HC Deb 21 February 1947 vol 433 cc1585-626

Order for Second Reading read.

11.6 a.m.

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

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

A conspicuous feature of this Bill, as the House will have noticed, is that its main provisions deal with matters—

Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)

On a point of Order. Can we have some candles, as it is quite impossible to read?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I will give the necessary instructions.

Mr. Lindgren

A conspicuous feature of this Bill is that its main provisions deal with matters of a highly technical nature, associated with the many complex ramifications of air navigation law. It is not concerned with the general policy of development of civil aviation, which was covered by the Civil Aviation Act passed last year, nor does it cover matters of private air law such as those affecting the relations between the commercial air lines and the public they serve. The Bill has become necessary for two main reasons, namely, to give effect to the Convention on International Civil Aviation and the Interim Agreement which were signed at Chicago on the 7th December, 1944, and to bring air navigation law into conformity with the developing science of air navigation to which the rapid technical advances of recent years have contributed.

Our existing international obligations in the sphere of air navigation are governed by the Paris Convention of 1919, to which statutory effect in the United Kingdom was given by the Air Navigation Act, 1920. The Chicago Convention will replace the Paris Convention of 1919, and the Bill now before the House will similarly replace the corresponding provisions of existing legislation on the subject. It will probably assist the House to a fuller understanding of the scope and the purposes of the Chicago Convention, with which this Bill primarily deals, if I give a brief historical survey of its predecessor, the Paris Convention and the parallel Havana Convention of 1928, which was adopted by the United States and certain Latin-American republics.

On 13th October, 1919, the 25 Allied and associated Powers represented at the Peace Conference signed the International Convention for Air Navigation in Paris. The Convention was eventually ratified by 33 States, including the United Kingdom, the Dominions and India, but among the more important countries which did not subscribe to this Convention were the United States of America, Brazil. Mexico, China and the U.S.S.R. The Paris Convention embodied the general code of international air navigation law, and, in relation to the international regulation of civil aviation, was concerned mainly with its technical aspects; it laid down the doctrine of the national sovereignty of the air and envisaged the maximum freedom for the passage of commercial aircraft, subject to the consent of the States through whose territories the services passed.

In practice, however, the operation of regular commercial services was governed by bilateral agreements often negotiated with difficulty and introducing considerations extraneous to air transport. As a result, the Convention made no significant contribution to the development of economic collaboration in international air transport services. It made provision in its Articles for uniform standards and practices in technical matters, and there were eight technical annexes, forming an integral part of the Convention, dealing with such matters as lights, signals and markings, safety regulations, rules of the air, airworthiness, licensing of crews, maps, meteorological information, registration of aircraft and customs procedure. The Convention was administered by the International Commission for Air Navigation, known as I.C.A.N. The most important duties of this body have been to receive and make proposals for improving the Convention, and to review and revise as necessary the technical annexes.

The requirements of the Convention and its annexes have been embodied in English law by Orders in Council issued under the Air Navigation Act, 1920, which now appear as the Air Navigation (Consolidation) Order, 1923, as amended to i9th February, 1946. Hitherto, therefore, effect has been given to the internationally agreed annexes by Orders in Council and regulations made under the Air Navigation Act, 1920. The United States of America and eight central American republics and Chile, which were not parties to the Paris Convention, entered into the Havana (Pan-American) Convention, 1928. This Convention provided rules and dealt with matters of public international air law similar to those of the Paris Convention, but there were certain important differences. In particular, its application was limited to the American continent, and it made no provision for international uniformity in technical matters. So much for international air navigation law as it existed at the time of the Chicago Conference.

Parties to the Paris and Havana Conventions are under an obligation to denounce these Conventions on ratification of the Chicago Convention which is to supersede them. In anticipation of ratification of the Chicago Convention, His Majesty's Government notified its denunciation of the Paris Convention in. May, 1946. This will become effective either in May next at the end of the prescribed period of one year, or when the Chicago Convention enters into force for the United Kingdom if this date is later. The Chicago Civil Aviation Conference of 1944 was convened by the United States Government after consultation with a number of other governments who were in agreement that the time had arrived to discuss arrangements for the resumption of international civil aviation. The main objectives of the Conference, apart from temporary arrangements to re-establish air transport services to meet the need then in early prospect, were to establish a new multilateral Convention of world-wide application which would lay down uniform technical codes and practices to supersede existing Conventions on international air navigation law. In addition, the Conference was to explore the possibility of providing in such a multilateral Convention for the regulation of the economic and commercial aspects of international air transport.

As the House will be aware, complete agreement was reached on the form of a multilateral Convention, and preliminary interim agreement, introducing standardised procedures and practices for international air navigation and associated matters. It has not proved possible to deal multilaterally with the economic and commercial aspects of international air transport. As the House will be aware, too, the divergent views of the United States and ourselves were subsequently resolved in the bilateral agreement between the two countries signed at Bermuda in February of last year. The conclusion of this agreement marks an important step forward, and holds out distinctly favourable prospects of the early conclusion of a multilateral agreement which will dispense with the present necessity for the numerous bilateral agreements required to enable international air services to be operated. These matters do not arise directly on the Bill before the House, but no description of the results of the Chicago Conference would be complete without a brief reference to the early promise of translating the failure at Chicago into success at Montreal.

The final Act of the Conference was published in two Parts. Part I, which contains the various substantive resolutions and agreements, was laid before Parliament in a White Paper, Cmd. 6614/1945. Part II consists of the draft technical annexes which, when completed, will supplement the Convention. A copy of this Part was placed in the Library of the House. Part I includes both the interim agreement and the Convention on international civil aviation. The former, which established the provisional international civil aviation organisation now actively functioning at Montreal, was designed to introduce, pending the Convention coming into force on ratification by the necessary 26 countries, up to date standardised practices and codes of universal application to meet the needs of modern air navigation and safety. It was contemplated that the interim agreement and the governing body it established would have a maximum life of three years. If, as is anticipated, ratification by the necessary minimum of countries should take place by 1st March, the period of the interim organisation will shortly come to an end.

The Provisional International Civil Aviation Organisation or P.I.C.A.O., as it is familiarly styled—is constituted on the basis of an assembly which meets annually, and an interim council whose duties require the continuous attendance of its elected members drawn from 21 different States. The functions of the Council, which are set out in Section 6 of the interim agreement, are purely advisory and include the collection and study of all information relating to the various aspects of international air transport operations, the study and report to the assembly on the unresolved differences of the Chicago Conference and the continuing study and revision, as necessary, of the international Convention and its associated draft technical annexes. The Interim Council has the assistance of the Air Transport Committee in dealing with the first two of these functions, and of the Air Navigation Committee in dealing with the technical field of air navigation.

The Convention, as I have already indicated, covers the whole field of public international air navigation law. In form, it is somewhat more comprehensive than the interim agreement and amplifies many of its provisions. It provides for the establishment of the International Civil Aviation Organisation which will carry out the functions hitherto exercised by I.C.A.N. and P.I.C.A.O. This organisation, as established by the Convention, will consist of an assembly, a council and any necessary subsidiary bodies, including an air navigation commission and an air transport committee as the successors of the corresponding committees of the Interim Council. The assembly, as is usual, will be representative of all member States and will normally meet once a year, but extraordinary meetings may be summoned at the request of the council or of any ten adherent States. The council will consist of 21 members in permanent session to be elected by the assembly every three years from among the States of chief importance to air transport, States making the largest contribution to the provision of facilities for international air navigation and States not otherwise included but necessary to ensure that the major geographical areas of the world are represented on the Council.

The first council, which includes the United Kingdom in its membership, was elected at Chicago on this basis. The Convention will be supplemented by 12 technical annexes related to governing articles of the Convention. The articles, so to speak are the pegs on which the technical annexes will hang. The first drafts of the technical annexes prepared at Chicago covered communications systems and air navigation aids, characteristics of airports and landing areas, rules of the air and air traffic control practices, licensing of operating and mechanical personnel, air worthiness of aircraft, registration and identification of aircraft, meteorological information, log books, maps and charts, customs procedures, aircraft in distress, and accident investigation.

