HC Deb 04 February 1970 vol 795 cc414-6
27. Mr. Stratton Mills

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he is taking to improve the recreational facilities for troops serving in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Hattersley

Many facilities have been provided since the emergency began; at present these are generally adequate to meet most demands. The position is naturally kept under constant review.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Has contact been made with local sports clubs and golf clubs to arrange sports facilities for Service staff?

Mr. Hattersley

There has been a splendid response from all sorts of sports clubs in Northern Ireland, to all of which I am happy to pay tribute. All sports clubs in Northern Ireland have made facilities available to British forces.

28. Mr. Stratton Mills

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he is satisfied that the present tour of duty arrangements provide for adequate continuity in the Staff of Headquarters, Northern Ireland Command; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hattersley

Over half of the staff of Headquarters, Northern Ireland, including many of those in senior appointments, are either military personnel on normal two-year tours of duty or civilians in established posts. I am satisfied that this provides adequate continuity.

Mr. Stratton Mills

In this most complex situation, will the Minister of Defence bear in mind the very great importance of keeping people on the Army staff in Northern Ireland, particularly the security staff, in their jobs sufficiently long to give them a full grasp of the situation?

Mr. Hattersley

I do not in any way disagree with the hon. Gentleman's judgment about the necessity of our staffs there understanding, shall I say, some of the subtleties of Northern Ireland. The situation as it exists meets that need.

33. Mr. Chichester-Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement about the living conditions of Her Majesty's forces currently in Northern Ireland.

32. Mr. McMaster

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he is satisfied that the arrangements for the heating of temporary military accommodation in Northern Ireland are adequate; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hattersley

With permission I shall answer Question Nos. 32 and 33 together.

A considerable amount of temporary accommodation has been taken into use in Northern Ireland for the additional troops now serving there. Much of it was, inevitably, of poor quality, judged by the standards of modern permanent Service barracks. Over the last three or four months much has been done to improve this accommodation including the improvement of heating arrangements. This work will go on.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Is the Minister of Defence aware that hon. Members on this side of the House who come from Northern Ireland will support any reasonable steps he can take to make living accommodation easier for troops in the very difficult and distasteful job that they have to do in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Hattersley

I am very grateful for the hon. Gentleman's comments. I am sure that he shares my view that the best way of making living accommodation more acceptable to the troops is to have a situation in Northern Ireland which enables us to withdraw more troops from Northern Ireland and, therefore, probably to withdraw them from the worst accommodation.

Mr. McNamara

Is my hon. Friend aware that all hon. Members, no matter what their opinions, want our troops to be housed as satisfactorily as possible in the circumstances? Is he satisfied that the Northern Ireland Government are doing all they can to give decent conditions to our troops?

Mr. Hattersley

Yes, Sir. The Northern Ireland Government placed at our disposal early in the emergency some of their own resources which they had expected to use for civil purposes, and they have co-operated well in providing the sort of facilities we need.