Other Questions.

Decentralisation Programme.

Dan Neville

Question:

6 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Defence the progress being made with regard to the decentralisation of his Department and agencies under his control; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12326/05]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

36 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Defence the progress in the decentralisation of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12396/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 36 together.

The Government decision on decentralisation provides for the transfer of my Department's Dublin-based Civil Service staff to Newbridge, County Kildare. The number of staff to be relocated to Newbridge is 200. The Government decision also provides for the transfer of 300 Defence Forces headquarters staff to the Curragh, County Kildare. A total of 385 personnel, of whom 78 are serving in the Department, have declared an interest in relocating to Newbridge.

The Office of Public Works is in discussions with Kildare County Council regarding the possible acquisition of a site in Newbridge for the Department's new headquarters. A site for the Defence Forces headquarters at the Curragh has been selected and preliminary planning for the design of the building has commenced. It is envisaged that the relocation will take place in 2007.

The Civil Defence Board is being relocated to Roscrea, County Tipperary. There are approximately 30 posts in the Civil Defence headquarters. Part of the staff of the Civil Defence Board moved to temporary accommodation in Roscrea with effect from 10 September 2004. The Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the provision of official accommodation for Departments, has issued tenders for the fit-out of a leased building in Roscrea. It is hoped that a contract will shortly be placed. It is expected that this building will be available for occupation later this year.

Does the Minister intend to sell the Defence Forces headquarters property on Parkgate Street? How many of the 30 Civil Defence Board personnel have moved to Roscrea? Since taking office, has the Minister examined changing his Department's decentralisation plan?

Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick was stripped of several appointments that were subsequently moved to Clonmel. On Joe Duffy's "Liveline" programme this afternoon, some of the Minister's buddies extolled his virtues and the way he looks after the Limerick East constituency. Will he satisfy their needs and reverse those positions to Sarsfield Barracks?

I am delighted I still have friends in Limerick. The Department of Defence owns the headquarters in Parkgate Street. When the relocation takes place, it will become part of the property portfolio of the Department. A committee within the Department identifies properties that can be sold off. Presumably, the Parkgate Street property will be one. There will be a tendering process in which the committee will consider what to do with the property.

Most of those based in Sarsfield Barracks are good friends of mine, whom I visit regularly. I have received no requests from officers or enlisted personnel there regarding Clonmel.

Ten personnel from the Civil Defence Board have moved to Roscrea.

Is the Minister concerned that a massive training process will have to be put in place for the new staff — 220 — to be appointed to replace the shortfall in the transfers? Will the Minister agree that the process of transferring staff will lead to a remarkable loss of experience and knowledge in matters of defence. Does the Minister believe the figure might be higher than 78? Is this the total number of officials who are willing to move?

The Department will have no difficulty in moving civil servants to Roscrea, as more than 100 have expressed an interest in taking up the 30 places there. So far only ten have transferred as there is only accommodation for that number. Those 30 civil servants will be transferred and working happily in Roscrea before the end of the year. The 78 who have expressed an interest in transferring to Newbridge are civil servants serving in the Department of Defence. This figure is out of a total of 200 personnel who are to be transferred under the programme, which, in comparison to other Departments, is a relatively high take-up. Retraining will not involve Army officers but civilian staff. It is acknowledged that civil servants can easily move from one section to another.

Will the Minister agree that certain expertise is built up in an area? A civil servant from the Department of Agriculture and Food will not slip immediately into procurement assistance of military aircraft to the Defence Forces? Will there be transfers at assistant secretary and principal officer level or are those 78 positions from the lower grades in the Department?

I do not have this information but I will communicate it to the Deputy later. Staff are constantly moved within existing Departments. A civil servant working for years on third level fees in the Department of Education and Science can be suddenly transferred to information technology. It is not a question of putting a civil servant into a certain section in a Department forever. That is not how the Civil Service works.

In some Departments, members of staff have refused promotion because they must sign a commitment to move under the decentralisation programme. Has this happened in the Department of Defence?

No, I am not aware of that happening in my Department.

Under the Minister's predecessor, how many staff were transferred from Dublin to Roscrea?

He proposed to transfer the Civil Defence section of the Department. There are 30 civil servants working in that section, ten of whom have been relocated to Roscrea. At present, a building is being leased. The ten civil servants are involved in completing the transition to a leased, fully fitted-out building which will accommodate the other 20. There are ten civil servants there at present and it is expected that 30 will be there before the end of this year.