The drafts produced at Chicago were acknowledged to be incomplete and to require further study and revision. Since the establishment of P.I.C.O.A. the annexes have been further considered both by the Air Navigation Committee and at a number of regional conferences. Considerable modifications of the earlier drafts have been made as a result. This work has made considerable demands upon the technical staffs of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

In relation to the technical matters, the Chicago Convention is broadly of the same scope a.3 the Paris Convention, but the former introduces certain new features. It establishes, for example, that in the application of the provisions of the Convention, or in bilateral agreements entered into by adherent States, there shall be no discriminatory provisions directed at third parties. Another important provision of the Chicago Convention is the procedure for giving assistance by way of grant or loan to States unable to construct and maintain airports and other air navigation facilities. These arrangements are detailed in Chapter XV of the Convention. Another innovation the provision for the collection, study and publication of information and data relating to all aspects of the operation of international air services Turning to the provisions of the Bill, Clause 1 is perhaps of greatest importance. The powers sought in this Clause are, for the most part, directly related to the subject matter of the technical annexes of the Chicago Convention I have just described. These provisions are, therefore, necessary to enable us to fulfil our international obligations, but they also include supplementary powers necessary for the regulation and development of air navigation to United Kingdom standards. These powers, however, are substantially the same as the existing powers conferred by the Air Navigation Acts of 1920 and 1936. Clause 2 of the Bill is designed to give statutory effect to the provisions of Article 27 of the Chicago Convention, to secure exemption from seizure of an aircraft or other equipment on the grounds of infringement of patent rights. Clause 3, which will come up for consideration on the Financial Resolutions, makes provision for meeting our financial obligations under the Chicago Agreement, and for defraying the expenses incurred in the administration of the Bill and the Orders made under it. The scope of this Clause is described in the Financial Memorandum.

With this description of the general background, scope and purposes of the Bill, I commend it to the House. The passage of the Bill into law will be an earnest of the interest of the House in facilitating the carriage of passengers and goods by air, in the improvement of air navigation methods, and, above all, in promoting the highest standards of safety for aircraft operating on the United Kingdom register.

Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)

Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may I put a question to you about the Procedure of the House? Since the present Administration came into office we have had the repeated reading of speeches by Ministers in this House. I do not know how far you would like to give a hint to His Majesty's Ministers that here in Parliament we are accustomed to hearing speeches delivered, and not read as the hon. Gentleman just did. The House would much prefer to have speeches delivered in the old-fashioned way, which we had in this House in days gone by.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It is not within my province to give a general direction as to how His Majesty's Ministers shall make speeches. It is the rule, of course, that speeches should not be read, but that notes should merely be referred to as notes.

11.24 a.m.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedford)

Arising out of that, I think I shall be within your recollection, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and within the recollection of many other hon. Members, when I remind the House of that occasion when a previous transport Bill, in that case a land transport Bill, was being discussed. A Conservative Minister of Transport read a very long speech, which was followed by an hon. Member from the Labour benches, I think the then hon. Member for Silvertown, Mr. Jones, rising to his feet and solemny proposing a vote of thanks to the typist. On this occasion we propose a vote of thanks to the Department; and on the occasion of a somewhat uncontroversial Bill we wish every possible success to those friends of all of us in whose hands, in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, at the moment are charged the responsibilities of guiding British civil aviation to a pre-eminent position in the world.

This is an uncontroversial Bill. Largely through co-operation in another place it has been very considerably improved, and there is little criticism that we on these benches shall make about the Bill itself. This is an opportunity, however, for a number of my hon. Friends to raise one or two technical points, which I hope will be in Order, and on which we should like some further information from the Parliamentary Secretary. I myself will be very brief. I shall be almost as brief as the hon. Gentleman was when he asked for a large sum of public money a few days ago. The purpose of this Bill is twofold. The first purpose is to make effective the undertakings entered into by the then British Government at Chicago, the Chicago Conventions and Agreements, and the further undertaking which involves in due course the arrangements reached later on with the United States. The second purpose is to continue still further with the process of controlling or guiding—according to how one looks at it—civil aviation, which was set on foot with the inauguration of the Ministry of Civil Aviation itself.

Let me deal very briefly with the first purpose, namely, implementing the undertakings we signed at Chicago. These, as the hon. Gentleman has shown in his speech, are based largely on the work of the Coalition Government and the proposals then put forward by Lord Swinton on behalf of the Coalition Government, which met with partial success—a large measure of success, considering everything—at Chicago. It is true that full agreement was not reached, and the remaining stages of controversy were happily resolved later on at Bermuda. But on the whole a very wide measure of agreement was reached, particularly in the technical field, at Chicago; and most of the conventions and agreements to which we are now giving legislative sanction spring from the work on that occasion of Lord Swinton and his delegation.

I vividly remember the attacks made on my noble Friend Lord Swinton on that occasion from the Socialist benches. I remember the attacks that were made on the failure to reach agreement at Chicago, and, indeed, on some features of those agreements that were reached. I remember the hurried meetings that were held by the Labour Party's Parliamentary Civil Aviation Committee, and the many speeches that were made, in particular by an hon. Gentleman, who has left the Chamber for the moment, the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles), attacking the Conservative Minister who had been leading our delegation at Chicago. He, on that occasion, suggested that had it been a Socialist Minister who had been introducing an agreement it would have been an agreement for international civil airlines everywhere, with every nation cooperating; and he broadly hinted, as did many of his hon. Friends, that the failure to secure full international civil airlines was due to Tory obscurantism in the Cabinet. Now all that has changed. With the coming of responsibility comes, to some Ministers, a measure of sobriety. It is interesting, albeit a shade ironical, to see agreements which were so fiercely attacked from the Socialist benches now handed out to us by the Parliamentary Secretary as something the House ought to endorse enthusiastically. Well, we do endorse them, and we are glad on this occasion to set the seal on the work Lord Swinton carried out on behalf of the war Coalition Government, work in which throughout he had the full support of His Majesty's Governments in the British Dominions.

Much the most satisfactory feature of these conventions and agreements is that they represent a wide measure of cooperation between ourselves and the United States. We are not, of course, forgetting, and shall never forget, that we are not the only two air-minded nations in the world. Sometimes, in talking of air navigation, people are inclined to think that no one in the world matters except Great Britain and the United States. We shall not make that mistake. There are many other nations interested in the air, and many coming along to be great air-minded nations. I remember, on the occasion of the various talks that took place in this country, at a time when the agreements which now find legislative sanction in this Bill were being hammered out, Mr. Adolf Berle telling a story at a public dinner, which summed up his own approach to this problem—an approach which many of us shared. He described two drunken men in the United States, who had been turned out of some township for their insobriety. They hurried off to the railway station, where they found a bottle of whisky. which they drank between them. The two men, by that time still more fuddled. looked down the long line of the great American railroad stretching out into the distance. One of the men turned to the other and said: "I think I'll buy this railroad." Whereupon the other remarked, "Suppose I won't sell?" Mr. Berle told that story as an illustration of the fact that England and America must never make the mistake of imagining that there are not other Powers determined to play their part in the air, and not only great Powers, but also some of the smaller nations, like the Dutch, who have just as tine records in civil aviation. None the less, we are the most important air Powers, and we welcome the agreement that has been reached.

I only want to make one or two very brief comments about the first Part of this Bill. The present Government are wedded to the state corporation system, and to a rigid system of nationalisation in the air. This demands, of course, international agreements. We on these Benches do not accept the present organisation in civil aviation as permanent. We are determined, when the opportunity comes again, to restore a wide measure of private enterprise in the air, to throw the lines open to private competition under proper regulation, and to have some system analogous to the Civil Aeronautical Board in the United States, which has given the benefit of co-ordination and the benefit of freedom of competition as well. But even when this happy change comes about we shall need international agreements to keep order in the air, and those agreements will take the form of the agreements for which the hon. Gentleman is now asking authority and as such of course we welcome and shall continue them.

My second point deals with frequency. Some part of these agreements deals with the method by which frequencies can be regulated on the Atlantic and other routes. As was said elsewhere a few days ago, the United States are now flying 23 services every week across the Atlantic, while we at the moment are only able to fly four. We must do our utmost to increase our number, and these agreements will allow alterations to take place, should the traffic demand it, in the number of American services across the Atlantic. We look to a gradual building up of British trans-Atlantic services, and wish every success to the Corporation in the task which lies ahead. There is one other point to which I should like to refer very briefly, and it concerns the technical mission that went to Montreal some time ago under Sir Robert Watson Watt. There are a number of questions relating to the technical annexe on which we want information, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) will ask some questions to which I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to give an answer. So much for the first Part of the Bill, the Part dealing with the Chicago agreement.

