I understand that this is a probing new clause, and I shall be interested to hear the Minister’s response to the issues raised. Transport underpins the quality of our life and our economic prospects, particularly in the far-flung regions of this country. The Government have said many times that they wish to rebalance the economy from the south to the north. We have heard many times, throughout the passage of this Bill and others, about the problems of aviation capacity in the south-east. The key to that rebalancing is to ensure that regional transport infrastructure is up to the job. That includes the role of regional airports and their links to the south-east.
We have heard a number of times about the importance of regional airports and the role that they can play in dealing with capacity issues in the south-east, if they are allowed to, and we have heard how well run, efficient, effective and profitable regional airports can be. In an earlier sitting, the Minister talked about the efficiency of Manchester and Newcastle airports in particular. However, as many in my region know only too well, the efficiency, effectiveness and profitability of a good regional airport, particularly the smaller radial airports, can be thrown into jeopardy overnight by one big player pulling out and using its Heathrow slots elsewhere. The new clause would allow the Secretary of State by order to require the Civil Aviation Authority to impose on an airline an obligation to operate an air transport service serving a specified route before allowing them to operate another route. That would be a general obligation; it is not about one particular airport or one particular region, and it could not be tied to one specific airport or airline.