Armed Forces: Army Basing Plan — Statement

– in the House of Lords at 3:26 pm on 5 March 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence 3:26, 5 March 2013

My Lords, with the leave of the House I will now repeat a Statement made in the other place.

"With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the future basing of the British Army. To assist honourable and right honourable Members in understanding the detail of the changes I shall announce and the effects on their constituencies, I have placed in the Libraries of both Houses and on the MoD website documents setting them out. Copies are, with your permission Mr Speaker, being distributed in the Chamber.

In 2010, we set out in the strategic defence and security review the configuration of forces that the UK would require to meet future threats and we committed to have completed the return of UK troops from Germany by 2020. Last summer, I announced to the House the structure of the Regular Army component of Future Force 2020. Today, I can announce the future pattern of basing of the Regular Army in the UK so that our service men and women, their families and the communities that host Army units, have clarity about where they will be based in the future and when moves are likely to occur.

As the House will recall, in July 2011 the then Defence Secretary set out our initial plans for the future of the MoD estate on which we will accommodate, train and prepare our Armed Forces. Those plans have been significantly refined over the intervening 18 months and reflect the fully developed military advice on the optimum affordable basing lay down to accommodate the Army in its future structure.

This announcement honours our commitment to bring all our troops home from Germany by 2020, with all but 4,400 of 20 Brigade home by Christmas 2016. It supports the Army 2020 structure, the integrated reserves training model and the generation of the Army's future military capability. It delivers a £1.8 billion investment in the UK economy in infrastructure and accommodation and annual savings of £240 million in reduced costs and improved efficiency of training and maintenance operations, on top of the £100 million-plus annual saving generated by the previously announced moves from Germany.

The return of the British Army from Germany marks the end of an era and I want to put on record the huge debt of gratitude we owe to the German Government and the German people for the support, both moral and material, they have shown our Armed Forces over more than six decades. In fact, that return has already begun. In 2010, there were 20,000 British service personnel based in Germany together with their dependants and civilian staff. Already, that figure has been reduced to less than 16,000, with significant force elements having already relocated, such as the Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, which has moved to Innsworth, Gloucestershire.

Planning for completion of the return is well advanced. We are on track to reduce our presence in Germany by more than 70% by 2015, against our SDSR target of 50%. The long-term retention of a small training presence in Germany, utilising NATO training facilities, is under consideration, but we will be closing all major unit locations. But this is not just about rebasing the Army from Germany. It is about providing a basing plan for Army 2020 in the UK, which will allow the Army to generate its military capability in the optimal way.

As the plan has developed, two key principles have emerged to inform it. First, the armoured infantry brigades of the reaction force should coalesce around a single location. We have concluded that Salisbury Plain Training Area is the only place in the country where we have the capability to carry out the complex and demanding training exercises they need to conduct. Having all three brigades located in close proximity around the plain will enable them to train and fight more effectively, and will present significant opportunities for efficiency in equipment support and people management. Secondly, the Army should retain a UK-wide footprint, maintaining the vital link to civil society, fostering closer links between reserve units and their partnered regular units and supporting nationwide recruitment and engagement.

Guided by these two principles, the Army has identified the laydown that represents the best value for money, both in terms of utilisation of existing estate and in terms of minimisation of running costs. The focus will be on increasing consolidation around seven centres at: Salisbury Plain Training Area, where we will invest over £800 million; north-east England, centred on Catterick; Aldershot; Edinburgh and Leuchars; Colchester and Swanton Morley; Stafford and Donnington; and, in the east Midlands, focused on Cottesmore and North Luffenham, where £180 million will be invested-all while maintaining a regional presence in other parts of the country. Consolidating around these seven centres will significantly reduce the need for moves, giving Army personnel and their families greater certainty about where they will live and work, with real benefits in terms of increased stability, access to long-term spousal employment opportunities, continuity in schooling and the chance to set down roots and access the benefits of home ownership.

