§ 3.52 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
I beg to move,That this House, in reviewing the progress of Civil Aviation, takes note of the Reports and Accounts of the British Overseas Airways Corporation and the British European Airways Corporation for the year ended 31st March. 1952.I know that it will not have escaped the attention of hon. Members on both sides of the House that for seven of the 12 months under review we had a Socialist Government in power. The Motion that I am moving now is in what is almost time-honoured form, though usually when the Reports have been discussed in the House—the Reports of the two Corporations—it has been in debates on Supply; but the actual phrasing that we are using today returns to the phrases used when other nationalised corporations have been under discussion in the House. I am glad that we have expanded the Motion today a little and added the phrase… in reviewing the progress of Civil Aviation.…This is done to meet the request of the Opposition, through the usual channels, that there should be a wider review possible than if we were strictly limited to the Reports of the Corporations for the year ended on 31st March last.
I have been Minister of Civil Aviation, along with being Minister of Transport, only for a very few months, and I am glad to know—at least, I understand—that the only other commoner ever to hold my office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay), is likely also to take part in this debate. It is not without significance that it falls to the Conservative Party to have two commoners to represent this Department from time to time in the House of Commons.
One side of the work which it falls to me to discharge is of more than usual interest to me, and that is the development, as far as the United Kingdom is concerned, of safe and speedy transport between the United Kingdom and the various countries of the British Commonwealth, and I, as a recent Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, am very glad that two events of great Imperial importance have happened during the Recess 1936 and while I have been Minister of Civil Aviation.
The first was the visit to this country a few weeks ago of my friend and colleague Mr. Anthony, the Postmaster-General and Minister for Civil Aviation in the Commonwealth of Australia. I should like to assure him and his fellow countrymen of the great impression that he made on all with whom he came into contact through the charm of his personality and the great knowledge and authority he commands over the field for which he is responsible. While Mr. Anthony was here, he and I, with our various advisers and my colleagues, took the opportunity of reviewing the various partnerships in which the United Kingdom and Australia are both interested.
These include, in particular, the longstanding arrangement on the United Kingdom-Australia route via India and Malaya known generally as the Kangaroo Route—the partnership between British Overseas Airways Corporation and Qantas Empire Airways—and at the same time we took the opportunity of looking also at the tripartite organisation between the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand epitomised in the British Commonwealth Pacific Airways and Tasman Empire Airways, in both of which also New Zealand, of course, has a very great interest.
In the unavoidable absence here of a New Zealand representative the discussions between Mr. Anthony and myself focused mainly, naturally, on the B.O.A.C. and Qantas Empire Airways partnership, but we did also discuss the problems connected with the development of a Commonwealth round-the-world service in which these three countries of the British Commonwealth, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, are deeply interested, and for which the British Empire is quite uniquely placed. It is to me a matter of immense importance that, while recording achievements on the existing routes, we should not lose sight of further opportunities of Imperial integration that other routes may in the forthcoming years provide.
The development of this service to the best possible advantage will involve close integration of the present operations of the British Overseas Airways Corporation and Qantas Empire Airways with the trans-Pacific operations serving New 1937 Zealand and Australia and also with the projection of the British Overseas Airways Corporation's North Atlantic service through to San Francisco, for which the Bermuda Agreement signed between ourselves and the United States had provided.
The arrangements ultimately to be made, involving, as they do, matters of great national importance to these three British territories, may take some time to develop, but I am quite sure—and here I know that I can speak for any alternative Government that may from time to time have a chance of taking our place—that the encouraging process that has always been made in these inter-Imperial affairs will lead, through genuine co-operation, to the benefit of Imperial air transport development, and further widen the sphere of our existing Imperial co-operation; and I can assure all hon. Members and Her Majesty's Government in Australia that the visit of Mr. Anthony did a great deal of good in showing the similarity of approach between our two Governments and the close links that bind us together in the desire to see ever-growing Imperial association.
The other Imperial aspect of my responsibilities which it has fallen to me to discharge in the last few months has been to attend the opening session of the Colonial Civil Air Conference. This was a most memorable occasion. On that occasion, during September, during the Parliamentary Recess, matters of joint concern to all the colonial civil aviation authorities were discussed. I, myself, was very glad indeed to meet again a large number of people who were old friends of mine, and with whom in recent years from the Colonial Office I have been brought into close personal contact. It is my belief that in the blending of public and private enterprise in the field of aviation lies the best hope for the development of our Imperial communication.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am coming to that. As a Scotsman I am not likely to forget it. Even if I did forget it, there are many here who would remind me, so that I am not likely to be able to forget it.
We discussed, among many other issues, the provision of small aircraft, 1938 which are often in danger of being forgotten when we discuss so largely the great lievathans of the air. The colonial authorities made quite clear their obvious interest in planes like the Princes, the Herons and the Doves for their own territories, and the chance of developing within their own spheres the aviation services on which their future destiny in a large part depends.
This second Colonial Civil Aviation Conference took place on the morrow of the great Farnborough aviation display, with its unrivalled exhibition of British craftsmanship. It was almost immediately after the tragedy that marred that meeting, and I know it is the feeling of this House and of all who came from all over the British Commonwealth to that conference that, tragic though that disaster was, it must not be allowed to diminish our respect for the skill and devotion of the designers and craftsmen, and the superb courage of the pilots and the flying test observers who flew at Farnborough, and who are flying all the time in a ceaseless effort to unravel the mysteries of the air.
From talking to Colonial visitors I know something of their immense admiration for the continuing interest and day-to-day productivity of the old firms in British aviation, firms like De Havilland, Handley Page, and many others, which, being pioneers, are still in the van of our aeronautical developments. They refuse to be put off by difficulties, disappointments and tragedies, and they never lose sight of the objectives.
Some of my colleagues went down to Farnborough after the exhibition and attended the memorial service, as I did, in one of the tents which only a day or two before had had an exhibition of aircraft engines. I think that all who were there must have felt that the great prayer of Francis Drake, which most happily was used on that occasion, was never more appropriately used than in that memorial service to those of our fellow countrymen to whom has been, given a chanceto endeavour any great matter"—and surely the conquest of the air for peaceful purposes is a very great matter—that they should knowthat it is not the beginning but the continuing in the same until it be thoroughly finished which yieldeth the true glory.1939 I myself felt on that occasion that pioneers and many now doing these great deeds of heroism were there together in a common service.
This Colonial Civil Air Conference was the second of its kind that has been held. It fell to the credit of the Opposition to call the first ever Colonial Civil Air Conference in 1947, and I should like to congratulate my colleagues on the other side of the House for their good sense in doing so. When they called that Civil Air Conference it was then considered a miracle that one could fly from the United Kingdom to Johannesburg in 78 hours. That was in 1947. Last year one could do the same journey in 33 hours. This year, by Comet one can do it in 23 hours. Day by day the people of the British Empire are being brought ever closer together, and if we believe, as I do most profoundly, that on their integration depends in a large part the survival of the free world, we look with immense respect and delight to the ever-growing unity of the Empire through civil aviation.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
If the hon. Gentleman went somewhat more often round the British Commonwealth or Empire, he would find that the more robust word "Empire" had a good many friends outside the United Kingdom.
We owe a lot to these Commonwealth or Empire Governments for the work that they are doing in helping our Imperial communication. To the Government of East Africa we owe a great deal for the help that they have given in building up the Safari Service, which through private operations is bringing a large number of people home to the United Kingdom—as they do still regard it—who otherwise could not afford to travel. All of those present at this conference realised, I think, what apparently, judging by the wording of the Amendment which I understand is to be moved, some Members of the House do not realise, namely, that the British Government realise the immense importance of the two great British Corporations, British Overseas Airways and British European Airways. We regard these Corporations as 1940 indispensable parts of our civil air effort.
We are today discussing, among other things, the Reports of these two Corporations. I am Minister of Civil Aviation, which includes public and private effort. I am not Minister for any one sector but the Minister responsible for trying to create the conditions under which the people of this country get the best service, to which they are entitled, whether by public or by private action.
I was very glad to be able to accede to the request of the two Chairmen of the Corporations—which I gather has been made for quite a time—that they should be allowed to publish their Reports on separate days, because they are separate trading entities. We know that under present conditions the Press has a great deal of difficulty in finding enough space to deal adequately with many matters, and if the affairs of two Corporations are discussed on the same day, very often the net amount of space available is not as good as if they were discussed on different days. Although if hon. Members look at the two Reports they will see that they were presented to Parliament and ordered to be printed the same day, they were in fact published on different days.
These two Reports make very interesting reading. They speak for themselves. It is the duty of the Minister to create those conditions under which Corporations and private enterprise can alike flourish. Where I think the Corporations are wrong I would say so, just as they feel quite free to criticise the action of the Government of the day, whether it be on airmail rates, or anything else.
No one reading these two Reports can fail to realise certain significant facts. If I might, I should like briefly to deal with various aspects of the two Corporations, taking first the British Overseas Corporation. Up to 1949–50, this Corporation was running nearly £8 million a year in deficit. In the next two years, by almost Herculean leaps, it has got out of the red and has now this year, for the first time, made a substantial profit.
I am delighted to congratulate them on that great achievement. I should like to congratulate all associated with British Overseas Airways Corporation on this result. First and foremost, the Chairman himself, Sir Miles Thomas, whose 1941 immense drive and leadership has played a large part in this highly successful result, and all those concerned with the Corporation whether on the ground or in the air, on the various routes throughout the world, who, by their joint efforts, have brought honour to British aviation.
The Corporation have made it quite plain to what they attribute this "happy turn of events"—the steady equipment of their services with modern and good aeroplanes—and we welcome this. We welcome the great achievements of the Comet which have brought such honour to our country, and the forthcoming supply of Britannias, on which also we pin great faith.
We welcome, too, the other causes of this achievement: the concentration, under Sir Miles Thomas's leadership, of the maintenance bases of B.O.A.C., a re-organisation which has led to some drastic but wholly worth-while economies, the vast increase in individual output for which everyone working for B.O.A.C. is entitled to take their own share of personal credit, the sales drive and the steady insistence on commercial consideration which have made this, though a State-owned enterprise, a thoroughly businesslike operation.
We welcome their achievements and give credit to them, and I know that I speak for all my colleagues when I say that we are not concerned with ideological considerations when dealing with our present problems, but only with that form of service which can provide the best aid to our country in these very difficult times.
Anyone who goes along the London Airport routes and sees the great cantilever building being erected, stage by stage, at which B.O.A.C. will place their various activities, will realise that while the cost of this building will year by year be paid back by the Corporation to the taxpayer, it is evidence of the confidence of the Corporation in their survival and of all British Governments in their essential need.
The other great international airport which affects B.O.A.C. is, of course, the second international airport in the United Kingdom, and that is Prestwick. We had lately quite a lengthy debate on Scottish transport, which was followed by another debate in which Scottish transport occupied quite a lot of time. I hope in a few 1942 days' time to pay my second visit as Minister to Prestwick, and I shall be very glad to do so. I am glad to know that all but the Stratocruisers can, without regard to wind conditions, use the existing, adequate facilities of Prestwick, but I am sorry to note that in the year under review some 5 per cent. of the Stratocruisers had to overfly Prestwick. I can only repeat what I have said in Prestwick, that it is the continuous intention of Her Majesty's Government, as it was of their predecessor, to proceed with the development of Prestwick as the second airport of the United Kingdom as fast as the investment programme allows.
While in Prestwick, I saw with great interest very little, but something, of the new tourist service which has brought such a vivid change in the pattern of aircraft transport over the Atlantic in the last year. Of the 40,000 people carried at tourist rates, which are 32 per cent. less than the ordinary rates, B.O.A.C. last year carried nearly 13,000 or, to be exact, 12,800. As hon. Members know, from time to time tourists have forms to fill up in the aeroplane, and it is our impression that out of every 100 people who came that way in the year under review, 70 would never have crossed the Atlantic at all had it not been for the existence of the tourist service. They either could not have afforded the money to fly to us, or they could not have afforded the time to come cheaply by sea, and this tourist service has opened up a vast field of development.
I am sure that it is the common wish on both sides of the House that this service should go on from strength to strength, for, in the long run, the more that the people on both sides of the Atlantic—and this goes also in very great measure for our fellow countrymen in Canada—have the ability to travel relatively swiftly, easily and cheaply to the United Kingdom, the better it will be for the unravelling of the many complicated problems which in Canada, in the United Kingdom and elsewhere have to be faced. So good luck to the tourist service. In any criticism now being given to private enterprise which the Opposition may feel obliged to make for one reason or another, do let us realise that the facilities now provided for the tourist service over the Atlantic are opening up for the Corporation a very large new field of profitable development.
1943 As to the report of British European Airways, that, unhappily, does not show the same financial result. They have had many difficulties unique to themselves, quite apart from the heavy fuel tax with which every Government has been confronted. I remember asking Questions from the benches opposite on this very thing. As I have asked Questions, so they who were Ministers then may find it difficult to ask knock-out questions now. There are many difficulties in the field of fuel taxation, and another great difficulty which confronts B.E.A. is the restriction on European travel.
One thing which does mark B.E.A. and their sister Corporation—and that is something on which we must all pride ourselves and them above all—is that last year there was not a single fatal accident concerning either of the Corporations. I know that this will go out through the world as an indication that to fly British means, by and large, to fly safely. The Corporation has every reason in that regard to be proud, and I should like to congratulate Lord Douglas and his team in the air and on the ground for the work they have put in. Passenger miles and freight ton miles have jumped by 20 per cent. and they have also, which always seems to me to be a good idea, attempted to get traffic by reducing costs, and both in Scotland and on the routes to Paris they are trying this experiment.
I should like to congratulate the Corporation on the work that it has done in regard to helicopters, of which I have seen quite a lot in the last few months, believing, as I do, that this is going to be the answer to our country's prayer in many fields, if only we can get rid of the frightful problem of noise, which Parliament considered last night. If we can do that, helicopters may well be an answer to the problem of transport between one city and another. They provide a splendid new opportunity. While we welcome the work which has been done in the last few years by Sikorskys made by Westlands, we all watch with great interest the Bristol Company's Sycamore 171 and twinengined 173, which many of us saw with the utmost interest at the Farnborough display.
In regard to the plans of B.E.A., while we know the value of the work that the 1944 Viking has done, we welcome also the arrival and steady service of the Ambassador and the forthcoming service of the Viscount. We realise the problems to which B.E.A. have been subjected because of the late delivery of planes on which they have counted.
There is only one point in regard to their activities to which I should like to draw attention. I myself know, as many others do, of the constant irritation of this new charge that my Department in the interest of national economy have felt bound to levy—the 5s. passenger service charge—which, although it hits all those leaving this country, bears very heavily in the field of B.E.A., not because of any fault on their part, and is particularly irritating in their hops across the Channel.
It is my hope that it will be possible by smooth international arrangement to absorb the charge into the fares. We all regret the need for the charge. For years there has been a similar charge in America but it has not been so widely resented because it has been absorbed in the fare. I hope the time is not far distant when it can be absorbed in the fare here as well. I look with confidence to the co-operation of the two Boards in merging this unwelcome charge in the fare. I feel sure that if political change should ever happen and another Government should come into power, that Government would be unlikely to drop the charge. That being so, and for many other reasons, it would be a good thing to absorb it into the fare as soon as possible.
There is another aspect of B.E.A.'s activities to which I wish to draw attention. I assume that the rather strange wording of the Amendment, which deals with the efficiency and development of British civil aviation and the morale and living standards of its workers, is to a certain extent attached to some doubts which may exist as to what our intentions are in regard to the internal services of British European Airways and also to the whole field of new opportunity opened up to the British independent operators.
At the risk of undue repetition, I should like for the record to repeat once more precisely what our new policy means. We reserve to the Corporation the existing scheduled operations, both first-class and tourist service, and 1945 we are determined that no action shall be taken which will undermine their existing international services. We are also determined that they shall not have a monopoly in the opening up of any new scheduled routes, but, like any other private operator, they shall have to apply to the Air Transport Advisory Council for the right to run a new scheduled service. They have a great deal to do in perfecting their existing services. Experience has shown—the late Government were moving in the same direction—that there are fields where other forms of air transport activity can provide a most useful service. It could not be held to be undermining the efficiency and development of British civil aviation to provide for further opportunities to be given to other people to supplement, in a growing way, the services which the Corporations offer.
We have said that the independent companies will be entitled to apply to the Air Transport Advisory Council to run new scheduled services, and, where there are existing services, to run colonial coach services where they are in a position to tap an altogether new market and bring to this country, or convey between countries of the Colonial Empire, a class of people who would not otherwise be able to travel.
If this is considered unfair, I would draw attention to the many people in East Africa, many of whom I know, who would never have been able to fly home to England had it not been for the service provided recently by Huntings and Airwork, which not only now gives them much the cheapest service on the route but whose introduction had the effect of leading to a reduction in the fare of the B.O.A.C. service as well. If this Parliament really wants to be an Imperial Parliament, it ought to realise that there are hosts of people in our Colonial Territories who look with confidence to further opportunities of keeping in touch with home through the introduction of new services of this kind.
This is largely a development of the very policy for which Lord Pakenham, from the Socialist benches in another place, was responsible. It was expressly legalised by the Act of 1946, but, because of various political predilections, it was never given a fair opportunity of being 1946 approved until the present Administration came into existence.
§ Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)
The Minister says that the service to East Africa was expressly provided for in the statute which he mentioned. Is he saying that that service is legal without an associate agreement with B.O.A.C.?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
What I am saying is that this was a natural development of the associate arrangements which were provided for in the Act, and for which Lord Pakenham first provided under his administration. This is the natural development. I did not say that the service was provided for at that time, but the legality of the service, as there has been no legislation, springs from the original Measure in 1946.
§ Mr. Beswick
The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the question. I asked if he was saying that the service was legal without there being an associate agreement between the company and B.O.A.C.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
It is not for the Minister or any hon. Member on either side of the House to interpret the law. If we began to do that we should soon get into difficulty. There are many ways in which a person can challenge something that is happening which he thinks is illegal. All I say is that we have created the machinery under which arrangements, made before I became responsible for these matters, can be continued, and I am content to leave it like that.
§ Mr. Beswick
Then, the right hon. Gentleman is not saying, as he appeared to be saying earlier, that the service is a legal service without there being an associate agreement with B.O.A.C.?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I said that it was not for me to interpret the law. The Act of 1946 clearly laid down certain instructions, and, so far as I know, none of those instructions has been revoked.
New emphasis has been given to the development of freight services. We attach the utmost importance to this field of operation. British European Airways have a whole network of scheduled freight services to Europe, including Germany, but British Overseas Airways Corporation have only one scheduled service 1947 by a series of stopping points to Singapore. It is open to any private operator to apply to fly in parallel on any of the existing freight routes if he can prove to the satisfaction of the Council that a potential traffic is available.
Would anybody say that this is wrong in the light of the development of air freight in every other part of the world? In the United States air freight has jumped in the last four years from 4 million ton miles a year to 45 million ton miles a year, dependent not on their internal services but on their international routes. In K.L.M., in Air France and in B.E.A. as well the huge increase in freights shows that an immense market is available. Is it not reasonable that this market should be tapped by all who can fulfil the proper safety requirements and give a service which our people want, provided that they are not undermining the very few scheduled freight services which exist?
While the policy of the Government has created problems, they are not the sort of problems that are envisaged in the Opposition Amendment. One of our great problems is the provision of aircraft for the private operator, and I am deeply conscious of the magnitude of that problem. If there should be another war, as in any emergency, it will be to the independent operator—as it was in Berlin, India, Persia and elsewhere—to whom this country will in part look for help out of her difficulties. Both as a peace service and as a war potential, independent operators have a most important role to play. I am deeply conscious of their difficulties, particularly in the field of freight operation, in getting suitable aircraft, and we shall not rest until we find some solution to that very great problem.
There are other problems. I know that many independent operators are worried by what they regard as the very narrow gap between the three tiers in the rate structure—first-class, tourist class and the colonial coach service—and they feel that the gap will be so narrowed that it will not be worth while running colonial coach services. I can assure all in that business that we are very conscious of this difficulty.
But despite these problems, the new policy put forward by the Government a few months ago is already having a most 1948 spectacular result. One hundred and four applications have come in to the Air Transport Advisory Council to run services ranging all over the world. If any hon. Members have any questions which they wish to ask about any particular service, they can naturally ask them in the course of the debate, and I know that the Parliamentary Secretary will do his best to answer them. This seems to me to be providing the British people with what they most need, a service which does not depend on political considerations but is provided through the best sort of vehicle that the traffic itself demands.
It may be that hon. Gentlemen opposite who devised this Amendment have in mind solely or mainly the internal services of British European Airways. Here I should like to make once more an attempt at clarification. The present services are costing the taxpayer a good deal of money. Although it is difficult to get an exact figure because of the difficulty in arriving at a proportionate share of the overheads, the last report of B.E.A. suggests that they cost some £98,000. The policy of the Government is reduce and as far as possible to eliminate the cost of these services to the taxpayer, always provided that the services can be maintained on a continuing basis.
Those are most exacting conditions to satisfy. We are not starting with a clear slate; we are not able to legislate for internal services from the beginning. I wish we were. If we were free to do that we should do something quite different from what the Labour Government did in 1946. In the last six years, however, British European Airways, with a virtual monopoly, have built up a large network of internal services at very great expense to the taxpayer, and at a time when we are deeply concerned to save every penny we can.
These services cannot be amputated in any one sector without all sorts of repercussions which may well extend far beyond the areas which would otherwise have lent themselves to separate organisation. Our consideration of this problem over the last few months has convinced us more than ever of the mistake of the original monopoly which the Socialist Government carried out internally in 1946.
1949 But Her Majesty's present Government have to reckon with the situation as it has now developed. Some parts of the internal services do pay; others do not. Although I say it has remained an overall loss which is borne by the ordinary taxpayers, a loss which might well have been avoided if a different form of structure had first been devised, the measure of this loss is now substantially reduced.
We have to bear these facts in mind, whether dealing with Scotland or any other part of the United Kingdom, and they make it difficult now to find routes or groups of routes which, while attractive to the individual company, would at the same time avoid an increase of costs to the taxpayer on what is left of the B.E.A. services. These are factors to which any responsible Government must pay regard.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Is it not a false assumption to say that something, the provision of which is required, is what is termed a loss? For example, all transport in the Western Highlands is expensive to the country. It might cost £500,000 to build a road to a point of a peninsula which could be reached quite easily by aircraft landing on the shore. If the country is to save the cost of building roads and of building ships, and is to enable that part of the country to be populated and make an economic contribution to the nation, could not such provision be described, not as a loss, but as a reasonable contribution by the country to the services of that area?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
That is a very interesting contribution which was equally applicable to the period when my predecessors, on being asked to treat Scottish services in the same way as the MacBrayne contract, for example, rejected that proposal because the whole situation was totally different. If the right hon. Gentleman cares to consult his colleagues who were then responsible for civil aviation, he will have confirmation of the accuracy of my reply to him.
Meanwhile, while all this is happening in the field of civil aviation, we are confronted with an immense expenditure in aerodrome construction. I should like the latter part of my observations to deal with this problem of aerodrome construction, which I know deeply worries and 1950 perplexes large numbers of people who are anxious that we should play our proper part in the air but are concerned at the immense sums involved. No one can have any doubt of the magnitude of the duties that fall on any Government to keep ourselves pre-eminent in the field of civil aviation.
The problem is, of course, in the first place, but not wholly by any means, the problem of London. I wish to say, as I have said about Prestwick, that certain centres such as Manchester have played a great part in leadership in respect of canals, railways and aviation; and I shall never lose sight of my duty also to great centres of population such as Manchester in the field of aerodrome development. But it is first and foremost the problem of London. Aircraft movements in the London area have increased by 50 per cent. in the last four years and scheduled movements have increased by 100 per cent.
It is now true that more people either come back to Britain or get their first glimpse of Britain through London Airport and Northolt than do through Dover, and this is likely to continue and be accentuated as the years go on. Scheduled movements have doubled in four years. I am told that the expectation is that aircraft movements will double again by 1960 and that the numbers of passengers carried will more than double by that year. No Government can ignore those facts.
In the case of Gatwick, which has aroused a good deal of controversy, the only difference between this Government and their predecessors is that we have come to a definite decision. I do not think it is a mistake to come to a decision. I hope it is the right decision, but surely nothing could be worse than the continual delays of the last few years, which have left the problem of Gatwick unsolved.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I hope to show in a moment that it is not a bad decision. This is a great national issue: it is not a political problem.
I think hon. Members opposite would agree that no Government could indefinitely maintain London Airport and 1951 Northolt as separate civil aviation centres in London. They are only a matter of seconds apart—five miles; their runways cross, and the problems of air traffic control are rapidly becoming intolerable. Something has to be done. We have decided that Northolt must in time cease to be a civil airport. But that will not be enough to meet the problems of London.
I would say to the people in Sussex and any other part of the country where national development in the national interest may be thought to be inevitable in other fields, that the problems must be seen in relation to the interests of Britain as a whole. We all hate the idea of the construction of a large modern aerodrome in the middle of a predominately rural area. I know that the problem is one which affects Members on both sides of the House.
