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Military Low Flying: Annual Report

Lord Brookman asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Bach: The ability to fly fast and low continues to be an essential skill in our armoury of tactics. Training for aircrew to achieve and maintain these skills is vital.

The amount of low flying training carried out in the United Kingdom low flying system (UKLFS) during the training year April 2002 to March 2003 was the minimum necessary for aircrew to reach and maintain these skills. Hours booked for low flying training in the UKLFS (excluding the rotary wing dedicated user areas, where different booking arrangements apply) during this period amounted to an overall increase of 2.6 per cent compared with the previous training year. The increase may be linked to preparations for operations, and an increase in the flying of Apache aircraft in preparation for their introduction into service. Since detailed records of hours booked began in 1995, the annual total has reduced by some 29 per cent.

The distribution of low-flying training across the UK has not changed significantly over previous years. It is spread as widely as practicable, but for a variety of reasons, including population distribution and geographic and climatic considerations, it is inevitable that some parts of the country will see more low flying than others.

We have today placed in the Library of the House a report giving a detailed account of low flying training in the UK low flying system for the period April 2002 to March 2003.

Further copies of the report can be obtained from the Vote Office: or it can be viewed on the MOD's web site;

Afghanistan: National Army

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What contribution they are making to the recruitment and training of soldiers for the new Afghan army; under what timetable; and with what results.[HL3952]

Lord Bach: The United States is the G8 lead nation for creating the Afghan national army (ANA) and is responsible for the selection of its recruits. Since March 2003 the United Kingdom has provided assistance by training the ANA's junior non-commissioned officers. This programme has been so successful that by September 2003 the ANA should be in a position to carry out this training itself. By then, we shall have begun a programme to train the ANA's senior non-commissioned officers.

Armed Forces Pay: X Factor

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of the working hours, unsocial hours and operational commitments of the Armed Forces,

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    whether they will ensure the X factor is renewed by the Armed Forces Pay Review Body in its 2004 report.[HL3972]

Lord Bach: X factor is an integral part of the basic pay of the United Kingdom Armed Forces and I can assure the noble Lord that it will continue to be so in 2004.

Service Personnel: Return from the Gulf

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to mark the return of Service personnel from the Gulf.[HL4164]

Lord Bach: As the House is aware, we have been considering the precise form in which we should commemorate and mark the operations undertaken in Iraq this year.

We can announce that we have decided that there will be a national service of remembrance and thanksgiving for the campaign in Iraq. This will be held in St Paul's Cathedral on 10 October 2003. The Dean of St Paul's will lead the service and the Archbishop of Canterbury will give the sermon. The service will give thanks for the role UK forces played in ending tyranny in Iraq. It will also give thanks to those personnel, including those that lost their lives, who took part—recognising their professionalism and their achievements.

Members of the Royal family, the Prime Minister and members of the Government will attend along with Service chiefs. Representatives of our coalition allies and members of the Opposition will also be invited to the ceremony, along with, importantly, the families of those who so tragically lost their lives over the course of the operation. The majority of the congregation will, though, be personnel who took part in the campaign.

We have given careful thought to the calls made for a parade to mark this event. In accordance with the wishes of the Armed Forces, we have decided that the most appropriate form of commemoration at the national level would be a service of thanksgiving, but without a parade. At the regional and local level, there will be opportunities for local communities to arrange events for their local units to mark their involvement in, and return from, the operation.

Military Vehicles: Multi-Role Armoured Vehicle and Future Command and Liaison Vehicle

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What the status is of the multi-role armoured vehicle and the future command and liaison vehicle programmes.[HL4165]

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Lord Bach: We regularly re-visit existing plans for capability enhancements to ensure they remain tailored to the security environment in which we need to operate. As such, we judge that the multi-role armoured vehicle (MRAV) is not ideally suited to the type of operations envisaged under the Strategic Defence Review new chapter and other developing policy work. This, coupled with recent operational experience in the Balkans, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Afghanistan and latterly Iraq, has demonstrated the need for rapid deployability in expeditionary operations. MRAV is not considered able to meet this capability requirement, which will be pursued through the future rapid effect system (FRES). FRES will be a very significant component of the long-term transformation of the land battle through its contribution to network-enabled capability. We have written to the German and Dutch Governments to inform them of our decision to withdraw from the MRAV collaborative project.

In parallel with our decision to withdraw from the MRAV programme, we are pleased to announce the results of the competition for the future command and liaison vehicle (FCLV). The Alvis Vickers Limited multi-role light vehicle has been selected to deliver the solution to the Army's requirement for enhanced speed, reliability, flexibility and protection for a wide range of users in combat or peacekeeping operations.

FCLV will also provide support for the RAF Regiment. It will play a key role in the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces by providing versatile, air-transportable vehicles, which will be among the first deployed in a crisis and will spearhead the way for troops in combat or peacekeeping operations. FCLV will replace a mixed fleet of ageing vehicles which were acquired as a stopgap following the withdrawal of the ferret scout car. This contract is worth over £200 million and is a good result for the United Kingdom AFV industry.

Ministry of Defence: Disposals Process

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to conduct a business review of the disposals process carried out by the Ministry of Defence.[HL4166]

Lord Bach: A business review of the disposals process is to be carried out by the Ministry of Defence. The review will commence shortly and complete in the autumn.

The aim of the review is to examine the function, operation, funding and organisation of the disposals process, to identify the key objectives, and to determine whether the current arrangements are most appropriate for future needs.

The review team will consult with a range of stakeholders during the course of the review, including MOD and single service sponsors, TUs, other

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government departments and other relevant bodies. The Ministry of Defence is interested to hear the views of other organisations or individuals who would like to make a contribution to the review. Those wishing to do so should send their contributions by 31 July 2003 to:

    The Disposals Process Business Review Team

    Ministry of Defence

    2nd Floor

    St Giles Court

    1–13 St Giles High Street

    London WC2H 8LD

    Or by email to:

Racial Discrimination: UK and EC Legislation

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 24 June (WA 11), what they consider to be the reasons why the European Commission and the Council adopted a narrower concept of racial discrimination in the Race Directive than in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, notwithstanding that all Member States are parties to the Convention, and that the International Convention is specifically referred to in Recital (3) of the Directive.[HL3693]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Her Majesty's Government are unable to speculate as to the reasons why the European Commission and the Council adopted a narrower concept of racial discrimination in the Race Directive than in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union 2000).

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek to amend the Race Relations Directive so as to ensure that it contains express language defining racial discrimination to include discrimination based on colour.[HL3859]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The EC Article 13 Race Directive was agreed by the European Commission in 2000. The Government have no current plans to seek to extend the terms of the directive. The Government will seek to rectify any inconsistencies in the Race Relations Act 1976 resulting from the implementation of the directive when a suitable opportunity arises.

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