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Airport Policy

Volume 932: debated on Thursday 26 May 1977

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I was about to conclude and to say that this may be the last chance for many years to relieve the South-East of an unfair share of the burden of air traffic that serves the whole of the country. If in their White Paper the Government fail to face up to this problem they will be failing not only our generation but generations to come.

10.1 p.m.

It is clear that for the foreseeable future Maplin is a dead duck and that there will be no completely new airport in the country. It is also clear that there will be a continued growth in air traffic, although there may be argument about the size of that growth.

There is a degree of agreement in the House tonight that as much traffic as possible should be diverted to regional airports. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Palmer) made an eloquent plea that some traffic should go to Bristol. Despite that, there will be an increase in air traffic at South-East airports. That is an inescapable conclusion for the foreseeable future.

I wish to address the House about the effect of that expansion on Luton airport. First, I want to speak of the future size of that airport. The first of the consultative documents presents a number of possible alternatives. They are contained on page 31 of the document. Two of the alternatives, F and H, suggest that Luton might expand to take 5 million passengers a year. Another two alternatives, G and J, suggest that Luton might expand to take 10 million passengers a year. We reached a peak of almost 3¾ million passengers in 1972–73 before the Court Line collapse. A total of 5 million is not therefore a particularly big increase.

Currently, about 1·7 million passengers a year go through Luton Airport. The Luton District Council, the county authority, and I believe that the lower of the two figures is preferable at this stage and for as far ahead as one can see. A total of 5 million passengers could be accommodated, as the document says, within the existing or planned terminal facilities.

The document is a little inaccurate in that respect. It says that improvements to the existing terminal arrangements are now being carried out and that the airport could accommodate a throughput of 5 million passengers a year. But, the fourth stage of the development of the terminal building has not taken place. It has been held in abeyance because the Secretary of State said that he wanted to see how the first three stages of the development worked out before permission for the fourth stage was granted.

Even if the four stages are completed, I am informed, there will have to be fairly careful scheduling of flights, and so on, to accommodate 5 million passengers, even with the completed terminal building. However, with that building there will be the facilities to accommodate 5 million passengers.

It would also have beneficial employment effects. A figure of 1,000 extra jobs is quoted in the document. That could possibly be doubled if the multiplier effects are taken into account. I would regard the increase in employment as a not unimportant factor. In Luton we have an imbalance of jobs, in the sense that we have a very high proportion of jobs in manufacturing industry as compared with jobs in service industries. It is very much out of line with the national average, and a few more jobs in the service sector to balance the manufacturing sector jobs would not come amiss. It would also not come amiss for there to be job opportunities other than those offered by the few very large multinational companies that dominate employment in Luton. I also happen to believe that employment in manufacturing is in long-term decline, and clearly any employment in other spheres is to be welcomed.

An expansion to 5 million passengers could also be accommodated pretty much within the existing transport and road system, and the noise consequences of an expansion to 5 million would not be particularly great. On the other hand, as the document points out, an expansion to 10 million would put us in a rather different ball game, for a number of reasons. Clearly, there would need to be built a second terminal. The document quotes a figure of £40 million, in terms of building a second terminal and presumably other facilities as well. That figure may be an under-estimate. I do not know.

Clearly there would be a much greater employment effect, which, in itself, may be no bad thing. The secondary effects in terms of housing provision, and so on, would be very large indeed, and it would put a tremendous burden upon transport facilities—road facilities, possibly rail facilities, and so on.

Therefore, certainly at this stage, it looks as though a figure of 10 million passengers would bring certain very large imbalances into the community and would present a number of very serious and very major planning and environmental problems.

I want to comment on the mix of use of the airport. We have been almost totally reliant at Luton Airport on holiday package tour traffic. The collapse of Court Line hit us very badly indeed. As I have said, we were running at well over 3 million passengers a year. We are now down to about half of that number. There is clearly a need for some scheduled services to run from Luton Airport. I also believe that there is a need for an increase in freight traffic from Luton Airport. Looking at the figures in the British Airports Authority's Annual Report, Luton sticks out like a sore thumb in having by far the smallest amount of freight traffic of any airport of any size in the country, or indeed, in Europe as a whole. If there were more freight traffic, particularly in terms of small-volume, high-price commodities, this could have considerable beneficial effects on local industry.

The last point I want to make relates to the question of ownership, because that certainly exercises the minds of the local authority and of many people in the town. It certainly exercises my mind as well. The document on regional airport strategy talks of the question of ownership, and one paragraph argues the case for what is called "common ownership". I found that a somewhat strange use of the term "common ownership" because, as a believer in Clause 4, I believe in common ownership very much. However, there are various forms of common ownership and it seems to me that municipal ownership is a perfectly legitimate and laudable form of common ownership.

I should like to say a few words in favour of the retention of municipal ownership. Clearly the Luton Borough Council has shown itself perfectly capable of running an airport pretty efficiently considering that in 1972–73 it made a surplus of 1½ million and even in the last financial year it made a surplus of £300,000 despite the trauma of the Court Line collapse and so on. The industrial relations record is pretty good. But the main argument is that there is a great deal to be said for local democratic control. We have rightly heard a great deal about the environmental problems which airports cause, such as noise problems and the rest. But surely a local authority is particularly sensitive to those problems. It has to be, because at the end of the day the ballot box is brought into play and people can be voted in or out. Pressure can also be brought to bear in a much more direct and rapid way than on any national authority.

The document argues, or at least suggests, that national ownership would make it easier to have common policies But I would submit that a common policy could be worked out and operated without national ownership. The document acknowledges that the performance of airport owners has been of a consistently high standard. It seems to me that the onus of proof must be on those who wish to change the pattern of ownership to national ownership.

I would strongly advocate that the ownership, certainly of Luton Airport, should be left in the control of the local authority. This virility symbol is one of which we are rightly proud in Luton. In Luton Airport we have a successful example of municipal enterprise. There is, of course, a need for an intelligent and clear airports policy. Of course we need to provide efficient services to take into account environmental factors. We need as far as possible to integrate with other forms of transport and all the other things that have been said. Luton Airport has an important part to play in such a policy and the owners of Luton Airport, who include myself, will co-operate to the full in devising such a policy and successfully operating it.

10.15 p.m.

The hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) has made a speech with a strong constituency flavour, as have most other Back Benchers. Although my constituency is within a few miles of Heathrow, I should like to develop some of the more strategic issues raised by the Undersecretary and my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South (Mr. Parkinson) in his perceptive comments.

We have paid a very high price in this country for the expansion of air travel in Britain. Cheap, fast, quieter and popular aeroplanes have meant, paradoxically, expensive, slow, noisy and unpopular airports.

For a country of its size, the United Kingdom now has more airports than any other Western European country. Indeed, this debate on airport policy provokes the obvious comment that this country has had too little policy and too much airport.

Historically, the distribution and development of our airports have taken place with no reference to any national airport plan; with little reference to the pattern of aircraft movements and changing aviation technology; in isolation—or defiance of—regional development plans; in blind disregard of the peace and comfort of those who live in their vicinity; and often in apparent ignorance of the presence of other airports in the same catchment area.

As a result, there are now some areas of the United Kingdom which merit an airport but which do not have one; and others which do not merit an airport, and which have one, two, or, in some cases, three. If a national airport policy had existed, we would never have built airports at both Prestwick and Abbotsinch; Birmingham and Coventry; Liverpool and Manchester; Southampton and Bournemouth; Newcastle and Teesside; Cardiff and Bristol. Paradoxically, we are now further away from a coherent national airport policy than we were over thirty years ago.

In 1945, a White Paper was issued with the intention of ensuring that
"orderly expansion of air transport".
The Government at that time took the view that strict control was essential to ensure the orderly development of airports in relation to traffic growth and changes in aircraft technology, and that the State alone could provide adequate resources for this balanced development. In 1947, the Government therefore announced that it was going to acquire 46 airports.

During the 1950s, this policy of central guidance was abandoned, and then reversed. The Select Committee on Estimates in 1955 looked at civil airports and recommended that municipalities be encouraged to acquire and operate their own airports. This policy of decentralisation was eventually adopted and set out in a White Paper in 1961. Airports were sold to local authorities in the belief that this would encourage a more commercial aproach to airport operation—a belief not justified by subsequent events. The inevitable consequences have been that since the war we have not had a coherent national airport policy. Consequently ad hoc development of individual airports has taken place with no conception of their role in the overall pattern of national and international transport.

The Edwards Committee's report—Cmnd. 4018—"British Air Transport in the Seventies", put its finger on the problem:
"There is little doubt too that in more than one case civic pride has galloped ahead of cold economic assessment with some wasted resources"
A coherent national airport policy would have avoided this scandalous waste of resources, not least the construction of Liverpool Airport. I understand that it has been quite busy today with a fair number of people arriving from Rome, for understandable reasons, but I gather that that is a hiccup in its normal operation.

Is my hon. Friend aware that Speke Airport has one of the most advanced runways in Britain, that it is the most important overflow for Manchester Airport, that it has fewer foggy days than Manchester, that it has better visibility and less pollution, and that it is far superior to any other airport in the United Kingdom, apart from London Airport?

I am now much better informed about the advantages of Liverpool Airport, but I stick to my view that it has been a total disaster in commercial terms for the ratepayers of Liverpool who have had to pay for it. We look forward, however, to hearing more from my hon. Friend about the advantages of his airport, and quite clearly he is interested in its continued operation.

A national airport policy would also have avoided the confusion and blight of the last few years which has clouded the future of areas such as Gatwick, Cublington, Luton, Stansted and Foulness. Again, the Edwards Committee pointed its finger at the culprit:
"To forecast our national airport needs, and then to create and develop the facilities, is bound to be a very difficult exercise. But although it is easy to exaggerate what could, in fact, be achieved by a study in depth, it is worse to tackle each problem on a purely ad hoc basis. One can at least show where the decisions and projected decisions are consistent one with another."
That is the answer to those who have expressed doubts about the feasibility of a national airport policy. The answer is contained in the history of the Edwards Committee and in the fact that in the last thirty years we have staggered on without a national policy and have wasted an incredible amount of money.

In the 1970–71 Session the First Report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, " British Airports Authority ", page 15, commented directly on this matter. It said:
"Your Committee regrets the present dilatoriness in starting to prepare a national plan."
The analysis of the problem by the Edwards Committee was, in my view, beyond reproach. However, its conclusions—highly relevant to our debate today—start from a false premise. This is set out in paragraph 71 when the Committee took as its starting point that
"The primary long term objective of Government policy towards civil aviation should be to ensure that the customer, be it for personal travel or freight, should be able to buy what he wants at the minimum economic price compatible with safety."
The Minister, in his opening remarks, confirmed that that is still his Department's philosophy.

In my brief remarks this evening, I hope to show that the implied policy of the Edwards Committee and indeed of this Government, as displayed in the consultative document, of continuing to meet demand as it manifests itself is totally untenable.

Airport policy must be placed in context, and its impact on other policy areas carefully assessed. Historically, we have tended to deal with the expansion of existing airports or the construction of new ones in isolation, and we have ignored their relationship to regional policy, employment opportunities, the transport network and environmental considerations.

I shall examine briefly the relationship between airport policy and tourism policy since the vast majority of those using the airports are tourists who need hotels, access to tourist attractions, theatres, taxis and so on. A policy for airports must be reconciled with a policy for all the related activities indulged in by those who use airports. Historically, we have tended to deal with these separate areas individually without any broad strategy to guide us.

