§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE PAYMASTER GENERAL (LORD MILLS)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This Bill is designed to deal with two current problems of civil aviation: first, to ensure that operators of air services are equipped and organised to conduct their operations safely, and, secondly, to introduce a wholly new licensing system to replace the makeshift arrangements which have existed for a number of years.
The arrangements for the safety of aircraft as such depend on provisions made under the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, and so far as they go are broadly satisfactory. There is, however, a gap in the safety arrangements in so far as they apply to the control of air operators. At the present time this gap has been filled by a procedure whereby the Air Transport Advisory Council confirms with the Minister that the operators' control and safety arrangements are satisfactory before approving any air transport services. The procedure of the Air Transport Advisory Council, which I will mention more fully later, relates, however, only to scheduled air services and there is no means of ensuring that the arrangements of the operators for non-scheduled services are up to the standard which can be reasonably required.
592 Under Section 8 of the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, it would be possible without further legislation to introduce a scheme for the inspection and regulation of air operators. However, the penalties provided would be unsatisfactory. The profits involved in air operations can be very large, and it might pay an operator to repeat an offence and risk a number of prosecutions. Although the problem has been recognised for some time, the Southall crash in which seven people lost their lives a few years ago brought home to the public the unsatisfactory state of the law and that all operators without exception should be made to comply with proper safety requirements.
This Bill is, therefore, designed to rectify the position. It introduces requirements for all air operators to secure from the Ministry what will be known as an air operator's certificate, certifying that they are competent to secure the safety of operations they propose. The detailed provisions with regard to the air operator's certificate will be made in an amendment to the Air Navigation Order and regulations under it. The Bill lays down a new scale of penalties for the offence of flying without or in contravention of the provisions of an air operator's certificate. If an air operator's certificate is withdrawn, an operator cannot fly at all until it is restored. This will be the main sanction behind the law.
An appeal system will be introduced in the Air Navigation Order in connection with the issue or revocation of air operator's certificates. The amendment of the Air Navigation Order will be laid before Parliament and will no doubt be debated at the same time as regulations made under the licensing provisions of the Bill to which I will refer later. Plans for the recruitment of the necessary staff are well advanced, and it is hoped that the issue of air operator's certificates can begin before the end of the year.
It was enacted in 1946 that the Air Corporations should have a monopoly of scheduled services to and from the United Kingdom. This provision was consolidated in Section 24 of the Air Corporations Act, 1949. It very soon became apparent that this monopoly was not satisfactory. It provided insufficient scope for the activities of the various 593 independent airlines which already existed, and under the Labour Government devices had to be found to circumvent the monopoly and provide wider opportunities to independent airlines. The device which was adopted was to appoint the independent airlines, with the Minister's approval, as associates of the Corporations under Section 15 (3) of the Air Corporations Act, 1949. This enabled them to share in the monopoly. The Corporations lent themselves to this device.
At an early stage the Minister of Civil Aviation who was then responsible decided to avail himself of the advice of the Air Transport Advisory Council in deciding which services or which independents to approve for the purpose of Associate Agreements with the Corporations. The Government policy of strengthening the position of the independents was announced in 1952 and the present terms of reference of the Air Transport Advisory Council were issued to it in that year. The practice is for any independent that wishes to operate either a regular scheduled service or any inclusive tour holiday service (which ranks as a schedule journey within the terms of the Air Corporations Act) to apply to the Air Transport Advisory Council. These applications are advertised and objections are considered by the Council which gives its advice to the Minister. The Minister almost invariably adopts the advice of the Council and the Corporations then appoint the independent as an associate for this purpose.
This makeshift procedure is in many respects out of date. For instance, in nearly every case one of the Corporations has opposed the application of the independent in question to the Air Transport Advisory Council. The legal fiction has assumed a scale where it is quite unrealistic and unsatisfactory to all parties. It is a credit to the good sense and goodwill of the Corporations and the independents, and in particular to the Air Transport Advisory Council and its Chairman, Lord Terrington, that such an arrangement has worked as well as it has.
The time has certainly come for a change. The Air Transport Advisory Council was not set up for any such purpose and its constitution and procedures are hopelessly inadequate. It 594 was devised in the first place as one of a series of consumer councils associated with nationalised industries, and its constitution is adapted to that purpose. Its proceedings have not been conducted in public and there is no system of appeal from its recommendations. Despite the fairness and good judgment of the Council it is not satisfactory as a permanent administrative tribunal, which is what, in effect, it has become.
