R.a.F. Transport Command Aircraft (Incident)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26 October 1960.

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Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Lincoln 12:00, 26 October 1960

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he can make a statement about the incident involving the R.A.F. Comet in which Her Majesty the Queen was flying yesterday.

Photo of Mr George Ward Mr George Ward , Worcester

Her Majesty the Queen was returning yesterday from Copenhagen in a Comet of Royal Air Force Transport Command. At about 11 o'clock, when the aircraft was flying at a height of 35,000 feet near the Ems estuary, the co-pilot saw two fighters which approached the Comet head on and passed very close to it. These fighters appeared to bear the markings of the Federal German Air Force.

I have set up a board of inquiry with which officers of the Federal German Air Force will be associated and the incident will be fully investigated.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Lincoln

Since an inquiry is being held, there are few questions which would be appropriate now. There was no accident and we must all be grateful for that. However, will the Secretary of State impress upon the Minister of Aviation, who has these negotiations in hand, that this incident makes it even more urgent and important that there should be the strictest system of air traffic control in Western Europe for both military and civil aircraft?

Photo of Mr George Ward Mr George Ward , Worcester

Yes, Sir. As the hon. Member knows, one of the main objects of Eurocontrol is to ensure the safety of air navigation, both military and civil, in the upper air space. As my right hon. Friend told the House in June this year, a draft agreement has already been approved in principle.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Does not this show that those of us who opposed Germany ever having a Luftwaffe at all were abundantly justified?

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan

Is the Secretary of State not aware that the question of a unified system of control—for the whole of Europe, I hope—has been under the consideration of the Civil Air Traffic Control Advisory Committee for months and that a report on its findings has been given to the Committee responsible to the right hon. Gentleman's colleague, but that all that has happened is that the Air Traffic Control Board returned it to the Advisory Committee? It has been sent back to that Board, but changes in Ministers of Aviation have been so frequent that, evidently, no Minister has had time to get down to considering the report.

Photo of Mr George Ward Mr George Ward , Worcester

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation shares the anxiety of every hon. Member in the House to get this matter settled. Perhaps the hon. Member will address his questions to my right hon. Friend.