Tuesday, 18 December 2012
Clause four revisited.
Public Ownership. Who ever thought that the word would be used in the context of the Welsh government. But this is precisely what Carwyn Jones announced in the case of Cardiff airport. Forget Welsh Labour or New Labour this is back to very old Labour and it's belief in nationalisation.
The Welsh Government intend to take Cardiff-Wales International into state ownership. That is, of course, if the price is right.
In making the announcement he said the usual caveats that it was “subject to the satisfactory completion of financial, legal and value for money considerations, the Welsh Government may then proceed towards a purchase of the airport.”
But the calling of the press conference and making the announcement public is a sure sign that the deal is virtually in the bag. What Jones refused to say is what he’s paying for it, claiming commercial confidentiality.
Carwyn Jones has form for criticising the airport. It’s been a theme of his that the airport has been letting down the Welsh economy. It’s not fit for purpose. Blaming it all on the owners. Clearly, the owners were fed up with his bellyaching and have said to him if you think you can do better take it off our hands for a price.
The responsibility will now be Carwyn Jones’s If it doesn’t work now it will be government’s fault. Government hope to make a go of it and return a profit to government coffers. But name me a government that has not expressed optimism when embarking on such ventures.
It is now certain that the First Minister will be campaigning hard to get control on the taxes on air passengers so that he can use the levy to entice new airlines into Cardiff. The Silk Commission has already recommended that the Welsh government be given responsibility for tax on long haul flights, but the First Minister is very eager to get his hands on the powers for short haul as well. By so doing he can undercut other airports and bag a few budget airlines.
He even went so far as to talk about Cardiff being developed as London’s Terminal 6 with fast train links being developed into London.
The Business Minister Edwina Hart said that “The message from business leaders and tourism operators across Wales is clear; strong, international transport links are vital to our prosperity, and key to future economic growth.
“Subject to satisfactory due diligence, our investment in Cardiff Airport has the potential to create many exciting possibilities for the Welsh economy – boosting opportunities for international trade, and helping to increase visitor numbers to Wales.”
The Conservative leader Andrew R T Davies needed convincing that it was a good move. He said “The First Minister will have to work very hard to convince us that this move will represent value for tax-payer money and, equally important, deliver the improvements that are needed.”
Plaid Cymru welcomed the move and pointed out that they’ve been wanting the government to take the airport over for sometime.
The public however, will be sceptical that buying an airport is the best use of public money at a time when many are facing real hardship as essential public services and benefits are being cut. Many will see their incomes take such a dip that the last thing they’ll be thinking of is a foreign holiday and the use of Cardiff airport.
As Nye Bevan said "Socialism is the language of priorities." Is an airport the highest priority in these straightened times?