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Greatham Aerodrome

Volume 530: debated on Wednesday 21 July 1954

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21.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when the deputation from Tees-side organisations, which met him on 1st June last in connection with Greatham Aerodrome, can expect a reply to their representations.

22.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what reply he has made to the letter sent to him on 15th July by the secretary of the Tees-side Industrial Development Board concerning the suspension of overseas air services from Greatham Aerodrome.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have been fully into the representations made to me on 1st June, and I regret to say that the Government must now reaffirm that they cannot see their way to altering their decision that Customs facilities at Greatham Aerodrome cannot be renewed. We have only just reached this conclusion, after giving every consideration to the weighty arguments advanced by the important delegation that came to see me, and I am replying in these terms to the letter from the Tees-side Development Board.

Does the Minister realise that that reply will cause dismay and despondency on both sides of the Tees? Already a number of services have been withdrawn completely, and the proposal that Greatham Aerodrome will now have to close down completely means that there will be no facilities for air services from this very heavily industrialised part of the country.

The Government have felt obliged to reaffirm the view that Customs facilities can be provided only where the traffic is sufficient to justify the full-time occupation of Customs officers, or where there is no other Customs airport in the area. Although I recognise the great importance of Teesside in the aviation field, I am afraid that this aerodrome does not qualify.

Is the right hon. Gentleman now announcing a new Government policy—that the question of whether or not there are to be overseas services from an important industrial area is to be determined by the convenience of the Board of Customs and Excise and not by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation?

No, Sir. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, there have been Customs facilities for some experimental years. Had the traffic offering been such as to justify the full-time employment of Customs officers a very different decision would have been arrived at. The traffic offering has not justified it, and in view of the need for strict scrutiny of all public expenditure the Government have arrived at this conclusion.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that this decision will limit the possibilities of civil aviation on Tees-side very severely indeed, and has he not a special responsibility to see that it is maintained and expanded?

My right hon. Friend will know that I am deeply interested in this question as it affects the Ramsgate Airport at Thanet. Could he not stretch that test slightly further and say that it will not only be whether the Customs is sufficient but whether there is a reasonable expectation of such Customs being sufficient, and that if one can say that one can succeed in getting the necessary Customs facilities? I thought that was the position.

That is, in fact, the principle which has been applied in this particular case.

26.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will make a statement about the future use of Greatham Aerodrome.

The future use of the aerodrome at Greatham can only be decided by the county borough of West Hartlepool, to whom it belongs.

Has not the action taken by the Ministry and the Treasury already struck a fatal blow to the use of this aerodrome, and is not this another case where the needs of his Department have been subordinated to the needs of the Treasury, and should not the Parliamentary Secretary resign in protest?

No, Sir. In this, as in all other decisions, Her Majesty's present Government are at one.

Will not the hon. Gentleman agree that the experiment conducted at Greatham Aerodrome in relation to the provision of Customs facilities over the last two years has not cost the Treasury a single penny because it has been paid for by the operators?