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Political Resident, Bahrein (New Compound)

Volume 527: debated on Tuesday 18 May 1954

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asked the Minister of Works why it is necessary to spend £557,000 on the provision of a new compound for the Political Resident and his staff in Bahrein during the present financial year.

In 1946 the decision was taken to move the headquarters of the Political Resident in the Persian Gulf from the Persian side of the Gulf to Bahrein Island on the Arabian side. This has meant building a compound because no suitable permanent accommodation was available. The total cost is estimated at £557,000, spread over several years.

Does the hon. Gentleman remember that his right hon. Friend, before the Election, promised that a Conservative Government would make a saving of £600 million a year, and, as the present Government are spending £100 million more than the Labour Government were spending at that time, can he not make a modest saving here, if not of £600 million, of at least £600,000?

I presume that the decision which was taken in 1946 by the late Mr. Ernest Bevin was taken, for good reasons. The scheme approved by the previous Administration under-estimated the cost of building and other difficulties on the site.

The decision to spend this money in the present year was taken by the present Government.

No, Sir. The figure of £557,000 is spread over seven years. The right hon. Gentleman has misread the Estimates.

While not questioning the need for suitable premises for the Political Resident, may I ask my hon. Friend whether a sum of over £500,000 is really necessary?

That is a matter of opinion. The view of my right hon. Friend and of Her Majesty's Government is that British prestige and parsimony do not go together.

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what makes this compound so exceedingly expensive? Its cost is about that of a whole housing estate.

Can my hon. Friend say whether the increase over the original Estimate is higher than the normal increase in building costs?

In answer to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), I would point out that we are building on this site a house for the Political Resident himself, four for the senior staff, a block of flats, six bungalows, an office block and servants' quarters. The fact of the matter is that building in that particular area has proved to be much more expensive than was originally anticipated.

Will the hon. Gentleman read his own Estimates and note that £129,000 is to be spent in this financial year alone on the scheme?