§ Mr. Gardiner
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many employees of his Department took early retirement packages and at what total cost, in the financial year 1996–97. 
§ Mr. Kilfoyle
Early departure packages are available for staff over 50 years of age (classed as retirement) and under 50 years of age (classed as severance). The total number of early leavers, including voluntary and compulsory redundancies, caused by reductions and geographical relocations (but excluding Trading Fund Agencies) were 1,712 in Financial Year 1996–97. The total is broken down by category in the table.
Retirement category Category sub-total Total Approved early retirement — 109 Actuarially reduced retirement — 11 Compulsory early retirement/Severance: CER on Structural grounds 30 — CER on Redundancy grounds 595 — CES on Structural grounds 14 — CES on Redundancy grounds 443 — CER/CES total — 1,082 Flexible early retirement/severance: FER on Structural grounds 73 — FER on Limited Postability 6 — FES on Structural grounds 1 — FES on Limited Postability 5 — FER/FES total — 85 Voluntary redundancy Voluntary Redundancy (CER terms) 214 — Voluntary Redundancy (CES terms) 211 — Voluntary Redundancy total — 425 Total 1,712
Financial Year 1996–97 represented the final round of the Department's "Options for Change" review and most of the early leavers left as a consequence of the review. The total cost to the Ministry of Defence in Financial Year 1996–97 was £61.181 million. This represents the cost of the initial and annual compensation, and any lump sum payments for retirements that took place in that year. The annual compensation payment for staff over 50 years of age at the point of leaving continues to be met by the MOD until individuals reach the minimum retirement age of 60 years.