§ Mr. Ancram
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what effect changes in United Nations obligations in the last three years have on the ability to provide soldiers with a two-year break from duties in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Archie Hamilton
The only additional United Nations commitment to impact on intervals between unaccompanied operational tours, whether in Northern Ireland or elsewhere, is the recent deployment of an infantry battle group to former Yugoslavia. If sustained this would have the effect of reducing tour intervals from 17 months to 15 months during the current year. The announcement by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 3 February,Official Report, columns 319–21, means that this interval will revert to 17 months and provides greater assurance that the target of two years between such unaccompanied tours will be achieved once restructuring is complete. Tour intervals for other units of other arms have not been significantly affected by recent changes in United Nations obligations.