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Volume 205: debated on Tuesday 3 March 1992

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Nuclear Weapons


To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what new initiatives he plans to curtail nuclear weapons proliferation.


To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on recent progress in multilateral disarmament.

The greatest immediate risk of proliferation stems from the break-up of the Soviet Union. I announced last week assistance to Russia in the safe reduction of its surplus nuclear warheads, and we are considering with other interested countries how best to help Russia use the skills of its scientists for peaceful purposes. We are also considering with partners measures to improve the operation of the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguard regimes. As regards multilateral disarmament, the Government are fully committed to the greatest progress in the whole range of nuclear conventional, chemical and biological arms control negotiations.

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that five months before the Gulf war, the Government told me that they had full confidence that Saddam Hussein was not developing nuclear weapons? If they are being fooled now by many other countries, is it not right that we must seek a strong, new, international non-proliferation treaty containing vigorous verification provisions backed by United Nations sanctions? Would not the best way to ensure that such a treaty would be accepted worldwide be for us to allow international inspection and verification of the numbers of our warheads?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are now engaged with the United Nations in the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The world has learnt the lessons from that, of the need for a more effective operation and for more intrusive inspections by the IAEA. I can certainly confirm on behalf of the Government that we shall take any sensible steps that are necessary, consistent with our security, to play our part in that effort.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it was only by a consistent and credible policy of multilateral disarmament that the collapse of communism was eventually assured?

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is vital at this time, when there is the greatest risk of proliferation that the world has ever known and when the world's greatest nuclear power is in a state of disintegration, that we ensure that while we take every positive and constructive step to try to deal with that very grave situation, we recognise the need to maintain our essential safeguard, our own nuclear deterrent.

The Secretary of State referred to help being given to Russian scientists. In precisely what form is that help being given?

The hon. Gentleman will be familiar with the statements made by US Secretary Jim Baker and German Foreign Minister Genscher. We are in close touch with our allies on this matter to see the ways by which assistance can perhaps be given, and contracts can be placed, for valuable work to be done which would occupy such scientists, in addition to the part that they might also play more directly in some of the work involved in the dismantling and disabling programme of that massive nuclear arsenal.

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what he feels about the accuracy of the continued Russian accounting for nuclear warheads? Has he considered whether the western powers should purchase some of those warheads to prevent them from falling into the hands of non-nuclear powers that have no idea how to maintain or destroy them?

It would be fair to say that our impression so far is that the previous Soviet systems were, in many ways, impressive and that the Soviet Union had good controls over its nuclear weapons. Our concern now is how good those controls remain, given that the situation is moving from union controlf—the Soviet Union—to control by individual republics. Four republics now have strategic nuclear weapons, although tactical nuclear weapons have been withdrawn within Russia. Our worries about the continuing control, however, are real, which is why we are making as positive a contribution as we can to help tackle that problem urgently.

Will the Secretary of State impress on the Prime Minister the need to raise with Mr. Yeltsin the substance of the conversation that my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) and I had last Tuesday with Mr. Bikov of the Russian Academy of Science? Mr. Bikov said that on those secret sites, nuclear weapons were still being built. He said that, despite the fact that representatives of the Russian Parliament did not want them to be built and decisions had been taken for them not to be built, they were still being built because of the nature of the command economy that is being phased out. Was not that an important statement for Mr. Bikov to have made to us? Will the Secretary of State assure us that the matter will be raised with representatives of the Russian Government?

Allegations of many kinds have been made about that matter and certain aspects of the command economy. While stocks in the form of raw materials last —I am not talking about nuclear weapons but general armaments—the production will clearly continue. The successor republics of the Soviet Union regard general armaments such as tanks and artillery as a valuable source of hard currency for their hard-pressed economies. The information that the hon. Gentleman has, has not been confirmed to me, except in certain minor respects, but it is a serious issue with which we continue to deal.

