HL Deb 18 February 1993 vol 542 cc1245-6

3.16 p.m.

The Earl of Selkirk asked Her Majesty's Government:

On what grounds the immigration office is to be removed from Prestwick Airport.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, traffic at Prestwick Airport has diminished considerably over recent years and no longer justifies a permanent Immigration Service staff. Immigration services for passengers who arrive at Prestwick will be provided from the Glasgow office as necessary.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, I am afraid that I heard very few of the words that the noble Earl spoke. I understand that its removal is due to the lack of passengers. Is the noble Earl aware that for reasons which I am not able to explain (nor, I think, is anybody else) the airfield weather conditions are superior to those of any other aerodrome in this country, which makes it safest in bad weather conditions? Is it not a pity that anything is allowed to prevent passengers from using that airport?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am sorry that my noble friend did not hear the majority of my reply. I hope that he will find it satisfactory when he reads it. I am aware of the good conditions of Prestwick airfield from the point of view of weather. But I can assure my noble friend that the coverage of immigration services is not being altered. It is merely that the personnel who are resident there on a full-time basis do not have adequate work because the number of people using the airport has diminished. Perhaps I may tell my noble friend that in 1989, only four years ago, 179,000 arrivals took place at Prestwick. That number has dropped to 9,859.

Lord Grimond

My Lords, can the Minister give us an assurance that the new arrangements will not result in deterring international flights from Prestwick?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, absolutely not. Any flight can come there under the proper arrangements. When those flights come and immigration services are required they will be available.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, is it not the case that Prestwick is designated by a statutory instrument of 1987 as an international point of entry to this country? Has Prestwick been deleted from the list of points of entry, and if so has Parliament been informed or consulted on the matter? Further, is it not the case that Glasgow Airport immigration office is also at present closed to personal callers? Does that mean that, for example, asylum seekers will be forced to come south from Scotland in order to seek asylum in the United Kingdom?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, no. Prestwick continues to be a designated airport. There are other airports where coverage is provided from elsewhere, such as Southampton, Liverpool and Teesside. They are all designated airports and Prestwick will continue to be so. There are 28 Immigration Service people at Glasgow and four at Prestwick. The requirements for the immigration service will be provided from Glasgow as and when necessary.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, will the Minister be good enough to answer my second question regarding the service at Glasgow Airport for personal callers? My understanding is that personal callers are not being accepted at Glasgow at present.

Earl Ferrers

The Question is about Prestwick and not about Glasgow. I shall find out about Glasgow and let the noble Lord know.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that when one reaches Prestwick Airport it is extremely difficult to find one's way out of it?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I thought half the trouble was finding one's way to it. I am sorry that my noble friend finds such difficulty. I am afraid she will have to find her own way out of it.