Civil Aviation Policy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th February 1976.

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Photo of Mr Terence Walker Mr Terence Walker , Kingswood 12:00 am, 26th February 1976

It is regrettable that so much of the debate has been taken up on the Skytrain issue when the whole debate is about the future aviation policy of this country as set out in Cmnd 6400. The major issue facing us is what is best for Great Britain If we do not work out the best policy, I am sure that our competitors will laugh all the way to the bank and get a greater share of the market.

It is sufficient to say that if Skytrain—this is a valid argument which has been made—had been allowed to go ahead in the conditions likely to prevail in the North Atlantic market in the next few years following the oil crisis, it would have been particularly damaging to British Airways. This point has been laboured quite enough in the debate. We have a capacity-sharing agreement with the Americans, and permission for Laker Airways to run Skytrain would have led to the Americans running one of their own. Chaos would have resulted, and the casualty would have been British Airways.

The adjustment of the existing routes network, which has been agreed in the White Paper, is in my view sensible, and I applaud the Secretary of State's decision in coming out strongly, as he has done, against dual designation. We cannot bolster British Caledonian at the expense of British Airways. British Caledonian should be well satisfied with the routes it has been allocated, and I believe that the Secretary of State is right at the moment not to seek to take it into public ownership, in view of the redundancies.

It is right that British Airways must have their fair share of the routes which were taken away from them. They are a publicly-owned national flag carrier and, as such, I believe that they must be protected by the Government. British Airways have a tremendous responsibility which they share with Air France in introducing the Concorde on to the world stage.

Some comments are made in the White Paper about Concorde, and I have a constituency interest in it. I hope the statement is correct that the operations of Concorde will be extended to fly to New York, Washington, Melbourne and Tokyo and that those routes will come to Britain, because they are the most lucrative routes.

The United States is seriously jeopardising the development and even the very existence of the Concorde project by the nonsense which is going on in New York about landing rights for Concorde at Kennedy Airport. Investment and the jobs of workers are being put seriously in jeopardy. I hope that there will be some breakdown of the market between the American and British carriers across the Atlantic, because this is very relevant to the debate.

It may be that it is time we took some action to protect our carriers against the action which is being taken by the Americans over Concorde, and, although I recognise and greatly welcome what is said in the White Paper, I ask for the continued vigilance of the Secretary of State in terms of the future of Concorde on which so many of our hopes depend.