This announcement will maintain the broad pattern of Army activity in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. With 45 Commando Royal Marines, remaining in Arbroath for the foreseeable future, the measures announced today will see an increase of about 600-plus in total regular Armed Forces numbers north of the border as against the July 2011 baseline, even as the Armed Forces reduce in size by about 17% overall. In both Wales and Northern Ireland, overall numbers will reduce by approximately 400.

This announcement sets out our firm plans for the laydown of the British Army, subject of course to gaining the necessary planning, environmental and other regulatory approvals. They are underpinned by a capital investment from the defence budget of £1.8 billion, including £1 billion of investment in new living accommodation to provide 7,800 single living spaces and 1,900 new and refurbished units of family accommodation. This investment will provide a welcome stimulus to the UK construction industry and, taken together with significant purchasing power currently going into the German economy that will be diverted to the UK, will help create jobs across the regions and nations of the UK.

The MoD plays a major role in the Government's public land release programme and will be looking to release additional land and surplus service family accommodation where it is no longer needed. Under this plan, the Armed Forces will leave a number of locations. The disposal plans will be subject to further detailed work and will be subject to the completion of the plans for the reserve estate in due course. However, I can confirm that we plan to dispose of Howe Barracks in Canterbury, Claro Barracks in Ripon and parts of Copthorne Barracks in Shrewsbury. In Scotland, we will be disposing of Craigiehall Barracks, as well as elements of Redford Barracks and Forthside Barracks, Stirling. Kirknewton will not now be developed as an Army base but Dreghorn will remain as one.

The MoD intends to close Cawdor Barracks at Brawdy in Wales, which is no longer fit for purpose, with 14 Signal Regiment relocating to St Athan, not before 2018, as part of a regional consolidation of the defence presence on that site that will also allow commercial development and job creation by the Welsh Assembly Government, with whom we are working collaboratively in support of the enterprise zone. The local communities in each of these areas have been hugely supportive of the military presence over many years. The loss of historic ties will be much regretted and, on behalf of the Army, I want to thank those communities for their generous hosting.

As part of our continued scrutiny of the central London estate, we will be pursuing options to vacate Hyde Park Barracks and reprovide for the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment elsewhere within central London, allowing for disposal of this prime development site, provided that the regiment's requirements can be met and that it proves value for money to do so. These disposals, and other planned disposals, will bring substantial receipts which have already been factored into the MoD's future budgets and will significantly reduce the operating costs of the MoD estate.

I have focused today on the future basing of the regular Army, but I am conscious that many honourable and right honourable Members will also be interested in the reserves and in our plans for reserve basing, as well as the future basing plans for the other services, the training estate and logistics operations. My right honourable friend the Minister for the Armed Forces will be making announcements shortly concerning other routine changes elsewhere in the MoD estate across the UK, and I will update the House before the Summer Recess on the future basing plans for the reserves.

This announcement represents a costed and funded plan to bring our Army back from Germany, deliver the basing laydown for Army 2020 and provide the accommodation our troops deserve, fulfilling our commitments to consolidate the Army estate and providing certainty to Army personnel and their families about where they will be based in the future. It is a plan that is driven by the Army's requirement to generate military capability in the most effective and efficient way as it reconfigures for contingent operations based almost entirely in the UK. It represents a significant step towards the achievement of Future Force 2020, delivers substantial savings to defence in the future and a significant boost to the UK economy, and to the construction industry in particular, right now.

I commend this Statement to the House".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 3:38, 5 March 2013

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier in the other place by the Secretary of State on the next, but hardly controversial, stage of one half of the coalition Government's withdrawal of troops from Europe. We welcome a steady, costed withdrawal of UK troops from Germany. Today's announcement will impact on Army deployability, our ability to meet planning assumptions, service families' livelihoods, and the integration of service personnel with local communities.

