My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Adam Ingram) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
With effect from April 2007 for a period of two years, RAF Lyneham will be used as the primary location for military repatriation ceremonies instead of RAF Brize Norton.
In the event of fatalities resulting from service personnel killed in operational theatres, a repatriation ceremony is held to mark the return to the United Kingdom to which family members of the deceased normally attend. With effect from April 2007, work is commencing at RAF Brize Norton to extend the aircraft servicing platform—the areas of hard-standing around the airfield that are used for aircraft parking. Given the disruptive nature of the work, it will be very difficult to hold a dignified ceremony at the station. Moreover, it would also be very costly to the public purse to temporarily suspend work each time a repatriation ceremony is due to take place. This work is expected to take up to two years, until April 2009.
The transfer of repatriations from RAF Brize Norton to RAF Lyneham means that the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner will have initial jurisdiction instead of the Oxfordshire coroner throughout these works. We are confident that the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner has the necessary resources to take on this workload and he already has considerable expertise in handling military inquests in consequence of the presence of RAF Lyneham in his jurisdiction as well as Wiltshire being regularly used for military exercises. In addition, the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner is also expected to transfer jurisdiction wherever possible to other coroners—normally to the jurisdiction of the next of kin—following the recent practice of the Oxfordshire coroner.