HC Deb 26 January 1956 vol 548 cc489-506

Motion made, and Question proposed. That the Bill be now read a Second time.

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)

I rise with some diffidence to state shortly the case against the Bill as conceived by those who object to it. I say with some diffidence" because, being a Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, I have to view these questions with some impartiality; and, secondly, being a Member for a Welsh constituency, I should hesitate to do anything which the Gloucestershire County Council the powers it seeks.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 41, Noes 76.

Division No. 90.] AYES [9.50 p.m.
Allen, Scholefield (Crews) Kenyon, C. Popplewell, E.
Awbery, S. S. Lawson, G. M. Ross, William
Blyton, W. R. Molnnes, J. Skeffington, A. M.
Bowden, H. w. (Leicester, S.w.) McKay, John (Wallsend) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Craddock, George (Bradford) S.) Maddan, Martin Stones, W. (Consett)
Deer, G. Mahon, S. Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C>
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Viant, S. P.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mann, Mrs. Jean Wilkins, W. A.
Grimond, J. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Willey, Frederick
Hannan, W. Mort, D. L. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Herbison Miss M. Moyle, A.
Holmes, Horace Neal, Harold (Bolsover) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Holt, A. F. Pargiter. G. A. Mr. Hayman and Mr. Royle
Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Parker, J.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Gurden, Harold Pitt, Miss E. M.
Armstrong, C. W. Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Pott, H. P.
Ashton, H. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Baldwin, A. E. Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.
Barber, Anthony Hicks-Beach, MaJ. W. W. Redmayne, M.
Body, R. F. Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bryan, P. Hirst, Geoffrey Renton, D. L. M.
Champion, A. J. Howard, John (Test)
Chichester-Clarke, R. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rippon, A. G. F.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Roper, Sir Harold
Cunningham, Knox Keegan, D. Russell, R. S.
Currie, G. B. H. Kerby, Capt. H. B. Speir, R. M.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H, Kirk, P. M. Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Duncan, Capt- J. A. L. Lambton, Viscount Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J, C. Leavey, J. A. Studholme, H. C.
Errington, Sir Eric Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Farey-Jones, F. W. Lloyd, MaJ. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R.(Croydon, S.)
Fleteher-Cooke, C. Longden, Gilbert Turner, H. F. L.
Freeth, D. K. Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
George, J. C. (Pollok) Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Glover, D. Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith & Border)
Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan Mathew, R. Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Gower, H. R. Mawby, R. L.
Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Green, A. Nairn, D. L. S. Captain Corfield and Mr. Kershaw
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Neave, Airey

might in any way be interpreted as likely to discourage the advance of civil aviation in Wales. Nevertheless, those who oppose the Bill have found it extremely difficult to present their views, and I deem it proper that those views should be heard by the House on Second Reading so that hon. Members, on both sides, may make up their minds on the merits of the case presented by the objectors. For the reasons I have stated. I shall abstain from voting.

The following are the reasons which have been given to me for the objections and opposition to the Bill. First, it is said by the objectors that some weeks ago the National Parks Commission gave public notice of its intention to designate the whole of the Gower Peninsula as a conservation area. I am informed that the whole area of the Fairwood Common affected by the Bill is in that area, as those of us who are familiar with the district can confirm.

The objectors suggest that it is wrong that a duty placed by Parliament upon the National Parks Commission should be made impossible by any action which the people who support the Bill should seek to take at this stage. They point out too that in their view the Bill is inconsistent with the purposes of the National Parks Act, 1949, first because it would extinguish the rights of access, and, secondly, because it would enclose an open space and take powers over the surrounding countryside in what will be a conservation area.

The second objection stated by the objectors, which hon. Members may think has considerable validity, is that those who promote the Bill are well aware that a Royal Commission is at this very moment considering the whole question of common lands. They therefore suggest that it must strike hon. Members, on both sides of the House, as being right that the findings of that Royal Commission should be known before such a Bill as this, which would extinguish the rights of commoners, should pass into law. Surely, they say, the primary purpose of the Bill, having as its aim the extinguishment of common rights, should await the findings of the Royal Commission.