Royal Auxiliary Air Force


To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress he is making towards restoring a flying role for squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

There are no plans to restore a flying role to squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

May I point out to my right hon. Friend that the Royal Air Force is the only one of the three western air forces with significant operational experience since world war two—the other two are the Israeli and the United States air forces—not to have combat-ready reserve squadrons? A flying role for the Royal Auxiliary Air Force would be exceedingly cost effective, particularly as air crews are being made redundant under "Options for Change". It is a marked distinction of the sensible policy of the Territorial Army and the Royal Naval Reserve in that matter.

We are considering whether a small number of test air crews from industry in the Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve should be used as front-line reinforcements for fast jet aircraft. We are talking about costs and, as my hon. Friend will know, the cost of maintaining any aircraft, whether in the Royal Air Force or the reserves, is great, and I do not know how cost effective it would be.

In the early stages of "Options for Change" the Secretary of State said that he would put more resources and emphasis on the development and re-equipping of the reserve forces. How many extra resources have been put into the reserve forces since the beginning of "Options for Change"? Would he agree to support a review of the Reserve Forces Safeguard of Employment Act 1985 so that we shall not have in the future the rash of litigation that has been needed against employers who have declined to accept reservists back since the Gulf war?

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is anticipating what my right hon. Friend will say on the matter. My right hon. Friend will shortly make a statement on the regular-reserve mix.

While declaring an interest and reluctantly accepting what my right hon. Friend says about flying squadrons, may I ask him to confirm that there is a good future for the Royal Auxiliary Air Force in view of its exceptional record and its cost effectiveness as a reserve force?

Yes, indeed. As my hon. Friend will know and as hon. Members will hardly need to be reminded, a large number of roles are currently carried out by the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Those roles are valuable and we intend to build on them.

"Options For Change"


To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a further statement on "Options for Change".

The "Options for Change" exercise was completed in July 1990. Since then, we have been concerned with implementing proposals to create the structure for "Britain's Defence for the '90s". The House is aware of a number of recent announcements, particularly for new equipment, to ensure that our forces, though smaller, will be more flexible, more mobile and better equipped than ever before.

Does the Secretary of State recognise that the Government's inaction on this matter has resulted in "Options for Change" being a shambles? There has been no positive action to give hope to those communities and workers involved with the defence industry. The Government have failed to take the opportunities before them. Will we have to wait for a Labour Government before positive action is taken? [Interruption.]

I apologise, Mr. Speaker, I do not usually have by breath taken away. But for the hon. Member to make such a statement, particularly today when, if I catch your eye, I shall make a statement about equipment procurement for our forces, leaves me breathless. I have made statements from the Dispatch Box announcing new tanks, new helicopters, new frigates, and new packages for the air force, our amphibious forces and our commandos. We have made our policies absolutely clear, not just by asserting that we have it in mind to take action, but by stating what we have planned and by making announcements for new equipment and new forces. I also hope to have something more to say on the reserves, which is an important development. For the hon. Gentleman to have the nerve to ask such a question when he was undoubtedly one of those who voted successively for large cuts in our defence expenditure, is mind-boggling.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that our infantry is second to none in the world. Does he also agree that a large part of the excellence stems from the fact that its members have the right training from day one, when they join the armed forces? Will he make certain that, in no circumstances, will there be an mismatch in terms of that basic training? Will he ensure that any suggestion of parachute recruits going to Lichfield to train with Royal Army Medical Corps recruits of both genders would be ruled out of court immediately?

My hon. Friend is ever vigilant of the interests of the parachute regiment. I do not think that anybody seriously believes that we can get much legislation passed in the House without his close observance and approval of it. We are looking at the training arrangements and are anxious to ensure that our future forces receive the best and most relevant forms of training in the most efficient and cost-effective way. There may be further announcements shortly.

While welcoming the briefing that is continually taking place, may I press the Secretary of State to bear in mind that the reserve forces are always an important aspect of our national forces? In an earlier reply he suggested that in Northern Ireland, those who wanted to volunteer for the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve could volunteer for some other service. Does he accept that some people prefer to prepare for international emergencies and not necessarily be involved in the local scene? Will he bear that in mind as he considers further recruitment for the TAVR in Northern Ireland?

