HC Deb 22 July 1957 vol 574 cc110-65

7.18 p.m.

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Reading)

The Opposition have asked for this debate in order to draw attention to an important change of policy announced by the Minister on 26th June, a change which we believe to be seriously opposed to the best interests of the British Overseas Airways Corporation and to the best interests of British civil aviation as a whole.

One reason why we need this debate is that, quite contrary to established parliamentary practice, the Minister chose not to make a policy statement in the usual way after Questions, in which case hon. Members could have obtained same clarification of it by way of question and answer. Instead, he dodged any questions or criticism by announcing his policy in answer to a Written Question from one of his hon. Friends which probably came as no great surprise to him when he saw it on the Order Paper.

If I tried to recapitulate all the implications of the Minister's statement of 26th June. I should take up very much more than my fair share of the time of the Committee, so I will try to summarise them shortly. Hon. Members will recall that some years ago. acting through the Air Transport Advisory Council, or sheltering behind it, the Government gave independent operators the right to run what were called Colonial Coach Air Services over some routes in Africa and elsewhere on which the first class and tourist services were run by the public corporations.

Those Colonial Coach Services were allowed to charge fares below the tourist rate in compensation for the fact that they were not using the most modern aircraft, so that the services were necessarily slower and less comfortable than the Corporations' services. We all know that a Conservative Government will always say that they believe in full and free competiton so that business will go to the most efficient, but, of course, they do not practise what they preach.

To ensure that there would not be full and free competition on the Colonial Coach services, the Government forbade—I repeat, forbade—the Corporations to enter into this work at all. Doubtless that was because Conservative Ministers dared not risk competition between a nationalised corporation and private enterprise which might result in the nationalised corporation turning out to be the more efficient. If that happened, that ought to be a source of pride to all of us, but it would make nonsense of most Conservative speeches about the inefficiency of nationalisation. Presumably it was for that reason that the Government dared not risk it.

On more than one occasion we on this side of the Committee have raised the question of the erosion of the Corporations' services by these feather-bedded concessions given to private operators. On each occasion we were assured that the last concession which had been made was the last concession to be made, yet each time we found later that more concessions were made to private operators at the expense of the Corporations.

The Committee will remember that once upon a time there was a certain Adolf Hitler who was always making his last territorial demand in Europe until, a little later, he came along with another last territorial demand in Europe. That is the technique used by the Government for successively chopping bits off the traffic of the Airways Corporations and passing them, under conditions of monopoly protection, to private operators.

The most recent stage in this process was the one which was announced by the right hon. Gentleman on 26th June. It amounts to this: in about eighteen months' time most of the Colonial Coach services are bound to disappear in favour of a new level of tourist services. It was because of this that the Minister referred the question of those services to the Air Transport Advisory Council. He was very careful not to tell us—I hope that he will this evening—what were the terms of reference under which he put this matter to the A.T.A.C., so we do not know how limited or how limiting they were.

We do not know how far the A.T.A.C. was compelled by its very remit to report in the way it did. All we know is that the Minister, in a manner which one would call cowardly if one were speaking anywhere but in the House of Commons, got the Air Transport Advisory Council to do his dirty work for him.

Sir Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that he is casting a very serious reflection upon the Air Transport Advisory Council, which is a body of men of very high repute? Is he not using the debate to make reflections on the character of those men?

Mr. Mikardo

The hon. Member could not have been listening. My criticism was entirely a criticism of the Minister for getting the A.T.A.C. to do his job for him. I said it in those terms.

Sir P. Macdonald

It is the same thing.

Mr. Mikardo

It is not the same thing, and the hon. Member cannot understand the English language if he thinks that it is.

The Minister is now to do two things. The first is that for the next eighteen months, until the new tourist services come into operation, the independent operators will be allowed to use better aircraft at a lower density than up to now, thus directly violating the principle safeguard given to B.O.A.C. against unfair competition. The second is that after the new tourist services come into operation, Airwork and Hunting Clan are to be given 30 per cent. of the traffic on the East African and West African routes, including the mail traffic which was formerly reserved entirely to the Corporation.

How does the Minister reconcile that proposal with undertakings given to the Corporations and to the House by one or more of his predecessors—they come and go so quickly that one cannot keep count of them? As long ago as 16th July, 1952, the then Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation said that while the Government would no longer protect the Corporations against competition on their new and planned routes, they would continue to operate without British competition on their existing routes. Yet we are here dealing entirely with existing routes. Why has the Minister gone back so directly on his predecessor's undertaking?

On the same day, the then Joint Parliamentary Secretary, now the Postmaster-General, clarified that assurance still further. He said: 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th July, 1952; Vol. 503, c. 2285.] Will the right hon. Gentleman say that a diversion of 30 per cent. is not a material diversion? If not, how can he reconcile what he is doing with that assurance?

Nearly two years later, on 8th March, 1954, the then Minister renewed more clearly his assurance and undertaking. Dealing with the African services which were permitted to the private operators, he said that the service would be a …class of service—lower than the tourist class for the same route, and there must be no material diversion from the standard or tourist class service."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1954; Vol. 524, c. 1767.] Again, I ask whether he will say that 30 per cent. knocked off is not a material diversion?

The fact is that on this side of the Committee we have never believed that those undertakings would be honoured. The tactic of the Government has been to praise the Corporations in speeches and to work against them in practice. They have always paid lip service to a desire to see the Corporations growing and prosperous, but in practice they have always put the interests of private profit first. They have been so keen on this doctrinaire approach that on more than one occasion they have set the private operators and the Corporations at each other's throats and have ensured that neither the private operator nor the Corporations, but a foreign operator in competition with both got a new route. I have cited a number of examples of that in the Committee, and I am prepared to give more. There are now routes operated by foreign operators only because we fell between the two stools of the public and the private operator.

I little over a year ago there was a change in the top direction of British Overseas Airways Corporation, when a new Chairman and a new Deputy-Chairman were brought in. On this side of the Committee we were a bit suspicious at that time, and we said so, that one of the reasons why Mr. D'Erlanger was chosen as Chairman was that the Minister could rely upon him not to resist too actively the Government's depredations upon the services of the Corporation. The people who worked in the industry were suspicious of exactly the same thing, and through their unions they said so in the same terms. It was as the result of this expression of suspicion that the new Chairman of British Overseas Airways Corporation asked to meet the trade union side of the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport. He met them on 4th May, last year.

This gentleman, who seems to suffer from the strange delusion that he has a personal magnetism that can charm away all difficulties, addressed the trade union side at considerable length, and then retired, after which the trade union side minuted its opinion. It said: The general feeling was that the Minister had some ulterior motive in making the appointments, but as a result of the great agitation against his action the matter had been soft-pedalled. It passed a resolution which depored the nature of the appointment of the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman, and went on to say: We feel compelled to draw attention to the fact that the trade union side has no intention of allowing the State airlines to go the way of road transport and will resist any attempt on the part of any Government or person to hand over to private enterprise any section of either B.O.A.C. or B.E.A.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Was that a unanimous decision on the part of the trade union side on that occasion?

Mr. Mikardo

I do not recall whether it was. It was a very heavy majority decision. It may have been unanimous, but if not it was taken by a very large majority indeed. I could not be sure. Hon. Gentlemen may wonder why——

Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)

My hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo)will probably remember that the shop stewards from B.O.A.C. came to see my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick)and myself, and gave the same decision as has been stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading.

Mr. Mikardo

I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend for that reminder, which goes some way to answer the question of the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden).

Hon. Members may wonder why the workers in the industry were so suspicious, as it now turns out so rightly suspicious. Perhaps it was because some of them noticed that the Minister had chosen to recruit his new Chairman from the board of a company which finances the purchase of aircraft by private operators, including foreign operators, and which had another director of B.O.A.C. on its board. Some may have noticed that while the new Chairman resigned from the board of this finance company on his appointment to B.O.A.C. his place was taken by a fellow-director of D'Erlanger's. Some may know that among the shareholders of this, finance company are two of the Hunting group of companies to which some of B.O.A.C.'s African traffic has now been transferred.

I state these facts baldly and without imputing motive, and, indeed, without comment except to say that if this sort of thing had been done by a Minister in a Labour Government and in support of a supporter of a Labour Government an immeasurable furore would have been let loose on the Conservative side and in the public Press. Can hon. Gentlemen imagine what a scream there would have been from those benches about "Jobs for the boys" and how our benches would have sizzled with indignation and accusation?

Mr. Burden


Mr. Mikardo

I have given way once and cannot do so again in this short debate. I am very sorry.

It was because of those suspicions, that we so forcefully expressed in May last year and that were also independently expressed by the workers in the industry, that the Minister and the Chairman of the Corporation issued a statement in which they said that it was not their intention to merge, denationalise or dismember the Corporation; but if we want to kill something we do not have to dismember it. Death by a thousand cuts is just as much death as death by decapitation. Erosion can destroy a structure just as surely as explosion.

That assurance of the Minister, like a lot of his other statements about the Corporation, is a specimen of that peculiar brand of "double-think" and "double talk" that he always uses when he talks about civil aviation. It is highly reminiscent of George Orwell's "1984." The committee will remember that in that fictional State the slogans were "War is Peace," "Freedom is Slavery" and "Ignorance is Strength." I am quite sure that in that section of the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry which deals with the Airways Corporations there is a slogan on the walls which says, "Erosion is construction."

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Harold Watkinson)

The hon. Gentleman, by those words, is imputing something to the Ministry or to me. If he is imputing it to me, I am capable of looking after myself. If he is imputing it to the Ministry, I ask him to withdraw it at once in the full knowledge of the complete impartiality of the civil servants of the Ministry.

Mr. Mikardo

In the last few months the right hon. Gentleman has become so hypersensitive to criticism that—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] Just a moment. I do not propose to withdraw it. Since the right hon. Gentleman made that muddle over petrol rationing he has become ridiculously hypersensitive. He knows perfectly well that a Minister is responsible for his Department. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] Nonsense.

Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)

On a point of order. The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo)has just cast aspersions upon the impartiality of the civil servants who operate in the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation. I ask whether that is in order or not, Mr. Nicholson.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Godfrey Nicholson)

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Mikardo

You, Mr. Nicholson, with your great experience of the House of Commons and of the Committee of Supply, and all other hon. Members who are not being childish about this, will know that a Minister is responsible for his Department and that when one criticises a Department of the Government one is criticising the Minister.

I am criticising the Minister. I hold the Minister entirely responsible for all that is done in his Department, entirely responsible, and he ought to accept the responsibility. A year ago, before he got to the stage of believing that he is divinely infallible, and before he looked upon any criticism of himself as blasphemy, he would have recognised the good sense of it, but now he has become quite insensitive. I think it is since petrol rationing.

The Board of the Corporation has accepted the Minister's new policy reluctantly and under protest. If the Board had the courage of its convictions it would have flatly said "No" to the Minister and would have required him to issue a formal directive under the Act. It put up its bit of resistance, and finally gave way. I recall the debate of December, 1955, in which the then Minister said: It seems quite clear that if these nationalised industries are to be told, as they are told by the statutes that set them up, to run their affairs in a businesslike way and to conduct them so that they do not lose money, they cannot do that if Governments are leaning over their shoulders and saying, 'We take a different view of the commercial decisions you make.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th December, 1955; Vol. 547, c. 1973.] That is precisely what is happening on this occasion. The Government are leaning over the shoulders of B.O.A.C. and saying, "We take a different view of the commercial decisions you make, and, therefore, this time we are going to make the commercial decisions for you."

