HL Deb 08 December 1986 vol 482 cc981-2

2.50 p.m.

The Earl of Kinnoull:

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 is being made towards enabling British civil airliners to overfly Russian territory on the new routes to the Far East.

Lord Brabazon of Tara:

My Lords, our existing arrangements with the Soviet Union provide for them to consider sympathetically requests from British Airways, British Caledonian Airways and Cathay Pacific Airways to overfly Soviet territory while operating services routed over north India between London and/or points in central Europe on the one hand, and Delhi and/or Bangkok and/or Hong Kong on the other hand. We are now seeking arrangements under which British Airways and British Caledonian Airways may be able to overfly USSR territory on their proposed non-stop London-Tokyo services on the Siberian route.

The Earl of Kinnoull

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that helpful and encouraging reply, may I ask whether he will say how the negotiations with Japan are progressing? What is the likely timetable for the London direct flight to Tokyo to come into force? Finally, how many hours will be saved on the present route via Anchorage?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, as regards the Japanese, further negotiations will be necessary fairly soon, so they have not been drawn to a conclusion. However, provided they are soon brought to a satisfactory conclusion, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport hopes that the arrangements will be made sufficiently soon to enable British Airways and British Caledonian each to commence non-stop London to Tokyo services on 1st April 1987, as they planned. If the service comes into effect it will reduce the travelling time by up to six hours compared with the London-Anchorage-Tokyo route.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, are we to understand from the Minister's reply that no approaches have yet been made to the Soviet authorities? If not, is it proposed to do this before the new routes commence?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

Yes, my Lords, we have approached the Soviet authorities. It is not possible to be precise on the matter since agreement requires the consent of two parties, and I can only speak for one of them. I hope we shall reach mutually acceptable arrangements with the USSR within the next few weeks.