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Royal Navy

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many submarines are operational in the Royal Navy. [54642]

Mr. Ingram: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch) on 26 April 2002, Official Report, columns 487–88W.

Service Personnel

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 25 April 2002, Official Report, column 425W, on service personnel, how many service personnel (a) with children and (b) without children in (i) the Army, (ii) the Navy and (iii) the RAF are earning under £92.90 per week after tax and national insurance deductions; and if he will make a statement. [54180]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 2 May 2002, Official Report, columns 966–67W.

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what pay, conditions of service and pension rights are offered to recruits from Commonwealth countries that differ from those offered to UK-born recruits; and if he will make a statement. [54315]

7 May 2002 : Column 44W

Mr. Ingram: Unlike Gurkhas who are recruited in accordance with the 1947 Tri-Partite Agreement (TPA) between the Governments of India, Nepal and the UK, recruits from Commonwealth countries are employed as individuals and fully integrated into the armed forces. With the exception of the following allowances, recruits from Commonwealth countries have the same pay, conditions of service and pension rights as United Kingdom-born recruits. The allowances that are specifically designed to meet the needs of recruits from the Commonwealth are:


Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will estimate the additional annual cost to his Department if Gurkhas were offered the same pay, conditions of service and pensions as UK armed forces personnel; and if he will make a statement; [54316]

Mr. Ingram: Gurkhas are recruited into the Army in accordance with the 1947 Tri-Partite Agreement (TPA) between the Governments of India, Nepal and the UK. This is the basic instrument that enables both the UK and India to raise and maintain formed Gurkha Regiments and aims to ensure that both Armies are able to recruit on an equal basis. As a result Gurkhas Terms and Conditions of Service, including basic pay and pensions, remain linked to those of the Indian Army. We have no plans to review these arrangements.

There have, however, been significant enhancements to Gurkha conditions of service in recent years. Gurkhas are now paid a cost of living allowance known as Universal Addition for service in all theatres outside Nepal. This allowance is uplifted annually to ensure that the combination of Gurkha basic pay at Indian Army rates and Universal Addition brings their remuneration broadly into line with the net pay of comparable British Service personnel. These arrangements have been in place since 1997.

7 May 2002 : Column 45W

The approximate cost to the Ministry of Defence of the pensions paid to former Gurkha soldiers in each of the last five financial years is as follows:

The significant increase in expenditure for the financial year 2000–01 reflects the outcome of a comprehensive examination of Gurkha pensions conducted by the Ministry of Defence at that time. This led to all Gurkha pensions being at least doubled and they now compare favourably to professional salaries in Nepal, where all Gurkhas are discharged. The vast majority of Gurkha pensioners, who continue to be entitled to an immediate pension after only 15 year's service, welcomed the outcome of the examination. British service personnel discharged at this point of service would receive no pension until they reached the age of 60. We remain of the view that the arguments for an immediate pension on discharge in Nepal are compelling.

Because of the different terms of service and career structures that apply, it is very difficult to make the direct comparisons that are sought. The cost of transposing British service personnel pay and conditions of service to Gurkhas cannot be computed accurately, and not without incurring disproportionate costs.

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Gurkhas are in service in the UK armed forces; and if he will make a statement. [54312]

Mr. Ingram: As at 1 April 2002, there are 3,449 Gurkhas serving in the British Army. They serve in a variety of roles, mainly in the infantry but also with significant numbers of engineers, signals and logistics specialists. We expect Gurkha manning to remain at around this level for the foreseeable future.

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many former Gurkhas drawing an armed forces pension are resident in (a) the United Kingdom, (b) Nepal and (c) elsewhere; and if he will make a statement. [54313]

Mr. Ingram: Residency details for former Gurkhas drawing an armed forces pension are not held. Data regarding the location in which payments are made are set out in the table.

Location from which paid(8)Number of pensions paid(9)
United Kingdom14


(8) Pensioners may reside in a different location.

(9) Includes all types of Gurkha pensions—normal, disability and family.

Sierra Leone

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British armed forces are stationed in Sierra Leone. [54636]

7 May 2002 : Column 46W

Mr. Ingram: We currently have some 360 shore-based military personnel deployed in Sierra Leone, supported by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Sir Geraint, and we will maintain our presence at that level over the period of presidential and parliamentary elections in May 2002. We are also contributing 15 military observers and seven headquarters staff to UNAMSIL, the UN operation in Sierra Leone.

RAF Pilots

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many successful applicants for RAF pilot officer have been unable to secure a flying training position in each of the past three years. [54885]

Mr. Ingram: Pilot Officer is a rank and it covers all RAF officer branches not just pilots and navigators. Potential pilots and navigators are selected for the General Duties Branch and applicants are recruited as either a Pilot Officer, Flying Officer or exceptionally as a Flight Lieutenant.

Usually all pilot or navigator applicants that have been successful at Initial Officer Training are offered a flying training place. On rare occasions there may be exceptions. Withdrawal could be for a range of reasons, such as personal, medical or issues of conduct. We do not keep a specific count of these instances because they are infrequent. A trawl of our records for the last three years identified only one officer that was unable to take up flying training. All other officers in the period would have been offered or are in the process of being offered a flying training place.


Gaelic Broadcasting

Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will make a statement on the future of Gaelic broadcasting following consultations on the Milne Committee report and the publication of the draft Communications Bill. [55066]

Mrs. Liddell: The Government has published today the draft Communications Bill and an accompanying policy document on a number of matters, including Gaelic broadcasting. We plan to secure improvements in the current delivery of service in various ways. We propose to build on the strengths of the Gaelic Broadcasting Committee by extending its representative base and by giving it a new statutory power to plan strategically for development of the service. The policy document indicates also our intention that I will assume a power of approval for appointments to the new committee as part of improved accountability procedures. We are considering within the Spending Review the scope for some additional investment to support these and other changes. Urgent talks convened by my Department will now begin on the detail of the proposed committee role and on the possibility of creating a more unified structure in the oversight and transmission of Gaelic programmes.

The Milne Committee recommendations have helped to focus on the need for overhaul of the current structures but we do not agree that the scale of change and extra resourcing they proposed is feasible or justified. I believe

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our policy intentions represent a constructive response to meeting some of the Gaelic speaking community's aspirations for a better co-ordinated service. We look forward to working with the community's representatives and with the broadcasting interests to make it happen.

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