HC Deb 10 December 1965 vol 722 cc169-70W
Commander Pursey

asked the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many months are required to transport Royal Air Force families' crated personal belongings from Germany to their homes in this country; and what steps are being taken to reduce delays in deliveries;

(2) how many Royal Air Force families have crated personal belongings from Germany detained at Woolwich, or elsewhere; and whether belongings collected in September will be delivered before Christmas, so that children can wear their winter clothing;

(3) what is the longest period for which Royal Air Force families' crated personal belongings have been detained at Woolwich, or elsewhere; whether the delay is due to lack of customs staff and facilities or of service transport, or both; and what steps are being taken to reduce the delays after the baggage arrives in this country.

Mr. Millan

Apart from crated personal baggage which has to be held at Woolwich while a claim is presented for duty, the average interval between dispatch from Germany and arrival at the home address in the United Kingdom has been between four and five weeks, including Customs clearance. The recent experimental introduction of R.A.F. pantechnicons, which now convey about one-third of R.A.F. baggage from units in Germany to Woolwich without unloading, and the routing of baggage direct from the R.A.F. sidings at Woolwich instead of through Plumstead railway station (except in inclement weather) has enabled the transit time to be reduced to three weeks or less. The baggage normally remains at Woolwich for one day if it does not require Customs examination, or for up to 10 days if it does, but is not found to be dutiable. Conveyance from Woolwich to the home address is by goods train and British Railways delivery transport.

The baggage of some 75 families from Germany is currently held at Woolwich. About one-quarter of this is awaiting Customs clearance; the rest is awaiting payment of Customs duty.

There was a delay by the Baggage Detachment in presenting to Customs the baggage referred to in my hon. and gallant Friend's second Question. It was, however, dispatched to the owner on 30th November, 1965. This is an isolated case and I very much regret the inconvenience caused to the family concerned.