HC Deb 15 March 1951 vol 485 cc1912-34

10.44 p.m.

Air Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the Order in Council, dated 27th February, 1951, entitled the Air Navigation (Amendment) Order, 1951 (S.I., 1951, No. 319), a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th February, be annulled. I am sorry that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House must be detained this evening. I say that with great sincerity, because I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite are just as concerned about the safe navigation of British aircraft as we are on this side of the House. I am pleased that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation is present, because he has considerable practical experience in Transport Command, and will be able to elucidate the points in doubt.

The first point to which I wish to refer is paragraph 1 (6). This deals with the flying instructors' ratings. At present there is a panel to deal with flying instructors' tests and passing for the flying clubs, or rather, light aeroplanes. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if this Order means that the Ministry of Civil Aviation intends to circumvent the panel because, as things are, there are also airlines and nationalised Corporations, as well as charter companies, which have flying instructors passing on test flights, and so on. Who are the "approved persons" referred to in the Order? I do not know, and the facts are not made clear in the Order. I have taken the opportunity in the last few days to question pilots, and they are gravely concerned about this Order. That is the reason why I, and my hon. Friends, are praying against it to-night. Will there be a panel of professional pilots of large airliners who will examine other pilots?

My second point concerns sub-paragraph (8) which deals with radio failings—[Interruption.]The Leader of the House seems to be amused, but he travels by aircraft, and is he not concerned with the safe navigation of British aircraft? The regulations should be clear for the captains of our aircraft. This deals with radio failings and, as I see it, means the removal of the proviso in Article 31 (2) (c). This appears to remove the pilot's powers of discretion on occasion. In the event of radio failure in the past, in the air or on the ground, it has been up to the commander of the aircraft to decide the appropriate course of action. That is right, because he is equivalent to the captain of a liner at sea.

Hon. Members opposite are certainly not very interested in their nationalised Air Corporations, which, incidentally, have lost something like £45 million, since they came into being. Here we are, trying to do our best to ensure safety for those who travel in British aircraft, but there is not one hon. Member opposite, apart from those on the Treasury bench. I hope that the constituents of hon. Members will take them to task tomorrow evening—if hon. Members get to their constituencies.

Let me try to explain, if anyone opposite is interested, that there might be an aircraft with a captain in charge using it as an air ambulance. He would be doing important work in a foreign country, flying home a case for a surgical operation. As it stands, the Order would preclude the captain of that air ambulance from taking off with an urgent hospital case; he might be precluded because of some trifling defect which would not in any way affect the safety of the aircraft. Yet the machine, and the patient, would be on the ground, unable to move.

There is the introduction of the new radio maintenance engineers licence, which I understand falls on 1st April. Ministers of the Government opposite usually choose 1st April for vesting new undertakings, including the new Food Corporation in East Africa. But the operators in aircraft, and crews, might find themselves in very serious difficulty because of this Order. The crews have to fly round with these manuals, and with all the duties that have to be performed, combating weather conditions, and so on they have enough to do. They have to understand orders, but their task will be made all the more difficult by the vagueness of this Order. I understand that when this new licence for radio engineers comes into force, there will only be a mere handful of men to hold such a licence. There will only be about six and certainly less than a dozen.

I suggest that the Regulations should be amended to empower the holder of a first-class wireless telegraphy operator's licence to carry out temporary repairs. What is the point of making these important points if the Parliamentary Secretary will not give me his attention? I think I have his attention now. This is very important. I do not know if he heard what I said just now, but will he consider amending this regulation to enable first-class wireless telegraphy operators to have the power to carry out temporary repairs to the radio sets? That would help us to get over our immediate difficulties.

Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)

Would my hon. and gallant Friend tell me in which paragraph it says that only radio engineers shall do this work?

Air Commodore Harvey

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but the point I am trying to make is that there is a new licence coming into force on 1st April and there are only a few holders of the licence.

Considerable confusion exists at the moment among airline operators, captains and crews. I should like to suggest a new paragraph which would make the position clear to all concerned. It would read: In the event of radio failure in a control zone, an area or when the destination is in a control zone or area, the pilot must conform to the particular regulations promulgated for that zone or area designed to cover radio failures. But if the failure occurs outside such a zone or area, or when the destination is outside such a zone or area, nothing in this paragraph shall prevent the pilot from continuing the flight at his own discretion. I put that forward as a constructive suggestion, which I and my hon. Friends think will clarify the Order.

