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St Helena

Volume 537: debated on Wednesday 7 December 2011

A contract has now been signed for the design, construction and operation of the new airport in St Helena. We expect it to open towards the end of 2015, in time for the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s exile to the island.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that excellent news. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North (Mark Lancaster), whose visit to the island helped to pave the way. Does the Secretary of State agree that the islanders will rejoice at this decision by the coalition Government, which contrasts with the failure of the last Labour Government who, at the last moment, cancelled the contract?

My hon. Friend is right to say that this is the right decision. It underlines our commitment to the overseas territories—they are British. He is also right to tease the Opposition about the fact that they dilly-dallied over this decision for nearly 13 years.

I welcome the decision to go ahead with the airport, which I argued for long and hard, as the Secretary of State is aware. What does the decision to go ahead with the airport, which will ensure that the people of St Helena can stand on their own two feet, mean for the ship and for the continuing contact that is needed with the island? Will that be able to continue until 2015 and will extra repairs be needed?

I acknowledge that the hon. Lady played a strenuous and forceful part in the decision today. She argued strongly for the airport when she was in government. The ship will be able to continue until the airport is largely able to take over its necessary role. She is right to underline the importance of this decision in getting the island off aid and off the British taxpayers’ books, and looking after itself.