HC Deb 18 June 1984 vol 62 cc8-9
9. Mr. Gregory

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what recent consultations he as had on reducing prices of airline tickets from London to major French airports; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. David Mitchell

We are pressing for the liberalisation of air fares on all European routes, and we warmly welcome the proposals for lower, more competitive, fares which are now coming forward from our airlines.

Mr. Gregory

I welcome the initiatives taken by the Government to reduce air fares. Does my hon. Friend know of any proposals by British companies in this area?

Mr. Mitchell

I am pleased to be able to tell the House that British Caledonian Airways is today announcing a new initiative on European fares, which includes an off-peak one-way fare to Paris of £35, which is almost half the existing fare. We look forward to discussing British Caledonian Airways' proposals with the French and other Governments involved.

Mr. Wilson

As many passengers flying to the Continent must do so by going through London airport at exorbitant additional cost, should not a greater Government priority be the introduction of inter-regional or international lines between other parts of the United Kingdom and the Community countries in order to cheapen the cost of transport, which at present is hideously expensive?

Mr. Mitchell

We have already made it easier for interregional airport traffic to take place under an EEC directive. The problem is that not sufficient people wish to travel on those routes to make them commercially viable. We are seeking to introduce greater competition on the major routes, which should result in a significant improvement in service and a reduction in fares.

Mr. Prescott

Is the Minister aware that the last initiative on cheap air fares by B-CAL and the Amsterdam groups, launched by the Secretary of State during the Euro-elections as something of a gimmick, has now run into the ground? Is he also aware that it has been rejected particularly by people in London, who hear the Secretary of State calling for cheap fares on aeroplanes while doing everything he can to increase fares for ordinary people on trains and buses?

Mr. Mitchell

Far from my right hon. Friend's initiative having run into the ground, he is meeting the Dutch Minister at The Hague this Wednesday, and I am hopeful that he will succeed in completing the current negotiations.