HC Deb 09 February 1993 vol 218 cc808-9
2. Mr. Spellar

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to change the regulations concerning the payment of local overseas allowance for British troops serving in the former Yugoslavia.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

Local overseas allowance is a tax-free addition to pay designed to compensate service personnel for the extra cost of serving in countries where day-to-day living expenses are higher than in the United Kingdom. This does not apply to British troops in former Yugoslavia who, in any event, do not pay local food and accommodation charges. Troops deployed there from bases in Germany nevertheless continue to receive a proportion of their local overseas allowance—70 per cent. for married personnel and 40 per cent. for single personnel—in recognition of continuing financial commitments in Germany.

Mr. Spellar

Does the Minister accept that, forgetting his lawyer's logic, the people of this country find it quite extraordinary that soldiers going into what is effectively a war zone in Yugoslavia are taking a pay cut and equally astonishing that those troops under fire are facing redundancy notices? When will he do something about that?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman really has not examined the matter properly. He should know perfectly well that British troops serving in Yugoslavia come from Germany and the United Kingdom. Those who come directly from the United Kingdom would not have been receiving an overseas allowance. Those who come from Germany receive an allowance to pay for the higher costs of living in Germany. It would be absurd to pay an allowance that is paid for one purpose in a territory where that purpose simply is not met; the hon. Gentleman should realise that before putting his rather foolish proposition.

Mr. Conway

I am grateful for my right hon. and learned Friend's reply because it is important that he remains flexible on that issue. It is undoubtedly very important to those serving in war zones, or however we may describe them, that their families are not at a financial disadvantage. Those who have been stationed in Germany, in particular, and whose wives and families remain there, still have serious financial commitments to meet. Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the flexibility of which he has assured us will therefore be greatly welcomed by the wives and families who remain in Germany?

Mr. Rifkind

Yes, it is a very flexible policy. If the Opposition had listened to my original answer they would realise that. Under current policy, personnel who have come from Germany and who continue to have commitments there will be paid 70 per cent. of the allowance if they are married and 40 per cent. if they are single. It would be absurd to pay them the full allowance, which is partly to cover the cost of food and accommodation, when those serving in Yugoslavia receive food and accommodation completely free.

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