There is another important weakness. Control is exercised under this system only over those services which can be claimed as scheduled journeys within the meaning of subsection 2 of Section 24 of the Air Corporations Act, 1949. This definition has proved extremely weak and all manner of closed groups, private clubs and so forth have grown up for the purpose of ensuring cheap travel which fall outside the definition of scheduled journeys or at least which do not without doubt fall within it. Under cover of such devices all manner of near-scheduled services have grown up which are seriously undermining the activities of the Corporations and those independent airlines who follow the rules. These so-called non-scheduled operations are under no form of control at the present time and are very rapidly increasing. One of the objects of the Bill is to bring them into the system now envisaged.
The concept of licensing air transport owes much to the highly successful system of licensing bus transport which was introduced in the Road Traffic Act, 1930. Applications for licences are made to Road Traffic Commissioners who consider all the evidence and make the necessary decisions. There is an appeal from the decisions to the Minister. The degree of regulation of the industry which has been introduced in this way has proved acceptable to all the interests concerned. The system now proposed is based largely on that experience.
The main purposes of the Bill are: (a) to abolish the statutory monopoly of the Corporations, which has in many cases now ceased to exist; (b) to replace the Air Transport Advisory Council by an Air Transport Licensing Board properly constituted to carry out the quasi-judicial functions that have recently fallen to the Council; (c) to institute a system of appeals to the Minister. The opportunity has been taken to revise many other 595 aspects of the system: for instance, the new Air Transport Licensing Board is given as a residual duty the advisory functions which were the original raison d'être of the Air Transport Advisory Council. The Regional Advisory Councils (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) which have hitherto been by Statute advisory and responsible to the Corporations are now to be reconstituted as advisory to the Air Transport Licensing Board. A scale of penalties for offences has been introduced which is realistic in relation to the profits which can be made from illegal flights.
The Bill will also enable convenient and proper procedures to be introduced which can be adapted for all the different kinds of commercial flying which exist. These procedures and many other aspects of the scheme will be introduced by regulations to be made by the Minister. These regulations are subject to annulment in either House of Parliament and there will be an opportunity to debate them. The Board is also required to make an annual report which is to be laid before Parliament so that its proceedings can be debated annually. A minor but not unimportant purpose of the Bill is to prohibit the nuisance of aerial advertising except for public purposes.
The Bill aims to introduce a new and liberal régime for the regulation of air transport services in this country and abroad by United Kingdom aircraft. It is not intended overnight to create a new situation as between the Corporations and the independents but to meet a developing situation. It has been made clear, again and again, in another place, that the Minister regards the Corporations as our main flag carriers throughout the world and that he has every intention that they shall continue to be so. But in an expanding industry it is his conviction that there is room for independents as well, and the Bill is intended to allow scope for both the Corporations and the independents to expand with the new opportunities in the air which are continually arising.
The future pattern will evolve gradually from the decisions of the Board on the applications made to it and from the decisions of the Minister on any appeals made to him. In this way a pattern will grow up as it has done in 596 the case of bus licensing. The Minister recognises that the international aspect of flying produces a number of complications which do not arise in the purely domestic system of bus licensing, and he has therefore taken steps in this Bill to reserve to himself, as he must, certain powers with regard to international and other overseas relations and with regard to the negotiation of such affairs. Otherwise the responsibility for the decisions to be taken on applications for new air services will rest with the Board. It is most important that the Board should be composed of persons of the highest calibre. The Minister is giving thought to the membership of the Board, but until the Bill is law it will be premature for him to anticipate in any way the appointments which he may wish to make.
I hope it will now be convenient to your Lordships to have a brief résume of the principal contents of the Bill. Clause 1, subsection (1), establishes the Air Transport Licensing Board with the general duty of furthering the development of British civil aviation. Subsection (2) makes it an offence to fly for hire or reward or in connection with trade or business except under, and in accordance with, the terms of the air operator's certificate certifying the operator's competence to engage in the operations he proposes, and an air service licence issued by the Board. Subsection (3) enables the Minister to exempt any descriptions of flight from the requirement to have an air service licence. These exemptions will be made by regulation subject to negative resolution. In another place the Minister gave a list of the principal exemptions he intends to introduce. These exemptions deal with such cases as air ambulances and crop spraying; they will be carefully drafted not to exempt closed group operators.
Clause 2 deals with applications for the grant of air services licences. Subsection (2) is of particular importance. It sets out a series of eight matters which the Air Transport Licensing Board are required to consider in particular before they decide whether or not to grant an application for a licence. They must consider first whether the applicant is competent and a fit and proper person to operate the aircraft for the service proposed. Then they must consider whether 597 he has adequate third-party insurance and whether his staff is employed on fair terms and conditions. The Board must next pay attention to the need for the service, the adequacy of any existing services and the question whether the new service, if granted, would be likely to result in wasteful duplication of traffic or material diversion of traffic from existing services. They must also consider any capital, financial or commercial commitments reasonably entered into by the applicant. These provisions are designed to make the Board pay full regard to the position of existing operators (whether Corporation or independent) before they agree to grant a licence to a new operator on any route. Finally, they must have regard to any objections or representations made in accordance with the appropriate regulations regarding procedure. These terms of reference take the place of those under which the Air Transport Advisory Council has hitherto been operating.