In paragraph 10 of the First Schedule, it is laid down that when any foreign pilot or captain of a foreign airline flying to Britain or British territory enters a controlled centre like the Great London zone under I.F.R. conditions, he shall have a rating instrument. I agree with that, for it is a great ideal, but are those ratings to be up to the International Civil Aviation Organisation standards, or are the standards to be the regulations made in their own countries? Take Brazil, for example. Are the Brazilians to take their own standards for instrument rating, or will the Brazilians adhere to the International Regulations? That is a point I should like to have cleared up.

The present regulations require a very high standard in this country. I think that is right and proper because, whatever we may say about the Corporations, they have a very great record, taken over a period, and the private companies have as well. That, to some extent, is due to the regulations. Most of them, though not all, insist upon high standards of training and efficiency; but it is no good having them if you do not enforce them, and may I say that this Government has shown itself very apt in the last six years at enforcing regulations? I hope that whenever foreign airliners come into the Greater London zone, they will be challenged, otherwise there is a very grave risk of collisions. The number of airliners is increasing and when airliners are converging in the same area, we want to be certain that they can fly accurately in I.F.R. I am told that in the U.S.A., if a pilot flies into the New York area without an instrument rating, he is not allowed into that area at all; he is diverted to another field less congested.

I am most unhappy about this Order, which is confusing, and many of my hon. Friends are just as uncertain about it as I am. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, with his practical experience in Transport Command, will want it to be clear to his colleagues who are still flying. I ask for an assurance that this Order will be annulled.

10.56 p.m.

Mr. George Ward (Worcester)

I beg to second the Motion.

I am quite sure that in the interests of air navigation, and, indeed, in the interests of civil aviation generally, hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that the existing regulations must be kept up to date and that it is necessary from time to time to produce amendments. I am sure they will also agree that two things are necessary about any amendments which are produced. The first thing is that they should be intelligible. I invite the Parliamentary Secretary's attention to paragraph 4 of this Statutory Instrument, in which it is stated: In paragraph 10 of Article 17, before the word 'landing' where that word first occurs there shall be inserted the word 'intended'. Anyone wanting to look that up in the principal Order, the Air Navigation Order, 1949, would, of course, endeavour to find paragraph 10 of Article 17. If the hon. Gentleman has a copy of the Air Navigation Order, I would be grateful if he would turn up paragraph 10 of Article 17. Will he please turn up what he finds in that particular paragraph. The answer is a very simple one: it is that the paragraph does not exist at all. There are only six paragraphs in that particular Order. What hope has the pilot of an aircraft or anybody else to try to interpret this if he finds that sort of thing in the fourth paragraph of the Instrument? A misprint can occur, of course, but I think the hon. Gentleman will find that, if he looks up any article with ten paragraphs in it, he will not find the word "landing" at all, nor will he find it in paragraph 10 of any Articles. It is almost impossible to find what the misprint could be. I draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman to this, and I beg him to see that these Instruments are produced more intelligibly and accurately.

Paragraph 10 (a) deals with the necessity for a second pilot when flying in V.F.R. conditions. This is rather important. Sub-paragraph (ii) reads: The words 'or, in a case where in pursuance of any provision of this Order a second pilot is required as a member of the operating crew of the flying machine, as second pilot' and the words 'valid with respect to that flying machine' shall be omitted: It is no longer necessary for the second pilot of an aircraft flying under V.F.R. conditions to hold the same rating as an instrument flying pilot as the first pilot. I think that is wrong. I think he should have the same qualifications for instrument flying as the first pilot and captain. It may be, and it very often happens, that the first pilot may want to leave his seat during the course of the flight, even in bad weather conditions, for a number of reasons.

For example, he may want to leave the cockpit if one of the passengers creates a disturbance. Although possibly the passengers may not be able to walk out, they can at least create a disturbance, and it is sometimes necessary for the captain to go back into the cabin to see what is going on. There may be an accident of a minor character. I can remember not so long ago, when flying across the Channel in thick cloud, the emergency exit blew out, and the captain came into the cabin to see what the damage was.

and what to do about it. In that case he had to hand over the control of the aircraft to the second pilot temporarily. If that is likely to happen in V.F.R. conditions, it is essential in my submission that the second pilot should hold the same qualifications and the same rating in instrument flying as the first.