We would all agree that this sort of decision ought to be made only after the most careful examination. When I became Minister, I found that there were seven airports serving London: London Airport, Northolt, Blackbushe, Bovingdon, Stansted, Croydon, and Gatwick. It is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to reduce these seven aerodromes to two, or three. One will be London Airport and Gatwick. We can regard them as either one or two. I prefer to regard Gatwick in its proper sense not as another aerodrome but as alternate to London. There will be another aerodrome, but we must wait a little while until we see the pattern of civil aviation development.
Why is there need of an alternate aerodrome at all? It is unnecessary to say that it is easier for those managing a great aerodrome to accept an aircraft in good weather than in bad, and when it comes in on visual flight rules rather than when it comes in on instrument flight rules. If we are to limit London Airport to the aircraft it can only take in bad weather, with the great expenditure involved, the main airport of Britain will be uneconomic. If, on the other hand, we are to allow London Airport to take all the traffic that it can take in good weather, then it must have an alternate aerodrome available to take the traffic which it cannot take if the weather is bad.
1952 This is a problem on which, I believe, our survival as a great nation depends. If we are to have an alternate aerodrome, what sort of aerodrome ought it to be? It must, first of all, be near London. It is desirable that it should be on the Continental side of London and that it should have good access to London. It is absolutely essential—all parties agree on this—that it should have different weather conditions from London. After the most exhaustive examination—it is fair to say that the late Government came to a tentative conclusion—the Government have come to the definite conclusion that of the 50 sites examined Gatwick fulfils all the requirements better than anywhere else. This country must face certain inescapable facts. By 1959, London Airport will not be able to deal properly with the aircraft that are likely to come to it in good weather, without overcrowding. What is to happen to the aircraft that will come to it in bad weather? It is essential that there should be an alternate aerodrome.
We have had discussions with the local authorities in Sussex. I repeat that I understand their difficulties. As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking, Surrey (Sir G. Touche), before I make a definite statement on behalf of Her Majesty's Government we must await the recommendations that will be made to us by the local authorities; but I can straight away give certain undertakings. We are deeply anxious to carry local opinion with us as far as possible in any action that we take.
I, as Minister both of Transport and of Civil Aviation, have a particular responsibility in regard to the highways involved. I am open to hear any local advice on the best way in which the highways that have to be diverted can be diverted. In this debate a number of hon. Members will no doubt have various views to put forward. We shall most seriously consider all that is said on both sides of the House, but we must await any representations that the local authorities who came to the meeting in my Department earlier this month make in the matter.
We have no wish whatever to shelter behind the powers and the immunities of Government Departments. We are following, in the case of Gatwick, the procedure laid down in what is called 1953 Circular 100, issued by the then Ministry of Town and Country Planning in December, 1950. It does not provide for a public inquiry or for consideration of local interests other than those that are put forward by a planning authority. However, it does not rule out such an inquiry. I have talked to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who has said that he will certainly hold a public inquiry if one is asked for.
Such inquiries have been held into the proposals of all Service Departments for the use of land for training and other purposes. The procedure which is followed in general in those cases might well be appropriate in this case. It provides for representations and objections from the local authorities and others, raised on the ground of public interest whether national or local. It will not be open under this suggested machinery for people to suggest that there is no need for an aerodrome at all or that it should be in another part of the country. Within the limits that I have described, the procedure might well seem the most appropriate in the circumstances. As I have said, we must await the recommendations that will be made to me or to the Government by the local authorities concerned.
I know that in these matters I speak for the good sense of the House as a whole in saying that if this country is to maintain that lead in the air to which the aviators of this nation have made the utmost contribution, and which every Government have done their utmost to forward, there must be an alternate aerodrome to London. Otherwise, we shall have hoped for the end and failed to provide the means. I know that the problem will be looked at locally in the light of these overriding national considerations.
I would not wish to concentrate on the terms of the Amendment. I have from time to time referred to it in the course of my speech. I cannot seriously believe that hon. Gentlemen opposite think that opportunities for private operators, side by side with the great Corporations, to give the services that our people need are undermining the efficiency and the development of civil aviation. Nor can I for a moment believe that conditions of labour or other vital interests of the men are jeopardised by what the Government are doing.
1954 I would put one question to hon. Gentlemen opposite. In the last year under review the trooping movement of British service men overseas on which the maintenance of peace in the world has in large part depended and carried out by those independent aircraft operators, have jumped up by 600 per cent. Would anybody believe that without that service we can play our proper part in the world? If hon. Gentlemen opposite are frightened of the impact of private competition upon State Corporations they must have a poor faith in the nationalised undertakings. In the hope that it will lead to an interesting debate and not necessarily terminate in a Division, I have moved this Motion.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)
In opening the debate the Minister was a good deal less truculent on this subject than he used to be when speaking from this side of the House. Indeed, it almost seemed that he was on the defensive in some parts of his speech, and I wondered why. With most of what he said at the end about airport policy I agree, speaking from this side of the House. With most of the sentiments and the quotation with which he opened his speech I also find myself in agreement. Our difficulty is to reconcile some of the sentiments which he expressed with the information that we get about his movements outside the House.
What we wanted to do was to set aside a day on which we could examine, appraise and criticise the two annual Reports of Britain's publicly-owned air Corporations. We visualised the debate as the annual general meeting of shareholders to look at the achievements of the year under review and to consider objectively the prospect for the future. I would express the personal doubt, if it is permissible to give personal views from this Box, whether it is completely possible to discuss technical Reports of this character in a Chamber of this kind. I sometimes wonder whether we might not get an all-party committee in the future able to discuss these Reports and to have before them not only the Minister as constitutional head but some of the executives as well, and to probe beneath the constitutional surface. If it were possible at all to have a useful, objective debate, it should have peen possible this year.
1955 We have two Reports, one financially very good, one unfortunately less so. Roughly half the time covered by the Reports was during a Labour Administration and the other part, unfortunately, was under a Tory Administration. We could not have anything more evenly balanced than that. I am sorry that against that background it will not be possible for me to concentrate on an objective analysis. I shall not move the Amendment at this stage simply because it would restrict the field of debate. I shall leave that to my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) to do afterwards. However, the fact that I cannot concentrate only on the Reports is not our fault.
When we consider the prospect for the future the evidence is that the present Government is trying to hobble the two Corporations. Despite all the honeyed phrases which the Minister used today, and has used on other occasions about the two British Air Corporations, it is becoming clear to us that the activity of the Minister in private is creating uncertainty in the industry, is discouraging the management of the Corporations, and is undermining the morale of the men employed by them.
§ Mr. Beswick
Now let me turn to the two reports. The B.O.A.C. result is a remarkable achievement. A loss of £3,590,000 has within the year been transformed into a surplus of £1,233,000. We all join with the Minister in congratulating the men and women of the Corporation. I hope especially that the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) will be able to congratulate the Corporation. I hope he will express his apologies also, because on an earlier occasion in this House he maintained that it was quite impossible to get this initiative and enterprise in a publicly-owned corporation.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
The hon. Gentleman made a similar remark about myself last July. I shall be glad if he will quote the actual paragraph from the OFFICIAL REPORT and, if I am fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, I will refer to it later in detail.
§ Mr. Beswick
I have made two references and I could give two quotations. The first was made on 1st March, 1949, in column 209, when the hon. and gallant Member said:I do not think these Corporations will ever pay their way."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 209]
§ Air Commodore Harvey
On that point, B.E.A. is still losing over £1 million a year and my information is that this year B.O.A.C. has yet to make a profit. I hope they will. I have said so repeatedly.
§ Mr. Beswick
I understand, then, that the hon. and gallant Member is not prepared to congratulate the Corporations?
§ Mr. Beswick
He is, in fact, saying what he said then, that they will never be able to pay their way. Although all the staff of the Corporations, especially B.O.A.C., have proved the hon. and gallant Member wrong, a special word of praise is due to the Chairman, and I should like to associate myself with the remarks made by the Minister. On various occasions I have disagreed with Sir Miles Thomas and have not hesitated to tell him so. Nevertheless, the business grasp and leadership he has shown in what, after all, was a new field of enterprise for him, has commanded universal admiration. The financial results which we are now considering, the sense of achievement which the Corporation must now feel, the respect in which the initials B.O.A.C. are now held in all parts of the world, is in no small measure a tribute to the way in which the Chairman has helped to bring the Corporation round the financial corner.
There are one or two points which I am certain my hon. Friends will have to raise upon the B.O.A.C. Report. I shall content myself with a few words about their associated companies. I am pleased to see that since changes were effected in the British West Indian Airways organisation two years ago, there has been an improvement of nearly £200,000 in their year's working. What is the outlook for the future for this organisation? When is it expected that the other £94,000 deficit will be wiped out? Is the role of that company envisaged as serving only the islands and territories within the 1957 Caribbean or are there more ambitious plans?
The Minister referred to the Colonial Civil Aviation Conference. I was particularly sorry that I was not still in a position to attend that Conference which, I thought, was a most important and useful and interesting one. Was the future of B.W.I.A. discussed there? Can the colonial territories in the area, especially as they are moving towards some form of federation, take a bigger administrative and financial responsibility for B.W.I.A.? Also, we ought to have some explanation about the £101,000 loss of Bahamas Airways. What possible social benefits have we received to justify a loss of that character? What steps are being taken to cut down that loss?
My only other reference to the B.O.A.C. Report at this stage is to paragraph 15 in which it is said that the accountancy of the Corporation was thoroughly overhauled. I do not think that is an overstatement, and much of the credit for this remarkable and essential improvement must go to the firmer policy which Lord Pakenham initiated and which Lord Ogmore pursued. Partly, as I have said, the credit goes to the Chairman, but it would also be fair to mention the excellent influence of the new Financial Comptroller who was brought in two or three years ago and who, I am sorry to hear, is now lying ill in the Middle East, where he went on official duty. I wish him a speedy recovery.
So much, for the moment, for the B.O.A.C. Report. It was good. Of course, we hope that subsequent Reports will be even better and, given the chance, I have absolutely no doubt that greater achievements are possible. All I would say now is, let them get on with the good work. The question is whether they will be allowed to get on with it, and to that I intend to return.
I shall now make one or two observations on the B.E.A. report. It was less satisfactory than we had hoped from a financial point of view and less satisfactory than most of the men and women in the Corporation deserve. I was struck with the sympathetic reception given by the Press to this financially adverse result and I attribute that to the complete honesty and frankness with which the information was set out in the report. 1958 Fundamentally, as the Minister said, the B.E.A. difficulty is lack of modern aircraft. I estimate that 95 per cent. of the revenue in this period was earned with twin-engined, unpressurised aircraft no longer abreast of competitors. I am glad that the position is being improved, but I wish that the rate of improvement was better and that the new aircraft were coming forward more quickly.
There are two sets of figures in that report which are of special significance. The first is with regard to mail payments. B.E.A. are paid less than the sister Corporation because they are acting as short-haul operators. In the early pioneering days it was considered more economical to carry mail over the short rather than over the long stages, but the position today is reversed—it is cheaper to carry mail over the long haul than the short haul—but the old scale of payment remains. If B.E.A. had been paid at the average rate obtained in the United States in 1951 its revenue would have been increased by £1,820,000 and the deficit entirely wiped out. May I ask the Minister what he is doing to get fair play for B.E.A. in this matter? Can he spare time from his arguments with the road hauliers to represent the case of the British civil air transport operator——
§ Mr. Charles Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
Surely the hon. Gentleman understands that it is by international agreement that the mail rates are divided into long and short hauls, so it is not merely a question of our Minister making representations. It must be by general international agreement.
§ Mr. Beswick
I understand perfectly that there was an international figure laid down, but the payments made by the Postmaster-General in this country to B.E.A. were below the figure laid down by the international agreement—[An HON. MEMBER: "He was a Labour one."] The other figures relate to the break-even load factor and do not reflect so creditably upon the Corporation. The break-even load factor for the year 1951–52 was 73.2 per cent. That is clearly too high. Even in the peak months the revenue is inadequate to cover such a high rate of costs. The position will, of course, improve when we get bigger and more economic aircraft coming into the service, but that is not 1959 the complete reason for the deterioration over the past year.
There is one criticism I want to make about the B.E.A. Report, which is roused by the sort of argument we see set out in a graph on page 15. There we get the statement of all the "ifs"—if the cost of stationery had not gone up; if the cost of fuel had not gone up; if the cost of passenger meals had not increased and if various pay and salary increases had not been awarded, then the loss would have been of the order, they say, of £252,000. With that we would all agree. But what we would really like to know is what steps were taken to offset these increases in the cost of materials? What efforts were efforts were made to eliminate waste in the serving of passenger meals? What efforts were made to save stationery, the cost of which, apparently, went up so sharply?
Then, again, there is the most important single item of increase in pay and salaries. The Corporations are good employers, just how good I think is not always appreciated. We are all pleased that they are good employers, and all that we ask in return is that every effort may be made to see that the labour and equipment is deployed as efficiently as possible. In that deployment I am quite sure that the men in B.E.A. will be very ready to make a contribution and so help in the cutting down of costs. I would hope that next year the productive figure per employee, which slipped back during that time from 7,511 c.t.m.s for March, 1951, to 7,107 for March, 1952, will show an improvement and I believe it will, given the chance.
But if we are to look at this deficit figure for B.E.A. there is another matter which we should look at again and to which the Minister has already made reference. There are various units of measurement of efficiency, the capacity ton-mile, the out-put per man, and so on; but it still remains that for popular purposes the most effective yardstick seems to be this figure of profit or loss. To use the profit figure in this way can, I think, be a very good thing. I am not against profits in private industry. All I complain about is that they are now regarded as exclusively the property of the shareholders and not of the management and men who help to create them.
§ Mr. Beswick
No, not on a side issue.
Here, in this publicly-owned industry it can be a useful unit of measurement and I am asking, as the Minister was asking in earlier debates, that this unit shall be made an accurate one. Many B.E.A. services are not intended to be profitable. They cannot show a profit. They are social services. In Scotland, for example, I believe that the value of the services should be estimated by the Scottish Office and paid for by them. Otherwise, it is quite unfair, and, indeed, damaging, to stick to a profit or loss figure as an accurate indication of the efficiency of B.E.A.
I would ask the Minister again, is he pressing for that for which he used to press when he had unlimited time as an hon. Member of this House without Ministerial responsibility? Is he still pressing for that change, or, as some people would ask, has he time to press for that change? Some people are beginning to believe that the present Ministerial set-up is unsatisfactory. The unions, the Corporations and the independent operators—or some of them—have reason to complain. It really is a rather extraordinary situation.
The Prime Minister decided, apparently, that the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Transport have not sufficient work to keep two separate Ministers occupied. He required that the policy of the Ministry of Transport should be completely changed. He required that the policy of the Ministry of Civil Aviation should be changed. And then, when there was this additional work to do, he took away one of the Ministers. One of the first consequences of this appeared to be that the Minister then in charge collapsed under the strain. The next consequence, if we are not careful, is that these two industries will suffer from the muddle caused by an over-worked Minister.
If I may say so, this state of affairs was rather amusingly illustrated at a recent dinner, the annual dinner of the Independent Air Transport Operators. There we had a first-class aviation function. There were three Ministers down to speak, and none of them had anything to do with civil aviation. One of the principal speakers for the industry related 1961 how he had tried to find out the subjects to be referred to in the after-dinner oratory. He had, as one would expect him to do, got on to the Ministry of Civil Aviation. He was referred to the Ministry of Transport and there he eventually learned that the principal Minister speaking for the Government was to be the Home Secretary and Minister for Welsh Affairs. What some of us could not make out was whether this was because we were delinquents, or Welsh.
We had an extremely good and enjoyable speech from the Home Secretary, but it really is not a right and fair way to treat the industry——
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
May I ask the hon. Member whether he is surprised to find Ministers speaking with the same voice? Does that come strange to him?
§ Mr. Beswick
I was surprised to find that at functions of that kind the Minister of Civil Aviation is not able to be present. We know that on this particular occasion he had his other hat on, and was speaking to the road hauliers at Blackpool—and, as I am informed, being booed for his pains.
I say that the Minister of Civil Aviation could well spend his time today demanding additional priority for civil aircraft. He might, for example, be demanding that the delivery rate of the Elizabethans should be quickened. The Minister referred to this new aircraft coming along, but is it realised that it will take eight more months to get the next eight aircraft, and that not until 1954 will the last of the modified Elizabeths be ready for B.E.A. service? Is it so completely impossible to adjust military delivery dates and let the Corporation have the Viscounts a little earlier than the date now promised? The manufacture and operation of civil aircraft could be the corner-stone of British industrial prosperity, but what we want to find out is what the present Minister is doing to see that that corner-stone is laid in time.
On Monday, we had the announcement that more motor cars will be made available for the home market. Can we really afford that? Would not the design and engineering staffs of some motor car firms be better employed in the aircraft manufacturing industry? I am told that de Havillands alone could absorb another 1,000 men and sell more Herons and 1962 Comets abroad if delivery dates were nearer. A realistic policy would require the closing down completely of some motor firms which have only been kept in existence by the artificial demand in post-war years.
Is the Minister finding the time to give attention to the forward-buying policy of the Corporations? After the Comet I, II and III the present outlook seems to be that we shall get a super aircraft for about 1960. Whether this will be the Comet IV, a development of the Delta bomber, or a new concept of Handley Page, I am, of course, not in a position to say.
But what I feel strongly about is that the aircraft which we do select, and which probably will be the vintage aircraft for the next decade, and which could sweep the world markets, should be brought forward in point of time. If we are to keep the lead in civil aviation we want this 1960 machine for about 1957 or 1958. Is the Minister of Civil Aviation staking his claim on productive capacity against those of his Service colleagues?
§ Mr. Beswick
Who represents British civil aviation in Cabinet discussions these days? At the moment, there is no evidence at all that the Minister is concentrating on these constructive matters. All the present evidence is that he is spending his time working out ways and means of hobbling the two Corporations. This may seem an extravagant charge to make, but unless the Minister can answer some of the questions put to him, I think the House will agree that the charge is made out.
For a start, what are we to make of the references this afternoon to the position in Scotland? Why has no decision been made before now with regard to the future of the Scottish services? If no firm proposal has been made so far by any private firm to take over these services why has the Minister not been able to assure the B.E.A. that they can plan ahead without the possibility of having their improved organisation taken away for the benefit of some private firm? Is this the method he conceives of creating conditions in which civil aviation 1963 can flourish? Does the Minister really agree with the statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary last week that this threat to the Corporation was likely to make them work harder? Is this the new Conservative conception of incentives?
More serious than that, there are some questions I have to ask about the service through East Africa and about freight services across the Atlantic. We discussed the African services in the last debate. The facts are that B.O.A.C. run a service through to the Union of South Africa in parallel partnership with South African Airways. B.O.A.C., as all the world knows, now operate with Comets and the South Africans have been using Constellations. The future plan, as I understand it, was for both South African Airways and B.O.A.C. ultimately to use Comets for the first-class service and for the Constellations to be converted into a high density tourist class machine for both lines.
The Corporations are already operating special rates for certain categories of traffic and an associate company with high density aircraft were to quote a special tourist rate. These ordered, sensible and forward-looking plans have, naturally, taken some time to work out. Considerable interest and enthusiasm have been shown in the Corporation in the working out of these plans. It was into this sphere of operation with the encouragement and blessing of the Conservative Government there started a private operator at a cut-rate fare.
I charged in the last debate that this new service was contrary to the principles of international co-operation, that it would arouse antagonisms with other nations with whom we have agreements and, in any case, to spread the available traffic over additional operators would, in the long run, put up overhead costs and prevent that steady reduction of fares to which the Corporation and other airline operators are committed. The case put from the benches opposite was that this private service was able to offer a lower fare because of all the virtues of private enterprise and that, therefore, it would be able to work an entirely new class of air traffic which otherwise could not afford air travel. That is what the Minister repeated today.
1964 On the face of it if one is capable only of taking a very short-term view, it sounds a very plausible argument. But I understand that the company concerned have asked the Minister if it is not possible for them now, having established themselves on the route, to put up their fares. I ask the Minister if any representation has been made to him from this company to put up the low fares about which he has been talking. As there is no answer I take it from the Minister, therefore, that representations have been made, that some method could be found by which they can put up their fares. They know very well that they cannot put up their fares at the moment and still retain the traffic. If they put up their fares the traffic would immediately go to the Corporation because of the better service which the Corporation are offering.
The next step, therefore, must be for the Corporation to increase their fares. I now ask the Minister if he has made any representation at all to the Corporation in accordance with the wishes of others to put up their fares? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] As I have no reply from the Minister, I now say that he has requested the Corporation to put up their fares artificially and unnecessarily to make room for the private operator.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) hurls the wildest charges, but must not assume that if I do not get up to reply to every other sentence of his I agree with what he says at all. There is perfectly adequate machinery in the Air Transport Advisory Council before which operators have to make initial application and they take into consideration the fare structure. I pointed out that there is this problem of the three-tier arrangement between first-class, tourist and coach services so that there will be different sectors of the different traffic available on tap by each of the various types of service available. But, as I said, this is existing machinery and it is the proper machinery.
§ Mr. Beswick
As the Minister knows, that has nothing to do with this matter at all. The Air Transport Advisory Council has no responsibility at all for the fares charged by B.O.A.C. on routes 1965 they are already operating upon. There is no necessity for the Corporation to put in an application to the Air Transport Advisory Council. The fact is that the Corporation are now operating services down to East Africa and I am saying that, according to the request made by Airwork to the Minister, about which many people in the industry are aware, the Minister—and he has not denied it—is requesting the Corporation deliberately to put up their fares to make room for this private operator.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Beswick
What about the talk of free competition? Is this free competition? Is this what the Conservative Government visualise as free competition? What about all these new classes of traffic to be brought in by this cut-rate fare? What is happening to that now? If the Corporation can operate this service at this low fare why are they being asked to put up the fare? Why bring in an outside operator at all?
§ Mr. Beswick
A short time ago we had a similar story about steel prices. We had the illustration about steel prices and the Minister requested a national corporation deliberately to put up their prices. Here again, apparently, we have exactly the same story with this other nationally-owned Corporation.
§ Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing
As I understand the interesting speech which the hon. Member is developing he is asking why the Minister is hobbling the Corporations. In the first instance the Scottish services are making a loss and one would have thought that the Corporation would have liked them taken away. In the second instance he is suggesting that they are trying to make great profits on certain services. How is that hobbling the Corporations?
§ Mr. Beswick
If the Corporations are compelled to put up their fares that is deliberately restricting the competitive power of the Corporations. It is, therefore, hobbling them and giving an unnatural advantage to the private company.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter) rose——1966
§ Mr. Beswick
The hon. Member will be able to ask some questions about this matter. There is another matter about which the House and the country should be informed. In the last debate the Minister said that in order to give the private operators an opportunity to establish themselves in the all-freight market the Chairmen of the two Corporations have voluntarily undertaken not to apply for any all-freight services on any new routes for one year. That is what the Minister said. We on this side of the House, in the same debate, said that we did not believe that the two Chairmen would deliberately restrict their own activities in any way which could genuinely be described as voluntary.
It was against the law of nature that a spontaneous offer of this kind should come from the Chairmen on the eve of the debate to help the Minister out of his difficulties. We just could not follow that. In any case, no one dreamed that the North Atlantic would be considered as a new all-freight route within the meaning of that undertaking. But now we have a private company given the right to carry freights across the North Atlantic to the detriment of the Corporations. We immediately wondered why it was that B.O.A.C. were not offering similar facilities.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Member quoted something I had said in a previous debate and, for purposes of greater accuracy, I have it here. I said:The Chairmen of both Corporations have told me that they appreciate the need to give private operators a chance to compete in this market. They recognise they have been in the business for such a long time that they start with certain advantages and I have the authority of both Chairmen to say that the Corporations will not apply to the A.T.A.C. for all-freight services on any new routes for one year, unless considerations of national importance require them to do so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th July, 1952; Vol. 503, c. 2184.]That was never challenged by either of the Chairmen and the hon. Member now affects to know what the recommendation of the A.T.A.C. is in regard to the application, I think, from Airwork. No such recommendation from A.T.A.C. has yet reached me, and, as the hon. Gentleman no doubt knows, the next constitutional procedure is that once a recommendation from Lord Terrington's Committee reaches me I make up my mind on it. 1967 I have not had the papers before me as yet and the hon. Gentleman is, I am sure unintentionally, grossly misleading the House.
§ Mr. Beswick
Perhaps I had better repeat what I have been saying. I am stating that the Minister in our last debate on civil aviation stated that the two Chairmen gave him a certain undertaking, and I am saying that on that occasion we found it difficult to believe that this undertaking was so spontaneously given that it came in time for that particular debate. However, what I am now saying is that no one agrees that the North Atlantic route should be considered a new freight route.