Before asking some detailed questions on how to make these measures successful, I will refer to previous Statements on the basing plan. The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review referred to the redeployment back to the United Kingdom of British Forces personnel currently based in Germany. It also referred to reconfiguring the Army into five multirole brigades. Approximately half of the then 20,000 personnel serving in Germany were expected to be relocated back to the United Kingdom by 2015, and the remainder by 2020.

Following the SDSR, the Ministry of Defence undertook a basing review, the conclusions of which were announced by the Secretary of State in July 2011. Under the plans announced then, RAF Kinloss would be transferred to the Army, with some of the personnel returning from Germany being based at Kinloss from 2014-15. RAF Leuchars was also to be transferred to the Army, with two major units and a formation HQ being redeployed to that site from Germany. The HQ was expected to move to Leuchars before 2015, followed by the two units between 2015 and 2017. RAF Cottesmore was to be vacated by the RAF, with the Army expected to start moving in in 2013.

The five multirole brigades envisaged under the strategic defence and security review were to be located in and around Catterick and Salisbury, in eastern England largely at the former RAF base at Cottesmore, and in Scotland, largely in Kirknewton, south-west of Edinburgh. The multirole brigades in eastern England and Scotland were to be largely formed from units returning from Germany. According to the July 2011 Statement, it was expected that approximately 6,500 to 7,000 Army personnel currently in Germany would be based in Scotland. It was also expected that units returning from Germany would move into bases in Aldergrove in 2015, and that further units returning from Germany would relocate to Pirbright barracks during the course of this year.

In November 2011, the Ministry of Defence announced the first tranche of moves that would take place in 2012 and the first half of 2013 as part of the defence rebasing programme, with the first tranche including 1,800 personnel returning from Germany. I mention all that because I want the Minister to clarify the extent to which the proposed moves and timescales announced today are in line with previous announcements and Statements on the basing review and on the redeployment back to the United Kingdom of British forces personnel currently based in Germany. Where there have been any changes, will he explain what those changes are, including changes in timing, and the reasons for them, as that is not entirely clear from the Statement made in the other place by the Secretary of State for Defence?

The Secretary of State in the other place also said, and, indeed, repeated in the Statement, that the total cost of returning troops from Germany is £1.8 billion. Will the Minister spell out specifically where this money has been found and say whether any cuts to the Ministry of Defence non-equipment budget are being made as a result of having to find this money? All those in the military who have recently lost their jobs will want to know that today's announcement has not been funded at their expense. Likewise, will the Minister say how much is allocated for each RAF base being converted to make them fit for the Army, and in each case when the conversion will be completed?

I would like to refer to the Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2012 because it contained the following observations by external members of the covenant reference group. It stated:

"Notwithstanding the fact that work on the New Employment Model (which will include accommodation) is on-going, we urge the Government to produce a transparent assessment of the impact of the freeze both on the condition of accommodation and on how the needs of Armed Forces personnel and their families are being met, particularly given the imminent relocation of our Forces from Germany".

It is also worth reminding ourselves of the comments by the Armed Forces Pay Review Body in its 2012 report. It stated:

"Against the background of wider changes and uncertainty, accommodation remains high on the list of concerns for Service personnel and their families. We hear repeated concerns during our visits and from the Service Families' Federations, ranging from practical issues about the lack of choice in allocations and variable maintenance performance in different locations to policy issues on the definition of the family. ... On our visits Service personnel and their families often commented on the allocations process for Service Family Accommodation (SFA). Lack of information and choice ahead of moving to a new unit were often mentioned as issues of concern".

The pay review body went on to express concern at receiving,

"poorly evidenced proposals from MOD to address its perception that the 'subsidy' to Service families has become too high".

The pay review body went on to comment:

"The evidence we received from MOD was driven by the perceived need to reduce the difference between MOD's spending on Service accommodation and its rental receipts. It did not give sufficient consideration to the human aspect of housing or the role of accommodation in the overall package for personnel".