I would make one last point. The Government have always said that they would like to see a bi-partisan approach to this industry with all of us, on both sides of the Committee, finding an agreed answer to the relative positions within the industry of the public sector and the private sector which would continue even with changes of Government. That is what they have said they always wanted.

I believe that there is a place for both public enterprise and private enterprise in civil aviation. What we ought now to do is to consider the whole problem with a blank sheet of paper before us, and, from the experience of the last few years, work out the proper borderline between the two sectors of the industry on the real merits of the case. Unfortunately, all the actions of the Government, particularly this last action, have virtually ruled that out. Instead of making an orderly approach to this problem, they have gone on chiselling bits out of the public sector without any relation to what has gone before or what is to come after.

If the Labour Government which will be returned at the next Election find themselves compelled to make some drastic changes in this industry it will be entirely the fault of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues and predecessors. If the private operators exercise ordinary business prudence they ought to bear in mind before they enter into any further serious commitments that the right hon. Gentleman will not be in office forever and that he may very well be gone before many months have passed.

7.42 p.m.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I am very glad to follow the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo)because I have heard him make many excellent speeches in this House, but never heard him on such weak ground or, quite frankly, to be so testy as he has been this evening. I suggest that this evening he gained nothing by his complaints against the Minister. If he complained about the attitude of the Minister on certain occasions, he should reflect that his touchiness this evening was not what we usually expect from him.

The hon. Member said that my right hon. Friend has introduced a change of policy against the best interests of the Corporation and British aviation, but many of us on this side of the Committee do not think so. Apart from the trade unionists associated with B.O.A.C., there has not been any indication that the top executive in B.O.A.C. has made such a pronouncement. The hon. Member stated that the Government forbade B.O.A.C. to enter the Colonial Coach Services. Let us be frank about this. The nationalised Corporations showed no great desire to enter into those services, particularly during the pioneering stage. They left it to the independents to do all the pioneering in this sphere. Then, when that pioneering had been carried out, they wanted some of the benefits.

I bow to no one in this Committee in my admiration of the nationalised Corporations and all they have done in the past and, I hope, will do in future to ensure that British aviation will not only take a leading part in the world but will lead the world. I think that civil aviation is as important to us today, and will be particularly tomorrow, as our Mercantile Marine has been in the past. We have to look at this great industry, not in terms of this or that Corporation, but in terms of expansion throughout the nationalised Corporations and the independents. I believe that with the nationalised Corporations the independents have a very great part to play if this country's civil aviation is to expand to the extent that is absolutely vital to the interests of the country.

The hon. Member complained about the competition which is being levelled against the Corporations on this particular route, but he did not say, as he might well have done, that the giant Corporations had resisted any competition whatsoever on any of the other routes. They have resisted any encroachment or suggestion that the independents should be able to fly parallel services on any of the great international routes. Is not that feather-bedding and setting up a monopoly? Is it creating terms of competition which will benefit civil aviation of the country as a whole?

The hon. Member talked about erosion of the services of the Corporations. In 1955 and 1956, when British aviation carried 13.6 per cent. of the world's traffic, 0.8 per cent. only was carried by the independents. In terms of the proposal that has been made by my right hon. Friend, it is estimated that the independents on this particular service will carry between 4,000 and 5,000 passengers a year. It is suggested that that will break the great Corporations, that this is something which will destroy the power of the great Corporations. If it will break the power of the great Corporations there must be something very seriously wrong with them.

With all the wealth they have, with the opportunities they have of coming to this House and getting grants, with their opportunities, under Government sponsorship, of buying the newest aircraft in the world, with their giant organisations, the publicity officers and their offices throughout the world, will those 4,000 to 5,000 passengers a year mean such a terrible thing for the Corporations? I suggest to the hon. Member that he should take up again the job that he had not so long ago, and at which he was so good, the job of business efficiency, and try to inculcate some of his efficiency into the Corporation if he really thinks it will be destroyed by these proposals.

Mr. Frank Beswick (Uxbridge)

The hon. Member should not overlook the fact that if all those advantages were brought to bear the Minister nevertheless would prevent the Corporations taking more than 70 per cent. of the traffic in future.

Mr. Burden

We are dealing with this particular run at the moment. I am perfectly sure that there is no intention to extend beyond that stage.

After all that has been happening in the nationalised industries, why should hon. Members opposite object to this forum, and the Government set up by the people, exercising some control over what hon. Members opposite themselves have said are public corporations? When hon. Members opposite talked about nationalisation they lost no opportunity of telling the people that they would own the industries to be nationalised. Why should there not be some control in Parliament over these industries? Why should there not be some competition?

Because of the constant rise in the cost of the products of the nationalised industries I believe that the people of the country are beginning to say, "Let us have a little more control by Parliament, not less; more accountability to Parliament, not less." The hon. Member for Reading does his party a great disservice when he complains because we say that a nationalised industry should be subjected to just a little competition.

Mr. P. Williams

Will my hon. Friend elaborate on the figures he mentioned a few moments ago when he spoke about 5,000 passengers a year? Will he tell the Committee what that means in terms of aircraft movements per week?

Mr. Burden

It means about half a Britannia a week, 20 full Britannias a year.

Mr. Mikardo

I hope that the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden)is checking his facts properly. He said a few moments ago that I had given up a job which, in fact, I am doing actively.

Mr. Burden

I beg pardon of the hon. Member; I thought that he had given up that job. If he is still engaged in it and keeping his hand in, as obviously he is, there is all the more reason that he should use it in the direction in which it would show most benefit.

The hon. Member also made the point that the new Chairman could be relied upon to carry out the instructions of the Minister. That is a curious slur upon a very eminent man. He also said that if his party had done as the Government have done, the cry would have gone up "Jobs for the boys." Certainly not. If the Opposition could have got a man of the eminence of the present: Chairman to work for nothing for the Corporation, I am quite sure that hon. Members on this side of the Committee would have applauded, because that would have been very astute business.

Mr. Mikardo

The hon. Gentleman should ask his hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro).

Mr. Burden

The hon. Gentleman should not get so touchy about my being associated with my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). He has made these statements. This is a debate and I am trying to point out, as I am legitimately entitled to do, where I think the hon. Gentleman has gone wrong. He is very touchy this evening, which is surprising, because he is usually so good-tempered in these matters.

The hon. Member said that the trade unions had stated that they were not going to do this, that and the other. It seems to me to be an extraordinary state of affairs when the trade unions tell the Government precisely what they are to do or what should be done about nationalised industries. I agree that there must be consultation, and I think the hon. Gentleman himself will agree that, just as he said that the board of a nationalised industry should not be dominated by the Government, equally it should not be dominated by the shop stewards or trade unions in industry. Consultation yes, and always, because I believe that these matters can so often be resolved round a table.

When I put the question to the hon. Gentleman whether the decision that was taken by the trade unions was unanimous or not, he was not in a position to say, and, of course, I quite understand. It may well have been that there was a big majority in favour. On the other hand, there may have been some dissentient voices, some who believed that a parallel organisation or organisations—the independents—did not mean that the power of the trade unions in the industry was being diminished, but was being strengthened. Where there are alternatives, it frequently is strengthened.

I turn to one or two other matters in this debate. Since Colonial Coach Services have been introduced, I do not think that anyone will deny that it has done a very good job in helping to open up communications in the areas which it covers. I think all of us in this House would admit that anything which is likely to develop transportation within the area, and certainly to and from Africa, will assist this country and that continent in developing the enormous resources that we know exist there, the development of which is so important, not only for the economy of this country but also for the economy of that great continent, part of which has just reached independence.

The fact that the Colonial Coach Services have not been extended, for instance, to Singapore and Malta has been due to the resistance by the Corporation to such opening up in the past. That is understandable, but I do not go all the way with the Corporation. Some opposition to the present routes has come from B.O.A.C., but there is definitely no indication that it has been to the detriment of that Corporation. In fact, through the Colonial Coach Services, there has been the creation of an air-mindedness in an area that was backward in that direction, and one of the best ways in which the traffic can be expanded is by the pioneer line which creates confidence in air travel and the desire to travel by air.

I suggest that B.O.A.C., with this new agreement, will not suffer, and that no nationalised corporation will suffer, but will benefit from this pioneering. In my view, there will be a continual expansion of the airways corporation's traffic in these routes.

I would sum up the matter by saying that there is every evidence that by the operations of independent companies in these areas, the air transport market has been considerably extended. The decision to introduce a low fare—high density service on international routes—has led to a revision of existing arrangements.

In the changed circumstances, A.T.A.C. recommended—and I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will have something to say about this—and the Minister has accepted, that B.O.A.C. shall provide 70 per cent. of the capacity required for the East African destinations, and the independent operators 30 per cent. Presumably, this means that B.O.A.C. will provide the first-class services to that country, tourist services and 70 per cent. of the new class. That is not much of an erosion, not much of a cut; certainly not. I know that the hon. Member is very touchy about the nationalised corporations, but I think that erosion is the wrong word.

Air transport is something expansionist, and I wish that hon. Members opposite would look upon the future as a great one for air transport, which will expand tremendously and constantly. Certainly, this will not cause B.O.A.C. or the nationalised corporatoins any distress whatever. Let us look upon the whole matter as one of vital interest to our country and agree that there is plenty of room for all of them. If we are to lead the world in civil aviation as we have done in marine transport, we have to look upon it from that point of view.

Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)

Is my hon. Friend aware that on the West Coast of Africa, the independents now have 100 per cent, of the new traffic, and that under this proposal they will have only 30 per cent.?

Mr. Burden

The position is that, of course, the nationalised Corporations come out of this very well, and not as the hon. Gentleman opposite implied.

Then, this question arises. If it is to be determined that the nationalised Corporation shall carry 70 per cent. of the traffic and the independents 30 per cent., who will determine how that is to be arranged and fix the density that is to be given to each operator, and so on? It is a great problem, and I know that it is one that must have been in the mind of my right hon. Friend. I am convinced that he will be able to expound it tonight, so that we shall have a little more information about it.

The independent companies will now be able to fly Viscounts and Hermes in addition to Vikings. I am sure that the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick)has no complaint about that, because when we appeared together on television a little while ago one of his complaints against the independent companies was that they were not flying modern aircraft. Since this new arrangement encourages them to fly modern aircraft, I am sure that he is fully in support of my right hon. Friend's policy, and I hope that he will pay my right hon. Friend that compliment when he speaks later in the debate, as I have no doubt he will speak. We have heard a great deal about this unfortunate Corporation upon which the independent companies are encroaching, but it will be flying Britannias, and even here it has the best part of the bargain.

I know that several of my hon. Friends wish to speak, and I have almost concluded. I say quite seriously to right hon. and hon. Members opposite that many people in this country are a little concerned about the way in which our nationalised industries operate. It seems that these industries can come to the House and ask for great sums of money at almost any time. These sums are handed over to them, yet almost inevitably, year by year, the prices of the goods of the nationalised industries go up and up.

