My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Defence (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
My Statement to the House on 25 July 2007 (Official Report, Commons, col. 73WS) announced the cessation of Operation Banner. Since then we have continued to refine our military structures in Northern Ireland commensurate with normalisation and I now judge that we can remove the post of general officer commanding (GOC) in Northern Ireland.
The current GOC will complete his tour at the end of the year and we do not expect to replace him. The commander of 38 (Irish) Brigade and Northern Ireland Garrison will thereafter become the senior officer based in Northern Ireland. The change will result in a small reduction in military posts, which will be reabsorbed into other areas across defence. We aim to have command in Northern Ireland fully normalised by January 2009.
This step reflects our commitment towards security normalisation in Northern Ireland. The Armed Forces will continue to provide support to the PSNI and contribute to civil contingencies where required through the normal procedures for military aid to the civil authorities in the UK.