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RAF St. Athan

Volume 453: debated on Wednesday 29 November 2006

4. What recent discussions he has had with colleagues in the Ministry of Defence on the future of RAF St. Athan. (102921)

My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with Defence Ministers on a range of issues, including the current and future use of RAF St. Athan.

What assurances has the Secretary of State received from his colleagues in the Ministry of Defence that enabled him to say with such confidence on BBC Radio Wales on 27 October that thousands of jobs will be brought in? Has he done some shoddy backroom deal to shore up vulnerable Labour seats for the Welsh Assembly elections?

Everyone knows that whichever bid for the defence training academy is successful, it will bring in thousands of jobs. That is what my right hon. Friend was saying. Whoever wins the bid will have a superb opportunity to give a massive boost to their local economy. But it is important that the proper due process be undertaken openly and transparently, so the Ministry of Defence has properly subjected the bids to a rigorous and impartial evaluation process, overseen by an independent auditor. I am confident that when the final decision is made, it will be based on merit and value for the taxpayer—and may the best bid win.

If the consortium led by Qinetiq is successful in bringing those jobs to St. Athan, will the Minister hold consultations with his colleagues in the Welsh Assembly to ensure that there is transport to enable people who live in the more deprived valleys to take advantage of the opportunities that will become available to them?

Yes, the Assembly is looking at that, and if the St. Athan bid is successful, infrastructure issues will clearly have to be addressed, which will have a direct benefit for those valley communities.