Will the Secretary of State confirm that Liverpool airport, which is owned by the local authority, is having to meet repayment charges on revenue of about £2 million a year and debt charges of £2 million a year'? What additional assistance can be given to Liverpool airport? Where does it fit in his plan for regional airport policy, and what is being done to resolve the shareholding issue among the five district councils?
I want Liverpool airport to he run by a Companies Act company very soon. The passenger transport authority has so far failed to produce a scheme which transfers ownership of the shell company which it formed to the five Merseyside district councils. I am urgently considering what action to take in respect of the problems at Liverpool.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is very necessary for those airports to continue their investment, and does he envisage that investment coming from the private sector? Will he ensure that the local authorities float their shares on the public market so that we can have wider share ownership and financing for the necessary investment from the private sector rather than the public sector?
It is a matter for the local authorities. They now have the advantage of powers to privatise their airports. It has not so far been suggested that there should be compulsory privatisation of local authority airports, but I have considerable sympathy with what my hon. Friend said about private sector investment.
That is not an issue at present. Manchester airport has received investment of £93 million since the Conservative Government came to office, so no one can doubt our desire that Manchester airport should flourish and be an outstanding success, which it is.
Does the Secretary of State recognise that the £93 million worth of investment in Manchester airport was done by the local authority and had nothing to do with the Government? Will he answer the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans) and say categorically that the Government will not allow plans for the privatisation of Manchester and similar municipal airports?