HL Deb 05 July 1993 vol 547 cc1059-60

2.36 p.m.

Lord Ironside asked Her Majesty's Government:

What market testing activities have been identified for HM forces stationed in the Falkland Islands and to what extent foodstuffs are included.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Viscount Cranborne)

My Lords, several support functions, including elements of food supply in the Falkland Islands garrison, are already manned by civilians or have been contractorised, and we continue to examine potential opportunities to increase that, taking operational factors into account. We also continue to examine alternative food supply methods.

Lord Ironside

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Many people are anxious about the state of the abattoir in the Falkland Islands. Can my noble friend reassure the House that the EC set-aside funds will be available to the Falkland Islands for upgrading the abattoir so that our forces can have access to locally produced lamb?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, that is slightly outside the scope of my department. However, I believe I am right in saying that the Falkland Islands are not part of the EC and that the state of the abattoir in the Falkland Islands is a matter for the Falkland islanders. My responsibilities certainly extend to the provision of adequate food supplies, slaughtered under proper conditions, for the Ministry of Defence and its dependants.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, the noble Viscount uses the word "contractorised". Where did he dredge up that appalling expression?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, all I can do is apologise unreservedly to the noble Baroness and express a firm purpose of amendment.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that the word "contractorised" has been used extensively in discussions on Bills on dockyards and other matters in this House? It may be offensive to the noble Baroness but it is a word which has, I believe, now been accepted in your Lordships' House.

The noble Lord, Lord Ironside, referred to support services in the Falklands. Will he tell the House the total cost of the support services that are provided by Her Majesty's Government in the Falkland Islands? What percentage does that cost represent of the total budget for the garrison in the Falkland Islands?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I am ashamed to say that I cannot answer the noble Lord's question. I shall, of course, write to him and place the answer in the Library. I can simply tell the noble Lord that, on average, a monthly container with 340 tonnes of supplies is sent out by ship to the Falkland Islands.

As regards the first part of the noble Lord's question, I have already had a rap over the knuckles by Members of your Lordships' House for the use of the word "redundee". I should like to take the opportunity to apologise for the use of that word which, I regret to say, is also current in the Ministry of Defence.

Lord Craig of Radley

My Lords, is the Minister aware of the considerable anxieties being caused in the armed forces by the arbitrary assumptions being made of the savings to be achieved through market testing? Will he also recognise that, during a period of major reorganisation in the aftermath of Options for Change, further disruption, turbulence and uncertainty caused by the pursuit of market testing at this time may well be highly demoralising for servicemen and women and their families?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, that is a long way from the Falkland Islands. I can say to the noble and gallant Lord that I know that market testing causes disruption and anxiety in the forces. Nevertheless, it is extremely important to reassure the forces that market testing will have nothing but beneficial effects for the taxpayer and that the in-house bid will be given every chance to prove that, where possible, it is at least as cost-effective as bids from the private sector.