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St Athan

Volume 572: debated on Monday 16 December 2013

7. What reports he has received on the use of the runway at MOD St Athan by private companies based in the nearby enterprise zone; and if he will make a statement. (901484)

I commend my hon. Friend for all the hard work he has put into St Athan, in pursuance of the prosperity agenda. I have received no further reports since I wrote to him on 23 October, but MOD officials continue to work hard with Welsh Government officials to ensure and promote the future of the airfield.

Does the Minister agree that the facility at St Athan, including the red dragon hangar, offers great opportunities for both military and commercial purposes? Will he update the House on his Department’s work with the Welsh Government to ensure that there is an efficient and effective use of the runway for both commercial and military purposes?

I do agree with my hon. Friend. As he knows, the Welsh Government would like to extend commercial operations at St Athan to seven days a week from the current five, and they are seeking to appoint a contractor to run the airfield services. The MOD, of course, stands ready to work with whoever wins the contract when that person is announced. He knows that defence is remaining at strength at St Athan, utilising the site transition plan, notably to accommodate 14 Signal Regiment. The plan will have the red dragon hangar vacated for Welsh Government tenants from 2016-17.

Are the efforts to build a joint plan with the Welsh Government going well? Is there a good working relationship between the Department and the Welsh Government?

There is indeed a good working relationship between the MOD and the Welsh Government. The next step is heavily dependent on the Welsh Government appointing a contractor to take on airfield services. That will enable the airfield to progress in a way that is suitable for commercial tenants. My strong advice is that that work needs to be done very soon, as we are talking about 29 MOD service and civilian employees at St Athan, who need to be looked after properly. If the Welsh Government want this to proceed quickly, it would be in their best interests, and those of all concerned, to get a move on.