HC Deb 02 July 1962 vol 662 cc27-9
31. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of Aviation what changes he intends to make in the implementation of the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act, 1960, in so far as it falls within his responsibilities, in view of the British Overseas Airways Corporation-Cunard merger.

32. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will now introduce legislation to amend the Air Transport Licensing Act to bring it into line with his policy regarding air transport changes.

Mr. Woodhouse

No changes in the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act, 1960, or in its implementations are necessary as a result of the recent agreement between British Overseas Airways Corporation and Cunard, or of any other changes that I am at present aware of.

Mr. Rankin

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his right hon. Friend told us last Tuesday that merging the United Kingdom effort on the North Atlantic was a useful decision because of the fierce competition on those routes? How, then, can he justify dividing our United Kingdom airways' effort on the European routes, where competition is equally fierce?

Mr. Woodhouse

My right hon. Friend was referring to international competition. The agreement between B.O.A.C. and Cunard Eagle arose from the companies themselves and was not due to any policy initiated toy my right bon. Friend.

Mr. Cronin

But do not the arguments used by the Minister of Aviation last week apply equally to B.E.A. or to the other B.O.A.C. routes? Can the hon. Gentleman assure us that this is merely another example of Government muddle and not an attempt to introduce denationalisation of the Corporations by the backdoor?

Mr. Woodhouse

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is neither an example of Government muddle nor an attempt to introduce denationalisation by the back door.

Mr. P. Williams

Is my hon. Friend aware that this merger may have become inevitable but should not have become inevitable if the Minister had not refused a licence to Eagle Aviation for the Atlantic route earlier in the year, and that it is ridiculous to waste the time of the House by bringing in a Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act one year only to undermine it two years later?

Mr. Woodhouse

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend's decision last year was taken on the merits of the case and does not in any way affect the operation of the Act.

Mr. Lee

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act, 1960, is intended to deal only with international competition? Surely he will recollect that long before 1960 there was a complete public monopoly on the North Atlantic route? Then we had the whittling down of it, and in 1960 we had the Act, which gave the possibility of licences for independent airlines. We now have a position where the one independent airline which could do anything about it is inside the combination with B.O.A.C. What is the point of keeping on the Statute Book that part of the 1960 Act which deals with the need for competition?

Mr. Woodhouse

I was not suggesting that the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act was concerned with international competition. I was explaining to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) the significance of a point made by my right hon. Friend in his reply last week. The decision between B.O.A.C. and Cunard-Eagle affects just one sector of international aviation. It does not in any way affect any other sector which is covered by the Act.

Mr. Burden

As the Minister kept the Cunard-Eagle Company off the North Atlantic, on the basis that there was already sufficient capacity to take care of all growth on all B.O.A.C. routes in the next five or six years, upholding the decision of the Appeal Commissioner on that basis, why does he now put Cunard-Eagle on the North Atlantic in another guise?

Mr. Woodhouse

My right hon. Friend has not put Cunard-Eagle on the Atlantic in another guise. He has simply approved an arrangement between two companies reached between themselves.

Mr. Rankin

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that the effect of the 1960 Act is the same on the European and Middle East areas as it is on the North Atlantic? If dividing our effort on the North Atlantic is bad, how can dividing our effort on the European and Eastern routes be good?

Mr. Woodhouse

The effect of the 1960 Act was to permit competition, not to make competition compulsory. It still remains open to any airline operator to compete, or to make pooling arrangements, or not to compete, as he may choose.