HC Deb 08 July 1936 vol 314 cc1183-7
40. Mr. V. ADAMS

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that on 30th June the German airship "Hindenburg" flew for the second time within a few weeks at a low altitude over Leeds; whether he has any statement to make on the matter; and, in particular, whether it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to allow foreign aircraft to fly low over this country without adhering to a specified route at a reasonable altitude?

39. Mr. LUNN

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware that the German airship "Hindenburg" is regularly flying over various parts of this country; and whether there is any understanding between the British and German Governments on the matter?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Sir Philip Sassoon)

There has hitherto been no question of this airship regularly flying over this country. While, under the Anglo-German Air Convention, each of the contracting parties grants liberty of passage to the aircraft of the other, this is subject to the proviso that special formal permission would be necessary for the operation of a regular route by an air transport company of one of the parties across the other's territory. In accordance with this there is an understanding between the British and German Governments that the "Hindenburg" and the "Graf Zeppelin" will avoid flying over this country except when forced to do so by some urgent necessity of navigation. There is therefore no right under the convention for an airship undertaking a regular service to fly over this country: and an airship so engaged would only be justified in doing so if compelled thereto by stress of weather. The question of recent flights is being taken up with the German Government.


Is the right hon. Baronet aware that on the last occasion that the "Hindenburg" flew over the industrial districts of the north she was right off her course, and would this kind of licence be granted to foreign aeroplanes?


I have given a very full answer.


Does not the right hon. Baronet think the Germans know all about our arsenals and dockyards without flying over them?


Is the right hon. Baronet aware that the hon. Member's constituency is not the only part of the country to which the "Hindenburg" appears to have paid particular attention?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he will invite the commander of the German airship "Hindenburg" to fly over London so as to give the inhabitants the opportunity of seeing the ship?


My hon. Friend's suggestion has been noted.


Does my right hon. Friend remember that three years ago the "Graf Zeppelin" flew right over the centre of London and took Members of this House for joy-rides; and does he also remember the great pleasure which that trip gave not only to Members of this House, but also to the inhabitants of London?

58 Captain BALFOUR

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air (1) whether the Air Ministry meteorological reports of weather conditions over and around the British Isles on Sunday last were such as to render imperative the crossing of the British coast by an airship making for Germany, or whether conditions would have reasonably allowed of a course up channel to have been taken;

(2) whether the German airship "Hindenburg" flew over or sufficiently close to allow observation of any prohibited area when crossing England on Sunday last; and, if so, what action the Air Ministry propose to take in the matter;

(3) the number of journeys across the Atlantic undertaken by German airships during the past three months; and the number of times the English coast has been crossed during such passages?


As regards the need for the course taken by the "Hindenburg" on Sunday last, it is not possible to form an accurate judgment by a subsequent examination of the data contained in ordinary meteorological reports, particularly as the commander of an airship may have to take into account additional safety factors peculiar to lighter-than-air craft. I think it is therefore reasonable to assume that the commander of the airship exercised a proper discretion on this occasion. No complaints respecting low flying or failure to observe the regulations as regards flying over prohibited areas have been received, and there is no reason to believe that the regulations were not properly observed. German airships have made 11 return journeys across the Atlantic since the end of March, but as they (in common with foreign aircraft generally) are not kept under special observation, unless they are reported to be infringing regulations, I am unable to state the precise number of occasions on which they have crossed the English coast.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the very grave misgivings that exist in the country with regard to this airship, and will he take action to see that a repetition of these flights round these particular areas is not allowed indefinitely to continue without a protest being made by His Majesty's Government?


These flights are allowed only in case of urgent necessity, and certainly not as part of a regular service, and the avoidance of prohibited areas must be strictly observed, and, as I said in answer to another question, these recent flights, are being taken up with the German Government.


What was the urgent necessity on the last occasion for the airship going north?


Bad weather.


Can my right hon. Friend say whether cameras are permitted to be carried on this airship?


Foreign aircraft flying over British territory are not allowed to carry cameras unless permission has been obtained.

63. Captain P. MACDONALD

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether his attention has been called to the fact that the Graf Zeppelin flew at a low elevation over the Solent and Portsmouth area on the evening of 5th July; whether there are any regulations to prevent such flying; and what steps are taken to enforce them?


As regards the first part of the question I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend, who, I assume, is referring to the airship Hindenburg, to the reply which I have already given to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour). As regards the second part, detailed regulations dealing with low flying in different circumstances, and with flying over prohibited areas, are contained in the Air Navigation (Consolidation) Order, of which I am sending a copy to my hon. and gallant Friend. As regards the last part of the question, any infringement of the regulations reported by the police would be taken up with the German Air Ministry.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that this airship flew at a very low elevation over Southampton Water down the Solent, and over the prohibited area of Portsmouth on Sunday evening last; and as he says that no complaints have been received, will he receive the number of complaints which I have received from my constituents about this infringement?


I shall be glad to have any information the hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes to give me.


Is it not a fact that a regular air liner from the Isle of Wight to London stops at Portsmouth and goes right over this prohibited area, and that a foreigner could go on that air liner and take photographs from the windows?

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