HC Deb 15 May 1957 vol 570 cc391-2
37. Major Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Air how many unidentified flying objects have been detected over Great Britain this year as compared with previous years; and whether the object picked up by radar over the Dover Straits on 29th April has yet been identified.

39. Mr. Beswick

asked the Secretary of State for Air what was the nature of the aircraft or other object sighted on the radar air defence screens on Monday night and which occasioned the dispatch of aircraft of Fighter Command.

The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. George Ward)

Five flying objects reported this year are as yet unidentified compared with six last year, none in 1955. and six in 1954.

The object sighted in the Channel on 29th April turned out to be two of a large number of Hunters of Fighter Command engaged on a training exercise. Their movements as observed by radar were somewhat unusual and aroused the suspicions of the radar defences.

Major Wall

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. May I ask whether the report that the planes were travelling at 1,000 miles an hour is true? Is my right hon. Friend aware that unofficial reports of sightings have increased greatly this year, and that there is a feeling that the Air Ministry is sometimes rather reticent in making statements on these matters?

Mr. Ward

In reply to the first point, I can say that the speeds of the objects as tracked on the radar screen were nothing like so fast as reported in the Press. In reply to the second point, hon. Members will bear in mind that reports relating to this year are still under investigation, and some of the objects may well be identified later.

Mr. Beswick

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a certain amount of apprehension about these false alarms? Has he speculated upon what may happen in the days when nuclear deterrents are in use and when we shall not have a few months to find out whether missiles are actually coming our way or not? Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance to the public that there is some method of identifying objects other than the radar screens on the South Coast?

Mr. Ward

It was precisely because the radar control and reporting system was not absolutely certain whether these objects were friendly that it directed them to be investigated.