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Customs Facilities

Volume 527: debated on Wednesday 5 May 1954

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31.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what action he proposes to take in those cases where the Air Transport Advisory Council have granted licences to private operators to operate air services between this country and the Continent, and he has approved of the decision, but where the operators find that, in consequence of the refusal of the customs authorities to grant facilities for Customs clearance, the additional burden imposed upon them makes the operation of the proposed service uneconomic.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
(Mr. John Profumo)

Before such services are approved, companies are told where they will have to clear Customs and are asked whether they are prepared to operate on these terms. Services are approved only when companies accept these arrangements.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Air Transport Advisory Council granted this licence for five years, and that that was subsequently approved by the Minister? Having regard to the fact that the initiative in determining the pattern of this country's air services has passed to the Treasury, will the hon. Gentleman suggest to his right hon. Friend that the Air Transport Advisory Council ought to be abandoned and he ought to resign?

No, Sir, I could not possibly accept either of those suggestions. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to correct what I know is a misapprehension. The sequence of events is as follows. If the Air Transport Advisory Council submit to the Minister a service which is accepted by the Minister, provisional agreement is then made in a letter which lays down perfectly clearly what the conditions are, and only if the company accepts them does the Minister finally approve. In the case of the company which the hon. Gentleman has in mind, it was told that it would have to clear the Customs at Newcastle, and it was on those terms that the company finally agreed,

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that the licence was granted for a period of five years and that in the year which has passed Customs facilities were available at Greatham; and that apparently without very much consultation with anyone the Treasury authorities decided to withdraw the Customs, imposing an additional burden on this private charter company compared with last year?

No, Sir. The agreement which was approved was conditional on the company accepting the fact that it would have to clear the Customs at Newcastle, and it was on those conditions that it accepted in the first place.

32.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what action he proposes to take in those cases where local authorities have, with the active encouragement of his Department, spent large sums of money on the development of airports but now find themselves, in consequence of the refusal of the Customs authorities to grant Customs facilities, with airports that cannot become economically self-supporting, and threaten to cut their losses by closing them down.

The question of granting Customs facilities at any aerodrome is always, and always must be, judged on the merits of each case, and is bound to be related to the volume of traffic using, and expected to use, the aerodrome.

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that for several years since 1938 his Ministry has encouraged the local authority at West Hartlepool as strongly as possible to develop this airport at Greatham; that it has spent over £50,000; and that now as a result of the action of the Customs officials it is not likely in any circumstances to be an economic proposition?

I cannot accept those implications. No undue encouragement has been given by my Department since the war for money to be spent by this or any other local authority on aerodromes. The chief encouragement in this case rendered by the Government has been the granting of Customs facilities on an experimental basis for a trial period, the conditions of which were made clear to the local authority concerned.