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Civil Aviation

Volume 894: debated on Monday 23 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he plans to publish the Government review of civil aviation policy; and, if so, what form such publication will take.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will now publish the result of his review of the policy guidelines for the regulation of civil aviation.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on his proposed amendments to the guidelines for civil aviation.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he expects to announce the outcome of the review of commercial civil aviation which has been taking place.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he expects to announce the results of the civil aviation review.

The report which has been submitted to me represents the advice of my officials. Meetings will now be arranged with the parties mainly concerned and I intend to make a statement in this House as soon as possible.

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to give the House some idea about when the statement may be made? Will he accept that many right hon. and hon. Members hope that the statement will not be dribbled out in the last few days before we go into recess at the end of next month? Does he agree that the absence of such a statement continues to generate uncertainty in the industry? Perhaps he will take this opportunity to re-emphasise his support for the second force airline.

I should regret it very much if parts or the whole of the review dribbled out. That is not my intention. We are studying it carefully, and I am anxious to make a statement as soon as I can. I am very much aware of the hon. Gentleman's points about taking full account of the inevitable uncertainties which exist until Government policy is revealed.

Would the right hon. Gentleman like to take this opportunity to answer the question which I addressed earlier to the Under-Secretary about the introduction of supersonic flying routes in this review? If the right hon. Gentleman finds himself unable or unwilling to publish the whole report, will he consider publishing the statistical data submitted by the parties on which he will reach his conclusions? Finally, does he agree that it would be the worst of all worlds if public money were used, either as an investment or by nationalisation, to finance the operations of the second force to compete with the public money already in British Airways?

The hon. Gentleman has asked a series of quite interesting questions. First, I cannot help him very much, for the obvious reason that the report has not yet been published and, like the hon. Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie), I should not want bits of it to dribble out. I shall consider the hon. Gentleman's second suggestion about the statistical data to see whether I can help.

As for the hon. Gentleman's point about Government money being put into the second force, as he describes it, and his views on that, I should prefer not to comment beyond making the obvious point that his view on this does not seem to accord with that of many people associated with the second force airline.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that I welcome his plans to consult those whom he calls interested parties? I hope that they will be not only us here in Parliament but the passengers who find themselves in Europe having to pay two or three times as much to travel by air as they would if they wished to travel in identical aircraft in the United States. Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that these guidelines will look after the passenger and not only the Department?

Obviously I cannot guarantee to talk to a representative body of passengers. I am not sure whether such a representative body exists. But I take into account in all my thinking the interests of the passenger as well as the airlines involved.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that some of us are interested not only in the survival of British Caledonian Airways but in its future progress? When he considers this matter, will he accept that, if there were to be any question of revocation of the licences already granted to that company to such places as Toronto, Atlanta and Bahrein, that could lead to strangulation, which would only be confirmation of the policy which some of us suspect will be forthcoming from the Secretary of State?

That again would be to anticipate, and I am not prepared to do that. One of the central features that we have to consider is the role and future of the second force concept as it emerged some five years ago. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall give very careful thought to that.

Before the right hon. Gentleman comes to any conclusions, will he accept that the security guaranteed by public money, world-wide prestige and operational cross-subsidy are inherent advantages of State ownership, and that if conditions of genuinely fair competition are to be assured for a second force airline full account must be taken of this in his review?

I shall take account of all relevant factors in seeking to make what I hope will be the correct decision.

Will the review include consideration of the present position whereby an airline can obtain a licence for a route but is then denied designation on that route? Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the results of the review will not produce a fait accompli for this House and that we shall have an opportunity to debate the matter before final decisions are reached?

I cannot promise a debate before I make the statement. But I should be very anxious for the House to debate the matter on the basis of a statement and wish that to be done. As for the hon. Gentleman's other point about licences and designation, I think that there may be some observations on that matter, although I cannot accept the implication in what he said.