HC Deb 22 March 1988 vol 130 cc188-9
9. Mr. Fearn

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he has any plans to relocate defence resources to the north-west of England.

Mr. Sainsbury

We are always prepared to consider relocating defence work to areas of high unemployment when it is justifiable on both operational and economic grounds. Indeed, I have recently approved a reorganisation of the Defence Industrial Pay Organisation, which will result in the transfer of about 60 jobs from Portsmouth to Cheadle Hulme.

Mr. Fearn

Does the Minister agree that defence work should be relocated to the north-west, thus releasing high value land in the south-east, which would give the Minister's coffers a considerable budget? Is there a relocation policy in the Ministry of Defence?

Mr. Sainsbury

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are well aware of the high land values in parts of London and the south-east. I hope he is well aware that many of the operational parts of the Ministry of Defence are located in the south-east because of long operational requirements. We are prepared to look at relocation to areas of high unemployment, but only where such relocation would be operationally effective and economically worth while.

Mr. Jack

Does my hon. Friend agree that the best service that he could do for the north-west would be to encourage successful companies there, such as British Aerospace, Lucas Aerospace. Rolls-Royce and Royal Ordnance, to compete for available defence contracts?

Mr. Sainsbury

My hon. Friend is right. The Ministry of Defence creates employment, not only by direct employment in its own establishments, but through the contracts that it places with British industry. I am conscious of the considerable contribution made to the Ministry of Defence by substantial contractors, such as those mentioned by my hon. Friend, who have long-established traditions of being major suppliers to the Ministry of Defence and employ a large number of people, including skilled people, in the north-west.