HC Deb 29 June 1971 vol 820 cc204-18

3.31 p.m.

Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)

I beg to move Amendment No. 3, in page 3, line 13, leave out 'the preceding paragraphs' and insert 'paragraph (a) above'.

The Amendment is designed to delete what to us is the offending paragraph (b) in Clause 3(1) which deals with the legal establishment and legal recognition of the second force airline.

Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is impossible to hear my right hon. Friend. Will you please direct hon. Members to leave the Chamber quietly?

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged to the hon. Member. Will hon. Members wishing to leave the Chamber do so more silently?

Mr. Mason

We are still disturbed at the legislative preference that remains in the Bill which stresses that the Civil Aviation Authority shall have a duty to one major British airline which is not controlled by the British Airways Board. I refer, of course, to Caledonian/B.U.A. The Government have established by legislation an independence right, yet within the same Clause dealing with the powers of the Civil Aviation Authority there is no mention of the Corporations, B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. We think that this is a deliberately slanted Clause, forcing the C.A.A. at all times to keep in the forefront of its mind this badly-conceived airline of the Government's.

The Government, have robbed B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. of routes, having provided an illegal base from which this airline begins and having created this dangerous precedent of confiscation without compensation—and I keep reminding the House that this will not be forgotten —have then spelt out in legislation that their airline will have all the opportunities to participate in providing on charter and other terms, air transport services which satisfy all substantial categories of public demand. As my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) said in Committee, it is not just a matter of allowing the airline to operate as a viable concern but of writing in special provisions "so that it is tucked up and statutorily preserved."

This legislative preference is wrong. I do not see how the right hon. Gentleman can defend it, especially when the two Corporations are omitted. It is incumbent upon the Government to withdraw this offending paragraph (b) of Clause 3(1), or at least, in this Clause dealing with the Authority's functions, to give the Corporations the same legal recognition.

I draw to the attention of the House the recent activities of this British independent airline, Caledonian/B.U.A. The company applies to the Air Transport Licensing Board for more licences in addition to the routes transferred by the Government from B.O.A.C.'s West African route licences. At the hearing, Mr. Laurie, the Chairman of the Board, said to Caledonian/B.U.A.: It is absolutely proper that you make your application but it seems it goes much farther than the Secretary of State's statement of intent. The Board wants to make it clear that it is not hearing what it thought it was going to hear today, a rather formal application based on Government policy. So Caledonian/B.U.A. has begun already. The airline is not going to the Air Transport Licensing Board for routes based on Government policy and statements of intent, but is trying at the very outset to twist the arm of the A.T.L.B., to cheat the Government and crudely try to extract from the Board even more than the Government had pinched for it. During the hearing, Mr. Laurie, having decided that the Board should reserve its decisions on all the applications, as a rebuke to Caledonian/B.U.A., said: Considering the vast number of words spoken in both Houses of Parliament, the gallons of printing ink used in leading articles, and the many pints of bad blood spilt of this, I am astonished that you two gentlemen are saying so little to the Board about this. The House must note that Caledonian/B.U.A. at the first opportunity has ignored Government policy and has tried to browbeat the A.T.L.B. into granting it even more than its stolen routes. I hope that the Minister has taken note of this episode and, in the light of this experience, will make sure that the Civil Aviation Authority under Clause 3(1)(b) does not flout this decision of the A.T.L.B.

I was not entirely satisfied on this point with what the right hon. Gentleman said in Committee: No absolute preference will be given to the second force in terms of transfers. That will be laid down quite clearly in the guidance that we give. But if a new route fits into the second force airline operation it should be given preference if other things are equal on merit."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 27th April, 1971; c. 115.] Then only a minute or so later he said, in column 116: There is no question of our imposing upon the Authority a duty to prop up an inefficient, unviable second force. I have said over and over again that having made the necessary essential transfer to get the second force off the ground, we must leave it to stand on its own feet. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will take this opportunity to tell us the truth of the matter. Was this done by Government preference or, now that the transfer has taken place, do the right hon. Gentleman and the Authority intend to let the second force airline stand on its own feet?

