HC Deb 10 November 1954 vol 532 cc1170-1
2. Mr. Hurd

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he will make a statement on the cost of constructing the airfield at Greenham Common, Newbury, begun in the summer of 1951, to meet the requirements of the United States Air Force; in what proportion the cost is being shared; if he has had a further geological survey made; and if he is satisfied that this will ultimately prove to be a serviceable airfield for heavy bombers.

Mr. Ward

The total cost is expected to be about —7½ million. This is being shared in approximately equal proportions between the Air Ministry and the United States Air Force. Further soil surveys and load bearing tests were carried out this year when it was decided that the runway must be strengthened to take heavier aircraft. I have no doubt that the airfield will prove entirely satisfactory for the use the United States Air Force have in mind for it.

Mr. Hurd

Does not my hon. Friend agree that a very large sum of public money is involved? As I think my hon. Friend must be aware, the advice on which his predecessor acted in 1951 has proved to be unsound, because the underground springs still persist in breaking up the runway. Can my hon. Friend give a definite assurance that he has taken further fresh and independent geological advice and that the work which is now being done is likely to result in getting a series of runways strong enough to carry these heavy bombers?

Mr. Ward

Yes, Sir. In 1951, before the airfield was rebuilt, a very comprehensive soil survey was undertaken. It is true that the runway has been damaged, but that is because it was used by aircraft heavier than those which it was designed to take. Since then we have carried out further tests, and the damage should not recur after the runway has been strengthened.