A Lincolnshire MP fears ministers made the decision about the closure of RAF Scampton without being fully in knowledge of all the facts.
As previously reported, Sir Edward Leigh claimed that the future of RAF Scampton is ‘not a political decision’ after he secured the debate.
He campaigned for the future of the base near Lincoln which houses the Red Arrows. The debate took place at Westminster Hall on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 5.
The air base, which is currently home to 600 staff, is expected to close by 2022.
A growing petition has now been signed by more than 22,000 people, which calls for the decision to close RAF Scampton to be reversed. But it needed to be signed 100,000 times by Thursday, January 31 to secure a debate in Parliament. The petition closed with 23,507 signatures.
Sir Edward Leigh fears ministers made the decision without being fully in knowledge of all the facts and the changing facts.
He believes the MOD also needs to have full consultation amongst all key stakeholders if it is to shut.
Another concern flagged up in the debate relates to when the Red Arrows were based at Cranwell in the 1990s.
Sir Edward Leigh said “it looked a good decision on paper, but proved a very bad one in practice”.
He said: “In early 2000 the RAF realised the foolishness of the move and reopened Scampton to house the Red Arrows again. The proposal is now to make the same mistake twice.
“I was the MP when they mothballed Scampton the first time and our arguments weren’t listened to then. Lessons need to be learned from the recent past.”
Lessons need to be learned
He also pointed out that if somehow RAF Coningsby was ever taken out of action the Scampton base could be very quickly converted into a front line role with quick reaction capabilities.
However, if RAF Scampton is permanently shut and redeveloped this option and the flexibility it provides are off the table.
He added: “We have unfortunately however seen the ministry dispose of such sites very badly in the past particularly at Hemswell and Binbrook in my constituency. These lessons need to be learnt.”
Scampton is unique
During the debate the MP also paid tribute to Corporal Jonathan Bayliss who died last year. He was memorialised at RAF Scampton with the bar renamed as JBs bar in his memory.
He said there is so much to celebrate at RAF Scampton and it needs to be kept open.
He added: “Scampton is unique in having this very high, wide clean air space. This is not just about RAF Scampton, it’s about what is good for the Red Arrows and Lincolnshire.
“We want to keep the Red Arrows in Lincolnshire, not have them move to Yorkshire, for very good reasons to do with clear blue skies that we have in Lincolnshire.”
Concerns over the closure
Hawker Hunter Aviation fulfils contracts to the MOD and its suppliers and their businesses depend on the continuation existence of the air strip at Scampton. Sir Edward Leigh said this is “far from guaranteed”.
He added: “If the base is redeveloped we also need to know what ground has been contaminated by defence and what the cost of the clean up will be.
“I echo the concerns of WLDC and agree with them that a robust and funded exit strategy, if closure does go ahead, is needed if the MOD is going to do this job properly.”
Lincoln Labour MP Karen Lee also attended the debate asking whether the land will be sold at a loss due to the remedial work needed.