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RAF St Athan

Volume 522: debated on Monday 31 January 2011

The defence technical training change programme is currently considering options for the future location—or locations—of defence technical training. St Athan is one of the options being considered.

I really do not understand the Government’s approach to this one. Does the Minister not realise that not going ahead with the St Athan defence training establishment as proposed snatches the advantages of integrated training away from all three services, and will be a body blow to south Wales, which is a region that has always been massively supportive of the services? Can we please have a decision from the Government on something positive about the future of St Athan?

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the private finance initiative project to deliver an integrated solution at St Athan failed—it simply was not possible to find a cost-effective solution and raise the funds necessary to build it. However, it does not follow that we have abandoned the proposition of an integrated solution. That is precisely what is being pored over at the moment by the change programme team. We hope to be in a position to draw that work to a conclusion as soon as possible.

Does the Minister accept that, in these times of financial hardship, rather than building a new facility it would make more sense to consolidate defence training in areas with spare capacity, such as HMS Sultan in my constituency? It delivers outstanding engineering training and is in the heart of a military community.

The current training takes place at a variety of locations across the three services, some of which, including HMS Sultan, are in good order and could provide training well into the future. However, I have to say that other locations are in rather less reputable states of order and will have to be replaced. The change programme is currently considering whether there are such overwhelming advantages to having everything on one site that they would overcome the case against leaving some of the better facilities, such as the one my hon. Friend mentioned. As soon as we have a conclusion, we will report to the House.