There is, of course, smuggled into this Bill another Part giving still further powers to the Minister of Civil Aviation. Owing to the discussions that took place elsewhere and the clarification that was brought about as a result, we do not take exception to any of these powers, though there are one or two questions we should like to address to the hon. Gentleman.

We welcome the fact that at least the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary did not repeat his Minister's astonishing constitutional doctrine, enunciated in the other place, that Ministers' powers should be drawn as widely as possible but their exercise should be narrow, a doctrine wholly at variance with the views of the Committee on Delegated Legislation on which a number of his hon. Friends served. We shall want answers on questions like this, relating to Clause 1 (2h). Can we have an assurance that nothing will be done under that power to alter the accepted view that, if a captain of an aircraft is unwilling to fly, he should not be obliged to do so, and if he is stopped from flying by the orders of some aerodrome official, it shall be for reasons that do not come within the accepted responsibilities of a captain?

We should like also further assurances that the position of the charter companies will be protected under this Bill. Assurances were introduced in the Civil Aviation Act that there should be no discrimination in regard to the use of aerodromes, but a number of stories are coming through of the difficulties in which charter operators find themselves in regard to aerodrome facilities which, though strictly Government-owned, from time to time appear to be treated as if they were owned and monopolised by the Corporations. The problems dealing with night storage for charter planes, facilities for maintenance and repair and the like are the type of questions. We should welcome a further undertaking from the hon. Gentleman that this Bill will do nothing still further to prejudice or penalise private charter flying. After all this Bill is, in the main, an attempt to see that nations treat each other fairly, and it would be a poor way in which to set about that desirable business for still further unfairness to be perpetrated at the expense of our own fellow citizens.

Having said this, I have little to add. We wish the Bill a speedy passage, and hope that it will be followed by increased vigour in claiming and maintaining for this country that leadership in the air which our geographical position and the talent of our people both should justify.

11.36 a.m.

Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)

The time which is being spent on this Bill is well worth while, because civil aviation is a comparatively new industry. It is expanding, perhaps not as rapidly as we would like to see it expand, and is costing the country enormous sums of money. As time goes on, the country will be increasingly interested in the results of this great industry. There is enormous scope, and I believe that if the industry is handled correctly, it will be of great advantage for this nation when our aeroplanes are flying to every part of the world.

I intend to refer to two or three technical points. The first concerns the delegation which went to America in the early autumn. If I may say so, I thought it was a very representative delegation. The British Airline Pilots' Association was there, and the Guild of Air Pilots. I have read several reports from members of the delegation since their return, and I must say that I have found it very difficult to find out what agreement they really "cached with the Americans. The impression I got was that no real agreement was made but that it was one nation against another, each trying to sell its wares. It is important from the point of view of safety that we should have some form of agreement with the Americans on navigational aids, and I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary what is the position regarding the S.C.S. Type 5. I know it is a late type of radar equipment, but what agreement if any was reached upon it, and also upon the British equipment Gee, "in which we have great faith in this country? Great Britain, which developed radar years before the war and during the early years of the war, handed it over to the Americans free of charge, and I do not think that is always appreciated by our friends on the other side of the Atlantic. We often hear about Lend-Lease, and the amount of cash they gave its, but we did nevertheless give them very great inventions of which this is one, and T think the Americans ought to reciprocate by handing over, at this stage, any developments which have been brought about in their own radar industry. I think we must press for that to the full.

I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question regarding the licensing of aerodromes, which is mentioned in this Bill. I know that certain methods are used in determining the length of the runway and the approaches, and I want to press the point regarding Croydon Aerodrome. That airfield has never been a good one.

It would have been, had it taken in the playing fields to the South of Purley Way, but as it is now I do not think this aerodrome is safe for large aircraft. I asked the Parliamentary Secretary a Question about it a few weeks ago, and he said that he had been informed by his technical advisers that they were of the opinion that it was safe. I implore him, however, to give this matter further consideration before we have another crash. It has bad approaches, with enormous gasworks, chimneys and houses around the whole of the aerodrome. There are no runways, and the surface is like a rough sea. Every time I take off from Croydon, I am absolutely terrified. I took my wife off the other day, and she had to use smelling salts and brandy. I thought it was a very dangerous aerodrome. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will look into this, because if we are to have a proper system of licensing aerodromes—and this is referred to in the Bill—we must exercise the powers and see that they do tally with what is required at the present day.

I also want to put a question regarding pilots who break the rules of the air, principally foreign pilots flying to Great Britain. I heard two months ago of a pilot coming in at the London Airport who actually approached in the wrong direction. A British aircraft was coming in, and a collision was narrowly averted. What happens in a case like that? Is the pilot put in irons pending an investigation; do we report him to the foreign Power, or do we prevent him from flying here again? As I understand it, nothing very much can be done at the moment, but it is a situation which has to be cleared up in the interests of the travelling public.

I wish also to refer to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) regarding maintenance of aircraft, particularly in the case of charter companies. My own interest in this matter is well known to the House. I think the Ministry are doing their utmost to solve the problem, but one of the difficulties is the question of understanding and insufficient personnel. The result has been that the Corporations have had priority, and the smaller charter companies have had to get along as best they can. Many of their aircraft are left in the open, and the engineers, even before this cold spell, were unable to service the machines as they should have been serviced, with the result that they were delayed. There are no suitable workshops, and on one aerodrome I was told that the charter company had to take out their benches from the hangars. It is a deplorable situation, because, as the Minister has said, the charter companies are in the family, and he is going to look after them on similar lines to the Corporations. I want the Minister to pay particular attention to this question of facilities for charter companies, because we do not want accidents due to the lack of them. I understand that the Accidents Branch is still occupying valuable space at Croydon. They could surely move elsewhere, so that additional aircraft could be maintained under proper conditions.

My next point concerns the meteorological service, which is mentioned in the Bill. I hope that something is being done to improve this service. We had that very terrible accident in Kent a few weeks ago, which was directly connected with the meteorological service. In this regard, I should like to ask a point regarding pilots. I welcome the fact that pilots are not to be compelled to take off, but will there be some regulation whereby a pilot who receives advice in the air has to accept the instructions given, because he cannot know what is the situation on the ground and where there are fog and ice? If the ground control have good, well-paid men in charge who can tell a pilot he has to fly elsewhere, there will be no misgivings on the point. I now wish to refer briefly to "Notices to Airmen," published by the Ministry. These notices frequently come out late, and if they are to be of any value, they must be sent out on time with all the up-to-date information. A friend of mine telephoned Northolt the other day, and they did not know that Croydon was waterlogged; one would have thought these two aerodromes would be working in the closest co-operation with each other. The essence of safety is a quick distribution of news relating to airfields and conditions of flying. In conclusion, I wish the Minister well, and I think that if he can get the right people, and if he pays them well and gives them the right status, there will be a great future. I would stress once again that the filling of all vacancies in the staff does need looking into.

11.45 a.m.

Mr. Parkin (Stroud)

We all join in welcoming this Bill. I regret that the Parliamentary Secretary has not had time to tell us more about the spirit in which he proposes to interpret the various Subsections of Clause 1. It seems to me that the success of his work depends entirely on the lead his Ministry give now in the matter of implementing paragraphs (h), (i) and (c), of Clause 1, in relation to air safety. Air safety, as he has said, is almost entirely a question of taking off and landing. Air safety depends entirely on confidence between those in the air and those on the ground. If this country is prepared to give a lead now, and puts all it has into the development of flying control and air safety, we can not only help ourselves financially, but we can raise our standing in the eyes of other countries to such an extent that the traffic at our airports will be greater than that of our competitors. We are in a position to give that lead, because we have a great fund of experience in the development of radar and flying control during the war.

I think I can refer on this occasion to the last speaker as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey), as on various occasions during the war he was my hon. and gallant "boss." He knows a good deal about the development of radar, and has referred to it today. I cannot emphasise too strongly the importance of our getting back to the position we were in at the end of the war. We have the experience and the technical development, but it appears that the development in radar since the war has not been carried on with the same sense of urgency. If the Parliamentary Secretary can assure us that there has been no relaxation in development and research, and can say how soon the apparatus being developed will be available at all English aerodromes, and also how far the work which was done here has since been developed in America, and how soon we shall be able to obtain from America the improved models, we shall be very relieved. The first thing we need is up-to-date equipment, and we are not convinced that all the equipment we had at the end of the war is being properly used. It seems almost certain that some of that equipment is scattered around in caravans, tenders and in stores, and that among it there is apparatus which would be most valuable on the airfields of this country.

