§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ The Minister of Aviation (Mr. Roy Jenkins)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I hope that this will be a less controversial occasion than my last and only previous appearance at the Dispatch Box. To judge from the state of the House, at any rate the benches opposite, there seems to be a fair chance that that will prove to be so.
This is a straightforward Bill to transfer the ownership and management of the four international airports at Heathrow, Prestwick, Gatwick and Stansted from the Ministry of Aviation to a new statutory public body, the British Airports Authority, which the Bill creates for this purpose.
The Measure effects a worthwhile piece of administrative reorganisation which will place the country's major airports in a better position to respond quickly and flexibly to the rapidly changing and growing needs of civil air transport. The management of public transport terminals of the size and importance of these four airports is essentially a commercial undertaking. It is not really a task for which the Civil Service machinery is designed or suited. But that machinery has done the job with reasonable success for a long time, and, therefore, it may be asked why we should make the change now. The answer is partly because circumstances have changed.
Immediately after the end of the Second World War, when civil aviation in this country was in a very run-down 70 condition, a large amount of Government capital investment in aerodromes and ground services was required to meet the rapid growth which was foreseen in civil air traffic and to bring the United Kingdom to a leading position in civil aviation. This meant that a considerable measure of central control and planning was, for a time at least, inevitable. The heavy cost of providing a 24-hour service for a relatively small, although steadily growing, amount of traffic meant that the taxpayer had to meet a substantial part of the bill, and this made it desirable to keep the administration of the airfields under the close control of the central Government.
By about 1960 these losses had come to an end. Then in 1961 came the Fifth Report for that Session of the Select Committee on Estimates, which had conducted a detailed inquiry into the three London airports. Witnesses, notably those from the airlines, had urged the idea of a separate airports authority. The Estimates Committee put the proposal forward in its recommendations. These recommendations were, on the whole, well received by the House. I should, however, add that the Estimates Committee made it clear that where it made criticisms they were directed at the type of organization which prevailed and not at the people who had been operating it.
Parallel with the Estimates Committee's inquiries the Ministry of Aviation had itself been reviewing the whole field of its responsibilities for aerodromes generally to see how the organisation of ground services in the United Kingdom as a whole could be improved. This resulted in the issue in the same year, 1961, of a White Paper, Command 1457, which agreed with the Estimates Committee in proposing the creation of an airports authority to own, and manage the three London airports but which proposed, in addition, that Prestwick should be brought within the scope of this authority.
Let me deal for a moment with the scope of the Bill. Prestwick is included because, in our view, it is essentially an international airport and it would, I am sure, be very much against the interests of those concerned with the future development of Prestwick to leave it out 71 and to leave it, among airports in its category, on its own. Stansted is also included, but that does not prejudge one way or the other the question of its future development and growth. A decision on the future of Stansted will not he taken until a full public inquiry has been held. Therefore, those who are against the development of Stansted need not feel that they are in any way compromising their position by giving their support to the Bill.
The late Government were therefore in a position to legislate on this subject from 1961 onwards, but they did not do so. We do not propose to continue this delay. We want to see the main airports giving a better service to the public and to the airline operators, both British and foreign, and we believe that this can best be done by getting the Bill through quickly.
The main benefits which will be derived from the transfer of ownership and management of these important airports to a public authority are that the authority will be able to reach and carry out decisions, whether on day-to-day matters of management or in the planning and execution of major new developments, more quickly, resulting in more efficient and economical management of the airports; that the development of these four airports can, as a result, be much more closely co-ordinated to meet the changing pattern of traffic; and generally that the authority will be able to deal in a more flexible, adaptable and rapid manner with essentially commercial problems and situations.
It was obviously desirable that when a new authority was set up it should start from a financially viable position. By this I mean that it should have fair prospects, not merely of paying its way, but of earning sufficient surplus to be able to build up reasonable reserves and to finance, from its own resources, some part of its future capital expenditure. That situation has now been reached. The group of airports as a whole should now be able to stand sufficiently on its own feet for independent management to be a reality.
I hope that the House will feel, as the Estimates Committee felt, that the benefits of having a separate body able to devote its undivided attention to the 72 task of developing the airports to meet the present and future needs of air transport outweigh the loss of the opportunity to raise issues of day-to-day management on the Floor of the House. This is a point to be faced squarely. Much of the delay, and perhaps even apparent inertia, in dealing with straightforward and comparatively simple issues of planning and management, can easily be due to the caution which inhibits bold and speedy action by the individuals responsible when their every action can come under the full Parliamentary searchlight. Of course, there are matters of particular importance over which Ministerial, Treasury and ultimately Parliamentary control must be retained, and the Bill, I am glad to say, singles these out specifically and makes the necessary provisions.
Two important functions exercised by my Department in relation to the four airports will not be transferred to the airports authority. These are, first, the provision of navigation services and, secondly, the Minister's powers to control aircraft noise. The reasons for reserving to the State the provision of the aerodrome navigation services—by which I mean the air traffic control, and services associated with that control, required to cover the approach, landing and take-off of aircraft—are that at major aerodromes such as these four, where the technical control of aircraft landing and taking off from the airports is closely connected with the complex State-controlled en route navigation services which guide the aircraft along the air corridors over the country, it is important from the point of view of safety of aircraft, passengers and crews that these services are provided by one agency.
The relationship of the Ministry to the new authority in this respect will be closely analogous to the existing relationship of the Ministry with many of the municipal airports—for example, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
My right hon. Friend has indicated two matters which will still come under Parliamentary control, but I am sure he realises that there are many matters, as interest in the House has shown, concerning day-to-day happenings in the 73 business of flying the planes, such as passenger complaints, which come up in the House to the advantage, in the long run, of B.O.A.C. Will these matters still come before the House?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I do not think that the position will be altered because, of course, the relationship of the Airports Authority to the House will be similar to that of B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. to the House at present, but it will undoubtedly be the ease, as with the setting up of the Airports Authority, that these important matters, one of which I have mentioned and the other with which I am going to deal, will be subject to Parliamentary Question and control. As far as the day-to-day functions of the airports are concerned, these will be a little more remote from control. This will enable those doing the job to carry it out as efficiently as possible, which we think can beg be done by giving them greater independence.
