CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE – FIREMEN'S STRIKE & THE ARMY – 29 October 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: Can my hon. Friend [Hugo Swire] think why, in the long time that has passed since Green Goddesses were used during the last firemen's strike, the armed forces have not been allowed to train on other, more modern equipment, as it has gone out of service? Presumably that equipment has been scrapped while the Green Goddesses have been left for the Army to use in such an emergency.

[Mr Swire: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I can only imagine that the Green Goddesses are being saved as a job lot for sale to the Motor Museum at Beaulieu. I go further than my hon. Friend in believing that the armed forces should have access to the most up-to-date equipment, whomever it belongs to and wherever it is located.]

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Dr Lewis: The hon. Gentleman [Eric Joyce] is making a gallant attempt to shield the Government from the fact that if a firemen's strike occurs, the troops will have to go forth with inadequate equipment. Surely, a balance can be struck between not overburdening the armed forces with such a role, and at the same time updating, at least steadily, the equipment that is held in reserve for them when they have to discharge that function of support for the civil power, which surely is a normal function for armed forces in this country?

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Dr Lewis: I thank the hon. Gentleman [Mike Hancock] for giving way, but I fear that his memory is at fault and that he is gilding the lily on what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said. I recall that he had been advised by the Retained Firefighters Union that troops already familiar with the Green Goddesses could train up in a fairly limited time to use more modern equipment. I was not aware that my right hon. Friend said anything about them desperately plunging into buildings, as suggested by the hon. Gentleman.