Subsection (4) provides that the Board shall not consider safety matters, since it would obviously be unfortunate if there was an overlap between the functions of the Board and of the Director of Aviation Safety and Licensing in the Ministry of Transport, who will be responsible for the issue of air operators' certificates.
Another very important provision is contained in subsection (6). This subsection empowers the Minister to authorise the grant of transitional air service licences to any person who previously provided air transport services in order to start the new system going. It is obvious that when the Bill is brought into force and it becomes an offence to fly without a licence, there must be in existence licences enabling all the existing services to continue. After much consideration of the alternatives, the Minister came to the conclusion that the right course would be for him to authorise the issue of transitional licences which reproduced the present state of affairs.
Thus in the case of the Air Corporations transitional licences would be issued to them without any limit of time or frequency to cover all the services they operate. In the case of the independents they would receive licences reproducing all the approvals which they at 598 present hold on the advice of the Air Transport Advisory Council, subject to the conditions as to period, frequency and so forth set out in those approvals. This would enable the Board to start its operations on the basis of the situation precisely as it is to-day. It would then be possible for any operator who was dissatisfied with the present state of affairs to apply to the Board either for a new licence enabling him to do what he has hitherto been unable to do, or for some other operator's licence to be varied. For instance, an independent could apply to the Board for a licence to operate in parallel with a Corporation's service and for a limitation to be imposed on the frequency of that service. The powers of the Board to vary licences either on its own initiative or on the application of an operator are contained in Clause 3.
Special considerations apply in the case of those air transport services operated at separate fares which have not hitherto been regulated and will for the first time be regulated by the Bill. As I have said, the Bill provides for issue to the existing operators of transitional air service licences. It will be a number of weeks before Parliament completes its consideration of the Bill. In the meantime, airline operators who are planning to provide closed group services at separate fares in 1961, which if the Bill becomes law will require a licence, will naturally wish to know where they stand. The Minister has therefore arranged that any operators concerned may submit their case to the Air Transport Advisory Council who, after considering it, will recommend to the Minister whether or not, in the event of the Bill becoming law, a transitional licence should in due course be issued in respect of the service in question. In the light of this recommendation the Minister will inform the applicant whether or not he may expect to receive a transitional licence. This arrangement will enable operators and travel agents concerned to make their plans in proper time. The detailed arrangements have been agreed with the Air Transport Advisory Council and will be circulated to the operators and to the technical Press.
Subsection (7) of Clause 2 provides that air service licences should be granted only to, broadly speaking, citizens 599 of the United Kingdom and Colonies. This is in accordance with the general practice in civil aviation; there is a standard clause to this effect in the bilateral agreements between countries.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord: Does that mean that countries, members of the Commonwealth other than those which are Colonies or Protectorates, are excluded from the scope of this Bill?
§ LORD MILLS
That is precisely what is meant. In most cases there are bilateral arrangements. As I was saying, this is in accordance with the general practice in civil aviation. There is a standard clause to this effect, and there are bilateral agreements between countries.
Clause 3, to which I have already referred, provides powers under which licences may be revoked, suspended or varied. This is important owing to the form which the transitional licences will take, since without it it would be difficult for any operator who objects to the present position to make his case heard to the Board. Subsection (2) of Clause 3 enables the Board to revoke, suspend, or vary a licence if they are no longer satisfied that the holder is competent or a fit and proper person to operate it. Clause 4 reproduces in brief the original duties of the Air Transport Advisory Council which was set up under Section 12 of the Civil Aviation Act, 1949. It will enable the Board to operate in the way the Council has hitherto done as a Consumer Council. The advice of the Council was, however, primarily directed to the activities of the Corporations, whereas Clause 4 relates to air transport services provided by any United Kingdom air operator.
Clause 5 empowers the Minister to make the necessary regulations, subject to the Negative Resolution procedure, to enable the Bill to operate. Attention need be drawn only to two of these. Paragraph (c) of subsection (1) creates a right of appeal to the Minister by applicants for, or holders of, air service licences and any other appropriate parties against any decisions of the Board. Hitherto, there has been no right of appeal from the decisions of the Air Transport Advisory Council. The right of appeal is obviously a valuable safeguard for the interests of those 600 affected by the grant or refusal of licences, and it will also enable the ultimate decisions on applications to reflect Government policy as it may evolve from time to time. Under paragraph (g) of subsection (2), the regulations may set up the Regional Advisory Committees, which are now to be advisory to the Board. The Minister contemplates setting up one for Scotland, one for Wales and one for Northern Ireland.
