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RAF Bases

Volume 520: debated on Tuesday 14 December 2010

Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

I seek leave to discuss a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration—the closure of RAF bases.

Members on both sides of the House will be concerned about recent briefings from the Royal Air Force and the Ministry of Defence on the proposed closure of bases that have been reported in today’s press. As the House will now know, the RAF has made a series of recommendations to the MOD about the proposed closure of bases. My concerns, and the reasons why I am proposing a debate under Standing Order No. 24, are twofold: first, the Government have not provided coherent criteria on which the decisions are to be made and, secondly, they have still failed to give a timetable for making and announcing the decisions.

The Government have left the affected communities, service personnel and their families and Members of the House unclear and confused as to the basis on which they will make those important decisions. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury said that the decision would be motivated by socio-economic considerations, while the Secretary of State for Defence said yesterday that it would be a strategic defence decision alone and the Prime Minister and his Chancellor have said that the decision would be based on budgetary considerations.

With Christmas only a few days away, this is obviously causing a great deal of uncertainty for our service personnel, some of whom are currently serving overseas, and for their families. I do not believe that is fair or just. Furthermore, the next scheduled Defence questions are not until the end of January, which will mean a seven-week wait for clarity and for scrutiny of Ministers. Our serving personnel and their communities deserve to know on what basis—from the three put forward by individual members of the Government—the decisions will be made, and when.

As you know, Mr Speaker, I have huge respect for the House and the role it can play in bringing clarity to issues that affect communities across the United Kingdom. If my application is successful, the debate will give right hon. and hon. Members the opportunity to present their cases. That will ensure that the debate is open and constructive, thereby affording the Government and the House a more rounded picture of community interests and feelings about an important issue before the House rises for Christmas.

Our gallant armed forces, who are serving their country, deserve better than the shoddy treatment they have received today.

I have listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman said, and I have to give my decision without stating any reasons. I am afraid that I do not consider that the matter he has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 24 and I cannot, therefore, submit the application to the House.