HL Deb 28 November 1984 vol 457 cc900-1

2.57 p.m.

Lord Reilly

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 whether they have any views on the commissioning of American designers to redesign the appearance of British Airways' aeroplanes.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the choice of designers was a matter for the commercial judgment of British Airways' management.

Lord Reilly

My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for that Answer, which does not surprise me? May I ask whether he is aware that the decision of British Airways not only runs counter to the Prime Minister's many admirable initiatives in the field of design, but has greatly discouraged the whole of the British design profession and not least our very excellent graphic designers? Is it not sad that the organisation which has been exhorting us all to "fly the flag" should set such a bad example?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I understand that the initial choice of the American firm as design consultants was carried out by a competitive process, and for that reason I do not think I would wish to criticise British Airways in the way that the noble Lord suggests.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the ability of Her Majesty's Government to lean on nationalised industries whenever they think fit is very well known indeed, and is there any reason why the Government should not have leant on British Airways in these circumstances? Is the noble Lord aware that if the implications of his answer are accepted, then the strictures of Sir Michael Edwardes on the quality of British management become abundantly justified, and is he also aware that design is an integral part of all competition? Will the noble Lord bear that in mind when he seeks either directly or by implication to lay the whole burden of international competitiveness on the wage earners of this country, as distinct from management, designers, research and development, and all the rest?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, as the noble Lord will be aware, we are approaching the moment when British Airways will, we hope, be passed into private hands. For that reason, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport has made it clear to British Airways that they should be operating on a proper commercial basis. That is what they are doing and I decline to criticise them for that.

Lord Somers

My Lords, do we really want our planes to look like American planes? Will the Government possibly commission some American architects to make London look like New York?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I imagine that any such proposals would fail the competitive process.

Lady Saltoun

My Lords, does the noble Lord not agree that the passenger does not care what the aircraft looks like, but that all he cares about is that it is safe and comfortable?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am afraid that history tends to prove the noble Lady wrong. The fact is that British Airways, like all major international airlines, operates in an international environment and has to compete in the international market place and must, therefore, make its arrangements accordingly.

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