HC Deb 19 January 1981 vol 997 cc5-6
7. Mr. Bowen Wells

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied with the implementation of his policy towards regional airports.

Mr. Eyre

I am never fully satisfied, but the substantial capital investment programme announced on 11 December, together with the progress we have made in promoting new air services to airports outside the London area, demonstrates our commitment to encouraging the fullest use of regional airports to meet local demand.

Mr. Wells

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Can he be more specific on the question of the transfer of charter traffic away from the principal airports in the South-East—Heathrow and Gatwick? What progress has he made in transferring major airlines from Heathrow to Gatwick, to make use of the unused facilities at Gatwick?

Mr. Eyre

I believe that my right hon. Friend's policy in encouraging regional airports gives substantial and welcome encouragement to the regional airports. I think that my hon. Friend will understand that the greatest growth is not necessarily in charter flights but in regular service flights with lower charges of the kind that I have mentioned. There has recently been an extension of the services that my hon. Friend asked about: for example, from Manchester to New York.

Mr. McNally

Will the Minister take this opportunity to congratulate Manchester international airport on topping the 4 million passenger mark last year, increasing its passenger input by 29 per cent. and its freight throughput by 12 per cent., and attracting 10 new airlines? Is not that proof that a vigorous regional airports policy can work both in taking the pressure off Heathrow and in developing the regions?

Mr. Eyre

I am happy to join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating Manchester airport on its development. The Government will do everything possible to sustain that improvement by securing for Manchester extra services of the kind that I have given as an example.

Mr. Adley

I endorse my hon. Friend's comment that local demand should be the factor that determines the growth and size of an airport. Is he aware that many of the constituents of my hon. Friends the Members for Dorset, North (Mr. Baker) and for New Forest (Mr. McNair-Wilson), as well as many of mine, very much hope that he will keep a close watch on those who have a predatory eye on developing Hum airport? Will he acquaint himself with the Parley Lane situation, and recognise that he can help to make a name for himself in controlling Government expenditure by stopping this bit of nonsense?

Mr. Eyre

I am attracted by my hon. Friend's proposition. With my noble Friend, I shall look at the questions that he has raised.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does the Minister agree that this period of economic depression is the time when investment in our regional airports should be stepped up? In this connection, will he very much bear in mind Cardiff, Wales, airport?

Mr. Eyre

Unfortunately, Cardiff airport did not qualify on a regional or national basis to benefit from the schemes recently announced. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's general point, he will appreciate that the scheme for assisting the development of regional airports is a very useful form of economic activity at present.

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