§ 6. Mr. John Hall
asked the Secretary of State for Air why the Chalgrove Airfield has been sold to the present occupiers, Martin Baker Aircraft Company, Limited, and not offered back to the previous land owners.
Chalgrove airfield is surplus to R.A.F. needs. The Government consider, however, that it is essential to the very important work carried out by Martin Baker, Ltd., and have therefore decided to sell it to the company.
§ Mr. Hall
Is my right hon. Friend aware that this seems to be contrary to the principles laid down in this House which Sir Thomas Dugdale, then Minister, adumbrated as a result of the Crichel Down affair? Is he also aware that out of the six previous owners of 700 acres, four of them wish to regain their land, and two of them previously farmed 500 acres? Will he look into this matter again?
The two cases are quite different. The Crichel Down case involved the transfer of land from a Department with compulsory powers to another Department which did not exercise such powers for the purpose of State management of land. That was the issue there.
The present case is a sale—and a sale to a firm which is carrying out important defence work. I should like to remind 476 the House that the work of this company has so far saved no fewer than 331 lives of Royal Air Force pilots and aircrew. This sale, in my view, is fully in line with the relevant part of the statement of Government policy which Sir Thomas Dugdale made to the House on 20th July, 1954.
As regards the former owners, my information is quite different from that of my hon. Friend. My information is that, in fact, when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State went down there, only two former owners were interested in getting their land back, and one, I am told, is now perfectly happy with the proposed arrangement. The other one wanted his land back only for sentimental family reasons.