HC Deb 20 February 1957 vol 565 cc415-7
14. Mr. McAdden

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will allow Hunting Clan airline to substitute new Viscount aircraft, which they have bought and which are costing £200 a week each while grounded at London Airport, for outmoded Vikings on their African air routes.

Mr. Watkinson

These routes are operated as "Colonial Coach Services", which were designed to create a new class of cheap travel appropriate for older-type aircraft and reserved to the independent operators. I am reviewing the basis of these services to ensure that the operators continue to have opportunities for development appropriate to present day changing conditions. To assist me I have asked the Air Transport Advisory Council for its advice as a matter of urgency.

Mr. McAdden

I thank my right hon. Friend for his recognition of the urgency of this problem in that he has referred it to the A.T.A.C. Would he also consider giving the A.T.A.C. some lead in this matter? Would he not, for instance, indicate that B.O.A.C. and foreign airlines use the same planes for first-class and third-class services? If it is good enough for nationalised undertakings, is it not good enough for independent airlines as well?

Mr. Watkinson

That is not quite the whole matter. The companies concerned knew very well what were the regulations, and, indeed, I think I have done them a good turn, because as yet this company has made no application to the A.T.A.C. and I have done it for the company.

Mr. Beswick

Does not the position disclosed by hon. Gentlemen opposite support the criticism made from this side of the House at the time that the so-called three-tier system was impracticable, and that if the opportunity is to be given for the one service to increase its standard equal facilities must be given to the Corporations to lower their fares if they wish to? Is the Minister aware that this is a matter of high policy which he should settle and not any other body?

Mr. Watkinson

This is an important matter. As I think both hon. Members know, there is a completely new fare structure likely to come into the general air routes of the world which will introduce a new high density third-class fare which will change the whole pattern of the fare structure. Therefore, it is right that the A.T.A.C., which constitutionally exists to advise me, should look into the whole matter.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

In view of the fact that this is a most controversial and difficult problem, as everyone is aware, will the Minister, before putting into operation the results of his consideration or any advice he may receive, report the matter to the House, either in a statement or by a White Paper, so that we may consider what is his policy before he implements it?

Mr. Watkinson

I think it would be in the public interest that any view or advice given to me by the A.T.A.C. should be made public.

Mr. Tilney

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Sierre Leone, which is not served by B.O.A.C. and has to rely on Air France, has long been looking forward to the introduction of these Viscounts?

Mr. Rankin

Will the Minister assure the House that nothing he does in this matter will prejudice the interests of the Corporations?

Mr. Watkinson

I am not going into this. I have referred it to the right body, which is a wise and independent body, and which will give me advice. I have said that the advice I receive will be made public. I do not intend to make up my mind until I have received that advice.

Mr. McAdden

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the questions put by hon. Members opposite, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.