HL Deb 25 November 1969 vol 305 cc1183-4

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 what steps the Board of Trade intend to take to reduce the number of near-misses and mid-air collisions over Britain.]


My Lords, air traffic control systems, facilities and procedures are constantly being improved to meet the requirements of safety and the continual increase in aircraft movements over the United Kingdom. Improvements in hand include primary and secondary radar facilities, communications, additional navigational aids, and extension of A.T.C. services within new parts of the air-space. In addition, reports of any near-collisions are carefully analysed to see whether they call for immediate remedial measures or affect longer-term planning.


My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that reply, I should like to ask him two supplementary questions. First, is he aware that the new British system called the Decca Air Control Navigation System, which pilots have demanded, without success, may be adopted throughout the United States long before it becomes operational in Britain? Secondly, is my noble friend aware that aeroplanes flying across Britain are restricted to air corridors and fly to regular beacons like the one at Epsom?


My Lords, I am aware of the facts referred to in the second part of my noble friend's questions. I am also aware that the Decca system, if internationally adopted, would enable an area pattern of navigation which would be, in the view of the United Kingdom, an improvement. I only regret that my noble friend's information is not quite correct when he appears to suggest that the United Kingdom has been against the Decca system. We have pressed for the international adoption of the Decca system. Unfortunately, other countries have not yet agreed.


My Lords, in the light of the reported incident in the neighbourhood of Turnhouse about three weeks ago, would the noble Lord use his best endeavours to accelerate the installation at that airport of the radar equipment which in the view of many of us should have been installed long ago?


My Lords, as the noble Lord knows, this is a rather complicated matter, but I accept that there is an important problem here.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he does not think that, in view of the risk of collisions over the land of Britain, it would be a good idea to put as many airports as possible around the coast?


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord could indicate the type of improvements that, as he mentioned in his Answer, will be made in the near future.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Earl. I could go through a very long list, but immediately and most important there are, for example, the fact that 39 V.H.F. omnidirectional ranges (V.O.R.s) have been installed; 15 beacons giving Distance Measurement will be operational by the end of the year; the mediator system, which is a combined military and civil plan, is now in hand, based on the use of primary and secondary radar data. New Approach Control radars have gone into Heathrow, Belfast and Glamorgan, and one is to go into Edinburgh, to which the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, has just referred. In addition, there is a new system coming into operation for controlled A.T.C. services in the lower air space.

I feel that we have here a part of our national system which is alert and alive, and is developing; but when we realise that it is now possible to direct a piece of equipment to almost a pinpoint landing on the moon, so many hundreds of thousands of miles away, it will be appreciated that the area for man[...]uvre is quite elastic.