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Machrihanish Raf Base

Volume 407: debated on Monday 23 June 2003

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If he will make a statement on his Department's plans for the former RAF base at Machrihanish. [120548]

The base is being retained on a care and maintenance basis, pending a review of possible military requirements for the site.

I thank the Minister for that answer and congratulate him on his appointment. May I draw to his attention the fact that, if the plans to cease to support military training at Machrihanish in September go ahead, high-quality training facilities will be lost? As Kintyre is a remote peninsula with high unemployment, it would be very difficult for the civilian workers who would be made redundant to find alternative employment. In view of these factors, will the Minister reconsider the penny-pinching decision to stop the training at Machrihanish? Will he, for example, discuss with the local enterprise company the possibility of putting together a financial package to save the training facilities? I noticed the Minister's willingness to meet people from Shoeburyness; may I invite him to make the trip to Machrihanish to see for himself the excellent facilities there?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his welcoming remarks. He will be aware that the Ministry of Defence is continuing to work closely with the local authority and the local enterprise company to develop the capacity that might become surplus to requirements at Machrihanish, including any land or buildings, for alternative uses. The site was originally declared surplus to military requirements and transferred to Defence Estates for disposal on 1 April 2000, but a decision on whether the site is surplus to future requirements remains some way off; it is too early to say.