HC Deb 06 March 1961 vol 636 cc12-3
16. Mr. Popplewell

asked the Minister of Aviation when he will announce his national policy for civilian airports; and when he will reply to the request made to him by a joint authority deputation which he recently met concerning the future of Woolsington Airport.

Mr. Thorneycroft

The formulation of a policy for civilian airports must necessarily involve considering the requirements of all parts of the country. As I informed the deputation, I shall reply to their request as soon as possible.

Mr. Popplewell

Will the Minister answer the Question? When does he hope to be able to make his declaration? Is he aware of the anxiety felt by all local authorities in the North-East, which are now working together on Woolsington Airport? Is he further aware that his delay in making his decision is very harmful indeed to the future development of the North-East? There is a growing volume of traffic at Woolsington. The buildings and equipment there are totally inadequate to meet those needs? Will the right hon. Gentleman regard the matter as urgent and indicate at any rate when he hopes to make his decision?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I cannot give any undertaking as to when I shall make the decision. Woolsington does not stand alone in this matter. There are a number of other airports, municipal and otherwise, and they have to be looked at as a whole.

Mr. Chetwynd

Will the Minister bear in mind that Woolsington is the only possible aerodrome for the North-East? There is a growing demand for services for Continental travel. The earlier he can make a decision the better it will be for all concerned.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I fully appreciate that. I also appreciate the care and authority with which this question has been gone into by the local authorities concerned. They put their case to me with great moderation and clarity, which has assisted me very much in my consideration.

Mr. J. Howard

When my right hon. Friend has decided that certain aerodromes should be continued by private interests or local authorities, such as Southampton, will he ensure that his Department conducts the negotiations with the same sense of urgency as commercial undertakings would normally conduct negotiations?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Both with the same sense of urgency and, indeed, with the same care for the taxpayers' interests in such matters.