The objectors' third major objection is based upon the needs of agriculture and of open space and the need of a green belt around towns such as Swansea. In this connection, they stress that they have the support of the National Farmers' Union for the County of Glamorgan. I have been sent a copy of a resolution, which was passed by the executive committee of the Glamorgan branch of the National Farmers' Union on 10th January this year. It reads as follows: The County Executive Committee of the Glamorgan Branch of the National Farmers' Union recommends that consideration of the Swansea Corporation (Fairwood Common) Bill which seeks to extinguish common rights on Fairwood Common for the erection of an aerodrome, be deferred, pending the publication of a report of the Royal Commission on Common Land, which is now sitting.

To my knowledge the Glamorgan branch of the National Farmers' Union has about 3,000 members, and that may be deemed by Members on both sides of the House to be evidence that the objections to the immediate passing of this Bill would not appear to be confined to the protection society which formulated the objections supplied to me.

Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)

Can the hon. Member say whether any of the 3,000 members of the Farmers' Union, or the other people who have communicated with him, reside either in the Gower Division or the Swansea Division?

Mr. Gower

I am sorry that I cannot give the information for which the Father of the House has asked. All that I can say is that I have been advised of this resolution, which was passed by the executive.

Mr. Grenfell

Has the hon. Member checked up before he announced it to this House?

Mr. Gower

In reply to that, I concede to what the Father of the House has suggested, that obviously these farmers are living all over the County of Glamorgan and they are not necessarily living in the peninsula of Gower. It may be that none live in that area. Nevertheless, the farmers of the Gower Peninsula are represented on the Glamorgan county executive of the N.F.U.

The fourth objection which has been conveyed to me is based upon the financial aspect of this question. I am told that as recently as October last the Welsh Advisory Council for Civil Aviation was having to seek additional Exchequer aid to maintain the existing airfields in the Principality. It is suggested by the objectors to the Bill that it might be deemed unwise for the Swansea Corporation, in these circumstances and at this stage, to go ahead with the construction of yet another airfield when it would appear that the airfields already existing in the area might be deemed adequate.

I have to confess a constituency interest in that the major South Wales aerodrome is at Rhoose in my constituency. The objectors suggest to me that it would be better for the money available to be devoted to the improvement and enlargement of the airfield at Rhoose.

Mr. Grenfell

Is the hon. Member in favour of an aerodrome at Rhoose and against one at Gower?

Mr. Gower

I am merely stating the views expressed to me by the objectors. My hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Finlay), who will speak later, will doubtlessly enlarge upon these views. As I said in opening, I think it proper that the House should be aware that there is a body of people who hold these views. They have organised themselves into a body called the Fairwood Common Protection Society. I am advised that those who sponsored the present Bill have described the objectors as an irresponsible body, and have used the term "a body of cranks" and other such expressions. The objectors quote the obvious support which they have from the farmers in the county.

It is for the House to decide this matter, and I hope that the House will not deem it irresponsible or wrong of me to express these views which have been conveyed to me from these people. That is all I have to say, and I thank the House for according me the indulgence of listening to those views as conveyed to me.

10.10 p.m.

Mr. Graeme Finlay (Epping)

Far be it from me to interfere in matters affecting West Wales, but I wish to speak briefly on the aspects of the Bill which strike me as of national significance. This area in which land has been selected by Swansea Corporation for the purposes of an aerodrome is undoubtedly an area selected by the National Parks authorities as a conservation area. That means that it is an area which, as a result of the policy of Parliament, must be subject to very special treatment. It has been selected because of its character, and nobody knows better than the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), the scenic beauties of the area. It is particularly sacrosanct.

