HC Deb 17 March 1965 vol 708 cc1269-71
29. Mr. Ian Gilmour

asked the Minister of Aviation what support, other than subsidy, Her Majesty's Government will give to private flying clubs.

31. Mr. Derek Page

asked the Minister of Aviation what support he will provide for flying clubs other than by subsidy.

Mr. Stonehouse

We give significant support to flying clubs, principally by placing with them substantial contracts for the flying training of cadets and technical personnel, by providing free landing facilities at State-owned aerodromes, and now by helping to finance the development of new British light aircraft.

Mr. Gilmour

Is the Minister aware that the Government give very much less support to flying clubs than practically every other country? Does not he realise that a lot of flying clubs had financial trouble even before the withdrawal of the fuel rebate? Should not his right hon. Friend be encouraging flying clubs and young air-minded people instead of making their activities extremely difficult?

Mr. Stonehouse

We want to encourage these flying clubs. I am not at all sure that the withdrawal of the rebate which has been referred to was an undue hardship on the clubs.

Mr. Page

Would my hon. Friend bear in mind that the French Government backs its private flying clubs to the extent of £700,000 a year; that the Italian Government provides duty-free fuel; that the Canadian Government supports its clubs and that the support for our clubs is very poor in comparison?

Mr. Stonehouse

I do not wish to be drawn into these comparisons—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—because I am satisfied, having gone into the facts, that we give very important assistance to these clubs. If there are any further suggestions which the clubs wish to make to me they can do so through a Committee which will meet in a few weeks' time.

Commander Courtney

Is the Minister aware that it is no earthly use for the Government to give £600,000 to the only British light aircraft manufacturer and at the same time abolish the Junior Wing Scheme, take off the petrol rebate and, generally speaking, put flying clubs out of business?

Mr. Stonehouse

As the hon. and gallant Member, who is very well experienced in these matters, knows, there are many other ways in which we can assist these clubs and we are doing that. We want to continue with constructive assistance.

Mr. Fell

Could not the Minister have a word with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Secretary about the rebate before the Budget?

Mr. Stonehouse

The rebate question cannot be re-examined at this stage. We are prepared to look at any further constructive suggestions for assistance to these clubs. In fact, we provide free facilities for them at State-owned aerodromes, and I am proposing to ask the British Airports Authority, when it is set up, to continue the facilities for these clubs.

Mr. Maude

Is the hon. Gentleman really saying that if evidence is produced to show that the withdrawal of the fuel rebate is causing grave hardship, it cannot conceivably be re-examined? Is that what he really meant to say?

Mr. Stonehouse

What I said was that it cannot be re-examined for this year. If in future years it is shown beyond doubt that any undue hardship is being caused, we will re-examine it. That is not the position at this stage.

Dr. Bennett

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the steps he is taking to encourage flying clubs are insignificant compared with the blow struck by the abolition of the rebate?

Mr. Stonehouse

I am not satisfied that the withdrawal of this comparatively small rebate will have the effect suggested.

Mr. Snow

Is my hon. Friend aware that, while we must bear in mind the defence aspects of training pilots, there are also the interests of the economy to bear in mind and that we should not necessarily subsidise people who regard this just as a weekend sport?

Mr. Stonehouse

We are aware of those considerations. I ask the House to bear in mind that we are spending over £120,000 in financial assistance to clubs which undertake training schemes on our behalf.

Mr. Gilmour

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise the matter on the Adjournment.