HL Deb 19 December 1946 vol 144 cc1136-64

2.37 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, it is just short of two years since the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, stood at this box to explain to your Lordships the outcome of many weeks' arduous negotiation at Chicago. On that occasion the noble Viscount made a full and elaborate statement from which I have learnt a great deal. Much has happened in the sphere of civil aviation in the period that has passed since then, but it is not until now that a Bill has been brought before Parliament to give effect to the Convention and to make it—as is a constitutional necessity—so far as may be, part of the municipal law of the land.

Your Lordships have before you the Air Navigation Bill which, as you will have observed, provides for changes in air navigation law consequent on the coming into force of the Convention, of which the noble Viscount was the chief British artificer, and also takes into account the continued development of civil aviation generally in the light of the rapid technical advance; made during and since the war. The Chicago Convention supersedes the Paris Convention of 1919, to which the United Kingdom was a party, as authorized by Parliament in the Air Navigation Act, 1920. The Bill now before your Lordships embodies Certain transitional provisions to cover the period until the Chicago Convention becomes effective and binding.

The Conference at Chicago, which was responsible for the Chicago Convention, was 'held at the end of 1944, having been convened by the Government of the United States. Its main objects can be put quite briefly. They were to devise arrangements for the establishment of air transport services on a provisional basis during an interim transitional period, and to draw up a new multilateral convention which, in the first place, would supersede and modernize existing conventions on public international air navigation law, such as the Paris and-Havana Conventions and, in the second place, would make provision on a multilateral basis for the regulation of the economic and commercial aspects of international air transport. The Conference succeeded in reaching agreement on its objective of producing a multilateral convention on air navigation and subjects related thereto, but differences between the American and British approaches to the last objective which I mentioned proved irreconcilable. I shall return later to this divergence and to the subsequent bridging of the gap which was effected at Bermuda, but for the moment I will continue with matters directly germane to the Bill now before your Lordships.

The Final Act of the Conference, of which the material part, Part I, was laid before Parliament as a Command Paper when the noble Viscount opposite was, Minister, included, among various resolutions and Appendices, the Interim Agreement and the Convention on International Civil Aviation. The Interim Agreement is a transitional executive instrument which reaffirmed the doctrine of sovereignty of the air and embodied a number of substantive articles on air navigation and other cognate matters. It was designed to ensure more universal application than the Paris and Havana Conventions commanded of standardized practices and codes, pending the coming into force of the Chicago Convention on ratification by the necessary minimum of twenty-six countries. In addition, the Interim Agreement set up the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization—more familiarly known, in view of the barbarous habit of referring to everything by initials, as P.I.C.A.0.—comprising an Assembly to meet annually and an Interim Council composed of twenty-one Member States to be in continuous session, and, of course, supported by the necessary appropriate committees on air transport and air navigation. The functions of the Interim Council, and the supporting committees are advisory and not executive. They include such duties as the collation and study of information and data relating to all aspects of international air transport operations, the study and report to the Assembly on the unresolved differences at the Chicago Conference, and the continuing study and revision as necessary of the International Convention and its associated draft Technical Annexes produced at Chicago.

As your Lordships are aware, this Interim Organization—P.I.C.A.O.—has been established at Montreal, and it was originally anticipated that it would have at the most, a life of three years. It was expected that by then the Convention would have come into force. The United Kingdom is, of course, a member of the Council. The Convention itself, which, as I have said, will supersede the Havana and Paris Conventions, covers the whole field of public international air navigation law. It provides for the regulation of international air navigation and transport and it sets up the International Civil Aviation Organization which, in contrast to the provisional organization—P.I.C.A.O.—is known, and is to be known, as I.C.A.O., which will carry out the functions previously exercised by the International Commission on Air Navigation and by P.I.C.A.O. The Convention will be supplemented by twelve Technical Annexes. First drafts were prepared at Chicago, but those drafts were imperfect and incomplete, and from the first it was realized that they would require further study and revision. This study and revision has been a continuous process ever since, under the ægis of the Air Navigation Committee of P.I.C.A.O., and it has taken a considerable amount of the time of the technical staffs of my Ministry to help in making this country's contribution to the Annexes as they are to be finally adopted.

The subject matter of the Paris Convention Annexes and those drafted at Chicago broadly correspond. They deal, for instance, with lights, signals and markings, safety regulations, rules of the air, airworthiness, licensing of aircraft, licensing of crews, maps, meteorological information, the registration of aircraft, Customs procedure, and other cognate matters. It has been necessary, however, in the light of matters as they developed, to modernize and expand the Paris Annexes, particularly regarding requirements for airways and systems, air traffic control practices, airworthiness requirements, and operational safety standards. The general scope of the various draft Annexes prepared at Chicago was admirably summarized by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, in the account of the results of the Chicago Conference which he gave to your Lordships, and to which I have already referred. I do not think it necessary, or that your Lordships would desire, that I should add to that summary.

The Convention itself provides not only the substantive Articles to which the several Annexes are related, but introduces a number of features which were not embodied in the Paris Convention. I will mention the most important of these novel features. There is a provision, for instance, that agreements entered into by parties to the Convention should not be of a discriminatory nature, nor should two contracting States enter into an agreement which specifically excludes other parties. The principle of non-exclusivity —a striking word, which I do not know out of its context; it seems a term of art—does not necessarily commit a contracting party to granting to all other Member States the same rights as it may under special conditions confer on a particular contracting party. It is merely intended to stop two parties from binding themselves to make no similar agreement with other parties.

