HL Deb 09 July 1963 vol 251 cc1288-90

2.37 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the findings of the Committee on the Problem of Noise "that noise affects health" and that "repeated interference with sleep is least to be tolerated" they will discontinue military aircraft carrying out training exercises, which entail low flying, from airfields situated in thickly populated areas.]


My Lords, so far as military aircraft are concerned, there are strict instructions to ensure that the civilian population is affected as little as possible. This is recognised by the Committee to which the noble Lord refers. But the Committee also records that there are few, if any, airfields the operations from which do not disturb someone. Every effort will continue to be made to reduce disturbance to a minimum, but I greatly regret that it is not practicable to restrict low flying to sparsely populated areas.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his sympathetic Answer. Does he realise that at the particular airfield I have in mind, the one situated at Abingdon, 30-ton four-engined Beverley aircraft circuit the airfield at not more than 500 feet night after night, starting at ten o'clock at night till the early hours of the morning, over the heads of from 10,000 to 15,000 industrial workers of the B.M.C. factory and a large number of folk, hundreds or even thousands, who are employed as scientific workers at Harwell. Does he not think that this type of aircraft, which is, I suppose, about the noisiest in existence, could be taken away so as to give these people some opportunity of following the restful occupation they are supposed to have at night?


My Lords, I greatly sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, because I know the airfield and I also know, as he says, that the Beverley aircraft is a very noisy aircraft. But the fact of the matter is that Service airfields are so situated that there are not enough of them away from centres of population, and it would be very difficult to do as he suggests.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, in order to put the great sympathy which I know he has to some practical application, whether he will accept an invitation from me to be my guest at my house, when he can make a first-hand appraisal of what these thousands have to put up with? May I also ask him this? If he does contemplate accepting my invitation, will he please not tell anybody in his own Department or the Air Ministry that he is coming, because on the last occasion when a Minister of the Crown accepted my invitation, by some strange coincidence immediately the Minister arrived all flying from that aerodrome ceased.


My Lords, I should, of course, be very happy to accept the noble Lord's invitation, on the strict understanding that accepting his hospitality does not mean that I am committed to moving an airfield on behalf of the Secretary of State for Air.


If the Service know you happen to be going there, do you think they will be flying?