HC Deb 15 July 1971 vol 821 cc699-700
10. Mr. Buchanan

asked the Minister of State for Defence what is the latest estimate of cost of the proposed transfer of the Shoeburyness gunnery range to South-West Scotland.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Ian Gilmour)

We estimate that the cost of reproviding, at West Freugh, the facilities which it is hoped to move to that area from Shoeburyness will be not less than £20 million. Until plans are further advanced it is not possible to estimate what additional cost would be involved in reproviding elsewhere some defence facilities at present at West Freugh.

Mr. Buchanan

From the Minister's answer it is obvious that this cost does not include in the transfer of the R.A.F. unit the demolition of buildings. Is he aware that the transfer will ruin an area of great natural beauty and before taking a final decision will he make a cost-benefit analysis of the transfer?

Mr. Gilmour

I do not think the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that it will ruin an area of great natural beauty, because there are already range facilities there. We have gone into this very thoroughly and, as the hon. Gentleman will know, a number of local organisations are in favour of this move.

Mr. Brewis

Is my hon. Friend aware that the R.A.F., while having no home as does a county regiment, is very much at home in Wigtownshire and has been for many years? In the last 10 years I have never had a single complaint about the R.A.F. bombing at West Freugh, and if the R.A.F. could provide 100 more jobs, we would put up with many more bangs not to have the guns.

Mr. Gilmour

I am sure my hon. Friend is right in what he says about friendship with the R.A.F. but, as he knows, other considerations arise here.

Mr. George Thomson

Is the Minister aware that, having served in the R.A.F. at West Freugh, I endorse all that the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) said? Is he further aware that local opinion about this proposal is deeply and evenly divided, and should not there be a full public inquiry?

Mr. Gilmour

This is a matter which arises directly under Question No. 15.