Stansted Airport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:18 pm on 28th April 1987.

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Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire 11:18 pm, 28th April 1987

I believe that it is unreasonable for the right hon. Gentleman to talk about the ultimate when we are talking today about a limitation of 7 million to 8 million passengers and the prospect, in the far future, of a total limitation of 15 million. The right hon. Gentleman and I will be older and have greyer hair before that latter limitation is reached.

My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Silvester) called for wider consultation. I believe that that is a valid point, and we shall take it on board. My hon. Friend recorded the extent of Government direct encouragement to regional airports, especially Manchester. It may be helpful if I demonstrate the validity of that argument.

Since 1979, the Government have authorised no less than £220 million of capital expenditure at local authority airports. That should be compared with the previous Labour Government's authorisation of £16 million. The contrast between those figures gives a pretty good definition of the extent to which this Government have supported the regional airports when compared to the support offered by the previous Labour Government. My hon. Friend asked whether this order is unique in that it gives the House of Commons an on-going control. I understand that my hon. Friend's assumption is correct.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North recognised that the Government have remained true to their support for the regional airports. The growth of Manchester international airport is a success story. Manchester is attracting more traffic because of its location and its services. Those features, rather than the refusal to sanction growth elsewhere, are the determinants of growth.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) supported the request made by my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden for a full debate if there is any change in the position and there comes a point when we move nearer the figure of 15 million passengers per year; consent for that figure has initially been given. The time for debates in the House is a matter for the Leader of the House and the usual channels. I am sure that, in years hence, my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford will be sitting in his place at Business questions—perhaps a little older and with less hair—to ask the Leader of the House to ensure that he gets the time that he want for a debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford asked for an assurance that the no-subsidisation undertaking will he carried out. Cross-subsidy is not entirely outlawed. Stansted, though a sound business in the long term, is expected to make losses in the early stages of its capital development parallel to the regional airports. The key point is that the Civil Aviation Authority has powers under the Airports Act 1986 to prevent any cross-subsidy leading to pricing policies that harm or are intended to harm another airport's business—predators pricing. In addition, the accounts conditions applying to British Airports Authority airports under the Act require any type of cross-subsidy to be made transparent in the airport's company accounts.