HC Deb 29 June 1971 vol 820 cc326-53

Amendment made: No. 58, in page 95, line 26, column 3, at end insert: In section 28, subsection (1) the words from 'or of such' onwards, and in subsection (2) the words 'or under the direction of'.— [Mr. Noble.]

9.41 p.m.

Mr. Noble

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It is with some pleasure that I rise to move the Third Reading of the Bill. I need hardly say that this is an important Bill, not only for the future of British civil aviation but also as part of the process of improving the machinery of government. It is also a long and complex Bill and I should like at this point to say how grateful I am—I believe that the House will share my feeling—to the Standing Committee for the expeditious and workmanlike way in which the Bill has been considered. I was struck by the high level of debate which was achieved on many occasions throughout the Committee's 16 sittings. As a result the Bill has come from Committee with many substantial improvements to it, and I should like to touch briefly upon some of these.

One issue above all others which has run as a thread throughout all our discussions, and which has been evident again today, is the difficult question of achieving the right balance between independence and control, in relation both to the Authority and to the British Airways Board.

All concerned have been anxious to ensure the greatest possible freedom for both bodies, consistently with the fundamental need for Parliament to retain its ultimate control over the policies which are to be pursued. This balance has been shifted in a number of significant ways, and I think I am right in saying that it has been shifted in all cases towards greater freedom.

In particular—I acknowledge here my indebtedness to the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo)—we have taken out the power for the Secretary of State to give general directions in the national interest; we have today, on the initiative of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan), reduced the scope of the power of direction under Clause 4(1), and, on the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), we have limited in a very reasonable way the scope of the power of direction in Clause 24(2).

In addition, we have provided that directions given under Clause 28(2) should, like those given under Clause 4 and Clause 24(2), be published in the Authority's annual report.

Another improvement that we have made, in a number of places, is to add a requirement for the Secretary of State to consult the Authority before exercising certain of his powers.

Another area in which improvements have been made concerns the Airworthiness Requirements Board, where it is now provided that more than half the members of it should be representative of the interests named in Clause 27(4)(a) and where we have now provided in Clause 20 for the Authority to publish in its annual report particulars of any instance where it does not accept the advice and recommendations of the Board on the matters covered in Clause 27(2). I think that I can now say with some confidence that in almost every respect the Bill as it now stands reflects and take account of the most helpful advice we have had from the A.R.B. Indeed, I think that the only exception is the point covered by Amendment No. 28.

I do not want to protract this catalogue unduly, but I should mention one other place where—though "I says it as shouldn't"—the Bill has been improved, and that is by the addition of what is now Clause 29. This makes small but useful improvements to our existing powers for controlling aircraft noise and, more importantly, extends those powers to cover any aerodrome licensed for public use.

I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to go into any great detail about this now, but I should perhaps make it quite clear that this Clause does not purport to provide the ultimate solution to the noise problem—I would certainly make no such claim for it—but it will, I hope, enable us to contain the problem, and prevent the situation from deteriorating further, until such time as quieter aircraft engines are in general use and until the third London airport at Foulness comes fully into operation.

We have also improved Part III dealing with the British Airways Board, although here our task has perhaps been rather easier since much less new ground has had to be explored than in the case of the Authority.

As I say, this is now a better Bill, and we should all be grateful, as I am, to all the members of the Commitee for their hard work in contributing so ably to this result. We may now hope that, after it has been further considered in another place, it will receive the Royal Assent at a date that will now be not too far removed. There will then remain a good deal to be done, especially so far as the Authority is concerned. The various regulations will have to be made, for the procedures of the Authority, for the appeals and for the regulation of travel organisers under Clause 26. There will also be a major organisational and administrative task to be completed before the Authority can start work.

None the less, I am still hopeful that everything can be completed in time for the Authority to be able to start work in the early part of next year, even though some of the details about land and so on may have to be sorted out afterwards. I hope also that the Airways Board, which involves rather less of this kind of preparatory work, will be able to start its work at the beginning of next year. In the very fluid situation in which the industry now finds itself, I am sure that the House will agree that that will not be too soon for it to start tackling the very difficult job we are giving it, of shaping the future of the public sector of the industry.

Now that the Bill is making such rapid progress, we are in a position to start thinking in concrete terms about whom to appoint to the two new Boards we are setting up, and I hope that it will be possible to start announcing names in the not too distant future, perhaps towards the latter part of the summer recess.

Before I sit down there is one final thing I should like to say. Apart from one particular matter we have debated this afternoon, we have been fortunate to see an unusual degree of consensus as to the objects we are trying to achieve in the Bill, even though there has been ample room for argument about particular aspects. I believe that this above almost anything else should give great assurance to all concerned, within the industry and among its friends outside, as to the degree of support which our airlines may hope to enjoy in the difficult future that lies ahead. For this we must all thank Sir Ronald Edwards and the members of his Committee for the wisdom of the recommendations they made.

9.48 p.m.

Mr. Mason

I join the Minister for Trade in mentioning the sterling work Ronnie Edwards and his team put into their report, from which much has flowed. No doubt they are very pleased that we are reaching the final stages of a major Bill which will determine the future of a vast and important industry.