Clause 6 creates penalties appropriate to the various offences which may be committed under the Act. It may be borne in mind, as I have already mentioned, that the profits to be made from unauthorised flights can be very considerable. Under Clause 7, aerial advertising and propaganda are prohibited, save in any circumstances to be set out in regulations. It is intended that these regulations should make provision for aerial advertising only where needed for public purposes, such as crowd control, and for communications between the aircraft and the ground for the purposes of safety.
Of the remaining provisions of the Bill, the only one to which attention need be drawn, is Clause 9, which contains the repeals. Of these, the most important is the repeal of Section 24 of the Air Corporations Act, 1949, which established the monopoly of the Airways Corporations, and Section 12 of the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, which established the Air Transport Advisory Council. The composition of the Air Transport Licensing Board itself is dealt with in the Schedule. It is envisaged that the cost of the Board can be met out of the fees payable in respect of the applications for or grant of licences. My Lords, I hope that this brief explanation of the scope and purposes of the Bill will be sufficient to commend it to your Lordships. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Mills.)
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, this House is particularly well fitted to discuss the topic of civil aviation and the public Air Corporations, because so many of our Members participate in them. It is unfortunate, however, that their participation also denies us the opportunity of hearing from them. This, 601 of course, is no more true of any noble Lord than it is of the noble Lord, Lord Terrington, who at present occupies the Woolsack. It must be rather unusual to be sitting in that position when a Bill, one of the purposes of which is to abolish the body over which he presides, is before your Lordships' House. I am sure that all noble Lords, and Her Majesty's Government in particular, would wish to pay a tribute to the really excellent work of the body over which the noble Lord has presided, and his own conduct of that activity.
I hope that I am not out of order in referring to the noble Lord when he is silenced in the position he is in at the moment, but I wanted to say fairly early on that I hope that, in the arrangements that are about to be made, the services of the members of the Air Transport Advisory Council, and particularly of the noble Lord, will be preserved in the transitional stage; because one of the strengths of this body is the excellent way in which they have conducted some very difficult operations. The Council enjoy a confidence which is essential to the further progress or implementation of this measure; and although the Government cannot, before the Bill becomes law, announce who the members of the Board are to be, or who is to be their chairman, I have no doubt that they are already thinking about these matters, and I should like to encourage the noble Lord the Minister to urge his right honourable friend to think along those lines.
This Bill comes, among other things, as a result of a pledge given at the General Election by the Party opposite, and from that very fertile and ingenious source, the Minister of Aviation. I hope that it will be more successful than the Blue Streak activity for which he was responsible. I should make clear that we on this side certainly do not intend to oppose the Bill on Second Reading, and that we acknowledge that a great part of what has been said by the noble Lord who has just spoken is a proper justification for the introduction of this measure. There is no doubt that the old arrangement with regard to the Corporations' monopolies had broken down. The associate agreements by which the possibly unwilling Corporations had, in effect, to enter into agreements allegedly to supplement their activities but actually 602 possibly to bring people into competition, was the kind of sophistry or stratagem which ought not to continue indefinitely; and I believe that the time has come when that situation needs to be tidied up and the Air Transport Advisory Council, in effect, turned into the Air Licensing Board.
Further, it is also clear that there was some need—though I do not know how great it was—to bring some of the charter services and the flying Club arrangements within control; and it is quite obvious that Her Majesty's Government had to act on this. Although I doubt whether there has been very much that has been sufficiently unsatisfactory among these operators to cause public anxiety, this is, quite clearly, a responsibility which the Government must take on; and the two processes now established, the setting up of the special arrangement for both the air operator's certificate and the air service licence, seem to be a satisfactory way of doing it.
But, my Lords, we on this side have objections to this Bill as it stands. I will not elaborate all the objections that were made in another place. We do detect, though certainly not from the Minister's speech in this House or from the Minister's speech in another place, a certain amount of what might be called private enterprise prejudice (and I do not use this term, I hope, in too offensive a way) in regard to the strengthening of the independent operators. We are all prepared to acknowledge the virtues of competition where it can be achieved; and quite clearly there is some argument to be made, although I do not believe it is possible to develop competition within some of the great public monopolies operating within this country, the nationally owned monopolies. But it cannot possibly apply to the Air Corporations, who are facing the most tremendous competition in the world, who undoubtedly carry a great national investment in their operations and, as the noble Lord said, also "carry the flag". They have to carry the flag, but, unlike the Royal Navy in the past, they have at the same time to operate at a profit; this is not so easy to achieve, as we know when we look at their records over the previous years.
