HC Deb 30 January 1957 vol 563 cc990-1
34. Mr. Brockway

asked the Secretary of State for Air the estimated cost of the proposed reconstruction of the wartime airfield in the Maldive Islands and of the land to be used for the erection of aerials on Hittadu Island and, annually, of the maintenance of British forces on the islands.

37. Mr. Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Air what steps have been taken to reactivate the air base in the Maldive Islands; and what is the estimated cost of such reactivation.

Mr. Ward

The airfield is to be rebuilt for use as a Royal Air Force staging post. It would be contrary to established Government practice to disclose the estimated cost of reconstruction. The rent for the land, including that for the radio station, will be £2,000 a year. The annual cost of manning the staging post will depend upon the establishment, but is likely to be of the order of £100,000.

Mr. Brockway

Could the right hon. Gentleman say how long this agreement will last, and whether, in the consideration of defence cuts, the question of establishing airfields for defence purposes is being considered to save us from going through what has happened in Cyprus and, it may be, in Aden?

Mr. Ward

This is not, strictly speaking, for a defence purpose. It is a staging post which will, of course, be used by both military and civil aircraft, and it will be extremely valuable to us in staging either to Australia or the Far East.

Mr. Hamilton

Does not the Minister agree that, to a certain degree at any rate, the reactivation of this post is part of the price we are having to pay for the Suez fiasco?

Mr. Ward

No, I disagree entirely. This was under consideration long before the Suez affair blew up.