On the whole, I think that it is a good Bill, worthy of our support. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I have lived, and at times suffered, during the whole of its conception. We are to witness the establishment of a new Civil Aviation Authority, a new, powerful and more independent civil aviation regulator with the hiving-off of about 7,000 civil servants into a new form of public corporation. We shall see the gradual development of an umbrella authority that will cover all our aviation services, plan the industry's growth, control licensing and airworthiness and, above all, I hope, make certain that it provides good working relations within all sectors of the industry and good working conditions in all its participants. This is going to be a major and unique constitutional change.

The second major change is to create the British Airways Board, which will oversee our two Corporations, B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., and undoubtedly, as they will realise, there are many opportunities for them to work more closely together, to marry some of their common services and to increase their efficient competitiveness to be better fitted to compete with their international rivals. B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. are a credit to the nation, and particularly they must be seen to be so at present. While their international counterparts have suffered considerably in the past two years, they have read the market well and have anticipated the trends better than most. They have just survived a depressing downturn in world aviation activities. The Airways Board will no doubt forge them into more formidable units in future, and that will initially be its main task.

The Bill, whilst not perfect, is urgently needed and I hope that it will go some way towards ending the uncertainty in the industry. As the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, it has undergone the rigours of 16 sittings in Committee and I should like to thank all the members of the Committee, as he did, but particularly my hon. Friends, who played an important part in the Committee proceedings, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan), who bore the brunt of the burden of carrying the Committee stage through from our side, and my hon. Friends the Members for Newark (Mr. Bishop) and Pontypridd (Mr. John). They, too, did sterling work and questioned at great length matters on which we expressed great concern on Second Reading. Credit is also due to the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow). He, too, was an active participant and he also on Second Reading shared our doubts about too much Ministerial intereference. Between them, he and my hon. Friends had some successes and I think that most of us would agree that the Bill has been improved.

But we still have some concerns. Clause 3 remains objectionable, and we shall watch very closely how the Minister's reference to the forced route transfers from the Corporations to Caledonian/B.U.A. will be a once-for-all transfer, because it has not gone unnoticed that Caledonian/B.U.A. has already tried to breach his ruling.

In that respect, we shall also watch the operation of Clause 22, which deals with the granting of licences among air transport operators. Apart from assessing their financial strength and viability, we hope that the Authority will be as keen on their safety record and the wages paid and the working conditions of the staff. It is this Clause and others that give the Civil Aviation Authority power, if it so determines, to enhance the authority of the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport by asking all applicants for licences to join the National Joint Council and make it the industry's forum for proper consultation and improving man-management relations throughout the industry. We hope that this will be done.

The appeal procedure leaves still much to be desired, and in this respect Clause 24 is not entirely satisfactory. We do not want a repetition of the appeal farce and frustration which dogged the years of the Air Transport Licensing Board. The regulations due to flow from this Clause will be watched with this in mind. I hope, too, that the A.R.B., now the Airworthiness Requirements Board, will find a satisfactory and fairly independent rôle within the Authority.

Clause 40, which gives the Minister the long-stop power to hive off ancillary activities of the Corporations, creates the same heat and opposition from this side as Clause 3, which legislatively recognises Caledonian/B.U.A. Although the Minister has gone some way during the afternoon's proceedings, his assurances have not entirely satisfied us, and we shall watch for any Order that comes before the House designed to impair the Corporation's activities and profitability. We shall keep a watching brief on the make-up of the Authority and the Board, and hope that the Minister will not ignore our request that consumer and trade union interests must be represented.

During Second Reading and in Committee most hon. Members expressed doubts about the independence of the Authority. Time and again members have protested against too much Ministerial interference. I hope that the Minister recognises this strong undercurrent of feeling against his interfering powers. A little of the interference has been curbed through Amendments. As my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) said on Second Reading, far from the Authority becoming "Mr. Mason's bulldog", it may become "Mr. Noble's poodle". This poodle tag must be avoided, or this great change will lose much of its impact, force and authority.

With the advent of the Bill, British civil aviation will have the spur to maintain its strong position in international civil aviation. It is a large industry, full of technological aviation skills, it is rich in experience and enterprise. It also requires intelligence and imagination in its investment programme because of the gestation period from design decision to investment return. All these stand to gain under the new Civil Aviation Authority. We are hopeful that the Authority and the Board will do well. They have a great task before them and, bearing in mind the few reservations I have expressed, this Bill has our blessing.

9.57 p.m.

Mr. Allason

I particularly welcome Clause 29 of the Bill which was introduced in Committee, and vastly improves the Bill. My right hon. Friend will remember that I urged him on Second Reading to do this, and I am grateful to him for giving us power to control municipal airports. Luton is probably the most prominent target of this Clause. It is a thoroughly badly sited airport to carry out international operations. Yet this is precisely what its owners, Luton Corporation, are seeking to make it do.

