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Airports Inquiries

Volume 77: debated on Monday 15 April 1985

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1.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport how many representations he has received concerning the report of the inspector on the airports inquiries 1981–83; and if he will make a statement.

I wish, first, to convey the apologies to the House of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for his absence on export business in India.

The reply to the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) is that between 10 December 1984, when the inspector's report was published, and 1 April 1985, my right hon. Friend received 1,164 written representations on this subject.

Does the Minister accept that airports policy has a major impact on wider issues of economic development? Will he therefore try to ensure that when the Secretary of State is making his decision, full account is taken of the need to encourage economic investment in parts of Britain other than south-east England?

My right hon. Friend will take into account all the evidence that was put to, and the recommendations of, the inspector in respect of the regional dimension which the hon. Gentleman mentions.

Will my hon. Friend assure the blouse that the main consideration that will be given when arriving at a conclusion will be that of the national interest?

Will the Minister convey to his right hon. Friend the message that export business is no valid excuse for failing to be at the service of the House?

I shall convey the right hon. Gentleman's view to my right hon. Friend. I must, however, remind hon. Members that India imports about £800 million worth of goods from this country and that it is the duty of a Minister of the Crown to assist that business.

Luton airport was outside the terms of reference of the inspector's inquiry, but will my hon. Friend confirm, nevertheless, that it will be in order for those who wish to see the expansion of that airport, perhaps rather than the contemplated expansion of Stansted, to make representations accordingly, and have any been so made?

Luton is an integral part of the London airport system and was mentioned in the inspector's report. Any development there would be subject to the appropriate planning procedures.

Will my right hon. Friend's decisions on the applications that are at the heart of the inspector's report be subject to the approval of the House?

No, Sir. The Secretary of State has already said that there will be a debate on airports matters, including the matters to which my hon. Friend refers, subsequent to the announcement of the decision by him and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

What proposals does the Minister have for the further development and expansion of Carlisle airport?

Carlisle airport is a good airport, which the hon. Gentleman espouses rigorously and vigorously, and which I visited recently. It has certain problems, notably to do with Customs and Excise, into which we are currently looking.

Did my hon. Friend say that the House would not be further consulted by his Department about the development of Stansted? If so, is he aware that some of us will take no notice of that but will regard it as nothing less than our duty, in the national interest, to do what we believe to be right, when his Department has made up its mind, on an issue that affects the whole nation?

The statutory planning procedure now requires the two Departments, of the Secretaries of State for Transport and of the Environment, to produce their decisions to the House.