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Air Transport Strategy

Volume 520: debated on Wednesday 15 December 2010

7. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport and the Northern Ireland Executive on the development of an air transport strategy for Northern Ireland. (29916)

The Government fully recognise the importance to Northern Ireland of a suitable framework for air travel, particularly for the economy and export trade. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I will continue to engage with colleagues in Government and the Northern Ireland Executive as the new aviation policy framework is developed in the new year.

I thank the Minister for his answer, and endorse the point he makes about an air transport strategy and framework being essential to our economic recovery, particularly in respect of tourism. [Interruption.] Can he assure me, however, that he will do all in his power to work with those responsible—both the Secretary of State for Transport and the Department for Regional Development in Northern Ireland—to ensure that we get a functioning strategy that provides air links to Europe, Canada and the United States? [Interruption.]

Order. I wish to hear the Minister’s reply, and I am sure the House wants to hear it as well.

I am most grateful to you, Mr Speaker.

The hon. Gentleman is right, and I know he represents his constituents well in these matters. A balance has to be struck between extending the amount of flights that are available and the environmental consequences of doing that. I should declare that I have had meetings with Flybe, which operates out of Belfast City, and is based in my constituency. It does an excellent job, and I know it is always looking for new routes. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: in order to grow tourism and exports, which we have to do to rebalance Northern Ireland’s economy, we have to make sure that we have transport links that are as good as any other part of the United Kingdom.