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DEFENCE

Army Base Storage and Distribution Agency

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the Government's proposals in respect of the Army Base Storage and Distribution Agency at Old Dalby, Leicestershire; what representations he has received in respect of these proposals; what is the cost to the Exchequer of keeping the ABSDA open; and

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what assessment he has made on the potential impact of the closure of the ABSDA, for firms based in Leicester. [23183]

Dr. Reid: I have accepted, as the basis for consultation, the recommendation of the Quarter-Master General's Storage Rationalisation Study recommendation that the sub-depot of the Army Base Storage and Distribution Agency (ABSDA) at Old Dalby should close. Consultation with all relevant parties on this proposal ended on 23 January.

The saving expected from the implementation of the study's recommendations, including the closure of Sub-Depot Old Dalby, is £17.5 million in net present value terms over 10 years.

A number of representations against the proposed closure have been received from both individual employees and other organisations. All the points raised including those relating to its economic and other effects are, of course, being taken fully into account as part of the consultation process.

Foxes

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what is his policy on the control of foxes by (a) gassing, (b) snaring and (c) shooting on his Department's estate by personnel other than his Department's employees; [27523]

Mr. Spellar: While the gassing of foxes is not illegal, there are no Government approved products for such use. The gassing of foxes is not therefore permitted.

Snaring is legal provided the snares used are the free running type. These are used on the Defence Estate.

Rifles and shotguns are licenced for use both during the day and night.

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is his policy on digging out foxes on his Department's estate for purposes of fox control. [27524]

Mr. Spellar: The policy for digging out foxes on my Department's land has not changed. Under the Master of Foxhounds Rules, digging out must only take place at the request of the landowner. It remains my Department's policy that, as a landowner, this request would not be made.

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I have, however, directed that if any of my Department's tenants are troubled by rogue and destructive foxes, application may be made for the fox to be dug out following a prescribed authorisation process. It is stressed that where such action is permitted, it is on the basis that it is a specified fox control measure and will not be taken to form part of general hunting practice.

Type 42 Destroyers

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the average availability of Type 42 destroyers for operational service in each of the last five years. [27176]

Dr. Reid: Type 42 destroyers achieved approximately 84 to 86 per cent. average availability for operational service in each of the last five years. This discounts time spent in planned maintenance.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the complement of crew carried by Type 42 destroyers (a) was when they were commissioned and (b) is currently. [27177]

Dr. Reid: When first commissioned the complement of crew carried by Type 42 destroyers was 270. The current complement is 247.

Married Quarters

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if it is his policy to allow service personnel to occupy married quarters with a person other than a spouse; and if he will make a statement. [27243]

Dr. Reid: It is not current MOD policy to allow Service personnel to occupy married quarters with a person other than a spouse. Whilst this policy is kept under review, there are no present plans to alter it.

Early Leavers Child Support Agency

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many servicemen leaving the service early have given the activities of the Child Support Agency as one of their reasons for leaving. [27093]

Dr. Reid: Specific information of the nature requested is not held centrally. Such information as is available comes from the feedback which the Services receive in the form of individual returns to the various internal surveys which are carried out. According to the responses to these surveys, no Service personnel have given the activities of the Child Support Agency as a reason for their decision to leave the Armed Forces.

Type 22 Frigates

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the average period availability of Type 22 frigates for operational service in each of the last five years. [27386]

Dr. Reid: Type 22 frigates achieved approximately 82 to 86 per cent. average availability for operational service in each of the last five years. This discounts time spent in planned maintenance.

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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to refit Type 22 frigates with less manpower-intensive equipment; and if he will make a statement. [27364]

Dr. Reid: There are no plans to specifically refit Type 22 frigates with less manpower-intensive equipment. The installation of new or updated equipments on all vessels, including Type 22 frigates, is made to address issues of obsolescence, achieve improved reliability or provide enhanced operational capability.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what crew complement Type 22 frigates carried when first commissioned; and what complement they now carry. [27363]

Dr. Reid: The Type 22 frigate was introduced in three Batches. When first commissioned the complement of crew carried by a Batch 1 Type 22 frigate was 229. The current complement has increased slightly to 243 on the latest Batch.

