Jim Murphy (Shadow Secretary of State for Defence; East Renfrewshire, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence
(1) what the preferred length is of the harmonisation period between tours of Afghanistan;
(2) how many service personnel have had less than the 18 month harmonisation period between tours of Afghanistan in each of the last three years.
Mark Francois (The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence; Rayleigh and Wickford, Conservative)
The 'Harmony Guidelines' are used by the Army in particular to strike a balance between deployment, training and time with families. Current policy directs that where possible, an individual service person should not be away from home for more than 415 days in a rolling 30-month period. The 415-day period includes both training for a deployment and undertaking the deployment itself. Furthermore, it is policy for personnel to undertake only one six-month tour in each 24-month period. This principle is also used by the Naval Service and the RAF, but at slight variance to the Army. The Naval Service uses the metric of 660 days away in a rolling 36-month cycle and the RAF uses 280 days in a rolling 24-month period.
Although not common practice there are occasions when personnel can deploy shortly after returning from one six-month deployment so long as they are not in breach of these guidelines. This practice generally only happens when an individual moves to a new unit which is due to deploy or has volunteered to undertake another tour. While this may occur in the Naval Service and Army, the RAF do not permit it. The information on such redeployments in each of the last three years is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.