MINISTERS are being urged to clear up confusion about whether Leeds Bradford Airport will be shut out of a Government help scheme.
In March, the Treasury offered to pay half the charges faced by new carriers for three years, in a bid to encourage them to choose smaller regional runways.
The help would cover fuel costs, landing charges and baggage charges and any fees to help the development of an airport, but not air passenger duty, officials said.
But – four months later – airports have received no guidance on how to apply to the ‘regional connectivity fund’, Labour alleged.
And ministers have failed to set out the “exceptional circumstances” under which airports with more than three million passengers – including Leeds Bradford (3.3m) – can be included.
Gordon Marsden, Labour’s transport spokesman, said: “Regional airports fear that the Government are not doing enough for connectivity, not least to London.
“Ministers still have no green light from Europe to say that airports with three million to five million passengers can apply.
“Only one airport – Dundee - is confirmed to get any money so far. How can we be sure that airports such as Newcastle, Leeds Bradford and Norwich will get more support from the Government by 2015?”
Tony Hallwood, Leeds Bradford’s aviation development director, confirmed the airport was no closer to learning the “exceptional circumstances” in which it could benefit.
He said: “That’s yet to be decided – we are waiting for clear direction from the department for transport.
“We are keen to make progress to continue to bring new services to our region and the regional air connectivity can play a very important role to help us achieve that.
“We have been informed we will be advised over the summer about how the fund will help airports with three to five million passengers, so we can take full advantage.”
In the Commons, transport minister Robert Goodwill admitted the details of the aid scheme had not yet been “hammered out” – because they required approval under EU state aid rules.
But he insisted: “We are optimistic that we can have a positive outcome with the European Commission.
“We will have further information for airports wishing to apply during the autumn, when the details have been hammered out, so that we can comply with the state aid rules.”
The criticism comes as the all-party transport select committee launches an inquiry into the steps the Government could take to help airports with fewer than five million passengers.
It will examine the regional connectivity fund, as well as issues including air passenger duty, the use of ‘public service obligations’ (PSOs) to protect routes and cargo services.