§ 4. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what recent discussions he has had with representatives of British Caledonian about the company's future; and if he will make a statement.
§ 19. Mr. Leslie Huckfield
asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he will make a statement on his policy on the future of British Caledonian Airways.
§ Mr. Shore
I saw the Chairman of British Caledonian Airways on 4th October and again on 14th October. He outlined his company's plans for the future, 868 which have since been put into effect. The position of British Caledonian will be considered in the course of the review of policy which I have set in hand.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is every need to maintain the viability of this airline? What discussions has he had with this airline and with British Airways about the rationalisation of routes? Are the Government prepared to put up financial assistance to help in any such rationalisation?
§ Mr. Mikardo
Does my right hon. Friend recall that this is the third time in the history of British civil aviation that a privately-owned second force has been artificially created for doctrinaire reasons to compete with the publicly-owned flag carrier, and that each time it has done damage to the flag carrier without doing any good for the airline concerned and it has got into trouble and had to be bailed out? Is my right hon. Friend aware that no country, not even the United States of America, can now afford two flag carriers, and is it not time that the Labour Government carried out Labour Party policy in this field if in no other?
§ Mr. Shore
I hope that my hon. Friend, who has a particular knowledge of this industry, will accept that we shall seek to carry out all the policies on which we gave pledges in our manifesto.
The answer to the particular question here, and it is a fundamental one that my hon. Friend has posed—namely, whether there genuinely is room for two airlines across the board in the way that the Edwards Committee originally recommended—is that this is a serious matter to which we have to find the answer, and I hope that we shall find it within the context of the review.
§ Mr. Hordern
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the one thing British Caledonian and other independent 869 airlines require is commercial security for their operations? Will he, therefore, undertake that the present airline routes operated by British Caledonian will remain undisturbed?
§ Mr. Russell Kerr
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a widespread demand, particularly among British Caledonian employees, that the implication of the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) should be carried out, namely, that this company should be nationalised as soon as possible in accordance with the Labour Party manifesto?
§ Mr. Heseltine
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how long the review will take? Secondly, does he accept that while the review is taking place there is no purpose in British Caledonian's developing or investing in any of the routes that are the subject of the review?