HC Deb 06 November 1968 vol 772 cc885-6
22. Mr. Onslow

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action he is taking to restore the profitability of British civil airline operations.

Mr. William Rodgers

I am aware of certain current problems but the recession in airline operations is not confined to British operators. We must await the report of the Edwards Committee to guide us on the longer term.

Mr. Onslow

That is a complacent reply. The current problems can be described as conditions of extreme difficulty in an industry which is a major foreign exchange earner. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we therefore cannot afford to wait for the Edwards Report?

Mr. Rodgers

There are problems. As long as the present system exists, it would be wrong to change it before the Edwards Report is made. It is up to the operators to make applications to the Air Transport Licensing Board and for the Board to decide on those applications. There is a danger of airline operators suffering a loss in traffic which would not be offset by the increase in rates.

Mr. Rankin

In view of the importance of the issue, when may we expect the Edwards Report?

Mr. Rodgers

By Easter, 1969, I hope.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will the hon. Gentleman treat this with great urgency? Not only the independent but the nationalised airlines are operating under extreme difficulties. Unless some action is taken to alleviate their financial problems, British airlines will be in serious trouble within months.

Mr. Rodgers

I am aware of the difficulties, and it is proper that we should discuss them in this way today. But we must bear in mind that any major change which may be required should be made with all the facts before us. Reluctant as I am to have to await the Edwards Report, it would be nonsensical to make a decision before receiving it.