HC Deb 22 February 1988 vol 128 c77 6.58 pm
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It has come to my knowledge in the past 10 minutes or quarter of an hour that there has been a reported near miss off the east coast of Aberdeen over the North sea. It was between a Royal Air Force F4 Phantom aircraft and a Bristow helicopter carrying 30 passengers. The difficulty is that the Ministry of Defence is refusing to give any information, on the ground that it has to wait to see whether the Bristow helicopter pilot reports the matter to the Civil Aviation Authority as a possible near miss. I understand that that has now been done.

I wonder whether you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have received any request for permission to make a statement from the Secretary of State for Transport, who is present—I apologise for not having given prior notice, but the matter has only just come to my attention—or from the Secretary of State for Defence, to whom I have spoken by telephone.

The problem is that during Transport Question Time this afternoon we had a fairly vigorous and vociferous exchange about air traffic control and passenger safety in general. I am astounded to learn that since Question Time there has been an announcement that there are to be severe restrictions on traffic into Heathrow during the summer because of the serious problem.

We are entitled to raise such issues when accidents and near misses of that kind occur, yet the Minister does not divulge such information at Question Time, when he must be aware of it. I do not know how close the aircraft passed. According to one report, they were within half a mile of each other. A Phantom F4 in a steep dive creates a great deal of turbulence and could well upset the flight of a helicopter. I hope that a statement will be made, if not tonight, then certainly tomorrow, because matters are getting seriously out of hand.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham)

I have listened to the comments of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes). I cannot comment at the moment, but I shall make inquiries of my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Transport and Defence and then contact the hon. Gentleman later this evening to decide how best to proceed.