HL Deb 05 December 1984 vol 457 cc1312-4

2.55 p.m.

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress they are making in having the public road shut at RAF Leuchars for security reasons.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the legal and operational aspects of closing the road are still being studied.

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for that not very conclusive Answer. Is he aware—and I shall be astonished if he is not—that this road runs straight through the middle of an operational station, with all the resulting dangers to security which that represents? Is it not also the case that the local authority is perfectly ready to allow this road to be closed? Is anything more keeping it open at the moment than a tangle of red tape which my noble friend's scissors might easily snip?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, unfortunately the tangle of red tape to which my noble friend refers is the labyrinthine corridors of Scottish law, which we are doing our best to negotiate.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, would the noble Lord, in considering this matter, weigh the question of public convenience alongside the security interest? Is he aware that the local community welcomes the RAF personnel in the area and enjoys their presence, rather than have them segregated from the community in any ghetto-like fashion? Will he keep the community interest in mind, and also public access and public convenience?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, yes, it is indeed the case that the Scottish people generally are very receptive of defence facilities in their particular part of the country. With regard to this road, there is now a by-pass which I am sure will overcome any modest inconvenience that might be caused by closing this road, when and if we are able to do that.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

My Lords, as my noble friend has said, there is now a by-pass, but is he aware that the mediaeval village of Leuchars, with its lovely mediaeval church, was there long before the Ministry of Defence or other Ministries started to think of building RAF Leuchars? If this sort of question is going to have to be considered seriously owing to disruption, the implications are terrifying, are they not, for places like Wittering, on the A.1? One could go on ad infinitum. If it is going to be necessary for this to be thought through, ought not the Ministry of Defence therefore to be thinking in terms of putting RAF stations in future in places far more distant from civilisation?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, my noble friend no doubt has a point, but, happily, as far as Wittering is concerned, they have the benefit of English law.

Lord Grimond

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, among the many interesting sidelines to this matter, the question of access to Leuchars Junction Station arises? Is he aware that this might well be impeded? Will he take the opportunity, therefore, to press British Rail to re-open the line to St. Andrews? I have no doubt that the noble Lord will highly approve of that. If in so doing they are forced to pull down the monstrous hotel which they have built on the old station at St. Andrews, that would be a very good thing.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am sorry to say that the brief I have from the commander of RAF Leuchars does not cover that point.

Lord Ross of Marnock

My Lords, is the Minister aware that we are very sympathetic to him in his troubles over the labyrinthine corridors of the Scottish Office in respect of roads and road legislation? Is he aware that his Government have just spent a year modifying it, codifying it and simplifying it? Is this the result?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, it must be that this particular clause escaped the attention to those to whom the noble Lord refers.

Lord Shackleton

My Lords, will the noble Lord be careful in taking the advice of his noble friend Lord Mowbray? It is not unknown for public transport to be found on airfields. Is he aware, for instance, that at Ballykelly—the only place where a cow has been killed on the main runway by a railway train—this problem has now been solved?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that piece of information.