HC Deb 14 July 1992 vol 211 cc616-7W
Mr. Michael Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals he has for the future organisation of the RAF regiment.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

As part of our programme to create a more efficient structure for the RAF, studies have been made into the future size and shape of the RAF regiment.

The restructuring of RAF Germany removed the requirement for two of the United Kingdom based RAF regiment light armoured squadrons (LAS), which in time of war would have provided ground defence of forward operating bases in Germany. Following the disbandment of 58 squadron LAS at Catterick earlier this year, 51 squadron LAS—also at Catterick—will disband with effect from 31 March 1993. This will leave the RAF regiment with three light armoured squadrons and a field squadron. Further economies will be achieved by replacing the armoured vehicles with soft-skinned wheeled vehicles, scaled with mortars for fire support. The new field role for the squadrons will provide them with greater operational flexibility than hitherto. The Queen's Colour squadron will also assume additional operational duties as a war-roled field squadron.

These changes, together with the reduction in the number of Rapier squadrons from 10 to eight earlier this year, will reduce the need for the existing level of the RAF regiment's headquarters organisations. With effect from 1 October 1992, therefore, HQ 3 wing at Catterick and HQ 33 wing at Gutersloh will be disbanded.

Our studies have looked carefully into rationalisation of the RAF regiment bases in the United Kingdom. The results have shown that cost savings and greater efficiency can be achieved through the maximum degree of collocation possible of the regiment's activity in the United Kingdom. In early 1994, HQ 6 wing RAF regiment, No. 66 sqn RAF regiment and the Rapier training unit will move from RAF West Raynham to Honington, involving the relocation of just over 200 service men. This is in line with the rationalisation measures announced in the 1991 Defence White Paper. No final decision has yet been made about the West Raynham base. Apart from a short term requirement for married quarters and domestic accommodation, the RAF has no future requirement for the base. Other possible defence uses for West Raynham are being considered.

It is further proposed that the RAF regiment depot and No. 2 sqn RAF regiment will move from Catterick to Honington. The move is planned to take place in late 1993/early 1994 and would involve the relocation of about 500 service men.

Everything possible would be done to avoid redundancies of the civilian work force employed at the bases affected by these changes. Army use of RAF Catterick could provide job opportunities for the existing civilian employees. There may also be opportunities for alternative employment at Catterick garrison. In the absence of a future defence requirement for West Raynham some redundancies are likely to be necessary. Anyone made redundant would be compensated under the terms of the appropriate pension scheme. The MoD would establish close contact with employers in the areas affected, including other Government Departments, and any staff leaving prematurely under voluntary or compulsory redundancy terms would be eligible for the services provided by the MoD counselling and outplacement service. The trade unions will be consulted in the usual way.