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Seat Allocation (Priority)

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1947

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation whether he is aware that the method of priority allocations of air passage is causing inconvenience and dissatisfaction to those engaged in developing our export trade by last minute cancellations and rushed arrangements; and if he will inquire into this matter with a view to altering this system.

I am aware that inconvenience may be caused to a passenger who is displaced at short notice by someone with a higher priority. I am afraid that this is from time to time inevitable under the present system, the whole purpose of which is to ensure that the passenger whose business is of the greatest importance to the national effort, including our export trade, goes first. In regard to the second part of the Question, priority allocations are under my personal review week by week as chairman of the London Priorities Board.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the cases I have in mind concern business men from Sheffield who have suffered great inconvenience through the last minute cancellation of seats in aeroplanes and will he tell the House what constitutes priority r and priority 2? Will he lift the veil of secrecy which seems to be over this system?

There is no secrecy at all in regard to the system. Priorities are necessary because of the demand and the small capacity with which to meet it. Where there is a person of higher priority, it is virtually a necessity of the priority system that another person shall stand down. Priority I relates to the diplomatic standard—Ministers or foreign Ministers—and there are very few; priority 2 refers to persons travelling for the export trade and other work of high national importance; and priority 3 is of lesser importance. Those priorities are determined by the sponsoring Departments.

How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile that statement with the fact that these business men are going abroad for the express purpose of increasing our export trade which, I thought, was high priority? In addition, when they have made all their plans and arrangements and are called to the airport at a later date, very often they find that the aeroplane is half-empty.

That is a statement often made. I have not yet, although I have asked repeatedly in this House, had information in regard to plane, date and service of an aircraft in which those circumstances apply. If, in fact, the hon. Member can give me any information at all, I shall give it my personal attention and inquiry.