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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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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