MEP calls on EU to examine 'unfair' Welsh Assembly purchase of Cardiff Airport - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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MEP calls on EU to examine 'unfair' Welsh Assembly purchase of Cardiff Airport

Tuesday, 5 February 2013
South West Conservative MEP Ashley Fox has called on the European Commission to urgently investigate the Welsh Government's proposal to buy Cardiff Airport which he believes breaches the European Union’s rules against state aid.

Last December, the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, announced that the Welsh Government has entered into an exclusive ‘due diligence’ agreement with TBI, the current owners of Cardiff Airport.

He said the airport would be run by an independent operator on the Welsh Assembly government's behalf, would not receive subsidies and would make a "return to the Welsh taxpayer" as well as the private operator.

But Mr Fox is worried that could provide Cardiff Airport with an unfair advantage over other regional airports that are not in receipt of Government funds, such as nearby Bristol Airport.

In my view the decision by the Welsh Labour Government is a waste of taxpayers’ money,he writes in his regularly newsletter. “The Welsh Government needs to decide whether purchasing an airport deemed by the Civil Aviation Authority to be its ‘worst-performing’ is really the best way to spend public funds. They should seriously consider whether they are in breach of EU law.

The ability of the Welsh authorities to pump taxpayer’s money into expanding Cardiff Airport is a real concern. I am also worried they will promote Cardiff Airport overseas using Welsh tourism money. We have already seen Plymouth and Filton Airports close, in the South West. We don’t want Bristol Airport’s success to be jeopardised.

I have asked the European Commission to investigate this as a matter of urgency.

Click here to download and read Mr Fox's parliamentary question (E-001133/2013).

See also: Future remains unclear at Newquay Airport despite closure declared not an option 'no matter what' (15/10/2011)

UPDATE [29/04, 13:30]
This week it was reported that Cardiff Airport is to get a '£500,000 'welcoming' revamp' following its recent purchase by the Welsh government. In a follow up question to this question, MEP Fox has now asked the Commission whether it believes the purchase, now completed at "at a sale price of GBP 52 million" - a figure he says is "considered to be considerably above market value" - constitutes a breach of EU state aid rules.

"Despite assurances from the Welsh Government that the airport will be operated on an ‘arm’s-length’ basis, it is expected that it will be providing annual funding to the sum of GBP 6 million to support capital investment and route development," he says.

Click here to download and read Mr Fox's parliamentary question (E-004381/2013).

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