An example of this is the fact that the debate on Maplin took place without any regard for the impact that a third London airport would have on the demand for hotels in London. The Government's policy on hotel development incentives did not take into account the impact of the construction of new hotels on the demand for supply of hotel labour in London.

Perhaps I can demonstrate my concern by using the forecasts of the Roskill Commission, which looked at the case for a third London airport and related that to its impact on London. Looking ahead, the Commission forecast 26 million tourists in 1991 and 40 million by the year 2006. The demand for a third London airport was based on these projections. However, no one ever asks what 40 million visitors in the year 2006 means to London. No one suggested that it might not be in the national interest, let alone the national capacity, to continue to accommodate more and more visitors from overseas. No one—and here perhaps the GLC was at fault—looked at the strategic implications for London of building an airport of that size, and London, after all, is where overseas visitors would have had to come from Maplin.

I noticed that when the Minister opened this debate, he said he was not prepared to consider a policy dependent on the suppression of demand. When pressed by my hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell), he said that this was purely hypothetical and that he did not expect a rise to the sort of level that was suggested in those terms. I think that he was totally wrong. Making some calculations on the back of an envelope, I have worked out that 40 million overseas visitors in the year 2006 staying on average 10 nights is 400 million overseas visitor nights. If 60 per cent. of those are spent in London—and this is a lower percentage than we have at the moment—then 240 million nights will be spent in London, or on average 700,000 tourists in London each day.

If 40 per cent of those nights are spent in hotels—again a low figure—this means 100 million nights in hotels in London. If one divides that by 365 to see how many hotel beds one needs each day, and if one allows for seasonal fluctuations, since demand is higher in the summer than in the winter, and if one allows for domestic requirements, one ends up with a need for around 500,000 hotel beds in London. At present there are fewer than 100,000, and many people think that that is too many. Is it therefore a realistic proposition to plan for airports on the basis of a five-fold expansion of hotels in London in the next 40 years? Where could they be built, and who would work in them?

If that argument is condemned by the Minister as antediluvian, I find that term offensive because I count myself among the more progressive in my party. One cannot resist the pure mathematics of what I am putting forward.

The reflection that passed through my mind was that, if we were to have 40 million visitors in 1991, 20 million of them would stay on as immigrants. Nothing is more certain.

I know that my hon. and learned Friend has firm views on that subject, which we can debate on another occasion.

My fear, in a nutshell, is that we shall go on gaily building airports because there is a demand for people to come to this country, without feeding in the capacity constraints which will start to manifest themselves through the next two or three decades. We need to have a policy for tourism and for airports that strikes a balance between the needs of tourists and the needs of residents. I say this because I believe that there is a saturation level for tourism in a given locality or region and that, if that level is exceeded, the costs begin to outweigh the benefits. These saturation levels may be dictated by the availability of labour, the amount of land suitable for hotel development, the capacity of the roads or, in the case of London, the capacity of the principal tourist attractions.

Those hon. Members who have been in the Palace of Westminster in the mornings this week will understand that pressure on this tourist attraction is increasing very rapidly. If we go ahead with a policy for airports that pays no attention to these saturation levels, we shall end up with a very bad policy. The situation at the Tower of London, at the Changing of the Guard, and at Westminster Abbey is already critical. Is the Minister saying that we can cope with five times that volume of traffic?

The only section in the document "Airport strategy for Great Britain" which relates to this matter is on page 10, and it says:
"The first approach, that of failing to meet the demand, attaches a higher value to loss of amenity than it does to the benefits of air travel."
It is a question not of loss of amenity but of the physical capacity of institutions in this country to cope with a demand of that level.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, although public institutions in London may be overcrowded, they are not overcrowded in Liverpool? Is he further aware that, although £1 million may have been lost at Liverpool Airport, £3 million has been lost at Manchester?

The House looks forward to the speech which my hon. Friend is clearly hatching about the advantages of Liverpool. But I do not intend to be diverted from my argument, which is concentrated mainly on the problems of London, where the tourist situation is at its most acute. Before the Minister can commit himself to an airport policy, he has to commit himself to some traffic estimates, and those traffic estimates must take account of the fall in the birth rate. The other imponderable relates to demand for airports by people from overseas. In that respect, of course, the potential demand is limitless. If it were to be the policy of the Government to go on building airports because people wish to fly to the United Kingdom, they would always build more airports. This policy would not be acceptable for the reasons I have outlined.

It therefore follows that at some point the mere fact that people wish to come here will not of itself justify an investment decision to build an airport. It is this mechanism for making a decision as to when one starts feeding in the constraints in which I am interested. At the moment no such mechanism exists. The Minister does not have the slightest idea what the long-term tourist policy is in terms of numbers. Until he has that figure, he can have no national airports policy.

The proposition which I wish to put to him this evening is that that figure is limited by the capacity, principally relating to London, to accommodate people from overseas and to admit them to our tourist attractions. He had better go away and find out what that figure is. He will be greatly assisted by a publication which I wrote some years ago called "Tourism—Blessing or Blight".

I believe that airports should be planned by the Department of the Environment and not by the Department of Trade, which is preoccupied with other matters because of foreign exchange earnings generated by overseas visitors and is pro airlines and not sensitive to the issues which we have been ventilating this evening.

My constituents would not forgive me if I did not briefly mention the problems of noise in Ealing. I see present in the Chamber the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) with whom I went to see the Minister some months ago. We put squarely to the Minister the strong feelings of people in Ealing on this subject. The argument that we were given in reply was that last year was a freak year and that this year there would be a marked improvement. I give notice to the Minister that if this year should be another freak year we shall be back on his doorstep and insisting that the nuisance that is suffered by our constituents should be minimised as soon as possible.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) would agree with me that we have for some time now—for four or five years—been running into freak years with regard to noisy aircraft flying over Ealing.

I can endorse that.

There are many other issues that I should like to raise, but time does not permit. One of them is the curious way in which we finance our airports, by using a loophole in Customs regulations that allows people to buy duty-free goods. That accounts for the profits of Heathrow, but I wonder whether it is a suitable way of running our airports—particularly since the EEC intends to do away with duty-free shops.

The Government must put policy for airports in a broader context and do some long-term calculations and some serious thinking on policy before committing themselves finally to a policy for airports.

10.31 p.m.

The hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) has made the most constructive contribution so far. I agree that it we are to consider seriously the policy for airports we must take into account such considerations as he has mentioned—tourism, transport, environment, the impact on employment and commercial opportunities, and the effect on development in parts of the country where those things are needed.

A curious irony of this debate is that several hon. Members who have spoken from the Back Benches have complained about the disadvantages of having large airports near their constituencies. However, I wish to ventilate the needs of the regions where the vast array of airport facilities do not exist and where there are reasonable grounds for believing that air services are inadequate and that airports have not been sufficiently developed.

Sheffield is probably the only major city in Europe without its own airport and without any airport within striking distance. It is certainly curious that of all the regions in England, Yorkshire and Humberside seem to have been the most neglected in terms of airport facilities.

Does my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) not agree that that was in essence what was said by the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young)—that this is a real danger? Perhaps the hon. Member will go on to expose it. If we do not have a proper policy we shall arrive at a situation in which some parts of the country will become richer as a result of air traffic while those people living in the immediate environs of airports will have a lower quality of life.

I shall develop that theme.

The current pattern is one of massive dominance by the London airports. In 1976 the London airports handled 28 million passengers—that is, 70 per cent. of all United Kingdom traffic. Heathrow alone took half of that traffic—20 million passengers—while next down the line were Manchester with 2·3 million passengers, Birmingham with just over 1 million and the Midlands and Leeds-Bradford airports with only 500,000 and 250,000 respectively.

We have a tremendous imbalance in the provision of airports in the United Kingdom and, in the light of what has been said about the immense environmental problems caused by the gigantic airport developments at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, a double service would be rendered by a considered policy of dispersing air traffic more evenly within the United Kingdom.

It is interesting to note from the Department of Trade consultation document that the traditional feeder hubs system—with the hubs being Heathrow and Gatwick—is beginning to break up and that the regional airports are starting to offer a wider network of international services and to play an important part in the holiday charter traffic that has become so popular in the past 10 years.

It is interesting to note that, despite the massive dominance of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted in air passenger traffic, one-third of all passengers originate from the northern parts of England and there would seem to be a good case for making better provision in scheduled services from the airports in the northern part of the country.

Tourism was the main topic in the speech of the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and he was a little simplistic when he suggested that all tourists want to go to hotels. It is becoming more popular to travel abroad to stay with friends or to take a tent on a camping holiday. I do not think that we can say that another 40 million tourists will mean that we shall have to provide another 40 million hotel beds.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman has not misconstrued what I was saying. I said that 40 per cent of visiting nights would be spent in hotels. That is lower than the present percentage and is a realistic estimate.

I take the point that the demand would be there, but the hon. Gentleman's argument was a little simplistic because the pattern of international travel and holiday habits are changing. I am not sure that the problem would be quite as formidable as he suggests. However, the hon. Gentleman made a fair point when he said that there are good grounds, economically and otherwise, for encouraging tourist traffic to be dispersed more widely to places such as Scotland, the North of England and the Yorkshire Dales, even though those tourists will probably visit London at some stage of their visit. Tourism undoubtedly throws a heavy burden on the resources of the South-East and there is inevitably congestion and noise from this great inflow in addition to the established population.

I favour a strategy of diverting air traffic away from the South-East and building up regional air services and regional air services and regional airports. I reject the argument of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South (Mr. Parkinson), who seemed to suggest that we had worked on an ad hoc basis so far and could go on in the same way. He even suggested not merely that there was no need for planning but that planning was impossible.

If the Minister could find a great national strategy plan, no one would be more pleased than I, but every hon. Member who has spoken in the debate has said that if there is such a plan, Luton or some other place must be excluded and that some aspects cannot be included. We are all in favour of it, but we will not have it applied to our own areas. I do not disagree with the search, but we should not build our expectations around finding it. We have had the objective for a long time and it is no accident that we have not found it.

I think that the accident is the fact that we have had no plan and virtually no desire to plan. That has created the very problems with which we are cursed and of which hon. Members have complained. There was been no strategy. There has been no plan. Consequently there has been this vast mushrooming at certain key points such as Heathrow and Gatwick which is creating all the environmental problems that have been the burden of so many complaints.

It is no good Members of the Opposition saying that we cannot do it and that there is no point in looking for a plan. The burden of the debate so far has been that we must look for it. We must find an alternative strategy. I am not persuaded that it is totally impossible to do that. The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South quoted past reports indicating that that is precisely what we should have been doing for some time.

My purpose is to say something about Sheffield, Yorkshire and Humberside. I was a member of the Industrial Advisory Development Committee of Sheffield, which met a fortnight ago, and at which time was spent complaining about the inadequacy of airport facilities for Yorkshire, Humberside and Sheffield. Suggestions were made about what the pattern of development should be over the next 10 years or so. The airports that matter to Sheffield and South Yorkshire are Manchester, East Midlands and Leeds-Bradford.

I am interested to see in the Department of Trade consultation document that the potential for growth given for Manchester is from 2 million to 2½ million, with a possible upward aim of 12 million passengers per year. That for the East Midlands is from about 500,000 to 1½ million natural growth, with a potential, under certain circumstances, of 10 million. Leeds-Bradford, which is 250,000 now, has a possible growth to 1½ million, but staying at that point and not capable of development beyond that point because of environmental considerations.

