RAF Training Bases

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd June 1993.

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Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 12:00 am, 22nd June 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made in his Department's review of RAF training bases.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

The RAF's flying training study is progressing satisfactorily. We are continuing to collate and assess the detailed information gathered from the seven flying training stations under study, and the study team expects to report by the end of the year as planned.

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

Is the Minister aware of the widespread anxiety that the review is causing in north Devon, where RAF Chivenor is a warmly regarded feature of the local community on which businesses, jobs, schools and other services are heavily dependent? Does he agree that RAF Chivenor is uniquely well suited to provide RAF training on account of its favourable geography, weather patterns and topography? Would it not be the economics of the madhouse to close a base at which £12 million has been spent on modernisation and which, because of its location, is not attractive for alternative commercial uses? On account of its technologically modern state, it could be maintained for years to come at minimal expense.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am well aware of those factors and, indeed, have discussed the matter with my predecessor. We are in the middle of the study. There is still a great deal of collation of information to come. But all seven of the flying training stations involved in the study are being assessed absolutely equally, taking into account a wide range of factors, including those to which the hon. Gentleman referred. However, of course, the main factors will be operations, tasking, facilities, costs, manning and meeting the needs of our Royal Air force for the future.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Ruislip - Northwood

In his statement last Thursday, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State mentioned that there were significant changes to be implemented in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Naval Reserve. However, in that statement he made no observations about the future of the Maritime Headquarters Unit. No. I Maritime Headquarters Unit is located in my constituency at RAF Northolt and trains there. Can my hon. Friend confirm that the MHU and Royal Auxiliary Air Force have an assured and valued future?

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. As far as I am aware, we have no current plans to change the role of the facilities to which he refers.

Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Wentworth

As the question did not specify purely flying bases, may I ask the Minister to ensure that there is no further contraction of the RAF training capacity until the Government have ensured that contractors, especially those engaged in technological activity, make proper provision for the maintenance of adequate training so that the service is properly provided for in the future? Will he accept that to do otherwise would be to act in the most short-sighted manner, and we have seen quite enough of that in recent years?

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

I assure the hon. Gentleman that all factors are being taken into account, and I cannot add to that at this stage. The review is taking time because it is so comprehensive and, as I say, all factors are being taken into account. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman welcomes that.

Photo of Mr David Nicholson Mr David Nicholson , Taunton

Will my hon. Friend consider carefully, in addition to the advantages that the hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Harvey) mentioned, the role that RAF Chivenor plays in very adverse, including snowy, winter conditions on Exmoor in my constituency rescuing sick people and animals? What implications, if any, will the review have for low-flying training, because my hon. Friend will be aware from the correspondence files in his Department that that has also caused certain problems?

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

I am aware of those matters and there is no doubt that RAF Chivenor provides an excellent service. I am also aware, I hasten to add, of a famous thing called the Chivenor gap, of which I had not heard previously but find fascinating. I am looking forward to studying that phenomenon. In other words, everything is being considered and we shall reach a result on the review by the end of the year.