HC Deb 03 August 1966 vol 733 cc453-5
22. Mr. Chichester-Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what representations to retain the Joint Antisubmarine Training School at Londonderry he has received; and what action he will take.

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu

In addition to indirect representations by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, I have been pressed on this subject in the House by hon. Members opposite and had a personal interview with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark). After renewed investigations and discussion, I have decided to move the school to Plymouth, as originally planned.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Does the Minister deny that experts on the Committee at the beginning of the year were strongly against the abandonment of Londonderry and recommended its expansion? Will he publish the report so that those interested in defence, and the taxpayers, can judge the issue for themselves?

Mr. Mallalieu

I have had a great deal of expert advice on this, some for the changes and some against. After a good deal of thought I have decided to maintain the previous decision.

Mr. Powell

Is it not a fact that information and advice received since the decision was announced last August was cast the gravest doubt on its wisdom? Will the Government not have the courage to reconsider this whole matter in view of the fact that the information and the considerations are now substantially different from what they appeared to be last August?

Mr. Mallalieu

They really are not different. We thought that possibly decisions taken in the Defence Review might have a bearing on the previous decision, and we looked at it extremely carefully. We have decided that the previous decision is right and should stand.

Captain Orr

This is surely a very squalid story. If the Minister's own Committee has now said that he is wrong, the least that he could do is what my hon. Friend asks and publish the report so that we can judge whether the strategic decision is right. Is it not important when the future employment of so many people is at stake?

Mr. Mallalieu

There is nothing squalid about it at all. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will know that experts frequently give contrary advice and it is the job of the Minister to make up his mind.