HC Deb 03 April 1995 vol 257 cc1371-2
2. Mr. Duncan Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the amount of subsidy from national Governments to their national airlines within the EC; and if he will list the latest available figures for each member state. [15690]

The Secretary of State for Transport (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)

Since 1991, the European Commission has approved £5.3 billion of state aid from member states to their national airlines. Almost half this aid was awarded to Air France. The UK Government have opposed all these subsidies.

Mr. Duncan Smith

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that figure is outrageous, not least because half of it goes to one airline? Will he undertake to publish the details of the subsidies to every other airline in Europe? Does he agree that, apart from being worried about the record of fraud and mismanagement that go on in the Community, many people in Britain will be dismayed to think that others whose livelihoods and jobs depend on the free market which we are supposed to have joined will seriously question the purpose of what they are in unless that free market is established?

Dr. Mawhinney

My hon. Friend will be interested to know that, since 1991, Sabena has received £450 million, Iberia almost £600 million, Aer Lingus £170 million, TAP of Portugal £710 million, Olympic Airways about £1 billion and Air France about £2.4 billion. All that distorts the single market, as my hon. Friend says. All of it is unfair to British Airways and other British carriers, which compete without the benefit of state aid and do so much more effectively than most of the airlines that receive state aid. It is also unfair to the passengers. For all those reasons, the Government have opposed all those state aids. I assure my hon. Friend that I will continue to be robust in the future, as we have been in the past.