HC Deb 18 November 1964 vol 702 cc425-7
21. Mr. Younger

asked the Minister of Aviation if, in view of its importance to Scotland, he will increase the facilities available to foreign airlines in the use of Prestwick Airport; and if he will reconsider the recent cuts made in the number of weekly flights allowed to Scandinavian Airlines System.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

The Governments of Denmark, Norway and Sweden were advised in April, 1964, that Her Majesty's Government would be willing to review the frequency of S.A.S.'s services through Prestwick in the winter of 1965–66 should the three Governments then consider a higher frequency justified. I see no need to increase generally facilities to foreign airlines at Prestwick since the present services are adequate for the traffic offering, and I must have due regard in these matters to the interests of B.O.A.C., which has this year considerably augmented its Prestwick services. But I am prepared to allow S.A.S. four services a week through Prestwick next summer, as opposed to the three services a week that it would have been permitted under the previous arrangements.

Mr. Younger

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this small increase on the S.A.S. flights, although small, will be very welcome to many people in Scotland? Will he also agree that, while we all wish to give adequate protection to our own airlines, it is not possible in the foreseeable future fully to utilise an airport of the size of Prestwick without foreign airlines? Will he, therefore, not agree that other foreign airlines must be given the impression that we are not going to cut the numbers of their flights freely in the future, as was done with S.A.S.? Will he further agree that S.A.S. has had a certain amount of bad luck in that it did a lot of good work in promoting sales on this line for which it is now suffering?

Mr. Jenkins

I recognise certainly that S.A.S. is a very good airline which has done a good job. I hope that the small concession will be welcome to it. Of course we want to develop Prestwick, but the hon. Member and the House will recognise that the objection is not to a service between Scandinavia and Prestwick or Prestwick and Scandinavia—the difficulty is with a service which goes on to North America and takes traffic which otherwise would be taken by B.O.A.C.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we do not expect him in a few weeks to remedy all the blunders which his predecessors made, and that this was one? Will he, however, bear in mind that S.A.S. brings travellers to Scotland, that they stay for a week or two before they go on to Scandinavia, and that helps the tourist trade of Scotland? In view of the difficult and complex problems at Prestwick, will my right hon. Friend pay an early visit to the airport so that we may give him information at first hand about this matter?

Mr. Jenkins

I shall certainly consider an early visit to Prestwick.

Mr. Galbraith

Will the right hon. Gentleman do something to help the growth of Prestwick, to which he referred, and this very important area of Scotland, by paying more attention to the desires of passengers rather than to the finances of B.O.A.C.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—by allowing passengers to use the many services which fly between London and Prestwick and Prestwick and London instead of forcing them either to go by train or via Renfrew? This is a most important matter to this expanding area, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do something about it.

Mr. Jenkins

As I have just announced a 33⅓ per cent. improvement over what my predecessor was prepared to offer to S.A.S., I think that the hon. Member might like to argue it out with his own Front Bench.

Mr. Galbraith

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are services in existence being flown by foreign firms which British people would like to use, but they are prevented from doing so? If he wishes to help this airport and, indeed, this area of Scotland, I ask him to allow these passengers to use the services which at present exist but which they are not allowed to use at the moment.

Mr. Jenkins

I will bear this point in mind. I will consider it. However, the hon. Gentleman must not think that I can help Prestwick only by having no regard to the interests of B.O.A.C.

Mr. Rankin

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when the Air Transport Licensing Board grants licences to independent operators to operate between Glasgow and London it always lays down that the operators must use Renfrew Airport? Is it not possible for my right hon. Friend to suggest to the Board that some of these licences might specify Prestwick, thus increasing its trade?

Mr. Jenkins

I will look into the point made by my hon. Friend.