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Airport Capacity (South-East)

Volume 13: debated on Monday 16 November 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade when, in the light of the latest air traffic forecasts, he expects extra airport capacity in the South-East to be required.

This will depend on a number of factors, including the decision on the proposal for a second terminal at Gatwick, which is currently under consideration. The provision of extra capacity in the longer term is being examined at the Stansted inquiry. The inspector will have before him all relevant evidence, including the latest air traffic forecasts produced by the air traffic forecasting working party and other bodies. It would not be appropriate for me to prejudge the issues by commenting at this stage.

Will my hon. Friend defend the integrity of the air traffic forecasting working party? If not, what proper research will he institute in its place?

I certainly defend the report's integrity. Indeed, the report is being considered. This very day we have drawn the attention of interested parties at Gatwick to it. There is no need for further research.

Will the Minister ensure that the diversion of traffic from the airlines to British Rail that might occur when the Channel tunnel is built is taken into account?

As the British Airports Authority tells us that there is an increase in demand, will my hon. Friend assure the House that the BAA does not try to draw operators away from places such as Luton by offering cheap facilities and hangars at Stansted?

Even assuming that all relevant consents were given, the earliest possible date at which Stansted could come into operation would be towards the end of this decade, but not before 1988. Therefore, we must wait a little longer before answering such questions.