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Ministry Of Aviation

Volume 644: debated on Monday 10 July 1961

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London Airport (Passenger Delays)


asked the Minister of Aviation what is the average number of minutes between the time that arriving passenger aircraft from abroad come to a standstill at London Airport and the completion of immigration formalities and the clearance by Customs of passengers and baggage.

Thirty-five minutes at the North Terminal; less than twenty at the Central Terminal.

The hon. Gentleman must be aware that this compares appallingly badly with the speed and efficiency with which passengers are handled in many foreign airports, particularly in Western Europe. Recently the average in Copenhagen was 11 minutes from touchdown to getting out of the terminal building. While appreciating that the British traveller and taxpayer are saddled with old-fashioned and inefficient airports, cannot the Minister now do something to speed up this anachronistic procedure?

I do not accept either the comparison or the comment. I do not think that the time is unreasonable. Many factors have to be taken into account, including the number of passengers, the type of aircraft, whether clearing Customs with baggage, and so on. Those are only average figures.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether any improvements will be made at the new terminal when it is ready? Will he look at the immigration procedure which sometimes causes a hold-up?

I think that times at the new long haul building should be better. Immigration is not a matter for my right hon. Friend.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the figures he has given are somewhat misleading, because at the peak hour—between six and seven o'clock—the figures are very much worse at the Central building? Will he impress on hon. Gentlemen opposite that they rushed into this business in 1946 in a desire to leave a lasting monument to themselves, without showing any imagination at all?

I do not think that I need offer any comment on the second part of the supplementary question, which speaks for itself. I was asked for the average figures, and I gave them. No doubt there are lots of other statistics, useless and otherwise, which we could give if requested.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if someone had not rushed in at that time there would not have been an airport building at all?


asked the Minister of Aviation if he will take steps to improve arrangements for the handling of passengers at London Airport.

Yes, Sir. It is a continuing process. At Heathrow the new long haul building will start being used this autumn. Alterations to the short haul building are in progress and an extension of the accommodation for domestic flights has already been completed.

We all very much wish it was a continuing and visible process. Is my hon. Friend aware that, unlike the natives of this island, tourists do not have to come back? The first impression made by London Airport is, therefore, of the highest importance. Far too often, quite apart from the limitations of buildings, the handling of passengers is slovenly and discourteous, and it is high time that this was polished up.

I think that that is an exaggerated comment. We are always trying to improve the position, and we accept that the way of handling passengers is extremely important. The trouble is that air traffic business has grown very rapidly, perhaps in some ways more rapidly than our ability to cope with it effectively, but I am sure that this new building and the new arrangements which are continually being brought into force are easing the position all the time.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the opinions expressed this afternoon are not wholly shared by everyone? The reception of passengers by our Customs authorities is a good deal better than in most parts of the world, and some people who complain might like to consider what happens to passengers in New York.

Will my hon. Friend look into one difficulty? When passengers arrive by taxi or private car they have to get out on the other side of the road and hump their bags across in between moving vehicles. This is rather disgraceful and it could be put right if the Minister got down to it.

London Airport (Advertisement)


asked the Minister of Aviation how much money he has received in rental for the site of the large whisky bottle advertisement at London Airport.

It would be contrary to established practice to disclose the details of a particular contract.

The hon. Gentleman cannot shelter behind that Answer. Are we not entitled to know what his right hon. Friend has sold our birthright for? Is he not aware of the disgust expressed by arrival and departure passengers at London Airport at this monstrous vulgar advertisement? Finally, may I ask whether this is the thin end of the wedge? Are we to expect monstrous advertisements such as this springing up all over London Airport? Why does not he pull it down?

What? London Airport? I cannot be drawn on the details of a particular advertisement or contract. I agree that this advertisement is not to everybody's taste.

Southampton-Jersey Service


asked the Minister of Aviation when he anticipates it will be possible to resume a direct passenger air service between Southampton and Jersey.

An air service licence would be required for this service. The decision whether or not to grant such a licence to any applicant is entirely a matter for the Air Transport Licensing Board and my right hon. Friend can express no view.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that there is a considerable demand for direct flights from Southampton to Jersey by reason particularly of the cessation of the steamer service between those two points? Will my hon. Friend co-operate in helping to remove the obstacles, including the lack of Customs facilities, which have hampered operations at Southampton Airport?