I have said enough about this offending paragraph. I think that the same legislative recognition within the Clause should be given to B.O.A.C. or B.E.A., or the Government should withdraw recognition from this one major British independent airline.

I should also like the right hon. Gentleman to make some reference to the attempt by Caledonian/B.U.A. to flout his directive before the A.T.L.B. I should like to know what he feels about his comments in Committee. Although he said that it would have preference provided that everything else was equal on merit, having now transferred the routes to Caledonian/B.U.A., is he going to allow the second force to stand on its own feet.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)

I rise briefly to support my right hon. Friend, but I suggest that he should have gone even further. I put down an Amendment to Clause 3, which, unfortunately, does not look like being called, which would drastically modify the whole of Clause 3. I have always felt that if we are to have any kind of regulatory air licensing body at all, it should be powerful. I do not recall seeing the same sort of directive in any other piece of legislation to set up any corresponding national air licensing body. If we are going to secure the continuity of one independent airline, why has it to be Caledonian/B.U.A.? I have often called this Bill the "Protection of Caledonian/B.U.A. (No. 2) Bill", just as I regarded the declaratory provisions legislation as the "Protection of Caledonian/B.U.A. (No. 1) Bill".

If we are to have an independent authority to promote the air services of British carriers and air transport, it should not be hamstrung in this way and should certainly not be hampered by paragraph (b). If we are to allow civil aviation to do its job properly, it should be allowed to shape its own policy. The kind of conclusion reached by the Edwards Committee missed out on one central point, namely, that if we are to have any central licensing body the policy should not be shaped by Government but by the licensing body itself. The whole emphasis of air transport licensing nowadays is that we are encouraging a situation in which cases are coming forward so thick and fast, that it is impossible for the Secretary of State to make up his mind on each one, as he will with the kind of legislation we have before us today.

We shall reach a situation where particularly in interpreting Clause 3(1)(b) the civil aviation authority will have to face further pleading from Caledonian/B.U.A. when it gets into further difficulties. It is well known that Caledonian/B.U.A. finds itself over-stretched, particularly in financing the domestic trunk competition which is now being foisted on B.E.A. It is also well known that the company faces stiff competition on the west coast of the U.S.A. from American charter operators and, presumably, will face stiffer competition when the rules and regulations proposed by the American C.A.B. ultimately comes into being. Are we about to see a situation in which Caledonian/B.U.A. will have to be subject to special pleading because the Civil Aviation Authority has this duty under paragraph (b)? I suggest that we should modify the Clause completely. Although I shall support my hon. Friend's Amendment I suggest that it would be far better to drop the whole Clause and seek to insert that it shall be the duty of the Civil Aviation Authority to secure that British airlines provide economic, safe and efficient air services in the interests of the consumer and of the nation",

3.45 p.m.

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Michael Noble)

I have listened with interest to the points made by the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) and also by his hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield). I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for saying, appropriately, that this might well be a short debate. We have on a number of occasions debated this particular problem in its various forms. It is unlikely that the right hon. Gentleman and I will ever entirely agree about this matter.

The right hon. Gentleman complains that neither B.O.A.C. nor B.E.A. has been specifically mentioned by name. I do not feel that this is a very serious point. I must have said on a large number of occasions, both in the House and in Committee upstairs, that in the Government's view—indeed I do not think any Government could take any other view—B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. are the two main carriers of the British flag in civil aviation. I do not think it is necessary to mention them by name in the Clause to makes this plain to anybody who has knowledge of civil aviation, and certainly not to the Civil Aviation Authority.

