HC Deb 14 July 1980 vol 988 cc1041-2
11. Mr. Colvin

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he has made any study of the effects of United States deregulation policies to assess the effects of such policies on United Kingdom civil aviation.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade (Mr. Norman Tebbit)

Yes, Sir. The objective of promoting more competition in civil aviation is one that we fully share. But the great majority of services by American airlines are within their domestic market, which the United States Government can regulate. Our airlines by contrast operate mostly international services, where routes and fares have to be agreed with the other Governments concerned.

Mr. Colvin

Does my hon. Friend agree that because United States airlines have the advantage of numerous pick-up points within the United States which feed their international services, they have a considerable advantage over British airlines, which do not have that benefit? What steps is he taking to promote fair international competition by obtaining for British operators cabotage rights within the United States so that we can compete fairly on an international basis?

Mr. Tebbit

My hon. Friend is right. The existence of "behind points" in the United States gives United States carriers a great advantage. We have made it plain to the United States authorities that when they talk about open skies over the Atlantic that would be fine by us if they would allow our airlines to have open skies across the United States. I do not think that the United States authorities will agree to that, as it would not be in their commercial interests to do so.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Is it not a fact that because of deregulation the American aviation authority feels considerable concern about deteriorating safety standards affecting smaller airlines? These small airlines are now called upon to serve many cities that the major airlines had covered before. Is not this trend directly related to the price-cutting exer cises that have gone on in the United States?

Mr. Tebbit

No. The United States industry still has probably the finest safety record of a major industry anywhere in the world. It is vastly superior to that of countries where monopolistic price fixing is widely practised. There will be difficulties in adequately regulating the safety and efficiency of many new carriers as they come on to the market, but I am certain that the United States authorities are capable of carrying out that task.