Orders of the Day — Civil Aviation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th February 1948.

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Photo of Mr Frank Beswick Mr Frank Beswick , Uxbridge 12:00 am, 26th February 1948

I hope the hon. and gallant Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the points he has made. I am not very familiar with the position in Northern Ireland, although I am sure that some of the comments he made will receive approval from the hon. and gallant Member for Derby (Group-Captain Wilcock). I agree with much in what I thought was the reasonable speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey). I thought that some of the points he made were extremely good. I wish that I could say the same for the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd). It seemed to me that his political vituperations were in inverse proportion to his practical experience of these matters in recent years. I thought that he was a little ungenerous in some of the remarks he made about the national Corporations. He spoke about them having everything their own way, about them being a monopoly, and said that he saw no reason why they should not have got on with the job in what he called a "sellers' market."

When he said that, I thought of one matter in which they had not a monopoly. I thought of the experience of British European Airways who opened up in a big way in my constituency at Northolt Airport. There, at any rate, they had not a monopoly of houses. I am very conscious of the acute difficulties they had when they first tried to start their services from Northolt. About 2,800 additional people came into the neighbourhood where the local authority already have 3,000 people on their waiting list for houses. The inevitable result was that many of the workers were separated from their families. At the start many of them were billeted in huts. They had to work in unheated hangers, with inadequate canteen facilities and so on. These were the men who maintained the aircraft and flew them with a nil accident record in the period under review. The comments of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford were a little ungenerous when he talked about them having everything their own way.

The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford also referred to the question of losses. With what seems to be the typical intellectual bankruptcy of some of the Tories, whom we often hear in this Committee, he claimed that these losses prove that the nationalisation of civil aviation has failed. In the same way, hon. Members opposite said that the nationalisation of coal mines failed because of the fuel crisis at the beginning of last year. The only difference between nationalisation now and private enterprise before the war, is that now the deficit is called a "loss" whereas before it was described as a "subsidy." I was surprised that the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford mentioned the dividends paid out by Imperial Airways before the war. In direct subsidies alone the taxpayer paid to these private airline companies before the war £383,000 in 1936–37; £500,000 in 1937–38; and £1,250,000 in 1938–39. At the same time Imperial Airways, as the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford said, were paying dividends of seven, eight, and nine per cent, to their shareholders.