HC Deb 17 November 1948 vol 458 cc342-4
10. General Sir George Jeffreys

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, why it has been decided that aircraft of the B.O.A.C. London to Cairo service shall cease to use Malta as a stopping place, and shall stop overnight at Castel Benito instead; and whether, in view of the importance of maintaining the All Red route via Malta, this decision will be revised.

11. Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, why the B.O.A.C. London to Cairo and London to Australia services are to be diverted from Malta to Castel Benito; what is the reason for this change of policy; and what savings in time and money it will effect.

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

It is British Overseas Airways Corporation's policy to operate fourengined aircraft on trunk routes, and, as part of this policy, Yorks are progressively replacing Dakotas on the Cairo trunk route. The routeing of Yorks through Castel Benito is dictated solely by technical considerations arising from the opinion of British Overseas Airways Corporation that Luqa is unsatisfactory for civil operations with Yorks. The question of a saving in time and money does not, therefore, arise. Since the service to Australia does not operate through Luqa no question of its diversion arises.

Sir G. Jeffreys

Has the Minister borne in mind the importance of maintaining an all-British airfield and stopping place at Malta? Has he also borne in mind the benefit to Malta which would be conferred by the stopping there of all the British aircraft going through? Is it not a disadvantage to have a stopping place of this kind on foreign soil?

Mr. Lindgren

The question of whether an aircraft goes in to land or not depends very largely on the operational suitability of the aerodrome, and the technical advice is that Luqa is not satisfactory for the operation of Yorks.

Sir W. Smiles

Would the Parliamentary Secretary answer the question whether four-engined Yorks in the past have landed at Malta without any accidents? In view of the fight that the people of Malta put up in the war, and the fact that people there are losing their employment, would he consider sending some of the staff to Castel Benito?

Mr. Lindgren

This is a joint user aerodrome, and the Royal Air Force also use the aerodrome. In fact, it has a Royal Air Force commander. Whether or not they are using Yorks I do not know, but my information is that the aerodrome has deteriorated, particularly the runways, and that it is not satisfactory for use, particularly at night.

Sir Peter Macdonald

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that Yorks of British Overseas Airways have used the aerodrome at Malta almost since its inception? I myself have often landed at Malta in a York on the way to Cairo.

Mr. Lindgren

I do not want to question what the hon. Gentleman has said, but British European Airways have never operated Yorks. British European Airways operated Dakotas in the first instance, and are now using Vikings, and have never used four-engined aircraft at any time.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the very grave indignation and distress caused in this loyal British Colony, and also that the heaviest aircraft can land at Luqa? Is he aware that if there is anything wrong with Luqa airport it is our responsibility to put it right?

Mr. Lindgren

That is a question which ought to be addressed to the Colonial Office. So far as my information goes, if our good friends at Malta would consider the question of cost that might help the general discussion about the aerodrome.

Mr. Oliver Stanley

Has not the hon. Gentleman's Department been in communication with the Secretary of State for the Colonies on this matter, and has not the possibility of improvement a' the aerodrome in Malta already been discussed?

Mr. Lindgren

Yes, Sir. These discussions have taken place, and are taking place.