It is not entirely a matter of equipment, because much more important than that is the confidence of the pilot in the men on the ground who are operating the equipment, and the knowledge that they are men on whom he can rely. Therefore, equally important is the establishment of morale and co-operation between pilots of all countries and our control organisations on the ground. This is not difficult to achieve, because it was achieved during the war. Most unlikely people suddenly arrived out of the air, and because they had confidence and did as they were told, they got down. Our gallant Allies, the Poles, sometimes sent the most alarming messages, such as "Your message received and understood. Please say again." It did not matter, because they knew the organisation was working, and they came in. If every pilot in Europe knew he would get a fair deal from the men on the ground in this country, and there were efficiency and rapidity of change over, the amount of traffic coming in would be still further increased.

I should like to refer again to the question of loss and wastage in aircraft. If a command in the Royal Air Force were planning a campaign, they would calculate how many aircraft were needed, and would bear in mind the safety measures and control apparatus available at the airfields where the aircraft were to land. They would know, on the average, by ascertainable records, how many aircraft were likely to crash on landing. That can be worked out as almost a cold scientific tact. When there is only limited safety apparatus at an airfield, a certain proportion of the aircraft coming in inevitably suffer some mishap. Although its provision involves very heavy capital expenditure, it is absolute folly to economise on research and development of radar if that will prevent damage to aircraft which are now being built. Therefore, leaving out the sentimental side, or the prestige side, in terms of hard cash, it is in our best interest to put all urgency into the development of radar.

It is also necessary to develop quickly a relationship between control on the ground and pilots of all nationalities, which we had during the war. Reference has been made to regulations which may be made about forbidding or encouraging pilots fly. The old established rule that the controller can forbid but cannot compel is not a bad one, and should, I think, be developed. When there is confidence between the control system on the ground and the pilot in the air, however exasperating it may be for him to be told that he may not fly, he will accept that ruling, because he knows that it is given for good reasons, based on sound information, secured from various parts of the country. The Parliamentary Secretary has shown us, by the resilience with which he has adapted himself to his new job, that he is a person who can give a personal lead. The success of air safety depends on morale and mutual personal confidence, and I hope that he will be able to tell us what he proposes to do in this connection when it comes to implementing this Clause in the Bill.

11.53 a.m.

Mr. William Teeling (Brighton)

I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to go into some detail on paragraph (h) of Clause 1. It has already been referred to by each hon. Member who has spoken. It seems to me to be one of the most important parts of the Bill. Presumably, by taking powers by Order in Council, the Government intend to do something on this subject, about which there are different opinions. Some pilots are inclined to feel that they would prefer not to be under too much control by traffic control officers. On the other hand, it can truthfully be said that the tragic accident in Kent was largely due to what happened at Bordeaux, to the pilot deciding, that for some reason, he would not take the advice of the traffic control at that airport. I feel that we should carry on as we did during the war. At Bomber Command in 1942, there was worked out a very successful plan under Air-Marshal Harris, which resulted in extraordinarily few accidents to the bombers going out, night after night, and day after day, to Germany and elsewhere.

We should have a definite flying plan and routing, power should be given to the traffic control officers to tell pilots where they should go and which way; they should have some definite flying plan on leaving this country. It is said by some pilots, "After all, you do not order a captain of a ship to do things; he is in control while his ship is at sea." They forget that once the captain of a ship gets to port, and the pilot comes on board, it is the pilot who gets him to the dock. In the same way, when a pilot is about to enter an airport, the traffic control officer should have the major power. One reason why pilots are not happy about the position at present is that the traffic control officers are not in the same position with regard to flying control as were the wing-commanders during the war. They do not get the same amount of money; they are not at present, to my mind, sufficiently instructed on the subject; and I think that not enough care is taken in that matter. I hope, therefore, when the Ministry of Civil Aviation finally decide to pass an Order in Council on this subject, they will see that the traffic control officers are given considerably increased pay and then power, which, I believe they ought to have. If that is done, I think that many pilots would have more confidence in the whole system, and the standard of the traffic control officers will be higher.

Then there is the question of F.I.D.O. We have talked about radar, and developments are fast going ahead; but there seems no reason to me why we should always have our eggs entirely in one basket. The subject of F.I.D.O. has been brought up before, and I am inclined to think that it is being rather left to drift. It may be that the Ministry feel that nothing need be done, because radar will be so far advanced in a year or two that if we drift on there will be no need for F.I.D.O. I have approached the Minister of Civil Aviation on this subject, and I have pointed out that the people who knew most about it during the war in Petroleum Warfare Department are now in civil life. I said that I could get them back if necessary to advise and I offered to put him in touch with them, but, apparently, he has not made any effort to do so. He is now, I understand, working out a scheme of F.I.D.O. with America but not with the people who originally started it. That being so, I would like an assurance that the question of F.I.D.O. is not being overlooked, and to know if he can tell us how far developments have gone.

11.58 a.m.

Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)

We all welcome this Bill. I do not Complain, as an hon. Member did, about the Minister reading his speech. I complain, because I think that the Minister might have taken the opportunity to tell us more of what is happening in his Department with regard to the development of civil aviation. Now that this is to be a national concern, and the taxpayers are, as it were, shareholders, I think that they are anxious to know, as much as possible, what the Government are doing in this matter.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think it would be better if hon. Members would relate their remarks to the proposals in the Bill, because we are not discussing air administration at the moment.

Mr. Granville

The hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Opposition said that this Bill was a product of the Coalition. I think that that is undoubtedly so and that Lord Swinton had a great deal to do with it, as was said in another place. In fact, I am not sure that that is a complete parentage. I believe that Lord Beaver-brook had a great deal to do with the beginning of this Bill, particularly with regard to the political negotiations and Colonial cabotage. If the Parliamentary Secretary who shakes his head makes inquiries I think he will find that this is so. We are having an increasing number of Bills in this House which are products of the war Coalition. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has said, "No Coalition," but it seems to me that we still have a good deal of what remains in the pigeon holes of the administration of that Coalition being produced by the Government.

As the Parliamentary Secretary said, this is a Bill which gives considerable powers as regards administration and great deal of liberty concerning policy. It really implements the Chicago Conference and the Bermuda Conference, and it might well be called the Montreal Convention. I wish the hon. Gentleman would tell us something of what is happening at Montreal since it must depend very much on the passing of this Bill. I believe that there is a conference proceeding there at the present time with regard to charter, and in view of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman above the Gangway said concerning charter, I hope the Minister will endeavour to tell us something about this international discussion at Montreal. Being the centre where P.I.C.A.O. holds its meetings, Montreal has become very much the world capital of civil aviation and a great number of these important conferences and decisions take place there. We send experts from this country, but I am not sure if a Minister has been to any of them to represent His Majesty's Government as one of the members of the Assembly and the Council. I hope that if he has the opportunity the Parliamentary Secretary will pay a personal visit to see the developments that are going on so that he may give the House first-hand information at some time in the future.

I understand from newspaper reports that a new building is to be taken over in Montreal to house these conferences. If that is so and it is to be the world capital of civil aviation, I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us something about that and to give us some idea of the cost and who bears it, because the cost is involved in the passing of this Measure. On the whole this Measure is a step forward, not only towards some sort of international agreement but, eventually, towards world government or one world in the air. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) reminded the House that we used to have speeches from the Benches opposite during the days of the wartime Coalition which envisaged international civil aviation being set up and run by a Swedish or Swiss board of directors, or something of that kind. It may be a little disappointing that this Government has not been able to introduce a much bolder Measure tending towards the real inter-nationalisation of civil aviation. However, perhaps these are early days and it may be that they still have to clear the department of some of the Bills left behind by their predecessors.