We have also thought it right to reserve to the Minister of Aviation the control over aircraft noise which he at present exercises, or tries to exercise, in the vicinity of these airports. It is the aircraft using the airports, not the airports themselves, which create the noise, and the Authority might find its commercial and financial duties and enthusiasm conflicting with demands to exclude aircraft or restrict their operations on grounds of the nuisance they cause to persons living and working nearby.
My Department will, therefore, continue to carry out noise monitoring activities and will continue to lay down anti-noise requirements such as the current limitation on night flights at Heathrow. It will be able to enforce these requirements as necessary through the agency of the Authority because the Bill specifically requires the Authority to take such measures as the Minister may direct for limiting noise, and, in particular, to restrict the use of any of its aerodromes to aircraft that comply with the anti-noise requirements.
The form of the Authority which is proposed in the Bill is a statutory corporation in the familiar mould adopted for comparable bodies providing a public service such as the Air Corporations or the Gas and Electricity Boards. Experience and capacity in the fields of air 74 transport, industry, commerce, finance, administration or the organisation of workers are named in the Bill as the sort of qualifications for the appointment of members of the Authority. A chairman, a deputy-chairman, and between four and eight other members are to be appointed, but I can inform the House that, within these limits it will be my intention to appoint a smaller rather than a larger board.
As regards the day on which the new Authority takes over the ownership and the management, we would like it to be as early as possible, but I do not think that it can, in practice, be before the autumn of next year. It will take this time at least for the members of the Authority to be appointed and, perhaps more important, for the complicated task of separating out from the Ministry of Aviation, and in lesser degree some other Departments, the many aspects of airport activity which will be transferred to the Authority.
Initially, most of the staff of the Airports Authority will have to come from the Ministry of Aviation. There are at present about 2,000 Ministry employees, both industrial and non-industrial, at the four aerodromes concerned. The arrangements for the transfer of staff to the Authority will have to be discussed in detail with the staff associations and the trade unions concerned. In general, our objective will be to make fair and equitable arrangements and to ensure that established staff who transfer to the Authority do not suffer any overall loss in the terms and conditions of their employment from such a transfer. It seems likely that some arrangement may be necessary for staff to be able to go to the Authority on secondment in the first place.
I think that it may be for the convenience of the House if I now explain briefly the contents of the Bill Clause by Clause. Clause 1 makes the basic provisions required for the creation of the Authority, the transfer to it of the airports and the appointment of the Authority's members. In view of the special place occupied by Prestwick in the group, it is provided that there should be at least one member of the Authority familiar with Scottish requirements. The first Schedule sets out the arrangements for the terms of appointment of members, for the Authority's proceedings and for the negotiation and consultation machinery with 75 the staff organisations. Schedule 2 details the arrangements for transferring the land, property, fixtures, rights and liabilities from the Crown to the Authority.
Clause 2 sets out the Authority's duties and invests it with the necessary powers. The scope of these powers has been drawn so as to provide the Authority with the necessary flexibility to meet the changing, and to some extent unforeseeable, needs of the future. The Authority is empowered to provide additional aerodromes as the need arises. I have here particularly in mind the possible provision of a Central London heliport. The Clause also ensures that there will be adequate arrangements for consultation between the Authority and the various airlines, local authorities and other local interests.
Clauses 3 to 8 deal with the Authority's financial affairs, and these financial provisions closely follow those for other public authorities. The Authority has the normal statutory duty to pay its way taking one year with another, and, as I have said, on the basis of recent estimates, the Authority will start well. The Authority's initial capital, represented by assets taken over at written-down book value, plus a sum for working capital, will be constituted by means of Exchequer loans, and any subsequent borrowing, apart from temporary loans to cover, for example, seasonal fluctuations of income and expenditure will come exclusively from the Exchequer. The Authority's revenues, will, in the main, of course, come from landing fees, rents and services, and trading concessions.
Clauses 9 and 10, together with Schedule 3, deal with byelaw powers and the Authority's constabulary. Since the Airports Authority, like the Railways Board and the Port of London Authority, will be responsible for the conduct of places which involve the transit of many millions of people a year, it will need similar powers to these authorities to make byelaws and to have its own constabulary. The constabulary will, in practice, be recruited largely from the Civil Aviation Constabulary which performs the policing functions at these airports at present.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
Can the Minister say why it is that the constabulary now run by the Ministry of 76 Aviation are paid substantially lower salaries than outside constables? It seems to me that this has a bad effect on recruitment.
§ Mr. Jenkins
To the extent that this is so, I hope that the matter will be corrected as a result of the Bill and hope that the position of the airport constabulary may be brought more into line with that of outside constabularies.
Clause 9 of the Bill aims at empowering the Authority to make byelaws similar to those now in force, and the power of arrest in subsection (6,b) is a necessary power to enable an Airports Authority constable to deal in a reasonable way with demonstrations—either of enthusiasm or of protest—which are by no means unknown at Heathrow, and perhaps at other airports, for the convenience of the public.
Clause 11, which gives the Authority's constabulary powers similar to those of the Railway Police, is very necessary to enable the airport police to try to combat the large number of thefts, of substantial value, which occur at the airports each year.
Clauses 12 to 15 make the necessary provision for the control and management of road traffic, port health functions, noise and lost property at the aerodromes.
Clause 16 gives the Authority powers in connection with the acquisition of land similar to those of a local authority which itself establishes an aerodrome. It also enables the Minister of Aviation and the Minister of Transport to exercise in favour of the Authority the powers which they have under the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, for example, in acquiring rights over land, or in diverting highways.
Clause 17 provides for the Authority to pay compensation or purchase the land in cases where planning permission is refused or revoked in the interests of the Authority's aerodromes.
