The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne): I am today announcing the results of the Defence Attaché network, which was notified to the House by the then Minister of State for the Armed Forces on 7 February 2007, Official Report, columns 924-926W. The review was commissioned to ensure that our resources were deployed in the most cost-effective way, in support of the defence contribution to HMG strategic international priorities.
The role of Defence Attachés is to promote the Government’s priorities in the area of international security co-operation. The principal components of this policy are to strengthen international peace and stability by preventing conflicts, by contributing to the transformation of the security structures of vulnerable states, by assisting and building partnerships with those who may contribute to peace-support operations and by reducing the risk of terrorism through greater co-operation and communication. In line with this policy, we will be strengthening our representation both in Afghanistan, where we will have a Defence Attaché from April 2008, and in Pakistan, where we will have an additional Attaché from April 2008.
As part of our rebalancing of resources, Defence Sections will be closing over the coming year in Albania, Croatia, Guatemala, Ireland, Macedonia, Slovakia and Thailand. We intend to provide non-resident Attaché cover for these countries (except for Guatemala) from nearby states and, in the case of Ireland, through alternative arrangements. Defence Sections in Argentina, Egypt, France, Greece, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Poland, the Russian Federation, Spain and Ukraine will retain cover but will reduce their Attaché numbers by one. There will also be reductions in military support staff and more of their tasks will be undertaken, where appropriate, by civilian personnel. The rank of certain military posts will also be reduced at the next rotation to a level commensurate with their role.
The review of the Defence Attaché network has given an opportunity for us to provide greater emphasis and focus to the MOD’s programme of international engagement, and we have confirmed the importance of the role of the Attaché network in contributing to both defence and broader strategic priorities in the 21st century. We shall continue to review our Attaché network, as we have done regularly in the past, to ensure that our investment is effective and relevant to our international interests.