The second point raised by the right hon. Gentleman was that the Caledonian/B.U.A. application for licences before the A.T.L.B. covered one or two places which were covered by B.O.A.C. in routes to West Africa. I cannot see that Caledonian/B.U.A. was in any sense trying to browbeat the A.T.L.B. in applying for these routes. That company, just as any other airline, can apply to the Board for any routes it wishes and it is for the Board to make up its mind on whether it is a sensible or inadvisable application. In this case the Board concluded that it was not a sensible application to accept and turned it down. The right hon. Gentleman is stretching matters if he is saying that Caledonian/B.U.A., or any other airline, would attempt to browbeat the Board. Certainly neither my Department nor I myself gave the Board any advice on this matter. The Board came to its own conclusion from its own particular knowledge of the situation, and did what it thought right.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that whether or not it was a question of browbeating the A.T.L.B., it is certainly cool cheek for Caledonian/B.U. A., just after it has received a massive handout from its political friends to come along with another begging bowl asking for more preferential treatment?

Mr. Noble

I do not view it in that way. The hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) is entitled to his view. In the future, there may be perfectly good examples where Caledonian-B.U.A. or any other airline is entitled to go to the A.T.L.B. asking for routes which it believes that it can serve efficiently and perhaps better than B.O.A.C. or B.E.A. The Board is there as an institution blessed by Parliament, now to be superseded by the Civil Aviation Authority, and airlines can ask it for licences which they think make sense. The hon. Gentleman has a lot of experience in civil aviation. He will know that the Board has for many years established a very right and proper reputation for looking independently and sensibly at any application made to it and for making up its own mind about it. It would resent, just as the hon. Gentleman and some airlines would resent, pressure from outside as to how it should do its job.

My feeling on this point is simply that it is right for Caledonian-B.U.A. or any other airline to make application to the Board. It is equally right for the Board to turn down any application if it sees fit. There is no question of browbeating or of improper pressures.

The next point that the hon. Gentleman made is one of which I have some understanding, and it is a difficult one. On every occasion on which this subject has been debated, I have made it clear that it was the intention of the present Government to create a second force airline, as the Edwards Committee sug- gested and as the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends accepted in their White Paper. I accept that there is a difference between us. In our case, we realise that it could not possibly get started without being given some transfer of routes, and there is a division between the two sides of the House as to how much. That was our view, and I am certain that, if the General Election result had been reversed, this would have been a problem that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would have had to face if they really wanted to get a second force airline.

Mr. Russell Kerr

We did not.

Mr. Noble

Perhaps they did not. There may be a difference of opinion on that among right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, but that is not unusual. Be that as it may, if the second force is to be a meaningful addition to the British civil aviation effort, it has to be able to be viable and to provide a thoroughly satisfactory service to consumers, whether they are in this country or overseas.

I have said that the guidance which will be given to the Civil Aviation Authority before it comes into operation—it will be presented to Parliament in due course—will make it clear that there is not to be an automatic preference given to Caledonian/B.U.A. over any other airline, be it on scheduled or other services. Each case will be looked at on its merits. If the merits are sufficient, the guidance will make it clear that a reasonable amount of preference should be given to the second force airline so that it can build up the strength which is necessary if it is to operate efficiently. It will not be given preference in all circumstances. The Civil Aviation Authority will look at the situation at the time, and, if it is clear that Caledonian/B.U.A. and any other airline are equal on merit, then perhaps preference ought to be given to the second force airline.

The hon. Member for Nuneaton asked why the second force airline should be Caledonian/B.U.A., and he described this massive Bill as the Caledonian/B.U.A. Protection (No. 2) Bill. The hon. Gentleman will be spending a good deal of this evening with us, and I can assure him that there is a vast amount in the Bill, over and above this point on which both sides of the House may be sharply divided.

If it was wise and sensible to try to create a second force, as the Edwards Committee reported, the fact is that there was no other airline to take that place in civil aviation. There may not be for a number of years. If Caledonian and B.U.A. had not decided to get together, it is possible that there would have been no available second force. Therefore, this is an accident of timing and of history, and that is why Caledonian/B.U.A. is the second force.

