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Greenham Common

Volume 264: debated on Tuesday 24 October 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to transfer Greenham Common air base to Newbury district council. [36568]

Newbury district council, as one of the former owners, will have the opportunity to acquire part of the open area at Greenham Common under the Crichel Down rules. The area which has been developed is not covered by these rules and is expected to be sold on the open market.

Does the Minister accept that one of the main causes of delay is the fact that the developed part around the main gate is still common land? Would not a faster way of going forward be to exchange land between the developed land around the main gate and other land adjacent to but not part of the common, so as to avoid the whole issue of deregistering the common?

The hon. Gentleman is right; it is a fiendishly complicated matter, made the more so because of the element of common land, which, as he knows, has been the subject of a court case which recently found in favour of the Ministry of Defence. He will understand that it is our intention to ensure that the best possible use is made of the whole site and that it benefits the community and taxpayers. I can assure him that we are taking a great deal of trouble in processing it all, and I would be happy to discuss it further with the hon. Gentleman if he wished to do so.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the best possible use of the land would be to make Greenham Common available to the Millennium Commission so that it may be used as a theme park for the great failures of socialism? There could be monuments to unilateral disarmament and global socialism, and it would serve as an everlasting reminder of the fact that we cannot trust Labour on defence.

That is a fantastically tempting proposition, which I have no doubt my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would find very interesting to push forward. I shall ensure that is drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage.