HC Deb 28 April 1960 vol 622 cc494-513

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Sandys

I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, at the end to insert: with the general duty of furthering the development of British civil aviation". I gave an undertaking in Committee that I would consider putting down an Amendment which would act as a sort of general preamble to the Bill setting out in very general terms that the Board had a general duty to further the advancement of British civil aviation. These words are intended to carry out that undertaking.

Mr. Chetwynd

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, at the end to add: providing that this will not be to the detriment of the present or future activities of the air corporations. We agree with the Minister that it was right to have this preamble setting out the general duty of the Board as furthering the interests of British civil aviation, but during the Second Reading debate and the Committee stage of the Bill we were not in complete agreement as to what those purposes were and how they were to be achieved.

During the Second Reading debate and in Committee the main Opposition attack was made because we considered that this was a deliberate attempt by the Government to weaken the position of the public Corporations in the interests of the private airlines. We felt that as the Minister's declared intention was to further private lines that could only be done to the detriment of the public Corporations.

We feel that as well as having the duty of furthering the development of British civil aviation it should be specifically stated in the Bill that that should not be to the detriment of the two great public Corporations. We press the Amendment on these grounds. The main development of British aviation during the past fifteen years has been with the two Corporations, B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. They have provided a worldwide network of regular and efficient air services. They have built B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. into two great public Corporations responsible to Parliament and accountable to this House. As the Minister admitted, they have acted as instruments of national policy. They have been ambassadors for this country all over the world. They have been our flag carriers, and have met intense competition from the airlines of many other countries which have often been heavily subsidised by their Governments to further the prestige of those countries.

The two Corporations are now emerging successfully from a difficult period. They are showing profits in a highly marginal industry. We are delighted that last year B.E.A. made a profit of over £2 million. That was the sixth consecutive year in which the Corporation made a profit, and that profit was a record. The Corporations carried over 3¼ million passengers and, as I say, have made great strides in bringing about low fares and the like. Again, B.O.A.C. has broken even, as far as one can tell, on last year's operations in exceedingly difficult circumstances.

We feel that this is the wrong time to threaten the Corporations' position by the sort of action that we fear may take place under the Bill. The Corporations have laid out the pattern for their future activities. They have modernised their fleets. They have a new fleet of modern aircraft coming into being, into phased service, over the next few years. B.O.A.C. has commitments of about £200 million to keep its fleet up-to-date and to get ahead. In the next few years, B.E.A. faces an expenditure of about £65 million. They have both been instrumental in getting accepted a dynamic low-fares policy aimed at attracting more and more people to air travel as against other forms of transport. About £300 million is involved in what we look upon as "our" Corporations.

We therefore sense that a danger in this new set-up under the Bill, in which the Minister is looking upon other airlines as rival commercial competitors of the Corporations, is that is bound to undermine the established position of the Corporations. From a statement made by the Minister a few weeks ago about certain fares arrangements, it is already clear that there will be parallel services on certain European routes, on certain routes across the Atlantic, and on the cabotage routes throughout the Colonial Dependencies. That is bound to impinge on the present and contemplated activities of the Corporations. It will disperse their efforts at this critical time when they have to meet intense competition from all the other national airlines.

The point was made in Committee that, after all, there should be no distinction between an airline publicly owned and one privately owned, but we dispute that. The Corporations are different. They have to act all the time in the public interest. They are not just other private commercial concerns interested solely in making profits for shareholders.

The Minister, during Second Reading, and again in Committee, declared that the Bill was not intended to undermine the position of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. He repeated that so often that we almost began to believe him, but when we asked him to enshrine that declaration in the Bill, and put forward words aimed at that end, he always refused.

We do not see any reason why this provision should not be embodied in the language of this Measure. Now that the independents are more closely and effectively organised into four or five main groups closely allied to the shipping interests, there is ample scope for them. As we see it, under the Minister's policy of forcing mergers in the air transport industry as well as in the aircraft manufacturing industry, the independents are well able to look after themselves in many spheres. We do not wish to see, nor, I think, does any person interested in the economics of air transport, a free-for-all. It is apparent to us that the abandonment of the Corporations to free competition would damage them and, in turn, damage the national interest. We believe that as they are public property they ought to be properly safeguarded by the Bill.

