HC Deb 29 November 1988 vol 142 cc562-3
5. Mr. Matthew Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received regarding the problem of low flying of Royal Air Force jets in the south-west of England.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Roger Freeman)

The Ministry of Defence received 568 inquiries or complaints about low-flying jet aircraft from the south-west of England between 1 January and 31 October 1988.

Mr. Taylor

I am sure the Minister will agree that that is not an inconsiderable number and that low-level flying can cause considerable distress and inconvenience, especially to the farming community. Will he reassure the House that the Government are aware of that and are trying to keep flights to the minimum? May we also have an assurance that there are adequate safety arrangements for personnel and the local community?

Mr. Freeman

I agree that low-flying training is inconvenient. We try to spread the burden as widely as possible throughout the United Kingdom. We have a good working relationship with the National Farmers Union to cover claims from the farming community, and they are paid promptly. The farming community, like any other members of the public, should not be unduly worried about safety. The safety record of the Royal Air Force has improved consistently during the past 20 years.

Mr. Robert Hicks

Does my hon. Friend accept that the majority of people living in the south-west accept that this kind of training is essential for our pilots? However, does he agree that people who may have complaints about inconvenience are those living in distinctive geographical areas, such as the Tamar valley, where it appears that the incidents of low-level flying are greater than elsewhere?

Mr. Freeman

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support for the principle of low flying. I assure him that in his constituency—in the Tamar valley—he should see no more than his fair share of low-flying aircraft.