HL Deb 21 December 1982 vol 437 cc921-2

2.43 p.m.

The Earl of Kinnoull

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 how many flying accidents have occurred to microlights so far this year, what safety standards are now enforced both for pilots and machines, and what have been in general the causes of seemingiy so many accidents.

The Secretary of State for Trade (Lord Cockfield)

My Lords, there have been 29 accidents, including six fatal accidents, in which eight people have been killed. Two-thirds of the accidents have been attributed to pilot error, and the rest to engine or structural failure. All microlights now have to be registered with the Civil Aviation Authority, and all pilots are required to be licensed. A first draft of the airworthiness requirements has been drawn up by the CAA and circulated to interested parties. The authority expects to publish airworthiness requirements early next year.

The Earl of Kinnoull

My Lords, in thanking my noble friend for that very detailed and helpful reply, may I ask whether he can confirm that he is satisfied that all reasonable measures have been taken to reduce the risk of serious accidents? Secondly, will he consider whether flying clubs, rather than the CAA, could perhaps monitor the safety aspects of flying?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, so far as the first point made by my noble friend is concerned, this is a hazardous sport. Young men will always participate in hazardous activities, and, tragically, from time to time fatal accidents occur. One must draw a very careful line between overregulating an activity and making it impossible to carry on, while at the same time ensuring that all reasonable safety precautions are taken. As I indicated in my reply, the CAA has in fact already made very considerable progress in this field. I am glad also to say that the two associations active in the field—the British Hang-gliding Association, and the British Microlight Aircraft Association—are joining in consultations with the CAA, with a view further to improving safety.

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, although we appreciate the fact that the Government may not want to have undue restrictions, we welcome both the bringing of these activities under air safety regulations, and pilot licensing. But surely the main object in the long run is to see that monitoring takes place and that the controls, such as they are, are enforced. Can the Minister also briefly say something about the noise aspect, which also has been causing concern?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, I note what the noble Lord has said. The points that he makes are entirely valid. So far as noise is concerned, two studies are at present in hand, and we shall consider what can be done in the light of the results of those studies.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, according to the radio this morning, hunting is the most dangerous sport that there is. Is there any suggestion of registering each horse?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, there are very few horses which would be encompassed within the term "microlights".