This is certainly the wrong time to create any uncertainty by this Measure. The Corporations are now on a firm financial basis. They are meeting heavy capital costs in the introduction of new aircraft. They face great competition from overseas airlines, yet, as we see it, this Bill withdraws a measure of protection and support that Governments throughout the world are giving to their own national airlines.

If we look at what the Minister proposes shall be the pattern of air transport in the future, and read his statement on fares, in which he says that in order not to undermine the position of the independents the Corporations have agreed to share some of their routes with them, we see that B.O.A.C. is to share the routes to East and Central Africa with British United Airways—a new grouping of Air-work and Hunting Clan. It is to share the route to Bermuda—and, I suppose, looking a little further ahead, the route across the Atlantic as well—with Eagle, which is associated with Cunard. B.E.A. is to share the Malta route with Skyways, and the Gibraltar route with British United Airways. At present, as far as one can see, the Far Eastern routes are left solely to the charge of B.O.A.C.

We still do not know what the agreement is between the Corporations and the private companies on this sharing. We sought to find out, but were met with a blank refusal of any information. We believe that it is absolutely right that the House should be told the basis of this sharing arrangement by which we fear that public property, public institutions, are in danger of being undermined. It is not good enough to say that these are commercial arrangements made willingly between the two parties. I do not believe for one moment that they were freely entered into, but that the Corporations had to accept them as part of a pressurised campaign to which they were subjected.

Is it to be a 70 per cent.—30 per cent. share, or less, or more? We have the right to know. Parliament should not be kept in the dark. In considering the general future development of British civil aviation, we want to know whether these partnerships represent anything more satisfactory than the old associate agreements which we all condemned so much on Second Reading. It is because we feel that the Minister—perhaps not the present Minister, but a successor— will have power to influence the development of British civil aviation away from the two Corporations and towards the private airlines that we insist that something shall be established in the Bill to make that impossible.

However, we believe in and hope for a great expansion of world-wide air traffic in which the benefits of quick, cheap travel will be brought within the range of many millions of people. We hope that the British aircraft industry, which the two Corporations have fostered and helped along by buying its planes, will be able to meet the demands of the air corporations so that our own British aviation industry can again maintain its place in the forefront of world aircraft makers. We believe that a sound economic and political basis for our own civil aviation business can be achieved only by preserving and strengthening the demands and needs of the Corporations.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

It would have been much better if the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) had started his speech with the word "expansion", because I believe that that is the whole crux of the future of British aviation and aviation generally throughout the world. He said that the Opposition believed that the Bill must impair the position of the Corporations. If that is the case, presumably the object of the Opposition's Amendment to my right hon. Friend's Amendment is to emasculate the Bill, in other words, to make it impossible for the Licensing Board to look on British civil aviation as a whole, but to look upon it merely in regard to the position of the Corporations.

My right hon. Friend's Amendment is clear and concise. We on this side are all grateful to him for tabling it. It will provide that the Licensing Board will have the general duty of furthering the development of British civil aviation". If the Board acts in accordance with those instructions, it must be for the benefit of this country as a whole. It must be for the benefit of the economy of the country. It must be for the benefit of civil aviation as a whole. That must include the Corporations. It cannot be to the detriment of the Corporations.

Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)

Why not say so?

Mr. Burden

The Licensing Board is charged with the duty of furthering the interests of British civil aviation as a whole. That is what the country wants. It is the position on which the Minister is entitled to take his stand. It is the duty of any Minister of Aviation to look at the interests of the country as a whole when dealing with the civil aviation industry.

Mr. Diamond

What the hon. Member is saying is of great interest. If, as he says, the whole purpose of the Minister's Amendment is to benefit aviation generally and to do so in a way which will not be detrimental to the activities of the air Corporations, what is the reason, if there is any, for excluding my hon. Friend's Amendment, if it is to be excluded?

Mr. Burden

Because I believe that it is right and proper that no strings whatever should be attached to the Licensing Board. It should have before it all the time the interests of civil aviation as a whole. If the word "Corporations" is inserted, all sorts of objections can be made, time-delaying and otherwise, in order to procrastinate and create difficulties which should not exist and should not be allowed to exist.

The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees looked upon this in far too narrow a light. It seems to be the argument of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that there must not be any competition for the Corporations from British independents. The hon. Member went on to say that the Corporations are subjected to the most violent competition from the international airways. That is the whole point. Air competition is international. It can never be anything else.

