HC Deb 05 February 1973 vol 850 cc7-8
7. Sir B. Rhys Williams

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what study he has made of the cost and practicability of building a national airport on Severn-side; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Thomas

The Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for advising on future airport development and has announced its intention to study the desirable future airport structure in the regions.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

Will any right hon. and learned Friend consider the importance of this project in the context of regional and employment policy for Britain as a whole? Will he also confirm that if the Maplin project goes ahead this important project for Wales will not be shelved through shortage of finance?

Mr. Thomas

Certainly, one considers suggestions like this in terms of employment opportunities. The economic problems of South Wales at the moment take priority. Any major airport development on Severnside would inevitably be a very long-term project.

Mr. Abse

Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that it is important to hon. Members who represent constituencies on Severnside that, apart from any inquiry that might be taking place, we do not want the Secretary of State or any other body to be manipulated by people who should be more interested in looking after the housing affairs of South Kensington? Whereas engineers and other people may benefit from certain schemes, an environmental disaster could hit the whole of Severnside. In any review of such a suggestion will the Secretary of State bear in mind that we have no desire to have dumped upon Severnside schemes which have already been rejected vigorously in other parts of the country?

Mr. Thomas

I am fully aware that the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) is a contentious one which arouses considerable controversy.

Mr. Adley

Notwithstanding the outburst from the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), in terms of land use could not an airport on reclaimed land on the Welsh Grounds have valuable employment implications for South Wales on both sides of the Bristol Channel? Will my right hon. and learned Friend look at the possibility of this area in the light of Rhoose, Lulsgate and Staverton, three airports which might be able to close down if such an airport were provided on the Welsh Grounds?

Mr. Thomas

I have no doubt that any study on future use for a further major airport outside the London area would wish to take full account of all the claims and potential of the Severnside area.

Mr. Alec Jones

What discussions has the Minister had or does he propose to have with responsible bodies in Wales and in Glamorgan concerning the future of Rhoose airport since the Government's disastrous Local Government Act has put the situation of that airport in serious jeopardy—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Next Question.

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