HC Deb 04 August 1965 vol 717 cc1694-5
36. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Attorney-General whether he has studied the evidence sent to him by the hon. Member for Antrim, South, showing the existence of a demand for jurisdiction in rem to cover aircraft and hovercraft in this country; if he will approach the Belgian Government with a view to the calling of a conference of those nations which took part in the International Conference on Maritime Law held in Brussels in 1952 to discuss international agreement for in rem jurisdiction and the arrest of aircraft and hovercraft; and if he will make a statement.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Dingle Foot)

I have studied the letter which the hon. and learned Member sent to my right hon. and learned Friend, but I do not consider that it discloses any substantial demand for a change in the law which would expose airlines to unforeseeable arrests—possibly even for quite small claims. Modern international air traffic observes tight schedules and their disruption would cause great inconvenience in the public. In any event I do not think that the International Conference on Maritime Law would be the appropriate body to consider this question.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman not aware of the increasing number of small private aircraft which fly to and from the United Kingdom? Should they not also be treated as ships and liable to arrest until bail has been put up to meet a claim? Would not this help in the birth of dynamic legal reform, conceived by the Labour Government nine months ago, whose arrival we all so eagerly await?

The Solicitor-General

I do not think it would be possible to distinguish for this purpose between one class of aircraft or another. As regards dynamic legal reform, that of course is primarily the business of the Law Commission which this Government have brought into existence.