HC Deb 21 February 1978 vol 944 cc1201-3
12. Mr. Ernest G. Perry

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the various allowances available to personnel serving in the Royal Air Force.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to the hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Defence on 25th January 1978. I will also write to my hon. Friend giving details of the rates of allowances currently payable to members of the Royal Air Force.

Mr. Perry

I thank my hon. Friend for that forthright reply. Will he assure me that the allowances that are made available to the Royal Air Force are commensurate with those made available to the other two Services? Are they reviewed periodically to combat inflation?

Mr. Wellbeloved

By and large, the allowances are similar between the three Armed Forces. I am quite sure that the Armed Forces would bring to Ministers' attention any request for consideration of a review of the allowances. If it is helpful to my hon. Friend, I am prepared to place in the Library the full details of all the allowances that are made.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, while rates of allowances are important for members of the Armed Services, rates of pay are even more important? Does he accept that the first priority of any Government must be to defend the country from external aggression and that, therefore, our Armed Services should be treated as the No. 1 priority? Will he give an assurance to the House that the recommendations of the Pay Review Body, when published, will be implemented in full by the Government?

Mr. Wellbeloved

The first priority of any Government is to ensure that the nation has the economic base upon which it can sustain the life of the people. I would welcome the support of the hon. Gentleman and many of his hon. Friends for the sensible and successful policies of the Government in restoring economic wealth and stability to the country.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Will my hon. Friend note that Labour Members who opposed yesterday's arms expenditure increase bill nevertheless believe that Service men should not be denied decent pay and conditions? Instead, the cuts should take place in research and development, for example, which is costing £900 million a year.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I always appreciate my hon. Friend's support in any defence matter. I welcome his concern for the pay and conditions of the Armed Forces. In my conversations with serving Service men, it is clear that as well as decent pay and adequate conditions they want modern weapons with which to fulfil their job.

Mr. Churchill

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House why officers of the Royal Air Force are being refused permission to apply for premature voluntary retirement for up to eight years? Will he explain why the standards of intake are having to be lowered?

Mr. Wellbeloved

No officer is refused permission to apply for premature voluntary retirement. Some of those who apply—they are considered under the well-established rules for the granting of premature voluntary retirement—find that they have to fulfil the criterion of amortising the cost of their training. Secondly—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would like to give responsible support in this respect—the Armed Forces have a requirement to ensure that those who sign on for a specific period do not exercise the concession of premature voluntary retirement if that means a lessening of the operational ability of the Royal Air Force.