Falklands Airfield

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr William Van Straubenzee Mr William Van Straubenzee , Wokingham 12:00 am, 4th June 1985

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects civilian aircraft to be able to use the military airfield in the Falkland Islands.

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Minister for the Armed Forces)

To enable the remaining construction work to be completed as rapidly and as economically as possible between now and early 1986 when the airport becomes fully operational, the use of Mount Pleasant airport currently has to be limited to the following aircraft: wide-bodied aircraft owned by or chartered by the Ministry of Defence carrying service personnel; civilian passengers and priority freight; locally based light aircraft; and possibly the occasional civil charter flight. Once the airport becomes fully operational early next year, there will normally be no need to limit the frequency of either military or civil flights.

Photo of Mr William Van Straubenzee Mr William Van Straubenzee , Wokingham

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, and appreciate that in the early support facilities such as buildings are necessarily extremely limited. Does his answer confirm—I hope that it does—that, in view of the massive and proper investment in this remarkable airfield, there will be no avoidable delay in making it available for civilian purposes when that is possible?

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Minister for the Armed Forces)

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. As I have explained, we are trying to ensure that the airfield is fully completed at the fastest possible rate. After that takes place early next year there will be no impediment, apart from overriding military requirements, to the civil use of the airfield.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

Has not this military airfield been an extravagant abuse and use of public resources? Is it not true that had the Government offered each Falkland Islander £150,000 or £200,000—only one fifth of the amount of money which has been spent on the Falklanders in the last four years—they would all have sought to leave the Falkland Islands and the British Government would not be faced with the prospect of defending an island that is quite indefensible? Why do the Government not review their position and face up to common sense?

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Minister for the Armed Forces)

As I said previously, there is no basis for saying that the Falkland Islanders would want to leave the way of life that they have chosen.

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Minister for the Armed Forces)

Regarding the costs of the airport, it has the benefit of ensuring savings from the present cost of the air bridge, and also of giving us much greater flexibility on force levels as a result of the greater rapidity of reinforcement that we can achieve through the construction of the airfield.

Photo of Mr Michael Latham Mr Michael Latham , Rutland and Melton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Conservative Members regard honouring our commitments to the Falkland islanders as a matter of honour?

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Minister for the Armed Forces)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I am certain that that is the view, not only of Conservative Members, but of the overwhelming majority of British people.