I seem to recollect that the civil aviation committee of the Labour Party has issued pronouncements, reports and memoranda on the subject for many years and, as my hon. Friend said, many of them take a great interest and were very critical during the war when we here also pleaded for postwar civil aviation. Surely this Measure cannot be the last word of preparation for a party which owes its very presence on those Benches to its policy of internationalism. Surely this cannot be the last word in their desire to see an effective international control of civil aviation. This Bill deals with potential international agreement on airports, radio, traffic control, meteorological systems, airworthiness, Customs—and I do hope that the hon. Gentleman will note carefully the word "Customs," because everything we can do to expedite the passage of air-travellers through the actual airports will increase our traffic—airmail and a hundred and one other matters. But there is one other thing I would have expected a Labour Minister to develop, either administratively or through policy, and that is the international pooling of safety devices, equipment and technical research. Is there nothing envisaged in this Bill so that if a new system of de-icing is discovered it will be made available in the interests of the safety of air passengers to all civil aviation producers of the world? I should like to ask the Minister if anything of that kind is contemplated or has been discussed.

During the war a great deal of cooperation was effected in the pooling of patterns, designs, techniques and so on between this country and the United States of America. Is something of that envisaged in civil aviation production? Has the Minister any idea, for instance, of proposing the standardisation of equipment to the various conferences which will be covered by this Bill? I remember that before the war, we tried to discuss this with the French, and I believe it has been discussed with other countries. Surely it would save the taxpayers of the world millions of pounds, dollars or francs if we could get the producers of civil aircraft in the various countries to adopt a single common standard of measurement, or at least more standard equipment. Does the Minister intend to propose this? We are told so often that this country may agree, but what about the other countries? I have always found that a great deal depends upon the way in which such a scheme is suggested or proposed, and I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he has any ideas on this now to suggest to international conferences. They may, of course, already be discussing them on the technical level.

Reference has been made to crashes of certain types of machine for which we cannot get supplies of spare parts, and so on. It is all part of the problem of 5,000 man-hours being wasted in converting blue prints and drawings from British to American standards and vice versa.This is something on which there could be international agreement; produc- tion could be increased and money could be saved, thus easing the burden on the taxpayer of this country.

Reference was made in another place to the question of accidents. I think I shall be in Order—it is a point to which my hon. Friend above the Gangway referred—when I say that this House and the public are much concerned as to the measures which the Minister is taking to deal with this serious problem. There are a number of hon. Members who have had a great experience of these matters, and they have all offered advice and made suggestions to the Minister, which is all to the good. I should like to tell the Minister what my experience has been. I have found that the vital question is that of supervision throughout the length and breadth of an airline, beginning with maintenance and continuing with Customs, airports and flying. B.O.A.C., the old system of airways, and the whole development of civil aviation in this country are now placed under national control. During the war of course you had as well the Royal Air Force Transport Command. I understand that the big problem of the Minister is to get things working quickly and smoothly, and, at the same time, to get high frequency and general services. Are the staffs of the airports satisfied? Are the maintenance, servicing and meteorological staffs satisfied? Are they happy about the conditions of their organisation? One often gets the impression that the men are there to do the job, but that there seems to be nobody responsible for seeing that the job is done. There is lack of supervision and consequently lack of co-ordination.

Now that the Government have taken over the airports and the three Corporations arc working under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he is arriving at the same efficiency in flying as there was during the war. During the war there was, of course, military discipline. Thousands of bombers touched down and took off night after night in the most difficult conditions. But what effective supervision is there in civil aircraft today, when a small error of judgment may be disastrous? Is there anybody comparable to an inspector-general who can go round the airports of the country and also see for himself how things are done in other countries, and whether there is the necessary co-ordination and supervision? I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give that question of efficient supervision his particular attention.

The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford referred to the equalisation of traffic, particularly Atlantic traffic. He said that there were 24 American services, and only four B.O.A.C. services. I believe that Trans-Canada Airlines also operate seven services a week each way. I would like this House to pay a tribute to that very excellent service which is run daily by them. I would like to know what is to happen if traffic continues to drop. Are the American services going to be reduced to the same number as ours, and are we going to have some other agreement or understanding with the Americans? As the Parliamentary Secretary knows, many of the planes flying on the North Atlantic airlines today are half empty, or even worse. There has been a sensational drop in bookings for a variety of reasons.

Mr. Lindgren

The hon. Gentleman's statement is not true, so far as the North Atlantic services are concerned

Mr. Granville

A friend of mine who flew from America quite recently said that, on one occasion, there was only one passenger in the plane, on another four, and on yet another only three. If the Parliamentary Secretary says that there has not been a sensational drop in North Atlantic traffic, perhaps he will give us the traffic figures.

Mr. Lindgren

It the hon. Member will put down a question, I shall he only too happy to do so

Mr. Granville

At any rate, there is very serious drop in traffic from the other side. Of course there may he a number of reasons for that, but, if the Parliamentary Secretary will inquire about it, I think he will find that if he tried, as an ordinary citizen, to book a seat today on any one of the airlines, he would have no difficulty in getting a place within a day or two of booking, whereas, six months ago, he would have had to hook five or six weeks ahead.

One hon. Member referred to flight control. That is something which has to he cleared up At the moment, there is great uncertainty on flight control and as to who is responsible for it. That also comes under the heading of lack of supervision. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary can tell us what will happen under this Bill, and who is to be in charge. A distinguished air-marshal has been appointed at Heathrow. There is certainly a lot of work to be done there. Is it to be the policy to appoint distinguished air-marshals to take charge?

In conclusion, I should like to see an all-party civil aviation committee set up in this House, similar to the Science Committee, or something of that sort, so that the Minister and his experts could give us helpful information. With three Corporations and the Minister of Civil Aviation, it is a difficult technique to decide who is to be responsible, and so on. We had the same difficulty with the B.B.C. and the Postmaster-General. I am sure that it would help the Minister if there were such an all-party committee to discuss these matters. The Minister will get his Bill without any trouble, but the handing over of civil aviation to State control is a decided challenge. The Government are on trial. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford said that when his party return to power, they intend to go back to a system of competition, and to have some yardstick for efficiency. If the Government do not make good in this matter, what the hon. Member for Bedford said will almost inevitably come about.

12.18 p.m.

Mr. Beswick (Uxbridge)

With due respect to the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville), I submit that the question of whether or not our airlines are nationalised has nothing at all to do with this Bill. This Bill would have been just as necessary if we had had unlimited private competition. Such a Measure was already in existence. This Bill merely replaces an old Measure. I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) who, on what he himself described as a non-controversial Measure, succeeded in introducing so much controversy, and so many party points. But, considering the hon. Member's usual performance, I suppose that, on this occasion, he did exercise a considerable amount of self-restraint. I also thought that he was very unfair to his colleagues behind him when he said that this Government were exercising the greatest rigidity in nationalisation of aviation. Of course, it is true that there is a considerable amount of flying going on from this country at the present time which does not emanate from the national Corporations. We ought to recognise the energy which certain hon. Members are putting into civil aviation.

The first point I wish to make is in relation to the regulating of charges for the use of aerodromes. What principle will guide the Ministry in regulating their charges and laying down their standards of landing fees, hangar accommodation and so forth? Whereas there has been a certain amount of criticism in this House about the amount of money being spent by the Corporations, there could be an even greater criticism about the money spent on airports. Colossal sums of money are involved. Will the Government charge an economic landing fee? If it is not to be economic, how will they base their scale of charges? In the recent controversy over nationalisation, the railway companies submitted a scheme by which the Government took over the tracks, the signalling and the railway stations, and left the railway companies simply to run the trains. This most desirable proposition from the point of view of the railways did not receive much consideration, but such a situation appertains to civil aviation at present. It is conceivable that private concerns are making a very good bargain out of it—

Air-Commodore Harvey

If the hon. Member made a few further inquiries, he would find that some of the private companies have been paying double fees at various aerodromes and at the Customs airports. If he studied this subject a little more in detail, he would see they are losing money by it.

Mr. Beswick

I agree they pay fees, but what I am trying to establish is what principles guide the Government in establishing the fee. I have no desire to suggest that anyone is trying to evade the proper payments.

My second point is about navigational aids. One of my hon. Friends said that the most important part about flying was taking off and landing, and he said that most accidents occurred during taking off or landing. The greater proportion of recent accidents have taken place because the aircraft has not kept on its proper route. Very often in such circumstances the aircraft has run into what we used to call a "stuffed cloud"—in bad visibility the aircraft has hit high ground. What is required is some navigational aid to keep aircraft on the proper routes. This navigational aid must be internationally agreed, and there was to have been an international navigational system under the Chicago Convention. Like other hon. Members, I would like to know exactly what progress has been made towards that international system. It seems that at present we are getting bogged. The position with landing aids is similar. A British aircraft may have a certain equipment for this purpose, but it requires a complementary system on the ground when they go to another part of the world. The purpose of the Chicago Convention and the committee concerned with provisional organisation was to get some international agreement on the standardised landing aids that were to be used. What has happened to the findings of that body? When I was in the United States I gathered that the airline companies there were to take unilateral action with their own equipment, irrespective of what the international body agreed. Is that true? If it is not true, what hope has the Parliamentary Secretary of getting an internationally agreed system, and what is that system to be?