I should like to give the House some idea of what happens at Luton because it is appalling that an airport can still be allowed to operate in these conditions. Aircraft taking off in a westerly direction have to perform two 45-degree turns soon after take-off. The effect of this is, first of all, to increase noise. When an aircraft is banked the noise level rises. It is impossible for the pilots to maintain proper route-keeping and in consequence there is a wide divergence of routes over what are laughingly called "minimum noise routes". As a result, aircraft fly over the large towns of Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and Tring, causing immense annoyance.

The next difficulty arises from the fact that they do not climb straight into the air, as at other airports, leaving it all behind them. They have to fly to Beacon Hill before they are allowed to exceed 4,000 ft. Therefore they are flying a distance of 25 miles at around 3,000 ft. above sea level. Ground level is about 500 ft. less than that. The BAC 111 aircraft are allowed to fly at full power at 3,000 ft., and the noise at full power is shattering. The noise at night is far in excess of that which is permitted at Heathrow.

Mr. Adley

I am sure my hon. Friend does not want to do an injustice to the BAC 111. If the Boeing 707 were to take the place of the BAC 111, I am sure he would mention that as well.

Mr. Allason

I have been in correspondence with Rolls-Royce who said that the engines of the BAC 111 gave out no greater noise than any other engines, but the BAC 111 has a nasty crackle which gets through to the ground. There are many other aircraft which make nothing like the appalling noise of the BAC 111.

We have run into further trouble recently over easterly take-offs. The Department of Trade and Industry has decided that Brooklands Park beacon is too congested, and south-bound aircraft flying from Luton are not allowed to go to Brookman's Park. Instead, they have to turn and go to Beacon Hill, with the result that they fly over the town of Harpenden. Secondly, because they now have to fly on a different path they cross the route of other aircraft flying north and they are therefore given a height limit of 3,000 ft. while they are flying over Harpenden and further on over my constituency.

Luton is such a badly sited airport that the noise is quite intolerable for those who live there. But that does not stop Luton Corporation, whose only idea is to extend the airport, extend the operations and do as much flying as possible each year.

The first control which should be imposed is on night flying. The night flying is all on charter work, and I do not believe that there is a need for charter flights to be made at night. If the Government would take a decision on night charter flights and ban them, there would be an enormous improvement. If the Government want to ban night flights merely from Luton because the situation at Luton is intolerable, good luck to them, but it would be fairer to ban them altogether. There is no need for night charter flights except to obtain maximum operating value from the aircraft, and night flights are the most efficient and, therefore, the cheapest way of doing it. But the cost falls on the consumer. It would be no disadvantage to the aircraft industry, the aviation industry and the travel industry if, by charging higher fares, they could maintain the same volume of business.

It is not as if charter holidays are des perately expensive or only just within reach of the people. The charges are well below the ordinary airline fares and the holidays represent a magnificent bargain. If night flying were abolished, costs would rise by about 20 per cent. Considering that one can have a splendid first-class weekend in Majorca for £14, it surely would not be considered exces-represented by a 20 per cent. increase. sive if the cost went up to £17, which is It will probably be said, "You are attacking those who want to go on holiday". but we ought to have some consideration for those who live underneath the path of these aircraft.

I have had two letters in the past week from which I should like to quote. The first is from somebody in Harpenden which, as I have said, is an area with a particular problem. The letter reads: I wish once again to draw your attention to the appalling nuisance caused by jet aircraft flying into and away from Luton Airport. Though the intensity of the disturbance varies, a reasonable night's sleep has become a thing of the past. The next letter is from Berkhamsted: The noise in the early hours of the morning seems to be louder than ever."— this is over the flying path itself— I am elderly, 78 and in poor health after an eye operation but despite sleeping tablets, I am awakened at 3.20 a.m., and at 4 a.m. most mornings. One day last week it was 2.30 a.m. These letters are typical.

Mr. Peter Rost (Derbyshire, South-East)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he has not mentioned the many parents who are disturbed in their night's sleep, not so much by aircraft, but because their children are awakened by aircraft noise and, in turn, disturb their parents?

Mr. Allason

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend and I could quote many other letters, but I do not want to detain the House. I asked the British Airline Pilots' Association whether this sort of noise could be avoided, and they told me that it can be avoided if aircraft take off at lower loadings. The trouble is that if an aircraft is fully loaded and has to climb into the sky, it will make a terrific noise getting up there. Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend to inform Luton that he intends to designate Luton just as soon as Clause 29 comes into effect so that it does not proceed with plans to increase and then further increase flying from Luton.

10.7 p.m.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

I will not take up the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason), though I have considerable sympathy with the difficulties of his constituents. I would suggest that the answer to his problem is not to have half-empty charter flights flying around during daylight. Nevertheless, I agree that he has some cause for complaint.

