HC Deb 13 July 1960 vol 626 cc1389-91
43. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for Air how many officers of the Royal Air Force have been sent to the United States of America in the last three years for training on U2s.

46. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Air why Royal Air Force officers were sent to the United States of America for training on U2 aircraft; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ward

For reasons which have already been given to the House, I think it would be wrong for me to answer these Questions.

Mr. Swingler

Does not the Secretary of State realise that it is quite futile to try to draw the security screen over this? Is not his Department aware that facts, which have never been repudiated, were printed as long ago as July, 1958, in the aviation journal Flight, which gave the names of officers and other details about Royal Air Force complicity and association with training on U2s? Has his Department studied these publications? Is it not ridiculous to maintain this attitude when such details are being published?

Mr. Ward

There is a later Question about a specific case which I will deal with in due course.

Mr. Healey

Will the Secretary of State clear up the confusion which must be in the minds of hon. Members after his reply? The Prime Minister yesterday stated it as his view that the flights which had taken place of U2s from Lakenheath airport were not connected with intelligence. The Secretary of State for Air, in replying to an earlier Question on this and in his reply to my hon. Friend's Question, has admitted that the U2 aircraft is concerned exclusively with intelligence activities. Will he inform the Prime Minister of this and ask him to stop misleading the House and the country about this?

Hon. Members


Mr. Ward

My right hon. Friend made the position perfectly clear yesterday.

Mr. Allaun

If these flights are merely for weather purposes, why does the Minister refuse to answer? Is it not a fact that such flights at 68,000 feet over Russia cannot be followed by British radar? How, therefore, do we know, and how can we control, where the American U2 flights go to from British bases?

Mr. Ward

I am sorry to appear unhelpful, but there is really nothing that I can add.

Mr. Paget

Is the Minister aware that this Question seems to be concerned with the training of British officers in America? What has that to do with security? Why should he not tell us to what extent we can be grateful to the Americans for providing us with this invaluable service to our security?

Mr. Ward

What I am saying is that I do not think that it would be right for me to add anything to what has already been said in this House about this particular type of aircraft.

44. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for Air on what date the late Squadron Leader Christopher Walker was sent to the United States of America for training on U2 aeroplanes; and during what period he underwent such training.

Mr. Ward

Squadron Leader Walker was posted to the United States of America for flying duties with the United States Air Force in America in March, 1958. He was killed in an aircraft accident on 8th July, 1958.

Mr. Swingler

Whilst we all deplore the tragic death of this officer, may I now ask the Secretary of State to answer the question that I previously put to him, namely, is he aware of the facts published in the aviation journal Flight in this country in July, 1958, alleging the sending of several outstanding Royal Air Force officers to the United States for training on U2s? Were those facts correct or not correct? If they were not correct, why have they not been repudiated?

Mr. Ward

The death of this officer was announced by the United States Air Force at the time. The hon. Gentleman asked me about the dates, and I have answered that.