My third point is concerned with the enforcement of international standards. A good deal has been said about the assistance which can be given by ground control to pilots in the air. My experience travelling around the various air routes has been that we decided that such and such a person, at such and such an airport was reliable, and that we would heed what he said. On the other hand, the individuals controlling at certain other airports were written off before we started because we knew that their advice would be, to say the least, very unreliable. We made our judgment accordingly. What method will be employed to ensure that throughout the world the staffs engaged in control of one kind or another are to be of the internationally agreed standard? That is a most vital matter if the pilots are to have confidence in the instructions they receive from the ground.

In the matter of airports, I agree with what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey). I have landed aircraft at aero dromes in 14 or 15 countries in four continents, and I do not know a main airport as dangerous as Croydon. I would far rather go to Gibraltar and land on the runway on the Rock, than come in on a turbulent day at Croydon Airport. As to the question of taking off, much nonsense has been said and written recently about the overloading of aircraft. It is absolutely ridiculous to talk simply of overloading when one compares the differences in taking off at Croydon and Heathrow, for instance. If there is an internationally agreed system about airport standards, it ought to be a standard which cuts out Croydon.

The Parliamentary Secretary ought to look into this question again, but on the other hand, we should pay a tribute to the Department for the great advance which has been made in having two quite good airports functioning at Heathrow and Northolt. They have been brought into operation far in advance of the expected time. In spite of all the propaganda, Idle-wild is still not in use, and there is still congestion at LaGuardia, but we have both Heathrow and Northolt working and the Ministry must be congratulated on the efforts made. At the same time that is not an excuse for keeping Croydon in operation.

12.29 p.m.

Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)

Surely the Royal Air Force should take some credit for Northolt, and not merely the Minister—

Mr. Beswick

I am referring to the present-day Northolt airport and the present length of runway.

Mr. Erroll

Even so, I think the Royal Air Force put the runway in, but I would not like to be caught out in an argument which is not strictly relevant. This Bill represents a most auspicious beginning to postwar international civil aviation. It is not easy to secure international agreement these days, even in a technical sphere, and this represents a tremenedous step forward. Inevitably there are a number of serious omissions, and I hope it will be possible to obtain agreement on a number of additional matters which are essential if we are to achieve international safety in the air. I refer in particular to such matters as the standardisation of maps. It is most important that maps produced by different countries should mean the same thing to the people using them We should aim at standardisation in symbols and terms. A wireless mast is always represented by the same symbol whatever the language of the printing surrounding it.

Similarly there is a great need for standardisation of meteorological information. Undoubtedly both the Ministry of Civil Aviation here and the comparable authorities in other countries would be concerned with supplying accurate meteorological information, and I hope they will give full attention to the importance of standardising the information so that pilots who may not be very familiar with the particular language of a country will be able to understand the meteorological report, or at any rate the figures and data which accompany it.

I am delighted to see that it has been possible for the Chicago Convention to agree to what is described as recommended practice. Obviously, it would be difficult to achieve international agreement if the standards of the most advanced country in aeronautics were to be imposed on a number of countries. The system of recommended practices which has come, I think, from the United States railway practice is to be commended. It means that the Convention, and any subsequent meeting, can recommend a particular standard or a particular practice in the air without it being enforced rigidly by all subscribing countries. As the new idea takes on and it is proved to be successful in practice, it can be made legal by Statute in each country, as and when they feel able to take on the extra standards.

We should remember that the field of aviation is a developing field, and that is why the system of recommended practices is singularly appropriate. We do not want to make systems too rigid until we are sure that they are successful. That is the great obstacle to what is undoubtedly wanted in the way of aids to blind landings, and similar radio and other devices. We obviously want standardisation over as wide a field as possible, but if we insist on too high a degree of standardisation, we may stultify future development. At the same time—and it is significant that it is referred to as the Chicago Convention, for it is an American Convention—we may well find that if we go in for too much standardisation too early, we shall be standardising on the American model, rather than on the British economical model, or even more economical models and equipment which less wealthy countries than the United States can afford to insist on installing in all their airfields. It is a dilemma of the future to know to what extent we can reasonably press for standardisation on radio and radio equipment without stultifying development, or insisting on too high a standard for relatively poor countries, who, nevertheless, wish to take part in international air traffic.

I hope it will be possible for P.I.C.A.O. to help in the matter of rivalry by competing groups. I am all for competition, but I am in favour of regulating what might be called cut-throat competition, and there seems to me to be some evidence of that at present. Naturally, everybody who can wants to get into the air, and we are seeing not only duplicated routes but even rival airfields set up in adjacent territories. I mentioned last week the question of the provision of a large aerodrome at Dakar and the fight to establish a similar aerodrome at Bathurst, both a short distance away from each other on the East Coast of Africa, both striving to attract the South American traffic, when it is a question of whether there is enough for two aerodromes. I feel that in this international organisation there is some hope of avoiding, not all competition, but cut-throat competition.

It is significant that undoubtedly air traffic in certain directions is already easing off, and the point made by the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) was only too clearly brought out by the speech of the Minister of Civil Aviation in another place on 10th December last year, when he said that while aircraft operating Westbound to America are flying to capacity, load factors are not so persistently high in the Eastbound direction. It is now two months later, and probably it has become a more extreme situation since then.

We must also look carefully at Subsection (2, m) of Clause 1 which deals with Customs, and the various regulations for preventing smuggling. This is an important matter and obviously there are many channels for contraband to this country, either through normal aerodromes or through other means, but we do not want so to devise regulations and to apply them so rigidly that it becomes extremely difficult for foreign airlines to keep spare parts in this country. I hope it will be possible for every foreign airline having a service into or through this country to be able to have a small bonded stores for spares and equipment. Such spares and equipment are probably subject to very high tariff duties, and it would be an intolerable burden if we should have to pay the duties and then only get them on drawback when the aircraft fitted with those spares left the country.

The same applies to reasonable equipment. If they wish to establish their own office on an airfield, there is a case for them to bring in furniture and equipment without having to pay full tariff rates. I expect this is a matter of some legal complexity, but I hope we shall not lightly brush aside the importance of attracting foreign airlines to this country, provided of course that it can be done on a reciprocal basis. I recognise that other countries have much more onerous traffic restrictions than we have and, therefore, we are in a good bargaining position in this matter because we can offer carriage free facilities with less of a break with our tradition than perhaps some other countries can. Nevertheless, a quid pro quoin such a matter would be most valuable.

There are a number of other provisions which arise out of the Chicago Convention, and it would indeed be most interesting to cover the whole field of the Convention and its Agreement. However, I feel that we must in this case await the development of events. The Bill is a good start. It is now up to the Ministry of Civilisation—[Laughter.]—I mean the Ministry of Civil Aviation to act well and to use the facilities which we are proposing to give. We on this side of the House, therefore, accord a hearty welcome to the Bill and wish it a speedy passage through the House.

12.38 p.m.

Mr. Lindgren

In winding up this Debate, I would reiterate—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont): The hon. Gentleman must ask leave of the House to speak again.

Mr. Lindgren

I am so sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker; may I have the leave of the House to speak again? The reason for my error was that I was anxious to start off with the very good point made by the hon. Member for Altrincham (Mr. Erroll) who, whether intentionally or by a slip, called us the Ministry of Civilisation. Our Ministry can be and, in fact, will be the Ministry which will most easily spread civilisation throughout the world.