It is land which the Legislature has deliberately decided should be very carefully watched in the interests of scenic beauty and of people who wish to use it to obtain the benefits of open air and exercise. One reads with astonishment, therefore, the views of Swansea Corporation that this is a stretch of boggy, low-lying land of little scenic value. If that is the case, one is struck with astonishment that it has been selected for conservation.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

Could the hon. Member give us his personal opinion about this area?

Hon. Members

Does he know it?

Mr. Finlay

Indeed I know the Gower Peninsula very well. Hon. Members should be careful before asking me such a question.

Mr. Grenfell

What is the altitude of the highest point at this proposed aerodrome?

Mr. Finlay

I have not the slightest idea, and I do not think there is any reason why I should know. All I do know is that an aerodrome is not necessarily a thing of beauty and a joy for ever. One has to have buildings from which an aerodrome is administered and from which navigational facilities are offered, and runways have to be constructed. I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Gower thinks that these things are very beautiful.

Mr. Grenfell

They are there already.

Mr. Finlay

I know, but the Father of the House has neglected to inform the House why they are there. They came to be there as a result of the activities of the Royal Air Force during the war and were constructed under Defence Regulations.

Mr. Grenfell

Twenty years ago.

Mr. Finlay

Yes, but I should be surprised if the Father of the House, whom I should have thought would be one of the chief protectors of scenic amenities in the area, should think that an aerodrome established under war-time conditions should be continued in use indefinitely.

Arrangements have been made for the protection of this area. The planning authority has been consulted and has taken the advice of an advisory body under the National Parks Act, because there are all sorts of things that are required to be done. There must be arrangements for the control of advertising and for seeing that unsightly telegraph poles are not installed there. All these matters should be looked into.

There is a second aspect of the subject. The Government of the day have appointed a Royal Commission. To make quite sure that the terms of reference are appreciated I will read them. They are as follows: To recommend what changes, if any, are desirable in the law relating to common land in order to promote the benefit of those holding manorial and common rights, the enjoyment of the public, or, where at present little or no use is made of such land, its use for some other desirable purpose.

Mr. Grenfell

May we have the date, please?

Mr. Finlay

The first announcement was made in July, 1955, and the Chairman, Sir William Ivor Jennings, was appointed on 25th October.

Mr. Grenfell

After the Bill was proposed?

Mr. Finlay

The intention of the Government in appointing the Royal Commission in July last year was abundantly clear, but the Swansea Corporation is coming to this House——

Mr. Grenfell

The corporation has been to the House of Lords.

Mr. Finlay

Well, it is coming now to the House of Commons, knowing full well, as the right hon. Gentleman knows full well, that this Royal Commission has been appointed with the specific object of ascertaining what should be done with these common rights. In consequence there arises here an issue of national principle.

What is the purpose of Parliament appointing such a Royal Commission if local authorities are to be entitled to anticipate its conclusions and bring in Private Bills altering the law? That is something for the House to consider. Having said that, I will say no more. I have no local interest in this matter. I have been approached by local people who are concerned to see that these issues of national principle are brought before the House, and I will leave them to the House to judge.

10.16 p.m.

Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)

The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) has just given us the most classic illustration of an hon. Member talking with his tongue in his cheek that I have known since I have been a Member of this House. The hon. Gentleman rose in his place and said, in effect, "I have no objection to this Bill and, as P.P.S. to the Ministry, I hope it will go through, but I am willing to be the mouthpiece of people who have submitted an objection and I think that their views should be heard." That is a factual statement of what the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Gower

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to interrupt?

Mr. Morris

As for the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Finlay), I am certain that if he had a greater appreciation of the Gower Peninsula, he would not be pressing his objection tonight.

I want to make it clear, however, that we do not resent the point of view being expressed. It is only right that people who have a fear that common lands are being interfered with should try to take steps to prevent that happening, but that is not the case so far as we are concerned, and there are three or four points to which I wish to reply in order to dispose of the criticism made by those hon. Gentlemen.