Another important feature of the Chicago Convention is the machinery for providing financial assistance to countries which are unable to undertake the burden of providing aerodromes and the ancillary ground organization to the standards prescribed for international air transport. The Convention sets out the procedure under which States may apply for and receive assistance either by way of grant or loan in the event of their inability to undertake to construct and maintain airports and other necessary navigational facilities. Yet another feature of the Chicago Convention is the provision for the collection, study and publication of information and data relating to air navigation in all its aspects and to the operation of internal air services. The International Organization—I.C.A.O.—is charged with these functions which it is felt should make a valuable contribution to the furtherance of international air transport development on economic lines, and to the elimination of wasteful subsidies.

The I.C.A.O. will comprise an Assembly and a Council and such subsidiary bodies as may prove necessary. The Assembly, on which all States will be represented, will normally meet annually, and, of course, extraordinary meetings can be called as occasion may require. The Council will consist of twenty-one members in permanent session to be elected by the Assembly every three years. There are certain qualifications for membership of the Council, the first members of which were elected at Chicago, and the United Kingdom clearly qualifies for election under more than one category of the qualifications set out. In addition to the Assembly and Council the Convention specifically establishes an Air Navigation Commission, to be concerned chiefly with the Technical Annexes and the relevant Articles, and an Air Transport Committee, charged with the responsibility of studying and reporting upon all matters relating to international air transport operations.

That is all I propose to say on the scope and purposes of the Convention and its administrative organization, but I am sure your Lordships will expect from me a short statement on the developments in relation to the issues left unsolved at the Chicago Conference. Those issues concern the economic and commercial aspects of international air transport development, and the prospect of resolving them appeared largely dependent on the success of P.I.C.A.O. in fulfilling the task entrusted to it at Chicago and producing an acceptable draft multilateral agreement. It became clear, however, that the two conflicting policies were impeding the negotiation of bilateral agreements which were required in the absence of a multilateral agreement to establish international air services. Early this year, therefore, delegations representing the United States and the United Kingdom met at Bermuda with a view to exploring the possibility of concluding a bilateral agreement to govern the operation of their reciprocal services. The Bermuda Agreement succeeded in bridging the gap between the divergent views of the two countries, and I feel that it may be fairly claimed that that marks an important step forward. Indeed, it is not too much to say that it holds out distinct promise of the early conclusion of a satisfactory multilateral agreement, which has throughout been our objective. It has been freely stated by critics on both sides of the Atlantic that each country surrendered its principles to the other. The truth lies, as it so often does in matters of this kind, in the fact that the Bermuda Agreement was satisfactory to both parties that had negotiated it.

I think I should explain to your Lordships in what respects the United Kingdom policy at Chicago, as advocated by the noble Viscount opposite, differed from the Bermuda Agreement. The policy advocated by the United Kingdom at Chicago was the direct result of pre-war experience of the evils and artificially imposed impediments which beset the development of international air transport. I am really only summarizing what the noble Viscount himself stated to the House. I think it is necessary in order to bring out what happened at Bermuda. It was then the objective of the United Kingdom to secure the acceptance of a plan of internationally controlled development along flexible and well-defined lines conducive to healthy expansion. The franchises to be reciprocally conceded between countries for the operation of international air transport services tall into five categories. These five franchises, licences or privileges, are familiarly known as the Five Freedoms. The First Freedom is the privilege of flying across a country's territory without landing. The Second Freedom is the privilege to land for non-traffic purposes. The Third Freedom is the privilege to disembark passengers, mail and freight taken on in the country whose nationality the aircraft possesses. The Fourth Freedom is the privilege to embark passengers, mail and freight for the country whose nationality the aircraft possesses. The Fifth Freedom is the privilege to carry traffic offering between two foreign countries.

The first two of these Freedoms obviously do not involve the grant of traffic concessions, but these are clearly of economic value to an operator of international services, even if they do not contribute to commercial revenues. An agreement to exchange these Freedoms multilaterally, known as the International Air Services Transit Agreement, was signed by the majority of the countries represented at Chicago, and has since been accepted by a number of them, including the United States and Commonwealth countries. It was the view of the United Kingdom that the exchange of the other Freedoms, dealing with rights to pick up and set down traffic, must be subject to conditions which would avoid the pre-war evils to which I have alluded. The main conditions were the pre-determination of aircraft capacity operated on the individual trunk routes in relation to available traffic, the allocation of this capacity among competing airlines on an equitable basis, and agreement between operators on fares subject to the approval of their Governments. There were certain additional conditions designed to protect the rights of local and regional services which were considered essential if the exercise of the Fifth Freedom by through operators was to be permitted. So much for the United Kingdom.

The United States, on the other hand, favoured a policy of unrestricted development, leaving the right of a country's participation to the free play of economic forces; but it would be fair to say that the ultimate failure to reach agreement at Chicago centred on the exercise of the Fifth Freedom. The Bermuda Agreement, which reconciled the divergencies of Chicago, pledged the two countries to the observance of principles having substantially the same objectives as British policy was designed to establish, but within the framework of these principles airlines are free to develop services in response to the public need without pre-determination of capacities and allocation of frequencies.


It was always intended that there should be a very wide elasticity.


The main difference of substance between the United Kingdom plan advocated at Chicago and the Bermuda Agreement is that capacity, frequencies and associated matters are subject, in relation to virtually a common code of principles, to ex post facto review instead of a priori determination. That is really the substantial difference, but even this change is subject to important safeguards. These include provisions for continuous consultation which will be facilitated by the exchange of liaison officers between the Civil Aeronautics Board of the United States and the Ministry of Civil Aviation here, the right of appeal to P.I.C.A.O. for an advisory report on matters in dispute and, in the last resort, the right to determine the Agreement.

