§ 2. Mr. Darling
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with interested parties about the level of domestic air fares in the United Kingdom.
§ The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Paul Channon)
None. Fares on domestic services are effectively deregulated. The Civil Aviation Authority intervenes only to prevent anti-competitive pricing on these services.
§ Mr. Darling
Is the Secretary of State aware of the widespread concern at the escalating cost of air fares within the United Kingdom, both from the point of tourism—I speak here of British holidaymakers who face add-on costs when they go abroad as well as the disincentive to foreign visitors to visit parts of the United Kingdom other than London—and of regional development? Is the Minister further aware that unless something is done about high air fares there will be a disincentive for firms to move away from London, which is not something that I would have thought the Government would welcome?
§ Mr. Channon
The advantages of the competition policy that has been pursued for the past few years means that there is now more choice on many provincial services. There are now four operators on the London to Edinburgh route and six airlines have applied for licences to take over the B-Cal route. We shall have to see what happens, but I entirely agree that it is important that fares should be kept as low as possible. One new advantage is the recently introduced Apex fare, which goes some way towards meeting the points that the hon. Gentleman makes.