I was rather taken to task by ode or two speakers for opening the Debate with a written speech. I had no idea, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you would be so long in the Chair for this Debate, because most of the items which have been raised have been matters outside the scope of the Bill, and those which have been within it, have been very largely Committee points. If you will be as lenient with me as you have been during the Debate with others, I will try to reply to some of the points which have been made. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) spoke of the success of Lord Swinton when he was at the Ministry of Civil Aviation. And I also would like to pay tribute to the work done during his tenure of office for the development of civil aviation. There are qualifications to that, because one cannot help feeling, having read the memoranda, debates and proceedings at Chicago, that perhaps if that conference had been handled a little differently the Bermuda Conference, which was quite a success as a corrective to Chicago, might not have been necessary.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

May I ask, in fairness to my noble Friend, is it not a fact that when the head of the American Civil Aeronautical Board came over here after the Chicago Conference, he said, at the Wilbur Wright lecture, that Lord Swinton's proposals were, taken generally, a civilised set of proposals?

Mr. Lindgren

If it is agreed that we can get safety by national effort, is it not equally true that we can only get full advantage taken of State provided navigational and safety aids by nationalised airlines? In point of fact this Bill is only before the House because of the work which was then done. We were twitted that we were not moving as swiftly as some hon. Members on this side of the House wished, when they were not in the Government, towards the internationalisation of civil aviation. It is the intention and desire of His Majesty's Government to work with all the will and power they have towards that happy end. I must admit that when one has to deal with technicalities of nationalities, we find difficulties. Even in Britain, Scotland can be a little difficult, but on the world stage, such difficulties are very apparent. However, the will to work towards that end is there and the general direction has been decided and we are pressing forward. I was surprised that the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford should have brought the general question of policy into this Debate, as I think that policy considerations are outside the scope of this discussion by reason of the Debates on the Civil Aviation Bill, 1946. We are not today discussing whether it is right to have specialised airlines or not. What we are discussing are the means, including the safety means, by which those airlines -hall fly. It is pertinent, the point having been made, to ask why, if it is possible and desirable to allow profit to be made by private enterprise in the operation of civil airlines, it should not be right on the basis of State, or international enterprise, to provide the means by which the planes fly in safety.

If satisfactory safety standards can only he got by national effort, is it not equally true that we will only get the fullest advantage taken of State-provided navigational aids and safety equipment by internationalised airlines? I have been drawn into that statement by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford, and I agree that it is outside the scope of this Bill. Bermuda was in fact the conference at which the unresolved items at Chicago were reconsidered. One of these items was the question of the determination of frequencies. It was agreed at Bermuda that discussions as to frequencies and capacities on routes should be discussed after routes and frequencies were in operation. As and when we are in a position to improve those frequencies I think we ought to be able to say—and I do not think this is an excuse but it is the obvious reason—that we haw not had the opportunity to take advantage of frequencies that we would have had, because the whole of the wartime effort of this country in aircraft production was in the production of fighters and bombers. Our aircraft industry could not give the time, effort and energy to the development of civil flying types which tire Americans could afford. Because of the types in production during the war we have not the opportunity now

to take full advantage of the frequencies which offer. I can give this assurance to the House. There is no evidence anywhere that, as and when we can take advantage of those frequencies by the availability of aircraft, the United States or any country in the world would not give way on those questions as agreed by the bilateral agreements.

I have been asked about Clause (2 h) in which power is taken to prevent the taking-off of aircraft. I was specifically asked by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford, and by one or two other Members, to give an assurance about this. This power does not enable anyone at any time to instruct a pilot or a captain of an aircraft to take off. It gives power to the controller of the airport to say that it is unsafe for a craft to fly, and that therefore it shall not take off. From experience, not only in our country but throughout the world, my noble Friend has thought it desirable in this country at least to have power, in the interests of safety, for someone to be able to say that it is unwise for an aircraft to take off. While the pilots have every right, within reason, to take risks with their own lives, we, as the managing authority, must have some responsibility for the lives of persons in the aircraft. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford also asked for an assurance that there will be no discrimination as between the corporations and the charter companies. I can give that assurance; there is no discrimination between the charter companies and the corporations. No preference is given to the corporations. But let me say this quite frankly, where there are large corporations, like B.O.A.C., operating from a number of very large airports, there must be some relationship between the type of traffic dealt with by an operator, and the facilities given to him. If we have an established airline operating a frequency of 30 or 40 planes a day from a particular airport, it is obvious that they have a right to sites, equipment and facilities superior to those of an occasional user. As far as the Ministry is concerned every facility is given, and will be given, to charter operators at the appropriate aerodromes where they operate.

Interventions of the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) in civil aviation Debates are always interesting. I would like to express my appreciation of the courtesy with which he has always discussed matters with me, and with which he has always approached my Department with advice and help on many matters which have never reached the Floor or the Order Paper in this House. Of that help and assistance, we are most appreciative, and I hope that happy relationship will continue. He expressed appreciation of the wide delegation which went to the C.O.T. Committee in Montreal. It is the intention of the Ministry that delegations which go abroad, particularly on technical issues, shall be delegations which have the widest possible knowledge and which will, therefore, be of the greatest possible advantage to the conferences they attend. Arising from that Conference, the hon. and gallant Member asked about S.C.S. 51 and Gee. It has been agreed, and will be implemented, that S.C.S. 51 and S.B.A. shall be available at certain airports. That is being done. The position about Gee, which is the short range aid, is by no means as easy, and further discussions will be held, particularly with the European countries. We hope that the result of a conference will be to show the advantage of the adoption of Gee.

Much has been said this morning both by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) and the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield about Croydon Airport. It is not so long ago that Croydon was the main airport for London. Times have changed. It was correctly pointed out that I said in the House some time ago that, on the technical advice available to me, Croydon was a safe airport from which to operate. I qualified that by saying "by that type of aircraft"—the Dakota. I would point to the frequency and freedom from accidents in the operation of aircraft from Croydon, for which we are grateful. I can, however, give the undertaking that in conjunction with the Department, we will go into the general question of Croydon and its operations

I was asked what happened to pilots who break the rules of the air, and particularly in regard to foreign air pilots who break them. That is a question of discipline. The breaking of rules sometimes results from the deliberate attitude adopted by people who say, "I am the boss of my own craft. I intend to do what I like." Far more often it arises from a misunderstanding, difference of language, and even, perhaps, an error in dealing with the aids that are inside the craft. Generally speaking, if it is a matter of deliberate disobedience and indiscipline, what is done, and all that can be done at present, is to report the matter to the appropriate authority in the country to which the pilot belongs; and, according to the seriousness of the offence, action is or is not taken by those authorities. Whether we shall ever get to the stage when we shall be able to ground personnel because of errors or indiscipline in the air is a matter for future discussion.

Reference was made, quite rightly, to the very important "met." requirements, not only in this country, but more particularly abroad. At the moment at least, the meteorological services are a matter for the Air Ministry, but there is, as I said during last Friday's Debate, a close relationship between the Secretary of State for Air and my noble Friend. Discussions are taking place, in relation to "met." services abroad in particular, with a view to seeing how far they can be established to a more satisfactory extent than they are established at the moment; and one must admit that they are not altogether satisfactory, due very largely to demobilisation and the withdrawal of personnel from various parts of the world.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Parkin) asked questions about the spirit in which this Convention and this Bill would be worked. The spirit behind His Majesty's Government, in their operation of this Bill, is that throughout the whole world everything possible shall be done to provide an opportunity for the safe flying of aircraft from point to point, and to assist and encourage those countries which today, for one reason or another, are unable, and sometimes unwilling, to provide facilities. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford quite rightly, said—and I was glad he made the point—that we should always remember in this country that civil aviation is not only a matter of the United States and ourselves. It is in fact, in the spirit that we are an operator; indeed an important operator, a country making a valuable contribution to the development of civil aviation, that we are going into this matter, in conjunction with the Americans, to see in what way we are able to assist other countries throughout the world.

I was asked what is being done about the development of radar and radio. Reference was made to the fact that certain R.A.F. equipment which was not being used at present might be available. Extensive and inter-related research by ourselves, the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Supply, is proceeding in the development of radar and other equipment. There has been no slackening off on the scientific side of research in connection with those aids, and everything will be done to develop them. I would like to dispel an idea which appears to be held, not only by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud—I have heard it said from a number of quarters of the House—that the Air Ministry have an amount of R.A.F. equipment which, for some reason, they are keeping out of sight of anyone, and are not making it available. That is far from my experience. My experience at the Ministry of Civil Aviation, short as it is, has been that the Air Ministry has been most helpful, at all levels, in making available to us any equipment redundant to their requirements. If confirmation of that is needed I would point to the operation of the G.C.A. equipment at Heathrow at the present time as the latest example of that co-operation between the two Departments, and in fact between all Departments.