I have not mentioned the right hon. Gentleman's duties. He is jumping a little too soon. There must be some reason why he is so touchy about this matter. I have not mentioned any application from Airwork. What I am saying is that if there were such an application from Airwork, we cannot understand why the Corporations did not apply also for permission to operate an all-freight route across the Atlantic. We know that Airwork have put in an application. It has been in the public Press. That is why I know. What I am saying is common knowledge.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
This is very important. The hon. Gentleman said it had been granted. He made a definite declaration, but he cannot know that because I alone grant it and I have not yet made up my mind because I have not received the recommendation from Lord Terrington's Committee. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to preserve his rather tarnished reputation for accuracy he had better be a little more careful.
§ Mr. Beswick
All right, if we are going to talk about tarnished things, would the Minister answer me a question. An application is being considered by Lord Terrington's Committee and if no indication has been given by the Committee, Airwork were a little premature in making their statement to the Press? That is all the information that I gave to the House, and it was contained in the public Press of this country. The information was given to the Press by Airwork themselves. The question which I want to put to the Minister is this—if B.O.A.C. put in an 1968 application to operate a similar service next week or next month would the application be considered?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Gentleman has asked me a question and I am grateful to him for giving way. An undertaking was given by the two Chairmen, to which I referred during the last debate. These are the words I used.I have the authority of both Chairmen to say that the Corporations will not apply to the A.T.A.C. for all-freight services on any new routes for one year.I presume that that means they would not apply for one year and I gave that undertaking. I never said it had been done deliberately on the eve of our last debate.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a great deal of give and take between the Chairmen of the Corporations and the Minister responsible, and the hon. Gentleman himself has said that he had disagreed with Sir Miles Thomas. In this particular case this undertaking was given to me quite definitely by both chairmen, and I have no reason to think that they have any wish to go back on it.
§ Mr. Beswick
Is the Minister saying that what he describes as a new freight route will apply to the North Atlantic?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Yes. If the hon. Gentleman would only look back before he makes these statements he would see that I said:B.O.A.C. have one all freight route—London—Nice—Tripoli—Cairo—Bahrein—Bombay—Calcutta—Bangkok—Singapore. B.E.A. have several."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th July, 1952; Vol. 503, c. 2184]Then I said that the Chairman had given me an undertaking that they would not apply for further routes and I have already quoted that. Obviously, that could only mean that they have one freight route that from London to Singapore. It is the only route on which B.O.A.C. will have their monopoly preserved, but if it is agreed that the traffic potential demands it a parallel operation can be recommended by Lord Terrington's Committee.
§ Mr. Beswick
The Minister will recollect that at one time I had the privilege to fly aircraft for B.O.A.C. and at that time they were operating a freight route over the Atlantic with Liberators. The 1969 fact is that this Corporation and their predecessors, Imperial Airways, developed services, both passenger and freight, over the North Atlantic, and no one believed, when the Minister told us of this undertaking during the last debate, that it applied to the North Atlantic route.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I cannot allow that to go unchallenged. I have no doubt whatever that the two Chairmen, with whom I consulted on this matter, clearly understood that, and if not it should have been challenged at the time. Neither of them did so and the undertaking related only to existing freight routes, the one which B.O.A.C. are running at the moment to Singapore and the several being run by B.E.A. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can put himself in the position of interpreting what is in the mind of either of these Chairmen.
§ Mr. Beswick
These services over the North Atlantic, as I have said, have been operated by the chosen instrument of this country since 1937.
§ Mr. Beswick
The operational and development work has gone on since 1937. [HON. MEMBERS: "On freight?"] Really, hon. Members ought to realise the amount of work that goes into a service of this kind. It begins long before the first time-table is issued, and it should be realised that this work has been going on since 1937. I am asking the Minister if it is really in the best interests of civil aviation that these Corporations, who have inherited all this experience on a difficult route, should now be told that they must wait another year before operating along that route. Is that creating the circumstances under which civil aviation can develop?
There is just one other aspect of this matter to which I will refer. The Minister himself, in the previous debate, said it was essential that we get the finest standard bearer of the British flag to fly across the North Atlantic. Some of these services by private operators are going to be operated by York aircraft. 1970 B.O.A.C. used to operate these Yorks at an all-up weight of 66,500 lb. For this new private venture the all-up weight of the York is to go up to 70,000 lb. They have never previously been operated over the North Atlantic. Does the Minister tell us that the finest standard bearer we can find is an old York aircraft operating at an all-up weight of 70,000 lb.? Yet according to his statement today he proposes to restrict this route to the private operator.
I am not arguing—and I hope that the House will accept this from me—the merits of private enterprise as against public enterprise. That is not the problem. As I see it the problem is: what is the best for British civil aviation? That is what my hon. Friends are interested in. Our objective is to get the finest services possible across the Atlantic and elsewhere.
I note some interesting expressions of opinion by the journal published by the Air League of the British Empire. It says:It would be contrary to sound air line economics to exclude B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. from charter operations.Again, it remarks:It is essential therefore that nothing be done to disturb in any major degree the plans laid by the Corporations for the next few years.Here we see Government policy, or as some people have described it Government plotting, trying to exclude the Corporation not only from charter work but all such essential work as regular freight carriers over routes on which they have been accumulating experience over years of endeavour.
In conclusion, I say this. No one can say that either B.E.A. or B.O.A.C. have let the country down in effort, in initiative or in imaginative leadership. We were the first to fly a scheduled passenger helicopter service, the first to fly a gas turbine passenger aircraft, the first to fly a turbine-powered freight aircraft and we were the first to fly jet airliners on a world passenger service—all that, with a remarkable safety record. In addition, although these things incur most expensive development costs, we are now beginning to pay our way.
This has been one field of endeavour in which the country has felt proud, and I am genuinely sorry that I have had to 1971 strike the note which I thought it my duty to strike during part of my speech. But the feeling is held strongly that the present Minister is not playing fair with the men and women of Britain's own Corporations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I will tell hon. Gentlemen how I know: I have received a deputation of men representing those employed by the Corporations, men and women who work in the hangars, who have a responsibility for flying these aircraft, and they are disappointed in what they consider to be the attitude of mind of the Minister, which is not helpful to the development of aviation and which appears to be discouraging the Corporations' activities.
I therefore say that as far as we are concerned, we shall endeavour to get at the truth of this matter. I hope we shall be able to establish that the two British Air Corporations, who have done so well, will be able to go on developing their own two Corporations for their own satisfaction and for the benefit of the country and of the world at large.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. P. B. Lucas (Brentford and Chiswick)
Listening to the opening speeches in this debate and considering, as we have to do today, the Reports of the two Corporations, I cannot help wondering whether we are preparing ourselves adequately for the great development in civil aviation which, I am sure, all of us here see ahead in the next 10 years. In many ways I think that we are; but in others I feel pretty sure that we are not. And it is to one sector, which has not been mentioned in either of the two opening speeches, in which I think we shall have difficulty in the future if we do not start considering it now, that I wish quite briefly to address myself.
At page 47 in the Report of the British European Airways Corporation, this very significant statement is to be found under the heading "Flight operations":The shortage of trained pilots mentioned in the last annual report proved a serious embarrassment to B.E.A. during the training period of the winter of 1951–52.… This shortage of trained pilots will continue to be a very real problem until such time as adequate numbers of National Service men can be made available through the scheme we have now worked out with the R.A.F.That is a statement which we would do well to examine today.
1972 For several years after the end of the late war, we saw in civil aviation generally a surplus of experienced aircrews. The supply of pilots and navigators, whose exceptional skill and training as a result of the war years made their conversion from military to civil requirements not only a simple but also an inexpensive process, far exceeded the demand. The result of this was that many pilots who had started out in this field with the hope of finding in it a stable and solid career for life, became disillusioned and gradually drifted away to apply their undoubted talents in other and perhaps more lucrative spheres.
The difficulties of the charter companies, the limited requirements of the Corporations, the need to maintain indefinitely an exceptional medical standard; the undeniable hazards of a lifetime spent in civil aviation—all these factors have had the cumulative effect of causing today a shortage in highly trained aircrews, especially pilots.
While I do not intend to suggest that this shortage is yet acute, the Report of the Corporation to which I have referred confirms me in my opinion that unless we tackle seriously this problem now, it may well become a limiting factor in our activities in 10 years' time. After all, it is ahead 10 and 15 years that we must try to look today in all matters regarding aviation.
As far as I am aware, there is no organisation in the country other than the Royal Air Force or, perhaps, Air Service Training at Hamble which exists to teach a young man to become, in the broad sense, a commercial or "career" pilot. To my mind, it is not the answer to say, as I feel B.E.A. are trying to say in their Report, that we shall get all the pilots we want from the Royal Air Force, from the National Service men who have learnt to fly and from those who are being released from the Service after short-term engagements.
That is not the answer, first because the very best of those people, particularly those with A.T.C. scholarships, may well be persuaded to stay on in the Service on a permanent basis. It is quite right that they should be so persuaded. The Royal Air Force needs them; but this will result in the Royal Air Force skimming off the cream and leaving civil aviation, and B.E.A., perhaps, in particular, with 1973 the residue. This will not do, first because first-class commercial pilots must be drawn from young men of the highest quality, and possessing attributes far above the average.
Secondly, I say this answer will not do because it really means that in peacetime we shall be mixing the military with the civil which, for a variety of reasons, is undesirable. In any event, I hope—and in this, perhaps, I shall find some measure of agreement on both sides of the House—that conscription will not be with us for ever. Although it may essential now, one hopes that it will not be a lasting state of affairs.
The needs of training in the military and in the civil fields are parallel considerations. They should not be permitted to overlap, and they should be regarded as complementary one to another. There should be no question, as I feel there is now, of one becoming subservient to, or being dominated by, the other.
It therefore seems to me that a system must be set up, not only to encourage recruits to civil aviation, but to provide them with a stable career to follow from the time that they leave school. There are, obviously, varying ways of doing and encouraging this. I think that it will have to be taken care of by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and the problem seems to me to be separated into two distinct parts.
First, there is the question of education in aviation while a boy is still at school. When I was last in the United States three years ago, I was astonished at the thought they have given to this problem there, even to the length of aeronautical courses being incorporated into the normal curriculum of American schools. I cannot believe that it would be very difficult to organise similar courses in our schools here. The main thing, as I see it, is to establish, early in a boy's life, a knowledge of aviation. From this will flow not only the interest but also, I believe, the enthusiasm.
The second step would be for the Ministry of Civil Aviation to make courses available for boys on leaving school through establishments such as Air Service Training, Hamble, or, if necessary, by forming schools of their own with the help of the private flying clubs. I am not 1974 at all sure that a scholarship scheme on the same lines as that organised by the Air Ministry for selected A.T.C. cadets might not be worked out jointly by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Education, and, in such circumstances, I think there would be grounds—though I know this is difficult to argue—for exempting the successful candidates from their periods of National Service, and instead permitting them to continue uninterruptedly their training for a career which is vital to the nation.
I do not believe that we in this country have been paying nearly enough attention to the need for encouraging youth in civil aviation, and I believe that we may have to pay for this in 10 or 15 years' time. Nor do I personally think that we have here a sufficient appreciation of how few opportunities are given to young men or boys after leaving school to learn to fly, other than through the Royal Air Force. How many people can afford to learn to fly at £3 an hour with a private flying club? Certainly, very few young men in the early 20's. For a nation with a great future ahead of it in civil aviation, this is a most disquieting thought.
I hope that the excellent scheme started through firms' sports clubs by the Association of British Aero Clubs, under the energetic direction of the Executive Chairman, Mr. Eustace Miles, who I am proud to say is a constituent of mine, will get the support which it deserves. With a company making an annual contribution to a flying club which is an allowable expense against Income Tax, Schedule D, it is the only means that I know whereby a young man employed by a firm can, for a comparatively moderate weekly sum, get regular flying with a private flying club.
Indeed, I personally take the view that it is so important to the pilot problem referred to in this Report that it would be worth while my right hon. Friend having a talk with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, and also, I think, with the President of the Board of Trade, to see whether this project could not be more effectively explained to some of the likelier firms up and down the country, for I believe that very few of them know anything about it at the present time.
The benefits of such a plan seem to me to be two-fold. Not only does it enable a man to qualify for a private 1975 licence and to fly regularly at a reasonable cost, but it would also mean, if well supported, that the flying clubs would be eased in some of their difficulties today.
§ Group Captain C. A. B. Wilcock (Derby, North)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the big aircraft manufacturers and constructors themselves are not supporting the scheme as they should do? Therefore, we welcome the hon. Gentleman's interest in this matter.
§ Mr. Lucas
I have much interest in what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, but my information is that one or two of the aircraft companies are, in fact, supporting this scheme. I feel, however, that it should go much wider and outside the aircraft industry, and I hope that perhaps some of the remarks that are made here today will make it possible for a greater impulse to be given to this scheme than at present seems to be the case.
I think it is a significant fact that, whereas in Britain there is only one pilot for approximately every 6,000 persons, in the United States there is one pilot to approximately every 350 of the population. Let there be no mistake about it. The private flying clubs will still have their indispensable part to play in the future of both military and civil aviation, as they have had in the past. All I wonder is whether we are making the best use of them, having regard to the period of expansion which must lie ahead of us.
Certainly, I believe that more could be done in the way of employing them to give additional air experience to A.T.C. cadets, although I appreciate that much has already been done along these lines. To my mind, for a boy of 14 or 16 years of age, there is something more exhilarating and practical in being able to spend 10 minutes in an Auster flying round the local airfield sitting beside the pilot and in getting a feel of the controls than in merely flying about the countryside in the back of an Anson and not seeing a great deal, although I do not say this in any way disparagingly of this particular aircraft. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will have a word with the Secretary of State for Air to see whether some greater use could not be made of the flying clubs in this way.
This debate and that which preceded it in July have both laid great emphasis 1976 upon the development of civil aviation which is bound to follow during the next decade. Our gaze is fastened on the aircraft of the future, but let us be sure that, in 10 or 15 years' time from now, we shall have the crews to match, not only in quality but also in numbers, the incomparable machines which British inventive genius can surely provide.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Shackleton (Preston, South)
I am sure that the House will largely agree with the very thoughtful speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Lucas), and I hope that the Minister will pay serious attention to a problem which is likely, I fear, to be somewhat overlooked in this House in the discussion which will take place today mainly on the future of the Airways Corporations.
I fear that I shall have a number of controversial remarks to make in support of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick), but may I say that what I have to say has been arrived at completely independently of my hon. Friend. Indeed, I know, as do most hon. Members, the degree of disquiet that exists in the Corporations at the moment. But I will keep these controversial remarks till the end.
There are certain matters on which I think there will be a large measure of agreement. We are all agreed that great credit is due to the public Corporations for their achievements, and great credit to B.O.A.C. this year for showing a favourable balance. I think that one special word of praise ought to go not only to B.O.A.C. generally, but to the individuals in it who took an extremely brave decision in ordering the Comet so far ahead. We know that the Comet is produced by the De Havilland Aircraft Company, which should have the main credit, but none the less B.O.A.C. did show great courage in ordering the aircraft at a very early stage and enabling production to be started. This air liner, which is now publicly showing its paces, is a world beater.
It is also worth noting that the recent accident at Rome, which we all regret, has shown the great superiority from a safety point of view of an aircraft which is not using a highly inflammable fuel. I understand that all the main petrol 1977 tanks burst when the aircraft crashed, and that if it had been an ordinary petrol-driven machine there might well have been no survivors. Therefore, we can all be proud, both in this House and nationally, of the Comet aircraft.
I now want to turn to this much vexed question of airmail. I think that all of us who are interested in civil aviation will take the view that this Government and the last Government have both tended to take a somewhat conservative, with a small "c," view of this matter, and I would urge the present Minister, as I urged his Labour predecessor, to seek all the allies he can in this matter and try to get justice for British airlines.
It may be argued that this is only an accounting matter, but the fact that B.E.A. made a loss this year is none the less a factor affecting our discussions and tending to influence attitudes. Indeed, it is bound to influence the attitude of the people in the Corporations who certainly know of this difficulty from which they suffer as compared with other lines, and it may in certain circumstances work disadvantageously in respect to the pay and conditions of those employed. I urge the Minister to continue to fight on this particular point. The arguments are set out very fully in the B.E.A. Report, and I do not need to weary the House with them.
On this question of the favourable financial balance of the Corporation, we turn once again to this problem of "social" air services. I think we all agree that it is right that the country as a whole should play its part in providing air services in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and in areas where an efficient air service might make a great deal of difference to the prosperity of those regions and might help to stop the drift away from them, which is such a serious factor in the Highlands.
None the less, they are social air services, and I can see no reason why that matter should not be clearly indicated and why there should not be a specific subsidy borne on the Scottish Vote. I realise that the Treasury have many good reasons administratively for not following a particular course, but I urge that this should be borne in mind. When the Minister says he regrets the decision which gave the internal lines exclusively 1978 to B.E.A., and when he inferred that if something different had been done less serious losses would have been made, then I can only say that he is being grossly unfair to British European Airways. Indeed, if he holds that view, it is up to the Government to indicate how B.E.A. have been wasteful or inefficient in the operation of their internal services. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, will either substantiate or withdraw this unfortunate remark.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Mr. R. Maudling)
I do not think my right hon. Friend meant inefficiency on the part of the British European Airways Corporation, but that what he was saying was that the framework of monopoly in which they were asked to operate by the previous Government was not the best that could be devised for operating internal air services.
§ Mr. Shackleton
He clearly indicated that there would have been a less serious charge to the taxpayers if another system had been adopted. I should like to know how he thinks economy could be achieved in the internal services, and, since that charge has been made and attributed to the framework of monopoly, let us hear what could have been done to prevent it.
There seems to be a considerable variation in the methods in which these Reports are prepared. I suggest that, while I would not wish to tie down either of the Corporations as to how these Reports should be prepared, there should be some further examination as to whether B.O.A.C. should give a fuller and more detailed report such as the kind given by B.E.A. or whether, in the case of B.E.A., there should be a more economic means of expression. One or two points in the Report are rather unconvincing and badly expressed. For instance, on the subject of organisation, there is a sentence on page 58 which reads:The basic principle is that while, administratively or technically, no man has two masters, full decentralisation and delegation of authority is maintained …What they mean is that the basic principle is that every man has two masters, one of which is administrative and the other technical. I think that in a controversial issue of this kind a little less wrapping up 1979 might help us to judge the matter more fairly.
Quite frankly, after reading that Report I am left with the feeling that on this aspect a rather unsatisfactory state of affairs exists. I hope it does not. Indeed, I have reason to believe that a satisfactory compromise has probably been arrived at. But this is one of the most complex problems, and though I fully agree that a functional or technical influence should extend right through a body, there is always the danger of a functional empire being built up which overweighs the authority of those concerned on the spot basicly with operational and administrative responsibilities.
There is another particular point to which I wish to refer, the performance of the Hermes aircraft. Here again—and I am not giving additional publicity to it—there is a certain amount of growing anxiety with regard to certain accidents that it has suffered. I think it would be helpful if the Minister could make some reassuring statement with regard to the difficulty they have had with the propeller couplings. I believe that both Airwork and B.O.A.C. have suffered some serious difficulties as a result of this particular technical defect. Whether that be so or not, I think that an authoritative statement made at some time or other to the effect that inquiries into particular accidents have been completed would be of value.
§ Mr. Maudling
A number of technical modifications to cope with these problems have been introduced and are to be finally introduced by 31st of this month, which, I hope, disposes satisfactorily of the hon. Gentleman's point.
§ Mr. Shackleton
That is very good, and I hope publicity will be given to that remark, because of the anxiety that exists.
I now want to deal with the main contentious issue between my hon. Friends on this side of the House and the Government. There is no question that there is a feeling at all levels in the Corporations to a greater or lesser extent, that there is a tendency to nibble at the Corporations and to reduce their prospects and their influence.
The Minister made a somewhat gibing remark in which he suggested that we on 1980 this side were afraid to subject the Corporations to competition. I am staggered that he should make such a remark because, quite clearly, the one thing which has been firmly inculcated into the members of the Corporations is that they are competing with the foreigner in the national interest. And this is not a question of internal competition. It is a question of our putting forward the best national show. Anything which tends to weaken our purpose, or gives rise to a fear that that purpose will be weakened, is bound to have a demoralising effect, even though only slightly, on the personnel, whether they be on the sales side or in the workshops of these great Corporations.
I think that we have all agreed that there is a place for the independent air operators as charter companies. It may be that some limited expansion here and there may be granted, but there is little doubt that what has happened in East Africa has given cause for serious alarm among some people in B.O.A.C. It is up to the Minister to give what I hope will be a straight answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge, who asked whether in fact pressure has been brought upon or suggestions have been made to the Corporation to raise fares in order to give a bigger price differential between the charter line company service in East Africa and the existing scheduled airlines. I believe that that has been done, and we should like to know the answer.
Indeed the Minister gave an indication of sympathy to this problem when he said that he understood the difficulties of the independent air operators arising out of the narrow profit margin of "coach services." If he understands the difficulty that they are in, then it is not a very far cry for him to attempt to do something about it; and I believe that something has been attempted to be done about it in order to maintain the profitability of these independent services.
We have also heard again of the problem that arose over the statement of the Chairmen of the Corporations on the subject of new freight services. There again, there is very strong reason to believe that there has been some misunderstanding in the matter.
§ Mr. Maudling indicated dissent.1981
§ Mr. Shackleton
The Parliamentary Secretary nods his head in a negative way and implies that there is no misunderstanding. Can we not have some sort of a statement in which the Chairmen can concur as to what is their attitude?
I suggest that in this case the Minister, perhaps in his enthusiasm and his desire to get something going for the independent operator, has not thrashed the matter out fully. The result is that another event has taken place, the threatened extension of an independent air company into the North Atlantic air service, into an area where I am sure B.O.A.C. would much prefer to develop their own services further. I hope that in due course we shall have a statement from the Minister, backed by the Chairmen, as to what is their collective attitude on this point.
I would end on this note. We are proud of the Corporations. I think it is quite clear that they have done a good job. Quite honestly, we on this side of the House are not concerned in this debate whether they are privately or publicly owned. If we wanted, we on this side of the House could make many political points on the subject of the value of public ownership, but I do not think that we are concerned with that angle today. We are very much concerned, however, for the future development and success of these British Corporations. I say with all the seriousness that I can command that the policy which the Minister appears to be following is tending to weaken the morale, and therefore to lessen the success, of these Corporations.
I ask the Minister to consider his policy very closely and, if necessary, to discuss it in private and in a friendly way with the Chairmen and members of the Corporations. I am sure that if he does so it will be possible to maintain a satisfactory balance. He can give a little of the traffic to his friends in the independent air companies, but he can do it in a way which does not weaken, as I fear it now does, the competitive standing of our Corporations who are competing in a highly competitive world market.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Colonel Alan Gomme-Duncan (Perth and East Perthshire)
I will be very brief. In following the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton), I should 1982 like to say that I was very pleased to hear him declare that he thought that on all sides of the House we were out to make the best of the two Corporations and to recognise their value and their excellent work. I believe that everybody in the House agrees with that.
The hon. Member also touched on a point which I want to develop very briefly. It is the question of the Scottish services, which is a very sore point indeed, whatever Government are in power. The hon. Member called it a social air service, and indeed in scattered parts of Scotland there is an element of social service about aircraft linking up these outlying places. We have to realise that it is essential that, for the purpose of dealing with Scottish traffic, particularly in outlying places, the aircraft should be designed to suit the air strips or airfields that may be available. The Stratocruiser attitude of mind when dealing with small areas and outlying places in Scotland is all wrong. It should be the other way round. What is wanted is a service to link those areas to the great air services so that there is a network over Scotland, whether places are isolated or not.
There is an area in Scotland which is not isolated but which at present is entirely free from an air service. It is bounded by Edinburgh in the south, Glasgow in the west, Aberdeen in the north and Dundee in the east. That area is entirely without any form of air service whatsoever. The airlines fly over it, but that is small comfort to the people of Dundee, Perth and other busy areas who are hoping to have an air service.
It was promised that when these services were nationalised at the time of the 1945 Government, one of the great things that would happen would be that places which were unable to pay under private enterprise would be catered for by this great national service. I do not think that we can say that that has happened. This was a place covered by private enterprise very efficiently and the service paid, but from the day that it was nationalised there has been no service at all. Surely that is a fair indictment and shows that there is something wrong with the nationalised service on behalf of which so much was promised for Scotland, and particularly for the area which I have mentioned.
1983 I think that it was in 1946 that the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), who is not in his place in the House at the moment, was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation He met at Perth airport the Lord Provost of that city and myself with a view to deciding whether Perth should be the airport for that part of Scotland or whether another place should be chosen which would serve both Perth and Dundee.
He arrived by air, and we sat on a couch together and had photographs taken, the Lord Provost in the centre, keeping the parties apart, as he said, though we were all smiling in the photograph. We discussed things fully, the Lord Provost being an expert in air matters. It was agreed that the Minister should visit an alternative airfield at Errol, about half-way between Perth and Dundee. That is a place which can be guaranteed to have fog when no other fog is available in Scotland. Therefore, it seemed an admirable place to choose as an airport for that service. We drove round the aerodrome in the dark, splashing through the water, and it was decided that that was the place.
We in Scotland thought it was not as good as Perth, which was built as an airport and which has no fog at all. But in order to obtain an airport to serve Dundee and Perth together and in the interest of economy, and, above all, in order to obtain a service quickly, we were prepared to accept Errol. That was the last we heard of it, except in the interim the airfield at Errol has been thoroughly looted from one end to the other.
