The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Hutton): I have today, with my right hon. Friend, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, laid before Parliament the "Cabinet Office Departmental Report 2005" (Cm 6543).
The departmental report describes the work of the Cabinet Office and includes a performance report for each of our public service agreement targets. The report contains information on how the Department is structured to deliver our objectives, outlines the priorities ahead and also includes a set of tables showing past outturn and future expenditure plans.
The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has made the following written ministerial statement in the other place.
The review stems from the order-making power in section 75 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to remove or relax statutory prohibitions on disclosure. The report gives details of all the provisions examined during the course of the review and sets out the Government's intention in relation to each of them. Of the 183 provisions which were reviewed and found to be within the scope of the power, 13 have already been amended using that power, and a further 59 will be repealed, amended or time-limited.
The Government will continue to assess the scope for further amendments or repeals to the remaining prohibitions on disclosure. Beginning in 2005, the Government will prepare and bring forward a series of orders under section 75 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, giving effect to the commitments made in this report".
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig):
I have set out the following key targets for 200506 for Defence Estates, as laid out in the agency's corporate plan 20052010:
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Delivering 2,500 single living accommodation grade 1 bed spaces under project SLAM, reporting on the provision of 5,300 bed spaces under parallel projects and delivering 600 upgraded service families accommodation properties by 31 March 2006.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): In the 2004 Defence White Paper, "Delivering Security in a Changing World", we referred to plans to collocate strike and personnel and training command headquarters. This is part of a programme to create a modern, effective and efficient headquarters structure for the Royal Air Force.
A study has been conducted into the potential for increasing efficiency and effectiveness of the two headquarters (currently based at RAF High Wycombe and RAF Innsworth) by rationalising and collocating them on a single site. This work was undertaken against the background of the reduction in size of the RAF from approximately 49,000 to 41,000 by 2008 announced on 21 July 2004, Official Report, column 348.
A number of sites were evaluated, including RAF High Wycombe and RAF Innsworth, to determine their relative operational and financial benefits. The study concluded that RAF High Wycombe offers the best value for money and is operationally more effective. I have therefore decided that, subject to trades union consultation, High Wycombe should be the site of the collocated RAF headquarters.
The study also showed that, as a result of collocation, the headquarters will require some 1,000 fewer posts (500 service, 500 civilian) than the two current organisations. These reductions will contribute to the previously announced wider MOD manpower drawdown. Some 1,350 headquarters posts (600 service and 750 civilian) will be lost from RAF Innsworth. Personnel numbers at RAF High Wycombe will increase from some 2,050 posts now (1,540 service and 510 civilian) to around 2,150 (1,400 service and 750 civilian) by 2008. A number of posts currently based at High Wycombe will move to other RAF units.
The target date for standing up the collocated headquarters is October 2006. However, in view of its role in managing the overall draw down in RAF numbers, the personnel management agency will not relocate to High Wycombe until April 2008.
Part of the RAF Innsworth site is occupied by elements of the armed forces personnel administration agency (AFPAA) currently employing some 540 staff, including contractors. I expect the agency's presence at Innsworth to continue until mid 2008, during which time internal rationalisation unconnected with this announcement will have reduced the number of posts concerned to around 260 (including 170 MOD civilians and 70 contractor staff). The future location of this part of AFPAA is being examined. Unless another defence use is found for the Innsworth site, it will be disposed of once AFPAA relocates.
I recognise that this announcement will cause disappointment in the Innsworth area. However, I have to make the best decision for defence as a whole. We are doing everything possible to mitigate the impact on the staff concerned. Our current plans envisage that the civilian reductions, most of which will take place in the Gloucester area, will be achieved through a combination of natural wastage and voluntary early release. If we are obliged to resort to compulsory redundancies, we will endeavour to keep them to a minimum. Staff and the
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trades unions are being kept fully informed of developments through meetings, briefings and a formal consultation exercise.
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