HC Deb 18 July 1956 vol 556 cc1206-7
29. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what difficulties now present themselves in the way of framing a scheme to prevent the collision of aircraft flying in controlled air spaces, which are fundamentally different from those which existed when the original scheme was formulated.

Mr. Profumo

The difficulties are not fundamentally different now from what they were when the existing scheme was formulated; but they have been intensified by increasing traffic and by the higher speeds and altitudes at which civil aircraft now fly. Against this certain improvements in the system can now be considered as a result of greater radar coverage.

Mr. Rankin

Can the Joint Under-Secretary assure us that he has full co-operation from the Air Ministry in this matter and that the Air Ministry is not as sticky now as it was in 1949, when the original scheme was framed? While we await the complete scheme can he say how many near-accidents have been reported to his Department in the last six months by the captains of British civil liners?

Mr. Profumo

I am not aware that the Air Ministry has ever been sticky, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is not sticky at the moment and is co-operating to the full. With regard to the second part of his Question, the Answer is that 58 incidents were reported in the six months ended 30th June. I should stress that the phrase "near-miss" is capable of misinterpretation. A pilot has to report any occurrence of an unusual nature which might have developed into a hazard. I think I would be right in saying that not more than two of these so-called "near-misses" required any violent action without which there might have been a collision.

Mr. Bellenger

Even two of these incidents may have caused serious loss of life. Are any arrangements in existence whereby the R.A.F. gives notice to the civil aircraft authorities if it is going to shoot right across the tracks of the civil aircraft?

Mr. Profumo

The answer to the second part of the question is "Yes, Sir." The Air Ministry and my Department are trying to make that system better. I quite appreciate that a near-miss, if it developed into anything worse, would cause loss of life. That is why my right hon. Friend and the Secretary of State for Air have set up a Joint Committee of Inquiry which we hope will report in about a month's time.