Having got so far at Bermuda, the next step towards the goal of a multilateral agreement was taken at the meeting of the Assembly of P.I.C.A.O. last May. Both the United States and the United Kingdom Delegations stated that the principles of the Bermuda Agreement were considered to provide a satisfactory approach to the multilateral agreement, which was always the objective. More recently, in August, certain important United States civil aviation authorities were in this country and the opportunity was taken to discuss the Bermuda Agreement and its implications. The conclusion reached during those discussions was that experience since Bermuda had demonstrated that its principles are sound and will provide a reliable basis for the orderly development and expansion of international air transport. Those who took part in those discussions recorded their belief that these principles provided a basis for a multilateral international agreement of a type that their representatives at the meeting of P.I.C.A.O. in May had described as being in the interests of international air transport.

As a corollary of these conclusions it was agreed that, pending the adoption of a multilateral agreement, the Bermuda type of agreement represented the best form of approach to the negotiation of interim bilateral agreements and indicated a willingness to revise, at the request of any Government, extant agreements which were deemed to depart from the Bermuda principles. Whether any multilateral agreement which will in due course emerge will consist merely of a translation of the Bermuda Agreement into multilateral form is something I cannot anticipate, since that will fall to be decided at the deliberations of the Assembly of P.I.C.A.O., which is designed to take place next year. Let me say for His Majesty's Government that the United Kingdom will be well content with a multilateral agreement incorporating in suitable form the Bermuda principles and setting up a competent body to adjudicate upon issues involving reference to the International Civil Aviation Organization.

I hope I have not unduly trespassed on your time and patience. This is a small Bill, if one looks at the number of clauses it contains, but it deals with a matter of great and lasting importance. In moving its Second Reading I am sure I shall have the support of your Lordships and, more particularly, of the noble Viscount opposite, for he may fairly feel that in regard to this Bill the end crowns the work, and the work has largely been his. I beg to move.

Moved, That this Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Nathan.)

3.04 p.m.


My Lords, I am obliged to the Minister for his clear exposition of this very important and far-reaching Bill and for the graceful compliment he was good enough to pay to me. We were all together in this business in the National Government. I had a pretty hard fight at Chicago, but I think I can truthfully say that on closer consideration in a less heated atmosphere there has been, by and large, general agreement that all we contended for there is for the mutual advantage of the United States and this country and the common good of aviation in the whole world. I was at that time backed most helpfully not only by all my colleagues at home but by the whole British Commonwealth.

The Bill, as the noble Lord has said, has a two-fold purpose. It is designed to give him power to make effective by the law of this country the Chicago Conventions and Agreements, but it also contains some very wide powers with which my noble friend Lord Balfour will deal in detail. As I read it, the Bill gives the Minister very large powers altogether outside Chicago—in fact, more powers than he has under the Act of 1920 or the Act which we passed last Session in so far as it varies it. I propose to confine myself almost entirely to dealing with the Chicago Convention and the Bermuda Agreement which followed it. So far as the other parts are concerned, I will only say that I think the House will want to be very sure that the provisions we inserted in the Civil Aviation Bill last Session about equal treatment as between chartered companies and nationalized companies will be fully and completely implemented. I would ask the Minister to give us that full assurance and also to explain to us how we shall see these Orders and how we can deal with them.

As the Minister has said, the Chicago Conference covered practically the whole field of civil aviation. There were the international commercial problems of air transport, there were all the technical and administrative questions which can be summarized in the words "air navigation," and there was the establishment of an international organization. There was really a great deal more agreement at Chicago than was generally realized at the time. When you have good hot debate, particularly when somebody like my friend Mayor La Guardia takes part in it, and when you have a rough-and-tumble exchange of views such as we used to have in another place, naturally the Press of the world, looking on, attaches more importance to the rather exciting differences than to the solid and uninteresting work which is done by experts in committees and which leads to so much agreement.

We failed then to agree on the commercial questions, although there was very wide support for our proposals in Commonwealth and foreign countries and indeed among men most closely connected with the problems of civil aeronautics and civil aeronautics administration in the United States. The Bermuda Agreement is in fact based on, and incorporates, practically all the principles for which we contended there. On air navigation and administration we really reached complete agreement which was recorded in the Interim Agreement, in the Draft Convention and in what are called the Technical Annexes—an enormous volume. An international organization was set up which bears this rather disagreeable name mentioned by the noble Lord but which has ever since been doing in Montreal admirable work under the excellent presidency of Dr. Warner.

I would like to say a word or two about the Technical Annexes, which comprise a complete code of air navigation, because I think that that is only fair to those experts of very many countries who devoted so much time and energy to the work and who achieved such a large measure of agreement. There were the airways systems, the aim being to ensure that airports everywhere are marked in the same way and that, as far as practicable—and I repeat "as far as practicable"—there should be uniform systems of radio and other aids to navigation. On that I would just like to put one question to the Minister. Negotiations have been going on about radio. Now it is very desirable that if possible we should get a common international system. It is not at all convenient that aeroplanes should have to be flying about the world with two, or possibly three, different sets of equipment upon them. After all, that is taking away room which ought to be occupied by passengers and luggage. It also means duplicating the reverse equipment upon the ground. But when I have said all that, that does not mean that we, with our tremendous experience in radio—for after all we were the pioneers of radar, although we called it radiolocation in those days—and with our tremendous technical knowledge should have to give up our system, unless it can be proved and generally accepted that some other system is better. I would add a corollary to that, and say that in the interests of industry, of getting things readily adapted, any approved equipment should be manufactured in this country as well as elsewhere. I would like the Minister to tell us what has been happening in those negotiations.

