HC Deb 20 December 1961 vol 651 cc1342-3
20. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Air what was the estimated cost of the special precautions taken by Her Majesty's forces, and any ancillary forces, to cope with the nuclear disarmament demonstrations at Brize Norton, Ruislip and Wethersfield air bases, respectively, on Saturday, 9th December.

Mr. Amery

About £18,000, the greater part being for precautions at Wethersfield.

Mr. Marten

Many hon. Members would like to congratulate my right hon. Friend upon the steps that he took to protect these operational airfields. Does he agree that the great thing is to keep expenditure down to a minimum? Further, does he agree that one way of doing this might be to use fewer airmen—who had to have their weekend passes cancelled—but to station behind the perimeter, to avoid a breach in it, a deterrent in the shape of a few fire hoses?

Mr. Amery

We were anxious to make sure that nobody got hurt, and in this we succeeded. I am sure the House will agree that it is wrong that a few irresponsible young people should put this burden on the taxpayers' shoulders and—what is in many ways worse—spoil the weekend arrangements of several thousand young airmen and policemen.

Mr. S. Silverman

Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that although the charge on the taxpayers is no doubt very regrettable, these young people are not irresponsible, even if the right hon. Gentleman thinks that they are mistaken? Far from being irresponsible, they are actuated by a deep and conscientious conviction, and feel utterly frustrated in making any other kind of protest. Was not it a perfectly peaceful and orderly demonstration? Would any harm have been done if it had been allowed to continue undisturbed?

Mr. Amery

Had the intention of the demonstrators been fulfilled by their walking on to the airfields considerable harm might have been done to them, among others.

Mr. Manuel

Can the Minister tell the House how many of the ancillary forces which he mobilised at the various places mentioned in the Question were not used at all?

Mr. Amery

I am glad to say that a great many of those mustered for the occasion did not have to be used. Our object was to ensure that nobody got hurt and that there were no regrettable incidents, which could easily have happened.