HC Deb 22 November 1950 vol 481 cc316-8
14. Air Commodore Harvey

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what progress has been made regarding a new procedure for investigating civil air accidents.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Mr. Beswick)

This problem is still being considered in the light of the experience gained from two inquiries held recently and of certain proposals which the right hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) was good enough to submit recently. I hope to be able to discuss the matter with hon. Members opposite in the near future.

Air Commodore Harvey

In considering this matter will the hon. Gentleman ask his noble Friend to consider using powers under Section 10 of the 1949 Civil Aviation Act whereby, after his noble Friend disagrees with a finding, there is a rehearing of the case in order that all parties may be satisfied?

Mr. Beswick

That and a much wider field is being considered we hope to be able to discuss that and other matters with the hon. and gallant Member and his friends.

17. Mr. Rankin

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he will take steps to reduce the period which elapses between the commencement of the inquiry into an aircraft accident and its occurrence.

Mr. Beswick

The lapse of time between the date of an aircraft accident and the commencement of a public inquiry is kept to the minimum consistent with the collection and adequate preparation-of the evidence and the briefing of counsel. It is also dependent on certain other factors, such as the convenience of the president appointed to conduct the inquiry and the giving of adequate notice to representatives of deceased passengers domiciled abroad.

Mr. Rankin

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a feeling that this time lag is somewhat excessive in regard to these inquiries? Will he assure us that there is no hold up of information which may be of importance to operators?

Mr. Beswick

I believe that what the public is to be assured upon is that we have tried to get at the truth, even though it takes a little longer to prepare the evidence.

Mr. George Ward

Can the hon. Gentleman say why the investigation into the recent crash at Heathrow has not yet begun? There is no reason why all the evidence should not be available as there were no survivors recovering in hospital or things of that kind, which generally hold up inquiries.

Mr. Beswick

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is not aware of the amount of laboratory work, testing of metals, and so on, which goes on before an inquiry is started. If any hon. Member would like to see the sort of work involved, I would be glad to make arrangements for him to do so.

Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing

What research on metals was necessary in the case of the second crash, which appears to have been due to a navigational misjudgment while the aircraft was under G.C.A. control? Recordings of the G.C.A. control are made, we are told, and it does not seem necessary to have weeks and weeks of delay.

Mr. Beswick

There may have been technical difficulties. It is very unwise to jump to the conclusions to which the hon. Member has jumped.