asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he is aware of the hardships caused to men serving in Her Majesty's Forces overseas as a result of their being separated from their wives and families; and if he will make a statement of the steps he is taking to avoid and mitigate that suffering.
Yes, Sir. Officers and men are having to put up with more family separation than they used to, and more than they ought to. A main purpose of the current defence review is to bring the resources of the Services into balance with the tasks which the nation gives them. Meanwhile, we are doing what we can to relieve separation by building more married quarters, by easing the rules about the occupation of hirings, and by sharing the work as fairly as we can.
As my hon. Friend admits that these hardships exist and that the hardships referred to in my Question are in some cases endangering family solidarity and in others inducing serving members to purchase their discharges, it counteracts the recruiting campaign. What has he to say to that?
I am bound to accept that there is a great deal of truth in what my hon. and learned Friend says. There is no question but that this is a major problem facing all the Services.
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the fact that in considering this problem sympathetically there is a strong case for much shorter postings overseas, with air transport, provided that the Service families who may have children at school are left in this country in Service homes?
We well understand that, and have made some progress. Equally, where, for operational reasons the men cannot go for only short periods, we think that as far as possible they should be accompanied by their families when they go abroad.