HC Deb 23 March 1960 vol 620 cc471-2
1. Mr. Peyton

asked the Secretary of State for Air why Messrs. Wilco Grass Products were notified only in January of this year that their licence in respect of Weston Zoyland Airfield, which was due for renewal in March, would not be renewed; if he is aware that as a result this company expended, quite unnecessarily, substantial sums of money on maintenance and replacement of plant; and if he will make a statement.

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

We told this firm on 7th January that its seasonal grass-drying contract would not be renewed. This was because we saw no need at that time to keep the airfield ready for flying use. There is now, however, a chance that we may need this airfield again for flying. We propose, therefore, to renew the grass-drying contract with this firm until 1st October this year. By that date we hope to have decided whether or not we need to keep this airfield.

Mr. Peyton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that Answer will give a very great deal of satisfaction to these people, who were given very short notice of the termination of their agreement? Will he also bear in mind that firms such as this, with a considerable investment in plant and machinery, need some assurance as to the future? Could he say something about the other two airfields in which these people are interested?

Mr. Ward

We shall be renewing the other two contracts for 1960. I cannot give any undertaking beyond that.

Sir G. Wills

Although this decision will give satisfaction to the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), does my right hon. Friend realise how much disquiet will be caused to a number of my constituents who owned the land for a number of years and have been deprived of it but were confident in the hope that they would have it back to farm as they used to?

Mr. Ward

I realise that there will be some disappointment among farmers who were hoping that this land would be returned to full agricultural use, but I think they would be much more disappointed if we returned the land to agricultural use and then had to change our minds later. In any case, it is rather late in the season for them to start ploughing, but as soon as we can make a firm decision, which I hope will be by the end of the summer, we shall dispose of the airfield if we no longer need it.