HC Deb 10 March 1959 vol 601 cc1170-3

Motion made, and Question proposed. That a sum, not exceeding £12,941,000, be granted to Her 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 herewith, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1960.

7.48 p.m.

Mr. Willis

Having "missed the boat" on one occasion, I do not intend to miss it on this occasion. This Committee has lost a pearl in the contribution I would have made, but never mind, I will return to that question some other time.

With respect to Vote 10, I should to ask one question, and that, of course as I think the Civil Lord will guess relates to H.M.S. "Caledonia". I should like to know whether there is any possibility of the replacement of the living accommodation being started this year This accommodation, which I think everybody who has seen it will agree is second-class, has been for many years considered to be temporary, and it is about time that it was replaced by permanent accommodation. This is an artificer establishment, and as artificers are difficult to recruit and to keep it is important that something should be done. I wonder whether the Civil Lord could tell us when he expects the job to he commenced.

7.49 p.m.

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith)

I have a good deal of sympathy with what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) had to say about the accommodation for artificer apprentices in H.M.S. "Caledonia". I appreciate his anxiety that these important members of the Navy should be well housed, but I am sure that he will realise that in these matters we must have a reasonable order of priority.

Money is not as abundant as one would like it to be and the Admiralty's policy in this matter has been to give priority to instructional accommodation first of all. One can train a good artificer even if one has bad accommodation to live in, but one cannot train him without proper instructional facilities. Therefore, those have been given the priority. We are, however, gradually coming to the end of that programme and, without wanting to tie myself down to any definite date, within the fairly near future, but not this year, we shall be starting on building improved accommodation at "Caledonia".

7.51 p.m.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

I should like to know to what extent Vote 10 in this financial year is affected by the very welcome announcement in paragraph 106 of the First Lord's Explanatory Statement. I take it that the paragraph means that the expenditure which used to be classified under Vote 8 in respect of electric lighting and other services in buildings is now in process of being transferred to Vote 10. If that is so, I respectfully offer my congratulations to my hon. Friend for having brought about this notable reform. I understand that it was first recommended to their Lordships shortly before the First World War, but for upwards of fifty years has been successfully obstructed. It now looks as if the common sense thing has been done.

I hope that the paragraph means that and that the Vote which we are now dis- cussing is on all fours with the corresponding works Votes in other Departments and that it represents the total cost of buildings and not the cost less the cost of their essential services. I hope that my hon. Friend will confirm that that is the meaning of paragraph 106.

Mr. G. R. Howard

I should like to know from my hon. Friend whether there is any form of interchangeability in the provision of married quarters abroad whereby one Service which does not require all its married quarters can have pooling arrangements so that another Service which could make use of it may have that accommodation.

Miss Vickers

I should like to know whether the new construction of married quarters for officers, ratings and certain key civilian staffs will cover under "key civilian staffs" some of the dockyard employees who are returning from Malta and Singapore. They are having great difficulty in obtaining accommodation. Are they to be included among civilian staff in the same way as ratings are to be included in the Navy staff?

7.54 p.m.

Mr. Galbraith

My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Miss Vickers) asked whether we could not provide quarters for civilian employees coming back from abroad. I realise the difficulty in finding accommodation of this sort, particularly in the dockyard areas. We have housing committees which are set up to allocate such houses as are available either on Admiralty estates or on council estates, that is, houses which originally have been sponsored by the Admiralty. But my hon. Friend will appreciate that houses for civilian personnel could not come under the provision here. I hope that that answers her point.

I have been asked about the pooling of married quarters. I do not think that I have come across any area yet where there is a surplus of married quarters so that this might be done, but the Services are not stupid and will not allow married quarters to remain empty if sister Services want to use them. I think, however, that the question is largely hypothetical.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) wanted to know what was happening to Votes 8 and 10. His assumption is largely correct. The new arrangements will not be in operation immediately in the coming financial year, but they should be fully in operation by 1960. This means that the whole of Vote 8, shore work outside the dockyard will be run by the one Department, the new Navy Works Department, which will also run Vote 10.

Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)

It seems to me that the item for repair and maintenance under Subhead E is rather high still, considering that the total of the Vote is down to just under £13 million. It also seems rather high in relation to expenditure on major works, which no doubt is much reduced by the high appropriation-in-aid. Withtheclosing down of a number of establishments, and now that wartime arrears have been worked off, I had rather hoped that the repairs item would have been a little lower. Why has it been necessary to keep it so relatively high, as it appears to me?

Mr. Galbraith

I am quite surprised at the comment of my hon. Friend. expected him to say the very reverse. I feel that we are not spending quite enough on repairs and maintenance. My hon. Friend referred to the backlog of repairs. but I regret to say that that still has not been put right and if anything this provision is a little on the low side. The benefits which he had hoped would come from closures has not reached us fully yet in this respect.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That a sum, not exceeding £12,941,000. be granted to Her 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, 1960.