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Thameslink Railway Line: Rolling Stock

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport on what date he expects the first of the new carriages for the Thameslink line to be in operation. [300740]

Chris Mole: The first of the new Thameslink carriages are expected to enter passenger service in 2013.


Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what criteria his Department has used to assess potential recruits to the Afghan police force. [300315]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The MOD has no involvement in the assessment of potential recruits for the Afghanistan National Police (ANP). The Government of Afghanistan are responsible for the recruitment of all members of the ANP which, in June 2009, numbered in the region of 80,000.

The UK Government contribute to the training of ANP personnel through the provision of Police Mentoring Teams and support to the embryonic Helmand Police Training Centre. Currently the UK has policing experts deployed in Afghanistan, who serve in both EU and US Police Missions. In addition to these experts, since 2006, UK troops have worked with the ANP in a mentoring role in Helmand Province.

That said, investigations into the incident on 3 November in which five UK soldiers were killed by an individual wearing a Afghan National Police uniform are continuing. Both ISAF and the Afghan authorities have expressed their considerable regret over the incident, and all are clear that the investigations into this matter should be thorough and that any necessary subsequent action will be taken.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans his Department has for the number of qualified helicopter pilots available for operations in Afghanistan over the next two years. [301448]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Helicopter operations are vital to success in Afghanistan, and we are providing effective training to ensure that there are sufficient trained crews, including pilots. Following their initial training at the Defence Helicopter Flying School at RAF Shawbury, pilots conduct operational conversion training in the UK, and theatre specific pre-deployment training with their squadron on the aircraft types that they will be flying in Afghanistan. These arrangements are serving us well, and meeting our requirement for qualified pilots, but we keep them under review to ensure that we continue to sustain operational capability.

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many months on average of pre-deployment training armed forces personnel receive prior to their deployment in Afghanistan. [301527]

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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: For all services, pre-deployment training starts at basic training where military and common core skills are taught. This process takes 12 months on average to complete.

Building upon those core skills, personnel undertake theatre specific individual training prior to deploying on operations. The training required is based upon the individual's previous experience of operations, the time since they last deployed to an operational theatre, and the role they would be expected to conduct when deployed. Assuming that an individual is current with all forms of basic military skills, the Royal Navy personnel undertake an additional four weeks of specific training, and Army and Royal Air Force personnel undertake between two and four weeks of additional training.

A second element of pre-deployment training is concerned with the preparation of a formed unit. This collective training is determined by the role the unit is to undertake, including the possible need to re-role, for example, moving from a non-infantry to an infantry role.

Training is continually evaluated to ensure our armed forces are suitably prepared for a number of eventualities. Determination of an average time scale for the pre-deployment training of a formed unit would require a manual search of records of training for all units and sub-units, which could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he made of the flying hours of (a) UK and (b) coalition partners' helicopters and aircrew in Afghanistan in the latest period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [302094]

Bill Rammell: Since November 2006, there has been a 95 per cent. increase in UK battlefield helicopter flying hours, and further increases are planned over the coming months, in line with enhancements to our helicopter capability.

In addition, and as part of the wider NATO effort, US, Dutch, Canadian and Australian helicopters are available to commanders in southern Afghanistan. Details of the flying hours undertaken by our Allies are not available, but I can confirm that their helicopters, along with the UK's, are an essential part of the multinational pool available to Regional Commander (South) and they continue to make a significant contribution to operational tasking.

Armed Forces: Housing

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many serving military personnel in (a) the Army, (b) the Royal Navy and (c) the Royal Air Force have been placed in temporary accommodation as part of an authorised reconciliation period in each of the last five years. [301863]

Mr. Kevan Jones: This information is held neither centrally nor in the format requested.

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Armed Forces: Per Capita Costs

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much was spent per soldier on new individual equipment in each year since 2001; and how much is planned in each of the next five years. [301447]

Bill Rammell: The cost of the equipment which is issued to individual recruits on their entry into Army training is currently in the region of £860.

Additional clothing and equipment is issued dependent on the role to be undertaken. For example, Osprey Body Armour and personal weapons are not issued on a permanent basis but prior to undertaking a task that requires their use.

The levels of future expenditure will therefore be determined by the varied roles our service personnel continue to undertake.