Clause 18 makes the Airports Authority a statutory undertaker for the purpose of certain named Acts so that the Authority's undertaking will have the same protection as was given by such Acts to the Railways, to inland navigation and to dock and harbour authorities. The aerodromes are at present protected because they are Crown Property. Under the new regime they will cease to be Crown Property 77 and therefore specific protection is necessary. Clause 19 makes some adaptations of the Telegraph Act, 1878, which become necessary in the new situation. I trust that that will not be considered to be any slur on the forward-looking intentions of Lord Beaconsfield's Administration.
To sum up, I commend the Bill in the following terms. The British international airports, led by Heathrow, have won an outstanding world reputation for safety and for the services which they offer to pilots. For reasons largely outside the control of those who work at the airports, their reputation for passenger convenience is not, I fear, equally high. We need to make rapid progress with finger loading and to obviate, as far as possible, the need for those uncomfortable and time-wasting buses on the tarmac. We need to speed the handling of passengers and luggage. We need better air freight facilities. We need to make the best use of the more modern buildings and facilities which have recently been created, such as the extensions at Gatwick, which will come into full use in a few months' time, and the strikingly good new terminal at Prestwick.
The Bill will not solve these problems but it will, I believe, create the best possible framework for dealing with them. I commend it to the House in the hope that it will have a speedy passage.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Angus Maude (Stratford-on-Avon)
The right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that in essence this is in no way a controversial Bill. Like him, I had not thought that I should find anything controversial in what he said or should find it necessary to say anything controversial in rebuttal. But he began his speech with an observation, having gone over the previous history back to the Fifth Report of the Estimates Committee in 1960–61, that the last Government were in a position to legislate on this matter from 1961 onwards but did not do so and then, if he will forgive the phrase, he somewhat smugly said that his Government had hastened to do so.
Frankly, this seems to me to be a bit much. This Bill, with a very few minor interpolations, as the Minister well knows, was drafted in the Ministry of Aviation under the auspices of his predecessor 78 when there was a Conservative Government and he has taken over the Bill pretty well lock, stock and barrel. He may well say that if we drafted the Bill, why did we not introduce it. We had a great deal of legislation to get through in the last Parliament and the last Session, and this Bill was in the pipeline and in the queue waiting to come before the House. The Minister may well congratulate himself on the speed with which he has introduced it, and it may well be that a Bill which was regarded as eminently worth while happened to be at the bottom of the queue with the last Government but falls within the dynamic first 100 days of the Labour Government. My own feeling is that they wanted a nice, non-controversial Bill which they could take out of the pigeonhole to fill this day when a number of their Members had to be present in a different part of London. But we will not argue with him too much about that, provided that he does not take too much credit for having produced the Bill in the first month of a Labour Government.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
I take full credit for having produced the Bill and for having laid it before the House, but I would not attempt to take full credit for having prepared the draft of the Bill because, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, the preparatory work on the Bill was done under the previous Administration. But if setting up an airport authority will enable us to run our airports better, then getting the Bill before the House and on the Statute Book will do that, whereas preparing it and leaving it for a number of years in the pigeonholes of the Ministry will not.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
The right hon. Gentleman realises the tremendous amount of work which was put into the Bill. Is it not a fact that this is one Bill which could safely be put forward by the Labour Party without any of the terrible repercussions which have arisen from so much of their recent legislation?
§ Mr. Maude
As the right hon. Gentleman has acknowledged his debt to his predecessors, who supervised the drafting of the Bill, we will not quarrel much about it. But my hon. Friend is right. Not only is it a non-contentious Bill which was ready but it is one which 79 would not produce a violent split among the Government back benches.
The right hon. Gentleman was right in saying that the history of his Measure goes back some way. The Report of the Estimates Committee was adopted in May, 1962, and a number of hon. Members had a great deal to say about the London airports, with which that Report was exclusively concerned. The right hon. Gentleman said that Prestwick had been added to the subject with which the Estimates Committee dealt. If my recollection serves me, the Estimates Committee deliberately restricted their inquiry to the London airports because it was, so to speak, the best sample survey they could do in the time available to them, but it was always recognised that Prestwick was an international airport of great importance which would have to be dealt with by the same means as the London airports. At that time the future of Stansted was no more than a glint in the eye of the inter-Departmental Committee.
There are one or two minor points on the Bill on which I wish to ask a few questions and then two major points to which I want to devote the main part of my speech. When the right hon. Gentleman was going through the Bill Clause by Clause—and this is the first minor point which I want to mention—he said that there was provision in the Bill for ensuring that the interests of Scotland were looked after on the Authority. That seems to me a somewhat strong way of interpreting Clause 1(5) which seems to me to be somewhat peculiarly drafted. It says,The Minister in appointing the members of the Authority shall have regard to the desirability of ensuring that there is at least one member of the Authority who is familiar with the requirements and circumstances of Scotland.That does not mean that the Minister has to put someone on the Authority from Scotland at all. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman realises that in this respect he has to satisfy the Scottish Members of the House, who are not the easiest body of our colleagues to satisfy on a matter of this kind. It seems to me that he might perhaps wish in his own interest to draw this provision a little tighter. Who is to be the arbiter of whether he has hadregard to the desirability of ensuring80 that this is done? If I may say so, this is a somewhat loose phrase capable of provoking almost interminable argument both in debate and at Question Time in the House.
I have one more minor point to raise. It concerns the position, with which the right hon. Gentleman did not deal, of the Authority in relation to the Customs authorities at airports. He has said, and quite rightly, that the Ministry must retain authority over safety provisions and navigation rules, but there has been, as he perhaps knows, a great deal of argument over the years about the position of the Customs, particularly at Heathrow. There was in the debate which took place in 1962 a great deal of argument about whether it was right that the Customs should occupy something like—what at that time, I believe, was—30,000 sq. ft. of office space at Heathrow for which they paid no rent. I think we should be interested to know whether, when the Authority takes over the Airport, the Customs will become the tenant of the Airports Authority and whether they will be required to pay a rent for the offices, apart from the inspection facilities, which they enjoy there. This, I think, would be so at other airports and a matter about which the Treasury might wish to express a view.
