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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 10 September 2012

Defence

Invincible Class Carriers

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Philip Dunne): I can today announce our plans to preserve the legacy of the Royal Navy’s Invincible class aircraft carriers.

The three Invincible class aircraft carriers—HMS Invincible (in service July 1980), HMS Ark Royal (in service November 1985) and HMS Illustrious (in service June 1982)—served this country with great distinction having played key roles in conflicts in the Falkland Islands, Iraq and Bosnia. The last of these, HMS Illustrious, is due to retire from the Royal Navy in 2014. After that date and in recognition of the service given by these ships in protecting the UK over the last 30 years, it is our preference to see HMS Illustrious preserved intact as a lasting tribute to the service personnel who served on all three of the carriers.

In early 2014 we intend to hold an industry day to launch a competition for the innovative reuse of the ship to which interested parties will be encouraged to attend. We will invite a range of organisations, including private sector companies, charities and trusts to put forward viable proposals to ensure that HMS Illustrious remains intact and available for future private use while still offering taxpayers value for money.

HMS Ark Royal was withdrawn from service last year, following the 2010 strategic defence and security review. Retiring the ship five years earlier than planned was a difficult decision but it was the right one that, combined with her sale, has saved over £100 million. That has helped the Ministry of Defence to achieve a sustainable and balanced budget for the first time in decades.

Following a competition, we have awarded a contract to sell HMS Ark Royal to the ship recycling company Leyal for around £3 million. The recycling will be carried out at the company’s site in Turkey, the same location at which HMS Invincible was recycled.

Although a number of proposals to find an alternative use for the ship were tendered, it was decided, after extensive evaluation, that the recycling of HMS Ark Royal was the most viable option and offered the best value for money for the taxpayer. Bids received for further use were either not feasible or appropriate, or carried too much risk.

HMS Illustrious is more suitable for preservation for further non-military use and, as such, is expected to attract interest from organisations who would be able to put forward mature and viable proposals, in keeping with the role and history of the Invincible class of ships.

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Health

Suicide Prevention Strategy

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Norman Lamb): Today I am publishing a new suicide prevention strategy for England.

“Preventing suicide in England: a cross-Government outcomes strategy to save lives”, has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. The document is also available at: www.dh.gov.uk/health/tag/suicide-prevention/.

Over the last 10 years, good progress has been made in reducing the suicide rate in England. However, there were over 4,200 suicides in 2010. That is one person dying from suicide every two hours. When someone takes their own life, the effect on their family and friends is devastating. Many others involved in providing support and care will feel the impact.

There is no single approach to preventing suicide. Effective prevention needs a broad, co-ordinated, system-wide approach, with input from a wide range of organisations. An inclusive society that avoids marginalising individuals, and which supports people at times of crisis, will help to prevent suicides. Government and statutory services also have a role to play—through building individual and community resilience, ensuring that vulnerable people in the care of health and social services and at risk of suicide are supported and kept safe, and ensuring that we intervene quickly when someone is in distress or crisis.

This strategy recognises the contributions that all sectors of our society can make in preventing suicide. In particular, it sets out to:

reduce the suicide rate in the general population; and

provide better support and information to those bereaved or otherwise affected by a suicide.

We have identified six key areas for action to support delivery of these objectives:

reduce the risk of suicide in high risk groups;

tailor approaches to improve mental health in specific groups;

reduce access to the means of suicide;

provide better information and support to those bereaved or affected by suicide;

support the media in delivering sensitive approaches to suicide and suicidal behaviour; and

support research, data collection and monitoring.

The strategy supports action by bringing together knowledge about groups at risk of suicide, applying evidence of what interventions are effective in preventing suicide, and highlighting available resources to support action at local level. It therefore supports local decision-making, while recognising the autonomy of local organisations to decide what works in their area.

One of the main aspects of the strategy, and one of the most significant changes from the previous strategy, is the greater prominence of measures to support families—those who are worried that a loved one is at risk and those who are having to cope with the aftermath of a suicide.

In developing the strategy, the Government have built on the successes of the previous strategy, published in 2002. It has also been revised and strengthened following consultation on a draft strategy which ended in October 2011. I am grateful to the wide range of individuals and organisations who provided input to this work.

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The strategy has been developed with the support of leading experts in the field of suicide prevention, including the members of the national suicide prevention strategy advisory group, under the chairmanship of Professor

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Louis Appleby CBE. I would like to thank all members of this group for sharing their knowledge and expertise. Their continued support and leadership is central to our efforts to prevent suicide in England.