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Gatwick Airport

Volume 929: debated on Tuesday 5 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what proposals he has for the use of the new facilities which are now being provided at Gatwick Airport; and if he will make a statement.

The way in which future London area air traffic should be handled and the longer-term airport developments which will be required are at present the subject of consultations with local authorities, airport committees, airlines, amenity groups, employees' organisations and others.Extensive development work is in progress at the two major international airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, which serve the London area. Improvements and modifications at Heathrow, which will be completed in 1978, should provide capacity for 30 million passengers a year. The reconstruction of the terminal and related facilities at Gatwick, which will also be completed in 1978 at a cost of £70 million, should enable that airport to cater for about 16 million passengers a year. Decisions concerning the longer-term expansion of the London airports, including the possible development of other airports, will be taken in the light of the consultations on airports strategy, which are now nearing completion. However, irrespective of these decisions, it is necessary to ensure that air traffic is distributed in such a way as to use the capacity that is now available and being provided.If the expected increase in London area air traffic over the next few years is to be accommodated without serious congestion at Heathrow, the main objective, in the immediate future, is to ensure that Gatwick, with its new facilities, unrivalled access and other advantages, is used more extensively. The natural growth of existing air services at Gatwick will not be sufficient for this purpose and some transfer of traffic from Heathrow to Gatwick, to be spread over the next few years, is required.First, from 1st April 1978, no whole plane charters of British and overseas airlines will have access to Heathrow, thus providing some immediate relief to terminal capacity at Heathrow. However, to ensure an efficient allocation of air services between the two airports, further action is required, which would involve the transfer of scheduled services of British and overseas operators from

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Heathrow to Gatwick; this would contribute to the establishment of a viable network of scheduled services from Gatwick. This is one of the issues being considered in the present renegotiation of the United Kingdom/United States air services agreement and discussions have also been initiated with the Canadian, Spanish and Portuguese Governments, and similar discussions may take place later with other countries. I wish to emphasise that the implementation of these policies must be carried out so as to avoid discrimination between foreign airlines and their British competitors.

Any proposals by newcomers to start operations from Heathrow, and requests by existing operators to introduce additional capacity to and from Heathrow, will be considered by the Civil Aviation Authority and my Department in the light of this policy.