Mr. Beswick


Mr. Burden

Many people in this country are aware that the price of coal has gone up and up.

Mr. Beswick

We are talking about aircraft.

Mr. Burden

The same point arises, and it is a perfectly legitimate point. Hon, Members opposite are objecting to the fact that my right hon. Friend has endeavoured to infuse a little competition in one direction. I believe that most of the ordinary people of this country would like to see more competition infused in many directions vis-à-vis the nationalised industries and private enterprise.

8.3 p.m.

Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)

The only interest I have in this subject is in the success of the Airways Corporations and the welfare of the nation. Like the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), I wish B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. success—and I wish them a whole-hearted success, with none of the sniping at the Corporations which sometimes occurs from the Government back benches. It would be a great pity if the Minister gave the impression that his policy will weaken the Airways Corporations or limit their earning capacity.

I have spoken before in the House about the Corporations, because I have a large constituency interest. I imagine that a large percentage of the Corporations' employees at London Airport live in the Feltham constituency, which includes the Heath and Cranford Wards of Heston and Isleworth. In other words, parts of my constituency run well round the Airport. Consequently, I have met many of the Corporations' employees in their trade union branches, at social functions and in their homes. One point which has always impressed me has been the keenness of the staff to make these Corporations a great success in every way.

Air transport is a modern industry. The great leap forward in civil flying occurred at the end of 1945, and we saw the Corporations emerge in 1946. It is a new industry employing over 27,000 people at London Airport alone. What gives me great hope and courage for the future success of the Corporations is the keenness which the staff have in the job. To them it is not merely a matter of wages and working conditions. When I have been to their meetings or have met them elsewhere, I have seen that they are proud of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. and are very keen to make these great Corporations the best in the world.

The Minister will recall that last year, when the appointment of the new chairman of B.O.A.C. was made, there was unrest and disquiet amongst the staff at London Airport. I do not think that the Minister in his speeches has given any cause for great alarm, but the same can-not be said of some of his back benchers. I have been in the House during debates when they have attacked the Corporations, and these attacks have given the impression amongst a number of the staff that the Conservative Government are not keen on the success of the Corporations. If that impression is created the Minister must to some extent blame some of the speeches of his own back benchers and supporters.

When the appointment of the new chairman was made early last summer, I asked the Minister Questions in the House. In reply, he stated that he had no intention of denationalising, dismembering or merging the Corporations in any way, and that assurance was given to the staff. In a letter which I wrote to the Press I stated that I accepted the assurance which the Minister had given.

Mr. Burden

The only reason I intervene is to make it quite clear to the hon. Member that I wish B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. the greatest possible success, but I believe that this is such a great, expanding industry that there is room for the independent companies, too.

Mr. Hunter

I am glad to accept that assurance.

I think that this is an industry where competition should not exist as it exists in other industries. Although I do not want to mention names in the House. in some of the conversations which I have had with people with very big names in civil flying I have been assured that in their opinion private capital could not handle the needs of the expansion of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., for example, the long-term programme of buying aircraft for 1965 and the vast capital required for airports and developments. The Minister had to introduce a Bill to permit the use of dollars for the purchase of some American aircraft which will be needed in the future. I have been assured by experts in the industry that the industry could be handled in the great way in which it is expanding only by public corporations.

The assurance which the Minister gave last summer of his intention not to denationalise or dismember the airline Corporations was accepted by the employees, but his latest act is to take away some of the Corporations' traffic. It may be that what he is taking away is a small percentage, but the employees have formed the impression that this is the beginning and that, while he may take away only a few thousands one year, in the years ahead he may take away several millions of their earning capacity.

There have also been severe criticisms by the staff about the freighting taken away from the Corporations. It will be a great mistake, therefore, if the Minister gives an impression—that might reduce the very high morale at London Airport. and amongst the staff generally—that he is to weaken the earning power of the Corporation.

There is a news item in the Star tonight in which the Parliamentary Secretary praises Gatwick as an airport which is to be the world's finest, and one which has cost over £6 million. If we are expanding the new airport at Gatwick, we want to make sure that the training and travel possibilities of the Corporations goes on expanding. It was only two or three weeks ago that the Minister stated that there were now just over 3 million people going through London Airport this year, and that by 1964 or 1965 there would be 11 million people travelling through it, so one can see the great expansion there is for civil flying and for the Corporations if the Minister shows a determination that the Corporations are not to be interfered with by opponents of the Corporations and are to be allowed to remain the great success they are today.

It might be said that air travel is in its early days. The Corporations have now been formed for about 11 years. B.O.A.C. services are appreciated by visitors from every country in the world. That appreciation applies also to B.E.A. In Europe, everyone speaks of the high service, the skill of the pilots and the staff, and the great success the men are making of the job. I appeal to the Minister, therefore, not to take action that will weaken the Corporations or lessen their earning capacity, and not to give the impression to the staff that he is not behind them in their great efforts to make the Corporations the best and safest in the world.

8.12 p.m.

Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)

It is normal, I understand, when taking part in a debate in which one has a certain interest, to declare it at an early stage. As I have done on previous occasions, I should like to make it clear that I am connected with one of the independent air operators, although not one of those directly affected by this debate.

The hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter)said that he was not desirous of disclosing names of those giving information or opinions that he had received about the inability of private industry to run airlines on an international schedule service comparable to that of B.O.A.C. That may well be so under the present set-up, but should private enterprise be granted the monopoly position, the preferential rates of borrowing and the treatment by the Government that is accorded to the Corporations, I have no doubt that private enterprise could do the job as well as if not better than is presently being done. I think that it is unreasonable in any part of the House to suggest, without going a little further into the details of the qualifications which might hedge around any future situation, that something could not be achieved by private enterprise.

It is probably agreed on both sides of the House that the interests of all parties concerned in this is—perish the word—to maximise the British air contribution to world air transport. I believe that official Labour speakers and responsible hon. Members on this side accept that world air transport is an increasing trade and that there is room in an increasing degree for the two elements in it—the independent companies and the Corporations.

The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo)referred to the Minister's statement of 26th June as being a concession to the independents. In a few moments I will, if I may, put a few questions to the Minister, and, I hope, indicate that there is little in the nature of a concession in this advance. The hon. Member referred to motions, to resolutions and to opinions passed or expressed by the trade unionists most directly concerned at London Airport and connected with civil aviation generally. If my memory is right, I believe that the last resolution to which he referred was passed about eighteen months ago, and I am surprised that, on this occasion, when we are debating a new statement and what he would, I believe, call a change of policy, he has not adduced any trade union opinion directly relevant to this issue——

Mr. Mikardo

I quoted the resolution of 4th May, 1956, because I was speaking about what happened at the time of the change in appointments. For the benefit of the hon. Gentleman, I can tell him that last Friday week the trade union side of the National Joint Council passed a resolution condemning this new policy in the most categorical terms, and reiterating within it a part of the resolution that I read today.

Mr. Williams

I am profoundly grateful to the hon. Gentleman. There are two points that arise. The first is that, as far as I know, that resolution to which he has just referred was by no means unanimous——

Mr. Mikardo

It was carried by 12 votes to 2.

Mr. Williams

Indeed, the hon. Gentleman may say that it was carried by 12 votes to 2, but I think that there is quite a difference in taking 14 votes, and then taking the totality of members throughout the London Airport. There is a difference in this matter which is of some significance.

The second point——

Mr. Mikardo

I am sorry to intervene again, but the hon. Gentleman is making a false point, and I am sure that he would not want to. In fact, the two unions that voted against are two whose membership in the industry is among the lowest, not among the highest and, therefore, the majority of six-sevenths in numbers of persons present is actually greater than six-sevenths in numbers of workers, and substantially greater than any Government can hope to command in this House.

Mr. Williams

The hon. Gentleman may be right, but it is not an automatic assumption that the proportions are the same in relation to the one-twelfth of persons. But the substantive point of all this is that over the past few years we have, in this Committee, become used to a number of resolutions and a number of expressions of opinion which have, in effect, cried "wolf" about the future—about the 1951 changes, about the appointment of the Chairman last year, and now about this statement. We have heard cries of "wolf" too often to be particularly worried about them.

I will, if I may, ask a number of questions which will, I hope, show that this alteration is not gravely to the disadvantage of the Corporations, and may well, in the long run, be to their advantage, and to the disadvantage of the independents. There are a number of particularly detailed points which I should like to put to my right hon. Friend. Is there any way of knowing what share of the capacity of these new services will come to the Airline Corporations or to the independents of the United Kingdom? As one can see, this will be the result of Government bargaining, and as a result of that bargaining there will be the 70–30 proportions, but what assurance is there of Britain getting a fair share of the available capacity?

Who or what organisation is to ensure the division in this proportion of 70–30? Is this the responsibility of the Minister? This point, as the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick)will know, was particularly high-lighted in a number of remarks made in the magazine Aeroplane some time ago. Who is to be the controlling authority—the adjudicator? How are these services to be apportioned as between the independents and the Corporations? Are mail and freight involved in this, or is this purely a passenger service deal?

There is a great deal in all this that is so much in doubt and uncertain as to make me conclude that any opinion that has been expressed by management, by the executives of the Corporations or by the unions is based on too little fact. It is too soon now—it may even be too soon after the Minister has spoken this evening—to know how this plan will work out. I suggest to the hon. Member for Reading that to cry "wolf" again at this stage is prejudging a policy whose details are at the moment remarkably uncertain.

It is very surprising to me that B.O.A.C., the Corporation directly involved, should be entitled to 70 per cent. of a traffic which heretofore it has completely spurned and ignored. It is to acquire a 70 per cent. right in a traffic which it refused to pioneer—it may have been right to do that—and which is low revenue traffic.

The significant thing in this alteration as a result of the statement of 26th June is that the Corporations will be able, should they wish, to acquire a 70 per cent. share in the low-revenue traffic, whilst there is no compensnating advantage for the independents in the high revenue first-class traffic. I therefore come to the conclusion on this alteration that the independents are losing a proportion, and quite a severe proportion, of the traffic which they pioneered, in which they risked their all, and are being forced to let go this traffic to the Corporations which previously had shown little interest in this field.

In the meantime, the Corporation itself will maintain its monopoly position in the high revenue field. This may or may not be right, but I think it is wrong and unfair to the Committee and unfair to those who have their living in this industry, to suggest that this means savage slashes on nationalised industries. It is, indeed, anything but this.

The only advice which I will have the temerity, or perhaps the effrontery, to give to the Committee is that the proof of this alteration will be in the pudding. That is rather different from what the hon. Member for Reading believes. As I see it, this is to the advantage of the Corporations. His view or mine may be right, for the truth may be somewhere in between, but it would be wrong for this Committee to prejudge the working of this arrangement until the Committee has heard rather more from the Minister than we have heard so far.

