HC Deb 07 March 1951 vol 485 cc426-7
35. Mr. Gammans

asked the Secretary of State for Air what considerations have led him to abandon the bombing of Heligoland for target practice.

Mr. Crawley

Heligoland, which had been made uninhabitable by war-time bombing and subsequent demolitions, was first used for bombing practice in 1946. It was the most convenient range available for full-scale practice by Bomber Command, and it was decided, because reconstruction could not in any case be started for some time, that the return of the Heligolanders to the island must be deferred.

It was realised, however, that such a situation could not continue indefinitely, and it has now been decided to accede to a request of the German Federal Government made on 12th January this year that the previous residents be allowed to return as soon as possible. Accordingly, the use of the island for bombing will be given up when alternative facilities have been secured, and in any case not later than March, 1952.

Mr. Gammans

Would it not have been better if the decision to abandon Heligoland as a bombing range had been made some time ago, and the Government had not waited until it appeared that they abandoned it only under pressure of German public opinion?

Mr. Crawley

I do not agree at all. The fact is that the German Federal Government are now co-operating in helping to find us alternative sites.

Mr. John Hynd

Is it not the case that the German Federal Government have already made proposals for alternative sites, and that this abandonment of Heligoland as a target will take place very much before 1952?

Professor Savory

Is it not a fact that the Under-Secretary has been moved by the petition of the 2,000 Heligolanders which I forwarded to him with a view to letting them get back to their native island as soon as possible?

Mr. Crawley

I am sure that we are all always moved by representations made by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Amory

Can the hon. Gentleman say to which people he refers as "the previous residents"? Are they the prewar 1939 residents or the squatters?

Professor Savory

The squatters are not Heligolanders.