Orders of the Day — Air Travel Reserve Fund Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th February 1975.

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Photo of Mr Brian Sedgemore Mr Brian Sedgemore , Luton West 12:00 am, 20th February 1975

I shall not give way.

I still hold the view I took in the Tribune on 23rd August 1974. Summarising the collapse of Court Line, I wrote: Anyone who has followed the situation closely over the past year can only realise that Court Line's insolvency was not caused by inflation, the three-day week, oil prices, Cyprus, rumours in the city, acts of god or any of the other excuses now being trotted out.The insolvency came about through the calculated and disastrous policies of the management; the purchase of two bum under-pricing holiday firms, Clarkson and Horizon; too many directors; lack of delegation; a complete reliance on new aircraft; an overextending of the company's financial position with the purchases of Caribbean Hotels, TriStar and an aviation company in the Leeward Isles; financial control systems that daunted even an expert like Rupert Nicholson; a failure to consult staff over important issues; and finaly a refusal to adapt to the decline in bookings, oil crisis, etc. I was sure that was right then, and I am sure it is right now.

I bitterly regret that this was turned into a party political issue, since hon. Members know that Court Line Limited made two payments to the Conservative Party. There was no intention on the part of Court Line to demand payment for the use of "Halcyon Days", the aircraft used by the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) in the election, or to claim that money which amounted to several thousands of pounds. The Opposition know that the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Sir T. Kitson) was able to use a Court Line executive jet to fly up to a military air station—how did he get permission?—the day after the election simply to look at his count. They must know of taxis being used by the Conservative Party but which were booked by an aviation firm. If I wish to fly on Court Line, the company does not book taxis for me from London to Luton and then mark them down to the cost of the aviation company.