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18 Nov 09. Parliament: State Opening. The State Opening of Parliament, marking the start of the 2009/10 Parliamentary Session, took place on 18 Nov 09. Delivering the Queen’s Speech, Her Majesty outlined a legislative programme of 15 Bills against the background of the Government’s overriding priority “to ensure sustained growth to deliver a fair and prosperous economy for families and businesses….”. The Government is to work for “security, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan and Pakistan and for peace in the Middle East” as well as “addressing the challenges from Iran and North Korea”.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are to visit Bermuda and to conduct a State Visit to Trinidad and Tobago for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The President of South Africa is to visit the UK during 2010.
Comment: Most of the speech had already been ‘leaked’ to the media and thus it contained few surprises. Given the short amount of Parliamentary time remaining before a General Election has to be held, few of the Bills will have time to pass into law. An exception is legislation to ban cluster munitions (Item 4). There was no direct reference to Defence in the Speech (and even the usual mention of NATO was missing). (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 10/44, 23 Nov 09)
18 Nov 09. Afghanistan: OP HERRICK. UK deaths since the start of Operations in October 2001 have risen to 235, of whom 204 were killed as a result of hostile action. As confirmed by the MoD (18 Nov 09), the recent fatalities are:-
* A Rifleman from 7th Bn The Rifles was killed by small arms fire while on patrol near Sangin on
15 Nov 09.
* A Corporal from the Corps of Royal Engineers was mortally wounded by an explosion while he was clearing devices in the Gereshk area on 15 Nov 09.
* A Sergeant from the Royal Military Police died as a result of gunshot wounds sustained while on patrol in the Nad-e-Ali District on 18 Nov 09.
From 1 Jan 06 to 31 Oct 09, 958 UK personnel were categorised as Wounded in Action and 2,752 were aeromedically evacuated. (MoD, 17 Nov 09.) From 16 to 31 Oct 09 the figures were 18 and 59.
The MoD has placed a £12m contract for the supply of about 100 Dragon Runner robots to support Operations in Afghanistan. The robot variant selected has a manipulator arm which assists with the disarming of improvised explosive devices. (QinetiQ, 16 Nov 09.)
Royal Engineers, assisted by Infantry soldiers, built a bridge crossing a large section of the Nahr e Bughra canal. The District Governor opened the new ‘Freedom Bridge’. (MoD, 16 Nov 09.)
A Romanian Officer seconded to the British Army has joined The Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment in Helmand. (MoD, 17 Nov 09.)
A new Order has been made under the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable Reservists to continue to be called out to support Operations in Afghanistan. 1,200 Reservists are currently called-out, of whom 650 are deployed (the remainder are preparing for or recovering from Operations). (Ministerial Statement, 19 Nov 09.)
Comment: The MoD commented (16 Nov 09) on the extra Javelin guided missiles being sent to Afghanistan, where th