42. Mr. Lee
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will make a statement about the future use of the United States air base at Burtonwood.
The United States Air Force expect to give up Burtonwood in the second half of next year. We are considering how the station should be used after that. I will let the hon. Member know as soon as a decision is reached.
May I first thank the Under-Secretary of State for the courteous way in which he has kept me informed of developments at Burtonwood? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is an enormous development costing many millions of pounds and possessing some of the longest runways in Britain? As it entails heavy unemployment in my constituency, will he set up some sort of investigation to ensure that the very best use is made of this in the way of international airport development, or something of that type, which could serve that part of Lancashire, where we are in grave danger of very heavy unemployment?
We shall bear in mind very carefully all the points which the hon. Member has made when we are considering this matter, but the first step is to decide whether there is a further R.A.F. requirement for the airfield.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Are any British civilians to be dismissed as a result of the decision of the United States Air Force? Is compensation to be paid to them? Does not this raise an important matter of principle? As we have provided these facilities for the United States Air Force, is it to be left to their arbitrary decision 1119 to decide whether British civilians should be thrown out of work without compensation?
British civilians will be thrown out of work by this decision of the United States Air Force, but established civil servants will be offered transfers to other Government work as near as possible to their homes, or, alternatively, they can apply to be considered for the benefits of the new arrangements which were announced recently by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury.
§ Mr. Shinwell
This is a most important matter. What about unestablished civil servants and the general body of employees who are neither established nor unestablished civil servants? Surely the United States must accept some measure of responsibility for this decision? They cannot throw our people about in this fashion without compensating them. I say that with no disrespect to the United States. We ask for fair treatment for our people.
Unfortunately defence policy changes from time to time, and when we in the Air Force close down maintenance units or airfields we also throw people out of work. We regret it very much, and we try our best to find them alternative employment. The same applies to the United States Air Force.
§ Dr. Summerskill
As this airfield is adjacent to my constituency, may I ask whether all the employees have now been given notice?
I am not absolutely certain about that, but I think they have. I will let the right hon. Lady know.