If the giant Corporations, with all the new equipment and £300 million, cannot compete with the small independents, which will now work with them with pooling arrangements and in other ways, how can they possibly compete with the international airways?

Mr. Charles A, Howell (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

The Corporations will share only in the unprofitable routes.

Mr. Burden

This is where right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will have to recognise the distinction between nationalised Corporations subject to no competition and Airways Corporations which must always be subject to international competition.

The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees talked of great expansion. That is true. The opportunities for expansion are enormous, and it is right and proper that the Licensing Board should recognise that. The figures given by the hon. Member sounded very fine. He said that 3¼ million people had been carried by B.E.A. and a million by B.O.A.C. Probably well over 70 million were carried by the international airways. Therefore, the British Corporations carried a very small proportion. B.E.A. has said recently that it has greatly increased the numbers of people it carries, because Britain is introducing much lower fares. Who made the pressure for those lower fares from which B.E.A. has benefited so much? It was the independents.

Mr. Strauss

Oh, no.

Mr. Burden

Yes. It was suggested by the independents.

In fact, this is the situation. So that there should be a close comity between themselves and the Corporations they have dropped of their own free will their agitation for V.L.F. It is evident from B.E.A. that there will be enormous expansion in the air. I believe that, as a result of the Bill and the duties with which the Licensing Board is charged, the fears of right hon. Gentlemen opposite will soon be shown to be quite wrong and unjustified.

I believe that the expansion will be so great that the Corporations and the independents will work even more closely together and that the arrangements for pooling and understanding will extend even more closely because of the pressures that will be brought about. The great Corporations and the independents will benefit in parallel not only from expansion but also from the co-operation which is now beginning and which I believe, as a result of my right hon. Friend's measures, will be extended in the future to the benefit of British aviation as a whole.

Mr. Rankin

The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) ignored one point when he was dealing with the Minister's Amendment. The Amendment reads: with the general duty of furthering the development of British civil aviation. The hon. Member took upon himself the duty of amending it by adding the three words "as a whole." Those words do not appear in the Amendment to which he was speaking.

Mr. Burden rose

Mr. Rankin

Just a minute. The hon. Member should let me get out a sentence or two before I am asked to give way to interruptions, which I always entertain. Even the absence of those three words helps to cast doubts on the arguments and the intentions not only of the Minister but of hon. Members who sit behind him.

Mr. Burden

The hon. Member misunderstood what I said. I said that the Board was charged with the duty of seeing that British civil aviation as a whole benefited. That may not be in the wording but that, of course, is implicit.

Mr. Rankin

Sometimes it is difficult to understand the hon. Member. I am using his exact words, and his argument did not make the matter any clearer.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) dealt with expansion, but I do not want to launch into that topic just now. The Minister knows that in Committee I made it clear that I trusted his intentions, but I do not trust the intentions of the group who are propelling him from behind. The trouble is that the road to the Tory Front Bench seems paved with the best of intentions and when the right hon. Gentleman sits against the background which is now behind him he begins to assume the colour of that background and his intentions begin to wither.

Tonight he is faced with a definite challenge. We are firmly convinced on this side of the House that the purpose of the Bill is to attack the Corporations, and the right hon. Gentleman, either willingly or unwillingly, is the spearhead of that attack. But it is also the purpose of the Bill to attack the Corporations by unfair methods. If the right hon. Gentleman wanted not only to preserve the present status of the Corporations but to ensure that they would be able to participate as freely in the future in the expansion which we all foresee, then he would accept the Amendment which we are putting before him. I hope that he will accept that Amendment. The competition will exist—there is no argument about that—but it will be unfair competition, and I want to show why I say that.

I have here a letter dated 12th April of this year from the Aeronautical Engineers' Association. The address is 108, Church Street, Croydon, Surrey, and the letter is signed by E. Hanlon, who is the honourary secretary of the A.E.A. He tells me: We have had probably more experience of independent airlines than any other trade union in this country, and we are bound to say that there is one particular abuse which ought to be remedied before this Bill becomes law. As the Minister pointed out during the Second Reading on 2nd March, 1960, the independent airlines will still be required by the Civil Aviation Act to observe terms and conditions not less favourable than those of the Corporations. However, although this has been the law for many years, there has been discovered a very easy way round it. Of course, it is a common saying that one can drive a carriage and pair through an Act of Parliament, and that carriage and pair is now being driven through an Act of Parliament.

