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Flight Safety

Volume 974: debated on Tuesday 27 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the total number of mid-air collisions in 1979; how this figure compares with the previous years; and if he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force
(Mr. Geoffrey Pattie)

There has been one mid-air collision involving RAF aircraft in 1979, which occurred near Wisbech. This was the first since 1976, when there were two; one involving two Harriers and the other two Gnat trainers. I shall make a full statement on the circumstances of the Wisbech accident at the earliest opportunity.

Does the Minister feel that he should reconsider his policy of supplying information? Does he accept that those on the ground at Wisbech have a right to know how the accident happened and how similar accidents might be averted? Above all, will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, to the people of Wisbech, 10 weeks to find the results and to report on the findings of a commission of inquiry seems a very long time?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the procedure in accidents of this sort is to establish a board of inquiry. The board was convened, and it has recently been reconvened to check certain detailed matters. It would be wrong for the people of Wisbech, or any other part of the United Kingdom, to expect such proceedings to be unnecessarily expedited. I think that the hon. Gentleman will be aware, if he is concerned about matters of flight safety, that I wrote to him on 24 October offering to arrange a special briefing for him. That offer is still open.