HC Deb 17 June 2002 vol 387 cc1-3
1. Mr. David Rendel (Newbury)

If he will make a statement on levels of overtime working by military police officers at AWE Aldermaston in the last 12 months. [58670]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie)

There are no military police officers stationed at AWE Aldermaston. However, Ministry of Defence police are stationed there, and during the calendar month of May 2002, 9,837 overtime hours were worked.

Mr. Rendel

I hope that the Minister agrees that an excessive amount of overtime seems to have been worked at Aldermaston in recent years. Given what happened on 11 September last year and the extra concerns that people living around Aldermaston have that a similar attack might be launched against the site, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will also agree that it is important that we reduce the amount of overtime being worked. If not, some of the people there, who are working almost double time in the most excessive cases, will not be fit to do the job of carrying a gun and guarding such an important site.

Dr. Moonie

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that excessive overtime is undesirable. Overtime hours at AWE Aldermaston have traditionally been higher than the force average because of the underbearing of officers at that establishment. However, I am sure that he will pleased to know that I plan to post 31 recruits into that station, effective from 9 September 2002, joining four who were posted in recently. A further intake of recruits is scheduled for September 2002 and a number of those probationers are expected to be posted to AWE Aldermaston.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Has the Minister been able to make any assessment of the likely costs of overtime at the establishment if stories in The Observer yesterday are correct that a nuclear weapons factory is to be established at Aldermaston in the near future? If that is so, will there be a statement and debate in the House before such an important decision is taken?

Dr. Moonie

I am happy to say that the statements were incorrect. Work is going on at Aldermaston, of which we have made no secret, to maintain the reliability of our nuclear deterrent, as we are faced with the fact that we no longer test these weapons. Anything else in the story was, I am afraid, entirely fanciful.

Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford)

Given the concerns raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Rendel) about security at Aldermaston, can the Minister confirm that the reports raised in The Observer yesterday were not new but simply a rehash of what was already known? Given that the Government's current policy on the security of bases is to parcel out security away from the military police such as those who guard Aldermaston either to the military provost guard service or private security companies, does the hon. Gentleman agree that that policy is now untenable? Is it not the case that the British people might begin to question the commitment of troops overseas in the war against terrorism if we cannot guarantee security at our own nuclear installations?

Dr. Moonie

It is interesting that a party that gave us precious little help when we were trying to extend the powers of the Ministry of Defence police should now attempt to criticise us—on entirely spurious grounds, I may add—for the way in which they work. We need no lessons from the Liberal Democrat party nor, for that matter, from Greenpeace on the level of security that we maintain at our establishments—which, I can assure the hon. Gentleman, are robust.

Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley)

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that many Labour Members will be disappointed by his comment regarding Aldermaston and further developments of nuclear weapons? Does he also appreciate that this is hardly the right message to send to Pakistan and India at the moment?

Dr. Moonie

I point out again that there is no new development of nuclear weapons going on at Aldermaston. We are ensuring that our nuclear deterrent is reliable and capable of being deployed. That involves a great deal of careful work to ensure that there is no chance of having to go back to testing the weapons physically. I should have thought that my hon. Friend would agree with us on that point.

Back to
Forward to