Previous Section Index Home Page

MARS Programme

The Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid): I am pleased to announce our decision that the military afloat reach and sustainability (MARS) programme should now enter its assessment phase.

This is excellent news for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), which will operate the ships, the Royal Navy and the armed forces. MARS will be a cornerstone of our future worldwide operations, replacing many of the RFA's existing ships. It will support our new aircraft carriers and the rest of the fleet, as well as deployed amphibious, land and air forces close to the shore.

The MARS programme is currently assuming three classes of ships, which will deliver fuel and other stores to the fleet, helicopter support and sea-based logistics for deployed forces. During the project's assessment phase, we will investigate a range of solutions to meet this capability.

Defence Supply Chain Modernisation

The Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid): The Ministry of Defence has been reviewing how best to organise elements of our supply chain in order to provide the armed forces with the necessary logistic support in a modern environment. I am today able to announce the outcome of a number of studies into logistic support arrangements.

The Future Defence Supply Chain initiative aims to deliver a modern and effective Defence Supply Chain focused on meeting the demands of today's armed forces both in peace-time and in support of operations. MOD has been evaluating four alternatives and has selected an in-House option worked-up in close consultation with the trades unions to provide the best possible combination of effectiveness and cost. By updating processes, improving training for staff, rationalising the distribution network and the closure of the storage depots at Stafford by the end of 2007, Llangennech by mid-2008, and Longtown by mid-2009 we expect to make savings of over £50 million per year by 2010 and over £400 million over the next 10 years.
21 Jul 2005 : Column 114WS

The new organisation will require around 2,000 fewer civilian posts and around 50 fewer armed forces personnel. These reductions will contribute to the wider MOD manpower reductions announced in the 2004 White Paper.

A study into the future role of the Defence Munitions Centre at Crombie in Dumferline West is now complete and I have decided, subject to consultation with the national trades unions, to implement the recommendations.

The study determined that the explosives storage capacity available at DMC Crombie is not required to meet the known and projected storage liability of its customers. Crombie will, in future, concentrate on providing a loading/off-loading function to HM Ships and Royal Fleet Auxiliaries, together with berthing and other jetty operations.

DMC Crombie currently employs 168 staff. If the recommendations of the Study are implemented, there would be a reduction of 142 posts at the site. It is anticipated that 67 posts would go in the first year, with the balance of 75 posts being phased over years 2006–07 to 2009–10. Implementation of the study recommendations has the potential to deliver savings in the order of £18.1 million over a 10 year period.

I have also today approved, subject to conclusion of trade union consultation, ABRO's proposal, to begin phase one of a two part rationalisation programme. Phase one addresses the immediate impact of the downturn in ABRO's Defence revenue projections, but will not diminish the range of capabilities ABRO is currently able to deliver to the front line.

As a result, ABRO will reduce its headcount to approximately 2,150 posts by 31 March 2006, which includes the potential for up to 246 redundancies. The changes will realise annual manpower cost savings in the region of £2.1 million in 2005–06, and £8.3 million per year thereafter.

ABRO are still developing phase two of the programme but the aim is to address the process efficiencies, site re-structuring, and other change initiatives required to ensure ABRO has a sustainable competitive position from which it can grow in the medium term.

Finally, as a direct consequence of an announcement made today by Rolls-Royce Defence Aerospace on the outcome of an open competition for future overhaul and component repair on RB199 engine modules, up to 50 jobs will be lost at the Defence Aviation Repair Agency's (DARA) Engines Business Unit at Fleetlands in Gosport, Hampshire. I have agreed that DARA can now begin the formal 30-day consultation process with the trades unions.

We are doing everything possible to mitigate the impact on the people affected by these announcements. Our current plans envisage that the majority of civilian reductions will be achieved through a combination of natural wastage and voluntary early release but some compulsory redundancies may prove necessary. There will be no redundancies from the armed forces. Staff and the trade unions are being kept fully informed of developments through meetings, briefings and formal consultation.
21 Jul 2005 : Column 115WS

1990–91 Gulf Veterans Illnesses

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): A key principle of the Government's approach to addressing the health concerns of veterans of the 1990–91 Gulf Conflict is that there should be appropriate research into veterans' illnesses and factors that may have a bearing on these.