Mr. Gower

On a point of order——

Mr. Morris

I will not give way.

Mr. Gower

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The hon. Gentleman:s constantly referring to me—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Is it not right——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

Order, order. If the hon. Member in possession of the House does not give way, the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) must remain silent.

Mr. Morris

The hon. Member must not be so sensitive. He is responsible for what he said and I am replying to it. The hon. Member for Epping expressed certain points of view on which I would like to make some observations——

Mr. Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

Further to that point of order——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. There is no point of order arising on that.

Mr. Glover

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. When doubt is cast on the sincerity of an hon. Member of this House by another hon. Member, has he not the right to justify himself?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I did not understand that any such reflection was cast on the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), and if the hon. Member in possession of the House does not give way, other hon. Members must retain their seats.

Mr. Morris

The National Parks Commission is not involved in this area, and whatever criticism or suggestion it might make would not affect this spot, which has been rightly described as boggy and peaty land. Because of that, the Air Ministry had to spend over £2 million before it could make it an appropriate site for an aerodrome.

Mr. Finlay

If that money has been spent, presumably making it unboggy so that aircraft can navigate there, it is not in the state in which it is contended to be in the document sent by the promoters of the Bill.

Mr. Morris

Recently, I was the guest of the South Gower Farmers' Association, and not one of them raised a protest against this recommendation to maintain the aerodrome.

I think I can best assist the House if I submit a factual statement not depending upon any other art at all. The Bill is promoted by Swansea Corporation. The area which is the object of the Bill is situated in the Gower Peninsula, southwest of Swansea. It is called Fairwood Common. It is part of the constituency represented by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), the Father of the House, and he shares our hope that the House will approve the Measure.

The Common is 1,382 acres in size. Of those 1,382 acres, the corporation is the lord of the manor, as a result of a gift before the war, of 1,122 acres. The Bill is concerned with only 267 of those acres. The figures which I have quoted merit serious attention. They show that the council ask leave to use a comparatively small part of the Common. It is roughly half the area requisitioned by the Government during the war. Commoners' rights have not been exercised there for 16 years.

Nobody disputes that we need an aerodrome. We have a population of 162,000. Vast industries are located in the Swansea area; there is the huge Margam Abbey steelworks on the eastern side and the cold reduction plant at Trostre on the western side and on the northern boundary the Velindre Works are under construction. I.C.I, has extensive factories in Swansea. In addition, steel and tinplate, aluminium and other metals are produced in large quantities. The town is the shopping and commercial centre of a population of no less than 300,000.

In 1938, the council instructed Messrs. Norman Muntz and Dawbarn, an eminent firm of aeronautical consultants, to make a survey of the area and report on the most suitable site on which to construct an aerodrome. The firm advised that one of the two most suitable sites was that situated at Fairwood Common. The other site was used for housing purposes, and we would not interrupt work of that kind.

The outbreak of war prevented the council from implementing the report, but it gave the Air Ministry its opportunity. In 1940, the Air Ministry requisitioned 568 acres of the area owned by the corporation, and nearly £2 million of public money was spent in building an aerodrome which was very active during the war and proved a great national asset.

The council takes the view that it would be lacking in initiative and enterprise if it did not take the opportunity that presents itself to provide air transport services for such a rapidly developing community. The aerodrome is there to be used, and I am advised that the condition of the runways is excellent. It is the intention of the corporation to engage a company of very wide experience, Cambrian Airways, to maintain and operate the services there.

Hon. and right hon. Members are entitled to ask what the objections are. Three authorities are involved: first, the Glamorgan County Council, a large and influential body, which is the planning authority concerned; secondly, the Gower Rural District Council, in whose area the land is situated; and, thirdly, the Gower Society, a voluntary body which came into being primarily to protect the amenities of Gower. These bodies were represented by eminent counsel when the Measure was discussed in another place. After frank and amicable discussion, the guarantees sought were given, objections were withdrawn, and complete agreement was reached. We now have the blessing of the three authorities concerned.

