MP’s Column - What future for Arrows?

The Red Arrows are one of the most popular public faces of the Royal Air Force and an important tool for drawing attention to the branch of the military which is so closely linked to Lincolnshire.

The fact that the RAF’s aerobatic display team are based at RAF Scampton in my constituency is something that I take a great deal of pride from.

There is cause for concern, however, in that the Hawk T1 jets flown by the Red Arrows come to the end of their usage in 2018. In the House of Commons this month I asked Philip Hammond, the Secretary of State for Defence, whether he could give any assurances both that the Red Arrows will be retained and that they would be remain based at RAF Scampton.

The Defence Secretary pointed out that, while the decision has yet to be made, the Prime Minister has given his assurance that so long as he is in Number 10 the Red Arrows will keep flying. It’s expected a decision will be made in 2018, which gives us a good amount of time to keep the pressure up.

An even more vital presence in the skies over our county is the Lincolnshire & Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance, which very capably complements the road-based service of the East Midlands Ambulance Service.

There are innumerable situations in which the service provided by air ambulances makes the difference between life and death. This is especially the case when road accidents create difficulties for normal ambulances to reach those in need of emergency medical attention.

I have also taken the opportunity to speak about air ambulances at Health questions in the floor of the Commons and I am glad that Norman Lamb, the Minister of State for Health, joined me in paying tribute to the extraordinary work they do.

As important as these concerns in our part of Lincolnshire are, we in this county and this country also look out into the wider world. It was for the freedom and security both of our own people and of other peoples around the world that so many brave Lincolnshire-based airmen and pilots fought for during the Second World War.

We recently had a debate in Parliament about protecting children in violent conflicts around the world. A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting the Congo with the charity War Child and seeing first-hand the deprivation and suffering that children undergo in the course of civil war.

I know that the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development do excellent work in this field, but I took the opportunity of this debate to encourage the Government to do more.

We are very lucky in this country that none of our boys – sometimes as young as 12 or 13 – are forced to become child soldiers, or our young girls sold into virtual slavery. Within the appropriate boundaries, we have a moral obligation to help those around the world less fortunate than ourselves.

Sir Edward Leigh

MP for Gainsborough