Tories unveil their plan for Cardiff Airport to earn money for the Welsh taxpayer



Tories unveil their plan for Cardiff Airport to earn money for the Welsh taxpayer


Welsh Conservatives say their blueprint for Wales’ national airport outlines ways to double its value

The Welsh Conservatives have unveiled their plan for Cardiff Airport
The Welsh Conservatives have unveiled their plan for Cardiff Airport
Matthew Horwood

A blueprint for the future of Cardiff Airport has been unveiled by the Welsh Conservatives – which outlines how the Welsh taxpayer could be reimbursed after its £52m nationalisation.

The Tories have today set out what they describe as “unashamedly ambitious” plans in the document, A Blueprint for Cardiff Airport.

Among the plans is the proposed establishment of an Airlines’ Director to attract new carriers, improved transport links and the devolution of Air Passenger Duty to lower rates and improve competitiveness.

Meanwhile they say that under their plans every Welsh taxpayer would get their £38.50 stake in the airport back by doubling its value and selling it back to the private sector.

But Labour has accused the Tories of a “U-turn” after previously criticising the Welsh Government’s intervention.

In March, Labour’s First Minister Carwyn Jones announced the deal to buy Cardiff Airport for £52m after three months of due diligence negotiations with owners TBI – owned by Spanish aerospace giant Abertis.

The announcement came after years of decline and falling passenger numbers from 2.1 million in 2007 to last year’s 15-year low of 1.01m.

The Conservatives’ Byron Davies, Shadow Minister for Transport, said their plans would see the “tremendous potential” of the airport in Rhoose in the Vale of Glamorgan, tapped into.

He said: “Welsh Conservatives opposed the Welsh Labour Government’s decision to nationalise Cardiff Airport, but now it is in public hands, we need to make it a success.

“We have an ambitious plan to increase the airport’s value by attracting new airlines and routes, improving public transport links and using Air Passenger Duty as a lever to make rates at Cardiff Airport more competitive.”

Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies added: “This package of measures is unashamedly ambitious for Cardiff Airport, ambitious for our economy and ambitious for Wales.”

The blueprint also revealed plans to improve the Welsh marketing campaign to showcase the nation to emerging markets, bolster public transport links and enhance freight transfers by offering competitive business rates.

Aviation expert Martin Evans, a visiting fellow at the University of South Wales Business School, said the idea of reselling the airport into private ownership ran the risk of having an owner without Wales’ best interests at heart.

“You then are at the mercy of international investment decisions,” he said.

“With government control, the government has a wider interest in economic development of Wales and it would take a greater interest than a private owner.”

The devolution of long-haul Air Passenger Duty has already been recommended by The Silk Commission.

And Mr Evans said that, out of all the measures, could have a “transformative” effect.

He said: “It would give Cardiff Airport a role as the long haul airport for Wales and Western England.

“There’s no point trying to compete in markets that are already lost. We have lost the battle with Bristol for low-cost airlines to a large extent.”

But Mr Evans said, while they had put forward the blueprint, Tories could help secure devolved Airport Passenger Duty in a future finance bill by focusing efforts on colleagues in Westminster.

And Welsh Labour’s Vaughan Gething said the blueprint showed the Conservatives had admitted they’d “got it wrong”.

He said: “After months of burying his head in the sand, it’s encouraging to see Andrew RT Davies now finally making this welcome U-turn and backing the Welsh Labour Government’s interventionist approach.

“We welcome the fact the Welsh Tories have joined the Welsh Labour Government in calling for the devolution of Air Passenger Duty.

“We now look forward to them stating publicly what representations they’ve made to the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer on this issue.”

Eluned Parrott, Welsh Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on transport, said: “Taxpayers will rightly be watching every move made by the Welsh Government and alternative suggestions from other political parties.

“Taxpayers deserve to get good value for money.