Local Overseas Allowances

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Anthony Speller Mr Anthony Speller , North Devon 12:00 am, 4th June 1985

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the local overseas allowances of Property Services Agency staff stationed in Northern Ireland, West Germany or Gibraltar in comparison with those payable to airmen with the rank of sergeant or flight lieutenant; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Pendle

The overseas cost of living allowance for civil servants in the Property Services Agency or other Departments is known as foreign service allowance. Because of differing conditions of service and salary levels it is not directly comparable with the local overseas allowance paid to service men.

Local overseas allowance for the ranks mentioned varies between nothing and £2,248 per annum. Foreign service allowance for equivalent civilians varies between £220 per annum and £2,613 per annum. I have written to my hon. Friend with further full details.

Photo of Mr Anthony Speller Mr Anthony Speller , North Devon

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. However, is he aware of the deep resentment that is felt by the armed forces, who are clearly at a disadvantage compared with their civilian counterparts in similar positions? Is he also aware of the number of young officers and non-commissioned officers who have said that they will be leaving the services at the end of their present engagements? Will he ask that changes in the local overseas allowance should in future be treated more sympathetically and phased in more cleverly?

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Pendle

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his interest, but there is no evidence to suggest that the reduction in the local overseas allowance in Germany has caused many of the younger officers and non-commissioned officers to give notice of their intention to leave. The overseas foreign service allowance paid to civil servants employed by the Property Services Agency and the Ministry of Defence is also subject to periodic review. The foreign service allowance in Germany was reviewed in November 1984. Substantial reductions were involved, which came into effect on 1 January 1985. The reductions in the local overseas allowance are being delayed by two months beyond the normal implementation date.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

In answer to an earlier question about how many people are employed by the British Government abroad the Minister said that he did not know; he did not have a clue about how many people the Government employ. Now he tells us how much money the Government are spending on these people, although he does not know how many he has. If the Minister knows how much money the Government are spending, he ought to know how many British citizens are employed abroad.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Pendle

The hon. Gentleman should listen more carefully to questions and answers. The original question that was put to me related to the nationality of those we employ, not to the numbers. I made it quite clear that in the Ministry of Defence we employ about 500,000 people — about 330,000 in the armed forces and 170,000 civilians.

Photo of Mr John Gorst Mr John Gorst , Hendon North

The last thing that I would wish to do is to accuse any of my right hon. or hon. Friends of complacency, and I do not. However, in view of my hon. Friend's answer a moment or two ago, may I ask him to have another look at the effect that the local overseas allowance may have in future upon the availability of both skilled and ordinary employees, particularly in the posting in west Germany. If there are no figures at the moment which prove that people will leave the services, will my hon. Friend carry out a survey to find out what are the attitudes that may lead to people leaving the services?

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Pendle

We shall keep the situation under review. There is a specific question on this point from the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright), which will be answered by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. There was a reduction in the local overseas allowance for those serving in Germany, and this was not well received, but about 6,000 people benefited in almost all other postings, including the United States of America, Gibraltar, Hong Kong and Belize.