I have regular discussions with Welsh Assembly Government Ministers concerning all matters affecting Wales, including air transport.
As everyone is agreed that there is over-centralisation of air transport in the UK, why are 70 per cent. of air travellers in Wales still forced to go outside the country to get to their destination? Surely it is time that services from Cardiff airport were able to fly to more destinations in the world.
Yes, I accept my right hon. Friend’s point. She will know, of course, that from Cardiff one can go directly to 61 destinations, from Alicante to Warsaw. However, she is right that the business community in Wales in particular would like more direct flights, for example to Germany and Belgium. Cardiff International airport is working on that together with the Welsh Assembly Government.
Does the Secretary of State not find it extraordinary that in spite of all the concerns about climate change, internal flights in Wales are being subsidised by Welsh taxpayers? Does he not agree that any flights are good, but only if the market rates support them?
I think that the hon. Gentleman will accept that there is a need for a north-south air link, and that the Assembly is spending taxpayers’ money well by ensuring that there is a proper link by air between the north and south of Wales. He knows how long it takes to get by road or rail from Anglesey to Cardiff. I think that it is good money well spent.
The Secretary of State and I agree that Cardiff airport is crucial to the Welsh economy and that we need to secure its future. Does he agree that any road charges that might be introduced in Wales and not in England under the provisions of the Local Transport Bill, if they are on roads linking to the airport, would give it a serious competitive disadvantage against, say, Bristol airport? Is that not another reason why the Welsh provision put in the Bill at Plaid’s request should be dropped forthwith?