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Northern Ireland

Volume 450: debated on Thursday 26 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many troops he expects to be based in Northern Ireland on operational duties in 2007. (94914)

Under the updated Security Annex to the Joint Declaration published by the Government in August 2005, the number of armed forces personnel (Navy, Army and RAF) based in Northern Ireland on operational duties under Operation BANNER is planned to reduce from some 8,050 as at 15 September this year to no more than 5,000 by 31 July 2007.

Under the terms of the updated Security Annex, and assuming a continuing enabling environment, there will be a permanent peacetime garrison of no more than 5,000 based in Northern Ireland after 31 July 2007. This will reflect the Government’s global defence commitments, although some Northern Ireland or Great Britain based personnel will continue to provide a residual level of Army support to the police (for example, providing specialised ordnance disposal and, if needed, support for public order as described in Patten recommendations 59 and 66). The number of troops needed for these operational tasks will naturally depend on Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) requirements, but I very much welcome the PSNI’s increasing ability to carry out their tasks without military support and look forward to this continuing.