HC Deb 05 July 1967 vol 749 cc1791-2
3. Sir T. Beamish

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received regarding the ecological importance of Aldabra Island; what assurances he has given in this respect; and if he will give further consideration to alternative sites which meet the defence requirements.

43. Mr. Thorpe

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what use he will make of the island of Aldabra; and what cost is involved in such use.

84. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the estimated cost of building defence facilities on the island of Aldabra; and for what it will be used.

Mr. Healey

No decision has yet been taken on the use of Aldabra for defence purposes. I have received representations from a deputation headed by the President of the Royal Society, and representing the interests of a number of learned bodies, stressing the importance which they attached to the full preservation of the existing ecology of the island. I assured them that the scientific issues at stake would be taken carefully into account.

Sir T. Beamish

While I confess that I am completely in the dark regarding the Government's reasons for wanting to develop a chain of island bases in the Indian Ocean, including, perhaps, Aldabra, may I ask the Minister if he is aware how grateful many people on both sides of the Atlantic will be that he has now clearly stated that he recognises the unique scientific value of this island?

Mr. Healey

We have made this clear to the scientific interests concerned over a very long period. The only point that I would make in reply to the earlier part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is that we have never considered the creation of island bases in the Indian Ocean. What we have considered is increasing the flexibility of the deployment of our air forces by creating staging facilities in various parts of that ocean, and this is still under consideration.

Mr. Luard

Can the Secretary of State give an assurance that, before any final decision is taken about the use of Aldabra and other islands, the House will be given an opportunity to discuss the matter?

Mr. Healey

I cannot give an assurance, but if a decision is taken by the Government it will be put to the House and if the House wishes to discuss it it will be able to find an opportunity of doing so.