last three years. [66975]

Mr. Hoon: We are working within both NATO and EU structures to improve European defence capabilities. NATO's Defence Capabilities Initiative has made significant progress in a number of areas since its launch in 1999. The creation of new High Readiness Force headquarters shows that, with sufficient commitment, allies can make real improvements in capabilities. In parallel, contributions from EU member states have so far met 104 of the 144 capability requirements underpinning the Helsinki Headline Goal agreed in December 1999. The remaining targets are being addressed through the European Capabilities Action Plan.

We expect to launch a new capabilities initiative at the Prague summit in November. This will be designed to be more focused than DCI; to incorporate clear commitments from allies to making good key capability shortfalls, and to complement the EU's Headline Goal process.

Gurkha Regiments

31. Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of the Gurkha regiments. [66991]

Mr. Ingram: We recognise that Gurkhas make a very important contribution to the Army and we intend to maintain the two existing Royal Gurkha Regiments and the current force level of trained Gurkhas in the British Army.

I am pleased to say that we plan to create two additional permanent Gurkha sub-units—a Queen's Own Gurkha Logistic Squadron, which will be part of 10 Transport Regiment RLC, and a Queen's Gurkha Signal Squadron, which will be part of 21 Signal Regiment. This move will ensure that the Army is able to deliver enhancements envisaged under the Strategic Defence Review.

RAF Engineers

33. Angela Watkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what measures he is taking to improve retention of engineers in the Royal Air Force. [66993]

Mr. Ingram: Improving retention across all Branches and Trades is one of the Royal Air Force's highest priorities.

15 Jul 2002 : Column 24W

The common thread in areas experiencing retention difficulties is the employability of and the opportunities available to highly trained specialists in the civilian work place. A buoyant market place acts as a significant pull.

A number of measures have been introduced across the RAF to improve retention. These include monitoring and managing levels of separated service, enhanced and more personalised career management, improvements to welfare support services, such as child care facilities, and a re-engagement package for junior ground trade personnel.

A review of the RAF's Engineer Branch structure is currently taking place. Among other things, the Review will consider measures to address any recruiting and retention issues. It is due to be completed by the end the year.

Armed Services Housing

37. Mr. Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had with the Deputy Prime Minister on the housing needs of former members of the armed services. [66997]

Dr. Moonie: There has been no direct discussion on this issue between my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Defence and the Deputy Prime Minister. However, under the auspices of the Veterans Task Force, the Ministry of Defence continues to work in partnership with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, other Government Departments, Veterans' organisations and other non-Governmental organisations on ways to tackle problems of homelessness among the veterans' community. Recent examples of partnership initiatives in this area include the establishment of the Single Persons Accommodation Centre for the Ex-Services (SPACES) at Catterick, which is managed by the English Churches Housing Group, and enhanced co-operation between the charity "Shelter" and the Military Corrective and Training Centre in Colchester through the appointment of a Shelter Project Officer at the Centre. These initiatives were originally funded as pilot schemes by the Homelessness Directorate of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. In the light of their success, the MOD has assumed continuing funding responsibility from April 2002. In addition, the Homelessness Act places a new duty on local authorities to conduct a homelessness audit and prepare a strategy to prevent future homelessness. A new Order under the Act will be issued shortly to extend the groups of homeless people considered to be in priority need of housing. This will cover those who are vulnerable to homelessness as a result of their institutionalised background, including those who have served in the armed forces. I believe that these and other initiatives will provide significant additional help to those veterans likely to be the most vulnerable to homelessness.


Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many requests for access to the village of Imber his Department has received in each of the past five years. [69237]

Mr. Ingram: In recent years the roads that cross Salisbury Plain training area have been opened on about 25 days each year in order to give the general public access

15 Jul 2002 : Column 25W

to Imber village. Once a year, two services are also held at St. Giles Church, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. These occasions are well publicised and certainly obviate many requests for access. In addition, however, we have received both written and telephone requests to provide access to Imber village on days other than those when the roads are already open. As far as possible, these requests are accommodated. Unfortunately, no records are kept of the telephone requests, but the number of written requests in each of the past five years are shown in the following table:

YearNumber of written requests
2002 to date8


Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what are the (a) estimated sale proceeds, (b) estimated redundancy lump-sum payments, (c) Ministry of Defence police transfer costs, (d) staff transfer costs, (e) costs of movement of stock, (f) cost of replacement facilities, (g) operating costs transferred to other locations and (h) T and H storage reprovision relating to the closure of Dean Hill Munitions Depot. [68907]

Mr. Ingram: Although the Ministry of Defence has assessed the disposal value of the West Dean site this is likely to be sold on the Open Market. To release our estimates of value could influence the eventual receipt. This information is therefore withheld under exception 7 of the Code of Practice to Government Information.

The other information requested is as follows:

Estimated redundancy lump-sum payments2,097,465
Ministry of Defence police transfer costs440,000
Staff transfer costs160,000
Costs of movement of stock50,000
Cost of replacement facilities(3)570,000
Operating costs transferred to other locations(4)86,000
T and H storage reprovision relating to the closure of Deal Hill munitions depot450,000

(3) including 86,000 per annum

(4) per annum

All of these aspects plus others were taken into account in the Investment Appraisal supporting closure.

Next Section Index Home Page