HL Deb 09 February 1984 vol 447 cc1265-6
Baroness Burton of Coventry

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made concerning the review being conducted by the Civil Aviation Authority on the implications and development of the British airline industry consequent upon the proposed privatisation of British Airways; and when they expect to receive this report from the Civil Aviation Authority.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the Civil Aviation Authority wrote on 19th December to representatives of the British civil air transport industry and its users asking for their views by 31st January on the implications of privatisation for competition and the sound development of the industry. This is clearly a complex matter which will take some time, and I cannot forecast precisely when the review will be completed.

Baroness Burton of Coventry

My Lords, would the Minister agree that, in view of the emphasis now being placed by British Airways, British Caledonian and other airlines on the routes transfer issue, this must be one of the key matters and probably the most important of all in any review now taking place?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, certainly the matters to which the noble Baroness refers are among the very important issues that the CAA will be considering, but there are other issues as well.

Earl Amherst

My Lords, can the Minister tell us if, after privatisation, British Airways is to be known as the national flag carrier? Further, if there is to be a reallocation of routes, do the Government contemplate a renegotiation of the governmental bilateral air agreements?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I could not anticipate the outcome of the review which the CAA is presently undertaking, but doubtless the sort of matters to which the noble Earl refers will emerge from it.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord will have read the British Airways response. Did he note that in the response they made it quite clear that the question of privatisation is completely irrelevant to the question of competition and the development of the airline industry? In the light of this, will the Government reconsider their plans?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the British Airways contribution to the Civil Aviation Authority on this matter is one of no fewer than 67 submissions, but it will be studied carefully like all the rest. The view to which the noble Lord refers is, I know, the view of British Airways, but there are other views as well.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, may I anticipate the report just a little and ask the Minister whether the Government are still committed to the principle of competition as a means of achieving efficiency in this as in other industries?

Lord Trefgarne

Yes, of course, my Lords.

Baroness Burton of Coventry

My Lords, while appreciating that the Minister cannot say when this review will be completed, may I ask him this question. Would he agree that it is vital for the state of the civil aviation industry that it is made as soon as possible and, pending its completion, does it mean that there is no question of any routes being transferred to any other airlines in this country?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the question of the transfer of routes is one that I have no doubt will be considered by the CAA in the course of its study. There are certainly no plans for the sort of steps that the noble Baroness has in mind.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, when the Minister said that the Government would have to give a lot of consideration to this, is it not rather a pity that they did not give a lot of consideration to these matters before promising wholesale denationalisation?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I did not say that. It is the Civil Aviation Authority that is giving consideration to this matter. They will make their views known to my right honourable friend in due course.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, would not the noble Lord agree that a great deal has been achieved in British Airways under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord King of Wartnaby? Furthermore, and following a previous supplementary, would he not agree that this demonstrates that the question of ownership is largely irrelevant to the success or failure of an enterprise?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I certainly agree that under my noble friend's chairmanship British Airways has made a remarkable turnround.

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