HC Deb 02 June 1992 vol 208 cc689-90
1. Mr. Devlin

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is his policy on relocating his Department's resources and personnel between different regions of the United Kingdom.

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

In line with Government policy, the Ministry of Defence aims to locate its work wherever best value for money can be obtained, taking account of the operational requirements of the Department.

Mr. Devlin

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, wherever possible, the Department should seek to locate jobs in areas of higher unemployment, where the jobs and skills base of the local community need bolstering? As his Department failed in the previous Parliament to deliver the quality assurance unit to my constituency, why is he now seeking to move 170 jobs from my constituency to Bath?

Mr. Hamilton

The proposal to move 180 jobs from the naval stores depot at Eaglescliffe is not a decision; it is merely a proposal which we are considering on the basis that the support side of the Navy should be located in the Bath region. I apologise once again to my hon. Friend in relation to the quality assurance unit, which we certainly intended to move to Stockton. However, we decided later that it was possible to absorb its functions into the Defence Research Agency.

Mr. Frank Cook

The Minister may be pleased to learn that although his apology is welcome and polite, it is small consolation to the people of Cleveland, who were disappointed by the previous decision. It is good news that the decision is yet to be made. In reaching a conclusion, will the Minister take account of the fact that it has proved difficult—at least, it is reported to have been so—in the south-west to recruit people of adequate calibre to fill vacancies, whereas it is exceedingly easy in the north-east? There are many considerations other than a pure statement of account. Will the Minister give an assurance that all those factors will be considered fully?

Mr. Hamilton

I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks. We take all such factors into account before reaching a conclusion. I shall have to be persuaded that recruitment, among other things, is an assumption that holds up before we transfer these jobs from Stockton.

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