HC Deb 23 July 1958 vol 592 cc410-1
21. Sir L. Plummer

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when the proposed London-Moscow, and return, air service will come into operation.

Mr. Watkinson

Final arrangements for the introduction of this service cannot be made until I hear further from the Soviet authorities. I am awaiting their reply about the progress they have made with the silencing of the TU.104 aircraft which Aeroflot proposes to use on the route.

Sir L. Plummer

Is the Minister aware that the Belgians have beaten us and started, on 2nd June, a Brussels—Moscow service with connections to London? It looks as though K.L.M. and Air France are going ahead of us. How is it that they are able to do this while we, after five months, have not been able successfully to prosecute our inquiries in Russia? If world airlines are to use jets, must not we make up our minds quickly about what we are going to do?

Mr. Watkinson

I am answering a later Question on the broader issue and I think I should reserve my answer on that issue till then. On the specific question, the position is this, and not as reported in some quarters. We have put a perfectly reasonable request to Aeroflot. When I personally met Marshal Zhigaryev when he was over here, he said that he saw no difficulty in silencing this aircraft. If there was no difficulty I should be glad to have an answer from the Soviets.

Mr. Beswick

I am in sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman in his efforts to get agreement about this matter, on which we have a Question on the Paper. Does the Minister think that he could do nothing more than just send a letter to the Minister there? Could not he consider following it up and having another personal discussion? It would be a pity if the service did not come about.

Mr. Watkinson

I quite agree. I would make it plain that I am most anxious that this service should start. We have made most pressing inquiries through the proper channels to get an answer. I can only hope that the answer will come quickly. Nobody is more anxious than I am to start this service.