It seems odd that this provision should be put in Paragraph 10 of this Order when Paragraph 18 (b)—a significant number in another context—deals with simulated instrument flight conditions, that is, when a pilot is undergoing training or practice with a screen in front of the cockpit. It is necessary, according to this paragraph of the Order that an aircraft shall not be flown in these conditions unless: a qualified pilot (being the holder of the appropriate pilot's licence and rating) is carried in the second control seat of the aircraft for the purpose of rendering such assistance as may be necessary to the person in command thereof. If it is necessary under simulated instrument flight conditions for the second pilot to hold these qualifications in order to lend assistance to the first pilot, why should he not hold the same qualifications under real flying conditions? It is too absurd to have one different from the other. I hope that will receive the hon. Gentleman's attention and, if he agrees with us, I would draw his further attention to several other amendments that would be a necessary consequence of the alteration. For instance, paragraph 5, which also deals with the second pilot, will need alteration, and I dare say there are other paragraphs needing amendment.

May I turn to paragraph 10 (B)? This has already been mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey), but I would go a step further. This paragraphs deals with the instrument rating laid down for a pilot of a foreign-flown aircraft. The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield contended that it was much too vague; it just talks about an instrument rating, without saying what sort. It does not, as it should, state that such an instrument rating should be at least as good as a rating held by a British pilot. I would say that the second pilot of a foreign-flown aircraft should also have the same instrument rating as is necessary for the first pilot of a British aircraft. The same argument applies—it may be necessary for the second pilot to take over from the captain in very bad weather conditions. That is another point that should contribute towards the annulment of this Order.

My last point concerns Paragraph 8 (B), which says that no longer should it be the responsibility of a pilot to decide whether he should continue a flight or not if he suffers from a radio defect. We have seen in recent years, as I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree, a deplorable tendency to take more and more responsibility away from the captain of the aircraft. In the final analysis it must be the captain, who is responsible for the safety of his passengers, who decides whether to take certain action in circumstances of this kind. To say that he must land, or that he must not take off—wherever he happens to be—if there is a slight defect in the radio—is taking away almost the last vestige of intelligent decision and responsibility from the pilot. One cannot always say that it is dangerous to continue a flight with a defective radio.

Whether it is dangerous or not depends on many things. It depensd first on the weather: if the weather is good and visibility fine, it may be perfectly safe to continue. It depends on the cargo: if you were carrying passengers you would probably take a different decision than if you were carrying freight. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or ground nuts."] Yes, or Gambian eggs. There is also the question of urgency: it is sometimes more important to continue than it is on other occasions. It may be that one is hurrying a stretcher case to hospital in an air ambulance. Is that to be subject to delay because of this regulation? These things must be left to the intelligence and sense of responsibility of the pilot, who has been carefully trained, at great expense, and has had great experience in flying, and who does not want to break his own neck any more than those of his passengers. There will be far-reaching consequences unless we stop this drift away from the responsibility of the pilot.

Paragraph 4 of the First Schedule refers to Rule 13 of the principal Order, which I should like to read to the House, for without being clear on that it is almost impossible to understand this Order. If the House will forgive me while I find it——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker(Colonel Sir Charles Mac Andrew)

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman need not trouble as he would be out of order if he read anything that is not in this Order.

Mr. Ward

Very well, Sir. That suits me. I do not want to read it. My only thought was to make it easier for hon. Members to understand, but of course I bow to your Ruling, and I will try to explain as I go along. The paragraph adds the following proviso to Rule 13: Provided that, within the United Kingdom, the requirement in this paragraph that an overtaking aircraft shall keep out of the way of the other aircraft by altering its course to the right … That is the rule, that all aircraft shall take avoding action to the right when overtaking. To continue the proviso: … shall not apply to a glider overtaking another glider if the person in command of the overtaking glider is satisfied that, having regard to all the circumstances, hazard would be caused by altering his course to the right. To a layman that may appear to be very clear and sensible, but anyone who has done a lot of flying would think more about it. If we are to make exceptions of this sort, we shall get into terrible difficulties. The first thought that occurs to one is that, if a glider is allowed to turn the other way if the pilot thinks that there might be a hazard in turning to the right, what happens if the pilot of a powered aircraft thinks that there is going to be a hazard in turning to the right? Is he not allowed to turn to the left to avoid that hazard? Must he turn to the right because the rule says so? That is another example of the taking away of the last vestige of the use of intelligence and responsibility by the pilot. As an ex-pilot of some experience, I can say that, whatever the rule may state, if in turning to the right in overtaking another aircraft I should collide with a third, I should certainly turn to the left.

