HL Deb 19 July 1976 vol 373 cc510-2

2.51 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any information to give the House on the negotiation of a new Air Agreement to replace the present Bermunda Air Agreement which is to be abrogated early in 1977.


My Lords, the Government reached the conclusion that the time had come to replace the Bermuda Agreement with a new agreement more appropriate to the conditions prevailing in the 1970s. Under the Bermuda Agreement, the United States has been deriving far greater benefits than we have. In addition, a number of improvements to make it function more efficiently were manifestly required. We shall work constructively with the United States authorities in order to secure the establishment of a more equitable and rational agreement to succeed the present one after 21st June 1977.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that Answer, may I ask whether he can now tell us who will be leading our negotiating team? Can he assure us that that team will also comprise representatives of the British airlines as technical advisers?


My Lords, it is too early to give that information to the noble Earl, but I can tell him that a team has been in Washington this last week making preliminary arrangements and that there has been a very satisfactory meeting there. A series of meetings is scheduled for September to study the issues involved.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord to say whether the Government expect any serious progress in these negotiations to be made before the new President is inaugurated next year?


I would certainly hope so, my Lords. I understand that last week the atmosphere was such that the Americans are as anxious as we are to press ahead to an early conclusion.


My Lords, in view of the very great importance to our nation of any new agreement, may I ask the noble Lord whether the Government would consider laying a White Paper of the proposals for any new agreement before finality and signature comes about?


My Lords, I will put that point to my right honourable friend the Minister.