HC Deb 26 March 1985 vol 76 c202
7. Mr. Foulkes

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on construction work being carried out under the auspices of his Departmnt in the Falkland Islands.

Mr. Stanley

There are two major related projects in the course of construction, the first is the building of a new international airport and associated facilities at Mount Pleasant, together with a road linking it to Port Stanley, and the second is additional facilities for the garrison adjacent to the new airport. Construction is on schedule for the runway to be available for limited use as from May of this year and for the airport to be fully operational early in 1986. Work started on the additional facilities for the garrison in December 1984; progress to date has been good, and completion is expected in early 1987.

Mr. Foulkes

I am grateful for that answer. The Select Committee described civilian use of the airport as a matter of urgency, and the Shackleton report said that it was a priority, so why have no proposals been put forward for such use of the airport? The Government have refused any subsidy for civilian use of the airport. Who does the Minister expect to operate from Mount Pleasant airport, and when does he expect the civilian flights to start operating?

Mr. Stanley

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that we are trying to achieve the earliest possible initial operating capability so that, in particular, we can rotate our forces, using wide-bodied aircraft rather than the Hercules air bridge. There are good cost advantages in doing so. The requirement is to ensure that during the period of the initial operating capability there is the most limited possible utilisation of the airfields so that the works can be completed. Once they are finished, it is our intention to make the fullest possible civilian use of the airfield facilities.

Mr. Viggers

Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity of the appointment of the first Royal Air Force officer as commander of the Falkland Islands garrison to comment on the remarkable inter-service co-operation that has been achieved on the Falkland Islands?

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend has made an extremely important point. I confirm that it is a first-class example of the tri-service co-operation which was evident during the period of conflict and which has continued very much in peace time.