Overseas Servicemen (United Kingdom Accommodation)

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th April 1967.

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Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury 12:00 am, 12th April 1967

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what assistance he is proposing to give to local authorities to offset the extra cost involved to them in receiving in their areas the Servicemen and families being brought home from overseas.

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer that I gave on 10th April to the hon. Lady the Member for Peters-field (Miss Quennell).—[Vol. 744, c. 136].

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

I saw that Answer, too. Nevertheless, is the Minister aware that a lot of preparatory work of a capital nature has to go in and be done by local authorities before the forces arrive? It is the loans which they have to raise to do this and the charges on them which will be a burden on the ratepayer. Ought not the Government to contribute to those loan charges?

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

The local commanders are in close touch with the local authorities, and the military authorities make a big contribution to the rates, anyhow. The spending power which results from families being in an area is good for a local authority. However, if the hon Gentleman has any specific difficulty about which he knows, I will be glad to look at it.

Mr. Atkins:

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what progress he has made in the acquisition of the 4,000 extra married quarters he needs to house the families of troops which may be brought home from Germany.

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

All necessary preparations are being made for purchase of houses to meet this need should it arise.

Mr. Atkins:

On what number of Service men being withdrawn from Germany did the hon. Gentleman base this figure of 4,000 married quarters?

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

Will the Minister give as assurance that the troops will not he brought back until the accommodation is ready for them?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Will the Under Secretary recognise the unwisdom of insulting the House with the kind of reply which he has just given to my hon. Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Mr. Atkins)? When the Government state that they have ascertained the requirement for married quarters and announce that requirement, they must rationally have some basis in the number of troops for that figure, and it is legitimate to ask for it and legitimate to be told.

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

The present programme of purchasing married quarters in the open market is going very well, and we have every reason to suspect that when decisions are taken about the return from Germany, we shall be able to continue in the same way. I must say that co-operation with private builders in this respect is very good indeed.

Mr. Atkins:

asked the Secretary of State for Defence which barracks he is now preparing for the use of any troops brought home from Germany; by what dates each will be ready; and how many troops each will accommodate.

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer that my right hon. Friend gave to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) on 16th March.—[Vol. 743, c. 149.]

Mr. Atkins:

Does the hon. Gentleman not recognise the difficulty with which we on this side of the House are faced because of so many conflicting statements from the benches opposite? Can he now assure us that the information given in the Answer to which he has referred is the fixed and final information?

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

Of course, the information is not fixed and final. The situation is changing from time to time, and the arrangements being made for both barracks and married quarters take that into account. They are proceeding very well.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that that is a most unsatisfactory reply? We have already had two lists which have been altered from time to time. The first obviously was thought up on the spur of the moment. For him to say now that the position is still not firm must leave a great many doubts in the minds of Servicemen and the public.

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

Nothing of the sort. Negotiations with our allies are continuing and, until they are settled, the facts will not be absolutely definite. The contingency planning is going well and we take great trouble with that.

Mr. Atkins:

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

Photo of Mr Robin Chichester-Clark Mr Robin Chichester-Clark , County Londonderry

asked the Secretary of State for Defence where he now proposes to house the 25,000 men due to come home this year.

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

Camps have been, or are being, re-activated in the following areas: Barton Stacey, Winchester, Maresfield, Lingfield, Tonfanau, Taunton. Inverness, Weeton, Longmoor, Worcester and Plymouth.

Photo of Mr Robin Chichester-Clark Mr Robin Chichester-Clark , County Londonderry

All other things being equal, would not the hon. Gentleman give rather more consideration to housing some of these troops in barracks in some of the economically weaker areas of the country where they would give welcome civilian employment and more spending power?

Photo of Mr James Boyden Mr James Boyden , Bishop Auckland

If the hon. Gentleman is referring to Northern Ireland, we have considered the situation there. Unfortunately, in view of the rôles of the units which are likely to be withdrawn, there is no adequate accommodation there.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

Do not the hon. Gentleman's replies to this and to the Question by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) indicate that it is the Government's policy—in line with their military planning—to cut the troops according to the barracks available?