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Civil Aviation (Government Policy)

Volume 415: debated on Thursday 1 November 1945

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With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and the leave of the House I will make a brief summary of the Government's policy for civil aviation which will be stated more fully in another place by my Noble Friend.

The Government would welcome the fullest international co-operation in air transport. It is not practicable at the present time to form an international organisation for the ownership and operation of air transport services, and therefore the scheme which the Government now present to Parliament is necessarily a national plan. It is so framed that it can be fitted into any scheme of Commonwealth or international organisation which may be subsequently promoted. The Government adhere to the policy of trying to secure by international agreement "order in the air" that is agreement on frequencies and fares on international routes. It is the desire of the Government to reach international agreements which will prevent the payment of subsidies and competitive rate cutting.

Aerodromes: It is proposed that all transport aerodromes, that is aerodromes required for regular scheduled services, shall be acquired by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. It is not proposed to acquire non-transport aerodromes such as those used by clubs or for training or private flying.

Prestwick is to be designated as an international airport. Plans have been made for certain international services to be operated via Prestwick, the number to be dependent on traffic demands. The policy ensures that Scotland will be able to play its full part in civil aviation, with regard both to services and to airports, by the opportunities provided for internal services, services between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, and direct services between Scotland and overseas countries.

Organisation of air services: It is proposed to have three public corporations to operate all regular scheduled services within their assigned fields. One of these corporations will be the existing B.O.A.C. to which will be allotted the services between the United Kingdom and other parts of the British Commonwealth, the United States and the Far East. Another corporation will be set up to operate services between the United Kingdom and the continent of Europe, and also the internal British services. The third corporation will operate services between the United Kingdom and South America. Each of these corporations will be wholly financed out of Government funds. My Noble Friend will appoint the boards of the three corporations and will have the power to determine any appointment. If other corporations or subsidiaries of the main corporations should prove desirable they would be set up at a later date.

Co-operation with other forms of transport: The Government attach great importance to co-ordination between the air services and other forms of transport. The railway and shipping companies and the travel agencies will be invited to consider means of bringing about that coordination. But in the view of the Government this does not justify the assignment to surface interests of any financial holding in the proposed corporations.

Payment for assets: The Government will make fair payment for any physical assets that are taken over.

Temporary provisions: The policy which I have outlined will need legislation but in the meantime it is proposed that B.O.A.C. shall initiate external services throughout the whole world as trustee for the three corporations. It is proposed to strengthen the board of the B.O.A.C. The European and South American corporations and any other corporations that may prove necessary will in due course "hive off" from B.O.A.C.

As B.O.A.C. cannot undertake internal air service without an order by the Minister requiring a long and complicated procedure, the existing internal operators will be asked to continue until the corporations are formed.

Charter flying: The three corporations will be empowered to engage in charter flying but this field, unlike the scheduled services, will not be reserved exclusively to them. Private operators engaging in charter work will be required to conform with standards of safety and welfare.

Private and club flying and gliding: It is not proposed to lay any restrictions on private and club flying or gliding, except such as are needed for safety. My Noble Friend has been in consultation with the Secretary of State for Air about the lifting of the ban on civil flying contained in the Air Navigation (Restriction in Time of War) Orders. I am authorised to say that the ban will be removed on 1st January, 1946. In a few days, a joint announcement giving the details of the removal will be issued.

Brabazon Committee: It is proposed to keep the Brabazon Committee in existence to advise on users' requirements for new types of civil aircraft.

The Government present the House with a clear-cut policy which will enable civil aviation to avoid the mistakes into which other forms of transport fell in their early days.

It is the object of the Government to make air travel a normal mode of transport for the masses and not a form of luxury travel for the few. No policy will satisfy everyone but now that a clear decision has been taken the Government invite the House to support it in order to ensure that Great Britain gets into the air quickly and develops a civil aviation equal to any in the world. A fuller statement will be set out in a White Paper which is to be laid shortly.

May I say that we on this side of the House naturally welcome the hon. Gentleman's success in securing that a statement is made in this House? But I think we must point out straight away that there is nothing in the new statement of policy which will encourage our competitive position vis-à-vis the operators overseas. There ar two questions which I wish to put to the hon. Gentleman. Does he really believe that this separation of advice on operational control by railway and shipping interests and financial responsibility can possibly conduce to an effective national organisation? Were the railways and shipping companies consulted at all before the Government proposals were issued? Further, is it proposed that the users will now get into direct touch with the manufacturers of aircraft to order the aircraft they need?

The second question is covered by the answer given by the Prime Minister on the subject of the Ministry of Aircraft Production. I am convinced that the policy outlined is one which will enable us to compete with any other operators throughout the world. We have had consultations beforehand with the railways and shipping companies, but the policy which I have now outlined has not been disclosed to them. We have heard their point of view.

I suppose we shall have a full opportunity of talking this thing over. It is very difficult to take it all in. It is, however, a broad and plain policy, but we should like to be sure that the House will be able to discuss it after they have considered what has been laid before them.

I thought that question was probably inevitable, and had therefore considered it. I agree that in the light of the new and developing nature of this industry and this service it would be right that there should be a Debate and we propose to provide the necessary facilities.

Is it possible that, at this moment, the hon. Gentleman could be just a little more explicit about the struc- ture of these organisations, particularly the one dealing with internal services, in respect of the Government's standing?

The Government's standing will be absolute, but I would ask my hon. Friend to await the details which will be available in the White Paper shortly.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his statement about Prestwick will give considerable satisfaction in Scotland? That being so, will he ask his Noble Friend to consult with the Minister of Aircraft Production in order to make sure that Scotland will be given maintenance and productive work in connection with civil aviation?

That is a question which ought to be put to the Minister of Aircraft Production.

I do not wish to be tied down to a date, but on the understanding that I am not making a definite promise I think I can say that we possibly could make it available by the end of next week.

Will the White Paper contain a list of the municipal airports which it is proposed that the Ministry of Civil Aviation should take over; and, if not, will the hon. Gentleman see that such a list is published as early as possible, so that local authorities may know exactly how they stand?

Now that Prestwick is to be recognised as an international airport, is it to be under the supervision of the Government?

I have indicated that the Ministry of Civil Aviation will acquire and operate the aerodrome.