Skip to main content


Volume 958: debated on Tuesday 21 November 1978

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for Defence, what was the expenditure on defence, expressed in per capita terms of numbers employed in the defence services, both civilian and military, in the last financial year.

It was £10,900 in 1977–78, on the same basis as the figure of £9,900 which I gave to my hon. Friend on 16th March last, but updated to 1978 survey prices and reflecting final outturn for the year.

Is it not true that the corresponding figures for the Health Service are about £5,500 and for local authority education services £6,500? Do not these figures demonstrate the hypocrisy of the Opposition when they claim that defence cuts have cost 200,000 jobs in this country, while at the same time they ask for massive cuts in other areas of public expenditure which would he far more destructive of jobs?

I quite agree with my hon. Friend in pointing out the discrepancy in some of the criticisms that we receive from the Conservative Benches. But I must also tell him that I do not see a great deal of relevance in comparing the total cost per capita of employees in defence, which uses expensive and sophisticated equipment, with that in other sectors, where obviously the cost of the equipment is less.

What savings, at the expense of the cream of our society, does the right hon. Gentleman make when he sends Service men, stationed in BAOR, on emergency tours in Ulster at a lower rate of pay?

The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that these Service men do not have a lower rate of pay; in fact, they get an additional element of pay, quite properly, when they are serving in Northern Ireland. But when they are in Northern Ireland they do not qualify for the local overseas allowance, for the simple reason that they are not in Germany, where it is calculated and paid. The reason that they are in Northern Ireland, as I think the House generally agrees, is for the maintenance of security there, which is a vital matter.

Why does the Secretary of State answer these Questions from his hon. Friend the Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) in a way which is guaranteed to undermine the commitment to the Armed Forces? Is it not a fact that the reason why the average figure is so low is that the number of people in the Armed Forces— and, indeed, the civilian element as well— had declined so substantially under his own Government's administration? If that were not the case, the figure would be a good deal lower.

Should not the Secretary of State also point out to his hon. Friend that half that figure is paid in pensions and salaries, and that half the total number referred to are civilians and not members of the Armed Forces?

It is quite clear that this figure, as the Question requires, is based on both civilian and military manpower. It would be quite wrong for me to seek to re-write hon. Members' Questions. We sometimes have enough trouble in answer- ing them without wanting to re-write them as well. If the numbers were greater we should also need to buy additional equipment for the extra numbers. Therefore, I do not see the relevance of the hon. Gentleman's comment either.