Is the Minister aware that great consternation has been caused by the cancellation of these services which were carrying more than 1,000 passengers a week, and that it will be more difficult during the winter, with no boat service? Is he further aware that the loss was in large measure due to the fact that 91 per cent. of the cost was for landing charges, which was the figure given to the Select Committee on Estimates, and if that charge were not made, would this service be run at a loss?
In the first instance, if there was this great enthusiasm for the service, the density of use by the population would have been greater. In fact, the use was small in relation to the capacity available. So far as the charges are concerned, the statement to the Estimates Committee was, I am afraid, an inaccurate statement. The correct figure would have been 71 per cent. The statement made to the Estimates Committee was not made by the Ministry.
While congratulating the hon. Gentleman himself on escaping from recent suspensions, may I ask him to publish the total figure of the loss. Will the hon. Gentleman say whether a private charter company would be allowed to run this service as a schedule service in order to prove what the demand would be under efficient private management.
In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, there is an appropriate opportunity given to the House when the accounts of the Corporation are presented and are under discussion. As to the second part of the question, to permit a scheduled service would be at variance with the Civil Aviation Act.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether it was or was not, at one time, possible for this service to be run profitably by a private company, and if that was so, would it not be possible for the Corporation to show a sufficient demand for the service?
Before the war this service was run by a private company, but I have no information in regard to its cost or whether there was a profit or a loss. In fact, the general increase in the cost of aircraft operations has materially increased the charges.