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17 Dec 2007 : Column 1029W—continued

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assistance is available to non-forces spouses to find suitable alternative accommodation following the breakdown of armed forces marriages. [172557]

Derek Twigg: Every effort is made by the services to effect a reconciliation, with the local service commander able to authorise a ‘cooling off’ period of up to three
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months. During this time, it is usual for the service person to move into single living accommodation, leaving the other party in the services family accommodation (SFA).

After the ‘cooling off’ period or when it becomes clear that no reconciliation is possible, the local service authorities are required to inform the Housing Information Centre (HIC) of the change in circumstance. The HIC will then issue a 93-day Notice to Vacate for the party who remains in the property, and also a ‘Certificate of Cessation of Entitlement to Occupy Service Families Accommodation’ that will assist the family to seek social housing from their local authority on expiry of the ‘notice to vacate’ their SFA. However, no one will be evicted from SFA until alternative accommodation has been found.

Within the armed forces, further advice for both partners with regards to finding new accommodation is available from the Joint Services Housing Advice Office (JSHAO). In addition to providing advice, the JSHAO operates a nomination scheme with a number of housing associations in England and Wales that allow applicants to apply for social housing in areas in which they wish to reside.

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the answer of 16 October 2007, Official Report, column 937W, on armed forces housing, what plans he has for accommodation disposal in each of the next three years; and how much will be generated from each such disposal. [173733]

Derek Twigg: The majority of service families accommodation (SFA) in England and Wales is leased from Annington Homes Ltd. and properties no longer required for defence purposes are returned to the company. Although no receipt accrues to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in respect of properties returned, there are savings in rent, contributions in lieu of council tax and maintenance.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, surplus SFA are sold on the open market. We currently have plans to dispose of 600 properties in Scotland and 800 in Northern Ireland over the next three years.

Overseas, the majority of SFA are returned to the host government when no longer needed, but SFA on permanent joint operations bases are owned by the MOD. When they are no longer required, the future of these properties is determined by the MOD.

In respect of single living (barrack) accommodation (SLA), this is usually within the wire of a service establishment and the disposal normally forms part of the disposal of the wider site. Receipts cannot, therefore, be estimated specifically for SLA.

As part of the 2007 comprehensive spending review, the Department agreed overall defence estate disposal targets (including accommodation) as follows:

£ million









17 Dec 2007 : Column 1031W

It is not possible to separate out the accommodation element of these targets. Receipts from house sales will depend on market conditions at the time of sale, the area and the type of property. To release any valuations we may have carried out ahead of the sale would, in any case, be likely to influence the market and these are thus regarded as commercially confidential until the sale is complete.

Armed Forces: Manpower

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of each pinch point trade is exceeding the harmony guidelines. [173728]

Derek Twigg: I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 29 October 2007, Official Report, column 942W. There are no updated statistics since that answer was given.

Armed Forces: Recruitment and Retention

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he is taking to improve recruitment and retention in the armed forces. [167887]

Derek Twigg: All three Services undertake numerous and varied initiatives, both at national and local level, aimed at sustaining and increasing the level of recruitment to the armed forces. Included among the many current initiatives are:

Turning to retention; in the armed forces as a whole, retention rates are broadly stable and we have seen no sudden outflow of personnel. However, there are areas where exit rates remain too high. These areas are continuously monitored closely and focused action taken to continue to improve recruitment and retention. We continue to restructure our forces so that they can best meet operational demands. Retention measures such as commitment bonuses, re-engagement packages, financial retention initiatives and initiatives to improve work/life balance and working conditions at the front line, continue to be used with the aim of
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discouraging outflow. There are a number of specific initiatives currently being undertaken such as the strategic remuneration review and the defence living accommodation strategy which will contribute towards this effort. In addition, we have made improvements to travel allowances to permit personnel to get home more easily and we continue to add to the deployment welfare package, that provides additional support to people deployed on operations and their families. We have also introduced a council tax rebate for serving personnel deployed on designated operations while also promoting measures such as work/life balance and career breaks to improve the day-to-day lives of Service personnel and their families.

