HC Deb 14 October 1991 vol 196 cc3-4
2. Mr. Thurnham

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received about manning levels at Manchester airport; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin)

My hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic mentioned manning levels in an Adjournment debate that was initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) in July. The Monopolies and Mergers Commission is likely to consider the issue next year, when it reviews the charging conditions that should apply to Manchester airport for the five-year period starting in April 1993.

Mr. Thurnham

Is my hon. Friend aware of Manchester airport's enviable growth record, now serving more United Kingdom airports than any other airport? Will he ensure future competitiveness by cutting excess manning costs of £3 million per annum, preferably by privatising.

Mr. McLoughlin

We have received a number of representations about the privatisation of regional airports and we are carefully considering that important matter. My hon. Friend is right about the increase in passengers. In 1979, the number using Manchester airport was 3.4 million and in 1990 it was more than 10 million. That shows the growth that Manchester airport has been able to achieve because it has been allowed to compete and to attract more air services—which is good for both the airport and the people who live in that area.

Mr. Pike

Does the Minister accept that the growth of Manchester airport is due to local authority investment over many years and that the airport's success is the result of the foresight of local government in the Greater Manchester area over many years?

Mr. McLoughlin

We could have a long debate on the reasons for the success of Manchester airport, but it would not have occurred had it not been for the competition that our aviation policy injected, which gave regional airports an opportunity to attract more flights and to serve more destinations. That is an important policy and one which we shall continue to pursue.

Sir Fergus Montgomery

Is my hon. Friend aware that Manchester airport's plan to construct a second runway is causing enormous concern among my constituents, who are worried about the effect that that development would have on the environment? Can my hon. Friend say what safeguards will be provided?

Mr. McLoughlin

It is important that Manchester airport should consider its long-term strategy and that any environmental impact assessment is fully debated. I imagine that if such a proposal were to come forward, it would be subject to the necessary planning inquiries—and I am sure that my hon. Friend would then make representations for a public inquiry.