There are rules of the air which the pilot must obey like the long-established rules of the sea. With regard to traffic control, there should be agreed international standards for the operation of air traffic control so that in every country, and on every international airport, the control officer on the ground and the pilot in his aircraft will know and follow the same practice. Also important is the agreed information about meteorology. You should be able to get the same kind of information anywhere, and get it presented in the same way. There should be agreement about systems of communication and agreement about maps, which is very important. These are the practical details that really do make flying safe. The maps of all countries should contain the same symbols upon them so that you can buy a map in any country and it will mean the same thing to the man who has to navigate all over the world. Then there is agreement as to the investigation of accidents, which is very important for safety. Also there is the question as to what should be the standards of airworthiness. There I want to emphasize one thing and I think we made a very wise provision in Chicago on this. We said that so far as we could agree them, we would lay down certain standards, and if those standards were generally accepted they would become uniform standards to which we would all conform.

But this business of the air is not at all static. The development and improvement in design, whether it be in engines or aircraft, is always moving forward, and it would be most unfortunate if the great manufacturing countries were tied down to something which became out of date. Therefore, a very wise suggestion was adopted at Chicago, that you should have certain rules which everybody was prepared to accept, and that in addition to that there should be what were called "recommended practices", which were felt to be a good thing. But they were not obligatory. If, by common experience in the great manufacturing countries and the great flying countries, it was found that a recommended practice was so general that it ought to be made into a firm rule, then the International Organization could add it as a firm rule. Then there was the licensing, operating and mechanical personnel or the keeping of log books, and Customs procedure and formalities, which are very important. Aircraft lose money on the ground, and air passengers do not like to be kept waiting, even at London Airport. The more that you can simplify Customs procedure and help towards getting people on their way, the better. Then there is the registration of aircraft.

In addition to all that, we agreed a number of general provisions to ensure equal treatment and common practice in administration. I am sure the noble Lord is going to carry out equal treatment between the private flyer and the nationalized flyer in this Country. It is not much good having an international agreement that you should treat everybody fairly, if you do not treat the private flyer fairly when you come down to your domestic legislation. I am sure he will be a champion of freedom in this respect; at any rate we will see that he is.

We agreed about cabotage. What was very important was that we got worldwide agreement to the provision that the national territory of a country for the purposes of cabotage includes the Colonies, the Protectorates and Mandated Territories. Then there is the less charming but very necessary provision with regard to sanitary matters. There is also the question of equal treatment at the airport, and what I said before on charter companies will come in there. We have got to give equal treatment at our airports, and we are entitled to receive the same treatment for international and national aircraft. There is also non-discrimination in agreements, and the registration of agreements with the International Authority. Then follows the pooling of information about air travel, about subsidies and about costs, which is very important. If all the cards are on the table, it is good business for flying the world over. The International Organization was set up and must go on, because these matters are always changing. Many countries ratified, and the work goes on in Canada. This House approved very cordially when I came back and reported. I am sure it will endorse this Bill, certainly in so far as it gives the Minister power to carry out these international agreements.

Now just for one moment I pass to the other matter with which the Minister dealt, the Bermuda Agreement, which as he says is the sequel to Chicago. Indeed, in some sense it may be treated as an annexe to the Convention. Bermuda dealt with the commercial and traffic side of this business. The Minister, I think very wisely, asked that we should debate that on this occasion and not on the more general debate which took place the other day. Now the Bermuda Agreement gives very wide and, I think, complete support to the principles of regulating international traffic, whether it is traffic directly between the countries or the Fifth Freedom traffic, the traffic picked up on the way.

What were the principles which I ventured to put forward at Chicago? They were these, and I can summarize them. They were that there should be fair and equal opportunity for both sides, that the capacity—I like that word better than "frequency"—should be fully adequate for traffic offering and elastic enough to meet all developments, and that it should be broadly based upon three considerations. First of all, and fundamentally, on the traffic offering between the country from which the aircraft starts and the country to which it is going. Secondly, on the Fifth Freedom traffic which you can pick up on the way provided always that you pay due consideration to the local and the regional services of the different countries. If you do not do that you will merely have quarrels and friction the whole time, and that is no good for anybody. The third thing was that you should have reasonable regard to economic requirements of through airline operations; that is to say, the sort and size of aircraft that you put on the route. The aircraft ought to be designed to carry the traffic which is offering and to be suitable for the purpose. It would be silly to leave seats vacant, and it would also be wrong to have a type of aircraft which would be quite unsuitable or inadequate for the route. These were the principles, and it is quite true we did not agree on them at Chicago.

Mr. Ted Wright—a man who. I suppose, has a greater knowledge of civil aeronautics and civil aeronautical administration than any man in the world, who ran the equivalent of the Ministry of Aircraft Production in the United States during the war and became, and is still to-day, the administrator of civil aeronautics in the United States—came over to this country to deliver the Wilbur Wright Lecture. In that lecture he went out of his way to say that in his opinion the proposals I had put forward at Chicago, With slight modifications with which I cordially agree, were not only essentially fair but were thoroughly practicable and sound from an operator's point of view. Obviously we were getting much closer together. I think it was wise not to rush the matter, and I can give Bermuda my full support because the provisions give effect to these principles, and the text is virtually lifted from them.

I am going to refer to one or two because I want to ask some questions upon them. If your Lordships will look at the White Paper Cmd. 6747 you will see what it lays down. The first paragraph is rather general. The third paragraph says: That the air transport facilities available to the travelling public should bear a close relationship to the requirements of the public for such transport. That, of course, relates to the traffic offering. Paragraph (4) says that there shall be fair and equal opportunity between the two nations. Paragraph (6) states that it is the understanding of both Governments that services provided by either of them shall have as their primary objective the provision of capacity adequate to the traffic demands between the two countries. Then it goes on to deal with the Fifth Freedom, the right to embark or disembark, and says that that right shall be applied in accordance with the general principles of orderly development to which both Governments subscribe and shall be subject to the general principle that capacity should be related"— and the following words were really lifted out of what I proposed at Chicago—

  1. "(a) to traffic requirements between the country of origin and the countries of destination;
  2. (b) to the requirements of through airline operation; and
  3. (c) to the traffic requirements of the area through which the airline passes after taking account of local and regional services."
That was all that we were contending for.