The main question which, before I get to the objects of the Bill, I want to raise with the Minister, because he said nothing about it, is the width of the powers which are given to this Authority. I was a little surprised that the Minister did not deal with this at rather greater length. The purpose of the Bill, we always understood, and implicit in the names of the four aerodromes which are specifically mentioned to be taken over, was to form an authority which would be an international airports authority. At least, the four international airports, or what may be the four main international airports, of this country, are specifically mentioned as, so to speak, the initial stock in trade of the Authority, yet it is nowhere stated in the Bill that the Authority's powers are to be limited to the running of international airports.
Indeed, the Bill specifically gives the Authority general powers to provide or acquire or managethose aerodromes and any other aerodrome provided or acquired by it"—81 that is, the Authority—under the following provisions of this Act.That is Clause 1(1), and in Clause 2(4) the Authority is empowered toprovide, or acquire, or assume the management of, any aerodrome in Great Britain in addition to those transferred to the Authority under this Act.with the proviso that the Minister must authorise the provision for acquisition.
I think the House ought to be told in a little snore detail what the Minister envisages as the future of this Authority. I can readily understand, and I do not think there will be any question about this, that there may come a time over the years when another international airport may be necessary. Indeed, the inter-Departmental Committee on the third London Airport did mention that by about 1980 a fourth London Airport would be necessary. It may well be that new developments in air transport and new flight patterns may require that there should be other international airports in other parts of the country. This is really understandable, and I hope we are looking a long way ahead and trying to produce an authority which will be capable of producing an international airports system c f which this country can continue to be proud.
I think we should be told whether this blanket authority is intended to allow the Authority to set up feeder airports for local feeder services to the main international airports. I take it that, for example, since I see that the definition Clause specifically includes a heliport in the definition of "aerodromes", the Authority is to be allowed to run terminals for helicopter services to and from the international airports. Would this apply only from the centre of a city to the airport near that city, or is it envisaged that perhaps local feeder services may be run from all over the country'? This, I think, we should know.
The second thing, which is really the most important thing, is, does this completely all-embracing power to acquire and provide and assume the management of airports suggest that this Authority might in fact in the future embrace airports other than international airports? This, it seems to me, is something extremely important. If it is intended to restrict it to international airports, then I am inclined to think that it should be 82 specifically stated in the Bill. I think that Parliament should know, when it sets up an airports authority to take over four international airports, whether it is setting up an international airports authority limited to that purpose, or whether it is setting up an airports authority which might take over all airports of the country, both internal and international.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
The Parliamentary Secretary will, as I think will be for the greatest convenience of the House, give a considered and careful answer to this and other questions when he winds up this evening. Perhaps I can say at this stage that there is certainly no intention of using this Authority to take over existing municipal or other airports in this country. The difficulty, as I think the hon. Gentleman appreciates, is that by restricting it to too close a definition of international airports we should not be able to provide helicopter services under that definition.
§ Mr. Maude
Yes, I appreciate that point to which, I am inclined to think, perhaps in Committee, we ought to direct our attention. I would think it not beyond the wit of draftsmen to provide for the heliport and feeder service facilities without making it possible for the Authority to go beyond international airports and ancillary services of international airports. I think this is an important question of principle on which the House would like to be satisfied.
There is also this point. Suppose that an existing airport becomes, so to speak, ready for take-over as an international airport. There, it seems to me, the Bill is very far from being clear as to the methods by which this could be done. There is, as I said, the general authority to acquire or assume the management of any aerodrome in Great Britain. Let us assume that the Authority were limited, apart from ancillary services, to the running of international airports. It might well need another international airport, and it might well feel that an existing airport, perhaps now under the control of a municipal authority, would be the most suitable one for development for a particular new service. Manchester, for example, is by certain definitions already an international airport. One can fly from New York to Manchester, and vice versa. What would happen if the Authority 83 cast an acquisitive eye on Manchester City Airport?
As far as I can see, the powers of compulsory acquisition might perhaps not meet wholly this case. The right hon. Gentleman himself said, when going through the Bill, that the Authority was being given the powers which the Bill itself seeks to establish an airport. But this is rather a different kettle of fish from acquiring an airport as a going concern. As I understand the legal provisions of the Bill, they provide for the compulsory acquisition of land which includes, subject of course to certain safeguards, the buildings on them, but they do not provide for the taking over of an undertaking as a going concern.
If a local authority, for example, wants to widen the High Street in its town, it can place a compulsory purchase order on the land which it requires to widen it. It may well happen that there is a butcher's shop on the piece of land which the local authority wants to acquire. It can acquire, with compensation, the butcher's shop, but it cannot run a butcher's business in the shop once it has acquired it.
Thus, I have a feeling that the powers of acquisition provided in the Bill will not readily deal with the case of an authority which wants to take over Manchester Airport from the City Fathers of Manchester and run it as an airport. I think that this is something which we should like explained in a little more detail. I think that the House in general may feel a little unwilling to give a blanket authority for the acquisition of airports which are already being run by local authorities. We know that the Minister has to authorise the acquisition, but I think that this should be tied up a little more specifically in the Bill.
Finally, I come to the main purpose of the Bill. As the right hon. Gentleman made quite clear, and as we all know, the object of the Bill is not just to set up an airports authority. Its ultimate purpose is to make sure that we have the best civil airports which we are capable of building and running, providing the best service not only to the airline operators but to the passengers, and also that we look ahead and provide an authority flexible enough to plan ahead and to Seal with the enormous changes 84 which are likely to overtake the development of civil air transport in the future.
Perhaps my next comment has some bearing on what I was saying about possible future intentions of the Authority with regard to existing airports. It does not require much imagination to see that if in the next generation vertical or short take-off aircraft were developed for civil air purposes the whole look of the picture of the provision of civil airports would begin to look very different. So long as we are thinking in terms of airports with long runways, for large aircraft which require such runways, the picture looks as it is now. It is conceivable that the picture may look very different when we have had another 15 or 20 years of development of passenger and freight aircraft.
