§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)
This is the first debate on civil aviation that we have had in this Parliament, and I take the opportunity of welcoming the new Minister. I dislike his politics, but we all recognise his interest in and knowledge of aviation matters. The trouble is that in air transport, as in surface transport, he appears to be saddled with pledges which are compelling him to embark upon policies that are frightening his friends, as well as angering his enemies.
I must also report the satisfaction expressed in aviation circles that we now have a Parliamentary Secretary who does not need to mix aviation with zebra crossings. It is true that so far he has been spending most of his time with his Treasury colleagues, but from now on we expect big things from the hon. Gentleman, and we wish him well.
There is a wide field of aviation affairs which ought to be discussed. What is to be the scale of our civil aviation effort? What proportion of our national resources shall we devote to the developments of civil aircraft and airports? What priority, in the present circumstances, should be given to civil aviation, and to what extent should this spectacular talk of super-priority for military aviation be allowed to hinder the development of civil aviation? Let us bear in mind that at the end of the day it will very likely be 2156 our progress in the civil and commercial sections of aviation which will determine our place and influence in the world.
There is also the whole question of the airport pattern of the country, and especially in the London area. No decision has yet been made about the ultimate airport for London, though the time when we shall have to quit Northolt draws much nearer. It is only fair to say that I have no doubt the Minister would have liked the debate to be postponed for a little time so that he might be able to announce his decision on this matter. I am sorry we could not postpone it, but I hope that he will thank us for providing the time rather than criticise us for not delaying it another fortnight or so.
I hope that the Government will provide another opportunity in the near future for discussing airports, because, amongst other reasons, I do not think the country properly appreciates the social consequences of some of these big new international airports, not only to millions of travellers, but to millions of residents around these airports, both in this country and in the United States, who are affected by the siting of them.
We cannot deal properly with any of these matters until we know what the Government's new aviation policy amounts to, and today we want to concentrate on the statement of policy made on 27th May. It has created uncertainty and alarm, and we want to know what it means and what is intended. We want to know whether the Minister is aware of the damage already done and the uncertainty already created.
I should like to point out to the Government another danger. The workers in the industry are entitled to be consulted when the future of their industry and livelihood is being determined. The road haulage workers and the railwaymen were not consulted, and one result was the speech which we had last week from the general secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen. I have to tell the Minister that, judging from the letters, telegrams, resolutions and deputations which I have had from air bases up and down the country, unless he gives most definite assurances about the future of the industry which will allay the unrest and trouble already caused, we shall have difficulties in the future, which I am sure no one in this Committee wishes to see.
2157 The statement which was made on 27th May dragged up again the question of the superiority of private capital as against public-owned capital in the aviation industry, and it is only right that we should explain our attitude in this matter. We on this side of the Committee do not hold any bigoted or dogmatic opinion as to the comparative efficiency of private as against publicly-owned air transport. We believe there are appropriate fields for both. The Government in which I was privileged to serve helped the private operators considerably in 1951, as figures quoted re-recently in the other place show. One Minister of the present Government admitted that £,4½ million worth of Government contracts went to the private operators in the year, 1951–52.
There are one or two cases where I believe the small companies have done work which the Airways Corporations could not have done. It seems to me absolutely right that the cross-Channel car ferry service, in which so much energy and enterprise has been shown, ought not to have to contend with any element of legislative uncertainty. We think there is a great opportunity for the private operator in the carriage of freight. Private enterprise should be given the opportunity of building up a fleet of tramp steamers of the skies. I would not restrict the Corporations in that freight work, and, indeed, I should like to see them doing more, but, given equal opportunity, I would expect privately-owned operators to do very well in this important part of air transport.
We now come to the scheduled passenger air services, for which purpose the Airways Corporations were primarily conceived. I am surprised to see that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) is not in his place this afternoon, because he said in 1950 that it would be years before the Corporations would be paying their way. He was proved wrong, for in the very next financial year, B.O.A.C. returned an overall profit, and, in fact, both Corporations are now paying their way in overseas operations. Both Corporations have done magnificently well in technical development. It is just at this point, 2158 when the rewards of their efforts are becoming apparent, that out of sheer political perversity and prejudice, the Government made their mischievous declaration about future developments. When our two British Corporations are having to contend with the fiercest competition from overseas, they are attacked in the rear by their own Government.
When one hears about the proposals now being discussed for Scotland particularly, one wonders whether the Tories have learned anything at all from the lessons of the past. I hope that the Committee will bear with me for a few minutes at any rate while I refresh memories with the unhappy prewar history of civil aviation in this country and the sorry way in which public subsidies were handed out to private purses for aviation services which were never properly developed.
It was in August, 1919, that we had the first passenger air services from this country. We then had about two or three private pioneer services. The policy of the Government was that aviation should fly by itself. The consequence was that in a very few months aviation did not fly at all. Heavily subsidised foreign competition put the British companies out of business.
We then had subsidy schemes, and the services to Paris were restarted. The Government of the day subsidised four separate private air lines. It was because of the failure of that arrangement that the first committee of inquiry into civil aviation was set up, under Sir Herbert Hambling. The committee reported the obvious fact that competition among private companies, all of which were subsidised, not only eliminated true competition but restricted incentive. The Hambling Committee recommended that there should be a merger of existing airlines into one strong company able to hold its own against foreign competition, and the policy of the chosen instrument was born.
The conception was then of a privately-owned company with a publicly-donated subsidy. Within a year or two the kind of political pressure that we have seen recently was exerted, and the Conservative Administration of 1936 agreed to pay out public subsidies to another private company. I wish I had 2159 time to give in detail how this public money to develop air transport services was distributed as dividends and bonuses to private shareholders.
In 1937–38, for example, out of a total of £678,000 paid for the development of air transport, £83,000 was paid to private shareholders of Imperial Airways in a 7 per cent. dividend. They were getting something like that each year, six per cent. dividend and two per cent. bonus. That is the history of the years from 1935 to 1938. So far as the shareholders were concerned it was pioneering without pain. They were getting the reward of risk without the risk itself.
Even apart from that unpleasant way in which public money was paid out, Britain did not get the air transport it deserved. That became painfully apparent even to the Conservative Administration. It was the late Sir Kingsley Wood who introduced the first Overseas Airways Corporation Bill, a fact that a lot of people in their criticism of recent years tend to overlook. I would advise students of these matters to see how Conservative Administrations, having built up the share value of private companies, gave to each shareholder 32s. 9d. for each £1 share, when it came to compensating the companies upon handing the operations over to a public company.
Despite that miserable record of public subsidy to private shareholders, we gather that the present Government, again 13 years later, in 1952, are actually thinking of starting the whole procedure over again. We want to ask some questions about the discussion now going on about the future of air services for Scotland. The current rumour is that the company with which the Minister has been discussing these matters are offered a subsidy of £100,000 a year. May I ask him what guarantee he is requiring that the company will in fact fulfil all the services if the subsidy is granted?
It is not so easy to define any air route. We have had experience in these matters. The route may well be from Perth to Belfast, with probably four stipulated stops. One stop may be grossly uneconomic but socially desirable. Suppose the company leave out one stop; is it the same route? Suppose they leave out two stops; is it still the same route? How 2160 does the Minister propose to enforce wages and conditions of service in these private organisations? We have had experience of that. There have been some very tricky methods evolved for hiving off the service and maintenance organisations of concerns in order to evade the provisions of the Civil Aviation Act.
I want to ask the Minister further questions. What happens if, after a year or so, the company says: "We are sorry, but we just cannot do the job at the price"? Are we to increase the price or cut down the service? Or are we to request the poor old public corporation to come in again and take over the difficult routes? I am reminded of another question by the pathetic exhibition made by the Government in road transport. Money was paid up for the goodwill of the Scottish services which were taken over. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have already been paid out.
British European Airways are bearing that burden at the moment. Are they to continue to bear it even though they have to give up the services? If not, who is to compensate them? Is there to be a levy on the private air operators to compensate the public corporation? Is that the technique that the Government are proposing to adopt here, as well as in surface transport?
§ Air Commodore A. V. Harvey (Macclesfield)
The hon. Gentleman is hardly being fair to the Committee. Does he recall that early in the war, and even before the war, some companies operating in Scotland were actually making a profit, and are justified in being compensated, whereas B.E.A. are making a loss in Scotland?
§ Mr. Beswick
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is wrong in two particulars. For a start, not all these companies were making a profit.
§ Mr. Beswick
Secondly, the B.E.A. are now providing a public service in Scotland which was not provided before the war.
I hope that, on reflection and re-examination of all these difficulties, the Government will decide that it is in the national interest that Scotland's services should remain under public ownership and control. If they make that decision, I want 2161 to put a suggestion to the Minister. B.E.A. do not receive a subsidy as such for these social services. The expense of operating them comes out as a deficit at the end of the year. [Interruption.] There is a psychological difference which I propose to try to put over to hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they care to listen.
If the Government are prepared to assess the social value of this air service and to pay a subsidy to private companies, I suggest that the same definite amount be paid by the Government to the public corporations for the value of the admittedly uneconomic but socially essential air services. If hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot conceive the difference between these two methods of doing the same business, I will try to explain further.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile what he is now saying with his statement that the money comes out of the deficit? How can we get money out of a deficit?
§ Mr. Beswick
The hon. Gentleman seems to be confusing himself. Can I put the advantage to him in another way? I believe it is very hard when public opinion, which follows these matters with great interest and care, sees that one of the Corporations is still showing a deficit. Public opinion does not appreciate that the Corporation is compelled to give services on which, for some years at any rate, it will be impossible to make a profit.
During the Whitsun Recess I had the opportunity of flying on one of the B.O.A.C. services. I spoke to crews and office staff both here and on the other side of the Atlantic. In every case without exception these men said how proud they were that their Corporation was now "out of the red" and was showing an overall profit. It gave them great encouragement, and I am sure it makes it much more likely that we shall get from each individual that extra effort to cut down costs and get more business. The whole struggle of the Corporations to get "out of the red" is a credit to everyone concerned.
Therefore, I ask the Government, in relation to the Scottish service, to accept that the experience of the past, the technical facts of the present, common sense and national interest, all demand that 2162 public ownership should be told to carry on in Scotland. Certainly, let us have improvements and developments, but let us end the uncertainty both for the worker and for those entrusted with the direction of the Corporation. Let them get down to their jobs with renewed vigour, uninterfered with by this Government.
§ Mr. Charles Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
The hon. Gentleman has suggested that B.E.A. should be allowed to carry on. They have had seven years during which they have been consistently "in the red." How long does he propose to give them to get "out of the red" considering the service was making a profit before the war?
§ Mr. Beswick
The hon. Gentleman is wrong on three counts. He is even wrong on the time B.E.A. have had. They have not had seven years to get "out of the red."
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Would my hon. Friend allow me to answer that? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that prior to the war there were no safety standards such as are required today—
§ Mr. Woodburn
—laid upon the Scottish aircraft, and that some of them flew in a most precarious condition which would not be permitted under modern standards?
§ Air Commodore Harvey
On a point of order, Sir Charles. The right hon. Gentleman has just made a serious allegation. May I point out to you that the aircraft operators before the war complied with all the safety regulations.
§ The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in the interests of historical accuracy, whether he is aware of the existence of the Air Registration Board and its function in this matter?
§ Mr. Beswick
Perhaps I may be allowed to intervene in this debate? On that aspect of the matter, may I say that I had the opportunity of going up to the 2163 Islands—I am not sure whether they were the Orkneys or the Shetlands—when I met most of the responsible people of the community. I asked them whether they would like to go back to the old type of aircraft—
§ Mr. Beswick
The hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield), who knows something about these matters, has noticed that there has been a development in aircraft. I suggest to him that if he took up to Scotland modern aircraft at their present market value and tried to make a profit, he would find it very different from flying the D.H. Rapide.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point, may I say that, while we are satisfied with the aircraft, I am sure he will agree that there is a great demand for better services, in particular for some services run before the war which are not being run today?
§ Mr. Beswick
If the hon. Gentleman says it is difficult to satisfy all Scottish people, I entirely agree. I want to suggest again to the Government that they consider giving the same sum of money as they were contemplating giving to their Scottish friends to B.E.A. as payment for these social air services.
Now I want to deal with the rest of the internal associate agreements. Lord Pakenham, when Minister of Civil Aviation, tried hard to help the small private independent operator by initiating the system of associate agreements. Whilst I was with Lord Pakenham, we tried to extend the scope of these agreements. However, out of 111 licences granted last year, only 42 services were actually started. We asked why. We were told that the independent operators wanted greater security, they wanted not one route but an integrated traffic pattern, and they wanted a monopoly or, at any rate, protection, over the area which they were to be allocated. In other words, they advanced all the arguments that were put forward in 1946 when we proposed a public monopoly for the development of civil aviation.
As far as I can now see, the Government appear to be blundering into the 2164 worst of both worlds. There may be arguments for a private monopoly; there are certainly arguments for a public monopoly: but I can see no arguments for setting up publicly-owned corporations and then encouraging private firms to eat into their best sectors. There is no sense in lopping off one area of a traffic pattern and banding it over to a private company simply as a sop to political friends.
The Transport Advisory Council did much useful work under an extremely wise and able chairman. In this new stage of development, when the Council will not be considering an odd route from, say, Birmingham to London but will have the responsibility for making much more important decisions of policy, we say that responsibility for making those decisions should now be placed firmly upon the Minister who has all the advice and facts at his disposal. And the responsibility should not merely be his, but should clearly be seen to be his.
So much for the internal services. The Government have also been doing michief in another field. It is not widely recognised in this country that in the essentially international business of aviation since the war we have had a most important and interesting experiment in international planning. Paradoxically enough, it was that arch-individualist Lord Beaverbrook who, on behalf of the Coalition Government, laid the basis of this experiment in commonsense Socialist international planning.
The idea was to eliminate waste. Wasteful effort, wasteful equipment, excessively wasteful competition between national air lines, in which the emergent victor would not necessarily be the most efficient but the one who was the most lavishly subsidised. All this was, by agreement, to be avoided. The aim was to relate transport capacity on the international air routes to traffic needs. Through the International Air Transport Association, fares and charges have been fixed to avoid under-cutting. With the co-operation of the different Governments, the volume of traffic on any given route has been regulated.
It seems to me a significant and depressing thought that the first two things which this Government announced they were going to do were, first, to botch 2165 up the whole prospect of an integrated internal surface transport system and then threaten to undermine the basis of international air transport.
§ Mr. Beswick
I will tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman. As far as anyone can understand their proposals, they include a proposition to hand over the so-called third-class services to the private operators. They have already granted a licence for a service down to East Africa. So far as this route is entirely within British territory, they are strictly within the letter of the international agreement; yet I am advised that they are already breaking the spirit of that agreement. This new private service is attracting traffic from adjacent Belgian territory. In fact, this British company, encouraged by the British Government, is under-cutting the national air line of Belgium as well as B.O.A.C.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
I am sorry to interrupt again—[An Horn. MEMBER: "Let us get on."] The hon. Gentleman has courteously given way. Since this private company has been operating its service to Central Africa, both the Corporation and the company to which the hon. Gentleman has referred have increased their traffic.
§ Mr. Beswick
The Corporation certainly have increased their traffic. They have had some better aircraft and they have been gradually improving their service. There is no reason why they should not develop traffic still more, but that is no reason why it should be divided up and spread over two companies instead of one, with a consequent increase in overheads.
However, I was endeavouring to explain to the Committee and to the Minister something which he has probably overlooked, namely, that at the moment we are in danger of breaking the spirit, if not the letter, of an international agreement. What happens if the Sabena Company retailiate by cutting their fares?
§ Mr. Beswick
Yes, that is a fair point to make, but something else will happen. I will endeavour to show to the hon. and gallant Gentleman exactly what will happen. Sabena, if they cut, will break 2166 down the international fare structure, which may well start something in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman believes. But who is going to come out best in a competition of that kind? Who is going to win through if the international fare structure breaks down? It will not be the Belgian company, nor the British company; it will be the company with the biggest resources which will be able to hold out the longest in modern conditions. That will mean that the United States company, with aircraft coming from the Far East and the Middle East only half full, will be able to take up the traffic at fares we cannot afford to quote.
It is not quite so simple as the hon. Member for St. Marylebone, from his superficial study of these matters, sometimes thinks. I certainly agree with him that we want to see the development of these new utility services—the third-class, the tourist, the coach services, call them what we may. It is about five years since I spoke in the House asking that the Corporations should do more in this promising new field. During the last few weeks I have had a chance of seeing something of what is being done in this field in the United States. I agree absolutely with those who say that with these cheaper fares we are on the verge of an entirely new era in air transport. Travel begets travel, and the bringing in of these millions of new potential travellers can mean not only a cheaper service for them, but the bringing down of the overheads on the standard and first-class services as well.
But the development of all this must be on a planned basis. We have already reached international agreement this year on the tourist services on the trans-Atlantic routes. I expect that by this autumn the agreement will be extended to cover Europe. One would hope that on the basis of the Atlantic services we should do as well as anyone in these new tourist services. But again, just at this point along come the Government and introduce this note of uncertainty into the forward planning of the Corporation.
While we are considering this forward planning, there is another vital matter which we must take into account. I refer to the question of aircraft. I believe it to be absolutely essential that Britain should keep in front as the builder of the best transport machines. We have done it 2167 with ships, and I believe we can do it with aircraft. There are some fine machines coming along. There is the Comet II, the jet turbine Viscount and the Britannia. Altogether, the two Corporations must have well over £30 million invested in these jet aircraft.
But these were ordered, and could only have been ordered, by the Corporations on the basis of their duties and responsibilites as the agreed national instrument for the development of air transport. Would hon. Members have expected the chairman of B.O.A.C. four or five years ago to have ordered the Comet, then only a design on the drawing board, if he had known that as from a certain date the development of new overseas schedule services would be open to the Corporations and to independent companies alike? They were ready to meet foreign competition ahead but they had a right to feel secure from attack from behind by their Government.
I understand that the production of aircraft types already ordered is to be stepped up. We agree with that decision, and it is in line with what we on this side have demanded. But I must say that the Government spokesman in another place was most complacent the other day when he said he thought we had collared the jet markets for generations ahead. The fact is that to maintain our lead we urgently need a new aircraft by 1958 at the latest. We need, for example, an entirely new, bigger and better machine which will transport over the Atlantic about 150 passengers at a time. We need a machine which emphasises reliability, range and economy of operation, plus the greatest possible volumetric capacity, even, if necessary, at the expense of speed. If we can get that machine, then our American friends can keep the old-fashioned Blue Riband of the Atlantic, for we shall securely hold the new trophy of the skies.
We also need a machine heavier than the Viscount to deal with the mass travel on the short haul routes. It is suggested—and I believe there is much to be said for it—that we now need a new Brabazon Committee to focus the requirements of the new aircraft which we shall need in the future. But even if we get the types clearly defined, and even if they are designed, who is going to buy them? Who is going to place the original production 2168 order? We all expected it would be the British Corporations, but can that be expected if they do not know exactly where they stand?
Could we blame them if they stood by and said that they were going to wait until someone else bought those machines and took the initial risks with them? If only for this one reason of our great interest in the development of transport aircraft, I hope the Minister will take this opportunity today of extracting all the uncertainty and upset which his ill-considered statement has introduced.
There is one final point I want to make. I am sure we all wish to pay tribute—and I am pretty sure the Minister will as well—to the men and women of our national Airways Corporations for the work they have done in recent years. I think I know as well as anyone exactly what difficulties and handicaps they have had to overcome since the war. When we see these new machines in the air, and when we think of all the entirely new and complicated problems that have had to be solved before one could get a mass of engineering equipment to fit into a timetable, we cannot be other than impressed by the resource and enthusiasm displayed.
But what is the motivating force; what is the incentive behind all this? It is not the old incentive of creating financial profit for absentee financiers. Here we have to recognise some finer incentives, new to our commercial world, and I should like to mention four of them. They are, pride in one's profession and one's craft; esteem of one's fellow citizens in the community; and, just as important, if properly and constructively expressed, the stimulation of public criticism by one's fellow citizens; and a fair monetary reward for work done.
In some cases one may say that these are old incentives, but never before have we seen fit to rely upon them alone in a commercial organisation. I challenge the Government to say what more anyone could have done by way of initiative and enterprise in recent years had they been serving, not a public company, but private shareholders. But we on this side of the Committee want to go a little further than this. We talk a good deal of economic and industrial democracy; we want to make that a real nad vital thing.
I believe that in this new industry of the air, in which there is a special 2169 intelligence and extra enthusiasm, we can develop an organisation that is not only the envy of the world from an engineering and technical point of view, but which can also be a model of what mankind can achieve both socially and spiritually. For this reason we say to the Government, "Hands off the Corporations. Let us have your assurance that they are to be allowed to continue the work they have so well started." Unless we get that assurance in unqualified and unequivocal terms, we shall ask the Committee to divide this evening.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
I should like to thank the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) for the kind way in which he welcomed me as the new Minister of Civil Aviation. He said at the end of his speech that unless he had certain unequivocal assurances from me he would move to reduce the vote of the new Minister he had so generously welcomed.
The effect of voting in favour of reducing my salary would be a public indication of his view that the new proposals of the Government give very considerably more opportunities to private enterprise in the air than are enjoyed today. Although I should be sorry to see any divisions of opinion in this House when it is not necessary that they should be expressed, I am none the less quite prepared to face this one if the consequences of it are that both in anticipation and in fact private operators in the air will have greater openings and opportunities in the years that lie ahead than they have had up to now.
Apart from the statement I made in the House on 27th May, this is the first opportunity I have had to make any substantial statement as Minister of Civil Aviation. I am very proud indeed to be the Parliamentary head of that great Department and it is my hope that, in spite of my inevitable pre-occupation with land transport, as Minister of Transport I shall be able to give every possible assistance in this vital and most exciting field.
If the House will pardon my saying so, I start with certain personal advantages in regard to civil aviation. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aircraft Production in the later stages 2170 of the war, I got to know well the leading personalities in civil aviation.
This is the first debate we have had on civil aviation since the death of Sir Stafford Cripps, and I think it would be right for some reference to be made to the work he did for aeronautical research in one of the most difficult periods of the war. I know of the intense desire of Sir Stafford Cripps that British civil air production should not suffer because of our inevitable absorption with war-time construction throughout the war and indeed also because of the right and proper relations with the United States whereby, while we concentrated on fighter types, they concentrated mainly on transport types. Undoubtedly, the lead they got then has been much to their advantage since.
Sir Stafford, all through the later stages of the war when he was at the Ministry of Aircraft Production, was quite resolute in seeing that aircraft production should not suffer more than was inevitable during that frightful struggle. I know, as Member of Parliament for Mid-Bedfordshire, where both Twinwoods and the College of Aeronautics at Cranfield are growing, how much we owe to the work Sir Stafford did then.
This development was started at a time when things were very bad indeed for England and when the story of the war was grievous and full of grim forboding. I think it can fairly be said of Sir Stafford Cripps, as was said of another great Christian in the 17th century, that it was his singular praise in this field to have done the best things in the worst times and to have hoped for them in the most calamitous. Now we have undoubtedly got a very strong position in aeronautical research and in the field of civil aviation.
During the period when Lord Swinton, the first Minister of Civil Aviation, was in Montreal and Chicago, I had further practical personal identification with the problems of civil aviation. Lord Swinton had gone to Montreal to work out what has been very successful co-operation in the air amongst the peoples of the British Empire. He went on to Chicago in order to try to produce, what again has evolved, order and friendly rivalry in the air through the international organisation then set up.
I had the task of first introducing in the House of Commons at that time the 2171 Bill of the Government of the day whereby rail, steamship and civil aviation would have been merged together in a harmonious whole. That was a project which we believe would have set a wise pattern for civil development in the air in the future. But it was unhappily interrupted by the election which landed hon. Members opposite in a temporary and transient responsibility in the air as elsewhere.
So I start with a great personal interest and some personal knowledge in this matter. One of our great difficulties, which would be a difficulty confronting any Government, is the vast expenditure inevitable in regard to civil air development—not only in respect of the price of individual aircraft, but the alarming and monumental cost of modern aerodrome erection.
But some assumptions have got to be made even in the most difficult periods, the most calamitous periods, whether in war or in economic difficulties. One is, I think, that we are on the verge of a great air age in which there can be no turning back. Secondly, whilst we must at every stage be certain that we get value for money, we must be as careful as possible not to lose the lead in civil aviation which we are undoubtedly enjoying today.
I join with the hon. Member for Uxbridge in congratulating all who have played a part in bringing about these most significant results, the designers, and craftsmen who are producing the finest aircraft in the world, the Corporations, whose splendid achievements all over the world have added immensely to British civil air prestige, and the large number of private firms who are playing a valiant part and whom we hope to see playing an even greater part in making the civil air age the age of British civil air leadership.
I should also like to thank the two Chairmen of the two Corporations for the work they have done and for the cooperation they are giving, as they always have given the Government of the day, in the field of civil aviation. Last night I dined at a farewell dinner of British South American Airways, which died as a result of a merger some years ago, but which technically only came to an end quite recently. I think that Sir Miles Thomas deserves congratulations for the 2172 harmonious way in which the merging of British South American Airways and British Overseas Airways has been conducted.
Now we have the lead and we have the Comet—although it is not the only one but I suppose the most spectacular—and no praise can be too great for the firm of De Havilland. In this field we have the lead and we lead not only in jet or propelled aircraft. Hon. Members will have read with the utmost gratification of the winning, last week, in Madrid, by a British team, of the international gliding championship of the world.
