HC Deb 06 January 2004 vol 416 cc144-5
4. Mr. Bill Tynan (Hamilton, South) (Lab)

If he will set a date for revisiting the decisions announced in "The Future of Air Transport" White Paper in relation to demand for additional runways to be built at Glasgow International and Edinburgh airports. [145867]

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling)

The Government's decisions in relation to additional runway capacity in central Scotland are set out in the White Paper that I published in December. These will not change in the foreseeable future, but the White Paper includes a commitment to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the approach that it sets out and we will report progress in 2006.

Mr. Tynan

Obviously, the economic argument in paragraph 5.7 of the White Paper is that express freight and flown mail are the main reasons why Edinburgh may achieve an additional runway. Does my right hon. Friend agree that he should consider whether there should be an additional runway at Glasgow, based on the facts that the M74 bypass will be in place by about 2007 and that a fast rail link could make the handling of air freight and flown mail at Glasgow airport an attractive proposition?

Mr. Darling

My hon. Friend is right. We expect air traffic to grow at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Prestwick, all of which serve central Scotland. He will no doubt bear it in mind that we do not think that any of those airports will need an additional runway before 2020, which is a considerable time away. The White Paper safeguarded the situation so that a second runway could be built at Edinburgh and, if necessary, Glasgow. Consequently, if we get the growth at Glasgow that my hon. Friend describes, it will be able to expand. We anticipate substantial expansion at Glasgow, with additional terminal facilities, as the airport continues to grow and expect people living in central Scotland in general to have a choice of not one but three airports—Edinburgh, Glasgow and Prestwick.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con)

Has the Secretary of State considered the problem of blighted properties between now and 2020, the compensation that may be payable, and the position between Scotland and England and between municipally owned airports and privately owned airports, such as those owned by BAA?

Mr. Darling

Yes, I have. The proposals and the Government's conclusions are set out in the White Paper, which the hon. Lady has no doubt read.

Mr. Brian H. Donohoe (Cunninghame, South) (Lab)

Given that the success of Prestwick airport, as demonstrated over the past few years, is down to the fact that it is in separate ownership, will the Secretary of State consider the option of selling on some airports in the United Kingdom so that Glasgow and Edinburgh can compete with each other on a proper basis?

Mr. Darling

First, my hon. Friend is right that Prestwick airport has experienced dramatic growth compared with the position it was in four or five years ago. That is a tribute not just to the people who own it, but in particular to some of our colleagues who represent Ayrshire constituencies. I know that he has taken a keen interest in that.

BAA, which owns Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen as well as the main London airports and Southampton, is, of course, a private company. Its position in relation to competition is something on which the competition authorities would have to decide. They now take their decisions independent of Ministers, and rightly so.