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Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Yvette Cooper): Following Ministerial approval of the business plan, key performance targets have been agreed for the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre for the period 1 April 2005 to 31 March 2006.

The agency's principal financial target for 2005–06 is to achieve a minimum dividend payment to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister of £1,400,000.

An operational target has been set to achieve combined room occupancy of the three key conference areas within the centre in excess of 470 days and not less than out-turn in 2004–05.

The agency also has the following quality of service targets:

Telecommunications Developments

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Yvette Cooper): The Government are today announcing they will be commissioning research to identify the future direction of mobile phone technology and the future need for mast developments. The research will also look at the potential for increased sharing of masts. The research will consider the effectiveness of the Sitefinder database and options for its future development. The Government are currently reviewing planning arrangements for mobile masts.
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Defence Medical Education and Training Agency

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin): The following key targets have been set for the Chief Executive of the Defence Medical Education and Training Agency (DMETA) for the financial year 2005–06:

Key Target 1—Meeting Operational Manpower Requirements

Key Target 2—Individual Military Continuation Training

Key Target 3—Medical Professional and Career Training

Initial Training (Phase 2)

Career. Professional and Continuation Training (Phase 3)

Key Target 4—Efficiency DMETA Estate

Cost Measurement

Key Target 5—Customer Focus.

Key Target 6—Harmony/Separated Service

Fleet and Second Sea Lord Budgets

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): In the 2004 Defence White Paper "Future Capabilities" we announced plans to merge the Fleet and Second Sea Lord Headquarters in Portsmouth. This is part of a programme to create a modern, effective and efficient command structure for the Royal Navy. It will build on the collocation of both headquarters in Portsmouth in 2002 and the enhanced capabilities provided by Fleet's new Leach Building on Whale Island, which opened last year.
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Since that announcement work has progressed and our aim is to stand up the new merged headquarters on 1 April 2006. By cutting out duplication, streamlining back-office functions, and maximising the benefits of collocation, modern working practices and better IT, we expect to redirect significant resources to the front line. In particular, the new headquarters will require some 450 fewer posts (125 military, 325 civilian) than the two existing headquarters. These reductions will contribute to the wider MOD manpower reductions also announced in the White Paper.

We are doing everything possible to mitigate the impact on the people concerned. Our current plans envisage that the civilian reductions, most of which will take place in the Portsmouth area, will be achieved through a combination of natural wastage and voluntary early release. Should compulsory redundancies prove necessary, we will do all we can to keep them to a minimum. There will be no service redundancies. Staff and the trade unions are being kept fully informed of developments through meetings, briefings and a formal consultation exercise.

Creation of the new headquarters will have no impact on the Royal Navy's footprint in the Portsmouth area. The main focus of the headquarters will be Whale Island, but elements of the new command structure will remain in the naval base.

Support Vehicle Contract

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): I am pleased to announce that following the successful completion of negotiations MAN ERF UK Limited has been awarded the contract for the Ministry of Defence's support vehicle programme.

The award of this contract, which has a value of £1.1 billion, will see the delivery of a modern, more effective and more efficient fleet of trucks and trailers—a vital support capability—to our armed forces. The contract will create and secure a large number of jobs in the automotive sector across the UK, and is an excellent deal for both UK industry and the British armed forces.

Defence Fixed Telecommunications System

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): I am pleased to announce that a five year extension to the Defence Fixed Telecommunications System (DFTS) contract with British Telecommunications plc (BT) was signed on 1 April. The extension takes the contract term to July 2012. The extended contract will secure the continuation of voice, data and video telecommunications which are vital to the daily operations of the Department and UK armed forces. It will involve the introduction of new technology, producing benefits which contribute to operational effectiveness and the Department's future capabilities, as set out in the Defence White Paper on "Delivering Security in a Changing World (July 2004)". It will provide substantial savings, in the order of £15 million a year, and improve the ability of the Department to ensure ongoing value for money. The five year extension has a value in excess of £1.5 billion and will bring the total value of the DFTS contract to over £3 billion.
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Student Loans Company

The Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education (Dr. Kim Howells) : A copy of the annual performance and resource agreement with the Student Loans Company (SLC) for 2005–06 has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses today.

The SLC plays a key role in the delivery of the Government's student finance arrangements and the agreement sets five objectives for the company over the coming year. The main objective is to provide an accessible an effective system for handling applications for student support and processing payments, so that students get paid the correct amount of support at the start of term. The other objectives relate to improving the collection of student loans; providing a high quality service to customers; offering information to the Government to assist in developing policy and strategy; and securing the best use of funding provided to the company. Performance measures have been set for the SLC in these areas and new monitoring arrangements will track the company's progress in delivering against these.

The agreement is also available on the SLC website at

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