I am sorry to disturb the happy atmosphere of consensus between the two Front Benches. I speak as one who has always disagreed with my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) on the whole concept of the second force, and indeed on whether the whole tenor of the Bill was ever necessary. I have always opposed one of the fundamental conclusions reached by the Edwards Committee, although I would not belittle the tremendous amount of research and work that went into the presentation of its Report. My main reason for opposing the setting up of a Civil Aviation Authority is that I feel that this is the worst possible moment to go about it, since practically all the major international carriers are facing exceptional difficulties. With a few exceptions, they are making thumping great losses. Pan-American last year lost £27 million dollars; T.W.A. lost 83 million dollars; United Airlines, the biggest domestic carrier in the United States, lost 13 million dollars; American Airlines lost nearly eight million dollars in the United States. We also know that Q.A.N.T.A.S. as well as Sabena are in difficulties. It does not matter where one looks, the world scheduled international carriers are in profound difficulties.

It is at precisely this moment of time that the Government choose to set up with a great degree of protection their own cherished, independent second force airline. I cannot see the logic of it. I cannot see why even more competition is necessary when, all over the world, airlines are beginning to think about getting together and how they can reduce competition, especially on international scheduled flights. In the United States, it has gone even further. There the Civil Aeronautics Board has authorised carriers to get together on a co-operative basis with a view to reducing the number of frequencies that they operate. At the same time as the C.A.B. has authorised some major domestic carriers in the States to co-operate and collaborate in the reduction of frequencies, this Government and the Air Transport Licensing Board authorise unlimited frequency competition to B.E.A. on our domestic trunk routes from Caledonian-B.U.A. I cannot see the logic of creating this kind of airline philosophy at the present time.

My other main objection to the Bill is that again it fails to have the status that I should like to see it have to deal with many of the airline problems which, month by month, are developing in peculiar directions. I said earlier that this creature will be a weak-kneed one. I said that it will not have much power to take the initiative or to take final decisions. I still say that it is not just the general direction to preserve and protect Caledonian-B.U.A. in Clause 3 but the whole tenor and emphasis of the Bill which is discouraging for any new, independent fledgling Civil Aviation Authority. Apart from Clause 3, whereby the Civil Aviation Authority has a clear directive to promote the interests of Caledonian-B.U.A., in Clause 4, if the Secretary of State changes his mind, he can once again tell the Civil Aviation Authority what to do in a different direction. Again, in Clause 24(2), he can even tell the Civil Aviation Authority what to do in the way of suspending operations completely while he takes a little time to think of a new policy by which again he can tell the Civil Aviation Authority what to do.

Mr. Onslow

That is not true.

Mr. Huckfield

If that is not enough, the Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to make himself the final appeal court. It is clear that the new civil aviation authority will not be the Civil Aviation Authority. It will be the Government and the Secretary of State. It is from the right hon. Gentleman that the main powers, the initiative and the main directives of policy will come.

What is more, the Civil Aviation Authority is not even to have the power to consider such important matters as traffic rights and international air fares on its own initiative. Those are matters which are automatically considered by the Civil Aeronautics Board in the United States. In this country, they must be dealt with at the behest and under the direction of the Civil Aviation Authority. What is even worse is that, even when it gets round to considering important matters like traffic rights and international air fares, the Civil Aviation Authority cannot even deal with foreign carriers coming into the country. Once more we get to the situation where American supplemental and international scheduled airlines will not bother with the Civil Aviation Authority. As they always have, they will go to the Department of Trade and Industry. It is one more slap in the face for the Civil Aviation Authority and one more encouragement to the American operators to by-pass the Authority.

If we are to have a viable authority, let it be one which can stand on its own feet and evolve its own policy. I recognise that every State reserves the right, for balance of payments, national security and strategy reasons, to give directions to its airlines. They are flag-carriers, and they have a great many non-commercial obligations. However, if that is to be the situation, let it be made clear publicly precisely what is to be the relationship between the Civil Aviation Authority and the Secretary of State and how it will be expressed from time to time in the various directives and conversations exchanged between them. I am not happy that the kind of communications which are bound to transpire between the Secretary of State and the Civil Aviation Authority will be made sufficiently public.

I have never seen the logic of designating one airline to fulfil the rôle of a second force. I have never understood the need for a second force. However, if the purpose of the Bill, which, after all, is merely the protection and preservation of Caledonian/B.U.A., is to be implemented in full, the Secretary of State will find himself in increasing difficulties as Caledonian becomes subjected to more and more charter and international scheduled competition.

I should like now to turn to the charter sphere, in which I have an interest. I hope that this creation of the Minister's will give the Civil Aviation Authority some impetus to create for this country a charter policy. At the moment the Civil Aeronautics Board is evolving a definite charter policy. The Department of Trade and Industry is not. If the Civil Aviation Authority gets off the ground—I doubt whether it will fully get off the ground because of the restrictions placed upon it—and turns its mind to evolving a coherent charter policy, I shall be extremely grateful.

We have had reports of the kind which appeared in the Sunday Times last week and we have had various television and newspaper stories about flights being investigated in the early hours of the morning at Gatwick and Stansted. I hope that this sort of thing can soon be cleared up. I hope that there will be a change in the rules and regulations which will give the ordinary man in the street his right and proper chance to fly to those far away places.

Concerning the Board, there may be scope for some amalgamation and collaboration of activities between B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. That is a matter which ought primarily to be left to the two airlines in conjunction with the Board. I am not happy that this is the right way to do it.

