HC Deb 18 April 1946 vol 421 cc2893-5
66. Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation what is the cost of the work contemplated in providing temporary docks and other accommodation at Southampton, for any interim scheme at present proposed for the use of Southampton as a flying-boat base.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Mr. Ivor Thomas)

The estimated cost is approximately £80,000. This cost would be offset by considerable annual savings in respect of rents at Poole, transport of passengers, landing fees, and dead "flying between the operating base and British Overseas Airways Corporation's Maintenance Base at Hythe.

67. Sir J. Lucas

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he can now give an assurance that no interim move will be made to transfer the B.O.A.C. flying-boat departure base at Poole, where operations have been safely and satisfactorily conducted throughout the war, to the more hazardous conditions obtaining at Southampton, pending the final decision to develop Langstone Harbour as the new main civil flying-boat terminal in the South of England.

Mr. Ivor Thomas

No, Sir. In any case, my Noble Friend cannot accept the suggestion that operations at Southampton would be in any way less safe than those hitherto conducted at Poole.

Sir J. Lucas

Is not the Minister aware of the declaration of the British Airline Pilots' Association, in which they say that Southampton Water can never be considered as a suitable seaplane base, that it can only be considered as a single runway area—and that area out of wind —and that the scheme is unsafe both for shipping and for planes?

Mr. Thomas

I could not accept that as it stands. I would accept the fact that Southampton Water cannot be considered as a satisfactory permanent marine base.

Mr. Thomas Lewis

Has the Minister had an opportunity of considering the scheme for a marine air base at the junction of Southampton Water and the Solent, and is he aware that, during the 10 years in which flying-boats used the base, especially in 1944 and 1945, over 2,000 landings were made and there were no accidents?

Mr. Thomas

This scheme was submitted only on 10th April, and I have not had time to give it proper attention.

Mr. Cooper

Is my hon. Friend aware that American operators have categorically turned down the use of Southampton Water as a flying boat base on the score of it being hazardous, and does he think that we can overlook such experienced opinion expressed by those who have used this type of aircraft extensively and have operated them in this country?

Mr. Thomas

The United States are not operating flying boats in this country.

Mr. Cooper

My hon. Friend misses the point of the question. This is an opinion expressed by experienced people, and I am asking him whether we can afford to overlook it. I might also ask him whether he would take into consideration this, that the fact that there have been no accidents so far at this base is not necessarily ground for taking undue risks.

Major Bruce

Will the Minister give an assurance that the matter shall be considered only on the basis of the national interest and that parochial considerations shall not be taken into account?

Mr. Thomas

Yes, Sir; I can give that undertaking.

Mr. Boothby

Had not the lion Gentleman better stick to Prestwick?

Mr. Beswick

Is the Minister aware of the argument advanced in regard to the temporary development of Heathrow, and will he see that there is no undue expenditure of public money on a project which, on his own showing, is only a temporary expedient?

Mr. Thomas

Yes, Sir. There has been the most careful examination of this question from all points of view, and I am satisfied that it is necessary and that there will be no undue expenditure.

Mr. Beswick

Will the Minister say for how long the Ministry is proposing to use this base on Southampton Water?

Mr. Thomas

I will answer the question in another way. No permanent marine base could possibly be developed in under two years.