I think that the Government of the day are sympathetic to Scottish problems in this connection and particularly to the problems of this part of Scotland, but then so was the Government whom they succeeded. I hope that we are going to hear a little more tonight from the Minister as to what is proposed in order to cover this important centre of Scotland with air services. I do not want to press the point any more. I hope I have made it clear that it was promised and that nothing has been fulfilled. Errol airport is still there—just—but if we are not very quick it will not be there at all. The buildings have been looted, the run- 1984 ways will require to be re-made and the years have taken their toll in no uncertain way.
I should like now to turn to the question of the changes that were made, according to page 30 of the B.E.A. Report. The Report states:Other changes: (c) the Glasgow—Perth service, which produced very little traffic, was not reinstituted during 1951.Why should it be? It is 72 miles from Glasgow to Perth, and also from Perth to Glasgow. Why should we have a service between those two cities? That is not what we are looking for. We want to get beyond Glasgow. We can take the bus or the train to Glasgow. We want an air service which will link up the cities of Perth and Dundee with Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, and through them, on the big services, to the other parts of the world. Today, if I wish to go by air from anywhere in Perthshire, I have to go either to Renfrew or Turnhouse near Edinburgh.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
Prestwick is even further than Renfrew. Dundee is a large city; I do not need to represent Dundee. Indeed, it is well represented already, although we have our views on the representatives. At least they are loyal in their efforts to do their best for Dundee. We should realise that it is high time that a great area, well populated, busy and active, not only with agriculture but with industries of all kinds, should be served by the air in this year 1952.
When the Report says that changes have been made between Glasgow and Perth, I should like to assure B.E.A. that we do not much mind about that. But there is a danger which is always growing, and that is that when this service was supposed to be tried out in 1950 it was said by the Corporation officials that the people did not take advantage of it. The fact of the matter is that for 12 years at least there had been no air service to Perth or the area of Dundee either, and the people had rather ceased to be air-minded.
If people have no air service at all they do not bother to think about going by air, and if they go for 12 years without any air service the tendency in the public 1985 mind is to regard it as out of the question. Therefore, it should not have been judged straightaway by the fact that the people did not patronise the air service as much as they might have done, because it is necessary to encourage in the public mind the fact that there is an air service between these places in order to get people air-minded. I hope that next time whatever is tried will be given a longer trial than the air service was on that occasion.
The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) stated that he was sure that the Amendment, which will come along later, referring to the morale and living standards of the workers being affected by the proposals of the Government, reflected a genuine fear on the part of the workers concerned, and in answer to an interjection he said that a deputation had told him so. I have also met a deputation of workers from the airfields who said the same thing. They informed us that they were told by Lord Douglas of Kirtleside that their conditions, wages and situations if a change of Government came about, would be very adversely affected. That is not the sort of thing for the Chairman of a Corporation to tell the workers of that Corporation.
§ Mr. Shackleton
Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman taken any steps to substantiate whether Lord Douglas did, in fact, say that?
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I am accepting the opinion and the evidence of the workers, in the same way as the hon. Member for Uxbridge accepted it. Lord Douglas is perfectly capable of looking after himself.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I shall not develop that because I should get into trouble with the Chair if I did, but I think, coming from the hon. Member, that is a bit stiff. It is most reprehensible that the head of a great Corporation, which has done a good job under his leadership, should inform the workers on a purely party political basis of these things that they have complained of.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I accept the workers' word for it.
In any case, I want to say a word to the Minister about the Scottish Advisory Council who have had several meetings from time to time with Lord Douglas, and they have found him invariably extremely difficult to deal with and unsympathetic to Scotland. He is a Scotsman, and that makes it all the more reprehensible. I think it is time to look into the question whether this distinguished gentleman is the right person for this job. I do not wish to say it in any carping spirit but merely as a matter which I believe to be true, and I hope the Minister will consider that very carefully.
I do not wish in any way to go into the technical details of these Reports, because I am not competent to do so. I have often in public, in my small way, expressed great admiration for the work of B.E.A. and B.O.A.C. all over the world, and I shall go on doing so, because I believe they are two very great institutions. But that does not mean they should not be subjected to vigorous competition. It will do them no harm, and I believe it will do them a lot of good.
That is why I think that anything which can be arranged to stir them up to better efforts still can never do them any harm at all. I believe that if they worry about competition, it is a sure sign that there is something which could be improved in their organisation. If they wish to prove that they are doing the best which can be done for our country—and I honestly believe they hope to do their best—then do not let them worry about competition. If they are good enough to face up to it, they will win. If they are not, they will go out, and so they should. That is the way to look at it.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
I must apologise to the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan). I understand from some of my colleagues that he referred to statements that I had made, but as I did not hear them, I am certain that he will forgive me if I do not attempt to assess very quickly what I have been told by my colleagues. I am certain that he will accept from me that any statement I made as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation was made with the full authority of the Department at 1987 that time, and that if subsequently an intention had to be changed, that was in the light of the circumstances at that time.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman so early in his speech. I appreciate what he has said. I was criticising him in a friendly way, I think it will be agreed, as representing his Department and not as an individual, of course.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I accept that entirely.
I want to join with my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) and the Minister in congratulating both Corporations on these two excellent Reports which we have before us—British European Airways no less than B.O.A.C. Having had a very difficult period in which to work in the past 12 months, and having had to contend with circumstances over which they had not the slightest control as a Corporation, perhaps their achievement is the greater. I think the House will join in congratulating them as much as B.O.A.C., B.O.A.C. now have reached a stage of profit.
I must admit to being a little envious this afternoon. For four years I stood at the Dispatch Box opposite and had to defend the Corporations and their personnel against the unfair gibes of hon. and right hon. Members opposite. The Minister must be a little nervous this afternoon, wondering whether or not I am going to quote some of the things that he said in regard to the Corporations in earlier days. So that he will not have any attack of nerves I shall say straight away that I am not going to do so, because I have not had the time to turn up the debates. But if I did read out some of the statements that were made by hon. Members opposite, they would have to eat their words today.
I am delighted to know that the Corporations, in such a short period of time, have brought themselves to this pitch of efficiency and are operating in such an excellent manner. A statement from a Conservative Minister—especially one of the standing, status and outlook of the present Minister—complimenting B.O.A.C. on their extreme efficiency in spite of being nationalised, is perhaps the highest compliment that could really be paid.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The Minister said "in spite of," but I say it is because they were nationalised and because they were given the opportunity to work.
This fine achievement has been brought about by the co-operation—as the Minister quite generously accepted—of the boards, the management and the employees. Following up the reference which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge to the part played by the Ministers of Civil Aviation, it must be very pleasing to Lord Nathan and Lord Pakenham to see that the work they initiated, with the full co-operation of the various Chairmen and chief executives of the boards, is bearing fruit today.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I did not have the privilege and honour of working with him. I am trying to keep my remarks to those about whom I know something and of whom I can speak from first-hand experience. I had the privilege of working both with Lord Nathan and Lord Pakenham and saw the policy which they initiated as Ministers. That policy, which was worked out in full co-operation and in conjunction with the managements of the three Corporations—as they were at one time—has now borne fruit.
The achievement of the Corporations has been made more easy by the very high degree of joint consultation that has taken place between the managements and the staffs of the Corporations. Joint consultation in industry is one of those developments which is really in its infancy and, so far as the two Corporations are concerned, we should recognise the high degree of joint consultation which they have achieved and the fact that practically every employee feels he has a vital part to play and that he is playing that vital part in bringing the Corporations to their very satisfactory position.
That consultation was not only with the Corporations but also with the Ministers of the day. During the period of the Labour Government consultation both with the Corporations and the trade unions who were represented on the 1989 National Council for Civil Air Transport—dealing with wages and conditions and matters which were likely to affect the industry—was continuous and very effective. The door of the Ministry was always open both to the Corporations and to the trade union representatives.
That, too, had a very good effect in the early days, when measures of economy had to be adopted, because the trade unions representing the workers understood what was being done and why it was being done. I am sorry that I cannot compliment the Minister on carrying on that very effective policy. I understand that when serious decisions are made in regard to the future of the industry today, decisions which are likely to affect the livelihood of the men within the industry, consultation does not take place with the trade unions in the same effective and ready manner as it did during the period of the Labour Government.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Would the hon. Gentleman be kind enough to give details so that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary can deal with them? It is obvious that the fact that I have also responsibility in the Ministry of Transport reduces the amount of time available to me from the point of view of both Departments; but there is no reason to think that under our present arrangements just as much consideration is not given, by my hon. Friend and myself, as was given before.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I am delighted to be able to give the evidence so far as I can. I have received from the trade union side of the N.J.C. a letter dated 1st October, signed by Mr. J. Matthews, the Secretary, and addressed to the Ministry, complaining of the lack of consultation when decisions were made affecting the livelihood of men and women in the industry. I also have a letter from the Ministry dated 20th October and signed by one of the Ministry officials. I am certain that the Ministry will be able to supply the Parliamentary Secretary with a copy of that letter.
I ask quite definitely that the Ministry should continue to consult the men and women in the industry. Hon. Members opposite have their ideas about private enterprise, but here we are dealing with the livelihood of men and women. The 1990 workers engaged in the industry, whose wage packets, conditions of home life and all the rest are dependent upon what is going on in the industry and what is the future of the industry, surely have the right to be consulted. But the only people who appear to have free and open access to the Minister are the independent air charter associations.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
Is the hon. Gentleman trying to say that the Minister should interfere in all the industrial relations existing in these Corporations? I have always understood that the object and principle of the operation of nationalised undertakings was that Ministers did not interfere with the day-to-day affairs of the undertakings.
§ Mr. Lindgren
That is quite true. I concede that point straight away; but what the hon. Gentleman does not appreciate—and I should have thought he would have done, judging from the period during which he has been in the House and the fact that he has shown some interest in these subjects—is that the action of the Minister can affect what is done by the Corporations. If, for instance, ihe Minister says that the Corporations must or must not do certain things, the livelihood of the men and women in the industry is affected.
During the lifetime of the Labour Government, if the Minister was going to take some action in conjunction with the Corporations which was likely to affect the general structure, the wage structure, the availability or stability of employment, the fullest consultation was carried on with the trade unions representing the workers in order that the trade unions could consult with their members and bring them fully into the picture as to what was happening and why it was happening. I am proud that that was so.
That system should be continued now. The suggestion is—and it is made quite freely within civil aviation at the present time—that that is not so, and it is not liked by those who are affected by it. It is equally true that the improvement that the Corporations have been able to bring about has been due to the greater utilisation they have been able to obtain from aircraft, the greater use they have been able to make of the ground facilities which have to be provided along the various routes they operate, and the 1991 higher payloads they can get from their aircraft. They are, in fact, making greater use of the capital provided within the industry. As far as aircraft are concerned, the economics of the industry are such that the greater number of hours they fly, the greater likelihood of a profit; and the greater the payload which an aircraft can carry, the more economic are the operations carried out.
This is an industry not only for scheduled services in the normal sense of the word; it is an industry which has to make arrangements to carry peak loads of traffic in exactly the same way as any other method of transport, shipping, road or rail. If they are to deal with that peak load, it means that a range of capital equipment is necessary which involves some of it lying idle for certain periods. If they are to get the highest possible utilisation out of aircraft, the Corporations must at all times be free, and without any hindrance whatever from the Minister, to use fully their aircraft and the other facilities which they have. It may be that they would do that by consultation with various groups of people or organisations for special traffic arrangements, and so on.
Equally, they should be completely free to enter the open market for either passenger or freight charter work. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite accused us of being afraid of competition, but it is they who are afraid of competition. They are trying to put a ring-wall around the independent operator and to prevent the Corporations from entering the field on fair and equal terms with him. All we ask is that there should be competition on fair and equal terms. I had to meet from that Box a criticism that the Corporations were in a privileged position.
§ Mr. Lindgren
If the hon. Member behaved on a rugby field as he is behaving now, the referee would send him off. I am sorry if that remark was out of order, Mr. Speaker.
The Corporations were considered to be in a privileged position because they had State capital behind them and the stability and the prestige which comes from being a State airline. Many air charter operators are engaged not only in 1992 the work of civil air transport but also in certain maintenance and manufacturing operations, and it has been reported to me that certain of these independent air charter companies, which are engaged in work other than civil air operations, charge the losses on civil air operations to their more profitable business of manufacture and repair.
§ Mr. Lindgren
There are firms, which are well known, which are engaged in manufacture and repair and also in the general operations of civil air transport.
§ Mr. Maudling
If these Corporations are making losses on their charter operations, why do they want to continue?
§ Mr. Lindgren
They want to develop their operations. One of the firms concerned is Airwork, to which reference was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge. This firm deliberately got into the East African field, and it is now asking for increased fares and is complaining that B.O.A.C. fares are too low. That statement has been made and it has not been denied by the Minister. If it is not unfair competition for these independent charter companies to enter a field, deliberately attempting to create a situation in which they can operate to the exclusion of other people, then I do not know what is. I suggest that the Corporations ought to have the most free and full opportunity to deal with the work which is available in the light of their experience as operators and of the aircraft which they have available.
The Minister referred to trooping. Look at the foolish way in which we carry on. Here we have a national activity—that of moving troops from place to place and of moving Government servants from place to place. On the other side, we have Government equipment—the Corporations' aircraft. Rather than bring together Government activity and Government aircraft—for the aircraft are available and could be used—we deliberately place between them an independent charter operator and pay at a rate much 1993 higher than that at which the job could be done by the Corporation.
§ Mr. Maudling
The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong there. When this trooping started, the Corporations quoted competitively with private operators, and the private operators obtained the contract because their quotations were lower.
§ Mr. Lindgren
To a certain degree, what the Parliamentary Secretary said is correct, but in certain fields the Corporations have been excluded from tendering. The Minister, in a previous statement—I wish I had it with me so that I could quote from it—said that, as far as charter corporations were concerned, the Corporations were to be excluded from tendering in order to give this field, which was not that of scheduled operations, to the independent operator rather than to the Corporation.
I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary intervened to state that in certain instances the rates of the independent charter operators are lower than those of the Corporations. That is true. Why is it so? Because not a single independent air charter operator is paying fair wages and providing fair conditions of service—not one. The Minister indicates that that statement is a little beyond the realm of fact. Let me say quite definitely and deliberately that there is not a single charter operator who is recognised as fair by the trade unions within the industry.
There was the Industrial Court award in 1949 which went against the independent air charter operators. They have never implemented that award, although it went in favour of the trade unions. Let me be fair about this: after that Industrial Court award, the trade unions met the operators, because the latter were not honouring it, and, as a result of the discussions between them, it was agreed not to press the award because it was admitted—there then being a Labour Government in power and Labour Ministers in control of the Ministry—that the field of operations of the charter companies was restricted. The trade unions said, "We agree that we got the Industrial Court award against you in the light of your carrying out operations comparable with those of the Corporation. As long as you do not carry out operations comparable with those of the 1994 Corporation, we shall not press the award."
With the encouragement of the Minister, the independent air charter firms are now entering exactly the same field as the Corporations and are undertaking work which could and should be carried out by the Corporations. If in fact these people are doing that, I would remind the Minister of Section 19 of the Civil Aviation Act, 1946. Section 19 ought to be implemented if these people are doing work comparable to that of the Corporations.
There is not only the question of the rates of pay. It is true that in some instances one or two charter firms are giving comparable rates of pay, but rates of pay are not the only conditions of service. [Interruption.] I said they were not considered as fair. There are conditions of service in regard to pensions as well as to rates of pay.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
Just now the hon. Gentleman said there was not a single charter firm paying fair rates of pay. What does he mean by that?
§ Mr. Lindgren
The hon. Gentleman must try to remember what folk say across the Floor of the Chamber.
§ Mr. Lindgren
What I said, and what I repeated in order to be clear, was that there was not a single independent air charter operator that was recognised as fair—a fair employer—by the trades unions in the industry. The question of a fair employer relates to rates of pay and conditions of employment. I admit that in one or two instances—only one or two instances—the rates of pay are comparable. In none of the instances are the conditions of employment comparable. One of the most important conditions of employment is that of pensions, and particularly is it so in the case of pilots, whose life as a pilot is comparatively short and whose risk with regard to accident is high.
I say that if the Government are to encourage air charter operators to enter work which is now that of the Corporations, to exclude the Corporations from work normally open to them, they should see to it that the independent operators observe fair rates of pay and conditions of employment in 1995 the industry. I was going to say just now, when I was interrupted, that, in so far as the charter companies are concerned, there is an accountancy shuffle which is really a hidden subsidy.
I want now to refer to the general question of the sale of aircraft. The Minister himself referred to the fact that these charter operators wanted aircraft, and he wanted to see what facilities could be given for those aircraft to be provided for them. Those aircraft are extremely costly. I notice from the B.O.A.C. Report that the Corporation made available to Airwork a number of Hermes aircraft, and has made arrangements for Air-work to hire-purchase the aircraft because Airwork could not afford to pay for them.
I am all in favour of friendly relations in the industry and everywhere else, but this does seem to me a little strange, that here we have a Corporation which buys the aircraft and then helps a competitor, who is going into the same field as itself, sells the aircraft to the competitor and, because the competitor cannot buy them, makes them available to the competitor on hire-purchase arrangements. I should like to ask the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary, how it comes about that the Corporation is engaged in this arrangement of hire purchase, and whether or not it got it from the Ministry to make available to the charter operators the type of aircraft to make it possible for the competitor to enter the particular field which is normally that of the Corporation.
There is, too, I see from the B.O.A.C. Report, an arrangement for selling Tudor aircraft to the charter operators. Can we be told in this House the terms and conditions and price at which those Tudor aircraft are being made available to the independent air charter operators?
§ Mr. Maudling
Most of the Tudors, if not all of them, from the days of the previous Government, have been awaiting a purchaser to take them.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I agree. That is not the fault of the Government. It is the fault of the manufacturer. I do not want to go into the unfortunate story of the Tudor. After all, I think the Corporation was correct in the decision not to operate the Tudors. That decision was made in conjunction with the Minister of that time. 1996 There were two unfortunate disappearances in South America, and confidence in the aircraft was gone, and therefore the Corporation would not operate them. What I am asking now is this: why and on what conditions are these aircraft, in which the Corporation had no confidence, being sold to independent operators? What price is being charged to the independent operators? Under what conditions are they being sold? Is there a hidden subsidy in the sale, through these aircraft being sold at a cheap rate?
§ Mr. Maudling
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that those aircraft have been on public offer for sale with no price named for a very long time. We have not received any firm offer at all from anyone to buy them.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Then they are only on offer to the charter operators and they have not purchased them yet, and the only reason is the price being asked for them. After all, there was a price offered for Tudor aircraft a long while ago, and if the Ministry at that time had been prepared to sell them at the price offered at that time, they would have gone. What I am asking is, what price the Ministry are going to sell them at. It is not an unfair question, because the price at which the aircraft are sold may be a hidden subsidy to the operator—because of the price he pays.
I think I ought to say a word before I close on the subject of Gatwick. For my part, I welcome the decision of the Minister in regard to having Gatwick as an alternate airport. I think it is unfortunate that the Ministry earlier, when I was associated with it, and when Lord Pakenham was the Minister, decided not to use Gatwick airport. That decision was made because B.E.A. at that time said it had no use for it. I think that Gatwick is the only correctly sited airport in relation to surface transport——
§ Mr. Lindgren
It is the only airport in this country which has good road and rail facilities, particularly rail facilities.
§ Sir H. Webbe
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the rail facilities from Gatwick are completely hopeless? It is perfectly true that there are sidings to put trains in, but the visitors do not want to 1997 sit in sidings; they want to get to London. If he will go to Clapham Junction or London Bridge, the hon. Gentleman will see the complete bottlenecks there through which the Southern Region cannot bring any more trains whatever.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The hon. Gentleman, perhaps, has a vested interest in whether Gatwick can operate as an airport or not. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I say that Gatwick, in relation to surface transport, is very good indeed. It was good enough to cope with the extensive peak load difficulties when it was a racecourse. If it could handle that sort of traffic, it can handle the normal traffic likely to arise at an airport such as this. I think it was unfortunate that the Ministry made the decision that it would not be required, because, but for that decision, the new town of Crawley which is in association with it would not have been developed there—to the same extent, at least, as that at which it is being developed at the present time.
But on the creation of the aerodrome itself—its siting—that is a decision which, I think, the Ministry ought to have taken to provide an alternate for London Airport. For that alternate is urgent, and for my part, having had some experience within the Ministry itself, I give my fullest support to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary in the decision they have made. I think it is a wise one, and I hope it will go forward, and go forward quickly.
I close on the note on which I opened, and that is that the Reports of these Corporations are Reports of which the Corporations themselves, the House and the country can be proud. I am proud to have had an opportunity of working in association with those who made this happy day possible, and I hope we shall go forward to the day when both Corporations are showing an extremely good profit, to the benefit of this country and the services it renders to those who need air transport. This is assured, provided that the work of the two Corporations is not unduly interfered with, or their range of activity crippled, by the Minister at the present time. I ask, even at this stage, that the Corporations be allowed to carry on normal commercial activities, to do the work available to them, and to have free and open competition 1998 with anyone and everyone in the field in which they can operate.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. John Maclay (Renfrew, West)
I am very conscious, Mr. Speaker, that it is some considerable time since I attempted to catch your eye in this Chamber. I can only assure that it is not from any lack of interest in the proceedings of this House that that has been so. I would add, if I may, that it was inevitably, and is still, a great disappointment to me that ill-health should not only have curtailed my normal activities but have forced my resignation from an office which I consider it a great and proud privilege to have held, even for a relatively short time.
I do not think that anyone who has ever held office with the Ministry of Civil Aviation could leave it without great regret. I shall always treasure a memory of fascinatingly interesting work and the best possible co-operation from the Department. I would also pay tribute to the co-operation and constructive help I had from the Corporations, the Chairmen, staff and members of the boards, and all those in the industry with whom I was privileged to come in contact.
Before I go further, may I, with all humility, offer my congratulations to my successor on the admirable work he has already done? In spite of some of the things said in the debate today, I know that the whole House realises that his great abilities will always be used to serve what he believes to be the very best interests of every sector of civil aviation.
I do not propose to detain the House for very long this evening. Obviously, everybody on both sides of the House wants to join in the congratulations that have been offered to the Corporations on the results shown in their Reports this year. That the British Overseas Airways Corporation should be running at a profit is a source of immense satisfaction to everybody in the country, regardless of their feelings about the Corporations when they were started, and regardless of their political beliefs.
I would add one thing about British Overseas Airways. It has been an immense personal satisfaction recently to hear from foreigners who have travelled by B.O.A.C., particularly on the North Atlantic routes, a very different 1999 story from the one we heard two or three years ago. They are now full of praise. The evidence of that is in the number of passengers B.O.A.C. have attracted on the North Atlantic routes. In a period when all traffic was rising on the North Atlantic routes, B.O.A.C. have taken the cream against the most acute competition, particularly from our American competitors. That is a source of great satisfaction.
Equally with B.E.A., realising the difficulties they have been up against in the last year, we are all extremely happy that they have done as well as they have. They have had a difficult period, and one wants to see them with their new planes delivered and a fair chance to get going with them.
Having said that, I want to make this point. In an international service, there is, of course, extreme competition, and competition has a very stimulating effect. The Minister spoke about things which might possibly have been different with regard to the internal structure in the post-war years. I profoundly agree. It is not just a question of whether losses might have been greater or less, or whether profits might have been made. The issue is whether the structure of the internal services after the war has been such as to achieve the best development of civil aviation of every form internally, and to reduce costs and produce the best types of aircraft.
It has been very noticeable that latterly the D.H.89 has not been an economic plane, and has not been able to give Scotland the service needed. Is it not conceivable that if the structure had been different in the past there would have been a greater concentration on getting a suitable plane for Scottish services than there has been? After all, it was an astonishing position to find oneself in only a few months ago when asked what would take the place of the D.H.89, the Rapide, to find out that our predecessors in Government had produced no answer whatever.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not want in any way to do B.E.A. or the then Government an injustice. B.E.A. got out a D.H.89 replacement. They put it out to tender and Shorts' tender for a type of aircraft was accepted. The Labour Government 2000 of the day, in the light of the national investment programme, suggested, with some pressure from the Ministry of Supply, that the Marathon rather than the D.H.89 replacement should be made.
§ Mr. Maclay
I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that remark. I was going on to say that I had no intention of casting any reflection on B.E.A. in this because I know well the facts to which the hon. Gentleman has just referred. The point is, had there been some other operator in existence, or some other groups of operators, would that position have arisen? Would there have been the concentration on the Marathon? I rather doubt it. There would have been every inducement to study, without paying too much attention to the Government of the day, what was the plane most likely to be useful in that part of the world, and development might have been well ahead.
§ Mr. Rankin
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the cost of the plane which would be economically possible was quite well known to manufacturers, and that they did not or could not produce the plane at a cost which would make it economically effective? And why not?
