HC Deb 16 February 1987 vol 110 cc491-2W
Mr. Latham asked

the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will outline the practical advantages in training which led to his decision to establish a tri-service defence training establishment at Royal Air Force Mount Batten; and what facilities and skills will be available which are unavailable under the current arrangements.

Mr. Freeman

Experience in the Royal Navy has shown that there are advantages in co-locating the schools responsible for aircrew survival training, aircrew survival equipment and aviation medicine, because strong links exist between these types of training and common problems can then be addressed more easily. Aircrew equipment fitter training can be improved by providing trainees with opportunities to see the equipment actually in use. The RAF also recognise these advantages which are further enhanced by the formation of a joint services training establishment, since there is also considerable commonality between the training tasks of the two services. The essential requirements for this joint training establishment include a sea survival area, a land survival area and facilities such as a swimming pool and decompression chambers. The sea survival area in Plymouth Sound is excellent for training purposes at all states of tide and weather is clear of shipping lanes and free from pollution. The surrounding countryside provides most suitable terrain for land survival training. Facilities such as the swimming pool and decompression chambers will be purpose built and dedicated to survival training whereas existing facilities are sometimes shared and some are in poor condition and in need of renewal. The facilities and skills available at Mount Batten will not be different in kind from those available under the current arrangements, but they will be modern and more effective and efficient because of their co-location. All three services are satisfied that the quality of training will be improved by the formation of the joint establishment.

Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what will be the anticipated cost to public funds of establishing the proposed tri-service defence training establishment at RAF Mount Batten; and what annual saving he anticipates from closing each of the existing units which will be merged to form the new establishment.

Mr. Freeman

The capital cost of establishing the proposed tri-service training establishment at RAF Mount Batten is approximately £8 million. The rationalisation will, however, enable the Department to sell some surplus land. When receipts from these sales are taken into account the net expenditure is expected to be about £1 million. Savings in iperating costs are expected to be £780,000 a year once the new establishment is formed.