That is all that the Order says, that if one is flying a glider and it is dangerous to turn to the right, one may turn to the left. I submit that that is quite unnecessary. In any case, how many gliders will be flying around together like that? This instrument does not apply to military matters. It is not a sort of Arnhem "landing regulation" in order to avoid a collision between three or four gliders coming in to land, having been released from tugs on a military operation. Pre- sumably this relates purely to civilian gliders. How many are there? There are a few sail-planes on the downs towed off by motorcars or winches with one or, at most, two in the air at one time. Is it really necessary to make this special regulation and clutter up the rules which already exist just to cover the very remote possibility that the pilot of a glider, when overtaking another, may be forced to turn to the left instead of to the right?

It is absurd, and it brings ridicule upon this sort of amending Instrument. It makes it necessary for those of us who have the interests of civil aviation and such matters very much at heart, as the hon. Gentleman knows, to examine these Orders very carefully, and to speak for the people who have to carry them out and interpret them, and find out what the mystery is in, say, the fourth paragraph. We speak for friends of ours with whom we may have flown in the past. We want to ensure that they are provided with the maximum degree of safety in the air for themselves and their passengers, but at the same time we also want to preserve their freedoms and liberties, their freedom of action and their freedom of responsibility, and, above all, not to clutter them up with unnecessary regulations which will make their lives unbearable.

Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. As there is some evidence that hon. Members in some part of the House are absent, in need of rest or refreshment—I cannot imagine what else would keep them from doing their duty—would I be in order in moving that the Sitting of the House be suspended for one hour, so that they may restore themselves?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I could not accept that Motion.


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

I readily join with the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member who have just spoken in saying how interested we all are in the Navigation Order, and the consequent amending Order. From the speeches we have just heard, it is obvious how close an interest they take in this question, and it is clear to me, as a result of their speeches, that they understand clearly the aims and objects of the amending Order.

I would just say to the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Ward), who had a little difficulty in finding his way around these Orders, that an Amendment in 1951 will deal with the Order as amended in the previous year. The paragraph which he could not find is there, he will find, if he turns to the amended Order. I do hope that the high standard of navigation which the hon. Gentleman showed in the air, will be maintained when he is looking through these different Orders.

Mr. P. Roberts

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I have the amended Order to which he refers. I think that the hon. Gentleman's point would be a good one if, in the first paragraph, it referred to "the principal Order as amended." It does not do that. It refers to the principal Order. It says, admittedly, that the principal Order has been amended by various other Instruments. But the difficulty which I suggest an aviator may have is that he may only read the principal Order. If the hon. Gentleman is prepared to make an Amendment by using the words "as amended herein," it will meet the point.

Mr. Beswick

Aviators can follow this and look at the principal Order. It is true that they do read these Orders before they take to the air.

This Order relates, as hon. Members opposite will know, to a number of matters, including aircraft performance, instruction, rules for flying and air traffic control. Provision is also made for the renewal of air-worthiness certificates for the smaller types of private aircraft. The general purpose of this amendment is to increase safety in the air. I am quite sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite will not wish to do anything to decrease safety in the air. Hon. Members complain, as one would expect, that there is quite a lot of paper work in this matter of flying round the sky, but the fact is that aviation is developing. We now have a regular helicopter service. Therefore, we have to amend the Air Navigation Order to provide for such services. We also have, as hon. Gentlemen will know, a system of airways which requires amendment of the original Order. In this amending Order we have made provision for this new arrangement in our skies.

The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) asked about the panel of persons referred to in Rule 1 (6), and asked whether the individuals referred to were going to circumvent the panel. It is a matter of panels or individuals, as the hon. Gentleman will know. In some parts of the world it is difficult to have a panel on the spot, and there will be an individual qualified or permitted to do the work done in other parts of the world by panels.

Air Commodore Harvey

The hon. Gentleman has not made it at all clear. Is he suggesting that these individuals should be civil servants of his own Ministry or will they be pilots selected from one of the Corporations or charter companies? I think this is important. If it is going to be an individual abroad, is he going to be kept in flying practice consistently? I should like to have more detail.

Mr. Beswick

The hon. and gallant Gentleman well knows that this matter has been discussed in great detail. The individual so employed will be an individual who is in flying practice and able to carry out the trust hitherto given to the panel.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked whether the instrument rating required of foreign operators would be up to the standard required of British pilots. The answer is in the affirmative. We shall require of foreign operators coming into these airspaces the same standard we require from British pilots. The hon. and gallant Gentleman followed up that question by asking why this standard should not be applied equally to the second pilot. On a smaller aircraft the requirement for second pilot is only for a man as look-out and it is not necessary for the look-out to hold an instrument rating. Above a certain weight, where the second pilot has greater responsibilities, it is necessary for him to hold the appropriate instrument rating.