§ Mr. Maclay
I do not know the answer to the question, "Why not?"—unless it is that they were given no encouragement to produce that type of plane under the structure which existed between 1945 and 1950. I know it is a very difficult question as to whether we could have got the right plane by now. All I would submit is that if there is one tight structure covering the whole country for the scheduled services one cannot expect, no matter how good they are, particularly when tied very tightly to the Government of the day, to get the maximum flexibility in searching for the best type of plane.
§ Mr. Rankin
Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not want to misrepresent the situation. We did not control the manufacturers of the machines. It was the operators who were controlled. The manufacturers were free.
§ Mr. Maclay
Who has ever known a manufacturer to work ahead regardless of potential purchasers? Development of aircraft must to a great extent depend on co-operation between the manufacturer and the potential customer.
2001 I think some Scottish Members will certainly agree that at one time there was an attempt to construct Scottish services too much on the Stratocruiser complex, which somebody mentioned, or on the Rolls Royce type of service, rather than going for that best suited to some of the Scottish services, more or less a good Austin rather than a Rolls Royce.
§ Mr. Maclay
What is to happen in future? The Minister has stated the position about the internal services very clearly. He is prepared to consider any suggestions which conform to the requirements he stated today in introducing the debate. I must say that I sincerely hope that something will evolve which will enable those in Scotland who take an acute interest in civil aviation to see that Scotland's best interests are and will be served. Whether there can today be any profound change I would not like to say; it is impossible to know at this stage. But if not, there are other things which must be studied.
The Minister has mentioned the question of the advisory councils. These have done excellent work, and all the members are to be congratulated on the time and work given to them. Without making any reflection whatsoever on these excellent people, I should like to suggest that it is worth examining whether, if these councils continue, the Chairmen of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Councils should also be members of the Board of B.E.A. That is not a reflection on anybody, but I feel that if the advisory council is expected to become to some extent a consumers' council it must detract from the confidence placed in this council if the chairman and others are members of the Board of the Corporation which the Council may have constructively to criticise. That is no reflection on anything that has happened in the past, but it is a point which requires careful examination.
Turning to the speech of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) and other hon. Members who followed him, surely the objective of every one of us is to find the best means of advancing 2002 British civil aviation. That is what we are all after. I find it difficult to believe that in the light of the Government's proposals the Amendment on the Order Paper could be put down in this year of grace, but now that I have heard the speeches of hon. Members opposite I am beginning to understand why it has been put down. It is, of course, a criticism of the very moderate proposals made by the Government to widen the field for independent operators.
The thought behind the Amendment seems to be that civil aviation is in a very advanced stage, and it is now only a question of regulating, controlling and keeping in a tight grip its future development. We in this House are really in much the same position today as those who were here 80 or 100 years ago, when they were discussing the railways. No one can tell what is coming in the future.
All we can say is that civil aviation has an enormously expanding future, and we must search for the best way of encouraging the maximum British share in the future. Some say that the international passenger structure is too tight. Since the war there has grown up a structure based on the chosen instrument and bilateral treaties with reciprocal rights, and it is not much of an exaggeration to say that the greater part of the international passenger service is already rather tightly frozen. One can argue whether that is inevitable, and whether it is right or wrong. All I would say is that within that structure it is very important that British civil aviation should make every possible advance. I know that the opportunity is very limited for the independents, but surely it is no threat to the Corporation to say that if there is a new service not covered by them, at least the independents should have the opportunity to tender for it.
§ Mr. Beswick
I think we ought to be fair. The threat, if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to regard it as a threat, is not in respect of that at all. My complaint was about two things. First, I adduced, from the reluctance of the Minister to contradict me, that B.O.A.C. were being asked artificially to put up their fares to make room for private operators; second, that there was to be a restriction so that B.O.A.C. were not to be allowed to develop their North Atlantic Service for one year.
§ Mr. Maclay
It would appear that, subject to two reservations, the hon. Gentleman accepts the Government's policy in relation to international services. If that is so, I am delighted to hear it, and I hope that the Opposition Amendment will not be moved. The two points which he raises are points of detail and not points of principle, and it seems to me right and essential, if we are to get the proper development of British civil aviation, that not only the Corporations but everyone willing to take part in it should be given an opportunity, and that we should try to find new methods of extending the scheduled operations.
§ Mr. Beswick
The right hon. Gentleman has been talking about the necessity for expansion as against restriction. Is he in favour of restricting our British Corporation from operating on freight rates over the North Atlantic in the next immediate months?
§ Mr. Maclay
The hon. Member will realise that the Corporation have had a very long start in all this work. During the six years since the war, the independents have had a very small field in which they could do any development at all. It is a tribute to those who have survived that period that they have done so. All that the Government are saying now, if I understand the speech of my right hon. Friend correctly, is that for a period the independents should have a full chance of getting into this all-freight service.
It is obvious that the Corporations, with their infinitely greater resources of aircraft, could stifle the independents before they have a chance to get going. But if there was the risk that if the Corporations did not get into this field some other nation would, that must be and is guarded against. In the meantime, it is the greatest relief to me to know that an independent operator has made an application for such a service, whether he gets it or not.
Why are we one of the nations which has no transatlantic freight service operating? Our competitors are in there now. During the time that I was in my job at the Ministry, I realised the tremendous future which there is for freight in the air. It is now for Britain to establish her position as quickly as possible before too many people get in.
I think that the Government's proposals are entirely admirable and fair to the 2004 Corporation. Perhaps the best way to prove that is to have a look in the Library at the terms of the new directive to the A.T.A.C. There, there are set out very clearly the conditions on which independents can apply and be accepted for new services. Some people think that the protection of the Corporation is excessive. I do not share that view. I think that a structure has emerged from which we can start and develop. Before any hon. Member opposite argues that this policy can upset the Corporations, he should make certain that the conditions that have to be observed if an independent company is to get an agreement are thoroughly understood.
The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) can see in the Library the provisions with regard to terms and conditions of service to which he referred. The terms and conditions of service of employees are one of the tests which A.T.A.C. has to apply before submitting recommendations to the Minister, and terms of service must be not less favourable than those negotiated through the National Joint Council on Civil Aviation.
§ Mr. Maclay
The conditions are laid down and the hon. Member should prove a thing like that before he says it even in this House. This industry has a tremendous future. Should we not co-operate without bringing in political differences in trying to get the very best out of the Corporations and the very best opportunity for the independents to play their part?
There has been very little said today from the other side which should be difficult to reconcile with what we are trying to do, provided there is good will. If hon. Members opposite are going to search for every difficulty and make political capital out of it, that is one thing, and it can be very disastrous. If they are going to search for new, constructive criticism, that is the duty of the Opposition, and I feel sure that if they approach the matter in that way they will withdraw their Amendment tonight.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
I am glad that I have been fortunate to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, because it is high time that Wales was 2005 mentioned in these civil aviation debates. In the debate in March last year Wales received no mention and the same omission occurred in the debate last July. In opening the debate last July the Minister mentioned England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, but he left Wales out. I am sure that if his right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs had known about that, he would have refused to represent the right hon. Gentleman at the dinner which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick).
I want straight away to correct any impression which may exist that there is no interest in civil aviation in the Principality, and to remind the House that the Welsh Advisory Council for Civil Aviation is doing an excellent job and is very much alive to the needs of the Principality in this sphere. I want to pay tribute to Mr. Kenneth Davies, Secretary to the Welsh Council, who has played a pioneering part in civil aviation in Wales. Tribute should also be paid to my right hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) who has for many years made an important contribution. Cambrian Airways also deserves a compliment. It is not generally appreciated that it was the first private charter company to begin operating in the United Kingdom after the war, and for a considerable time it kept certain services going, although they were being run at a loss.
Wales has her special problems and her special needs in civil aviation. I have come to the conclusion that the only medium which can effectively unite North and South Wales and bring those areas closer together commercially and culturally is air transport. I should even look with greater favour upon Cardiff as a potential capital for Wales if it were easier of access. I do not know how many hon. Members have made the journey by road or even by train from Anglesey to Cardiff, Swansea and Haverfordwest. It is an extremely romantic journey, but after one has said that one has said everything. I once flew from a South Wales airfield to Anglesey and the journey took about one hour. I had to travel back by train and that took over 10 hours.
The ideal aircraft for Wales is the helicopter, for it would be ideally suited to 2006 the fairly short stops and to our difficult terrain. That is the considered opinion of the Welsh Advisory Council for Civil Aviation. An effective passenger-carrying helicopter could do a round North and South Wales trip taking in all the larger centres of population.
A great deal has been heard in the House recently about experiments to find a suitable helicopter. The Bristol 173 and a larger passenger-carrying helicopter have been mentioned in the House. Replying to Questions about them on Monday, the Minister of Supply said that experiments were now proceeding. We all appreciate that these things take time and that there are considerations of safety and cost which are of paramount importance, but I wish the Minister could be rather more specific in his estimate of the time it will take to produce the right helicopter. We have taken the lead in the world with jet aircraft and I believe we can also take the lead in this other, possibly less spectacular but no less important, sphere as well.
Wales pioneered a passenger-carrying helicopter service. The Minister may remember the Liverpool-Wrexham-Pengam Moor-Cardiff service which operated for a short time. When helicopter services begin to operate in earnest in this country, Wales deserves first priority, because she was the pioneer. I believe that Lord Pakenham, when Minister of Civil Aviation, promised the Advisory Council that priority would be given to the Principality. Apart from any other consideration, an effective, safe and economic helicopter would undoubtedly be a great dollar earner for us, and I urge the Government to do everything possible to hasten the production of the right machine.
When internal air services are discussed in this country, it is invariably the great cities which are mentioned. The Minister referred to them this afternoon. I realise that that is inevitable and natural, but it would be a mistake to have an exclusively urban outlook when considering British internal services. If only the great cities are to be catered for, almost the whole of Wales will be excluded from consideration. There ought to be a considered policy for our market towns and other rural centres. Some small towns have already selected sites for airfields. It might be argued that this is uneconomical, but we must also remember the 2007 social implications of ignoring the needs of the rural areas. Last July the Minister said that social factors as well as economic factors had to be considered.
My final point may be regarded as a constituency matter, but I feel it is more than that. In the last debate the Minister said that as international airports London with Gatwick came first and Prestwick came second, and he has said substantially the same thing today. No one will quarrel with that. I hope Prestwick will be developed and fully used, and I think that is the intention of the Ministry, but I also want to plead for two airfields in Anglesey which are admirably suited to become trans-Atlantic airports.
After the war Valley airfield in Anglesey was scheduled as a reserve base for Prestwick and was so used on many occasions when it was impossible to use Prestwick because of adverse weather conditions. If the Minister studies the records, he will find that Valley is an ideal airfield for this purpose for it has a remarkable history of freedom from fog.
There on the West coast of Britain we have a first-class airfield which could be used as a reserve base for Prestwick. I am not suggesting for a moment—when I look at my hon. Friends representing Scottish divisions I realise that it would be dangerous to do so—that it should replace Prestwick. I merely suggest that it should be a reserve base, for it would suit the purpose admirably. I should like the Minister to tell us what the position about Valley is today. Is it still scheduled as a reserve base for Prestwick, or is it now being exclusively used by the Royal Air Force? If the latter is the case, I ask the Minister to look at the airfield at Mona which is only seven miles away from Valley. I should be grateful to know whether Customs facilities exist today at Valley or Mona.
May I conclude by asking three questions? Firstly, I should like to know the position with regard to Rhoose in South Wales. This is another well-equipped airfield, and the Ministry of Civil Aviation have dilly-dallied over it for a very long time.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I can deal with that at once. If there was any dilly-dallying, I brought it to an end, and I invited Lord Ogmore to deputise for me 2008 in a recent important event in the history of Rhoose to show solidarity in Wales.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am grateful for that information and to know that the Minister appreciates that there has been a considerable amount of delay about Rhoose. I am glad that some action is now being taken.
Secondly, when is the Minister going to have Wrexham airfield cleared up? Lastly, can he say when we can hope for an airfield in North Wales near to the coastal resorts of North Wales, say Abergele, which will enable the people from the Midlands to visit that part of the Principality and avoid the ever-increasing traffic congestion on the roads? These are some of the questions affecting Wales, and I hope that the Minister will comment on them.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Air Commodore A. V. Harvey (Macclesfield)
I should begin by declaring my interest in the aircraft industry both as a constructor and as an operator. I think it is well known in the House, but I should like to emphasise it at the outset. We have enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes). He certainly spoke up for the Principality, and I was very glad to hear him support an independent operator, Cambrian Airways, which is a small company that has rendered good service both to this country and to Wales. I hope it will go on and succeed and prosper, and I am glad to see the hon. Member is interested in an independent company.
The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) in his speech, as is his usual custom, referred to some remarks I made previously. Since 1945 he and I have spoken in most of the civil aviation debates. He quoted a reference, which I cannot find, where I said that the Corporations would for ever make a loss, but to that I would refer later. Today, he said that I never congratulated the Corporations. Like the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), I have not the time to go through every HANSARD since 1945, but I found one remark I made on 19th March last year, when I said:I should like to congratulate Lord Douglas and Mr. Peter Masefield, his very able lieutenant in B.E.A., on what they have done."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 2158–9.]
§ Mr. Beswick
I do not think I said that the hon. and gallant Member never congratulated the Corporations because I know full well that on various occasions he has, but I quoted his words when he said that he did not think they would ever make a profit.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
I do not look ahead for more than eight or 10 years at a time, and up to the present B.E.A. have not made a profit. Fortunately, B.O.A.C. have, for the first time last year, but I will go into that in the course of my remarks.
The hon. Member referred to York aircraft which might be operated, if given permission, over the North Atlantic. I see nothing wrong with the York carrying freight over the North Atlantic. If it is an aircraft with a certificate of airworthiness it should be able to do the job all right. It will be flying at night and carrying freight, thus earning money for its operators and for the country. After all, all the cargo steamers are not good to look at. If aircraft are airworthy and can earn foreign currency the sooner they get on to the job the better.
I think it is a little unfair to refer to the all-up weight of these aircraft. I remember, in the days of the British South American Airways, having an argument about this in the House and all-up weight came into it. I assume that the Registration Board and the authorities concerned will agree on the permissible amount of all-up weight, and I do not think that as Members of Parliament it is for us to criticise technical features of that nature. I prefer to leave it to the Minister's advisers to decide what is the correct weight.
The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton), spoke about the Chairmen of the Corporations being forced to do certain things under pressure from the Minister. If the Chairmen of these Corporations have a grudge they are perfectly entitled to come into the open and say what it is. They run the businesses we hope as any other business is run, and if they want to say something let them state quite clearly what is wrong.
I am quite satisfied with the statement made by my right hon. Friend, that they recognise that they have got a great monopoly and have got their work fully cut out for them in the next year or two to compete in the international field with 2010 such well-known lines as Pan-American and Trans-World, so that a breathing space is not a bad thing to enable the small independent company to get going in certain directions.
I do not think that the Corporations will lose any traffic at all. There is business for everybody provided that there is good will on all sides. Someone said that the morale of B.O.A.C. has gone down. I do not believe it. They have an operating record second to none for safety, and they are the first airline in the world to fly jet liners. Morale is as high as it can be, and for Opposition Members to talk about the morale of B.O.A.C. being low because of interference does not stand examination for one moment.
Since the end of the war civil air transportation has made tremendous strides that in 1945 we never thought possible. We differed with the Labour Party policy when they brought in the Act of 1946. We fought in Committee upstairs and we disagreed, but whatever we said was not considered in those days. The Bill was steamrollered through the 1945–50 Parliament by the large Government majority, but the fact is that, as I see it now, the Labour Party object to the smallest alteration taking place in the set-up which they then established.
Surely as this great industry progresses, as it has done in the past six years, changes are bound to take place. We may not like them and the Opposition may not like them, but here is an industry which, now that we have declining industries such as textiles, may well be the salvation of our economy and of our livelihood. But we must be broadminded and look at it in the right way. I can see exports from this industry amounting to £120 million a year in the matter of three or four years, if, in this industry, we are wise about our business. Apart from the invisible exports earned by insurance and the selling of British wares, we are leading the world in our airliners.
As I see it, the policy for this great industry has got to be governed by strategic, commercial and business considerations and the less politics that are brought into it the better. I have been as guilty as anybody in this House in the last seven years, but, generally speaking. I have tried to be constructive in my view. I am sure that it will please the hon. Member for Uxbridge to know that on 2011 my notes I have a reminder to congratulate the management and workers of both Corporations. But do not let us forget that in the last six years it was the Tory Opposition which prodded the Labour Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, that is perfectly true. We prodded the Government to reduce the staff of B.O.A.C., and it has gone down from 24,000 to 16,000. Questions were put about this subject and it was also mentioned in debates. When the new Chairman, Sir Miles Thomas, was appointed effective steps were taken to reduce the numbers of the staff.
I do not want to take away in any degree from the improvement in the B.O.A.C. balance sheet, but the mail rate was increased from the beginning of last year and there was a back lag which will not recur this year. We ought to appreciate that point in considering the final figures. Also, B.O.A.C. have had hidden subsidies for a number of years. One I can mention is that of the Solents, which were purchased for approximately £220,000 from Short and Harland in Belfast.
Eighteen months ago the policy was changed completely, and these aircraft were discarded. Eight of these brand new aircraft are lying rotting in Belfast today. They are offered to independent operators for £30,000 each. But these aircraft were hired by B.O.A.C. from the Minister of Supply, and it is not the Corporations which are paying the bill. That charge falls on the taxpayer, but if that had to be taken into account then B.O.A.C.'s balance sheet would not look as good as it does today.
§ Mr. Beswick
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman telling the House that it was a mistake to switch to Hermes?
§ Air Commodore Harvey
I am not saying anything of the kind. Men are paid high salaries in the Corporation to formulate a policy and it should be the right policy. Nevertheless, they must have made mistakes in one direction or another. I do not think that the Hermes is a bad aircraft, or the Solent either. Both are very good.
Last year, the Post Office agreed to pay retrospectively from 1st January, 1951, an extra 3s. 1d. per ton for first- 2012 class mails, bringing the rate up to 14s. 2d. per ton. This rate is equivalent to 4.17 gold francs, while the international rate is six gold francs a ton. Why are the Post Office paying so little to the Corporations for the carriage of mails? The Americans pay well over five gold francs per ton. We have had a Labour Postmaster-General for the last six years, so hon. Members opposite have to carry some responsibility for this state of affairs. I hope that this point will be considered, because, today, the fare-paying passenger is subsidising the carriage of mails. This is not a businesslike arrangement and I hope that it will be looked into.
The balance sheet of the B.O.A.C. is admirably drawn up and gives a lot of detail. There is a reference on page 47 to pay, allowances, accommodation, advertising and other publicity, and to "other costs," which are given as £180,238. What are these other costs? It looks like an item dealing with the petty cash. This debate is the equivalent of a shareholders' meeting. It is the only chance we have of discussing the accounts. No doubt £180,000 is chicken feed in comparison with the millions of pounds in these accounts, but I hope that the item will be explained to the House by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation when he winds up the debate.
The other thing I criticise in the accounts is on page 40, where reference is made to the cost of charters. Last year, the expenditure for charters was £491,708 against the previous year's expenditure of just over £441,000. The revenue obtained last year was £962,000, almost double that of the previous year, £450,000. It looks as if the expenditure has been exactly the same while the revenue is doubled. Does that mean that overhead charges and expenditure are being absorbed by the scheduled services, and the revenue is being obtained from charters, without the point being made quite clear? I hope to have some explanation here also.
On the B.E.A.'s account, I agree that their loss is not a true picture because their traffic is seasonal. They carry the bulk of their traffic in six months of the year. They have to pay in fuel tax some £267,000, mostly on domestic runs, which 2013 sum strikes me as being quite exorbitant. In fact, it is greater than any other international airline in the world. I cannot see why an airline should have to pay a petrol tax for the upkeep of the roads. This is merely the money of the taxpayer going from one pocket to another.
On the accounts themselves, I have one criticism. The accounts are quite different from those of the B.O.A.C. They have 12 pages of pictures. I do not mean of Lord Douglas holding the baby with the teddy bear and the air hostess looking very charming. To have 12 pages of photographs set out in a balance sheet is quite an unnecessary expense. It is a waste of money, and shows a lack of appreciation of how to produce a balance sheet. Otherwise, I think the reading material is excellent and describes in great detail how the Corporation is going on.
At this stage I do not want to see the structure of the Corporations altered in any way. They have their work cut out in meeting severe foreign competition from the major airlines of the world, but I suggest that there is room for both the independents and the Corporations. I do not see why, in the North Atlantic freight trade, the Corporation and the independent companies should not work together, pooling their resources in a joint effort. I put that forward as a suggestion, because I think there would be a great deal of traffic offering.
With regard to Gatwick, I think that is probably the right choice. I put it to my right hon. Friend that in considering Blackbushe Airport, has he considered using a mono-rail from Blackbushe to the centre of London? We have tried to think in terms of electric railways and even of buses, but they are quite useless, if they take one and a half hours to get from the airfield to central London.
I suggest that he seriously considers a mono-rail from Blackbushe, through Camberley and up to London, joining with a similar rail coming in from Heathrow to the centre of London. It would bring passengers up from Camberley in 20 minutes and I believe that the expense would not be very great. Let us be original. Let us not say, "We are going to use electric trains from Gatwick," when there is a possibility that we 2014 can show the world what we can really do in transportation.
I want to refer briefly to the Air Registration Board. I feel that we have a very fine set-up in that Board, which is run by a most efficient director, Mr. Hardingham, and a board of outside helpers. Usually, if there is a difference of opinion between the operator and the Government on a technically of an aeroplane or an engine, the matter goes before the Air Registration Board and is sorted out. A recommendation is made to the Ministry. But I am informed that the Air Safety Board, which is in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, is duplicating this work and that it makes recommendation also to the Minister.
The policy of my party was to reduce the number of staff in the Ministry of Civil Aviation if possible, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will not lose sight of this point. We cannot have these mushroom departments springing up in the Ministry duplicating the work of a very efficient department which is run outside as an advisory body. I hope that that point will be looked into.
Yesterday, in the "Daily Telegraph" the air correspondent referred to the Air Registration Board, but not very accurately. The air correspondent, who is Air Commodore Payne, said that the Air Registration Board was:largely composed of representatives of airlines and aircraft manufacturers.That is not really the case at all. The Air Registration Board is composed of four operators, including two Corporations, the Royal Aero Club and the charter companies; four manufacturers, two of engines and two of aircraft; four insurance companies, two Lloyds and two other insurance companies, and four representatives of the general public and general interests.
Of these, one is Lord Brabazon. The others are Sir Maurice Denny, Mr. Guy Johnson, Chairman of the Accident Offices Association, Mr. Roland Thornton, shipowner, and also a pilots' representative, Captain Alderson. Finally, there is the Minister's appointee, Mr. Taylor, of the Workers' Travel Association. I do not think that we could have a more representative body of the industry.
2015 I hope that my right hon. Friend will continue to delegate as much work as he can to outside bodies such as this. Its members are paid very little and they give a lot of time and thought to their work. I do not believe anyone can possibly point a finger at the Air Registration Board since the end of the war. It has been extremely careful and diligent in its work.
I would make a final appeal to the House. Airline economies are not yet fully established. There is expansion for both the Corporations and the independent operators, and given the lead, I believe that the business can be built up to tremendous proportions. Do not let us forget that our American friends are getting knowledge from us and the technique of building jet engines and operating jet aircraft and that they may, in five or six years' time, come out with something quite original and bigger than we have got. We shall need every bit of help and resourcefulness that we can possibly obtain in that case.
I hope that the Government will encourage young men to go into the aircraft industry and will try to give them stability of tenure. The industry has had ups and downs, with many Governments changing their minds.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
It has had quite a few in the last six years. Some of them are perhaps too confidential to mention in this House, including what was said two or three years ago by the then Minister of Defence. Changes have taken place which have meant workers being put out of work and transferred to other parts of the industry.
Britain has to lead six or seven years ahead of the rest of the world in this industry. We have to live by our brains, by ingenuity and "know how." That is the only way we can maintain our standard of living, let alone improve on it. I hope that priority will be given to the construction of civil aircraft, both for export and operation at home. Let the Government look upon this industry as something that may save us. We need a life-saver, and I believe that the British aircraft industry can play its part in providing it.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Dr. A. D. D. Broughton (Batley and Morley)
I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the remarks he has made, which were very interesting, as we have come to expect from one who is an expert on matters connected with aviation and has had a distinguished flying career.
I was one of a party of Members of Parliament who, in June this year, had the pleasure of a trip in the Comet jet airliner of British Overseas Airways Corporation. More recently I have travelled with some of my colleagues to and from Holland by British European Airways. Admittedly, that is not a great deal of recent flying on which to base a judgment, but from that limited experience of the two airways I consider that they deserve our congratulations. I noticed that all passengers are treated with care and courtesy, and I was impressed by the high standard of efficiency that was to be seen in all who serve in the airways.
Having paid my tribute to all responsible for the safety, speed and comfort of present day air travel by the two airways, I now wish to draw attention to one aspect of the two annual Reports under review which has not yet been mentioned in this debate. The Report of B.O.A.C. contains a list of experts who serve on the executive management panel.
