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The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, stressed the vital importance of effective control of the air. Clearly, that is vital to any military operation and the whole issue will be looked at very closely in the SDR-which, to answer the noble and gallant Lord's question, will report by the end of this year.

My noble friend Lord Jopling asked who will replace Geoff Hoon on the Albright Commission. My understanding is that the commission has just completed its report, so he will not need replacing. My noble friend also asked about our position on the WEU. In March this year, the previous Government gave notice that the UK intended to leave the WEU. The following day, all attendant member states of the WEU agreed that we would move together towards closure in June next year. There is no longer any justification for paying the cost of a separate organisation such as the WEU given that there is now clear EU agreement that NATO has responsibility for collective defence. In the interim, there will be a period of consultation on the important issue of continued effective inter-parliamentary scrutiny of EU defence issues, on which we will engage fully with Parliament.

The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, asked whether the Army will increase by three battalions. That issue will be considered in the SDSR, and I would not wish to

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prejudge the outcome of the review. She also asked from where the money to double the operational allowance will come. It has been the practice for the operational allowance to be funded from the Treasury reserve. Detailed eligibility criteria are still being worked out.

My noble friend Lord Luke asked about the Chinook helicopters. Do we have enough; are the Mark III helicopters now in service; and when will the additional 22 be deployed to Afghanistan? We have constantly improved helicopter capability. Since 2006, we have almost doubled the number of battlefield helicopters and have seen flying hours increase by 140 per cent. The first aircraft from the Mark III conversion programme has already been delivered for training purposes, and a further five will be delivered by the end of the year. We expect to start taking delivery of the additional 22 Chinooks in 2013. Their deployment to Afghanistan is a matter for military commanders.

My noble friend also asked about the carriers. The expected in-service date for HMS "Queen Elizabeth" is 2016 and for HMS "Prince of Wales" 2018. The approved forecast cost is £5.2 billion. So far, equipment sub-contracts have been placed to the value of £1.2 billion.

My noble friend Lord Burnett gave a good example of the successful projection of power by a carrier, albeit some time ago. There is no doubt that the arrival of HMS "Bulwark" and the Royal Marines aboard her played a big part in restoring peace to Hong Kong during the difficult time of the cultural revolution.

The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, asked about maternal and reproductive health and maternal mortality. We will put women at the centre of DfID's aid programme and will ensure that they are given choices so that they

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can decide for themselves whether and when to have children. Investing in family planning is one of the most effective development interventions and the most cost-effective way to reduce maternal mortality. It is an international development priority for this Government.

The noble Lords, Lord Chidgey and Lord St John of Bletso, asked about aid effectiveness, accountability, transparency and value for money. DfID is committed to ensuring independent evaluation of aid effectiveness and transparent accountability for the British taxpayer on achieving value for money for development aid. These will be key responsibilities of the new independent aid watchdog. The new watchdog will strengthen independence and accountability and, as a result, ensure increased value for money from British aid.

These are challenging times for foreign affairs, international development and, particularly, defence. The Prime Minister visited the Ministry of Defence this morning and was candid that the period ahead will be exhausting. Afghanistan, the strategic defence and security review, how we equip and support our Armed Forces and how we look after their welfare, their families' welfare and veterans add up to a huge amount of critical work. He acknowledged that his title includes First Lord of the Treasury, but he also reminded us that nothing is more important than the defence of the realm, a point that was echoed by my noble friend Lord Sterling. That speaks volumes for the priority that this Government place on defence and on supporting our Armed Forces.

Debate adjourned until tomorrow.

House adjourned at 10.17 pm.

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