In the light of those comments from the pay review body and the Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report, including observations by the external members of the Covenant Reference Group, in relation to accommodation, rents and the apparent gap between income and expenditure, can the Minister say whether Armed Forces personnel and their families returning from Germany will be faced with attempts by the Ministry of Defence to secure significant increases in rents for accommodation provided for them in this country? What steps are being taken to address the other concerns on accommodation, to which I have referred and have been highlighted by the pay review body, in the light of the moves back from Germany? Clearly, accommodation is a significant issue for Armed Forces personnel. The quotes that I have mentioned are not mine but are contained in the Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2012 and the pay review body report for 2012. It would be helpful to have the Government's response, bearing in mind that a significant part of the success of the moves back from Germany will be dependent on the quality, extent, variety and cost of accommodation provided for our Armed Forces personnel who are moving back.

What efforts will the Ministry of Defence be making to give personnel returning from Germany the opportunity to purchase their own homes, which I know is an objective of the MoD? It would be helpful if the Minister could say a little more on that score. Can we also be assured that the accommodation provided in the UK will be of comparable size to the accommodation in Germany? I know that this might sound like a detail but, to the families, that would not be the case if it went wrong. If the accommodation is not of comparable size, there could be logistical issues such as existing furniture not being able to fit into the new accommodation. I am sure that some warm words-I hope more than warm words-of clarification on that point would be extremely helpful.

Most of my comments are directed towards the moves back from Germany. Can the Minister give a guarantee that no one returning will be forced to take expensive private rented accommodation? What are the anticipated costs of education and healthcare provision for Armed Forces personnel and their families returning to this country, bearing in mind that they are likely to be concentrated, as I understand from the Statement, in a relatively small number of locations? Will the cost of education and healthcare fall on the defence budget or education and health departmental budgets, and those of the devolved Administrations? I ask that particularly in relation to the reductions in the amount of money that local authorities have. Bearing in mind that those returning are moving back to a relatively small number of locations, what will be the impact on existing schools? If new schools are required, will they be local authority schools, academies or free schools, and who will make such decisions?

Will the decisions on where to base personnel-the biggest group that we are talking about is coming back from Germany-lead to an even greater concentration of our Armed Forces in a limited number of locations, largely in the south of England? Given that that appears to be the case, subject to what the Minister says in reply, will that have any adverse impact on recruitment into our Armed Forces from other parts of the country, particularly when the economy picks up and those seeking employment have a wider choice of job opportunities?

Will it also be the case that, with the withdrawal of our Armed Forces from Germany, the expenditure on the costs of such a move will have to be financed well in advance of any savings or other financial benefits being realised? The noble Lord referred to costs and he also referred to savings, but he did not refer to timescales. If it is the case that the costs have to be borne well before the savings are achieved, what would be the cash-flow implications for the Ministry of Defence budget? May I also ask that, in withdrawing from Germany-

Noble Lords:

Too long.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

Are we faced with any penalty or other payments as a result or are we able to withdraw from the accommodation sites we currently occupy in Germany at any time we choose without incurring any penalty or other charges?

I am sure from the comments that have just been made that your Lordships will appreciate the fact that I am about to conclude. UK troops have been stationed in Germany for almost 70 years. We support their return home, but this will be matched, on our part, by detailed scrutiny. I hope the Minister will be able further to outline the implications of today's announcement for personnel and their families as well as for local communities which, I am sure, will give our returning troops a warm and patriotic welcome.

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence 3:51, 5 March 2013

My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord's welcome for a steady, costed withdrawal from Germany. I wrote as fast as I could, but I am afraid that I could not keep up with all of the noble Lord's questions. I will do my best to answer as many as I can, but I undertake to write to him as soon as possible.

The noble Lord referred to previous Statements, particularly the July 2011 Statement. As the Defence Secretary said, today's announcement presents an updated plan for the British Army which is built on where necessary, just as the plan announced in 2011. The further work we have carried out in the interim has refined the Army's requirements and further identified value-for-money in our planning. It has sought out incremental savings and operational synergies in the way the Army operates.