I was pleased to find that there is a Director of Medical Services. Yet when I turned to subsequent pages of the Report to read about the work of those services, I found no mention of them. Judging by this Report alone, it would appear that the Director of Medical Services has no medical services to direct, but I happen to know from other sources that B.O.A.C. has efficient medical services and I regret the omission of any mention of them in the Report.
In the Report of B.E.A. 15 lines are devoted to their medical service, on pages 64 and 65. I do not question that being a fair proportion of space to give to that service, but all we can read about it deals with the pre-selection medical examination of all prospective employees as pilots and radio officers. The work of medically screening candidates is certainly important, but is that really all the medical services did?
2017 Were there no minor injuries among ground staff requiring treatment? Did no passengers develop illness of one kind or another during a flight and need attention on arrival at the airport? Were there no inoculations of air crew and passengers? I think there were, because there is a charming photograph of a nursing sister which suggests preparation for an inoculation. Were there not a score of other duties capably performed by the medical service? Does it not appear from these two Reports that no one has been interested in these matters? And if that is so, then the medical services of the Corporations are not receiving the help and encouragement that they need.
Perhaps my most important question is: can the Minister tell us whether there was any research in the field of aviation medicine? When I spoke in the debate on the Air Estimates earlier this year, I tried to point out to the House the importance of aviation medicine. All that I said then in relation to the Royal Air Force applies equally to civil aviation. As aircraft reach higher altitudes and travel faster and farther, stress and strain in different forms is thrown upon the human body, a body designed by nature for locomotion on two legs with feet placed firmly on the ground.
To overcome the difficulties encountered in modern aviation, expert advice from medical officers with a knowledge of physiology and experience of flying can be most helpful. Therefore, I want to know whether the study of aviation medicine is being encouraged by the Minister and by the Corporations. For example, are medical officers sent on flights to study the conditions from the position of passengers? Are they ever allowed to fly sitting beside the pilot to learn something of his task and to study his physical and mental problems?
The two Airways Corporations have a remarkably good record for rarity of accidents and, of course, we are most desirous that they should maintain and even improve upon that record. I suggest, however, that it will not be easy for them to do so because competition forces the invention of aircraft capable of flying at still greater speeds.
We have heard recently of an aircraft leaving the British Isles early in the morning, flying to the other side of the 2018 Atlantic Ocean and being back in the United Kingdom in time for tea. I think it possible that within the next few years an hon. Member may be able to make a speech in this House, then fly across the Atlantic to the United States of America where, by reason of having to put his watch back to conform with American time, he can subsequently make a speech at an hour earlier than the one made here.
Such is the type of transport and the speed of transit that is developing and, in order that it shall remain safe and comfortable, difficult human problems have to be solved. Specialists in aviation medicine have a vitally important part to play in solving these problems. One of my reasons for being opposed to the extension of privately-owned airways is my fear that the medical services would be neglected for the sake of economy. That should not be so in our two great nationalised Airways Corporations.
These Reports do not tell me as much as I should like to know about medical services of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. I would ask the Minister, therefore, whether it is possible for him to give me an assurance that the medical services of the two Corporations are regarded as efficient, that they are regarded as of value and that the best possible use is being made of the medical personnel.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)
The hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the somewhat technical but highly interesting speech with which he has just regaled us. I was extremely interested in his thesis that, with the development of the speed of aircraft, eventually one will, so to speak, land before one takes off. I can only add that it is rather a horrifying thought in these days that if one flies round the Equator from east to west one will eventually, in the course of time, achieve a new form of second childhood.
It is my intention not to follow the trend of the majority of the speeches which have dealt with the past, but to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Lucas) and try to look into the future. In what I think was a very notable contribution, he dealt with the personnel problem, the problem of looking 10 and 15 years 2019 ahead and encouraging the youth of our land to take the place of the great captains of our air liners today. I wish to deal with the problem which certainly affects me in my constituency and which also is a problem dealing with the question of personnel. It is no use training the youth of this country for the future if we do not also have the best and finest airports for them to operate to and from.
It is on the basis of the Gatwick project that I wish to make one or two observations. I agree that my right hon. Friend should be congratulated on having stopped the vacillation we all know has been going on over the past three or four years and on taking an important decision with regard to Gatwick as another airport. I was also delighted to hear for the first time this afternoon that he has given an assurance that if the local authorities desire it—and I think that is a true interpretation of what he said—the Minister of Housing and Local Government will arrange for a public inquiry. There is no doubt there has been considerable public apprehension that, owing to the very rapid growth of civil aviation, we might not have learned from some of our previous mistakes, about which I am making no criticism now, and which are inherent in anything developing so fast as civil aviation has developed over the past seven or eight years.
I also have certain misgivings about Gatwick. It may well be the right answer, but I still have these misgivings. The first is that there seems to be conflict of opinion as to its use between the Ministry and British European Airways. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary—I think I am quoting him correctly—said that the use of Gatwick is a twofold one; first, as a bad weather alternate, and secondly for a restricted use by B.E.A. for their short-haul services to France particularly, and also for a certain amount of charter work. Furthermore, the Ministry have told us that the first phase—that, I suppose, is the runway—will not be ready for at least eight years.
§ Mr. Gough
I am sorry. I did not understand that. What I had in mind 2020 was that the first phase would not be completed for eight years.
In "The Times" last Friday there appeared a very constructive letter from the Chairman of B.E.A. He stated that the object of Gatwick was that it should be an alternate for London Airport which would be over-spilling by 1956; not necessarily, as I read the letter, to be a bad weather alternate but that London Airport would reach saturation point, and that therefore Gatwick must be an alternate. Secondly, he proposed from there to build up the service of B.E.A. and the whole gravamen of his argument was that unless we had two main airports for London, this country would become merely a feeder line. Therefore, the object of Gatwick is not necessarily an alternate, but a second big London airport.
§ Mr. Maudling
I should not like it to be thought there is any difference on this matter between the Government and the Chairman of B.E.A., because there certainly is not. Perhaps I have not explained the point clearly enough before. We consider that Gatwick will serve two useful purposes; one as an alternative when aircraft need to be diverted from London Airport in bad weather conditions, and also for the secondary purpose of providing a base from which could be transferred a certain amount of the regular load now carried at London Airport. I am quite certain that Lord Douglas's letter was intended to convey precisely the same impression.
§ Mr. Gough
I am sorry, I thought that was precisely what I had just said. Nevertheless, let me assume I have understood B.E.A. rightly. I believe, with respect to my hon. Friend, that if one looks ahead 10 or 15 years—and it is essential to do so—it is essential to have a second airport in the area of London larger, in my submission, than London Airport itself. If that is a true definition, I fear that the estimate of £6 million for the first phase is hopelessly inadequate. I fear also that the actual siting of Gatwick may, in the long run, be just as bad a siting as that of London Airport has turned out to be through its environment, and from being surrounded completely by houses.
As I see it, the disadvantages of London Airport—and this is no criticism of the siting of London Airport in its 2021 day—are first its inability to expand, because it is completely surrounded by houses, and secondly, because it is rapidly becoming a nuisance and a danger to the local population——
§ Mr. Gough
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I feel that I carry the House with me when I say that if we are to make civil aviation a success, we must carry public opinion with us and try to avoid, or to minimise, nuisance as much as we can.
I added that it is also a danger to the public, because much of the criticism has been in regard to those who live on the ground. One of the most important things that an airport needs is a safe run-in and it is not safe to run in over highly developed property. I understand that over 66 per cent. of flying accidents occur in connection with take off or landing. Indeed, I am reminded of the saying we used to have in the war among parachute troops that the mere act of parachuting reduced the risk of flying by 50 per cent. I say that because I have the greatest doubts whether the siting of Gatwick, bearing in mind its possibilities in 10 or 15 years, is sound in respect of its adjacency not only to Crawley but also to Horley.
I notice that it has been put forward that the runways will go east and west but development is going on on the ground and I cannot help but feel that if Gatwick is to grow into another large airport we shall have multiple runways. If we do not have multiple runways, I feel that the cost, for the first phase, of £6 million is a terrible price which is much too large merely to provide an alternate in bad weather for London Airport. There must be other alternates already existing which would be less expensive.
My right hon. Friend has very rightly referred to the problem—whether it is Gatwick or anywhere else—as national development in the national interest. I put to him that the whole theory of new towns which has been accepted on both sides of the House is also national development in the national interest. There is very serious concern in local opinion and amongst local authorities that the development of Gatwick airport will, 2022 to say the least, hamper the orderly development of the Crawley new town.
When I say "orderly development" I mean that one must cast one's mind back and see that when these new towns were considered it was said that they were to be balanced communities. Crawley will have a population of something up to 60,000 and I feel that the development of an enormous airport in the area would very seriously jeopardise the conception of that balanced community. That is borne out by the Crawley Development Corporation who, in their 1950 Report, stated that they had irrevocable objections to the development of Gatwick as an airport.
I have referred to the question of cost, but again I think we should profit by experience and realise the warning from London Airport where the cost of the development has far exceeded what was originally estimated and they are still spending millions of pounds in development. So far as I know, no mention has so far been made of the cost of deflecting the London—Brighton Road, nor do we know anything about the cost of the second phase.
I believe this problem should be tackled in two stages because, as my hon. Friend said, it is a twofold problem. The first problem is to provide an alternate, a suitable bad weather alternate, for London Airport. I believe there are other solutions. They may not be very popular and they may not be perfect, but in these days they would save us a great deal of money. There is a white elephant at Filton near Bristol. I cannot see why our long-distance services, the Comet services, to the ends of our Commonwealth, should not start from Filton.
There would be far more comfort in catching a train at Paddington, having the appropriate refreshments during the course of that train journey from Paddington to Bristol and going through the aggravating business of having one's passport checked and luggage checked and looked into by the Customs on that journey. I do not think that more than 20 minutes difference would be discovered in the time if one compared that with the present arrangements of jogging down to London Airport in a coach. I think seriously that if B.O.A.C. Comet services were run from Filton, it might 2023 at least relieve the pressure for a little further time on London Airport.
I could not agree more with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) in regard to Blackbushe. There is also the question of the mono-rail. Blackbushe is only five miles further from London than Crawley. It seems to me that we should put up with that little inconvenience rather than embark on £6 million for the first phase of the scheme which is now put forward. There are other airports about which I should like to hear. Bovingdon in the North of London might well be used and the City of London have had Fairlop on their hands for many years, I believe at the request of the Ministry.
In my opinion the first stage should be met out of our existing resources. The second stage is a far bigger affair. I am convinced that this second airport is necessary and I am convinced that it should be a bigger affair than London Airport. But I think its siting and complete designation is a matter which requires the very greatest of vision and wisdom. It is something about which we should be most careful. Because it is immensely important, I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his remarks about the holding of a public inquiry. I wish to ask him one or two questions about that.
I understood from him that the public inquiry would be instituted by the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I should like to know whether the inquiry will be limited to the question of whether the airport shall be at Gatwick or not or whether the inquiry can advise the Government, if Gatwick is not the most suitable place, that somewhere else is the most suitable.
Another question I ask involves no denigration of Ministry officials. I hope the public inquiry will be under independent chairmanship and that that chairman will be someone like a learned judge who is capable of understanding, appreciating and sifting evidence so that the very best independent brains and ingenuity avilable can be brought to help us with these problems.
I wish to put some of these problems under separate headings. The first is that of siting. I noticed—and I think it is a common fallacy—that my right hon. 2024 Friend said that one of the advantages of Gatwick is that it is on the continental side of London. Actually it is not. The main European airways which come into London come from Scandinavia in the North right down to France and, as far as the North of France is concerned, the nearest approach is on the east or the north-east side. That is a basic fact and, if we could find a suitable alternate somewhere on the east, somewhere perhaps on the London estuary, another fallacy would be exploded because there are parts of the Thames estuary which are no worse from a fog point of view than the present London Airport. That would save 30 miles of flying-in cost and 30 miles of flying-out cost. That, over a year, would run into a saving of millions of pounds. On the question of siting, the geographical position in the South is not necessarily the best. I think it much more important that the site should be safe. When I say safe, I mean that it should have good ways of approach.
I wish to say another word about mono-rail. I think it essential that the airport should have its own control over transport to the city centre. I do not believe that this business of a rail service will work, however good it is. Aeroplanes, unfortunately, have an aggravating habit of being late and train services must run punctually or the system will completely break down. That is why we should try with the greatest intensity to develop a mono-rail service. If that can be developed, it would mean that we should have a far wider area around London in which to look for the first-class site. Further, it would mean that we should get a better site, as the further it is from London the safer it is, because it would be further from town development.
There are two other points to which I should like to refer. I believe that this second airport, if it possibly can be, should be sited somewhere near water. Whether that water should be a river or a canal or a reservoir I am not going to say now. But I do not believe that the day of the flying boat is over. I believe that, looking 10 or 15 years ahead, with the developments which we have seen already, it may well be that design will go back to the flying boat, particularly in the case of this nation and the great Empire and Commonwealth which it serves.
2025 I should like to end on the note that I am so grateful to my right hon. Friend that he has taken the broadminded view of saying that, if necessary, he will have a public inquiry. I believe that this is one of the most important decisions that we have to make. A hundred years ago it was essential for us to be the centre of world communications by sea. It is even more essential for us today to be the centre of world communications by air, so let us not, through any lack of effort or of vision, fail in that object.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. John Taylor (West Lothian)
It would have been interesting and indeed pleasant for me to follow the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough), because he has raised so many interesting points. He and I were elected to this House on the same day and that gives us an interest in each other which transcends all the normal divisions of this Chamber. I should like to have followed the pro-and con-Gatwick dispute, but I think it is better for me to leave it to the Front Bench and back benches opposite and to get back to our chief job today, which is a review of these two annual Reports as they strike an ordinary Member, one who is neither a Minister nor a junior Minister or an ex-Minister or a future Minister, but who is just an ordinary shareholder in these concerns.
Taking a general review of these Reports, one gathers certain broad impressions. It has already been said that the B.O.A.C. Report is admirable. I find it terse, competent, impregnated with the confidence of a success story and reporting a most remarkable achievement. We should be indeed boorish curmudgeons if we did not extend to Sir Miles Thomas, his executive and staff our thanks and our grateful appreciation. Even if we hold certain reservations on some points of detail we can give warm praise for a good job very well done. Having said that, I do not think I need take up any more of the time of the House in mentioning the B.O.A.C. Report.
I should like to say a few words about the B.E.A. Report. This Report supplies us with enough material for a week's full debate. It is a comprehensive document recording a constant endeavour to "get out of the red." It seems to me to contain a certain querulous note, an over- 2026 stressing of difficulties, of frustrations, of delays and of disappointments. There is not the slightest need for such querulousness.
I do not think there is any need for B.E.A. to feel sorry for themselves. Their achievements, in spite of the difficulties, also deserve our words of praise and encouragement. If I advance a few words of criticism they are not intended to detract from our warm appreciation of a courageous struggle against many adverse circumstances.
First, I should like to mention a few small points which might be called minor irritants. Last Wednesday at Question time, I drew attention to one of them. I referred to the 1s. 6d. parking fee at Northolt Airport for a period of one hour during lunch time. The Parliamentary Secretary was good enough to agree with my suggestion that the period should be extended by half an hour. He was good enough to see me afterwards privately and have a talk about the agreement governing the charging of that fee. May I suggest that he might instruct that the alteration be made? After all, a Parliamentary Secretary should occasionally use his authority. I do not know what Parliamentary Secretaries are for if they do not do so.
§ Mr. Maudling
If I may interrupt on that rather happy note, the fact is that this is a question of a contract. While I can issue instructions to those who serve under the Ministry I cannot issue instructions to those who are carrying out part of a contract.
§ Mr. Taylor
I will leave that as it is, since I have so many other matters to which I wish to refer.
I should like to mention, first, the passenger charge of 5s. for external flights to which the Minister referred and to the transport charges between the terminals and the airports. I recognise that these are matters for international agreement but surely to make separate charges on them is a bit of a nuisance and a bit of an irritant. They ought to be included in the ticket rate. It would cut overheads if this were done and certainly it would be less irritating to the passenger.
At present, B.E.A. are conducting a very extensive advertising campaign in Scotland for their £8 return fare, Glasgow to London, Edinburgh to London, and 2027 they are very excellent services indeed. But the advertisements are so worded, both in the Press and on hoardings, as to give the intending passenger the idea that the journey will cost him £8. In fact, it costs him 2s. 6d. for the fare from the air station in Princes Street, Edinburgh to Renfrew or Turnhouse and another 2s. 6d. on the return journey. There is a charge of 5s. from Northolt to Kensington High Street terminal and another 5s. on the return journey. So the passenger has to pay £8 15s.
It seems to me that having been told that his fare is £8 he has every reason to regard these extras as something very unfair and savouring of sharp practice. I think that B.E.A. should assert themselves and remove these charges and risk the displeasure of the other contracting parties on a minor detail of that kind.
Surely a 5s. charge between Northolt and Kensington is a bit stiff. I should say that it is about 100 per cent. more than it ought to be and that 2s. 6d. would be a reasonable rate. I know that it is said that it is very much cheaper than a taxi, but these coaches are used by people who wish to travel cheaper than by taxi.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
It is not cheaper than a taxi if four people take the taxi.
§ Mr. Taylor
Precisely; and when one wants to travel quickly and alone it is an imposition.
I should like to come now to a personal hobby-horse of mine and, with all the emphasis I can possibly command, deeply deplore the introduction of "gobbledegook" into the Report of a British nationalised industry. Gobbledegook, in case hon. Members do not know, is Americanese for bureaucratese; and if a more horrible juxtapositioning of misuses of the Queen's English can possibly be imagined I do not want to hear it.
Let me give an example. When the B.E.A. Report discusses an analysis of traffic details it describes this as a "break down of traffic." That is a phrase which has an entirely different, and in air transport, a much more sinister meaning, to the non-bureaucratic mind. It is perfectly true that there is not much gobbledegook in this Report, but for goodness' sake do not let us have any at all in any Government document or in any document 2028 issued by a nationalised industry. I am trying to strangle this horrible tendency at birth.
So much for detail. Let us take a brief glance at some of B.E.A's difficulties. Dealing only with critical route operating costs, external services, that is international services, show a surplus of over £2 million. That is excellent. The internal domestic services show a C.R.O. deficit of just over £98,000 as the Minister pointed out. If we analyse the domestic section we find that the Scottish internal service deficit is £176,000. The deficit on the English services, the Irish Sea services and the Northern Ireland Irish services is £70,000, a total deficit of £246,000, offset by a surplus—a most remarkable achievement—of no less than £125,600 on Channel Island services and £22,200 on freighter services, thus reducing the overall C.R.O. deficit on domestic air services to £98,400.
It has been mentioned that the loss on the Scottish services seems substantial, but it must be remembered that these include the social service section—services to the Islands and ambulance services which, by their very nature, cannot possibly pay. In this connection the B.E.A. Report on page 18, very properly draws attention to the fact that the domestic services in France for the whole of 1951—our year runs from March to March—received a grant of no less than £2,629,000 and that, despite that, the declared profit in 1951 was only £53,000. Therefore, by our methods of accountancy and financial allocation, Air France's loss would have been £2,576,000, and had that been the loss on the British domestic air services there would have been a terrific row about it, very rightly, in this House.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the application of the MacBrayne grant system. Someone else mentioned that roads would otherwise have to be paid for if the Islands had been part of the mainland. The sea route and the road route "by Tummel, and Loch Rannoch and Lochaber" are not the only roads to the Isles. The skyway is now also the highway. The strategic importance of the Isles, particularly of the Shetlands and Orkneys, ought not to be lost sight of in the public financial responsibility for these transport ways to remote but nevertheless very important parts of these islands.
2029 Every previous Report of the Corporations that I have read has contained complaints of delays in aircraft deliveries. There is a complaint which occurs frequently in the B.E.A. Report. I do not see much of it in the B.O.A.C. Report. On page 11 it mentions the "costly delay in the introduction of new aircraft" as a substantial factor in operational losses.
At the top of page 12 is the following statement:The fact that the Elizabethan was delayed by more than a year in coming into service has meant that, although heavy costs have been incurred on its account in 1951–52, no such substantial revenue could be earned by the Elizabethan to offset this expenditure during the 116 hours it flew in service up to the 31st March, 1952. In fact, the delays in the delivery of new aircraft have over-shadowed the whole workings of B.E.A. during the past year—increasing costs in many directions.…There are many other references in the Report to delays in the delivery of aircraft. I believe it is true that both B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. have loyally and as a matter of deliberate policy restricted themselves to British aircraft. It is quite true—I should think it is almost certain—that they could have bought cheaper elsewhere. Certainly, they would have received speedier deliveries from other markets. But this adherence to a "buy British" policy, which I wholeheartedly support, has been of the utmost value to the British aircraft industry, and surely it is reasonable to ask the industry that they should make greater endeavours to offer a quid pro quo in the shape of speedier deliveries.
We were assured by the Minister of Supply at Question time on Monday that there is no shortage of materials in the aircraft industry. It may be argued that the urgent needs of the defence programme have a prior claim on the industry's manpower and that that is the reason why there have been delays in the delivery of civil aircraft. But is it not time now, by arrangement with the Ministry of Supply, that a higher priority should be given to civil aircraft production? I suggest that this can now be done with no great adverse effect on our defence programme.
May I make one last point about the incidence of the fuel tax on civil aviation? It is clear that this burden on our native civil aircraft industry is very much greater than is shared by any other competing airline of any other country. Indeed, I think it 2030 is becoming increasingly clear that all public transport undertakings—surface or air—suffer from the heavy incidence of this tax.
It may be administratively difficult to operate a reduced tax for public transport, including air transport, but if any section of the transport industry deserves a tax reduction, and has a logical case for such a reduction, it is the aircraft industry, because of the argument that has already been advanced in this debate and which is none the worse for being underlined and repeated—namely, that the Petrol Duty was originally levied for road maintenance, and aircraft do not use roads, even on the airports, and if they do use them on the airports the cost comes out of the industry and not out of any tax. Therefore, there is a very strong case for a special arrangement in the application of this tax to the aircraft industry.
At this late period in the debate, I shall jettison the other points I have prepared and conclude by saying that the Reports which are before us indicate how progress can be made if the difficulties are frankly faced. When we overcome these difficulties, as I believe we shall, we shall have in our civil airlines a magnificent national asset which will be the envy of other nations throughout the world. Already, in many respects—and I like to think in practically every respect—the modern British way of handling our civil air services, owned and controlled by the nation, is proving to be an example to the most progressive nations in the world.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Major D. McCallum (Argyll)
I do not wish to detain the House for long, but I want to raise one or two points. The first is in answer to a statement made by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) that there was not a single charter company whose conditions of service and rate of pay were equivalent to those of either of the Corporations. I do not know whether he has received a letter today but I suppose that every hon. Member has received the letter. It was a Roneod letter. I have received it and I am sure that my Scottish colleagues have. It concerns a certain individual who has been working for B.E.A. at Renfrew Aerodrome. There was a strike recently about him and he is now working for a private charter firm and getting 6d. more per hour than he was with B.E.A., 2031 and his working conditions are considerably better. I mention that in answer to the hon. Member who was so emphatic about conditions in the charter companies.
I think that this is the first debate on civil aviation when there have been so many references to the helicopter and its development. I welcome that phase. I and other hon. Members on both sides of the House have pressed for the development of the helicopter for years past. It is particularly necessary in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. I fully agree with what was said by the Secretary of State for Scotland when he was addressing a meeting during the Summer Recess and said that he looked forward to the development of the helicopter as being one of the best solutions of the communications difficulties in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. I am glad to know that my right hon. Friend thinks that, and I hope that he will continue spurring on my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation and also the Parliamentary Secretary on this point.
Certain of my hon. Friends have just spoken on the subject of installing a £6 million mono-rail to bring passengers into London from Gatwick or Blackbushe aerodromes. I would ask them what is wrong with the helicopter. If it is developed as it should be, it could meet passengers as they get out of one aircraft and deposit them in the centre of London, or wherever they may be going.
I agree that the time has not yet arrived when we can expect to have main or through air services by helicopter. The period of research and experiment for such helicopters is by no means complete and probably will not be for some years yet; but our own Services—the Army, the Navy and the Air Force—the American Services and our own Government Departments are using helicopters. The single rotor type is being used every day. Is there any reason why the Ministry of Civil Aviation should not request B.E.A. to carry out experiments in that part of the country where the helicopter will be of the greatest value in the future. That is, on the west coast of Scotland.
It is going to be of very little value to run helicopters from Birmingham to 2032 London when one can get into a train and do the journey almost as quickly, and with very little extra travel, but in areas without communications, where there are no trains and very often no roads to enable people to get from one place to another—such as in the Highlands and Islands—the helicopter is the ideal machine.
We are told that it is not safe to experiment with the helicopter over water, and yet recently two helicopters at least were flown across the Atlantic and arrived here quite safely. On the west coast of Scotland we do not ask for helicopters to be flown over distances greater than the Straits of Dover. If they can cross the Straits safely, there is no reason why they should not be used to do ambulance work and similar operations in the Islands and the west coast of Scotland.
