HC Deb 20 July 1987 vol 120 cc10-1
11. Sir Fergus Montgomery

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what has been the total capital expenditure at local authority airports since 1979.

Mr. Channon

Since 1979, capital investment at local authority airports has totalled more than £260 million.

Sir Fergus Montgomery

How much did the Labour Government invest in local authority airports? How much of the £260 million was invested in Manchester airport?

Mr. Channon

The Labour Government invested about £16 million, as opposed to the £260 million invested under the Conservative Administration. Of the £260 million, £93 million was invested at Manchester alone.

Mr. Alton

Will the Secretary of State confirm that Liverpool airport, which is owned by the local authority, is having to meet repayment charges on revenue of about £2 million a year and debt charges of £2 million a year'? What additional assistance can be given to Liverpool airport? Where does it fit in his plan for regional airport policy, and what is being done to resolve the shareholding issue among the five district councils?

Mr. Channon

I want Liverpool airport to he run by a Companies Act company very soon. The passenger transport authority has so far failed to produce a scheme which transfers ownership of the shell company which it formed to the five Merseyside district councils. I am urgently considering what action to take in respect of the problems at Liverpool.

Mr. Ashby

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is very necessary for those airports to continue their investment, and does he envisage that investment coming from the private sector? Will he ensure that the local authorities float their shares on the public market so that we can have wider share ownership and financing for the necessary investment from the private sector rather than the public sector?

Mr. Channon

It is a matter for the local authorities. They now have the advantage of powers to privatise their airports. It has not so far been suggested that there should be compulsory privatisation of local authority airports, but I have considerable sympathy with what my hon. Friend said about private sector investment.

Mr. John Evans

Will the Secretary of State give the House an undertaking that he does not intend to introduce legislation which would force the local authorities to relinquish control of Manchester airport?

Mr. Channon

That is not an issue at present. Manchester airport has received investment of £93 million since the Conservative Government came to office, so no one can doubt our desire that Manchester airport should flourish and be an outstanding success, which it is.

Mr. John Mark Taylor

If my right hon. Friend is interested in the welfare of east midlands airports, does he believe that it would be advantageous for the northern continuation of the M42 to be a motorway, not a dual carriageway?

Mr. Channon

That is a very ingenious question. I shall look at the matter urgently.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

Does the Secretary of State recognise that the £93 million worth of investment in Manchester airport was done by the local authority and had nothing to do with the Government? Will he answer the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans) and say categorically that the Government will not allow plans for the privatisation of Manchester and similar municipal airports?

Mr. Channon

I have no current plans to privatise compulsorily local airports. Indeed, I cannot understand why Opposition Members make such a fuss about it.