HC Deb 09 November 1970 vol 806 cc29-30
34. Mr. Barnes

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on his plans to effect the transfer of certain British Overseas Airways Corporation routes to Caledonian/British United Airways.

Mr. John Davies

I shall make a statement when I have decided which routes are to be transferred.

Mr. Barnes

Does not the Bill which the Minister has produced to effect the proposed transfer make it possible to transfer any B.O.A.C. or B.E.A. routes by order? Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the proposal to transfer £6 million worth of B.O.A.C. business to Caledonian/British United Airways will be a once-for-all transfer?

Mr. Davies

The Bill in question is of a special kind. The Government have introduced it, not because they have any doubt that they may use their powers for the purpose indicated in the statement of 3rd August, but to forestall any arguments which might delay the effective transfer of the routes. With regard to the transfer of the routes. I could not give an undertaking that never again would I take a step of this kind.

Mr. Mason

The right hon. Gentleman will agree that the Government have no legal powers to take routes from B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., especially significant transfers of this kind, and that only because B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. have resisted the overtures from the Government for these routes have they had to produce the declaratory provisions Bill, which cannot be legal until it has passed through the House.

Mr. Davies

I have no doubt that the Government have the power and are legally within their rights to transfer the routes. I equally recognise that both corporations concerned have a responsibility to contest anything which they believe they have any chance of forestalling. It is for this reason that the legislation has been produced.