Thursday 2nd February
Since Cardiff airport was rescued from loss-making private ownership by a public-private partnership, it has earned a top environmental award and is now the fastest-growing airport in the United Kingdom, with passenger numbers increasing 16% last year. Will the Secretary of State welcome the Welsh Government’s purchase of the airport? The Airports Commission report says that connectivity will be improved between the regions and nations of Britain, so will he also guarantee that one of those links will be with Wales?
Cardiff airport has been a great success story, and I pay tribute to all those involved. The hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) asked about what will happen in the coming years, and we are fortunate in having some very good regional airports that can not only take up the slack in the coming years but will be a crucial part of our overall airport strategy in the future.
Yesterday, with the greatest reluctance, many Members genuflected to the authority of public opinion as expressed in a referendum. Will the House show the same respect to the unprecedented number of people who have signed two petitions since Saturday? Some 1,800,000 people have expressed their outrage at the prospect of President Trump enjoying a state visit here, whereas 200,000 have supported the invitation. Can we ensure that we show respect to people’s sense of horror by having not only a debate in the House, but a vote among hon. Members?
The unique feature of the EU referendum was that Parliament passed an Act that expressly referred the decision to the British people. I certainly felt that we were honour-bound to accept the verdict. As for the state visit by the President of the United States, of course people are free to express their opinions, and it is right that the Petitions Committee has allocated time for the petition to be debated. The Government take the view that a state visit is perfectly appropriate. The relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States of America—including with its elected head of state—matters to the security of our citizens and the geopolitical role of the west, as well as to our commercial and industrial interests. For those reasons, it is right that we should welcome the elected head of the United States of America in the way that we have his predecessors.