As part of the announcement of normalisation made by the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my right hon. Friend the Member for Neath, (Mr. Hain), on 1 August 2005, the Government undertook to reduce the number of military bases in Northern Ireland to the 14 core sites named in the updated Security Annex to the Joint Declaration. We have since reported that only eight of those 14 core sites would be required in the future.
However, a review of the requirement to retain a military hospital to provide secondary healthcare for service personnel in Northern Ireland has concluded that a commercial contract for Commissioned Care with an Independent Service Provider (ISP) for routine elective secondary healthcare represented the most effective and efficient means of providing quality secondary healthcare for regular military personnel. Therefore, I am announcing today our intention to close the Duke of Connaught Unit (DCU), the military hospital facility based at Musgrave Park Hospital, South Belfast, by 1 April 2010.
There will now be a period of consultation with the trade unions. We recognise the impact this decision will have on the civilian staff currently employed at the DCU, and we will make every effort to support them through this period of change.