HC Deb 10 October 1945 vol 414 cc206-8
15. Colonel Thornton-Kemsley

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he is aware that about 40 airfields in East Anglia, formerly occupied by the U.S.A.A.F., are now unused or used only for storage purposes; that each of these has living accommodation for 2,400, mostly surplus to requirements; that the War Department has pressed for the release of this accommodation to provide for troops at present quartered in requisitioned houses but have been refused except in one case where part of the accommodation is occupied by prisoners of war; and whether he will order a full investigation to be made with a view to making his contribution to the alleviation of the housing shortage.

Mr. Strachey

A total of 54 airfields in East Anglia were occupied by the United States Army Air Force. Twenty-four have so far reverted to us. The disposal of these airfields as between the Royal Air Force and the other Services and other civil departments anxious to use them for storage, etc., is under active consideration. Spare accommodation at six of them has already been allotted to the Admiralty and the War Office for soldiers and sailors who would otherwise be living in requisitioned properties. Sixteen further airfields are in process of transfer from the United States authorities, and here again accommodation will be offered to other departments. Fourteen airfields are still in the hands of the United States authorities. I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that in these and other ways we shall do everything in our power to contribute to overcoming the housing shortage.

Colonel Thornton-Kemsley

Will the Under-Secretary give the House an assurance that, where the living accommodation on these airfields can be separated from the landing ground accommodation, which is what is usually required for storage purposes, it will be done, in order that Group I properties, in this case from the Wash to the Thames Estuary, may be given up by the War Department, as they could be if these airfields were under War Department control?

Mr. Strachey

Yes, Sir; I think I can give such an assurance. In many cases, the airfield accommodation has been split up between two different users in that way already.

Mr. York

Will the Minister consider moving Air Ministry staff out of requisitioned property, notably hotels, into these camps?

Mr. Strachey

In the vicinity of East Anglia?

Mr. York

In any vicinity.

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid that it is East Anglia with which we are dealing.

17. Dr. Little

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he will make arrangements for the disposal of aerodromes in Northern Ireland which have been vacated and others likely soon to be unused in order that their sites may be utilised for growing farm produce next year.

Mr. Strachey

Six of the existing airfields in Northern Ireland are no longer required by the R.A.F. The other Government Departments concerned and the Government of Northern Ireland are being consulted on their disposal. These discussions should not take long and, provided the airfields are not required by other Departments, it should be possible to release at least some of them in time for the growing of farm produce next year. In the meantime the airfields will be available for grazing.

Dr. Little

May I ask the Minister to hurry up having regard to the fact that these airfields are an eyesore and that aerodromes are now lying derelict to-day, when the farmers wish to have them back in order to get them into cultivation again?

Mr. Strachey

I realise the need for speed in this matter and I thank the hon. Member for putting this Question down. Steps have, in fact, been taken.

Sir Ronald Ross

Can the Minister give any indication when the decision on policy on how many of these aerodromes are to be retained will be reached, because there is a very large number in a comparatively small area?

Mr. Strachey

The final decision on the matter will depend, of course, on the final disposition and strength of the R.A.F., and that cannot be come to immediately, though, in the majority of cases, their immediate disposal can be decided, and is being decided now.