HL Deb 07 March 1987 vol 487 cc240-2

3.10 p.m.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many. international destinations are now served from regional airports in Britain compared with 1979.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, there are some 150 international routes serving some 60 destinations from regional airports in the United Kingdom. Only about 40 destinations were served in 1979. I greatly welcome this major increase in travel opportunities for the public.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that encouraging informaton. In view of that, is there any possibility of encouraging airlines which are used by the tourist package tours to use more of these regional airports and thus relieve some of the London airports—Gatwick, for example—of the heavy traffic?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the Government are already committed to ensuring that the regional airports can develop in order to meet local demand. We do not place any regulatory obstacles in the way of tour operators who see a demand for charter flights to and from regional airports. Indeed, there are already a large number of such flights direct from regional airports.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, while the information given by the Minister on the number of destinations is most encouraging, he does not appear to have replied to the Question put by his noble friend Lord Gainsford. The Government say they wish to encourage the use of regional airports, but that appears to be an attitude of hope. What positive policy are the Government following in order to encourage the use of regional airports for charter flights and to enter into discussions not only with airport operators but also with the airlines?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, it is our policy to encourage development by improving capital expenditure and by improvement to local authority airports where they are financially justified. Large allocations have already been made. Some £222 million has been made available since 1979. Several important developments have taken place; for instance, the new terminal at Birmingham, the runway extension at Leeds-Bradford and work at Newcastle, which is due to be completed this month. I believe that we are encouraging the use of regional airports.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, is it not also a fact that the Civil Aviation Authority has pursued a route licensing policy that encourages the use of those airports for a wide variety of routes? Are not its effects reflected in the figures which my noble friend has recently given?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, my noble friend is right. For example, if one takes Manchester Airport, 25 new routes, including seven intercontinental ones, have been introduced since 1979. I could give many examples. Birmingham is serving nine new destinations.

Baroness Burton of Coventry

My Lords, as the Minister mentioned Birmingham, is he aware that many people in and around Birmingham feel that if the airport could be granted gateway status it would greatly help the development of international flights there? Does he feel that his honourable friend Mr. Spicer might be able to look at that matter again?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I shall certainly draw the noble Baroness's remarks about Birmingham to the attention of my honourable friend Mr. Spicer. Of course, Manchester is a gateway airport in the North. I admit that Birmingham is in the Midlands, but I shall certainly draw her remarks to my honourable friend's attention.