HL Deb 21 May 1982 vol 430 cc877-8

11.13 a.m.

Lord Morris

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 express their approbation of the response of the civilian workforce in assisting in the preparation of the naval task force following the aggression against the Falkland Islands.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for giving me the opportunity to express the appreciation of Her Majesty's Government for the magnificent support given by the civilian workforce in the present crisis. Throughout the Ministry of Defence the response was immediate and effective, with significant numbers of both industrial and non-industrial employees working long hours and shift duties to prepare the task force for deployment to the South Atlantic. Civilian employees continue to make a sustained and significant contribution in support of the military operations and a number are serving with the task force in Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels and on Ascension Island.

Lord Morris

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that most gracious reply. Is he aware that there are so many in this country who would rejoice in a Government capable of being imaginative, in the right way and at the right time, by honouring, acclaiming and recognising the dockers, the welders, the humpers, the warehousemen—the ordinary man, and not necessarily his so-called leaders—whose quiet determination has earned for us in these trying times the admiration of the whole world?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I appreciate my noble friend's remarks. Perhaps I may say that, in addition to the staff employed in the naval areas of the department, other civilians at Army and RAF establishments and also staff at headquarters divisions have responded magnificently to the additional demands made upon them.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, is it not also true that a good number of the civilians, to whom very just tribute has been paid, had redundancy notices in their pockets at the time that their services were called upon?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, indeed some did. The issue of redundancy notices at Chatham and Portsmouth was recently postponed for the immediate future to enable us to take stock of the effects of the Falklands crisis.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, would my noble friend also agree that the wives and mothers of the men of the task force and those who made it possible should also have tribute paid to them?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, of course I warmly agree with my noble friend Lady Faithfull.

Lord Greenway

My Lords, would the noble Earl also associate the men of the Merchant Navy with his remarks?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, if I did not include them in the earlier ones, I certainly do now.