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Civil Aviation

Volume 530: debated on Wednesday 21 July 1954

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Helicopters

3.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what action he proposes to take to ensure that helicopter development and route flying experience is obtained in Scotland without undue delay to enable full use to be made of this form of transportation as soon as possible after the experimental period is over.

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

In view of the present relatively high cost of helicopter operations, the experimental programme cannot be extended without incurring unjustifiable expense to the taxpayer.

Is not the Minister aware that in Scotland there is great interest in helicopters? In order to stimulate development, which is always costly, would he not try a few experimental flights between Edinburgh or Glasgow and the more inaccessible parts, like the Western Isles, because many American tourists would pay a lot of money to go on one or two of them?

I am aware of the very widespread interest in helicopters all over the British Isles, but the problems of helicopter flying in particular areas, once the basic problems have been resolved, will probably be overcome in the course of operation and will not of themselves require a separate experimental programme?

Air Terminal, Glasgow

5.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation the cost of the Glasgow air terminal.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that while the air terminal provides very attractive new facilities for air travel in Scotland, it completely fails, despite the considerable sum of money expended on it, to provide left-luggage facilities? Will the Minister draw the attention of the B.E.A. to this omission?

I am informed that there are facilities for leaving luggage at this terminal. This is not as widely known as it might be. I am sure that the B.E.A. would be glad to consider any suggestion that the hon. Member might like to put to them in this matter.

Internal Air Services (Speke And Hawarden)

11.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what safety considerations preclude the inauguration of a Viscount or Pionair passenger air service between London and the North-West, notably Liverpool, Merseyside, Wrexham and North Wales areas; and to what extent Speke and Hawarden Airports are safe for such facilities.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "None, Sir." Speke is safe for Pionairs, but its runways would need strengthening for regular use by Viscounts, while Hawarden, although safe for Pionairs, is unsuitable for Viscounts.

Can my hon. Friend say, since he has now exhausted every possible excuse for not having an air service to the North-West, what initiative he is prepared to take to bring together all the interested parties with a view to ending the discrimination that exists in this part of the country, in view of the fact that it is the only important industrial area in England which has no form of air service at all?

I know that my hon. Friend appreciates that this is not entirely a matter for my right hon. Friend who has no power to order B.E.A. to run a route which, in its commercial judgment, would not be profitable. However, I feel sure that the Chairman of B.E.A. would be prepared to receive the deputation of interested hon. Members and to discuss the subject with them.

Is the Minister aware that aircraft on the London-Belfast air service pass directly over North Wales, and particularly over the airport at Hawarden? Could not arrangements be made for certain of these aircraft to stop at Hawarden?

I do not imagine that that would make the operation any more profitable.

19.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what objections he has raised to the use of Speke Airport, Liverpool, for scheduled passenger air services between that airport and London.

Having regard to my hon. Friend's answer to previous Questions on this subject, will he really ask his right hon. Friend to give sympathetic consideration to the considerable demand for an air service between London and Liverpool?

I do not think that I can add to what I have already suggested, which is that hon. Friends who are particularly interested might go and see Lord Douglas on this very important matter.

20.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what representations he has received concerning helicopter landing sites, in the centre or docks of Liverpool, for a feeder-service in the event of Speke Airport being used for a scheduled London—Liverpool air service.

The hon. Member has himself drawn my attention to the possibility of developing vacant land in the Liverpool Docks area for use by helicopters. The Liverpool Corporation has also consulted my Department on a proposal for a combined bus station and helicopter site in the central area of the city.

May I ask my hon. Friend what his right hon. Friend's views are in regard to these representations—whether he is encouraging as regards them or not?

As I informed the hon. Member, we feel that it is much too early to come to any definite conclusion as to the size of helicopter landing sites. We also feel that we should warn local authorities that it may be too early for them to go into very considerable expenditure. At the same time we are passing on to interested local authorities any information we glean to try to help them in this important matter.

