§ 2.38 p.m.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government why they are considering equipping British infantry with the combat high boot.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)
My Lords, the combat high boot has been in service for some two years. Its principal advantage is that it extends further up the leg of the wearer than its predecessor, the ankle-length directly moulded sole boot. This feature is a major contribution to keeping water out; but additionally, it has a "bellows" type tongue, employs high quality chrome-tanned leather and is especially constructed to prevent water ingress via the welts, the seams and the lace holes.
§ Viscount Mersey
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very full reply, but I must confess that I am not at all in agreement with it. Is my noble friend acquainted with what I would describe as the ultimate boot, which is the Cairngorm boot surmounted by the Arctic gaiter? Is my noble friend aware that I have done extensive tests on those boots in the bogs of County Kerry over perhaps 120 miles, never once getting wet? I seriously question why the Army keep persisting in different types of boot when, in my book at least, the ultimate boot is the Cairngorm boot with the Arctic gaiter.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that we take steps to ensure that all the commercially available products are properly evaluated. But the combat high hoot, to which my noble friend's Question refers, has been tested not least in the Falkland Islands in 1982 and has been found to be very satisfactory.
§ Lord Boston of Faversham
My Lords, despite the hilarity, would the Minister accept that, while wanting to keep him on his toes in this Question, we do not intend that he shall get too much of a kick out of it? Can the Minister say how the production costs of this new boot compare with the production costs of the old one? Can the noble Lord also throw some light on the following matter? The noble Lord has already confirmed to the House that one of the advantages of the new boot is that it is more waterproof than the old one. But some of us have been mystified by what appears to be the drainage system in the new boot and the claim that, should water get in, it lets it out more easily. We are wondering whether there is any connection perhaps with tap-dancing?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I think that I shall need to study that question rather carefully. But the fact of the matter is that it is almost impossible, and in fact it is undesirable, to make a totally waterproof boot, because I am told that it is necessary for the feet to breathe. That means that it is not possible to construct the boot of rubber, for example, or of some other totally waterproof material. As I have said, this boot has been tried extensively and has proved to be very successful. As far as costs are concerned, I believe that the combat high boot costs us about £16 a pair.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
My Lords, can my noble friend inform me whether any attention has been given to the comfort internally of these boots or whether, like ladies' shoes, they are more for appearance than for anything else?
§ Lord Trefgarne
No, my Lords; comfort is a matter of paramount importance and it is, of course, represented to us very strongly by those who have to wear the boots.