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Volume 889: debated on Monday 24 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what steps he is taking to persuade the United States authorities to fulfil their obligations under the Bermuda Agreement so as to enable Laker Airways Limited to receive its Skytrain licence.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade what representations he has made to the American aviation authorities on the subject of the Skytrain project.

As my right hon. Friend stated in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) on 21st March, Skytrain is to be considered as part of our review of civil aviation.

Does the Minister accept that that is a rather disappointing reply? We had hoped for more action in this matter.

It would be palpably absurd, having regard to the recommendations of the Civil Aviation Authority in relation to the market reaching a healthy state, which it did not expect would happen for about 12 months, for us to do other than I have said, particularly in view of our own policy review.

Can the Minister do anything to assure us that the heart of the Government and the heart of the Secretary of State for Trade really are in the Skytrain project, and that he will not be deterred from pressing the United States authorities simply because Mr. Laker is what might be called a buccaneer of private enterprise?

With respect, those are not the relevant considerations. The fact is that Skytrain would be a scheduled service, and one of the main questions in our policy review is to determine what part publicly-owned and privately-owned airlines should play in regard to scheduled services.

Does the Minister accept that he has a duty to ensure that treaty obligations are observed? What does he propose to do about the CAA's statement? We are conscious also that the only reason why the Skytrain service has not been operated for the past two years is that the United States authority has engaged in unconscionable procrastination. What action has the hon. Gentleman taken and what action does he propose to take now in the light of the CAA's statement?

I answered several Questions about that at this Department's last Question Time, when I agreed that there had been unconscionable delay on the part of the FAA in America in arriving at its decision. What I am saying now is that we would expect the American authorities not to take any adverse action which might damage and prejudice our rights under the Air Services Agreement. We have made that absolutely plain. For the reasons that I have already adduced, however, which I think, with respect, are very reasonable, we are not proposing to take the matter any further than that for the present.