Then I am very glad to see there has also been put in paragraph (7) which I suggested at Chicago, and which the United States accepted in principle although it did not find its place in any Convention. That is that those of the United Nations who joined in the war and, through no fault of their own, had been unable to develop their civil aviation, should have a special chance. We called it "The United Nations Clause." You cannot expect the airlines to be held up. But if the capacity ought to be, shall we say, 100 services in a week and you would ordinarily be sharing 50–50, and if one nation cannot put its aircraft on because it has not the aircraft, then the other nation would do that. But when the first nation was ready to play its part it should have the chance to come in. Paragraph (7) is designed to give effect to that. I think that is a very good agreement, but it can only be effective if we have the aircraft and can play our part.

I want to ask the Minister these questions, of most of which I have given notice. How is the Agreement working as regards frequency and capacity and as regards the Fifth Freedom traffic? What is our capacity to-day? I want to know how many services a week we are running to the United States, and how many services a week the United States are running to here. The Bermuda Agreement says we should have equal opportunity to share and share alike with, of course, good competition, because on a 60 per cent. load factor there is always plenty of room for the man to go by the aeroplane of his choice. The broad and large idea was that here you start level, but how far are we able to take advantage to-day of the Bermuda Agreement? That is the test. How many services are we running to the United States and how many services are the United States running here? Will the Minister tell us with exactitude what the position is, and how soon does he expect to work to parity—if I may take a phrase which seems to be known in another connexion? When shall we be playing our full part and running an equivalent to the full services of the United States? Inevitably, because travel needs have to be served, the United States are providing not only their share but, I suppose, a greater part of our share.

I want to ask the Minister, and I have given him notice of this, how is it intended that paragraph (7) shall work when we are in a position, and have enough aircraft, to get to parity. In so far as the traffic offering has increased, we can build up by putting on some more services. But traffic does not suddenly increase, and as it increases air services will be put on by the United States if we are not ready. But when we are in a position to compete is it intended that they should abate a part of their services, and we should increase our services; or is it intended, supposing they are running 50 and we are running 10, that we should put on another 40 thereby putting on an added amount of capacity operating on the route far in excess of the traffic which is offered? I think I have made myself plain, and I am sure the noble Lord will give us an equally plain answer.

I think he has really answered, so far as he can in anticipation, what I was going to put to him next. I was going to ask whether it is intended that the provisions of the Bermuda Agreement shall be included in a supplementary International Convention, so as to give them a general application, and, if so, will the Convention be identical with the Bermuda Agreement or what variations will there be? As I understand it, the Minister hopes that it will get into a Convention. Meantime, if both parties—the two most important people in the business—are working on bilateral agreements in accordance with these principles, we are really doing what I suggested at Chicago. If we had signed on the dotted line we should, as I understand, be doing as we are doing. To do a thing by friendly agreement is sometimes better than doing it just because you have signed on the dotted line.

To my mind, the only weakness of the Bermuda Agreement is what is to happen if parties concerned should read it differently. We have had a good many examples lately of international agreements which both sides concerned have, quite honestly, read slightly differently. Really there is only one course to take when you get into that sort of difficulty, and that is to submit the matter to the decision of a third party in whom you both have confidence. Go to that party and say to him: "What does that mean?" It has always been our opinion, and that has been manifest in all the agreements we have made, that if there is a dispute as to interpretation or, still more important, not so much as to interpretation but as to how an agreement should be carried out, and this dispute is a perfectly friendly one between parties who are in close relationship the whole time, the best thing to be done is to go to arbitration. As I say, this is a case where there are very friendly relations between the two parties. I am very glad that representatives of the American Department are sitting in over here and that representatives of ours are sitting in over in America. But, in the last resort, if two people in a business do not agree —though they remain perfectly friendly —as to how a contract should be carried out, then you should go to arbitration.

I was very glad to hear the noble Lord the Minister say that he hoped it would be a part of any Convention that there would be an effective tribunal. I hope that I have put relevant questions upon this matter. I am sure that the House will approve this international agreement, but I am equally sure that the House, now and in the future, will want to know how far the Minister and the nationalized airlines are playing their part under the Agreement. Planning is one thing, and it is very necessary to plan rightly. I think that these Agreements to which we have been referring—after all, I have had a pretty big share in them—have been well planned. But the test is not in the plan, it is in the execution of the plan, the result obtained and the service given.

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to deal with this Bill on Second Reading from a somewhat different and less technical aspect than it has been dealt with by the noble Lord the Minister and by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. This Bill has a two-fold purpose. It has the purpose of dealing with the Chicago Convention, but tacked on to that purpose are certain very wide powers which the Ministry is trying to obtain. I think that your Lordships, on all sides of the House, will agree with the general proposition that if it were not for the watchful eye of the Legislature the Executive in this country would get away with a lot: more than they have been able to get away with in the past or that they are able to get away with at the present time. Therefore, we look intently and with a critical eve upon all proposals which are brought forward by the Government of the day—any Government of the day of any political complexion—which are likely to impinge upon the liberties of the subject, liberties which, I regret to say, seem to be rapidly diminishing in many different directions at the present time.

We all want safety in the air and orderly methods in our civil aviation effort. But the exercise of the powers sought by the Minister in this Bill would, I think, be far too wide, and my purpose in asking your Lordships to examine with me, for a few moments, some of these provisions, is to bring to the notice of the Minister a requirement from the Legislature that before this Bill comes to us in Committee there should be certain modifications proposed by the Executive unless we ourselves are to propose them from this side of the House.

