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Suez Canal Base

Volume 531: debated on Tuesday 27 July 1954

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65.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence the estimated cost of building and equipping alternative establishments in the Middle East on evacuation from the Suez Canal Zone; and the estimated value of the stores, equipment and vehicles which will have to be abandoned there and the estimated cost of their replacement.

The cost would depend on the size and disposition of the forces to be redeployed, on which I am not in a position to make any statement. It is not intended to abandon valuable stores, equipment or vehicles in the Canal Zone.

66.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence the annual cost of maintaining the present forces in the Suez Canal Zone; and what estimate he has made of the saving which would accrue to the United Kingdom Exchequer and to the balance of payments, respectively, if one of the divisions stationed in the Canal Zone were brought back to the United Kingdom.

The annual cost of maintaining the present forces in Egypt is about£55 million. In present circumstances the buildings and installations in the Zone are not being adequately maintained and are, therefore, deteriorating. If all the forces in the Zone were brought back to the United Kingdom there would be a saving of about£10 million a year to the Exchequer and of a similar amount to the balance of payments. If one division were brought home the saving would be roughly proportionate, but it is impossible to give a precise figure.In addition, savings will accrue in so far as the scope of our overseas commitments affects the size of the Armed Forces; just as in the longer term redeployment may result in economies which it is at present impossible to estimate.

67.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence whether his attention has been drawn to the memorandum by the War Office annexed to the Seventh Report of the Select Committee on Estimates, 1952–53, to the effect that the estimated cost of building a base equivalent to that in the Suez Canal Zone would be between£200 million and£300 million and that the value of the stores, equipment and vehicles was approximately£210 million; and if he will give comparable figures for an up-to-date estimate.

There has been no change in the estimated cost of building an equivalent base. The value of stores, equipment and vehicles is somewhat less, as stocks have been run down since the previous estimate was prepared.There is no intention of providing a base of the same size elsewhere in the Middle East, nor is it expected that valuable stores will be abandoned.