Common Foreign and Security Policy.

John Gormley

Question:

7 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Defence his views on the 2004 report commissioned by the EU and written by a task force of the EU’s Institute for Security Studies, European Defence: a Proposal for a White Paper; if this report has been discussed with the Irish Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12388/05]

The European Union Institute for Security Studies, EUISS, was created by a Council joint action on 20 July 2001. It has the status of an autonomous agency that comes under the EU's second "pillar", the common foreign and security policy, CFSP. Having an autonomous status and intellectual freedom, the EUISS does not represent or defend any particular national interest. Its aim is to support and contribute to the development of CFSP and European security and defence policy, ESDP. The institute's core mission is to provide analyses and recommendations that may be of use and relevance in the continued evolution of ESDP. While the political and security committee of the EU exercises political supervision over the activities of the institute, it does not impinge on the intellectual independence of the institute in carrying out its research and seminar activities.

The EUISS contributes to the development of the CFSP by performing three functions, research and debate on the major security and defence issues that are of relevance to the EU, forward-looking analysis for the Union's Council and high representative and development of a transatlantic dialogue on all security issues between the EU on the one hand and Canada and the United States on the other.

After the terrorist attacks on the US on 11 September 2001, the institute set up an independent task force to address the issue of European capabilities. In addition, the presidency report on ESDP approved by the European Council in Laeken in December 2001 stated that "the institute will work in particular on a publication on European defence in the framework of the Petersberg Tasks". The paper, entitled European Defence: A Proposal for a White Paper, was the outcome of the work of this task force. It should be noted that the paper and the views expressed are those of the members of the task force and have not been endorsed by EU member states. However, the analyses and publications of EUISS would fall to be considered in formulating the Union's policy in regard to CFSP and ESDP and would inform the development of that policy, as do many other studies and analyses, not least the views of individual member states.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

The European security strategy, which was endorsed by all 25 member states in December 2003, sets out the Union's analysis and recommendations on the development of ESDP. This, together with the headline goal 2010, sets out the policy direction, objectives and capabilities of the ESDP and rapid response elements for the foreseeable future.

This institute is, according to the same Council joint action, an integral part of the new structures that support the further development of the European security and defence policy. Will the Minister confirm that the study published by this institute in October 2004 called for a comprehensive armament programme for the European Union's world role and, in the course of discussing various scenarios, did not rule out the use of nuclear weapons as part of a European Union defence policy? Does the Minister believe a White Paper will follow this proposal and are there definite plans to produce such a paper? What is the Minister's response to the inclusion of the nuclear option or nuclear scenarios in this proposed White Paper?

I have a summary of the study, which I can make available to Deputy Ryan. My reading of the study is that it is possible to interpret it as including a nuclear option. However, this is only one of many studies the European Union takes into account when formulating security and defence policy. The European security strategy, which was endorsed by all 25 member states in December 2003, sets out the European Union's analysis and recommendations on the development of a European security and defence policy. It contains nothing about nuclear options, and that is the official European position.

I do not know what plans there are for the development of a White Paper. However, regardless of whether a White Paper will be produced on the basis of this study, the study has not been endorsed by any member state. While this institute operates under the political supervision of the European Union, it has intellectual independence. It is entitled to write whatever report it wishes. We contribute approximately €40,000 per annum to the running of the institute. We are not bound by what it writes. We will certainly look at it; the European Union looks at such studies when formulating the security and defence policy but it is not bound by them. This is only one of a number of analyses and presentations the European Union takes into account.

The Minister appears to acknowledge the truth that should we proceed as proposed with the European Union common defence, as set out in the proposed EU constitution, we will be joining a defence policy that has a serious nuclear component, given the inclusion of British and French nuclear armaments in their defence capabilities.

I did not acknowledge that.

The proposed White Paper, as the Minister said, includes the possibility of a nuclear option or the use of nuclear armaments in defence actions.

Anybody can write a paper which suggests anything, but that does not mean it will suddenly be accepted policy. Deputy Ryan is wrong and should withdraw his statement — it was not an imputation — that I accepted that we would be tied into a nuclear option. I do not accept that. I have told the Deputy, in clear English and in words of as few syllabi as possible, that this is one of a number of papers and analyses which the European Union takes into account in formulating defence policy. I pointed out that as late as December 2003, the European Union formulated a security and defence policy. I can make a copy of it available to the Deputy. It includes nothing about a nuclear option.

