HC Deb 11 May 1960 vol 623 cc395-6
18 and 19. Mr. John Hall

asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) if the Martin Baker Aircraft Company, Limited, was offered a further lease of Chalgrove Airfield; what was the proposed period of the lease; and what were the reasons given by the company for rejecting a lease;

(2) if the Martin Baker Aircraft Company, Limited, has agreed the basis of valuation of the land at Chalgrove Airfield which it will offer back to the original owners when the company has no further use for the airfield.

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

No formal offer to lease Chalgrove airfield was made to Martin Baker, although in discussions with the company the question of a lease was considered.

A short lease would not have given the company sufficient security of tenure in relation to its future work, nor have justified the capital and maintenance expenditure it will have to incur.

On the other hand, a long lease would not have significantly helped the former owners, having regard to the undertaking the company have given, namely to offer the land back to the former owners as agricultural land at the current market price when its work at the airfield comes to an end.

Mr. Hall

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it will give some pleasure to the former owners concerned to learn, I think for the first time, that the company will be prepared to offer the land back at its agricultural value at the date of valuation?

Mr. K. Robinson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his hon. Friend's reply to a recent Adjournment debate was quite unusually unsatisfactory and that there are several disquieting features in this case which only a public inquiry could satisfy?

Mr. Ward

Much of the trouble about the Adjournment debate was that my hon. Friend was left only a very few minutes in which to reply—I am making no criticism—and did not have a chance to deploy his case fully. On the question of a public inquiry, he and another Minister have already twice visited Chalgrove. This matter has been considered by Ministers at every stage, and we are fully informed about all the details.