HC Deb 30 October 1990 vol 178 cc853-4
1. Mr. Skinner

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the involvement of armed forces officers in enforcing collection of the poll tax from armed services personnel refusing to pay.

The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Archie Hamilton)

None, Sir.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that, recently, some squaddies were bullied into paying their poll tax by having their arm twisted by officers, who were acting on advice from the Government? Is not it squalid and nasty that American forces do not have to pay the poll tax when these young lads can be sent out to the Gulf to fight for Queen and country and that self-same Queen does not pay a penny piece in poll tax?

Mr. Hamilton

Officers in the armed forces advise service men to abide within the law when it comes to paying the community charge. I sincerely hope that the hon. Gentleman does the same for his constituents.

Mr. John Browne

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that those members of the armed forces who have been assigned a duty in the Gulf will not suffer under the community charge because of their posting?

Mr. Hamilton

After a single man has been abroad for about 60 days, he no longer has to pay the community charge. For married men, the period is up to six months. That will cover a large number of service men who are serving in the Gulf.

Mr. O'Neill

Is the Minister aware of the sense of injustice felt by poll tax payers in the armed services, not least when the figures that he gave me in July of this year show that in the past 10 years, a private's pay has fallen by 4 per cent. while that of a general has increased by 45 cent., and that of a field marshal has increased by 86 per cent? Is not that an injustice to the lower ranks? Should not they be given some assistance?

Mr. Hamilton

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the pay of service men is decided by the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, and that of generals is decided by the Top Salaries Review Body. We have merely accepted the recommendations made to us.

Mr. Viggers

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a problem, but that it is the reverse of that put forward by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)? Is he aware that service men on full-time courses of education can be deemed to be students, which means that they pay only 20 per cent. of the poll tax? Does my hon. Friend further agree that that is not fair on a constituency such as Gosport, which has lost £270,000 as a result of that concession? Will he look at the situation with a view to changing it?

Mr. Hamilton

My right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department of the Environment are aware that people who are judged to be in full-time education need pay only 20 per cent. of the community charge. It is obviously up to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, if he wishes to, to change the legislation to deal with that.

Greenham Common

2. Ms. Short

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people have been removed from Greenham Common since the byelaws were declared invalid.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

Although the House of Lords ruled on 12 July that the Greenham Common byelaws were invalid, there can be no general right of access to any operational RAF station and any persons entering without authority will be removed as trespassers and for their own safety. Between 12 July and 23 October, 532 such cases were recorded at Greenham Common, but the number of individuals involved is much smaller.

Ms. Short

We all understand that in this country no one can be arrested or detained except under the law. Now that the byelaws in Greenham Common have been declared illegal, that means that thousands have been wrongly arrested, detained and charged. More seriously, since the byelaws were declared illegal people are still being detained and removed from the base in vans. The Minister has said that that is allowed, but under what law is it allowed? His declaration does not make it right or lawful.

Mr. Hamilton

The hon. Lady does not seem aware of the laws of trespass, which are such that if someone trespasses, he can be asked to remove himself. If he fails to do so, such force as is necessary can be used to make sure that he is removed from the premises. That is the law under which people are acting at Greenham Common at the moment.

The women at Greenham Common put themselves there as a so-called peace camp because they wanted to see the departure of cruise missiles from the base. I remind the hon. Lady—perhaps she would like to tell the women there, who do not seem to have realised this—that all the cruise missiles will be gone by April next year, so I cannot quite see what they are doing wasting everybody's time and money camping outside Greenham Common.

Mr. Tredinnick

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Greenham Common women contributed nothing to the end of the cold war, and the decision to deploy cruise and Pershing missiles was a much more fundamental reason for the ending of the cold war?

Mr. Hamilton

That is absolutely right. We should pay great tribute to the diplomacy and negotiations that took place between the United States and the Soviet Union which led to the intermediate nuclear forces agreement and to the removal of those missiles from Greenham Common next year.

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