Scrap Red Arrows, says Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards

Red Arrows Jonathan Edwards MP said the Red Arrows' £8.8m budget could be 'put to better use'

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An MP has called for the Red Arrows air display team to be disbanded and money spent instead on equipment for troops.

Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, said the RAF unit cost taxpayers £8.8m a year.

He said: "Personally I think it is money that could be put to better use."

A spokesman for the RAF in Wales said the Red Arrows were a "flag-waver" and no comment could be made until the outcome of the ongoing defence review.

After asking a parliamentary question, Mr Edwards was told the Red Arrows provide "no direct operational role".

Plaid Cymru put in a Freedom of Information request to discover the display team's running costs.

Mr Edwards said: "We have to get realistic about public expenditure. I find the priorities of this government totally bizarre.

"I fail to see how cutting front line service, for example the £34m that is being cut from Dyfed-Powys Police Authority which represents my constituency, can be done when millions is wasted elsewhere.

RED ARROWS 2009/10

  • Pilots/technicians: £4.6m
  • Aviation, fuel: £1.2m
  • Dye: £400,000
  • Maintenance: £2.6m
  • Total: £8.8m

SOURCE: Plaid Cymru Freedom of Information request

"I for one would rather see public money used to ensure that police remain on the beat."

He added that he failed to see why the Red Arrows should be excluded from the debate about public service cuts when "the Welsh budget is itself suffering a £162.5m hit".

The Red Arrows, based at Scampton in Lincolnshire, use Hawk T1 jets, the RAF's advanced trainer.

Advanced pilot training using Hawks is carried out at RAF Valley on Anglesey.

The base's No 4 Flying Training School operates about 70 Hawks.

A spokesman for the RAF in Wales said: "There will be speculation about display teams.

'Thousands cheered'

"We're in no position to comment at the moment, there are too many things being reviewed."

He said the Red Arrows were "of great value to the armed forces and British industry".

"We will have to wait until the government's strategic defence review is published. Then we will have a better vision of what the MoD has in mind."

The spokesman said thousands of people cheered when the Red Arrows performed at Rhyl on Sunday.

The Red Arrows have held more than 4,000 displays in 53 countries since being formed in 1965.

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