§ Mr. Ennals
asked the Secretary of State for Defence why accommodation units for troops stationed in the Falkland Islands were not made available until 22 July.
§ Mr. Wiggin
Hutting units were ordered well before the Falkland Islands were liberated. Those available quickly from industry required additional floor insulation and double glazing. They were subsequently despatched on the first available ship and have been at the Falkland Islands since the 22 July. The off-loading of stores from ships into an extremely congested area ashore—itself a most difficult task in the conditions at Port Stanley harbour—is being done in accordance with the operational and logistic priorities set by the land commander on the spot, Major-General Thorne. He is fully conscious of the need to provide adequate accommodation for his troops and his present assessment is that, in the circumstances, the bulk of the troops are reasonably comfortable, warm742W and well fed. He will be devoting engineer resources to improving conditions where necessary over the next few months.
The main priority task at present is the extension of the runway at Port Stanley airport to accept RAF air defence aircraft, and off loading facilities and engineer resources will be devoted to that first. Planning and preparation for the construction of the huts continues, including of course clearance of mines and removal of abandoned ammunition; work will start on site as soon as possible, but this is unlikely to be for some weeks.
§ Mr. Ennals
asked the Secretary of State for Defence by what date all Service men serving on the Falklands were provided with special protective clothing and bedding, and additional sleeping bags; and why there was a delay in providing such protection.
§ Mr. Wiggin
All Service men as they left the United Kingdom for the South Atlantic took with them clothing and sleeping bags suitable for the conditions envisaged in the Falklands. These included a mixture of arctic, temperate and special foul weather garments. In the course of the land operations, the unusually wet conditions led to a need for additional sleeping bags so as to allow the more frequent drying out of those issued. Like all requirements for our forces in the Falklands, this was given a very high priority by the Ministry of Defence, and authority to issue the necessary items from store was given within hours of the receipt of the request on the 6 June.
The total consignment was delivered to RAF Lyneham by 9 June and arrived on Ascension Island on 11 June. The sleeping bags were subsequently airdropped in batches in accordance with logistic priorities between 15 and 17 June in East Falklands while operations were still in progress.