HC Deb 04 February 1992 vol 203 cc115-6
1. Mr. Kirkwood

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received on low flying; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Kenneth Carlisle)

My Department has recently received a number of representations from hon. Members and the general public on matters relating to military low-flying training.

Mr. Kirkwood

May I add to those representations the ones that haw been made to me locally by committees responsible for organising the summer common riding festivals in the central Borders and Scotland? It does not take much imagination to understand the effect of a Tornado flying at 250 knots and at 250 ft, on a cavalcade of 200 horses on top of the Border hills. Will the Minister consider increasing the current exclusion zones of 1 nautical mile to about 5 nautical miles in order to give those cavalcades some protection?

Mr. Carlisle

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his question. I have considered the point carefully. As he knows, we are always ready to give an avoidance of 1 mile on each side of the tracks used by these riders. The problem is that there are 75 ridings a year and to give a wider berth would concentrate our low flying over other parts of the countryside to the detriment of the inhabitants there. We have had few complaints from those taking part in the ridings and nearly half the ridings take place at weekends when there is little low flying. I do not believe that the case has been made for a change in our policy.

Mr. Quentin Davies

Do my right hon. and hon. Friends agree that if we are to have an effective Royal Air Force, it is essential that our pilots are given the best possible training, including training in operating at below the level of enemy radar? Do my right hon. and hon. Friends agree that the magnificent and heroic performance of our pilots in the Gulf thoroughly vindicates the training programme that we have had up to now? Will they accept that in Lincolnshire, where we have more RAF stations than any other part of the country, there is wide appreciation of those facts?

Mr. Carlisle

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the realistic way in which he faces the problem. In Lincolnshire we are proud of the role of the RAF and its life in our county. It might be helpful to know that it is planned that low flying by jets will decline by about 30 per cent. over the next three years. In the worst-affected areas, such as the Lake District, the Borders and Wales, we are establishing community relations officers to provide a closer link with local people.

Back to
Forward to