It is a matter of great satisfaction that British European Airways and the 603 British Overseas Airways Corporation, who have had a difficult time, are achieving ever-improving results. I believe it was the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, when we discussed the Bill to improve the borrowing powers of these Corporations, who had some doubts as to whether British European Airways' trading results were likely to be as good in the forthcoming year. On that occasion, whether properly or improperly, we stimulated my noble friend Lord Douglas of Kirtleside to give an undertaking that they would be very good; and they are. They show a profit of £2 million after the interest charges have been met.
However, this does give rise to some slight anxieties. On the one hand, there will be people who say, "Public corporations ought not to make a profit, and other people ought to participate." Equally, if they should run into trouble, into the bad luck which B.O.A.C. had over aircraft, people will say, "Quite obviously they do not know how to operate at a profit, and we must give the work to the independent operators." I am sure that the noble Lord and the Minister have no intention of weakening these Corporations. But there is an enormous investment—already well over £100 million has been invested—and these are our Corporations; it is British investment, and clearly we must do nothing to weaken them. We have acknowledged that there is a place for the independents, and I would remind the noble Lord that, ignoring trooping, it is estimated they do about one-third of the air traffic work of British operators of all kinds. I am not too happy about that figure, but it is a figure that has been given; so at least they have a sizeable amount of it.
While the Bill will be operated, and the new Licensing Board will undoubtedly operate, in the public interest, it is, I think, unfortunate that certain of the matters which are contained in Clause 2 are for consideration only and are not mandatory on them. It seems to me that if we are to preserve the position of these two Corporations then particularly Clause 2 (2) (f), which is concerned with wasteful duplication and material diversion of traffic from an existing service, ought to be mandatory on the Board. It seems to me that it 604 is of real importance in this matter that the Government should make the position clear. This provision does not make it clear; it leaves it for future consideration, and this undoubtedly gives rise to a certain amount of anxiety and doubt. It is of very great importance that the Corporations and all those who work in them should be quite certain of what the Government's intentions are in this matter, and I hope that the Government will give this point some further consideration. Already, I admit, the matter has been threshed out in another place in Committee, but I hope the Government will give consideration to tightening up certain of the subsections in that clause. Indeed we may have to consider from this side whether there are not one or two Amendments, perhaps, to Clause 2, and possibly to Clause 3, which we ought in due course to move, in order to clarify the position.
There is a very big investment, and it looks as if the Corporations are going to have to continue the responsibility (and I think it is a proper one for a public Corporation) of proving and introducing new aircraft. They will need a great deal of confidence and security to take the very real risks they will have to take in this matter. If they do, in fact, find that investment—whether it concerns the twenty Vanguards for British European Airways or the VC10s and the Boeings that B.O.A.C. are ordering—the Corporations must be certain that not only will they continue to have their own existing commitments maintained, because they have prepared for these commitments, but they will also get a proportionate increase in the traffic; and that this Bill will not result in a measure by which the independents only participate in the new and developing business.
Your Lordships may say that this is the sort of speech one might expect from this side of the House, in the same way that some of the speeches in another place from the other side would reflect the views of those who believe in competition at almost any price. But I hope that the Government and the Minister will give us a little reassurance on the matter, so that this Bill, admittedly, as I have said, introduced as the result of an Election pledge, will not in any way damage the great national interest that is invested in the Corporations.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I should like to join with the noble Lords, Lord Mills and Lord Shackleton, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Terrington, and his Committee for the excellent work they have done over the years. I remember on one occasion that we had a very happy trip together to the Channel Islands, where we enjoyed the scenery and the hospitality but also tried to stimulate civil aviation in that very charming part of the world. That is a good many years ago. It is many years since my noble friend Lord Terrington undertook this task which he has performed with such ability and, so far as I am aware, without any criticism on the part of anyone—in fact, praise from all. I think it is high time that the Government introduced this Bill because, quite obviously, in a rapidly expanding industry like civil aviation a Bill which was passed some twelve or fourteen years ago must get a little out of date as time goes on, and I think it is high time for this Bill.
As the noble Lord, Lord Mills, has said, our attention and the attention of the public was drawn to the problem particularly by the Southall disaster, but there were many other indications that things were not quite right, particularly at the time of Cyprus and of Suez. I myself heard a number of very disturbing stories about some of the charter companies which were using aircraft and imposing tremendous strain upon their crews in getting them to fly out to Cyprus. They had to sleep in the aircraft for security reasons while the aircraft was in Cyprus, and then they would come back and, with inadequate rest, go up again. Therefore I think it is high time this Bill was put before your Lordships and that these regulations were prepared by the Ministry concerned.