The European constitution provides for a common defence but Deputy Ryan will be aware of the Seville declaration, under which Ireland opts out of it. There will be no participation by Ireland in a common defence unless the people, by way of referendum, decide there should be.

This report is not from an independent think-tank but was commissioned by the European Commission. The institute has an integrated statutory role within the structures of the European Union security and defence policy. This is not a think-tank, it is the future.

It is a think-tank. The European Union produced its policy in December 2003. That is European policy. The EU took account of everything said by everybody and the analyses of all types of think-tanks and produced its policy for the future. I am happy with that policy.

With regard to the debate on European Union security studies, the issue of common defence and the EU security policy, the concern is that we are moving in a direction with which the vast majority of Irish people are unhappy. They particularly do not wish to share a nuclear power position in the context of international foreign policy but believe they are gradually being brought down that road. People have genuine concerns. Does the Minister share those concerns? The issues of security, independence and Irish neutrality will emerge over the next year in the debate on the European constitution. The Government, particularly the Minister of Defence, must ensure that the Irish people are properly informed. There is an element of fear and doubt and we must respond to that.

I accept Deputy McGrath's comments. There is certainly an element of fear but that fear has been stoked by certain people for their own political ends. The Seville declaration is crystal clear. It states that Ireland will not be part of any common defence policy, whether that involves nuclear options, infantry options or any other options. It will not be part of any common defence policy unless the people, by way of a referendum, decide that it should be.

The Minister stayed silent on Shannon Airport.

That is a different topic. I am trying to answer the question the Deputy asked. If he wants to put down a question on Shannon Airport, I will be happy to give him an answer.

Military Escorts.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

8 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Defence the costs to his Department for providing military escorts to banks; the reviews of this practice that are in progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12398/05]

To aid the civil power is among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces. This means in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Siochána which has the primary responsibility for law and order, including protection of the internal security of the State. The Defence Forces assist the Garda as required in duties, which include escorting cash deliveries to banks, post offices and other institutions.

The banks pay an annual contribution of €2.86 million for Army escorts. The Department of Finance set this figure in the 1995 budget and it has not been altered since. The contribution from the banks was designed to partially cover the total costs to the State of providing cash escorts. At that time, the contribution covered approximately 72% of the total cost arising to the Defence Forces, including pay and allowances. Based on annual costings by my Department, the relative level of the contribution has fallen in real terms over the years and it now only covers 43% of the total costs.

I have had a number of discussions with the Irish Bankers' Federation on this matter, with a view to increasing the level of contribution by the banks in respect of the costs my Department incurred in the provision of cash escorts. While the ongoing discussions are difficult and the banks put their position robustly, the banks and the IBF have been positive and constructive in their dealings with me. I recently met the IBF on 13 April and we continue to make progress. The Irish Bankers' Federation will soon get back to my Department following further discussions with their members. I hope my officials and officials of the IBF will then be in a position to complete a draft memorandum of understanding between the Department of Defence and the IBF on the financial aspects of the Defence Forces' involvement in cash escorts.

The total cost in the provision by the Defence Forces of assistance to the Garda Siochána in protecting movements of cash in 2003 was in excess of €6.6 million including pay, allowances, transport and aerial surveillance. This is the latest year for which figures are available. This cost related to 2,335 escorts, approximately 80% of which covered deliveries to banks. For the first nine months of 2004, approximately 1,825 escorts took place. In any given month, approximately 1,592 army man-days are expended on duties covering these escorts.

Given the remarkable series of bank raids recently, is the Department of Defence considering increasing the level of Army cover in such raids? Why was the charge not increased since 1995? What is the negotiating position of the banks? Given that the precedent of 72% of the total cost was set in 1995, what possible argument can be given by the banks not to return to that percentage?

I cannot answer for what has been happening since 1995. I have only been Minister for Defence for the past six months. One of my first acts was to seek an increase in contribution from the banks. I am sorry negotiations have dragged on for so long. I have made it clear to the Irish Bankers' Federation that any agreement will be retrospective to the time I took over as Minister for Defence. I am confident there will be a final agreement on this matter within the next two weeks.

