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Ministry Of Aviation

Volume 645: debated on Monday 24 July 1961

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London Airport (Terminal Building)


asked the Minister of Aviation when he anticipates completion of the terminal building for international traffic at London Airport.

The first part of the new passenger terminal for long-haul services should be completed during October and the remainder next spring.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether, when this long overdue building is completed, all motor traffic will be able to drop passengers at the door of the building instead of leaving them across the road, as is the case with the other building at the Central Airport?

I will bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said. I do not want to commit myself in advance of knowing what the traffic will be at Heathrow by saying just where everyone will go.

Gatwick Airport (Runway Facilities)


asked the Minister of Aviation what steps he is taking to enlarge and improve the runway facilities at Gatwick Airport.

Gatwick Airport was designed for use by short and medium haul services and not for the heavier long haul aircraft taking off at their maximum all-up weight. It would be uneconomic to duplicate the facilities which have been provided at Heathrow for regular long haul services.

To meet the requirements of short and medium haul aircraft at Gatwick, I have recently increased the distance available for take-off at the western end of the existing runway. I have also asked consulting engineers to survey and make an estimate of the cost and time required for the construction of a second runway.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when heavy jet aircraft are diverted to Gatwick Airport they have to take off with an insufficient load of fuel to complete their journey, which necessitates another landing fee, well over £100? Is it right that a country which is as important in the world as Britain as an air centre should have only one major airport in the south of England which will take the heaviest aircraft?

There is a certain confusion here. A fully-loaded medium-range jet can, of course, take off from Gatwick. That is what it is designed for. It is also possible to divert for landing purposes a trans-Atlantic jet, but a trans-Atlantic jet cannot take off fully-loaded. For that purpose it has to go back to Heathrow. As the Estimates Committee suggested the other day, there is a case for reducing the landing fee for a transfer of that kind, That would be much cheaper than trying to duplicate Heathrow.

Has the Minister's attention been drawn to Recommendation No. 25 of the Estimates Committee and to the paragraph in the Report which urges the Minister to make provision to enable jet aircraft to take off fully loaded from Gatwick, If this is not done, the principle of having a secondary or alternative airport to Heathrow is completely nullified.

I will consider very carefully what is, I am sure, an admirable Report. I do not wish to give an answer now, but I should like to make it clear beyond peradventure that Gatwick is not an alternative to Heathrow. That is the starting point for fully-loaded trans-Atlantic traffic. There are many other things that we would do before we did what has been suggested.

Traffic is heavy, not only across the Atlantic, but to Australia, Africa and the rest of the world. Is it not high time that a large number of services went from Gatwick instead of from Heathrow, which is already overcrowded?

Heathrow is overcrowded, not with long distance jets but with medium and short haul jets. There might be a case for transferring some of those to Gatwick. I do not wish to debate the matter in detail now. If my hon. Friend likes to have a word with me, I am sure that I can persuade him of the justice of my case.

London Airport (Advertisement)


asked the Minister of Aviation when the contract to advertise whisky at the main terminal building of London Airport expires and if he proposes to renew it.

The contract is for a period of twelve months from 19th May, 1961, and thereafter subject to cancellation on six months' notice. The renewal or termination of the contract will be considered at the appropriate time.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I am not averse to advertising good Scotch whisky? However, does he realise that this advertisement would harmonise better with the Mardi gras than with the dignity of a great airport like London Airport, which is the European gateway to Britain and the American gateway to Europe?

I am glad to hear of the hon. Gentleman's tastes. I am aware of the differing views which have been expressed about the merits of this advertisement.

I am not averse to advertising in general, or to this particular product, but it does seem a pity that this advertisement should be in this place. Will not the Parliamentary Secretary, and the Minister, too, consider the matter again, because this advertisement gives a very unfortunate impression?

I am sure that when the time for renewal comes the views which have been expressed will be borne in mind.

Space Research


asked the Minister of Aviation what contribution will be made by oversea Commonwealth countries to the European space research project.

