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22. Laura Moffatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of new arrangements for helping veterans from the armed forces. [58692]

Dr. Moonie: The broad effectiveness of the Government's veterans' initiative is monitored through the work of the task force and forum, the latter of which includes representatives from the veterans' community. We also monitor progress in specific areas including the success of our resettlement training, our initiatives with the charitable sector to address homelessness among those leaving the armed forces, and the service provided by our veterans helpline. In a number of areas work is still in hand, but my overall assessment is that the initiative is making good progress, with real benefits being delivered, particularly to the most vulnerable service leavers.


23. Angela Watkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the operational strength is of the Royal Navy's destroyers and frigates. [58693]

Mr. Ingram: The full strength of the Royal Navy' s destroyer and frigate force is 32.

Return to Civilian Life

25. Mr. Watts: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what measures he is taking to improve support for service personnel on their return to civilian life. [58695]

29. Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what measures he is taking to improve support for service personnel on their return to civilian life. [58699]

36. Tony Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what measures he is taking to improve support for service personnel on their return to civilian life. [58707]

Dr. Moonie: For those service leavers eligible to receive standard career transition services, the Ministry of Defence is currently working on introducing a Tri Service Resettlement Manual, to align resettlement procedures, policy and structures across the three services, and on replacing the current system for funding resettlement training to allow service leavers greater flexibility for such training. However, for one category of service leaver not eligible to receive standard career transition services, those being compulsorily discharged, the MOD has under consideration a change to the current rules to allow them to receive some specialist advice about finding jobs and accommodation, and accessing further support should the initial advice fail. A six-month trial to assess the feasibility of this initiative is under way.

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Sea Harriers

26. Mr. Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Royal Navy Sea Harriers are in operational condition. [58696]

Mr. Ingram: On 29 May 2002, there were 27 Sea Harrier FA2 and four Sea Harrier T4 aircraft in the Actual Operating Fleet. The Actual Operating Fleet is the total number of aircraft available to the Operating Commander to undertake the defined military task. Numbers of operational aircraft can vary with time.

37. Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the withdrawal from service of the Royal Navy Sea Harriers. [58708]

Mr. Ingram: On current plans the first Fleet Air Arm Sea Harrier squadron will be withdrawn in 2004 and the remainder of the force will be withdrawn by 2006.

An investment plan has been agreed to take forward Joint Force Harrier (JFH) into the era of Future Joint Combat Aircraft (FJCA) and Future Carriers.

The Strategic Defence Review (SDR) included a commitment to establish JFH, building on the success of Royal Navy and RAF Harrier aircraft operations in joint carrier air groups. This was a radical initiative to form a truly joint, flexible and deployable force optimised for the demands of the new strategic environment. JFH currently operates two aircraft types—Sea Harrier FA2, an air defence aircraft flown by RN personnel, and Harrier GR7, a ground attack/reconnaissance aircraft flown by RAF personnel. The plan has been for both the Sea Harrier FA2 and Harrier GR7 to be replaced by a common aircraft type. This is currently designated the FJCA with an In-Service Date of 2012.

Work has been taking place on a migration plan to take forward JFH into the era of the FJCA and the future aircraft carrier. We have concluded that JFH should migrate to an all Harrier GR force, maximising investment in one aircraft type. It is planned to upgrade the GR7 to GR9 standard to ensure a credible expeditionary offensive capability until the aircraft leaves service. To achieve this, aircraft systems will be enhanced to ensure their longevity and give the Harrier the capability to operate with smart weapons.

Given the Harrier GR9' s ability in future to employ smart weapons world-wide by day and night from land and sea and the increased emphasis on carrier based offensive air-power in the SDR and confirmed by the emerging conclusions of our post-11 September work, the Sea Harrier FA2 will be withdrawn earlier than planned, by 2006. The Sea Harrier entered service in 1979, and will start to become obsolescent as this decade progresses.

As a consequence of its earlier withdrawal from service, the planned relocation of Sea Harrier FA2 aircraft from RNAS Yeovilton to RAF Cottesmore and RAF Wittering in 2003 will not now proceed. However, the relocation of RN personnel will go ahead but slightly later than currently planned, over the period 2004 to 2006. By 1 April 2007, JFH will have migrated to an all Harrier GR9 force by roughly equal numbers of RN and RAF personnel. These proposals will be subject to consultation with the trade unions in the normal way.

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This plan will significantly enhance the offensive strike capability of our aircraft carriers pending the introduction to service of the FJCA.

Colchester Garrison

28. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he last had discussions with the preferred PFI bidder for the Colchester garrison about the delays in building the new garrison. [58698]

Mr. Ingram: My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence met with the preferred bidder on the Colchester Private Finance Initiative Project, RMPA Services, in January of this year, when he went to view the excellent Single Living Accommodation mock-ups at Colchester garrison. The MOD PFI project team and RMPA Services are now co-located in offices in central London where they meet daily.

BAE Systems

30. Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the continuing contracts awarded by his Department to BAE Systems for the manufacture of ordnance in the United Kingdom. [58700]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence currently has a number of contracts with Royal Ordnance Defence (ROD), a wholly owned subsidiary of BAE Systems, for the manufacture of munitions. These requirements and contracts fall under the umbrella of the MOD/ROD Framework Partnering Agreement. Contracts are placed with ROD as the prime contractor and the sourcing of materials or manufacture of components is a matter for the company, provided that they meet the MOD's stringent safety and quality requirements.

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what meetings his Department has had with representatives of BAE Systems since June 2001. [62264]

Dr. Moonie: The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

BAE Systems is the largest supplier of equipment to the United Kingdom armed forces. As such, the Ministry of Defence maintains an ongoing dialogue with the company at all levels on a wide range of strategic and equipment related issues.


31. Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had with EU partners regarding the future of the British base in Gibraltar. [58702]

Mr. Hoon: I have had no such discussions.


32. Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of the new ranges in Shoeburyness. [58703]

17 Jun 2002 : Column 38W

Dr. Moonie: The Shoeburyness ranges are included in the arrangements being negotiated with QinetiQ for the delivery of a long-term test and evaluation capability to the Ministry of Defence.

Falkland Islands

34. Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to visit the Falkland Islands to discuss the security of the islands; and if he will make a statement. [58705]

Mr. Ingram: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence visited the Falkland Islands in March this year and had discussions with the Governor and members of the Falkland Islands Legislative Council on a range of issues, including the security of the islands. I visited the islands last week to represent the Government at commemorations to mark the 20th anniversary of the conflict. The United Kingdom remains fully committed to the security of the Falkland Islands and to the right of the Falkland Islanders to determine their own future.

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