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Air Traffic (South-East)

Volume 978: debated on Monday 4 February 1980

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10.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will seek to regulate the operation of charter and part-charter air traffic to and from Heathrow and Gatwick as part of his plans to control the growth of air traffic in South-East England; and what cities in other countries operate scheduled air services from three separate airports serving the same city.

Whole plane charters have not been allowed to use Heathrow since 1 April 1978. The Government would like to see more effective use being made of airports other than Heathrow and Gatwick, but my right hon. Friend has no plans artificially to restrict leisure traffic in the South-East. New York has three airports operating scheduled services.

What does my hon. Friend mean by "artificially to restrict"? Is the night ban at Heathrow not proper action by the Government, taken for environmental reasons? Does he contemplate with equanimity tour operators continuing to bring coach loads of people down the motorway from Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham to fly to Majorca, because it is cheaper than using regional airports? What are the Government's views?

The night ban applies to all classes of traffic. It is extremely difficult to draw a line between leisure traffic being a bad thing and some other form of traffic being a good thing. The customer—the passenger—demands the cheapest possible air transport, and I understood that we were interested in giving it to him.

Does the Minister agree that there is inertia among airlines and tour operators about using London's airports? The hon. Gentleman is being too casual. Would not ministerial activity benefit airports such as Manchester, which have the will and capacity to take such passengers?

The hon. Gentleman appears to expect me to do the job of tour operators. If Manchester is a good airport for that purpose—and I believe that it is—it is up to the management of Manchester airport to persuade tour operators and passengers that that is so. We are not in the business of directing people to airports.

Are we not in the business of trying to minimise the impact on the environment of an unlimited buildup of airport capacity in the South-East? Does my hon. Friend therefore agree that it is entirely reasonable to balance the views of tour operators with those of the country as a whole, to ensure the best overall result?

We are in the business of protecting the environment, and we have recommended that Stansted be expanded rather than have further expansion beyond terminal 4 at Heathrow. An aeroplane landing at Stansted will disturb about 17,000 people as opposed to 1½ million at Heathrow.