HC Deb 27 March 1950 vol 473 cc67-71

Resolution reported: That a sum, not exceeding £8,310,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the expense of works, buildings and repairs at home and abroad, including the cost of superintendence, purchase of sites, grants and other charges connected therewith, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1951.

Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

4.44 p.m.

Commander Galbraith

We have had a great deal of talk during the Debate last week and also today about married quarters. In the year 1950–51 we seem to be providing for only some 50 married quarters at home at an expenditure during this year of approximately £14,000. That would appear to be rather small. I know, of course, that Vote 15 gives us an increased number. It would appear that abroad we shall start work on only about 45 married quarters, and the sum of money set aside this year for that purpose is £20,000. I do not know whether that is all we propose to do, apart from Vote 15 to which I should like to refer later.

Sir Ronald Ross (Londonderry)

There has been legislation applying only to Great Britain, in respect of loans in connection with married quarters. I should like an assurance that the building of married quarters in our establishments in Northern Ireland will not suffer. There we have some new naval establishments—one for the training of the Fleet Air Arm and the other the Anti-Submarine School—which are in grave need of married quarters. I should like an assurance that in Northern Ireland we shall not be at any disadvantage in regard to priorities for the building of married quarters.

Mr. W. Edwards

I rather think that Vote 10 and Vote 15 ought to be considered together when we discuss married quarters. No doubt the House will recall that the married quarters built by the Admiralty since the war came under Vote 10 until last year. But as a result of the legislation last year, we were enabled to draw a considerable amount by loan without touching the Navy Vote in order to meet the expenses of married quarters. The number of houses which we hope to start building in the next financial year for use as married quarters was announced by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary last week. It will be found that a considerable amount is being spent, and I am pleased that we have been able to increase our programme far more rapidly than we had hoped. I suggest to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he should bear in mind both Votes when he criticises our programme of married quarters.

As no doubt the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) knows, we can only obtain housing loans under the Act if we build the married quarters in Great Britain. The Act does not apply to Northern Ireland, and we have restrictions placed upon us about where we build, even in Great Britain, before we are able to obtain money under the Act. The hon. Member can rest assured that we have the question of Londonderry in mind. Without making a promise, I think I can say that although the loans do not apply to Northern Ireland, the position there will receive attention.

4.49 p.m.

Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)

On page 157 there is the note: To commence the reconstruction of the runways at a Naval Air Station and to continue similar work at others. I want to draw attention to the position of the Naval Air Station at Crail which is now kept on a "care and maintenance" basis. I think it would be appropriate to ask what the Admiralty propose to do about that station and to invite the Minister to make a statement this afternoon. The position is that that air station was used to a considerable extent during the last war and previously. A year ago it was closed down. The station contains admirable buildings, messes, huts and dining halls which are probably unequalled in any other part of the Country. The whole of that valuable space and equipment is now standing idle except for a maintenance staff.

I have been representing to the hon. Gentleman for some time the national necessity to use that station for some more useful and appropriate purpose. Recently, he went to the length of agreeing that it might be used by the Territorial Army as a camp during the summer, but I do press him to consider whether there are not many other uses to which this splendid establishment could be put. There are boys clubs and youth movements of great variety, and Scottish movements of one kind and another, which would be immensely glad to have the opportunity of using such accommodation. I therefore beg the hon. Gentleman to consider the matter again.

Mr. W. Edwards

I think the hon. Gentleman has been able to make out a case which is completely outside what is contained in Vote 10. He will remember that, when he began, he said there was an item in the Estimates concerning runways, and, if he wants to know what will happen about the runways at that station, I can tell him that it is not expected to spend any money on them at the present time.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. Would he indicate on what other Vote he will make a statement which might answer my question?

Mr. Edwards

I am afraid there is no other Vote on which a statement could be made.

Commander Galbraith

The Civil Lord has referred to Vote 15. May I inquire whether we should keep our further remarks on Vote 15 until that Vote is dealt with, or whether we should make them now?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

I thought Vote 15 was being discussed with Vote 10. I think it would be well to finish it off now, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman may only speak again with the leave of the House.

4.53 p.m.

Commander Galbraith

By leave of the House, I would like to make one or two short comments on Vote 15. The point of the matter is that, so far as married quarters are concerned, we are commencing to build abroad this year only 45 coming under Vote 10. This means 50 married quarters at home and 45 abroad under Vote 10, and 650 under Vote 15. The sum of money set aside for the 650 married quarters under Vote 15 amounts to £225,000, and I assume that the cost of these 650 houses will be somewhere in excess of a million pounds, so that it would appear that this year we are going to proceed only about a quarter of the way in the building of these quarters.

I appreciate that the Admiralty are getting on with this job of providing married quarters, which we all know is very much to be desired at the present time, and I am not criticising this Vote from that point of view at all. I am only asking if we could not go a little faster with the 650 new married quarters to be provided under Vote 15. It looks as if only a quarter of them will be completed in the financial year which is just about to commence, and I should have thought that we could do better.

Mr. W. Edwards

So far as Vote 15 is concerned I should like the House to realise that we could not plan for this scheme completely until the Act was passed, but, since we are now able to spend far more money than was originally anticipated, we have taken immediate steps to improve and intensify the planning of those schemes which we had in mind but which we thought would take much longer to carry out. I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we have carefully considered this whole question, but whether or not we can still increase the number of quarters to be provided will depend on the resources at our disposal.

Mr. Manuel (Ayrshire, Central)

I should like to mention one short point. My fellow councillors in Ayrshire are very much perturbed about the aerodrome at Ayr. This question arises under Vote 10. There is much concern in the Ayr district about it. Local councillors have asked me if I can find out what are the future intentions of the Government in regard to this aerodrome, because they say that they can see no sign of development going on. Local opinion is that it should not be proceeded with but that the ground should be utilised for housing. Ayr Corporation want to use the land for this purpose, but they cannot get any guarantee that it will be available to them, and they are at present restricted in their housing developments.

Mr. Callaghan

So far as I know, there are no new works going on at this station. Vote 10 is concerned with new works, additions and alterations, and there is no proposal that I know of to include this airfield in any of these works.

Question, "That the House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.

Resolutions reported: