HC Deb 16 January 1979 vol 960 cc1473-4
2. Beith

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to announce details of the outcome of his review of low-flying areas.

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

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to the Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Watkinson) on 12th December 1978.

Mr. Beith

Is the Minister aware that the Press Publicity during the Christmas Recess for an extension of low-flying areas was welcome in my constituency? Continued efforts in this direction will be welcomed if it is demonstrated that a burden shared can be a burden halved. Those areas which have borne a heavy proportion of this essential training are entitled to expect the rest of the country to accept some of it as well.

Mr. Wellbeloved

The revised low-flying system is designed to do two things —first, and primarily, to ensure that the RAF has the right facilities to train in order to perform its role in protecting this country and maintaining the NATO alliance defence posture; secondly, to try to reallocate flying so that the burden is fairly shared throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr. Watkinson

Will my hon. Friend accept the thanks of constituents of mine in West Gloucestershire for the reasonable attitude that he has taken on this matter? Is the new scheme fully operational and can areas such as North Gloucestershire expect a significance diminution in low flying?

Mr. Wellbeloved

I should not like to raise any false hopes that there will be significant relaxation of the low-flying activities in any particular area, but I reciprocate my hon. Friend's kind remarks and would thank him and many other hon. Members for their support of me personally and of the RAF in the carrying out of this very intense and necessary activity.

Mr. Stokes

Will the Minister consider using low-flying aircraft to disperse secondary pickets?

Mr. Wellbeloved

It is not the practice of the Royal Air Force to respond to any such suggestions from the hon. Member. The RAF, like all the Armed Forces, stands ready to obey the lawful orders of Her Majesty's Government.