Another interesting table at page 31, Part 2 of the consultation document gives figures for "propensity to fly". This is a technical, statistical exercise, trying to work out what the likely demands for passenger traffic will be in the experience of England and the rest of the United Kingdom.

It is interesting to note that the propensity to fly in the Yorkshire and Humberside area is 208 flights per 1,000 population, which puts that area fifth in the list of the economic regions of Britain. The South-East is much higher, being more than double that figure. In looking forward we must allow for the saturation factor. We cannot assume that this propensity to fly within the population of the South-East will increase for ever, for, by definition, that cannot happen. The other regions may well catch up in the demand for air services as the years go by. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that there may well be a substantial growth in air traffic in the Yorkshire and Humberside region.

It is also important, if we are to attract commercial and business enterprises, to realise that the people in charge of enterprises, such as the directors and sales managers, will expect reasonable air services. They will not want to arrive at Heathrow and get tangled up with the miserable business of getting out of the London area once they have alighted from an aeroplane. There is a case for better air service links certainly with Europe and probably further afield.

Freight is a lesser feature of the total air transport problem. Heathrow dominates massively, being for practical purposes the third airport in the country for the handling of freight. But a fair proportion of the freight is generated in the North. Because of the facilities developed at Heathrow, many containers go down the Ml and are shipped from there. There might be a case for developing freight facilities in the North to limit the amount which has to go to the South by road, with all the resulting congestion.

I accept the point in the document, that freight is substantially linked to the carrying capacity of the wide-bodied aircraft. The document says that about 40 per cent. of freight goes in passenger aircraft and that to that extent the development of freight is linked to the development of passenger services. Nevertheless, all cargo charter operations would lend themselves to some regional diversion. This should be studied with a view to relieving the pressure on the South-East and creating more employment opportunities in other regions.

In the light of these considerations, what is a reasonable strategy for Sheffield and Yorkshire generally? Taking into account the expansion capacity of Manchester, East Midlands and to a much more limited extent Leeds-Bradford, one must regard those as the airports to serve that area until 1990. One must therefore regard Manchester as the major regional international airport for the Yorkshire-Humberside area for the next 15 years. Its potential should be fully developed, with better rail links to Sheffield and other parts of Yorkshire, so that people can get quickly to its international services.

East Midlands Airport is only an hour's drive from Sheffield. It is slightly further from other parts of Yorkshire, but there are very good road connections in the shape of the M1 and the M18. It should be developed fully, particularly for holiday charter flights and European traffic. It is already popular with Sheffield people for holiday charters, and this facility should be developed.

The hazard is that if Birmingham Airport were considerably developed, East Midlands might become downgraded. A strategy for regional airports should include joint scheduled services linking Birmingham and East Midlands, so that the growth potential of the latter is not sacrificed completely to the growth of the former.

There are problems at Leeds-Bradford, because of its nearness to residential areas. People do not want the situation of Heathrow and Gatwick, about which so many complaints have been made. Therefore, development there is bound to be rather less and should concentrate on internal feeder services to Manchester and Heathrow and medium-haul flights.

The consultation document says firmly at page 63:
"the Government remain to be convinced of the case for a new airport in the Yorkshire and Humberside Region in the foreseeable future."
If the expansion capacity quoted in the document for Manchester, East Midlands and—to some extent—Leeds-Bradford is correct, one is forced to conclude that that judgment is right, at least up to about 1990. But if there is a great expansion of air services, and if the pressures and objections from the people who live around Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick and so on become more and more urgent, clearly the case for a new international airport in the Yorkshire and Humberside area would become much stronger.

On the figures in the consultation document, I cannot see that situation arising for quite a long time, but there is space in Yorkshire. That is one thing of which we have an abundance. There is a site at Thorne which could be used, and in terms of a long-term strategy this seems to be a reserve position that should be kept well in mind and not lost sight of as air traffic develops.

These are the views I have come to about Yorkshire and Humberside, after looking at the documents. I very much endorse what has been said already. It is not good enough to work on an ad hoc basis, to suppose that just by having an airport here and an airport there, and letting the traffic build up, things will solve themselves. In environmental terms, they will not, and in terms of employment and economic development there is a powerful case for diversion to regional airports.


I very much agree with what the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) has said. Successive Governments have failed to take a long-term strategic approach. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South (Mr. Parkinson) has stressed the importance of including so many other factores, such as employment, tourism and hotel accommodation, in such a survey.

I also agree with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley that we must remove some of the South-Eastern traffic to other airports, because the present position is not fair. We are taking more than our fair share in the South-East. There are 2 million people in the Heathrow area who are intimately affected by aircraft noise. We in Windsor and Maidenhead probably have the worst of all flight paths going out of Heathrow. My constituents are thererefore very concerned about aircraft noise. It disrupts their lives. There is no peace in their houses and gardens. The Minister might seriously consider the whole question of the grants for double glazing. There are many areas in which the noise is intolerable but which do not qualify.

We are discussing the matter because of the Government's failure to implement the Maplin plan. Whatever one may think of that—and I was very much in favour of creating an airport and seaport together, with all the advantages that I shall not rehearse now—we are now forced to consider the results of the Government's decision. With the plan, we could have given a promise that within X number of years the burden in the South-East would be relieved. Now, there must be an increase in traffic to other airports, and Heathrow can be no exception.

However, most hon. Members have appreciated that Heathrow is approaching saturation point, and in my opinion from a noise point of view it has already reached it. The planned fourth terminal will increase annual passenger traffic to 38 million. We shall then be in a very difficult position.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) and I are concerned about the fact that there is no public inquiry. An airport can plan and have its plan considered by the authority in whose area it happens to be located. That does not go wide enough. I know that the Minister has taken that point on board. It is the neighbouring constituencies such as my own that are most affected. They are certainly more affected than the planning authority. I recognise that their views have been sought. However, a public inquiry is the least that we can expect given a major addition to the traffic at Heathrow.

What are we being offered? We have been offered the possibility of moving some of the traffic from the South-East. Secondly, a reduction of aircraft noise is sought. The two factors are linked. The hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Palmer) has indicated that Bristol would be glad to have extra traffic. The hon. Gentleman will be popular if he visits my constituency and says that. My constituents will welcome him with open arms. The hon. Gentleman put forward a concrete suggestion, as did the hon. Member for Heeley. There is a case for movement from Heathrow.

If we do not build another airport, we must try to mitigate the noise from the larger aircraft. We shall have to spend money. As has been suggested, it may be necessary to put a premium on noisy aircraft so as to discourage them. I do not know how that will be enforced on foreign aircraft operators. It will be extremely difficult to implement.

There is a case for diversion. When I interrupted the Minister to suggest that some of the noisier aircraft could be diverted for Heathrow I was not being entirely selfish. I was arguing that some of the noisier aircraft are going over one of the most densely populated parts of the country. Surely it would be reasonable to divert some of them to areas in which they would not cause quite so much inconvenience to those living under the flight paths.

Is it not the case that the noisier aircraft are very often the older aircraft, which almost inevitably are operated by second-line airlines running charters, which on the whole do not run into and out of Heathrow? Whether the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Palmer) likes it or not, among the noisier aircraft are the early BAC 111s. Also included are Caravelles and the early Tridents. These aircraft are now being used for charters. They are using not Heathrow but other airports

That is happening, but there is still a need to ensure that the aircraft coming into Heathrow are, if possible, of the less noisy type. There should be a surcharge, for example, on any aircraft that wants to use Heathrow. Those who found it economic would pay a surcharge.

It is said that communications are adequate given the Piccadilly Line and existing road access. If a fourth terminal or even a fifth is constructed, that will put a severe strain on communications between Heathrow and the centre of London. Those of us who undertake the journey every day realise that the amount of traffic approaching London is considerable. Clearly, there is a limit. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Heeley nods in agreement. There is a limit to the number of aircraft that can be brought into Heathrow and the number of passengers that can be transported to central London or elsewhere. There is already an enormous traffic block in the Cromwell Road. I accept that the Piccadilly Line will help, but there must be a limit. The Government must impose a limit.

Another valid argument raised by the Heathrow associations concern revenue strategy. As existing airports much depends on a combination of larger aircraft and higher load factors. They wonder whether these two factors have been properly considered by the Government and whether the facts on which they are based are correct.

I have read this document very carefully. I think that all hon. Members agree that there is an enormous problem at Heathrow. We must have better insulation against noise. The Government must spend money towards that end and go much closer into the question of noisy aircraft approaching Heathrow. There is a limit beyond which we cannot go. We have very nearly reached saturation point, not only from the planning point of view but from the point of view of those living under the flight path.

The general opinion is in favour of moving some of the traffic. But why should the South-East take all the burden? It should be phased out to other airports in the region. That is a fair point which I am sure the Government will take into consideration.

11.1 p.m.

I intervene to make one short point. At present London is full of tourists. As we can see, the Public Gallery is crammed with them. They come to this country where they can see that we have no tolls for travelling on the roads, free access to the National Health Service and, when they touch down in their aeroplanes, no landing tax to pay.

I wrote to the Under-Secretary of State about this matter, asking what consideration had been given to the introduction of a landing or departure tax at United Kingdom airports. I need not have bothered, because his answer was:
"no consideration has been given to the introduction of such a tax".
I asked how much would have been raised in each of the past five years if a charge of £2 per passenger had been made. The hon. Gentleman replied: £39 million in 1972, £43 million in 1973, £40 million in 1974, £42 million in 1975 and £45 million in 1976. Those vast sums of money might have been raised by charging a landing or depature tax to visitors to this country or even to our own people.

I then wrote to the Minister and asked:
"how many countries in the Western world charge an airport landing tax; which countries they are, and how much they charge per passenger?"
Again, I need not have wasted my ink, for the hon. Gentleman replied:
"This information is not readily available and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost."
I immediately telephoned the House of Commons Library which provided the information in two minutes at no cost at all. The information contains the statistic that 102 countries charge airport landing taxes. They number amongst them the Benin People's Republic, the British Virgin Islands, Burundi, the Central African Empire, El Salvador, Haiti, Surinam, the Yemen Arab Republic and the Yemen Democratic Republic, to say nothing of the New Hebrides and the Netherlands Antilles. I must confess that I had barely heard of some of the countries. That probably explains why it would have involved a disproportionate cost for the Minister to discover where they were, never mind what they charged. But the list also includes Germany and the United States of America, so we would be in very respectable company if we did impose such a tax.

Of course, while London is full of tourists at this time of the year, we are about to adjourn to go to the grass roots of our constituencies to find out what the English think about these matters. Some of us will go abroad. We shall go in planes which touch down at foreign airports where taxes are charged. The planes will be full of English people who will say "We are mugs. Others raise money by this device. Why on earth do we not do it?"

I ask the Minister, when he replies—I hope that he will forgive me if I am not present when he does—to give a reasoned answer to the question: why should the British taxpayer not be relieved of the burden of £45 million in taxation this year by the simple expedient of imposing an airport tax—a tax which is imposed in 102 other countries in the world?

11.5 p.m.

