HC Deb 29 November 1988 vol 142 cc569-70
13. Mr. Rathbone

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to relocate service establishments and personnel from the south to the north of Britain.

Mr. Freeman

We are anxious to see a more even spread of defence employment across the regions. We are currently examining a range of further relocation possibilities, but I remind my hon. Friend that any moves must be justified on operational and economic grounds.

Mr. Rathbone

As the services are recruiting a disproportionate number of personnel in the north and locating them disproportionately in the south, to the extent that 60 per cent. of service personnel are located in the south, would it make sense to post them in the north and, therefore, follow the Government's lead in urging industrial companies to establish employment opportunities in the north and thereby relieve pressure on housing in the south?

Mr. Freeman

I can give my hon. Friend some encouragement on that point. We have just completed a review of Royal Air Force ground training establishments, and we hope shortly to make an announcement.

We are studying the location of all Army training units. It will take a little longer, but the implications are more fundamental.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is it true that, although they support defence policies, people in the north are suffering because they do not have their share of jobs in the defence industry? Is it not about time that the CBI in the north and all regional promotional bodies in the north-west of England and the northern region went to the Government and demanded a fair share of the defence cake? At present, all the money goes to the south.

Mr. Freeman

Our best recruitment areas for service personnel are in the north-east and the north-west. To that extent, those areas have a disproportionate share of service personnel.

Mr. Hind

In the light of the announcement about European fighter aircraft, does my hon. Friend consider that the relocation of the Procurement Executive in the north of England would be appropriate, bearing in mind the amount of military equipment that is manufactured for our forces in the north of England?

Mr. Freeman

I can confirm that the Ministry of Defence is considering the relocation of certain parts of the Procurement Executive in the north of England.