HC Deb 15 December 1975 vol 902 cc948-51
11. Mr. Warren

asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he will publish the White Paper on civil aviation policy.

24. Mr. Neubert

asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he now expects to publish his White Paper on his review of civil aviation policy.

Mr. Shore

I expect to publish this White Paper early next year.

Mr. Warren

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. In the time accruing from the delay in publication of the White Paper will the right hon. Gentleman consider two basic problems that arise from his statement last July, to see whether it is possible to correct them? The first is that the abandonment of dual designation for British airlines on routes overseas deserves compensating rights being given to this country by the Governments of countries whose airlines are to get extra business opportunities from this policy. The second is that the abandonment of Sky-train deserves to be rethought, because it is contrary to the wishes of the public, particularly those polled in the Minister's constituency and that of his hon. Friend.

Mr. Shore

The question of dual designation is at the heart of the policy review and of the statement that I made in July. Various arithmetical exercises are still being conducted regarding Sky-train and its effects. However, the fact remains that it is extremely difficult to see how it could fit in with a policy which, for broader and, I think, generally acceptable reasons, has led us to abandon dual designation.

Compensation from other countries for dual designation, or the abandonment of it, is a matter for individual negotiation, but in certain cases compensation has, in a sense, already been taken up by capacity sharing on certain routes.

Mr. Neubert

Are we to assume that the delay in publication of the White Paper is due to continuing disagreement by British Airways about the proposed transfer of routes? If so, will the Secretary of State prevail upon British Airways to forgo its petty resentment of the original transfer of routes, which amounted to no more than 1 per cent. of its revenue at the time the second force airline was established and to accept that a reasonable exchange of routes, particularly within designated spheres of influence, would be in the interests of both the fare-paying passenger and, in the long run, the taxpayer?

Mr. Shore

No. I think that it would be wrong to single out British Airways and in any sense attribute, as it were, petty calculations and considerations to its consideration of the problem. On the contrary, British Airways is thinking carefully about it. Indeed, it has a duty to do so. Equally, I am sure that British Caledonian has thought and still is thinking carefully about what is involved for it. I know that both airlines are approaching the question in a constructive way, and I am hopeful for their success.

Mr. Tebbit

May I say how glad we are that the Secretary of State is at least continuing to do the arithmetic on Skytrain, which implies that his mind is not totally closed to the concept of licensing it? That will be a great encouragement to many of us and to many would-be travellers.

Secondly, may I urge on the right hon. Gentleman the need to consider the matter, to come to conclusions and to publish his White Paper as soon as possible, so that both British Airways and British Caledonian can get on with the business of running their airlines?

Mr. Shore

I would not wish to be misunderstood about what I said with regard to Skytrain. I said that I do not see how it can fit in with a policy of the abandonment of dual designation. I hope that the discussions between British Airways and British Caledonian will come to a conclusion and I hope, further, to announce the results and, indeed, more broadly, the new policy statement in the new year.

Mrs. Bain

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that great uncertainty has occurred since his statement in the House in July, and that the non-publication of the White Paper has led to a great deal of uncertainty for British Caledonian Airways, which he has recognised is an efficient airline? Will he accept that his statement in July overturned all the long-term plans of British Caledonian and that it has, as yet, no indication of what its replacement opportunities will be? Will the right hon. Gentleman give the airline an indication of what is to happen to it?

Mr. Shore

As with all matters that are difficult and require considerable negotiation and discussion, delay is involved, but that is, I hope, the way in which we reach agreements and conclusions. We reach them basically by people talking over the problems and trying to come up with reasonable solutions. Perhaps my statement did cause uncertainty, but all I can say is that events caused far greater uncertainty to British Caledonian and the airline industry generally than did any statement that I made.

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