Like other hon. Members who have an airport in or near their constituencies, I find this debate is of special interest to me because Uxbridge adjoins Heathrow and both the airport and my constituency are in Hillingdon, the relevant planning authority. Consequently, the future development of the airport is of interest to my constituents—many thousands of whom earn their livings at Heathrow—and to the Hillingdon Council, which has to consider the planning and environmental aspects of any expansion.

I wish to discuss Heathrow and the planning and environmental problems that face the people who live in the Borough of Hillingdon. As the Undersecretary of State said, following the abandonment of the Maplin Airport project, the Secretary of State for Trade made it clear that regardless of the Maplin decision, it would be necessary to expand capacity at Heathrow to about 38 million passengers a year, with the addition of a fourth terminal. Moreover, the consultative document made it clear that in their master plan for Heathrow of November 1972, the BAA envisaged that some time after 1980 it was likely that some additional terminal and associated facilities would be required.

That means at the least that the addition of a fourth terminal on the south side of Heathrow is now imminent. If the extra fourth terminal is provided it will mean that the throughput of 38 million passengers will be achieved by about 1990–13 years from now.

The consultative document stated that the proposals for a fourth terminal would constitute permitted development under the Town and Country Planning General Development Order, except for any items that might be carried out by the BAA's tenants. The estimated cost of this development at 1974–75 prices was £100 million, of which £40 million would be for the new terminal complex.

The consultative document also made plain that provision for passenger capacity beyond 38 million a year would mean expanding the airport terminal into the green belt. That would require the acquisition by the BAA of another 400 acres, including the Perry Oaks sludge disposal works from the Thames Water Authority and land within the proposed Colne Valley Regional Park between Perry Oaks and the proposed line of the M25 motorway.

The General Development Order 1973 would not be immediately applicable to the additional land. The BAA would have to seek planning permission under Part III of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971.

Whilst the people of Hillingdon may be able to live with an eventual throughput of 38 million passengers a year, they are not prepared to see a fifth terminal designed to accommodate an additional 15 million passengers a year, making a total of 53 million for Heathrow at an extra cost of at least £170 million at 1975 prices.

We in Hillingdon would say that after a fourth terminal, enough is really enough. We would not be willing to tolerate the loss of 400 acres of green belt or to see an encroachment on the Colne Valley Regional Park, which is one of the most interesting and exciting concepts that exist for preserving the environment of West Greater London and and beyond.

I also feel sure that the very idea of a fifth terminal would alarm my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn), and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beacons-field (Mr. Bell), who is present this evening.

It is, however, this question of which land at Heathrow constitutes permitted development and which does not that I want to draw to the attention of the House, because it intimately affects my constituency and it is a matter upon which the Hillingdon Council has expressed views recently which are of the greatest possible importance to this debate, as we heard from the Lord President earlier this evening. I want, therefore, to take a few minutes to tell the House why this is so.

The application by the British Airports Authority to construct the fourth terminal constitutes, according to the consultation document, permitted development. Let me say at the outset that the building of this terminal is supported by Hilling-don Council. However, it is the widely held view that if this expansion is to take place, the new terminal must be constructed in such a way as to avoid further congestion and further problems arising from the present central area.

This view is taken because an additional fourth terminal on the south side of Heathrow, with associated service and ancillary facilities, modifications and improvements to the existing passenger terminal buildings in the central area, together with additional aprons, changes in the road system and expansion of the cargo and maintenance facilities—and more noise—is a massive project which I believe, and certainly my local authority believes, is far beyond the bounds of permitted development as we understand it.

Therefore, because of the size and implications of the project, the Hillingdon Council, together with other affected local authorities, has been a member of the Heathrow Area Working Party, comprised of officers from the Berkshire County Council, the Buckinghamshire County Council, the Greater London Council, the London Borough of Hounslow, the Spelthorne Borough Council and the Surrey County Council. They have carefully studied the impact of future expansion at Heathrow on the surrounding area and its people.

To any hon. Member who has not been fortunate enough to read the second report of the Heathrow Area Working Party and who is interested in the developments that are associated with the expansion of Heathrow, I commend it to his attention because I believe that it is one of the best assessments of the situation that I have had the opportunity to read. It is certainly a very valuable addition to the consultation documents that every hon. Member has been able to see.

It is in the light of the report of this working party, and taking into account the contribution of the airport to both the local and the national economy, that Hillingdon has agreed that the BAA and the Government be informed that the borough council agrees with the development of the fourth terminal in principle. That is my understanding of the situation. However, I believe that in doing so it has drawn attention to a number of specific points, such as the containment of aircraft noise and the improvement of the traffic infrastructure.

This is a very significant decision and one which in these days, when almost no one wants to hear about new airports or new airport facilities either in or near to his constituency, demands a certain amount of courage. However, I share the concern that has been expressed by my local authority about the effect on the environment, and particularly the effect of noise and pollution and of vortex damage by wide-bodied aircraft. But I am to a great extent reassured by the second report of the working party, from which I should like to quote a very short passage. In relation to noise and environmental impact, the report says,
"Heathrow is by far the worst United Kingdom airport in terms of the noise nuisance it creates, not only because of the frequency of flight, but because of the very large population living and working under the flight paths. This situation will persist whether or not there is a fourth terminal. The main prospect of relief is through the introduction of less noisy and larger aircraft. But any such improvement relies on re-renewed efforts to phase out noisy aircraft, which will continue for some years yet."
In its assessment of the noise aspect at Heathrow, the working party comes to this conclusion:
"The noise effects of the fourth terminal compared to growth without a fourth terminal are not in our view of critical importance to-its overall assessment."
That is a view expressed by a party of experts who have studied the problem intimately over a considerable period.

I believe that it is important to mention some of these points, on which I hope the Minister will be able to comment.

First, the M25 must be completed, and preferably between Egham and Maple Cross, before the fourth terminal is opened. Secondly, the Hayes bypass should be built by 1985 to cope with increases in general traffic as well as airport-related traffic. It is also vital that the Secretary of State for Transport should undertake that the necessary transport improvements be co-ordinated with the development of a fourth terminal.

Another vitally important requirement is that the design and landscaping of the fourth terminal and other facilities should be such as to maximise the noise-screening effect of the buildings. I welcome what the Minister said about the new technologies for measuring noise. I hope that they will be applied in relation to the building aspect of the problem.

I also believe that there must be close co-operation between London Transport, British Rail and the British Airports Authority to secure improved rail access to Heathrow. The extension of the Piccadilly line to Heathrow will not, I believe, be sufficient to relieve the added congestion that would be caused by a throughput of 38 million passengers a year.

I hope that it will be possible to give urgent consideration to a British Rail link with Southern Region at Feltham. Another possibility is a Western Region rail link from Hayes or West Drayton area by using the Staines branch line. My own feeling is that the Southern Region link might be the best solution, as Feltham is so near to the site of the proposed fourth terminal.

The House will, I trust, appreciate from what I have said that for the people of Hillingdon and adjacent areas, the implications arising from the building of a fourth terminal are enormous. It is for this reason that Hillingdon, as the local authority concerned with planning, is making an Article 4 direction under the Town and Country General Development Order 1977. This was the direction to which the Leader of the House referred earlier.

As I understand it, the effect of such a direction, if confirmed by the Secretary of State for the Environment, will be to ensure that all development, including permitted development within the Heathrow perimeter, shall not be carried out without specific permission, and to make it necessary to apply to the local planning authority for permission.

I believe that the future of Heathrow is of such importance to Hillingdon, as well as to other adjacent areas, that it would be right for the Secretary of State for the Environment to confirm the Article 4 direction. I say this because, in making the direction, the council has in mind as the House does the need to consider the fourth terminal as part of a national airport policy and to set a timetable for the banning of non-noise certificated aircraft from Heathrow.

These are vital considerations, because I believe that the Government's strategy of relying on existing airports to handle forecast aid traffic growth to 1980 stands or falls on the assumption that the average number of passengers carried by each aircraft will virtually double from 87 in 1975–76 to 170 by 1990. This is apparently to be achieved by a combination of much larger planes and higher load factors. But how realistic is this assumption? Surely, the most optimistic outlook depends on the rapid introduction of the TriStar, the A300 airbus and other unspecified quieter aircraft. But how many have been ordered, and are the airlines giving the necessary support which will make the transition to wide-bodied aircraft a reality within the time scale we are looking at in connection with the expansion of Heathrow?

To those who would prefer not to see a fourth terminal at Heathrow, I say that the House must also consider whether its denial would so discourage the construction and use of wide-bodied jets that the residents of surrounding areas might well be faced with continuing noise from existing aircraft, notably the Trident, for some years to come.

All these questions are relevant to this matter of an expanded Heathrow. They must be taken into account in granting planning permission for the expansion to proceed. Only if they are and if the people concerned are properly consulted can this giant airport in the midst of West Greater London be expanded in such a way that it has the support of the millions of people who are now and will be affected by its existence.

11.21 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby), in his excellent speech, set out the considerations which relate to his constituency. He will understand if I am less influenced than he quite naturally is by the decision of the Hillingdon Borough Council. I am not at all as sure that the construction of the fourth terminal will be so harmless to the surrounding population as the Hillingdon Borough Council apparently is. It may be that my hon. Friend as one of my constituents is a little more worried about the prospect of a fourth terminal than he is as the hon. Member for Uxbridge.

I hear with pleasure that the Hillingdon Council has to submit to the Secretary of State an Article 4 direction. I hope that there is no doubt about that, and that it will be confirmed by the Secretary of State. But in any case the Secretary of State can make a direction himself.

As I said at Question Time a few days ago, the fact that an Article 4 direction is made requiring a planning application to be submitted before the terminal can be built does not in itself ensure that there will be a public inquiry. My hon. friend says that the Hillingdon Borough Council agrees in principal with the construction of the fourth terminal. If it makes an Article 4 direction, if the Secretary of State permits it, if the Airports Authority applies for planning consent, and if the Borough Council gives it, there is no room in all that procedure for a public inquiry. My constituents—and I do not mean just my public authorities—are basically determined, as far as they can be determined about it, that there will be a public inquiry. I shall explain what worries us.

I ask the Under-Secretary to say tonight that there will be a public inquiry into the proposal to construct the fourth terminal. That can be brought about in two ways. The best way is that the Secretary of State should call in the planning application for decision by himself, and then order a public inquiry under the Town and Country Planning Acts. Then we should have a proper examination of all these matters. But, as I said at Question Time when I put a Question about this matter, the Secretary of State has full authority to order a public inquiry. Anyone can do that. I can do it. One does not need statutory authority to have a public inquiry. It would not be a public inquiry under the Town and Country Planning Acts, but it would be a public inquiry. If I ordered a public inquiry no one would come, but if the Secretary of State ordered one that would be as good as if it were held under the terms of the Town and Country Planning Acts.

So there is no problem. It is no good saying that the Airports Authority could proceed with building the terminal if the inquiry was of the non-statutory type, because the Airports Authority has to work in close collaboration with the Department of Trade and the Department of the Environment, and therefore that is how it would work. There are these two ways in which a public inquiry can be brought about. Plainly the best is through calling in the planning application, and I hope that that will be done.

Will my hon. and learned Friend agree that it would be possible for there to be a public local inquiry—a notion that I would entirely support—even if the Secretary of State did not call in the planning application and the matter was left to be decided by the local authority? There could still be a local public inquiry at the request of the Minister or through the offices of the local authority itself.