The Services are also currently examining further non-financial retention measures including, in the near term, continuance of service, restructuring of trades to relieve pinch points, and being more flexible on what rank is required for a given post. Longer term work is also being carried out into the potential for easier movement between regular and reserve service, more flexible employment generally, assistance with house purchase, and any opportunities for stability a more regionalised Service might offer.

Armed Forces: Training

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many training areas in the United Kingdom place restrictions on training due to environmental concerns. [174490]

Derek Twigg: The MOD has both self imposed as well as legal restrictions placed upon training on all its training areas. Dependent upon the size, location and type of training area these restrictions may be simply to meet basic legal requirements and good practice standards, or they could be significant limitations imposed as a result of conservation designations or planning permissions. This ensures the long term sustainability of the estate.

Armed Services Capacity

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 3 December 2007, Official Report, column 568, on armed services capacity, if he will place in the Library a copy of the assumptions and methodology used to estimate the cost of three infantry battalions at £700 million; and if he will make a statement. [173734]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: While the costs of an infantry battalion are not generally held centrally (as these figures are extensive and spread over a wide variety of budgets), a set of general assumptions on which to base an illustrative costing of adding three infantry battalions has been developed.

These costings are dependent on the inter-relationship of a range of complex factors. Each of the assumptions that have been made is regarded as the most reasonable for indicative costing. Costs would break down broadly into two categories: the initial start-up and capital investment costs, and the annual running costs.

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Changes to these assumptions (particularly on the unit role or accommodation requirements) could result in significant changes to the overall total.

The following assumptions informed the costing:

Based on these assumptions, the following costs were derived:

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£ million

Initial start-up costs (estimated)

Cost of new barracks (furnished and equipped to standard, including approximately 400 SLA per battalion) (£150 million x 3)


Cost of building additional 225 (x 3) SFA (estimated at £200,000 per SFA)


Recruitment costs (given a recruit pass rate of only 67 per cent., a total of 2,802 enlistments are required to generate a throughput of 1,875 (625 personnel per battalion) at a cost of £12,000(2) per enlistment


Basic training costs (£29,000 per person)




Annual costs (estimated)

Annual barrack running costs (estimated at 10 per cent. of cost x 3)


Collective training costs (£1 million per battalion)


Annual salary costs (£19 million x 3)




Overall total


(1) The battalions will conduct the following collective training (CT): CT levels 1 and 2—individual and sub unit training; CT level 3—unit level training—in this context it is assumed that the battalions will conduct exercises Druids Dance and Wessex Warrior. For the purposes of this exercise CT 4/5 training has been excluded (the all arms overseas training exercise in Kenya) on the assumption that there would be no increase in the incident of currently funded exercises; the key cost drivers are ammunition costs. T and S costs have been estimated as have clothing and textile costs based on usage for units in 1 (UK) Division. No account has been taken of longer separation allowance costs for training activities.
(2) Costs are calculated on a full cost basis and therefore contain an element of overhead as well as fixed and variable costs.

Army: Deployment

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether there are plans to change the length of operational tours for the Army. [174476]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: There are no plans to change the standard six-month tour of duty for Army units. A small number of individuals (reviewed on a case by case basis) undertake longer tours for purposes of continuity and relationship building.

Army: Recruitment

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the target number was of recruits to the Army in each month in 2007, broken down by corps; and how many were recruited in each month. [169348]

Derek Twigg: Recruiting targets are set against an annual, not monthly, requirement across financial years. Officers are not recruited against Arm or Corps targets but against a whole Army requirement. The annual enlistment targets for soldiers only are shown as follows, together with the figures actually achieved.

Financial year
2006-07 2007-08
Arm or Corps Enlistment achievement Annual target Enlistment achievement to 31 October Annual target

Household Cavalry





Royal Armoured Corps





Royal Artillery





Royal Engineers





Royal Signals





Army Air Corps





Royal Logistics Corps





Army Medical Services





Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers





Adjutant-General’s Corps





Intelligence Corps





Corps of Army Music










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