HC Deb 06 April 1976 vol 909 cc205-6
3. Mr. Conlan

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the new social service organisation in the Royal Navy to be fully functioning.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Frank Judd)

As the House knows, the intention is that the new service should eventually take over the various existing naval social and welfare organisations. To make the transitionary arrangements as effective as possible, this is being approached in several distinct stages. The head of the new service has already made her first set of policy recommendations and she is currently reviewing the rôle of the existing family welfare organisations and naval community services. The next priority is to appoint three regional directors and supporting staff who will be based at Portsmouth, Plymouth and Rosyth.

Mr. Conlan

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Does he appreciate that the decision will be widely welcomed within the Service? Will he say what steps are being taken to employ professional, specialised staff?

Mr. Judd

We are determined to make use of the well-proven existing staff. In addition, 12 new social work staff will be appointed by the end of the year, seven naval personnel are currently undergoing social work training, and more will be accepted for such training during the year. Three of these specialist students are expected to complete their training this summer.

Mr. Goodhart

Does the Minister recognise the social problem created by the operation of the latest Rent Act, which gives naval personnel cause for concern about renting houses and being able to get them back when they return from being posted abroad?

Mr. Judd

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his concern. The problem is well recognised and we are taking every possible step, through Navy News and other media, to instruct and advise naval personnel how best to combat the problem.