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Air Mail (Carriage Rates)

Volume 498: debated on Wednesday 9 April 1952

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asked the Assistant Postmaster-General in what way the rate paid by his Department for the carriage of air mail varies from the international rate agreed by the Universal Postal Union.

The internationally agreed rates are maximum figures and apply only where a postal administration uses a foreign air line. So far as first-class mails of United Kingdom origin are concerned, rates paid for the use of foreign carriers vary from 2.43 to 5.25 gold francs per tonne-kilometre, according to the route and carrier. The rates paid to British carriers vary from the sterling equivalent of 2.9 to 5.32 gold francs per tonne-kilometre.

Can the hon. Gentleman say how that rate compares with the internal rate pound for pound per cargo?

Yes. It is, so far as B.O.A.C. is concerned, five-and-a-half times the freight rate, and so far as B.E.A. is concerned, two-and-a-half times the freight rate.


asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what rate is paid to British European Airways for mail on international services and on internal services respectively; and how these two rates compare with that paid to foreign airlines.

I assume that my hon. Friend refers to letter mails of United Kingdom origin. The rate paid to British European Airways is 132 pence per long ton/mile for international services; the rate paid to foreign air lines similarly to European destinations, is 3.0 gold francs per tonne-kilometre, equivalent to 137 pence per ton-mile. On internal services, British European Airways are the sole carrier; the rate paid varies on different routes, but is based on the freight rate, plus 33⅓ per cent.

Is the Minister aware that if British European Airways received payments equal to that paid to their foreign competitors by the Post Office, their revenue would be increased by over £60,000 a year? Why is this preference given to foreign airlines over British airlines?

Does the Assistant Postmaster-General realise that subsidising British airlines is consequently subsidising the Post Office?

Does the hon. Gentleman also agree that whereas this rate for air freight is higher than that for ordinary cargo, a priority is required for air freight which does not apply to ordinary cargo?

As indicated by these supplementary questions, there is very strong controversy on the question of whether or not British European Airways are subsidised by the Post Office or vice versa.

Is it not a fact that B.E.A. are making a profit on the present rates?

In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.