I know that the whole House would wish to congratulate a friend of many of us, Mr. Philip Wills, the Chairman of the British Gliding Association, who was well known as director of operations of the A.T.A. throughout the war. He was first in that international championship, and Flight Lieut. Forbes was third. The British Gliding Association, under the leadership of Lord Kemsley, and without Government aid, has gained the lead. A number of private firms lent free equipment, including Standard Motors, Pye Radio and Messrs. Pullin. Above all we are grateful to the Slingsby Sailplane Company, who lent five new Sky sailplanes to this team. The first and third places went to the United Kingdom and the first four places of the whole tournament went to sailplanes which this firm had made.
For the first time a British team has won this championship and for the first time it has been won by a British glider in the face of great competition from all over the world. It is our hope that this achievement can be and will be followed in future in other fields as well, not least in the field of helicopter development, which this country needs urgently. It is my hope that before long we shall have an opportunity of seeing helicopters at work in the heart of London and of making our people more than ever conscious of the role they have to play.
I said that this is an air age, and there is no politics in that statement at all, and most certainly no party politics. There has been a most spectacular increase in civil aviation in recent years. Last year the London area handled 1,619,000 passengers, of whom over 1½ million passed through London Airport and 2173 Northolt; 1½ million through those two airports compared with 1¼ million through Dover.
Though the white cliffs of Dover will forever hold a particular place in the sympathy and affections of our people, it is year after year becoming ever more true that more people are leaving England or returning home, or coming to England from foreign countries on business by aeroplane than in any other way. The first sight of the greatest number of people who come to Britain will now be, and ever more so as the years go by, the sight of London Airport from the air.
The scheduled air services have increased enormously, and the assumption is that they will be doubled by 1960, in eight years' time. This leaves out of account altogether what the hon. Gentleman rightly referred to, the increase later this year of tourist traffic with the Continent of Europe. The passengers handled by London area airports have doubled since 1948 and it is expected that they will have doubled again by 1960. If the evidence of the North Atlantic tourist traffic, which started on 1st May, and forward bookings for which are already very heavy, is any indication, not only will there be little diversion from the normal type of travel catered for by the Corporations—there is a new market which is being tapped—but the opening up of the tourist service with Europe, France, Italy, Switzerland and our own Colony of Malta will lead to a huge increase in that form of traffic.
This will confront London Airport, in the shaping of which hon. Gentlemen opposite played a considerable part, and to which all parties are equally committed, with all sorts of technical difficulties. The demand will be for the use of the dual runway system of simultaneous landings and take-offs. The take-offs will often be on out-of-the-wind runways.
So we shall have to concentrate more and more of our activities on the Central Terminal Area of London Airport. We have at the Ministry plans of proposed developments, for much of which sanction has already been granted. If any hon. Members are interested and would care to see those plans and models they will be very welcome.
2174 As hon. Gentlemen know, the proximity of London Airport and Northolt raises a great problem of air traffic control. When all civil air flying can be removed from Northolt it will be, and unified control from London Airport will enable much greater handling of aircraft than is now possible by simultaneous control from two different airports five miles apart.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Would not some of the difficulties of London Airport be eased or solved if some of this air traffic was diverted to Prestwick?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
As I think the hon. Member knows, a great deal of the traffic goes there now, and certain schemes are in hand to improve Prestwick. Perhaps Prestwick has not lost very much; I believe the proportion of heavy aircraft diverted from Prestwick is somewhere between 3 per cent. and 6 per cent. We are by no means unconscious of the importance of Prestwick, but I do not think the hon. Gentleman would deny that people who want to come to London want to land very near London.
Prestwick will play a very large part. It will remain one of the great airports of the United Kingdom. In addition to having to overcome the limitation of not having proper communications at Prestwick, we shall need in the very near future facilities for the London end in difficult weather conditions to deal, not only with a certain amount of ordinary traffic in peak periods, but with any diversions which may be necessary during foggy periods at London Airport; and I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman said in regard to that.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)
The right hon. Gentleman has made the statement that Prestwick would remain one of the great airports in the country. Is not it the case that in the policy which I hope the Government will follow, it is the second international airport and not merely one of the great airports?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I speak myself as a Scotsman though long absent from my native country. If one regards London Airport and its neighbouring diversion point at Gatwick, as it will probably be, as one airport, then it is undoubtedly true 2175 that Prestwick is the second airport of the United Kingdom. It is our hope that we shall be able to give to all British aircraft and foreign aircraft anxious to use London and the neighbourhood of London the finest possible facilities in the world.
The hon. Member for Uxbridge dealt mainly with the change of policy announced by myself and by my noble Friend the Secretary of State in another place on the same day with regard to the civil air policy of Her Majesty's Government. I would prefer to call this, rather than a change of policy, a quite definite and deliberate shifting of the emphasis from preserving the position of existing operators to one of encouraging every sort of competition which will lead to greater air development without any undermining of the international competitive position of our two great Corporations.
The hon. Gentleman referred to trade union consultations and made some reference to the failure to consult the trade unions with regard to the recently published Transport Bill. I do not wish to be drawn into any diversion of that kind, which would be out of order, but I would repeat what I have said before; that as Minister of Transport, I did ask the Trades Union Congress to consult with me before the Bill was drawn up. For reasons which it is not for me to explain they decided not to do so.
But as Minister of Civil Aviation I did consult—as the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) knows—with representatives of the trade unions before I made my statement on 27th May. And it is most certainly my intention, if they are agreeable, that before making any change in what interests them most —the working of B.E.A. internal services —to give them an opportunity of making any representations to me.
§ Mr. I. Mikardo (Reading, South)
I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman's idea of consulting the trade unions is different from mine. What he did was to call the trade union side of the National Joint Council to a meeting three or four days before he made his statement and told us what his statement was going to be, and said we must keep mum about it until he announced it in the House. That is not consultation.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I hardly think that is a correct description of the confidential discussion we had. But even if it were, it is a great deal better than the consultations which took place with many of the private road hauliers in my own division before the Socialist Government of the day took their businesses from them.
§ Mr. Beswick
The hon. Gentleman did raise this question of consultation with the road interests. Can I get this clear; is he saying that he consulted the trade unions concerned before the statement was made about the change in the transport industry?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I repeat what I said. Well before the Bill was published, and within a few days of becoming Minister, I gave an opportunity for consultation and I deeply regret it was not taken up. It was unfortunate, but we shall have to get over that difficulty and so will they—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I must get on to my next point—unless the hon. Gentleman has some unusually interesting observation to make.
§ Mr. Poole
I know the Minister does not think that any contribution other than his own is unusual or interesting, but I think we might clear up this point. He has said he consulted the trade unions engaged in the industry on a previous occasion. He now says he has consultations with the T.U.C. on the point—
§ The Chairman
We are not dealing now with the Transport Bill. We are dealing with civil aviation, and this refers to quite a different matter.
§ Mr. Poole
With respect, Sir Charles, the question of consultation with the affected trade unions in this sphere was raised by the Minister, who was kind enough to give way to me. He mentioned the point that he had consultations previously and I am trying to find out with whom did he have those consultations.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am sorry if it was not clear to the hon. Gentleman. I said I made an offer to the Trades Union Congress. If I did not make that plain it must be due to my bad throat again. I offered them a chance of coming to talk 2177 with me some weeks before the Bill was finally evolved. I was not in the least referring to a trade union conference; I was referring to the Trades Union Congress.
As to the new proposals which I introduced, I am very glad indeed to know that the hon. Gentleman regards them as a definite change of emphasis from the restrictive policy that he and his colleagues followed. Perhaps I may say, first of all, one word about charter operation. Of course, the Corporations will retain the right to carry on any charter operations where they have special facilities.
In the case of the subsidiaries of the Corporations, this is really only a problem in the case of B.O.A.C., and it is only a limited problem. B.E.A. have associated companies who do little charter work—in places like Cyprus, Malta and Gibraltar—and there is are Lingus with whom they are in partnership. In their case, though little charter work is done, other Governments are concerned and B.E.A. have no right to speak for the whole of that company.
But in the case of B.O.A.C. there are only two subsidiaries by whom serious charter work is done, and in the two of these taken together only five aeroplanes are involved—three Doves in the case of one and two Dakotas in the case of the other. I have an assurance from the Chairmen of both Corporations that they have no expansionist aims whatever in the field of charter work for their subsidiaries.
I repeat what I said in the House on 27th May, that the two Corporations will not keep aircraft specifically for charter purposes, though I think no one would resent their using those planes which they have got and which are specially suitable, during the off-seasons when there is no other employment for them. I hope this will reassure all of those who are concerned about charter development that the field is almost entirely open to the private operators, and we wish them every possible success in that field.
As to the suggestion that is made from time to time that the overheads are not fairly charged against charter operation, I have gone most carefully into it. It is true of B.O.A.C., and by and large it is true also of B.E.A., that the only item of overheads which is not charged against charter services which is charged against 2178 scheduled services is technical training and development, which it would be quite impossible to split up actuarially between the various activities involved.
Perhaps I may now say a word about B.E.A.'s internal services. The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) spoke of the uneconomic nature of some of these services. I could not quite make out precisely what impression he was trying to convey to the House. He spoke about the profit of B.O.A.C. last year, and I feel sure that when their report is published shortly their successful working in that year will please hon. Members on both sides of the House.
He said quite rightly that B.E.A., in face of great difficulties, have also had an admirable record. But whether he was trying to convey that B.E.A. would he better if divested of uneconomic internal services or that it was unwise or unfair so to divest them, I was left completely in the dark. The truth is that many people concerned with B.E.A. would be glad to see themselves divested, by full agreement, of certain internal services, which they would prefer to be run by other people.
§ Mr. Beswick
When the right hon. Gentleman says "many people concerned with B.E.A." is he saying that it is now the declared policy of B.E.A. that they would like to divest themselves of Scottish services?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am not saying that. We have all had many talks with large numbers of people concerned with B.E.A. and with the internal development of their services, and it is common knowledge that they very much regret having been "in the red" during the last few years. Some of them feel that they must be "in the red" as long as they have to run certain social services, for example, in Scotland. To have an opportunity of divesting themselves of some of these services would not be altogether unwelcome to a number of people, and I have no doubt to the Chairman either, provided they felt sure that the services for which they bear responsibility at present were adequately looked after in any change that might be brought about.
The present position with regard to the internal services is this. All internal services that are additional to services 2179 now carried out by B.E.A. are, of course, open to private operators and will remain so under the new machinery, which I will come to shortly, of the A.T.A.C. which we hope will be licensing operators all over the world in a very few months' time.
All existing internal services at the moment are reserved to B.E.A., but if operators come forward with worth while propositions, I as Minister will be very glad indeed to welcome and consider them. I think this is a function that ought properly to fall on the Minister and not on the A.T.A.C.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman indicates his acquiescence. Perhaps I may explain why I think this function ought to fall on the Minister. Scottish feeling is involved, and so is feeling in Northern Ireland in the case of services there. The separate interests and responsibilities of the Channel Islands administration are involved, and the traditional individuality of the Ise of Man is involved. There ate political considerations here. Next, it is generally agreed I think, particularly in the case of Scotland, that only one operator can best carry out the services that are required, whether it is B.E.A. as now, or some private company instead.
Again there is no question here of deciding between conflicting applications, which is the normal function and which will be still more the function of the A.T.A.C. in the future. Nor is there any question of new development here. It is a question of re-allocating, if at all, something that is already enjoyed by B.E.A.
Lastly there is, of course, the question of the uneconomic nature of certain routes, particularly the Scottish services, which at the moment are run by B.E.A. under the subsidy which, under the present law, comes to an end in 1956. It would be unthinkable either that a larger subsidy would be paid to a private operator than is paid to B.E.A., whatever words the hon. Gentleman may use about the subsidy, or that the subsidy should continue to be paid to a private firm longer than it would otherwise be paid to a Corporation.
§ Mr. Woodburn
As to the Scottish position, is not one of the problems that a public corporation has a duty beyond the mere duty of making its services pay, and while a monopoly of another kind might carry on the existing services which have got into financial difficulty, nobody could blame it for curtailing certain services in order to balance its balance sheet? Is it not part of the whole running of the services in this part of Scotland that it is necessary to do things as a public and social service, that they should be done for social reasons and not for purely economic reasons? How is the right hon. Gentleman going to get over this difficulty of seeing that the services are provided where they may not be beneficial from the point of view of a company which is compelled to balance its books?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I do not challenge what the right hon. Gentleman has said. There are, of course, social factors as well as economic factors, but I would remind him of what the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said, that in certain parts of Scotland they look back nostalgically to the days when private operators did provide services in certain parts of Scotland where the services do not now exist.
Though we welcome B.E.A.'s plans to substitute this winter Pionairs for the D.H. 89's, save for their ambulance service to the Island of Barra, it would still leave untouched the needs of a large number of Scottish islands. I do not think anybody can be indifferent to the needs of these islands and the large potential traffic that services there might carry.
I should like to say publicly—I think it is only fair that it should be said—that I have watched with interest the work that Group Captain McIntyre of Scottish Airways has done and the research that they have carried out into the possibilities of the Pioneer—not to be confused with the Pionair—and the possibilities of a twinengined Pioneer. There may well be a field here where, without political controversy, we can, work out an agreed settlement, which while preserving for Scotland all she has got through B.E.A.'s hard work, may give her in time even greater opportunities.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The Minister has again repeated the point about the romance of the early days of Scottish aviation. He 2181 challenged the statement I made that standards of safety are greater now than they used to be. I am sure that he will realise that while there was great romance and adventure in the early days, some of the travelling was extremely precarious. In fact, one of his own Conservative chairmen who was brought down from that area came in an aircraft the engine of which had to be started by the loan of a motor car battery. After the plane got into the air, it had to come down most precariously. While it was a great adventure, nobody can say that it was safe.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I do not think I need detain the Committee by explaining that it is obviously safer to travel with a modern pilot, even if he is not a very good one, than it was to travel in the old days with Grahame-White in one of the machines then available.
The hon. Member for Uxbridge asked about an offer which he said had been made to a Scottish firm. No such offer has been made. As I announced in the House of Commons, talks are going on I repeat that I should be glad to hear from anybody with the necessary financial backing and the necessary skill who is prepared to come forward and make an offer for these great internal routes.
If no offers are forthcoming, naturally the existing operators who are doing splendid service will carry on unchallenged. If offers were forthcoming, they would never be accepted unless those concerned could give similar or better service at no greater cost to the taxpayer. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am as keen as he is that decent working conditions should be preserved in these various companies. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation will deal with this matter at greater length, because we anticipate an intervention from the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo).
I come to the broad issue and, I hope not too lengthily, to the new policy announced on May 27th. As the Committee knows, the existing international passenger services run by the Corporations will be preserved, but the Corporations will no longer be protected against competition over what might be called their planned routes, but only over their existing routes.
2182 The new terms of reference to the Air Transport Advisory Council will make this absolutely plain. At present, under the directive issued by Lord Pakenham to the A.T.A.C., the Corporations are protected not only on their existing routes but in all their planned intentions as well. It is also proposed that in future the Corporations, while preserved in their first and tourist class activities, shall have to apply to the A.T.A.C. for any extension of their services outside this field. On all new routes outside their preserved sphere they will be on the same terms as private operators. To the Corporations I can say that I know that they themselves agree. Their main effort in the future is to build up their frequencies and to reduce their fares on their existing international networks.
Lord Pakenham in another place made some reference to the fear that if the Corporations have to submit to the A.T.A.C. advance information of their intentions it might get into the hands of foreign operators who would thereby be forewarned of the intentions in this field of friendly competition. I will discuss this difficulty with the A.T.A.C. as soon as its new composition has been announced. Though their procedure is in their hands, I will do my best with them to see that adequate protection is afforded.
To the private operators we can say that we believe that there is a very great field indeed open to them in the future. We look with confidence to their taking full advantage of the field of third-class travel, of which perhaps the most vivid recent illustration has been the "Safari" contract awarded recently to Huntings and Airworks for new services between the United Kingdom and East Africa.
This was considered by the A.T.A.C. at their meetings of 8th May and 12th June, and approval of the application of the two companies was recommended by Lord Terrington's Committee acting strictly under the directive issued by Lord Pakenham in 1950. Therefore, in their view these services neither overlap nor unfairly compete with B.O.A.C.'s existing services. I was very glad to give my formal approval to the A.T.A.C.'s recommendation.
This is a typical new type of third-class service travelling on regulated 2183 frequencies of 52 a year, 26 for each company, at much lower fares than B.O.A.C. It is tapping an entirely new market. To those who are concerned more about protecting existing operators than about opening up opportunities for new development, I should like to say that the arrival of Huntings in East Africa has led to a reduction in B.O.A.C.'s own fares.
One consequence was that they offered a special 120-day return ticket at £214 10s. as opposed to £252, which had been the price up to then from Nairobi so even in the field of the Corporations this has led to a stimulation of traffic and a reduction of fare for the travelling public. I am glad to welcome this new service, which has also been enthusiastically welcomed in the three East African territories concerned. As a recent Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, I am specially concerned about air development between this country and the Colonies and the Colonies and each other.
I hope that this will be the forerunner of many similar applications and, without material diversion from the Corporation, we shall tap a new public which has never yet thought seriously of travelling by air. This is the field in which the private operator can play a large part. If there is any other way in which we can help them to do this work, this Government have every intention of adopting it.
The hon. Member for Uxbridge suggested that this would compete adversely with the international fare structure set up by the International Air Transport Authority. Of course, if a person chooses to travel from the United Kingdom to his destination and is prepared to break his journey somewhere en route, it might be possible to travel cheaper than if he flew the whole way by B.O.A.C.
It is true that if one flew from London to Johannesburg and was prepared to change at Nairobi, and if one could go by Huntings or Airwork to Nairobi, change there and go on to Johannesburg, one could do it more cheaply than by going direct by B.O.A.C. In the same way for the last two years it has been cheaper to travel by the French airline and to break the journey to Hong Kong at Saigon. This is following a pattern which 2184 France and Belgium have followed for the last two years.
It is in no sense breaking an international agreement. We remain a sovereign country, I hope in everything, and especially on the question of preserving the fares on these routes reserved to our people alone by international agreement. Nothing has happened to alter that situation in the least. We must, of course, protect the interests of those countries who I agree in a competitive world could hit us as hard as we could hit them.
If and when the exercise of our cabotage rights takes us across foreign territory, it is our intention in regard to this sort of operation to limit the frequency of these operations to what is the reasonable requirement of the colonial territory concerned; to fix fares at much less than the superior fares guaranteed and protected by the I.A.T.A. arrangement; and to exclude from the operators the right to pick up and set down traffic from foreign territories with whose Governments we are in bilateral agreement. This I am sure will go the whole way, or very nearly the whole way, towards meeting the doubts expressed by the hon. Gentleman.
Next, I come to the question of air freight. We believe strongly that there is a huge opening for private operators in the field of freight development. B.O.A.C. have one all-freight route—London-Nice-Tripoli-Cairo-Bahrein-Bombay-Calcutta-Bangkok-Singapore. B.E.A. have several.
The Chairmen of both Corporations have told me that they appreciate the need to give private operators a chance to compete in this market. They recognise that they have been in the business for such a long time that they start with certain advantages, and I have the authority of both Chairmen to say that the Corporations will not apply to the A.T.A.C. for all-freight services on any new routes for one year, unless considerations of national importance require them to do so. This will give independent operators an opportunity to apply for long-term routes in this field without any counter-claim from the Corporations for a period of a year, which will give those people coming new into the business a chance to get started.
2185 I am grateful to the Chairmen of both Corporations for their co-operation. I think I am not misquoting them when I say that both appreciate that here is a field in which private operators and the Corporations can work happily together and bring great advantage to the United Kingdom. It is our hope that, with the re-constitution of the A.T.A.C., which I hope shortly to announce, and the full terms of reference of which I will lay before Parliament, we are entering on a new era of development in the air. We have a good lead now. I believe we can hold it and expand, and it is my confident belief that the policy of the Government will do everything to help to make that more certain and sure.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)
We have had an interesting speech from the Minister, much of which I think we would all agree was non-controversial. We all endorse his congratulations of the Airways Corporations. We share his views of the possibility of very great expansion in civil aviation in the coming decade, but, when he came to that portion of his speech in which he dealt with the reason for the change of policy, or the shift of emphasis, as he preferred to put it, I found myself quite unconvinced by his arguments for making the change which he has instituted.
I found myself completely unable to fathom the real reasons why the change had to take place, except that, if the Minister takes this optimistic view, which probably is correct, of the possibility of great expansion, he wishes the private operators to have a share in the possible profits which may be made. That would be quite all right if one were convinced, as we on this side of the Committee are not, that, in the apportioning of part of the increased traffic to private operators, the public Corporations, with which the public are concerned, would not suffer in the process. Nothing which the Minister has said has re-assured me, but, on the contrary, much that he did say has only confirmed my belief that that will occur.
The Minister suggested that the shift of emphasis amounted to getting away from the restrictive policy which has so far been followed, and bringing about the greatest possible measure of competition, without undermining the world compe- 2186 titive position. I cannot quite understand how he can suggest that the policy which has been followed by the public corporations has been a restrictive policy when we have seen this very great expansion in civil aviation in this country since the Corporations came into full operation after the war.
If there is going to be any restriction at the present time, I would have thought that it would be the restriction which the Minister is now imposing upon the Corporations by restricting their planned development and their freedom to develop, and making it necessary for them to go before the A.T.A.C. if they wish to open up any new routes or services or engage in third-class travel or otherwise.
It is because our civil aviation has developed so successfully during these recent years, and has reached a point where one can say, without any fear of contradiction, that in aircraft, service, safety, regularity and reliability, British civil aviation today is unsurpassed, that it is necessary for us to frame policy with the greatest of care, and to examine any new policy which is put before us, such as that which the Government have now produced, from a critical point of view, not that of public or private enterprise, but the point of view of the interests of British civil aviation as a whole. The test is whether or not this change of policy will better serve the interests and development of civil aviation.
It is because we want these things to which the Minister has referred, because we want value for our money, and because we do not want to lose the lead we have gained, that this policy needs to be very carefully examined. I have my doubts whether, when we carry out that examination, we will find that we are getting as good value for our money, and are not in danger, in some respects, of losing our lead through weakening the public Corporations themselves.
I think there has been a number of contributory reasons for the great advance which we have made in this country. Some of them are due to the Corporations themselves, and some to factors beyond their control, arising from the world organisation of civil aviation, while others are due to the developments in the aircraft industry, with considerable State assistance.
2187 The Corporations have developed very highly efficient organisations. I feel sure that anyone who has travelled with B.O.A.C. or B.E.A., or has visited the administrative offices, the maintenance depots and so on, cannot but be very much impressed with the high quality of service, and efficient administration, the very successful internal budgetary control and application of modern business consultative methods and the high standard of maintenance. We are all impressed by these things.
But there is another factor, which has been referred to in passing, which I think has contributed much to the success of B.O.A.C., and that is the joint consultative machinery which has been established within the Corporation. It is, in my view, one of the most effective of the joint consultative machines in the public sector of industry. It is comprehensive and effective, and has succeeded in identifying all the staff of the two Corporations with their success.
There is real consultation within the Corporations before decisions are taken and before there is action, and that is the basis of true and successful consultation. There has also been the creation within the Corporations of a new incentive of public service—an incentive of pride in the job and of public service which has supplanted the fear of insecurity which was previously often the only incentive to hard work. To others it was the profit motive, and that has now gone.
I think the success of the Corporations has helped to disprove the theory that subsidies inevitably destroy incentive and make for inefficiency. I am not arguing in favour of indiscriminate subsidies, by any means, but the arguments frequently used against subsidies, and particularly against temporary subsidies, are that they will destroy incentive and efficiency. It would be very difficult to criticise the Corporations today on grounds of inefficiency, in spite of the fact that they have been enjoying a subsidy since they were inaugurated.
The main objective of those working within the Corporations, apart from doing the best job possible, has been to get the Corporations out of the red, and in that they are now rapidly on the way to success. This success has been 2188 achieved without any preferential treatment being given to the Corporations. In fact, the contrary has been the case. On both sides of the Committee hon. Members have attacked the respective Governments for the manner in which the Corporations are handicapped through inadequate payments by the Post Office for the carriage of mails.
Neither Corporation receives anywhere near the international rate. In fact the subsidised Corporations are subsidising the Post Office, which is a paradoxical situation. There is a similar situation in the case of the duty on fuel. During the debates on the Budget of the late Government hon. Members opposite argued for the exemption of airlines from taxation on fuel used on internal services, and some of my hon. Friends have argued likewise on other occasions.
This is a matter which should be dealt with and put right to assist the Corporations now that they are finally reaching a stage of success. I believe that publicly-owned concerns should always be given most favourable and not the most unfavourable treatment. No individual benefits financially from it and so it is fully justified, the public interest being at stake.
Whilst achieving economy and reducing their staffs, the Corporations have managed to expand thir services substantially, and in a great many instances they have reduced fares through the introduction of excursions. They can teach a good lesson in showing how reduction in fares brings about an increase in traffic. That is something which the Minister and the British Transport Commission might take to heart.
Another factor which has contributed to the success of the Corporations has been the satisfactory relationship which existed under the late Government between the Minister and the Corporations. The relationship between the Minister of Civil Aviation in the past and the chairmen of the boards of the Corporations has been far closer than in any other public corporation. It has been fully justified by the fact that the Corporations were receiving a subsidy. Public money was therefore concerned and it was necessary in the national interest that the Minister should pay close attention to the affairs of the Corporations.
2189 I hope that this happy relationship which existed will continue and that the present Minister, who has so much on his plate, will not desert the role of partner with the Corporations in their success for that of dictator, and that he will not substitute pressure for persuasion or direction for consultation. I hope that both parties will work in the national interest to secure that the success of the Corporations will continue, if that is possible within the orbit of the new policy. About that I have my doubts.
