Because of the fundamental changes in the nature of air transport & in the relationship of the industry to the community, it is essential for aviation policy to be brought up-to-date. Seekings offers his view on the pattern of air transport
466th issue of the CPC series.
by FREDERICK CORFIELD (Minister of State, Board of Trade)
Having followed the course of this booklet since its inception, it gives me great pleasure to welcome its publication.
During recent years in Opposition the Conservative Party became increasingly concerned about the haphazard course of the airline industry, and it was as a direct result of a continuing series of discussions on this matter within the Party that John Seekings was invited by the Conservative Political Centre to draft out some thoughts which could provide as the title suggests-guidelines for Britain's airlines.
This booklet therefore appears at a singularly opportune moment. During the coming months and years we shall be evolving and implementing policies aimed at the strengthening of our air transport system. Meanwhile I would like to take this opportunity of expressing my sincere thanks to my many friends in both the air transport and aviation industries who, over the years, have given so unstintingly of their time and experience in helping me and my parliamentary colleagues to obtain a better and more comprehensive understanding of these two closely related industries, which play such an important part in our economy and in our lives.
To mention all those who have contributed so generously would be impossible; to select a few would be invidious. Some will recognise their ideas in John Seekings' booklet; others will not, for he has wisely made no attempt to reach an agreed text, even amongst that inner circle who have met regularly together to help thrash out a Conservative aviation policy. The pattern of air transport that finally emerges may therefore differ from what is envisaged by Mr Seekings, although I have no doubt that the ideas in this booklet will prove invaluable both to those who shape our air transport policy and to those whose lives are shaped by it.
Since it started just over fifty years ago, the air transport industry has only known change-rapid change. And yet the pace of change has never in those fifty years been more rapid than it is today.
What are the more significant of these changes? First and foremost, the modern jet aeroplane is a highly efficient vehicle in every sense of the word; unlike its predecessors, it is so efficient that it is possible to operate profitably without massive government support, even in the curiously contrived world of international aviation. In the second place, air travel is becoming predominantly an instrument of leisure rather than work; instead of having as its primary purpose the provision of essential communications, air transport today is increasingly devoted to serving the fickle tourist. Finally, instead of being a small scale business, air transport has become a huge industry, affecting the lives of millions of people. Whether it is the noise from overflying aircraft, the cost of purchasing new aircraft, the congestion at and around existing airports, or the expense of building new airports, the sheer scale of almost every aspect of air transport now means that air transport policies can no longer be worked out in a quiet corner by a few specialists.
Because of these fundamental changes in the nature of air transport-particularly in the relationship of the industry to the community-it is essential for aviation policy to be brought up-to-date. In the case of Britain there has been no shortage of advice, comment and discussion on the subject. Indeed, at first sight it might appear superfluous to add to the already excessive amount of literature.
However, in practice there is a gap to be filled the gap between the aviator and the legislator. In the past, too many mistakes have been made in British air transport because of inadequate understanding and communication between people who were professionally involved in aviation and people who political well-being.