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The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The Joint Rapid Reaction Forces, JRRF, concept builds on the Joint Rapid Deployment Force to provide a pool of highly capable force elements, maintained at high and very high readiness and trained to undertake short notice force projection operations of all kinds. We plan to have this larger, much improved and more balanced capability in place by October 2001. The forces that are needed to meet the JRRF requirement have already been identified and an initial operational capability will be achieved on 1 April 1999.
The Joint Force Headquarters, which is co-located at Northwood with the Permanent Joint Headquarters in peacetime, will be expanded to enable it to command two simultaneous operations. It will be provided with a dedicated signals squadron drawn from 30 Signal Regiment based at Bramcote in Warwickshire.
The authority of the Chief of Joint Operations, based at Northwood, will be increased and he will assume greater responsibility for joint training, standards and exercises. To assist him in this task, a new 2* post, that of Chief of Joint Force Operational Readiness and Training, CJFORT, will be created from 1 April 1999.
Recognising that the proliferation of biological and chemical weapons programmes presents a continuing threat to our deployable forces, a Joint NBC Regiment will be established from 1 April 1999, initially at RAF Honington for at least four years. The regiment will consist of Army personnel mainly from 1st Royal Tank Regiment and RAF personnel from the RAF Regiment. It will also include elements of the Territorial Army and Royal Auxiliary Air Force.
A Defence NBC HQ will be established at Winterbourne Gunner on 1 April 1999. It will control both the Joint NBC Regiment and the Defence NBC Centre, command responsibilities for which will transfer from the Army Training and Recruiting Agency to RAF Strike Command on 1 April 1999.
A Joint Doctrine and Concepts Centre will be formed, located at Shrivenham. An Implementation Team will form at the beginning of April in London and will establish an Initial Capability at Shrivenham from September this year. It is planned to achieve a full capability from April 2000.
Lord Gilbert: The UK's chemical defence programme is designed to protect against the use of chemical weapons. Such a programme is permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention, with which the United Kingdom is fully compliant. Under the terms of the convention, we are required to provide information annually to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In accordance with the Government's commitment to openness, a copy of the summary, outlining the UK's chemical defence programme for 1998, which has been provided to the organisation, has been placed in the Library of the House.
Lord Gilbert: The recent planned disruption of the Global Positioning System in an area off the east coast of the USA was part of the NATO Joint Fleet Exercise 99-1. As such, it was carefully co-ordinated between the US Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration. Maritime and aviation communities were warned in advance through the normal channels and given the times and dates of the planned disruption, the area affected, and the likely effect on GPS users. Such planned disruptions are not unusual; at the same time there were five other similar warnings in effect within the US due to GPS trials and exercises. The disruption for the NATO exercise took place at the following times:
The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My right honourable friends the Home Secretary and the Attorney General and I will be publishing jointly a strategic and business plan for the criminal justice system in England and Wales at 12 noon on 31 March 1999. The plans describe the aims, objectives and performance targets which the Government expect the criminal justice system as a whole to deliver. Copies of the plans will be placed in the Library of the House.
The Lord Chancellor: It would be inappropriate for me to comment directly or indirectly on the merits of a criminal case where proceedings are pending in the courts of Australia with a view to the return of the alleged offender to face trial in the United Kingdom.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We have been advised by the Argentine authorities that, during the visit of HRH the Prince of Wales to Argentina, a lawsuit was presented by a lawyer to a federal judge in an Argentine provincial city accusing his Royal Highness of genocide and human rights abuses during the Falklands conflict. The case was rejected immediately by the judge on the grounds that there was no case to answer.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: China has reportedly deployed about 150 to 200 short-range ballistic missiles within range of Taiwan over the last five years. We have no evidence of a rapid build-up in recent months.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Foreign Secretary announced on 2 March a new UK commitment of £10 million to promote stability in Sierra Leone. The objectives are to help the West African Peacekeeping Force, ECOMOG, push back the rebels, to encourage the rebels to lay down their arms and return to civilian life; and to create a professional and democratically accountable Sierra Leone Army.
Access to this new £10 million package of assistance is conditional upon matching pledges of support from other international donors. I am pleased to report that we have now received the full amount of £10 million in matching donations as a response to our lead in the promotion of lasting peace in Sierra Leone.
UN Security Council Resolution 1171 prohibits the sale or supply of arms and related material to Sierra Leone, other than to the Government of Sierra Leone through named points of entry. There is also an
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