HC Deb 26 February 1986 vol 92 c933
7. Mr. Bill Walker

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how much subisdy was paid to the Civil Aviation Authority for the running of the highlands and islands airports for each of the last 10 years.

Mr. Ancram

I have deposited in the Library details of the subsidy paid in each of the past five years. No separately indentifiable figures for grant-in-aid paid prior to 1980 are available.

Mr. Walker

My hon. Friend will be aware that the public purse, properly, supports the operations of the highlands and islands airports. Can he confirm that after the passage of the Airports Bill the highlands and islands airports, like the local authority airports, will be required to obtain the best possible services, if necessary by seeking outside tenders?

Mr. Ancram

The new arrangements, whereby the CAA will operate aerodromes in Scotland as a separate company, follow a long period of uncertainty about their future. It is only right that the arrangements are given time to work. I agree with my hon. Friend that we expect better value for money from the arrangements. He will accept that the first priority is that the present service to the communities involved with the aerodromes should continue.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Does the Minister accept that some airports in the highlands and islands are extensively used by the military? Stornoway airport, for example, is a Ministry of Defence airport. If these installations are to be dumped on us, should not the Government foot the bill?

Mr. Ancram

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that Stornoway airport is owned by the Ministry of Defence and operated by the CAA. He must understand that the Government have recognised the essential social function of the aerodromes, which is why we continue to subsidise their operation.

Mr. Pollock

Will my hon. Friend confirm that when the airports were offered for sale some time ago no commercial interest was shown in them? Will he give an undertaking to my constituents in Moray that he recognises the Government's social obligations to provide an adequate service for them?

Mr. Ancram

The Government recognise the essential social functions of the aerodromes, which is why we have subsidised them and will continue to do so as necessary. Our reason for not pursuing their privatisation was precisely that none of the interested parties offered adequate assurances of continuity of service. That is what we intend to provide.

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