British Overseas Airways Corporation had already withdrawn from the route before I took office and under our various bilateral agreements British United Airways had been designated to exercise traffic rights in its place. British Overseas Airways Corporation, having made the necessary changes, does not wish to resume the service, which it could not have done in any event without a delay involving a further period when no British operator would have been on the route. I therefore decided that it would not be desirable to reverse what had already been done. British United Airways is now operating the service under a temporary exemption from licensing which had already been granted and I do not propose to upset this arrangement pending a decision by the Air Transport Licensing Board on the unopposed application now before it.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House will be very glad to hear that he has repudiated his right hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Frederick Lee), who made some foolish remarks during the election campaign? Is he also aware that some of us on this side of the House are anxious that he should give B.U.A. all the assistance it needs regarding traffic rights with Brazil? Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will give all the help that he possibly can?
I do not think that there is any question of repudiating my right hon. Friend's remarks. I was confronted with a situation in which B.O.A.C. had withdrawn from 1st September, and I had to deal with that situation as it pre- sented itself. In these circumstances, it is only in the interests of everybody that B.U.A. should be given the fullest assistance in negotiating traffic rights with the Governments concerned.
Under Section 15 of the Act there is a statutory obligation on the company to do this, and I think that in the case of these services the old differential between pilot salaries would not operate.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that both his right hon. Friend the Minister of Power and his hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin), purporting to speak officially on behalf of the Labour Party, during the election campaign most violently attacked the decision of his predecessor in respect of B.U.A. and the South American route? Is not the right hon. Gentleman in effect now saying that this was the right decision to have made and that he intends to continue it?
No, Sir. I was confronted with a particular position. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman and the House will recognise that there was nothing in my Answer indicating that I would have got into this position had I had my present responsibilities earlier. But I was confronted with this position and I dealt with it in what I thought in all the circumstances was the best way.