Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which submarines are to be replaced by the three Astute class submarines on order; and what their planned dates for decommissioning are. 
Mr. Ingram: We are not directly replacing our existing nuclear attack submarines platform by platform. The capability currently provided by the Swiftsure and Trafalgar classes will in future be met by the Astute Class.
Mr. Ingram: HMS Astute is expected to become fully operational in 2009 after a period of extensive weapon system proving trials. The Submarine will be available to the Fleet for limited operations before these trials complete.
Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what effect the proposed reductions in budgets of (a) Commander-in-Chief Fleet, (b) Commander-in-Chief Land Command, (c) Commander-in-Chief Strike Command and (d) Chief of Defence Logistics will have on frontline capability; and if he will make a statement. 
The Systems House, under the strategic direction of the Ministry of Defence, will be leading the programme of studies during the Assessment Phase designed to inform MOD's future investment decisions
7 Dec 2004 : Column 406W
on Future Rapid Effect System. The Assessment Phase is scheduled to last for two years and will complete in November 2006. The contract with Atkins reflects this time line.
Mr. Ingram: The Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) is now in its initial Assessment Phase. A contract has now been awarded to Atkins who, under the strategic direction of the Ministry of Defence, will be leading a number of key activities designed to inform MOD's major programme decisions. Part of this Assessment Phase work will be to identify and reduce risk in the programme to enable us to define an appropriate In-Service Date (ISD) in both capability and programme terms for endorsement at Main Gate. The ISD will not be formally endorsed until then, but our initial planning assumption is to introduce the early variants of FRES around the end of the decade, with a phased approach to achieving full operational capability thereafter.
Mr. Ingram: British armed forces deploying to Iraq receive one of two comprehensive pre-deployment training packages, covering a wide variety of mandatory briefings, skills training and theatre acclimatisation, dependent upon whether they are deployed on an individual basis or as part of a group deployment. Once in theatre they receive refresher and specific-to-theatre training designed to prepare them for their respective jobs, and allow them to be deployed acclimatised, and trained in the tasks that they are to perform.
Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what large scale co-operative exercises organised by EU Military Staff he expects will take place in the next five years; and from what budgets UK participation will be funded. 
Mr. Hoon: The EU Military Staff currently have no plans for a large-scale co-operative exercise involving the field deployment of troops. However, EU and/or joint EU-NATO crisis management exercises, involving command structures and headquarters, are envisaged in each of the years 2006 to 2009, and will involve exercising arrangements for the augmentation of the relevant HQ. They will focus on how the EU responds to crises using both civilian and military instruments in an EU-led operation.
The majority of costs for EU exercises are funded on a "costs lie where they fall" basis. In practice, therefore, the cost to the UK of hosting an exercise would be met by the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ), as it was for this year's exercise; and the cost of providing staff for an exercise hosted by another member state would be met by the Top Level Budget Holder providing the staff.
7 Dec 2004 : Column 407W
There are also a few additional costs, such as costs incurred by EU recourse to NATO common assets, that are shared by member states on a Gross National Income key. This is the same approach as for other exercises involving comparable international institutions.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what consultation she (a) has had and (b) proposes to have with the Harrogate and Ripon Beekeepers Association regarding the Bee Health Programme. 
Alun Michael: My officials are consulting the national beekeeping associations in England about our future plans for the bee health programme. These associations include the British Beekeepers' Association, of which the Harrogate and Ripon Beekeepers' Association is a member.
|1 October 2001||7,970||2,520||10,490|
|1 April 2002||6,980||5,580||12,560|
|1 April 2003||6,690||5,630||12,320|
|1 April 2004||6,910||6,070||12,980|
These changes were mainly due to the creation of the Rural Payments Agency on 16 October 2001. RPA took over all 1,080 staff from the Intervention Board Executive Agency (which has not been included in Defra staff in post statistics) and around 1,860 staff from the core Department.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her target time is in 200405 (a) to reply to letters from hon.
7 Dec 2004 : Column 408W
Members and (b) for the officials in her Department to reply to letters received directly from members of the public. 
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the report Current and Future Deer Management Options, published in December 2003. 
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