HL Deb 08 December 1971 vol 326 cc794-6

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will accede to the request of the colonels of the regiments of the Wessex Brigade, especially of the Devon and Dorset Regiment, and permit Wyvern Barracks, Exeter, to remain their training centre.]


My Lords, my noble friend the Secretary of State for Defence is aware of these representations and he will of course give them careful consideration.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Earl for that Answer, may I ask him three supplementaries? Is he aware that, with the removal of the Army Brigade from Plymouth, the Wessex Brigade Training Centre at Wyvern Barracks, Exeter, is the sole remaining permanent Regular Army establishment in Devon? Must he leave the recruiting field open now to the other Services? Secondly, what sense is there in going to Lichfield, with its inadequate training area, which is not in Wessex area, now that the Welsh Brigade has been allowed to stay in Wales, added to which the extra accommodation would be very expensive? Lastly, if this mania for over-centralisation must continue, will the noble Earl give an assurance that the barracks will be used at least for training young soldiers or for something of that nature, rather than for housing a few members of the Pay Corps and their computers?


My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord's first two supplementary questions, they are really points which my noble friend is bound to consider when he considers the future of these barracks. With regard to his last supplementary, on the future of the barracks, at the present time what is planned is that they should be used for a pay and record office, but this would not happen until more than twelve months hence. It is not a question of housing a few members of the Pay Corps: the barracks would become one of five centres, as opposed to the present twenty-three, which are to be used for pay and records.


My Lords, will my noble friend remember that we are intensely proud of our county regiment, with its superb record of service in both world wars, and that we shall be deeply distressed, whatever the arrangements made, if they do not enable our county regiment to keep some kind of pied-à-terre or presence in the county?


My Lords, I fully accept that county loyalties are extremely important, and I am quite sure that this is one of the questions which my noble friend will consider.


My Lords, will the noble Earl remember that in the County of Devon there is a lone history of a military presence in the county and that its withdrawal would create considerable resentment among ordinary Devonians?


Yes, my Lords; that point also will be taken into account.