Our announcement on 10 October indicated a small increase in the total number of troops deployed in Sierra Leone. The number will vary depending on the training task under way, but it is likely to be slightly over 400.
We also made it clear that, under our memorandum with the United Nations, we are ready to deploy a rapid reaction force in support of United Nations peacekeeping operations. As an early demonstration of the seriousness of that commitment, we are taking advantage of the completion of an exercise in the Mediterranean to divert an amphibious ready group comprising elements of our joint rapid reaction forces off Sierra Leone for a limited period during November. The group will include HMS Fearless, HMS Ocean, three Royal Fleet Auxiliaries and 42 Commando embarked. While in the area the group will be able to practise procedures and to conduct a detailed reconnaissance, both of which will significantly reduce the time needed to deploy should the rapid reaction force be required in future.