I accept entirely that there are considerable problems in civil aviation at the moment. As the hon. Member for Nuneaton said, there is considerable competition on charter services all over the world. Anyone who is interested in civil aviation has seen many points developing, some of them wisely and some not so wisely, and there is a great deal of discussion internationally of them. But, whether it is competition in charter services or lack of sufficient passengers for the scheduled services which in the past have been a very paying proposition for all the major airlines and which at the moment are not paying because there is a large surplus of aircraft and not enough passengers, there is no doubt that civil aviation is passing through a period of tough competition.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

The right hon. Gentleman described the Caledonian/B.U.A. merger as an accident. Now he is telling us about a planned situation. If that planned situation has been guided by an accident, can we be sure that there are no other accidents in the Bill which have not yet been discovered?

Mr. Noble

The hon. Gentleman sat through a great many hours in Committee, and I am sure that, if he had spotted any accidents which were likely to be in the Bill, he would have drawn attention to them.

I said that it was an historical accident that, at the time that the second force was recommended by the Edwards Committee, Caledonian/B.U.A. happened to be the only possible choice, and that was only available because Cale- donian and B.U.A. were prepared to merge and so provide it. If that had not been so, there would have been no available candidate for this purpose.

Whether it is because of the general situation in civil aviation or for any other reason, the point that I have made continuously and continue to make is that we have made the transfers of routes which we thought necessary to the airline. In future, we shall ask the Civil Aviation Authority, on the basis of merit, to give it the preference which the Authority thinks necessary to maintain a viable second force airline. We are not prepared to go beyond that in giving any guarantees to Caledonian/B.U.A. that they have a right to demand anything else from us. I hope that I have made the situation clear to the House. I can do no more than state it quite plainly, as I have this afternoon.

4.0 p.m

Mr. Mason

Whilst the Minister's words about the positions of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. are appreciated, they do not give enough recognition. The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that when the Bill becomes law his words, like much of the verbiage throughout Second Reading, 16 sittings of the Committee and today, will have drifted into history. Only the Act will be read and only that will matter. So, whilst we appreciate his reference to the importance of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., it is not good enough that they have not been mentioned in the Clause.

I realise that to some extent in his judicial capacity the right hon. Gentleman must stand to one side regarding the A.T.L.B. However, he knows that the A.T.L.B. was pressured by Caledonian/B.U.A. to try to get more routes than was the intention in his general directive. The Minister also knows that the A.T.L.B. has recently, in its annual report, let him know that it is eager to help the Department to try to solve the problems of the independent airlines, the major charter operators, including Caledonian/B.U.A., who have been flouting the rules governing air fares, charter flights and affinity groupings. Yet on both counts, first, trying to breach his statement of intent and, secondly, breaching the rules governing international air fares, the Minister stands to one side. On these occasions he should stand up and condemn such practices.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the second force emerges as an accident of timing and history. He knows that, because of the political dogma which has motivated most of his and his right hon. Friends' activities, this was the first of the hiving off operations. It is a deliberate political act to confiscate the nation's aviation assets, and the Minister

stands in the rôle of robber on behalf of the Government.

On the basis of decency and honesty and on the basis that, if this democracy is to continue, there should not be confiscation without compensation, I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the Amendment in the Lobby.

Question put, That the Amendment be made: —

The House divided: Ayes 161, Noes 191.

