HC Deb 22 April 1964 vol 693 cc1284-5
29. Mr. Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what repayment to public funds is being made for the bridge built by a platoon of Coldstream Guards on a private estate at Langley, Northumberland.

Mr. Ramsden

None, Sir. This was a rough footbridge made in the course of a week's exercise, out of two larches and some slab-wood, from the estate where the platoon had been allowed to go for its training. The owner did not ask for it to be built, or for it to be taken away.

Mr. Lipton

rose— [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Other hon. Members should remember that it is possible that somebody wants to hear the question.

Mr. Lipton

While the officer concerned may have acted with the best motives in bringing his platoon on to his father's land and building this bridge there, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it may constitute an undesirable precedent capable of abuse if it is carried out on an extended scale? There is quite a serious point involved.

Mr. Ramsden

I am sure that officers, however young, are sufficiently responsible to make sure that there shall not ever be any abuse. It is a good thing When training can be varied by being done on private land as opposed to ordinary Army training areas. We are grateful in the Army Department to landowners who make this possible. Their permission needs to be obtained, and the platoon commander in this case had sensibly asked his father if he might bring his platoon to train on his property.

Mr. Fernyhough

Since permission was readily given for an exercise which led to the construction of this bridge, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether permission will equally be forthcoming if the Engineers decide to have an exercise to demolish the bridge?

Mr. Ramsden

I do not see why not. So far as I know, permission for this training was readily given, and the Army is very grateful when this sort of thing happens.

Mr. Lubbock

Does the right hon. Gentleman's first reply imply that a number of exercises have taken place on private land? If so, will he say what other works have been undertaken by soldiers on these other estates?

Mr. Ramsden

I have no information about how often it happens. Soldiers often go to Northumberland for training, and when, as in this case, they are able to do their training in what is the regimental recruiting area and, therefore, enable the regiment to show their faces in the locality where they get recruits, it is a very good thing.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Does my right hon. Friend know of any bridges which might require building over the Thames in the Lambeth area?

Mr. Ramsden

Wide as is the scope of the Infantry, I think this might be outside even theirs.