Good news set to land at Marham

The government is set to 'Make it Marham' by announcing - early next week, if not sooner - that the Norfolk RAF base has been chosen as the future home of Britain's Tornado aircraft.

The government is set to 'Make it Marham' by announcing - early next week, if not sooner - that the Norfolk RAF base has been chosen as the future home of Britain's Tornado aircraft.

Defence secretary Liam Fox told the Commons yesterday that decisions in the government's review of military bases had been made 'over the weekend', and that he hoped 'to be making progress very shortly'.

His words immediately triggered expectation at Westminster that the announcement on the long-awaited decision on the future of Marham and the Lossiemouth and Leuchars bases in Scotland is imminent. The decisions will most likely go before cabinet on Thursday, and a Commons statement could be made later that day. But the matter also has to go before the National Security Council, which oversees all aspects of security policy in Britain, and the early indications were that the conclusions of the bases review will be officially revealed on Monday.

Keeping a lid on it for a week could prove impossible, however, and the announcement could be brought forward in response to leaks of information about what has been decided.

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After hearing Dr Fox's comments yesterday, SW Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss spoke with renewed confidence that the decision would be the right one for the Marham base in her constituency. And there was continuing despondency among Scottish MPs - as there has been for many months - that the outcome of the bases review will be good news for Marham and bad news for either Lossiemouth or Leuchars if not both.

The government's defence and security review pitched Marham and Lossiemouth last autumn into a contest to become the sole home of a much-reduced Tornado force.

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Marham's advantages in terms of military strategy and engineering expertise have been emphasised by Ms Truss and its other champions. And in confirming that it had plumped for it, the government would itself place stress on those factors.

But there has always been a political dimension to the issue too. Marham is in solid Tory/coalition territory. By contrast, the Conservatives have hardly anything to lose in Scotland. The prime minister's party has only one Westminster seat there, and Lossiemouth is in the Moray seat of the SNP's Commons leader, Angus Robertson.

A complication is that the Conservatives' Liberal Democrat coalition partners have 11 Westminster seats in Scotland, and are fearful that their recent trouncing in the elections to the Scottish Parliament could be repeated in the next general election. One of them, the Fife NE constituency of former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, includes the Leuchars RAF base.

There has long been speculation that it, rather than Lossiemouth, would cease to be an RAF base and would become the home instead to British troops returned from Germany. But over the past week or so there have been signs that the pendulum has been swinging back towards it.

Dr Fox made his comments yesterday in response to a Commons question from Mr Robertson, who said there had been an all-party submission calling for the retention of Lossiemouth on 'defence and security grounds'.

Ms Truss later said: 'It looks as if the announcement is imminent. I am very hopeful on account of Marham. The case has been made both militarily and economically. But people do need to know.'

Politicians and communities from across Norfolk rallied behind the EDP's Make it Marham campaign, which aimed to highlight reasons for keeping the base. It employs more than 5,000 people and contributes �130m a year to Norfolk's economy.

Campaigners delivered a 36,000-signature petition to 10 Downing Street last November.

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