Whatever happens, I still think that we should have some new kind of Civil Aviation Authority. The combination of the Air Traffic and Air Safety Boards with the commercial boards may be the best way, but if we were to combine the functions which the Federal Aviation Administration and the Civil Aeronautics Board perform in the U.S.A., we should at least accord it some greater degree of independence.

It seems that if this new creature— this foetus, although I do not know whether a foetus has life—is born, it will have an ever-lasting umbilical cord. It may be time to cut the cord now and recommend the termination of pregnancy.

10.18 p.m.

Mr. Onslow

The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) has made an awfully stupid speech.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

Not half as stupid as some of the rubbish which the hon. Gentleman says.

Mr. Onslow

It would be a kindness to say no more about the hon. Gentleman's speech. I am feeling kind, so I will say no more about it.

I should like to express my thanks to the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) for the kind things which he said about me, as he will agree, to his amazement, when he reads HANSARD. I think that he must have gone out to feel unwell. Clearly reaction was setting in.

I should like to get the tally straight. We have carried 64 Amendments in Committee, 41 of which were in the name of the Government, 14 in the name of the official Opposition, and nine came from elsewhere. So honours are fairly even. Hon. Members on both sides must undeniably be grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade and to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for their sympathetic understanding and co-operative attitude which helped us to get along so well. It would be an unkindness on my part to repay them by making a long speech now. I do not intend to do that.

I simply want to show there are still one or two more things to be said about the Bill and that the work to be done in another place will not wholly be repetitive. For instance, it is worth putting on record that more time spent discussing airport policy would not necessarily be wasted. There is a gap there and a particular need for the evolution of some policy of corporate and private aviation. This must be a high priority in the near future. At the moment saturation is staring us in the face.

There may be a need for more to be said about safety. The Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators felt that Clause 2 was insufficiently specific about this, and I have no doubt their Lordships are well qualified to speak on this subject. I am told by those who take an interest in it that there is a need to say something about powered gliders, a matter in which the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. David Walder) is currently interested. I expect that that is a topic that will come to the surface in another place.

On the question of appeals, there is still the unanswered question why, under Clause 26, air travel operators are obliged to go to appeal in the county court in England, and sheriff court in Scotland. I am told that there are reasons, and it may be as well at some stage to have them on the record.

More seriously, there is a case for going a little deeper into the question of consumer representation and protection provided in the Bill. I know that there is unease about this amongst those who have taken an interest in the matter in the past. There is a feeling that the procedures and pre-hearings which appear to be contemplated as part of the consumer representation machinery may put the consumer at a disadvantage. I do not say that I necessarily agree with that, but I hope very much that reassurance can be given in another place.

Most importantly, I think that the question of consultation needs to be gone over a little more fully. There must be consultation in framing and drafting regulations under the Bill. It will obviously be very much in everybody's interests if those who have to deal with the regulations see them before they are carved in tablets of stone.

Clause 29, which gives the Secretary of State power to control operations at certain airports, could bear hardly on those who operate out of them on a commercial basis unless the provision for consultation were applied in a meaningful sense. I believe that it will be, but I hope that that, too, can be made clear.

Finally, on the question of costs, which was touched on earlier this afternoon, it needs to be understood that the competitive situation in which British airlines find themselves is one that is made keener all the time by the imposition of additional costs on them. However much certain hon. Members may welcome the prospect of an enormous elephant, or perhaps I should say an enormous airport, being built at Foulness, it will be the British Airports Authority that puts up the money, and the resources of that body are derived largely from the airlines themselves.

Having given that quick checklist for their Lordships, may I say that this seems to be an occasion for giving a welcome to the major changes which the Bill has brought. It marks the disappearance in its old form of the Air Registration Board—but the initials will remain, and I hope that the values for which the A.R.B. has always stood will be preserved and that those who have served on the A.R.B., and worked for it, will bring to the work of airworthiness the same dedication, concentration and independence of mind in the future as they have done in the past.

The Air Transport Licensing Board is a body which improves with acquaintance, if I may so express it, and appears to grow younger over the years, in defiance of the normal laws.

Mr. Warren

Only just.

Mr. Onslow

My hon Friend says, "Only just", but it seems to be getting younger with the years, and I hope that when my right hon. Friend picks the people who, within the C.A.A., will be responsible for air licensing matters he will not discard all the team which exists now within the A.T.L.B., because it has much useful expertise and a degree of independence to contribute.

On the question of the C.A.A., there are still some points which exercise some of us. We are not wholly clear where it is to be located. Perhaps it is premature to say much about that, but I hope that it will not be too inaccessible. We look forward to its report, and I hope that it will be as informative as the report of the Australian Civil Aviation authority. Perhaps Sir Donald Anderson, when he was here recently, was able to give my right hon. Friend some ideas on this, because this is a pioneering field in which the Australians have something to teach us.