What is happening and has happened is that airline companies form subsidiary companies, or even become associated with other companies which are not airlines within the meaning of the Act. These other companies are therefore exempt from the operation of the Civil Aviation Act and can pay any rates of pay they wish. There is then an ostensible arrangement between the two companies by which the engineers servicing the airlines' aircraft are actually employed by the other company, so that one end of the operator is within the Act and the other end is outside the Act.

As a consequence, they can service machines under conditions and rates of pay with which the public Corporations cannot compete, because they do their own maintenance work. The companies for whom the hon. Member for Gillingham and other hon. Members opposite are working today, by whom I believe they are paid retainers to try to get a Bill like this through the House in the interests of the private independent airlines for whom they speak, know these things.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here a long time. He knows the import of that accusation, and unless he explains it in some innocent sense, I shall be required to ask him to withdraw it.

Mr. Rankin

I have not been here such a long time; it has seemed very short. I did not mention any names, and I thought that it was a fair enough argument to employ, because it is an understood practice in the House that when an individual who is identified with an interest takes part in a debate, he declares his interest; and it is not denied that there are hon. Members opposite who are identified with independent air operators in one way or another. If what I am saying is not in accordance with known facts, then I shall immediately withdraw it, but, Sir, I had already said this in the House and in Committee and it was not then challenged.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Speaker

I did not have the advantage of being in the Committee, and therefore of having the happy opportunity of hearing the hon. Member then. For a moment it seemed to me that he was implying that by a paid retainer— that was the word which struck my mind—the propositions of the hon. Members were governed. I do not think that that is right. If the hon. Member likes to slide out of it by making it clear that this was not what he meant, I will not stop him.

Mr. Rankin

I do not like to slide out of anything, Mr. Speaker. I am prepared to stand by what I said. If you rule it to be out of order, then, naturally, I accept your Ruling.

Mr. Speaker

What I rule is that to impute that the activities of hon. Members here are deflected by the fact that they are paid money and retained is an imputation of wrong motive which should not be made. However, I am not confident that the hon. Member was meaning to say that—I did not understand his words precisely enough—and I ask him to remain in order.

Mr. Rankin

I am very sorry if that implication should have been taken by you, Sir, or by anyone else. The fact that an individual works for someone does not make it wrong, and the fact that he advances an interest for those who may be employing him does not make it wrong either. I am not saying that, and I hope it will be clearly understood that even though people may work for independent interests, they are not necessarily doing anything that is morally wrong. I hope that that is clear.

I have been quoting a letter which shows that the independent companies— and I hope I may fairly say the independent companies whose interests are being advanced tonight in this House— adopt methods in their maintenance work which enable them to impose rates of pay and conditions of labour with which the Corporations cannot compete; and that is wrong. It is wrong to treat the Corporations in that way.

Of course, if costs are less, then fares can become less, too. That is one reason why we hear it said, as we have heard it said during the proceedings on this Bill, that fares can be reduced. Of course they can be reduced if the conditions under which aircraft are maintained are cheapened, and if we violate one of the safeguards which the Minister has pledged himself to ensure—namely, greater safety in the operation of aircraft.

Fares can be cheapened unfairly if we assume—and here I quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee proceedings the statement made by the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster): We are not in a position to neglect the interests of the ordinary members of the public who may be prepared to fly in perhaps cramped conditions at cheap fares."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 22nd March, 1960; c. 63.] If we cheapen not only the conditions in which aircraft are maintained but also the conditions in which people are carried in the aircraft, it will be possible to reduce fares. That is unfair competition. It is an attack upon the Corporations, who, within my experience, have done everything in their power year by year to improve the conditions in which people travel in their aircraft.

We are introducing two contradictory processes, one of cheapening the service and another of seeking to maintain it at its present high standard, at the same time trying to make that standard higher still, while British European Airways is carrying out a process of reducing fares. Nobody, in any part of the House, wants to make that process more difficult. These, however, are the intentions of the Conservative Party.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will convey to his right hon. Friend the Minister, who is not at present here to listen to me, what I am saying, and that he will not yield to the pressure which is being put upon him by those who sit behind him. If he does not yield to it, I shall take it as an indication of the toughness attributed to him in his willingness to fight not only the Opposition but also those who sit behind him. That kind of token will be shown by the Minister if he accepts our Amendment, which asks him to declare that he will not do anything to damage the activities of the Airways Corporations.

