HL Deb 26 June 1984 vol 453 cc777-8
Lord Gainford

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 when the officials appointed by the European Council of Ministers to introduce greater competition into European aviation will publish their report.

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

My Lords, the working party of high level representatives of the member states and the Commission is due to report to the Ministers before the end of this year. Such reports are not generally published. We hope however that the Council will quickly take decisions on the report. Any such decisions will of course be made public immediately after the Council meeting in the normal manner.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his Answer. Considering the fact that in a lot of people's minds is the possibility of cheaper fares in and around Europe, is there any possibility of an announcement being made of further reductions in fares from this country to destinations abroad and inside the United Kingdom as well?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, my noble friend will perhaps have heard the recent announcement in connection with services between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, which is a first step in that direction. As for a wider reduction in fares in Europe, that is something we should very much favour, but it depends upon agreements being reached between the governments concerned.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, can the Minister say how many bilateral agreements permit more than one British carrier on routes in Europe? Can he explain why independent airlines in this country are expressing great concern that the privatisation of British Airways might create something like a monopoly, which will injure those airlines?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I do not think that it is true that a monopoly will be created by the privatisation of British Airways, because of course there is always competition not only among British carriers on a particular route but between British carriers and other national carriers. The noble Lord was quite right when he implied in the earlier part of his supplementary question that very few of the bilateral agreements permit the operation of more than one British carrier on routes to Europe. However, one of the results of the recent agreement with the Netherlands will be an end to that situation so far as flights to that country are concerned. The Government very much hope that that can be achieved in connection with other countries as well.

Baroness Burton of Coventry

My Lords, does the Minister's reply to the original Question mean that we shall know only of those recommendations which are accepted by the governments? If that is the case, is it not unfortunate, and would it not be better if we knew also of those which were unacceptable and the reasons for that?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the deliberations in the Council of Ministers are not normally revealed in detail; but, going on past form, I would not be surprised if a good many of the proposals which do not see the light of day become known at least to the noble Baroness.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, following on the point that the noble Lord was good enough to make about the agreement with the Netherlands, may I ask him whether he agrees that that agreement for reduced fares reveals the extent of the cartelised racket in air fares in Europe at the present time? On reflection, does he also agree that, instead of leaving this matter to his noble friend Lord Bethell to deal privately with the European Court, it might have been a good move if the initiative had come from the Government themselves?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, there has been no shortage of initiatives from the Government in this matter, starting when this Government came to power, and not least during the time when I had some responsibility for these matters in 1981. But the noble Lord is quite right to imply that progress in these matters has been lamentably slow. The Government very much regret that and are doing all that they can to speed things up.

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