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. He will recall that when I made the announcement about the TA I made the point that even with the proposed changes the people of Northern Ireland will enjoy some of the best opportunities in the United Kingdom to take part in TA service. There are changes—the numbers were exceptionally high, as the hon. Gentleman graphically indicated just now—but still no one could claim that Northern Ireland was badly placed in respect of our proposals.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the anxiety that still persists in Staffordshire about the fate of the Staffordshire regiment is not mere local and parochial concern but is based on a wider concern for the strength of the infantry? Can he say anything this afternoon that will enable me to reassure my very worried constituents?

I entirely sympathise with the feelings described by my hon. Friend. I was met by a very respectful group of Gordon Highlanders when I visted Aberdeen recently, when I said that I would have been on the line as well had I been in their position.

We have made our plans; they involve change; they involve striking a balance. The Army has reached its decisions. My hon. Friend is concerned about what the strength of the infantry will be in three years' time. We are steadily working towards the plans that we set out. which we believe are right. Were the world to change significantly, we would of course have to look at them again.

I do not want to be misunderstood. We have no plans to change: we believe that these proposals are right. We believe in smaller but better, which means a choice between the numbers of people and the quality of the equipment that they can enjoy. My hon. Friend will concede that we have more than lived up to our promise that our Army of the future, as the Select Committee report said, will be outstandingly well equipped. We intend that to apply to the Navy and to the Air Force as well.

The Secretary of State pointed out in his last answer that on 21 February he expressed sympathy with some of the supporters of the regiments, and he said that he would have been standing outside under the same banners. He did not mention, however, that his answer on the same occasion made it absolutely clear that the proposed regimental cuts would proceed irrespective of the findings of the Defence Select Committee report. How could the Secretary of State dismiss so lightly and in advance a report which had not even been written at that date? Is not that a discourtesy to the Select Committee, which is made up mainly of Conservative Back Benchers? Will it not be regarded by them and by the regiments as an admission that he is unable to justify on security grounds the cuts that he has made?

Is the hon. Gentleman quoting a newspaper report on this matter? If that is the report to which he is referring, when asked how I would react to a Select Committee report I said that it would depend on what it said. It is not mandatory on any Government or Minister automatically to accept every Select Committee report. We will respond constructively; if we believe that the report's criticisms are right and constructive, we will take them into account. If we disagree with them, we will say so in the most courteous and, I hope, respectful way we can.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the high degree of dependence of the Plymouth travel-to-work area on defence-related activity? Does he agree that it is therefore essential that the area be involved meaningfully in future in our nuclear submarine programme and in the Devonport-based surface ships?

Not only am I aware of that dependence; I am aware of the debt that we owe the area and of the real contribution made by the people of Plymouth to the Royal Navy and the Royal Marine Commandos, among other units involved. They would be the first to show their appreciation.

We have made it absolutely clear that we are determined that Plymouth should have a good future. I do not want to go into detail now, but that is certain. How good that future is will depend in part on the performance of the dockyard, which is competing right now. I hope that the dockyard will be in a position to make a significant contribution to the work in future—our budget provides for that. Indeed, we are the only party to have made the financial provision to ensure that that happens.

Young People


To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many young people under the age of 18 years are currently serving in the armed forces.

As at 1 January 1992, the latest date for which we have information, there were 7,647 personnel under 18 years of age serving in the armed forces.

In view of the growing international concern about the use of children and young people in various conflicts, especially in third-world countries, how on earth can the Minister possibly justify a situation in this country whereby a young lad can join the Army at the age of 16, or in some cases at the age of 15, but if he changes his mind and wants to leave after serving more than six months he cannot do so and is forced to continue in the armed services until the age of 21? Is not it about time that the Government stopped this practice of recruiting and exploiting young people who are deemed not old enough to cast a vote but in some cases are being forced to continue in the Army and can be put into armed combat, as they were during the Gulf war?