I trust that your Lordships have copies of this Bill. I would like first to refer to Clause 1 (2) (d). This sets out that His Majesty may, by Order in Council, make such provision as appears to him to be requisite and expedient for prohibiting persons from engaging in, or being employed in, or in connexion with, air navigation in such capacities as may be specified in the Order except in accordance with provisions in that behalf contained in the Order and for the licensing of those employed at aerodromes in the inspection or supervision of aircraft. I think we all agree that persons connected with commercial aviation—that is aviation for hire or reward—should be properly qualified persons licensed for their duties. But the words in the paragraph. "in connexion with air navigation in such capacities as may be specified in the Order," mean in fact the granting of authority to my noble friend to impose a Whitehall control on private employment.

In fact it means that supposing the noble Lord acquired for his own private and personal use a Moth aircraft, and kept it at his own licensed field, he would not be able to put a nut or bolt into that aircraft himself, unless he did so at the peril of Whitehall prohibition, unless he was licensed so to do by the Executive. I do suggest to the Minister that he should look at this provision again, and see whether the powers which it would confer should not be confined commercial flying, and that the person who is foolish enough, or wise enough, as the case may be, to have a private aeroplane, should be allowed a reasonable measure of liberty to look after that aeroplane himself without having to employ someone licensed by the Minister.

Again, in the paragraph there are the words "those employed at aerodromes in the inspection or supervision of aircraft." Surely these words should read: "those employed at licensed aerodromes in connexion with inspection or supervision"—that is at aerodromes licensed for public use. If I had a suitable piece of land, which unfortunately I have not, I could have a landing-field which the Minister's Department would license for my own private use. I would not be allowed to charge landing fees to any of your Lordships who might care to descend on it, but at any rate I should be allowed to land there myself. But apparently now, under this provision, anyone employed at that aerodrome by myself at my own cost, must be licensed by the Minister and his Department.

I pass to paragraph (g) of subsection (2). This sets out that His Majesty may by Order in Council, make provision for minimizing or preventing interference with the use or effectiveness of apparatus used in connexion with air navigation,"— here, my Lords, I would draw your attention to the next sentence— and for prohibiting or regulating the use of such apparatus as aforesaid and the display of signs and lights liable to mislead or endanger aircraft. This means that any apparatus which the Department of Civil Aviation think might interfere with air navigation can be prohibited by the noble Lord. In fact, it means that the Minister is taking unto himself power to close down any amateur wireless station in the country if he were advised by experts in his Department that the wireless signals from it were likely to mislead aircraft.

The Minister takes unto himself the power to prohibit the display of signs and lights liable to mislead. When I look round your Lordships' House, I see many Ministers in the Coalition Government who flew, and are probably flying to-day, in the course of their duties. Had they but known, the pilot is usually misled by some lights, and he usually has to check his position by wireless or by some other means. All lights are misleading to pilots. Many a pilot has mistaken the lights of a long street in a town for a runway. He has not landed, for he has found out his mistake in time. Nevertheless, any lights are liable to mislead a pilot, and the Minister is now taking powers to impose a national blackout at the order of the Department of Civil Aviation. I know that I am quoting an extreme case, but my point is that it is wrong for the Executive to come to this House and ask for these wide powers in such a Bill as this, particularly when Section 14 of the Air Navigation Act, 1936, says that there is given to the public the safeguard that the Minister's powers are confined to the vicinity of an aerodrome. We must ask the Minister why he is now trying to take wide powers which were not considered necessary in the 1936 Act, under which his powers were confined to the locality of aerodromes.

I pass to paragraph (h), which says that an Order in Council may be made giving powers for the detention of aircraft to prevent aircraft flying when unfit to fly. I do not know whether the words "unfit to fly" mean that the weather is such that those in charge consider aircraft should not fly, or whether it means when the aircraft itself is considered unserviceable. I do not object to the Minister taking those powers, but I do object to such clumsy drafting as to leave in the Bill an ambiguity as to what is meant. If the intention is to give powers to the noble Lord's representatives to prevent aircraft flying when it is considered that the aircraft is not airworthy, then may I ask the Minister who is to judge when the aircraft is not airworthy if, on the one hand, a licensed engineer of his Department has certified the aircraft as fit to fly, and someone else in his Department says that it is not? I think we are entitled to some explanation about that.

The most serious powers which the Executive ask from the Legislature in this Bill are those contained in paragraph (n) of the same subsection where, by Order in Council, power can be taken for regulating the charges that may be made for the use of aerodromes licensed under the Order for services provided at such aerodromes and for work done at such aerodromes on aircraft. I would particularly stress the last part "for work done … on aircraft." Under a Socialist Government policy we have socialized aerodromes, which are now nationally owned, but what the Minister is now saying is that he wishes to take powers to regulate charges for work done at nationalized aerodromes by two outside parties. That is to say, if I own an aircraft and another noble Lord owns a repair organization, and we are both housed at a nationalised aerodrome, then under this clause, as it is at present drafted, the Minister could regulate the charges which we make as between ourselves for our private contract. I am quite sure that that power is not really sought by the Minister. It would be tantamount to the parallel of Government control of all transactions on leasehold property of Government-owned satellite towns in the future.

