HL Deb 03 November 1965 vol 269 cc767-8

2.35 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 there is a minimum permitted height level at which civil airliners may fly over central London; what penalties are enforceable against owners of airliners failing to observe the regulations in force; and whether any prosecutions have been brought in this connection during the last twelve months.]


My Lords, under Rule 5 of the Rules of the Air and Air Traffic Control, an aeroplane must, except when landing or taking-off from Government or licensed aerodromes, fly over a congested area of a city, town or settlement at such a height that in the event of engine failure it can alight safely clear of the area. In addition, it must not, save in certain exceptional cases, fly over such an area below 1,500 feet above the highest fixed object within 2,000 feet of the aircraft—that is in any possible direction. However, civil airliners which noble Lords see flying over central London will almost invariably be in the process of approaching or departing from London (Heathrow) Airport. These will be under control from the air traffic control authorities at the airport in accordance with Rule 27 of the Rules of the Air and Air Traffic Control, and will not normally be authorised to fly at a height of less than 2,000 feet.

Any person who contravenes the rules of the Air and Air Traffic Control, is liable, on summary conviction or indictment, to a fine not exceeding £200, or to imprisonment for a term of six months, or to both such fine and imprisonment, unless it can be shown that the contravention was necessary to avoid immediate danger, or was due to any cause not avoidable by the exercise of reasonable care.

No prosecutions have been brought in connection with flights over central London during the last twelve months.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for his full reply. But in view of the enormous increase of the traffic that we see coming over central London every day, can he assure the House that the present heights laid down, which, if I understood his answer correctly, appear to be not very great, are sufficient to make sure that, should one of these huge machines get into trouble and have to make a forced landing, it will be able to get clear of the central area?


My Lords, all the civil airliners approaching London Airport fly under the direct control of London Airport. My right honourable friend the Minister of Aviation, concerned as he is at the noise, especially as more and more jet airliners come into service, is urgently considering whether the minimum height should be raised to 3,000 feet.


My Lords, could my noble friend tell me whether the Government have taken into account the fact that aeroplanes which fly over sleeping populations, and so disturb them, must undermine the capacity of the working population? Is this in the interests of increased production?


My Lords, I think the noble Baroness and I both live in a period when it is difficult to harmonise these conflicting interests. I do not think anyone would minimise the nuisance that is caused, and the concern it causes as a result.

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