It is certainly rather unfortunate that at this stage the Government should have decided not to appoint a Minister of Civil Aviation. I fear that the present Minister's pre-occupation with other interests, and also with the interests of the independent companies, may prevent his giving that measure of attention to the public Corporations that has been given to them by Ministers in the past. It is necessary that that should continue because of the special public interest concerned. It is all the more important because the Minister's functions are being increased by this change of policy.
The Minister has told us that he has to make decisions about internal services and on many other matters arising from this new policy, and quite clearly more work will devolve upon the Ministry of Civil Aviation. It is true that he has a Parliamentary Secretary who, we thought, was to have his duties entirely confined to those of civil aviation. But during some of our financial debates we found the Parliamentary Secretary substituting for the Minister of State for Economic Affairs, who apparently was unable to cope.
§ Mr. Davies
There is a further factor which has contributed to the success of the Corporations, of which we are so proud. It is one to which my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) referred at some length and which was taken up by the Minister himself. It is the planning of international development, the fixing of minimum standards and charges and, most important of all, the regulation of the carrying capacity available to make it bear some relationship to the actual potential traffic offering.
That is an important factor, particularly in the bi-lateral agreements which 2190 we have with so many countries whereby the number of craft flying is agreed upon and whereby it is agreed that if the traffic on offer increases the carrying capacity is increased proportionately by both countries. It is flexible enough to allow expansion. It is not so rigid that it restricts competition for the actual traffic, though that traffic is sufficiently regulated to prevent cut-throat competition and, to the extent that it is avoidable, wasteful carrying capacity in the air.
Competition is largely confined—it is between countries rather than between companies, since in Europe the single operator is the rule rather than the exception. The pattern in Europe has been that airlines have been operated by a single undertaking in each country. We compete with Sabena or Air France, and in Scandinavia it is the same. There is practically only one large operator in each country as regards international routes, though there may be several operators on less important internal routes.
But that pattern of the single operator is now being changed to a certain extent in our case by the admission of private independent operators on international routes. Admittedly they are not the routes now flown by B.O.A.C. They will be new routes which may be developed. In spite of what the Minister has stated, I fear that there may be interference with international planning. This increase in the number of operators can undermine the system.
If there is more capacity offered and if the rates are cut, as they have been done for third-class travel, people will start using the different routes, even if it causes considerable inconvenience in travelling from one country to another, in order to take advantage of them and benefit from the cheaper rates. There will be retaliation on the part of other undertakings operating airlines. No corporation will allow its traffic to be taken away without attempting to recapture it.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I think the hon. Member has in mind particularly the Safari arrangement with East Africa, but France and Belgium have done the same thing. The French system of first, second, and third-class rates has been in operation since 1950.
§ Mr. Davies
Even though other countries started that method, if we follow 2191 suit and there is a steady increase in the number of operators and greater competition for traffic, then the principle and basis upon which civil aviation has developed so far through the international institutions is likely to be undermined. I am sure that we all wish to cheapen air travel, but we do not want to do so in such a way that the present high standards are threatened and planned development is frustrated. Air travel must not be so cheap that we lower standards until there is an adverse reflection on civil aviation and British civil aviation in particular.
The policy which has been instituted by the Government has to be viewed against the pattern under which civil aviation has developed up to the present time, and for any change to be justified it must be proved that it will fit into this pattern without disturbing it—or, if it does disturb it, the benefits to be derived will be so great that the disturbance is justified, and will accrue not simply to a few private operators but to the travelling public and to British civil aviation as a whole, and that in that process no harm will be done to the publicly-owned Corporations.
I fear that this new policy starts a process whereby the planned and free development of the public Corporations may be frustrated. They may be fearful that their efforts at expansion will be hindered or handicapped by the private and independent operators, and they will not proceed so rapidly with their plans. Their progress will be interfered with because the independent operators do not have the same obligations as the Corporations, that is to say, to carry on certain routes as a public service not only internally but abroad. A great number of air routes are unremunerative, but the Corporations build up their networks and consider that networks as a whole, whereas the independent operators will compete on the remunerative routes and will not operate the unremunerative routes.
§ Mr. John Profumo (Stratford-on-Avon)
Has the hon. Member forgotten the great pioneering work which has been done by private operators in areas where they have had to start from scratch and where, having made a success of them, their routes have been taken over by the Corporations?
§ Mr. Davies
I should like to know where that has happened. The history of civil aviation in this country has been just the opposite. It has been the public Corporations who have had to take over the unremunerative services and pay compensation for doing so.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
A great deal of development was done by Captain Fresson which was afterwards jumped by the public Corporations.
§ Mr. Davies
Nobody denies that in the past private operators have participated in the pioneering of civil aviation. It was started by independent operators before the public Corporations came along. There is no argument about that. But the position today is very different from what it was in those days. The capital required today in order to purchase modern aircraft and to build up modern air routes is something very much greater than it was in the past.
Now I want to turn to the actual proposals of the Minister. On 27th May he said:We shall do all we can to encourage this"—that is, maintenance of the public Corporations in the international field. He went on to say:… we are determined that the competitive strength of the Corporations … on their present established networks will not be impaired"—and then he added:… development of new overseas scheduled services shall be open to the Corporations and independent companies alike."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th May, 1952; Vol. 501, c. 1158.]He went on to promise more scope and security to the independents. In my view it is either hypocritical or stupid to suggest that we can encourage the Corporations and not impair their services and at the same time open new services for the private operators. I think that is inconsistent, and it is hypocritical or stupid to suggest that it can be done—and nobody would suggest that the present Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation is stupid. That is the last thing anybody would accuse him of being.
§ Mr. Davies
In spite of the remarks made by the Minister this afternoon, I think we need some further assurances, information and explanations before we can be satisfied that this policy can be effective and beneficial in practice. The Minister has stressed that he wants to give security to the independents. How can the security be provided? He says they will normally have seven years for operation, rising to 10 years in special cases. They may be given permission to operate for 10 years; but to give an operator permission to carry on for that term does not ensure that he will operate at a profit or that he will be able to carry on that service and provide those services which he has been given permission to provide.
What guarantee have we that an operator will be able and willing to continue for those seven years? Is it the intention of the Minister to impose any obligations of a legal character upon an operator to continue in operation, or is he to be in a privileged position? If he cannot maintain his services for a year or two years, because he finds he is operating at a loss or, alternatively, that it is necessary to reduce his standards, and if he consequently threatens to give up the operation of that service, what will the Minister do? Will not the private operator come to the Minister and ask him for a subsidy or some form of assistance, and will not the Minister then be in a very difficult position? He will be faced with closing down a service which has been opened up under his new policy, or granting a subsidy out of public money.
I can see very strong arguments being made against closing down services. Certain people will be inconvenienced and it will be harmful to the prestige of British civil aviation. I suggest that the inevitable result of this change in policy is that there will be pressure on the Minister to subsidise the private operators for carrying on their external civil aviation routes, and that the Minister will find it pretty nigh impossible to refuse to meet them.
I think that is the wrong principle. If public money is involved it has to be economically expended and fully controlled. It must be canalised through the monopoly Corporations over which we have control and not handed out to independent concerns over whom we have no 2194 control whatever except in the granting of licences to enable them to carry on. Once these companies are subsidised they may be spending public money for the maintenance of wasteful and unnecessary facilities. One of the strongest arguments against the granting of scheduled passenger services to the charter companies is that in my view it will inevitably lead to the subsidisation of those services. They will probably be bought out, ultimately, by the public Corporations, who will be paying compensation for concerns which are being kept going by assistance from the Treasury.
With regard to the Air Transport Advisory Council, in respect of which the Minister gave us a little further information this afternoon, we look forward both to the new directive which he is going to issue—and which I was glad to hear will be laid before the House so that we can have a debate upon it—and to hearing exactly how the Council is to be reconstituted.
I am concerned about this Advisory Council and the functions given to it. It was set up as a consumer council but, as it is at present constituted, and as the present directive is termed, its function has changed and the Minister has final responsibility. There is no question of that. The Council makes recommendations to the Minister, who decides whether to carry them out or not. He has final control and, as a result, he can be questioned in the House about any action he has taken on the Council's recommendations. Is that set-up to be continued? The Minister nods his head, and I am glad to have that assurance. He has already given an assurance to that effect, and I stress it because it is important that there should be no departure from the principle.
But even if he retains final responsibility, and there is to be public accountability to this House, the fact remains that there will not be the same measure of public accountability for the operations of the private companies as there is for those of the public Corporations. Once a private company is operating a route, it will not be possible, presumably, because it would be out of order, for us to question the Minister about that company, because he is not responsible for it. All he has done is to give it the permit and to allow it to carry on. 2195 The independent companies will be in a very different position from that of the public Corporations as far as the House is concerned, and yet a situation may arise in which it is necessary—
§ Air Commodore Harvey
Surely that cuts both ways. Hon. Members are now unable to question the Minister about the Corporations. We shall have an annual debate, or a debate twice a year, which will be a free-for-all.
§ Mr. Davies
In dealing with questions in the House on the public Corporations, the Minister of Civil Aviation has been far more flexible in giving answers than have the other Ministers responsible for public Corporations. Furthermore, debates have frequently taken place in the House. I very much doubt if one would be able to debate a private air service and—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
In fairness to history, may I point out that this Government are the first to have appointed a Minister of Civil Aviation in the House? All Socialist Ministers of Civil Aviation were in another place.
§ Mr. Davies
Because they do not trust a Minister of Transport being also Minister of Civil Aviation, this Government appointed an overlord who is in another place and about whose responsibilities we do not know. I want to bring my remarks to a close. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am encouraged by hon. Members opposite to go on. We all admit that there is a field for the charter companies; after all, it was the late Government which expanded that field in a certain respect. But we do not think they should enter this field of external scheduled services, because we consider that thereby they will restrict the development of the two public Corporations.
For the reasons I have given, we have been driven to the conclusion that in formulating this policy the Government were not concerned about the welfare of the public Corporations and their development, but about giving an opportunity for independent operators to make profits, irrespective of whether they were at the expense of the public Corporations or not. The same consideration applies in road haulage. They are endeavouring to find a profitable outlet for the private operators in road haulage as they are in the air services.
2196 Even so, as usual the policy of the Government is muddled, and they have no friends for this policy any more than they have friends for their transport policy. The private operators are not satisfied. All they want is to be able to skim the thickest cream from the public Corporations' traffic. The Government are not giving them all the thick cream, but they are giving them a chance to get a certain amount of it. The private operators are not satisfied and, in spite of what the Minister said, the Corporations cannot be happy about the position, because they know that it is bound to affect them to a certain extent. If they have to apply equally with private operators in order to get licences to expand their routes, their freedom is restricted. I cannot see what the public gain from this policy. I oppose both the policy which has been put forward and the manner in which it is proposed to operate it.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
I am very glad to have this opportunity of addressing the Committee, although I should not have risen had I not felt considerable concern about the development which is likely to take place in jet engines over the next few years. I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) say that in his opinion we needed a new aeroplane in 1958 to take the place of the Comet. I think we need one much earlier than that; we need one in 1954. What I am concerned about is that we get the right aeroplane and not the wrong one, and that we also get one with the right engine. I fear that we may well find that we get the wrong aeroplane and the wrong engine.
I want for the moment to go back into the history of jet propulsion in this country. From the earliest days, when Whittle started in 1935, there has been a conflict between two schools of thought in jet propulsion. There is the school which says that the right engine to be developed is the centrifugal type, that type developed by Sir Frank Whittle, and there is another school of thought which believes that the correct course to follow is that of the axial flow type of turbine.
My information is that it has been decided over the last year or two that work should be damped down on the centrifugal type and that we should go in 2197 more for the axial flow type. Evidence for the support of this suggestion can be found in the development of the Comet. The Comet Mark I is engined by de Havilland Ghost engines, which are of the centrifugal type. The Mark II is to have Rolls Royce Avon engines, which are axial flow type. To my mind this is probably a retrograde step.
I think everyone will agree that there are many advantages of the axial flow type of turbine over the centrifugal type. It has a smaller frontal area and at the moment it has a lower fuel consumption, although I do not believe it would have had a lower fuel consumption if we had not damped down the rate of development of the centrifugal type. On the other hand, the centrifugal type of engine has a lower maintenance cost and a lower cost of manufacture, and it is more robust. It is to the lower cost of manufacture that I wish to draw the attention of the Committee.
The axial flow type, such as the Avon, may have as many as 2,000 fixed and moving blades which have to be manufactured. A centrifugal type giving the same power might have only 80 to 100. The manufacture of turbine and compressor blades is a very complicated matter and very expensive, and my belief is that if we made use of the centrifugal type of engine, the cost of production would be reduced very considerably.
I understand that this tendency to place the emphasis on the axial flow type does not receive support from Sir Frank Whittle, and in my view the Government are unwise completely to ignore his advice, just as in many ways they ignored it in 1936, when the Government did not give sufficient financial support for him to develop his engines. I want to make it clear that I am not criticising my right hon. Friend. The present developments are the result of decisions taken several years ago. But I ask him to pay particular attention to this unfortunate step away from the centrifugal type of engine.
I am also very critical of the order which has been placed by British Overseas Airways for Bristol Britannia aeroplanes. The hon. Member for Uxbridge—I am sorry to see that he is not in his place—said he was very glad that B.O.A.C. were getting out of the "red." But if they persist in following up their 2198 purchase of Bristol Britannias, they will soon find themselves in the "red" again. The Bristol Britannia is driven by four propeller-turbine engines with a speed of something like 350 miles an hour. The Comet's speed at present is 490 miles an hour.
Can anyone believe that an aeroplane which in two or three years' time—it will be two or three years before the Britannia comes into service—does 350 miles an hour, against the present standard air liners coming into service which do 490 miles an hour, will have any chance whatever of standing up to the competition that it will receive from the aeroplanes of other countries? I understand that 25 Bristol Britannias have been ordered. They are said to be provided for carrying tourist traffic, but the United States are already planning aeroplanes with speeds in excess of 600 miles an hour for this very reason, and these aeroplanes may well be in service before the Britannias are operating.
Sir Frank Whittle until this morning, I understand, was the technical adviser to the British Overseas Airways Corporation. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether Sir Frank was consulted before the order for the Britannias was placed. My information is that he was not consulted, and that if he had been consulted he would have been against it. My right hon. Friend should inquire into the reason why Sir Frank Whittle has left British Overseas Airways. I cannot believe that it is because his work is finished. For about three years he has been concerned with surveying the lines over which the Comet is to operate. I cannot help but think that the Board of B.O.A.C. do not yet feel that jet development has reached such a pitch of perfection that his assistance is no longer required.
I well remember the early ambitions of Sir Frank Whittle and how it was his idea to build jet-propelled air-liners. It was only under the stress of war that he turned his attention to fighter types. Since he has been with British Overseas Airways, he has been surveying all, or most of, the airfields that are to be used by the Comet. Surely it is rather inhuman that just at the moment when his original idea is coming to fruition, when he is about to see jet airliners travelling all over the world, he should be pushed out of this 2199 organisation and not allowed to see his plans fulfilled.
I understand that Sir Frank Whittle's interest is still overwhelmingly in the operation of airliners, but he has not been asked by the concern with which he has lately been associated to go abroad on a single proving flight with the Comet. I sincerely hope that my right hon. Friend will inquire into the relationship between Sir Frank Whittle and the Corporation, and that he will pay particular attention as to whether some development work should go on with centrifugal types of engines, so that we make certain that the lead that we now have in the air is not thrown away by some grave mistake at this juncture.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
The Committee will be grateful to the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) for introducing the important question of the engine. Often in these debates we have discussions on the organisation—that is to say, the Corporations versus the charter companies, whether there is too much or too little control, and whether the reins are too tightly held or are not held tightly enough; and we forget that however good or however bad the organisation may be, everything depends upon the aircraft and the engines. The tight rein or slack rein reminds me of the remarks once applied to certain South African novelists: "They use the snaffle and the bit all right, but where's the something horse." It is the horse that we are concerned with.
When we have a racehorse, we do not think of using it to pull a dray. When we have a Percheron, we do not think of entering it in a five-furlong race. Is not that the stage that we have reached in engine development today: that one is bred for strength, and another for speed? Contrasting civil and military aviation, may we not have reached a point when the lines of development are different, and when it is more than ever important that we should have a Minister of Civil Aviation who can stand up to the overwhelming demands of the military Departments? It is unfortunate that at this time we have no Minister exclusively concerned with civil aviation.
I should like to hear from the Minister today about the type of engine that he 2200 wants developed for commercial aviation. I ask this because we know that for military aviation we want the fastest possible engine. For commercial aviation, however, we may need an engine which goes at only 500 miles an hour or less. We know that civil aircraft are in the fortunate position that they can choose to a large degree their flight plans, their height of operation, and how they can avoid the weather. Therefore, they can have a sensitive and vulnerable type of engine. But military aircraft must have the type of engine which will endure battle conditions. It cannot even choose the height at which it operates. The fighter or bomber has to go irrespective of the weather, and it must, therefore, have a tougher and much less sensitive type of engine.
Now we come to the point about the axial flow and the centrifugal flow types of engine that the hon. Member for Exeter mentioned. Suppose that the Minister's advisers come to the conclusion that the axial flow engine is better for some civil aircraft—is preferable for the long inter-Continental type of operation. Suppose also the advisers of the Government come to the conclusion that for fighting aircraft the axial flow is less suitable and that the centrifugal is more suitable.
May the Minister not be placed in a position in which it is impossible for him, because he has had so much else to do, to fight this battle against the Service Departments? This is an aspect of the jet discussion on which I differ slightly in interpretation with the hon. Member for Exeter. Inevitably, logistics will demand that the military must have centrifugal engines. They will have to rely on centrifugal production, because it is so much less difficult than the axial. As a result, when speaking in terms of large scale production, logistics will drive them to support a demand for large numbers of the centrifugal engines.
It is just at that point that the Minister must be in a position to give the assurance that if his technical advisers come to the conclusion that the axial flow engine is more suitable for these civil types of aircraft, and if the Services have to rely on the centrifugal engine, he will not be stampeded into sacrificing civil aviation requirements to those of the fighting Services.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Is it not a fact that the battle is already lost, because in the last defence debate the Prime Minister made it perfectly clear that there was to be super-priority for the military aircraft?
§ Mr. de Freitas
That is an interesting point, but I do not want to follow it at the moment. I am discussing the priority for research and development on two different types of aeroplane. We will never require more than scores of purely civil type aero-engines—the axial, as it may be—whereas we may require vast numbers of the centrifugal. The great danger is of our losing our civil aviation lead by not being able to stand up to the much larger military requirements.
In the next seven years or so we shall have a great asset in the export market to the Continent. I, too, like my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge, am alarmed at the apparent complacency of Lord Swinton in another place as to the way in which we should collar the market in jets for a generation. With the hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money that have gone into development and research, and into the production of these Comets—and I am not in any way decrying the great work which de Havillands have themselves done—we must see that the public get the dividends due as a result of the development of those aircraft.
Is it true that by the end of the year de Havilland at Hatfield will be turning out only two a month and that Shortt's of Belfast will not be producing for another couple of years? Everyone wants these aircraft, and the Government really ought to boost their production. Already the Chairman of Air India has stated that he has had to order inferior American aircraft because of the rate of our deliveries.
The Minister, in his speech today, referred to our being on the threshold of a great air age. Now I want to turn to the clubs, since I know he is interested in private civil aviation. I deplore the fact that he has so many other things to deal with that he cannot give it his full attention. I made this point on the Air Estimates, when the Under-Secretary of State for Air said that it was a matter for the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and I want to know if anything has been done about it, or if it has been considered, in 2202 the last four months. We all know that, for one reason or another, the number of private civil aircraft in this country has declined very much—about a third of what it was before the war. We also know that the expense of learning to fly —about £100, at least—and the standard insisted upon today have resulted in the reduction to under 1,000 a year in the number of people gaining private civil pilot's licences.
It is difficult for a young man or woman to learn to fly today unless that young man or young woman has Service physical and other standards. That is wrong. It is the duty of the Minister of Civil Aviation to see that aviation does not become associated entirely with the Services. The free and easy atmosphere of civil aviation has a great contribution to make towards Service aviation just as the sailor, whether in a pleasure yacht or a fishing smack or a merchant vessel has a great contribution to make to the Royal Navy. What is the Minitser of Civil Aviation doing to encourage private flying?
I know this Government have continued the rebate on the tax on petrol for the private pilot—continued a rebate that we introduced when we were in the Government. I am glad they have done so. But look what the Minister has done about landing fees. A 10s. charge may not seem a lot of money to him, but it is a lot of money to a young man who can just afford to hire an aircraft and who has to pay £3 an hour for the simplest kind of aircraft. Flying is already expensive. Why cannot the Minister follow the example of France and allow club aircraft to land free of charge on State-owned airfields? [AN HON. MEMBER: "Why didn't you do it?"] We of the Labour Party did not introduce that 10s. charge. It was introduced by this Government.
What are the Government doing—and this is certainly a point on which I am sorry we were not able to do more—about the development of a light aircraft to replace the Auster and the Tiger Moth, which is already no longer in production? That can be done only by the Minister of Civil Aviation reminding the Services and the Ministry of Supply constantly that year after year passes and yet there is no replacement in sight of the 100horsepower light aircraft. There is no sign of it, and we know it cannot be done unless the Services can decide on some specifica- 2203 tion for an observation aircraft or one that can be used for light training.
I hope that the Minister will do something to encourage firms' flying clubs. De Havilland, in this as in so many other things, have an excellent record, and there are other firms who allow their staff opportunities to learn to fly, but this does need leadership from the Minister concerned.
People concerned with civil aviation differ in politics just as people in every other field of activity differ. There are some who are Conservatives and some who are Labour, but I have never met anyone in civil aviation who approved the Government's policy of degrading civil aviation to the status of a branch line of British Railways. I think it is most regrettable that that should be the case. The fact is that at the highest levels of Government the cards are stacked against civil aviation, and military aviation will always win this Governmental battle unless there is a Minister who can have as his sole task that of serving civil aviation and of fighting the Service Departments if necessary. I beg the Prime Minister to remember that this could be a great air age for us and to appoint a Minister of Civil Aviation who had not only the energy and interest to do the job but also the time, because it is a full-time job.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
I am glad to have caught your eye, Sir Leonard, and to be able to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), although I hope he will not expect me to deal with the technical problems he has raised about axial flow and centrifugal flow engines. I had hoped that this debate would have been conducted in a quiet, objective way, but the hon. Gentleman the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) who started it certainly did not keep politics out of it. He used almost every political cliché I can conceive, almost every one of which was used from some public platform or another during the General Election.
Surely, we on this side of the Committee are placed in a difficult position, for if we carry out what we said we intended to carry out, then the hon. Gentleman says we do it for political reasons; 2204 but if we do not, he says we have broken our pledges. It is a strange state of affairs when we come to a subject such as civil aviation, which could be debated outside of party politics. There are hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who have a sincere concern for and interest in aviation—who have the interests of aviation at heart.
Let me give the hon. Gentleman the Member for Uxbridge what, I believe, are four specific reasons why we should allow greater freedom in civil aviation. First, we must build up a merchant fleet of the air. It is the merchant fleet of the sea that today is standing us in such good stead both in the carrying of our trade and also in the earning of foreign currency. Surely we cannot go on trusting two large State corporations to carry out all this expansion. The expansion of the mercantile marine was not done simply by allowing the P. and O. and the Cunard White Star only to operate the ships. It was done by allowing other people to go into specialised services—refrigerating ships, tankers, tramps, and so on. In that way the mercantile marine grew. So we should expand the mercantile fleet of the air.
The second and very varied reason is that we badly need—and this is a point with which, I am sure, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air will agree—a pool of reserve aircraft should emergency arise. We shall not get it unless we encourage travelling here in this country and in other countries in British aircraft. The third reason is that we need to obtain some greater stability in the aircraft industry and some extra employment for ex-R.A.F. crews. We cannot expect the best engineering brains and the most skilled men to go into the industry unless they feel that there will be not just a boom during a re-armament period, but a period of 10 or 20 years of steady achievement and solid production in the aircraft industry—not just for military reasons, but for civil purposes as well.
Last, surely we do need some competition—not competition in providing luxury services, but competition in getting costs down; competition which will lower fares till they reach a point at which many more people can afford to travel by air. I should have thought that those were four very valid reasons why we should like a little fresh air brought into this industry of civil aviation.
2205 I believe that the Government's announcement is a sober assessment of the sort of manner in which we can expand civil air lines. The Secretary of State for Air in another place used an Americanism when he said that it is our policy to "maximise" civil air transport. I believe that should be the independent companies' role in the spheres of freight, lower fares, new scheduled routes and increased charter work. In those four spheres we have a real opportunity of "maximising" civil air expansion.
§ Mr. Beswick
Since the hon. Gentleman accused me of talking in political clichés, might I point out that I went out of my way to say that in three of the four spheres he mentioned there was no reason why the private operator should not come in.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me later in my speech to refute the suggestion, which was the thread running right through his speech, and that of his hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), that if we allowed any competition with the Corporations we would in some way destroy their essential fabric. I hope to show that that is not necessary, and that by increasing traffic we shall breed additional traffic, to the great benefit of the travelling public.
He also referred to what I think he called Socialist international planning which set up the International Air Traffic Association. It may be necessary at this stage of world development of this industry, but I do not altogether like it. In other spheres hon. Gentlemen opposite would call it an international cartel. It fixes the rates at which passengers can be carried on national airlines, and that is surely a price-fixing organisation.
