HC Deb 04 February 1985 vol 72 cc602-3
8. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's airports policy.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Michael Spicer)

When my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Transport announce the decision on the Stansted/Heathrow terminal 5 planning inquiries, we intend also to make a statement dealing with some wider aspects of the Government's airports policy.

Mr. Adley

I welcome that comment. In the light of the rejection by the House of the Eyre report, will my hon. Friend make it clear that in future decisions on airports policy in this country will be made as a consequence of, and not as a motivating factor in, regional and economic planning policy? Does he accept that other transport infrastructure developments such as rail links to Heathrow are part of the environmental price that we have to pay for trying to civilise air transport in this country?

Mr. Spicer

I agree entirely that regional airports should be developed as fast as demand in the region allows. The regional airports have become a great success story. As a whole, they are now in profit and the Government have made capital expenditure allocations of above £30 million this year and next year. We intend to build on that success.

Mr. Alfred Morris

In view of the rejection of the inspector's recommendations on Stansted by so many Members on both sides of the House in last Wednesday's debate, is there any action that the Minister can take to stop cross-subsidisation of Stansted airport by the British Airports Authority? Is he aware that that unfair competition causes not just exasperation but anger among other airport authorities?

Mr. Spicer

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are very much aware of the representations that have been made and the feelings that have been expressed, but these matters will have to be part of the total decision taken as a result of the report.

Mr. Haselhurst

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that the current review of tourism policy will not take place in isolation from consideration of airports policy?

Mr. Spicer

My hon. Friend has made his views on the promotion of toursim in relation to aviation policy very clear and I am sure that his views are being well noted.

Mr. Kennedy

With regard to airports rather further north than Stansted, does the Minister agree that the Government's recent climb-down after their abortive efforts to sell off the civil aviation airports in the Highlands and Islands shows the strength of local feeling and the effectiveness of the CAA's campaign, the level of public support for the socially crucial airports of the Western Isles and the Highlands generally and the fact that blind pursuit of dogma favouring privatisation where it is clearly not applicable makes no sense at all?

Mr. Spicer

We received several offers for those airports but none met the criteria that we had laid down—that the airports should continue to meet the social needs. Nor did they contribute satisfactorily to reducing the current annual subsidy of £3¼ million.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Will the Minister make it clear that there is no question of the House having rejected the Eyre report? Does he agree that it would be tragic if the Government abandoned progress on Stansted and other developments because of a procedural vote representing a minority of the House? Is he aware that many Members of Parliament and many people in Essex would regard it as a tragedy if the Stansted proposals were abandoned?

Mr. Spicer

My right hon. Friends will take into account all that was said in the Stansted debate, but they will have to make their own judgments.

Mr. Snape

Does the Under-Secretary accept that, despite the views of the exiled and Southend-based Scotsman who has just spoken, a majority of the House will not sanction a third London airport at Stansted or anywhere else, but will demand that a greater share of Britain's financial resources be put towards the development of regional airports?

Mr. Spicer

I have already answered the point about regional airports. With regard to the decision on Stansted airport: the hon. Gentleman, I am afraid, will have to wait for my right hon. Friend's decision.