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Provincial Airports

Volume 978: debated on Monday 4 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what assessment he has made of the extra employment opportunities which result from the operation of provincial airports.

I have not made such an assessment. However, air transport is a flourishing sector of the economy which is likely to offer valuable new employment opportunities in the future. This is one of the considerations the Government had in mind in deciding to encourage the growth of traffic at provincial airports

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Does he agree that the abolition of categories A, B and C for airports would give even more employment opportunities, especially at provincial airports?

I am not sure that my hon. Friend is right. It is vital that we get at least one major international gateway airport firmly established outside the South-East of England. In my view, that airport must be Manchester, and, therefore, we should do everything that we can to encourage that airport to offer a full range of services to all destinations in the world.

Is the Minister aware that, because of the high and unacceptable rate of unemployment in the Liverpool and Merseyside areas, some development of Liverpool airport could bring some advantages to those leaving school and looking for jobs?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and that is why I have been pleased that Liverpool has developed to such a great extent in the past year and has been so successful in attracting a wide range of traffic. One contributing factor to the improvement of services, and the improvement of employment, is that there is now a private enterprise airline improving the service that, regrettably, our nationalised airline felt it had to give up.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the number of passengers passing through Liverpool airport has doubled in the past year? Is he further aware that there is more freight passing through Liverpool than through Stanstead? Will he upgrade the airport from C to B category and allow private enterprise to move ahead?

My hon. Friend quotes impressive figures. I have to remind him that during part of that period there were extensive runway repairs at Manchester which forced traffic away from that airport. None the less, it was a creditable achievement. We shall do what we can to help Liverpool to expand but, basically, it is a matter of whether the traffic wishes to go there, rather than whether we can push it there.