As I said, anybody can call a public inquiry. One does not need any authority, one can just call one. It might involve expenditure for the person who calls it, depending on the status of the inquiry and the amount of attention given to it. If a planning authority is going to give planning consent, that is not the best context in which to have a public inquiry. The only satisfactory way of doing it is for the Secretary of State to call in an application for decision.

One consideration that has been mentioned already is that of the number of passengers going through a terminal. As it gets towards the 38 million mark, there will be very severe congestion in the lines of communication. Already the M4 is overcrowded and is becoming a bad entry into London. Any kind of hold-up or impediment on the Hammersmith flyover at the rush hour can cause backing up right back to London Airport. It is as bad as that. As the Minister knows, the M4 comes down to two lanes approaching London, and that always causes congestion. If anything goes wrong—if one single car breaks down—an absolute shambles is created. It is no good thinking that the M4 can take a substantial additional load. It cannot.

This must be given a lot of attention. The M25 unquestionably must be built before the fourth terminal. The M25 will not solve many problems because it is a north-south line of communication, and basically people going from Heathrow are going into London rather than around London.

I was absolutely shattered to get a reply from the Department the other day telling me that it was proposed to hold a public inquiry into the M25 in the spring of 1979. I do not know whether that was a clerical error. If the inquiry is not to be held until the spring of 1979, I cannot see the M25 being built and opened for traffic before the middle of the 1980s. Not only will that have implications for London Airport's fourth terminal but it will have other implications for my constituency. My constituents will be under planning blight at least until the end of 1980 or whenever the result of the public inquiry is known.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will look into this, and see whether the inquiry could be brought forward to next spring. That is late enough.

The second consideration which arises concerns the number of aircraft movements. It is a plausible agument to say that with wide-bodied aircraft there will be more people but fewer aicraft movements and therefore there is a need for a fourth terminal. We have had a lot of argument of that kind before. I am sceptical about it. It was said that 30 per cent. of passenger movements now take place in wide-bodied aircraft—

The figure is 18 per cent. now, according to the Under-Secretary, and it will become 30 per cent. by 1980 and 55 per cent. by 1985. This relates to non-certificated aircraft.

What I was going to say is that I am sceptical about the figures beyond 30 per cent. When trans-Atlantic operations are involved, I can understand wide-bodied aircraft taking over. I am more sceptical about how far that process will go on the shorter flights. For example, there is no greater noise nuisance in my constituency than that which comes from the shuttle of Tridents. They are the villians of the peace. I do not see those passengers going into wide-bodied aircraft. It may happen, but it seems highly improbable. I think that there will be an increase in aircraft movements as a result of the fourth terminal over and above what there would be if there were not a fourth terminal. It is not possible to eliminate a bottleneck without having some effect on the amount of traffic. Therefore, I am sure that there will be more aircraft movements over my constituency.

The third consideration is the money involved. The Under-Secretary of State for Trade, in a speech rich in figures of speech tonight, referred to us as antediluvian if we were not against Maplin and said that Maplin was to be the big bull in the white elephant herd. He referred to the enormous public expenditure which he said was involved with Maplin. The expense which has resulted from not having Maplin is £100 million for a fourth terminal together with the expense of enlarging the lines of communication between Heathrow and London.

There is also the possibility of a fifth terminal, at a cost of £70 million. All of this is in 1975 terms. Since then we have had inflation of between 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. Those figures would have to be elevated to take that into account. There is also the enlargement of Stansted and the development of facilities at Luton and Gatwick. The Under-Secretary said, in a phrase which I took down, that we would need to have a careful look at the contribution which existing airports make in the London area.

When we begin to add all these things together, I am not sure that there is any economy in not having Maplin. We are not at the end of this by any means. If we had developed Maplin we would have had a seaport, too. When I hear of the fourth terminal at a cost of £100 million, plus inflation, I have to say that this is yet a further commitment to concentration at Heathrow and the London airports. I am satisfied that when we look for a long-term solution, on both sides of the House the commonly uttered sentiment has been that there has been no such solution brought forward. Piecemeal comments about this and that have been made but no long-term solution has been propounded.

There is one long-term solution, and that is Maplin. There has never been any other long-term solution. For a fourth London airport—although Maplin used to be called the third—Maplin was the only site that made sense, because it was on the sea. It must be Maplin. I know that it has been said that Maplin cannot be revived now, but it can be and it must be. If that is not done we shall have to put not just 38 million passengers through Heathrow—which is on the boundary of my constituency and surrounded by 2 million Londoners—but 50 million passengers. The Minister must come to terms with that fact.

We have found the Under-Secretary to have great sympathy in these matters. The relationship between the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Minister who represents constituencies around Heathrow is, and has been, excellent. The hon. Gentleman listens, is sympathetic and he wants to help, but when he talks about balance he is speaking in the language of the Department of Trade. We have known for years that it is necessary to find out how much capacity one needs in order to satisfy the demand. One cannot tinker with that. Having put that as an overriding priority, one must then consider how to mitigate the effects on the surounding population.

The Minister has said explicitly tonight that the Government will not consider any aspect of suppressing demand and that the Government will not provide a new London airport. Never mind the long-term forecasts and projections, the Government have decided as a matter of principle that they will not limit demand—so all the traffic must go through Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted. I am not prepared to concede that principle.

We have put up with a good deal too much in the matter of aircraft noise. What people have been asked to put up with is scandalous—all in the interests of the development of the aircraft industry. Human beings have been dragged along behind their own machines. It is no use being able to travel quickly from place to place if each place is dominated by noise. It is said that quieter types of aircraft and broader aircraft are coming along, and that there will be noise-certificated aircraft so that the footprint will shrink.

We are asked what we are worrying about. I am worried because there are large and small villages in my constituency—such as Horton, Colnbrook and Wraysbury—which are not five miles from the end of the runways, where aircraft come over at 500 or 600 feet. When one lives in such villages—like Horton where my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) lives—it does not matter whether an aircraft flying over at that height is noise-certificated or not. All conversation stops, and one cannot use one's garden, listen to music or enjoy all the ordinary satisfactions of life because everything is displaced by the noise which occurs once a minute with about five to 20 seconds of silence before the next aircraft. It is no use saying that we shall have quieter aircraft soon, because the level of noise is so much above what is tolerable for civilised life that even if that noise is cut by a third nothing has been achieved. Certainly four to five miles away from the airport the difference between noise-certification and other aircraft is immaterial.

The communities in my constituency are not immediately at the end of the runways. The runways end in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Atkins) and in other constituencies represented by hon. Members on this side of the House. Hundreds of thousands of people live so close to the ends of runways that nothing less than a diminution of frequency will mean anything to them.

I do not know why we have put up with this noise for so long. It must be that we get into a mental groove of saying that we must not stand in the way of progress. There has been talk of white elephants. Although I have great admiration for its technical achievement, Concorde is the bull in the white elephant herd. We could have virtually completed Maplin with the money that has been spent on Concorde.

I am sure that the Minister sees from what has been said on both sides of the House that, as a matter of fairness, we must have a public inquiry into all the considerations that arise from a fourth terminal at Heathrow.

Night movements concern everyone living around Heathrow. May we have a greater insistence on the silent period at night and may we have that period extended by one hour? There are still too many breaches.

The possibility of full-power take-offs has been mentioned. No one knows the answer to this problem, but my constituents in Horton who are most immediately affected have eventually agreed that they would not object to a short-term experiment in full-power take-offs to see whether this makes a substantial contribution to the alleviation of noise—provided that they are guaranteed that if the experiment materially increases noise levels near the runways, it will be stopped.

There are other points that I should like to raise, but it is getting late and a number of my hon. Friends are waiting to speak. I end by urging the Minister to take seriously what has been said about the development of Heathrow. I am sure that he will give it careful consideration.

Order. I should remind hon. Members that the debate finishes at 12.59 a.m. The winding-up speeches from the Front Benches will take a total of about 50 minutes. That leaves little time for the three hon. Members who still wish to take part in the debate. We shall have to generate some Concorde-like activity to get through the business.

11.44 p.m.

I appreciate that I shall have to be brief as other hon. Members wish to speak. I should like to draw attention to the problems of Birmingham Airport.

I have been disturbed by hon. Members whose constituencies are affected by the various London airports suggesting that airport traffic should be moved to the regions. That is all right as long as it does not come to Birmingham. I know that we often hear hon. Members saying that it is fine to have an expansion of airports as long as the airports are not in their constituencies, but Birmingham Airport is surrounded by residential areas. About 2½ million people use the airport every year and the CAA airport strategy for Great Britain suggests that it could be as many as 10 million by 1990. That prospect appals me and fills local residents with horror.

This strategy surprised be, because in June 1974 the Civil Aviation Authority arranged for a consultancy firm, Metra Consulting Group, to prepare a document about its airport strategy in the regions. Metra Consulting said that not only should there be no expansion of Birmingham Airport but there should be a contraction. It suggested that a fresh airport should be built either in North Cheshire or in Tamworth. It offered another alternative of East Midlands Airport at Castle Donnington being expanded.

At present the 150,000 people who five around Birmingham Airport suffer badly. The doctors working in the surgery covering the area near the airport deal with many more cases of nervous breakdown and have to prescribe more tranquilisers than other doctors anywhere else in Birmingham.

The people in that area are already living in a disgraceful environment. I ask the Minister, before he accepts the airport strategy for Great Britain, to visit Birmingham Airport with me and to see these people in their homes so that he may understand the disgracelul state in which they live.

In discussing airport strategy, we have an opportunity of making it clear to the residents living around Birmingham Airport that they need have no fears about a further expansion. We have this opportunity and we must grasp it. Those people have been waiting for a long time. They are worried. I plead with the Minister to give us guidance. We are supposed to live in a civilised society. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) said, we are putting machinery first and people second.

When I see my constituents suffer I feel that, as a legislature, we are making grave mistakes. I plead with the Minister to see my constituents who live near the airport before he makes this wrong decision. I am sure that he will change his mind.

11.47 p.m.

Like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beasonsfield (Mr. Bell), who spoke in most moderate terms considering what he and his constituents have to put up with, I mourn mightily for Maplin. It is indeed a great tragedy that Maplin was dispensed with by the Government. The overwhelming evidence was in favour of Maplin. The series of reports and hours of patient inquiry all pointed naturally to our overcrowded island finding the solution by the sea. We must live today with the financial and social consequences of our neglecting that tremendous opportunity.

We appreciate the patience and understanding of the Ministers responsible. Compliments have been paid to the respective Under-Secretaries of State who have had to deal with the terrible problem of trying to devise a sensible, practical, humane, national airport policy, when the main foundation on which a sensible one could have been built was demolished by their own Government. They are charged with this responsibility. I fear that they will come up with a plan which they will present to us as a national airports policy but which will be no such thing. It will be a policy based on expediency even more than most policies produced by most Governments. That policy will be based on the principle that airports should be allowed to expand at the points of least resistance.

I respect the moderate and restrained attitude adopted by so many hon. Members, who are faced with the possibility of Stansted expanding. It will be expanded. Have no doubt about it. As years go by, Stansted, which should not be allowed to expand, will expand. The people who live in the shadow of London Airport will find that that airport will also expand. Our moderate approach only underlines the point I made earlier. By virtue of being moderate and trying to encourage some restraint, we shall be steamrollered.

