HC Deb 23 February 1982 vol 18 c740
12. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many complaints there have been about low-flying British military aircraft in the United Kingdom and West Germany for the most recent period for which figures are available; and how much compensation has been paid.

Mr. Wiggin

Out of 131, 841 sorties flown in 1981, there were 4, 505 complaints. Compensation for loss, injury or damage to the total value of £51, 436 was paid.

Mr. Bennett

I thank the. Minister for his reply. Is he aware of the grave concern in many parts of the United Kingdom and West Germany about low-flying aircraft? Is it not possible to simulate the relief features of land over the sea so that exercises can be carried out over areas where individuals are not put at risk from low-flying aircraft?

Mr. Wiggin

I do not accept that the civilian population are at risk. The accident record has been extraordinarily good—no civilian has been killed for eight years. I assure the House that if it were possible to stimulate low flying elsewhere, the Government would investigate it as fully as possible. I acknowledge the dismay and discomfort that low flying causes, but we are defending this nation and I believe that people understand that this sacrifice must be borne.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend agree that an essential part of low flying is contour flying, which can be performed only over suitable terrain and is not necessarily possible over the sea or anywhere else?

Mr. Wiggin

My hon. Friend is a technical expert in these matters and I endorse what he says. Some low flying is carried out over the sea, but most of it must be over land.

Mr. Latham

Is my hon. Friend aware that in Leicestershire, where there is much low flying, people well understand the reasons for it, they strongly support the defence of the United Kingdom and hope that he will take every opportunity to explain why these exercises are essential?

Mr. Wiggin

I thank my hon. Friend. I hope that all hon. Members appreciate the immense trouble that my Department takes to investigate complaints, to answer them fully and to deal with this unpleasant matter as fairly as possible.

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