Mr. Ward

That may be so, but that distinction does not appear in the Order, nor does the distinction between real flying and training appear.

Mr. Beswick

The distinction appears in the weight of the aircraft, and hon. Gentlemen who follow these matters know that below a certain weight the requirements for second pilot is only for look-out. I hope I have been able to convince both hon. Gentlemen that this Order is necessary and is not confusing. I shall be very interested to see whether hon. Members do wish to annul this Order.

Air Commodore Harvey

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, I should like to ask him what happens in the case of radio. He has not referred to that point at all. I hope he is not skating over the most important points, otherwise I am more convinced than ever that this Order should be annulled. Can we have elucidation of all the points raised; they are relevant.

Mr. Perkins (Stroud and Thornbury)

How can the hon. Gentleman enforce this? What power has he over a foreign flyer coming into this country? Can he insist on a standard? For instance, has he any power over a Brazilian pilot in this country?

Mr. Beswick

I have no powers at all if this Order is annulled.

Mr. P. Roberts

When a question is put to a Minister which he refuses to answer, is he in order in speaking again to give a further reply? I think we must have an answer to this point.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

By leave of the House.

11.30 p.m.

Mr. John Grimston (St. Albans)

It is nonsense for the Minister to say this Order is easily understandable by the ordinary layman. I speak as a pilot. I would draw his attention to paragraph 1 (8). I ask him what these words mean: An aircraft…shall be equipped with radio apparatus"— that is quite clear— when engaged in any flight in the circumstances of which it is required to be so equipped in accordance with such requirements as may be prescribed. What on earth does that mean? It really is nonsense for the Minister to say that this Order is crystal-clear to all pilots and people who follow these things; because, as I think he very well knows, I follow these things extremely closely. I think I am the ony Member of this House actually qualified at this moment to fly in accordance with instrument flight rules, and if I cannot understand it I would not mind betting a considerable sum that the Minister himself cannot understand what he is requiring shall be understood by the members of a very hard-working fraternity who fly in the air for their living.

There are a great many points in this Order with which I am certain that hon. Members on this side of the House are in agreement. I do not know the Rules of this House very well, but I believe that the only way in which we can get elucidation of the points on which we are not clear is by putting down a Prayer of this kind; and unless we can obtain a more satisfactory answer from the hon. Gentleman than we have already received, that would seem to me to be justification for talking to him all night to try to get a little sense.

In paragraph 3 of Article 13, the Minister takes power to himself to delegate the power of giving of certificates of airworthiness, and so on, to firms of whom he may approve. I believe this to be an entirely new idea, and I should like to know what kind of firms he proposes to approve. Will he require the same high standard from them as from every other firm? The matter of the second pilot has been dealt with, but I would refer to one point. If we are to have aeroplanes flying in the extremely busy conditions we now have in the area of London—and London has the most difficult traffic conditions of any country in the world and some of the most fickle weather—it is vital that the standards of pilotage shall be of the very highest. Now, having introduced this tightened standard, why should we suddenly find ourselves able to relax it in the matter of the second pilot of a large aircraft?

The Minister has said that the second pilot of a large aircraft will have the instrument rating qualification. If he can show me where that appears in the Order, I shall be delighted; but so far as I can see, both in the principal Order and the Order we are now debating, there is no such qualification. If there is, I shall be very glad to see it. In sub-paragraph (d)of paragraph (2) of Article 23, the Minister is again delegating power to furnish certificates to a body which he approves—in this case an instructor's rating. That is a power which may be of great value in the safety of aeroplanes flying into and out of this country, and we ought to know what kind of qualification he will require of these people.

In sub-paragraph (d)of paragraph (3) of Article 24 he is making exceptions in the length of time which records should be preserved. Hitherto, log books of all kinds, relating to engines, propellors, radio, pilots and everybody concerned, had to be kept for two years. Now the telecommunications log book is to be kept only for six months. That is a log book which above all others I should have thought should be kept for a long period, because, as the hon. Gentleman will know, intercepted messages often appear in the telecommunications log book. Messages are written down which may not affect the particular aircraft in question but some other aircraft which might be involved in a subsequent accident inquiry, or something of that sort, and this evidence would then be vital. Therefore, why is it that the Minister proposes in this one case—the most important of all—to allow the thing to be destroyed so quickly?

