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Raf Stations (Closure)

Volume 886: debated on Tuesday 11 February 1975

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22.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he proposes to publish the names of the 12 Royal Air Force stations to be closed as announced in the defence review.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence intends to publish the names of the stations which the Royal Air Force proposes to vacate in the Statement on Defence Estimates. The associated process of consultation will be initiated with the publication of these proposals in the White Paper.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that considerable hardship has been caused to many people because of the statement in November that 12 Royal Air Force stations were to be closed? If the Secretary of State for Defence could say in November that 12 stations were to be closed, how comes it has taken him three months to decide which they are?

I dare say I see more Royal Air Force stations throughout the country than the hon. Gentleman does, and I am bound to say that they are taking a responsible and reasonable attitude to this matter. They realise, as we do, that the implications of the major policy decisions in the support field have to be considered in detail. We are seeking the views of other Government Departments which are concerned with regional policies.

When will the Government publish the Defence Estimates? Secondly, if the Secretary of State does not know which 12 stations he is to cut how can he possibly estimate what the saving will be?

The statement on Defence Estimates will be published during the second or third week of March, and if the hon. Gentleman will contain himself until then he will see how the proposed savings will be arrived at.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that local authorities in the areas of stations that are closed are given first opportunity to bid for the use of any vacated buildings?

As my hon. Friend knows, there is an agreed procedure whereby other Government Departments, including the other Services, are offered vacated airfields for their own use but, subject to that, they are offered to local authorities, and I hope that some of them will be taken up.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that every Royal Air Force station throughout the country is full of anxiety as a result of this delay? Will he, therefore, publish the list of stations to be closed as soon as he has come to his conclusion and not wait for the Statement on Defence Estimates, particularly since, it having been decided in November that 12 stations were to be closed, it is inconceivable that his right hon. Friend still does not know which 12 these are?

I think that the statement, which the right hon. Gentleman cannot have studied with his usual care, said "about 12". The answer is that the stations to be closed will be announced in the Statement on Defence Estimates to be issued during the second or third week of March.