§ 12. Mr. Stoddartasked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the cost of paying, housing, servicing, training and arming a British private soldier.
§ Mr. HayhoeIt is not practicable to produce meaningful figures in the form asked for by the hon. Gentleman. The cost of a typical infantry battalion of some 650 officers and men stationed in the United Kingdom, at 1979–80 estimates outturn prices, was £6.2 million, of which £0.8 million was capital expenditure on weapons, equipment and accommodation, and £5.4 million annual running costs.
§ Mr. StoddartIs the Minister aware that those are staggeringly high figures? Does he therefore agree that conscription would be an inefficient and expensive option? Does he further agree that if conscription were used to cure teenage vandalism and crime, that would prove to be expensive? Will he accept that there are cheaper ways of dealing with that problem?
§ Mr. HayhoeWe get good value for the money that we spend on the Army and on the other Services. The subject of conscription was debated recently, and I made it clear that the Government have no plans to return to conscription.
§ Mr. HayhoeI saw part of that programme. It was a highly personalized 1140 —some might say prejudiced—and sharply selective use of material that was offensive to many people. However, I imagine that the film has been widely recognised for what it was.
§ Mr. NewensAs we spend so much money on looking after the British soldier while he is in service, should we not ensure that he has a proper opportunity to find a house when that service has been completed? Is the Minister aware that those who occupy Service tenancies are frequently refused houses by the local authority of the area in which they live? Is it not scandalous that those who have done such a job should be treated in that manner?
§ Mr. HayhoeI am glad to have the hon. Gentleman's support. We appeal to all local authorities to give proper consideration to applications that are made by retired Service personnel. If local authorities behave reasonably and fairly, as most of them do, adequate provision is then made.
§ Mr. BurdenWill my hon. Friend reinstate the circular that was sent to local authorities some years ago, which brought this subject to their attention? It suggested that if an ex-soldier wished to live in a certain area within a year of leaving the Service, he should be put on the housing list and given priority.
§ Mr. HayhoeThat circular was last sent out in 1975. I shall consider whether it would be wise to send it out again.