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VIDEO: Plaid Leader on Cardiff Airport

08/10/2021

Plaid Leader Leanne Wood speaks on the future of Cardiff Airport in the senedd

I, too, welcome the report from the Enterprise and Business Committee and the Welsh Government‘s largely positive response to the recommendations. I, too, will focus my contribution on Cardiff Airport, which is our only international airport and, as many Members have said this afternoon, it has faced some severe difficulties in recent years. Predicted increases in passenger numbers have not materialised, with the numbers falling again by 14% in 2011, down from nearly 1.4 million people to 1.2 million, and profit has turned to loss. Clearly, something must be changed.

That is why I am somewhat surprised, like the previous speaker, that one area with which the committee did not engage in detail was the question of the ownership of Cardiff Airport. It has already been pointed out that, after the reorganisation of local government, the airport was privatised in 1995 and purchased by its current owner, Abertis, in 2005. In setting out his plans for a taskforce back in May, the First Minister said that he had been in talks with potential buyers interested in a public-private partnership deal for the airport, with the Welsh Government taking a stake. It would be good to know what progress has been made on those talks. After all, that taskforce met for the first time in June and was due to have a second meeting in September, but it is my understanding that that second meeting has not yet taken place.

The Party of Wales‘s position is that, within state aid rules, we would like to see as much support as possible given to Cardiff Airport so that it acts in the best interest of the people of Wales as a job creator and as a conduit for investment. Those state aid rules are currently being revised by the EU, with a particular focus on the role of regional airports for economic growth, and I hope that the Welsh Government has played a full role and responded to the consultation. If it has, I would welcome a copy of that response.

Government participation in airport ownership would hardly be unique. The Danish Government owns almost 40% of Copenhagen Airport. Through a stake in the airport, we could ensure that the guiding principles of our national airport would be more resources for route development, further investigation into joint funding to improve facilities, attracting business customers and foreign companies, who will then bring money to Wales, and developing a long-term strategy rather than grabbing a headline for a quick fix.

That could also involve the promotion of our KLM links, with Schiphol as an international hub, and looking once again at links between Wales and New York, and other parts of North America. We need to ensure that Cardiff Airport reflects the best of Wales, and a better airport provides a boost to our local economy. Cardiff Airport is a Welsh icon, and the people of Wales rightly have a keen interest in its future. People want to have civic pride in our national airport. We all want it to be so much better. People do not want to have to go through Bristol to go on their holidays. There is a sense out there that Wales should have an international airport because we are a nation. People are frustrated and disappointed that that airport is not performing to its full potential, and they want to see it turned around. A Government stake in the airport could give the people of Wales more direct representation in the facility, which would, in turn, help to secure its future.