8.23 p.m.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

Before you took the Chair, Sir William, there was a little heat in this debate and I do not think that we should be surprised by that because it seems to me that this debate illustrates the fundamental difference between the parties in this Committee. It illustrates the difference between those who believe that great services like the air service should belong to the nation and that the workers who participate in them should feel that they are contributing to a great national service, and those who, on the other side of the Committee, believe in private interests and in private profit. Whenever that issue is raised in a sharp form, there is deep feeling on one side of the Committee or the other.

It seems to me that when the nation owns a great service like B.O.A.C., it is a betrayal of national interests that 30 per cent. of the tourist traffic from this country to Nairobi, Salisbury and Accra, and 30 per cent. of the mail and freight traffic should be handed over to private interests for private profit making.

Mr. Tilney

Is the hon. Member aware that the nationalised Corporations have paid no attention to one part of the Commonwealth—I am aware of the attention that the hon. Gentleman has given to various members of the Commonwealth—that but for the independent airlines there would be no service at all from Sierra Leone, and that if that service were taken away one would have to rely upon Air France? Would that not be a betrayal of national interests?

Mr. Brockway

I have not said that there is not a place for pioneering independent airlines. What I have said is that when the nation has constructed a great national service in which every one of us has great pride, when we have among the workers in that service a devotion to it and a devotion to the national cause which is reflected in it, it is a betrayal of national interests if we limit the powers which that great national service has. It is on that argument that I have based my remarks.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for intervening because he has reminded me that I wanted to say something else which I was going to overlook. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter), many workers at London Airport and employed by B.O.A.C. live in my constituency, particularly now that we have the great estate which the London County Council is developing at Langley.

I say to the Committee, with a touch of direct contact which sometimes, perhaps, is missing when we are discussing these questions, that we have among those men a wealth of enthusiasm for their task. They have almost the spirit of the old craftsmen who loved to do what they were doing.

What my hon. Friends the Members for Reading (Mr. Mikardo)and Feltham have said is absolutely true, namely, that they regard the action which the Government are now taking as some repudiation of the spirit of service which animates them in the contribution which they are making.

Mr. Watkinson

indicated dissent.

Mr. Brockway

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but those who are in touch with the workers at London Airport and in B.O.A.C. know this to be true.

I approach this matter from a rather different standpoint. We are discussing the air services which traverse the Continent of Africa, flying over Egypt, the Sudan and Uganda, to Kenya, Tanganyika, Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia, on the way to South Africa, or flying over Tripoli, French Equatorial Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and the territories of the West. For a moment or two, I want to look at the problem not from the point of view of British interests but from the point of view of the millions of Africans whom these aeroplanes serve.

It has been a matter of pride that, despite the prejudices of the countries it has served, particularly in the Rhodesias and South Africa, there has been no racial discrimination within the airlines of B.O.A.C. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, when he is entering into these arrangements with private aircraft companies, to insist that there shall not be any racial discrimination in those private undertakings, also. Is it not also possible, when he is entering into these new arrangements, for the right hon. Gentleman to utilise the occasion to ensure that racial discrimination shall be abolished not only within the aircraft but at the airports at which the aircraft call? At Salisbury, which is one of the airports to be served by both the B.O.A.C. and these private airlines, racial discrimination is practised in the most gross and aggravated form. The African or Indian traveller may not eat a meal in the restaurant by the side of his European fellow-passenger, and they may not occupy the same hotel.

When the right hon. Gentleman enters into new arrangements with private companies in this matter, will he use the advantage which he has in the negotiations to see that racial discrimination is ended not only in the airplanes but also in the airports which the airlines will serve?

Mr. P. Williams

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Minister should attempt to interfere in the internal policies of other Governments?

Mr. Brockway

I suggest that the interest of a great international air service in its passengers should not end with the amenities provided for them inside the aeroplane, but that it should use its position also to secure that there shall be racial equality in the airport services which the passengers use.

I hope that the Minister will, in addition, encourage the training of African pilots and African staff for service on these aeroplanes. I hope that he will utilise the opportunities there are in the developing countries of Africa to staff his aircraft in that way. After all, there are great Indian and other Services which use their own nationals and what are regarded as coloured persons to pilot and staff their aeroplanes. If B.O.A.C. really is to be a British and a Commonwealth service, we ought to find a place in its service for African people, also.

For my last point, I return to the affairs of my constituency and the constituencies of certain other hon. Members. We are now finding that aircraft factories are being closed. The Hawker works at Langley, in my constituency, has recently been closed, and the great works of the Hawker-Siddeley combine at Blackpool has been closed. I suggest to the Minister that, when he is thinking of the expansion of the aircraft service, he should think of it as a national service which we should be using to provide alternatives to the work provided by the defence services in such factories as I have mentioned. If we begin to think of this in national terms and not in terms of private interest and private profit, we can co-ordinate our air service with our air factories for the benefit of all.

8.35 p.m.

Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)

In his closing words, the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway)returned to familiar ground when he deplored profit. I should have thought that it would be by being able to make profits that any airline, nationalised or private, should be able to buy the aircraft which would keep the factories open—and open not for warplanes, about which we know the hon, Member's views.

This debate occurs at a rather pregnant moment, because we have just reached the stage when the policies for the future by either side—certainly of the Opposition—are being brought out from under the hat. We find the Opposition in an understandably embarrassed condition when debating nationalisation, which, I thought, had lately become a rather dirty word, certainly as far as new policy is concerned.

The sting, apparently, is to be reserved for those already touched with that expression, and nationalisation is to become ever more rigorous in the industries that have already been taken over as national concerns. That is very significant, and I am sure that that aspect of this debate will not be lost on those who operate aircraft in this country or anywhere in the world. "Nationalisation" may be a dirty word as far as anything new is concerned, but it looks as if it is to be riveted ever more firmly on civil aviation should the Opposition ever get a chance to do its worst to civil aviation.

I am sure that none of us missed the threatening connotation of the words of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo)that people had better not invest in private civil aviation.

Mr. Mikardo

I did not say that.

Dr. Bennett

I will accept that the hon. Member did not say that. I said that it was the connotation of what he said, even if he was careful not to say it. Perhaps he would like to say that he never intended any such thing.

Mr. Mikardo

I did not say that. I do not mind repeating what I said. I said that it would be normal commercial prudence for the private operators, before entering into any fresh heavy commitments, to remember that the right hon. Gentleman will not be there for ever.

Dr. Bennett

Exactly. I thank the hon. Member for repeating it. I am sure that we now understand quite clearly.

The hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter), who I am sorry, is no longer present, mentioned Parliamentary criticism of the nationalised Corporations. I am sure that we can all agree that an insufficiently critical attitude has often been taken by the House of Commons. If anything, we have been united in almost too fulsome encomiums of the Corporations. We all wish them well, but many of us would wish them better.

When we consider their operating efficiencies, for example, our present nationalised Corporations, with all the monopoly privileges that we are able to give them, have a very poor numerical showing on their profit, if that is the only yardstick we want, compared with some of the American companies, for instance. We cannot afford to forbear from criticising the Corporations for not yet being anything like as efficient as they should be. Parliament does not run these Corporations. They are to run themselves, but I think that the Corporations could be given Parliament's enthusiastic support in trying to make themselves more financially efficient. A figure of 0.8 per cent. net profit is surely not a very good business outcome.

We are dealing primarily with these Colonial Coach Services. The point that has to be made about it is that we are dealing with a traffic which was unwanted by the nationalised Corporation concerned, B.O.A.C., and was developed at risk of the shareholders' moneys by private enterprise. I do not think that that has been sufficiently stressed in the debate, although my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams)made some mention of it.

If these new T.34 services—I think that is the appropriate jargon—are to supersede the Colonial Coach services, it seems to me that the people who have developed and generated these services should hardly be expected to give them up en bloc for the Corporations to operate, which hon. Members opposite appear to desire. The Corporations are to be given 70 per cent. of somebody else's business. They will not do badly out of that, and if the business is to increase in the way we all hope it will, hon. Members who claim to represent the Corporations cannot reasonably grumble about that. It is a very reasonable expectation.

Although the hon. Member for Reading grumbles that less uncomfortable aircraft can now be used in these services, I am glad that one of his hon. Friends is a champion of better aircraft for these services. Perhaps the two hon. Members would like to arrange their joint attitude.

Mr. Mikardo


Dr. Bennett

I do not think it is very cheap, but I think that the aeroplanes need not be cheap and old to make a service cheap. Good aeroplanes mean a cheaper service and, therefore, one should enthusiastically support a policy that now allows the service to run with modern aircraft, though the Hermes is not particularly modern. The Opposition constantly tells us that it believes that the independent operators have a part to play, and would have a part to play under the Opposition's jurisdiction, but if hon. Members opposite are grumbling, as they so constantly do, at every opportunity that the independent operators are ever given to play any part in civil aviation, I find it difficult to imagine what part these independent operators are expected to play in a Socialist economy. It seems to me that that part is something very near annihilation.

I have heard only single Socialist approval of independent operators—in the direction of car ferry services, which apparently still might be regarded as matters for independent operators. It seems that any long-haul service and any schedule service, even third-class, should, according to them, be taken off the independent operators and that pretty well everything should be in the hands of the Corporations, including some rather hot forms of catering for charter services.

This debate has made quite clear the threat intended by the Opposition against any form of independent business in the aircraft-operating world. It is a formidable threat. It is most deplorable for the country. I should be glad to be corrected if I am wrong, but I imagine that the Opposition wants all the future development in operating civil aircraft in this country to be substantially in the hands of the nationalised Corporations only.

I feel that if hon. Members opposite tie themselves to that attitude they are limiting the capacity of expansion of this country's air operations, because I do not feel that the Corporations alone can cover the expansion which the country needs when they are already so very substantial in size. I say in all sincerity that I do not think that nationalised Corporations—the ones that we know or new ones alongside them—are likely to be able to handle a sufficient share of the rapidly increasing traffic.

It has been said during the debate that our share of international traffic is dropping. That is most deplorable. The hon. Member for Reading looks incredulous. It has dropped between 1951 and 1956 from 14.7 per cent to 13.6 per cent. of the world total. That is most unfortunate. If that trend continues the country must admit that somewhere it is wrong in its attitude to the operation of civil aviation.

I imagine that some further stimulus is needed. I give it as my opinion that the stimulus needed for extra effort is not likely to come from nationalised organisations. Consequently, I feel that the Opposition's attitude is a damaging one. The policy of starving out the independents to feed the Corporations would not be best for the country. At the very least it would give the Corporations dyspepsia.

I maintain the attitude that I have all along adopted, and that is that it would be well if there were more of the spirit of live and let live in the operation of our civil aviation and that the independent should be able to take a greater amount of work, which would probably bear relatively the same proportion as the world maximum rises. I believe that there is plenty of room for all and that it is completely beside the point for us to argue about the sharing out of traffic on its present basis. The future is surely what we are trying to arrange.

8.48 p.m.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

The hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett)taunted us with the fact that "nationalisation" was a dirty word. If we look back over the history of our civil aviation debates we realise that "nationalisation" is a dirty word only when it is used by the Tory Party. Every debate in any way associated with nationalisation, the nationalisation of aviation in particular, in which I have participated has been used by the Tory Party to attack civil aviation, whether it was B.E.A. or B.O.A.C. which was involved. Tonight is another example. The debate was supposed to be about the Colonial Coach services. As usual, the Tory Party has turned it into a direct attack on the way in which the operating side of civil aviation is conducted.