Having said that, I also think that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, is right when he says that the independent operators, under the existing situation, have sometimes been able to take advantage of it, to the detriment of the Corporations. This is not, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, implied, a sort of anti-Corporation measure, or should not be, by any means, because I think that these people take advantage of it. The last time I was in West Africa, which I think 606 was last year, the B.O.A.C. manager there complained bitterly to me that this was happening. He had to provide a service for B.O.A.C. to West Africa all the year round; and then a charter service would come in, would take the cream of the traffic, would use his facilities—his engine shops, and so on, for any minor repairs or checking up that had to be made—and would then go off again, leaving the unfortunate manager in West Africa to provide a service for his aircraft all the year round, for the not so good parts of the season, as well as for the height of the season. Of course, at the height of the season, when the schoolchildren are taken out, and then later on taken back, the traffic can be very lucrative indeed.
I have one or two points, and, despite the lateness of the hour from our point of view and of what they would call in theatrical terms the thinness of the audience, I think that as this is an important Bill one should spend a little time on it. I do not quite see the point in Clause 1, that the Air Transport Licensing Board should have the general duty of furthering the development of British civil aviation. Surely this is the duty of the Ministry: it is not the duty of the Board. I should have thought that that was a duty (it is not in any way, I may say, relevant to the succeeding clauses) which they could not be expected to perform and should not be expected to perform. The duty of furthering the development of British civil aviation is the Minister's responsibility and that of the Ministry, which is his instrument. We should not let him "get away" with that. Apart from that, so far as Clause 2 is concerned, I think that the two noble Lords who preceded me, if I may respectfully say so, are looking at the matter from too narrow an angle. They are thinking of it in terms of the Corporations and of the existing charter companies.
Recently there has been evolved, or there is in the process of being evolved, in this country an entirely revolutionary invention which is going to alter completely the whole situation so far as air transport, and possibly ground transport, here and elsewhere, is concerned. I refer to the jet-sustained, wingless vehicles, made possible by the development of the jet engine. These wingless vehicles will 607 be driven along the roads when necessary, and will be taken up into the air when necessary. They will give complete mobility and flexibility. When the noble Lord, Lord Mills, said that the regulations under the Bill were being developed on the lines of those for a bus service, I was very glad to hear it, because a bus service, in fact, is what we shall see. In my view, we are going to see in a very short space of time in this country jet-propelled, wingless buses which will no longer be tied to the roads (they will do more than anything else to relieve the congestion of the roads) but which will be able to take off into the air.
The Bill as it is at present drawn seems to me to have no regard whatsoever to this development, which may come much faster than the civil servants and the Ministry of Aviation think. Clause 2 talks about all these restrictive things; about whether there is likely to be wasteful duplication, and so on—again having regard to the sort of services which are now provided by B.O.A.C. It asks such questions as: "Is it wasteful to have another service to Singapore?". But it has little regard to the fact that we may have very many services to Manchester from London, Birmingham, Cardiff, and so on; and I am not at all sure that these subsections in Clause 2 are going to be elastic enough to deal with that sort of situation when it arises: in other words, whether the rather narrow point of view of those who drew up this Bill will enable them to deal with the sort of situation which I envisage will come about in quite a short time.
For some reason—I do not quite know why, but for some reason—in this Bill the Air Transport Licensing Board is going to have the responsibility of prohibiting, or the power to prohibit, aerial advertising and propaganda. I do not think that this is their business. Here again, this is the Minister's business: it has nothing to do with them. This is, I take it, something which a person is not going to do as a general rule. He will go up at some particular time, such as a Coronation, a Royal wedding, the Opening of Parliament, or something like that. People will take an aircraft up and will do this sort of advertising at that time. A fine is to be 608 imposed on a person who does that sort of thing. Now prohibiting that sort of action is surely, again, a matter for the Ministry, and should not come within the purview of this Board at all.
But, if it does come within the purview of this Licensing Board, I should like to ask this question: is it possible to deal with the matter of noise, which seems to me to be equally tantalising and annoying, whether it is concerned with advertising somebody's soap or beer or whether it is simply concerned with the taking of photographs? I gather that when the Royal yacht was lying in the Pool of London the other day great annoyance was caused by five helicopters manœuvring round it, trying to take photographs of it, making a tremendous noise, which upset a lot of people. That is just as much a nuisance as an aircraft which flies across with a streamer behind it exhorting people to buy someone's detergent or to drink someone's beer. In fact, the annoyance may be a great deal more, because you can avoid looking at the streamer, but it is very difficult to avoid listening to the noise.
