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Army Training (Constructional Work)

Volume 531: debated on Monday 26 July 1954

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63.

asked the Secretary of State for War in how many cases in 1952 and 1953, respectively, Army units, as an exercise, constructed roads or bridges for local authorities; what was the mileage of roads and the number of bridges so constructed; and what means were taken in 1954 to inform local authorities of the constructional services available to them from Army units.

Royal Engineer units built for local authorities four bridges in 1952 and ten in 1953. They did no road construction for local authorities in these years. Only a few engineer units require training in this type of work and, in view of their other tasks, they are available only at a small number of times and places. No special approach to local authorities has therefore been made.

64.

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will name the estates on which roadwork is being done by the 117 Field Engineer Regiment, Territorial Army, in Aberdeenshire; and what payments are being made to his Department for the work being performed.

The Glen Muick, Balmoral and Invercauld Estates. All materials are being supplied by the estates and there is no cost to the Army over and above normal training expenditure.

In the light of that answer, will not the hon. Gentleman agree that private estates ought to make a proper payment for the labour of members of the Forces? In the light of the information in his answer to the previous Question, ought he not to ban the use of Army units for work on private estates which results in an increase in the value of purely private property when there is so much work to be done on public roads and bridges?

I think the hon. Member is confused about the type of work being done. This was virtually only a track. The estates did not ask for the work to be done. It is very doubtful if it has improved the value of the estates at all. If the estates had been asked to pay for the work, it is very doubtful whether they would have given assent to the Army's doing it. The Army wanted training. This was an isolated area where there were no local authority roads anyhow and there was this track on which the Army could learn.

Does my hon. Friend agree that all reasonable people with knowledge of training would be most grateful for this opportunity?

Is the Minister aware that there are many isolated farms which would welcome the opportunity of a well-laid track being provided, connecting the farm with the highway, and if I send him a list of some in the Goole area will he get some work done on them?

I have already said, in reply to a Question put to me last week, that if there are suitable units—and there are very few of them—and there are suitable tasks for them to do, and it provides useful training, we should be very glad to look into it.