Air Commodore Harvey:
Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a strong feeling in some quarters that the regulations are relaxed for military helicopters, and will he give an assurance that, if civilian operators can find landing places such as that from which the Chief of the Imperial General Staff operates in Chelsea, they will be allowed to do so?
I am very glad that my hon. and gallant Friend has given me the opportunity of trying to clear up what 1 know to be a misconception. There is no reluctance on the part of my right hon. Friend to allow civilian helicopters to come into the centre of London, so long as they conform to the broad regulations, which provide that, in the event of an engine failure, a landing be made without risk to persons on the ground. Within these regulations, they have just as much latitude as Service helicopters, and the regulations, both Service and civilian, are broadly in line with each other.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that what is needed is a properly constructed helidrome somewhere on the banks of the Thames? When are we going to do something of that sort because until it is done there will be no suitable places for helicopters? What about Cannon Street Station, where very few people live.
We will certainly have a look at that suggestion. The trouble is that people live everywhere whether the area includes a railway station or not. We cannot progress any further in the construction of an air-stop at the cost of a very large sum of money, until we know the qualities of the twin-engined helicopter. At present we do not know them. The Sikorsky machine is not yet flying with twin engines.
I am afraid that that is a hypothetical question with me, because we have made no test on the Chelsea site which is a military site. I have reason to believe that if it was not a military site but a civil one it would broadly conform to the regulations laid down by my right hon. Friend.