The future use of Coventry airport is a commercial matter for the airport operator.
I welcome the Minister to his new role—I am quite certain that he will enjoy it—and thank him for that rather opaque statement. May I press him further? Many of my constituents are very concerned by a perceived increase in the number of aircraft; they appear particularly to be flying over the Lutterworth area much more. Many others believe that an expansion of Coventry airport in an area of high population would be unwise. Should any plans to expand the airport come before him, would he please ensure that they go out for the maximum possible consultation?
I am sure that I can give that assurance and I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s kind words. As he knows, Coventry airport serves a specialist role within the region with a mix of traffic. The 2003 air transport White Paper concluded that the airport could continue to perform that role “within existing constraints”. In the light of our conclusions on capacity elsewhere in the midlands and potential surface access and environmental and airspace constraints, the White Paper did not envisage that any significant further development beyond the current level of passenger throughput would be appropriate.
I agree with the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan). The situation relating to Leicester and Leicestershire has become much worse, and any expansion of Coventry will have a serious effect on the environment in my constituency. The best place in which to expand services is Birmingham airport. Will the Minister bear that in mind if he makes any decisions on the matter?
I can only repeat the assurances that I gave the hon. Member for Blaby about the proposals for Coventry and our view of capacity elsewhere in the midlands. The White Paper “The Future of Air Transport”, published in 2003, sets out the strategic framework for the next 30 years. As my right hon. Friend knows, it aims to create a balance between the economic importance of aviation and environmental and other considerations.
The Secretary of State’s recent decision not to permit the development of an extended passenger terminal at Coventry airport has been welcomed by many of my constituents who live very near the airport, but one of the difficulties experienced during the lengthy planning inquiry was that Warwick district council had to bear the financial burden of dealing with the matter, in competition with an airline company with extremely deep pockets. Will the Minister consider—in general terms—ways in which in we can help local authorities to deal with substantial planning inquiries of this kind?
That is a fair point, but when planning issues such as that arise, expenditure by local authorities is always necessary so that they can make representations. I can only tell the hon. Gentleman that the Department for Communities and Local Government always listens to representations made by any local authority in respect of the annual settlement—which, as he knows, has been growing over the past 10 years, and will doubtless continue to grow—and reassure him that his local authority’s representations will be taken into account at the appropriate time.