Paragraph (2) of Article 31 is a long and involved paragraph, and I do not propose to detain the House by reading from it, but here again, the Minister has no idea of what it means. Does he require a radio apparatus to be put into an aircraft and then make, it necessary to get the approval of the Minister—after having put it in? Why do that? In the First Schedule, under Rule 6A, we have a very big query. My standard of navigation has fallen down on this because there are at least a hundred pages to wade through, and if we are to get through in a short time, one cannot say much.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

The hon. Member, I think, is dealing with something not before the House. I have tried to find from where he is quoting, but he is apparently dealing with something which is not before us.

Mr. Grimston

I am sorry, but I am referring to Rule 6A on page 3 of Statutory Instrument No. 319, of 1951. In the First Schedule, it states, After Rule 6 there shall be inserted the following Rule:"——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Yes, but some of the others were not in the Order before the House.

Air Commodore Harvey

On a point of order. This Order deals with the Air Navigation Order, 1949, and that is amended by Order No. 349. What my hon. Friend says is relevant to Order No. 319.

Mr. Grimston

It is a most complex matter, and I would ask the House to appreciate that there are a hundred odd pages, and amendments, and every amendment seems to go through a number of pages in the original Order.

At the end of paragraph (2) of Rule 8, we have certain words to be added, which have the effect of giving instructions to a pilot who on his route into, or out of, this country might wish to change his flight plan. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to study that particular paragraph. At the moment, if one changes from visual flying to instrument flying in bad weather, one can do it immediately, but now one has to get permission to change from instrument flying to visual. There may be a perfectly sensible answer to it, but it has been my recent experience that frequencies are so cluttered up, especially around the London area, that one has to wait a considerable time before getting permission to alter from instrument flight rules to visual rules.

One may have flown through a heavy cloud, or have ice on the wings, and one might want to climb up into clear air. That may be something approaching an emergency. But under present rules even when a pilot is flying through perfectly, clear conditions without any risk whatsoever, he has to maintain his course sometimes even into another cloud, which he may think will give him additional icing, all because of the Minister's regulations, which say that he cannot alter his course, height or direction without the permission of the ground. I suggest that it should be left to the discretion of the pilot, when flying through clear air to change from an instrument flight plan to a visual flight plan at his own discretion. This is a highly technical point, but I hope it will be taken notice of by the Minister.

There are also certain conditions for simulated instrument flights, where now there must be a second pilot with dual control, when a device known as two-stage amber is fitted to the aircraft. I think there might be some relaxation, with absolute safety, in that particular regulation. The Minister will probably understand that there is real safety in allowing practice approaches in good flying conditions on every possible occasion; so long as the traffic control gives permission for a pilot to make such approaches, he ought to be able to do so if there is a competent observer to see that there is no risk of a collision or anything of that kind. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will look at that point carefully.

There is another point which arises out of the most serious accident which has ever taken place in civil aviation when 80 people were killed. It is now made obligatory on operators of aircraft to carry with them the performance chart of their aeroplanes. This again reinforces what hon. Members in this House have said several times. It is all very well to make this condition, but quite a different matter to see that it is enforced. There has been a regulation for some time back, which lays down that details should be made of flight performance of every type of aircraft, but the Minister has not enforced it. Can we be assured that this particular regulation shall not only be made but it shall be carried out?

Mr. Beswick

I am afraid that I cannot give that assurance if hon. Gentlemen opposite persist in annulling this Order.

Mr. Grimston

But there is no other way by which these matters can be raised and discussed in this House unless we move such a Prayer as this. I hope the hon. Gentleman is not accusing me of having raised frivolous points, because I have tried to stick to quite serious and practical points, of which I believe the hon. Gentleman himself has very little idea. It may be that I kept him too late on the Adjournment the other night, but I paired with him the following day and gave him an evening at home.

There is also in these regulations one reducing the cost of certificate of airworthiness for light aircraft. This is a belated gesture to the small private operator, but we welcome it, as we are keen to see the private owner given all encouragement possible. This small con- cession we shall be delighted to see go through, but I hope that we may also have satisfactory answers to some at least of these highly technical points.

11.45 p.m.

Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)

I rise only for a very few moments merely to express the hope that on this occasion, on this complicated Order, the Parliamentary Secretary will be good enough to answer some of the points raised by my hon. Friends who have, I think, considerable practical and personal experience of flying in its different forms. The questions they have put have been very well stated and I know that the hon. Gentleman is very well qualified to reply to them, for he also has considerable experience of a personal kind, apart from the knowledge he has in his present office. I think he owes it to the House, to his duties and to my hon. Friends, at some point before the danger-signal which I see beginning to operate goes up, to make a reply to the points which have been raised by my hon. Friends. If he would be good enough to say that was his intention, I should certainly not wish to delay the House by standing between him and the possibility of a reply to the House on these points.