It may be necessary, but do not let us by hypocritical about it and pretend that it is not a price-fixing organisation. It took some two years of negotiation within that body before the tourist rates were introduced on the Atlantic route. I believe that the lowering of costs which will arise as a result will be of great benefit to the travelling public.
I have never seen any analysis, but I often wonder how many people travel on our State Corporations on pleasure and how many travel on business. I have 2206 a shrewd suspicion that 90 per cent. of them are travelling on expenses. Before the war it used to be said by anyone travelling with his secretary that she was his wife. Now anyone travelling with his wife says she is his secretary.
I look ahead to the day when a man can travel with his wife and say she is his wife, and pay for her, and not have someone else paying in his stead. I do not believe that day will arrive until we get some measure of competition. I recognise that we cannot introduce it in the international sphere, but I believe we can do it within British territory by introducing third-class fares, and setting an example which will benefit many other routes. I have travelled, as I know the hon. Member for Uxbridge has, on some of the domestic airlines in the United States—
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I paid for my wife, but I can only do that once in a while; that is one of my objections, because I should like to travel more often. It is a drain on the financial resources of any hon. Member who takes his wife to the United States.
When I travelled on what is called the Colonial Airlines from Ottawa down to Washington I went to the airport booking office and found only one man a very different state of affairs from any airport organisation here. That one man checked our tickets, weighed our baggage, spoke to the aircraft on the R.T., reported back on the teleprinter to the Ottawa office to see how many seats were taken up and how many were spare; he signalled the aircraft where to stop, wheeled out the steps and the baggage and put it in the aircraft, embarked the passengers and signalled the aircraft to go on its way.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am sorry, but I cannot follow the hon. Gentleman there. I was not able to check that, but I would say that the safety regulations followed in Canada and the United States are as high as those followed in this country. The point I was trying to make was that, if one person can do that we can begin to lower the overheads.
§ Mr. Manuel
Could the hon. Gentleman indicate how long the queue would be if there was a rush of passengers? What would be the average waiting time before each passenger was dealt with if this one individual performed all the duties indicated by the hon. Gentleman?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
The hon. Gentleman must know that if a sufficient number of aircraft are run—and in this instance they were running about one every two hours—there is not a rush of passengers at any one time. On that occasion I think there were 14 to 20 passengers; as we travelled we stopped every 200 miles or so, when a certain number would get on and a certain number would get off, but we were always quickly on our way; the wait of the aircraft was about three minutes; the overheads were small and the fare was little above the average train fare. I believe that with a third-class service—we cannot do it on the international routes, but we can on others—we may well contribute towards driving down the fares.
The hon. Member for Uxbridge referred to our tempting passengers from the Belgian air line. I, personally, could not feel any great sorrow about attracting our own nationals, British people, away from Sabena aircraft—
§ Mr. Beswick
The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. That is not the point at all. The point is that these Belgian citizens from Belgium are now being attracted to this cut-price service.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
That was the point I was making. If we can perform a service, not only for our own public but for other people at a lower rate, more power to our elbow; we shall be achieving something for the good of the public of the world. By getting our rates lower I believe that we shall also encourage international understanding, because so many more people will be able to travel by air on their holidays than hitherto.
I now wish to turn for a moment to the subject of freight. Here we have a real opportunity in the future. In the B.E.A. Report—page 33—I read that they actually lost £80,000 on their freight operations, so that hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot say we are doing the Corporations a disservice if we take that sphere of activity away from them. I believe that we would achieve an expansion of freight, 2208 not only within this country but within Western Europe and our Empire.
The United States have paid great attention to this matter within their own boundaries. They have to some extent operated through independent operators, such as American and Slick Airlines, a vast number of freight aircraft. On the trans-Atlantic route, out of 348 aircraft which flew in 1951, 178 were K.L.M., 150 were Scandinavian airlines, nine were U.S.A., and the remaining small number belonged to many other different nations.
If we do not expand our freight services other nations will, and are ready to do so. British trade should fly with British wings, just as it has travelled in British bottoms for the last 150 years. Our State Corporations have had a chance. They have had difficulties with aircraft, but those difficulties have been no less for independent operators. The State Corporations have had a chance which they have not been able to seize. Therefore, let us say to these independent operators that in this sphere of freight they shall have the opportunity to serve the public and increase our earnings.
I was interested to see from the B.E.A. Report that their costs were 27.4d. per capacity ton mile. The rate in the States is just half that amount for carrying freight. We also save in packing, insurance and in many other spheres. If we are to compete in world markets, it is vital to cut overheads such as packing, on our exports. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply, if he were present, would say that something like 10 per cent. of the total cost of our re-armament industry is going on the cost of packing. If that is true, it is probably equally true of many of the capital goods being exported overseas. If we can have less packing, less weight, cheaper and quicker delivery, we shall be saving our customers and getting the trade essential to this country.
§ Mr. Mikardo
If the hon. Gentleman is arguing that the Corporations, notwithstanding their opportunities, have done very little in the sphere of freight, how can he explain the necessity for stopping the Corporations for 12 months from developing freight in order to let the other chaps get in?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I think that the hon. Member is distorting my right hon. Friend's wards. He said that he had 2209 received an offer from the Chairmen of the two Corporations that they would not enter bids on all freight markets for two years. I did not hear him say that he had stopped the Corporations from bidding for freight. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will amplify that point when he speaks.
To go back to the question of freight, I believe that we have an opportunity. I believe we need to negotiate within our Dominions because they seem to be less open to this type of transport. I know that in Canada, for instance, they are very reticent about allowing our cargo aircraft to compete. In Western Europe, I believe that there is under discussion a possible Schuman plan for air transport, and I hope that the Front Bench will seriously consider, if a Schuman plan is to be started within the Western Union for the operation of freight aircraft, transport aircraft, tourist aircraft and charter aircraft, our having a say in the formation of that plan, because we are most intimately concerned.
Lastly, within the whole field of civil aviation we have come, I believe, to a stage where we are about to realise a very vigorous expansion in the number of public who travel, in the freight market and within the Corporations themselves. I do not believe that the proposals we have put forward will in any way harm the Corporations. I believe that they will, in fact, stimulate the air-mindedness of the public throughout the world.
We have a great opportunity, and I am convinced that, provided we can produce the aircraft from within the industry, the independent charter firms will carry out in their three special spheres exactly the functions which the Government have allocated to them; will carry them out efficiently and serve the public in so doing.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. John Taylor (West Lothian)
I cannot follow the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) in his general survey, except to comment that when the members of the trade unions engaged in the booking section of the industry read what he thinks ought to be expected of them, they will increase their opposition to the present plan.
Before this debate started, I was considerably disturbed about what appears 2210 to have been happening behind the scenes in regard to the Scottish internal air services. I want to speak exclusively on that point. It has emerged from this debate, and from the debate in another place last week, that our suspicions about what is proposed for these internal services in Scotland have now become certainties. It appears that the long-term lobbying over a period of years which has been going on behind the scenes for the future of Scotland's internal services has been successful. It seems to me as a comparatively new Member of this House that it has been the worst possible type of lobbying. It has been concentrated upon one particular political party by a few individuals connected or associated with one particular firm
If it is true that these suspicions are correct, a large proportion of the public in Scotland will regard this whole affair as very unsavoury. It will constitute the greatest sell-out in Scottish history. It will develop into a political scandal which will not only discredit the Minister but damage the reputation of his own party in Scotland. Let me examine the proposals for internal aviation in Scotland, so far as we can discover them, and I invite the Minister to confirm or deny what I am about to say.
I think that we should first appreciate that of our British internal services it is in Scotland that civil aviation has been most speedily and extensively developed. A larger proportion by far of our population in Scotland use aircraft as a normal means of travel than in any other part of the British Isles, with the possible exception of the Channel Islands. Because of our geography, our serrated coastline, with long arms of the sea reaching far into the mainland, because of our numerous and otherwise remote islands, because of the dispersal of our population, a very large percentage of our people accept air transport as the Londoner accepts his tube, the suburbanite his train and the provincial his bus. It is the most convenient way to get around.
It is true to say, as has been mentioned in this debate, that before the advent of B.E.A. a number of small independent airlines managed somewhat precariously, in all senses of the word, to cope with this traffic to some extent; but B.E.A., as I am sure the Minister and the Committee will agree, has developed these services, concentrated them, assisted them 2211 financially, modernised them, supplied the best available suitable aircraft and considerably improved most of the airports. All this, of course, has been done at some public expense.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)
Why is the hon. Gentleman making this attack upon the adventurous young Scots who started civil aviation in Scotland and created the very foundation on which B.E.A. has sought to benefit?
§ Mr. Taylor
The hon. and gallant Gentleman always imagines that someone is attacking. I am merely recording the facts. I am not attacking them. I think that if he reads HANSARD tomorrow he will agree that that is so.
All these developments have, of course, been done at some public expense. The internal Scottish air services cannot by their very nature be both adequate and self-supporting. They are needed most where the population is sparsest, if I may coin an ugly word. Internal aviation in Scotland has, therefore, been regarded as a public service, a social service to the people, as, indeed, all forms of transport north of the Highland line must be so regarded. The alternative is to write off the Highlands and turn them into a desert. The future food requirements and other requirements of all the people of these islands make such a proposition unthinkable.
All forms of public transport are prone to public criticism. Our internal air services have not been wholly immune, but in my experience there has been less user criticism of this branch of public transport than of any other that I know. Indeed, there has been very widespread approval. On the whole, the public is satisfied with the service, recognises its problems and has a very deep admiration for its pilots and other operators. I have no technical knowledge; I speak merely as a user over many years of the Scottish internal services.
It is now suggested that these services, with, I believe, the exception of one which connects Scotland with the Channel Islands, should be handed over to private operators. There are a number of rumours to that effect. That would be bad enough, but it seems that the Government propose to hand them over to a single operator, Scottish Aviation, Limited.
§ Mr. Taylor
If that is so, it exposes, among several other things, that the Government's alleged detestation of monopoly is so much humbug.
§ Mr. Taylor
It is nonsense to compare the state of our internal services now with the ramshackle services we had prior to the advent of B.E.A. I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) went on the airports in the old days when they sometimes consisted of a shed in a field and in the winter time one waited for the planes in the most primitive conditions. It is also foolish to contrast the service conditions of B.E.A.'s employees with the conditions which obtained in those days.
Moreover, according to hints given in another place when their Lordships discussed this subject, the proposed monopoly is to be cushioned against loss by subsidies from public funds. This is the new method of sabotaging public services. A public corporation takes over a series of under-developed services—that is what they were—improves, develops, nurtures and maintains them at considerable expense—at justifiable public expense, for otherwise they could not have been maintained—and then the developed concern, with all its improved assets and its very much enlarged goodwill, is handed over to a private monopoly and guaranteed against loss by public money. This is a monstrous proposal. Wherever it has been mentioned, discussed or mooted it has been received with incredulous indignation.
§ Mr. Taylor
By, for instance, the Scottish Advisory Council for Civil Aviation. I am sure the Minister will agree with me that the Scottish Advisory Council 2213 for Civil Aviation is the most active of all Advisory Councils in Great Britain.
§ Mr. Taylor
The Minister has said so on more than one occasion, and so have his predecessors. There can be no doubt about that. The Advisory Council is unanimously opposed to the proposal. Civil aviation employees are vehemently opposed to it. Who supports it apart from the Minister and a few of his hon. and right hon. Friends? Apparently only the four or five directors of Scottish Aviation, Limited. I have described this abominable transaction as a sell-out. That is a false description, for it is worse than that; it is a give-away. There is no reason for it. Much will be lost; nothing will be gained. There will be no saving for public funds. It may very well be that because B.E.A. will still have to maintain its London staff connected with Scottish internal services the net cost to public funds will be heavier and not lighter.
§ Mr. Norman Dodds (Dartford)
Can my hon. Friend give us the names of the four or five directors of Scottish Aviation, Limited, to whom he referred?
§ Mr. Taylor
I do not know whether there has been any recent alteration in the directorships but, so far as I can trace them, the directors are the Earl of Selkirk, who holds 2,000 shares, Group Captain D. F. MacIntyre, the Duke of Hamilton and, I believe, the Hamilton and Kinneil Estates, Limited, who hold the controlling shares and have a nominee on the directorship of Scottish Aviation, Limited.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
In fairness to Lord Selkirk, who holds a Government office in another place, it ought to be said that he is not a director.
§ Mr. Taylor
I am grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I think that the Earl of Selkirk was a director until the advent of the present Government. I have no recent information as to later changes.
§ Mr. Taylor
I was asked by my hon. Friend to name the directors and I did so to the best of my knowledge. I make no comment, except the general one that I was making, that, apart from hon. Members opposite, the only members of the public in Scotland who seem to desire the change are Scottish Aviation, Limited.
§ Mr. Taylor
There is no logical reason for the change. As my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) said, it can only be dictated by doctrinaire motives and by the slavish adherence to political dogma of which we were always told in the last Parliament we held a monopoly. This political belief is dying out all over the world and nowhere more speedily and completely than in the field of civil aviation.
I can see that it is useless to ask the Government to take second and wiser thoughts about this drastic and unfortunate change in our developing and successful Scottish internal services, but we may at least ask them to state specifically and categorically what guarantees they have had from the firm which has apparently expressed its willingness to take over these services. Have they had a firm guarantee that the island services, for example, will be continued at least as they are at present? Have they had a guarantee that the very valuable social services performed by the air ambulance service will be continued?
At lunchtime I met the general secretary of the National Union of Seamen, and he specifically mentioned the universal satisfaction of his members with the ambulance service and said that there would be a great deal of dissatisfaction among his membership if it were not fully maintained and developed as it was hoped to develop it. Have the Government firm and definite guarantees about wages and conditions?
Have we any guarantees or promises about the development of new routes? A week or two ago I asked a Question about what had happened to the route, for which permission had been given, I believe, to Scottish Aviation, Limited, from Belfast to Prestwick, Prestwick to Errol and from Errol to Aberdeen. Permission was given to commence the route on 1st June last 2215 year. It has not been started. I was told in reply to my Question that it must be left to the discretion of the operating company, who have evidently concluded that this would not be commercially profitable, to decide whether to operate the route or not. Are the other routes, to be left to the discretion of the operating companies? The answers to those questions will be listened to with interest on both sides of the Committee.
I promised to confine myself to these few points on Scottish aviation, though I do so with some reluctance. I make this final sentence. I am sure that I carry both sides of the Committee with me when I say that, whatever happens to the internal services of Scotland in the future, their development during the last three years has been spectacular and remarkable, and in my view is a great tribute to the efficiency of public service.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
I certainly would not have ventured to intervene in this debate if it had not been for the remarkable speech of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor), which started with the most provocative abuse, and he then went on to say that he was not saying anything derogatory to the people he was attacking. I can only say that if the hon. Member really thinks that he was not derogatory to the people whom he was attacking when he talked about "a sell-out," "a give-away," "a ramshackle service," and "a political scandal of the first magnitude," then I should like to hear him when he is becoming abusive on some future occasion.
I, too, will do my best to confine myself strictly to these points, for there are many hon. Members who wish to speak and who have much greater authority than I for speaking on many other points. At the same time I have as much authority to speak as the hon. Member for West Lothian, as a user of the service. I was flying with the pioneer air lines long before there was any State service in the field. I was much indebted to the pioneer work of Captain Fresson for transport in the Islands, in particular for journeys to the Shetlands. In fact, on one occasion I deserted the State nationalised fishery cruiser for the sake of getting on to the private enterprise 2216 plane, which, however ramshackle, was greatly preferable to being pitched up and down in the Pentland Firth in the State ship.
Many hon. Members will fully agree with me that these Pioneer Air Services had a high regard for safety. They were worked by people who took great risks but who took them with safety to them selves and their passengers. They also had a great reputation for reliability. They flew to the Islands when the mail boats could not run because of the gales in the Pentland Firth and they did it with safety, thereby establishing a very great reputation for air travel upon which the great B.E.A. and other Corporations subsequently cashed in.
§ Mr. Manuel
Surely the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is using language which is much too strong? He knows that these services were only developed by the spending of huge sums of public money, and is he now advocating that that money should be lost to the British public and handed back to private service that never could have developed these services to the extent that the State has done?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
If the hon. Gentleman will stop prophesying about the speech I am going to make, and listen to the speech which I am making, we shall be able to get on more harmoniously and, indeed, we shall both more easily develop our lines of argument.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I am going to develop my argument further. The hon. Member cannot deny the pioneer work of this private enterprise company which established a reputation for the reliability and speed of air travel. That was done by private enterprise.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
So we can properly trust private enterprise in the 2217 future to carry on these services, as I propose to ask the Minister to permit this work in Scotland to be carried on by such airlines. I trust no hon. Member opposite will say that I am in any way connected financially or by any other means with those who previously developed these airlines and who, I hope, will do so in the future.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
As to the public money, I am suggesting a way in which to save public money. The money which has been required this year for subsidy is £290,000, and I suggest that that can be cut to half by transferring this work to private enterprise. There is a saving of public money almost at once.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Nobody is suggesting that Prestwick should be taken away. The suggestion is that it should he further developed. I am talking about the £290,000 of public money which could be reduced if these services were run by private enterprise.
§ Mr. Manuel
This is important for Ayrshire. Do I take it that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is fully committed against a subsidy to private enterprise lines who will operate these internal services if they cannot operate them at a profit?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
If the hon. Member would do a little addition sum —in this case it is division—he will find that when he divides £290,000 by two, the answer is not zero. It is £145,000. But that is a substantial saving.
I was saying that the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) and in another place by a noble Lord, as well as being advanced during this debate on several occasions, that a service with a considerable element of social service in it should not receive any subsidy whatever if carried on by a private company is not only utterly untenable, but it has not been put forward by any hon. Member in any other field.
Does the hon. Member for Uxbridge suggest that sugar beet should only be hoed by Government employees? In 2218 house building is it suggested that there should be no subsidy unless all building is done by direct labour under the Government? The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan) mentioned MacBrayne's. Is it suggested that there was no reason whatever for giving a subsidy to MacBrayne's because of the element of social service which is contained in that service? Surely not.
§ Mr. Beswick
I am not quite sure whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was in the Committee when I spoke, but I made the point that our experience in the past of giving subsidies to private air operators had been such that even a Conservative Minister came to the House and said he proposed to end that condition of affairs.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
The hon. Member cannot ride out of it on that. The hon. Member has advanced the general proposition that in air services, and only in air services, it is, to use the phrase of his hon. Friend, unthinkable that any subsidy whatever should go to a private company doing exactly the same service as a public company is doing, and willing to carry it out under exactly the same conditions. Is that the contention?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I say that it does not apply to any other field. The hon. Gentleman does not apply it to the great field of agriculture or of house building. We have heard repeatedly from his master, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) that almost the whole of the building trade in this country is conducted by private enterprise. Yet I never heard the right hon. Gentleman or any of his supporters or, indeed, his antagonists, suggest that subsidies should not be given for housing. This is a piece of pure political prejudice, and pure political prejudice developed in the most venomous way. When the hon. Member for West Lothian began to attack by name the individual directors of Scottish Aviation, Limited—
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Did he name them as being amongst the pioneers in British aviation? Did he mention the flight of Captain McIntyre over Mount Everest? Did he say anything about the flight over Everest by the Duke of Hamilton? He started a smear campaign, and he intended to do it, and the stooge who put the question intended it to be so.
§ Mr. Dodds
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is incorrect in thinking that in putting my question I did so in connection with my hon. Friends here. I asked a perfectly simple question, whether certain information could be given to the Committee. At my request my hon. Friend gave the information. It is absolutely disgusting that a man with the reputation and experience of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, because he has no contribution to make to the debate, should attempt to raise a smear campaign in this way.
§ Mr. Mikardo
On a point of order, Mr. Hopkin Morris. Would you consider it within the bounds of Parliamentary conduct for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to refer to an hon. Member as a stooge?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I have never heard that this word "stooge" is unparliamentary. I have heard it applied, and I have heard harder words than that in the House of Commons. If hon. Gentlemen opposite are to get so thin-skinned it shows how very sensitive they have become. Those who launched this smear campaign must take it, as well as give it.
§ Mr. Mikardo
Further to my point of order. I understood you to say, Mr. Hopkin Morris, that the use of that term "stooge" was undesirable. The fact that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman nevertheless repeats it appears to be an expression of difference from yourself. Is not that so?
I do not know about difference from myself, but it is undesirable to use the term.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I will withdraw anything that the Chairman asks me to withdraw. I will say that those who launched the smear campaign are not stooges, if they wish it to be so. I was dealing only with the relatively small point that a certain amount of air transport in this country should be carried on by private enterprise. That is a perfectly legitimate proposition. I do not think it merits the accusation of moral turpitude which has been brought against those who have brought it forward.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
By the hon. Member for West Lothian. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Uxbridge was in at the time. If he does not think that the expressions "sell-out," "give-away" and "political scandal" are accusations of moral turpitude, I should like to know what he thinks they are.
§ Mr. J. Taylor
I should like to correct the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. I am not a bit thin-skinned and I do not object to the expressions he has used, but I think he is now going off the rails. The expressions, which he ought not to be thin-skinned about, were not applied to any company or individual, but to the policy which is being adumbrated by the Government.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Neither the hon. Gentleman nor I object to hard-hitting, but he went a little further than that. He indicated, and said in terms, that this policy was being advocated for the benefit of certain people, whom he subsequently named. I do not think he can deny that there is a considerable element of moral condemnation in it, and I am sure that that element entered very strongly into the statements which he made—or else I have never heard moral condemnation expressed in this Chamber. The suggestion that there should be a development of civil aviation in Scotland under the same people who pioneered and developed it there is not an unworthy one.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I should like to ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman one simple question. We have heard a lot about Scottish services and S.A.L. Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman name one single service that this company rendered before the war?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
The B.E.A. Corporation itself had to hire the machines and the services of this company, to begin the development of B.E.A. The company must certainly have had some services or they could not have had the machines or the services ready for the Corporation to hire. As for Captain Fresson's services. I paid testimony to them myself. I do not think that that was entirely a good interruption by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). It shows how thin-skinned hon. Gentlemen opposite are on this subject.
The fact of the matter is that they fear lest private competition should, in some way, be more efficient. They do not wish to see private enterprise proving more efficient. They are afraid, and they are unwilling that it should have its chance. They desire that it should be absolutely debarred by law from coming in to the main services at any point. All we can say is that they display a lack of confidence in State enterprise which, on this side of the Committee, we do not share. We are willing that State enterprise should play its part.
Nobody suggests that the most profitable routes of the B.E.A. public corporation should be taken away from them. The profitable routes, as everybody knows, are the great Continental routes, from which the B.E.A. is drawing its revenues. Nobody is suggesting that they should be taken away. All we are doing is to suggest that the internal services, which are admittedly not the most remunerative part of the service, might be exposed to the competition of private as well as of public enterprise. I cannot imagine a more simple or reasonable proposition.
I do not intend to detain the Committee longer. I would not have detained it so long as I have except for the desire of many hon. Members opposite to make my speech as well as their own, but it is part of the business of Parliament to pro- 2222 mote the rough-and-tumble and the cut-and-thrust of debates. I am very glad that it should have taken place.
The arguments which have been brought forward against allowing Scottish air lines to be in the hands of Scotsmen instead of being centralised in Whitehall as at present are not justified, either in theory or in practice. I trust that the Minister will continue this policy of decentralisation, and that it will be possible to have a company situated in Scotland, directed by Scotsmen and operating a Scottish service in and from Scotland for the benefit of Scotsmen. I trust the Government will be able to show that we have not entirely lost the powers of private enterprise in the air which have made the Clyde and Scotsmen in general on the sea, praised and welcomed all over the world.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
If discourtesy and passion are the high road to Front Bench favour, I am certain that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will soon find himself back at the Despatch Box. My hon. and right hon. Friends can take care of themselves, but I resent deeply the attack on the national Corporations. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman accused my hon. Friends on this side of having used expressions like "sell-out." He will recall that he spoke of the national Corporations as having "cashed in" on the efforts of others. I can only say that the work which has been done by B.O.A.C. and by B.E.A.C. during the last few years ought to be a source of pride to everyone in the country.
As I was listening to an hon. Gentleman opposite describing an aerodrome abroad where one man is not only the porter manhandling the luggage but is also the flagger-out of the aircraft responsible for traffic control, I could not help feeling how much more secure I feel when I travel by B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. than I would have felt had I travelled in those circumstances. From the point of view of a simple commercial profit it may be that private enterprise firms can run their airlines under those conditions. I believe it is a continuing source of pride to everyone in this country that on the Continent, in our colonial dependencies and throughout the world, our two national Corporations bring distinction to British flying.
2223 I agreed with the speech of the Minister of Transport in two respects. First, I agreed with him when he congratulated the national Corporations on their work. It is perfectly true that, having patted them on the head, he then decided to hit them on the jaw. Nevertheless, he said that they had done excellent work which should be commended by everyone interested in and proud of British flying. The second point the Minister made was equally one which this Committee should support. In effect, he repeated what he announced on 27th May, when he said:…we have hopes of independent companies developing the all-freight market which is a growing field with great possibilities."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th May, 1952; Vol. 501, c. 1158.]If I digress from the general stream so far followed by this debate, it is simply because I believe we should be wrong to try to compartmentalise the production of aircraft into civilian and military when we are thinking in terms of the freight market. So far, no single machine has been developed exclusively for the purposes of freight. We saw this strikingly dramatised during the Berlin air lift. When we were suddenly faced by a great crisis which called for all our resources of transport, every aircraft had to be thrown into the struggle to keep one single city provided with the necessities of life for a considerable period. Not only did we try to adapt all the aircraft we had available for that purpose, but the Americans also assembled all theirs and threw them into the single purpose of providing Berlin with the air transport that it required for the air lift.
