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 5:00 pm on 13th March 2012.

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Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Labour, Glasgow South 5:00 pm, 13th March 2012

I am grateful for the Minister’s comments. I admit that it would have come as something of a surprise if she had stood up and said that she would accept the new clause. Perhaps it was my fault for announcing that it was a probing amendment; in future, I should try to keep the Government Whip on his toes instead of on his BlackBerry.

It is incredibly tempting to press the new clause to a vote to give Government Members an opportunity to vote in favour of EU legislation, but I will not be as pugnacious and hard-hearted as my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse, who, given half a chance, would have pressed anything to a vote.

I have listened to the Minister’s comments and am grateful for what she said about the debate that is taking place at a European level. I hope she will recognise, however, that this is such an important matter that the UK Government must take a lead. I support high-speed rail, but it is not enough constantly to refer to HS2 as a solution for the problems faced by regional airports; those problems extend far beyond the need for connectivity by surface transport.

At some point, the Government must find genuine solutions. The two governing parties will have to come up with a little more meat in relation to what I said about Heathrow’s expansion. I understand the Lib Dem position—its Members want a modal shift from air to horse-drawn carriage, which is fair enough, but the Conservative party used to be known as the pro-business party. Until it becomes that again, I am afraid that the industry will not accept whatever strategy or short-term solutions it comes up with.

I am grateful to the Minister because she has obviously given the matter genuine thought. It has been a good debate. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.