Hyderabad and Meeanee Barracks, Colchester

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects that the Hyderabad and Meeanee Barracks at Colchester will cease to be required for military purposes and disposed of. [27896]

Dr. Reid: It is too early to say. Future plans for the existing Hyderabad and Meeanee Barracks will depend on progress with the major Private Finance Initiative project which I announced by writing to the hon. Member on 13 October last year, and whose purpose is to redevelop the whole of Colchester Garrison. As I told the hon. Member in a second letter on 14 November, this project holds out the possibility of yielding surplus land for development, and the land that is earmarked for disposal includes the current sites of Meeanee and Hyderabad Barracks.

Royal Family (Helicopters)

Ms Dari Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the future provision of helicopter flying for the Royal Family. [28563]

Mr. Spellar [pursuant to his reply 31 July 1997, c. 466]: The Ministry of Defence has run a competition, on behalf of the Royal Household, for the provision of a helicopter service for the Royal Family. As a result of the responses to the competition it became clear that the option of using an aircraft with civilian aircrew operating out of a civilian airfield would provide greater savings to the taxpayer than a military operated solution. The Royal Household therefore decided that they wished to pursue this option and have now decided to place contracts for such a civilian service with Sikorsky and Air Hanson.

Recruitment and Training

Ms Squire: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the current status of the Partnering Arrangement between the Naval Recruiting and Training Agency and Flagship Training Ltd. [28287]

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Dr. Reid: Under a Competing for Quality and Public/Private Partnering initiative, the Naval Recruiting and Training Agency (NRTA) entered into a 15 years contract with Flagship Training Limited in July 1996. Flagship is a public limited company set up specially for the provision of training administrative and support activities, Income Generation and Public/Private Partnership initiatives in a Partnering Arrangement with the NRTA. Flagship's equity is held by Vosper Thornycroft, GEC Marconi and Johnson Controls Limited.

Under this pathfinder project, Flagship will market NRTA's irreducible spare training capacity and provide support services in return for fixed maximum charges. The NRTA has wholeheartedly embraced Partnering. Certain Support Services (mainly the already contractorised catering and cleaning) have already been transferred to NRTA's considerable advantage.

I am pleased to announce that, following detailed negotiation between the Agency and Flagship, agreement has been reached over the transfer to Flagship of the first and major phase of support service activities. This agreement centres on the provision of activities in the General, Administration and Training Support areas; 434 Civil Service posts and 550 uniformed posts presently deliver these activities. The net result of transferring the posts to Flagship is expected to be the creation of approaching 300 new civilian jobs and release of much needed uniformed personnel to fill gaps elsewhere in the Navy. A conservative assessment of the net cash savings to the NRTA is £29 million over 13 years from this first phase of transfer; with downstream savings of a similar amount expected from later phases.

Under Income Generation, approximately £20 million worth of contracts have already been secured by Flagship, and, prospective business worth about £300 million over 13 years has been identified, with the potential for creating up to a further 100 jobs in areas affected by previous reductions in the Defence budget. The recently awarded Kuwait contract typifies the benefits that Partnering offers the UK. The provision of naval training for a ship order secured by another nation is unprecedented, and indicates the value of combining Flagship's commercial expertise with Naval training internationally recognised as second to none.

National and Local Trades Unions have been informed regularly of the progress and I have recently approved, in principle, the signing of a formal contractual agreement involving the transfer of the activities and employees from the NRTA to Flagship in a phased manner beginning on 5 May 1998, subject to the outcome of formal consultation with Departmental Trade Unions. A copy of the consultative document has been placed in the Library of the House.


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