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Special Reconnaissance Regiment

Lord Bach: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Geoffrey Hoon) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Strategic Defence Review (SDR) new chapter published in July 2002 stated that we planned to enhance and build upon the capabilities of UK special forces. As part of this programme, the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) will stand up on April 6 2005. This regiment has been formed to meet a growing worldwide demand for special reconnaissance capability. Consistent with the SDR new chapter, this regiment will provide improved support to expeditionary operations overseas and form part of the defence contribution to the Government's comprehensive strategy to counter international terrorism. The SRR will bring together personnel from existing capabilities and become the means of the further development of the capability. Due
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to the specialist nature of the unit, it will come under the command of the director special forces and be a part of the UK special forces group.

Reservists: Call-out Order for Balkans

Lord Bach: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Geoffrey Hoon) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

A new call-out order has been made under Section 56 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 so that reservists may continue to be called-out into permanent service to support military operations in the Balkans. The order will take effect from 4 April 2005.

At present, over 80 reservists are serving in the Balkans. They are providing a wide range of individual skills. We are most grateful for their continuing support to an important stabilisation operation.

Sea King: Phase One of SKIOS

Lord Bach : My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Adam Ingram) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am announcing today the award of a contract to Westland Helicopters Ltd for phase one of the Sea King integrated operational support programme, part of the wider defence logistics transformation programme, which is seeking to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of military logistics support to the front line. The contract is worth £300 million over the first five years, with a price review thereafter, and includes the provision of technical and spares support to the Sea King fleet. It will result in savings of some £50 million over 10 years, which is a considerable improvement on current support costs.

There are seven different variants of Sea King currently in service with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force in a variety of roles including maritime, air-sea rescue operations and support to land forces. The Sea King integrated operational support programme will improve the way in which support is provided for the Sea King platform, focusing on maximising aircraft availability, improving spares delivery and reducing through-life costs. It will secure the ability of the Sea King to continue operations in support of the UK Armed Forces in the future.

Phase two of the programme is expected to be implemented in around eighteen months' time, subject to a successful performance review against phase one implementation.

Cabinet Office: Report on Members' and Peers' Correspondence

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My honourable friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office is today publishing a report on Departments' and Agencies' performance on handling Members' and Peers' correspondence
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for 2004. Details are set out in the attached table. Departmental figures are based on substantive replies unless otherwise indicated.
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The footnotes to the table provide general background information on how the figures have been compiled.
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Correspondence from MPs/Peers to Ministers and agency chief executives1

Department or AgencyTarget setfor reply(workingdays)Number oflettersreceivedPercentageof replieswithin targetTarget setfor reply(workingdays)Number oflettersreceivedPercentageof replieswithin target
Cabinet Office15443901563788
Department for Constitutional Affairs2202,74649203,41664
Court Service15464951542995
HM Land Registry204896204495
National Archives15309015149100
Northern Ireland Court Service---151492
Official Solicitor and Public Trustee---1517100
Public Guardianship Office1595881513493
* Target for correspondence sent direct to agency chief executive.
Crown Prosecution Service15298881552098
Department for Culture, Media and Sport185,46085184,81778
HM Customs and Excise3 4182,04062181,32151
Ministry of Defence3155,56576155,98962
Armed Forces Personnel
Administration Agency1593981512699
Army Personnel Centre151694---
Defence Estates1524881511100
Defence Housing Executive151479---
UK Hydrographic Office1514100---
Veterans Agency15251941528799
Warship Support Agency---151591
Department for Education and Skills1514,424921515,31393
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs1510,410681514,30581
Food Standards Agency209811320782*59
* Letters where Health Ministers have replied.
** Letters where Chief Executive/Chairman has replied.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office2030,168802026,94283
UK Visas51516,964861512,84945
Department of Health62019,029542020,14080
NHS Estates1---2011273
NHS Pensions Agency106384---
NHS Purchasing and Supplies Agency---205760
Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency1026851028481
Home Office (non IND correspondence)15(20 daysfor IND)37,15358159,44576
Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND)8---2035,80234
Criminal Records Bureau10461921027295
HM Prison Service9201,43765201,15473
UK Passport Service10337791048674
Inland Revenue3182,80381182,99385
* Local Tax Office delegated figures (where local tax offices have replied direct to MPs)181,795*35181,601*4510
Valuation Office181377181883
Department for International Development153,67688154,68680
Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lord's Office154388156087
Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers15325651540463
Northern Ireland Office10503691056768
Compensation Agency---712567
Northern Ireland Prison Service104468104885
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister158,737731510,13581
Planning Inspectorate838489837981
Office of the Leader of the House of Commons15385961550495
Scotland Office157387158277
Department for Trade and Industry1514,678581511,80772
Companies House1033100105698
Employment Tribunals Service11---106193
Insolvency Service103488103394
Patent Office10484981029784
Department for Transport1510,19688158,59386
Driving Standards Agency15108901519879
Highways Agency15263851528595
Maritime and Coastguard Agency1033971020100
Vehicle and Operator Services Agency152592151377
HM Treasury3154,03683154,31686
National Savings and Investments152470157492
National Statistics15193841518995
* Letters where National Statistician replied on Ministers' behalf10104*8410133*73
Treasury Solicitor's Department1034100104998
Wales Office15120821510992
Department for Work and Pensions2012,157742013,31986
Appeals Service158488155098
Child Support Agency12203,52187155,39088
Jobcentre Plus151,05269151,13690
The Pension Service151,15750151,34089
Disability and Carers Service155549915451100
Debt Management1531851525100
Child Benefit Centre201191---
Health and Safety Executive10195911012770

1 Departments and agencies which received 10 MPs/Peers letters or less during 2004 are not shown in this table. Holding or interim replies are not included unless otherwise indicated.
2 Internal restructuring and changes to the correspondence handling system undertaken during second half of 2004. As a result, performance improved to 88 per cent during that period.
3 Includes all ministerial correspondence.
4 Downturn in performance due to internal restructuring and changes in the correspondence handling system. Introduction of new system improved performance to 82 per cent in the last quarter of 2004.
5 Unit is aware of poor performance in 2004 and is taking the necessary measures to improve performance in 2005.
6 Performance improved to 91 per cent in final quarter of 2004.
7 Includes eight letters sent directly to agency chief executive, 100 per cent were answered within the 10 working day response target.
8 IND experienced a 46 per cent increase (a 13 per cent increase in ministerial correspondence) in correspondence in 2004. Difficulties following the roll out of a new correspondence handling system led to significant delays. Necessary measures are being implemented to improve performance in 2005.
9 Includes a small number of interim replies.
10 Performance suffered due to exceptionally high volume of complaints received concerning working and child tax credits generally as claimants became familiar with a new system. Further efforts are being made to improve internal correspondence handling systems which will lead to an improvement in performance.
11 Includes four letters sent directly to agency chief executive, 100 per cent were answered within the 10 working day response target.
12 Response target reduced from 20 to 15 working days in 2004.

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