HC Deb 11 February 1991 vol 185 c595
1. Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on his response to the representations of British Midland and other carriers about the decline in passengers carried as a result of the Gulf war.

The Minister for Shipping and Public Transport (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin)

We have received no representations from British Midland.

Mr. Dalyell

Given the many empty seats on aircraft as a result of the Gulf war and instructions from some famous companies in this country that their executives should not travel by air, do the Government intend to pass by on the other side of the road the first time a major carrier encounters financial difficulties and just say, "Bard luck, it is because of the Gulf war"?

Mr McLoughlin

That is a purely hypothetical question as we have had no such requests. If such a request is made, we shall listen and talk to the company involved.

Mr. Soames

Has my hon. Friend had time to see the proposals apparently emanating from the European Commission to provide subsidies for state-owned airlines which would put British Airways—now in the private sector—at a considerable disadvantage? Does my hon. Friend agree that such behaviour by the European Community would be profoundly unsatisfactory?

Mr. McLoughlin

We must be careful to look exactly at what Sir Leon Brittan said. He said that if airlines are to receive subsidies from their Governments, the details will have to be notified to the Commission. We will consider each case rapidly but will have to ensure that competition is not unduly distorted to the detriment of consumers and of airlines whose Governments do not think that giving subsidies is an appropriate response to current problems. That is satisfactory to the Government.