Dr. Bennett

I was trying to draw attention to the fact that the Opposition no longer find the use of the word "nationalisation" likely to be electorally popular or rewarding, and, therefore, it is their own discretion which has made it so modest in its use.

Mr. Rankin

The hon. Member is completely wrong. He shows that he has not read the pamphlet which he is trying to discuss under the guise of dealing with the Colonial Coach Services. Proof of what I was saying was given by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams). He declared his interest in the subject under discussion. That is quite proper, and we do not criticise it in any way.

When one considers the content and timing of a reply—it is part of our protest tonight—which was given to an hon. and gallant Gentleman, who also has an interest in civil aviation, and that he is merely one of a very large group of hon. Members opposite who are all directly concerned in Civil Aviation in one or other of its aspects, one realises the strength of the aviation lobby on the Tory side and that the Minister must be subject to some sort of pressure. I am not imputing any evil motive in that respect, but no one will imagine for a moment that all those people who are identified with either the productive or operational sides of civil aviation sit quietly and do not seek to advance their private personal interests or company interests by pressure on the Minister.

Mr. P. Williams

We are all interested in the Corporations, as we guarantee their borrowing powers.

Mr. Rankin

I am sorry, but I cannot give way. I am not making any insinuatino about the hon. Member. He did admit his interest. I am merely drawing attention to that fact. As I have said, every one of these debates is utilised to show the fundamental opposition which the Tory Party has to this nationalised service.

I want to say a word or two in reply to the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), who is no longer in his place. He took up the point of view that the Colonial Coach Services would be justified because they brought in the weapon of competition. Last year, when dealing with the annual report, I drew attention to the fact that these services which are operating in Africa—which were operating. I should say, last year in Africa; there may be a change this year—were costing 6d. per mile to run. That was the cost to the consumer—6d. a mile for the ticket. The nationalised service which I used this morning, and use every Monday morning from Renfrew to London, carries me here at 4d. per mile, and we are told that if we bring the private factor into the services we shall reduce the price. That is not true.

Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)

The hon. Gentleman is wrong.

Mr. Rankin

I am not wrong. These are figures from the Annual Report, which we discussed a year ago. The hon. Member for Gillingham says that competition keeps down prices. He is inferring that there is no competition here. There is the competition of the railways. On the overseas side there is the agreement which is fixed among the aircraft companies regulating prices.

Dr. Bennett


Mr. Rankin

I am very sorry, but I cannot give way. The hon. Member said that there is room for everyone in the air. He is not in touch with what is happening. The problem now, so far as air transport is concerned, is that there is not room for everybody. The problem of air space is becoming very real.

It is obvious that it will be far more easy to deal with the problem of the control of air space through the nationalised Corporations than by making the carriage of persons and freight a free for all. It is not in keeping with international trends and I hope that the party opposite, which has moderated its attitude now that it is in power, will realise that it is not helpful to keep niggling at and attacking the nationalised Corporations, as hon. Members opposite have done for the last ten years.

It has been said tonight that there has been no expansion. When I began using the Renfrew-London flight D.H. Rapides, which carried five people, were used. This morning I flew in an aircraft carrying 53 people and which is one of the most up-to-date machines now in service. That is an example of expansion. The least the Tory Party in power can do is to give a little more vocal support to the nationalised services than hon. Members opposite have shown tonight.

8.56 p.m.

Mr. Frank Beswick (Uxbridge)

I do not propose to accept the invitation of the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett)and go into the full accounts of the Corporations and compare them with American operators. No doubt we shall have an opportunity to do that later in the year.

Tonight we are considering the statement made by the Minister on 26th June, and it is with the latter part of that statement that we are chiefly concerned. The charges which we have made against the implications of that second part of the statement are that it has stirred up unrest again among the employees of the Corporations; that the Minister has resurrected the controversy about private capital versus public ownership in the air transport industry, the controversy which we thought had been settled and put behind us; that he has made a statement which runs completely counter to policy laid down as sound economics by not only Labour Governments, but by the Coalition and Conservative Governments before that.

He has proposed a policy of parallel services in which the advantages of neither competition nor unified public ownership will be apparent. In addition, he is making a proposal which is contrary to the Air Corporations Act, 1949. He is proposing a policy which is illegal His answer to those charges is that he is merely proposing something which was a recommendation of the Air Transport Advisory Council, that he has given assurances which he will no doubt repeat tonight that the concessions will not be extended, and that in any case, the concessions are not substantial. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams)said that there had not been concessions, but I remind him that that is the term used by the Minister himself.

I want first to deal with the issue about the Air Transport Advisory Council. That body is now being required to undertake responsibilities for which it was never intended. I have in the past paid tribute to the ability and care with which members of the A.T.A.C. have performed their duties, but it was never intended by Parliament that that body of part-time, non-representative individuals should advise on matters of aviation policy. It was given the task of considering the complaints of air travellers and was invited to make recommendations for improvements of services. It was a sort of consumers' council and nothing more.

Even when the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor gave it a new directive within which it was asked to recommend the allocation of licences, the then Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation made it clear that matters of policy were to be excluded from reference to the Council. We had been disturbed for some time at the extension of the activities of this body and voiced our apprehensions in the House of Commons. We have said before that the Minister has been sheltering behind recommendations made by the A.T.A.C. He suggests that these carry weight which must be accepted by him. In fact, it is not so. The A.T.A.C. has no locus in this matter at all. The fact that it has suggested this concession is of no relevance in considering whether the concession is right or wrong. Indeed, as I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo)made clear, the fact that it has tendered advice on this issue of policy only justifies our concern at the whole position and future of the Council. So much for that recommendation.

I hope the Minister will not press that point tonight. If the Council makes a recommendation which is within the framework of a directive which the Minister has given to it, and which, in other contexts, would be called a "leading question." we are not surprised at all that it has given him the answer that he requires.

Then there is the point that the concessions made are to be restricted to the African routes. The Minister has given an assurance. We understand by what he said that assurances have been given to the Corporation and to the trade unions. This, as my hon. Friend has said, was to be the last territorial demand. I am not sure why the Minister should want to assure the Committee that this is the last kind of arrangement of that type. If it is to be beneficial, why is it to be restricted to Africa?

Mr. Watkinson

The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo)was quoting my predecessor. I have never made any statement of that kind.

Mr. Beswick

If that is so, I can only expect that the Minister will repeat the type of assurance that has been given by his predecessor. I can only imagine that he has given some sort of assurance of this kind to the Corporation; otherwise, it would not have accepted the arrangements which he has proposed to it.

I do not think we can place any weight at all upon any assurance which the Minister may care to give to this Committee or to the Corporation. I will say why. I am sure the Minister will accept this. I say at once that we are not suggesting that the Minister's personal word in this matter is not to be accepted; of course, we accept it. We accept and recognise the integrity of the Minister, but I will explain why we can attach absolutely no weight to assurances of this kind.

In the first place, no Government can bind another; in the second place, it seems to be equally true that one Conservative Minister cannot bind another Conservative Minister. Apart from that, the whole post-war history of these things shows that one concession leads only to further concessions. I am not laying blame or criticising anyone, but I will say what has happened. I recall the case of the Car Ferry Service. A private firm conceived the idea of lifting cars over the channel by aircraft. It sought a licence, and I think it was entitled to it. I went out of my way to suggest that it was entitled to a licence for a longer period of years than was originally granted.

What happened? Once it had a licence—and on this understanding an assurance was given to the Corporation, which was interested—it said, "We are carrying these car passengers. Surely we can be allowed to carry additional passengers as well in order to make the service economic". One gives way when one is faced with logic of that kind. The argument is impeccable. They were permitted to carry a limited number of passengers. I speak from memory—I think the number was six. After a time, they come back and say, "You have accepted the principle. We can now carry passengers other than the car passengers. You limited us to six; we have space for ten. Why do you prevent us filling the four empty places?"

We have this technique of one limited demand followed by another. All they are asking now is to carry an extra number of passengers. The A.T.A.C. of the day recommended that they should be allowed to carry extra passengers. It was unanswerable logic. The point I make is that the original idea of a chosen instrument—B.E.A.—building up low cost air transport by operating modern aircraft at maximum capacity goes by the board because, bit by bit, part of its traffic is drained away by this duplicated facility. The technique of making a small and limited request and, when the principle is granted, going on to insist that logically the limitation should be removed, has been followed in other cases.

It was precisely this technique which was applied in the case of Colonial Coach Services. The right was given to operate with old aircraft at extra low fares to attract fresh traffic which the Corporation would not otherwise carry. In favour of the licence being granted, a great point was made that old aircraft would be used. Nothing more was wanted. We were given a definite assurance that the Corporation would not lose any traffic. The Minister's directive of 31st July, 1952, states in terms that there should not be any material diversion of traffic by the operation of these Colonial Coach services. The directive said to the A.T.A.C.: the proposed service is of such a nature as to generate a new class of traffic without material diversion of traffic from the normal scheduled services of any previously approved United Kingdom operator. That was the understanding; it was to be a new class of traffic which would not be diverted from the previously approved United Kingdom operator. There was no argument in the first place about old aircraft. Then before long it was argued that there was absolutely no logic or reason why more modern aircraft should not be used. Personally I agreed with the firms concerned. Even though it was on that express condition that the original licence was granted, nevertheless in my view it would have been quite impossible to have said, "You must go on in future forever operating obsolete aircraft." There we see again this technique of one limited concession making another impossible to resist.

Now we come to one more quite different and bigger concession. An austere, third-class, so-called Colonial Coach service, a cabotage service within the control of the United Kingdom is one thing, but a licence to operate an international scheduled service parallel with and precisely duplicating services of the Corporation is quite another thing.

Sir P. Macdonald


Mr. Beswick

I am going to deal with the point about competition later. Competition has never been asked for by hon. Members opposite, nor are they asking for it today.

We had assurances and now the Government are going beyond the limit for which those assurances were given. I am certain we shall get assurances given for the future. But once international scheduled services are allowed to private operators, what is the logical answer to the ultimate request that instead of two routes they should be allowed to operate three or four? I know something of the economics of this business. The economics of the argument would be absolutely unchallengeable. Two routes would not support the necessary overheads—that is how the argument will run—but three or fours routes would give an efficient operating unit. Additional services would make it possible to get better utilisation out of the company's fleet. Of course, it would be valid if an argument of that kind were advanced.

It seems to me that the next logical step would be for parallel services across the North Atlantic. I think we ought to look ahead. The difficulty here has been that we have been dealing too much in bits and pieces instead of having a plan which the Conservative Government were prepared to stick to. That has been the difficulty which has led to a lot of this trouble. If we look further ahead, when we have these independent companies running parallel services alongside B.O.A.C. services in different parts of the world, we shall have them coming along and calling our attention to the uneconomic character of these parallel services—these duplicated services.

They will say that the next step must be a merger between the independent operator and the Corporation, and that will bring us precisely back to the policy which the Conservative-dominated Coalition Government put forward in 1945 in their White Paper, which I propose to quote in a minute. This is what they have been wanting. This is the policy which all these people want—an opportunity to invest in the national chosen instrument. They do not want to compete against the Corporation. There has never been one single proposal for competition coming from independent operators.