Armed Forces: Postal Services

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what provision has been made for enhanced postal services for armed forces personnel serving abroad over the Christmas and new year period. [302109]

Bill Rammell: The MOD will be making all possible efforts to ensure deliveries of mail to members of the armed forces serving abroad over the Christmas and new year period. In the UK extra staff have been hired by the British Forces Post Office to manage the increased volumes of post. Additional aircraft are being chartered as necessary to transport mail from the UK to theatre with additional service personnel being allocated to this task in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.

We are also doing all we can to channel the public's generosity towards service charities and away from unsolicited parcels, which have the ability to overload the system and cause delays for mail from families.

Armed Forces: Telephone Services

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to provide extra minutes of free talk time above normal allocations over the Christmas and new year period for armed forces personnel serving abroad. [302108]

Bill Rammell: Armed forces personnel and MOD civil servants serving abroad on operations routinely receive 30 minutes free talk time during Christmas week from the Ministry of Defence. This is in addition to their regular weekly allocation, which is a minimum of 30 minutes, dependant on tour length. These allowances are provided under the WelComE (Welfare Communications Everywhere) project, which forms part of the Deployment Welfare Package.

This year, during the week of new year, they will also receive an additional 30 minutes from Paradigm, the communications company responsible for providing the WelComE service, to mark its tenth anniversary.

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Armed Forces: Young People

Clare Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the armed forces registered before their 18th birthday an unhappiness with their choice of career as grounds to leave the armed forces in each of the last three years. [302891]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The information is not held centrally or in the format requested. Service personnel elect to leave the service for a variety of reasons, some of whom decide to rescind their decision. To determine the number of service personnel specific to the criteria requested could only be obtained by a manual search of records which would incur disproportionate cost.

Army: Languages

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the Army have been sent on the specialist 10-week Pashto language course. [302817]

Bill Rammell: The 10-week Pashto language course has been delivered since 2006. The throughput of Land Forces personnel, which includes the Royal Marines, is as follows by financial year:

FY Personnel







2009-10 to date




(1 )It is estimated that a total of 91 personnel will have completed this course by the end of the financial year.
(2) Estimate.

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The rise in numbers reflects an increased requirement to provide deploying brigades with language capability to enhance interaction with the Afghan population.

Army: Manpower

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many serving infantry soldiers there are in the Army. [301960]

Bill Rammell: At 1 October the infantry had 2,740 trained officers against a liability of 2,520 and 21,350 trained soldiers against a liability of 21,999.

This represents an increase of 40 in officer strength and 1,470 in soldier strength over the last 12 months. This results from a combination of a greater number of recruits entering training and passing out into the field Army, coupled with an improvement in retention. While this may be attributed in part to the economic climate, a combination of infantry-specific financial incentives and Army-wide retention measures have also had an impact.

Army: Training

Willie Rennie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of infantry recruits did not complete their training at the Infantry Training Centre in each of the last five years. [301268]

Bill Rammell: The following table sets out the numbers of infantry recruits who commenced their basic training at the Infantry Training Centre at Catterick (ITC(C)) and who failed to complete their training.

Number of recruits who fail to complete their training (as a percentage of those starting)
Financial year Number of recruits commencing thei r initial training at ITC (C) Number Percentage

























Figures for 2009-10 are as at 20 November 2009.

Those who leave do so for a variety of reasons. Some find that they are not suited to a career in the Army; others leave for medical reasons or find that they cannot reach the high standards required by the Army. Importantly, every recruit who leaves ITC(C) does so only after staff have thoroughly explored all options to retain them.

Defence Equipment

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of the land forces equipment budget was allocated to aviation in the latest period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [302095]

Bill Rammell: The percentage of the land equipment budget which has been allocated to aviation for the period 2008-09 to 2018-19 is 38 per cent.

This figure is the percentage of the core programme budgeted expenditure for aircraft platforms and equipments used primarily in support of land forces; and those platforms where there is a shared service element.

Departmental Drinking Water

Willie Rennie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his Department spent on bottled water in each of the last 12 months. [302547]

Bill Rammell: Expenditure on bottled water used within the Ministry of Defence is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Bottled water is supplied through multi-activity, private finance initiative and public private partnership contracts. In accordance with Government policy on sustainable
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procurement, the supply of bottled water is to be removed from such contracts, where drinkable tap water is available.

Separately, bottled water is supplied to service personnel under the MOD world-wide food supply contract. Expenditure against the current contract for each of the last 12 months is provided in the following table.

Value (£000)

November 2008


December 2008


January 2009


February 2009


March 2009


April 2009


May 2009


June 2009


July 2009


August 2009


September 2009


October 2009


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