HC Deb 18 December 1973 vol 866 cc1120-1
3. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Minister of State for Defence why by 3rd December 1973 the hon. Member for West Ham, North had not received a reply to his letter of 26th October regarding damage being caused by RAF planes; and whether he will expedite this reply and ensure speedier replies to his correspondence in future.

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

I wrote to the hon. Member on 3rd December. Correspondence is dealt with as rapidly as the subject matter permits; and in this particular case a detailed investigation was necessary.

Mr. Lewis

I am grateful to the Minister for writing me a letter after I had tabled a Question on this matter. Will he take it from me that it does not take a month to send a reply? Will he look into the matter again? When things of this sort happen, people are not always available to make notes of times and dates. If there is a responsibility falling on the Minister in this connection, will he look into the matter again?

Mr. Kershaw

I wrote to the hon. Member before he tabled his Question.

Mr. Lewis

It was dated the same day.

Mr. Kershaw

Yes, but it was before the Question was tabled. The hon. Gentleman's letter raises three rather substantial points. The first relates to sonic booms which, he believes, are knocking down his greenhouse. It is important if one has a greenhouse that it should not be knocked down by a sonic boom. Secondly, he raised the subject of flights from RAF Coltishall. Thirdly, he raised the matter of the fuel crisis. All these matters are important and they needed investigation by three different sections of the Ministry of Defence. I have such respect for the hon. Gentleman that I was determined not to get the matter wrong, so it took a little time. On the question of sonic booms in particular, because of the large number of aircraft in our air space it takes a long time to find out which boom is sonic on a particular day.

Mr. Fowler

In view of the need to reduce public expenditure, could the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) be persuaded to reduce his output of Questions? Might not this result in speedier answers for us all?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That has nothing to do with sonic booms.