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RN Medical Officers: Promotion Prospects

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Under current regulations, until the age of 53 Royal Navy officers are eligible for promotion from Commander to Captain after they have four years' seniority as a Commander. RN medical officers are eligible for promotion when they have between seven and 14 years' seniority as a Surgeon Commander.

The average length of time for such promotion varies between the different specialisations. For non-medical personnel, the average is 6.7 years. For medical personnel the average is 11.3 years.

Promotion in the Royal Navy is on the basis of meeting a requirement for personnel of different ranks. Where a specialisaton requires relatively few senior appointments compared with other branches, the opportunities for promotion will be that much rarer and the seniority of personnel in a rank will be correspondingly higher.

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Mine Clearing Device Development

Lord Kirkwood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are funding any development of personnel mine clearing devices; if so, what type of device they are supporting; and what level of reliability for clearance they require.[HL4029]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government are supporting work in mine detection and mine clearance for both military and humanitarian purposes.

The Ministry of Defence is conducting research aimed at producing an advanced hand-held mine detector which should locate both metallic and non-metallic land mines. Research is also being conducted into techniques for the location of minefields from the air and these may be capable of locating anti-personnel mines. Neither system would clear mines. The Ministry is also conducting research toward a vehicle-based route clearance system; the removal of anti-personnel land mines might be an aspiration for a later enhancement of this system. The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency recently developed a pyrotechnic torch to destroy mines once they have been located. Since the effectiveness of these programmes in clearance of mines for military activities may reveal operational capability, I am withholding information on their performance under exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

The Department for International Development (DFID) is supporting trials of equipment to improve the safety and efficiency of humanitarian mine clearance. The equipment includes vegetation cutting, flail systems, body protection and a multi-sensor system for minefield detection. DFID is also launching this month a scheme to support the development of equipment to prototype stage.

DFID-funded mine clearance is required to meet the standards set out in the United Nations International Standards for Humanitarian Mine Clearance Operations.

Army Personnel: Retirement Levels

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why a net loss of about 100 Army personnel occurs monthly; and whether more resources will be provided to boost recruiting and retention. [HL4087]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Personnel leave the Army for a variety of reasons and the figures fluctuate year on year. There is no single identifiable reason to explain why the net losses during 1998-99 were approximately 100 a month. The reason for departure quoted most often by soldiers in the Continuous Attitude Survey for Service leavers is the effect of Army service on family life. Officers also cite these reasons but include the effect of service life on

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their children's education and whole career development.

Retention in the Army is being tackled in a series of initiatives. Steps are being taken to alleviate the effects of the Army's current very high level of commitment as well as improving the welfare arrangement for soldiers and families. We have already started to reduce commitments, HQ 5 Airborne Brigade have been withdrawn from Kosovo, the first of a larger reduction of forces from the Balkans once the situation allows. As part of our single “Policy for People", numerous improvements have been made to our operational welfare package. All soldiers who return from an operational tour of six months will now receive an additional four weeks' leave, and concessionary travel arrangements for the families of those on operations have been improved. More widely, we have established the Service Families Task Force to address, with other government departments, issues of access to education, employment and health. Our “Learning Forces" initiative, increasing the opportunity for education and personal development, will also provide a powerful recruiting incentive.

Financial retention incentives are being targeted at specific shortage trades, and re-engagement and re-enlistment bounties are being targeted at specific deficits. We are satisfied that resources currently allocated to Army recruitment are appropriate and last year 15,609 soldiers were recruited against a target of 15,659, an improvement of 10 per cent over the previous year.

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish Army recruiting figures and departure figures for the last 12 months showing net gains or losses for the Army. [HL4088]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The number of personnel recruited into the Army during the last financial year was 15,609 men and women against a target of 15,659. This last figure is deliberately set much higher than the calculated number of trained personnel required in order to manage the predicted levels of wastage from training historically experienced by the Army. In terms of trained strength during financial year 1998-99, there was an inflow of 10,128 against an outflow of 11,279. This represents a net loss of 1,151 personnel.

Centre for Defence Medicine

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress is being made to establish a Centre for Defence Medicine; and when it will be operative[HL4089]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean : The Centre for Defence Medicine project is progressing well. On 5 July 1999, an Invitation to Tender was issued to NHS Hospital Trusts short-listed as potential hosts for the centre. Responses are due by 5 October 1999. We plan to have a service level agreement in place with the

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chosen trust by 1 April 2000; for the centre to open on 1 April 2001; and for it then to develop and expand in partnership with the host trust. We envisage that it will develop an international reputation for excellence in military medicine.

Seven short-listed trusts were issued with an invitation to tender but one, The Lothian University Hospitals Trust (Edinburgh), has since decided to withdraw from the selection process.

TA Combat Medical Technicians

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why Territorial Army Combat Medical Technicians are being made redundant; and why they could not be held against other established posts which cannot be recruited.[HL4090]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean : As a result of the reforms of the Territorial Army (TA), the establishment of the Army Medical Services is increasing by over 2,000, while at the same time the total establishment of the TA is reducing from some 59,000 to just over 41,000. Even so, the fact that a number of TA units have been disbanded, merged or changed location has led to a number of Combat Medical Technician (CMT) posts being disestablished. Where this has been the case, every effort has been made to ensure that those who wish to and are able to serve are aware of other opportunities within the TA. Overall, with the advent of larger medical units within the TA as a result of the reforms, over 100 additional posts have been created for people whose primary role is as a CMT.

TA RAMC Units: Deployment in Kosovo

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why Royal Army Medical Corps specialists field units of the Territorial Army have not been deployed in Kosovo to relieve overstretch on regular units; and whether it is their intention to deploy them in the near future.[HL4102]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean : To date it has not been necessary to deploy formed Territorial Army Royal Army Medical Corps units to Kosovo as the operation has been within the capacity of regular units. Individual volunteers from the Regular Reserve and Territorial Army have, however, been deployed to reinforce regular units. There are no plans to deploy formed Territorial Army Royal Army Medical Corps units to Kosovo in the near future.

Kosovo: Secretary of State's Speech

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many copies of the booklet containing the text of a speech by the Secretary of State for Defence

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    given at the Royal United Services Institute on 29 June and entitled Kosovo: Some preliminary thoughts were printed and distributed; what was the total cost of printing and distribution; whether these costs were borne by the Labour Party; if not, which department bore these costs; and what was the purpose of this distribution.[HL4065]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean : Three thousand copies of this booklet have been produced at a total cost of £1,630.90. Distribution costs are not separately identifiable. All costs have been borne by the Ministry of Defence. This was an important speech giving the most detailed public statement to date by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence on the issues emerging from the Kosovo campaign. It was therefore appropriate that it should be made available more widely.


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