The issue of people not being able to leave the forces until they are 21 was raised by the Select Committee that examined the Armed Forces Bill, now the Armed Forces Act 1991. We are looking at the matter and it is currently being considered by the Department. The hon. Gentleman asked about young people joining the armed forces. I do not know who the hon. Gentleman thinks he is speaking for, but I remind him that these people are volunteers and join with the approval of their parents. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that a person under the age of 18 should not have joined his unit in the Gulf? I do not think that that would have been the attitude of the young men who were very keen to fight for their country and to serve with their compatriots.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that his earlier answer emphasised once again how essential and right it was for the Government to stand up against allowing homosexuality in the armed forces? Many parents of potential boy soldiers, sailors and airmen would have been very reluctant to allow their sons to join the armed forces if homosexuality had been allowed among those who were to train them.

My hon. Friend is right. We carefully considered that issue, and I agree that many parents would have been reluctant to allow their children to serve with the armed forces at such a young age if homosexuality had been allowed.



To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the current position with regard to the Trident nuclear defence programme.

The Trident programme remains on time and within budget. The first submarine, Vanguard, is set to roll out of the Devonshire dock hall in Barrow tomorrow and, following a series of sea trials, will enter service with the Royal Navy in the mid-1990s.

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government have had a consistent and unwavering policy on nuclear deterrence through the strength and use of Trident? Will he also confirm that the Government will place the order for the fourth Trident submarine as soon as possible?

The answer to the second part of my hon. Friend's question is yes. It is our duty to protect our nation against the risk of nuclear attack and nuclear threat. That cannot be done on an on-off basis. We must provide the means, the equipment and the training, and that must be maintained year after year. We cannot take risks. My great concern about the totally ambivalent position of the Labour party is that it is prepared to take risks by not having enough submarines to provide an effective deterrent. That applies even to the minority in the Labour party who believe in the nuclear deterrent. We have heard the ultimate nonsense from the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), who has said that if a Labour Government order a fourth boat they will not put any warheads on it.

Did the Secretary of State derive some comfort from the authoritative letter in The Times of 18 February from the noble Lord Lewin underlining the need for four submarines for the Trident fleet? Did he also note in the same letter the noble lord expressed the view that it may be possible to adapt Tridents to fill a sub-strategic role? In view of that, did not the Secretary of State pause to conclude that whatever NATO may require, there is no requirement for the United Kingdom to have its own tactical air-to-surface missile?

I am grateful for the hon. and learned Gentleman's support in respect of the fourth Trident boat. I give him credit for that, although I cannot give much credit to his policy of favouring a 50 per cent. cut in defence expenditure, which means that there is not the slightest chance of his being able to pay for the extra boat. At least he is father to the wish, even if he cannot guarantee its achievement.

As for the hon. and learned Gentleman's other point, I have made the NATO position clear before.

When my right hon. Friend goes to Barrow later in the week, will he congratulate Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd. and its work force there on the excellent job that they have done in constructing the vessels to specification and to schedule?

Is not it clear that a party which, a few years ago, was offering to do a deal with the Soviet leadership that would have involved the sacrifice of 100 per cent. of Britain's deterrent in return for only 2 per cent. of the Soviet deterrent cannot be trusted with Britain's defences?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I shall ensure that the message that he has asked me to convey is conveyed tomorrow, when I go to Barrow to mark the roll-out of the first Vanguard submarine. This is a great achievement on the part of all the company's work force, and of not only those who work in Barrow but those employed in the other elements that make up our Trident system. That system will now come into operation, and will be available for the defence of our country for many years.

On Thursday, some of the Secretary of State's officials will give evidence about Trident to the Select Committee on Defence. Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that on 6 March 1991, in answer to question 40, Rear Admiral Pirnie said that Britain could maintain a continuous patrol with three Trident submarines, and that with one submarine in refit we could still maintain a continuous patrol with only two submarines? Is that still the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman's advisers?

