HC Deb 10 March 1978 vol 945 cc830-1W
Mr. Buchan

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a further statement, pursuant to his remarks made on the Consolidated Fund Bill on 15th December 1977, concerning the Highlands and Islands aerodromes.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Clearly it is not my desire that my hitherto excellent relations with the former Chairman of the CAA should be adversely affected by comment made during debate in Parliament. I met Lord Boyd-Carpenter recently and it emerged that he appreciated that a misunderstanding could have arisen. Although he did not agree with the judgment of Ministers in delaying a decision on the recommendations of the Civil Aviation Authority in respect of the Highlands and Islands aerodromes until the conclusion of the Government's review on airports policy, he realised that Ministers were not guilty of dilatoriness but, as a matter of policy, felt that judgments on individual airports could not be announced exceptionally in advance of the White Paper. For my part, I wish to withdraw certain impromptu observations which I made in debate reflecting on the conduct and capacity of the former Chairman of the CAA.

I feel that, just as he was clearly entitled to criticise the judgment of Ministers I was entitled to criticise the extent to which I thought the CAA had exploited commercial opportunities at Sumburgh and consulted local opinion on the Highlands and Islands airports. However, on reflection and inquiry, I do not consider that I was justified in asserting that the noble Lord had not considered into the affairs of the society under the former and had paid scant attention Section 165 (b) (iii) of the Companies Act to the latter.