HC Deb 22 July 1970 vol 804 cc518-9
17. Mr. Marten

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy regarding the future of British airlines.

52. Mr. Ogden

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is satisfied with the operation of the present legislation controlling civil aviation operations in this country; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Noble

I shall announce the Government's proposals as soon as possible.

Mr. Marten

Will my right hon. Friend explain what he means by "as soon as possible"? Will it be before the House rises for the recess? Second, will he give an assurance that if there is to be any change in the authority which deals with the route licensing pattern the announcement of that change will be made to the House, whereas the other matter may be a purely commercial one?

Mr. Noble

The answer to the second part of my hon. Friend's question is that I certainly hope so. The answer to the first part is that the negotiations are continuing, but I cannot anticipate them coming to any conclusion before the Houses rises.

Mr. Ogden

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he waits until after the recess to make his announcement to the House of Commons that will be four full months after the election of his party to office? There is tremendous uncertainty in the industry and among operators. Will he follow the excellent example of some of his Ministerial colleagues and introduce the legislation which was in course of preparation by the previous Government?

Mr. Noble

The answer to the second question is "No". Nothing that I have yet seen is anywhere approaching being ready for introduction. The answer to the first question is that I realise the urgency of the matter, but I cannot come to a conclusion before the House goes into recess. If decisions have to be made on commercial issues before the House returns, they will have to be made during the recess.

Mr. Mason

On the question of legislation, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is the Government's intention to introduce a comprehensive Bill covering civil aviation—namely, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Airways Board together—or will the Government separate that legislation? Second, if the B.U.A.-Caledonian talks come to a successful conclusion during the recess, will the right hon. Gentleman give the House the assurance that there will be no B.O.A.C. transfer of routes before the House has been consulted on the matter?

Mr. Noble

I think the right hon. Gentleman realises that no transfer of routes could possibly take place before then. On the other matter, we have to wait and see what Government time is available, and what legislation is to be fitted into it.

Mr. Wilkinson

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the great urgency with which the decision is awaited in the independent airline operating sector, and also of the uncertainty which hangs over the future of the Air Registration Board, which has served this country's civil aviation so well for so long?

Mr. Noble

I am fully aware of both those considerations. We have been working very hard to try to get these points cleared up, but there has not been a great deal of time to deal with these difficult and complex problems.