HC Deb 23 March 1955 vol 538 c2063
38. Miss Burton

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if, as a result of his conversations with the Australian Minister for Air on 16th February last, he is now in a position to make a statement on the policy to be adopted for civil aircraft in this country.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

No, Sir., though it was very useful to obtain the views of the Australian Government. There is a substantial division of expert opinion on this subject, both in this country and in the United States. I have arranged with British European Airways to test passenger reaction to the large number of seats which already face aft in their existing aircraft. This is with a view to pursuing a policy in favour of rearward-facing seats at next year's meeting of I.C.A.O.

Miss Burton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that is a very slight progression from the entirely negative answers given previously? Is he aware that the Director-General of Civil Aviation in Australia has said that the system of backward-facing seats is three times safer for passengers in the event of a crash than the other seats? In view of that, why does the right hon. Gentleman procrastinate from month to month?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

It is not a question of procrastination. This is avery difficult matter, on which expert opinions differ. The research carried out by Cornell University appears to indicate that in their judgment forward-facing seats, if built sufficiently strongly, give comparable protection. That is an example of the fact that this is perhaps not quite as forward-facing a matter as the hon. Lady thinks.