My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues on a range of different UK investment projects, including the proposed expansion of Heathrow airport. Estimates suggest that Heathrow’s proposed expansion would require 370,000 tonnes of UK steel, securing 700 British steel jobs, which would be welcome news for communities such as Port Talbot.
In addition to the benefits to Wales from construction related to the expansion of Heathrow, does my hon. Friend agree that there are opportunities for Welsh industry to support the ongoing operation of Heathrow when the expansion is complete, as many of my constituents in East Ren do for nearby Glasgow airport?
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The development of Heathrow offers significant opportunities for Wales and for the supply chain in Wales. That is why the Wales Office, working with the Welsh Government, have been involved in ensuring that we have roundtable discussions and “meet the buyer” events with Heathrow in Wales—south Wales and north Wales—so that Welsh companies will be in a position to benefit from investment in Heathrow.
Hub airports are more important than ever, so will the Minister join me in congratulating the Welsh Government on purchasing Cardiff airport, which has led to a great increase in passenger numbers? Should not the Tory party back that as well?
The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. The Wales Office is very proud of its involvement in the Qatar decision to have direct flights from Cardiff airport. The hon. Gentleman is right about the importance of hub airports, and a recent meeting I had with Heathrow highlighted the possibility of direct flights from Liverpool to Heathrow, which would be a significant advantage for businesses in north Wales.
I am delighted that my hon. Friend agrees about the importance of hub airports to the regions. Will he keep up pressure on his colleagues to give slots to the distant regions in the north and in Wales?
Again, I agree with my hon. Friend. The importance of hub airports is understood by businesses across the United Kingdom. It is therefore imperative to have regular flights into Heathrow, which is one of the reasons why we need the expansion of Heathrow. That expansion will be good not only for the United Kingdom, but for regional economies, as connectivity into a major hub airport such as Heathrow will be beneficial to our local economies.
Trade unions, the CBI and local authorities all support the potential £6.2 billion of investment that Heathrow expansion will bring, but that depends on two things: the extension of HS2 to the Crewe hub; and a final decision on Heathrow. When are they both going to happen?
The right hon. Gentleman makes a really important point. I hope that the decision on Heathrow will be forthcoming very soon. I agree entirely with him about the Crewe hub. A development in Crewe that links HS2 services into the north Wales main line represents a real opportunity for north Wales. We in the Wales Office have been involved in that with our colleagues in the Department for Transport.