HC Deb 16 January 1979 vol 960 cc1486-7
15. Mr. Freud

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what are his plans for RAF Ely; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Wellbeloved

As successive defence White Papers have made clear, the Ministry of Defence has accepted the need to close one Royal Air Force hospital. The choice lies between RAF Ely and RAF Nocton Hall, and I shall announce a decision in due course. Closure, however, could not take place before 1982 at the earliest.

Mr. Freud

Will the Minister accept that the hospital at Ely, which has the freedom of the city, has become an integral part of the life of my constituency and that any move to deprive the people of South Cambridgeshire of the great service of that hospital will be infinitely regretted?

Mr. Wellbeloved

I accept without reservation that RAF stations and hospitals are welcomed in all the communities in which they are situated. We shall take very great care before coming to a final decision on the matter.

Sir David Renton

I support the plea of the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud). May I remind the Minister that there is in that part of the world probably as large an RAF contingent as can be found in any other part of the country and that the RAF hospital not only has to serve the RAF personnel and their families, but voluntarily helps many of my civilian constituents?

Mr. Wellbeloved

I am very well aware of the substantial part that the RAF hospital at Ely plays in the local community. That is why we are being very careful in our evaluation of this difficult decision.