HC Deb 08 November 1967 vol 753 cc1012-4
15 and 16. Mr. Peter Mills

asked the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will make a statement on the circumstances in which an unidentified flying object has been seen in the Okehampton area of Devon; and what are his plans to deal with a recurrence of this flying object;

(2) whether the flying object in the Okehampton area of Devon, which has been described as a star-shaped cross larger than a conventional aircraft, is a British aircraft or an unidentified flying object.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force (Mr. Merlyn Rees)

We received a number of reports of objects seen in the sky over North Devon in October. After investigation, some proved to be aircraft and some were lights. Of the lights, the majority were the planet Venus; but the source of a few lights has not been positively identified. I can say, however, that none of these unidentified lights was an alien object.

There are standing instructions for R.A.F. stations to report unusual objects seen in the sky, and standing arrangements for investigating these reports and similar reports from other sources. I do not consider additional action necessary.

Mr. Mills

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this matter is not only of considerable interest to the South-West, particularly the Okehampton area, but also of some concern? How does this statement square with the statements of two police officers and of engineers at Hessary Tor that low-flying objects were moving for over an hour in the area?

Mr. Rees

In answer to a Question yesterday and another today, I have published details of all the investigations which have been made over recent years, and none of these would give any reason to believe that there are unidentified objects in the sense which has been implied. Further, we have complete radar coverage to a very great height over all these islands and have access to that over Europe, and none of this leads us to believe in any sense that this is anything else than something which we know nothing about.

Mr. Alan Lee Williams

Can my hon. Friend assure us that he has received scientific advice?

Mr. Rees

I can give that assurance. This is not just an air defence matter. We have access to scientists of high repute—they have been consulted on all these matters—and also to psychologists.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

The hon. Gentleman said that we have complete radar coverage. In these circumstances, can he explain how a letter was sent by his Department when a report was sent about one of these objects to the effect that it "might or might not" have been an aircraft but his Department was unable to say?

Mr. Rees

The problem is that, if one is notified of this right away, it is possible to give a more definitive reply, but when one gets a letter weeks later asking what it might have been on such and such an occasion, it is difficult to be definitive on it. But nothing leads us to believe that this is men from Mars or anything of that kind.

Mr. Shinwell

Would it not be desirable for the Government to encourage this idea that there are unidentified flying objects and that there is a danger of invasion from another planet? Would this not create the necessary diversion so that people in this country, and the electors in particular, would not worry about their economic problems?

Mr. Rees

Judging from the public's response to some newspaper reports, I can only hope that they will take my right hon. Friend's remark seriously.