There are two elements to the cost of providing the Army for cash escorts. First, we pay wages to the troops, which we would pay anyway. Second, there is also a security duty allowance, a subsistence allowance, the cost of transport and in some cases, the cost of aerial surveillance. The banks have made the point in negotiations that we would spend the first amount of money in any case, as we would pay the troops even if they were confined to barracks. The banks' position is that the contribution to the Department of Defence covers the extra cost. The position I have taken, which I think the IBF has accepted, is that when we were looking at the level of standing army required, we had to take into account that this was one of the duties of the Army. In other words, we could have fewer troops if we did not have to provide this service. The IBF has largely accepted that view.

There are some outstanding matters on how the cost is divided between the banks and other financial institutions such as An Post. There is also an issue surrounding an escalation clause on how much the fee is to be increased each year. The Department of Finance dealt with the matter centrally, which allocated the initial sum between the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Department of Defence. When I approached the Department of Finance about this, officials wanted to tie both Departments in at the same time. I could not do that as the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform did its own deal last year. The next time I have to answer questions in the House, I am confident that this agreement will be in place.

I know it is popular to look for funding from the banks, but I feel uneasy with the concept in a democratic society of private industry paying to ensure that we have a secure environment for economic activity. Notwithstanding that, I ask the Minister to look at the concept of military escorts moving cash in a more random fashion. Deputy Sherlock mentioned that no cash escorted by military personnel had been robbed since the practice was initiated in 1978. The escort routes used by the military are well known and I am sure that criminals are aware of this. Will the Minister consider putting military personnel on escorts in a more random fashion, in conjunction with the gardaí, in order to frustrate criminal activity?

I am not doing this because it is popular.

I accept that.

I am doing this because it is right. In 1995, the banks accepted that they should pay almost the full cost of these cash escorts. If it was right back in 1995, then it is right now and I agree with Deputy Ryan on that.

The lead Department on the issue of cash escorts is the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. If cash in excess of a certain amount is being transported, then the banks have to secure a Garda escort. The Garda, in turn, contact the military. The question of random military escorts would, therefore, have to be discussed with the lead Department, but Deputy Timmins has made a useful suggestion. If I stood here three years ago, I would have said there was no need for it, but the idea of robbing large consignments of cash has come back into fashion.

Regarding the point about private industry, the banks are getting a great deal out of this as well. It is useful for a large financial institution making a big profit to have State security escorts, especially the Army, which has proved to be a 100% deterrent to criminals.

People are concerned that much of the money taken in the robbery in Artane will be invested in drugs. Does the Minister share those concerns? Does the Minister share my concern that there was a lack of professionalism from the security company and the banks, as well as a lack of concern from the State? My final question on charges relates to going after the banks to pay for the services. I agree with Deputy Timmins that the State has a duty to protect its citizens. I am concerned about private industry being involved in providing escorts for banks. Does the Minister accept that if he goes after the banks which, in turn, will face increased costs, they will then screw their customers? That is another concern with which we will have to deal.

The Deputy's last point could be used as an argument for never imposing any kind of levy on banks or financial institutions.

I am saying that the State has a responsibility, so let the State do it.

Deputy Sherlock mentioned the figures for bank profits earlier but everyone would agree that what we are asking them to pay, in addition to what they are paying already, will be like a drop in the ocean given their overall profits. I am sure it would cost more to devise some system to take it back from the consumers, given that the cost involved is so little compared to the banks' overall profits.

Of course I share Deputy Finian McGrath's concerns about this money being used to invest in the illegal drugs business. Back in 1978 when this system was first introduced — at the behest of the State — the fear was about large sums of cash falling into the hands of subversives. The subversive threat has receded somewhat, although not completely, since 1978. Currently, the people involved in such crime seem to emanate more from the organised criminal fraternity. There is plenty of intelligence to this effect so there is no doubt that a lot of that money is being robbed precisely for the reason the Deputy mentioned, namely to invest in the drugs trade. Robbing cash transits is regarded as a fairly dangerous activity, whereas it is much less risky to get involved in the drugs trade, particularly if one is at the top of the drugs ring and removed from the action on the ground.

I also agree with Deputy Finian McGrath about the lack of professionalism in the security industry. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform recently expressed grave concerns about that matter. He has met with representatives of the security industry and has given them about four months to get their act together. It is not before time.

