§ Mr. Edelman
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Civil Aviation whether, in the light of the recommendations of the Helmore Committee, he will make a statement about the future of the Air Registration Board.
§ Mr. Beswick
My noble Friend has already indicated the recommendations of the Helmore Committee which he is able to accept. The main recommendations of the Helmore Committee concerning the Air Registration Board were that its annual deficits should be met from public funds and that the Board should be reconstituted, the Members being appointed by the Minister instead of being nominated by aviation interests such as constructors, operators and insurers. In reaching these conclusions the Committee, to which my noble Friend is much indebted, were I think influenced by the heavy loss which the Board was expected to suffer and by the possibility that, if that loss fell on public funds, closer Government control over the Board would be necessary.
Since the publication of the Report, my Department has had discussions with the Board which have resulted in a reorganisation of the finances of the Board. My Ministry has agreed to refund the cost of certain services performed by the Board on its behalf, and certain statutory 56W fees, notably those for prototypes, have been increased. As a result of these arrangements the estimated deficit of the Board will be reduced to small proportions. Contributions to the Board's annual deficit, if any, will be made in agreed proportions by my Ministry and the independent guarantors. In these circumstances, my noble Friend has decided that there is no need to reconstitute the Board and that the close and harmonious relationship which now exists between the Board and the aviation interests concerned would best be preserved by retaining its present independent status.
My noble Friend is satisfied that the Board, under its distinguished Chairman, Lord Brabazon, is most competent in the highly technical field in which it labours. It has rendered outstanding service in the establishment of post-war standards of airworthiness problems. Its reputation at home and abroad stands high and we are confident that it will continue to maintain the highest standards of efficiency in the future discharge of its responsibilities.