If, in a state of emergency of that kind, we had to use the total resources both of our own country and of the United States in order to keep a single city supplied, we must consider seriously what would be the position if we were faced by a new emergency somewhere in the world in which we had to supply either a city OF a division with the necessary material required to sustain it. It has been calculated that a single division landed on an enemy shore requires for the first months of its running and installation approximately 100,000 tons of material. It has been calculated that to maintain that single division, a further 19,000 tons of material per month are required.
2224 It is all very well if that supply can be maintained by setting up a pipeline of essential transport, whether it be by water or by land and, once the pipeline is filled, supplies can be poured into the area where it is necessary to assemble them. On the other hand, if we consider that situations like that in Korea may suddenly develop in any part of the world, where it is necessary to supply large quantities of bulky material at short notice, where we lost 60 crucial days owing to the fact that we did not have the logistical means of supplying the armies on the spot, then we have to ask ourselves seriously at this point what course we should seek to follow in this country in the manufacture of freighter aircraft.
It has been suggested that the independent operator can carry out the job of carrying freight rather better than can a national Corporation. For those reasons, no doubt with all good intentions, the two chairmen of the two leading national Corporations have indicated that they are prepared to forgo extensions and development of new freight lines in order to give independent operators an opportunity of developing their own traffic. Let us consider for a moment what kind of traffic those independent operators, naturally and properly from a commercial point of view, will seek to develop.
Obviously, using existing types of aircraft they will try to develop the freight market which is concerned with the smallest bulk in ratio to the value of the traffic carried. In other words, they will try to concentrate on traffic such as the carriage of bullion, mail, small supplies of various kinds of high value in relation to their volume.
That is all very well if we are merely thinking of the profitability of the freight market, but from a national point of view, thinking of air transport in national and strategic terms, we have to consider whether the aircraft which we have available for civil aviation is suitable and adapted to the needs of some new strategic situation in which great volumes of supplies of one kind or another may have to be transported, whether it be coal, machine tools or tanks.
Therefore, I want to put forward in this debate one fundamental suggestion, namely, that at this stage we should begin 2225 to think, as far as the freight market and the manufacture of freight aircraft are concerned, in terms of a dual-purpose type of machine which can be used not only for the carriage of civilian freight but which might be adapted at short notice in an emergency to the carriage and the transport of military supplies
If we are to have machines capable of this dual purpose, then we shall have to design machines radically different in construction from those which are today being used for air transport and for the freight market. For example, it is well known that in order to carry the type of military supplies which might be needed in an emergency, two major things are necessary. In the first place, there will have to be large doors. Secondly, there will have to be heavy reinforced floors. In addition, there will have to be the winches, the rails and the ramps, all of which are necessary to accommodate the type of supplies which may be needed in time of war.
The independent operator will rightly say that if he is to carry the type of light material which is most profitable—which, according to the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, he will naturally take in order to extract the maximum profit—he will not seek to purchase aircraft of the type I have described. He obviously will not want to have an aircraft which is probably five per cent. heavier and five per cent. costlier than the comparable type of aircraft which he could use for his routine civilian purposes. Therefore, I submit to the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon that it is impossible to run an air freight service adapted to the strategic needs of the nation unless both the aircraft and the line are in some way subsidised.
The essential point I want to make is that in these critical times which confront us today we have to produce a completely new type of aircraft. We have to think of civil aviation, and of the freight market in particular, in terms of national strategy, and consequently we have to develop a type of aircraft which by its nature must be commercially and economically unprofitable.
Therefore, I believe that the essential conclusion which must be derived is that the right hon. Gentleman is taking a most retrograde step in now turning over the freight market to the private companies 2226 and the independent operators. He is committing a retrograde step, not simply on doctrinaire grounds, but simply because no independent operator will be ready and willing to undertake the substantial expense of ordering the prototypes and then ordering the production of aircraft which he knows will cause him to run his line at a loss.
It may be argued that if that is true of the independent operator, is it not equally true of the public operator and of the national Corporations? The answer is that, of course, it is true. But I think it has been indicated throughout the debate this afternoon that there is a fundamental difference between a subsidy for a social service given to a private firm and a similar subsidy for a social and strategic purpose given to a national Corporation. The subsidy may be the same even in amount, but essentially it serves a different purpose for the simple reason that the public Corporation is subject to the control of Parliament. A public Corporation is an organisation which can be scrutinised by the various Committees of Parliament. It is an organisation which is constantly under examination by hon. Members in the House.
For those reasons, I believe that, in entering into this completely new strategic concept of a dual-purpose freight aircraft, we must recognise that it is inevitable that there will have to be substantial subsidies out of public funds, and it is far more fitting that those subsidies should go to organisations which are under public control—organisations such as we already have in the form of the national Corporations.
It seems to me an extraordinary act of self-denial, an extraordinary measure of self-abnegation, that the chairmen of the national Corporations should be ready to forgo the development of new freighters. If the national Corporations, as the right hon. Gentleman has rightly indicated, ought to make a commercial and economic profit in the same way as any private enterprise company, it seems a mysterious thing that the chairmen of these Corporations should suddenly and voluntarily say that in the interests of private enterprise with which they are in honourable competition, they are ready to forgo this very valuable and desirable form of traffic.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Perhaps I may repeat what I have already said, although not in exactly the same words. I said that the Corporation chairmen had given an assurance that for one year they would hold off making applications to the A.T.A.C. for new freighter routes.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Of course, they would retain the existing ones. The hon. Member asks why. The main reason is that they have got their work cut out in increasing the frequencies and reducing the costs of their existing services. It is for this that they need the new aircraft for which they have applied, and this is their purpose in the immediate future.
§ Mr. Edelman
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but I cannot say that I am convinced by his explanation. I accept his version of the facts, but I am certainly not persuaded that any member of a private firm would voluntarily commit that act of self-sacrifice which the right hon. Gentleman has described merely because he is so preoccupied in improving the efficiency of his existing installation, that he would forgo an alternative line of business which will certainly yield a profit. Consequently, I must confess that I am not persuaded by the right hon. Gentleman.
The aircraft industry has throughout its history been a subsidised industry. In one way and another aircraft constructors have received in one form or another governmental subsidies; it may be in the form of development contracts or in the form of experimental contracts, but the aircraft industry has always had the tradition of being subsidised from national funds, and rightly so, because the industry has always been regarded as performing a public service.
It is precisely because we have always regarded the aircraft industry and the operation of airlines as performing a public service that we have not in the past applied those standards of efficiency to it which hon. Members opposite tend to do. The standard of efficiency which we have always applied has been: has the aircraft industry and have the airlines performed a useful public service? The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove has ventured to attack the alleged inefficiency of the public Corporations associated with the aircraft industry—
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
The hon. Member is making an assertion for which he will find no confirmation whatever in HANSARD tomorrow.
§ Mr. Edelman
I am delighted to accept that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the contrary applies and that he has always praised the efficiency of the national Corporations.
§ Mr. Edelman
I am delighted to withdraw the accusation if I misinterpreted the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's words. It is certainly true that the nationalised Corporations have in the past been attacked for inefficiency. The fact is that in the aircraft industry as such it is undoubtedly true that, subsidised as it is, there are probably more executives per technician than in any other industry in the country. If we are going to apply to our national industries the standard of whether a subsidy implies merit or demerit we should say that, as far as the aircraft industry is concerned, it has certainly earned great merit from the community as a whole because of its past achievement.
Unless we continue to develop the freight market through national Corporations, we shall ultimately find not only that the independent operators will call upon the Government in order to receive a most substantial subsidy, but even when they have done so we shall find that, subsidised though they may be, the type of aircraft which they have available is neither adapted to the freight market needs from a commercial point of view nor, indeed, from the point of view of the strategic interests which the country demands.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)
I followed with interest the remarks of the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), and I observed at the outset of his speech that he said that he felt safer now than he would have felt in aircraft of some of the older private firms. I think that is quite true. I should say so myself, because a great number of improvements have been made, even though in many cases they are still flying the same aircraft in Scotland as they were before the war. There have been 2229 improvements in flying aids and so on, and therefore I myself would certainly feel safer.
The hon. Gentleman's major point was his anxiety about the freight-carrying aircraft suitable for civil and military purposes. I entirely endorse his sentiment, even if there is a Scottish meeting being carried on in another part of the Chamber, and I invite the Scotsmen to continue their meeting outside if they would like to.
I do agree that there is this necessity, but I am not quite sure whether the hon. Member is aware—as he says there is no single machine adaptable for freight whether in a civilian or a military role—of the existence of the Bristol Freighter and the Blackburn Universal Freighter. The first is in very successful commercial operation, not unconnected with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey), in carrying motor cars and their passengers across the English Channel. I would be interested to learn the fate of the Blackburn Universal Freighter if my hon. Friend can tell us.
§ Mr. Edelman
I was of course aware of those types. The point I was making was that there should be a freighter capable of carrying really heavy loads of, say, up to 30 tons.
§ Dr. Bennett
I do not know what the load limit of the Blackburn Universal Freighter is, although it is fairly high. I fall in line with the hon. Member in admitting that it is a very short-range aircraft compared with what probably would be immediately desirable. But as the Bristol Freighter is in successful operation in private hands I think his point about commercial operators falls to the ground, although I agree that we need to develop a longer-ranged and more general purpose machine for strategic use in case of war.
I seem to see in the new statement of policy on civil aviation an opening up of new horizons which has been long overdue. I have felt great anxiety about that, and I hasten to say that I speak as one having no financial interest anywhere in aviation, but merely an interest. I have been getting very anxious about what was to happen in the future, because so much expansion which everyone could foresee could hardly be catered for.
2230 Owing to what I sometimes refer to as the "de-cerebrate rigidity"—a physiological term with which no doubt most hon. Members are familiar—of the previous set up, I felt that we were never going to be able to handle this increase of trade when it arose. I do welcome the new attitude, although I ask my right hon. Friend if he will—as I am sure he will—support the full evolution of this scheme as far and as fast as he can, particularly in order that it might be seen what is to be the prospect of obtaining capital for private operators.
I wish to deal with a single point and not to detain the Committee as so many hon. Members have so much to say. There is still a need to insist on the application of Section 16 (3) of the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, in the way in which I think was originally intended. This part of the Act says:The Minister shall not provide any of the Airways Corporations with aerodrome facilities in connection with the operation of any charter service unless he is satisfied that comparable facilities are available, or can be made available if required, to persons other than the Airways Corporations in connection with the operation of a similar service, and are so, available, or can be made so available it required, upon terms and conditions not less favourable than those upon which the facilities. in question are provided by him for the Corporation concerned.We have had in connection with this the expression of some very worthy sentiments from those who have spoken with authority in previous Governments. In 1946 we had a statement:it is not my intention to allow corporations to have unfair advantage over the charter companies. I do not intend that they should be able to use the resources of the State to the disadvantage of the charter operators.In 1952 we have had a similar statement from a politically similar source, expressing a similar sentiment, that there is a big role for charter companies and that there should be competition and wide ranges of opportunities for employment.
Those are good sentiments although I have a suspicion that when the first was stated it was probably not foreseen by hon. Members opposite that there was to be anything like the existing development of privately run civil aviation. I can quote another remark:The existence of charter companies with large fleets of passenger-carrying aeroplanes of considerable size, chartering machines to tourist agencies is also, I think, a little far-fetched,2231 That was in 1946. I suggest to the Committee that even now there are such firms, quite big concerns—to which I shall make reference later—which are suffering a disadvantage as against the Corporations by not being able to use the same kind or degree of facilities which I think they were originally intended to use.
Constant representations have been made that these facilities should be allowed but the Ministry has kept the charter companies at bay. In 1950 it stated:No special aerodrome facilities are provided at London Airport in connection with the charter services of the corporations…It is regretted that it is not practicable to make accommodation available…but it cannot be admitted that your company has any right to such accommodation under the terms of the Civil Aviation Act.That seems to be a definite injustice and it is against that that I am protesting today.
The charter companies or independent operators find there is no room for them to work from Heath Row. In places where they do work, such as Blackbushe, which I have visited, the facilities are nothing like the "ritzy" arrangements of Heath Row. Even if we do not want "ritzy-ness" we want something which could be expressed perhaps in terms of the difference between tiles and whitewash.
The restaurant, waiting rooms are very primitive at Blackbushe whereas they are nothing less than luxurious at Heath Row, and the number of customs officers available is much smaller. I suggest that this Administration should remedy some of those injustices and either give the independent operators a foothold at Heath Row, or improve such places as Blackbushe in accordance with what I believe to be the spirit of the Act, even if subsequently it was not maintained.
We must bear in mind in respect of what was said about the prospects of private operators in 1946 that there are operators in England now who own fleets of 300 aircraft, and private operators who have bigger fleets than Aer Lingus, Iberia, the Spanish national air company, the Israeli company and Air India International. It is a pity that these private British operators should be treated with a certain amount of relative contempt.
If these other people can use the facilities at Heath Row, why should we keep 2232 our own nationals out? I believe that they would be perfectly willing to pay the fees asked. I hope that my right hon. Friend will make the same facilities, or equivalent facilities, available to them, and that for instance when B.O.A.C. move into their magnificent new hangar at Heath Row the independent operators may be allowed to move into some of the accommodation which will be left vacant.
I was greatly relieved to hear that there is to be a check on what I have regarded as another unfair practice. That is the question of cut rate tenders. I came across an example recently which shocked me considerably, although it is an old complaint and there are plenty of examples of it that have been brought before the House. A charter recently went on the market, a charter to the Middle East, for which B.O.A.C. charged £2,950, which is at the rate of 9s. 8d. a mile, for a Hermes.
I believe it is reasonable to suppose that the operating costs of that machine, as calculated by some of those who operate them, are probably nearer 15s. a mile. Even if it were 14s., the quotation should have been £4,305. The overheads were not applied but only the out-of-pocket expenses—none of the overheads of the central organisation or the company as a whole. The quotation was £200 less than even the cost of out-of-pocket expenses; and if one takes the full expenses this was an under-quotation of something like £1,350.
Those overheads must exist somewhere. It costs something to run those aircraft and the organisation could not possibly run them without any overheads. But where do the overheads go? Do they go on the scheduled services? They must have done. There the B.O.A.C. has the monopoly, and is putting up the cost, to the detriment of the efficiency of the scheduled services, in order to undercut in, I think, an unfair way their competitors in the business.
I consider this unfair to their competitors in the business; unfair to civil aviation; unfair to the Corporations themselves; to the Government and to the taxpayer. It is using the taxpayers' money to the detriment of those who compete with the Corporations, and I hope we have seen the last of it. I hope that what I heard is right and that we are to have some more representative 2233 overheads put on the prices charged for B.O.A.C. charters.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I think I ought to correct my hon. Friend if he is referring to what I said on that point. To the best of my recollection, I said I understood that the only overheads charged against the scheduled services which was not charged against the charter operations specifically was for training and development. It was difficult in fact to see how they could be split up.
§ Dr. Bennett
I entirely understand that, but I hope that all the customary overheads will be applied, and proper commercial competition will take the place of what has been happening.
§ Mr. Beswick
Will the Minister also confirm that any charter undertaken by the Corporations had as its net result a reduction of the deficit and the burden on the taxpayer?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Yes. If the Corporations will undertake not to keep or charter aircraft especially for charter operations many difficulties will be solved.
§ Dr. Bennett
I readily accept the observations of my right hon. Friend, but I would point out to the hon. Member that although such a mechanism as I have described might produce money for the Corporation and thereby reduce the deficit, so would going out with a gun and holding up people in the street. In my belief it is the same kind of operation.
The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) did say that he did not believe that charter firms would put in for prototype aircraft in the way the Corporations have done. He dismissed that as an impossibility, but I would ask him to have another look at the matter, because a little bird whispers in my ear that some such thing has recently been going on in the aircraft industry. He should find out, because I do not think he is quite right in being so confident about that.
I was very glad to hear of the new policy, and I was overjoyed to hear of the special attention which my right hon. Friend will give to the early introduction of helicopter services, especially in and out of London. It is well known that it takes longer to get from this honourable House to Heath Row than from 2234 Heath Row to Paris. Therefore, we shall be glad to see this service commence. I think that this liberalising of civil aviation has come just in time to be able to accommodate at least some of the enormous expansion which all of us may expect in the near future.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
If we analyse the speech of the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett), what it comes to is that when the Corporations enter into fair and unfettered competition with the charter companies, the charter companies object to that competition. That is what he is saying.
§ Mr. Lindgren
It is unfair when the Corporations compete in the open market and observe the regulations while charter companies operate on a shoe-string.
§ Dr. Bennett
May I suggest that some of the charter companies which compete for these contracts pay better rates thin B.O.A.C.? The hon. Gentleman should look into that.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I will deal with that in a moment, although my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) is better qualified to deal with it than I am.
I am sorry that the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) is not in his place. I am loth to enter into a war of the thistles, and I have a reputation, in so far as I have any reputation at all, for being aggressive rather than for pouring oil on troubled waters. But this Scottish nationalism has gone a wee bit awry_ Things were not quite as the right hon, and gallant Gentleman said.
I should be the first to pay tribute to pioneers like Fresson, who operated with one aircraft day and night. He had a taxi service, not a scheduled service. He was at the beck and call of anyone and everyone who could pay for the service, and he did a first-class job. He had one aircraft. [HON. MEMBERS: "He had more."] At least when he was taken over by B.E.A., which is the time about which I am competent to speak, he had only 2235 one Dragon. That was bought, and he was compensated for his business. He did a grand job. But there were other services operating in Scotland. I remember the name Gandar-Dower.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I do not wish to refer to the terms of operating in the way in which my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) hinted earlier in the debate. But to say that the operations of Gandar Dower were on a shoe string would be quite a reasonable statement of the case. There was no service, because there was no degree of regularity at all. The service went one day and did not go another. People were stranded in the Orkneys and Shetlands for three or four days. In fact, the service ceased to operate altogether and B.E.A. had to go in and take over because Gandar Dower had defaulted. So far as Scottish aviation is concerned, that is the record all the way round.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove referred to Scottish Aviation, Limited, and there is one thing I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to mention when he replies, if he can get the information in time. Scottish Aviation, Limited, is not altogether clean, and I say that with some degree of re-sponsibility. There was a Glasgow Exhibition in which the Ministry of Supply had certain buildings. At the end of the exhibition they were transferred to Prestwick. They were used by Scottish Aviation, Limited, all through the war and prior to the war on their training ground, and after the war as workshops and the rest. When I left the Ministry of Civil Aviation in 1950 we had not got to an agreement in regard either to the purchase of or the payment of rent for those buildings. I should like to know whether there is yet a satisfactory agreement with Scottish Aviation, Limited, regarding the payment for the buildings at Prestwick.
Prestwick has developed, and I am delighted that our Scottish friends have the second airport in the country. But that was provided by Britain's taxpayers and not by any degree of enterprise on the part of Scottish aviation. That, however, is a deflection from what I was proposing to say.
2236 The debate today is of a different character from the debates in the Committee from 1945 to 1950 and from 1950 to 1951. From 1945 to 1950 I used to stand opposite the present Minister and cross swords with him in the debates that we had. While the right hon. Gentleman was out of the Chamber—we do not complain about his leaving the Chamber, because he has to get some refreshment and he has been very attentive to the debate—our Scottish friends were accusing one another of being thin-skinned. We all admit the right hon. Gentleman's ability. We do not accuse him of being thin-skinned. But I think he must really be even thicker-skinned than I gave him credit for being if he can face even his own Ministry and members of the Corporations after what he said when he was on this side of the Committee about both the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Corporations and the personalities in the Corporations.
Look at the contrast in this debate. For the whole of the six years of the Labour Government—and I am certain that my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) will correct me if I am wrong—the present Minister and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen behind him did their very best, in every civil aviation debate, to discredit the Ministry of Civil Aviation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The Ministry were being accused, and I had to stand at that Box and defend them. They were accused of being over-staffed and under-worked. Hon. Members opposite were doing their best to discredit the Corporations and to undermine the work which the personalities in the Corporations were doing. That was the whole trend of the Opposition's attitude towards the debates in those days. They are taking a very different line today, although the spirit behind right hon. Gentlemen opposite is very much the same as it was in those days.
§ Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing
Our criticism about over-manning in the Corporations appears to have been justified, because they have been proud of the fact—and rightly—that they are now achieving a much higher level of operations on a greatly reduced staff.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I will come to that in a minute, because one of the charges 2237 which I shall make against hon. Gentlemen opposite is that they knew the reasons for the deficits of the Corporations and the reasons for over-staffing, but they had not the public patriotism to get up and say so. It suited their political purpose to adopt the attitude which they adopted.
Before I am deflected too far, may I say that in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, of which the Minister has now the proud privilege of being the head, he has a Ministry in which the administrative skill and technical skill of his staff is exceedingly high. In the Corporations, there are men associated with all phases of their activities, from chief executives and members of the Board down to the manual workers, or up to the manual workers, whichever way we like to put it; and they are men with a very high degree of enthusiasm and ability who, in spite of the jibes which hon. Members opposite were making all the time about the losses, put everything they had into making the Corporations the success which they are today.
I am proud to have been associated both with the Ministry and with the personalities in it, and with the Corporations and the personalities in them, in the really magnificent job which they have done for British aviation and for British civil aviation in particular.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
If the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) wants to speak, perhaps he will rise in the normal way. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) has given way to me and perhaps he will also give way to the hon. Member for Reading, South. I think the hon. Member for Wellingborough will agree that, starting at the end of the war, B.O.A.C. had a comparatively small staff which was built up to 24,000 people with a comparatively small fleet of aircraft. Since then it has been reduced to 16,000-odd with a very much bigger fleet, so that the Parliamentary pressure and other means used, by which this was brought to the notice of the public, has perhaps performed a useful job.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) was one of the offenders, although, if I may say so, in a very nice way, because he always studied the debates. He was one of the worst offenders because he is knowledgeable on these subjects; he knows the facts and he knows very well about the re-opening of those routes abroad and the laying down of facilities which were required by the Corporations for those routes.
He knows that the expansion had to take place so quickly, and took place so quickly, some of it in association with Transport Command, that on many occasions—and no one denies this, and certainly I never denied it when I spoke on behalf of the Ministry from that Box —it involved a greater number of people than were required for the operations. After providing the services, and the standard of operation of the services, the Corporations were able to tackle that problem.
The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) introduced the question of the Corporations and the charter companies providing an opportunity for R.A.F. crews. I remember standing at the Box and defending the Ministry against the hon. and gallant Gentleman, defending appointments by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Corporations of R.A.F. officers into jobs in the Corporations and in the Ministry. Such was the enthusiasm of the hon. and gallant Gentleman for the appointment of R.A.F. officers to such jobs.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
If the hon. Member is referring to me, he should bear in mind that I had an Adjournment debate in 1946 in which I complained that every person appointed was an air vice-marshal. I wanted to see some of the men in the ranks of civil aviation get a job.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I made the reply to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that even if a man was an air vice-marshal, he was not of necessity a nitwit. If it is suggested that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was concerned about the A.C.2 and the A.C.1 and not about air vice-marshals or group captains, I do not believe it.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
I was interested that such men as aircraft engineers, who had done good work with 2239 B.O.A.C. air services, should get promotion, and they were being overlooked in the appointments which the hon. Gentleman made.
§ Mr. Lindgren
What was really behind the hon. and gallant Gentleman's intervention in those debates was the fact that the Corporations were State-owned and the appointments in the Ministry and the Corporations were no longer within the Aero Club. That was worrying quite a number of people about the appointments at that time.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I do not want to delay the Committee too long, but hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite seem to have forgotten even the small account of the history of Civil Aviation which my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge gave. B.O.A.C. were brought into being by a Tory Government only because of the failure of private enterprise. After the 1914–18 war we had the development of private companies like Handley Page, Daimler's, Instone's, and a number of others. They went bankrupt because they could not operate at a profit and because the Tory Government of the day would not give them a subsidy. Imperial Airways were born at the request of the Government because private enterprise had failed, and with the promise of a subsidy so that they could operate. The history of this was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge.
It went further. One of the problems within charter operations, both before the war and since the war, has been that the standard of employment of all ranks within the charter companies has been very unsatisfactory. I will leave my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South to deal with the major part of this, but I want hon. Members to look at the question of Imperial Airways and the reason B.O.A.C. came into existence.
One of the reasons was that the House set up an inquiry into the operations of Imperial Airways, following the fate of the British Airline Pilots' Association, which was then a very small trade union 2240 run by a voluntary secretary, chairman and treasurer, who were pilots with Imperial Airways and who had been pressing Imperial Airways for a revision of rates of pay and conditions of service. Then, of course, Imperial Airways had had a thought that they had too many pilots, and created redundancy. By one of those coincidences which always occurs within an industry with which hon. Members opposite are associated, and from which any person who takes an active part in the trade union movement suffers, the redundancies among the pilots of Imperial Airways were three—and by that coincidence, the three declared redundant were the treasurer and the secretary and the chairman of the newly-formed British Airline Pilots' Association.
To his credit—and we give credit where it was due—the hon. Member for Stroud and Thornbury (Mr. Perkins), who still sits in the House, brought the matter on to the Floor of the House and exposed the scandal of the conditions for pilots in Imperial Airways. Even today the charter companies are not operating under the conditions available to those working within the Corporations, although that is required under Section 19 of the Civil Aviation Act, 1946.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Mr. R. Maudling)
Is the hon. Gentleman referring to charter companies operating as associates?