However, there are signs that airport travel will not expand as much as some people fear. No doubt President Carter will refer to this matter in due course. He must consider air travel when it comes to cutting back on energy use. Of course we must use airlines. They bring enormous prosperity to my area. Every time I speak on this subject I pay tribute to the work of private entrepreneurs such as Adam Thomson. They fill an important gap, encouraging people to travel and helping in freight movements and package tours. This is a free country.

But in the end, these people and the State airlines must face the fact, as we did with the motor car and urban sprawl, that, in a tight little island, airport de-development will have to be restrained. How can it be done with the minimum dislocation of the industry, and of those who benefit and suffer from it? Ministers must realise that we do not want to be saddled with all the worst features of expediency, so that in the end those who live in the shadow of airports and those who run airports and airlines do not get simply another inquiry and another complete reversal of policy.

I wish Ministers well in their task and I wish that I could feel more optimistic about their decision. After all, after saying that he welcomed all the discussions which had taken place—I know some of the comments which must have been made to him—the Minister said that the possibility of diversion to regional airports was limited. No discussions were needed to reach that conclusion. Surely people have not been urging that conclusion on him. If the possibility is limited it is because he has decided that it shall be so.

The hon. Gentleman is doing less than justice to the discussions. He has selected just one aspect. The burden of the discussions was an investigation of these problems in much greater depth than he suggests.

What I am saying is that, although the Minister, I am sure, went into these matters in great depth and with great patience, at the end of the day he says that the possibility of diversion to the regions is limited. The implication is that nothing will change and that all the reports which came out against the expansion of Stansted and Gatwick will be overthrown. I hope that I am wrong, because the strain should be taken off London. People should not have to suffer indefinitely.

The Minister received me courteously the other day for a discussion of, among other things, aircraft movements at Gatwick. One reason that aircraft have to fly too low over beautiful and supposedly still peaceful countryside is that at normal heights they would collide with increasing numbers of aircraft out of Heathrow. We are at a sort of Clapham Junction of the air in the South-East. There is hardly an area of Sussex and Kent that is not disturbed by the noise from Gatwick or London Airport.

The Under-Secretary says that the possibility of diversion of traffic from London to the regions is limited. But—as my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) said, when he so ably put points on which many hon. Members in the area agree—there is a great deal of leisure traffic into and out of the United Kingdom. What proportion of it consists of package tours or chartered aircraft? Those who are on chartered aircraft or package tours have no God-given right to come in and out of the London airports. It does not matter if there is some delay in their taking their holiday through having to journey by train to an outlying region.

What proportion of the traffic using London Airport is freight? How far is it expected that the London airports will expand their freight and cargo handling, so that we shall suffer increased hazard and noise from those who operate aircraft purely for freight purposes?

The Department of Trade recently announced its intention of moving airline operators of wholly chartered services from Heathrow to Gatwick. Does not this pre-empt the consultations now taking place? Increasingly identifying Gatwick with certain types of services in advance of any national airports policy could restrict the options of such a policy.

Another danger stems from the fact that the majority of wholly chartered carriers would therefore be more likely to operate older and noisier types of aircraft, some of them purchased second-hand from the major airlines as they replace their fleets with noise-certificated aircraft. When we already have an exceedingly large proportion of aircraft which are not noise-certificated moving in and out of Gatwick, that will make the problem even worse for those who live within the Gatwick area.

I doubt very much for the reasons I gave earlier, that we shall ever have a proper national airports policy. That does not mean that we do not appreciate the Minister's efforts. If we are to have an awful hotch-potch at the end, it would help if it were not assumed that because the demand exists it must always be expressed at narrow, selected places because they are the points of least resistance. I fear that that is what the main conclusion will be when we see the Government's White Paper, but I hope that the Minister can reassure us.

11.58 p.m.

What is significant about the debate is the dominance of London Members, which is perhaps understandable. There is an almost total absence of hon. Members of all parties from the rest of the country. I much regret that none of the seven Labour Liverpool Members is here, because the document is of great importance to Liverpool.

Even if my colleagues are not here, including the hon. Member in whose constituency Speke Airport is situated, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden), I am glad of the opportunity to air the important subject of Liverpool's airport. As the Minister well knows—because he courteously corresponded with me at great length over a long period, and has seen, with me, representatives of the chamber of commerce, and other interested parties—the airport provides an essential outlet for industrialists on Merseyside. They tell me that they prefer it to Manchester, because they receive a quicker and more personal service. The cargo section is efficiently run, with a minimum of bureaucracy. Size brings with it bureaucracy and delay. The smaller, personal concern of Speke, run as a family business would be run, gives industrialists on Merseyside a great service.

I am sure that the Minister will have that much in mind. It is no good one Government Department talking about action areas, industrial expansion and special help to reduce unemployment when another Department is doing what it can to ensure that the outlet for such expansion is not present.

Speke Airport provides a real service for industrialists on Merseyside. Manchester does and must play a major role in the area, but we must not underestimate the complaints and concern that have been expressed by industrialists on Merseyside when they have used the Manchester cargo section. They have found that they cannot get their goods out as quickly as from Speke. No one would dispute that Manchester has become the long-haul airport. However, it does not follow that Speke should be pushed out of business as a result. That would be a short-sighted view.

Liverpool has a number of outstanding and unique features. First, it has an outstanding safety record. It has the minimum of environmental objectors to the noise and nuisance factors. As has been said so often tonight, noise is the greatest killer of the airport expansion business. At Liverpool there is the great advantage of the flight take-off path being over the Mersey. Speke has lost fewer days than Manchester for fog. More often than not, aircraft that are unable to land at Manchester because of fog are diverted to Liverpool. Perhaps the most remarkable feature is the technically advanced runway, which is up to stage 3 landing facilities. It is as advanced as London Airport in that respect.

It will surprise the hon. Gentleman even more that from 6 o'clock this morning to 5 o'clock in the afternoon there were 24 flight arrivals from Rome, comprising TriStars, 707s, and a whole range of wide-bodied and ordinary bodied aircraft, accommodating over 3,000 passengers who flew into Speke and went out very quickly. Although there are complaints about the rather Victorian terminal building at Speke, 3,500 passengers coming back from Rome were processed in a most efficient and helpful manner due to the efficiency of the workers. When the hon. Gentleman hears complaints about the apron area at Speke being inadequate and the buildings being run-down and useless, he should remember what happened today. He should remember that that could be happening every day. I am told that the morale of the staff was particularly high when it saw the flood of new business coming its way.

In spite of the obvious merits of Speke, I do not wish the Minister to think that I am putting it forward as an alternative to Manchester. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is not my view that I should discriminate against Manchester. However, there is a strong view at Speke that the Minister—although he denies it, as do his Department and other public bodies—tends to discriminate against Speke. There was a rumour, as he will remember, that fares would be increased from Liverpool to London but not from Manchester to London, although it is exactly the same distance.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young) had the audacity to mention the loss at Liverpool of £1 million. Obviously he did not do sufficient homework to discover that £900,000 was lost by British Airways on its BAC 111 flights to London. That is nearly as much as the amount that the country lost in the running of Liverpool's airport.

The other problem is that landing charges are higher at Liverpool than at Manchester. Most charter operators prefer their aircraft to fly from Manchester than Liverpool because it costs them less. Oil prices are higher on Merseyside than at Manchester. I gather that that is because they use less fuel, but it is a vicious circle. The times of the flights are less convenient from Liverpool. Some people think that British Airways is especially perverse in timing its flights at the most inconvenient times or that it does not plan its flights at all over the weekends other than one on Saturday and Sunday, so that passengers are forced to go to Manchester. The catering is far better from Manchester to London than from Liverpool to London. It is causing concern that the airport is not to be given its chance in future.

However, there is one glow of hope in the airport strategy document. The draftsman felt sufficiently optimistic about the suggestion made by the Merseyside Chamber of Commerce to include it in the report. The document mentions the suggestion that Liverpool and Manchester airports be jointly owned and operated, with air traffic being allocated between the two airports.

The feeling on Merseyside is that there is a great deal of sense in the suggestion that the Manchester and Liverpool airports should be defined on the basis of their joint control at a level above that of the Merseyside and Greater Manchester county authorities. Joint operation, as the Minister will realise, would not harm Manchester's interests but would maximise the under-used facilities at both, and the terminal facilities at Liverpool could be developed at a fraction of the cost of providing an additional runway at Manchester. The hon. Gentleman is familiar with the argument. To put a new runway at Manchester would cost £22 million or £23 million, but the runway at Liverpool is of the highest quality, and a new terminal building, if necessary, would cost only £6 million to £8 million.

Perhaps the Minister, when he considers the matter, will realise that he could operate Manchester and Speke Airports jointly. They would provide one of the best provincial airports in the country. Speke could perhaps be used as the Gat-wick of the North-West, encouraging charter aircraft operators to operate from there and allowing the long-haul flights from Manchester.

I should like to make one further point. This matter was somewhat overlooked by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton in his wide-ranging but somewhat biased speech against Speke. Merseyside has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. If Speke were to be run down, it would have a further stab in the back effect on morale and employment opportunities in Liverpool. I hope that the Minister will reassure me that he understands the problems that have been mentioned and will not treat them as superficially as he has done in the past. If he did anything which had the effect of running down Speke Airport, it would have a long-term effect on morale and industrial expansion on Merseyside.

12.7 a.m.

At this early hour of the morning I rise to wind up what has been an interesting debate. Inevitably, it has been dominated by hon. Members representing the South-East and London constituencies, because that is where the problem is greatest.

I was for a number of years the Member for Meriden and at that time had the vast majority of Birmingham Airport in my constituency. Therefore, I particularly appreciate the problems mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. MacKay).

Many questions have been raised tonight. If the Under-Secretary, in winding up the debate cannot answer them all, we shall understand, but no doubt he will get in touch with hon. Members who have put specific points to him.

Overriding the debate has been the spectre of Maplin. The demise of Maplin has been mourned by many of my hon. Friends, particularly the hon. Members for East Grinstead (Mr. Johnson Smith), Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) and Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell).

Worthy of note—this must be said—has been the complete absence of interests shown by parties other than the two major parties in this House. The Liberals are, of course, running true to form. Last October, when we debated the dissolution of Maplin, they were absent. I find it surprising that a matter of such importance to many constituencies should have been ignored by the other parties.

Throughout the debate there has been a feeling of imbalance. There are those who would go for a strong planning solution. It is fair to point out that that suggestion has come from the Government side. We are wary of that, because we do not believe that any master plan will be able to solve this difficult problem, although we wish the Minister well in trying to achieve it.

It is all very well to call, as hon. Members have called, for the expenditure of more money to solve the problem, but the fact is that there will not be a great deal of surplus money to spend on trying to solve it. I shall have more to say about money later. I do not think that the costings, either in the consultation documents, or indeed, in some of the other aspects of airport development, have been gone into sufficiently or are necessarily sufficiently realistic.

I am attracted by the idea of my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) of a landing tax. It would be helpful to have a view from the Government on that suggestion. My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham suggested a differential landing tax, which the French are now considering. I understand that the French impose a higher rate of tax on pornographic films. They clearly believe that the polluter should pay. If the pollution is noise, I am in favour of the polluter paying.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) referred to the problems of the 1990s. The documents go up to 1990. That is only 13 years from now. The Minister will know from his experience in the Department that to build a major road or motorway takes up to 10 years. If we talk of Winchester it takes between 15 and 20 years. That being so, 13 years for consultation and planning to take place is a short period.