That is a complete misintepretation of the original evidence, which related to the period immediately prior to Vanguard's first refit. The hon. Gentleman need not think that there is any military support for the idea that in the past the Navy has argued for a three-boat solution, and he will be given a very rough time by the Navy if he makes such a suggestion. As far as I am aware, no senior officer in the Navy considers it possible to maintain the nuclear deterrent without four submarines —and certainly no senior naval officer would support the suggestion of the Labour candidate for Barrow and Furness that the fourth submarine should be turned into a 17,000 tonne sub-sea supply vessel delivering oil instead of missiles.



To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the value of current orders placed by his Department with British Aerospace, Royal Ordnance, VSEL, Ferranti and Leyland Daf.

The current value of outstanding contracts placed by the Ministry of Defence with the companies listed is as follows: British Aerospace, £1,625 million; Royal Ordnance, £315 million; VSEL, £1,070 million; Ferranti, £360 million; and Leyland Daf, £105 million.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the lion's share of the contracts that he has just announced has been placed with defence factories in the north-west of England, including Lancashire. Will he confirm that, if he were sufficiently unwise—like the Labour party—to cut a further £6 billion from the defence budget, over and above the "Options for Change" proposals, there would be massive job losses in those factories? Will he also confirm that he does not intend to do that?

My hon. Friend referred to the north-west of England, and I can give him the figure for Lancashire. The current orders outstanding are worth £540 million. As he has asked, I can tell him that, were there to be a cut of £6 billion in the defence budget, the vast majority of those jobs in Lancashire would go and factories would close.

Nevertheless—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If Conservative Members want to play infantile games, I am prepared to stand here.

Nevertheless, does the Minister agree that the number of defence jobs in the north-west has gone down from 23,000 in 1985–86 to only 12,000 in 1989–90, a cut of almost 50 per cent. in only four years? That does not take account of the many closures and redundancies announced since the end of 198–0 which have halved again the number of jobs in the north-west. Unless the Government are prepared to provide a forum for funds and expertise to assist the defence industry to diversify into other products, the job losses and the decline in Britain's economic performance will continue—but, then, the Secretary of State does not care.

Not only do I care but the Government are meeting their obligations and providing procurement orders to ensure that our forces have the equipment that they need. The House will have heard the hon. Gentleman in his honest and decent way—the House respects his honesty—accepting with his opening word "nevertheless" that that is the implication of Labour's defence policy. I can tell the hon. Gentleman with the full authority of my office and my responsibility for the programme that if one cuts £6 billion from the defence budget no defence job in the country will be safe.

Islander Aircraft


To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the performance of the Islander aircraft in service with the Army Air Corps.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement
(Mr. Kenneth Carlisle)

The Islander aircraft fully meet the Army's performance requirements.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Islander aircraft have established a reputation as the Rolls-Royce of the skies, being virtually indestructible and operating in one of the most hostile environments in the world? Is not that a tribute to the Islander designers and the engineers who built them? Will my hon. Friend assure the House that they will remain in service for many years to come, unlike the scenario if the Liberal Democrats were ever to implement their 50 per cent. cut in our defence forces?

Yes. I am glad to pay tribute to the aircraft and to PBN, the company which makes it. I welcome the support that my hon. Friend has always given to that company. We have 10 of those aircraft in service. It is a robust and very useful aircraft which is cheap to run and has great endurance. It is a valuable piece of equipment, and my hon. Friend may like to know that in the next two or three years we shall proceed with some large modifications to it which we estimate will bring about £4 million worth of work to PBN on the Isle of Wight. I agree that if the Liberal Democrats came to power, that work would not proceed.



To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a further statement on the ordering of the fourth Trident submarine.

Contract negotiations with Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd. for the fourth Trident submarine are under way. We intend to place the order as soon as those negotiations have been satisfactorily concluded. Meanwhile, construction of steelwork and major engineering items is making good progress under long lead funding arrangements.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. The answer that he gave my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) and the answer that he has just given have comprehensively shot a number of foxes, but one is still up and running. Will he confirm that during its lifetime in service Trident will take about 3 per cent. of the defence budget and that no other known system could be so cost effective but still provide the same degree of security?