The Australian Government have offered to make the Woomera Range and its facilities available to the proposed European organisation for developing a space vehicle launcher.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that Answer. Despite Canadian commitments to the United States, partly due to the long delay in starting our own project, are there not Canadians of science and skill and other Commonwealth citizens in countries such as India who can help us?

I am sure that there are Commonwealth citizens who could help us and who would be very welcome. The Commonwealth Governments have been kept fully informed. I think that, on the whole, it is unlikely that, apart from Australia, they will be participating directly.

Turnhouse Airport, Edinburgh


asked the Minister of Aviation whether the work at present being carried out on the runways and buildings at Turnhouse Airport, Edinburgh, will be completed by 1st August as originally scheduled.

The runway works will be complete, and although the new buildings will not be fully ready, Turn-house will re-open, and East Fortune will be closed, on 1st August.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the disappointment which is felt in Edinburgh owing to the failure to have the building ready? Can he say whether there was a contract for the building to be finished by 1st August? Was a penalty clause attached to the contract? If so, has it been broken? Finally, will my hon. Friend make clear in the House that any inconvenience that may be suffered is in no part due to British European Airways?

I am not aware of the precise terms of the contract, but I will write to my hon. Friend on that paint. The architect expects the work to be completed substantially by the end of August.

Helicopter Stations, London Area


asked the Minister of Aviation if he is yet able to publish the Report of the Committee on the Planning of Helicopter Stations in the Landon Area; and if he will make a statement.

In its first Report, the Committee recommended three possible sites for the operation of regular services with large scale helicopters: Nine Elms Goods Yard, Cannon Street Station roof and St. Katharine Docks. Detailed technical and economic studies are continuing.

Meanwhile, as the Report contains much of public interest, I have decided to publish it, together with a Supplementary Report recently completed by the Committee on the possibility of operating helicopters from the roofs of high buildings. Copies will be available in the Vote Office today.

In thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that information, may I ask him to bear in mind that we had another Report, a very optimistic one, from the Inter-Departmental Committee on Helicopters, in 1951, and that we are still awaiting developments from then? Can the Minister now say that there is hope of getting a helicopter landing station in London itself? As he is aware, many provincial towns have for years earmarked sites and it is London that is holding things up.

We must never lose hope. I share the hon. Member's view that it is clear that helicopters will play a part in city to city travel in the future. I urge hon. Members to read this Report. As a preliminary to further discussion, it would be very useful.

Will the Minister keep in mind the noise question? It is of great importance and we are all anxious to see helicopters in city centres if possible, but not at the sacrifice of the peace of mind of the citizens

If the hon. Member reads the Report, he will see that the noise question figures prominently in it, both as to the contribution which can be made by the manufacturers and the operators, as well as the problems of where to site the heliport.

Airports (Noise Abatement)


asked the Minister of Aviation whether he has studied the recommendations of the International Air Transport Association on noise abatement at airports and other contingent matters; and if he will make a statement on their practicability.

Yes, Sir. We are grateful for the work which the International Air Transport Association has carried out on this subject, and we agree with many of its recommendations. A number of the proposals are still being studied and trials are being made of procedures after take-off which will help to reduce still further the disturbance over built-up areas

Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the recommendations that airports should be good neighbours and community assets? Does he also agree with the recommendation which states that his Department should provide all-weather ground facilities so that pilots should be able to use minimum noise flight paths when coming into and leaving airports?

I certainly agree that airports should be community assets, and we are carrying out trials based on the recommendations concerning minimum noise standards. What we cannot accept is suggestions for relaxation of our present standards of noise.

Does the hon. Gentleman further agree that noise-critical areas ought not to be developed as housing areas?

We certainly keep in touch with the planning authorities on that sort of matter.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary agree that he should pay great attention to the second point raised by my hon. Friend concerning the noise of aircraft coming in, which is often neglected, as compared with the noise of aircraft taking off? It is aircraft coming in which make the noise spread over wide areas of cities of great importance.