HC Deb 18 January 1971 vol 809 cc490-2
5 and 50. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what representations have been made to him by the trade unions involved regarding the proposal to transfer certain British European Airways and British Overseas Airways Corporation routes; and what replies he sent;

(2) what recent representations he has received about the proposed transfer of routes from British European Airways and the British Overseas Aircraft Corporation to Caledonian Airways.

Mr. John Davies

A number of representations have been made and meetings held, including one with representatives of the T.U.C. General Council and of the employees' side of the Civil Aviation National Joint Council, following which statements were released to the Press.

Mr. Molloy

I am grateful for that reply, although the replies which the right hon. Gentleman has sent ought to be a matter for debate in the House. Is the right hon. Gentleman not seized of the fact that many employees in these large corporations feel that the Government have filched from them something which they created to help the national effort, and not for personal gain? This action cannot help industrial relations in this industry, or create any feeling of confidence at all in the right hon. Gentleman or, indeed, in any future action that he takes, in so far as he is using the law, or intends to use it, to steal a large part of a public corporation to which so many people have devoted their lives.

Mr. Davies

The hon. Gentleman will realise that the main preoccupation of these representations has been with regard to employment problems involved. In relation to these the Government have had certain assurances from Caledonian B.U.A., and the fact that they have themselves been able to find reassurance in the development of the industry sincerely brings me to believe that the fears which might otherwise have been prevalent need not be entertained.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the tremendous concern in the trade union movement and on the back benches on this side of the House—although there may be some agreement between the Front Benches—about this issue? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that unless some kind of reassurance is quickly given, for instance about the Paris routes, the West African routes and the Caribbean routes, even more uncertainty is bound to be created?

Mr. Davies

I should like to give the assurance that I am seized of the need to make the earliest possible announcement of the complementary transfers envisaged. I seek, however, again to emphasise that the extent of these transfers, taken in relation to the total line revenue of the corporations, is small.

Mr. Sheldon

Is not the transfer of these routes in effect an actual transfer of money direct from the public service to private industry? Is not this what it is all about? Surely the right hon. Gentleman must account for this squandering of public money in this way?

Mr. Davies

The hon. Gentleman should perhaps remember that the Edwards Committee found that there was a need to undertake such a transfer to make viable what the Labour Party considered to be a sound solution in terms of the creation of a second force air line. The Government have done no more than to see through the means that are necessary to ensure that end.

Mr. Mason

The previous Government did not accept the Edwards Committee's recommendation on that score, and the right hon. Gentleman knows full well that we were not prepared to set up a second force by carving up B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. Will the right hon Gentleman tell the House when the transfers are likely to be effected and when the House will be told about the £6-million worth of annual route revenue that will be transferred from B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. to Caledonian B.U.A.?

Mr. Davies

My right hon. Friend has announced to the House the major item of transfer with regard to the West African routes. The complementary ones will be announced to the House as soon as it is possible to do so, and I wish to do so at the earliest possible opportunity.