HC Deb 18 February 1991 vol 186 c16
38. Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what estimate he has of the number of civil servants who have been allocated to duties relating to the Gulf.

Mr. Renton

The hon. Gentleman will understand that the range of duties performed by civil servants—covering work as diverse as assistance to evacuees and shipping policy—makes it difficult to prepare an estimate of the kind he describes. A great many civil servants in the Ministry of Defence are involved in all aspects of work relating to the crisis, where civilian staff play a key role in support of the armed forces. I understand that outside the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office the numbers of staff allocated specifically to Gulf duties are very small.

Mr. Dalyell

May I ask the Minister a question of which I gave his Department somewhat short notice? How many civil servants are involved in the operation to clean up the oil slicks? I put this question in the light of the fact that David Olsen, who is the environment adviser to the Saudi Government, has complained about both lack of personnel and of equipment.

Mr. Renton

It would be helpful if the hon. Gentleman were to condemn unequivocally the Gulf oil spill as a deliberate crime against the planet. I have checked in Hansard the reports of his previous remarks, and I do not see that he has uttered any such condemnation, which I should have thought appropriate. As he knows, the United Kingdom Government made a quick response to this oil spill. We shall listen to requests from neighbouring Arab states for help. In particular, we should welcome offers from any non-combatant countries to help clean up the Gulf oil spill.

Mr. Conway

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the congratulations of the House are conveyed, in particular, to those civil servants who are involved in defence procurement? These people have had to work considerable hours, and under some pressure, to ensure that our forces in the Gulf receive their supplies—no doubt, hindered to a considerable extent by the cowardly refusal of the Belgian Government to ensure that we do have some defence supplies.

Mr. Renton

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. I shall certainly see that his very well deserved congratulations on the work being done and on the hours being put in are passed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

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