I could quote a great deal more from the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, East. I do not wish to do so, because I feel sure that once the hon. Member begins to deal with the Amendment, he will shatter even the confidence of his right hon. Friend the Minister. It was the hon. Member who, in moving his Amendment in Committee, dropped the foetus. The Minister said, "Leave the shaping of it to me", and now we know the result. If the hon. Member delivers a speech in keeping with his speech in Committee, I am certain that common sense and wisdom will drive his right hon. Friend to accept our Amendment.

Mr. Rippon

I am sure that the fears which have been expressed by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) are unfounded. He spoke of a foetus having been dropped in Committee. I assure the hon. Member that there has been no miscarriage in this matter. As his hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) has said, there has been no disagreement on the main objects of the Bill of bringing the law into line with reality, abolishing the now fictional monopoly of the Corporations and the associate agreements and securing the rights of all operators before an independent licensing authority which conducts proceedings openly and subject to the right of appeal.

Against the background of all our discussions, there is no reason to believe that the establishment of the new Board will operate in any way to the detriment of the Corporations.

The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees referred to the very clear assurance given on Second Reading by my right hon. Friend, who said: In particular, I can tell the House what the Bill will not do, and is not intended to do. It is not intended to undermine the position of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. Those two corporations are our main flag carriers on the air routes of the world. Large sums of public money have been invested in them and they have to face fierce competition from foreign rivals. They therefore deserve, and will get, our full support and encouragement." —[OFFICIAL REPORT. 2nd March, 1960; Vol. 618. c 1231–2.] As the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees said, my right hon. Friend repeated those assurances in Committee. He also said, however, at our second sitting in Committee: I hope very much that in this Bill we shall preserve the principle that all applications to the Board are airline operators, that there are not two classes, the Corporations and others."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 22nd March, 1960; c. 52.] What we have to do in the Bill is to preserve the position of equality before the law. The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees gave some impressive statistics about the Corporations. I should have thought it followed that there was no reason for lack of confidence in the Corporations' ability to hold their own without weighting the scales of the law.

My right hon. Friend has made it clear that there is no intention that there should be a free-for-all. He has given his approval to various partnership and pooling arrangements, but the whole basis of the Bill is that there should be reasonable protection for established operators while at the same time ensuring reasonable chances for the public and the private sector to share in the opportunities to which reference has been made.

9.45 p.m.

The Bill creates an instrument for regulating the air transport industry which will take account of all the relevant factors in the public interest as well as that of the operators themselves. They will appear before the Board on equal terms, although, as my right hon. Friend explained during the Committee stage proceedings, the amount of public money invested in the Corporations and their commitments may mean that in the first years there will not in fact be equality. The Corporations have an established position which to some extent must be preserved. It is for the reason that we must accept equality before the law, that we cannot accept this Amendment.

Mr. Strauss

I must tell the Parliamentary Secretary straight away that he is wrong in suggesting that there is little disagreement between us about the Bill. We do not disagree that new machinery should be established, but we strongly disagree about the protection to be afforded to the Corporations under the Bill. The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) said the purpose of the Amendment, so far as he could see, was to emasculate the Bill, but it is nothing of the sort. Its purpose is to put into legislative effect the intentions expressed by the Minister over and over again.

Statements and declarations made in Parliament are of themselves of no use. I am sure that the Minister is quite sincere when he says that his intention is that the Corporations shall not be damaged by the Bill. But we ask what is to happen in the future. The Minister does not know, because almost in the same breath as he said that it was his intention that B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. should not be damaged—he was talking about the future pattern of aviation during the Second Reading debate—he said that he could not tell the House just how it would all work out.

No one knows. There may be a new Minister, or the pressure behind a Conservative Minister may be stronger than it is today. There is very great danger— let us put it no higher—in the opinion not only of hon. Members on this side of the Committee, but of air correspondents in the public Press, that the Corporations are threatened by the Bill and may be damaged.