Defence Forces Reserve.

David Stanton

Question:

9 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Defence the number of personnel currently enlisted in the Reserve Defence Force; the progress which has been made to date on the reorganisation of the Reserve Defence Force; the new structures of the Reserve Defence Force as a result of this reorganisation; when this reorganisation will be complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12385/05]

David Stanton

Question:

41 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Defence his plans to allow the Reserve Defence Force to serve overseas; the legislative changes which need to be made to facilitate such overseas services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12386/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 41 together.

The military authorities have advised that the strength of the Reserve Defence Force, including An Slua Muirí, is 12,287. Good progress has been made with the reorganisation to date. On 26 July 2004 my predecessor, Deputy Michael Smith, officially launched the Reserve Defence Force review implementation plan, which is the start of a process that will radically change the structure and configuration of the reserve while preserving its traditional strengths. These include such things as the spirit of voluntary commitment, the maintaining of strong links with local communities and a nationwide geographical spread.

An important change recommended by the study of the reserve is that members of the FCA and the Naval Service Reserve should be considered for participation in overseas peace support missions subject to suitable qualifications, personal availability and appropriate advance training. In other countries service by reservists on overseas peace support missions is quite common, although what we have in mind relates more particularly to specialist areas such as medical, transport, engineering, communications and information services.

While there are no immediate plans for participation by members of the Reserve Defence Force in overseas missions, policies to support the selection of reserve personnel for overseas duties will be developed over the lifetime of the Reserve Defence Force implementation plan.

The Permanent Defence Force is now organised in a three-brigade structure and a Defence Forces training centre. It is intended that the Reserve Defence Force will be similarly reorganised and restructured. I have been advised by the relevant military authorities that the required regulatory changes, including the new establishment, change of title etc., will come into effect on 1 October and it is envisaged that the implementation of this plan will take place over the course of the period to end 2009.

The plan defines the organisational framework of the new Army Reserve and provides for a greater concentration of units within each Army brigade area. There will be mergers both at battalion and company level as well as between sister technical support units. This will be the key to providing enhanced training facilities and opportunities for each member of the reserve.

In producing detailed proposals for the restructuring of reserve units within each brigade area, the military authorities have taken due cognisance of the existing FCA presence within communities. Consultation and communication have been a priority throughout the development of the plan. They will continue to be important if the changes now proposed are to be carried through smoothly and effectively. Reserve units will be kept informed of developments on a regular basis.

Members of the FCA are already seeing the benefits of the reorganisation process in terms of better clothing and improved equipment as well as more and better quality training. As the process develops we will see additional benefits in terms of a clearer role for the reserve, a better overall organisational structure and opportunities for suitably qualified personnel to serve overseas. We will also see benefits from the closer integration of the reserve with the regular Army.

I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he believe that, following this reorganisation, a lot of FCA accommodation and property will be underutilised or not utilised at all in certain parts of the country? I am aware that in certain places, FCA property is rented but in other cases the Department owns it. Has the Minister examined this aspect and, if so, does he have any plans to deal with it? If any property is sold off, I urge the Minister to use the accrued funds for the Defence Forces. If such property is not sold, it should remain in public ownership for use by the local community. The Minister spoke earlier about the OPW obtaining a site in Newbridge for the decentralisation of civilian staff in the Department of Defence. If we still had a section of the old McGee Barracks in Kildare it might have been useful for such a project.

An implementation group in the Department is operating the restructuring of the Defence Forces. It is true, however, that certain property owned by the Department of Defence, which is being used currently, will not be in use later. I am sure the Deputy will be pleased to hear that we have a standing agreement with the Department of Finance that money raised through the sale by the Department of any unutilised property is ringfenced for us to use on upgrading the current barrack structure and on purchasing new equipment for the Army. Therefore, any money from the sale of defence property is ringfenced for the Department of Defence.

Civil Defence Board.

