asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement about the consultations held between his Department and the British Airports Authority over the authority's proposed increases in airport charges.
A proposal by the British Airports Authority for an increase in airport charges is being examined by my Department, and I expect to inform the authority shortly whether the increase is approved.
Will the Minister confirm that among these proposals is one for a 35 per cent. increase in charges at Gatwick, for instance, to start on 1st April, which is a tremendous burden for the airline operators to have to take aboard bearing in mind that they were told six months ago that only a 25 per cent. charge was likely? Secondly, will the Minister use his rights to veto this extraordinarily inflationary proposal by the British Airports Authority?
No, Sir. It is perfectly true that there is to be a 35 per cent. increase on 1st April 1975, but it has to be borne in mind that the last increase was on 1st April 1972; charges were adjusted on 1st April 1974. As for the 25 per cent. point, the situation has changed and in those circumstances the calculations of the British Airports Authority had to change.
Within the context of devolution, and given the express wish of the Scottish Council that such a body should be set up, will the Minister establish in Scotland a Scottish airports authority to take over the running of airports there which are currently managed by the British Airports Authority?
That is quite another question. The point will be examined, but I cannot give the hon. Gentleman any assurance that a separate airports authority will be established, because I am not at all sure that simply to manufacture another organisation would improve efficiency, which is the important criterion.