During the Second Reading debate I quoted from sections of the Press. I do not want to do that again, but it will be remembered that the air correspondents talked about the buffeting which the Corporations were likely to experience as a result of the Bill. These are possibilities—if we put it no higher— and we know that there are many hon. Members opposite whose main desire is to ensure that the private profit-making airlines get a greater and greater proportion of the air traffic. Of course, the airlines also want this, that is natural and we do not blame them. We know there are many hon. Members opposite who hold strong political prejudices against publicly-owned bodies. The combination of the pressure created by the prejudices of hon. Members opposite and the pressure from privately-owned airlines may induce a different atmosphere in which the Corporations will be damaged.

The hon. Member for Gillingham said that the private airlines had brought down air fares. That is absolute nonsense. The Corporations have for a long time been striving to reduce fares and the reduction has nothing to do with private airlines. The hon. Member asked us to look at the advantages which I gathered the Corporations would derive from the new sharing agreements but I do not understand how the Corporations will derive any advantage. All it means is that part of the revenue from some air services which would have gone to the Corporations will go to private airlines.

We know that the Corporations were —"forced" is not quite the exact word —were put into the position that they had to make these agreements and I think it monstrous that we do not know what are the agreements. The Corporations have been obliged to make agreements with British private airlines and we cannot be told in Parliament, and we are not told by the Corporations, in what proportion of the services will be shared. I think it a shameful thing that we should not know the essential facts and I hope that the Minister will exert pressure on the Corporations to let us know these facts. However, that is something which is beside the point. The main purpose of the Amendment is to put into effect the declared intentions of the Minister. Unless that is done, we are fearful that the Corporations will be damaged. We tried during the Committee stage proceedings to incorporate a safeguard in more precise terms, but this was rejected. But for the sake of the Corporations which are publicly owned and in which £300 million of public money is invested, we think that this should be done. The Corporations are the instrument by wihich Britain is trying to maintain her position in the air transport industry. Let the Bill therefore state that nothing will be done to the detriment of the present or future activities of the Corporations.

The Minister has said that that is his intention. Why not remove all doubts about what is likely to happen in the future and ensure that the Corporations shall not be damaged? I suggest that to do so would be in the interests not of the Corporations, in which I am not interested as such, but of the public and for the national benefit. The Corporations and not the private airlines are the bodies which carry the national responsibility.

My colleagues and I feel very strongly about this and ask the House to agree to this reasonable Amendment, which

only carries out the declared intention of the Government. If the Minister, as appears from what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, refuses to put into legislative form his own declared intention, we must ask the House to divide.

Mr. Speaker

The Question is—

Mr. Diamond

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Government Chief Whip to say to one of his back benchers "Do not get up," as I plainly heard?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order. I did not hear it.

The Question is—

Mr. Diamond

On a further point of order, Mr. Speaker. Am I too late to catch your eye to address the House on this Amendment?

Mr. Speaker

Yes. I started to put the Amendment. I have great respect for the hon. Member, and I am sorry to disappoint him, but I think that it is true as a matter of physical fact in terms of time.

Question put, That those words be there added to the proposed Amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 46, Noes 107.

