Is my right hon. Friend aware that three American airlines have shown keen interest in starting new services from Manchester either to New York or to Boston? As there is general agreement in the north that direct air services from Manchester to our major markets are vital to the regeneration of the area, does my right hon. Friend agree that there are strong arguments for giving American airlines better access to Manchester under a renegotiated Bermuda agreement?
I entirely understand my hon. Friend's point of view, and many hon. Members agree with him about that important matter. It is true that the American Department of Transportation is at present considering a number of applications from American airlines for services to Manchester airport. We have continually reaffirmed with the American authorities our willingness to enter into negotiations about access to Manchester. Only last week we retabled proposals for the development of Manchester airport, and the United States Government have undertaken to study them and reply as quickly as possible.
Will the Secretary of State assure the House that those applications by American airlines will not be used as a bargaining counter by his Department to reduce the number of flights into and out of Gatwick or Heathrow? The right hon. Gentleman will know that that has been done when previous applications to fly in and out of Manchester have been made.
We want to act in the general British interest and in the interests of Manchester itself. Indeed, we have made proposals, which were developed with Manchester International Airport Authority, and which comprise a five-year development plan, providing for the progressive introduction of an agreed number of Manchester services. That plan is intended to form the basis for our discussion. I hope that negotiations can proceed and that they will be found to be generally satisfactory in Manchester as well as elsewhere.