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Engineering Establishments

Volume 886: debated on Tuesday 11 February 1975

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8.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what savings to public funds he hopes to achieve through his proposals to reorganise and move SRDE Mudeford to Malvern and RRE Pershore and part of Malvern to Farnborough and Bedford.

I have nothing to add to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) on Wednesday 5th February.—[Vol. 885, c. 523–4.]

I thank the Minister for that not very informative answer and for the attention he has paid to this matter on a number of occasions. Did I understand him correctly to say that there were savings of £1·5 million? What will be the costs of this unpopular game of military musical chairs? As I understand it, the latest published figures amount to about £1·5 million. Other people say the figure is £4·5 million. Does he agree that the net benefits of this exercise do not seem to be very considerable?

I fully understand the hon. Gentleman's proper concern with the personal and human problems which inevitably rise from this rationalisation. These are the figures for which he has asked. The investment we have in mind arising from this is about £5·5 million, and the annual benefit is about £1·6 million. I think that that is a substantial saving, and is of the sort that we should seek to achieve.

Does the Minister accept that social costs are involved in these propositions, and that if those moves were recommended in respect of organisa- tions which are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Industry, the Labour Party would never allow them to take place? Is he aware that in my constituency there is total opposition to this merry-go-round arrangement? Will he have a final think before he takes the step which will deprive my constituency of many jobs?

Changes always involve a degree of social cost. That is unfortunate. The original proposals for stage one of the rationalisation plan were made in October 1972 and the date for the final implementation is approximately 1979. That is a long period. There is no prospect of a change of policy now. I hope that we shall find a solution to these real personal problems.