11.47 p.m.

Mr. Perkins (Stroud and Thornbury)

It is getting very late and the last thing I want to do is to detain the House, but I want to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on showing great courage in coming here and facing all his critics. I cannot help feeling that he has set a very fine example. What he has said might usefully be brought to the attention of the Secretary of State for Air who this evening refused to face a challenge brought by me to reduce his salary by £1,000 on the Report stage of the Air Estimates. That was carefully arranged, but when the time arrived at 9.30 there was no chance of a discussion and therefore the challenge could not be accepted.

11.47 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Taylor rose in his place, and claimed to move,"That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

Air Commodore Harvey

On a point of order——

Mr. Speaker

There can be no points of order when I am putting the Question.

Air Commodore Harvey

(seated and covered:)Is it in order for the Motion for the Closure to be put when the Minister has failed to answer practically all the questions put to him?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order. It is my judgment. I think the debate has gone on some time, and it is getting fairly late and in my judgment it is time it closed.

Mr. Drayson (Skipton)

(seated and covered):This is a very complicated Order; there are at least 17 paragraphs to the First Schedule, but we have had no explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary on any of these points. There are a number of hon. and gallant Members with considerable experience of air matters who want to take part in this debate and I would submit that there is a very good case——

Mr. Speaker

In my opinion, no. I am sorry, but that is the answer.

Mr. P. Roberts

(seated and covered:)I wish to ask your advice, Mr. Speaker. Under the Order now being put, a question has been put to the Parliamentary Secretary with regard to Proviso E, to which no reply has been given. Is there any way in which, as a back bencher, I can put this question again to the Parliamentary Secretary in order to get a reply?

Mr. Speaker

I am very sorry. There is not. There is no opportunity.

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. WILKINS andMr. KENNETH ROBINSON were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but no Members being willing to act as Tellers for the Noes,Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.

Question put accordingly.

Mr. SPEAKER proceeded to collect the voices, and declared that the Ayes had it.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

I understood you to say, Mr. Speaker, in regard to the annulment, that "The Ayes have it."

Mr. Speaker

Yes, I beg your pardon. The Noes have it.

Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You put it clearly that the Ayes had it.

Mr. Speaker

It is quite obvious that I made a mistake. If there is any doubt about it, I declare that the Noes have it.

Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)

With all respect, it was clearly stated that the Ayes had it. There is no doubt that the Ayes had it, and therefore the Prayer has been successful. We quite understand the position you have been placed in, Sir, but there is no doubt about what we heard, and it was stated that the Ayes had it. That was accepted by the House.

Mr. Speaker

That is a quite impossible proposition. After all, one knows at this time of day, although it has not yet got to the morning——

Hon. Members

It is early yet.

Mr. Drayson rose——

Mr. Speaker

How dare the hon. Gentleman stand when I am on my feet. I am declaring that the Noes have it. I made a mistake because I forgot exactly how the Question had been put. It was my mistake. Quite obviously the Noes had it.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I think the position is crystal clear. The view is strongly held on this side that the Ayes had it. That view is confirmed by the Leader of the House, who got the same impression. We have no doubt that the Leader of the House has exactly the same impression as we have. He put the case to you, and you have confirmed it. I do not know what the precedents are, but I ask with all respect whether there is any precedent for going back on the statement that the Ayes had it.

Mr. Speaker

I think this is rather silly really. It is perfectly obvious that I made a mistake when giving the way the vote was declared. I had given the closure which was not challenged, and it is obvious that I meant to say on the other question that the Noes had it, but I made a mistake. Very well, and so I say, quite frankly, it is my Ruling that the Noes had it and not the Ayes.

Sir Ian Fraser (Morecombe and Lonsdale)

On that same point of order. With all respect, there were, in fact, more Ayes in the House than Noes. When you col- lected the voices, you collected a larger shout for Aye than you did for No. Hon. Members opposite were not here, and you will recall they have not been here for the last hour and a half. It is not surprising, therefore, that when you collected the voices, you collected more Ayes than Noes.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and gallant Gentleman must remember that I cannot be here the whole time. Physical nature makes that quite impossible, and therefore I have to come back occasionally. But I hear what is taking place. If hon. Members think that I have got to be here the whole time, very well, alter the Rules of the House. I quite understand. I do not want to be indiscreet in what I say, but we understand from the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, I do not mind saying that—and it has not been repudiated in any way. I am quite prepared to give all these Prayers a fair run, but not more.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I must, with all respect, state emphatically that you have made a statement about a speech made by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby). This has been raised in this House as a possible question of Privilege, and you have ruled there is no question of Privilege involved. I must state that in your position—a proud position—to state that the speech of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire has any relevance to the present situation is, as it would appear to us, an undesirable thing, because it would appear to associate you on one side of the House and not on the other.

