HC Deb 11 May 1967 vol 746 cc1689-91
37. Mr. Grimond

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is satisfied that the increase of from 25 per cent. to 50 per cent. on some internal air fares in Scotland conforms with the prices and income standstill; and if he will make a statement.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Douglas Jay)

I presume that the right hon. Gentleman has in mind the application for increases in the applicable tariffs made to the Air Transport Licensing Board by all airlines operating domestic services. Increases proposed on internal Scottish services form a part of this. The application has not yet been heard by the Licensing Board, which is statutorily bound to have regard to the prices and incomes policy. I cannot in any way prejudge its decision.

Mr. Grimond

I do not ask the President of the Board of Trade to prejudge the matter, but will he assure us that the prices freeze applies to the nationalised industries, and will he bear in mind that few things could be more damaging to Highland development than this steep increase in fares?

Mr. Jay

I am statutorily entitled to listen to what the right hon. Gentleman says. As a general principle, the nationalised industries are not exempt from the prices and incomes policy, but the Air Transport Licensing Board is the proper authority to consider this in the first instance.

Mr. William Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend assure us that the airlines will adopt the practice which is being advocated for British Railways, namely, differentiation between services run on commercial lines and the losses incurred on lines run for social reasons?

Mr. Jay

I would not like to give an absolute assurance without thinking that over further, but I am sure that the airlines will note what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Manuel

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the expected loss this year on B.E.A. internal services is £300,000? We have for many years given a subsidy to Messrs. MacBrayne, on the West Coast, to operate both sea and road transport services. Could not that be considered in this case, allowing the nationalised airline to compete on an even keel with them?

Mr. Jay

I am aware of those facts generally. There is no doubt that B.E.A. has contributed greatly to better services in Scotland, at some financial cost.