HC Deb 13 February 1961 vol 634 cc922-4
29. Sir B. Janner

asked the Minister of Aviation why he has increased the landing charges for aircraft at London Airport so that they are substantially higher Chan those of any of the other main airports in the world; and whether he intends to continue the extra charge being made for aircraft using facilities at Gatwick when the congestion at London Airport prevents their landing there.

Mr. Rippon

The purpose of the increase in landing fees is to transfer to the users of the aerodromes part of the costs at present borne by the taxpayer. A bare comparison of our landing fees with those of airports abroad can be misleading, because there is no common basis of accounting, levying of charges, or services provided.

Airport charges are levied by reference to landings made; diversions, which are normally due to weather conditions, are the decision of the operator.

Sir B. Janner

Is the Minister aware that instead of doing good to the finances of the country it may do just the opposite, in that it may prevent planes from landing at London Airport, which otherwise would have landed there, because landing charges elsewhere are cheaper? Does he think that a plane should be compelled to pay an additional charge for landing at Gatwick when it has been diverted from London Airport? What is the sense in that? What is the reason for it?

Mr. Rippon

I am not aware of any of the matters referred to in the first part of the supplementary question. There appears to be no reason to suppose that there will be an effect on traffic. The provision of alternative airports involves expenditure, and I see no reason why the taxpayer should have to bear the full cost of the commercial risk of bad weather.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Is my hon. Friend aware that what he and his right hon. Friend are doing will eventually cost the taxpayers more money? Why is it that the proposed landing charge is in some cases four times as high as those in other countries? All that he is doing is to drive other countries to raise their landing charges. Will he go into the matter and consider divorcing the civil airport from his own Ministry so that it can be run efficiently and serve the public?

Mr. Rippon

The second part of that supplementary question raises wider considerations. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall), on 5th December, I indicated some of the difficulties in making these comparisons. I can only refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the International Civil Aviation Organisation Manual of Airport and Air Navigation Facility Tariffs, which he will find in the Library.

Mr. Strachey

Is the Minister satisfied that the real costs of London Airport compare reasonably with those of foreign airports, because surely that is the important question? Is the difference in charges fully to be accounted for by the much greater foreign subsidies?

Mr. Rippon

Taking all the relevant factors into account, I do not think that our charges are out of line with those of other major international airports. What we have tried to do is to follow the I.C.A.O. recommendation to keep charging proceedures simple. In contrast, for example, at Idlewild there are charges split under eight or more heads.

Sir A. V. Harvey

If the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) has no objection, I propose to raise this question on the Adjournment because of the unsatisfactory reply.

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