HC Deb 15 February 1954 vol 523 cc1647-9
53. Mr. Beswick

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when the order for five all-freighter Britannia aircraft was first placed by the British Overseas Airways Corporation; on what routes the machines were then intended to operate; and what changes of general policy on freighting have since been agreed between the Corporation and his Department, and when those changes were made.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)

British Overseas Airways Corporation have not ordered any Britannia freighter aircraft. They applied on 24th November, 1952, for my approval to order five freighter versions of the Britannia and indicated an interest in the possibilities of the aircraft both on the North Atlantic and Eastern routes. I approved the application on 23rd February, 1953, subject to the Corporation being satisfied that the necessary commercial opportunities existed and, in this connection, I reminded them that an application to the Air Transport Advisory Council would be necessary for any all freight service except on the route to Singapore on which they werealready established. This was subsequent to the undertaking given to me by the chairmen of the Corporations, which I announced in the House on the 16th July, 1952, that they would not apply to the Air Transport Advisory Council for all-freight services on any new routes for one year unless considerations of national importance required them to do so. There have been no subsequent changes of policy.

Mr. Beswick

While thanking the Minister for his recollection of the facts which he was unable to give us lastweek, and congratulating him upon it, may I ask him this question; he stated in a supplementary answer last week that he now considers it to be the primary responsibility of the independent operator to carry freight, so can he now say when it was decided as a matter of policy that freight should be the responsibility of the independent operators? Does he think that a statement of policy of that kind should be given in a supplementary answer?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In my view and the view of the Government, there is no question of a change of policy. It has been the view throughout that the service which independent operators and the Corporation can provide should be complementary more than competitive. I may add that I also pointed out in a letter to the chairman of B.O.A.C. on 2nd March that if the Corporation could satisfy the A.T.A.C. of the validity of its claim to operate an all-freight service in addition to the capacity provided by Airwork, whose application had already been approved, there was nothing in the terms of reference of the A.T.A.C. that would prevent them from recommending it.

Mr. Beswick

If there has not been a change of policy and if the Minister says that B.O.A.C. will not order those aircraft, why is it that on 18th March the chairman, in evidence before the Select Committee, said that the Corporation was ordering those five machines?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

As I think the hon. Member knows, the Corporation has ordered 25 passenger-carrying Britannias. It has been in negotiation for over a year with the Bristol Company over the possible purchase of freighters. My information is that as yet it has not purchased any.


Julian Errington Ridsdale, esquire, for Harwich.

Patrick Henry Bligh Wall, esquire, for Kingston-upon-Hull, Haltemprice.