§ Mr. Lindgren
I will tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman under what conditions. Their pensions and flying pay are not the same. Perhaps it will be more fair if I leave it at that, because my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, South, who is associated with the Whitley Council for Civil Air Transport, knows more about that subject.
My complaint against hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite is that after 1945, in a period of difficulties for the Corporations, when they had to fly obsolete aircraft and converted bombers, they did not attempt to explain to the country the difficulties. Instead of praising the Corporations for their efforts in trying as best they could to use 2241 British equipment although it was obsolete, they just—
§ Mr. Lindgren
They did that to maintain a competitive service across the Atlantic. B.O.A.C. had to buy Constellations and Stratocruisers. Here, again, is a point on which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are most unfair. They started spreading rumours that B.O.A.C., and certain people in it, were pro-American and anti-British because they bought Constellations and made arrangements for the purchase of Stratocruisers. Instead of explaining to the British public, or assisting us to explain, that the Corporations were operating obsolete aircraft unfit for the job, they did that.
But the Corporations carried on. In spite of the general atmosphere created by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and of the election propaganda put out, in my constituency at least, under bills headed "Attlee and Co.," with all the losses of the Corporations set out, the Corporations have brought themselves into a position where they are "out of the red." Whether they will be able to maintain that position is doubtful, because of the action of the Government about petrol.
But, more important, we having established British civil aviation on a standard of operation and service second to none in the world, it would be a change if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were to give a cheer for Britain instead of cheering somebody else. [Interruption.] We did not get any real cheers from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite when the life of the present Queen was entrusted to B.O.A.C. on her journeys across the Atlantic. They have, in fact, decried any and every activity of the Corporations.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The hon. Gentleman may know a little bit about opencast coal mining: he knows very little about what went on in the House between 1945 2242 and 1950. Let me tell him that from 1945 to 1950 I had to defend the Corporations against attacks from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They attacked the Corporations although they knew that there were good reasons for what was being done.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am not in the least ashamed of the fact that I have only been a Member of the House of Commons since 1950. I would vie my knowledge and experience as a fare-paying passenger on these Corporations with that of any other hon. Member in this Committee. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to produce a single shred of evidence that I —or anyone else on this side of the Committee—have ever decried the activities of these Corporations.
§ Mr. Lindgren
If I may carry on this little war personally, I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he should contact the Ministry of Civil Aviation. They will give him the references to HANSARD. Within the Ministry there is an excellent Parliamentary Department in which a record of debates is tabulated. Within a few seconds he can be supplied with the whole range of debates and he will be able to read speeches by the present Minister, but the present Minister will not be very pleased about it.
I am afraid that I have been deflected from what I intended to say. My point is that here we have these Corporations which have established themselves in a most creditable position. The action of the Government will undermine the good work which has been done over the years by those associated with the Corporation. Let us face the fact. The functions and economics of transport are the same no matter what may be the form of the transport, whether it is the horse, the stage coach or the jet airliner.
Transport exists to move people and goods from place to place with safety, regularity and speed. From the economic point of view it is desirable to operate vehicles which show a surplus over cost of operation from the fares paid by passengers. It is desirable to use those vehicles to the highest degree possible. but the Government are denying the Corporations the opportunity to take advantage of securing the highest utilisation of the vehicles they have available. Whether 2243 it is an aircraft, a bus or a train, an aircraft sitting on the ground, a train in a siding or a bus in a garage is in fact a waste of capital within the industry. The greater the number of hours out of the 24 during which they can be operated, the better.
The air transport business is still a seasonal industry. To meet the peak flow of traffic there must be available aircraft which, during slack periods, can be used for other purposes. I suggest that the Corporations ought to have the opportunity to go freely into the charter market when they have the aircraft available. They have aircraft available during the off-peak periods.
§ Mr. Maudling
The position is that the Corporation will not maintain aircraft specifically for charter operations, but there is no limitation on the use at off-peak periods of aircraft maintained for another purpose, as my right hon. Friend made clear.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I agree. I accept that statement. But unless I am wrong—and I am willing to be corrected—there never were any aircraft kept specially by the Corporations for actual charter work unless it was in the period when some of the Yorks were going out of service. Some of those Yorks were used for charter work. But, even in such circumstances, are we to assume that, if the Corporations have an aircraft which is going out of service but which has not been sold, then it will be allowed to sit on the ground in a hanger instead of being used on some service on which it might earn revenue?
§ Mr. Maudling
The Corporation are offering for sale two of their York aircraft in pursuance of this policy.
§ Mr. Lindgren
We are getting on very nicely. The Corporation are to allow the charter companies to carry on some of this work, and they are selling them some of their aircraft. Are the Corporation to be asked soon if they will sell some of their Constellations and Stratocruisers or Comets? I see that they have got rid of some of their Hermes, and I do not blame them for that. I saw in the Press that certain of B.O.A.C.'s Hermes had been sold to Airwork. If that is not true, it is perhaps a misinterpretation of what I saw in the Press. I do not blame them for selling Hermes; they were very unsatisfactory aircraft.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
I have an interest in this. I am connected with the company which makes them. [Interruption.] I will be quite frank about it. This is no secret. Sir Miles Thomas said that it was one of the most efficient aircraft he had in his fleet, now that its teething troubles were over.
I would remind the Committee that a large number of hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, and that it would be a very good thing if, instead of interrupting, hon. Members reserved their comments for their own speeches.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I am very grateful to you, Mr. Hopkin Morris, for that advice to the Committee.
I am expressing a personal view based on some experience, but that aircraft was a long time coming into use, it used a high octane and was less satisfactory than some aircraft.
I now want to deal with the general question of the aircraft and the Corporations, although I am afraid that interjections have meant that I have been speaking for longer than I intended. We have heard references to the Comet and to free enterprise. I am the first to pay the highest of tributes to De Havilland's for the production of the Comet, and I admit that a great deal of enterprise has been at the back of the whole organisation of De Havilland's in the production of this aircraft. Let me say, however, in case I am misunderstood in what I shall say later, that, of all the aircraft firms in the aircraft industry, I found, when I was at the Ministry, that De Havilland's were the most co-operative. They were always willing and anxious to do everything they possibly could, and their attitude always was, "What can we do to help? "As far as some other aircraft manufacturers were concerned, their attitude was, "This is what we have got, and this is what you have got to have."
This is not free enterprise, and all this advertising by the Tory Party about the Comet is pure guff. Every penny of the cost of production of the Comet has been paid by the taxpayer. If it had not been for the orders placed by the Ministry of Supply and by the Corporations, the aircraft would never have gone on the drawing board or into production. So far as the Comet is concerned, it has been a case 2245 of co-operation between a very enterprising firm, with a great deal of skill, knowledge and technical experience behind it, and public funds, and this co-operation has produced a first-class aircraft. But let nobody run away with the idea that private enterprise is doing the job. It is the British taxpayer who has paid for everything.
Let us go to the other end of the scale. The Brabazon Committee recommended the development of certain types of aircraft, of which the Comet was one. There is the Tudor, which was a failure. It was produced by one firm, which has not lost a penny. The British taxpayer paid for everything, and the firm with which the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield is associated is in the same position, and every penny that goes in comes from the British taxpayer.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
The hon. Gentleman really must be fair about this. I do not want to bring my own personal concern into this matter, but we are selling aircraft in West Africa and Burma. When B.O.A.C. placed the order with de Havilland's for the Comet, the firm accepted a very severe penalty clause if performance did not come up to the mark.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I admit it, and I am glad the hon. and gallant Gentleman has made that intervention. De Havilland's were the only firm in the aircraft industry who would give a price while the aircraft was still on the drawing board. De Havilland's gave a price for the first Comet ordered by B.O.A.C., and, although the aircraft cost more than the price quoted, de Havilland's kept to their word. I do not want to go into the figures, although I do not think they are secret. The first figure was £250,000, which went up to £300,000, and, if anybody wants to buy a Comet now, they can put their name down and it will cost them £500,000.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Every aircraft produced has the same story. With the Viscount, which was produced for British European Airways, again the prototype was paid for by the Ministry of Supply. The machine went into production because B.E.A. placed the orders, and but for that fact it would not have gone into production at all. The hon. and gallant Gentleman 2246 opposite knows that there was another turbo-jet being made by another firm at the same time as the Viscount, and I am not competent to say which is the better, but one has gone into production, while the other has not. Why was that? It was because the Corporation placed the order. For one and not the other.
Airways Corporations, in fact, are the salesmen for the British aircraft industry. No foreign operator will take any aircraft produced by the aircraft industry in this country unless some operator has already taken it up, has "got the bugs out of it" and proved that it is economic in operation. When he has seen the aircraft flying, when he knows about its operating costs, its pay load and everything associated with it, and when he knows that, to use the general term in the industry, it has "had the bugs taken out of it," he will buy it, but not until then.
Not a single charter company in this country has ever taken the responsibility of buying an aircraft as its first operator, putting it into operation and standing all the costs of that process and of "getting the bugs out of it." If it had been left to the private independent operators, the British aircraft industry would have been dead.
§ Mr. Maudling
I think the hon. Gentleman is a little unfair to the private operators. As it was the policy of his Government to prevent private operators from operating scheduled services, they did not order aircraft for that type of service.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The hon. Gentleman has fallen into the trap. There are other aircraft, such as the Dakota, which is the universal pram of the skies, which are available for the charter companies, but there is no replacement for the Dakota. It is going out. Where are charter companies going to get a replacement for the Dakota? Then, there is the Rapide—the D.H. 89—which was in use before the war, is still in use by a large number of operators and is still the mainstay of the charter companies. There is no replacement for it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) went further back, and said that the British aircraft industry has not provided a light aircraft. There is nothing comparable to the remarkable Auster in production for 2247 flying clubs. The reason is that there is not the market for them. The market for the whole of the aircraft industry is provided by the Airways Corporations and they have done a first-class job. No one gives credit to B.O.A.C. in these debates for the thousands of pounds they have spent in introducing the Comet to the service.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Hon. Members opposite will not or cannot understand. First, there is the question of producing an aircraft and then there is the problem of flying it. There are two functions. First of all, the whole cost of production has to be borne by the taxpayer. Then when it comes to flying the aircraft there are considerable costs in introducing it to the service, taking it over the various routes, testing its characteristics and getting rid of any "bugs." The cost of all that is borne by the Corporation. No private airline can afford to pay £500,000 for an aircraft and pay the cost of putting it into operation or be generally responsible enough to deal with it.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. If I may have just one more short intervention, Mr. Hopkin Morris—
I really must make an appeal to hon. Members. A very large number of hon. Members wish to take part in this debate and time is being wasted in this way.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Perhaps I am at fault in being too polite in giving way to hon. Members. The charter operator will never be in a position to purchase, operate or introduce aircraft required in the future unless that charter company becomes of such a size, character, and financial stability that it is comparable with one of the airlines. That means that, under present airline operation, one must have either a public monopoly or a private monopoly, and we stand for a public monopoly which is publicly controlled rather than for a private monopoly which exploits the public.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
I am grateful to you, Mr. Hopkin Morris, for calling me immediately after the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lind- 2248 gren), but in view of the many hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate I shall refrain from replying in much detail to the great majority of his points, except for two.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Before the hon. Member who has interrupted me came into the Chamber—for he has only been here for two minutes—the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) referred to election propaganda. It is true that both the major parties in the last election advanced specific lines of thought with regard to civil aviation; and I think the hon. Member would do well to remember exactly what the Tory Party said about civil aviation. I should like to quote two or three sentences.
In the policy statement "This is the road," issued for the 1950 election, there is the following sentence:As wide a measure of free enterprise as possible should be restored to civil aviation. We shall review the structure and character of the Corporations with this in mind.In the 1951 Election manifesto, "Britain Strong and Free" there was something even a little more specific:For civil aviation we favour a combination of public and private enterprise.That is precisely the policy to which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Civil Aviation referred on 27th May when he made his preliminary statement on civil aviation, and which he has re-affirmed in his statement today.
The hon. Member for Wellingborough referred to freight services. I shall be very brief in my reference to that, but British European Airways Corporation have not an entirely happy record of achievement in the air-freight service world. In Europe in 1950–51, according to the last report of B.E.A., there was a loss of £80,000 on the European freight service.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I have not left the Chamber since 3.30 p.m. for a single moment. As to trans-Atlantic freight service, within the total of 348 flights flown not a single flight was flown by B.O.A.C. or B.E.A. on an all-freight basis, whereas Scandinavian Airlines flew 2249 no fewer than 150 and K.L.M. approximately 178. The remainder were flown by other competitors. I am not indicting the Corporations for that fact, but I think it is a little unfair of hon. Members opposite to suggest that there is no field whatever for private enterprise charter, and particularly freight carrying enterprises, in this important field of development.
I want to devote my remarks to one aspect only of civil aviation which I do not think will be regarded as particularly controversial. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Civil Aviation referred to the air era we are entering, with particular reference to jet propulsion and jet airliners. I believe that a complement to that is the helicopter for short flights, and especially for short inter-city flights and feeder services in this country. The versatility of this extraordinary little machine has been amply proved and demonstrated. It has captured the public fancy in the last few years partly as a result of a great deal of experimental work already done by B.E.A. I give them full credit for that.
They inaugurated trial flights carrying first of all dummy mails on a round trip of 100 miles in Somerset and Dorset. This was followed by a G.P.O. service from Norwich to Peterborough in East Anglia in which real mails were successfully carried. Then there was a passenger service from Liverpool via Wrexham to Pengam Moor, Cardiff, and latterly there was a service from Hay Mills Rotor Station, Birmingham, to Northolt. It ran experimentally for nine months. If I may say so with due modesty, I think I am the only Member of the House of Commons who has been issued by the Vote Office with a helicopter voucher book for travel to and from my home in Birmingham.
I can pay tribute to the efficiency with which that experimental service was operated. It is only one example of helicopter work. In the Far East, in Korea, Malaya and Indo-China it is estimated that in the last two years no fewer than 2,000 lives have been saved as a result of helicopters bringing serious casualties from the front line to hospital—which would have been impossible by the use of ordinary aircraft. Helicopters have been used for pest control in this country, for mosquito-spraying in the Belgian 2250 Congo, in Los Angeles for a city airlines service and in a new service from Long Island to New York. Helicopters have established themselves for short service work in many parts of the world.
I must confess that in this country I have a few qualms about the speed with which these versatile machines are being brought into operational service. I asked the Minister of Civil Aviation on 25th June if he would give statistics with regard to the machines actually operating. He replied:Twenty-five helicopters are on the U.K. Register, of which 11 are operational for purposes of hire and reward. Of these 11 machines, four, owned by Messrs. Pest Control, Limited, are employed in general agricultural use, five, owned by B.E.A., are in use in general experimental work for commercial purposes, etc., and two, owned by Messrs. Westlands, are available for general commercial usage. None is at present employed for passenger carrying on scheduled services."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1952; Vol. 504, c. 2222.]The fact that we have no passenger carrying services operating today in the United Kingdom does not compare very favourably with the United States, where there are large numbers of these machines in daily use on scheduled services, not only for passengers but for carrying mails, particularly in those parts of the country where other forms of transportation are difficult or hazardous.
I believe that the Government are quite right in insisting that single-engine single-rotor machines should not be used on regular passenger-carrying services, which should await the multi-engine, twin-rotor type of machine, in view of the dangers of flying the single-engine, single-rotor machine over built-up areas; but I am very concerned about the suggested length of time it will take to develop the twin-rotor machine—the Bristol 173, which has carried out its test flights—and to bring that machine into scheduled passenger-carrying services by B.E.A. between the cities of the United Kingdom.
The first question I should like to ask my right hon. Friend is what is the estimated length of time before this machine is in regular service? It is not only a question of inter-city work. It might be used to and from the Western Islands of Scotland and the Orkneys and' Shetlands and for innumerable other tasks in the United Kingdom. While we must have twin-rotor helicopters for 2251 passenger-carrying services there is a very ample field available in respect of other classes of work for which the single-rotor type helicopter could be usefully employed, notably for carrying mails and freight and even for charter services and taxi-ing services, in which private firms would be perfectly willing to participate with the use of these machines.
There is the Westland Sikorsky Model 51 (S.51), which has been used on experimental passenger services. It holds only three passengers and it has one pilot, but the S.55 is now coming along, with a capacity of seven passengers and a crew of two. The first prototype is available, and the Westland Company, who are responsible for building these machines, should be given every encouragement by the Government to establish a production line for dual purposes—military and civil.
There is no doubt whatever that all three of the Armed Forces today—notably the Royal Navy, who have used these machines for many years—have a regular daily use for a single-rotor type helicopter, and if the Service Departments would give the necessary inspiration and resolution to the Westland Company that would in itself provide facilities for the establishment of a production line which would help to make such machines available for civil purposes.
There is a great disparity between our rate of production-10 helicopters a month—and the American rate of production, which is now 100 helicopters a month. If any testimony is required as to the range and capability of this latest type of Westland Sikorsky model S.55 it is to be found in the fact that, in "The Times" today there is an announcement that two of these machines, fitted with special fuel tanks, for testing their capacity for carrying military freight to Europe, have left New York, flying across the Atlantic via Maine, Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, Stornoway and Prestwick to Wiesbaden in Western Germany.
I should like my right hon. Friend to give some indication whether the Service Departments are prepared to give the necessary impetus to the Westland Company by providing a background of orders to facilitate the creation of a production line, all of which will help to create the necessary supply of machines for civil purposes.
2252 Before passing to the complementary matter of landing stages there is a third question which I should like to ask in connection with helicopter development. I should like to ask what progress we are making in the development of a gas turbine helicopter. In France, more than 15 months ago, the first gas turbine helicopter —sponsored by an organisation called Societé Nationale des Constructions Aéronautiques du Sud-Ouest, which generally goes by the name of S.N.A.S.O. —was flown. It was the Arid III of 220 h.p., and I am told that at a speed of approximately 85 miles—or 136 kilometres—per hour it has proved a highly successful machine and is now going into production for operational purposes. I hate to feel that we have lost the initiative to the French in the production of a gas turbine helicopter and I should like to know what are the prospects for the production of such a machine in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Dodds
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the proposal that there should be a demonstration of the Bristol 171 on the South Bank site during the Coronation celebrations? Does he think that that will help to popularise the helicopter? Furthermore, does he approve of the name "airstop"? Is he aware that the newspapers have used the word "helidrome" as being a sensible name. Even though it might be a Greek bastard word it is more sensible than "airstop."
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am grateful to the hon. Member, who shares my enthusiasm for the machines about which I have been talking. Whether we say "helidromes" or "aerodromes"; "helibuses" or "helicopters" or any other name, the fact remains that a helicopter service for intercity work cannot be successful until we establish appropriate landing stages in the centres of our cities.
If I may relate my own experience in flying from my home in Birmingham to Westminster, it took me a quarter of an hour to get from my home in Birmingham to the rotor station at Hay Mills, 65 minutes to get to Northolt, and a further 40 minutes driving by car from Northolt to Westminster. That means that the time lost at both ends—and I was driving my own car and knew the route at both ends; and there was no question of any serious traffic hold-up—was about equal to the whole time taken on the journey.
2253 The most desirable route for the first regular helicopter service for passengers is between Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, which three cities form a triangle with sides of approximately 80 miles, and where communication by rail is often lengthy. In every one of those cases it would be indispensable for efficient helicopter operation to have landing stages in the middle of the cities. It would be inadvisable to have to land by helicopter at Speke Aerodrome and to drive for 20 minutes to get into Liverpool; or to land at Ringway Aerodrome, Manchester, and have to drive for 30 minutes to get into the city.
The hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) mentioned the South Bank site. I am perfectly prepared to stand by the adjudication of the committee which is investigating this matter under the auspices of my right hon. Friend, but my own view is that it would be infinitely preferable to convert railway stations rather than to establish a fairly large helicopter landing place on the South Bank.
In the case of a London railway station, such as Victoria or St. Pancras, a Birmingham railway station, such as New Street or Snow Hill; Exchange Station or Lime Street in Liverpool, or Victoria Exchange Station in Manchester, the very construction of the railway station lends itself to the erection of a superstructure to form a helicopter landing site. It would be relatively easy to run up steel pylons and to erect a concrete raft to land helicopters on the top, with access by escalators from the railway station below.
The advantage of that system is that passengers could use the railway booking offices for the issue of helicopter tickets. The same railway porters could be used to deal with persons travelling either by train or helicopter. In other words, one would be creating a duality of function between the helicopter and the railway train with a minimum of additional services being required, and therefore a minimum of additional operating costs.
I wind up on this note. I share the enthusiasm of the hon. Member for Dartford, and I have the greatest confidence that in the course of the next two or three years, we shall see a large development of helicopter services for all purposes in the United Kingdom. The 2254 Government have a part to play; private enterprise and the aircraft constructors have parts to play; but Members of this House also have a part to play, and I suggest that their part is this. Whereas we all support the development of the jet airliner for long-distance passenger work in the air, the complement to it is the development of the helicopter for short-distance inter-city work, particularly in a crowded country like Great Britain where cities are close together, where there are dense built-up areas, and where we could readily create facilities on top of railway stations for the essential landing grounds and ancillary services.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
I shall endeavour to be brief, as I realise that there are others who wish to speak tonight before the winding-up speeches. I should like to follow the argument of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) on the subject of helicopter services, on which I support him, but I do not want to do so immediately.
Before coming to that narrower issue, I wish to refer to one or two of the points made by the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett). They seemed to suggest that there was a great public demand for this change of policy, and the break-up of the, in many ways, highly efficient and popular public services which have been built up painstakingly over a number of years, and which are a great improvement upon any service this country, internally or internationally, has ever known before.
I should like to know where they get the evidence for a public demand for any change of the kind envisaged in the Government's statement of policy. I think it is true to say that over the past few years criticisms of the Corporations' services have been diminishing, and that latterly the public has been increasingly inclined to defend them against attack and against the very things that the present Government intend to do.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove and his hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham are members of the same medical and surgical profession, and I thought their double act tonight was perhaps symbolic 2255 of the general "carve-up" which is the policy of the Government. Indeed, never since Mr. Sweeney Todd of Fleet Street was there such irresponsible surgery from two professional surgeons at the expense of the British taxpayer with still, I have no doubt, a certain amount of support from other interests in Fleet Street. They failed to show that there was any popular public demand of any kind for the present policy.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman almost attacked hon. Members on this side for objecting to the handing over of public money to private enterprise of various kinds. His argument seemed to run: "Why not give subventions to this particular form of private enterprise when you give it to so many others." He mentioned the beet sugar interests and agriculture. I think he also quoted shipping. Certainly somebody else did. Shipping ought to have been quoted, because tramp shipping was one of the heavily subsidised private services before the war.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned one which serves my island community, and in certain ways serves it well, David MacBrayne's Limited. Behind all that is the admission, which came almost as a boast from hon. Members opposite tonight, that they are anxious to extend more and more public subventions to private enterprise. It is necessary today for MacBrayne's to be subsidised. Neither it nor any other 'such service can be run in that area without public funds to support it. They receive £240,000 a year, otherwise they could not run the service. But that is not private enterprise.
However, I do not want to go into the general advantages or disadvantages of subsidising private firms just at this moment. I now wish to say a few words in support of the views expressed directly to the Minister and his predecessor by the Scottish Advisory Council on Civil Aviation. We are still without any final and considered answer regarding such 'things as the types of aircraft for the future of the internal services to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. That is the area in which in pre-war days private enterprise built up services to the Outer Isles.
This is the area in which British civil aviation made its earliest, and in many 2256 ways successful, experiments, and I, for one, pay my unstinted tribute to those concerned who ran these aerial services at all risks, without asking, as everyone does today, before they started for public subsidies of any kind. There is a great difference between what is envisaged now and what those people did. That was private enterprise. There was the element of risk and independent initiative by those men. But now the interests come asking for public guarantees before they will put an aircraft into the skies in place of those which are already there under B.E.A. and doing well so far as the public service is concerned.
In many ways the Western Isles is an ideal area for this type of service, and that may be the reason the earlier operators went there. There are expensive sea communications. It is a costly business getting even part of the long way by train, so that an air service is almost bound to be successful from the start, and the area provides an ideal experiment in civil aviation pioneering. Perhaps these pioneers knew all that and were good business men as well as private enterprisers in the adventuring sense of the term. And they were right. I believe that in time we can, with the right machines, make the service to some of the Islands at least—for example, the Isles of Lewis and Harris, with about 30,000 people—an independent self-relying service. I do not think it need necessarily be for all time a carried or social service.
We are now at the stage where the Minister has been asked by responsible people—those who advise B.E.A. and others—what is to replace the present machines. We still have had no final and definite answer. We asked, too, for assurances regarding the smaller airports. What, in these areas, will replace the Rapide? There has been no answer to that. If there are no new types coming along in the near future—that is, in four, five or six years—to replace the Rapide, the only conclusion we can come to is that these services will lapse for lack of suitable aircraft.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman made a passing 2257 reference; I do not know whether he mentioned Rapide replacement or not.
§ Mr. MacMillan
B.E.A., like the Scottish Advisory Council, was for years at a loss, without any definite decision regarding the types decided to be available for replacement. We have pressed this for a long time. If the Minister can say that in the near future—in terms of four, five or six years—we are to have a suitable type of plane for all the Rapide routes in the Highlands and Islands service, we shall be very relieved indeed. I want to press very specially about the replacement of the Rapide. I know only a small population is served by the D.H.89's, but it has become an essential part of the life of these communities.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Kidderminster, when pleading for his own constituency and others, was good enough to mention the need for a helicopter service for the Western Isles. At present the only service we have in some of the smaller isles is the Rapide. It is the only type of plane suitable for the purpose in these smaller Islands, and I should like to have some idea as to what will take the place of the Rapide. There is no airfield in Barra, for example, in the real sense of the term; only a tidal sandstrip on which the planes can land, weather and tide permitting; and no other machine except the Rapide has come forward, or is apparently in contemplation for this area.
