I have today placed in the Library of the House copies of the Ministry of Defence’s spring performance report. This shows that the armed forces, supported by their civilian colleagues, have consistently and reliably continued to make progress towards their military strategic objectives, including a secure environment and security sector reform in Iraq and Afghanistan. In so doing they are also making a significant contribution towards the Government’s wider conflict prevention goals, where we have made some encouraging progress. The Department is also on course to exceed the efficiency goals set in the 2004 spending review, and over the spending review period has continued to deliver against almost all of the targets for equipment acquisition, although we do not expect to have achieved the 2007-08 target for average in-year slippage in forecast in-service dates.
The continuing high operational tempo means that the armed forces cannot simultaneously be ready for the full range of potential contingent operations provided for in planning assumptions, and we do not now expect to have met the readiness target. And although overall activity levels have fallen, the operational tempo is also still preventing achievement of harmony guidelines in parts of the Army and the Royal Air Force. The challenge of implementing the changes in service personnel numbers announced in the July 2004 White Paper while sustaining the high operational tempo means that we have also not made as much progress as we originally planned towards achieving manning balance across all three services, and we therefore do not now expect the Royal Navy or Army to have achieved manning balance by April 2008.