I would like to emphasise the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud that expenditure on the development of navigational aids and equipment pays. When we were discussing the Supplementary Estimates I said I thought that it paid. A sum of £45,000 was included within the Supplementary Estimates which were before the House a few days ago, and for nearly two hours, Members opposite, in particular, criticised the placing of staff within the Ministry to operate navigational aids and to make the operations at airports safe. If we are to have civil aviation and give safe service to the airline operators, it depends upon the ground facilities available for those airlines. Not only the provision of these aids, but their operation, is a costly business, and I hope the House will remember that fact at the appropriate time on a later occasion. The provision of these facilities is a costly business for which the Ministry will have to provide much increased expenditure in the years to come, and particularly, I would emphasise, in the next few years, because we are at present instituting aids, introducing them, bringing them into operation, and bringing airports up to a high standard of efficiency. Such capital cost is very heavy indeed. I was asked by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Teeling) to deal with the question of pilots, and I think that I have already dealt with the question of the authority of the pilot in taking off. Was there some further point concerning pilots?

Mr. Teeling

Will the hon. Gentleman say something on the question of whether the pilots are going to be satisfied with the control office staff. Will they be in a position to regard them as really responsible persons?

Mr. Lindgren

I agree that that is a very valid point. Whether or not navigational aids are used to the fullest extent depends upon the standard of the staff which is provided at the airport. Very close attention is being given to the question of recruitment. Although this is slightly outside the scope of the Bill, I would say that if we are to obtain that confidence which pilots must have, there must be recruitment of staff of the highest standard, so that those engaged in the operation of aircraft may have the fullest confidence in those who are in control of the aerodromes: that whole question is being considered very seriously indeed. There is the point that the higher the standard of the staff, the greater the degree of remuneration they will rightly expect. It is not necessarily a question of a greater number of staff, but it is still a very costly business.

I was asked by the hon. Member for Brighton about F.I.D.O. I would remind him that I made a statement last week in regard to it. The door is by no means closed, and my noble Friend has arranged with the Air Ministry that facilities shall be made available and work is now proceeding at Blackbushe. In addition, we are sending to America a very highly technical delegation to investigate what is going on in America in this field: and the Ministry of Supply and my Ministry are dealing with this matter on the basis of urgent inquiry, with a view to immediate consideration so that something may be done before next winter.

Mr. Teeing

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether, at Heathrow, where there was a certain amount of preparatory work done, it is to be completely scrapped?

Mr. Lindgren

The question has been put to me, and, while I would not like the answer to be regarded as completely authoritative, I would say that, so far as my information goes, to instal F.I.D.O. at Heathrow at the present stage of development would be almost impossible, without, perhaps, closing one runway. If it was done, it could not be done on a main runway, and would haw to be done on a secondary one; and the work has so far developed that, if it were to be installed underground, it would put the main runway out of commission for a considerable time. The matter is still under consideration, but this is hardly the time to decide what equipment should be used, as we have reason to believe that the Americans have, in the last few months, developed a new type of equipment and a new type of fuel, and, when we have the latest information, its application to Heathrow and other airports will be considered. The cost, of course, is a material factor, and we are informed that, by this new method, the cost will be less.

The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville)

asked me what was going on at Montreal. I would dearly like to spend a while telling the House the scope of the various discussions which have taken place in Montreal, but I think this hardly the time or place for that. Reference was also made to a suggestion that an invitation might be given to an all-party Committee on Civil Aviation. That is a very dangerous field on which to embark, but, if hon. Members think they would like that to be done, I should be only too pleased to arrange for an all-Party meeting, at which the discussions at Montreal and questions of the general development of civil aviation could be dealt with in an atmosphere of an all-Party meeting upstairs. If that is desired, I shall be glad to put that suggestion to the Minister, who, I am certain, would take steps to arrange for it.

Mr. Granville

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether there was any reference at Montreal to an international conference on charter services, and whether the Minister has asked that it shall be given the full support of the British delegation?

Mr. Lindgren

Again, I am subject to correction, but I did say that some conference was being held, though I am not in a position to say to what extent our delegation has been instructed, but I will find out and communicate with the hon Member. Further, the hon. Member asked me what was being done in regard to the standardisation of equipment. This is one of the urgent matters now under discussion, and is one of the reasons for which the international organisation was set up.

Reference has been made to the falling-off of traffic. Traffic from this side to America has been maintained very well, but traffic from America to this country is not so heavy. This is perhaps due to the time of the year, in which such traffic is at its lowest, and I do not think we should over-emphasise this falling-off of traffic and allege that it is due to any reasons other than the one I have given, which is perfectly natural at this time of the year. I do not want to be drawn into an argument as to the competition between sea and air. So far as this Government is concerned, it believes that all forms of transport, engaged in the transport of goods and passengers from one place to another, should proceed all under one direction.

Mr. Granville

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether, when one of these official delegations visits America or Canada, they go by sea or by air?

Mr. Lindgren

It depends upon the availability of transport at the time and on the persons travelling. As regards the position of air transport, for instance, a few months ago, there was a difficult situation because numbers of U.N.O. delegates were also wanting to go, and I believe that some of them had to go by sea; but, generally speaking, those who are advocating the use of air transport use that means of travel for themselves.

I was also asked by the hon. Member for Uxbridge what principle determined the charges made for the use of landing facilities at aerodromes. Frankly, I cannot go into that authoritatively at the present time, and can only state the general position. Of course, these charges are influenced by the density of traffic at the airport, the number of aircraft landing and the costs of maintenance, because these have a relationship to the revenue received, and that revenue must have some relationship to the capital expenditure which has gone into the provision of the facilities and to the normal running costs at the airport. I do not think it will ever he possible, particularly in relation to the development of airports, to arrive at an economic landing charge which will cover the running costs and capital developments.

Mr. Beswick

If that is true, would my hon. Friend agree that it is irrelevant for any private company at any time to say they make a profit out of civil aviation? Is it not a fact that they are receiving a subsidy in the shape of uneconomic landing fees?

Mr. Lindgren

That is an argument which can be developed. The same can be said about motor vehicles on the highways. They are provided with a permanent way at the ratepayers' expense. We accept the fact that if there is to be increased safety in flying, it would not be an economical proposition for a charterer to fly if he bore all the costs of the services provided for him by the State, either on the aerodrome or on the route.

Air-Commodore Harvey

Will not the hon. Gentleman agree that many other countries charge less than we charge in this country for equal facilities, and that even before the war, in those days of civil aviation, some private enterprise aerodromes managed to get along without a loss?

Mr. Lindgren

But very often when there is something for nothing, there is a catch in it.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Like Election promises.

Mr. Lindgren

Let us face the future. Even in cases where aerodrome facilities were provided at a very low cost, there were special reasons for attracting traffic in that way. I was asked a question about the development of navigational aids and the provision of these aids on aerodromes. That is the job of P.I.C.A.O., and it would be idle not to admit that this task is much easier in some parts of the world than in others. There is a lot to be done in this direction, and the greatest value of P.I.C.A.O. up to the present has been the holding of the regional conferences which have filled with enthusiasm the delegates from a number of States in which, probably, real enthusiasm for development is required. Reference was also made to the standard of aerodromes. P.I.C.A.O. has determined the requirements and nature of A., B., and C. aerodromes in relation to the type of aircraft which will be using them. We shall have to deal with Croydon on the basis of what it is safe to operate in and out of that aerodrome. P.I.C.A.O. is determining the standards according to which aerodromes will be able to cater for various types of aircraft, and I think those standards will be accepted.

The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale asked a question about the general development of international meteorological information. That is the task of P.I.C.A.O., and attention is being given to that question. With regard to the question of Customs, we entirely agree with what has been said today, and it is the desire of His Majesty's Government to make it possible for people to have free interchange as between country and country with the least possible irksome restrictions, while protecting this country against persons who are obviously out to bring contraband into this country or who might be a danger to the community. With regard to the equipment for airlines, and bonded stores, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the attention of the Ministry will be given to those points.

I have been longer than I ought to have been in replying to this Debate. The reason is that I was criticised for keeping too closely to my brief in my opening remarks. I kept closely to that brief because I thought we were concerned much more with technicalities than with the general policy of civil aviation, and I endeavoured to give as good an outline as I could. I hope the House will now give the Bill a Second Reading.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next—[Mr. Michael Stewart.]