HC Deb 25 February 1943 vol 387 cc294-6
46. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Minister without Portfolio whether his attention has been directed to the acquisition by the railway companies of a major interest in the finance company that controls British civil aviation; and what action he is taking to safeguard the national interests and to meet the need for the rapid development of civil aviation immediately on the termination of hostilities?

The Minister without Portfolio (Sir William Jowitt)

Three of the railway companies have acquired a controlling interest in British and Foreign Aviation Ltd. This company has partly financed certain civil aviation companies operating within the British Isles, but it certainly does not control British civil aviation. The Secretary of State for Air has specific powers under Section 10 of the Air Transport Acts, 1929, to take action if it appears that the powers of the Acts are being used in such a way as to hamper development of civil aviation or against public interests, but I have no reason to think that this transaction will have such an effect.

Mr. Smith

Does the Minister consider that there is monopoly development here, and in view of the effect of monopoly development upon the national interest, what steps is he taking to safeguard national interests in the future?

Sir W. Jowitt

All those matters will certainly be considered.

Mr. Shinwell

But has my right hon. and learned Friend observed that every time he is asked a question about this and other matters affecting post-war policy his reply is that they are going to be considered but never tells us that anything is being done?

Mr. Holdsworth

Would not private interests do it bettter than the State?

Mr. A. Edwards

Will the Minister tell the House whether he really considers the best interests of civil aviation and Overseas Airways are being served when the chairman is also the chairman of the railway company who are trying to break it up and was chairman of the finance company who got a very handsome rake-off before the war?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker rose


Mr. Edwards

But this is not good enough. The Minister is here to answer our Questions.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member is asking for an expression of opinion. It is laid down that facts and not opinions should be sought for at Question time.

Mr. Shinwell

In any event will the right hon. and learned Gentleman remember that he is also a member of the Labour Party?

Mr. Holdsworth

And will he also remember that there are other opinions on this matter?