I have received a number of representations about the future ownership and funding of Manchester airport from hon. Friends and others. I believe that the airport's future would be better served in the private sector.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that local authorities should allow pension funds to pay for tarmacking the second runway at Manchester airport so that councils are free to spend more on schools and caring for the vulnerable?
My hon. Friend will understand that I am not in a position to comment about the second runway for obvious reasons, but I strongly endorse his view that the flexibility and investment that Manchester airport needs and of which, on the basis of its past history, it could make good use, is much more likely to come effectively from the private sector, thereby freeing up resources for the council to use in other ways as my hon. Friend pointed out.
I think that the Secretary of State made a mistake because Manchester is a highly efficient airport, which is growing every year and is not only providing high-quality management but contributing to the very best in the region. I thought that the Secretary of State was in the business of trying to sell off those broken-down bits of British Rail that his friends want for other reasons.
I am happy to confirm that Manchester is indeed a good airport, but I believe that it can be even better—and it is much more likely to be better and to provide the increasing range of international services that people want if it is given the opportunity to be in the private sector. I point the hon. Lady to the British Airports Authority. No doubt when the Airports Bill was going through the House she was against that as well.
While I agree with the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) that Manchester airport is very efficient—I often fly there and enjoy the facilities—does my right hon. Friend agree with the comments made by Samuel Goldwyn junior when the Select Committee on National Heritage visited him in Los Angeles in a very unpublicised trip last year, when he said that public subsidies make for lazy film-makers? Is that not also the case with airports?
I am pleased that we have agreement across the Floor of the House that Manchester is a good airport. I think that we also have agreement across the House that it can be an even better and more significant airport. Unquestionably, that will happen if it gets into the private sector. I hope that that decision will be taken locally because I am sure that that is the best place for it to be taken, but I would not rule out the possibility that that decision might have to be taken centrally at some time in the future, on the basis of legislation.
Does the Secretary of State accept that Manchester airport's success is due to the fact that for 50 years it has been an example of municipal enterprise and that politicians of all political parties in Greater Manchester have nurtured it and built it up? Having achieved such a success, which even the Minister concedes, why spoil it now by taking it away from the local authorities?
It is encouraging to know that the Labour party, despite all its warm words and clich's, has not changed its instinct for the public sector over the private sector, irrespective of the benefits that the latter can provide. We have heard that view from the Front-Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), and from the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) on the Back Bench. All we need now is for it to be confirmed by the Leader of the Opposition and we shall have a clean slate.