It may be that not so much has been said about the nationalised corporations as some of us would have liked, but that does not mean that we are ignorant of their services to the community or ungrateful for them. They constitute a vital part of the economy. No one supposes that there is any doctrinaire or dogmatic intention to place in their way obstacles which they cannot overcome.

The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) is at least consistent in being wrong in his attitude to the second force and negative in his desire to see it disappear. Most of us do not want cutthroat competition between British airlines. We want co-existence and an increased ability to win a share of this profitable business to which British enterprise and skill are entitled.

Airlines do not exist for themselves or for those who work in them. They exist to serve the community and the Bill gives them the opportunity to do so more effectively. However, the letter of the law will always matter less than the spirit of those who interpret it. I hope that, whatever else may happen, the Bill will give new interest, new heart and new dynamism to the administration and direction of British civil aviation.

10.27 p.m.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)

I could start off just as offensively as the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) and say that that was an awfully stupid speech—because to some extent it was. He spent two-thirds of his time pointing out to the other place the things that they had better do to improve the Bill and another part of his speech merely criticising my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield).

It is not possible to co-exist in a competitive system. The very use of the words by the hon. Member is contradictory. Hon. Members might be a little more honest and follow through the logic of their thinking, if they are creating a second force, which must expand and develop mainly at the expense of the publicly-owned enterprises— [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] They can deny this if they like.

I am disappointed in my own Front Bench. There was a furore about the State-managed pubs in Carlisle, but that is small beer compared to this. There is something wrong with our sense of political priorities. I hope that my approach is not contradictory. I am a firm and convinced believer in Clause 4 —not of this Bill, but of the Labour Party constitution. I have the patriotic belief that anything which bears the hallmark of Government respectability, although Governments may come and go —I heard this argument in the debates on the Tobacco (Health Hazards) Bill— carries a certain aura of respect, nationally and internationally. We are now saying, "We do not believe that, and if some guy can make a fast buck, we are all for it."

I notice this in small ways. The Minister for Trade, who has to travel up and down the country more often than some of his hon. Friends, will be aware of the moaning and groaning at the very efficient State lines by certain sections of the community who are unwilling to concede that any decent service can be provided by a public corporation. Others extol the non-existent virtues of private enterprise. It has been my experience—being reasonably fair-minded, I hope—that both lines on the domestic routes do not always fly to time and that all the other minor and major irritants can be found in any airline in the world.

Speaking as a layman without technical knowledge of these things, I am always amazed when going through, say. Heathrow Airport to see the amount of capital equipment lying about unused, all in the name of so-called competition. What is the point of having everything bigger and better if it is never used, or not used sufficiently?

I am reminded of what used to be said of Glasgow's tramcar system. We had blue, green and yellow tramcars and the people who travelled on the various routes would say that, for example, the yellow trams gave a better service than the blue ones, and so on. In fact, apart from the colour, they were exactly the same mechanically. Aircraft are essentially the same. I admit to being a layman in these technical matters, but I am not convinced about the need to praise one type of aircraft over another.

However, I am more concerned to see Britain, which is a small nation, making the best of the resources and skills at its disposal. I am not convinced by what hon. Gentlemen opposite say about the need to establish a second force and the extra traffic that will be attracted. I do not regard this as an intelligent use of our resources and I regret that my hon. Friends will not be voting against the Third Reading.

10.32 p.m.

Mr. Charles Simeons (Luton)

Many of my hard-pressed constituents will welcome the inclusion of Clause 29 in the Bill, though the Minister was right to point out that while it might restrain, it will not eliminate. I trust that at the earliest possible moment he will say how he intends to implement this provision.

Three categories of people are primarily concerned with this issue. First, there are the sufferers, and as one who lives at the end of a runway—and at the risk of giving some of my hon. Friends apoplexy—I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) that one can distinguish between aeroplanes from the noise point of view. These people, the sufferers, have a right to see where their future lies.

Second, we have those who earn their living in this industry, and they, too, should understand clearly where their future lies. And third, there are those who run airports and who in many instances are using them to subsidise the rates. It should be made clear to them what the loss would be to the rates if certain measures were carried out. This could, I believe, be done quickly, and I hope the Minister will do it.

10.33 p.m.

Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)

I must begin by offering a comment to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Simeons). The point I made about the BAC 111 was that the flights about which he complains are concerned with this aeroplane simply because the majority of flights from Luton are of the BAC 111. Incidentally, this aeroplane is not built in my constituency. If his constituents suffered from flights by, say, the Boeing 707 or the DC 8–50 into Luton, he would not be complaining about the BAC 111 but about those other aeroplanes.

Mr. Simeons

Four types of aeroplane use Luton, including those my hon. Friend has mentioned.

Mr. Adley

I will not pursue the matter further now.

Throughout this debate there has been a concerted attack by hon. Gentlemen opposite on my right hon. Friend, particularly in relation to the establishment of the second force. While this has been going on I have been waiting for the wide-eyed capitalists on the benches alongside me to jump to his defence in support of the concept of the second force, but it is significant that none of them has done that.

I mention the second force for good reason. My predecessor who represented North-East Bristol is doing an outstandingly good job as the personnel director for that company. It is a splendid example of enterprise and when the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) says that a second force or private airline cannot create new traffic, he is entirely wrong.

