HC Deb 28 February 1995 vol 255 cc825-6
3. Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will put in the Library copies of the advice that Air Chief Marshal Sir Sandy Wilson received from those responsible for the maintenance of official residences in Her Majesty's Government in relation to his official residence.

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

I have already placed in the Library a full report on the outcome of investigations into expenditure on official service residences, including the last two residences occupied by Air Chief Marshal Wilson. I do not propose to publish any further documents.

Mr. Dalyell

Perhaps Sir Sandy Wilson has been a victim of the system.

Mr. Rifkind

There is no question of anyone being a victim of the system. All members of the services carry responsibility for their actions, including their judgment. These matters have been investigated fully and I can add nothing to what I have already said.

Mr. Wilkinson

In reaching his decision, did my right hon. and learned Friend take into account the precedent that he would set in forcing that very senior officer to retire prematurely? Was he conscious of the fact that there were no official guidelines against which such expenditure could be judged, and that the Air Chief Marshal had not broken the Queen's regulations or, according to my right hon. and learned Friend, acted improperly? How did my right hon. and learned Friend compare the expenditure on Air house, Rheindahlen and Haymes Garth against the £700,000 spent on the Bois de Mai residence of the chairman of the military committee of NATO or the £400,000 spent on the residence of the Commander Allied Forces North West Europe in High Wycombe?

Mr. Rifkind

As my hon. Friend knows, the properties to which he referred were all the subject of an internal audit, which concluded that there was no cause for substantial concern, except with regard to certain Royal Air Force residences. In that light, further examination was made of those matters. Air Chief Marshal Sir Sandy Wilson decided that he should seek early retirement and I do not disagree with his conclusion. The service that he has given the Royal Air Force, including the continuing service that he will give until he retires this July, will have been of a high order with regard to his operational responsibilities.

Dr. David Clark

Does not the Secretary of State appreciate that the manner in which he scooted out of London on the morning of Sir Sandy Wilson's sacking, thus refusing to make a statement to the House, did neither his great office nor himself any credit? Having spent £100,000 of public money on a consultant's report, will he make the full report available to hon. Members in the House of Commons Library and confirm that Sir Sandy Wilson was not the chief budget holder for Haymes Garth?

Mr. Rifkind

Sir Sandy Wilson was not the chief budget holder for Haymes Garth. However, he was the chief budget holder, with full budgetary responsibility, for Air house—the house that he occupied previously, which also formed part of the investigations.

The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) will be interested to know that the relevant papers to which he referred have been made available to the National Audit Office in the normal manner and, in that sense, we are pursuing procedures that the House understands fully.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In view of the unworthy nature of that reply, I intend to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

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