The noble Lord particularly mentioned Scotland and the previous Secretary of State's announcement in July 2011. The plans set out two years ago were on the basis of the Army operating a multi-role brigade structure, but under Army 2020, published last year, the Army announced a significant change in its structure based on two key elements: reaction force brigades, centred on Salisbury Plain, and adaptable force brigades, based on regional headquarters. We will have an adaptable force brigade in Scotland, but it would not make sense to split the reactive force brigades between Salisbury Plain and Scotland, especially as we would need to purchase an additional training area in Scotland. Nevertheless, today's announcement strengthens the Army's presence in Scotland and implies an increase in the number of Armed Forces personnel based there of roughly 600 above the levels at the time of Dr. Fox's July 2011 announcement. This is a visible sign of our commitment to Scotland and to Scotland's continual vital contribution and role in the United Kingdom's defence.

The noble Lord asked me about the £1.8 billion expenditure and where it comes from. I can confirm that it comes from the capital budget and will not be at the expense of any redundancies. The point to remember is that it will deliver substantial savings from 2015 onwards.

The noble Lord asked me about RAF bases. We will be spending a lot of money both at former RAF Cottesmore and at RAF Leuchars. I do not have all the information at hand, and anyway, we are subject to contractual agreements, so I would not be able to give the noble Lord the figures. I will write to him in the best possible way that I can.

The noble Lord referred to the Armed Forces covenant and the pay body report. The Army has always looked to minimise effects on families of unit moves by ensuring that, where possible, any necessary moves are timed to allow personnel the ability to manage issues such as schooling and healthcare as easily as possible. While moving a great many Army families initially, this basing plan will give our personnel and their families greater long-term stability where they are based. This will allow them to integrate into the local community, their spouses to find long-term jobs and their children to have continuity in their education. Following the complete delivery of the plan, it is envisaged that the majority of units will not need to move again in the near future. The noble Lord asked me whether we are encouraging members of the Army and the Armed Forces to buy their properties. We are certainly doing that.

I can give the noble Lord confirmation that to the best of my knowledge no members of the Army will have to go into private rented accommodation. We are taking a great deal of trouble in working this out. Those members of the Army coming back from Germany will have suitable, adequate accommodation to move into with their families. We will consult the relevant government departments, local authorities and devolved Administrations about education and health. While the department recognises that the increase in personnel in some areas will increase demand on local services, many of the changes-for instance, Salisbury Plain-will not take place until the second half of the decade, which will allow time for resources to be appropriately redirected. Obviously, the education and health costs will fall on these local authorities but it is my understanding that they very much welcome these units moving into their areas.

The noble Lord mentioned Germany. We are very sad to be leaving Germany. I add to what the Secretary of State said in thanking the authorities there very much for all that they have done over the past six decades. I can confirm that the Secretary of State spoke yesterday to his German counterpart who, while being very sad, quite understands the reasons for us moving.

I think that that addresses most of the noble Lord's questions. I know that there are a lot of unanswered ones and I undertake to write to him.

Photo of Viscount Slim Viscount Slim Crossbench 3:57, 5 March 2013

The Minister made mention of training areas. To train an army properly with its ground-air support, great dedication must be given to the hours of darkness and night training. This always causes consternation among local government, various bodies and nearby inhabitants. What are the Government doing to ensure that night training is not sanctioned in any way in its most modern form today so that our military can consider and take part in proper night training within the United Kingdom? If we do not allow constant night training to our Regular Forces and Reserve Forces of all three services, we will not have much of an Army.

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My Lords, it is my understanding that a good deal of night training takes place in different training areas, such as Salisbury Plain, Otterburn in Northumberland and in Wales. We hope to keep the NATO training area in Germany after we move the rest of the Army out. Troops go to Alberta, Canada, for night training and to other countries, of which the noble Viscount is aware, including jungle training in Brunei.

