HC Deb 15 December 1975 vol 902 cc946-8
9. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he expects the consultation on the consultative document, Airfield Strategy for Great Britain, Part I The London Area, to be completed.

Mr. Shore

It is essential that adequate time is allowed for all interested organisations to put their views, and I envisage that the consultations will last about six months.

Mr. Tebbit

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that answer. Will he tell us whether he intends to deal with the first part—on area—onducting consultations, or at least reaching conclusions on consultations, about the remainder of the United Kingdom airports? May I urge upon him the necessity to leave time after the consultations to go through all the statutory procedures that will be necessary to ensure that London is adequately served by airports in the early 1980s?

Mr. Shore

I hesitate to answer the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question because I am not quite sure at the moment what all the statutory procedures are. If they are laid-down procedures, which it is incumbent upon us to go through, I shall certainly not wish to depart from them.

As for the order in which we carry out these consultations, I think that the House generally would wish us to launch as soon as possible the first consultation document, which is what we have done. That mainly covers London airport problems but it also touches on the regional question, because that has a relationship with the London area. I am hoping to launch the second consultation document early in the new year. Therefore, there will be an opportunity, as it were, for people to relate their comments to both as we proceed. It is possible for us to complete these consultations before we finalise the consultation programme on the second document, but I am not envisaging any great policy announcement on the one before I have all the views on both.

Mr. Wigley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great potential of Rhoose Airport, in Glamorgan, which is vastly under-utilised at this time? Will he assure the House that in that context no decisions will be taken which could affect that airport, by way of running it down before the overall strategy has been worked out?

Mr. Shore

Rhos Airport does not come within the direct scope, authority or financing of the Department of Trade. Therefore, I cannot give a categorical assurance on that matter. I hope that all those who are today managing substantial airports, of which Rhoose is certainly one, will take account of the consultation exercise that is now being started and not seek, as it were, to make major decisions within their areas until those consultations are completed.

Mr. Heffer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Liverpool Airport is costing a lot of money and that the Merseyside County Council is, in substance, keeping it going? The longer there are no decisions on the matter, the more costly it will be for local authorities and ratepayers in that area. May we have a quick decision, so that the local authorities will know precisely where they stand? We believe that Merseyside has great potential, but we cannot move one way or the other because of the present situation.

Mr. Shore

I understand and sympathise with my hon. Friend's concern. We have something of a dilemma here. On the one hand, there is an undoubted need for a decision as early as possible, but, on the other, in this area, with all the sensitive local feeling that exists, I believe that we must allow people adequate consultation.