Our difficulty is going to be this: As the Rapides run out and there are no replacements, people are going to he left high and dry without any air service at all. We should like to know whether steps are to be taken to reserve a few of the small number of Rapides that are left to cover us for the next four, five or six years, so that we can be assured of some service continuing until some other type of aircraft is produced to take their place.
Can we have some assurance on that point? All I am asking is that some shall be kept in reserve, with the necessary spares, to guarantee that service will be run for a number of years to come until something better is produced. I would also like to be assured that we 2258 shall have enough Rapides reserved to continue the ambulance service. There are several emergency air-strips where no other type of plane is of any use what ever. That is an important point, although it affects only small places.
I should like to say one word about helicopters. I appreciate that there are two difficulties in connection with them. The initial cost is high. I cannot say anything about the operational cost, but one has to have regard to the initial cost. The second is that one has to be careful when crossing water in these machines, and naturally it is right to emphasise the safety factor.
I hope that when the twin-engined helicopter is in service, it will not be run simply as a taxi-service to and from London. I hope that consideration will be given to the needs of the smaller places and the more distant places. The House has long accepted the principle that some public services must be carried on as social services and that they will not necessarily be expected to show a profit straight away, if, indeed, at any time in money values. Recognition has been given to this principle in regard to the Post Office and other Government services for a number of years past.
The point has been mentioned by some hon. Members that it may be that the whole progress with the design of aircraft for civil aviation has been overshadowed by the strategic and military requirements. The sum of £100 million is talked of for aeronautical research, but one cannot help asking oneself whether that money is not to be devoted more to the development of military types and for strategic requirements than to the development of civil aviation. I do not suppose that anyone is going to deny that that is the case.
We all welcome this quite generous sum for the purpose of aeronautical research; and I hope that there will be greater concentration than hitherto on the needs of civil aviation. We feel that there has been a good deal of delay in bringing forward very necessary new civil aviation types because of the over-concentration upon the military and strategic aspect; but the civil aircraft problem simply must be faced now as a matter of urgency.
I have concentrated rather much on the needs of the smaller places but the House has long since accepted the prin- 2259 ciple that we must take responsibility for places that cannot be commercially profitable to the nation, although they have other more valuable things to offer than mere money profits. The House long ago generously and freely accepted that principle, and I plead that all the goodwill of the House towards Scotland and the Isles and Highlands shall not be frustrated for reasons of major policy on the strategic and military side.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. John Grimston (St. Albans)
It is always the case that when we debate civil aviation the needs of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland get a fair airing. Today is no exception. I am fortunate in following the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan), because I should have thought that we could have looked to him for real support in the policy of economy which my right hon. Friend the Minister has been putting forward today.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the Island of Tiree, on the island group of services from Renfrew. He will know that a seven-seater aircraft calls there once in and once out every day, and that three times a week there is a second service. Is it necessary with an aircraft with a potential number of seven passengers to have a ground staff of 14 people? That is the situation at the moment. I should have thought that it was clear that in these social services great economies could and should be made, and the policy of the Ministry of Civil Aviation in that regard has yet to be considerably expanded. I am certain that considerable economies could be made in the operation of these aircraft and also in the facilities that they have on the ground.
In these debates we have a great many points raised which are really not in dispute. Many hon. Members opposite have been extremely eloquent in suggesting that we are going to allow the Corporations to have their scheduled passenger services on the Continent taken away from them. We are anxious to emphasise that that is not part of our policy at all. We believe that certain prestige services, subject to international agreement, have to be maintained and their prestige built up in every possible way. My right hon. Friend has gone out 2260 of his way to emphasise that that is our policy. Equally, we are not debating today, as has been stated by an hon. Member opposite, any proposal to take away money which has been spent on airfields. That comes under a separate part of the duties of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and is not in dispute today.
What is in dispute is whether we are yet able to say what is the proper size and organisation for our air services throughout the world in the coming 10 or so years. I believe this is a matter in which facts will count very much more than political opinions, and the function of the House of Commons is far more to see that facts have their way than to try to interpose political opinions between them and the operators, the effect of which is simply to stifle progress and cause delay.
There are no large-scale economies which one can make in running aircraft in the way that one can do so in con nection with manufactures. Running aircraft is really a small business and it has to be a very flexible business, because one has to be able to go here and there as demand calls. An all-corporation or an all-private enterprise approach is wrong. We want a probing, questioning and experimental approach to it. Running through all the arguments of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) and others has been the assertion that the air market is stable and saturated.
§ Mr. Grimston
That is the opinion which emerged from the speech. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) said that it was our policy to undermine all the good work of the Corporations all over the world.
§ Mr. Grimston
That is the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the intention. Any hon. Member who says that does not understand the nature of the markets. It is a market which is more susceptible to increases through lowering of costs and prices than almost any other market in the world. This trend has been much in evidence in the United States where 55 companies operating coach services last 2261 year flew 765 million passenger miles with a total revenue of 40 million dollars. which means that it is an enormous business, and it has been done with great safety. That is a highly creditable performance. Yet a Committee of the Senate said of it:Even that record has hardly scratched the surface of the potential market.That vast business, which has no counterpart here, has been built up by transporting people who would not travel unless a low cost basis was available to them.
In an investigation carried out in 1948 by the Civil Aeronautics Board, it was found that four out of five transcontinental passengers would not have travelled by air if the coach service had not been available. The Air Coach Transport Association, the association of these firms, say of their business—and they ought to know—that their competition has forced the scheduled air lines—similar to our Corporations—into lower fares and more profitable operations by filling their aeroplanes. They said that the non-scheduled air lines led a lazy, trough-fed industry to profits through better business methods. These are Americans criticising themselves.
Let us realise that we are discussing a market which has not been tapped at all in this country. Experience all over the world has been that the introduction of low-priced coach fares lead to a vast increase in the market and enable people to travel who would not otherwise be able to afford to do so. When we come to decide who should do this we get into a very live political issue in both this country and the United States. At the moment a fight is going on in the United States as to whether the non-scheduled operators should be allowed to compete on parallel lines with the scheduled people or whether, as in this country our new policy enunciates, the non-scheduled operators should be free to offer a low-priced service in competition on the same line with the scheduled operators.
Here again, I believe the strongest arguments are in favour of allowing the independent charter people to operate parallel with the first-class service. In the first place, I have shown that there is another market. We are not taking traffic from one to the other. We are encouraging more people to fly than would otherwise have done so. In the matter of costs there is the strong argu- 2262 ment that if we do not allow the charter people to provide low-cost services the services which are provided will not be at a sufficiently low cost to enable the people who want to do so to fly.
This subject has received very considerable research in the United States. The University of California reported, as a result of an investigation, that neither in flying costs, maintenance, ground-handling nor in general administrative overheads do the big airlines show any appreciable advantage over the medium and small operators. In other words, the medium and the small are as good, any way, as the big ones. The lowest cost U.S.A. Domestic Trunk Airline is the ninth biggest one, so only a medium-sized concern.
The University of Harvard had a similar review, and they came to the conclusion that the medium airlines were more economical than the bigger ones. The Civil Aeronautics Board, which is the licensing authority in the United States, showed that with increase in capacity up to 20 million available ton miles per annum, unit costs were reduced. Thereafter there was more or less a constant relationship between the two.
Those figures are not compiled here, but it is of interest to note that B.O.A.C. offers something like six times the maximum economic capacity and B.E.A. offers something like twice. Where there has been independent research of the most economical side of airlines, it has been shown that B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. are very much bigger than the economic size would be expected to be. I have said often that I believe that two nationalised airlines is by no means the right number, but that something like five would be found to be the proper number in the long run, and running parallel with them would be the free enterprise firms operating additional service at much lower cost than could be attempted by the big people.
I believe that a great deal has got to be done in regulating the competition between the free enterprise people and the nationalised Corporations. I do not believe that the nationalised Corporations should be excluded from competition with the independents, but what I do say is that the competition should be as fair as possible. After all, the whole subject has been very carefully examined in 2263 America, and the Civil Aeronautics Board has come to the conclusion that in allocating expenses and overheads to be charged between the scheduled air services and the charter or independent services, it must be done fairly and in such a way that if the independent part of the business increases it will not be necessary to re-allocate the overheads and increase the prices which are charged.
We have had several cases recently—one only this morning and one three weeks ago—where B.O.A.C. have tendered in the charter field at a price which on their own figure is hopelessly inadequate to cover their costs. That is not the way to encourage a fleet of charter aircraft. I believe that one form of air transport is, if anything, complementary to the other, and by being at one an-other's throats the whole time and trying to force the independent operator to quote an uneconomic rate does not benefit the Corporations, but simply holds back the development of an alternative source of service to the world, and eventually reduces our own and our Commonwealth standard of living.
The difficulties with which we are faced when trying to criticise the performance of our nationalised Corporations are that there is no one unit which is easily understood by us all. It is no part of my job to decry the efforts of the Corporations, but what I do say is that sometimes we are told what a wonderful job the Corporations have done and then, when we try to see where it is that they have done this particularly wonderful job. we find it impossible to discover.
Is it, for example, in operating costs, or cost per capacity ton mile or per revenue ton mile? Hon. Gentlemen opposite are very apt to say what a wonderful job the Corporations have done without specifying the particular case in which the costs or returns are very much better than those of organisations in other parts of the world. If an hon. Gentleman opposite can produce one index that our nationalised Corporations have beaten the world, I shall be very happy to try to cap the example with a better one from elsewhere.
We lead the world in the design of jets, of prop- or turbo-jet, aircraft. It is mainly our manufacturers who have done 2264 that for us. In the operating of aircraft there has been no enormous' change in the Highlands and Islands where some of the aircraft have been operating since before the war.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I shall not take up time by arguing the point that the Scottish services show, over the past few years, a great advance in efficiency and service to an ever-growing number of passengers compared with the record of private enterprise. On the point that there has been no change from the old Rapides in the Highlands and Islands services, that simply is not true. On several routes, Dakotas are running where there used to be only Rapides.
§ Mr. Grimston
On this side of the Committee we do not wish to decry our Airways Corporations. We want to build them up, because we realise that the name of Britain is closely associated with their success and we are proud of our progress in these matters. Let us see where we have done well and where we have not done well, so that there may be improvement in the future.
In the allocation of overheads in connection with charter operators, there is nothing like beginning one's good works at home. I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Uxbridge in regard to the mail subsidy to B.O.A.C. The Americans are often accused of subsidising their airlines with mail contracts. That is totally untrue. If they had carried for nothing all the mail which they carried last year, the American airlines would still have made a profit. There is a very good case for paying to B.O.A.C. an economic rate for the mails which they carry, and it is very necessary that we should see the real cost of the service so that we can decide what steps to take to make the service better.
If B.O.A.C. had been paid last year the lowest mail rate that was paid to any American carrier overseas—that should be a fair enough comparison—the B.O.A.C. would have made just over £2,300,000 more than it made, and that would have put them into the profit-making category. In the past, Ministers of Civil Aviation have not been 2265 sufficiently strong with the Post Office to ensure that they got a fair rate. The only effect of not giving a fair rate is to hide the true picture from Parliament.
The disadvantages of being big are already thoroughly apparent in the Corporations. That is one of the principal reasons why I welcome some devolution in this field. The tendency to impersonal control leads to a lack of keenness among the people in the organisations. There are some excellent people in our Corporations —I am glad to be able to say this—and I am sure they would be better if each organisation were smaller and if a greater part of it hung on them than can be the case when the organisation is very big.
I believe that the overheads of a large Corporation must be sufficiently big to control its largest part in other words, the overheads for the Scottish services could be made much smaller than is necessary to run the continental service of B.E.A. In that respect alone, there would be considerable economy by handing over to a much more personal organisation the operation of the Scottish services.
In the air freights field there is great need for intensive salesmanship. They have it in America, but in this country no one tries to sell air freight because it is a sideline of the Corporation. Yet in regard to packaging, insurance, finance, it is sometimes the only way of reaching a market. The air beef scheme in Australia is a typical case of something which would not be possible without the use of air freight. By letting into this field the much more virile and personal organisation of our charter companies, I believe there will be a considerable development in the industry which would not otherwise occur.
If I may now leave the general argument, I want to touch on something close to my heart. The Ministry can do something practical by looking at the international radio, air and telephone procedures and the new word-spelling alphabet. There was a typical Socialist compromise when world agreement was sought on this matter. In the First World War, I believe "Ack-Ack" and "Beer-Beer" were well known to a number of people. In the second war there was a joint alphabet agreed between ourselves and the Americans who, after all, are the two largest English-speaking peoples.
2266 Last year or the year before a world alphabet was settled, but it does not work. No radio officer on air control around London will answer if one uses it. They get as muddled as the pilots. At a recent conference of Pilots in Sydney they urged strongly that we should revert to the old alphabet which we know so well—"Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog" instead of "Alfa, Bravo, Coca, Delta"—words which none of us use in ordinary life. "Coca" does not spring to mind when one is tired after a long crossing of the Atlantic. It is hard to remember a new phonetic alphabet which is not English, which it has been sought to impose on English, which is the international language of the air.
In conclusion, I believe that the policy which has been adopted and extended by my right hon. Friend in giving a greater opportunity for private enterprise in the air is the right one, but I shall get much more pleasure from his abolishing this miserable alphabet than from almost anything else he is doing.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)
During the period when my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, I am sure he will remember a promise he made in reply to a speech of mine in one of our many debates, that the policy of his Department and of the Labour Government, so far as civil aviation was concerned, was safety first, safety second and safety all the time. I assume that the right hon. Gentleman, on behalf of his Government, still adheres to that policy.
If he does, then I also assume that he will approach with great caution the question of economies in civil aviation. The hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. J. Grimston) has to some extent developed the fantastic argument advanced in the debate that one person could carry out a whole host of duties at an airport. Today, because safety is accepted as the first demand in the transit of passengers, a wide group of services have developed at every airport in the country. We have ambulance services, fire services, navigational aids, various types of administrative services, meteorological services, and so on, and every one of those is necessary. It is fantastic in 2267 the extreme to suggest that they could be carried out by a single person. I hope that the Minister will pay no heed to suggested economies in that direction.
Ever since I came to the House I have been among those who make use of transit by air. As a consequence, it is possible for me to have breakfast in Glasgow at eight in the morning and lunch in the House at 12.30 on the same day. A journey of more than 400 miles is accomplished in a little over four hours. Half of that time is taken up on the ground. The air portion of the flight lasts for roughly two hours. The ground transit, which is only a very small portion of the distance traversed, takes nearly the same time as the 400 miles of air flight. There has consequently developed the idea that we could save on the ground part of the journey if we had a helicopter to lift us from Northolt to the House or from Glasgow to Renfrew, and I agree that that sounds very attractive.
We want to see a reduction in the time occupied by the surface part of the journey, but again, I ask the Minister to approach the question with the greatest caution. There are two aspects which we must remember about the helicopter. First, there is the question of cost. As the right hon. Gentleman will remember, I sought to ascertain from him the operational cost of using a helicopter, and at the time, due to no fault of his, he was unable to supply the information. Perhaps tonight he may be able to tell us the cost of flying a helicopter in comparison with that of flying an ordinary machine.
Secondly, it is one thing to build a strato-cruiser which will carry 52 passengers, and an entirely different problem to build a helicopter which will take those 52 passengers and fly them immediately to London. Everyone who uses an aircraft knows that danger is always present. The modern power unit has 2,000 bits and pieces hammering out a sort of anvil chorus all the time the machine is in flight. If anything should go wrong with one of those 2,000 parts, of course there is danger, but there is always the possibility of the pilot doing something about it. If anything goes wrong with a helicopter in transit the effect is exactly the same as dropping a stone; there is nothing the pilot can do about it. I therefore hope the Minister, in seeking to save 2268 time—we all want to save time—will approach this question of the use of the helicopter with very great caution.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) is not in his place. He stated that all we were witnessing to day was the Tory Government putting into operation the policy which they advocated at the General Election. He said that they pledge themselves to apply as wide a measure of free enterprise as possible to civil aviation. I think there is no doubt that the party opposite, in the course of this debate, have sought to create the atmosphere that there was free enterprise in civil aviation and that we have been seeking to restrict it.
Whether we look at the productive side, the research side, the development side, or the operational side of civil aviation, free enterprise has never existed since the war. Not only is that true of this country, but there is no country in the world today where free enterprise exists in civil aviation. It is subsidised in some form or another in almost every part of the world, including America.
In the last three or four years, we, the taxpayers of this country, through the Government, have poured into the productive side of civil aviation no less than £300 million public money. As a result, a year ago the Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Company, which is being subsidised by part of that money, gave three free shares to their shareholders for every single 5s. share they held—a free distribution.
§ Mr. Rankin
No, I am sorry, I cannot give way. The shareholders went to bed on 14th June with 5s. in their possession and they awoke with £1. Yet we have been told that the age of miracles has passed. That was done to conceal the fact that the dividends of 32½ per cent. they had paid the previous year might have been raised to 40 per cent. had they not given that free distribution. That was public money being given out in order to sustain private industry.
It is part of the argument we are putting forward today that, because public money is invested in these things, there ought to be public control. There is no denial of the fact that subsidies are being used. Aviation today could not be carried on without them. Either we give the subsidy to private industry or 2269 to public industry. As far as we are concerned, our answer is that the public industry should get it on every occasion.
§ Mr. Rankin
No, the hon. Member had better sit in his seat. He has made his speech and should keep quiet. I have sat here from half-past three and I know that the winding-up speeches will take some time. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that I am attacking him—
§ Mr. Rankin
—he should mend his ways.
The issue between us is whether that subsidy is going to private enterprise or whether it is going into public control. The right hon. and gallant Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot)—and I am sorry to disturb him—made the claim that if private enterprise were given a greater share it would require less subsidy. That is a hope and, so far as I am concerned, a somewhat vain hope. We have nothing on which to assume that it would be realised.
I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was dealing with the fact that at present we give a subsidy to B.E.A. of £291,000. He was a little unfair in creating the background against which he made that statement. If he had been fair to the Committee and if he had wanted to give the true position, he would have said that in the first year of its existence B.E.A. had a deficit on the Scottish Services of £800,000; but that through efficient management and initiative they had reduced that deficit, until today it is only £291,000.
He would have gone a little further and said that most of that deficit was created on the social services for the Western Isles of Scotland, and that it was created because of the fact that we were running a plane recognised to be uneconomic. He might have gone even further and said that we were not able to give an economic civil machine for that service because of the overall control of the Air Ministry, who were deciding the type of machine which from a strategic point of view, was best for the Western Isles.
I subscribe to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. 2270 de Freitas) about the control which military aviation has exercised all along over civil aviation. I have spoken time and again about that in this Chamber. I have said, and I repeat, that so far we have practically no civil machine flying today which has been designed purely for civil purposes. Nearly every machine carrying passengers today is either a potential or a converted war machine. I see that some hon. Members on both sides of the Committee are shaking their heads, but I could start to go over the names of the machines; and with one exception I think there is not a machine carrying passengers today which is not either a potential or an adapted war machine.
I should like to complete the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln when he referred to the fact that civil aviation has suffered from the control of the militarists in development and research. I have said that for years, and I am glad to have his support, because he was Under-Secretary of State for Air in the last Government and should know something about it. Doubtless he will remember the fight which my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayr-shire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and I had to try to establish in this country an air corridor down which civil machines could pass in safety.
I conclude on a Scottish note. That is appropriate for me as a Scottish Member. It is appropriate also because in no general debate in this Committee in my experience has Scotland figured so largely. The majority of the speeches even from our comrades across the Border have included comment about Scotland. I conclude not by repeating much of what has been said, because that would be offensive at this stage of the debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Gentlemen opposite had better not irritate me, because there is plenty more that I could say.
I want to probe a little further into what the right hon. Gentleman proposes with regard to the Scottish services. I have here two statements which he has made. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation to tell us which is the correct one. The right hon. Gentleman is credited with having said that the Scottish services are to be treated as a whole and that if 2271 they are to be transferred they will go to one company. Also, if I understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly today, he said that he had no intention of handing over the Scottish services as a whole to a private operator.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I said words to the effect that if and when there was a transfer in Scotland it would be to a single company. There would be no transfer to a single company unless the same conditions applied as those which apply in the case of B.E.A.—if there was a subsidy which was no more and which lasted no longer than B.E.A.'s and the services were equally good.
§ Mr. Rankin
I do not know that that statement gives us much more confidence than the one I have quoted. Evidently the Government propose to transfer the Scottish services when the time comes, whether it is in 1954 or 1956, though I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will not have the power in 1956. They will be transferred to one company, and that company is Scottish Aviation, Limited. It will get a subsidy. We maintain that the subsidy ought to go to the public Corporation.
Is the Minister prepared to deny that Scottish Aviation, Limited, will not get a subsidy? I think that it is fair, as the Minister refuses to deny it, to point out that we are to transfer these services to a company which till January, 1946, never carried a single fare-paying passenger in the whole of its existence. Only on one occasion has it even tried to operate any service whatever, and that was a night goods service between London and Grangemouth.
The licensing authority, under the chairmanship of Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve, refused to give them a licence even to carry out the service on the ground that they had neither the aircraft, the personnel nor the navigational aids necessary for such a service. What Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve said in 1938 is still true today, and the Minister proposes to transfer these magnificent Scottish services to a company which has neither the aircraft nor the personnel necessary for carrying out those services. As a matter of fact, in another place, when that point was raised, the reply that was given was that there is no com- 2272 pany in Scotland at the moment fit to carry out that work, but that it was hoped that, if the service was transferred, a company would arise to carry it on.
That is the policy of the Tory Government, and that is the policy which I hope we are going into the Lobby tonight to damn by bell, book and candle.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Group Captain C. A. B. Wilcock (Derby, North)
I do not know whether I am in order in bringing this debate back from Scotland to aviation in general, but I would, first of all, since this is the first debate on civil aviation since we suffered a new Government, welcome and congratulate the Ministers opposite. Many of the matters on which we have been talking today were discussed by the Minister and myself at a height of 14,000 feet and while travelling at 400 miles an hour a short time ago when we were in the Comet. Had I known then that I was to speak in this debate, I should perhaps have been more careful in what I said to him.
We have had a very interesting and informative debate. Searching inquiries have been made, and questions put to the Minister with which I hope he will deal. The first question, which I thought was so ably dealt with by my hon. Friend and colleague the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) was on the question of the operation of passenger services by independent operators, and discussion of this has been going on the whole day.
I have no doubt that certain hon. Members are rather amused that I have to wind up the debate on this subject from this side of the Committee today and have to deal with this particular point, because I have had for quite a considerable time a very close interest in aviation matters and aviation concerns, and I declare those interests now, although, fortunately, from the financial point of view, I have no connection with any company operating scheduled services.
On this particular matter, I have no difficulty whatever in expressing my views. I think that the first consideration of this Committee must be in the progress and development of the public Corporations, and that nothing must be done to weaken their position or embarrass their future plans. That is the point of view 2273 which I take as an individual, and as an individual concerned with civil aviation.
I used to tell my colleagues in aviation circles when they used to complain that, under a Labour Government, things were very difficult, that at least they knew where they were. It was rather like serving under the pre-war type of sergeant-major, because one knew where one was. Now, of course, nobody knows where they are at all, and it is rather like serving under a sergeant-major who is trying to be too friendly with both the officers and the men, with the result that both are distrustful.
There seems to have been a tendency on the part of hon. Members opposite in the debate today to draw comparisons between the Corporations and the independent companies, and between the personnel responsible for the operation of the services they both perform. One deprecates this. It seems to be an endeavour to drive a wedge between the Corporations and private enterprise, a wedge under the name of competition.
Pilots, crews and ground staff are all good men and women, and they nearly all come from the R.A.F. There are no bad people in aviation. There are good people and better people. It is not right to try to give the impression that there are superior people in private enterprise and that the people in the public Corporations are rather dull.
I suggest that the operation of aircraft falls into two distinct categories. There is the category of work that can be assessed as profitable and there is the other category in which the financial results are problematical. Under the Labour Government it was made quite clear that the scheduled services would be operated only by public Corporations. That policy had my full support.
When the Labour Party and the Labour Government introduced the Act in 1945 we had to develop world-wide organisations. It is all very well to criticise those organisations now. They did not exist in 1945 and we had to develop them against the fierce competition of foreign operators. These Corporations required support then and they require it now. They require both the financial and moral support of the State. Everybody agrees that they have done a splendid job.
The 1945 Act made it clear that the scheduled services were the prerogative 2274 of the Corporations. I shall get myself into trouble here at once because I then contended, and I have contended ever since both inside and outside this Chamber, that the Corporations should never have been given the right to do charter work. If that had been agreed it would have been satisfactory to all concerned and we might not have had the difficulty which we are experiencing today.
The situation today is that the Government, pledged as they are—and this fact is well-known—to support the independent operators, intend to grant them further opportunities of operating scheduled services. That is being done under the quite erroneous impression that the Government are thereby helping the independent operators. In other words, the Government intend to help the independent operator even if they ruin him in the process. That is what will happen to any but the largest combines in private enterprise.
If the Minister intends to help the independent operator then he must allocate routes to him which fall under the category of profitable routes. If he does that he is deliberately retarding the development of public Corporations. He cannot have it both ways. If he does not do that but only offers unprofitable routes to the independent operators he hastens their ruin. Up-to-date aircraft are beyond the resources of any but the largest operators. The old type of industrial pioneer cannot compete today. He is absolutely out. That must be recognised.
