HC Deb 30 April 1958 vol 587 cc357-8
17. Shinwell

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what facilities were provided by his Department for the transport of equipment and stores for a private bird-watching expedition conducted by Mr. Guy Mountfort; what Admiralty vessel was used for this purpose; what was the amount paid for these services; and whether his consent was obtained to this transaction.

The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Robert Allan)

Royal Fleet Auxiliaries sail frequently to the Mediterranean. Inquiries were received as to whether any such ship might have space available to carry some of this expedition's equipment.

There was available in the R.F.A. "Fort Dunvegan" the very small space required; this space would otherwise have been empty. A charge of £2 was made to cover handling. This arrangement was made with due Admiralty approval.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the hon. Member aware that Mr. Mountfort in his book—which, by the way, is a profit-making venture—stated that Lord Mountbatten, the First Sea Lord, used his influence in order to obtain these facilities? Is it customary for the Admiralty to provide facilities of this character for a private venture of this kind?

Mr. Allan

Yes, Sir. It is customary to provide Service facilities in certain circumstances. This was a serious expedition of an international character, the reports of which will be of value. The Admiralty has always had what it is pleased to call an indulgence rate at which freight can be carried, provided that it does not inconvenience or displace any official freight. This request was originally made by Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, and it was perfectly in accordance with custom to accede to it.

Mr. Shinwell

What does the hon. Member mean by "an expedition of an international character"? Are we to understand that if a number of people gather together and decide to proceed on a bird-watching expedition in Spain, that has international implications?

Mr. Allan

I merely meant that it was international in character. There were other nationalities in the expedition.

Mr. Chetwynd

Are we to understand that the birds in question were wrens?

Mr. Wigg

Would the hon. Member be good enough to circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the conditions under which these facilities are available to all sections of the community? Or are they the exclusive right of the personal friends of Lord Mountbatten?

Mr. Allan

I said that this authority was given with due Admiralty approval.

Mr. Callaghan

Is this not a perfectly normal and good piece of public relations?