Photo of Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Liberal Democrat

My Lords, last year in your Lordships' House, as regards housing for the Army, I said:

"The bad news is that there will be a three-year pause in the improvements programme from April 2013".-[Official Report, 23/4/12; col. GC 278.]

That related to the report of the Armed Forces pay review body. We owe it to our soldiers to provide good and decent accommodation. Will the Minister confirm that we are doing that and how does it fit into the earlier statement about having a pause in improvements in April 2013? Can he also say whether the £1 billion funding for housing in the Statement will not lead to calls for further cuts in welfare benefits?

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My Lords, I quite agree with my noble friend that we owe members of our Armed Forces decent accommodation, and we are going to considerable lengths to ensure that that happens. As I said in the Statement, we are spending £1 billion to provide some 1,900 new service family accommodation units and some 7,800 single living accommodation bed spaces. The intention is that the living conditions of those returning will be comparable to those of UK troops based in Britain and that the return of units from Germany to the UK will provide greater stability for the soldiers and the families involved.

I am afraid that I have forgotten the second part of my noble friend's question, but this money is pretty much ring-fenced for accommodation. It will not be at the expense of other areas.

Photo of Lord Moonie Lord Moonie Labour

My Lords, the Minister will be well aware that any development such as this is a compromise between the need to save money and the need to maintain the footprint of the Armed Forces throughout the United Kingdom. What account has been taken of the difficulties that we appear to be experiencing in recruiting, particularly to the Reserve Forces, when Scotland, for example, is one of the major areas that we would hope to be recruiting from? This could be seen as a disappointment in that the footprint in Scotland will not be expanded as greatly as was originally thought.

I hope the Minister will forgive me a parochial point. Have the Government taken into account the availability of the Barry Buddon trading area just across the estuary from Leuchars in deciding which units would be based there?

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My Lords, I cannot answer the noble Lord's last question. I am sure that it was looked into but I will check. We are aware of the recruiting issue, particularly for the reserves. As the noble Lord knows, we have done a lot of work on the reserves and trying to build up recruiting. There will be a White Paper on recruiting for the reserves and I hope to make a Statement on that issue before the Summer Recess.

Photo of The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds Bishop

My Lords, the Minister will recognise that those of us who come from Yorkshire will have mixed feelings about the Statement and since both Catterick and Ripon are in my patch, I share those feelings. On the one hand, so far as my experience at Catterick is concerned, I very much welcome the emphasis in the Statement on spousal opportunities for work, home ownership and continuity of schooling. Will the Minister reaffirm that individual soldiers and their families will be spending longer periods of time at a single base. That is what is necessary. It is not simply that they will return from Germany, but that they will spend a significant amount of time at one base in this country, which has often not been the case in the past.

On the other hand, the damage to Ripon of the closure of Claro barracks will be substantial in terms of the economic effect, friendships and the pride of the city. I have no doubt that that will be the same for other places where barracks are being closed. What support will be available to local communities, especially in comparatively small places such as Ripon, in order that those effects may be mitigated for the whole community in which those barracks are set?

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My Lords, I can confirm to the right reverend Prelate that our objective is to have units based in similar locations for a much longer period of time so that wives can be encouraged to get jobs and children will have continuity of education. We have set out in this basic plan, which I hope noble Lords have with copies of the Statement, all the different places where the units coming back from Germany are going to. I accept that there is a lot to digest in this and I am organising a briefing in the Ministry of Defence on 19 March. All the members of the Armed Forces and the civil servants who have been working on the plan will be there to explain everything to noble Lords. Indeed, noble Lords who do not normally come into the MoD are welcome to come along, and I would very much welcome the right reverend Prelate. We will be able to discuss the support that we are planning to give to all the local communities, in particular the smaller ones.

Photo of Lord Dannatt Lord Dannatt Crossbench

My Lords, I welcome the Statement that the Minister has just repeated about the future basing of the Army and the answer he gave earlier that the money involved, the capital investment, will be ring-fenced. I assume that the Minister meant that the £1.8 billion should be ring-fenced, which I very much welcome. Army basing is one of the areas of doubt that now may well have been clarified. Of course, doubt is what reduces morale in the Armed Forces, but redundancy is another issue hanging over many members of the Army at present. While I accept that the basing policy now brings more clarity to where the Army is going to live, can the Minister tell us when the new employment model will be made known to members of the Army so that they know how they are going to live?

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My Lords, I was referring to the £1 billion which my noble friend asked me about; that is being spent on accommodation. The noble Lord mentioned morale and I quite agree about how important accommodation is to the morale of the members of our Armed Forces. I spend quite a lot of time looking at the accommodation for the three services and I do all I can to ensure that it is being upgraded. Likewise, the noble Lord mentioned basing. We are doing everything possible to pass messages on to members of the Armed Forces and their families so that they know exactly where they stand. The feedback I have been given suggests that it has been very well received by the Army.

Photo of Lord Selkirk of Douglas Lord Selkirk of Douglas Conservative

Can my noble friend give an estimate of how long the transitional arrangements will take in respect of RAF Leuchars? Also, can he give an assurance that the runway will be kept operational in the mean time?

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My Lords, I can confirm for my noble friend that the runway at Leuchars will be kept in operation. I think that a university air squadron is based there and will continue to use it. Once the Typhoons have moved up to RAF Lossiemouth, we would want it as a failsafe runway for Lossiemouth.

Photo of Lord Davies of Stamford Lord Davies of Stamford Labour

My Lords, it is the wrong decision to bring back the Army from Germany at present, and to do so at very considerable cost. The Minister mentioned the figure of £1.8 billion. That would have been enough to have kept Nimrod going, to have maintained a Harrier strike force and to have bought all 22 Chinooks. The Government have demonstrated a very perverse order of priorities in this decision. It also deprives the Army of the training opportunities available in Germany which are much more extensive than Salisbury Plain, as the Minister knows very well, and of course of the opportunity for close collaboration in Germany with the Bundeswehr and the American army units stationed there, so it was the wrong decision. However, perhaps I may ask the Minister for a figure that he has not given. What is the estimate of the incremental costs in the future of flying our troops for training in Germany, Canada or in other places where they need more extensive training grounds-a need that would not have arisen had we maintained our position in Germany?

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord always finds something wrong with the announcements I make, but he forgets the very difficult financial situation that we inherited. I would point out that although we are spending a certain amount of money on bringing our troops back from Germany, huge savings of at least £240 million a year will be made from there on. I would much rather see the money spent in this country than in Germany.

Photo of Lord Burnett Lord Burnett Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the Statement confirms that 45 Commando Royal Marines will remain at RM Condor in Arbroath. The marines of 45 Commando are this country's specialists at mountain and arctic warfare. Arbroath has swift access to training areas in the Cairngorm mountains and is close to NATO's northern flank. Since the war, 45 Commando has deployed with great distinction these important specialist skills on operations in the Troodos mountains in Cyprus, the Radfan mountains in Aden, and more recently in Afghanistan. Does my noble friend agree that this decision will be good for the Royal Marines and their families, for our defence capabilities-including recruitment -and also for Scotland?

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My Lords, I agree with everything that my noble friend says about the Royal Marines. The Secretary of State was telling me last night how impressed he was when he visited them on winter training in Norway earlier this week. I agree with my noble friend that remaining in Arbroath will be good for the Royal Marines and for their families. As I said earlier, 45 Commando Royal Marines will remain in Arbroath for the foreseeable future. We investigated the feasibility of the move to the south-west but that option did not, at this stage, represent value for money and Arbroath is not needed for Army basing in Scotland. It is my understanding, as my noble friend said, that 45 Commando is very happy with this decision.

