I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The new clause would give the Secretary of State the authority to require the CAA to impose on any airline an obligation to provide a service on any route. The CAA would draw up such a regulation, which could be imposed only after consultation with all interested bodies. I accept that, at first glance, the new clause might be interpreted as some sort of Stalinist attempt by the state to wrest control of the airline industry—that may or may not be a bad thing—but it is merely a probing amendment, intended to raise some important issues with regard to UK airports and their access to the UK’s hub airport at Heathrow.
The new clause gives me yet another opportunity to raise the issue of Heathrow’s third runway, the absence of which lies at the heart of many of the capacity problems faced by the UK, not only at Heathrow but throughout the country. A year ago, bmi—British Midland International—confirmed that it would withdraw its regular scheduled service between Glasgow and Heathrow. It blamed the decision on increases in passenger charges at Heathrow, but there is no doubt in my mind that the decision was made—as such decisions will be made in future—in the context of a hub airport that operates at 99% of capacity, and at which slots for regional services can be better and more profitably used by airlines for long-haul services. I raised that danger in debates on the future of Heathrow in the Chamber in 2009.