Division No. 398.] AYES [...]p.m.
Albu, Austen Gourlay, Harry Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Grant, George (Morpeth) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Allen, Scholefield Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Armstrong, Ernest Hamilton, James (Bothwell) O'Halloran, Michael
Atkinson, Norman Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) O'Malley, Brian
Bagier, Cordon A. T, Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Oram, Bert
Barnett, Joel Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Orme, Stanley
Beaney, Alan Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Oswald, Thomas
Bishop, E. S. Heffer, Eric S. Palmer, Arthur
Blenkinsop, Arthur Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Booth, Albert Huckfield, Leslie Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Pavitt, Laurie
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch &F'bury) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Pentland, Norman
Callaghan, Fit, Hn. James Hughes, Roy (Newport) Perry, Ernest G.
Cant, R. B. Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Prescott, John
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Clark, David (Colne Valley) John, Brynmor Price, William (Rugby)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Probert, Arthur
Cohen, Stanley Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Rankin, John
Concannon, J. D. Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Conlan, Bernard Jones, Dan (Burnley) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Roper, John
Crawshaw, Richard Judd, Frank Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Dalyell, Tam Kaufman, Gerald Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Kelley, Richard Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Kerr, Russell Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Kinnock, Neil Sillars, James
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lamond, James Silverman, Julius
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Lawson, George Skinner, Dennis
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Spearing, Nigel
Deakins, Eric Leonard, Dick Stallard, A. W.
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Dempsey, James Lipton, Marcus Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Doig, Peter Lomas, Kenneth Strang, Gavin
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Loughlin, Charles Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Driberg, Tom Mabon, Dr. J, Dickson Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Duffy, A. E. P. McBride, Neil Tinn, James
Dunn, James A. McCann, John Tomney, Frank
Eadie, Alex McElhone, Frank Torney, Tom
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Mackenzie, Gregor Tuck, Raphael
Ellis, Tom Maclennan, Robert Urwin, T. W.
Evans, Fred McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Varley, Eric G.
Faulds, Andrew Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Wainwright, Edwin
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E, Marquand, David Weitzman, David
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B' ham, Ladywood) Marsden, F. White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marshall, Dr. Edmund Whitlock, William
Foot, Michael Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Ford, Ben Mayhew, Christopher Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Forrester, John Meacher, Michael Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Freeson, Reginald Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Woof, Robert
Galpern, Sir Myer Mikardo, Ian
Gilbert, Dr. John Millan, Bruce TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Ginsburg, David Miller, Dr. M. S. Mr. Joseph Harper and
Golding, John Mitchell R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Mr. Donald Coleman
Adley, Robert Astor, John Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Atkins, Humphrey Batsford, Brian
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton
Benyon, W. Hicks, Robert Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Higgins, Terence L. Peel, John
Biggs-Davison, John Hiley, Joseph Pounder, Rafton
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Boscawen, Robert Hooson, Emlyn Proudfoot, Wilfred
Bossom, Sir Clive Hornby, Richard Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Bowden, Andrew Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Bray, Ronald Howell, David (Guildford) Redmond, Robert
Brewis, John Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rees, Peter (Dover)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) James, David Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bullus, Sir Eric Jopling, Michael Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Burden, F. A. Kaberry, Sir Donald Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Ridsdale, Julian
Channon, Paul Kershaw, Anthony Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Chapman, Sydney Kilfedder, James Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Chataway, Rt. Hn, Christopher King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Churchill, W. S. King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rost, Peter
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Kinsey, J. R. Russell, Sir Ronald
Cockeram, Eric Kitson, Timothy Scott-Hopkins, James
Cooke, Robert Knight, Mrs. Jill Sharples, Richard
Coombs, Derek Knox, David Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Cordle, John Langford-Holt, Sir John Simeons, Charles
Cormack, Patrick Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Sinclair, Sir George
Costain, A. P. Le Marchant, Spencer Sheet, T. H. H.
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. James Longden, Gilbert Soref, Harold
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Loveridge, John Speed, Keith
Drayson, G. B. Luce, R. N. Spence, John
Dykes, Hugh MacArthur, Ian Sproat, lain
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) McLaren, Martin Stanbrook, Ivor
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) McMaster, Stanley Steel, David
Emery, Peter McNair-Wilson, Michael Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Eyre, Reginald Maginnis, John E. Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Fell, Anthony Marten, Neil Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Fernner, Mrs. Peggy Mather, Carol Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Fidler, Michael Mawby, Ray Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Meyer, Sir Anthony Tebbit, Norman
Fookes, Miss Janet Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Fortescue, Tim Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Foster, Sir John Moate, Roger Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Fox, Marcus Molyneaux, James Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Money, Ernle Tilney, John
Clyn, Dr. Alan Monks, Mrs. Connie Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Goodhew, Victor Monro, Hector van Straubenzee, W. R.
Gorst, John Montgomery, Fergus Waddington, David
Gower, Raymond More, Jasper Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Wall, Patrick
Gray, Hamish Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Walters, Dennis
Green, Alan Mudd, David Warren, Kenneth
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Murton, Oscar Weatherill, Bernard
Grylls, Michael Nabarro, Sir Gerald Wells, John (Maidstone)
Gummer, Selwyn Neave, Airey White, Roger (Gravesend)
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Wilkinson, John
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Nott, John Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Hannam, John (Exeter) Onslow, Cranley Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Worsley, Marcus
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Haselhurst, Alan Osborn, John TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hastings, Stephen Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Mr. Walter Clegg and
Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Page, Graham (Crosby) Mr. Paul Hawkins.
Mr. Noble