With absolute respect, we are prepared to accept, after making a protest, the fact that you made a mistake in collecting voices, which was due to the fact that the Chamber was almost entirely filled by those who said "Aye," and those who said "No" were not present. With all humanity and respect, we are prepared to accept that you made a mistake in collecting these voices and that, I think —[Interruption.]I do not know why hon. Members laugh, because there is no doubt, according to the procedure of the House, that the Ayes had it. If hon. Members do not want to accept what is a reasonable and human gesture on the part of the Opposition, they need not accept it, and it will be up to us to consider what action we take in the future.

I was saying, with all respect, Mr. Speaker, that we accept, in the terms in which you have expressed your statement, that you made a mistake, and that, therefore the position can be put in the hands of the Leader of the House. We accept the fact that you meant to say, "The Noes have it." But when we come to this matter of bringing a speech by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] I do not know, nor have I any association with him. But when we have this matter of the speech brought into our discussions at this hour of the night, and you Mr. Speaker, state that no disavowal has been made of this speech by any hon. Member or right hon. Member on this side, you are not preserving an independent attitude. I say, with the deepest possible respect, and having already accepted your view that a mistake was made on the other matter, that I think the best thing we can do at this late hour is for you to say that no further reference to the hon. Member will be made this evening.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that is a point of order. I do not think there is anything I can say about it. I said what I said. All these things were at the back of one's mind. The right hon. Gentleman agrees that when I said "The Ayes have it" I should have said "The Noes have it." For the rest—the speech of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire—one is bound to consider things. One knows he is an ex-Minister, and I presume one must bear that in the back of one's mind. I was prepared to be perfectly fair, but in view of what I heard from an ex-Minister, I will not be hard on giving the closure; but I will bear that always in my mind.

Mr. Ede

May I draw your attention to the fact, Mr. Speaker, that there is no Question before the House, and I suggest that we move to the next business on the Order Paper?

Mr. John Foster (Northwich)

Further to that point of order. Is it not a tradition in the House that mistakes are not allowed? You will remember. Mr. Speaker, when through a point of order being raised after you had put the Greece Double Taxation Order, through a mistake on our side we were not able to speak on that Order. It was a mistake, but the Rules of the House are inexorable. We lost our chance to speak on it, and like good losers we did not speak. It is, in my submission, a rule and a tradition of the House that if a mistake is made the side that has made the mistake loses with a good conscience.

May I bring this (further matter to your consideration? The mistake was not yours; it was induced by the fact that, with the exception of a very small number, hon. Members on the other side had been creating a disturbance—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"]—in the Smoking Room, and came into this House and shouted "Aye", and that is why the fault is in no sense yours. The Ayes did have it, because more shouted "Aye" than "No", and you were quite right in saying that the Ayes had it.

Mr. Speaker

The House is always generous when anybody makes a mistake, I agree. I made a mistake, and gave a wrong decision. As to the former mistake, the voices had been collected and the hon. Member raised a point of order after I had collected the voices. As for the rest of the hon. and learned Member's contention, I do not think that is a point of order, and I do not propose to proceed with it.

Mr. Drayson

On a point of order. You referred, Mr. Speaker, to the speech made recently by my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby). You may not have been informed, but hon. Members on this side of the House wished to raise earlier today the question of Privilege arising out of a report in the "Daily Herald" which said that the Labour Party——

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order. It cannot be raised now. I do not know what the hon. Member is talking about. That is not a point of order. A point of order concerns procedure.

Air Commodore Harvey

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I, as the mover of the Motion, point out with great respect that just now you referred us to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby)? May I, with great respect, submit that, while the House was entirely devoid of hon. Members opposite, and Mr. Deputy-Speaker was in the Chair, the Parliamentary Secretary, who replied to the debate, remarked that all the points made by the mover and seconder and in the subsequent speeches were relevant, and congratulated this side of the House on the points brought forward? I submit that it is a little unfair to hon. Members who have been to a lot of trouble over this debate to have an inference made in regard to that statement because it is not popular on the other side of the House.

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman objects, let him put down a Motion of Censure on the Speaker. That is the only answer to that. Mr. Walker-Smith.