HC Deb 25 July 1978 vol 954 cc1340-1
2. Mr. Bean

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what action is being taken to provide alternative forms of domestic heating in Royal Air Force married quarters.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force (Mr. James Wellbeloved)

I am well aware that the cost of using certain types of central heating installed in Royal Air Force married quarters has given rise to some concern. For that reason, trials have been carried out at two RAF stations to assess the cost effectiveness of unblocking the chimneys of married quarters fitted with electric night storage central heating to see whether, by this means, the occupants can be provided with an alternative method of heating.

The trials have now been completed and the resulting information is now being studied in conjunction with a report by the Property Services Agency. We shall complete our studies as quickly as possible and we shall, of course, take account of the new and welcome factor in the equation introduced by the announcement last week that off-peak electricity charges are to be reduced from October 1978.

Mr. Bean

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but does he not agree that is is deplorable that Service men do not have a choice of heating in their married quarters? Will he take steps to see that in new construction various alternative forms of heating are available?

Mr. Wellbeloved

I agree with my hon. Friend that, with hindsight, perhaps it was not the wisest of policies to have only one form of heating available in married quarters, and I shall certainly draw to the attention of the appropriate Minister and the Department my hon. Friend's suggestion in respect of new married quarters, which I think is an excellent idea.

Sir T. Kitson

Will the Minister have a word with his right hon. Friend and point out to him that one of the greatest problems for many Service men living in married quarters is the cost of heating and that at Catterick, which is a pretty cold part of the United Kingdom, the problem of electricity heating is one that is creating great financial difficulties far many Service men?

Mr. Wellbeloved

We are well aware of the situation. Apart from the trials to which I have already referred, we are carrying out an extensive programme of insulating properties to try to improve their thermal capacity and thereby contribute to stabilising, if not reducing, the cost of heating.

Mr. Churchill

Is the Under-Secretary aware that last winter many Service families had to devote up to £10 per week to the cost of the electric heating installations that are provided for them? Will he now undertake that insulation will be provided by this winter for homes which are dependent on that mode of heating? That does not need any trial.

Mr. Wellbeloved

We are proceeding at a great pace to complete our insulation programme. As I indicated earlier, with hindsight it was obviously not the right policy to make married quarters for Service men dependent on only one form of heating. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that both Governments share responsibility for that lack of foresight.

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