HC Deb 29 March 1950 vol 473 cc384-5
30. Mr. Profumo

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will hold further consultations with the Minister of Agriculture before finally deciding to retain the 395 acres of good agricultural land south of Idlicote in Warwickshire as a permanent practice bombing range.

The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Arthur Henderson)

No, Sir. Full consultations have taken place between my Department and the Ministry of Agriculture with regard to the desirability of retaining these 395 acres. The site, which has been in use as a practice bombing range since 1942, was, in fact, suggested by the county war agricultural executive committee as the area of the least agricultural value in the locality. Only 25 acres out of the 395 constitute the immediate target area and I am arranging for the remaining 370 acres to be fully available for agriculture, including ploughing.

Mr. Profumo

Is the Secretary of State aware that conditions now are quite different from what they were during the war and that although the Minister says he is arranging for an area to be cultivated, that area cannot be fully cultivated because of the inaccuracy of the bombing, which is, on many occasions, over a mile from the actual bombing range and has already caused the serious maiming of three children? The bombing takes place at the last minute, and the local farmers cannot make plans to till and cultivate this land any further.

Mr. Henderson

I do not wish to minimise the effect of the injuries of the three children, but that unfortunate accident was caused not by inaccurate bombing, but by a mechanical defect in the bombing apparatus. It might have happened anywhere. It was not due to inaccurate bombing. As the House knows, my Department are placed in very great difficulties over bombing. Wherever we seek to use ground for practice there is always some objection.

Mr. Langford-Holt

When the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that the accident might have happened anywhere, does he thereby imply that bombs are carried and that bomb dropping equipment switches are being used on all occasions?