Division No. 76.] AYES [9.53 p.m.
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.) Jeger, George Snow, Julian
Brockway, A. Fenner Johnston, Douglas (Palsley) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Jones, Dan (Burnley) Spriggs, Leslie
Chetwynd, George Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Steele, Thomas
Diamond, John Lee, Frederick (Newton) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Doughty, Charles Loughlln, Charles Thornton, Ernest
Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter McKay, John (Wallsend) Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Fletcher, Eric Millan, Bruce Warbey, William
Forman, J. C. Mitchison, G. R. Watkins, Tudor
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Neal, Harold Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Hayman, F. H. Oram, A. E. Whitlock, William
Herbison, Miss Margaret Parker, John (Dagenham) Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Hill, J. (Midlothian) Pavitt, Laurence Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Houghton, Douglas Rankin, John Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Ross, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hunter, A. E. Skeffington, Arthur Mr. Howell and Mr. Lawson
Agnew, Sir Peter Cordle, John Finlay, Graeme
Arbuthnot, John Costain, A. P. Fisher, Nigel
Barber, Anthony Craddock, Beresford (Speithorne) Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)
Batsford, Brian Critchley, Julian Gardner, Edward
Berkeley, Humphry Crowder, F. P. Gibson-Watt, David
Bingham, R. M. Currie, G. B. H. Glyn, Col. Richard (Dorset. N.)
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel de Ferranti, Basil Goodhart, Philip
Bourne-Arton, A. Doughty, Charles Goodhew, Victor
Brewis, John Drayson, G. B. Green, Alan
Burden, F. A. du Cann, Edward Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Duncan, Sir James Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Elliott, R. W. Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)
Cleaver, Leonard Emery, Peter Hobson, John
Collard, Richard Farr, John Holland, Philip
Hopkins, Alan Noble, Michael Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)
Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives) Osborne, Cyril (Louth) Sumner, Donald (Orpington)
Hutchison, Michael Clark Page, A. J. (Harrow, West) Tapsell, Peter
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Page, Graham Temple, John M.
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Peel, John Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Pike, Miss Mervyn Turner, Colin
Kerr, Sir Hamilton Pitt, Miss Edith van Straubenzee, W. R.
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Powell, J. Enoch Vickers, Miss Joan
Litchfield, Capt. John Proudfoot, Wilfred Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Longden, Gilbert Ramsden, James Wall, Patrick
Loveys, Walter H. Rawlinson, Peter Watts, James
MacArthur, Ian Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin Wells, John (Maidstone)
McLaren, Martin Ridley, Hon. Nicholas Whitelaw, William
McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Rippon, Geoffrey Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
McMaster, Stanley R. Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley) Wlse, A. R.
Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Marten, Neil Scott-Hopkins, James Woodhouse, C. M.
Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Shaw, M. Woollam, John
Mawby, Ray Shepherd, William Worsley, Marcus
Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Simon, Sir Jocelyn
Mills, Stratton Skeet, T. H. H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Morgan, William Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick) Mr. Brooman-White and
Nicholls, Harmar Stodart, J. A. Mr. Sharples.

Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.

It being Ten o'clock, further consideration of the Bill, as amended, stood adjourned.

Proceedings on the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Bill exempted, at this day's Sitting from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).— [Mr. Redmayne.]

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee and on Recommittal) further considered.

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Sandys

I beg to move, in page 2, line 1, to leave out from beginning to "may" in line 36 and to insert: (3) The Minister may by regulations provide that paragraph (b) of the last foregoing subsection shall not apply to flights of such descriptions as may be specified in the regulations, and. As originally drafted, Clause 1 (3) contained a list of classes of flights for which air service licences would not be required. The Committee considered that this provision was unduly rigid and some greater flexibility was desirable to meet changed conditions which could not at present be foreseen. I was asked, therefore, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) to consider introducing on Report an Amendment which would empower the Minister by regulations to add or subtract from the list of exempted classes set out in the subsection. I undertook to do this.

However, on further reflection I came to the conclusion that this would be a most untidy arrangement. Moreover, I was advised that there were some doubts about the constitutional propriety of giving the Minister the power to amend an Act of Parliament by regulation. I am proposing, therefore, a simpler solution which will, I believe, equally well meet the wishes expressed in Committee.

The effect of the Amendment is to leave out the list of exempted nights altogether and to give the Minister power to grant such exemptions as may be necessary by regulation. I know that the House attaches importance to the list of exemptions which were contained in the Bill as drafted, as indicating the general line which the Government intended to pursue. I give the House the assurance that in making the initial regulations when the Bill becomes law it is my intention to exempt all those classes of nights which are now set out in subsection (3). With that assurance, I hope that the House will approve the Amendment.

Mr. Strauss

My hon. Friends and I were rather surprised to see this Amendment on the Order Paper, as it is in conflict with the undertaking which the Minister gave to the Committee where there was general agreement as to how this matter should be dealt with. That general agreement included the Minister. We then found that the Amendment did not carry out the promise which he gave to accept the general principles which had been agreed.

The right hon. Gentleman has explained to us why he has departed from the undertaking he gave, and he tells us that there are certain legal or constitutional difficulties in the matter. He proposes to get round them in the way in which he informed us, and we must accept his views. No doubt he has been given technical advice, which is not available to us, that there is some real difficulty in carrying out the conclusions of the Standing Committee on this matter.

I regret that it is not possible to do this, but in view of what he tells us about his intention to issue regulations identical with the exclusions which are stated in the Bill at the moment, and which would enable him at a later stage to alter, amend, add to or deduct from these excluded classes, I think that the House must accept the solution which the Minister has put to it, although it is not in accordance with the general feeling expressed in Committee upstairs.

Therefore, disappointed as my hon. Friends may be, I advise them to accept the Amendment in view of the explanation which the Minister has given us.

Amendment agreed to.