HC Deb 17 September 2003 vol 410 c848
6. Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr)

What recent discussions he has had with the Ministry of Defence on low-flying exercises in Wales; and if he will make a statement. [129541]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig)

I regularly discuss matters affecting Wales with Ministers in the Ministry of Defence.

Adam Price

The Minister will be aware that in parts of Wales military aircraft are permitted to fly at an altitude of just 60 m, causing distress to individuals and many fallen livestock. Will he clear his diary to meet urgently colleagues from the Ministry of Defence to ask them why such exercises are allowed to continue in Wales when they have been banned in almost every other NATO country? Why are they necessary when low flying has not been used as a military tactic by British armed forces in any conflict since the end of the cold war?

Mr. Touhig

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is well skilled in self-defence, as he is about to attend his party's conference. He will need protection from the hand-to-hand fighting and back stabbing that characterises his divided party. However, he raises a serious issue. I experienced low-flying aircraft when I was in north Wales a week or so ago. The UK has no uninhabited areas large enough to meet the essential training needs of aircrew. The Ministry of Defence aims to spread the disturbance, but for operational and weather reasons some areas are busier than others. A reduction in low flying over the hon. Gentleman's constituency, Carmarthen, would obviously increase the burden elsewhere. I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman and I share his concerns, but I point out that less than 10 per cent. of operational low flying takes place over Wales. I will keep abreast of the issue, and do anything that I can to help obviate the problem.