§ Mr. Menzies Campbell
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the average(a) length of operational tour and (b) interval between tours was for Defence Medical Services personnel in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) what length of tour and interval between deployments his Department assesses to be optimal for Defence Medical Services personnel; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Dr. Moonie
[holding answer 7 March 2001]: Operational tour lengths for Defence Medical Service personnel can vary from one month to two years, depending on their Service and their particular speciality. For example, on average consultants deploy for one month, nurses deploy for three months while others deploy for six months. Additionally, Royal Navy personnel are considered operational when serving at sea which can last up to two years although they may not be away from the UK for the whole of this period. On average, consultants deploy up to three times a year while others will deploy about once a year. Tour intervals are not always as long as we would wish due to a shortage of manpower in some specialities. It is not possible to provide averages for each calendar year separately, without disproportionate effort, bearing in mind that many deployments span more than one calendar year.
For all personnel, the Royal Navy aims that deployments, as opposed to normal operational tours, should be no longer than nine months and that total deployment time in any three-year period should not exceed 18 months. The Army's preferred tour interval is 24 months. The RAF seeks to maintain periods of at least 18 months between tours and to ensure that no individual is away for more than 140 days per annum or 280 days aggregated over a two-year period.