HL Deb 11 August 1972 vol 334 cc1436-7

11.13 a.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 what opportunity will be afforded to the British Air Line Pilots' Association to appear before the public Inquiry into the B.E.A. Trident accident.


My Lords, the British Air Line Pilots' Association will have an opportunity to apply to the court for permission to appear as an interested party in the public inquiry into the Trident accident at a preliminary interlocutory hearing to be held on September 29, 1972, notice of which was given in the Press on August 4. 1972. The decision whether or not to accept this application will be made by the court.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. I understand that the Association has in fact made application to Mr. Justice Lane, but may I ask the noble Lord whether he would agree that if the Association are allowed to appear formally as a party, or whether in some other way, they should be called upon to place at the disposal of the court their quite unique body of experience both in the operational and safety matters involved? And would be not also agree that it is particularly important that they should be given this position in view of the fact that some sections of the Press have already prejudged this accident and put the blame on certain individuals?


My Lords, it is the case that in 1956 Mr. Justice Phillimore refused to admit the representative of B.A.L.P.A. in a situation where the pilots concerned were not members of the Association and were separately represented. It is not the practice, I understand, since then, for the courts automatically to admit applications either from B.A.L.P.A. or from other unions with expertise who might also be involved; but assistance is being given to the court and the Attorney General in the matter of expertise by the Chief Inspector of Accidents who has the power to co-opt experts in any field of activity that may be considered appropriate, and arrangements have already been made to co-opt an experienced airline pilot who is currently engaged in flying Trident aircraft.


My Lords, I am most obliged to the noble Lord. I am aware that an assessor has already been appointed, but would not the noble Lord agree that if the provision in the Investigation of Accident Regulation 1969 means anything at all, in this case B.A.L.P.A. should be appointed as a party?


My Lords, that is a matter for the court. The Government have no power to direct what the court should do in these circumstances.


My Lords, while supporting my noble friend in his inquiries, may I ask the noble Lord whether, apart from evidence of hours worked by the members of this particular crew, will it be in order for the court of inquiry to demand evidence of personal histories and medical evidence in this case?


My Lords, I am sure that the report will demand all relevant evidence—all evidencee that appears to it to be relevant.