HC Deb 13 December 1999 vol 341 cc6-7
4. Mr. David Ruffley (Bury St. Edmunds)

What recent representations he has received regarding the use of his Department's leisure and recreation facilities by civilian members of the public; and if he will make a statement. [100956]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Peter Kilfoyle)

We welcome public use of the Department's leisure and recreational facilities provided that it does not conflict with the Department's operational purposes, safety or security requirements, or the interests of the Department's landlords, tenants or conservation. Where such use is agreed, fees are usually charged and an appropriate insurance policy is put in place. Representations are received frequently from members of the public wishing to use such facilities. Such requests are either agreed or denied based on the above constraints.

Mr. Ruffley

May I draw the Minister's attention to the £4 million new facility at Wattisham MOD base in my constituency, which is a physical and recreational training centre comprising a 25 m swimming pool, physiotherapy and weight-training rooms and a sports hall? Is he aware that some of my constituents have pointed out that, given that taxpayers paid for that excellent new facility, local civilians in the Needham market area should be allowed access to it? As everyone is interested in getting value for taxpayers' money, will he consider implementing arrangements at the Wattisham base to allow local civilians to use those fine facilities?

Mr. Kilfoyle

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's comments about Wattisham. He may not know it, but that is one of two pilot schemes, which are evidence of the success of the smart construction initiative. I have been there and seen the fine work being done. I would be more than happy for the people of Wattisham to be able to access those facilities, subject to the constraints that I mentioned, and subject to the unit commander reaching agreement with local community representatives on the use of those facilities.