HC Deb 08 November 1977 vol 938 cc472-4
10. Sir David Renton

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the cause of the long delay in announcing the result of the inquiry into the crash at Huntingdon on 3rd May 1977 of an RAF Canberra aircraft causing loss of life as a result to the pilot and observer and three young children.

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

There is no doubt that the inquiry into this tragic accident has taken longer than I would have wished, and, indeed, longer than was expected. However, any inquiry must be painstaking and meticulous, and in this case, where the crew lost their lives and the aircraft was almost totally destroyed, the investigation by the board of inquiry was particularly difficult to conduct and it inevitably took time. It was necessary to reconvene it twice to take supplementary evidence which emerged later in the inquiry. But throughout the period the inquiry was progressed with the utmost urgency consistent with the need to ensure the accurate diagnosis of the cause. As I have told the right hon. and learned Member, the report has now been received, and I have had the opportunity to study it. I am considering with my right hon. Friend whether a further statement should be made to the House.

Sir D. Renton

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the long.; delay has greatly increased public anxiety about the cause of the accident? Will he give an undertaking that the fullest possible public statement will be made, when he is able to do so, which I hope will be soon. Meanwhile, can he give a further undertaking that the particular type of landing practice which was being followed when this tragic accident occurred is not taking place any longer and will not take place?

Mr. Wellbeloved

In response to the right hon. and leaned Gentleman's first question, when I have had an opportunity to consult my right hon. Friend, either he or I will endeavour to give the fullest possible statement to the House on the whole of this accident. I deeply sympathise with the right hon. and learned Gentleman's constituents in the tragic occurrence they have endured.

With regard to the use of the Canberra PR9, there is at present in progress a review of the basic flying patterns that have been in use at that air station for the last 10 years. We have, however, prohibited further right-hand visual circuits over the Oxmoor estate until such time as we have further reviewed the Wyton and Alconbury air traffic procedures.

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