I think that the figure is nearer 2·5 per cent., but that is correct. Whatever the Labour party's views in the past, it is incredible that any responsible party could be prepared to take risks with our defence budget and could be prepared to take risks with our nuclear deterrent when the world faces the biggest risk of nuclear proliferation that it has ever faced. Our position is that we shall ensure that we have a nuclear deterrent that is available at all times for the protection of our country.

Will the Secretary of State take a little time to reflect on a previous answer on non-proliferation? How can he, in logic or in practice, sustain a position whereby he is asking the Soviet Union, as was, to dismantle its nuclear deterrents while he is embarking on a system in which each missile provides the equivalent of 80 Hiroshima bombs? The Secretary of State talked about cost. How can he justify a cost per job in the strategic deterrent of £352,000 in a world in which the major powers are building down and renouncing weapons but he is building up?

If the hon. Gentleman seriously does not understand that point, he had better talk to President Yeltsin, who does. President Yeltsin, as he made clear outside No. 10 Downing street, understands that the position of a super-power which has 30,000 nuclear weapons is different from the position of the United Kingdom which will have as an absolute maximum only 128 warheads per submarine. There is no comparison, as President Yeltsin recognises. Indeed, his ambition is to move down now to a minimum deterrent. His idea of a minimum deterrent is to maintain 2,500 warheads.

Will my right hon. Friend once and for all nail the myth of the credible three-boat Trident deterrent? Will he confirm that all the professional advice that he has received from the Royal Navy is that only four boats absolutely guarantees an effective nuclear deterrent for this country?

That is absolutely right. The Opposition do not understand that we have to provide for the full life of the Trident system—for 30 years. Over such a period, as has already been apparent with Polaris, if we had only had three, we should not have been able to maintain that programme. I should have thought that that lesson was clear. The true description of Labour's position on that was given by Mr. Hutton, the Labour candidate for Barrow and Furness. When he heard the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) suggest that Labour could replace a Trident submarine with, for example, a Trafalgar class submarine on the order book, Mr. Hutton described his right hon. Friend as "ignorant and ill informed".

Avionic Repair Department


To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what studies have been undertaken with regard to transfer of the avionic repair department from RAF Carlisle to RAF Sealand.

This matter is currently under consideration by the chief executive of the maintenance group defence support agency.

During last Thursday's visit to Carlisle, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) and I were very impressed by the quality of the work, and by the efficiency and dedication of the work force at the station. However, there was grave concern about the future of the avionic department there. It is well known that the appraisal has been carried out and that the information is with the Minister. The 100 employees and their families will be disappointed to hear today that the Government are putting off their decision until after the election. The Minister is hiding behind red tape. If he does not take the decision before the election and if the Conservatives are re-elected, I am afraid that we shall lose another 100 jobs in Carlisle.

As I have said, that is all up to the chief executive. We await any proposals to come from him, and we have had no proposals so far. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are talking about fewer than 100 jobs out of the 1,000 people who are employed at Carlisle.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that any study of avionic repair facilities does not affect the Royal Naval aircraft yard at Fleetlands in my constituency? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he recognises the outstanding work done at Fleetlands?

I would, indeed, pay tribute to the work done at Fleetlands, and there is certainly no question of the avionic repairs at Carlisle having any effect on Fleetlands.

Army Sports Control Board


To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the Army Sports Control Board will next meet to discuss funding.

The board will meet next on 20 August 1992 to discuss the allocation of non-public fund grants to Army sports.

The Minister is well aware that the armed services sports body does not give a single penny to rugby league. Will he please explain why, in the list of sports and games that are supported, we find that there are apparently more people who support and provide funding for model aircraft than support and provide funding for rugby league, and why a sport that is universally recognised as a great sport gets not a single penny from the Army Sports Control Board?

The Army supports the most popular sports. There are a number of sports that are not supported by public funding and they include angling and archery, which are more popular than rugby league. Very few people want to play rugby league. The only time that a rugby league game was started off anywhere was in the Royal Air Force under a corporal at Coningsby who was very keen. He could raise only one team of 13 players, which left him with no reserves and no team against which to play. I am afraid that the evidence at the moment is that the game is not sufficiently supported by members of the armed forces.