The first part of the supplementary question relates to matters which are the concern of the Air Transport Licensing Board. Customs are a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is the most convenient air route to the Channel Islands, and that its restoration would be a great boon both to Jersey and to holiday passengers to Jersey?

I have no doubt that this and all other relevant factors will be put to the Air Transport Licensing Board.

Space Vehicle Launchers (European Co-Operation)


asked the Minister of Aviation if he will now announce the terms on which European Governments have accepted Blue Streak.


asked the Minister of Aviation what decision has been reached concerning the use of Blue Streak as a satellite launcher; and what replies have been received from West Germany and other European countries concerned.


asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's proposals for a European organisation for the development of space vehicle launchers, in view of the Federal German Government's willingness in principle to participate in such an organisation.


asked the Minister of Aviation what stage has now been reached in the development and production of a satellite launcher on a co-operative basis; and if he will make a statement.

The Federal German Government have informed Her Majesty's Government that the Federal Republic is prepared in principle to take part in a European organisation for the development of space vehicle launchers. The final replies of the other Governments represented at the Strasbourg Conference are expected shortly. I hope that it will be possible soon to call a conference to draft a convention to establish an organisation along the lines of the Anglo-French proposals.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether this is the start of an organisation which will provide a much bigger market for British scientists and industrialists who are engaged in developing this sort of vehicle? Secondly, can he give an idea how far it is primarily a military and how far a civilian enterprise?

This is entirely a civilian enterprise. As regards the first part of the supplementary question, if the organisation comes into being I hope that it will provide new fields and new opportunities for our scientists and those of the other members.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this opens up an attractive prospect, but will he assure the House that the financial cost to this country of the scheme will be borne in mind? As I understand it, we are contributing Blue Streak which has cost in the region of £60 million already. It is said that we propose to take on about one-third of the burden of the remaining programme. Will the hon. Gentleman see to it that our collaborators bear at any rate an equitable part of this cost?

Under the Anglo-French proposals it was envisaged that the initial programme would cost about £70 million spread over five years, and that Her Majesty's Government would contribute one-third of the cost of the initial programme.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the other Governments concerned think that that amount of money over that period of time is adequate to start a worth-While space programme? Can he also say what steps will be taken to avoid any duplication of effort? Also, what is the future of Spadeadam and Woomera as a result of this?

We think that this will be sufficient to launch a worth-while programme. Other Governments will be contributing an appropriate percentage—for instance, the French Government 20·6 per cent. and the Federal German Government 19 per cent.—on the proposals as they now stand. I imagine that there will be considerable discussion about details at the conference and the precise percentage may depend on how many of the other Governments eventually contribute. I do not envisage duplication with any other organisation or any other work. We assume that Spadeadam will now carry on its good work. We certainly envisage the use of the Woomera facilities for the trials, and we also envisage Australia being a full member of the organisation.

Cheap Night Flights (Belfast)


asked the Minister of Aviation what applications the Air Transport Licensing Board have received for the operation of cheap night flights to Belfast; and if he will make a statement.

The Air Transport Licensing Board is an independent body, not responsible to my right hon. Friend. I understand that the Board will be pleased to supply my hon. Friend with this information if he asks them.

Has my hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the application to this Board by B.E.A. on the London-Scotland route at the rate of approximately 2d. a mile for off-peak flights? Is he aware that the cheapest for the Belfast run is almost 3½d. a mile for off-peak flights? Is he aware that B.E.A. has tremendous goodwill on this route? Will he draw the Board's attention to the need for such a service?

The need for this service is entirely a matter in the first instance for the operators. They make their applications to the Board and the Board fixes the fares. I do not think that there is anything more I can say at this stage.

Supersonic Aircraft


asked the Minister of Aviation if he will make a statement on the progress being made by the British Aircraft Corporation in the research contract for supersonic aircraft.

The British Aircraft Corporation is making satisfactory progress on the design study contract announced by my right hon. Friend on 27th October last. The contract covers about a year's work and so still has some time to run before the study is completed.

May we hope that we shall get a further announcement as a result of the completion of this contract at not too distant a date because, as I think the Parliamentary Secretary should agree, it is very important to reassure the industry that there is a real prospect of this major project going forward?

I am afraid that I cannot say when it will be possible to say anything further.