I hope that the Minister, in his reply, will tell us that he is not seeking powers to regulate the prices charged between two private persons located on a Government aerodrome, and that he will look at this particular paragraph to see whether he should not propose some Amendment before we consider the Bill in Committee. I would also remind my noble friend, while I am on the subject of this paragraph, that during the passage of the recent Bill in your Lordships' House we inserted an Amendment in Section 40. I do not remember 'whether we on this side of the House moved the Amendment and the Government accepted it, or whether it was moved by the Government; at any rate it was agreed by the House. By this Amendment it was laid down that there should be no discrimination against charter companies in favour of nationalized companies. If the Minister is taking power in this Bill to regulate charges for work done, can he give us an assurance that the clause which we passed in the recent Bill will take precedence and govern the regulation now proposed, and that this paragraph will not give the Minister power to make those discriminatory charges against charter companies and in favour of nationalized companies to which we objected in the passage of the earlier Bill?

Finally, I want to ask the Minister what is the procedure for these Orders in Council? There is nothing in this Bill as there is in the 1936 Act or the 1920 Act, which lays down that these Orders in Council must be subject, in the one case I think it is to an affirmative and in the other to a negative Resolution of Parliament. I presume that this House and another place have the power, should we so desire, to pray against any Order which the Minister proposed to lay under this Bill. I hope the Minister will not tell us: "Oh, the Executive need these powers and the Legislature has control by the operation of the procedure of prayer," because that is really not enough. We know that the opportunities in both places for prayer against Regulations are few and limited. I believe that as a matter of constitutional principle the Executive should not be allowed to assume powers in reserve which can be checked by the Legislature in a negative way. I believe, rather, that the Legislature should only grant to the Executive those powers, carefully watched, which are essential. I submit to your Lordships that the powers for the Executive which are provided in this Bill are far wider and far greater in scope than can possibly be justified.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, I would like to say a few words on this matter before the Minister replies. I apologize for not having heard his speech. At the outset I would like to take this opportunity of congratulating him on assuming his new office. He has become the Minister in a Ministry which—I make no bones about it—I opposed ever being set up. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, was one of the first to hold the office. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye was in favour of it; and in any case we now have it. This is part of the whole setting up of the Air Navigation Bill, and I cannot see how the noble Lord's Ministry can act unless it has powers. Those powers must be given; otherwise the Ministry falls by the wayside. I say quite frankly that I wish the Ministry had never been set up, but it has been set up, and it is for us who believe in Parliamentary government to see that what has been set up by Parliament has justification and rights. This is what the noble Lord, the Minister, comes forward and asks us to support.

There are many points in respect of which we on these Benches differ, and many points—such as those referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, who knows a great deal more about these matters than I do, because he dealt with them when he was at the Air Ministry—which are extremely important. I quite agree that you cannot control from Whitehall, by red tape or whatever you like to call it, what happens on aerodromes; but the Minister is there to administer this Bill. I am not going to say one word against that, except that I think he is asking for too many powers. That is what noble Lords on these Benches feel. He is like everyone else in a similar position. He is a new boy and he comes forward and asks for more and more power with which to play. That is not going to help air navigation or flying in this country or in the world as a whole. In the air you are free. On the ground you are tied.

3.51 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful for the kindly remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood. In spite of the fact that he fervently desires that I should not be here at all, he has expressed a wish to be helpful, and that I appreciate. I have learnt a great deal from what has been said this afternoon. I am grateful to the noble Lords who have taken part in this discussion. Let me at once give both the noble Viscount and the noble Lord an assurance that there is no intention on the part of my Ministry to exercise discrimination against charter flyers within their proper sphere. I made—for the first time I think—a declaration to that effect when speaking from this Box about a fortnight ago, in the debate opened by the noble Viscount. I have since repeated that on the public platform. I wish the charter companies to know that they will always have a fair deal—if I may use that expression—from my Ministry. On the other hand, I shall expect that they will comply with those requirements which I may consider necessary for operational safety and the like. I hope that there will be a gradually increasing co-operation between us. I regard myself not as Minister for the three Corporations. I regard myself as Minister for civil aviation at large and am concerned for all those who are interested in civil aviation at large.

The noble Viscount made some very informative statements with regard to the technical annexes. He asked me about the outcome of the discussions which have recently been taking place in Montreal at the P.I.C.A.O. meeting where the British representatives were led by Sir Robert Watson Watt. The noble Lord will realize there is more than one category of navigational aid. There are approach aids for use on aerodromes. There are short-range aids for congested areas and long-range aids for longer distances such as trans-oceanic use. As regards approach aids, it was decided at the P.I.C.A.O. meeting to standardize the S.C.S.51—which will convey a good deal to the noble Lords who have been most intimately concerned with this matter—and for S.C.S.51 to be installed by 1951. Meanwhile, existing aids such as the S.B.A.—Standard Beam Approach—will continue in use. It was thought premature to take a final decision on the long-range and short distance aids to be adopted as standards for the future. But development is proceeding on the basis of existing alternative types of equipment, and the British team—headed, as I have said, by Sir Robert Watson Watt—urged strongly that, for conditions of intensive operation and in closely located centres of population, Gee, the aid developed and used by the Royal Air Force during the war, was the most suitable. The Conference recognized that an area such as Europe required special consideration, and there for the moment the matter stands. The fact that different kinds of areas may need different kinds of aids is recognized.

The noble Viscount, as he said, was good enough to give me notice of certain questions which he wished to ask me. He asked me, for instance, with regard to the division of capacity or frequencies—whichever term you care to use—as between the United States lines and British lines. He asked me for precise information. As nearly as I can give it to him—when I say as nearly as I can give it to him, it is the information I have—it is this: that at present American airlines are operating twenty-three services a week and British Overseas Airways four services a week with Constellations between the United States and the United Kingdom. Aircraft operating westbound to America are flying to capacity, but load factors are not so persistently high in the eastbound direction. British Overseas Airways are progressively building up to seven return services a week with their five Constellations, which are at present the only suitable competitive aircraft available, but the Boeing Stratocruisers will in due course be coming along.