An unofficial group describing itself as the Gower Protection Society, a splinter organisation for which two hon. Members opposite have been spokesmen this evening, has refused to accept the assur- ances of the bodies concerned and has circulated a document which is a complete travesty of the actual position and has maintained a blind and stubborn opposition to the expressed will of the people.

My council—I use the possessive term, because I have been a member of it since November, 1927, and have the honour to serve as its mayor this year—would not willingly countenance any proposal or scheme that would disturb the amenities of Gower. We have a proper appreciation of the beauties of the peninsula and we are satisfied that the operation of the aerodrome will not impair its attractiveness. I fully appreciate the desire to avert that possibility. The council has already given assurance that nothing will be done that would destroy the scenic beauty of the area.

The sooner the aerodrome is used the better, because since flying has ceased the public has been making improper use of the aerodrome. All sorts of vehicles use the runway. Damage has been done to buildings and it is rapidly acquiring the appearance of a derelict area. Operation of the aerodrome will effect a very much needed tidying of the whole site. Construction of a fence around the area will segregate the aerodrome from the remainder of the common and I most strongly emphasise that there will be no interference with legitimate use of the common.

If the Bill is given a Second Reading, Swansea Council will be enabled to improve the appearance and amenities of the area and, at the same time, provide a modern air transport service. I am glad to see the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation in his place and I feel very confident that he will not contradict me if I say that it will afford him and his Department much pleasure if the Bill is given a Second Reading. The Bill represents the unanimous view of 60 Members of the county borough council including very loyal members of the party opposite. They will be not only distressed, but very surprised if it became possible tonight as a result of the debate for us to be deprived of providing that part of South-West Wales with modern air facilities.

I have endeavoured to be strictly factual. With that end in view I have confined myself to notes. I hope that hon. Members opposite, in view of the explanation I have given and the assurances that nothing will be done in any way to spoil Gower, and that we shall share their anxiety to maintain its beauty and do everything possible, as we have done hitherto, will find it possible not to press matters to a Division.

10.29 p.m.

Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)

I feel that I should identify myself with the Bill. It affects the larger part of my constituency which I have now represented for 33 years. I know the overwhelming majority of the people there. I know what they think and what they say about this project. There is no specific, tangible opposition anywhere in the Gower division, I have not heard a single word of protest and I do not know a single person in Gower who will openly say that he is opposed to this.

I understand that letters have been sent to hon. Members saying that I have not consulted my constituents on this matter. Nobody who knows Gower and me would think that an hon. Member could stop his constituents from talking to each other, or stop direct communication between him and the majority of the people there. In the Gower division, there is no opposition to the Bill worth mentioning. Why do we want to support the Bill? Why do I, as a Member of Parliament, support it? It is because this aerodrome has been a serviceable aerodrome since 1939.

During the war the very thorough preparations for national defence went on there. I live within a mile and a half of the runways; close enough to walk there at any time. I have been there hundreds of times in the last ten or fifteen years to see how things were going on. If anything has made me proud of the national genius, patriotism and talent of our people in all walks of life it is the way in which that aerodrome came into existence. It gave great service in 1940 and 1941—so much that it cannot be computed.

I came to know many of the flying men of that time, including the brothers Atcherley. Who has not heard of them? They served at that aerodrome constantly. There were many large industrial works and much shipping in the vicinity, together with a large population, but we remained almost immune from air attacks for two or three years because of the preparations which had already been made.

I have a fondness for the air. Apart from the "pukka" flying men, I have probably flown as many miles as any other hon. Member. I admire immensely the men who have built up and are still building up our wonderful technical skill in flying. There has been a revolution in the habits of our people, and air travel facilities are now being made increasingly available. Yet what would have remained to serve this island, and what would there be to serve the Britons of tomorrow and the next twenty years, if we had not got in early and built up our own air force and trained our own men on our own land?

