WIDEAWAKE AIRFIELD AND PROSPEROUS BAY PLAIN AIRPORT –
The following written question, asked by Lord Ashcroft (Conservative), was answered this week in the House of Lords, London:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the issues that have been considered in their discussions regarding Ascension Island with the Governor of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha in the past six months?
The following answer was given by Lord Howell of Guildford (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Conservative)
Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have had regular discussions with the Governor, and with the Ascension Island Administrator, on a range of issues relating to the security and good governance of Ascension. These have included the possible role of Wideawake airport in connection with the St Helena airport project, Ascension Island Government finances, an Island Council by-election, and the sale of fishing licences.
The Sentinel asked His Excellency, Governor Mark Capes whether he could comment further on this news from London.
Governor Capes said: "As part of my role as Governor, I hold regular discussions with the FCO, DFID and on occasion other UK Government Departments - on a range of issues affecting the security, good governance and prosperity of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. The use of Wideawake is governed by a UK/US Agreement and so it has been necessary for me to discuss with HMG officials the role of Wideawake both in connection with proposed flights between St Helena and Ascension once the airport is complete, and in connection with the nomination of Wideawake as a diversionary airfield by the St Helena-Cape Town route operator. Those discussions are ongoing."
This news will be seen by many Saints as a huge step forward. Only 4 or 5 years ago during airport consultations on St Helena, an air link to Ascension seemed very unlikely. In fact during public meetings at that time, officials said without the RMS, workers on the Falklands faced the real prospect of having to fly to the UK via Ascension Island, then get a plane to South Africa in order to catch a flight to St Helena. This slight shift in positions now; even just knowing discussions are taking place on the subject, will be welcome news for a lot of people.