HC Deb 04 November 1986 vol 103 c795
10. Mr. Holt

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he has any plans to disperse the civilian work force of his Department from the south to the north of England.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

As the House is aware, we are constantly searching for opportunities to secure a more even spread of defence employment across the regions. However, all proposals will need to stand on their economic and operational merits.

Mr. Holt

I add my congratulations to those of others to my hon. Friend at the Dispatch Box. However, having heard his answer, I must ask for how much longer the melting pot is going to be melted before somebody recognises that there is a north of England, especially south Teesside. Langbaurgh especially comes to mind. We would like defence work in that area.

Mr. Hamilton

We are well aware that there is a north of England and that there is a Scotland as well. In 1979 we announced that 1,400 jobs would be transferred to Glasgow, and 1,330 of those have gone and have resulted in 1,000 jobs being recruited locally. We are very mindful of the needs of the north-east, and the representations made by my hon. Friend will be taken into account.

Mr. Dormand

Is the Minister aware that nothing exposes the Government's hypocrisy concerning unemployment in the north more than their failure to transfer Civil Service jobs to the region? Is the Minister aware that since 1979, when the Government came to power, not a single Civil Service job has been transferred, in spite of the recommendations of the Hardman report? Will he set an example by acceding to the request of his hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) and transferring defence jobs to the region?

Mr. Hamilton

We are well aware of the needs of the north-east and we are looking all the time at what jobs can be moved. I hope that we will be able to do something to satisfy the hon. Gentleman before long.

Sir John Farr

Is my hon. Friend aware that a sensible compromise would be to centralise all the facilities in the midlands, especially in Leicester, where we have the Army pay and records office? Many millions of pounds could be saved annually by centralising that facility.

Mr. Hamilton

We shall certainly take my hon. Friend's representations to heart, but I would prefer to write to him about that.

Mr. McNamara

Will the Minister say how many jobs have been lost in the north in Army bases and elsewhere as a result of the MOD privatising many jobs?

Mr. Hamilton

When privatisation takes place it normally results in a certain number of jobs being replaced by others, so although they are lost in the Civil Service, they are not lost to the area.