The first development of the helicopters should be carried out on those lines. They should be used as feeder services, as local taxis from the main aerodromes—where the fixed-wing aircraft deposits the passengers—to the destinations on the various nearby Islands or those parts of the mainland where it is geographically and physically impossible to have an airstrip or landing ground for the use of the fixed-wing aircraft. We are also told that the insurance companies will not accept insurance from anybody who is operating with these single rotor helicopters. That is as may be, but I cannot believe that the Government or B.E.A. could not somehow or other solve that problem.
Several hon. Members on both sides of the House have mentioned the internal services in Scotland, and I find them mentioned on page 17 of the Report of B.E.A. They are referred to as "social services." I cannot understand why B.E.A. refer to the services to the Islands and the western mainland as social services. They were never looked upon as social services in the days of Scottish Airways. On page 1 of the maps, I see there is a much better name for them—the domestic services. It is a small point, but if one sees these services referred to as social services the tendency is not to be bothered about them very much; to feel that it does not matter whether they pay or not; and that there is no urgency about them. Then one fears that the attitude towards them is wrong. In the 2033 old days of private enterprise they were not looked upon as social services; they were profitable services. A wonderful service was provided in those days, much better than we have had in recent years—certainly until quite recently.
In the last few weeks we have had Pionairs—modified Dakotas—brought on to some of the island services, and these aircraft carry more passengers. We are flying 34-seaters where five-seaters flew before. I am told that the passenger traffic is now of the order of 20 passengers a day on the Renfrew—Campbelltown—Islay route. I wonder whether that could not be increased much more if, instead of regarding them as social services, we regarded them as profitable services by replanning them. In the north many of us give them a different name—the badly planned services, or the inefficient services.
May I make two suggestions which B.E.A. might consider? The service Renfrew—Campbehown—Islay could well be continued to Belfast, the Renfrew—Belfast and Renfrew—Campbelltown—Islay services could be one service, With the Dakota, with its seating capacity and the speed at which it flies, the service should be quite capable of keeping up to timetable at less expense and earning more money.
Another service is to Tiree and the Outer Islands. The Pionair is flying on that service now. Why is there not a halt at Oban to take up passengers either on the outward journey or on the return journey? As I have mentioned in the House time and again, a perfectly good airfield is available near Oban which has never been used since the end of the war. It was a satellite landing ground for big bombers and fighter aircraft during the battle of the Atlantic, and I am told by my aviation friends that it is quite suitable for these modified Dakotas or for other civil aircraft which fly on these routes. Is there any reason why there should not be a halt there? After all, Oban is the capital town of the West Highlands of Scotland, and at the moment it has no air service whatever. There could be quite a considerable traffic, both out to the Outer Islands and into Glasgow.
Very few of the people from the Outer Islands and the Inner Hebrides and from the Oban area and the Highlands want 2034 to travel to London. They do not in the least want a connection provided with London. When the new Dakota services are run out to the Islands from Renfrew, they are run by the same machines that arrive at Renfrew from London, and great pride is taken in the fact that there is a connection with London. We do bother about that connection. Most of the passengers—90 per cent. of them—who are travelling on these services are travelling to and from Glasgow and Edinburgh. I suggest that more attention should be paid by B.E.A. to planning this service and to encouraging more traffic on it. They would then find that they could take it out of their social services and call it a domestic service.
Finally, I want the Minister to tell me—I see no mention of it in the Report—what is being done about providing a more suitable aircraft for the Scottish internal services. We were told long ago that a new machine—a 14-seater—was to be developed for these services. That, I suggest, is ample for these services. If a machine of that sort could be produced in the near future, then the Scottish internal services could at least pay their way, even if the present loss on them were not turned into a profit.
I know it is an unpopular thing to mention Scottish Aviation, Limited. Government Departments do not like Scottish Aviation, Limited, for some reason or another, but Scottish Aviation, Limited, has now an aeroplane, the Pioneer, that lands within 100 yards or 125 yards, and takes off within the same distance. There are not many machines—even the Rapides—that can land or take off in that space. There are many places in Scotland where it is necessary to land or take off in that space. Is anything being done by way of research to find an aircraft capable of doing that? What is being done to find a suitable machine for the Scottish internal services in place of the Rapide, or of the Pionair (Dakota), which is much too big for the service?
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Ralph Morley (Southampton, Itchen)
I shall not detain the House very long. In fact, I have not much time in which to detain the House at all, because I understand that very shortly my 2035 hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) is to rise to make one of his eloquent speeches which always have such a devastating effect on his political opponents.
I shall, therefore, confine myself to asking a few questions of the Parliamentary Secretary with reference to the future of Southampton Marine Airport and the future use of flying boats in the whole of our civil aviation services. I hope that he will be able to answer these questions when he replies to the debate, and I can assure him that I have a very deep thirst for information upon these particular subjects.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey), in his speech, referred to the Solent flying boats. For some years the Solent flying boats were based upon Southampton Marine Airport, and then, in their wisdom, B.O.A.C. decided to substitute Hermes land planes for the Solent flying boats, and also decided that they should be so substituted on the grounds of economy.
The first question I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary is: what has happened to those Solent flying boats? Have they been disposed of, and if they have been disposed of what sum was received for the sale? The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield said just now that they were rotting in the port of Belfast, and he said they cost £35,000 each, and I think there were 10 of them.
It makes no difference whether the charge was incurred by the Ministry of Civil Aviation or some other Department—say, the Ministry of Supply. It is, in effect, the public purse, and it is the public purse that has lost some £350,000 by the decision to change from the Solent flying boats to the Hermes land craft. Therefore, the argument that this was done in the interests of economy seems to have become rather blown up by circumstances.
When the Solent flying boats were dispensed with—for some time since then—Southampton Marine Airport was used partly by the Royal Air Force and partly by the Aquila Flying Boat Company which, I think, now is the only flying boat civil service in this country. The Aquila 2036 flying boat has been taking military personnel and their wives and children to and from Singapore, and it has also been running a useful schedule service to Madeira; and, on the whole, although it is a private company, and, therefore, opposed to my ideological outlook, I think the Aquila Flying Boat Company is doing a very useful job at Southampton Marine Airport.
But the Royal Air Force and the Aquila Flying Boat Company between them do not take up all the space and all the installations of the Southampton Marine Airport. In 1949, when my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation—an office which, we all know, he fulfilled with meticulous attention to detail and generally acceptably to both sides—my hon. Friend told me that he thought the Princess flying boats would be in operation by 1953.
He also told me that he hoped they would be operated from the Southampton Marine Airport, and that they would probably be used for passages to Africa and South America. With that assurance my hon. Friend cheered me very much, because I thought there would be only a short interregnum in the Southampton Marine Airport between the discontinuance between the Solent flying boats and the arrival of the Princess flying boats.
My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick), who later occupied the office of Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation—and filled it, if I may say so without offence, with great dignity, acceptance and industry—told me, in answer to a Parliamentary Question, that Southampton Marine Airport was to be preserved on a care and maintenance basis, and that all care would be taken to see that any installation which would be of use for the Princess flying boat would be carefully maintained. That, again, gave me hope that when the Princess flying boats were in operation they would be based on Southampton Marine Airport. Apparently only one Princess flying boat is to be put into operation, and I hope that it soon will be.
I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he can give the House any information tonight about the use 2037 Princess flying boat is to be put to when it is finally in operation. I hope it will be used for civil aviation, and that it will be based on Southampton Marine Airport. If that is not so, it might be used by the R.A.F. for trooping purposes. I think that was one of the original intentions after it was decided some time ago that it might not be altogether advisable to use them for civil aviation purposes. I understand that the R.A.F. are willing to provide instructors to train the crews of the Princess flying boats in the necessary duties of troop transport. Will the Minister tell us what is to be the future of these Princess flying boats?
Will the Minister also tell us if he is going to stop at the one Princess flying boat? After all, something like £10 million of public money has been spent in perfecting these flying boats to the stage they have reached at present. That is a very large sum of public money. Besides that, it is generally agreed that the Princess flying boats are one of the greatest successes of our considerable engineering skill, and they should not be allowed to go unused. What is to be the future use of the Princess flying boats?
I also wish to ask the Minister what is to be the future use of flying boats generally in publicly-owned civil aviation, or even in privately-owned civil aviation as the adjunct to the publicly-owned civil aviation service. I believe I am right in saying that this country was the pioneer of flying boats, and that to date we have spent about £1 million on flying boat bases at Southampton, Karachi and Singapore. Surely that money is not to be entirely wasted. As far as I know, there is only one flying boat service in the British Commonwealth of nations in which Her Majesty's Government and the Australian and New Zealand Governments have a financial interest, and that is the Tasman Empire Line.
I believe that line is doing very useful service. I am told that it has taken hundreds of thousands of passengers from Australia to New Zealand and back without a single accident and that its fares are low—on the average about 4½d. per mile. The manager of that line claims that the operational cost of flying boats 2038 need not be higher than the operational cost of land planes, and that if in some instances the operational costs are higher that is more than compensated for by the lower ground costs.
It seems to me that there should be a future for the development of flying boats in the British Commonwealth of Nations. After all, we are an island surrounded by water and we have our Empire, if I may still use that much discredited word, which is a far-flung Empire, embracing great spaces of various oceans, many Pacific Islands and many areas in which flying boats could be usefully operated. I, therefore, ask the Minister of Transport to be good enough to answer my questions about the future of the Southampton Marine Airport and also about the future of flying boats generally in the British civil aviation service.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. I. Mikardo (Reading, South)
Some of the observations I shall make this evening will have some relation to an Amendment which stands on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) and in my name—at the end of the Motion to addbut regrets that the efficiency and development of British Civil Aviation, and the morale and living standards of its workers, are being gravely threatened by the present policy of Her Majesty's Government.I am advised that if I now move the Amendment the effect of that would be so restrictive that neither I nor the Parliamentary Secretary, when he comes to reply, would be able to refer much of what has gone on in the debate or to the Reports of the Corporations. Although I do not suppose that any inhibition of my own speech would be any great loss to the House, I am sure that we should all regret missing any of the pearls of wisdom which will undoubtedly fall from the lips of the Parliamentary Secretary. I therefore refrain, at this stage, from moving the Amendment, and I will later on, Sir, seek your permission and that of the House formally to move it before our proceedings close.
Those of us who sat through the Parliament of 1945 to 1950 will readily remember that the standard approach of Conservative Members in that Parliament to any question of nationalisation was that we ought to "leave well alone." 2039 That was the regular phrase used. They argued that it was wrong to disturb the existing harmony and efficiency of an industry in order to change its ownership, as they used to put it, for purely doctrinaire reasons. What I want to do in my observations this evening is to invite hon. Members opposite to judge the action of their own Government in relation to civil aviation by precisely their own criterion.
I want to ask them whether there is any advantage in disturbing the progress and efficiency of a healthy industry for purely doctrinaire reasons. That is precisely what the Government are doing to civil aviation at the present time. Their action in threatening to break up the work of the Corporations is such a grave threat to the stability of the industry that everyone in the industry, in both the public sector and the private sector of the industry, is in the greatest doubt and uncertainty. Nobody in civil aviation, however much he may try, can assess precisely what are to be the effects of the Government's policy.
Because nobody is capable of forecasting the best, very naturally everybody fears the worst, and it is that which has caused dislocation, doubt and uncertainty. It is no use the Minister protesting that he has given assurances to the two Corporations which ought to satisfy their boards, managers and work people that their development is not threatened by his policy. Nobody in the two Corporations is at all relieved of anxiety by the Minister's so-called assurances. That is because they know that in a complex, highly technical, delicately balanced industry like civil air transport one cannot nibble away at the edges without imposing an impossible strain at the centre.
For example, what is the value of the Minister's assurance that the existing overseas passenger networks of the two Corporations will not be cut into? That may sound very good, but in practice there are serious snags in it. One concerns the word "existing." It is not much use ensuring the continuance of present networks of the Corporations if some inhibition is placed on their future development. An airline network is not a static but a dynamic thing, and if it does not grow it withers away.
2040 Changes in the pattern of world trade, the location of military and administrative personnel, people's holiday habits and a host of other things are always causing some routes to increase in importance and others to decline. Because of that, it is always important for an airline—both Corporations devote a great deal of time and money to this aspect of their work—to look out for and do preparatory work on new routes which are to be developed, some of them a long time ahead. That preliminary work is by no means easy and it is very costly in manpower and money.
An airline has to survey any prospective new routes and examine the facilities available for intermediate stops, to go into local problems of Government regulations and currency considerations, and all the facilities which are available for what the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) called "surface transportation," by which I suppose he meant surface transport, and, most difficult of all, the airline has to pioneer and develop a suitable new type of aircraft or invent modifications to an existing type of aircraft in order to cover the special demands of the new route.
The Corporations do this work as a regular part of their job. I ask the House whether, leaving politics entirely aside, and looking at it as a piece of straightforward practical business common sense, one can expect the Corporations to continue this pioneering work under the Government's new policy? When that work has been done and the Corporations have paid for the job, some competitor will be allowed to cash in on their work and run an airline on the foundations laid by the Corporations. I ask any businessman among hon. Gentlemen opposite whether, in his own business, he would be prepared to do a great deal of pioneering research and development work if he knew that when he had finished it might fall as a present into the lap of one of his competitors.
It would not be so bad if the Minister were doing what he is pretending to do, if he were, in fact, establishing a fair field for free competition, with no unfair advantages to either side, between the private companies and the publicly-owned airlines. But it is clear from much that has been said in the debate that 2041 what he is doing is to give unfair advantages to the private owner. His objective is to get restrictions put on the two Corporations so that they will hold back from offering themselves in competition on many routes with the private companies.
Hon. Members will know that sometimes I am accused of being the sort of person who calls a spade a spade. The description which my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) gave this afternoon of what is going on in East Africa at the present time can only be called, in plain English, a "wangle." Is is a great pity that the Minister is lending his authority to it. The Corporation can see this happening and, indeed, if one looks at the Report we can see in paragraph 116 that they drop a broad hint on the subject.
When talking about future prospects they say:During the year we were able to develop and to sell the capacity of our fleet without undue external checks to our progress; it is earnestly hoped that the period of stability will continue untrammelled by restrictions upon our freedom to develop operations to the best public advantage in accordance with our statutory duty. Any restrictions upon the free flow of our services—passenger, freight, or mail—would make even more difficult our task of earning further profits.That is a clear statement, and it is no use hon. Members opposite trying to say, as some of them did today, that the Corporations are not worrying about the present situation and that they like the present position.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
This Report was published at the end of last March, and I think I am right in saying that my right hon. Friend had not made any statement at the time that this Report was written.
§ Mr. Mikardo
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is not quite as "green" as he tries to make out. Paragraph 116 was not written on the basis of Divine inspiration. A Minister of the Government had exchanged views anyhow with the people who had the responsibility of writing that Report.
One thing I am afraid of is that some of the private companies, in their feverish scramble to earn profits, will operate on lower standards of maintenance of safety 2042 than those which we have become used to in British Airways Corporations. This is a serious matter, because if that happens we shall start to lose some of the great reputation which has been built up, and to which the Minister rightly referred, for having the safest flying in the world.
It is true of course, as has been mentioned in the debate, that all private companies, like the two publicly-owned air lines, will have to satisfy the minimum requirements of the Air Registration Board, but the unique reputation which British aviation has built up for safety has not been built up merely by conforming to minimum standards. It has been built up by our doing much more than the minimum standards.
Already—I am deeply sorry to say this; I take no pleasure in saying it—there is some evidence that the work of some of the private companies is adulterating our reputation in this field. One of them is hoping to fly the Tudor, which has been in a kind of cold storage for three or four years because of doubts about its safety. Then there is the case of the York aircraft, which, on the strength of only one or two minor modifications, is to have an all-up weight increase to 70,000 lb. I do not know what hon. Members feel about this, but from my own knowledge of this problem I assure the House that I would not want to be in a York aircraft of 70,000 lb. all-up weight taking off from Gander on a mid-winter day.
And that is not all. One does not feel happy about a charter company which lost half its Hermes fleet in accidents, and about some other unfortunate happenings recently which I do not want to dwell on because one does not want to give them any further publicity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why mention them?"] They are all publicly known, anyway. I have not said anything here which has not been available to be read by any literate man, woman or child.
The fact is that some of these private companies are in danger of biting off more than they can chew, with the aircraft at their disposal. The net result will be that Britain will eventually lose business, because when it becomes apparent that they cannot chew what they have bitten off the business will be transferred, not to the British airline Corporations but to competing foreign companies.
2043 There has been scarcely a reference from the Government benches today to the foreign competition which the airline Corporations are facing. Hon. Gentlemen have talked about the Corporations not wanting to face competition; the Corporations are in the most competitive business in the world. No mention of that has been made from the benches behind the Government. I have sat here all day without going out for so much as a cup of tea, and I cannot recall one expression from the benches opposite which appeared to indicate the least concern about the maintenance of British power to compete against foreign competition.
This is a very serious situation for British aviation. We can all agree about, and take pleasure in, the fact that the prestige of British aviation has greatly increased in the last few years. Immaculate British airliners, flying the house flags of the B.O.A.C. and the B.E.A., have been coming down at airports all over the world, carrying with them permanent and striking examples of British workmanship and standards of service. It is of the highest importance that those advertisements should be spread further and wider, but if the Government go on with this ill-conceived nibbling away policy that will not happen. The operations of British airlines will be fossilised in their present pattern. Very few new routes, and perhaps none at all, will be opened up.
The Corporations will not pioneer any new routes, for the reasons I have already given, mainly because they will not be willing to bear the preliminary expenses for their competitors to cash in on the results. The private companies will not do this preparatory work because, from their point of view, it would not be a justified speculation, and, secondly, because they have not the facilities, anyway.
The result will be that nobody will do this pioneering and that, as new routes become important in airline transport, they will be developed by our competitors from other countries. The Minister ought to consider whether what he is creating is not fair competition between the British public sector and the British private sector, but civil war in British air transport, in which both sectors will cut each other's throats and let the foreign competitor in 2044 That is a very real danger which the Minister ought not to overlook.
The other part of the Minister's so-called assurance to the Corporations concerning future freight services was very vague indeed. It is an extremely important part of the Corporation's revenue and they are doing a great deal of work on it. For example, British Overseas Airways Corporation have started a very complex study of the possibility of developing the new Bristol Britannia as a freighter. Why should they continue with this work when they are to be in danger, when they have spent time and money on it, of somebody else stepping in at the last minute and getting all the benefit of it?
I want the Parliamentary Secretary to answer categorically this straight question: is he or is he not broadly satisfied with British Overseas Airways and British European Airways? I know he will reply that one should never be completely satisfied with anything, that there is room for improvement—I know all the bromides—in both organisations and that we all want to see them improved. I agree with all that, but within these reservations I ask him again, is he or is he not broadly satisfied with British Overseas Airways and British European Airways?
If his answer to that question is no, then the responsibility is his to put right what he believes to be wrong. If the answer is yes, as I think it will be, then I ask him bluntly, why is he mucking about with these two satisfactory organisations for the purely doctrinaire purpose of giving gratuitous and protected profits to some private enterprise company?
There have been many references during the debate to the Reports of the Corporations and I have very little to add to the many pertinent things that have been said on them by hon. Members on both sides of the House. These Reports tell the story of a very great achievement, an achievement of which every Briton, of whatever political views, has every right to be proud—indeed, almost a duty to be proud.
The two Corporations have had to cope with an appalling succession of difficulties outside their control, some of which the Minister mentioned in his opening statement. There was trouble in Persia, there 2045 were riots in Cairo and there was a petrol strike in the United States of America. There was a cut in the tourist allowance and there has been the heavy taxation of petrol. There has been the late delivery of aircraft, the serious effects of which were described by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor), and then there have been the inevitable effects of the defence programme which has restricted some of the Corporations routes and which has made it hard for them to get skilled personnel and new designs and spares for their aircraft. All these difficulties, heaped on top of one another, have been faced and dealt with by the two Corporations by an unusual combination of ingenuity and enthusiasm on the part of almost everybody who works in them.
The one thing that has done most to fashion the success of the Corporations is the spirit which permeates both these organisations and which strikes one most forcibly the first time one has anything to do with them. That is a spirit of burning desire on the part of almost all the personnel to make the Corporations successful and profitable. I can honestly say that in all my business experience I have never come across any other organisation, publicly owned or privately owned, which has such a high working morale and such a highly developed esprit de corps as there is in British civil aviation.
That spirit is the most valuable asset which the British air transport industry has, and it is precisely that spirit which the present policy of the Government is starting to break down. Because of their policy, everybody in air transport is in a state of doubt and uncertainty. There has been some dispute about this, but I shall bring some evidence before the House because there is already evidence that working morale is suffering. There was recently a meeting between B.O.A.C. and representatives of the trade unions in the industry and the minutes of their meeting recall that both sides were conscious thatif the Corporations were going to have a continued atmosphere of instability, then staff morale would inevitably suffer badly, with the result that they would be prevented from obtaining the productivity which was essential to achieving and maintaining solvency.In the face of that, how can any hon. Member opposite pretend that there is not the beginnings, the unhappy begin- 2046 nings, of a loss of working morale inside the Corporations? What makes this matter all the more serious is that this dislocation in the industry could not possibly have come at a worse time than at present; just at the moment when the Corporations are bringing into service some new and revolutionary types of aircraft of which the Comet is only one example. I beg the House to realise that the introduction of these aircraft creates an absolute maze of new technical and organisational problems.
In B.O.A.C. the organisation structure is divided, not by functions, but by types of aircraft. Every new type that comes along involves a mass of detailed work in technical planning and personnel training that sometimes has to start a year, or a year and a half, before the first day that the new type comes into service. It is at this moment above all, with all these problems being tackled by the management and workers in civil aviation, that the Government ought to leave them alone, undisturbed, to get on with the job.
It is of some importance that the House should consider the attitude which has been expressed by the workers in the industry and by their trade unions. If I may strike a personal note, I hope I may say that I have the advantage of being a member of the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport, on which I represent more than 2,000 of the key men working in British aviation, many on the administrative side, nearly all the supervisors, nearly all the technicians and nearly all the licensed ground engineers.
I hope that that will give me some title to express an opinion of what is being thought by the people who work in the industry; perhaps almost as much title as the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) who, on the basis of meeting for a little while a small deputation of workers in the industry, launched an honourable and gallant personal attack on a member of another place which, I think, must have been just, and only just, inside the rules of order.
On the trade union side of the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport there are 16 different unions. They all unanimously—and they include some people who are by no means adherents 2047 of the Labour Party—condemned the Government's policy in an official statement issued by the trade union side, which we know carries the full support of the overwhelming majority of the workers in the industry. The trade union side of the National Joint Council, in issuing that statement, was careful, as the Minister knows, not to express a political opinion on the merits or demerits of the Minister's policy.
We took the view that if the workers in the industry, as citizens, had political views about the Government's policy they should make those views known through the media available to citizens—by nagging their Members of Parliament, and by all the other means about which we know. But so far as the trade union side as a body was concerned, we carefully confined ourselves in our discussions and in our statement to the industrial effects of the Minister's policy, and to the repercussions of that policy on the lives and livelihoods of our members.
The Minister has argued on another occasion that even if there is some transfer of work between the Corporations and private companies the global volume of employment available will not diminish and, therefore, the workers will not be disadvantaged. He has also argued—so did the right hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay)—that, as the Civil Aviation Act requires private employers to pay the same wages and observe the same conditions as the Corporations, no worker who becomes redundant in one of the Corporations and transfers to a private employer should be any worse off.
When we come to look at these arguments in practice and see how they work out we find that neither of them is soundly based. Section 15 of the Civil Aviation Act, which regulates wages and conditions, is, I am sorry to say, not at all watertight. I do not want to go into all the reasons for that here because, as the Parliamentary Secretary knows, we have had some discussion about it. This is a highly technical business. The fact is that it is quite possible to evade the requirement that private employers shall not get their maintenance work done at cut prices. Indeed, a number of them 2048 have been hauled before the Industrial Court precisely for doing that.
Again, there is the idea that if a man loses his job with a Corporation because of the new policy of the Government he can get a job the following day with a private aviation company somewhere else. It is all very well talking like that, but, in practice, a man cannot shift about so easily as that with the problem of finding a house to live in and a school to which to send his children. Unhappily, a large number of the older and more experienced workers of the Corporations have already had to do a lot of shifting round in the last few years as older bases have closed down and new ones opened.
At this moment, 800 men at Filton Airport are to be brought to London Airport, with all the trouble and dislocation of private life that that involves. In the last year or two, because of the increase of permanent concentration of maintenance work at London Airport, some of these men were beginning to hope that at long last, after eight or 10 years of being nomad Bedouins, they could settle down. But this change in Government policy has put a spanner in the works all over again.
I must warn the Minister—I am measuring my words carefully and with a full sense of responsibility—that I shall be very surprised if the highly intelligent and lively bunch of workers in this industry take all this lying down. I cannot forecast what their attitude will be and the way they may consider they ought to go in order to prevent being disadvantaged in this way, but, whatever they say or do, it will be really useless for anyone to decry it as the use of industrial weapons for political ends.
