§ Moved, That the House do now adjourn.—(Viscount Hailsham.)
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I gave your Lordships notice that I might return to the matter which was announced in the Press this morning, about changing the ownership and control (those are the words used) of the civil aerodromes. However, I am going to say very little. I have heard since from the Press that legislation will be required on this matter and no doubt the actual substance of any criticism can best be made when we are dealing with the legislation. I am a little upset because we have only just had a sight of this White Paper for a day or two and then the Government's decision comes out on this matter, on which I expect the noble and learned Viscount recognises our views. I do not say that we shall generally oppose the substance of the White Paper. To have this announced as a final Government decision on the very day that Parliament is adjourning for two and a half months seems to indicate that it has not been too well managed to get our complete support. I just wanted to make that point.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I support my noble friend. This is a matter that we have discussed in the House. I generally support the Government's policy as set out in the White Paper, but it is going to leave the operators in great doubt on the financial implications. One of the most serious aspects of this is the declared intention of the Government that aerodromes will be self-supporting. We know that our own operators are at a handicap as compared with foreign operators, because they are the greatest users of the international airports of this country. I think it is unfortunate that we shall have to wait until the autumn to debate this. It would be interesting to know when the Government hope to bring in legislation, as I assume they will have to, in order to give effect to the proposals.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I should like to support the two noble Lords who have spoken. I think it is unfortunate that we did not have an opportunity of debating this. We had an early night on Monday and a fairly early night on Tuesday, and I should have thought there was an opportunity to debate this, particularly as we are going away now for nearly three months. I am inclined to support the first part of the Government's proposals, relating to the Group 1 aerodromes; that is to say, the four major aerodromes. I think it is quite a good proposition that we should have aerodrome control and a separate corporation for that purpose. But I am very doubtful about the proposals with regard to Group 2; that is to say, with regard to the seven major airports which are to be handed over to local authorities. 309 There is no need to go into this now, but this does involve great difficulties, especially to the Welsh airport of Cardiff, which does not actually lie within the municipal boundaries of Cardiff, but lies within the boundaries of the neighbouring county of Glamorganshire. In the Welsh Press this morning already doubts are expressed as to who will run this airport. We are now going away with these great problems left unresolved so far as Parliament is concerned. We have in this House taken a great deal of interest in civil aviation for many years, and we have noble Lords here who have a good deal of experience on the subject.
There is a third group, of course, and those are the small airports in Scotland, which will be handed over—farmed out, as it were, like a lot of unwanted babies. That is a new idea altogether. It may be found to be a suitable idea and a good one, but I should have thought that it was the sort of principle that Parliament ought to consider at some length. Who are these agents—who are the "baby farmers"—who will look after these small ones? On what basis will they be remunerated? What subsidy will be exacted for them? What control will there be over them? Except for the Scilly Isles, they are all in the Islands and Highlands of Scotland, which have a great call upon our services and always have had in the past. As your Lordships will see, there are many problems—I have only touched on a few of them—raised by this White Paper which the Government have produced. For those reasons, I strongly support the objection raised by the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I really must say that I think noble Lords have been a little less than gracious to my right honourable friend about this matter. My right honourable friend has made it clear for some time that he was reviewing the whole situation of civil aerodrome management, and the Select Committee on Estimates of another place this Session also drew attention to the need for looking into it. My right honourable friend and the devoted staff which he commands have made a great effort to produce this White Paper in time to be in the hands 310 of Members of both Houses before they went away. It really does make one despair when the only thanks they get is to be told that it ought to have been out a good deal earlier. It has been done entirely for the convenience of Parliament, and Parliament has not been inconvenienced. A great effort has been made by all concerned to get this in the hands of Members so that they might have time to read it before the Recess.
The first group of aerodromes, the major international airports, will require legislation. The White Paper points out, as I think the noble Viscount said:The necessary legislation for establishing the Authority will be introduced when details of its structure and functions have been fully worked out and Parliamentary time is available.Obviously there is no need for an immediate Parliamentary debate before the Recess. The idea was—and I think it was right—that noble Lords should have the opportunity of studying these proposals and of being able to debate them in due course when the time arose.
As regards the second group of aerodromes, they are to be put under local ownership and management, with the support of local resources. The Government have already discussed these proposals in general terms with the Association of Municipal Corporations, the Aerodrome Owners' Association and the appropriate authorities in Scotland. They have also discussed the policy of decentralisation in Northern Ireland with the Northern Irish Government. In the White Paper it is stated that they propose to open negotiations in the near future with the appropriate authorities about the future arrangements for these airports. I should have thought that the right course was to put this White Paper in the hands of Members of both Houses of Parliament for them to study over the Recess. Nothing useful can be said until the negotiations which are adumbrated in paragraph 26 have gone a little further. The same applies to Group 3, to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred.
Obviously, we want to be as helpful as we can to Members of all Parties in both Houses of Parliament but I must say that I had thought in this case that the Civil Service, under my right honourable friend, had taken a great deal of 311 trouble to be of service to the House, and I do not think they ought to have been subjected to this kind of censure.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I think it is now perhaps the Leader of the House who is not being very gracious. I particularly cut short what I had to say to-night because I did not want to have it pursued. On the other hand, I can see that the noble Viscount wants to defend in a very loyal way his right honourable friend the Minister. Let me say this. We are concerned from time to time with decisions of the Minister. The Minister had made a decision in this case, and, as I have already said, I am not quite sure whether or not we shall agree on this particular matter. But a decision is announced within twenty-four hours of this White Paper being available for study. Therefore, Parliament, going up on that day, has no real opportunity of discussing it. If the announcement had been made two or three days earlier, with an hour's talk on the matter we might have been able to advise the Government and the Minister in some way so as to avoid making mistakes in the legislation which is required. Seeing how vexed we have already been with the further process the Government are taking in these matters which have been under nationalisation, with competition to be allowed against B.O.A.C. and cognate matters, I think we have a right to be suspicious as to what action is intended. Therefore, I still say that we should have had this White Paper two or three days before; or at least that the announcement of the Minister's decision on the matter should not have been made on the eve of a long Parliamentary vacation.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I ask whether the noble Viscount will now withdraw his remark that my noble friend's words have been a censure on the Civil Service? This is an entirely new constitutional doctrine which I should not have expected from the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, it may be that at this late hour I slipped up. I do not want to persist in anything that may have caused offence.