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4 Dec 2002 : Column 810W—continued

European Headline Goal

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress by the UK in achieving the European Headline Goal; and what discussions he has had with his European counterparts with regard to achieving the Goal. [84845]

Mr. Hoon: While achieving the Headline Goal is a matter for all member states, the United Kingdom's contribution is substantial. Up to 12,500 troops, 18 warships and 72 combat aircraft could be made available for EU-led operations, covering a range of capabilities. The UK plays a leading role in the European Capabilities Action Plan (ECAP), in which panels of national experts are producing options for solutions to capability gaps. The UK is a member of all but one of the 18 panels formed so far and chairs four of them.

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Progress was reviewed at the Informal Meeting of EU Defence Ministers on 4 October and the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) on 18 November. Capabilities issues are also often discussed bilaterally with other member states.

Fire Dispute

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the use of United States Air Force personnel based at RAF bases to fight fires during the firefighters' strike. [84744]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 3 December 2002]: United States Air Force personnel based at RAF bases are not being used to provide fire cover for the civilian community, during the firefighters' strike.

The emergency nationwide firefighting cover which has been provided by our service men and women during the strikes is proving effective, and personnel who have been called upon to assist are coping very well with all that has been asked of them.

Gulf Operations

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost has been of preparation to move (a) service personnel and medical auxiliaries and (b) military equipment to locations in the Gulf regions in the last 12 months. [84215]

Mr. Ingram: The cost of preparing equipment and personnel for routine movement to and from the Gulf is not recorded separately and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given on 29 October 2002, Official Report, column 709W setting out the overall additional expenditure incurred by the Ministry of Defence as a direct result of operations in the Gulf from 1992–93 onwards.


Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the financial consequences for his Department of withdrawing the RN Sea Harrier from service. [84838]

Mr. Ingram: I refer my hon. Friend to the answers I gave to the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) on 5 November, Official Report, column 171W and to the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin). on 16 April, Official Report, columns 821–2W and 29 April, Official Report, column 529W.

Home Defence

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what regular armed forces are committed to home defence; if numbers are to be increased; and if he will make a statement. [84842]

Mr. Ingram: The armed forces have a long-standing mission to help ensure the protection and security of the United Kingdom, providing military aid to the civil authorities as required.

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The Home Office has responsibility for counter terrorism policy and the lead on domestic security lies with the civil agencies, particularly the police. There are no service personnel purely dedicated to home defence although United Kingdom based force elements can be deployed at short notice to provide assistance to the civil authorities. In addition, the RAF is responsible for the defence of our airspace and the Royal Navy has a role in ensuring the integrity of our territorial waters.

The Strategic Defence Review New Chapter considered enhancements to those force elements that could contribute to the capability of the armed forces to meet requests from the civil authorities for home defence and security purposes. It concluded that 14 new civil contingency reaction forces should be established from existing volunteer reserve personnel, and some 700 new volunteer reserve posts established to provide improved command, control and planning capabilities. Action on this is in hand.

Prague Summit

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the Prague Summit, with particular reference to increasing European defence capability, interoperability and enlargement. [84847]

Mr. Hoon: The NATO Summit in Prague on 21–22 November opened a new chapter in the Alliance's history aimed at ensuring that NATO has the tools to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Alliance leaders agreed a comprehensive package of measures: a streamlined Command Structure; a new NATO Response Force; reinvigorated Alliance Partnership programmes, including building on the success of the NATO-Russia Council; and modernisation of NATO's internal structures and processes.

The Summit also launched a new capabilities initiative, the 'Prague Capabilities Commitment' (PCC), which will focus on improvements in Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence, Information Superiority, Combat Effectiveness, and Deployability and Sustainability. Interoperability and multinational solutions to capability shortfalls are key themes of the initiative. The PCC will be complementary to the European Union's Headline Goal.

Invitations to join the Alliance were issued to seven countries. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia will now begin accession talks, with formal accession expected in 2004. The invitees will continue to prepare for membership through NATO's Membership Action Plan.

Royal Navy Personnel

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many trained (a) officers and (b) other ranks have left the Royal Navy in each of the past five years; what estimate he has made of likely future trends; and what steps he is taking to reduce the numbers of trained personnel leaving the Royal Navy. [84370]

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Dr. Moonie: The information requested is set out in the table, including Royal Marines:

Exits during financial yearTrained officers(1)Trained ratings/other ranks(1)

(1) Source—Defence Analytical Services Agency. Figures have been rounded to the nearest multiple of 10, consistent with the presentation in DASA's Quarterly Press Release.

The latest published figures, for 1 October 2002, show that during the 12 months to 30 September 2002 the rate of outflow has slowed to 400 officers and 3,230 ratings/other ranks, and this favourable trend is expected to continue.

The rate of outflow is reducing, but retention is still recognised as a major challenge. A range of measures are in hand to address the issue holistically throughout the service.

Sea Dart

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on upgrading of the Type 42s Sea Dart missile; and what the effect of the upgrade will be. [84841]

Dr. Moonie: The Sea Dart missile system has undergone a number of modifications and updates to improve its reliability and capability. The final element of the programme incorporates an infra red fuse in the missile. This fuse, which has now come into service, will improve the Royal Navy's medium and long range defence against aircraft and missile threats.

Sea Trials

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when (a) HMS Albion and (b) HMS Bulwark will commence sea trials. [84377]

Dr. Moonie: Sea trials for HMS Albion are expected to begin later this month. HMS Bulwark is expected to start sea trials in 2004.

Ship Deployments

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which ships were on deployment on (a) 1 November 2000, (b) 1 May 2001, (c) 1 November 2001, (d) 1 May 2002 and (e) 1 November 2002. [84375]

Mr. Ingram: The information requested is as follows:

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In addition, the Royal Navy has continuously maintained an SSBN on strategic deterrent patrol.

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