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Highlands And Islands Airports

Volume 940: debated on Wednesday 30 November 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his policy on the transfer of Highland and Islands airports from the Civil Aviation Authority to the British Airports Authority.

The Government have not yet reached a decision on this matter, but my right hon. Friend is in close consultation about it with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade, who is responsible for civil aviation, including airports.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he bear in mind that Scottish Office consultations with the Department of Trade show that the proposed switch-over is opposed by all the staff in the airports concerned, and that there is all-party opposition to it in Scotland?

The right hon. Gentleman knows that Ministers in the Scottish Office have consulted a variety of interests, including Members of Parliament. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will take these matters into consideration when he discusses the matter with the Department of Trade.

Is the Minister aware that few positive reasons have been given for changing to the British Airports Authority, but does he not agree that the overriding consideration must be whether costs and prices are to be raised and how this will affect local people? Aviation costs are constantly rising, and as a result my constituents are seriously handicapped.

We are all conscious of the social and economic consequences of airport policy. That is why we are taking these matters into consideration. I do not think that it necessarily follows that any form of transfer will result in higher charges.

In declaring an interest as a private hirer, may I ask whether the Minister is aware that light aircraft operators and private pilots are concerned about the possibility of change, in that landing fees and parking charges will go up, and that the increases should be resisted at all costs?

These are matters for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade. We in the Scottish Office have always been conscious of all the aspects of policy in this matter. There are heavy subsidies, because we are aware of the social consequences.

Is the Minister aware of the strong feelings that exist in Scotland about this possible transfer, and does he realise that it will be bitterly resented if any decision is made before the matter has been fully debated in the House?

Ministers cannot go further than they already have. We have already listened to almost all the hon. Members who have a direct interest and to others with indirect interests. But the hon. Gentleman's question is one for the Leader of the House, and I shall pass it on.