If there is evidence to prove conclusively that it can, consider what has been achieved in the last ten years by, for example, Caledonian and B.U.A. through the creation of package tours via charter flights. These have created a completely new market which simultaneously has given impetus to British aviation and provided holidays in the sunshine for millions of people.

B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. have been rightly extolled. Just because we do not mention them every two minutes does not mean that we think any the less of them. They are highly respected internationally. The Bill will ensure that Caledonian-B.U.A., now cloaked in legality, will now prove a third member of a highly respected British family in the international civil aviation business.

I particularly welcome the Bill because it seeks to integrate the activities of the aviation industry into the community. This was badly needed. Recent events in the United States have highlighted the lack of communication between aviation and the public. In its timing, the Bill will prevent us from taking some of the unfortunate decisions taken recently in the United States.

I am sure that everybody welcomes Clause 29. The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) was a little mean in the way he failed to respond to the generous offer of my right hon. Friend to look again at Clause 29. In the other place I hope that we can take a long, hard look at the Clause because it can be considerably strengthened and improved. When I read the Clause I liked what I read. When I reached subsection 4(c) I was a little frightened because I had visions of a mass market developing in empty bent red and white oil drums, but when I reached subsection 4(d) my mind was lightened when I realised that no aircraft would be prevented from landing because, in the act of landing, it might be contravening the Bill. That is a spendid thing to read!

The environmental issues have been mentioned at length by a number of hon. Members who do not always take part in aviation debates, and that is a healthy thing. I ask them and my right hon. Friend to do their best to ensure that we keep our heads on our bodies and not in the clouds regarding the environment and aviation. Clearly the industry has a tremendous part to play in protecting the environment, but we should be well advised not to condemn everything the industry does. We can learn a lot about this from the Americans. They have a procedure in Section 102 of the National Environmental Policy Act which was particularly relevant recently when they were discussing the supersonic transport, and what emerged from that was a respect for the facts—too late to save their S.S.T., but nevertheless welcome.

I have received some information from the Director of the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States showing clearly how the F.A.A. consulted the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Secretary of Commerce, the Department of the Interior, the N.A.S.A., the Department of State, the Secretary of Defence and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. I would propose to my right hon. Friend that, under a suitable Clause of the Bill, we might set up an Office of Supersonic Transport Development in this country so that all these things can be open to public scrutiny, and so that the rumour-mongers can be exposed to scientific cross-examination.

We have had a very sympathetic Minister on the Bill. He has had wished on him the problems of noise and the legacy of Roskill. I hope that those of us who have interests in aviation have managed at least to let him know not only that we recognise our interest in promoting the industry with which we are so concerned but that also we are concerned with the environment.

10.39 p.m.

Mr. Warren

The Bill when enacted will operate in the sphere of the environment. The implementation and effectiveness of the Act will depend principally on the attitude of those responsible for making it work. We must be sure that those people have enthusiasm for civil aviation and a real belief in its future.

On Second Reading and in Committee I commented on the question of missing words from the Bill. The Long Title is: A Bill to Establish a public authority concerned with civil aviation and to make provision as to the functions of the authority; to make further provision for regulating civil aviation". I should have been much happier if it had been: to establish a public authority concerned about civil aviation and to make provision for regulating and encouraging civil aviation". In seeking to make the Bill when enacted effective, I hope that my right hon. Friend will ensure that those selected for these tasks are real enthusiasts. I compare the words in this Bill with these words in another Government document on civil aviation which was published in March of this year and which says: Even before the flight of the Wright Brothers, the Government recognised the need to maintain a policy supporting and encouraging the growth of civil aviation". That is a United States Department of Transportation and N.A.S.A. document. It shows an initial attitude which I should have liked to see in the Long Title setting the tone right the way through the Bill.

Basic attitudes are cardinal to the ability of the Bill when enacted to be a useful encouragement to British civil aviation. I am not sure that I agree with the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) that to get it off the ground we must let it stand on its own feet. Perhaps that is new mode of transportation which would appeal to my hon. Friends who live around Luton.

This is a remarkable industry, and the whole new mode of transport which has grown up in the twentieth century is not observed critically and is not sufficiently encouraged. There is no other industry in Britain which, in terms of productivity increase, can claim a multiplication factor of 20 since World War II. The direct operating costs of aircraft operating on our routes nowadays are only one-third of the direct operating costs of aircraft in operation in 1945.

In the general analogy of all the birds and forms of flight with which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is so often inflicted it is nice to be able to recognise that in aviation we have a duck which flies and which can lay golden eggs. However, it will continue to lay golden eggs only if it is encouraged and if there is a general feeling of enthusiasm for the task which lies before the C.A.A. and the British Airways Board.

The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield), in his criticism of the Bill, rather over-simplified the United States situation. This is extremely dangerous, because it detracts from the growth style of this industry. There has been only a brief setback in United States civil aviation recently and, indeed, over the last 20 years the United States have had a growth factor of 10 in the number of passengers and amount of traffic carried on domestic airlines.