Finally, I should like to give a word of commendation to the Minister and to the noble Lord, Lord Mills, on the fact that a quite extraordinary situation which has lasted throughout the years is now, under this Bill, coming to an end. The Scottish, the Welsh and the Northern Irish advisory authorities are going to be advisory authorities to the Minister. Up to now, they have been advisory only to B.E.A., and not to the Minister. I think it is high time that that situation was ended, and that they were true advisory committees to the Minister. I am glad now that there is going to be a change, and that the Minister is going to be advised, and not Lord Douglas of Kirtleside. I also hope that something will be done about that advice, because up to now nothing has been done about it. So far as Wales is concerned, at any rate, nothing whatever has been done about it. Year after year the Welsh Advisory Council has been making the most detailed and most forceful representations, and nothing whatever has been done about them—it has been a complete dead letter.
I started the Rhoose Airport. At that time there was no international airport anywhere in Wales. I started it, and it 609 was opened by my successor in 1951 or 1952, or thereabouts. In spite of the fact that Rhoose Airport, which is the only international airport in Wales, was opened in 1951 or 1952 (I have forgotten the exact date), the Government ever since have failed to make it possible for the bigger aircraft, even the Viscount, to land there. Surely it is quite time that that was remedied. It is not difficult to lengthen the runway.
Secondly, year after year, the proposition has been put forward that there should be an air ferry between Wales and Ireland. There was very nearly not an air ferry between this country and France, but I personally gave Silver City Airways their first 10-year licence, which shows the noble Lord that we were able to get round some of the restrictive practices in the original Act, even in those days. As the result of my granting them a licence, they were able to buy the necessary planes and to develop the very successful ferry service which runs between Kent and Le Touquet and other French airfields. Why is there no service between Wales and Ireland? The Irish want it and have pressed for it. When I was in Ireland last year the Ministers themselves pressed me, and when I came back I had a talk with the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, who was sympathetic. But nothing has been done. The reason is that the Air Ministry will not undertake to keep Valley Airfield open for this purpose. They will not give any rights whatsoever to the Irish, or any security of tenure.
In my view, it is ridiculous. Here is an opportunity to encourage the great growth of traffic there would be between Ireland and England. There are independent operators (not the Corporations) who are ready to operate this service, but because of the restrictive attitude of the Air Ministry, which other Ministers in the Government have not in any way tried to loosen up, or been successful in loosening up, we have no air ferry service. Here is a bit of enterprise, of private enterprise, which the Government have singularly failed to encourage. There is no excuse for it. All they have to do is to say to the independent operators that they will undertake to keep Valley Airport open for, say, five years. Then we should get a good car ferry service betwen Anglesey and Dublin. It is wanted by the Irish; it is wanted by 610 the Welsh, and by the operators; it is wanted by all the people who would like to take their cars to Ireland, of whatever nationality they may be. Yet this big development in tourist trade and aviation has been completely sterilised by the fact that the Government have not taken any steps in the matter whatsoever. I hope that the new Advisory Committee will have some "teeth" in it, and I hope that the first thing they will do is to bite the Secretary of State for. Air and make him do something about an air ferry service to Ireland.
§ 7.24 p.m.
My Lords, we must greatly welcome this Bill, because in this country at the moment there is an enormous thirst for world travel and the vast majority of people have to indulge in it on a "shoestring" budget. Of course, the temptation is to travel as cheaply as possible, either through bulk arrangements with the travel agencies or by direct arrangement. Under these new arrangements, one hopes that there will be no chance of "shoestring" air operators being allowed to function at all, and so the general public can receive some assurance that the services of independent operators will be just as carefully and safely run as those of any of the Corporations.
There is one small aspect of the Bill which I think is not quite satisfactory—that is, the question of licensing, which has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. My noble friend who introduced the Bill drew a comparison with the system of operating passenger bus services. The operator of surface passenger transport—bus operators; and perhaps the railways, though I am not sure in their case—want to make sun., that they have full rights of representation when the question of granting air licences comes up. An Amendment to Clause 2 of the Bill was moved in Standing Committee in another place and the Minister gave certain assurances, upon which the Amendment was withdrawn. But when those assurances, which at first sight seemed ample, came to be examined more carefully, they did not seem to be quite so satisfactory as at first thought. In fact, they boiled down to saying that he intended to provide the arrangement by regulations. Operators would like 611 to see this set out in the Bill, because they believe—and I think that they are right—that the spread of various competing forms of air transport is going to make great strides in this country and it is important to see that we do not have too much wasteful duplication of services. I do not know whether the Minister, after examination, will see fit to put down an Amendment to bring this right definitely into the Bill; but if he does not, I expect that I shall put down an Amendment on Committee stage.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, about sky advertising, but I should have thought that it was more a matter for the Home Secretary than for the Board. The matter of photographs is likely to be a potential annoyance, and in this case, again, I do not know whether that should come under the Board or under the Home Office. Anyway, I am doubtful whether the Air Licensing Board are the right people to prescribe regulations about this form of nuisance. With that proviso, I heartily support the Bill.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, regretted that certain noble Lords and, in particular, my noble friend Lord Terrington were prohibited from giving us the benefit of their expert knowledge. All I should like to say is that the noble Lord himself has great expert knowledge and we have had the benefit of it, and I am glad that on the whole he supports this Bill. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for joining in the tribute to my noble friend Lord Terrington.
