§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (LORD STANMORE)
My Lords, by Standing Order 105 a Private Bill has to be read a second time within seven days of the First Reading. This provision sometimes conflicts with another Standing Order, Standing Order 103, which lays down that the Attorney-General must approve of a Bill in certain cases. In this case the Attorney-General has approved of this Bill, but the interval of seven days has been exceeded because of some delay. Therefore I hope that your Lordships will agree to dispense with the Standing Order. I beg to move that Standing Order No. 105 be considered in order that it may be dispensed with in respect of this Bill.
§ Moved, That Standing Order No. 105 be considered in order to its being dispensed kith in respect of the said Bill.—(Lord Stanmore.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and Standing Order No. 105 suspended accordingly.
§ LORD ROCKLEY
My Lords, as the member for many years for the Aston division of Birmingham, I have been requested to move the Second Reading of this Bill. The Birmingham Corporation, after giving the subject very careful consideration, have come to the conclusion that an adequate air port for the City is essential. For that purpose they are acquiring an area of 500 acres, a considerable portion of which is actually in the City, although at a distance of approximately six miles from the centre, and the cost of the land and the equipment of the air port will involve an expenditure of £250,000. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Rockley.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed: The Committe to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
My Lords, I beg to move that it be an instruction to the Committee to which the Bill may be referred to amend the Bill by leaving out paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of Clause 103. In effect, that means that, although the Corporation of Birmingham under this Bill would have power to purchase and lay out an aerodome, they would not have power to run an air service from that aerodrome. I understand, privately, that the noble Lord, Lord Rockley, on behalf of the Birmingham Corporation, will accept this instruction, and therefore I will not detain your Lordships any further.
§ Moved, That it be an instruction to the Committee to which the Bill may be referred to amend the Bill by leaving out paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of Clause 103.—(Lord Mount Temple.)
§ LORD ROCKLEY
My Lords, in answer to Lord Mount Temple, I may say that the Corporation have already stated—about a month ago—that they proposed to withdraw this clause, and they intend to adhere to that decision.
§ THE EARL OF DUDLEY
My Lords, as a business man whose interests this paragraph is framed to look after, perhaps I might be allowed to say one word in regard to this measure, and to explain what I understand was in the minds of the Birmingham Corporation when this paragraph was framed. They propose to spend a great deal of money on this aerodrome, and they naturally wish to ensure that in the future there shall be an adequate air service, if and when necessary in the interests of Birmingham and the Midland districts generally. At present, I believe, there is no service whatsoever linking up the capital with the most important provincial City in England, or linking up that City with other parts of the Empire. I do not say that is either necessary or economic at the present moment, but still that is a condition which obtains and which I believe does not obtain in any other important nation in the world.
Personally I travel backwards and forwards between Birmingham and London 463 as much as anyone, and I would not use an air service myself—a train is good enough for me—but the day will probably come when aeroplanes will be quickened up and safer and when access to aerodromes will be easier, and it may be important that Birmingham should have an efficient service between London and other parts of the Empire. There is at present nothing to ensure that we shall get such an efficient service, and such an economic service. This paragraph, I understand, was framed to act as a sort of lever that such a service shall be obtained and, if private enterprise is not forthcoming, to provide that the Birmingham Corporation—and after all Birmingham is the best governed City in England—shall be empowered to maintain and provide that service. I think it is a very reasonable request, and I rather hoped that we might have a word from the noble Marquess, the Secretary of State for Air, giving us an assurance that if the time does arise when it is necessary in the interests of Midland commerce that such an air service should be instituted, particularly in view of the fact that the Birmingham Corporation propose to spend such a large sum of money, the Government will ensure that we shall get it.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY)
My Lords, I had not proposed to intervene in this debate, but the noble Earl who has just sat down invited me to say something, to give the attitude of the Air Ministry in connection with this matter. Lord Mount Temple has drawn attention to paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of Clause 103, by which the Birmingham Corporation were seeking powers, in connection with their proposed aerodrome undertaking, toprovide own work and use (but not manufacture) aircraft and by means thereof convey passengers and passengers' luggage parcels and merchandise to and from the aerodrome and demand and take in respect of traffic conveyed services rendered and facilities afforded in connection with such aircraft such reasonable fares rates and charges as they may think fit and as may be approved by the Secretary of State for Air.My right honourable friend the Minister of Health and I myself, in my capacity as Secretary of State for Air, objected to this provision, which would enable the Corporation of Birmingham to 464 establish air services to and from the Continent, or within this country, and thus to compete with air transport undertakings which have not the rates of a great city to back them. Both my right honourable friend and I consider that commercial air transport services are something entirely different from road or tramway services, which are essentially local in character, and that air transport, services are not a suitable subject for municipal provision and management.
I can assure your Lordships that the establishment of an air port by Birmingham is most warmly welcomed both by the Minister of Health and by myself. I am sincerely hoping that their splendid example will be followed by the great municipalities all over the country, and that in a very short time we shall find that aerodrome accommodation will spring up in many places, and that will probably encourage our air lines more than anything else. While we fully recognise that the Corporation would be prepared to agree to the Secretary of State's being given express power to allow or veto an air service, this does not meet the objection, and I am sure your Lordships will agree when I say that we do not consider it suitable or desirable to put upon the Secretary of State the onus of vetoing a service when Parliament, as it would do, has given approval in principle. I can assure your Lordships that the attitude of the Government on this question has only been arrived at after the fullest consideration of all the arguments so ably put forward by a deputation, headed by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham himself, which had been received at the Ministry of Health by officials of the two departments. I should add, for the information of your Lordships, that the Government have heard with satisfaction the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Rockley, on behalf of the promoters of the Bill, that in accordance with the views expressed by the Government the provision to which my noble friend has taken exception will be withdrawn on the Committee stage.
§ THE EARL OF DUDLEY
Can the noble Marquess give the Birmingham business men an assurance that the Government will support and encourage private enterprise in providing a proper air service at economic rates—not at exhorbitant rates—between Birmingham and London and 465 other parts of the world, should necessity arise?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
The noble Earl is inviting me to open up a very wide subject on which I should be only too glad to dilate to your Lordships, because the development of air services all over the country is one of the chief objects we have in view. At a recent date there were seventeen air lines in this country, and I sincerely hope that the number will be greatly increased. I should like to repeat what I have already said, that I hope the example which Birmingham has given by the provision of aerodrome facilities will encourage the development of these services, to which we are all looking forward with so much interest.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to and ordered accordingly.