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Transatlantic Flights

Volume 168: debated on Wednesday 28 February 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what consideration he has given to the effects on tourism of permitting transatlantic flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow airports; and if he will make a statement.

Many of the responses to the Government's consultation paper on Scottish lowland airports policy addressed the possible effects on tourism of an open skies policy. All the points made have been assessed and are being taken fully into account in the review now being concluded.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the capital city of Scotland should have international gateway status and that Glasgow, as European City of Culture, should also enjoy such status provided that international standards can be met? That does not mean that I have anything against Prestwick. What I resent is Prestwick's monopoly. That is a view shared by the Scottish tourist board.

I hear my hon. Friend's views. He will know that over 1,100 submissions on the matter have been made to the Government. They have all been carefully assessed and the Government hope to publish their findings soon.

Will the Minister come clean and tell the House what was the recommendation of the Secretary of State for Scotland to the Secretary of State for Transport on the review of the Scottish lowland airports policy? Will he be even more honest and tell the House whether the opposition of the Secretary of State for Transport in Cabinet to gateway status for Glasgow and Edinburgh airports is delaying the decision that should have been made months ago and is acting against the best interests of Scotland?

The hon. Gentleman will have to contain his impatience for a little longer. He may rest assured that when the announcement is made, it will have the unanimous and wholehearted support of the Government.

Has my hon. Friend read the submissions from the Scottish tourist board and the Highlands and Islands Development Board on the benefits to Scottish tourism of an open skies policy? Does he agree with them or not? Has he read the submissions from the Scottish Development Agency and the Scottish Consumer Council? Those organisations have no parochial axe to grind on the economic benefits of giving gateway status to Glasgow. Does he or does he not agree with those submissions?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to identify that important industry, the future of which can affect the future of the Scottish economy. It is estimated that the value of tourism to Scotland was about £420 million last year. Any improvement to that figure as a result of an open skies policy is something of which we would wish to take careful account.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The three hon. Members who were called on the last question were all from one side of the argument. No one—

Order. I ask the House to bear in mind the fact that I am constantly being urged to speed up Question Time. If I called every hon. Member who had an interest in every question, we should, I judge, get down only to question No. 3. I call Mr. Robert Hughes.