HC Deb 01 November 1983 vol 47 c732
14. Mr. Greenway

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he is satisfied with the standard of Army clothing; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Stanley

While we are generally satisfied with the standard of Army clothing, we are constantly seeking to improve it within the financial resources available.

Mr. Greenway

Bearing in mind that our service personnel may be required to wear their boots and other items of clothing in conditions ranging from a Falklands winter to a desert, can my hon. Friend say what tests on boots are made to ensure that they are up to the required standard?

Mr. Stanley

I assure my hon. Friend that rigorous tests are made both on a trial basis and operationally. I also assure my hon. Friend that, although a limited number of new combat boots have proved defective, the new boot is regarded as a great improvement on its predecessor and that fact has been confirmed by the many soldiers whom I have found wearing them. We shall be making further substantial improvement in Army clothing next year. We shall be issuing new socks, helmets, waterproof jackets and trousers, and a new rucksack. My hon. Friend will be delighted to know that we are also issuing new thermal underwear.

Mr. McNamara

I am sure that the Royal Marines in Norway will welcome the thermal underwear. Can the hon. Gentleman say how many incidents of trench foot occurred in the Falklands campaign? Can he afford to be so confident about the quality of the combat boots?

Mr. Stanley

I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman the precise number, but the equipment report arising from the Falklands campaign highlighted the weaknesses in the old combat boot. That is why the new combat boot is being brought into service. The forces whom I met in the Falklands regard the new high combat boot as a substantial improvement on its predecessor.