They have always wanted some protection, and what they want, fundamentally, is to be allowed to put capital into the Corporation itself. That is the proposal which was put forward in the first place, and that is the proposal which they would now like to put forward. I am suggesting that they are moving step by step towards the position in which they can put it forward with some chance of success.

Several hon. Members opposite have talked about the benefits of competition in this business. I say it quite sincerely, having followed all that has been said in the business, having known what Conservative policy has been, having known what was thought about it in the Department during the formulating period just after the war, that no responsible Conservative has ever asked for real competition in the air transport industry. They have always argued for monopoly.

It was a Conservative Minister, the late Sir Kingsley Wood, who brought in the B.O.A.C. Bill, who supported it by expressing the view that competition was wasteful. It was the Conservative-dominated Coalition Government, when a Conservative Minister was responsible for civil aviation in the post-war period, who stated that they did not ask for competition. They asked for something that was precisely the opposite. In Command Paper 6605, which I recommend some hon. Gentlemen opposite to read, it is stated: It is, therefore, a necessary part of the Government's plan, that the undertakings which will be granted the right to run air services both within the United Kingdom and between the United Kingdom and other countries"— and this is a Conservative Minister in a Conservative-dominated Government— shall possess such right on their allotted routes, to the exclusion of other United Kingdom air transport operators. That is what they said, and they justified that on the grounds of air transport economics. It is precisely on the same administrative and economic grounds that we justify the services down to Africa to the exclusion—and I quote the words of the Government's White Paper— of all other United Kingdom air transport operators".

Mr. Burden

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. What he has quoted came from the Coalition Government, but it should be borne in mind that is a decade in ordinary terms, but the equivalent in air transport of 100 years. For heaven's sake, let us look forward.

Mr. Beswick

I shall bring it as far up to date as last week. I am about to show the hon. Member that those who understood aircraft economics in those days would say exactly the same today. The shipping interests who in those days wanted to put their capital into a monopoly service are today asking for the opportunity to put capital into a monopoly air transport route.

I hope I have made the point. It should be borne in mind that the difference between the two sides of the House has never been between a single chosen instrument and competition. The difference has been about the ownership of capital in the chosen instrument. The Conservative Party have wanted a proportion of privately-owned equity capital, whereas we have always said that the most economic method of raising capital was that of obtaining fixed interest Government-guaranteed stock, with capital appreciation benefiting not the shareholders but the community as a whole.

I come right up to the present time. The same shipping interests who wanted to enter this monopoly in 1945 with a share of the capital are not asking for competition now. The Minister is not proposing to have competition between these two parallel services. This proposal does not mean competition. It means that the Government allocate 30 per cent. of all United Kingdom traffic in these new T.34 services to certain destinations in Africa to the independent operators and 70 per cent. to B.O.A.C.

Mr. Watkinson

It may save time later if I point out that it is not traffic but capacity. The two are quite different.

Mr. Beswick

Perhaps the Minister will tell us in what respect there is a difference. The only way in which one can deal with capacity is to base it upon estimates of traffic, I know the way in which it is done. One estimates the traffic potential and then limits the capacity to meet that amount of traffic. In practice, although the terms are different the policy is the same.

I maintain that these proposals have the worst of both worlds, neither the ad vantages of competition nor the advantage of unified operation. They will mean overlapping in services and facilities, they will mean an increase in overheads and they will mean more expenditure in the development of these African services. May I ask the Minister to consider this point? When an operator is weighing up the possibilities of increasing his frequency in the future he incurs an initial risk, and possibly a lasting risk until the new frequency attracts enough traffic, but if in the future B.O.A.C. wished to put on extra service it would have to prove to the Minister not that there was enough traffic to fill another aircraft for the Corporation but that there was enough traffic not only for its aircraft but for the aircraft of the other operator, too. Whatever additional traffic arises as the result of the development work in that part of the world, B.O.A.C. will be able to take only 70 per cent. of the traffic which is offering.

Dr. Bennett

Surely it is more likely that the Corporations will have reached agreement with the private operator concerned that the capacity on both sides is increasing?

Mr. Beswick

If that is what the hon. Member envisages will happen, then I hope he will cut out of his speeches in future anything about the virtues of competition. Of course there will have to be something of that kind. Nevertheless, my point is still valid. In the future there will have to be enough traffic not only to enable the Corporation to put on an additional machine, but also to allow the independent operator to do so.

Moreover, everything which has been said today has been said on the comfortable assumption that Ghana, for example, will always be content to allow two United Kingdom companies to operate to and from her country. How can we be certain of that? The whole argument in favour of the Colonial Coach Service before was that it was a cabotage service; in other words, it was only to be within United Kingdom territory or within United Kingdom controlled territory.

We are now dealing with independent countries. We are dealing, in the first instance, with Ghana. Soon it will be Nigeria, and a little later, of course, there will be the Central African Federation. Who is to say that they will not wish to run their own air company? Who in this House is confident that American interests are not already suggesting that they should put up capital for a national operator in one or other of these independent African countries? They have already expressed an interest, as hon. Gentlemen will know, in the case of one country, and it is almost certain that they will make a proposal, as they have elsewhere, that the countries concerned should start a national company with an element of American capital in it. Could we then object to traffic rights being given to this new company? And how economical are our two United Kingdom companies then going to be?

I believe that it is contrary to all principles of sound airline economics to split the available traffic between these two British operators with parallel operators offering the same class of service at the same fares. I say frankly that there is more justification for this type of parallel service over the North Atlantic than there is for it down the African routes. And if B.O.A.C. accept this principle of parallel services in the one case, I do not see how it can possibly resist an extension of it over the heavier routes across the North Atlantic.

We on this side are against an unnecessary duplication of services. We are against it on the ground of efficient economical airline operation, but there is, I would suggest to the Minister, another reason for this House objecting to what he now proposes to do. His proposals are contrary to the law laid down by Parliament—and this is a view that is supported by responsible legal opinion. The Minister must have had some legal doubts. I have no doubt that he has had opinions given to him. If not, he should have done, because there are legal doubts, and I do know that they have been felt before now in the case of other concessions that have been made.

How do these doubts arise? They arise because, in the Air Corporations Act, it is laid down that scheduled services shall be the responsibility of the Air Corporations. There is no argument about that. That is the position. That is the legal position. The Act says that the Air Corporations shall have the right or the responsibility—the sole responsibility, to the exclusion of other United Kingdom operators—to operate scheduled international services.

How does the Minister propose to legalise the policy which he announced on 26th June? He proposes to legalise it by Section 15 (3, b)of the Air Corporations Act. 1949, which gives power to the Corporations to enter into an associate agreement provided that the other company is associated …with the corporation under the terms of any arrangement for the time being approved by the Minister as being an arrangement calculated to further the efficient discharge of the functions of the corporation. Can the Minister really say that this arrangement that he is now proposing is …calculated to further the efficient discharge of the functions of the corporation"? He may say that it helps "Air-Work" and Hunting Clan. He may say that it staves off his back-bench critics and [hat it is a necessary concession to all the influential pressure being brought to bear on him. He may say all that, but he cannot say that it is in the interest of the Corporation, and I do ask him to tell us on what legal ground he justifies his virtual direction to the Corporation to enter into this arrangement with these independent companies.

I had hoped that we could have left behind this controversy about the extent to which private capital should come into the air transport business. I had hoped that we had achieved a by-partisan policy in civil aviation. I had thought that the rôle had been allocated to the independent operators—not a major rôle, certainly, but then, as I have shown, neither the Conservative nor the Labour nor the Coalition Government had originally attributed a major rôle to operators other than the chosen instruments.

The rôle which I thought had been allocated to the private companies envisaged smaller and more flexible independent units doing charter work, the possibility of troop carrying, and those inclusive tours which have developed in recent years so remarkably. There was even the right in a more recent policy change for these smaller companies to develop international services to destinations not served by the corporations, and that directive—the present Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies was partly responsible for it—was still in line with the policy laid down in Cmd. 6605, and in line with the policy which the Labour Government operated. It was in line with the policy laid down by Sir Kingsley Wood.

But here we come on to something quite different. This concerns business which will be the bulk traffic of the Corporation in the future. We are not, as the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden)suggested, dealing here with 5,000 passengers a week. He ought to listen to some of his other hon. Friends about the possibility of expansion in that part of the world. We are not dealing here with something which these companies pioneered.

Mr. Tilney


Mr. Beswick

No, I cannot give way now. We are now dealing with this class of tourist traffic, which I believe will be the bulk traffic not only in Africa but in other parts of the world. Its importance has been stressed by I.A.T.A. It is precisely to carry this kind of traffic that the new aircraft of the future are being designed. The designers of the fast large-capacity aircraft have in mind precisely this type of T.34 traffic. In the ordinary way, the whole of this new traffic in the new aircraft would have been carried by the Corporation. In the future what is going to happen? Seventy travellers will go to the B.O.A.C. offices and will be given a ticket. The next thirty travellers will be told that they will have to travel in the aircraft of another company. That is not competition at all. There is no semblance of competition about an arrangement of this kind.

I believe this is a wrong-headed conception. It is not justified by any practical, administrative or economic argument. It is, moreover, as I have said, contrary to an Act passed by Parliament. I hope, as my hon. Friend the Member for Reading said, that the Minister will make it clear to the operators concerned when he has further discussions, that we do not agree with what he is doing and that moreover it will be we on this side of the Committee who will have responsibility for these matters in the future. To emphasise our difference on this policy, I shall certainly advise my hon. Friends to divide the Committee tonight.

9.29 p.m.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Harold Watkinson)

I have sat here during the whole of this debate in, at times, some astonishment because I have wondered how remote can hon. Members opposite get from the outside world. It really is quite astonishing. Of course, some of them have embarked on a defence of nationalisation as a thesis. I think that the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo), who is not inexpert in these managerial matters, knows as well as I do that nationalisation, if pursued as a thesis, is an utterly outmoded method of management. It is older than the model T Ford and just about as out of date.

Mr. Mikardo

The right hon. Gentleman may think that, but we do not.

Mr. Watkinson

That is what the country thinks.

Mr. Niall MacDermot (Lewisham, North)

Put it to the test.

Mr. Watkinson

To try, therefore, to apply in doctrinaire fashion what is, of itself, an outmoded concept to the most rapidly changing form of transport in the world might be a very dangerous thing to do. I, therefore, want to examine this matter, as the Air Transport Advisory Council examined it, with that kind of background in view, that what matters is not what the Socialist Party or the Conservative Party decides in air transport, but what the pattern of air traffic in the world dictates. Unless we take some account of that, we shall do great harm to the Corporations as well as to the industry as a whole.

To return for a moment to the opening speech of the hon. Member for Reading, some of us, who, perhaps, do not know him very well might, on occasions, think that he is anxious to attain a reputation as the rudest man in the House. I see that the hon. Gentleman smiles, and I smile too, because those who know him better know that his bark is often very much worse than his bite. I want merely to say this to the hon. Gentleman. I do not mind his defending the Corporation. I know that he wants it to succeed. So do I; there is no difference between us on that.