Liz McManus

Question:

10 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Defence if, in relation to the removal of a person (details supplied) as chairman of the Civil Defence Board, he can reconcile, on the one hand, the statement of his predecessor in Dáil Éireann on 29 June 2004, that this person’s actions in relation to three specified matters, which he had reviewed, had hampered the effective performance of the Civil Defence Board’s functions pursuant to sections 8(1)(n) and 8(1)(o) of the Civil Defence Act 2002 and that his removal was necessary for the effective performance by the board of its functions, with, on the other hand, the terms of the agreed statement in settlement of the judicial review proceedings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12354/05]

The terms of the statement of settlement referred to by the Deputy were agreed by both parties in the context of the former chairman of the Civil Defence Board agreeing not to proceed with his application for judicial review. I consider, therefore, that it would not be appropriate for me at this stage to comment either on that statement or on the statement of my predecessor in this House on 29 June 2004.

The record speaks for itself. I was in the House when the former Minister for Defence made the statement. I am raising this question because the former Minister made a serious allegation against a former chairman of the Civil Defence Board, Dr. Michael Ryan, that I believe should not be allowed to remain on the record. That is the purpose of tabling this question.

On 29 June 2004, the previous Minister suggested that Dr. Ryan had to be removed from his position because he had hampered the effective performance of the Civil Defence Board's functions, and that this removal was necessary for the effective performance of the board's functions.

When Dr. Ryan took a court action for unfair dismissal, the matter was settled on 24 November 2004. As part of the settlement a statement was read by the Minister referring to the honourable and dedicated service of Dr. Ryan, and praising the manner in which he had carried out his responsibilities.

The question is whether the statement made by the Minister or the statement read out in court is correct. Which is it? Does the Minister accept that a serious injustice was done to Dr. Ryan? Will he now formally withdraw the serious accusation against Dr. Ryan? The accusation was made but was changed afterwards by the Minister.

It is not proper for the names of people who are not Members of the House to be mentioned in the House.

I would like to know exactly what the Minister has to say. An accusation was made but that was changed in court. The accusation made against that person cannot remain on the record of this House.

I did not make the allegation. I will briefly explain the background. I cannot dispute the validity of anything Deputy Sherlock has said, but except for the settlement, all these events preceded my time in the Department of Defence. When the individual referred to in the question was sacked as chairman of the Civil Defence Board, he initiated an action for judicial review. I told my officials in the Department to keep the matter at arm's length from me because I know the gentleman. He resides in Limerick and does business there, and as I know him personally I did not want to be personally involved in any way.

On the steps of the court an agreement was made that the individual would not pursue his case if the Department agreed certain matters. I was asked by the Secretary General whether I would approve the matter being settled out of court rather than proceeding to a major court case and incurring costs. Being a member of the legal profession, I believed an out of court settlement was the most sensible way to proceed, and said so.

That was my only involvement in the case. I made no allegations and it serves no purpose for me to comment one way or another on allegations made by any other Member of the House.

He was the Minister's predecessor.

Yes. He made a statement, and in the agreement between the individual concerned and the Department of Defence, the Department made its own statements. As far as I can determine, the matter is now closed.

Defence Forces Strength.

Paul McGrath

Question:

11 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence the number of personnel in the Naval Service at 1 June 1997 and 1 January 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12456/05]

Strength figures are usually collated at the end of each quarter. The closest date to 1 June 1997 for which strength figures were returned was 30 June 1997. The strength figures for 30 June 1997 and 1 January 2005 are as follows:

Date

Officers

NCOS

Privates

Total

30 June 1997

127

455

432

1,014

1 January 2005

156

490

442

1,088

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 sets out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force, comprising 930 for the Air Corps, 1,144 for the Naval Service and 8,426 for the Army. It is my intention to maintain the established Government policy of ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces. Recruitment into the Permanent Defence Force will continue to maintain the strength at the level set out in the White Paper as required to meet military needs.

If I understand that correctly, the Naval Service is under strength, going by the agreed figures of the White Paper. My understanding is that in addition to the 10,500 members of the Permanent Defence Force there should be 250 recruits in training. Where do we currently stand regarding those figures? If the Minister of State has not got the figures I can get them later.

Deputy Timmins will be aware that in the 2002 budget, the Minister for Finance announced a cap on numbers working in the public sector and in addition announced a personnel reduction of 5,000. My Department's contribution to that is to phase out the 250 extra recruits over a three-year period. We are still authorised to have 10,500 members of the Permanent Defence Force. Regarding the Naval Service, there are 45 recruits in training out of a total of 250 Permanent Defence Force recruits. Regarding particular officerships and particular positions where there are vacancies, such as watchkeeping officers and marine engineers, the 45 people in training for those positions constitutes a record number.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.