Airspace Restrictions

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd April 1995.

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Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen , South Hams 12:00 am, 3rd April 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the use by EU countries of restricting airspace as a means of restricting competition. [15698]

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

It is the Government's policy to oppose any measure that unduly restricts competition in the air transport single market.

Photo of Anthony Steen Anthony Steen , South Hams

When British Midland was given enough slots to become the second British carrier to fly to Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels, fares dropped by about a third and the percentage share of passengers using those services went up from about 40 to 60 per cent. Will the Minister therefore consider using, if not public money, then money raised from the private sector, to invest in the necessary technology to provide new and additional slots out of London? In that way, additional British carriers could fly on the other trunk routes—which have only British Airways here and the state airline at the other end in Europe—and so provide increased competition and reduced fare prices to the consumer.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

If my hon. Friend is talking about flights in Europe, he will be pleased to remember that the 1993 liberalisation package, behind which we were a major moving force, has provided opportunities precisely to enable greater competition and greater access for British carriers to the transfer of passengers in other European countries. If he is talking about services beyond Europe, I assure him that, as we pursue bilateral liberalisation arrangements with other countries, we always seek to enhance British carriers' prospects.

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson , Stoke-on-Trent South

Does not the Secretary of State agree that one of the greatest restrictions on airspace is its reservation for military use both in this country and in the European Union? Does that not restrict commercial carriers in obtaining the additional slots that they require? Has he assessed that position recently? If he has, will he advise us on the outcome of that assessment? If he has not, is he about to assess the position?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney The Secretary of State for Transport

There we go again: anything to reduce the country's defence capabilities finds an echo on the Labour Benches. But perhaps that is not surprising from the party that has just brought forward a new rewording of clause IV, which inadvertently happened to omit NATO from its words.