I am aware that the longer one goes through the 1980s into the 1990s, the less accurate are the figures for projections. The House is right to show a healthy scepticism, not to say pessimism, about some of the figures. They become more inaccurate the further ahead one projects.

Some difficult decisions will have to be made to sort out the situation up to the year 2,000—which is only 23 years ahead It would be helpful for the House to nave the Government's view on that.

Although much has been said about Maplin, I am surprised that so little has been said about the Channel Tunnel. I declare a constituency interest in that the railway works in my constituency would have done much of the building work and the main line would have run through my constituency. Traffic for the Channel Tunnel could have creamed off a great deal, not only from London but, with the advance passenger train, from the West and from Scotland. The decision to abandon the Channel Tunnel was taken only a few months after the Maplin decision. There is now a vacuum which has not been filled.

One of my hon. Friends mentioned the problems of the shuttle aircraft. They fly to Edinburgh and Glasgow and are about to be extended to Belfast. Discussions are taking place about shuttle services to Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels. That could have an effect upon passenger movements. The aircraft used could be the Tridents, which are being used for the United Kingdom shuttle services. They are noisy.

That is the type of service for which the Channel Tunnel would have catered. It was intended that the tunnel should be open by 1981. That is another negative fact that must be fed into the equation. The 10 million or 20 million people who would have travelled via the tunnel are now adding to the problems of hon. Members' constituents.

Much has been said about a fourth terminal for Heathrow. I believe that I am right in saying that for the last nine years the building of a new runway has required planning permission but that the building of a new terminal, or an extension of an exising terminal, is covered by the General Development Order and planning permission is not required.

I can understand that situation existing 10 or 30 years ago but it is now totally out of date. The problem that faces an airport—whether it is Gatwick or Heathrow—is not that of runway capacity but that of terminal capacity. That is certainly true of Stansted. One could indeed, totally alter the character of a region, a district or an airport by doing things with terminals not affecting runways at all, yet in theory this can all take place without planning permission being necessary. If I have to bear my share of the blame for not noticing this when doing the Under-Secretary's job in the Department of the Environment, I happily accept my share of the blame. However, this situation is not in any way satisfactory.

The Under-Secretary, in opening the debate, talked about full and wide consultation. I accept that. We have to move to a situation in which many major development of terminals, be they at Stansted or Heathrow—or at Birmingham to get it nearer to the railway line, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford, it might be a good idea there ought to be subject to the planning procedures so that the local authorities concerned can give a full view. Any major development of terminals must be the subject of a public inquiry on the basis of justice being seen to be done.

Does my hon. Friend agree that such planning consultation ought to include not only the local authorities that touch the airport or whose territory includes the proposed terminal but also nearby local authorities in whose areas people might be overflown by the additional traffic that the additional terminal capacity makes possible? In other words, as the purpose of a planning permission is to ascertain the interests of people who will be affected, those interests should also include those of people who will be overflown.

I have my hon. Friend's point. One could extend the planning laws in ways in which I can see dangers. However, if there were public inquiries in these cases, the problem would solve itself, because even if there had not been proper discussion and a formal or informal examination, as I understand it, any local authority or interested party would be able to go to the public inquiry and give evidence, in objection or support, which would be published in the inspector's report. That might be a way forward. In my hon. Friend's case, the borough of Richmond upon Thames should have its say at a public inquiry, for which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield was calling.

The question of costs worries me very much. There is a certain amount of information in the consultation document, but the costs therein clearly do not and cannot take account of inflation. Most of us suspect that the costs are very much on the low side. By no means are all the costs fully given, particularly the costs of infrastructure, which in many cases can be as great as if not greater than, the airport costs themselves.

There is one particular example that I want to put to the Under-Secretary. I hope that he will be able to answer the point. If he cannot do so, I hope that he will write to me subsequently. In paragraph 8.36 of the document on the South-East it is stated that there will be railway developments by Southern Region at Gatwick, on the station, which will cost £5 million and will enable the station to cater for 10 million people. Very recently I received a copy of an excellent document from Southern Region. I am sure that the Under-Secretary has had the same document, as we both represent constituencies that are covered by the Southern Region. It is the May edition. It contains a little article about "Growing Gatwick" which says that the cost of the Gatwick Station is now £6 million, and not £5 million as mentioned in the consultation document, and that this is to cater for 7 million passengers and not the 10 million mentioned in the consultation document.

I am not arguing necessarily about the differences in the figures—passengers or money—although they are quite substantial differences. However, where will this investment money come from? Will it come from Southern Region's budget? Again, according to this excellent little news sheet, investment for 1978 is £42 million. It had been planned to be £57 million, but it has been cut back. If of that £42 million about one-seventh is to go on Gatwick Station for the benefit of air travellers, but ironically not for the benefit of the constituents of my hon. Friends, this means that there will be £6 million less, perhaps, for improving the service to Greenwich or Ashford. That is something about which I am sure the Under Secretary and I would not be terribly happy.

This kind of infrastructure investment, whether it is in railway stations, in roads or whatever, is coming out of a diminished public purse. On the whole, it is not benefiting the local citizens. It is benefiting air travellers. Therefore, one could argue that those in the South-East are having to pay double or treble in various ways. The Under-Secretary will know, as I do, that a great deal of investment is needed in the Southern Region to bring its passenger services up to scratch. If some of this investment is being diverted for airport purposes, it may be justified, but our constituencies are losing out thereby, and it is something that we would wish to know about. Indeed, one questions the whole concept.

Not much has been said about the architecture of airports. The architecture of post-war airports in this country is dreadful, internally and externally. It typifies air travel, which, to me, is a squalid way of travelling and is streets behind railways, cars or going by sea. I hope that, where we have to have improvements or developments of terminals or whatever, we can go for a much higher standard of architecture, something exciting and interesting which at the same time takes into account the problems of passengers, of noise, and of trying to make what for many people is still a scaring experience at least somewhat more soothing and pleasant.

Secondly, there is the question of access, particularly to London Airport. We start with the M25. It would be intolerable if we had the fourth terminal completed before the M25 was completed in that area. The M25 by itself—and it has been given too much stress in the consultative document—will not be the answer to the problems of access to Heathrow. The Piccadilly line extension can hardly be called a rapid transit system, as it will stop at all stations right through to Hammersmith, and the M4 for much of its length is a dual carriageway, has no hard shoulder, and is already grossly overloaded at certain times of the day.

Where is this traffic to be catered for? How much is it intended that the Piccadilly line should do? What about the peak hours, when that line will be taking great numbers of airport employees, apart from passengers? The M4 is grossly overloaded. What effects will there be on it when the M25 comes round? It could be overloaded even more. These are fundamental questions which must be answered before the final decision is taken on extra terminals.

There is also the question of other airports, which I wish we had discussed more. I believe that East Midlands Airport has much more going for it than is said in the consultative document or in the House. It is less than three miles from the main line from St. Pancras through the Midlands to the North, and with high-speed trains running on that line—by the end of the decade, I presume—East Midlands Airport to St. Pancras may be done in an hour, as, indeed, can the journey from Bristol to Paddington be done in just over an hour, and as, indeed, with the high-speed trains on the north-western line, can the journey from Birmingham to Euston be done in an hour. These times are pretty much the same as the central London time to Heathrow or Gatwick.

We should be thinking about this aspect. Instead of thinking just in terms of distance, and not realising the changes in motorways and on British Rail, with its high-speed trains, we should be thinking much more in terms of time. That is what the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Palmer) meant when talking about Bristol Airport.

Similarly, when talking of airports in the North, I do not think that there is a strong case for developing one in Yorkshire at the moment because of the reasons advanced in the consultative document. But I think again of Manchester Airport, connected by the M62 across the Pennines and of the East Midlands Airport, connected by the M1.

All this is something that makes a great deal of sense.

However, when we come to Liverpool Speke, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) likens it to Manchester—as Gatwick is to Heathrow. I understand his point. I am sure that he and his friends from the Northwest will understand the fairly powerful contrary argument in the consultative document. But, having seen Speke, I think that it has something going for it, although I do not go as far as my hon. Friend. It is an airport which should not be ignored.

I am sorry that no Manchester Members have been here to speak because Manchester Airport must be the hub regional airport in the North. It is well developed and it has capacity. It serves a great hinterland. That airport, supplemented by the East Midlands Airport covering the East Midlands, South Yorkshire and Sheffield, and Liverpool airport covering Merseyside, could make a good deal of sense.

A point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beacons-field and the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) is that we have been talking very much about aircraft noise and all the problems that that brings and about the turbulence created by the wide-bodied jets, but there is an additional problem of airport development that we ignore at our peril—and it is largely ignored in the consultative document—and that is the whole question and cost of infrastructure.

Where an airport is developed there must be a great deal of housing to accommodate the extra employees. There are problems of transport, whether road or rail which bring pollution and noise. That was one of the reasons for the Land Compensation Act two or three years ago. There are problems of sewerage and schools. Even if we get 5,000-seater aircraft landing only two or three times a day, if there are more passengers there must be more infrastructure.

The cost of that infrastructue falls largely on the local residents through our system of local government and rating. It amounts almost to taxation without representation, because in many cases the airports are owned by the BAA and the local people have little or no say in their running. They might see their whole district or even region changing through the building of new terminals and so on, and in these circumstances local people may find themselves subsidising airport development.

The construction of transport facilities will often be of motorway or railway, which has been the case in most of the instances we have been discussing, and none of the cost of that falls on the rates.

That is not necessarily so, because not all motorways are trunk roads. If we consider the losses anticipated in cash terms on the Piccadilly line extension to Heathrow, I believe that part of that bill will be picked up by the London ratepayers.

If expansion is to take place it must be accompanied by infrastructure investment. The taxpayer, or, as in the case of the Gatwick area, the ratepayer may have to foot the bill. That factor is often overlooked. It is a question not just of finance but of the changing character of the area.

I agree with every word uttered by the hon. Member for Harlow about Stansted. I am worried that Stansted could expand by a thousand incremental developments. That is a complete denial of democracy. The people in that part of the world have had their public inquiries and they know that there may have to be a limited expansion to remedy the lack of capacity, but the sort of expansion that has been whispered abroad takes us back to the situation of 10 years ago, and is totally undemocratic and alien to our beliefs in this House. Whatever else happens, therefore, I hope that the sort of expansion that has been hinted at will not be supported. It might please the airlines but it would please precious few other persons.

The Minister will have great difficulty in trying to get any sort of regional strategy or policy. I hope that he regards much of what has been said in the House tonight as helpful to him and his officials in trying to determine that policy. I hope that he will secure the co-ordination of all the agencies involved—the Department of Trade, the Department of Transport, the Department of the Environment, British Rail, the local authorities, the airlines, the BAA and the CAA, and so on. The list is almost endless. It is difficult to try to get together all these widely differing bodies with differing interests.

At the end if the day we are dealing with human beings living in their homes, working in the area, and having their leisure there. They are entitled to a civilised life in the same way as people travelling in aeroplanes. People in the South-East and Manchester, particularly, have put up with a lot of hell in past years, and they are looking for some kind of alleviation. There are limits beyond which this House should not go. I do not regard air travel as an end in itself to which we should always give way.

A combination of carrot, stick and noose is needed by the Government, and, if need be, an understanding that at the end of the day there will be a pretty tight control of the noose. We do not need an expansion of the facilities to match the laissez faire type of demand. That would not be acceptable. We must recognise that in the 1990s or at some time at the end of the day we may still have to build a new green-field or green-water airport.

