Orders of the Day — Airways Corporations Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th June 1949.

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Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield 12:00 am, 29th June 1949

Provided that applies only to maintenance I withdraw what I have said, but I was told that it actually meant more than just maintenance of aircraft operating the route. I think it is a disaster that the B.S.A.A. team should be broken up, as undoubtedly it will be. Aircrews are going on to conversion forces in September. Nothing at all has been said about the ground engineers, the maintenance staff, and I should like to have an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that there will be no redundancy among these men. There is very little fat on B.S.A.A. today; the Corporation has been run in a very economical way, in so far as staff are concerned. It is feared that the men to be merged into the larger Corporation will find themselves out of work, and if the Parliamentary Secretary can make an announcement which will satisfy these men it will give great relief.

A year ago B.S.A.A., who were expanding at that time, had a staff in London of about 170. Today, it is approaching 400 to 500. Is this to continue? With the country in an economic crisis such as we are faced with now, we cannot afford to have Corporations run in the way in which they are being run. We are told that economies have taken place, and are taking place, which I do not doubt, but there are many men in these Corporations who could well be dispensed with and I hope the Minister will impress on the managements of the Corporations, when the Bill becomes law, as it undoubtedly will, the need to bring about real and effective economies. If they do not, then the savings and economies which are expected will not be effected.

I should like to refer briefly to the "Princess" S.R.45 flying boat. Having talked to engineers of Messrs. Saunders Roe, I believe that the British aircraft industry has something really good in this aircraft, something which, so far as we know, the Americans have not got. It is promising well, and I believe that when it comes into operation it may attract a tremendous amount of traffic. I would like to feel that the Government intend to place an order for an additional four flying boats—if I may put that point especially to the Minister of Supply, who is having a doze at the moment. I am sorry to disturb his rest, but I must tell him that Messrs. Saunders Roe would be much happier if he could say that another four flying boats had been ordered. I hope some decision will be taken in the near future on this matter.

B.S.A.A. have always been flying-boat minded. It was thought that B.O.A.C. were not, but my information is that they are becoming more flying-boat minded now, and I hope that Sir Miles Thomas, whom I wish well in his new post as chairman, and Mr. Whitney Straight, on the operational side, will see that those under them learn something about the advantages of flying boats, and that this great venture gets a real chance in operation. I was told that flying-boat berth No. 50 at Southampton was equivalent in cost to 200 yards of the runway at Filton. That is a problem. I am pointing out the merits of the flying boat because B.S.A.A. were most keen on making a success of that side of their flying operations.

We were told by the Government that there was an estimated loss for 1949–50 of £5½ million between the Corporations. I should like to know how that will be split up under the new arrangement? I believe that B.O.A.C. have acted prematurely in this matter of merging with B.S.A.A. I do not want to bring in personalities, but I believe that some of the more senior staff of B.S.A.A. have already moved their offices into B.O.A.C. premises. I do not believe that Parliament enacts laws to see them flouted by nationalised industries or anyone else, and it would have been far better if these people had heard or read what was being said today before acting like a rubber stamp. It is a slur on Parliament that such action should have already taken place.

As I say, engineers are against this merger and so are aircrews. I should like to know who is for it other than the managements? It seems that the Government are for it because it may be convenient when further losses are incurred. They eventually want one Corporation; I believe they want to get the whole thing under one administration, so that they can do what they like with aviation. In the meantime, I wish the operating side of the industry well. It has a great chance, though there are tremendous difficulties ahead. We can ill afford extravagance and wrong decisions. If it is necessary now to have one Corporation to cover the North and South Atlantic routes, it was necessary a few years ago. Things have not changed to that extent. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give us an answer to the points which have been put to him today.