HC Deb 06 June 1978 vol 951 cc43-4
Mr. Kershaw

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the proposal to station KC135 United States tanker aircraft in the Cotswolds. The proposal is to station KC 135 aircraft either at Fairford or at Brize Norton. Which of the two makes almost no difference because the airfields are close together.

These aircraft are exceptionally and almost uniquely noisy and pollutant. They are old aircraft. None has been built for 13 years. Their jet engines are also old. They have to take off with a heavy load—90 tons with fuel—and consequently they have a slow angle of climb. I understand that it is less than three degrees when fully loaded. That means that their noise path is long.

There can be no doubt that they will be harmful to an area of outstanding natural beauty and of high population. There is also a certain element of danger because the population is large and there are towns nearby. Another factor is that Greenham atomic station is not far away.

The method of operation, which involves regular refuelling by these aircraft of others in the air, entails them flying night and day, especially during exercise periods.

I submit that the problem is specific. Ministers have said that the proposal to station these aircraft in the Cotswolds is one of the proposals that is before them. I submit that the matter is important for those living locally. But for three reasons it is also important nationally. First, it poses the usual dilemma between defence needs and environmental desirability. Secondly, other places in the United Kingdom are interested.

It would be unworthy to propose that the aircraft be foisted on another area which does not want them, but, the Lincolnshire County Council, supported by some of my right hon. and hon. Friends and local representatives, has said that it wants the aircraft to go there. The environmental and employment conditions are different in Lincolnshire from those in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. Thirdly, the matter is important because it involves the interests of our greatest ally, the United States, and NATO.

There can be no doubt that the matter is urgent because Ministers have said that they propose to announce their decision this week. This is the last chance that the House has of debating the matter.

Finally, there can be no doubt that this matter is the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government because they have repeatedly said that that is so. For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I ask you to permit this matter to be debated urgently.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman gave me notice before 12 o'clock today that he would seek under Standing Order No. 9 to move the Adjournment of the House for the purposes of discussing a specific and important matter which should have urgent consideration, namely the proposal to station KC135 United States tanker aircraft in the Cotswolds. I listened very carefully to the hon. Gentleman's argument. He knows that I have to take into account several factors in deciding this matter. I am afraid that I have to rule that I cannot submit his application to the House.