HC Deb 17 February 1975 vol 886 cc883-5
2. Mr. Stanley

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what representations he has received from Laker Airways on the Skytrain; and whether he will make a statement.

7. Mr. Neubert

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what representations he has made to the United States Government since 3rd October 1974 in connection with the application by Laker Airways for permission to operate transatlantic Skytrain services.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade (Mr. Clinton Davis)

My right hon. Friend received the Laker Airways' letter of 15th January addressed to all Members. Since there may be an appeal against the Civil Aviation Authority's recent decisions on Skytrain, I should prefer to avoid comment.

A number of formal and informal representations, one of which I made myself, have been made to the United States Government specifically about their delay in issuing a permit, the last being on 3rd October 1974. Thereafter, in the light of the imminent need for the Civil Aviation Authority to review the fare and the licence as a whole, further representations would have been inappropriate, but the United States Government were kept informed of the proceedings.

Mr. Stanley

Is not the delay by the Civil Aeronautics Board in the United States in licensing the Skytrain intolerable? Can the hon. Gentleman say whether, in the most recent representations that he made, he laid down a deadline by which the British Government would expect the licence to be issued?

Mr. Davis

The delay was most unfortunate. The Civil Aviation Authority's expression of opinion about it is one which I wholly support, but I think it would be impossible for me, in the light of the circumstances now prevailing, with the possibility of an appeal coming to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, to lay down any deadline.

Mr. Neubert

I appreciate the Secretary of State's past record of robust defence of independent British interests in this matter. May I ask whether he will be prepared to consider retaliatory action against American carriers if the American Government remain in breach of the treaty? Is the Secretary of State prepared to ensure that this matter is raised with President Ford when he visits this country after Easter?

Mr. Davis

I wholly endorse the hon. Gentleman's view about my right hon. Friend's robust defence of British interests which is continually deployed at Question Time in the House. So far as retaliatory action is concerned, having regard to what I have already said it would be inappropriate for me to comment other than to say that such action does not generally produce effective results.

Mr. Burden

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there has been tremendous delay over this matter? Presumably the appeal will be made by a British airline, Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that whatever appeal is made will be dealt with expeditiously so that the matter can be settled so far as this country is concerned?

Mr. Davis

I have already commented on the delay. If notice of appeal is filed—and that has not yet taken place—the appeal will be conducted fairly and expeditiously.

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