Photo of Lord Hamilton of Epsom Lord Hamilton of Epsom Conservative

My Lords, I noticed that the Statement includes a proposal to sell off Hyde Park barracks, presumably because it is so incredibly valuable. Does my noble friend have any idea where the Household Cavalry would go if that was done?

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My Lords, that is a difficult question for me to answer. Of course, if the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment was ordered to leave, it would have to go. However, as the Statement made clear, a lot of research needs to be done before it can move out. Suitable barracks would need to be found within the centre of London for it to move to, with all the costing worked out. It would be very complicated, but we would be irresponsible not to look into it.

Photo of Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde Labour

I thank the Minister for the Statement, particularly for covering the continual running sore-as the Armed Forces Pay Review Body report this year confirms yet again-of accommodation. Is he confident that the new and refurbished housing will be ready for our troops and their families when they come home, knowing that this will have to go through the public procurement process-I presume-and knowing about the delay after delay that such processes in the MoD seem to attract? What processes have been set up to consult with the services families organisations? Accommodation is a problem but there is also the linked problem of an influx of young families requiring more school places, to go on lists for local doctors and dentists, and hospital accommodation, which was not mentioned in the Statement. What processes are in place to deal with that and to ensure that when these families come back, those facilities are there for them? Finally, how does this impact on the covenant, which we have all welcomed and which is important in the life of servicepeople?

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My Lords, we are of course well aware of the covenant and do everything we possibly can to stick by it. When I was in opposition, I went with the noble Baroness to visit quite a lot of accommodation. In the last two years we have done a lot of work on accommodation, as did the previous Government at the end, and it is hugely different now to three years ago. The level of Army accommodation is catching up with the Navy's and the Air Force's and, on the whole, is really good. I am very much looking forward to going down to Salisbury Plain, I hope next month, to see what has been done there recently and what the plans are. We are in discussion with Wiltshire Council about the very issues that the noble Baroness raises-hospitals, schools and all the others. These are issues that we have to deal with, but all the local authorities and the devolved Governments that we have been in touch with very much welcome the Army moving into their area.

Photo of The Earl of Erroll The Earl of Erroll Crossbench

Perhaps I might ask the Minister, in a slightly light-hearted way: if Scotland becomes independent will those troops stationed north of the border become part of the "Scottish Army"? If it does not, what does that do to his pronouncements about long-term stability and how they will not all get moved around?

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My Lords, the noble Earl asks a very good question. The creation of independent Scottish armed forces would not be as simple as transferring existing Scottish-recruited or Scotland-based units. The UK Armed Forces are a totally integrated, pan-UK organisation and parts cannot simply be broken off like bits of a chocolate bar. Individual members of the UK Armed Forces could not simply be co-opted. They would have to be given a choice and it is far from clear that Scots in the UK Armed Forces, or members of units recruited or based in Scotland, would automatically choose to join the armed forces of an independent Scotland. The prospect of being part of smaller, less globally active armed forces might be seen as less rewarding for some.

Photo of Lord Dannatt Lord Dannatt Crossbench

With the indulgence of the House and an eye on the clock, perhaps I may ask the Minister a second question, given that my earlier question about the new employment model still hangs. I raised the issue of morale a moment or two ago. The capability of the Army is obviously very critical and its future capability is based on the integration of the Reserve Forces with the Regular Forces, about which this basing report is concerned today. When will we know the Reserve Forces basing plan? Clearly, successful delivery of our Reserve Forces is absolutely critical to the future capability of the Army, given that the Regular Army is being cut by 20%, which is unprecedented in recent times.

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My Lords, I can confirm to the noble Lord that there is a lot of work going on at the moment on the Reserve Forces basing plan and how that ties in with the Regular Army. As I said earlier, there will be a White Paper quite soon and I hope very much to give a Statement on this very important subject before the Summer Recess.