I am very glad that the hon. Member made it plain that any of his picturesque allegations, which I shall read with pleasure in HANSARD, referred to me and not to my Department. He knows as well as I do that the Departments give completely impartial advice to their Ministers and, as he says, it is the Ministers who are responsible, and, therefore, one should not make allegations, I think, about the civil servants behind them.

Arguments advanced by hon. Gentlemen opposite during this debate have been based on a complete fallacy. What is proposed is not a change of policy in any way. That is one of the reasons why I felt it quite proper to put down that very long and detailed answer in reply to a Written Question. As I told the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick), I should have preferred it to be answered Orally, but it had to be done in that way. Therefore, on 26th June, it was put down as a Written Answer, because it does not in any way represent a change of policy. At most, it is a development of existing policy. I want the Committee to understand why it has been necessary to do it.

First, I am sure that my hon. Friends who are interested in private enterprise in the air will agree with me when I say that it is, at most, simply a piece of elementary justice to allow the airlines concerned to keep the traffic which they themselves have created, and they would take the view, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams)said, that they have, after all, been very badly treated in this matter. I shall come to that in a moment or two. A policy of that kind cannot be any detriment to the Corporations.

Mr. Beswick

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that with regard to the first part of his statement or the second part?

Mr. Watkinson

At the moment, I am referring to both. I want to deal with both parts. I appreciate that the two parts are different. I shall come to that.

Just before I deal with the remit which I gave to the A.T.A.C., to which there has been much reference, I must make plain that it is not correct to imply that the Air Transport Advisory Council is some sort of consumers' council. It is nothing of the sort. According to the Civil Aviation Act, it is nothing of the sort. The Act says that the Minister may refer any matter to the A.T.A.C. that requires consideration with a view to the improvement of air transport services or relating to facilities for transport by air in any part of the world, or relating to the charges for such, facilities. I do not, therefore, make any apology to the Committee for referring this matter to the A.T.A.C. I do not know whether right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite agree, but I should like to see the status and standing of the A.T.A.C. constantly improved. In my view, we need a licensing and arbitrating body in this growing industry. I believe that the A.T.A.C., under Lord Terrington's distinguished chairmanship, fulfils the task impartially and supremely well. Therefore, I make no apology for referring the matter to it.

Whilst I will not read the whole letter—I am perfectly prepared to publish it—I should like to mention just two paragraphs. In my letter to Lord Terrington of 20th February, 1957, I said: I am proposing to review the terms on which Colonial Coach services are approved and operated to see whether they are consistent with present-day conditions. In view of your Council's wide experience of these services, I should be glad to have their advice on what changes, if any, are desirable. Later—and this is a point which has hardly been touched upon in this debate, although the hon. Member has just mentioned it—I said: The…major difficulty arises from the constitutional changes that are now taking place in the Colonial Territories. Already, Sudan has achieved its independence; Ghana will become independent in a few weeks' time, So the field in which the independent companies can operate will be gradually restricted if they continue to be limited to operating their services on cabotage routes. As the independent companies have pioneered"— no one, I think would deny that— these Colonial Coach routes and have built up a substantial volume of traffic, it would be unfair to deprive them of the fruits of their labours simply because of constitutional changes which could not have been foreseen when the services were started. That is the remit which I gave to the A.T.A.C. It is not unfair or biased in any way and it is certainly not adverse to the B.O.A.C. That is the first fact of which the Committee should take account.

The advice that the A.T.A.C. gave to me was, I have said, impartial advice. It is within the terms of the Act. I am extremely grateful to Lord Terrington for the great deal of trouble he took in hearing all concerned, including, of course, the Corporations. He performed a public service in so doing. The first point, therefore, is clear. The Government take the view that the A.T.A.C. is the proper impartial body to advise the Minister on these matters from time to time.

Now I come to the next allegation that in some mysterious way, action that I have taken on which the A.T.A.C. has given advice has undermined the position of the Corporation and has in some way worsened the relationships between the Corporation and everybody else. What nonsense that is. As the hon. Member for Uxbridge knows—he is very experienced in these matters—this strange air world is a kind of monopoly. That answers all his points when he went into ancient history. The fact is that the air world was, and is, the kind of world in which we must have chosen instruments, whether one likes it or not.

There is no possibility, therefore, that whatever Governments or Ministers come and go, the Corporations can be other than the main flag carriers for this country. That is just a fact of life and existence. It has nothing to do with the policies which Ministers may adumbrate in the House of Commons. Therefore, it is my policy, as it has been the policy of my predecessors, to give every support to both B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. I know that the hon. Member for Reading is involved in all this. Indeed, I think he is still chairman of the workers' side of the joint council.

Mr. Mikardo

Of the whole council.

Mr. Watkinson

I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I am not sure that the hon. Member is quite right in saying that this particular act has spread alarm and despondency. Of course, the hon. Member must protest, and so must his colleagues in the trade unions. That is their job, and I do not blame them for doing it. They must try to see, within their lights, that the Corporation gets a fair run for its money. I can show that it does. If the hon. Member pursues his inquiries a little further with the Board and others, he will, perhaps, find that I do not receive any complaints, nor do I think that there are any complaints, from the Board of B.O.A.C. at the way in which I have backed it up since I have been Minister of Civil Aviation.

If the hon. Member wants proof of that, he had better consider the quite natural and fair complaints that I get from the private enterprise industry, pointing out the enormous sums of money that are being spent on new aircraft, the great sums of public money invested in this Corporation and the way in which the Government—rightly, I think—supports it in every possible way, both in national and in international affairs.

Therefore, to say that I have not backed up the Corporation is just plain, arrant nonsense. Whilst I do not object to the hon. Member saying it, because I believe his motive is that which I share, that is, to help the Corporations, whether the hon. Member is wise to raise these old heresies is perhaps a different matter. He knows as well as I do that at the moment the Corporation is a happy and contented team. The new Chairman is doing a first-class job of work.

The Corporation has immense difficulties in breaking in the DC-7C and the Britannias, but for the first time in history those in the Corporation see a future before them, with the right kind of aircraft and with the right support. There is a feeling in the Corporation now that there is more promotion from within and that there is a Board which has more understanding. Those in the Corporation want it to be successful and prosperous. It is a very happy team.

It seems to me that the Opposition take a much less favourable view of the future of the Corporations than I and my colleagues do. If that is not so, why should right hon. and hon. Members opposite be so worried about all this? It is not a great new policy. If a great Corporation like B.O.A.C. cannot stand this very minor holding by the independent companies of what they have got—and that is all that it is—all I can say is that the Opposition do not rate the Corporation's future nearly as high as I do. Since the new Chairman took office its passenger revenue is up 19 per cent. and freight is up 14.7 per cent., and the Corporation this year, I am delighted to say, will make a profit, not a large loss, as forecast.

Is that the kind of situation in which one should come here and preach alarm and despondency about what is, with B.E.A., our greatest national instrument in the air? It does not make sense. It does not lie in the mouths of hon. Members opposite to talk about breaking bipartisan policy and dragging this matter into the House of Commons. I did not do it. They did.

Let us go on to other matters about which the facts are not clearly known. It is said that the Act gives a monopoly to Corporations for ever and a day. That is not so. What is said is that the Corporations, their associates and agents, have a right to existing routes, but I want to encourage the extension of association between the Corporation and those who can also help in this air work. It already exists. Hon. Members know about the companies in the Middle East and the rest of the world where B.O.A.C. is already in association. I see nothing wrong with the extension of the principle of association.

Mr. Beswick

The right hon. Gentleman should not be allowed to get away with that. "Associate" or "agent" implies, and everyone in the Committee knows it, some voluntary arrangement coming from and initiated by the Corporation. Can the right hon. Gentleman say that there has been any initiation by or from the Corporation to enter into this arrangement?

Mr. Watkinson

No. I was coming to that point if the hon. Member had not interrupted me.

I was about to give the reasons why I want to see an extension of associate arrangements. Where an associate arrangement increases the possible traffic, it is clearly in the interests of the Corporation that that should take place. The fact is that this arrangement in Africa has brought more people into the air as hon. Members have said, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden). Clearly, therefore. it is to the benefit of the Corporation and, therefore, is within the terms of the Act. It is the hon. Member for Reading and his colleagues who are guilty of double-talk in this debate, and not myself. They have raised the old controversies, and quite unnecessarily.

Before I come to the details of the arrangements and the two phases, with which I said I would deal, I want to say particularly that B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. are stronger, more efficient, and more competitive than they have ever been in their history, as hon. Members opposite know as well as I do. They have better aircraft, and better opportunities, and they are carrying more passengers. For hon. Members opposite to talk about great harm, and cutting away foundations and all those things, is not to talk sense.

Perhaps I might say one other general thing. The hon. Member for Reading, towards the end of his speech, when he became, as he always does, very factual and very apposite, said, as did the hon. Member for Uxbridge—I do not know whether they had their tongues in their cheeks or not, but my tongue is not in my cheek—that they hoped that we would gradually come to a sort of compromise in this industry. I would put one relevant point to the Committee. As was said by the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter), we are dealing with 3 million passengers a year at London Airport now. The report of an expert Committee, which I hope to publish soon, will say, as the hon. Member rightly said, that we may have to prepare for about 11 million passengers in the next seven or eight years.

If the civil aviation industry is to grow at that rate, what will happen to the shipping industry on the passenger side? Hon. Gentlemen opposite should turn their attention to that. We have been preeminent on the sea, which has been part of our security and prosperity. I wonder whether the air can go on developing at this rate without—in the end, anyway; nobody knows when—making serious inroads into the shipping business.

If that be true, is it really wise to impose a tight monoply to keep those great companies, with all their knowledge and expertise, out of the air altogether? I wonder whether hon. Gentlemen opposite would care to say that that is their settled policy. If they do, all I can say is that it is entirely contrary to the national interest.

As Minsiter of Civil Aviation I am not the Minister primarily for B.E.A. and B.O.A.C. I have a responsibility towards civil aviation as a whole. That is the responsibility that my predecessors have tried to carry out, and it is what I must do, and it is what any hon. Member opposite would try to do in the extremely unlikely event of the Labour Party forming a Government. We must try to ensure that the shipping and the private enterprise sides have some opportunities to bring to this new and expanding industry the things which only they can bring.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the car ferry service. I wonder whether it would ever have come about if a private enterprise company had not risked its money. Hon. Friends of mine have rightly said that the Colonial Coach Services would never have come about if private money had not been risked. These things increase the total number of air passengers, and as such they are clearly of advantage to the Corporations, which will always enjoy a preponderating share of the traffic and a preponderating position. Therefore, any new business which is created by any other concern must be to their advantage.

I will now deal with the two phases of this arrangement which, I think, are not sufficiently understood. I feel that the first phase—I should like to know this—is accepted by the Opposition. That is, the first proposal made to me by A.T.A.C., that, in effect, the limitation on types of aircraft under the existing arrangement should be removed. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite agree with that or not, but that is the first proposal which I have accepted. It is interesting that the only application before A.T.A.C. is one from the Central African Airways.

