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Mr. Ingram: The Joint Casualty Treatment Ship programme aims to deliver a ship-borne medical facility broadly similar in scope to a field hospital, capable of treating a full range of casualties, whether from sea, land or air environments. It is intended to replace the capability currently provided by RFA Argus. A review of the programme is currently taking place which will inform the requirement further.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the impact on measures to protect the British merchant fleet of the planned reduction in the fleet of commissioned frigates and destroyers; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ingram: The global threat to merchant shipping is kept under constant review, and the Royal Navy, in conjunction with other Government Departments and international partners, remains fully capable of providing support and assistance to British merchant shipping via its Maritime Trade Operations policy.
Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many personnel at 1 April 2006 will comprise the (a) Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps and (b) Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service. 
Mr. Touhig: The latest available information on the strength of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC) and the Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service (PMRAFNS) is given in the following table.
|Strength 1 December 2005|
Mr. Ingram: Representatives from the Ministry of Defence participate, alongside their colleagues from other European nations, in a European Defence Agency (EDA) working group examining possible measures to rationalise the Defence Test and Evaluation base in Europe. QinetiQ is not directly involved in these discussions, but is consulted by the Ministry of Defence on matters of mutual interest. The EDA discussions are at an early stage, and no firm conclusions on the prospects for rationalisation have been reached.
Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for the future of RAF Bentley Priory; what assessment he has made of its historic significance; and what discussions he has had on the subject with the Battle of Britain Fighter Association. 
Mr. Touhig: Studies within the Ministry of Defence have concluded that there is no current defence requirement for retaining Bentley Priory and therefore the Department is considering options for its disposal. This work is being taken forward through Project MoDEL, which aims to consolidate the defence estate in Greater London to ensure that it is the right size and quality to support our future operational outputs and to improve working and living conditions for current and future generations of service personnel in London. The MOD is in the process of selecting an industry partner to take the project forward.
The MOD is well aware of the unique historical importance of RAF Bentley Priory. Defence Estates has completed a detailed Heritage Assessment, which was shared with English Heritage in July 2004. The Department has engaged with a wide range of stakeholders with an interest in the future of RAF Bentley Priory, including the Battle of Britain Fighter Association (BoBFA), and understands their aspirations. Meetings have also been facilitated between BoBFA and the two short-listed industry bidders for the Project MoDEL contract. Defence Estates' staff are also engaging with BoBFA over the development of a formal Conservation Statement, which will act as the definitive identification of the site's heritage importance.
The MOD wishes to identify a long-term and sustainable solution that will ensure that the site is preserved in a way that is appropriate to its significant importance, whilst seeking to enhance public access. In doing so, it is important that we maintain the momentum of Project MoDEL, in order to realise the benefits it will deliver at the earliest opportunity.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on ammunition supplied to his Department by Royal Ordnance from overseas; and how much of the ammunition supplied was rejected as being unsuitable for use in 200405. 
Mr. Ingram: The Ministry of Defence procures a range of defence general munitions from BAE Land Systems (Formerly Royal Ordnance) through a Framework Partnering Agreement. Sourcing is principally a matter for the company, which is free to make commercial decisions to source components or complete rounds of ammunition from overseas. MOD monitor the performance of all ammunition in service, whether sourced in the UK or overseas. Statistics on ammunition rejected and the original source country are not held centrally, and could be supplied only at disproportionate cost.
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what representations he has received from the Royal Navy regarding the operational implications of the loss of underwater launch facilities for swimmer delivery vehicles supplied by HMS Spartan; 
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what factors were taken into account when HMS Spartan was selected (a) as the sole submarine capable of the underwater launch of swimmer delivery vehicles and (b) for decommissioning prior to other fleet submarines. 
Mr. Ingram [holding answer 24 January 2006]: The decision to reduce our attack submarines from 12 boats to 10 was taken as part of the Strategic Defence Review. HMS Spartan was selected as one of the submarines to be withdrawn from service taking into account such factors as her age, material state and capability. I am withholding the further information requested on the grounds that disclosure would prejudice the defence of the United Kingdom and the capability and effectiveness of the armed forces.
Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many (a) second lieutenants, (b) lieutenants, (c) captains, (d) majors, (e) lieutenant-colonels and (f) Territorial Army personnel with five-year service bars are serving in the Territorial Army; 
The Volunteer Reserves Service Medal (VRSM) is awarded to members of the volunteer reserve forces subject to completion of 10 years continuous qualifying service. For the purposes of the reply, it is assumed that it is details of the number of clasps to the VRSM, awarded for subsequent continuous periods of five years' service, that are sought. This information is provided in the following table:
25 Jan 2006 : Column 2130W
|Rank||Number currently serving with VRSM clasp(s)|
|All TA Personnel||1,063|
|Calendar year||Number of VRSM clasps issued|
Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average age is of Territorial Army (a) recruits, (b) privates, (c) non-commissioned officers, (d) officers and (e) personnel as a whole. 
|Average age (years)|
|TA as a whole||31|
Mr. Touhig: Call-out notices for Operation Telic 8 are being served upon volunteers from across a variety of regiments and corps in the Territorial Army, including: the pool of Watch Keepers; the Royal Armoured Corps; the Royal Artillery; the Infantry; the Royal Logistics Corps; and the Army Medical Services.
[holding answer 23 January 2006]: The number of new recruits into the Territorial Army (TA) remains relatively high. We continue to recruit through professional advertising campaigns and recent TV campaigns have generated a lot of interest in people joining the TA. A new and integrated recruiting process will be introduced under Project One Army Recruiting (OAR) which will provide greater integration and coherence between Regular Army and TA recruiting. In addition, a manning action plan has been introduced to improve recruitment and retention which includes: improved and more flexible Terms and Conditions of Service (TACOS); better integration of training with the Regular Army
25 Jan 2006 : Column 2131W
including increased levels of training support and availability of equipment; and enhancements to support administration, welfare, recruiting and employer support activities.
Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) tax rates and (b) tax allowances are used when Territorial Army personnel are on deployment; and what advice is available after deployment about personal tax issues. 
Mr. Touhig: Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs are notified of an individual's impending change in employment status prior to mobilisation, and a change of tax code is issued calculated under the normal pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) rules. Under these rules, the tax rates and allowances that apply vary according to an individual's income and personal circumstances.
Until the change of tax code is received and applied, which is normally during the second month of deployment, an emergency tax code is used for all Territorial Army personnel. This assumes that they are only entitled to the basic personal tax allowance.
Mobilised Territorial Army personnel on deployment are able to seek advice on tax issues in theatre from the regimental administration officer who, if necessary, can seek expert advice on more complex issues from armed forces pay officials within the United Kingdom.
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