|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Bach: HQ 3 (UK) Division continues to command the Multinational Division (South-East) (MND(SE)) in Iraq, with contributions from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal and Romania.
We have begun a process of roulement of United Kingdom forces, which involves the incremental replacement of HQ 3 (UK) Division with a composite HQ MND(SE), the replacement of 19 Mechanised Brigade with 20 Armoured Brigade, the replacement of HQ 101 Logistic Brigade with a composite HQ UK national support element (NSE), the roulement of the combat service support units that will make up the UK NSE, and the mobilisation of around 1,000 Reservists. We expect the maritime and air elements of our presence in theatre to remain broadly stable.
A number of adjustments to our force levels in Iraq were made over the summer. Some of these were relatively minor, such as the withdrawal of around 30 armoured engineers and the short-term deployment of around 30 personnel from 23 Pioneer Regiment Royal Logistic Corps to undertake building and construction tasks around Shabah logistics base.
On a larger scale, we also deployed the 2nd Battalion The Light Infantry (2LI) and the 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets (1RGJ), to conduct a number of additional security and training tasks and provide MND(SE) with the flexibility and capacity to carry out surge operations designed to counter crime and enhance security. A recent major operation in MND(SE), Operation Sweeney, has resulted in 291 arrests, the seizure of six weapons caches, and the interception of 57 vessels and 58 vehicles involved in criminal activity.
Some of the additional requirements for which 2LI and IRGJ deployed are now being reduced or progressively transferred to Iraqi security forces. But some other requirements will continue over the next few months, including the provision of training for the new Iraqi civil defence corps. In overall terms, we assess that these continuing requirements can be met by approximately one battalion rather than two. When 2LI and 1RGJ are withdrawn from theatre in November and December they will therefore be replaced by the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (2 Para). We envisage that 2 Para will deploy from early November.
In addition to adjustments to force levels, we have also deployed further equipment to theatre, including over 200 armoured Land Rovers, three Puma helicopters and three Gazelle helicopters. Taken together, these enhancements provide MND(SE) with greater mobility, force protection and surveillance capabilities, increasing the flexibility and effectiveness of the force.
We will continue to keep the size and mix of forces in theatre under close review, and we expect to make further adjustments as a matter of routine to ensure that MND(SE) has appropriate capabilities for the tasks in hand. This is likely to include temporary increases in force levels when appropriate, to provide the general officer commanding MND(SE) with additional tactical flexibility and help ensure that progress and momentum are maintained and where possible accelerated. To facilitate this process we intend as a matter of course to nominate two battalions as over-the-horizon operational reserves for Iraq.
Lord Bach: We announced in February 2002 that the British-based consortium Paradigm Secure Communications had been selected as preferred bidder to supply the Skynet 5 satellite communications service to the MOD under the private finance initiative.
The move to a PFI approach and accompanying fresh and innovative thinking has resulted in substantial savings. Skynet 5 is within budget and remains on target to achieve initial provision of new services from 2005. It is a clear example of how we are getting better military capability and better value for money by using Smart acquisition principles.
This deal will provide the MOD with a number of benefits, including transfer to risk to the contractor. Skynet 5 will also provide a greatly improved service with regular technology upgrades and the flexibility to cope with the growth in military satellite communications requirements we expect over the next few years.
The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): The Government are looking at many ways, including all-postal ballots and e-voting, to modernise our electoral system and to increase the opportunities that people have to vote. To test the robustness of the new options and to build public confidence in them, we have undertaken an extensive programme of pilot innovations at local elections. This is why we are promoting legislation to permit further pilots to be held in a number of regions at the European Parliament and combined local elections in June 2004.
Our focus over the forthcoming months will be on working to ensure that pilots held at the combined elections are successful in delivering elections that are more straightforward and accessible for all electors. As a result, we are currently not minded to approve applications for by-election pilots for the period from 1 April 2004 until 1 August 2004.
Outside that period, our general approach on local authority by-election pilots is that while we will consider (as legislation requires us to do) all applications for pilots at by-elections, we are minded normally to approve such applications only if the proposals are consistent with the reommendations of the Electoral Commission as set out in The Shape of Elections to Come.
The report and accounts cover the first year of significant operations by the Standards Board for England. At the end of March 2003, 2,948 allegations of misconduct had been referred to the Standards Board since the introduction of the code of conduct in May 2002.
As the annual report shows, the board is continuing to work in partnership with local government to promote and sustain the high standards of conduct, which are essential to public confidence in our local democracy.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|