F111a (British Nuclear Weapons)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether the F111A will be able to carry British-made nuclear bombs.
Our primary requirement is for an aircraft to replace the Canberra as a tactical strike-reconnaissance aircraft carrying conventional weapons. But the F111A would also be able to carry the nuclear weapons the hon. Member mentions.
May I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on maintaining the independent British nuclear deterrent, but could he give a categorical assurance that the bomb designed for the TSR2 can be carried in this new aircraft, if ordered?
I am always grateful when I get congratulations from the Front Bench opposite. I hope that it sets a precedent which others will follow. I can give the assurance for which the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) asks.
May I ask my right hon. Friend what will be the cost of this plane, plus a nuclear weapon?
I would like notice of that question.
Royal Navy (Release Of Recruits)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will release those who wish to leave the Royal Navy in those cases where they were under 16 years of age at the time of joining.
No, Sir. However, the hon. Member will recall the statement by my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy, in the debate on the Second Reading of the Armed Forces Bill last week, that the Navy is considering coming into line with the Army and Royal Air Force with regard to giving a right to a recruit to discharge himself very early in his period of recruitment.
Does not the Minister think that the examination could be speeded up, and does he not agree that it is hard on a boy joining under the age of 15 if he has to be kept against his will for many years? Is he much good to himself or to the Navy in those circumstances?
I think that the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman) has a point, and I will look at it speedily.
Has my hon. Friend given consideration to the suggestion that I made some time ago that an option to leave the Service should be permitted at the end of three years of a long engagement?
We have, in fact, considered that solution. I do not think that it is the best way of going about it.
Royal Air Force Married Quarters (Lincolnshire)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many Royal Air Force married quarters are situated in the parishes of Tattershall and Coningsby in Lincolnshire; and how many of them are unoccupied.
There are 529 married quarters at R.A.F. Coningsby and 30 more are under construction. At present 144 of the completed quarters are unoccupied.
Does riot that produce a very sad situation, when it is well known that there are many men in all the Services wanting accommodation? Surely there should be some method of making this accommodation available to any of the Services under the new set-up? Will the Minister consider that?
This is a temporary situation. There is a long-term use for the station at Coningsby. I agree with the hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland), and I am grateful to him for drawing this to my attention. The present situation is not satisfactory. We are using these quarters, for example, for separated families. But I am certainly looking into the question to see if we can utilise those which are at present still unoccupied.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the cost to date of the buildings and installations at H.M.S. "Cambridge"; what effect the construction of a civil airport at Gnaton Cross would have on the proper functioning of the gunnery school; and what would be the estimated cost of moving the gunnery school elsewhere.
Since 1950, well over £2· million has been spent on setting up and maintaining this naval gunnery range. To move it somewhere else would probably cost over £3 million. However, Her Majesty's Government have decided that the development of a new airport for Plymouth at Collaton Cross, close to the range, cannot be justified in the foreseeable future, and so the question of moving H.M.S. "Cambridge" does not now arise.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply, which will give considerable satisfaction in the Plympton rural district. Do I take it that the proposed inquiry into the airport in February will not now take place?
I assume so.
Defence Establishments, Northern Ireland (Civilian Personnel)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many civilian personnel were employed at defence establishments, including those of the Territorial Army, in Northern Ireland at 1st January, 1964 and 1st January, 1965; what are the prospects for the next five years; and whether he will make a statement.
At 1st January, 1964, 5,197; at 1st January, 1965, 5,418. In October, when the figure had fallen to 5,255, I announced the closure of the Joint Anti-Submarine School at Londonderry over the next three years. It would be wrong for me to make any further predictions at this stage of the Defence Review.
Is the Minister aware that in view of that reply and the debate which is to follow, I shall relieve him of the necessity of replying to any supplementary question?
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what action he has taken on the proposals submitted by the hon. Member for The Wrekin to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army for the formation of the National Guard on a county basis to be drawn from the Civil Defence organisation and the Territorial Army as a special national home security force capable of dealing with national emergencies, either civil or military; and if he will make a statement.
The Government will consider these proposals, in addition to others which have been put forward in the context of their examination of how best to secure appropriate provision for home defence. I would refer the hon. member to what my right hon. Friend said about this in replying to the debate on 16th December.
Is the Minister aware that that is a much more sensible reply than we have heard from the Dispatch Box for some time? Will he take it from those who serve in the Territorial Army and the Territorial Associations that the proposals that they wish to put forward are proposals designed to assist him to make the new force effective?
The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. William Yates) has made a considerable number of proposals and suggestions, and we will consider all of them.
Now that the Government, happily, are having second thoughts about the Territorial Army, does the hon. Gentleman realise how premature it was to put forward an order of battle for the Territorial Army before the review which the Secretary of State announced had even begun?
The Government announced that it was not our intention to retain the Territorial Army for home defence and have always said so. We are still looking at home defence, so it was not premature. It might perhaps be better for the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) to have noted the debate on the Reserve Army.
Service Men (Deaths Overseas)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence why, after a 17-year-old soldier, on active service in Aden, had been killed by the discharge of a bullet from a gun due to the carelessness and negligence of a fellow soldier, he refused to pay the cost of £393 of bringing the body back to England and burying it, and left it to the parents of the soldier to do so.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the Answer given on 26th October by my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney).
Does not my hon. Friend think that if that is the policy of the War Office it is about time that it was changed in cases where the Department itself is responsible for the man's death, since it happened because of negligence? Would he not agree with me that what was done only serves to dig the knife more deeply into the wounds of the afflicted parents, and that the whole thing is an absolute damn scandal?
I cannot accept what my hon. Friend says, and neither can I accept that we should differentiate as between people unfortunately killed in action and people killed in accidents or who die from other causes.
Joint Military Activities (United States)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if, following the recent talks in Washington, he will make a statement on discussions of proposals for joint military activities with the United States of America.
No, Sir. I have nothing to add to what was said in the House yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, when he reported on his visit to Ottawa and Washington.
When my right hon. Friend goes to Washington shortly, will he bear in mind that many Labour Members would oppose in every possible way our getting tied up militarily with American wars in Vietnam, China or other areas east of Suez?
I shall bear in mind, of course, the views of all my hon. Friends and also of hon. Members opposite, and I shall be guided in this as in all matters by what I conceive to be the interests of the country.