Basing Review

Nato – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 16th May 2011.

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Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss Conservative, South West Norfolk 2:30 pm, 16th May 2011

When he plans to publish the recommendations of his Department’s basing review.

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

As I have said before, the Ministry of Defence will make an announcement as soon as we are in a position to do so, and that will be before the summer recess. But as I have also said, this is a complex piece of work and we will take the time necessary to make sure we reach the right conclusions.

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss Conservative, South West Norfolk

On Friday I attended the disbandment parade of 13 Squadron at RAF Marham, which was a moment of both pride and sadness. Given the additional commitments taken on by the RAF in Libya and the statement by the Chief of the Air Staff that our air force is heavily stretched, will that have an impact on the basing review?

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

That will not have an impact on the basing review, but I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to everybody involved with 13 Squadron, which was involved in the early stages of the operation in Libya and has a proud history going back 96 years, including distinguished service in the second world war and later in the no-fly zone in Iraq and Operation Telic. The name will live on next year when a new squadron of reaper, the remotely piloted aircraft, will take on the number 13, and I am pleased to say that most of the personnel involved have been found other roles elsewhere in the Tornado force.

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader

At the time of the strategic defence and security review, the Secretary of State told me that the basing review affecting RAF Lossiemouth would be concluded before the end of December 2010. That was put back to the end of February 2011, and we are still waiting. The delays are causing uncertainty and economic damage in Moray and, I am sure, likewise in Fife, Norfolk and elsewhere. Does the Minister agree that the least that service communities should expect is a definitive date and no more delays?

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

As I said a moment ago, this is a complex piece of work. The Army coming home from Germany happens only once, and the future lay-down of the Army and the basing of the British Army for the future is something that we have to get right. It is necessary to take the time to get those decisions right. I understand the impact that waiting for a decision has on local communities, but it is more important that we get this right than that we do it fast. As I said a moment ago, we will make an announcement by the summer recess.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Liberal Democrat, North East Fife

My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that the professionalism and commitment of the men and women who serve at RAF Leuchars, which he saw for himself earlier this year, continue, notwithstanding uncertainty about the future of the base. What view does he take of the kind of speculation that we saw last week, apparently originating from within the House, which appears to suggest that decisions affecting RAF Leuchars have already been taken?

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I am pleased to hear that the professionalism of those serving at Leuchars, which I saw for myself recently, remains unaffected. There has been some ill-informed and unhelpful speculation in the media. In particular, last week there was a routine meeting to discuss all aspects of defence reform. It was absolutely not the case that there was ever any prospect of decisions being taken at that meeting, nor was there any proposal to that effect on the table. This is important work, and there is more work ongoing. I categorically assure my right hon. and learned Friend that no such decision has been taken, and we will come to the House as soon as we are in a position to do so.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Shadow Minister (Defence)

Last week the Chief of the General Staff told the Defence Committee that substantial investment in accommodation and training facilities will be needed if the Government are to be able to meet their challenging target of withdrawing half the troops currently based in Germany by 2015, let alone withdrawing the rest by 2020. What assessment has the Minister made of the cost of this policy and will it come out of the current departmental financial settlement?

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The Chief of the General Staff was absolutely right to say that the accommodation that the British Army will need must be of the highest standard. What that will cost will depend entirely on the decisions that are taken on where the Army will go and the state of readiness of any facilities into which we might propose to move them. The figures will emerge when we know where we are sending them and what will have to be built in readiness to receive them.