Clearly, therefore, we want to make sure that the Authority has not only the flexibility to deal with such a situation, when airports which at the moment are out of the picture as international airports might become feasible propositions for international flights, but also that it shall be able to look ahead and be capable of the imagination required to keep improvements going steadily ahead.
I suppose that I am not more than an average user of airports, but at a rough guess I have landed at, or taken off from, between 50 and 60 airports in 20 different countries. One or two stand out in my mind as being spectacularly good, but others are better forgotten. One thing about which everyone in this House who has travelled by air will agree is that some of the most frustrating, miserable, boring, and utterly appalling hours of one's life are spent in bad air, ports in the middle of the night waiting for delayed flights, or during a breakdown between flights.
We know that the provisions for the comfort, entertainment, and even refreshment, of passengers at some of the airports in the world—I have seen them from Canberra to Kandahar and Phnom-Penh to Phoenix, Arizona, but I shall not single out any for invidious mention—are such that an eight-hour delay owing to an aircraft breakdown is absolute purgatory. Those in Britain are far from being the worst, but they are not the best either, in their provision for the comfort of passengers, for the handling of their luggage, and the other things 85 which make travel by air either a pleasure or a purgatory.
The success of this Measure will depend on whether the Minister can get the people who have the imagination to look at the business of providing for the comfort of air passengers. On looking through the criteria written into the Bill by which the Minister must choose his board, it struck me that it would have been a nice gesture if there had been included somebody who was there to see that the ordinary passenger got a reasonable crack of the whip.
I am not suggesting that a consumer representative should necessarily be on the hoard, but there might perhaps be somebody who has some knowledge of, say, running a large hotel, or a catering business, or something of that kind, because this is an important part of the business of looking after passengers.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
I have this point very much in mind. I am not sure that somebody running a large hotel is exactly what one wants from this point of view. I think that a consumer's representative is more to the point. I repeat that I have this very much in mind, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising it.
§ Mr. Maude
I am not sticking out for an hotelier, but I am glad to note that the right hon. Gentleman has this point in mind.
The alternatives are, first, to leave the control of airports to the Ministry—I think we have all agreed from the Select Committee on Estimates in 1961 onwards, that this is not the most satisfactory way of running them—and, secondly, to leave it to some sort of consortium of the airlines using particular airports, but I think that the difficulty of doing this would be very great.
A public corporation, provided that the right people can be found to run it, is a solution which I am sure the House would wish to be adopted, but it will require men of considerable foresight, and it will require a Minister who watches them, at least in their initial stages, with great care, who gives them their head to use their imagination but makes sure that they proceed in a forward-looking way, and that, in particular, they take advantage of the experience 86 of other countries and other cities in the world where considerable advances in the design and running of airports are taking place all the time.
Subject to one or two minor points which I have mentioned, and subject to receiving satisfactory answers from the Parliamentary Secretary to the rather broader questions which I asked, we on this side of the House welcome the Bill and will do our best to give it a fair wind and pass it with any necessary Amendments on which the Committee may agree.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I welcome the opportunity of taking part in this debate. I welcome my right hon. Friend as the new Minister, and hope that he will have a successful term of office. From what I know of him I am sure that he will be able to play a constructive part in the development of the airports mentioned in the Bill. Unlike the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), I cannot claim to have flown from Canberra to Kandahar—but I have flown from Prestwick to Peking, and from Peking back to Prestwick.
I want to say a few things about that airport, which has been mentioned in both the previous speeches. I have had a long connection with Prestwick. I was a member of the county council which first passed the plans for the flying school, started between the wars by the Duke of Hamilton—then the Marquess of Clydesdale—and Group Captain Mac-Intyre, who played such an important pioneering part in the development of the airport and who, unfortunately, was killed in North Africa.
I have seen it pass from a small flying school to an airport, being taken over during the last war, when it was one of the main centres of communication between this country and America. During that time it passed out of the control of the small group who started it and became a great national asset. It was then under the control of the Air Ministry and later the Minister of Aviation. It now passes to a new authority.
Scottish Members are very anxious about the future of Prestwick, believing that it could be a great international airport. We believe that it could have a 87 great future, also, in the development of air travel in Scotland. It came into the news this time last week, when those of us who went to Renfrew Airport wondered whether we would be able to get to the House of Commons in time for the very important Division in which the future of the Government was at stake. I can claim that Prestwick saved the Government last week. Now we want the Government to save Prestwick.
I want my right hon. Friend to take more interest in Prestwick than has been taken by previous Ministers. We have had serious complaints against three successive Ministers. There was Mr. Watkinson—as he then was—for example, who succeeded in preventing us from constructing a comparatively inexpensive tunnel, which would have saved us a long road diversion. We used to consider the expenditure on London Airport, with its tunnel, and say that London could get everything, but Prestwick nothing. Scottish Members remember the unfortunate experience we have had with previous Ministers, and we hope to have a far more cordial relationship with my right hon. Friend who has now taken office.
Great interest was taken in the opening of the new terminal by the Queen Mother. We all looked forward to that as a great landmark in the history of the airport. But what we want to know now is why the new terminal was opened prematurely. Those of us who know the airport and its personnel realise that completion was rushed and a considerable amount of unnecessary expenditure incurred simply in order to have a prestige opening before the General Election. There was no synchronisation of work.
For example, floor heating and the laying of linoleum proceeded separately, with the result that it has become necessary to incur expenditure in relaying the linoleum on these vast expanses. We want to know why it was necessary to open the terminal, simply for the sake of prestige, shortly before the General Election. We would like to be assured that similar unnecessary expenditure will not be incurred in the future.
