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MPs Sir Roger Gale and Laura Sandys meet business minister Michael Fallon in the House of Commons in ongoing battle to save Manston Airport

By Mary Louis

Business minister Michael Fallon has agreed to “throw his weight” behind the Manston Working Group to save the airport.

This was announced in a joint statement by Thanet MPs Sir Roger Gale and Laura Sandys following a meeting this afternoon with the Minister of State for Business at the Department for BIS.

Meanwhile Sir Roger raised the issue in the House of Commons addressing its Leader Andrew Lansley MP.

Business minister Michael Fallon with Thanet MPs Sir Roger Gale and Laura Sandys at the House of Commons.

Mr Lansley’s response gave an assurance that politicians in the Department of Transport attached “undiminished” importance to regional airports.

Following a “most useful and productive” meeting with Mr Fallon, Sir Roger and Ms Sandys stated: “The Minister of State has agreed to throw his weight behind the Manston Working Group, and if the future of the airport can be secured under new ownership we believe that very considerable practical support will be forthcoming from both BIS and the Department of Transport.

"Added to the backing of Kent County Council and Thanet District Council this adds up to a considerable force for success.

British Airways makes history with its first Airbus A380 in training at Manston Airport in summer 2013 with another regular visitor, an RAF Red Arrow jet plane. Picture: Tim Stubbings

“The Minister has also undertaken to examine two specific and significant suggestions that we have put to him.

“Following from the response made by the Leader of the House in the Commons earlier today, it is clear that there is a considerable Government desire to see Manston continue as an operating airport in the national interest.”

This is welcome news for the thousands of Manston Airport supporters who are continuing to battle for its salvation in the wake of yesterday’s blow with news that the potential airport ‘buyer’ had withdrawn their offer.

Earlier today in parliament, Sir Roger put the following question to the Leader of the House of Commons Andrew Lansley MP.

Crowds packed into Acol Village Hall at the public meeting on the future of Manston Airport.

Sir Roger asked: “My Right Honourable Friend will be aware that Manston Airport in my constituency is threatened with closure after less than four months of a promised two years

under its present ownership. Manston is a planned search and rescue facility, and a major diversion field and only this week a jet destined for Heathrow and running short of fuel had to be diverted to Manston.

“I am still hopeful that, with goodwill, it may be possible to secure a buyer prepared to keep the airport open. If Manston does close I shall seek to raise the background to the matter in an adjournment debate.”

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale at a public meeting on the future of Manston Airport

The MP asked if Mr Lansley would “seek to ensure that the Government gives consideration as to how the predatory disposal of national assets with security implications may be averted?”

The leader replied: “I am sure the House will completely understand and indeed endorse my honourable friend’s view of the importance of regional airports - in this instance Manston - in his constituency and in other neighbouring constituencies across Kent, and Thanet in particular.

“As he knows, my honourable friends at the Department for Transport are well aware of the issue, and in addition to what he said about the desirability of a debate in the House, I know that they will want to keep in touch with him and with the owners and operators out of Manston airport, recognising all the while that it is a commercial matter, but that the importance they attach to regional airports is undiminished.

Public support for Manston Airport continues to grow, with feeling running high. In 12 days an online petition for the airport has gained more than 13,500 signatures while the Facebook closed group Save Manston Airport has more than 12,100 members.

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