The hon. Gentleman forgot to mention the reason for this setback. He forgot to mention the problems of over-capacity, the U.S. recession, inefficient competition and problems of scheduling which have caused many of the problems which the United States have had and which they now recognise. The hon. Gentleman tended to detract from the growth of the industry, which still continues at a rate of over 10 per cent. on a worldwide scale.

This is why I welcome the British Airways Board, because we are bringing together in that body two airlines— B.O.A.C. and B.E.A.—which can share their facilities and get a better utilisation from them. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) wants to see a better utilisation it is a pity that, in a doctrinaire fashion he is against the Bill. The opportunity is much greater than even the British Airways Board, the combination of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., can tackle on its own. The Caledonian-British United Airways combination, the second force, is already a proved airline which made a success of the South American routes and had a very distinguished history in the air charter service, and it is one that we need to take advantage of the travel demands of people in this country.

I was very pleased that Clause 3(b), which caused so much turmoil among hon. Members opposite, said … at least one major British airline I hope that this will be merely the prelude, and that we can look forward to other major British airlines, because the demand is much greater than can be met by the system sought by hon. Members opposite, who seek to hold back the development of the whole air transport industry by confining it to a nationalised monster. The Clause provides for the best use of our resources and skills that the hon. Member for Provan, wants to see.

I hope that we have seen the end to route transfers. I have never regarded them as a satisfactory way of creating a new airline, and I do not think that it is a style of development which Caledonian itself would think should be its normal method of growing. There is a new style of demand, and the way in which affinity groups and charter groups are growing—even those going through Luton—means that more and more people are finding it possible to take their holidays by the use of air travel.

We welcome B.O.A.C.'s initiative with the Early Bird fares across the North Atlantic. It is interesting to see B.O.A.C a pace-setter, which it can be when it wants, and it is supported now by T.W.A. and Pan-American. We hope that in Montreal at this moment there are discussions in the International Air Transport Association which will come to a satisfactory conclusion.

My last point on the style of development of British aviation was touched on in part by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) when he talked about private aviation. The fastest-growing sector of aviation in this country in the first 10 years in which the Bill will be operating from 1972 onwards will be in corporate business aviation. That is where the great demand will come. That is why I want to see encouragement and some flexibility added to the way in which we look at aviation. I hope that the C.A.A. will be led by men skilled and experienced in the air transport industry, men who are keen to make sure that the industry expands and prospers. I am confident that my right hon. Friend will find those men and get them to accept the great challenge.

The Bill can provide for the whole of the British aviation industry, manufac- turing and operating a great spur in the next decade.

10.48 p.m.

Mr. James Hill

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on the very skilful and at times charming way in which they have guided the Bill through its various stages. At no time did the smile on my right hon. Friend's face wilt, and nor did his distinctive button-hole. This smile seemed to survive the fiercest attacks by the Opposition.

We on this side will give an unqualified welcome to the Bill, which is a major step in the right direction. It is better than the complete standstill that has prevailed in civil aviation in recent years. The industry badly needs firm leadership and consistent policies if it is to develop for the benefit of the country as a whole.

The only two points that have been sadly neglected throughout the discussions that have gone on for some weeks are the commuter services and private aviation. The commuter services—the third-level and air taxi services, as the Edwards Report called them—have hardly been mentioned during the whole debate.

My right hon. Friend said that the United Kingdom is one of the few countries with a multiplicity of airlines. I agree with him. The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) said that he was pleased that the Authority would form an umbrella. Both these sectors within the Bill are not, to my mind, under that umbrella. I should like to see some recognition of the view of the Edwards Report that air taxi operations are likely to grow most rapidly in the next decade and, even more, that the third level services are a sector in which small-scale private ownership should rule.

I agree, too, with the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) that this is the most neglected part of the industry. When the Edwards Committee was sitting, it found that there were 30 small airlines, of which five had scheduled services. But it pointed out that if an air transport association were to be established covering the whole industry, it might be sensible to have a subsidiary formation covering the private sector. I agree with that finding. I feel that we are neglecting this sector of the aviation industry.

I am sure that hon. Members opposite who sit for Scottish constituencies would agree that the air services in Scotland at times are abysmal. The Highlands and Islands Development Board wanted its own subsidised air transport system, but, of course, one cannot have one's own subsidised air transport system without having some of the rich, feeder lines. One of the things the Authority should discuss is not any further second force airlines but a third force incorporating all these air taxi services.

I want to quote what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said when I quizzed him on Second Reading. He said, On the question of private flying; it is very easy, when debating the objectives and policies to be pursued in regulating civil aviation, to think only in terms of commercial aviation. That is true. Throughout this Bill, we have thought almost entirely of commercial aviation. But he went on: There is, however, a strong, important and thriving general aviation sector, which includes recreational and training flying done by flying and gliding clubs … The development and regulation of this sector will be the Authority's responsibility."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1971; Vol. 814, c. 1277.] I make a firm plea that when the Authority meets these two sectors will be immediately looked at and reported upon.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.