Helicopter Services

12.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what discussions he has had, and with what results, in regard to the inauguration of experimental helicopter services between Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester with a branch link to London; what objections on grounds of noise he has considered from persons or bodies in these cities or others and whether he will now make a statement upon proposed experimental fare-paying helicopter passenger services between any or all of the cities named.

My right hon. Friend has no proposals for increasing the number of experimental helicopter services undertaken at public expense beyond the one allotted to the Helicopter Experimental Unit of British European Airways. Consequently, he has had no discussions on the experimental network to which the Question refers. Nor has he received any objections on the grounds of noise.

Reverting to the question of Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, is this not the most fruitful area of the country for experiments in helicopter services, notably in view of the rather unsatisfactory train service and the much too great a length of time it takes to get from Birmingham or Liverpool or Manchester by rail?

We think that the experiments which are going to be carried out between the centre of London and London Airport will give us the basic information now required in order to speed up the development of helicopters, and we believe that the cost of additional helicopter experimental services would be extremely high and out of all proportion to any value they might have in supplementing the national development programme now being undertaken.

Will the Minister bear in mind that, whatever arguments may be adduced in favour of a helicopter service, those of us who have to use the railway service between London and Birmingham find it extremely satisfactory?

Greatham Aerodrome

21.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when the deputation from Tees-side organisations, which met him on 1st June last in connection with Greatham Aerodrome, can expect a reply to their representations.

22.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what reply he has made to the letter sent to him on 15th July by the secretary of the Tees-side Industrial Development Board concerning the suspension of overseas air services from Greatham Aerodrome.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have been fully into the representations made to me on 1st June, and I regret to say that the Government must now reaffirm that they cannot see their way to altering their decision that Customs facilities at Greatham Aerodrome cannot be renewed. We have only just reached this conclusion, after giving every consideration to the weighty arguments advanced by the important delegation that came to see me, and I am replying in these terms to the letter from the Tees-side Development Board.

Does the Minister realise that that reply will cause dismay and despondency on both sides of the Tees? Already a number of services have been withdrawn completely, and the proposal that Greatham Aerodrome will now have to close down completely means that there will be no facilities for air services from this very heavily industrialised part of the country.

The Government have felt obliged to reaffirm the view that Customs facilities can be provided only where the traffic is sufficient to justify the full-time occupation of Customs officers, or where there is no other Customs airport in the area. Although I recognise the great importance of Teesside in the aviation field, I am afraid that this aerodrome does not qualify.

Is the right hon. Gentleman now announcing a new Government policy—that the question of whether or not there are to be overseas services from an important industrial area is to be determined by the convenience of the Board of Customs and Excise and not by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation?

No, Sir. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, there have been Customs facilities for some experimental years. Had the traffic offering been such as to justify the full-time employment of Customs officers a very different decision would have been arrived at. The traffic offering has not justified it, and in view of the need for strict scrutiny of all public expenditure the Government have arrived at this conclusion.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that this decision will limit the possibilities of civil aviation on Tees-side very severely indeed, and has he not a special responsibility to see that it is maintained and expanded?

My right hon. Friend will know that I am deeply interested in this question as it affects the Ramsgate Airport at Thanet. Could he not stretch that test slightly further and say that it will not only be whether the Customs is sufficient but whether there is a reasonable expectation of such Customs being sufficient, and that if one can say that one can succeed in getting the necessary Customs facilities? I thought that was the position.

That is, in fact, the principle which has been applied in this particular case.

26.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will make a statement about the future use of Greatham Aerodrome.

The future use of the aerodrome at Greatham can only be decided by the county borough of West Hartlepool, to whom it belongs.

Has not the action taken by the Ministry and the Treasury already struck a fatal blow to the use of this aerodrome, and is not this another case where the needs of his Department have been subordinated to the needs of the Treasury, and should not the Parliamentary Secretary resign in protest?

No, Sir. In this, as in all other decisions, Her Majesty's present Government are at one.

Will not the hon. Gentleman agree that the experiment conducted at Greatham Aerodrome in relation to the provision of Customs facilities over the last two years has not cost the Treasury a single penny because it has been paid for by the operators?