I beg to move Amendment No. 4, in page 3, line 21, leave out 'be controlled by United Kingdom nationals' and insert: 'have its principal place of business in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man and to be controlled by persons who either are United Kingdom nationals or are for the time being approved by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this subsection'. In Committee the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) tabled an Amendment which was designed to achieve greater precision in the definition of "British airline" in this subsection. The hon. Gentleman's Amendment was too narrowly drawn, but I am none the less grateful for his drawing attention to the definition as it appears in the Bill as being too wide in some respects and too narrow in others. As it is now drafted, the definition would include any airline anywhere in the world, using aircraft registered in any country, which happened to be controlled by United Kingdom nationals. It would not, however, include an airline based in the United Kingdom, and using British registered aircraft, which happened to be controlled by a foreign national.

The aim here must be to define "British airline" in such a way as to correspond as closely as possible to those airlines that will be looking to the Authority, not merely for their licences, but for help and encouragement, too. I believe that the Amendment achieves that.

I should explain that under this subsection it is intended that the Secretary of State's approval will be given to those persons in respect of whom he has given his consent under Clause 22(3), or in respect of whom he has not given a direction under Clause 23(3), that is to say, to those persons who are not United Kingdom nationals, but who none the less hold an air transport licence.

Mr. E. S. Bishop (Newark)

We are pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has acceded to our suggestions in Committee, and we welcome the Amendment. Those who remember the debate in Committee will appreciate the rather vague definition in the Clause of a British airline. It defines a British airline as an undertaking having power to provide air transport services and appearing"— I emphasise the word "appearing"— to the Authority to be controlled by United Kingdom nationals. That definition is greatly strengthened by the Amendment, and I think that my hon. Friends will be particularly pleased with that because, as was said during the debate on the previous Amendment, it is wrong that we should be hiving off the profitable parts of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. to the private sector. This is not the time to debate that principle, but it would be indefensible if there were a hiving off to foreign control of so-called British airlines which appeared to be under British control. That interpretation would be possible without the Amendment, and we are pleased that this alteration is being made.

I wonder whether the Minister has studied section 2(7) of the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act, 1960, which contains a definition similar to the one that he has introduced by the Amendment, but perhaps a little more comprehensive. Second, what will be the position if we join the E.E.C.? Will the possible discrimination for which the right hon. Gentleman is providing by the Amendment in favour of British nationals and British airlines be affected in any way?

Having made those observations, I conclude by welcoming the Amendment and saying that we support the right hon. Gentleman on this matter.

Mr. Noble

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words. All I can say at the moment in reply to his questions is that I do not think that anything that might happen if we join the E.E.C. will make any difference to the civil aviation set-up as laid down in the Bill. There is no harmonised civil aviation set-up within the E.E.C.

Amendment agreed to.

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