asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if, in the light of recent decisions by the Civil Aeronautics Board in the United States of America concerning transatlantic fares, and the introduction into United States legislatures of legislation aimed specifically at hindering Concorde, he will now seek to discuss with his European partners the establishment of a European Air Transportation Association, in order to combat action taken or proposed by the United States authorities.
There is already close consultation on a wide range of air transport policy matters among European Governments, through the European Civil Aviation Conference. We are constantly considering how European co-operation on air transport matters might be improved, but I am not as yet convinced that a European Air Transportation Association would necessarily be the most effective means to this end.
I was glad to hear my hon. Friend use the words "as yet". Does he recall the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the conference of IATA at the end of last year when he pressed that body to accept the need and the demand for low fares? Is not my hon. Friend aware that for a quarter of a century IATA has been more or less dominated by United States carriers? Is it not about time that Europe, with its new-found strength through unity, made its voice and wishes in this matter felt?
I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree nevertheless that if there are to be low fares across the Atlantic, the pressure on this side must be matched by a corresponding willingness on the other side.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to an advertisement in which Pan American says that it is not prepared to offer fares that are different from those of other scheduled airlines? The fact is that British airlines are prepared to operate across the Atlantic for far less than are the Americans. Why should not passengers have the right to travel at fares at which our airlines can afford to sell the seats?