ESTIMATES FOR DEFENCE
AND ARMY PENSIONS
Wednesday, 29 January, 2014.
SPEECH BY THE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE, EQUALITY and DEFENCE, ALAN SHATTER, T.D.,
BEFORE THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE, EQUALITY AND DEFENCE
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
I am pleased to appear before the Select Committee today for its consideration of the Defence and Army Pensions Estimates for 2014. I have a short opening statement, after which I will be happy to take questions from the members, if that is in order.
The combined Estimates for Defence and Army Pensions for 2014 provides for gross expenditure of some €898 million. Of that sum, €677m will be spent on Defence and €221m on Army Pensions. Over 74% of the Defence Vote goes towards providing for the pay and allowances of some 9,500 Permanent Defence Force (PDF) personnel, 625 civilians employees and 350 civil servants. The remaining allocation provides mainly for the replacement and maintenance of essential equipment and operational costs.
The re-organisation of the Permanent Defence Force which was initiated in July 2012 has now been successfully completed. The re-organisation was required to accommodate the PDF strength of 9,500 within a revised two Brigade structure. I am pleased to state that the re-organisation has met its intended objectives, and will continue to deliver a high level of capability and efficiency within the Defence environment. Targeted recruitment was undertaken in 2013 and will continue in 2014. In total, there was an overall intake of 404 PDF personnel in 2013, comprising of 353 general recruits, 34 cadets, 9 Engine Room Artificers for the Naval Service, 7 Air Corps Apprentices and 1 Medical Officer. It is intended to commence a new recruitment campaign in March 2014. An induction of Air Corps Apprentices and Naval Service Engine Room artificers is also planned during 2014.
Despite the difficult economic climate prevailing, the continued application of a prudent approach to equipment purchasing and maintenance programmes has ensured that the Defence Forces continue to have access to modern equipment. The costs of procuring two new Naval Service vessels, scheduled for delivery in 2014 and 2015, are being met from the Defence allocation. The first ship floated out in November 2013 and the fitting out of equipment is currently taking place. Sea Trials are scheduled for the first week in February 2014 and the vessel should be ready for handover in the first week of March 2014. The keel laying ceremony for the second ship took place in November 2013 and the work is continuing apace. It is expected that LE Samuel Beckett will be formally commissioned into service in April, 2014.
In 2014, Ireland will continue its long standing commitment to overseas missions. We currently have 412 personnel serving in 14 different missions throughout the world. These missions embrace a range of activities, including, conflict resolution, peacekeeping, humanitarian missions, crisis management and strengthening international security. Currently, the two largest contingents are serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), with 210 personnel and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights, with 119 personnel.
At home, the Permanent Defence Force will continue to provide an efficient military operational response to both the civil power and civil authorities, as required. This work is ongoing and it will encompass a broad range of diverse activities and services, including explosive ordnance disposal duties, maritime patrol, search and rescue missions and cash-in-transit escorts.
Following the Value for Money review of the Reserve, a new organisational structure came into effect at the end of March 2013. A revised strength ceiling for the Reserve of 4,069 personnel is now in place. Work is continuing on the implementation of the reorganisation and the development of the single force concept and a review of the number of active members of the RDF is currently being compiled in this regard. As part of this process, the criteria for participation in the RDF are also being reviewed and updated and a recruitment plan is being developed. The revised structure has improved access to equipment, expertise and appropriate training for Reserve members. It has also allowed for a significant reduction in the number of PDF personnel required to administer and train the Reserve on a full time basis.
As you are aware, I intend to publish a new White Paper on Defence in 2014 and work has commenced on this process. In support of this a Green Paper on Defence was published in July, 2013. The Green Paper has provided a useful consultative basis for the White Paper which will set out Defence policy for the coming years. It is anticipated that the draft White Paper on Defence will be submitted to Government for approval later this year.
The Defence Vote also makes provision for certain costs related to the Civil Defence. The Civil Defence Board was disestablished and its functions were re-integrated into the Department from January, 2013. Civil Defence continues to develop its role of providing supports to the frontline Emergency Services and in 2013 supported the Garda Siochana in almost 100 searches for missing persons and was actively involved in supporting hundreds of community events right across the country. I fully expect that the Civil Defence volunteers throughout the country will continue to provide support to both the front-line services and local communities in responding to emergencies throughout 2014.
Finally, I would also like to refer to the Army Pensions Vote and the increasing numbers and costs in that regard. Expenditure from this Vote is primarily non-discretionary and demand-led. Currently, there are some 12,000 pensioners of all categories paid by my Department under the Army Pensions Vote. Reflecting recent public service trends generally, retirements on pension from the Permanent Defence Force more than doubled from 2007 to 2012. During that period, expenditure on military pensions increased by 31%. In recent years, any shortfall arising on the Army Pensions Vote provision has been met from payroll and other savings on the Defence Vote. So over that period there has been no extra demand on the Exchequer over what was voted for the Defence Vote Group. An additional sum of €10m has been provided to meet the anticipated increased expenditure requirements.
I now commend both Estimates to the Committee and look forward to dealing with any questions that may arise.
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