HC Deb 10 April 2002 vol 383 cc7-8
4. Albert Owen (Ynys Môn)

What discussions he has had with the First Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales and ministerial colleagues on regional airports in Wales; and if he will make a statement. [44149]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular discussions with Assembly and UK Government Ministers on a wide range of transport issues, including regional airports in Wales. Aviation is a matter that is reserved to the UK Government, but Assembly officials have had close contact with colleagues in the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions about regional air services, regional air services co-ordination studies and the regional consultation documents that are to be published later this year.

Albert Owen

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. He is aware of the importance of a fully integrated transport system and the economic benefits that it can bring periphery areas, including mine in north-west Wales. Will he therefore use what influence the Wales Office can exert to ensure that all four corners of Wales are served, so we can have a united and inclusive Wales? May I suggest that commercialisation of RAF Valley in my constituency can help in that matter?

Mr. Touhig

I should congratulate my hon. Friend on his efforts on behalf of RAF Valley and RAF Mona in his Anglesey constituency. I can tell him that the Wales air services consultation document, which is one of six regional consultation documents that are currently being finalised by the DTLR, considers specifically the possible roles that regional airports might play in terms of passenger air traffic. That consideration will cover all sites in Wales, including RAF Valley and RAF Mona on Anglesey, as well as the airfields at Caernarfon and Welshpool.

Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire)

Does not the Minister accept that an airport can only ever be as good as the infrastructure that supports it? It is not getting on and off the plane that matters to passengers, but the time that it takes to get to the airport. Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern about the National Assembly's road-building strategy which, by ignoring that fact, appears to condemn all airports in Wales to third-world status? Will he again have a word with his colleagues in the National Assembly to try to bring about a change of heart? What is needed are improved road links—and they should be built.

Mr. Touhig

I am not so sure that we have third-world conditions in Wales. Perhaps if the right hon. Gentleman were to visit, he might find that out for himself. The regional air service study that has been commissioned by the DTLR will cover Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the south-west midlands and the north of England, and will consider how each region might best be served by a combination of available airports and aerodromes. It will identify the strategic enhancements that are required to improve service access to existing and potential regional airports and appraise the economic, environmental and social cost-benefits of a range of airport developments. All those matters will be considered in the study.