Response from Heidi Alexander to the Blackheath Missile Crisis:
Dear Blackheath Bugle,
Heidi has asked me to paste below a briefing note which I hope will answer the questions you raised in your blog post. She won’t be able to be at the Blackheath Assembly tonight because of votes in Parliament on the Health and Social Care Bill but Kevin Bonavia will have copies of the briefing to distribute this evening.
If anybody has any comments or questions about the briefing note it would be really helpful if they could be sent direct to Heidi with their postal address included.
Jamie Milne – Office Manager
London 2012 – Possible Military Defence Arrangements – Blackheath
I am sorry not to be able to attend the Blackheath Local Assembly this evening. The House of Commons is debating the Health & Social Care Bill this afternoon and I need to be present in Parliament to express my opposition to the Government’s proposals at the vote.
I know that many people have questions about the recent news that the Ministry of Defence (the MoD) are considering the use of Blackheath as part of their air security plan for the Olympics. They are exploring using Blackheath as a location for a Ground Based Air Defence System (GBAD). In respect of Blackheath, this would entail a temporary deployment of a single piece of equipment, which includes radar and a RAPIER missile.
It would be the last line of defence should an airborne terrorist attack be attempted during the Olympics/Para-olympics.
Some testing was carried out on Blackheath last week to assess its suitability as a location for GBAD. The land in question is the area close to the TA Centre. Whilst the land is owned by the Earl of Dartmouth, it is managed by Lewisham Council.
As I understand it, should a decision be taken to deploy GBAD, the equipment would be fenced off and would be permanently manned by the British Military.
No final ministerial decision about the use of GBAD has yet been taken.
I was first made aware of these proposals last week by the Secretary of State for Defence in a letter dated 1 March 2012. The letter advised me that testing was to be carried out in the week commencing 5 March and offered me a briefing with officials once the evaluation had been completed. I have advised that MoD that I want to take up this offer.
Whilst none of us want to contemplate the possibility of a terrorist attack during the Games, most of us would expect our Government to have made necessary preparations. I don’t like the idea of missiles on Blackheath but if the military and security experts think that is necessary to have a last line of defence to deal with all eventualities, then clearly equipment needs to be sited in the most appropriate location.
I have spoken to the MoD today and have been told that a large number of locations were considered and for a variety of reasons, Blackheath was deemed to be one of the most suitable. Blackheath is one of six locations where testing was carried out last week.
I will be meeting with MoD staff to be briefed fully on the evaluation and will be encouraging them to be as transparent and open as possible with local residents who understandably have legitimate questions to be answered.
If residents have specific concerns, please email me and I will endeavour to obtain response for you from the MoD or other relevant bodies. Please include your name and home address in your email.
Heidi Alexander MP
Labour Member of Parliament for Lewisham East
Tel: 020 7219 7099
How is a plane exploding over London safer than a plane crashing into London?
Does an MP get to refuse things like this, or is it not worth the political capital?