Last Monday was the first time Scottish Members saw the terminal. It is a large and impressive building, which I am told 88 has cost over £2 million. But there are some things about it which have caused us to ask questions. We want to know why there are no lifts or escalators in the airport. One of the first parties that arrived at the airport for some ceremonial function was a body of disabled ex-Service men, who had to be carried up many steps. The airport staff also wants to know whether any attempt is to be made to provide certain important facilities under the new Authority.
The airport has been provided with a very imposing front entrance. When a person approaches the door it opens magically to allow him to enter. Unfortunately, the prevailing wind comes from the south-west and when, last week, the magic doors opened, the contents of the bookstall—papers and books—disappeared into the vast expanse of the airport. There are many other unsatisfactory details of a similar nature which we hope will be rectified by the new Authority. That is why we welcome the accession of my right hon. Friend as Minister. We hope that he will do his utmost to see that the airport is made an efficient and valuable one.
I now turn to the question of fog. I hope that my right hon. Friend will come to Scotland when there is a fog. The problem of fog can be looked at in different ways. Sometimes I pray for it. That may be a strange thing to say, but if I listen to the wireless on a Sunday night and hear that there is fog in London, and London Airport is closed, I know that aircraft will be diverted from different parts of the world to Prestwick, and that I will be able to catch one of those diverted aircraft to fly to London on Monday.
It may surprise hon. Members to know that in spite of all this expenditure on the airport there is no direct service from Prestwick to London. I live in Ayrshire, and I would have gone to Prestwick today to fly to London, but unfortunately, there is no flight to London on Monday, or on Tuesday or Thursday. If I want to go back from London to Prestwick, there is no direct flight on Friday. So we have this vast monstrosity of a building—these acres and acres of emptiness, with comparatively few passengers—being used only to about one-tenth of its capacity. We say that under the future operation by this new governing body 89 a real attempt should be made to get back for the public the enormous sums of money which have been spent on the airport.
I now want to touch on a matter which is rather controversial, affecting certain other Scottish Members. We have this huge terminal with its empty spaces, with its staff employed only about one-tenth of the time and yet at this time we are to build another big terminal at Abbotsinch, near Glasgow. Why cannot we use Prestwick, in view of the large sum of money which has been spent on it? Is it necessary to go ahead with another big luxurious and expensive airport within 25 miles of Prestwick—and subject to fog; because Abbotsinch is in the foggy area?
Some passengers last week, as hon. Members know, went to Renfrew and found that there was fog at Renfrew. They were taken to Turnhouse, at Edinburgh, where there was more fog, and then they had to go through Turnhouse down to Prestwick. They had a circular tour of Scotland through the fog. They tell me that when the passengers arrived at Prestwick they were hopping mad, and I can quite understand it. I ask the Minister to consider whether it is worth while to spend £3 to £4 million at Abbotsinch which will be under fog in exactly the same way.
Possibly it could be argued that passengers going from Glasgow to Prestwick might save 10 minutes by going to Abbotsinch instead, but there is the difficulty of fog and also the fact that in the west of Scotland at present we are short of construction labour. We are short of skilled labour for schools, for houses and for hospitals, and for other things which we need. We say that this is not a time to proceed with a new, expensive and luxurious terminal at Abbotsinch, and we ask the Minister to look at the situation on the spot and to try to forget that some people in Glasgow want the airport at Abbotsinch for prestige reasons. I ask him to look at the matter from the point of view of the nation and of those who have to travel.
I believe that it is possible to get a service by bus from Glasgow to Renfrew similar to the service which goes from London Airport to the centre of London. After all, does it matter whether the 90 businessman or M.P. loses a quarter of an hour provided that he gets to the centre of London by lunch-time for his business appointment?
I hope that the Minister will save money on the Concord. I urge him not to have another little Concord in the west of Scotland, because we need all the energy and all the drive to erect the buildings which are needed first. We can wait for our luxury air terminal until the demand for schools and hospitals has been satisfied.
I ask the Minister to remember that Prestwick can be the centre for international lines bringing people into Prestwick to go to other parts of Scotland and other parts of Britain. I ask him to alter this situation in which we have this great building with practically no aircraft coming into it. Cannot some of the aircraft from Glasgow be routed through Prestwick? What about Edinburgh aircraft calling at Prestwick? I am not asking the Minister to accept my word on the spur of the moment, but to undertake the same kind of review and detached examination as to the future costs and possibilities as he has agreed to give to the Concord. Surely it is time that we ended the cold war between B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. Why should B.E.A. look upon Prestwick with this latent hostility?
I should like the Minister to inquire into a matter which I raised unsuccessfully with three previous Ministers. When aircraft come from America or Canada and land in Prestwick they cannot take on passengers there because of difficulties with the Customs. It is as if M.P.s or other people from the west of Scotland were taking part in some plan to smuggle in diamonds. We cannot get on the planes even when they stop. We ask that under this Authority an attempt shall be made to get back the money which we have invested in Prestwick. We have invested a great deal, and Prestwick could be used in such a way as to improve the facilities for those travelling by air.
I know that the Minister is a new Minister and I know the difficulties with which he has to contend, but I ask him to look again at the S.A.S. question. We made certain criticisms of the previous Minister because he limited the number of Scandinavian planes stopping at Prestwick. Although the geographical position in the House has changed, and we are 91 on the Government side and the Conservatives are in opposition, these criticisms still hold good. We know that S.A.S. have brought passengers into Prestwick who have stayed a fortnight in Scotland, adding to the revenue of the tourist trade, before going on to Scandinavia. We want this airport to be an international airport in every sense of the word.
I hope that the Bill will open a new page in the history of international airports and that Prestwick will be given the facilities and opportunities to play the constructive part that it deserves to play.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. George Younger (Ayr)
I am very grateful for the opportunity, on this Bill, of addressing the House for the first time. I have the honour to represent the constituency of Ayr, the very name of which has for 40 years in the House meant the name of Sir Thomas Moore.
I can think of no past Member of the House who is held in higher regard in the House and everywhere around him. In going round the House I have found that almost everybody remembers him with great affection and that he is held in very high respect indeed. I should like to inform the House, if hon. Members do not already know, that he is held in every bit as high a respect, if not higher, in his own constituency and in Scotland generally, and I count it a great honour to have been elected to succeed him.