I am, of course, totally opposed—so are all my hon. Friends and, I am sure, hon. Members opposite—totally and implacably opposed to the policy which some people advocate of using industrial action for political ends. I believe that that is totally wrong and I am sure we all do. But, if we are to be sensible and not merely emotional about this, we have to draw a clear distinction between a political decision and the industrial consequences of that decision.
On civil air transport the Government have taken a party political decision. Three direct industrial consequences of that decision are: firstly, that some of 2049 the work of the industry will be done at lower wages than it is being done at present; secondly, some men may be forced to give up their homes and live elsewhere; and, thirdly, some men may lose their jobs altogether. Men have a right to protest against that sort of thing. They have the right to protest by every legal and legitimate means at their disposal.
Already, the trade union side of the National Joint Council, a highly responsible body to which successive Ministers have been glad to pay tribute, have notified the authorities that they cannot recognise any of the charter companies as being a fair employer under the terms of Section 15 of the Act. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Renfrew, West was a little cross with my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) for saying that. The fact is that the trade union side has given official notification, to the effect stated by my hon. Friend, that they no longer recognise any charter company as being a fair employer under that Section of the Act.
To be frank about this, in the past the trade unions have allowed some of these private employers to get away with substandard wages and conditions, because that did not matter so much so long as the private companies were not threatening and attacking the livelihoods of the employees of the Corporations. But, of course, that situation is changed now; and it is the Minister who has changed it. I beg the House to remember that in some cases the conditions in charter companies are seriously worse than they are in the Corporations.
That applies to wages, leave, sickness pay, insurance against accidents and pension schemes. If one takes pension schemes as an example, some of these companies have no pension schemes at all and some have very bad schemes. One charter company pensions off some of its pilots at 60 years of age. That is why the trade unions are going to exercise their statutory rights, the rights which they have under the law, to oppose applications made to the Air Transport Advisory Council by wage-cutting employers; and if this process holds up the implementation of the Minister's policy, he has nobody to blame for it but himself.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough pointed out, what has 2050 particularly annoyed the workers in civil aviation is that in spite of his past promises the Minister has virtually ignored the trade union side of the National Joint Council for the industry. Almost as soon as he was appointed, he said a lot of fine words about being willing to talk to the trade unions at any time, but fine words lubricate no engines. In his period of office and in the whole term of this Government, the right hon. Gentleman has only once met the trade union side. Since that meeting he has issued a directive which may, and almost certainly will, seriously and adversely affect the wages and conditions of many workers in the industry. And he did it without exchanging so much as a single word with a single trade union representative in the industry. That is a serious, and, I think, valid criticism of the Minister.
Another one is that he is failing to stick up for the air transport industry, whose interests he is supposed to represent in relations with other Government Departments. There is absolutely no doubt, and everybody in the industry knows it, that civil aviation is in a much weaker position vis-à-vis other Government Departments since the present Government came into power and since the industry ceased to have a senior Minister of its own.
We shall feel well justified in asking the House, in something like half an hour's time, to register a protest against this foolish policy and against the Minister's neglect of civil aviation. We know why he is neglecting it. It is because he has enough trouble on his hands already with surface transport. He is going to have enough headaches in steering his much-condemned Transport Bill through the House without, in addition, charging into civil aviation like a bull into a control cabin. He may be doing a bit of good for his party by his policy, though I doubt even that. But if he is, he is doing it at the cost of weakening British air transport in its job of carrying the flag all over the world.
The people who are most delighted with the Minister are not the private enterprise flying companies of Great Britain but the great airline organisations of foreign countries, because they can see in his policy a weakening of the competition which they could expect from British civil airlines. What the Minister is pro- 2051 posing to do is surely the most ill-advised, the most gratuitiously harmful and, above all, the most emptily doctrinaire thing that even this incompetent Government has put before us.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Mr. R. Maudling)
We have had an extremely interesting debate on this subject which has maintained to the end its interest, even if it has somewhat changed in temper and mode of expression. I shall try to deal with as many points as I can in the course of my reply, but so many interesting points have been raised by hon. Members in various parts of the House that it may not be possible to deal with all of them.
I was particularly glad to hear the intervention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay). I may say quite sincerely that one of my personal disappointments has been that, as I was only in the Department for a few days before he had to resign, I missed the opportunity that I would very much have valued of learning something about my job under his humane and wise guidance, and certainly I shall take careful note of the suggestions that he has made today.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brent-ford and Chiswick (Mr. Lucas) made some very interesting suggestions about the training of pilots which I will carefully study. We have heard the voice of Scotland in its vigorous and sometimes rather familiar tones from my hon. and gallant Friends the Members for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) and Argyll (Major McCallum), and we also heard on this occasion the voice of Wales in the person of the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes).
I should like to say to the hon. Member for Anglesey that the Valley airfield in which he is interested is still one of our diversions; Customs facilities are available there and we have joint user rights at Mona, although I understand that no one has recently applied to use them.
The hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) raised the question of aviation medicine, and I am glad to be able to tell him that both Corporations have on their staff very distinguished medical officers who apply a 2052 great deal of thought and study to the problems of aviation medicine as they affect both passengers and aircrew, and they carry out a great deal of research in conjunction with the Royal Air Force.
The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) raised the question of flying boats, and I hope he will not think I am evading the issue by pointing out that there is to be a debate on the Adjournment Motion on this subject in the future, in which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply will be giving of his wisdom on this particular subject.
I was very interested to hear the winding-up speech of the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo). I was very interested indeed to find him winding up. I must say that I am always interested in the political position of the hon. Member, because although he tends to hunt with the hounds he usually sits with the hares. I do not think we shall have any more hares after the High Wycombe by-election. The hon. Member speaks with a great deal of practical knowledge of trade union policy, and I want first of all to devote a short time to the trade union points that have arisen.
The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) first suggested that my right hon. Friend has departed from previous precedent and has ignored or overlooked the trade unions. I do not believe that that is correct. My right hon. Friend, as I understand, followed previous practice in meeting and consulting with the trade union side of the National Joint Council before he announced his new policy which involved substantial changes in the existing policy. The recent announcement of the terms of reference to which the hon. Member for Reading, South referred was not a new development of policy; it was merely setting out in the terms of reference the policy already explained to the trade union side of the National Joint Council.
The hon. Member for Wellingborough referred to certain correspondence and I should like to read the last two sentences of a letter which was sent to the trade union side on 20th October, which said that:The Minister has every intention of consulting the trade union side of the National Joint Council further on any possible future 2053 changes in policy affecting their interests that may emerge. If the trade union side feel that another meeting would be useful in the near future, the Minister would be happy to arrange this.That offer remains open.
With regard to the question to which the hon. Member alluded in passing—maintenance contracts—I said in a previous debate that the Department will be very glad to resume the negotiations on this subject with the trade unions that were taking place before the General Election. Although we have made this offer, I understand that no further approach has been made to us.
On the question of terms and conditions, it is most important that we should understand this matter correctly and that there should not be any unnecessary and avoidable misunderstanding about people engaged in the civil aviation industry. The new terms of reference of the Air Transport Advisory Council made it quite clear that before the Minister will approve any Associate agreement or any new service he must be satisfied that the firm in question maintains terms and conditions in accordance with the National Joint Council provisions for people employed in that capacity. I do not think more could be asked than that. The Minister is going to insist that the National Joint Council terms and conditions are applied by companies taking advantage of these new opportunities, and if the trade unions feel that in any particular instance those terms and conditions are not being observed, they can ask, through the Minister, to refer the matter to the Industrial Court, which will most certainly be done.
From what the hon. Member for Reading, South said, I presume that the trade union side are giving notice to terminate the present arrangement. That is a matter for them. This is a matter of voluntary wage negotiation through established machinery, with which this Government would not want to interfere in any way. If the trade unions feel that they must give notice to terminate these arrangements in this way, it is entirely up to them. I am glad to have the assurance of the hon. Member that this in no way represents any possible form of political action against the Government's political decisions.
In making the first speech for the Opposition, the hon. Member for 2054 Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) raised points which I should like to answer. First, there is the question of Bahamas Airways and their losses. It is true that the losses they show in the Report currently under discussion were substantial and much too heavy. For that reason, some months ago the Chairman of the British Overseas Airways Corporation himself visited the area and made substantial rearrangements. The trouble was that this particular company was trying to do too much at once. It was trying simultaneously to operate the internal airlines and the more substantial trunk routes between the Bahamas and the mainland. The new arrangements confine Bahamas Airways to the internal routes and leave B.O.A.C. to run the external routes. The Corporation believe that in this way they will be able to eliminate the large deficit appearing in the 1951–52 accounts, or at any rate to make substantial progress in the direction of eliminating them.
The hon. Member also raised the question of British West India Airways and asked whether that had been referred to at the Colonial Conference. It was not specifically referred to at that conference, but there was a discussion on the general problems of this cabotage area—to use that rather unpleasant term—and it has been suggested that a regional advisory council on civil aviation problems should be set up in that area. I understand that proposals to this end have been sent to the Corporation by the Colonial Office.
The hon. Member then referred to the question of mail payments—as did the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton). I was a little surprised to hear the hon. Member for Uxbridge challenging us to produce fair play for the Corporation — particularly B.E.A.—in this matter of the rate of mail payments. The present rate of mail payments is determined by an agreement made by his Government. If that is not fair play, what is? Personally, I think the agreement is not at all unreasonable.
I must say, speaking also for my right hon. Friend, that we do not necessarily accept all that is said by the Corporations in their Reports. They are entitled to their point of view, but we do not necessarily accept it. I may add that this Government have made one change already. Criticism is made in the Report that the rate given to B.E.A. was 2.9 gold francs, 2055 which is below the international rate of 3 gold francs. We have now brought that up to the international rate. If that is fair play, we have already given it.
Hon. Members must bear in mind that comparisons between the mail rates for different companies can be somewhat misleading. There is a great difference between the surcharged mail carried largely by B.O.A.C., where the customer is prepared to pay an additional charge in order to ensure that it is carried by air, and the short haul, all-up mail which is carried by British European Airways. Although in that case the rate is lower, they get the benefit of a very substantial increase in the volume of traffic.
Furthermore, comparisons with rates paid to the American airlines are most misleading, because American mail rates are admitted to contain a very large element of subsidy to a number of airlines. That was brought out recently in a Report I think, in June, by the Civil Aeronautics Board, which showed clearly what a large element of subsidy is contained in the mail rates paid to United States carriers.
The general burden of the argument against the Government on civil aviation today has been in line with the Amendment, which I understand is duly to be moved when I have concluded my speech. It would be difficult to find an Amendment supported in more extravagant exaggeration of language. It bears no relation whatever to the facts, and I will try to explain why that is so.
We, as a party, as is well known, are supporters of private enterprise. We are accused of being doctrinaire. When we came into power we found that the civil aviation of this country was very largely entrusted to two State Corporations. We accept that fact. We recognise—and here I am answering the hon. Member for Reading, South—that the work done by the Corporations—B.O.A.C. and B.E.A.C.—has been and is excellent work. My right hon. Friend has said that on numerous, almost innumerable, occasions. Those nationalised Corporations have been and are doing a good job.
That is precisely why we are not breaking them up. That is precisely why we are continuing them. That is precisely 2056 why we are guaranteeing them immunity from British competition in their main activities, which are their scheduled services for passengers, both first class and tourist. That is the bulk of their activities. Their passenger scheduled services already cover the whole of the globe. There is a network of routes operated by B.O.A.C. and B.E.A.C. all over the globe. That is their main activity, and it has been recognised as their main activity—and that we have explicitly protected them against incursion or whittling away or hobbling or nibbling or many of the other rather odd phrases employed from time to time today by hon. Members opposite.
But when we say that the Corporations are doing a good job—because we are happy to recognise that—it does not necessarily follow that they have a monopoly of wisdom. That, I think, is the crux of the issue between the two sides of the House. Running through the remarks of the hon. Member for Reading, South, I detected this strange idea that because the nationalised Corporations are doing a good job, they are the only people who can do anything. That is very far from being the case, because, quite apart from the activities of the nationalised Corporations, there has been a remarkable growth already of independent air operations in this country.
If we study the recent Report of the British Independent Air Transport Association, we see that in the last year under review their freight carrying activities increased by over 100 per cent., and their carriage of troops increased in some cases by nearly 1,000 per cent.—which, incidentally, is the answer to some people who maintain, rather in contrast with the hon. Member for Reading, South, that the independent operators have been given no greater opportunities.
They have made great strides and are making great strides, and the contribution of the independent operators to British civil aviation as a whole has been very great indeed. We believe it should be greater. We believe that independence can develop new lines and new ideas and new services which will contribute to British prosperity, which will complement and add to the services of the Corpora-lions, and which need not and will not undermine the existing networks of the Corporation. We do not want to set 2057 one against the other. We want to use a combination of both
I protest against the restrictive attitude which so many people take on this question of civil aviation. We are just at the beginning of its development. We do not know over what horizons it is going to range. We cannot foretell the range or the limits to be developed in the coming years. We want to see it making use of every opportunity and every method of development that the genius and the enterprise of our people can provide.
§ Mr. Beswick
The hon. Gentleman is presenting his case in a most reasonable way, and I wonder whether he will allow me to ask a question. He has spoken of the two types of service, tourist and coach. Can he say what there is in the charge, as the Minister admitted, that the companies operating down to East Africa are now planning their coach route services rather too near the price of the tourist services of the Corporation?
§ Mr. Maudling
I am coming to that precise point. It is a most important point, on which the House should be clear. I think there is a great deal of misunderstanding.
As I was saying, we consider that the independent operators can do more without detriment to the Corporations and be given greater opportunities, and our objective has been to give them greater security—to give them, as we intend to do, a system of agreement to take them over a period of seven to 10 years, which is a longer period, and necessary in modern conditions, when aircraft cost so much and when it is quite impossible for any company to amortise the cost of aircraft over a relatively small period of operations.
The hon. Member for Reading, South talked of the Corporations making plans and then of some private charter company coming along and taking away their business. How they got the equipment I do not know. He said himself that they had not got the equipment But how about the private companies putting their capital and their ideas into services and having them taken away by the Corporations? We do want to give the private operators longer term security, as we believe they need that, and we believe it is important to enable them to develop 2058 the most appropriate forms of activity, particularly charter, colonial coach services and freight services.
If we are to get simultaneous development, in the national interest, both of the Corporations and of the independent operators, there is bound to be a certain degree of competition. We do not think that that is necessarily a bad thing, but what we are most anxious to avoid is cut-throat competition of the type to which the hon. Member referred, and which, I entirely agree with him, would be to the detriment of this country's aviation as a whole and would be of benefit to foreign airlines. We want to avoid that cut-throat competition. That cut-throat competition is liable to arise if either the independent operators should attempt to undermine the position of the Corporations, or if the Corporations should seek to bring their tremendous resources in competitive power down directly, crushing the independent operators at this stage. In either case that could be cut-throat competition of the type we want to avoid.
Take the question of charter work. It is often said that the Corporations engage more than they should in this form of activity. I have studied this question very closely. The Corporations have said, particularly B.O.A.C., that it is not their intention to maintain aircraft specifically for charter operations, and I am convinced, after studying it, that they are carrying out that policy.
It is also sometimes said that they offer unnaturally low quotations on their non-schedule operations to knock out the independents and subsidise themselves with the relatively high charges they make on scheduled services. There again, I do not think that on examination that charge stands up. In the first place, practically every relevant overhead is included in the quotations made for nonscheduled services by the Corporations; and secondly, the reason the Corporations, can show these low costs on charter operations is because they are largely carried out by aircraft which are obsolescent, and therefore show substantially lower costs.
The point we must bear in mind in this charter connection is that it is, I think, agreed on both sides—I always understood it was accepted by hon. Members opposite—that charter is the proper 2059 domain of the private operators. It will be bad if the Corporations use their competitive power to squeeze the private companies out of charter operations; and it will be bad for the nation as a whole. Equally, it would be bad to stop the Corporations from using that stand-by availability of their normal aircraft, and prevent them from quoting for contracts which, if they did not quote, would go to foreign operators. I call the attention of all engaged in civil aviation to the growing charter activities of some foreign airlines, particularly K.L.M., a most efficient company. Here is a danger to be faced; here is a danger which all engaged in British aviation might unite in facing.
Now I come to the service to Africa. It has been agreed that the Corporation should maintain intact its first-class and tourist-class services. We consider that there is scope for a third-class service, a Colonial coach service. We want to keep a three-tier fare structure. Obviously, if that is to be done a proper differential must be maintained between the tourist class and the coach class, and the whole idea would be undermined if either the coach-class operator produced a tourist service disguised as a coach service or the tourist-class operator produced a coach-class service disguised as a tourist service.
That is what we are trying to avoid. Although it is true that we have had representations from independent companies against the Corporations, we have equally received representations from the Corporations against some independent companies. In fact we have pressed one independent company not to increase its fares but to bring down its baggage allowance and its give-aways, in order to be able to reduce its fare, because we think its fare could be lower, and thus increase the differential.
I have discussed the matter with the Corporations, and as a result no request has been made to the Corporations to reduce any of their existing fares, but we have asked them to bear in mind, as I am sure they will, in framing their tourist fares, the necessity for having a genuine tourist fare in order to maintain the differential between one and the other. If there is a three-tier fare structure, the duty of the Ministry is to prevent the 2060 coach-class service from becoming a disguised tourist service, and to prevent the tourist service from becoming a disguised coach service. That seems to me to be an entirely proper thing for the Department to do.
§ Mr. Beswick
The question I asked was not whether the Minister had asked the Corporation to reduce their fare but whether he had asked them to increase the fare. I understand the Parliamentary Secretary is now saying that the Corporation are now operating down there at a rate which is too low.
§ Mr. Maudling
That was a slip of the tongue. I meant to say that we have not asked the Corporation to increase any of their existing fares. What I have now said stands as an accurate statement of the position at the present time.
I want to come now to the question of freight, which has also been raised in the debate. There was an agreement between the Minister and the two Chairmen of the Corporations. They undertook not to apply for any new all-freight services for one year. That was to give the independents a chance to get in on this freight business and to try to establish their freight business, which we all think would be in the interests of the country.
The question arises whether the North Atlantic is an existing all-freight route. I do not see how there can be any confusion on this matter. It is true that B.O.A.C. at one time operated an all-freight route for a time across the Atlantic. This ended more than three years ago, and at the latter stages was, in fact, merely a training operation on which a certain amount of freight was carried to make up. What makes the matter quite beyond dispute, and what is more important, is that in the terms of reference to the Air Transport Advisory Council—which are available and published for all to see—a clear distinction was always made between existing routes and new routes, and a list of existing routes is annexed as an appendix to those terms of reference.
So there can be no possible misunderstanding, so far as I can see, on this particular matter. Any licence given, if it should be given, to a private company to operate across the North Atlantic would not be exclusive. If the Corporation could say that there was more traffic to 2061 be carried than was being carried, and a large market which they could meet, they obviously would also be able to operate. If we consider the freight potentialities of the North Atlantic, there can be no question that there is immense room for operators of all kinds, both for the Corporation and for the independent operator.
The Amendment seems to me to be framed in rather strong words. It has, I consider, few virtues; it has certainly no relation at all to the facts. It is liable to create and extend precisely that type of uncertainty, worry and loss of morale in the Corporations about which hon. Members opposite express so much concern. Their Amendment and their speeches on it are frustrating and create this uncertainty which should never have existed.
§ Mr. Maudling
There is very little to be said on this side for those particular speeches. This Amendment has one virtue in the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is wholly destructive in character and offers no positive suggestions. Although they sit divided it will enable them to go into the Lobby together this evening, if they press it to a Division, as undoubtedly they will. I hope that they will not do so even now, because in the development of British civil aviation, which is of common interest
§ to all of us, it is surely a necessity to avoid any discord or any rancour that we can eliminate. It is quite wrong to go about deliberately creating discord and rancour.
§ One thing brought home to me during my short time in office is that the decisions we are taking now will have great significance. We are at the beginning of the development of British civil aviation. That development will be carried out, not in this House, but by the men and women who are engaged in it. It is our duty to give them the opportunity to exercise the genius, initiative and daring which in a maritime age built this country up into a great maritime Power. We have to create conditions in which British aircraft and British aviation can prosper, and it is in that spirit that I ask the House decisively to reject this mischievous and ill-founded Amendment.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:but regrets that the efficiency and development of British Civil Aviation, and the morale and living-standards of its workers, are being gravely threatened by the present policy of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 215; Noes, 248.2063
|Division No. 245.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Collick, P. H.||Follick, M.|
|Albu, A. H.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Foot, M. M.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Forman, J. C.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Crosland, C. A. R.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Daines, P.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Bartley, P.||Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Glanville, James|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Gooch, E. G.|
|Bence, C. R.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)|
|Benson, G.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.|
|Beswick, F.||Deer, G.||Grey, C. F.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Delargy, H. J.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Blackburn, F.||Dodds, N. N.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Donnelly, D. L.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Boardman, H.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Edelman, M.||Hannan, W.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hardy, E. A.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Hargreaves, A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Hastings, S.|
|Carmichael, J.||Ewart, R.||Hayman, F. H.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Fernyhough, E.||Healey, Dennis (Leeds, S. E.)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Fienburgh, W.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)|
|Clunie, J.||Finch, H. J.||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Coldrick, W.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Holman, P.|
|Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Mort, D. L.||Steele, T.|
|Hoy, J. H.||Moyle, A.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Mulley, F. W.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Murray, J. D.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Nally, W.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oldfield, W. H.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Oliver, G. H.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Janner, B.||Oswald, T.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Paget, R. T.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Pannell, Charles||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Pargiter, G. A.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Parker, J.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Paton, J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Keenan, W.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Wallace, H. W.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C W||Poole, C. C.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Popplewell, E.||Weitzman, D.|
|Kinley, J.||Porter, G.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Proctor, W. T.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||West, D. G.|
|Lewis, Arthur||Rankin, John||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Reeves, J.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Logan, D. G.||Rhodes, H.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|MacColl, J. E.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Wigg, George|
|McGhee, H. G.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|McInnes, J.||Ross, William||Wilkins, W. A.|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Royle, C.||Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)|
|McLeavy, F.||Schofield, S. (Barnsley)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Short, E. W.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Manuel, A. C.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Yates, V. F.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Slater, J.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Moody, A. S.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Snow, J. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Morley, R.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Mr. Bowden and|
|Mr. Kenneth Robinson.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Burden, F. F. A.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Cary, Sir Robert||Fort, R.|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Channon, H.||Foster, John|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollock)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton)||Cole, Norman||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Colegate, W. A.||George, Rt. Hon Maj. G. Lloyd|
|Baldock, Lt.-Comdr. J. M.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Godber, J. B.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Cooper, Sqn-Ldr. Albert||Gomme-Duncan, Col A.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Gough, C. F. H.|
|Barber, Anthony||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Gower, H. R.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Crosthwaite Eyre, Col. O. E.||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Crouch, R. F.||Gridley, Sir Arnold|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Grimond, J.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Hare, Hon. J. H.|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Davidson, Viscountess||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Deedes, W. F.||Harvey, Air Cdre A. V. (Macclesfield)|
|Birch, Nigel||Digby, S. Wingfield||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George|
|Black, C. W.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hay, John|
|Bowen, E. R.||Donner, P. W.||Heald, Sir Lionel|
|Boyle, Sir Edward|
|Braine, B. R.||Doughty, C. J. A||Heath, Edward|
|Braithewaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Drayson, G. B.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N. W.)||Drewe, C.||Higgs, J. M. C.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Thomas (Richmond)||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Bullard, D. G.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Erroll, F. J.||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Fell A.||Hollis, M. C.|
|Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Maudling, R.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Holt, A. F.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Hope, Lord John||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Mellor, Sir John||Speir, R. M.|
|Horobin, I. M.||Molson, A. H. E.||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Waller||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Stevens, G. P.|
|Hudson, W. R. A. Hull, N.)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Hurd, A. R.||Nicholls, Harmar||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Summers, G. S.|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Oakshott, H. D.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Odey, G. W.||Teeling, W.|
|Kaberry, D.||O'Neill, P. R. H. (Antrim, N.)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Keeling, Sir Edward||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Osborne, C.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Partridge, E.|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Thornton Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Tilney, John|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Turton, R. H.|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Pitman, I. J.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Powell, J. Enoch||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Lindsay, Martin||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Linstead, H. N.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Wade, D. W.|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Raikes, H. V.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Rayner, Brig. R.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Redmayne, M.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|McAdden, S. J.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|McCallum, Major D.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)||Robertson, Sir David||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Watkinson, H. A.|
|McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Roper, Sir Harold||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Wellwood, W.|
|Maclean, Fitzroy||Russell, R. S.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)||Wills, G.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Scott, R. Donald||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Markham, Major S. F.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Shepherd, William|
|Marples, A. E.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Maude, Angus||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
Question put, and agreed to.
That this House, in reviewing the progress of Civil Aviation, takes note of the Reports and Accounts of the British Overseas Airways Corporation and the British European Airways Corporation for the year ended 31st March, 1952.