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Civil Aviation

Volume 481: debated on Wednesday 22 November 1950

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Air Accidents (Investigation)

14.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what progress has been made regarding a new procedure for investigating civil air accidents.

This problem is still being considered in the light of the experience gained from two inquiries held recently and of certain proposals which the right hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) was good enough to submit recently. I hope to be able to discuss the matter with hon. Members opposite in the near future.

In considering this matter will the hon. Gentleman ask his noble Friend to consider using powers under Section 10 of the 1949 Civil Aviation Act whereby, after his noble Friend disagrees with a finding, there is a rehearing of the case in order that all parties may be satisfied?

That and a much wider field is being considered we hope to be able to discuss that and other matters with the hon. and gallant Member and his friends.

17.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he will take steps to reduce the period which elapses between the commencement of the inquiry into an aircraft accident and its occurrence.

The lapse of time between the date of an aircraft accident and the commencement of a public inquiry is kept to the minimum consistent with the collection and adequate preparation-of the evidence and the briefing of counsel. It is also dependent on certain other factors, such as the convenience of the president appointed to conduct the inquiry and the giving of adequate notice to representatives of deceased passengers domiciled abroad.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a feeling that this time lag is somewhat excessive in regard to these inquiries? Will he assure us that there is no hold up of information which may be of importance to operators?

I believe that what the public is to be assured upon is that we have tried to get at the truth, even though it takes a little longer to prepare the evidence.

Can the hon. Gentleman say why the investigation into the recent crash at Heathrow has not yet begun? There is no reason why all the evidence should not be available as there were no survivors recovering in hospital or things of that kind, which generally hold up inquiries.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is not aware of the amount of laboratory work, testing of metals, and so on, which goes on before an inquiry is started. If any hon. Member would like to see the sort of work involved, I would be glad to make arrangements for him to do so.

What research on metals was necessary in the case of the second crash, which appears to have been due to a navigational misjudgment while the aircraft was under G.C.A. control? Recordings of the G.C.A. control are made, we are told, and it does not seem necessary to have weeks and weeks of delay.

There may have been technical difficulties. It is very unwise to jump to the conclusions to which the hon. Member has jumped.

Administration

15.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he has yet decided to set up a Civil Aeronautics Board to control standards of safety, the issue of licences and the allocation of routes for civil aircraft.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that this system is in force in the United States with complete success? Is his opposition to it due to the fact that if adopted here it would probably mean the end of the Ministry, as being redundant?

If it were adopted here, as far as I follow the idea of the hon. and gallant Member, the only difference would be that the authority responsible for this work would not be subject to Questions from the hon. and gallant Member.

Safety Belts

16.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation how many people in the two recent civil aviation crashes in the United Kingdom died as a result of the pressure of safety belts.

The responsibility for ascertaining the cause of death rests with the coroner and I should not wish to anticipate his findings.

As it is clear that in one of these crashes 18 out of 28 were killed by pressure of safety belts and that belts have not improved in design over many years is it not time that something were done especially as jet aircraft are likely to reduce the fire hazard?

It is quite wrong for the hon. Member to make statements like that when there is no evidence to support them.

Commercial Pilots

18.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what was the number of licensed commercial pilots on 1st October, 1950; and what was the number on 1st October, 1947, respectively.

On 1st October, 1950, there were 1,616 holders of commercial, senior commercial or airline transport licences. On 1st October, 1947, there were 2,493 holders of "B" licences.

Austria (Soviet Action)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has given diplomatic support to the protest of the United States Government against the interference of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with Austrian police officials, in view of the fact that this interference is a violation of the Four-Power Occupation Agreement.

Yes, Sir. On 10th November, His Majesty's Government, in co-operation with the French and United States Governments, addressed a Note to the Soviet Government protesting against Soviet intervention to prevent the police from maintaining order during the recent Communist-inspired disturbances in Austria.

Does not the Occupation Agreement specifically place the responsibility on the Austrian Government for the maintenance of order?

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has given support to the demand of the Austrian Government that the five Austrian Communist police chiefs supported by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in Vienna, be dismissed; and what further action he has taken to uphold the authority of the Austrian Government.

Yes, Sir. The United Kingdom representative in the Allied Council at Vienna has, in co-operation with his French and United States colleagues, strongly supported the Austrian protest. His Majesty's Government has concerted action with the French and United States Governments and details will be published in the near future.

Did the Soviet authorities actually force the Austrians to hand over one of their public buildings to the Communists, as the Americans state in their protest?

If that were stated in their protest it would be a correct statement, but I have not the actual facts with me at the moment.

Antarctic Territory (Foreign Bases)

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many bases have been established by the Argentine and Chile in British antarctic territory; on what dates each of these was established; and what action he is taking to secure their removal.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 6th November to similar Questions on the same subject.

But did not that reply merely amount to a statement that these trespassers were to be left in possession until their Governments would condescend to litigate the matter at The Hague Court and is not that, in the present state of the world, a very dangerous precedent to establish?

Does the hon. Member want me to send warships there to drive them out immediately?

Lighthouse, Heligoland

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the wreck of a Swedish ship, s.s. "Ormen Friske," on a reef in the immediate vicinity of Heligoland, where the ship was sunk with all her crew; and whether he is prepared to meet the demand that a lighthouse should be built upon the island and that a lifeboat should be stationed there.

I have no clear evidence that the "Ormen Friske" was, in fact, wrecked in the immediate vicinity of Heligoland. The remains of the ship and the bodies of some of the crew were found on the Islands of Amrum and Pell-worm, some 30 miles away. The use of Heligoland as a bombing target precludes the installation of a lighthouse and lifeboat at present. I am advised that these are not essential for the safety of navigation.

Has the right hon. Gentleman received the petition of 31 shippers' associations, fishermen's unions and pilots' clubs asking that a lighthouse should be put upon the Island of Heligoland, as was always the case?

Yes, but it is being used for bombing purposes at the moment. The regular shipping routes are well marked with buoys.