HC Deb 15 March 1950 vol 472 cc1073-4
34. Mr. Morley

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation why it has been decided to withdraw Solent flying-boats from service with British Overseas Airways Corporation and close down Southampton Marine Airport.

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

The British Overseas Airways Corporation have informed my noble Friend that they have reluctantly decided to withdraw flying-boats from service as soon as land-planes are available as replacements in view of the substantial economies which will result. My noble Friend has seen no over-riding national interest which would lead. him to request the Corporation to reconsider their decision, one consequence of which will be that their use of the Southampton Marine Base will be discontinued. It is intended to keep the airport on a care and maintenance basis unless some other interim use can be found for it.

Mr. Morley

Is my hon. Friend aware that many people prefer to travel by flying boat rather than by land planes, and that if they are compelled to travel by land-plane to South Africa they may select the Sabena or K.L.M. airlines as they are more rapid than the "Hermes"? Is my hon. Friend also aware that millions of pounds have been spent at Southampton, Singapore, and Karachi on the construction of flying boat bases? Is all this money to be wasted?

Mr. Beswick

As far as the last part of the question is concerned, it is true that considerable sums of money have been spent, but this decision has been taken simply because we propose to curtail the losses that have been incurred. As far as the earlier part of the question is concerned, I cannot accept the implications in either part.

Dr. King

Is the Minister aware that the Solent flight of boats has never yet had a proper chance, because they have never been worked at full strength, and that the feeling of the people in the industry is that landplane interests are prejudicing discussions of this very vital matter?

Sir Peter Macdonald

Will the Parliamentary Secretary make an investigation into the nationalised air corporation which is responsible for the operation of these flying boats? If he does he will find that there is distinct prejudice against flying boats. We know who they are and we shall see that they are cleared out, because we are going to have flying boats in this country whether the Americans want them or not.

Mr. Beswick

As to these allegations about prejudice against flying boats, I must make it clear that it was always intended that the use of these flying boats would be a temporary measure. There is nothing about this decision which will prejudice the use of the bigger boats that are coming along.