HC Deb 18 March 1959 vol 602 cc395-8
40. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is aware that the recent meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organisation at Montreal, where the British Government was officially represented, decided to adopt as standard VOR-DMET, the United States system of short-range navigational aid for aircraft, instead of the British Decca system; in view of the fact that the British Government have hitherto consistently stated that the VOR-DMET is inadequate for its purpose in crowded airways, if he is satisfied that without the Decca system the safety of air passengers will be maintained in the congested air space over Great Britain today; and if he will make a statement.

49. Mr. Leather

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will now make a statement regarding the Montreal Conference on air navigational aids.

52 and 53. Mr. John Hall

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (1) what views were expressed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation Conference at Montreal by representatives of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Association on the type of navigational aid which would provide maximum operational safety;

(2) how many countries were represented at the Montreal Conference organised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation; and what countries voted for the adoption of the VOR-DMET air navigational aid.

57. Mr. Beswick

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what proposals he has to make, following the consideration by the International Civil Aviation Organisation of the technical merits of different systems of air navigation aids, for a more objective assessment of the potential value of the systems concerned.

Mr. Watkinson

In the Government's view present standards of safety in congested air space cannot be maintained with the use of VOR-DMET without seriously reducing the efficiency of air traffic control. Thirty-seven countries were represented at this Conference and twenty voted for the adoption of DMET. I am circulating the names of these countries in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The International Federation of Air Line Pilots Association supported the development of an accurate and reliable short-range navigational aid based on the area coverage system and designed to provide pictorial presentation of navigational information to the pilot in the cockpit. The Decca system is the only navigational aid at present available which meets these requirements.

At the special I.C.A.O. Conference the United Kingdom delegation with my full approval, expressly reserved the position of Her Majesty's Government and made it clear that in our view the Conference had not based its considerations on sound and objective technical grounds. Before VOR-DMET can be accepted as an international standard the recommendations of the special Conference must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Council of I.C.A.O. which at present contains 21 member states. Her Majesty's Government will continue to press I.C.A.O. for a more satisfactory solution.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Minister aware that, in view of that extensive and very satisfactory reply, I shall not ask him a supplementary question?

Mr. Leather

Will my right hon. Friend make it abundantly clear to the authorities in Washington that it is precisely those of us who are most devoted to good Anglo-American relationships who are made most indignant by the kind of backstairs skulduggery in which the American delegation at Montreal indulged? Will he point out to them that any immediate short-term commercial gains our American friends may think that this gives them are far more than outweighed by the immense and annoyance which is creates amongst their friends and Allies all over the world?

Mr. Watkinson

As it is in the interests of air safety, which is such a vitally important subject, I hope that the final decision will be taken on proper technical grounds and not on grounds which are subject to pressure, national prestige or any other consideration than that of the safety of passengers in the air.

Mr. Beswick

Is the Minister aware that both sides of the House will join with him in deprecating the lobbying which has taken place on both sides of the Atlantic? As neither the British system nor the American system is fully proved, can he press that a decision should be delayed for, say, two years so that a more informed decision might then be reached? Since British Commonwealth operators are such a large and important factor in this, cannot he do something to bring them together to discuss this in an objective way, with a view to making a combined recommendation?

Mr. Watkinson

I will certainly consider the second part of that supplementary question. I agree entirely with the first part. I think that a wise decision would be to leave the matter for a period for further technical advice to be accumulated.

Mr. Hall

Will my right hon. Friend make it quite clear that the people of this country believe that the decision was arrived at through a desire by the Americans to protect their very considerable investment in their own equipment and without considering the safety factors of the navigational aids? May I support the points of view expressed on both sides of the House in asking my right hon. Friend to make it quite clear that that attitude will do a great deal of damage to Anglo-American understanding?

Mr. Watkinson

It would be very adverse to safety requirements if this important decision were taken on other than strictly technical grounds.

Following are the names: The twenty countries which voted at the special I.C.A.O. Conference for the adoption of D.M.E.T. as an international standard navigational aid to be used in association with V.O.R. were: Argentine,* Belgium,* Bolivia, Brazil,* Chile, China, Colombia, Equador, France,* Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Korea, Netherlands,* Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Spain,* Thailand, Turkey and United States of America.* The four countries which voted against were: Australia,* Canada,* New Zealand, and United Kingdom.* The twelve countries which abstained were: Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Irish Republic, Italy,* Japan,* Mexico,* Norway, Poland, Sweden,* Switzerland, United Arab Republic,* and Venezuela.* The countries marked with an asterisk are members of the Council of I.C.A.O.