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MATTHEW HANCOCK: Working for a positive outcome

Column by Matthew Hancock MP
Column by Matthew Hancock MP

At the start of this year we were faced with the difficult news that Mildenhall US Airbase would be closing. This news came as a shock to many, not only from West Suffolk but across the UK.

It was from Mildenhall that the US and UK flew together, united to fight in foreign skies, to defend against totalitarianism and stand tall for democracy.

Mildenhall embodies our joint history, a long and proud past of strong relations since US airmen first came to the town in 1950.

But that history will remain unscathed despite the closure of Mildenhall airbase. Our solid alliance will strengthen through the expansion of RAF Lakenheath.

Although this is little consolation for the loss of Mildenhall it does stand as a promise that USAF are with us for the long term.

I have been honoured to represent both bases.

On my visits to each I have always been impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the airmen, crew and families. Whether the vital task of refuelling, or the fighter sorties, it is extraordinary to think that such a vital part of our protection from aggression is launched from here in the heart of West Suffolk.

It was with that history in mind and all those potentially affected by the closure of Mildenhall that I decided to create the Mildenhall, Alconbury and Molesworth (MAM) Working Group.

This group will involve the local LEPs, councils, the Ministry of Defence and US representatives. Our first meeting is arranged for next week and I will personally chair the group. I set up the MAM because I want to ensure no stone is left unturned in supporting Mildenhall and the surrounding area as a result of the airbase closure. We are meeting later this month, then I will join with James Waters and Forest Heath District Council in their public meetings to ensure that all voices are heard,and everyone is supported in the transition.

2015 may have begun with difficult news for Mildenhall, but I am determined that it will end positively. I will do everything in my power to support the town through thick and thin and ensure Mildenhall survives and prospers.