The Minister knows my interest in this matter. I do not claim any special credit for that. I was a wicked lad, fond of adventure, but I had the good sense to see that in an island like this we cannot afford to be behind in technical progress. We must know as much as anybody else. We have to have our eyes and hands trained for service above 10,000 and 20,000 feet in the air, and we cannot do that without aerodromes. I do not know of anything which has been of more value to the safety, security, comfort and contentment of our people than the preparation of these airports.

The aerodrome came to Swansea because of its location. It would not have come to the moors of Yorkshire, or anywhere like that. It came in wartime because there were special gateways to be guarded and special service to be rendered from that centre. Within a radius of 100 miles of the aerodrome amazing deeds were performed in the air. All we ask now is that this House should give its special sanction to what has become a fact—a proud fact in the lives of the people of Swansea, Wales, and the rest of the island. Airmen from all over the world speak with affection of the time they spent at Fairwood Aerodrome, during the war.

I think I can say that I represent the people of Gower. I know more people in Gower than anybody else. I know them by their Christian names, and they call me Dai, or David. They are not political quacks, or nationalist quacks, who write nonsense in the newspapers; they are people who go on living quietly, doing their jobs—and I claim to be one of them. I urge the House not to miss this opportunity of doing the best job it can do in this matter. This area is not a swamp. The highest point of this aerodrome is about 350 feet above sea level. It has the advantage that there is nothing higher than itself. It lies on a natural ridge not far from the Bristol Channel and is easily accessible from everywhere.

The men at the aerodrome are very proud of it and those of us who live in the vicinity are very glad that we have been able to see the prowess and the remarkable strength of Britain in the air, and the training of our men to fly. They have seen flying taking place from their boyhood and are accustomed to it and to the evolution of flying machines. I therefore ask the House to give its sanction and its blessing to the work that is being done.

10.37 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

I little thought, when this debate began, that I should take part in it. I fully support the speeches of the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) and the Father of the House the right hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell). I am sure that when the hon. Member for Swansea, West thinks about this matter he will realise that what he said in the early part of his speech was unworthy of him.

While we support these developments we must not complain that the views of a minority are put forward in the House. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) made it clear that he was trying to put forward their views and it was a little unworthy of the hon. Member to criticise his motives, which were sincere. He made it clear that he was putting the views of a minority which many of those who have listened to the debate would support 100 per cent. We have no intention of making difficulties, but we have been impressed with the arguments put forward. I wish the hon. Member for Swansea, West had not started his speech the way he did.

10.39 p.m.

Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

I rise to support the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. P. Morris) and to ask for the Second Reading of the Bill. It is important, desirable and necessary that municipalities should have aerodromes so that we may proceed rapidly from place to place by the modem method of transport, the air.

This project of the Swansea Corporation is perfectly sound and good, but I want the Minister to tell us whether the corporation, after it has spent £15,000 or £100,000 to establish the aerodrome, will not find itself in the same position as the municipality in my constituency. Having spent £53,000 in this way, it now has to spend £3,000 a year in care and maintenance, not because of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, but because the Treasury, through the Department of Customs and Excise, refuses to do what is right and proper so that the aerodrome might function. It is ridiculous for the Minister to urge the Second Reading of the Bill if Swansea Corporation is to find itself thwarted by the Treasury.

Let me tell the House what I tried to tell it yesterday. My authority has an aerodrome, and no doubt we shall be flying from it soon.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

We are dealing with one particular aerodrome.

Mr. Jones

I am trying to point out that when Fairwood Common has been established as a civil aerodrome, we shall no doubt be running services from Greetham to that Common.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That may be so, but it does not arise on this Bill.

Mr. Jones

I think it does, because, when enacted, this Bill will authorise the establishment of an aerodrome at Fairwood Common. I hope, therefore, that the Parliamentary Secretary will assure us that the Swansea Corporation will receive from the Treasury better treatment in regard to this aerodrome than we in the North-East have received in regard to ours.