In connexion with that same point, the noble Viscount asked me what is to happen as British capacity increases. Well, both the United States Government and ourselves are pledged to make any adjustment in capacity which may be necessary to enable British airlines to participate to the full when they have the necessary capacity and when they can provide the necessary frequencies. If the available traffic expands progressively, as we anticipate, there should be no problem in introducing additional British capacity as it becomes available. The noble Viscount very rightly asked me an alternative question: whether if expansion of traffic does not keep pace with increasing capacity, any adjustment will take into account factors like the additional capacity measured in terms of reasonable load factor; and whether the additional capacity, measured in terms of reasonable load factor, would lead to a degree of inflation contrary to the principle of the agreement, and the examination of the incidence of the public demand for the services of the respective operators. The idea is that there should be appropriate adjustment. I do not think that the noble Viscount asked me a question about a tribunal—he intended to but I dealt with that, as I saw fit, in my general observations.

The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, raised a number of points arising on the contents of the Bill. Let me say at once to the noble Lord that there a great deal in the matters to which he referred which is really but a repetition of existing legislation—a great deal transposed into this Bill. If it would be helpful to him, as I think it may be, I will show him later exactly how much is transposed and how much is actually new, and I think he will be surprised.


I am obliged to the noble Lord, but I would like to make one suggestion. We are going to separate at once, and I do not know when we are going to take the Committee stage. I presume, however, that we are going to take the Committee stage shortly after the Recess. We cannot have our discussions while we are all separated. We shall come more effectively to the Committee stage of the Bill and be able to deal with it in a shorter time if we have a proper time in which to prepare. Could the noble Lord circulate, either in a White Paper or in some other way, the information which he has now offered, which is, where the powers he is now seeking go further than the powers the Secretary of State for Air has hitherto found it necessary to have for precisely the same functions? If that could be put in a short White Paper for us, then all noble Lords will have that information and it will have a great bearing on the number of Amendments we have to put down in Committee and how we shall discuss the matter.


If the noble Viscount will do as I have done, take the two documents and compare them, it will be unnecessary to produce a special document for the purpose.


We call put down a great many Amendments, of course.


As regards the Orders in Council being subject to Parliamentary procedure and the doubt which the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, expressed as to whether that was included in this present Bill, if the noble Lord will refer to Clause 4 of the present Bill he will find that the clause now under discussion is to be read into the 1920 Act. So that those provisions of the 1920 Act which relate to the laying of the draft Order will apply equally to Orders made under this Bill when enacted.

The noble Lord raised a question in the first instance I think about paragraph (d) of Clause 1 (2) of this Bill. The existing legislation provides for the issue of certificates or licences to pilots, navigators and other operative members of the crews of aircraft and to engineers employed on aerodromes or as crews of aircraft in maintenance or repair of aircraft or aero engines. Certificates of competence, or licences, are required under the Paris Convention and will be required under the Chicago Convention. What I feel is essential is that the Government of the day should have powers wide enough to enable them to give effect to the International Convention into which we have entered, and it is one of the purposes of this Bill to confer those powers. Otherwise, frequently or even occasionally, it would be necessary to return to Parliament for additional legislation to enable us to take the powers which we ought to have foreseen would be needed in view of the international obligations which we had accepted. The general line I would take—I should always hold this view on whichever side of the House I sat—is that powers should be wide but the application of those powers should be restricted and ought to be subject to the approval of Parliament either in a positive or negative sense.


May I say that I myself and my noble friends strongly object to that principle, and it will be contested on every possible occasion? I would particularly like the noble Lord to answer one specific question if he can, and it is this. If I own a private Moth, and I have a chauffeur who looks after the 100-horse power engine, is he able to do so while on my pay-roll without supervision and licence from the noble Lord's Department if I use that aircraft only for my own private purposes?


I do not think I can answer a question put to me on a detailed point in a sort of friendly cross-examination, but broadly speaking, so far as this clause is concerned, the position is that it is covered by existing legislation or that it is required for the purpose of enabling us to implement our international obligations.

As regards the other point mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, I think I have often heard the opinion which I expressed enunciated with great force by his political friends. As regards paragraph (g)—interference with the use or effectiveness of apparatus in connexion with air navigation—here there is a slight extension of the principle which appeared in the earlier legislation. It is made necessary by the changed conditions as regards radio and radar. I do not think the words suggested by the noble Lord as to limiting it to aerodromes in the vicinity would do. If I may give a personal example—no doubt the noble Lord could give others—I remember that during the course of the war the Westminster Hospital had a new diathermic department which was found to be obviously affecting aircraft flying over London and the result was that the diathermic department had to be caged in so as to make it innocuous so far as the aircraft flying over were concerned. There may be a number of instances of that kind. I will, however, look into it.

I think the next point was about aircraft being unfit to fly. I think that can only be read as being something appertaining to the aircraft itself in the conditions prevailing at a particular point of time. On paragraph (n) the noble Lord will have appreciated that this applies only to aerodromes licensed by the Minister, and it is so stated. I think the noble Lord will find, if he will refer to Section 3 of the Air Navigation Act, 1920, and Article 7 of the Air Navigation Consolidation Order, that the Minister has power to prescribe very much what is enacted here. Let me say that I appreciate the point which the noble Lord wishes to make in this regard. There will be time between now and the Committee stage to consider the observations that have been made. I will certainly consider the observations of those who have spoken and if it seems to me that some modification is called for, I will put it down on the Paper. I hope noble Lords will now allow the Bill to be read a second time.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.


My Lords, I think this will be a convenient point at which to adjourn for the Royal Commission.

House adjourned during pleasure at ten minutes past four o'clock.

House resumed at half past four o'clock.