HL Deb 04 July 2003 vol 650 cc149-50WA
Lord Merlyn-Rees

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether a decision has been reached following the strategic review of RAF Brize Norton, RAF Lyneham and RAF St Mawgan. [HL3842]

Lord Bach

On 9 November 2001, in another place, my right honourable friend the Minister for the Armed Forces announced a strategic review of the future roles of RAF Brize Norton, RAF Lyneham and RAF St Mawgan, anticipating the arrival of the future strategic tanker aircraft and the A400M around the end of the decade. The introduction of these modern aircraft will provide enhanced operational capability whilst creating spare capacity at RAF Brize Norton and RAF Lyneham. The airfield at RAF St Mawgan was included in the review as it too was recognised as having spare capacity.

The first stage of the review was the selection of a base for the A400M. My right honourable friend announced on 16 August 2002 that he had accepted the study team's recommendation that RAF Brize Norton represented the best use of defence assets in this respect, at the optimum cost to the taxpayer. Prior to this, he announced in another place on 13 February 2002 (Official Report, cols. 363–364W) that the future strategic tanker aircraft would also be based at Brize Norton.

We are now able to inform the House that the second stage of the review, looking at the future use of the three stations in the light of these earlier decisions, has now concluded. We have considered the recommendations and have decided that the RAF's air transport and air refuelling fleets should be based at RAF Brize Norton by 2012. This includes the Hercules C130J aircraft currently based at RAF Lyneham which will transfer to RAF Brize Norton. We intend that the C130K fleet will remain at RAF Lyneham until the aircraft goes out of service by 2012, after which, if no further defence use is identified for RAF Lyneham, the station will be closed and disposed of. The tactical communications wing, currently located at RAF Brize Norton, will be relocated to an alternative site by 2006. Concentrating the aircraft fleets at RAF Brize Norton will enable us to make the most efficient and effective use of the defence estate and allow the adoption of modern working practices.

In respect of St Mawgan, where only the airfield was under consideration, we have concluded that this should be retained, subject to further work to explore the commercial opportunities for its use and so offset the cost of its operation to defence.

The net effect of these changes, when complete, will be a reduction of around 1,780 service and 360 MoD civilian posts together with a move of around 620 personnel of the tactical communications wing. Approximately 580 lost posts relate directly to the closure of RAF Lyneham with the other manpower reductions a result of the introduction of the new manpower-efficient aircraft. At RAF Brize Norton, MoD manpower numbers will remain much as they are now. The number of contracted personnel has yet to be determined.

We understand that this decision will be disappointing for the dedicated military and civilian personnel at Lyneham who have contributed so much to recent operations. We recognise too the disappointment that will be felt by those in the local area who give the station much-valued support. RAF Lyneham has a long and proud history. However we must make best use of defence resources, including by regular review the Defence Estate to ensure we retain no more than is required to meet defence needs.