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RAF Facilities (Alternative Uses)

Volume 561: debated on Monday 15 April 2013

5. What plans he has for the commercial or community use of RAF facilities; and if he will make a statement. (150732)

It is Ministry of Defence policy to encourage commercial, social or community use of RAF facilities, consistent with operational, security and safety considerations. We are encouraging civil aviation use of certain military airfields, such as RAF Northolt, within agreed operating hours. We regularly hold air shows at military airfields and encourage community use of sporting or other leisure facilities on RAF bases wherever possible.

I thank the Minister for that response. In my constituency, RAF Woodvale is in danger of forfeiting good will and much needed revenue by stopping the popular Woodvale rally because of asbestos risks. What can he do to make my constituents happier and the Ministry of Defence a little better off?

I am aware that the hon. Gentleman was concerned last year when the Woodvale rally could not take place as a result of the discovery of fragments of asbestos following burrowing activities by, I believe, rabbits and moles in the grassy areas of the airfield. They have been fenced off and we are undertaking a land quality assessment exercise this year to see whether the asbestos can be safely contained, for public health and the health of the servicemen and women who work there.

How much are the Government planning to save through the rationalisation of the defence estate by the end of this Parliament?

The Government’s estate has been the subject of one announcement so far on Army basing, and there will be a subsequent announcement on reserve basing. As part of that exercise, the Government are intending to make savings that are baked into the efficiency targets agreed with Her Majesty’s Treasury, and I would be happy to write to the hon. Lady with more details in due course.