Fight for RAF Marham ‘must go on’, campaigners say

Campaigners battling to stop Norfolk's Tornado fleet moving to Scotland vowed last night to carry on the fight to Make it Marham.

The rallying cry came after a large delegation descended on a snow covered 10 Downing Street yesterday to deliver a petition with nearly 37,000 signatures.

The delegation, which included seven Norfolk MPs and council leaders, also put forward the case to save RAF Marham to defence secretary Liam Fox.

During the brief afternoon meeting, Eastern Daily Press editor Peter Waters put forward the case to save the RAF base to Dr Fox by outlining the military and economic arguments.

The defence secretary then told the delegation that his recommendation for where to base the country's Tornado fleet will be made on military grounds and what is 'best for Britain'.

But he warned the group that wider issues regarding the closure of either RAF base at Marham or Lossiemouth would be looked at by the government.

Conservative MP Elizabeth Truss, whose South West Norfolk constituency includes RAF Marham, said: 'I think the meeting was very worthwhile. We showed the number of signatures we have got and spoke about how important the base is for the area.

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'We also told the defence secretary about the support we have got from the House of Commons, the House of Lords, MEP's from all the political parties and even celebrities like Delia Smith.

'We made it very clear that this is a massive issue for Norfolk and that we will keep fighting to save RAF Marham.'

Ms Truss said the Secretary of State told her during the meeting that he would be 'firming things up' about the future of RAF Marham in the New Year.

She continued: 'He said that he had heard the arguments for RAF Marham about 20 times and that he understands the case. I think this is good because it means the message is getting through.

'I don't think any decision has been made at the moment and one thing that was raised in the meeting was just how many different pieces of the jigsaw there are to making this decision.

'We have got to keep repeating the arguments and make sure it is not just the defence secretary who is aware of the campaign but the whole cabinet.

'We don't want people going into this decision without knowing the full facts - of course the facts are on our side.

'I also don't want a decision being made on political grounds without considering the proper economic circumstances.'

She added: 'People have been saying to me it's not definitely been threatened with closure but it's better to have the argument before the decision has been made than after.

'If the decision has been made the you are fighting a rear guard action.'

Simon Wright, MP for Norwich South, who was part of the delegation to hand in the petition, praised the success of the campaign yesterday.

He said: 'It is a great achievement for the EDP and other campaigners across the county that such a large number of signatures were collected in such a short time.

'I think this sends out a clear message to the government and no minister can fail to recognise the sheer number of people who have come forward to Make it Marham.

'One thing that did come out from the day is that no decision has been made, it is still up for grabs and Norfolk needs to keep fighting.'

Meanwhile, Brandon Lewis, MP for Great Yarmouth, said it was important for the whole of East Anglia to keep up the fight - not just the area surrounding the base.

He said: 'Great Yarmouth is not on top of Marham but even in Great Yarmouth there is huge feeling towards the base.

'It is not just in Norfolk but also other counties like Suffolk which realises the importance RAF Marham has on the whole region.

'It has been really positive to see so many people have signed up but we need to all keep together and work hard to save RAF Marham.'

The delegation that arrived in a wintry London from Norfolk early yesterday morning also included leader of Norfolk County Council Derrick Murphy and Swaffham county councillor Ann Steward,

Mr Murphy said: 'More than 36,000 signatures in two weeks – if that's not commitment from the Norfolk people I do not know what is. Only a small fraction of that number marched in Lossiemouth in comparison.

'It is the only petition that I've been involved with where people actually queued to sign up to it.

'Everyone across Norfolk has got involved. People have been signing it in pubs, care homes, schools. It has really got the entire population of Norfolk involved.'

Mrs Steward added: 'I think the coverage in the EDP has been superb and it clearly had a big impact on boosting the number of signatures.

'It has been a brilliant response and great for me to be part of the campaign. To get almost 37,000 signatures in such a short space of time must be the biggest success story for any petition around the country.

'I hope that the people in Lossiemouth haven't underestimated Norfolk because we won't just stop here - we will keep fighting on.

'The decision has not been made and this is just the beginning for us. It has been really good so far to see Norfolk united – long may that continue.'