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Civil Aviation (Review)

Volume 884: debated on Monday 13 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will now make a statement about his review of civil aviation.

The review is continuing, and I hope that it will be completed in the spring.

Will the Minister say a little more about the constitution of the review board, about the way in which the airlines are to be consulted, and on the question whether Parliament is to receive any sort of Green Paper about the future of the airlines?

The consultations will be very wide, covering the whole of the industry. My right hon. Friend will consider the report when it is available, in order to determine whether the whole of the report should be published and what action we should take. Parliament will therefore be fully consulted on the matter.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that many of us on the Government side are still opposed to the whole concept of a second force private enterprise airline? Will he bear in mind also that many of us strongly opposed the way in which British Overseas Airways Corporation's routes were handed over to British Caledonian without compensation, and will he recognise that merely handing those routes back will only mean the collapse of an airline and, perhaps, about 5,000 redundancies? Does my hon. Friend now accept that the most sensible way out of this rather stupid dilemma is the nationalisation of British Caledonian?

We are looking carefully into the matters about which my hon. Friend and many others of my hon. Friends have expressed strong views in the past. But that goes to the very heart of the review, and it would be impossible for me at this stage to comment upon the points which my hon. Friend has raised. The question of nationalisation, of course, is a much wider issue.

Will the Under-Secretary of State give three undertakings: first, that as much as possible of the evidence which is given and of the report of the inquiry will be published; second, that we shall have it, if at all possible, in the form of a Green Paper, so that the House may discuss it without being pressurised on the issues one way or another; and third, that the whole business will be carried out as quickly as possible, in order to end some of the present uncertainty in the industry?

I have already undertaken that my right hon. Friend or I will report to the House fully on this matter once the report is in our hands. On the second point, the hon. Gentleman should not be so impatient. We shall consider the request for a Green Paper, and we shall make our decision at the appropriate time. It is not possible for us to make that decision now. I certainly undertake that the inquiry will be conducted as rapidly as possible, but it must be a thorough inquiry, and that is how it will be done.