HC Deb 03 May 1983 vol 42 cc9-10
9. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate the cost of air defences of the Falkland Islands in 1983–84.

Mr. Blaker

Air defence is the responsibility of various elements of the garrison. It is not practicable to separate the cost of this function from that of their other roles.

Mr. Hooley

Does the Minister agree that to pour £800 million into the peat bogs of the Falklands to build yet another airfield would be a grotesque waste of taxpayers' money? Is it not time that the Foreign Secretary got on with some sensible negotiations?

Mr. Blaker

The hon. Gentleman must accept responsibility for his statement about the cost of the airfield. We have not yet received the tenders. The building of the airfield was recommended by Lord Shackleton, and we believe it to be essential for the Falklands in the present circumstances.

Sir Patrick Wall

Is not the most fundamental issue in the defence of the Falklands the provision of a new airfield? When will that decision be made?

Mr. Blaker

I expect a decision to be reached fairly soon. As I said, we have not yet received the tenders. I agree that the airfield is essential for military as well as civil purposes on the Falklands. Among other things, it will make the task of reinforcement very much easier.

Mr. Duffy

Has the Minister noticed today's press reports that the Argentine might undertake a hit-and-run raid to mark its independence day later this month? Is he satisfied with the airborne early warning facilities, the air defence ground environment of No. 23 Squadron, the maritime organic air defence and, especially, the radar facilities of both the Phantoms and Harriers?

Mr. Blaker

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his return to the Opposition Front Bench and wish him a long period there.

I am satisfied, in general, with the capability of the garrison to deter and, if necessary, to defend the Falkland Islands. We have both ship-borne and land-based early warning facilities. I am satisfied that they are adequate, but we intend, when we can, to improve the land-based radar.