HC Deb 19 January 1981 vol 997 cc11-2
14. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied with the existing arrangements for considering the interests of users of air transport.

Mr. Eyre

Broadly, yes. However, I should like to see closer co-operation between the air transport users committee and the airport consultative committees at Heathrow and Gatwick. My Department is currently discussing with the interested parties how this can be accomplished.

Mr. McCrindle

I welcome the existence of the air transport users committee, but will the Minister consider separating it from the Civil Aviation Authority and giving it its own budget? Would that not have enabled it to criticise the decision of the CAA to veto the plan by TWA to fly children free across the Atlantic when two adults were flying? Was that not an innovative and competitive move? Would not the move that I suggest enable the representatives of the passenger to criticise such an uncompetitive reaction from the CAA?

Mr. Eyre

I regret that I have not yet had the opportunity to study the affairs of the air transport users committee to an extent that would enable me to give a full reply to my hon. Friend. I shall write to him on these matters.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will my hon. Friend look at the Treaty of Rome to satisfy himself that it makes no exemptions for air transport and that restrictions in terms of both frequency and ticket pricing within Europe among EEC members are direct violations of the treaty? Having satisfied himself on that, will he set in motion the necessary corrective action?

Mr. Eyre

I always start by indicating my respect for the constitutional opinions advanced by my hon. Friend. However, the application of the Treaty of Rome to air transport has never been tested in the courts. Until the issue is resolved in that or some other way, it is not clear exactly what are the implications of the treaty for air transport. It is for that reason that Ministers are seeking to make progress, along the lines that I have indicated, by way of agreement.

Mr. Clinton Davis

May I return to the original question? Will the Minister consider most carefully the independence of this body? Is he aware that there is a strong argument that because it is associated with the Civil Aviation Authority it lacks the independence that it should have?

Mr. Eyre

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for emphasising that point. I assure him that serious attention will be given to it.

Mr. Michael Brown

Does my hon. Friend not think it wrong that when an airline can no longer continue to operate a service for financial or other reasons—that being the case between Humberside and Heathrow—it can continue to hold a licence, thereby preventing, without application to the CAA, another airline from seeking to operate that service when it is financially competent so to do?

Mr. Eyre

I have not heard of difficulty in that respect. If my hon. Friend would be good enough to give me a note of the circumstances that he has in mind, I know that my noble Friend would want to consider the issue carefully.

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