I think it will be agreed that to operate aircraft and a maintenance organisation is to contribute to the resources of the nation. But to borrow capital to do that one has to pay exactly the same rate of interest as if one borrowed in order to open a night club. In fact it is probably easier to raise money to open a night club as there might be a profit. The Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary might make a note of that and discuss the implications with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It may be that special facilities can be arranged to help the small but enthusiastic independent operator, unless it be the fact that the Government are not particularly interested in the individual but only in the large combines.
I am glad that the Minister said he was going to consider the whole field of endeavour of aviation. My personal 2275 suggestion is that the Corporations alone should run the scheduled services. They will require no prompting to run profitable routes, and the routes that should be operated in the public interest, such as some of the Scottish routes, where profits are not likely, are safer in every way—and I use the word "safer" deliberately—in the hands of the Corporations.
At the same time I would say—and I am saying something which is probably not agreed on this side of the Committee or, it may be, on the other side—that charter work should be ruled out altogether as far as the Corporations are concerned. They should be encouraged to get on with the scheduled services. It has been argued that if B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. do not wish to operate over certain routes then it is logical to give the independent operators the opportunity so to do. That sounds sweetly reasonable but it does not work out that way. It leads to all sorts of difficulties, some of which have already been mentioned. For how long should a licence be granted; should there be a penalty for failing to honour a contract; and what about the standard of operation?
My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) made some of these points very clearly. There is the possibility that the Corporations may resent serious competition by independent operators on passenger routes and they may retaliate by competing for charter work, as they did in 1947, 1948 and 1949. The Corporations may cut their rates to secure that work. The independent companies would not like that.
However, I understand from what the Minister has said that the Corporations agree not to do charter work. It would seem that they are eating out of his hand at the moment. I cannot quite understand it. I gather that the Chairmen are quite happy to forfeit the opportunity of expansion. It has not been an easy time for the independent operators, but first things have had to come first and the first thing was the progress and prosperity of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A.
After all, the long-term prospects of the independent operators rest upon the reputation earned by the Corporations. This is particularly so in the overseas 2276 market. The name of British aviation stands high, due to the excellence of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., and charter companies and private operators benefit by the reflection of the glory of those two Corporations. Let us acknowledge that fact.
Turning to another point, the allocation of passenger traffic is not the beginning and the end of our present problems. A much more important problem is the aircraft position. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will have time to touch on that point, and I shall give him as much time as I possibly can. We do not know what policy is being pursued by Her Majesty's Government.
We have British aircraft with brilliant performances both in service and on the production line. If anything, we have too many types, certainly in the long-range class. I can think of five, besides the American types. Nothing militates more against the efficiency of air operations than having too many types of aircraft, with all the extra spares organisation which is necessary to support them.
I should like to say how right I think my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge was when he spoke about the need to concentrate on still newer and better types. It is such a long-term process to get aircraft in any numbers actually operating on the routes. In the medium range of aircraft we seem to be served with two very good planes, the Ambassador and the Viscount, but a freight aircraft, other than the excellent Bristol Freighter, is conspicuous by its absence, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would comment on that in reply.
In the case of light aircraft the picture is depressing. In five years' time there will be no club aircraft and no aircraft for private owners because none are being built. I think that in five years' time clubs will be using balloons. I wonder whether the Minister could give a little information about the works' clubs scheme. I have given him notice of my intention to raise this point.
The Committee may remember that Lord Pakenham and my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge sponsored a scheme to encourage flying through works clubs at a cost within the reach of the staffs, particularly artisans, mechanics and young people. I am told that although 2277 many applications from firms have been received by the Aero Club of Great Britain, only five have so far been authorised. That is a poor result.
What is much worse is that, while we are always pressing the Government to take action about these clubs and give them a start, with only one exception—I stand to be corrected—no aircraft construction company or aero engine company in the country supports an aero Club. [HON. MEMBERS: "De Havilland's."] That is the one exception. There may be others; I do not know. When Government money has been poured into these companies—it has been well spent and I do not criticise it, although they have done well, and their balance sheets show it—the lack of interest they seem to show in aero clubs is deplorable.
We on this side of the Committee have never been convinced that there has been enough co-operation between the civil and Service Departments; in other words, between the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Air Ministry. There has, of course, always been a third Department in connection with aircraft, and that is the Ministry of Supply. Besides the purely civil types of aircraft, there are over 100 military types and marks of aircraft being constructed. I think that we must be more selective.
One of the duties of the Ministers of all Departments is to see that a selection is made, and that right through the industry there is the production of a certain number of types. Some progress has been made in the sphere of engines, and I support the suggestion for a committee such as the Brabazon Committee, which did very good work. Perhaps in reply the Parliamentary Secretary could give a little information on the "Brabazon" and the Princess flying boat, because that would be much appreciated. The other day I was speaking to a technician who works on the Princess flying boats. He started his first job in life on them, and now his son has grown up and is also working on the same aircraft. We really would like some information as to when there will be some decision on the actual operation of these giants.
I have now time to deal quickly with only one or two further points. I wonder whether the full import of the development of the helicopter is fully appreciated. 2278 The jet engine has brought spectacular results and, incidentally, a measure of safety in that the horrors of fire present in the petrol engine are less liable to occur with the jet because the fuel, paraffin, is not so volatile.
I think that the helicopter will affect our daily lives even more than the jet engine. I was delighted to hear the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) give his views on the helicopter. I cannot follow him in his views, because I believe that within a few years every city, town and large parish will need an alighting place for helicopters.
Incidentally, I should like to point out that the upkeep and cost of such hover-ground alighting places is very small. Do the Minister and his staff realise that every large works will require, for the purposes of trade and business, alighting grounds and, maybe, operate their own helicopters? I urge the Minister to have this particular development very closely examined.
I think that this subject has not been sufficiently dealt with today. In due course, the development of the helicopter will affect our road traffic problems, and maybe provide the answer to those problems, which seem insoluble at the moment, of how to relieve the volume of traffic and prevent the wastage of life on the roads.
Having flown for a good many years, I know that the development of the helicopter is unique. It will in time revolutionise the whole life of the country and every country within a few years. I think that this is a subject which has to be studied very carefully. We must not get into the habit of thinking that the ground organisation now required for the normal conventional aircraft is a static requirement.
The Labour Party have a very deep interest in aviation. We see it as a means whereby not only can trade be facilitated throughout the world—a not inconsiderable factor—but as a means whereby the English-speaking people throughout the world can be brought together, and eventually, perhaps, all people will learn a greater toleration through closer personal contact.
We are not prepared to allow a Conservative Government to weaken the structure of the British Air Corporations, as they are now doing by instilling despair and doubt in the minds of the personnel. 2279 Our criticism of the Minister's proposals does not mean that we are not concerned with the prosperity of the individual and the independent operator. Within wide limits we wish private enterprise to flourish, as it did under a Labour Government.
It must be remembered that it is only since the advent of a Conservative Government that private enterprise in all spheres, not only in civil aviation, has suffered a relapse. I am still not clear as to the position which has been brought to light by certain speeches in the debate today. If the Government really wish to encourage aviation and are sincere in their purpose, there are many more profitable means of doing so than by destroying confidence in the future of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A.
I shall try to clear the issue by asking a vital question. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give a reply. If B.O.A.C. or B.E.A. and an independent operator go to the licensing authority and apply for a licence to operate a certain service, will the Corporation be granted the licence or will the independent operator be granted the licence?
I hope the Minister will not say that it depends on the circumstances for the circumstances are clear in that both parties are alike and both will appear before the licensing authority with the same claim. Will the Minister say categorically who will get the licence? I am also not clear whether the Minister intends to give a private company the operation of B.E.A. services in Scotland.
§ Group Captain Wilcock
I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will answer these points. The Opposition have made their view clear. I am authorised to say that unless we receive an assurance on these points—it depends on the answer of the Parliamentary Secretary—we shall record our lack of confidence in the Government in the Division Lobby to-night.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (Mr. R. Maudling)
We have had an extremely interesting debate with many valuable and helpful contributions from hon. Members who have caught the Chairman's eye. I 2280 only regret that a number of hon. Members who would have made equally valuable, if not more valuable, contributions have been unable to do so. I certainly valued the contributions which have been made by my predecessors in this office, the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick), whose great enthusiasm for aviation is known to all of us, and the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), who has left behind him in our Department a great feeling of affection for him and for the work which he did there.
We have also had an interesting contribution from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Derby, North (Group Captain Wilcock), a man of considerable knowledge and experience in these matters. I agree very much with what he said about the importance of not setting off the public Corporations against the private operators and saying that one side is hopeless and the other not. It is not true to say that that suggestion comes, if it comes at all, from this side of the Committee. We have heard a great deal from the Opposition about the supposed iniquities of private operators. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Derby, North that it would help our debates if we did not indulge in that sort of controversy.
I also agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman about the excellent work which the Corporations have done and the importance of the State continuing to support the Corporations. That is why we have made it crystal clear that we intend to preserve the position of the Corporations' first-class and tourist-class services on their existing international network, which covers the globe. That must not be forgotten.
I could not agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman about the dilemma in which he thought he might place the Government by asking if we intended the private operators to have profitable or unprofitable routes to run. If the routes were unprofitable, they would be ruinous for the operators and the operators would not take them on, because they are not forced to do so. The operators would only take on the routes if they considered that they could be run economically.
He also maintained that the Corporations would be damaged if the private operators were to take on the profitable 2281 routes. That is not so. There is room in the air for enterprise of all kinds. That is the attitude upon which the Government's policy is based. It is not a matter of carving up among certain interests a limited amount of air transport opportunities; it is a matter of giving the greatest possible opportunity to all the enterprise, invention and genius of this country in air transport at the beginning of an air age which may in time compare with the development of the British Mercantile Marine in the many generations during which it has been built up to its present position.
I shall now try to cover the points which were mentioned and to reply to as many of them as I can. Time will not permit me to reply to all of them.
Flying clubs were mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Derby, North and the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas). The Government, like their predecessors, wish to do all they can to assist the flying clubs, but there are limits. Flying is an expensive occupation. By continuing the rebate to the clubs and by continuing the air cadets, we hope we are doing as much as we can in this direction. I do not know where the hon. Member for Lincoln got his information about the increase in the landing fees. I am informed that no such increase has taken place since the previous Government were in office.
In regard to the aspect of works flying clubs, we support very much its development. I see that my right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) is associated with the pamphlet which has been circulated by the Association of British Aero Clubs, who have been able to obtain a tax concession from the Department of Inland Revenue, and that takes some doing. When the Inland Revenue go as far as that, it must have taken some persuasion. We certainly intend to do all we can in a practical way to assist these flying clubs.
The hon. Gentleman who opened the debate referred to the need for planning aircraft for as far ahead as 1958. We must constantly look years ahead in the provision and the production of aircraft. The hon. Member for Lincoln seemed to suggest that the present Government were not doing enough to help in the production of Comets for export, but 2282 assistance from the Government should have been given a year ago to produce more aircraft for export now.
§ Mr. de Freitas
I was complaining about the complacency of Lord Swinton in his statement in the House of Lords, which implied that we had nothing to do but sit back and collar the jet market.
§ Mr. Maudling
My noble Friend's remarks did not imply anything of the sort. Action speaks louder than words, and the action of the Government has been to assist this development. The hon. Member for Wellingborough said that the Comet was not a production of private enterprise. I do not want to enter into too much controversy, but does he suggest that it was the production of the nationalised industries? It is true that Government finance was available to assist in the development of the Ghost engine, which has marked civil and military possibilities, but the development of the Comet civil aircraft was De Havilland's own project. I have taken a particular interest in the matter because De Havilland's lies in my constituency. This was a private enterprise effort, but the great thing is that it was a British effort, one of the greatest efforts made in this country for a good many years.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree equally that there would have been no production at all but for the fact that the two prototypes were ordered by the Ministry of Supply and, so far as the remainder of the order is concerned. by the B.O.A.C.
§ Mr. Maudling
I have stated the position as simply as I can, and I refute the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.
Some reference was made to the Brabazon Committee. There is in being an inter-Departmental Committee on civil aircraft requirements, representing each of the interested Departments and the users. It meets at frequent intervals whenever it is necessary to consider the future requirements of civil aircraft. It can fairly be said to take the place, on a more permanent basis, of the Brabazon Committee. The question of allocating civil and Service requirements, to which the hon. Member for Lincoln referred, is a matter of Government policy, to be settled among Government Departments. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend will not be in any 2283 way backward in putting forward the claims for civil aviation—he will have the time and the ability to do so—in order that a balance may be kept among the Departments, by decision of the Government.
I must say a word about helicopters. The Government recognise the importance of helicopter development, but it is important to realise also, as the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) realises, that there are difficulties about the commercial operation of the helicopter. We do not consider that it would be right to operate helicopters over crowded areas in this country until there are multi-engined helicopters in being. There are also questions of speed involved and other issues before helicopters can be operated on an ecomonic basis. It must be able to carry adequate numbers in order that there will be a proper return. However, considerable research is going on at the moment.
§ Mr. Maudling
It is impossible to give comparative operating costs, as we are still in the experimental stage, but the Government are doing all they can to assist in the development of helicopter design. The Bristol 173, which holds the field in multi-engined design, is being developed, and Government contracts have been given to two firms to develop the jet-propelled rotor helicopter. B.E.A. have put in requirements for a helicopter which is being considered by a number of firms.
At the same time the Government are taking steps, in consultation where necessary with the local authorities, to safeguard and prepare for the provision in future of proper alighting areas at significant points. It is important that the helicopter should give full economic value, and it is necessary to have alighting points in the most important places. As the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) knows, the Government have very much in mind the question of the South Bank.
§ Mr. Maudling
And railway stations. as we are being constantly reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). Also B.E.A. are 2284 doing excellent experimental work in the actual operation of helicopters.
I turn now to the question of internal services. We have heard a lot about the internal services, and this has involved a certain amount of internecine warfare between representatives of Scotland in which I should hate to enter. But some of the things that have been said are not worthy of the hon. Members who said them. The hon. Member for Wellingborough said that Scottish Aviation, Limited, have not got a clean record. I do not know what he means. He was referring to the position of Prestwick and its taking over. That is at present at arbitration, but I would point out that he suggested that we should have solved in six months of office what he did not succeed in solving in six years.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I agree, but the point is that the difficulties are being created by Scottish Aviation, Limited, and not by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Argument has been going on for nearly eight years as to what should be paid for and what they have.
§ Mr. Maudling
And for most of that time the hon. Member was in power. It is not a very good commendation of the powers of the Government of which he was a member. Then the hon. Member for Tradeston said that this firm had not carried a single fare-paying passenger. At least, that was the impression I got from him.
§ Mr. Rankin
The point I was making was that the proposal was to hand over to Scottish Aviation, Limited, and that other than the Prestwick to Belfast service, they had not carried a single fare-paying passenger at any time in their existence.
§ Mr. Maudling
I thought that was what the hon. Member said. The position about internal services is that my right hon. Friend is still considering policy on this matter. Taking the position of Scotland, though we have not heard many references to Wales or any part of the United Kingdom other than Scotland, it has been argued vigorously from the other side of the Committee that the services at present provided by B.E.A. could not be improved upon by any other operator.
§ Mr. Maudling
I have no doubt that they are providing a very good service, but evidence comes to me from Members of Parliament and other sources that there is dissatisfaction with the present Scottish services. Both of those points of view my right hon. Friend must take into account in coming to his final conclusion. He will make no change in the present set-up until he is convinced that such a change will be in the genera) public interest.
On the particular question of the subsidy, I do not understand the argument that it is right for the taxpayer to pay a large subsidy to a nationalised Corporation but that it is entirely wrong for the taxpayer to bear a much smaller subsidy to a private corporation for the same thing. If the service is equally satisfactory and the cost to the taxpayer is less, that seems to me to be quite a satisfactory state of affairs.
Turning next to the Corporations, it has been implied that the new policy will completely destroy the foundation of the Corporations and that there is widespread alarm and despondency amongst their staffs. That is completely unfounded. It has been made crystal clear that the existing network of the Corporations is to be maintained. It will be made clear in the directive to the Air Transport Advisory Council that there is to be no material diversion from the existing first and tourist-class services.
§ Mr. Beswick
In that case will the hon. Gentleman tell me why I have had telegrams even today asking that it should be made clear in this Committee where they stand and where their livelihood is to be in the future?
If there is any confusion amongst the employees of the Corporations it has not been created from this side of the Committee.
Now I want to refer to one or two other points. I want to emphasise that the Government adhere to the principle of the I.A.T.A. rates structure. We consider that right and, for the reasons my right hon. Friend has already explained to the Committee, we do not consider that the development of the third-class services in the Colonial Empire, where the I.A.T.A. rates do not apply, will undermine the I.A.T.A. structure. However, we will keep a careful eye on it.
2286 In reply to the point raised by the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), it is not intended that the private operator should have any opportunity of competing with or taking away from the Corporations their mail con tracts on existing routes. They will continue. It has been suggested that this policy will be unfair to the independent operators in that the competition they will have to face is unequal.
It has been made clear already, but I repeat it again, that the Corporations will not maintain aircraft specifically for charter operations. If, however, they have aircraft standing idle, and charter opportunities present themselves, obviously the Corporations should be allowed to take advantage of those opportunities. If those aircraft are normally based on London Airport, and carry out their scheduled route services from London Airport, they will carry out their charter operations from London Airport also.
In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett). it is not practicable to open London Airport to general charter operations. We are, however, doing a great deal to improve the facilities of Blackbushe, which I think he has in mind, and I understand that negotiations in regard to a new hangar, offices, and so on, are progressing between my Department and the company concerned, and I hope they will reach a satisfactory conclusion.
Now a word about the position of the employees, which is of great importance and which I am sure would have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud and Thornbury (Mr. Perkins) and the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) if they had had a chance of catching your eye, Sir Charles. It will be a condition that the terms of employment of the charter companies, as it is at the moment, are the same as those agreed with the National Joint Council for Civil Aviation.
The point the hon. Member has in mind, about work put out to contract by firms which may not follow the same terms and conditions, is a problem which applies to the Corporations as much as it does to the private operators. I understand that before the Election negotiations were going on between the trade unions concerned and my Department on 2287 this question of the outside contracts and terms and conditions. We shall certainly be willing to resume those negotiations if they are likely to be of any value.
§ Mr. Maudling
I have not time to give way. There was one important point mentioned which I am sure my right hon. Friend has in mind. It will arise only if some of the present activities in existing Corporations were to be transferred to private operators. Before that took place, my right hon. Friend would consult the people concerned in those Corporations on the important point of pensions of airline pilots. I can assure the Committee that we have that matter very much in mind.
I come finally to the main question of whether our new policy is justified. On coming into office, we were faced, obviously, with a vast development of air transport. A generation ago it was a great adventure to cross the Atlantic. Today, hundreds of thousands of people of all ages are crossing the Atlantic. The Corporations have done great work; let there be no doubt about that. They are facing international competition on their scheduled services across the world in first and tourist-class services. We intend to reserve their position on those services.
But, great as is the work which they have done, the Corporations have no monopoly of ideas. That is the important point. Look at the work of some of the other private operators, the people who have built up the motor car ferry service and the varied activities of the private companies throughout the world. They have shown that there is still a vast untapped field of enterprise in civil aviation, and we intend to give private companies the opportunity to tap that field, as we believe they can do, without in any way impairing the services of the Corporations.
Take, for example, the question of freight carriage, which my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I.
§ Orr-Ewing) mentioned in his very thoughtful and informed speech. Here, obviously, is a great field for development by the private companies. The thing which we must remember, and which my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. J. Grimston) mentioned, is that new types of service generate a new demand. That is the answer to the criticism of the so-called third-class service. That is the answer to much of the criticism which has been directed at Government policy. We say that it is not a question of dividing up a limited and definite amount of air transport demand between the existing companies. We say that here is an immense field for British expansion—for expansion by British brains and enterprise and genius —and we want to see the opportunity given for both the Corporations and the private companies to develop this field.
§ I understand that the Opposition intend to divide the Committee. They intend to move a reduction in my right hon. Friend's salary on the ground, which is not very logical, that he and I have two jobs to do at once. I should have thought that merited an increase in salary. It is surely important, if we are to have the development of air transport in this age which we want to see, that we should have a settled policy and that we should stick to it. We on these benches are entirely convinced that the policy we have laid before the Committee is the right way to develop and exploit in this new age the genius of this country. We hope we shall be able to carry out this policy with the united support of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Beswick
In view of the fact that we are still left without definite information on the future of the Corporations, especially in Scotland, I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
§ Question put, "That a sum not exceeding £7,835,900 be granted for the said service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 229; Noes, 252.2291
|Division No. 210.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Awbery, S. S.||Benn, Wedgwood|
|Adams, Richard||Bacon, Miss Alice||Benson, G.|
|Albu, A. H.||Balfour, A.||Beswick, F.|
|Alien, Arthur (Bosworth)||Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Bing, G. H. C.|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Blackburn, F.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Bence, C. R.||Blenkinsop, A.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hastings, S.||Paton, J.|
|Boardman, H.||Hayman, F. H.||Peart, T. F.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Bowles, F. G.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rowley Regis)||Popplewell, E.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Herbison, Miss M.||Porter, G.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Hobson, C. R.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Holman, P.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Houghton, Douglas||Pryde, D. J.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hoy, J. H.||Rankin, John|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hubbard, T. F.||Redmayne, M.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Reeves, J.|
|Carmichael, J.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Champion, A. J.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Rhodes, H.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Clunie, J.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Coldrick, W.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Collick, P. H.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Ross, William|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Janner, B.||Royle. C.|
|Cove, W. G.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Schofield, S. (Barnsley)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Crosland. C. A. R.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Short, E. W.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Daines, P.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Keenan, W.||Slater, J.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Kenyon, C.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham S.)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||King, Dr. H. M.||Snow, J. W.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Deer, G.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lewis, Arthur||Steele, T.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lindgren, G. S.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Logan, D. G.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||MacColl, J. E.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Edelman, M.||McGhee, H. G.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McInnes, J.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||McLeavy, F.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Ewart, R.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Tomney, F.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfiald, E.)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Field, W. J.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Ungoed-Thamas, Sir Lvnn|
|Fienburgh, W.||Manuel, A. C.||Viant, S. P.|
|Finch, H. J.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Mayhew, C. P.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Follick, M.||Mellish, R. J.||West, D. G.|
|Forman, J. C.||Mikardo, Ian||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mitchison, G. R.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Freeman, John (Watford)||Monslow, W.||Wigg, George|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Moody, A. S.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Gailskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Morley, R.||Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)|
|Glanville, James||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mort, D. L.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Moyle, A.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)||Murray, J. D.||Williams. Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Nally, W||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Grey, C. F.||O'Brien, T.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Oliver, G. H.||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Orbach, M.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||yates, V. F.|
|Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)||Pannell, Charles||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Hannan, W.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Hargreaves, A.||Parker, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Pearson and Mr. Holmes.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Baldwin, A. E.||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington. S.)||Banks, Col. C.||Birch, Nigel|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Barber, Anthony||Bishop, F. P.|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Barlow, Sir John||Black, C. W|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J||Baxter, A. B.||Boothby, R. J. G.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Beach, Maj. Hicks||Bossom, A. C.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Boyle, Sir Edward|
|Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sulton)||Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Braine, B. R.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bucks, Wycombe)||Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J M.||Bennett, William (Woodside)||Bromley-Davenport,. W. H.|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Horobin, I. M.||Partridge, E.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Hudson, Sir Austen (Lewisham, N.)||Peto, Brig. C. H M.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Hulbert, wing Cmdr. N. J.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hurd, A. R.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (llford, N.)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Raikes, H. V.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Carson, Hon. E.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Ronton, D. L. M.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Jennings, R.||Roberts, Peter (Heely)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Cole, Norman||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Colegate, W. A.||Kaberry, D.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Keeling, Sir Edward||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Russell, R. S.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Lambton, Viscount||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Crouch, R. F.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Scott, R. Donald|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Korthwood)||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Leather, E. H. C.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. MCA.||Lindsay, Martin||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Dormer, P. W.||Linstead, H. N.||Spearman, A. C M.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lloyd, Mai. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.>|
|Dugdale, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Lock wood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.)||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.||Low, A. R. W.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Stoddart-Soott. Col. M.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford).||Storey, S.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Fisher, Nigel||McAdden, S. J.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Summers, G. S.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)||Sutoliffe, H.|
|Fort, R.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Morecambe & Lontdeis)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Teeling, W.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|George, Rt. Hon. Mai. G. Lloyd||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Glyn, Sir Ralph||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Godber, J. B.||Markham, Major S. F.||Tilney, John|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Marples, A. E.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Gower, H. R.||Marshall, Sir Sydney (Sutton)||Turton, R. H.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Maude, Angus||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Gridley, Sir Arnold||Maudling, R.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Grimond, J.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Mellor, Sir John||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Molson, A. H. E.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Waller||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Moore, Ll.-Col. Sir Thomas||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C-|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Nicholls, Harmar||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Wellwood, W.|
|Hay, John||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, B.)||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Heald, Sir Lionel||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Heath, Edward||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Nutting Authony||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Oakshott, H. D.||Wills, G.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Odey, G. W.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Hol[...], A. F.||Orr-Ewing, Charles tan (Hendon, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Orr-Ewing. Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)||Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith and|
|Original Question again proposed.|
|It being after Ten o' Clock, and objection being taken to further proceeding, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.|
|Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.|