HC Deb 22 July 1953 vol 518 cc378-9
54. Mr. Dodds

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air what action has been taken to stop low and dangerous flying by Royal Air Force planes over the Dart-ford district, with particular reference to the incident on 25th June, details of which have been supplied by the hon. Member for Dartford.

Mr. Ward

Aircraft are normally forbidden to fly low over built-up areas. These particular flights took place during a special air defence exercise over South. Eastern England. Such exercises are a vital part of the training of our fighter defences against enemy attacks which might be made at any level at any time of the day. I greatly regret the disturbance to civilians, which we avoid wherever possible, but notice of this exercise was given in advance to the police and to the local Press.

Mr. Dodds

Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that on this occasion it was 10 minutes to nine at night, that the aeroplanes came in at a high altitude over the country and then dived almost to roof level over a built-up area? Will he bear in mind that this district was known as "bomb alley," where the people had years of bombing during the war, and that it is useless going into another war with the nerves of the people wrecked? The local people think this was a very bad example, and the children are terrified.

Mr. Ward

In answer to the first part of the question, I can say that I have looked into that point. The Royal Observer Corps must be exercised and they cannot get away from their day's work until after working hours. Also we must train our pilots to practise interceptions in all positions of the sun. As regards the second part of the question, it is precisely because Dartford is a vulnerable port that we must give our pilots training in defending it.