The Ministry of Defence has funded a study by the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control into the particular interaction of anthrax and pertussis vaccines in mice. The study is part of a wider programme of research into vaccines interactions, which has been overseen by an independent panel of experts. A paper reporting the final results of the study was published in the online version of the journal Human Vaccines on 14 July 2005 in advance of hard-copy publication in the August/September edition of the journal. In brief, the researchers report that, in mice, pertussis vaccine, vaccine combinations, or aluminium salt caused illness; anthrax vaccine produced little effect; diluted vaccine combinations produced less serious side effects of shorter duration; and pertussis vaccines act as an adjuvant for anthrax vaccine. As the researchers point out, caution should be exercised in applying these results to humans because of the relatively high dosage used in the tests and the very different sensitivity to these vaccines in mice and humans.

This work represents a further step towards meeting the Department's commitment to investigate these issues. A full summary of the findings is freely available on the journal website and via a link on the MOD website at:–new.htm

RAF Force Restructuring

The Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid): As was recognised in the 2003 defence White Paper, "Delivering Security in a Changing World" (Cm 6041–I), the international situation that we now face is radically different to that of the cold war. As a consequence, there have been a great many changes to the size and structure of our armed forces as they have adapted to meet this changed environment. I am today announcing two such changes.

The cold war radar station of RAF Saxa Vord on the Shetland island of Unst will be put on care and maintenance from April 2006, subject to consultation with the trade unions. This will mean that the station is effectively closed, but that the main operational part of the estate will continue to be maintained should it be required for future use. Further work will be undertaken to consider how much of the remainder of the station will be retained.

Radar cover at the level required can be provided by other RAF radars augmented by those of the National Air Traffic Services. Placing the station on care and maintenance means that we would be able to re-instate a radar capability should the threat assessment change. Some 70 service personnel, 30 MoD civilians and 10 contractor staff will be affected by this proposal.

I understand this will be disappointing news for our staff, the island of Unst and the Shetland islands community. Naturally, we will be happy to work with the Scottish Executive and the local authority to
21 Jul 2005 : Column 116WS
consider any measures within the defence remit that might assist the local community to adjust to the proposed change.

As announced on 21 July 2004, the role of providing ground based air defence (GBAD) is to be transferred to the Army and the four Royal Air Force GBAD squadrons disbanded.

I am now able to inform the House that 37 Squadron RAF Regiment based at RAF Wittering will disband by March 2006, that 16 Squadron, based at RAF Honington, will disband by March 2007, and that 15 Squadron and the RAF GBAD wing headquarters, also based at RAF Honington, and 26 Squadron, based at RAF Waddington, will disband by March 2008.

This phased programme will allow that Royal Regiment of Artillery to take over the pan-defence GBAD role in a progressive manner. The RAF Regiment will now focus on its role protecting other elements of the armed forces, particularly on deployment.

As part of these changes, both 3 Squadron RAF Regiment, based at RAF Aldergrove and the Queen's Colour Squadron, based at RAF Uxbridge, will be expanded by around 40 personnel each in order to enhance their operational capability to match that of the other four regular RAF Regiment field squadrons. This will improve the units' ability to deploy on operations and so enhance the operational flexibility of the RAF Regiment in its force protection role.

Around 340 posts will be lost as a result of these changes. These form part of the 7,500 RAF post reductions also announced last July. I do not expect any redundancies additional to those announced on 9 December 2004 (Official Report, column 102WS) to result from this announcement.

As a consequence of the decision taken last July, the RAF has conducted an overall review of the structure and basing of the RAF Regiment. As a result of this work, I have decided that 1 Squadron RAF Regiment will move from RAF St Mawgan to RAF Honington by March 2007.

In addition, I have decided that 2625 (County of Cornwall) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment, based alongside 1 Squadron at RAF St Mawgan, should be disbanded with effect from November 2006. This decision has been taken as Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment squadrons need to be based alongside regular units in order to maximise training opportunities and give the auxiliary personnel access to equipment held by the regular unit. With 1 Squadron's relocation, this would not be possible at St Mawgan. Around 75 reservists will be affected. Members of 2625 Squadron will be offered the opportunity to continue their reservist activities with other parts of the armed forces reservist organisation or with an alternative RAF unit elsewhere.

We are doing everything possible to mitigate the impact on the people affected by these announcements. Our current plans envisage that the majority of reductions will be achieved through a combination of natural wastage and voluntary early release, but some compulsory redundancies may prove necessary. Staff and the trade unions are being kept fully informed of developments through meetings, briefings and formal consultation.
21 Jul 2005 : Column 117WS

Next Section Index Home Page