HC Deb 09 November 1955 vol 545 cc1832-3
25. Mr. Dodds

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he is aware of the concern in Kent that 60,000 tons of stone have been brought from the north and west of England for use in building operations at Manston Aerodrome, Kent, when suitable stone is available in Kent where stockpiles are high and a lack of orders exists.

The Under-Secretary of State for Air (Mr. George Ward)

The stone is wanted for resurfacing the airfield pavements. We considered very carefully whether we could use local stone but I am afraid that it is too soft.

Mr. Dodds

Is the Minister aware that I have here copies of three Air Ministry letters, the first of which clearly indicates that proper consideration was never given, the second of which admits an appalling lack of knowledge of the general characteristics of Kentish ragstone, and the third of which, written two months later, says that the Air Ministry would be prepared to use Kentish ragstone in certain of the work that had to be done but now it is found that it cannot be used because of contractual difficulties? Is not this a deplorable state of affairs, and does not the hon. Gentleman realise that in Kent people are very much upset about this bad treatment?

Mr. Ward

It might be if it were true, but it is not. This stone for resurfacing pavements must be strong enough to withstand the very high tyre-pressures of modern aircraft. We did laboratory tests with Kentish ragstone and found that it had a crushing value of only 85 per cent. of the minimum figure which we can accept for the work at Manston. The reply to the other point is that we did think about using ragstone in the asphalt base course in some areas where the paving had to be exceptionally thick, but we had to abandon that idea because I was advised that the areas involved were very small and the use of this ragstone would have upset the contractor's mixing programme and delayed the programme beyond the target date.

Air Commodore Harvey

Can my hon. Friend say who will pay for this stone, and what choice the purchaser had in the matter?

Mr. Ward

Not without notice.

Mr. Dodds

On a point of order. Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the Answer, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.