Be that as it may, the proposal Ls sensible in the changed conditions. After all, the Corporations will now use, and are using, Britannias, and in the world of today, which is changing all the time, one just cannot apply the tight, tidy planning solutions so loved by the Opposition. One has to change as one goes along. I take it that we are all agreed on the first recommendation by A.T.A.C.

I now come to the second phase. This is a matter for the future. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South asked me whether I could say when. I think he knows that I must tell him that I cannot say when. I do not know when the new high density T.34 services will come into being, nor does anybody else, but obviously it was right that A.T.A.C. should take some account of the future, although, as my hon. Friend rightly said, its findings must, at the moment, be vague and largely conjectural. What it wanted to give me was some idea of what one might consider doing when one knew much more clearly that the new kind of service was likely to be brought into being.

What did the A.T.A.C. say? It said that there should be a division of T.34 capacity on a basis of 30 per cent. to 70 per cent. In other words, what it has tried to do is to split it up in such a way that the private enterprise companies hold what they have got. The independent companies made representations to me, as they have every right to do—and this is perhaps a different interpretation of the Act from that of the Opposition; but I am not sure that it is not one that holds water—that they should be entitled to all these new services because they are all new services.

Mr. Beswick

That is where there has been a lot of argument. The idea in the minds of many hon. Members opposite and apparently in the mind of the Minister is that this T.34 traffic is exactly the same as the Colonial Coach Services. That is not the case. This is all new traffic which, in the ordinary way, the Corporation, with its new aircraft, would have had entirely to itself.

Mr. Watkinson

The hon. Gentleman has made my point for me. He says that this is all new traffic. It is a new service.

There is a case to be made by the independent companies which say that they should be having 70 per cent, or more and the Corporation should be having a lesser share. Do not let us think for a moment—I think this is important to the hon. Gentleman—that this is widely welcomed by the private enterprise companies. I assure him that it is not welcomed at all. They do not think that this is a fair distribution of what they have built up by their own enterprise and money. Do not let him run away with the idea that I am giving some great and prized favour to these companies. They do not take that view at all. That reinforces our statement about the desirability of A.T.A.C. arbitrating on matters of this kind, because it is independent and can take the national interest firmly into account.

I say again that this contention that the Corporations are in some way being harmed is false because the new arrangements, in the view of the A.T.A.C., will only secure and retain the independent companies' traffic rights which they built up for themselves over a period of years and which, originally, the Corporations themselves did not want. The two sides of the Committee may differ on that, but there it is. That is just as much a relevant fact as the great amount of contrary views which have been put forward in this debate.

Therefore, I would say again that it is my job, with what advice I can get—and I prize the advice of A.T.A.C. very highly—to try to get a fair balance in this rapidly changing and expanding world. I want to keep that balance so far as I can in order to see that the British airlines and the British flag get the greatest possible share of traffic.

Let us taks Ghana, for example. How do we know that Ghana will wish to select B.O.A.C. as its chosen instrument? It may want its own line or get an American company to do it or an independent British company to do it and Ghana, being an independent sovereign State, must have the right to choose. I do not see why I should bar an independent company, well known in that country, as in others, of having a chance of getting it if it can. There again, it is purely a matter of being fair and of giving all interests in the air industry a fair crack of the whip and a fair chance.

The hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway), who is not in his place, said that he was worried about the aircraft industry. No doubt. So are we all. He could not have made my case better for me, because if there is a case for encouraging independent companies it is to increase the size of the home market. There again, I find this astonishing difficulty which the Opposition always have in trying to relate nationalisation to the facts of life. It is a very difficult thing to do.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett)that the Government should try to keep a fair balance in these matters and that we should try to see that the independent companies, having risked their own money and having built up their business with enterprise and great difficulty, should merely be allowed to keep for themselves what they have built up. That is what I intend to do and that is what this quite impartial recommendation to me suggests. It does no more and no less. It is, therefore, in no way harmful to the interests of the Corporation.

I have no need today to restate all the statements which I and my predecessors have made about the Corporation, because they are perfectly well known to the Board. The Board knows that I am as anxious as anybody in the Committee, and more than many, to see B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. doing better every year and I shall do all I can to assist them to that end. That does not mean that I will abrogate my responsibility to give a fair crack of the whip to a firm which has done its best to build up something and which has increased the total air trade available for us all.

I think that that is desirable and not undesirable. The Opposition will be extremely unwise if they go into the Lobby against something which is elementary justice in the interests of the Corporation itself. If the Opposition wish to push monopoly and nationalisation to those extreme ends, let them vote and be hanged to them.

Mr. Beswick

I beg to move, That Class IX, Vote 1, Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, be reduced by the sum of £100.

Question put, That a sum not exceeding £5,989,600 be granted for the said Service:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 190, Noes 237.

Division No. 173.] AYES [9.57 p.m.
Albu, A. H. Beswick, Frank Brockway, A. F.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Blackburn, F. Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Blenkinsop, A. Brown, Thomas (Ince)
Awbery, S. S. Blyton, w. R. Burke, W. A.
Bacon, Miss Alice Boardman, H. Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)
Balfour, A. Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. C. Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Carmichael, J.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Bowles, F. G. Castle, Mrs. B. A.
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.) Boyd, T. C. Champion, A. J,
Benson, G. Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Chapman, W. D.
Chetwynd, G. R, Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Randall, H. E.
Coldrick, W. Johnson, James (Rugby) Rankin, John
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield) Redhead, E. C.
Collins, V.J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury) Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Reeves, J.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Kenyon, C. Ross, William
Deer, G. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Short, E. W.
de Freitas, Geoffrey King, Dr. H. M. Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Delargy, H. J. Lawson, C. M. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Dodds, N. N. Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Skeffington, A. M.
Dye, S. Lindgren, G. S. Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Edelman, M. Lipton, Marcus Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Logan, D. C. Snow, J. W.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Sorensen, R. W.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) MacColl, J. E. Soskice, Rt. Hon, Sir Frank
Fernyhough, E. MacDermot, Niall Sparks, J. A.
Finch, H. J. McInnes, J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Fletcher, Eric McKay, John (Wallsend) Stonehouse, John
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Stones, W. (Consett)
George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then) Mahon, Simon Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Gibson, C. W. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Gooch, E. G. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Swingler, S. T.
Greenwood, Anthony Mason, Roy Sylvester, G. O.
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Mayhew, C. P. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Grey, G. F. Mikardo, Ian Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mitchlson, G. R. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Monslow, W. Thornton, E.
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Moody, A. S. Tomney, F.
Hale, Leslie Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.) Viant, S. P.
Hamilton, W. W. Moyle, A. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Hannan, W. O'Brien, Sir Thomas Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Oram, A. E. West, D. G.
Hastings, S. Orbach, M. Wheeldon, W. E.
Hayman, F. H. Oswald, T. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Healey, Denis Owen, W. J. Wigg, George
Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Herbison, Miss M. Palmer, A. M, F. Wilkins, W. A.
Hewitson, Capt. M. Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Willey, Frederick
Holmes, Horace Pargiter, G. A. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Parkin, B. T. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Hubbard, T. F. Paton, John Williams, Rt. Hon, T. (Don Valley)
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Peart, T. F. Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pentland, N. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Hunter, A. E. Plummer, Sir Leslie Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Prentice, R. E. Winterbottom, Richard
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Woof, R. E.
Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Probert, A. R. Zilliacus, K.
Janner, B. Proctor, W. T.
Jeger, George (Goole) Pursey, Cmdr. H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons.
Agnew, Sir Peter Body, R, F. Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)
Aitken, W. T. Bossom, Sir Alfred D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Braine, B. R. Deedes, W. F.
Alport, C. J. M. Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Digby, Simon Wingfield
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Brooman-White, R. C. Dodds-Parker, A. D.
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.
Arbuthnot, John Bryan, P. Doughty, C. J. A.
Armstrong, C. W. Burden, F. F. A. Drayson, G. B.
Ashton, H. Butcher, Sir Herbert du Cann, E. D. L.
Astor, Hon. J. J. Carr, Robert Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)
Atkins, H. E. Channon, Sir Henry Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David
Baldwin, A. E. Chichester-Clark, R. Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. (Kelvingrove)
Balniel, Lord Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Elliott, R.W.(N'castle upon Tyne, N)
Barber, Anthony Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Errington, Sir Eric
Barlow, Sir John Cole, Norman Farey-Jones, F. W.
Barter, John Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Finlay, Graeme
Baxter, Sir Beverley Cooke, Robert Fisher, Nigel
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Cooper, A. E. Fletcher-Cooke, C.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Cooper-Key, E. M. Foster, John
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald Corfield, Capt. F. V. Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonedale)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Freeth, Denzil
Bidgood, J. C. Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Gammans, Lady
Bishop, F. P. Currie, G. B. H. Garner-Evans, E. H.
Black, C. W. Dance, J. C. G. George, J. C. (Pollok)
Glover, D. Leavey, J. A. Rawlinson, Peter
Glyn, Col. R. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Redmayne, M.
Goodhart, Philip Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Remnant, Hon. P.
Gough, C. F. H. Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T. Ridsdale, J. E.
Gower, H. R. Linstead, Sir H. N. Robertson, Sir David
Graham, Sir Fergus Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Grant, W. (Woodside) Longden, Gilbert Roper, Sir Harold
Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Green, A. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Russell, R. S.
Gresham Cooke, R. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick) Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.
Grimond, J. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R, G. McAdden, S. J. Sharples, R. C.
Gurden, Harold Macdonald, Sir Peter Shepherd, William
Hall, John (Wycombe) McKibbin, A. J. Simon, J. E.S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Harris, Reader (Heston) McLaughlin, Mrs, P. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Speir, R. M.
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) McLean, Neil (Inverness) Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Hay, John Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley) Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Storey, S.
Hesketh, R. F. Maddan, Martin Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Studholme, Sir Henry
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Summers, Sir Spencer
Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Markham, Major Sir Frank Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Hirst, Geoffrey Marlowe, A. A. H. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n) Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E. Temple, John M.
Holland-Martin, C. J. Marshall, Douglas Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Holt, A. F. Mathew, R. Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Hornby, R. P. Maudling, Rt. Hon. R. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Mawby, R. L. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)
Horobin, Sir Ian Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Howard, John (Test) Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Morrison, John (Salisbury) Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Hurd, A. R. Nabarro, G. D. N. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh.S.) Nairn, D. L. S. Vane, W. M. F.
Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun) Neave, Airey Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Vickers, Miss Joan
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan Wade, D. W.
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Nugent, C. R. H. Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Oakshott, H. D. Wall, Major Patrick
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Page, R. G. Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Joseph, Sir Keith Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Partridge, E. Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Kerby, Capt. H. B. Peyton, J. W. W. Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Kerr, Sir Hamilton Pickthorn, K. W. M. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Kershaw, J. A. Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Lagden, G. W. Pitman, I. J. Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Lambert, Hon. G. Pott, H. P. Wood, Hon. R.
Lambton, Viscount Powell, J. Enoch Woollam, John Victor
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Price, David (Eastleigh)
Langford-Holt, J. A. Profumo, J. D. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Leather, E. H. C. Ramsden, J. E. Mr. Edward Wakefield and
Mr. Hughes-Young.

Original Question again proposed.

Dr. Bennett


It being after Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.