My right honourable friend the Minister intends to rely on the advice and help of the Air Transport Advisory Council until the Air Transport Licensing Board is functioning. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, quite rightly, that this Bill has been introduced in accordance with a pledge given at the General Election, but he attributed that pledge to the noble Lord the Minister of Aviation. That is true only in so far as he was a member of the Government. At that time he was not Minister of Aviation but Minister of Defence. The object of the Bill is really to further British civil 612 aviation. We expect that the Corporations and the independents will both share in the expansion which surely lies before us. I am certain that there has been no what the noble Lord was pleased to call "private enterprise prejudice" in the consideration of this matter. Our aim has been to advance British civil aviation by all the means at our disposal, and I think we must all be proud of the part which B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. have played in the development up to date. Many of us, if not all of us, have travelled on their lines and have seen at first hand what they have been doing.
The noble Lord expressed some dissatisfaction with Clause 2, and no doubt he will let us have the benefit of his views when the Bill comes to be considered in Committee. But I should have thought that Clause 2 is pretty definite: it places on the Boards that they should consider, in particular, certain things which are laid down in the Bill. The noble Lord says that that is not mandatory. It is difficult to see how it could be mandatory. But it is clearly laid down in Clause 2 what they are to consider, and I should have thought that they would not be carrying out their duty if they failed to consider any of the matters laid down in that clause. The noble Lord asked for some reassurance that the Corporations would have a proportion of the increase in the traffic. I think that is our intention: that both the Corporations and the independents should share in the expansion of the traffic, always having regard to what the Minister is seeking to do—namely, to promote British civil aviation. Surely the great means at his disposal are these two Corporations which have built up such a fine reputation and fine business.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore referred to charter lines taking the cream of the traffic, and of course that has occurred. But it is hoped that this Bill will give everybody the opportunity of sharing in expansion, and the Minister has the Licensing Board as one of his weapons to see that that is done. The noble Lord rather quarrelled with the phrase in the Bill that they are to further the development of British civil aviation, and said that that was the job of the Minister. Of course it is the job of the Ministry, but they must have certain bodies through 613 which they can see that this responsibility in the matter is carried out; and surely the Air Transport Licensing Board is such a body. Its decision will help the Minister normally to carry out his responsibilities in the matter.
§ LORD OGMORE
I do not object to that, so long as it is clearly realised that these words, which I still think are very wide for a Board of this kind, do not absolve the Minister and the Ministry from their duty; and it is their duty to develop British civil aviation.
§ LORD MILLS
I can only tell the noble Lord that in my view it does not absolve the Minister, but it places upon the Air Transport Licensing Board the responsibility for seeing that, in carrying out their duties their job, too, is to advise on the development of British civil aviation in the best and most appropriate way. I was interested to hear the noble Lord's faith in the new and exciting British invention—I think he was referring to the hovercraft.
§ LORD OGMORE
I did not refer to the S.R.1, or whatever it is called, which goes across the water. I was referring to what they call the wingless jet aircraft, which does not depend upon a cushion of air but is a jet; it used at one time to be called a "flying bedstead".
§ LORD MILLS
I am sorry to have misunderstood the noble Lord; I can quite see now what he meant. I have not studied these clauses in relation to that, but I am sure the point will be studied by the Minister and I am grateful to the noble Lord for drawing attention to the matter.
In regard to the prohibition of aerial advertisement, that has been carefully considered, and it was thought that it was something we could well do without. There are aspects of it even from the safety point of view, as well as from what I may term the nuisance point of view. Nor does anyone like unnecessary noise in the air, and the whole question of noise nuisance is being considered.
The noble Lord gave us some interesting information under the heading of the Regional Advisory Boards with particular reference to Wales. I am sure my 614 right honourable friend the Minister will have regard to what he has had to say in that respect. So far as Valley Airport is concerned, that has been under careful and active consideration in which the Air Ministry have taken part. I am afraid that I have no further news to give the noble Lord on that matter, but again his views will be carefully considered.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hawke for his general support of the Bill. I should have thought that the matter to which he drew attention—the question of other people having a say in these decisions—was covered by the Bill. But as he says, the Minister gave assurances in another place. I will see that attention is drawn to that matter, and if it is necessary to do anything I am sure it will be raised in Committee. I am grateful to noble Lords for their help and attention to this matter.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.