HL Deb 01 August 1966 vol 276 cc1061-3

2.17 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent the Services are being curtailed in Gibraltar, and installations and quarters released for civilian use; what withdrawals in personnel and equipment of the Royal Air Force are contemplated or in hand and what facilities will remain, particularly for long-range Maritime Reconnaissance; what is the estimated financial saving from the withdrawals; and finally whether Her Majesty's Government still fully intend to maintain the garrison, airfield, naval dockyard and other establishments.]


My Lords, a squadron of Shackleton maritime reconnaissance aircraft is being withdrawn, and as a logical consequence there will be a reduction in station supporting personnel. The R.A.F. will however continue to operate the airfield as a staging post and the capability to reactivate it for maritime reconnaissance and other operations at extremely short notice will be retained and will be exercised. It is expected that certain installations and quarters will be released for civilian use, but details are not yet available. The total reduction in the strength of the R.A.F. will be about 80 officers and 450 airmen, with approximately 900 dependants. The saving in overseas expenditure is expected to be about £500,000 a year. Her Majesty's Government intend to maintain the garrison, naval dockyard and other establishments. There are no plans for reducing the strength of the Royal Navy or the Army at Gibraltar.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that full reply. Can I ask him when it is proposed to withdraw this Shackleton squadron, or to start withdrawing it? Am I right in assuming that the airfield could at very short notice be in a fully operational state for long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, and that this applies also to the replacement of the Shackleton with the HS 801?


My Lords, the withdrawal of the squadron will be complete by the end of October. But I should like to refer the noble Lord to part of one sentence in my Answer, which was that the capability to reactivate the aerodrome at extremely short notice will be retained.


My Lords, might I ask the noble Lord whether he is satisfied that the dockyard can be maintained with this labour force, considering the restrictions across the Border?


My Lords, I have no evidence to the contrary.


My Lords, could the noble Lord say whether the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation authorities were consulted before these changes in our maritime reconnaissance dispositions were made? Secondly, can he assure us that these changes portend no reduction in the planned strength of R.A.F. Coastal Command?


My Lords, consultation did take place. We were not, under the Treaty obligations, permitted to remove the squadron until the end of 1966, and the squadron was removed after consultation with our allies. As regards the reduction of strength, that is another question. However, the squadron in question is being disbanded and the personnel spread among other squadrons.