12.32 a.m.

I start by saying first and foremost that although there have been some criticisms of the delay and uncertainty brought about by the consultative process in which my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Davis) and I were involved, basically there has been an enormous welcome for the decision to undertake the consultative process.

Both my hon. Friend and I were very keen that this debate should take place, and both were grateful for the many important points—constituency points and other more general points—that have been put to us. I listened with interest to the important issues raised by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed). I know that hon. Members will not expect me to attempt to answer all the issues raised in the debate. Some hon. Members who raised constituency points had to leave before the end of the debate, and I shall try to write to those who asked specific questions, in so far as I am in a position to give answers. The other reason why it will not be possible to give answers is that neither my hon. Friend nor I can anticipate the White Paper that will be the conclusion of our study.

I think that the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South (Mr. Parkinson) and other Members who spoke seemed to be seeking the Holy Grail. The national airports policy that will be published later this year will set the scene for many years to come. In one sense it will set the scene in describing the parameters in which airport planning will take place.

It is important to get one point clear—the hon. Member for Hertfordshire South seemed confused about this. We are in an area where it is very difficult to make long-term decisions, because of population projections, the propensity to fly, and all kinds of factors, every one of which could be wrong. Secondly, it is difficult because of technical changes. There has been much talk of the development of wide-bodied aircraft and the enormous difference that has made to airport planning. This is one sound reason why we could not possibly achieve a national airport policy to last us for the next 10 or 20 years. The White Paper contained the parameters in which airport planning could be done but, as the years go by, as population projections and other such estimates come along, and as technical changes have their impact on airport planning, we shall have to adapt our planning.

It was because the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South expressed an interest in the doubts that may arise as a consequence of trying to plan for the future that I was surprised that he and some of his hon. Friends raised the issue of Maplin. Maplin surely was an example of trying to plan a long way into the future. It was because of the doubts which the hon. Gentleman expressed that we on the Labour side of the House, and certainly in the Government, did not feel that such a project was practicable. It was in the light of that view that my right hon. Friend, now the Secretary of State for the Environment, made the decision not to go ahead. How right, in my view, that decision turned out to be.

I am not quite sure which of us is confused. I have been waiting to hear from the Minister what he thinks I was confused about. I started by saying that a specific decision to build a specific airport, which would deal with the problems of the South-East, was taken by the Conservative Government. Nothing that I have heard from the Minister or his hon. Friend tonight suggests that they have any comparable solution to the specific problem of the South-East, which is the major problem in British aviation.

The hon. Gentleman has described a decision taken by the previous Conservative Government on the basis of a range of estimates about what would happen during the next decade or so. Many of those estimates have now been proved to be erroneous. It is in that light that long-term airport planning, of the kind which some people may be asking for—massive investment of the Maplin type—may not be relevant.

If the hon. Member or others are look-for a national airport policy—or if they think that the Government are looking for a national airport policy—which will describe precisely what airport planning is to be like over the next 10 or 15 years, they will be disappointed, for the reasons I have given. A common criticism of approach to airports policy over the past 15 years has been that airports have been allowed to develop by stealth or, to use the latest jargon, that they have been subject to incrementalism. It is said that there has been a failure to consult or properly to inform those most affected by airport development.

In that connection I was impressed by what the hon. Member for Ashford said about the need to consult. I do not think that it will come as any surprise to the hon. Member to know that most of the deputations that came to see my hon. Friend and I, particularly from local authorities, economic planning councils and such organisations, were asking for a regular system of consultation for planning authorities and similar bodies. They wanted a regular pattern of consultation in airport planning. Because of the enormous implications that arise from the development of airports, that is something we are actively considering as part of the general consideration we are giving to the future of airport planning.

I want to deal with the point that has been raised by the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) and by other hon. Members about the fourth terminal. The hon. Member for Ashford also raised this issue and he and I had an exchange on this matter during Question Time the other day. It is probably particularly important to deal with this matter now. Incidentally, the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) told the House that Hillingdon had made an Article 4 direction. We in the Department have not been informed of that, but I was interested to hear it.

I said that the Hillingdon Council was making an Article 4 direction. It is my understanding that it will be submitted to the Department next week.

I thank the hon. Gentleman. I am grateful for that information.

In general, hon. Members have called into question the extent of the powers of the British Airports Authority under the Town and Country Planning General Development Order. The hon. Member for Ashford felt strongly on that issue. This point has been made by a number of representatives of local authorities who have come to see us at the Department. I acknowledge—and here I agree with the hon. Member for Ashford—that the relevant sections of the GDO were framed at a time when runways alone were seen as the determining factor governing the size and level of use of an airport. With the introduction of larger aircraft, terminal buildings have become developments of greater planning significance. My Department is considering the whole question of the GDO powers of statutory undertakers. Their relevance to airport developments is one of the matters that we shall be examining. I cannot say any more on that for the moment, but the points that have been made on the matter by a number of hon. Members have been noted.

I come to the specific matter of the fourth terminal at Heathrow. Although this development is technically permitted under the GDO, hon. Members will no doubt be aware that the appropriate local planning authorities and the Secretary of State have powers to make a direction under Article 4 of the GDO bringing the development in question under normal planning control. These powers of direction can be exercised by the particular local authority or authorities who could have granted planning permission if a planning application had been required. In the case of those parts of the Heathrow site that are within the London boroughs of Hillingdon and Hounslow this would be the Greater London Council, and for those parts within Surrey it would be the Spelthorne Borough Council.

The making and approval of such a direction would, as I have recently explained in answer to a Question for the hon. and learned Member for Beacons-field, be an essential first step towards a statutory public planning inquiry within the 1971 Act. The Secretary of State would not consider making such a direction himself until we had received the views of these authorities who are statutorily entitled to make one themselves. We expect to have them all soon, judging by what the hon. Member for Uxbridge has told us, but until we do, hon. Members will understand that I cannot, at this stage, comment on the merits of the BAA's proposed development.

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) and the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) were worried that consultation involved only those authorities who were planning authorities for the area concerned, while boroughs that would be bound to be affected by a fourth terminal in terms of pressure on the rates and noise overhead would not be consulted. The hon. Member for Twickenham has raised this matter at Question Time and I was also questioned on it by the hon. Member for Richmond, Surrey (Sir A. Royle). During Question Time the hon. Members put the point that London boroughs such as Richmond would be greatly affected by this development and ought to be consulted by the BAA. I understand that the BAA have consulted only those local authorities that are statutorily concerned.

Since that Question Time, I have been in touch with the Chairman of the BAA and he has authorised me to say that he will gladly consult all London boroughs that believe they will be affected, provided that the GLC has no objection. He says that he will take part in the consultations if possible and will at least ensure that all boroughs that approach the BAA will have the chance to express their view. The hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead is not here, but I shall ask the Chairman whether he will extend a similar facility, if asked, to the borough the hon. Gentleman represents.

There is a good deal of justice in the demands for planning authorities, economic planning councils, the standing conference and other such bodies to be consulted more regularly. The basis upon which this can be done and the question whether there should be a formal structure are matters that Ministers will need to think out in greater detail, but the general point has been well taken.

I wish to deal with a number of specific points raised in the debate. The hon. Members for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) and East Grinstead (Mr. Johnson Smith) referred to the development of Gatwick. The current redevelopment will increase capacity to 16 million passengers, and one of the options in the consultative document is that it should grow to 25 million through the provision of a second terminal. However, there is no plan for that. It is only an option for consideration. If that was not clear, I am pleased to have the opportunity of explaining it.

I was interested in what the hon. Members for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) and East Grinstead (Mr. Johnson Smith) MacKay) said about the environmental effects of Birmingham Airport. The hon. Gentleman may not know that my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Tierney) and Meriden (Mr. Tomlinson) brought a large deputation from a number of organisations representing people living all round the airport and they put to us expertly the feelings of local residents. I can assure the hon. Gentlemen that we have been made fully aware of the effects on the people living in the vicinity of Birmingham Airport.

I listened with interest to what my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Palmer) said about the local authority not having enough resources to bring Lulsgate Airport up to modern requirements. The consultative document recognises that considerable investment would be required to develop Lulsgate into a major airport regional airport and that access would be a problem if the airport underwent a major expansion. This must be a major consideration.

There are doubts about upgrading the airport's status, particularly over the extent to which the catchment area could be widened. These factors are being considered. My hon. Friend referred to Bristol's good infrastructure, but, unfortunately, Lulsgate is on the wrong side of Bristol in relation to some of the roads that he mentioned.

The Bristol Lulsgate Airport could be linked fairly easily into the M5 motorway.

Indeed. Certainly all these points will be considered. The claim of the possibility of the Bristol development will be considered among the various possibilities.

It is right to point out some of the difficulties involved in trying to disperse airport development to the regions. The point has been made that 80 per cent. of flights have their beginnings and endings in the South-East of England. Therefore there will always be a certain amount of difficulty.

I take the point that with the development of motorways and the advanced passenger train, the length of time taken in getting from home to airport, or from airport to destination, has been reduced. But it would be wrong to ignore the element of cost involved in surface travel to the airport even though the journey time may have come down to some degree. Nevertheless, there is the problem that a high percentage of journeys now start and end in the South-East of England. Whether there will be a shift in the balance of demand for air travel to other parts of the country remains to be seen. Indeed, whether the demand is for charter flights or scheduled flights we hope that there will be a development, upon that basis, of activity in the regional airports.

One of the inevitable advantages enjoyed by an airport such as Heathrow—and one of the reasons why people who may live in the North or North-East of England or the Midlands will come to Heathrow—is simply the range of destinations that Heathrow is able to serve. Therefore the second consultative document draws attention to the need to concentrate activity in the regions to some degree to allow for a certain amount of interlining and to provide the kind of service which it is possible for an airport to provide if it is serving a reasonably large area. Therefore there are bound to be some difficult decisions to take about the regions, including Manchester and Liverpool. The House will appreciate the issue that I am talking about when I describe some of the decisions that our two Departments must take on airports in the regions.

Will the Minister explain what he has in mind when he speaks of the difficult decisions on Manchester and Liverpool?

I do not know whether I should have given way to the hon. Gentleman. He will appreciate that when there is over-provision of airports—I do not refer specifically to those at Liverpool and Manchester—the Government take account of the regional document which indicates that there is advantage in concentrating on certain airports in the regions rather than having a multiplicity of airports competing against one another and not taking advantage of the interlining that can arise as a result of concentrating activity on a number of specific points.

In view of the hour I shall not be able to deal in this speech with all the points that were raised. Even if I had time to do so, the preparation of the White Paper prevents me from giving the answers which in some cases I want to give.

Nevertheless, all the points made will be considered seriously, as will all the written and oral statements made 10 my hon. Friend and myself in working out a national airlines policy, the broad outlines of which we hope to publish in the White Paper in the late summer or early autumn.

This debate has been a useful contribution. We should have been unhappy if hon. Members had not been able to make their comments to help in our consideration. A balance of interest has to be struck between the environment and the employment and industrial and other opportunities which airports bring. Many decisions will be difficult and some unfortunately will not be popular, but I hope that the House can be assured that we shall take our decisions with some courage. Courage will be needed, in the light of some of the things said tonight.

Question, That this House do now adjourn, put and negatived.