10.40 p.m.

Mr. D. L. Mort (Swansea, East)

I have listened with great pleasure to the arguments put forward from both sides. I am prepared to give full credit for honesty of purpose to those who are opposing this Bill, but hon. Members should realise the actual position. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) spoke of the erection of an aerodrome, but it is not a question of erecting one. Does any hon. Member suggest that the Swansea Corporation should allow this aerodrome to fall into disuse, in face of the demand now made everywhere by progressive elements for the establishment of aerodromes in all industrial places?

There is no local opposition to this scheme, and I wonder if those who have spoken of the loss of the people's rights and about loss of amenities really know the local situation. The aerodrome does not affect the farming community at all to its disadvantage. This is a wonderful opportunity, and in these days of the credit squeeze and the restriction of capital expenditure, I am sure the House should be very pleased that at least one area can adapt itself to modern conditions and requirements without incurring huge expense. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) has said, we have blessed memories of this place. I sincerely hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading so that we can continue the noble work we have started.

10.43 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. John Profumo)

I rise with some diffidence to speak on a matter which is primarily Welsh. The controversy over this Bill centres around a local issue—the issue of whether the commoners and the amenities of Fairwood Common should be made to suffer in the interests of developing an aerodrome. This being a Private Bill, I am not speaking on behalf of the promoters in the same sense that one speaks on behalf of a Departmental Bill, and I am sure that the House will appreciate the rather special conditions in which I am intervening. As evidence of this, if there is a vote—and I hope that there will not be shall not take part in it, but I feel that it would be wrong not to take the opportunity of saying something about the aspects of the proposals as they affect Welsh aviation.

Since I have been in this Department, representations have frequently been made about the importance of developing civil air transport in the Principality. I have myself been there and have visited this aerodrome. There is undoubtedly a demand for services through Swansea, but I must make it plain that these aspirations cannot be achieved unless and until the aerodrome is properly enclosed and made safe for transport aircraft.

Several applications have already been made for serving Swansea. Some have been approved and some are still before the Air Transport Advisory Council. One of them would seek to link Haverford-west with Swansea, Cardiff and/or Bristol, and, eventually, with London. I must make it clear that the operators are not likely to proceed with this operation or others, nor is my Department in a position to authorise the use of Fairwood Common for a regular passenger service without proper arrangements being made for the control of livestock at present allowed to wander at will over what is intended to be the airport.

I must admit that the initiative of Swansea Corporation in seeking to provide on their own account an aerodrome to make these services possible is welcome as far as I personally am concerned, even if this aerodrome has to operate without Customs facilities. So far as I can see, there is no intention of riding roughshod over the rights and requirements of the commoners because, among other things, the Bill provides for compensation.

With reference to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) about agricultural facilities, the information I have is that, even if the Bill went through in its present form, there would still be enough grazing land for the purpose of the stock at present being grazed there. Two points were made by hon. Friends, and I am glad they have spoken as they did in order that both sides of the case should be presented. One was with reference to the National Parks. There is a proposal, as has been said, to designate the Gower Peninsula, including Fairwood Common, under the National Parks Act. I understand the whole area has been designated under the Act as a place of outstanding beauty. That means that if it is proposed to change the existing use of the area or any part of it the National Parks Commission must be consulted. The Commission knows all about the existence of this aerodrome and has no objection to its continuance.

The other point was about the Royal Commission sitting on the question of commons. That relates to the general law and this Bill is concerned with a particular case. Consideration of its merits by Parliament should not be affected by the fact that a Royal Commission is sitting.

I do not want to be controversial and the time is getting late. I submit that, in the light of what has been said tonight, it would be a great mistake for the House to reject the Measure at this stage. The right action is to send the Bill upstairs to Committee for full and careful consideration.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.

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