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Baor (English Language Television Service)

Volume 958: debated on Tuesday 21 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many British Service men there are at present in Germany; how many of these can receive the special English language television service provided for them; and what is the annual cost of this service.

There are about 62,000 Service men in Germany and by mid-December about 17.000 of these, plus their dependants, will be able to receive the service. The running cost of the service in 1978–79 is estimated to be £700,000.

Is the Minister aware that the people of Wales will be surprised that so much money is to be spent on a relatively small number of people in Germany, to enable them to receive these television services, when the Government are dragging their feet and waiting until 1982 before introducing a comprehensive Welsh language service for the 750,000 people in Wales? Would the Minister be surprised to learn that the people in Wales will see this as a verification of the dictum that power appears to grow from the barrel of a gun?

I am sure that the people of the Principality would not begrudge the money that we are spending for the comforts of Service men and their families in Germany—any more than people in any other part of the United Kingdom. The implications of a Welsh language programme are not for me but for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. In introducing a television service for our troops in Germany we are seeking to improve the lot of the Service man and his dependants, who have to face the dual problem of the language barrier and frequent separation due to the Northern Ireland commitment. I should make it clear that the BOAR service is not a special language service. We are simply making it possible for Service men to receive programmes which would be available to them were they serving in this country.

Will my hon. Friend be a little more forthright than was the Secretary of State earlier and agree that the balance of payments cost involved in keeping the troops in Germany is about £600 million a year—

Order. That may well be. If the hon. Member wishes to ask such a question he should place it on the Order Paper. This Question is about the television service.

Will the Minister tell us whether the Service men stationed in Germany have made representations about the fact that they lose money when their units are sent to carry out emergency duties in Ulster—

Order. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is also straying. He is over the side of the ship.

The first part of this Question asks

"how many British Service men there are at present in Germany"—

Order. I realise that. But the Question is also linked to the provision of the television service. We had better move on.