HC Deb 22 July 1963 vol 681 cc1049-50
36. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of Aviation if he is aware that British non-scheduled flying operations have recently been shown to be at least 20 times less safe than British scheduled flying operations over the last five years; and what is his policy on improving the safety standards of British non-scheduled flying operations.

Mr. Marten

It is true that over the last five years there have been more accidents in British non-scheduled flying operations than in scheduled operations—and this is also true for the United States. The total number of accidents, however, is so small that any statistical comparison can be misleading.

The safety standards laid down by the Ministry are the same for all public transport operators. The measures being taken to improve safety were described in the White Paper on Aviation Safety (Command 1695) published last year.

Mr. Cronin

Was not this estimate made after a survey by the very responsible aviation journal, Flight, and is it not the case that the Ministry has increased British non-scheduled operations by 50 per cent. since 1960, and, even worse, foreign non-scheduled operations from these islands by 300 per cent., without any really substantial attempts to improve safety?

Mr. Marten

The House must be very careful indeed about paying too much attention to figures like these. It is not clear on what basis the figures in the article were worked out, but they probably relate to the number of fatalities. On this basis, as the hon. Gentleman who read the article in Flight must know, and as was pointed out in the article, the figures can be distorted by one accident with a very large number of fatalities, such as the one to Caledonian Airways at Douala, where 101 were killed, compared with the B.E.A. accident at Munich, where twenty-five were killed.

Mr. Cronin

Is it possible that the hon. Gentleman has not read the article? The article makes it clear that various factors have been introduced to make corrections for the very factors to which he is referring?

Mr. Marten

The article still makes it very clear that the figures are based on a very small number of fatalities and should not be taken too much to heart.

Mr. Fletcher

Does not the recent disaster to Mr. Cleife, which we all very much regret, in trying to fly from the Scilly Islands to Plymouth when B.E.A. was grounded by fog, indicate that there were inadequate Ministerial precautions in regard to non-scheduled flights compared with scheduled flights?

Mr. Marten

I think that the Ministerial precautions are there. Following the Civil Aviation Licensing Act, 1960, all public air transport operators are required to hold air operators' certificate certifying—

Sir A. V. Harvey

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the accident to which reference has been made took place only on Saturday and the pilot is critically ill, ought not this matter to be considered sub judice until the inquiry has been held?

Mr Speaker

I do not know whether the matter is sub judice. Whether it is thought fit to answer the question or not is not a matter for me.