The constituency of Ayr, as many hon. Members know, is situated in a most beautiful part of Scotland and is in itself very well diversified. It has many different activities and very many different types of people living in it. It has industries of a fairly heavy type and also light industries. It has tourism. There is quite a bit of farming country in it. It has a fishing port of great importance. It has large residential areas; and many people live there and work in Glasgow and other cities. Finally, it has the greatest asset of all, Prestwick Airport.
I find myself this afternoon in a certain amount of agreement with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I am told by hon. 92 Friends who have wide experience of the House that that is an experience which I will not often have and I am, therefore, delighted to have it on this occasion and I hope to make the best of it.
I, too, would like to welcome the Bill. It does, I think, acknowledge that the management of airports should be done by people who know what they are doing and who have no other distractions to take their eye off the ball. It will, in fact, be a change from the airports being run as a branch of the Ministry to a specialist department which will be autonomous in its own sphere.
There are three minor comments I would like to make about the Bill. First, I was most interested in what the Minister had to say about the noise Clause. I notice from the Bill that the Minister can direct the Authority to take measures of his own choosing to put right any nuisance caused by noise. I think that this is absolutely right; the public must be protected from what can become a very great nuisance indeed. But I wonder whether it could not also be said—and I suggest that it could be said in the Bill—that the financial implications of this must be taken into account by the Minister.
By this I mean that the Minister could require the Authority to spend very large sums of money on modifications, particularly if aircraft in the future become very much more noisy than they are now. Secondly, the Minister could, as is mentioned in the Bill, prevent the Authority from letting in certain types of aircraft at all, and this could have very grave repercussions on the profitability of the running of the airport. It might be worth considering that, where the Minister has to direct measures which involve large expenditure, it might be as well to write into the Bill that he should also take account of this financial aspect, when assessing the financial results of the Authority from time to time.
The second comment I should like to make concerns the navigational services. I may be wrong on this, but I think that there is possibly a slight misunderstanding between two sections of the Bill. Clause 2 mentions navigational services, and this was mentioned by the right hon. 93 Gentleman in his speech. But the Interpretation Clause says:Navigational services includes information, directions and other facilities furnished, issued or provided for the purposes of or in connection with the navigation or movement of aircraft and also the control of movement of vehicles in any part of an aerodrome used for the movement of aircraft.It is obviously sensible that the navigational controllers on the airport should have a say in what goes on on the runways. That is beyond dispute, but is it not also beyond dispute that the management of the airport must have a considerable say about what is put where within the airport over which it has control.
I am thinking of a situation such as occurred last week at Prestwick, when there were 40 to 50 aircraft parked there suddenly and without warning. Under the new provisions they could be required by the navigational side, which is under the Ministry, to park those 40 to 50 aircraft somewhere totally inconvenient for the management of the airport as a whole. I do not say this would happen, but at the same time here is a possibility of what I would call a demarcation dispute built into the Bill. I was interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that this type of Clause works successfully already—I think he mentioned at Manchester. If this is so, then possibly there is nothing in my comment but I would like, if possible, to have some comment made about that at the end of the debate.
The third comment I would like to make is about the staff. There is, as the right hon. Gentleman will fully realise, some disquiet among the staff at the prospect of being changed from one boss to another. I was delighted to hear him mention that the possibility of secondment was very much in his mind. If this is done I hope that the secondment will be done in as simple a way as possible and will not rule out the possibility of employees at present on airports being able to be seconded to the new Authority, and within a limited period return to normal Civil Service employment within the Ministry elsewhere. I hope that this will be considered, too.
I would like to give some figures, to support some of the views expressed by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire. I 94 would like to emphasise to the House, before I do that, that this is not a constituency matter. This is a Scottish matter and probably a national matter as well. This is because the present situation of Prestwick, to my mind, cannot be described as other than a very puzzling situation indeed. I am not an expert on aeronautical affairs, but I can recall no other example in the world of an airport which serves solely international traffic and nothing else at all.
Prestwick has no internal feeder services of any kind. Although it is possible, as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire mentioned, to go to London and return on particular days, this is only by virtue of the fact that certain international flights happen to stage through Prestwick and it is not always easy, and very often impossible, to get on these flights. Therefore, I think it fair to state that there are no internal feeder services at all at Prestwick, so we have a magnificent airport coming to a dead stop at the end of the runway.
This is an airport which may not be very well known to hon. Members and I would like to give one or two facts about why it is such a remarkable airport. First, it has a superb position on the Ayrshire coast in a beautiful part of Scotland right beside the sea, and with excellent weather conditions. It is very well placed for transatlantic traffic and also for traffic to any part of Northern Europe and, indeed, the rest of Europe as well. Its main runway is 9,800 ft. long and it has a subsidiary runway of 6,800 ft., and extension is possible to the longer of these runways. The 9,800 ft. runway could be extended, I have no doubt, if it had to be, in the future.
It was mentioned earlier—and this is the most important feature—that Prestwick is the most fog-free airport in the whole of Europe. There is no other airport in Europe with a better record of clear days and I should be very interested to hear—I hope that we shall hear before very long—from the right hon. Gentleman details and figures showing how much time in the last few years or so Prestwick has been out of action through fog. I would not mind placing a substantial bet that the actual amount could be measured in hours rather than days and I should be very surprised if it reaches a figure of even 24 hours in the past two years.
95 This is a record which cannot be equalled by any other airport in this country or, probably, in Europe. Those hon. Members who were in the R.A.F. may remember that Prestwick was known among pilots during the war as "the window" because it was the place they could always be sure of getting back to. There were many occasions during the war when the people of Prestwick woke up to find that huge numbers of bombers had arrived which had never left from Prestwick, because it was the only place which was clear. Prestwick was described in the Press last week after the events of Monday as sitting in a "tunnel of sunshine" during that very foggy, muggy day. It was a matter of some pride to all my constituents and myself that we were able, last Monday, to save the Government from defeat.
