To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals he has to conduct a comparison of the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the services provided by the Army's manning and record offices and regimental pay offices in York, and of other Army manning and record offices and regimental pay offices, before he decides about the siting of any integrated Army personnel centre outside London.
A study is currently examining the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of establishing an integrated Army personnel centre outside London. That would involve the collocation of the adjutant general and military secretary's headquarters and their staff, with all the manning and record offices and regimental pay offices. The study is looking at the operation as a whole and does not entail a comparison of the relative efficiency of existing offices.
When the Minister takes his decision, will he give due weight to the fact that already this year it has been announced that 1,200 Ministry of Defence civilian jobs in Harrogate will go, while 250 civilian jobs at the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers' workshop at Strensall have also gone? The losses come on top of a reduction from 9,500 to 5,500 in the number of Ministry of Defence civilian jobs in Yorkshire in the past decade.
Does the Minister accept that a decision to lose further civilian jobs at York will be met by anger and disbelief in a city with a proud military tradition and in a county that has contributed so much to the military over the centuries?
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we are studying proposals to collocate all the offices in one place. We are thinking in terms of about 1,500 employees in 200,000 sq. ft. of office space. We are considering a number of locations, including York. We have the advantage that if we locate the new office in a place where we already have an office, we shall have a core of workers who will help to establish the new, much bigger collocated offices. No decisions have yet been taken and we shall consider all locations around the country.
The closures of the Harrogate and Strensall Ministry of Defence facilities have been greeted with dismay. Many people who have served the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces well over many years are pinning their hopes on the relocation of the integrated personnel centre to the York area. If York is good enough as a centre for the Department for Education, for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and for many other commercial firms, it should be good enough for the Ministry of Defence.
I hope that I have already made it clear to my hon. Friend that there is no prejudice against York. We are considering a number of other locations as well, as is only fair.
What criteria does the Minister use when he makes such decisions? Does he take into account the level of unemployment in the area and does he give the necessary information to enable the trade unions to make an objective judgment about whether the Ministry is right or wrong?
The basic criterion we adopt is that of value for money. Of course, we taken into account the local conditions of unemployment, because that improves our chances of recruiting people locally to man the offices. There are many different considerations in the process. Once we come to a proposal, we put it to the trade unions. There is always a consultation period during which the trade unions can put forward their ideas about how they see us going forward.