HC Deb 10 July 2002 vol 388 cc942-3W
Mr. Liddell-Grainger

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the impact Apache training will have on Somerset; and if low-flying will be conducted in the county. [67589]

Dr. Moonie

Unfortunately, there are no uninhabited areas of the United Kingdom large enough to meet all our essential military aircraft training needs. It is, therefore. our policy that, in principle, the whole of the United Kingdom is open to low flying by military aircraft in order to spread the disturbance as thinly as possible.

The Ministry of Defence is fully committed to ensuring that our relationships with local communities are as harmonious as possible. To that extent, we will do all that we can to keep disturbance to an absolute minimum, while maintaining the training of the armed forces which is vital to their operational readiness. It is inevitable, however, that Somerset will see some proportion of military aircraft activity, including that of the Apache.

Mr. Flook

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many complaints about low-flying military aircraft have been made by(a) residents of the county of Somerset and (b) residents of Taunton Deane in each of the last five years. [68546]

Dr. Moonie

The information requested is set out in the table below for each of the last five training years running from 1 April to 31 March. The numbers quoted will include a small number of inquiries as well as complaints.

Training Year Complaints from residents of Somerset Complaints from residents of Taunton Deane
1 April 1997–31 March 1998 241 36
1 April 1998–31 March 1999 224 23
1 April 1999–31 March 2000 236 37
1 April 2000–31 March 2001 195 24
1 April 2001–31 March 2002 230 26

Syd Rapson

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the pattern of military low flying activity in the United Kingdom during training year 2001–02. [69357]

Dr. Moonie

The ability to fly fast and low continues to be an essential skill in our armoury of tactics. Training for aircrew to achieve and maintain these skills is vital.

The amount of low flying training carried out in the UK Low Flying System (UKLFS) during the training year April 2001 to March 2002 was the minimum necessary for aircrew to reach and maintain these skills. Hours booked for low flying training in the UKLFS (excluding the Rotary Wing Dedicated User Areas, where different booking arrangements apply) during this period amounted to an overall increase of 8.7 per cent. compared to the previous training year. It is likely that there are a variety of reasons for this increase, such as preparation for operations, the return of Royal Air Force squadrons from Germany and low flying by the Eurofighter and Apache aircraft in preparation for their introduction into service. Since detailed records of hours booked began in 1995, the annual total has reduced by some 31 per cent.

The distribution of low flying training across the UK has not changed significantly over previous years. It is spread as widely as practicable, but for a variety of reasons including population distribution, and geographic and climatic considerations, it is inevitable that some parts of the country will see more low flying than others.

I have today placed in the Library of the House a report giving a detailed account of low flying training in the UK Low Flying System for the period April 2001 to March 2002.

Further copies of the report can be obtained from the following address: Directorate of Air Staff, Ministry of Defence, Room 6/62, Metropole Building, Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5BP or it can be viewed on the MOD's website: www.mod.uk/issues/lowflying.