HC Deb 13 July 1976 vol 915 cc357-8
15. Mr. MacFarquhar

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what reductions in the central staffs employed by his Department in London he anticipates by 1st January 1979.

Mr. William Rodgers

We aim to achieve reductions in keeping with the changed needs of the Services. I cannot quantify these at the moment but they will make a useful contribution to the overall reductions of 40,000 which we shall be making by 1st April 1979.

Mr. MacFarquhar

Is it true that the Ministry of Defence is currently investigating the possibility of a 10 per cent. cut in its London staff? Will that reduction be genuine, or will it be a matter of abolishing posts but allowing the occupants to stay on and serve out their time? Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that the chairborne generals and bureaucrats will bear a higher proportion of any reductions than will the fighting forces?

Mr. Rodgers

In general, I can probably give my hon. Friend the assurances for which he asks. Certainly the savings which we make will be in the headquarters staff, although I want to make absolutely clear that there are many able and dedicated people there to whom we should pay tribute for the work they have done over many years. The cuts will be real, and I hope that the Ministry of Defence will set an example to the whole of Whitehall.

Mr. Blaker

Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the circumstances surrounding Fleet Bank House, Salisbury Square, which has recently been occupied by his Department? Is he aware that, according to a parliamentary answer given by a Minister from the Department of the Environment and other information reaching me, the building remained unoccupied for more than a year after rent started to be paid, during which period over £1 million was paid in rent and £1.8 million in modification costs? If cuts are contemplated in staff, why it is necessary to occupy that building. Has there not been a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money?

Mr. Rodgers

The story is an entirely new one to me, but I shall certainly look into it. On the face of what the hon. Gentleman says, there appears to be a problem of neglect.

Mr. Dalyell

What would be the effect on headquarters staff of a separate Scottish army, navy and air force? How far advanced is the projected White Paper on separate Scottish forces?

Mr. Rodgers

I have always thought the idea of separate Scottish forces such a dangerous nonsense that I am afraid I have not gone into the detailed examination which would enable me effectively to reply to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Dalyell

What about the White Paper?

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