New Clause 3 - Obligation to operate an air transport service serving a specified route

Part of Civil Aviation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 13th March 2012.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Minister of State, Department for Transport 4:45 pm, 13th March 2012

I loved my visit to Cambridge international and my many visits to Gatwick and Heathrow and a whole range of airports that do great things in supporting our economy and enabling people to travel abroad on their holidays.

Having identified the EU block, I can share with the Committee that these matters are under discussion at a European level. The European Commission’s better airports package, the proposal to amend the EU slot regulations, provides an opportunity for the UK to highlight general issues with the European Commission and explore the inclusion of measures to help secure the ongoing provision of air services between UK regions and congested London airports. The Committee’s discussions today will provide a useful input into that process. I believe that the European Scrutiny Committee is due to debate the better airports package next week.

Although I understand the concerns behind the new clause, I am unable to support it for the reasons given. I recognise that caution is needed in relation to the concerns expressed by several Government Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge. Nevertheless, I assure the Committee that the Government are committed to supporting regional airports and regional connectivity.

Our plans for a new high-speed rail network, connecting London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, provide a major improvement to regional connectivity, which will be felt far wider than the destinations directly served by the first phase of the project, as I said in reply to the hon. Member for Scunthorpe. For example, our HS2 proposals for the north of England deliver a journey time from Glasgow and Edinburgh to London of approximately three and a half hours. We regard our plans for HS2 as the first stages of a genuinely national network, which will provide further benefits for regional economies and regional connectivity.

Unlike the hon. Member for Glasgow South, I do not believe that a third runway at Heathrow is the solution to our country’s transport problems. Apparently, the Leader of the Opposition also opposes a third runway, but it seems that that message has not percolated through to the hon. Gentleman’s party. We will soon consult on our new aviation policy framework, which will include a focus on regional airports. Alongside that, we will issue a call for evidence on maintaining the status of the UK as an international hub for aviation with excellent connectivity.

I welcome the contributions made by hon. Members about this important matter.