HC Deb 11 March 1991 vol 187 cc654-5
4. Mr. Steen

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will review the Government's policy concerning airline competition in the European Community with special reference to the access of new entrant carriers.

Mr. Rifkind

The Government will continue to press for a liberal single market in aviation in the European Community, in which competition can flourish and which possesses effective safeguards against behaviour that is anti-competitive or exploits the consumer.

Mr. Steen

I regret the collapse of Air Europe, for which the Secretary of State and the Civil Aviation Authority bear no responsibility, but does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that he should ensure some protection from the bigger airlines, which are increasingly trying to destroy the smaller ones? Will he ensure that slots out of Heathrow and Gatwick are not used for unviable and uneconomic routes which make no money for the big airlines but which marginalise the small airlines and drive them out of business?

Mr. Rifkind

I shall comment on Air Europe in response to a private notice question at 3.30 pm.

The allocation of slots is a matter for the scheduling committees of airports. It is desirable that those slots are used in a way that will best benefit the travelling public, which is how we would wish the scheduling committees to carry out their responsibilities.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Does the Secretary of State accept that any pressure on slots which made it impossible for regional airlines to use Heathrow would have a deleterious effect on the average member of the travelling public and would not be a helpful way of increasing the availability of slots at Heathrow?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Lady is correct, but she forgets that last Monday we announced that existing restrictions preventing new domestic services from applying to use Heathrow have been removed. The constraint on new domestic and international services applying to the scheduling committee for slots has also been removed.