HC Deb 25 March 1964 vol 692 cc449-53
18. Mr. Millan

asked the Minister of Aviation what decision has been made about the number of Scandinavian Airlines' flights to be allowed through Prestwick Airport.

23. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will now make a statement on the further negotiations which have taken place with Scandinavian Air Services on the question of landings at Prestwick.

Mr. Amery

The matter is still under consideration.

Mr. Millan

Before coming to a final decision, will the Minister bear in mind that there is considerable concern in Scotland about this matter and a strong feeling that the Minister has neglected the effects of his original proposals on Scotland's air communications with Scandinavia, quite apart from the question of the connection between Prestwick and the United States? Will he bear this in mind and ensure that by his decision on this matter he does not prejudice air communications between Scotland and Scandinavia?

Mr. Amery

I assure the hon. Member that I have not neglected that aspect. I am quite satisfied that my proposals would not interfere with communications between Scotland and Scandinavia.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

How long is it likely to be before the Minister comes to a decision in this matter? Surely, he is aware that the Scandinavian Governments have intervened with the Foreign Secretary and that the Foreign Secretary is also now considering it. Is the Minister aware that during this interval, disquiet in Prestwick is steadily growing?

Mr. Amery

The best negotiations, as the hon. Member will be aware, are carried out with patience.

Sir T. Moore

Is my right hon. Friend aware, as I imagine he is, that there is indeed, as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has just said, great anxiety in Scotland at these proposed reductions in S.A.S. flights to and through Prestwick—not particularly over the damage to S.A.S. but over the damage to Prestwick Airport itself and also to the air industry in Scotland generally?

Mr. Amery

I can assure my hon. Friend that I have naturally taken all these aspects very much into consideration. I am directly responsible for the operation of Prestwick Airport and it is a point of first consideration in my mind, but I believe that the proposals we have put forward are in the best interests of British aviation taken as a whole.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is an impression that Prestwick is being used as a pawn in some sort of battle between Britain and Scandinavia over things which are not connected with Prestwick, and that this is regarded as an extremely dangerous game from the point of view of the future prosperity of Prestwick? Would he explain just exactly why Prestwick must be used as a target in this battle?

Mr. Amery

Yes, indeed, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will wish to help me in dispelling any misapprehension of this kind. What has been happening is that S.A.S. flights have been picking up a great deal of the traffic from Scotland and carrying it to the United States—traffic which might otherwise have gone by B.O.A.C. I am sure that the last thing the right hon. Gentleman and his friends north of the Border would want to see would be subsidising S.A.S. at the expense of B.O.A.C.

26. Mr. Gourlay

asked the Minister of Aviation what representations he has received from Kirkcaldy Town Council regarding the proposed restrictions on Scandinavian Air Services at Prestwick; and what was the nature of his reply.

Mr. Amery

I received, and duly acknowledged, a letter from the Town Clerk informing me that the Kirkcaldy Council supported the representations that had been made to me by the Prestwick Town Council.

Mr. Gourlay

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that two local authorities in my constituency have protested about the proposed restriction on S.A.S. services and that this reflects grave disquiet and resentment among the population of Scotland as a whole about his decision? How does he square a previous Answer—that his decision was taken in the best interests of British Aviation with a view to protecting B.O.A.C.—with the granting of additional facilities to British Eagle to compete with B.E.A. on the Edinburgh and Glasgow services? Will he take into account the enormous trading and commercial interests of Scandinavian countries in Scotland? Is he aware that the Prime Minister told me yesterday that he was giving further consideration to this problem? Will he consult the Prime Minister about this?

Mr. Amery

I think that the simple answer is that both British Eagle and B.O.A.C. are British airlines and that, therefore, the best interests of British aviation are served by promoting all the different British aviation efforts. The hon. Gentleman and, perhaps the town clerk, are under the misapprehension to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) referred earlier, when I expressed the hope that he would help dispel it north of the Border.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise the enormous amount of national capital invested in Prestwick? Is he not aware that, right across Scotland, there is grave disquiet? Will he consider coming to Prestwick to find out things on the spot?

Mr. Amery

I am hoping to visit it shortly, but I am under no misapprehension about the amount of national capital invested in it.

Mr. Ross

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is also aware of the amount of national feeling involved. Will he consult his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and get from him the reports of the various delegations of hon. Members on both sides of the House who have been to see the Parliamentary Secretary to express their concern about the well-being of Scotland as a whole and the particular interest of the area of the country in which Prestwick lies?

Mr. Amery

It is kind of the hon. Member to suggest that I should consult my hon. Friend, but we are already in very close touch.

Mr. Lubbock

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that there is no suggestion of restricting the "fifth freedom" rights of S.A.S. to fly routes between Prestwick and Scandinavia? Is not he concerned only with the through flights between Scandinavia and the United States which pick up passengers in Scotland? Is not B.O.A.C. perfectly capable of providing all the seats which might be needed by passengers wishing to fly from Scotland to the United States or vice versa?

Mr. Amery

The hon. Gentleman has expressed the position accurately. We have no wish to restrict in any way flights between Scotland and Scandinavia. Our only objection is to S.A.S. taking more than its fair share of passengers flying from Scotland to the United States and vice versa. The rights which S.A.S. has enjoyed in Prestwick were originally conceded in the period when aircraft were not able to fly direct from Scandinavia to the United States without breaking the journey. The situation has now changed and S.A.S. is exploiting a market which should naturally go to B.O.A.C.