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Lord Bramall: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister to include, before he sits down, a statement about the purpose-built accommodation at Frimley which he has not mentioned. That was part and parcel of the whole exercise, as I understand it, and it would make a very considerable difference to the military wing which does not exist there at the moment.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and gallant Lord. I do not believe that I shall be able to cover that point in the very short time available to me. But I shall gladly write to the noble and gallant Lord and, indeed, to my noble friend Lord Vivian, who raised a similar point.

My noble friends Lady Strange, Lord Vivian and Lord Newall referred to the provision of accommodation for dependants of personnel being treated in service hospitals and MDHUs. All our hospitals in the Secondary Care Agency are able to provide accommodation for dependants of personnel being treated. If there is insufficient accommodation, the Ministry of Defence will pay subsistence allowance to enable dependants to stay in local hotels.

The agency has the provision of such accommodation under regular review and relatives and friends of patients are encouraged to comment. I have to tell my noble friends that I am not aware of any serious deficiencies in the area, but we will always look to improve such facilities where appropriate. For example,

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at the Royal Hospital Haslar, we hope to build and run a 72-bed accommodation facility to cover the requirements of both relatives and service day-surgery patients.

In conclusion, let us not forget one simple fact: our Armed Forces deserve and are receiving the highest possible standards of medical care. I pay tribute to the men and women of the Defence Medical Services who provide it and to their outstanding professionalism. We are confident that the DMS now has a firm basis from which to undertake its operational and peacetime roles. Teething problems after such change and upheaval are hardly surprising and all the time we must keep the operational capability of the DMS under review. The right structures are in place. It now remains for us to ensure that the progress that we have made over the past few months is maintained, built upon and properly funded. My noble friend need be in no doubt that achieving that task is for the Government a very important priority.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, can he respond to the point that I made when quoting from the report of the Select Committee? I repeat part of that quotation; namely, that,

    "the country does not have a medical service capable of looking after the maximum number of soldiers the UK plans to deploy in a crisis".

Can the noble Earl say whether he agrees or disagrees with that statement?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I disagree with that statement. I happen to agree with very many of the conclusions in the report of the House of Commons Select Committee, but that is not one of them. I sought to reassure the House in my speech that, according to our best and most carefully calculated figures, we could support any likely deployment of British troops. I am not clear as to how members of the Select Committee came to that conclusion, but I believe that they are wrong.

        House adjourned at eight minutes before eleven o'clock.

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