This, then, is the position. I suggest that to get the solution we have only to look at two simple things, straightforward common sense and economics. Taking common sense first, who can say that it is really logical or sensible to ask people to fly from the United States, or anywhere else, to this country to an airport from which they can go nowhere else? Of course, the arrangement is ideal for those people who wish to come from America to Ayrshire, to the west of Scotland or possibly to Scotland. But immediately it rules out the possibility of flights to Prestwick being used by anyone wishing to go to Manchester, Birmingham or London, or even Aberdeen or Inverness.
It seems to me only human nature, and perfectly obvious, that if I were booking a flight from New York I should ask the travel agent where I could go from Prestwick. The answer would be, "Nowhere". It is a matter of great importance to the development of the airport and to the development of Scotland as a whole that this situation should not be accepted by anyone.
I was a little disturbed, as, obviously, was the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), who saw in the Bill something which I have not spotted—I should have done. After the Authority comes into being, we shall no longer be able to ask detailed Questions in the House about the operation of these airports. This is inevitable by the terms 96 of the Bill, but it is a matter of great concern, certainly to myself and to the hon. Member for Govan, and no doubt to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire. This debate, and one or two others which will follow, provide the last chance for hon. Members to put across to the country as a whole the great importance of a new approach to dealing with Prestwick Airport.
The second thing which I mentioned was straight economics. If someone came from another planet, or from somewhere outside, could we justify to them the need for two airports to serve an area as small and with a population as limited as in the west of Scotland? Do we really need to be chartered accountants or experts on finance to see that to have two airports where there could be one is quite definitely and precisely to put up costs beyond a reasonable level?
If we look at the present situation of the airports mentioned, we can see that, of the four major ones, Heathrow makes a considerable profit. Stanstead makes a loss of about £750,000. Gatwick makes a loss of nearly £1 million. Prestwick makes a loss of nearly £300,000—all except Heathrow make a loss. If we look at the group 2 airports, including Renfrew, as it is at the moment, we find that they are making substantial losses, amounting to approximately £1,300,000. The smaller airports are making a loss which is considerable but the amount is smaller because the airports are smaller. Perhaps Gatwick is the most similar type of airport dealing with the most similar type of traffic to Renfrew and what will be Abbotsinch. At present, it is losing nearly £1 million, on current estimates. The type of traffic, short haul and mostly turbo-prop, which will be handled by the new Glasgow Airport is at present handled at Gatwick.
It is true that there are some new aircraft and jets which go to Gatwick as well, but in the past that has been the type of business which is handled at Gatwick. It seems to me reasonable, therefore, to suggest that the new airport at Abbotsinch will handle a similar type of traffic to that of Gatwick. I cannot say that it is so. I only suggest that it may be, but if so, it looks as if the new airport will also make a loss, possibly as much as £1 million. Even £500,000 would be a considerable loss.
97 There again, the Ministry will be running navigational services at two airports instead of one. It costs about £500,000 a year to run such services, so that we should have a loss of £500,000 a year. The capital cost of the new Abbotsinch Airport is said to be between £4 million and £5 million, of which about £1½ million has already been committed. For the sum of £750,000, and not more, Prestwick's beautiful new terminal could be extended—modern as it is—to carry the entire traffic of the west of Scotland. This, it seems to me, should appeal to a Government who are said to be very keen on making savings. This would be a way to save a large amount of money.
I must be perfectly fair and make sure that both sides of the problem are put before the House. Abbotsinch has one advantage: in travelling time it is slightly nearer the centre of Glasgow. I wish to put this matter in perspective. I think that it is generally agreed that a fair average estimate of the time taken to travel from the centre of Glasgow to Abbotsinch would be 25 minutes. It is also generally agreed that a fair average of the travelling time from the centre of Glasgow to Prestwick would be as much as 50 minutes. We must bear in mind that there are compensating factors. In the first place, there is a saving in flying time. I was surprised to learn that this saving amounts to seven or eight minutes. I should not have thought that was so much. That period must be subtracted from the difference in time.
It is also fair to say that with but a little application the Ministry of Transport, the Government or British Railways could produce a rail service going right from the door to Prestwick Airport. The journey, according to British Railways, could be done in 40 minutes. If it were possible to travel from Glasgow to Prestwick in 40 minutes and save seven or eight minutes in flying time by so doing, and if a little imagination were shown, and checking in—something which always takes such a long time—could be done on the train instead of at either end of the journey, the difference in time could be cut to about 12 minutes.
Let us be fair and call it 15 minutes. For the sake of 15 minutes we are being asked to go ahead with a project which 98 will leave us with an international airport from which no one can travel anywhere and with an extra huge slice of capital expenditure to build a new airport at Abbotsinch. All this for the sake of 15 minutes, and to that must be added the fact that during the winter season travellers spend much of their time waiting about, because of fog, and probably eventually they have to be transferred by coach to Prestwick.
I have spoken at some length about this matter and I hope that I have not stretched the patience of hon. Members too far in addressing the House for the first time in this way. I would only say, in mitigation, that I have done so because I want the House to realise that there is a tremendous sense of dismay in many parts of Scotland at the fact that Prestwick has been left in this curious and extraordinary position. The Minister would certainly gain very great renown and respect for himself if he undertook as soon as possible to do one or two simple things.
I should be the last to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should be expected to agree with me, or with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, in every respect, but I feel it reasonable to ask that he should undertake to reconsider the whole of this decision. I think that he should have this matter studied with great care. It is still not too late to change plans at present in progress. It would still be very much cheaper to change them, if that be the right thing to do, than to go ahead. With great respect, I ask whether the Minister can give us an assurance that he will give this matter very careful examination personally in the immediate future.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
It falls to me to congratulate a fellow Scot upon his maiden speech. I am privileged to do that on this occasion. The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) succeeded Sir Thomas Moore in the representation of Ayr and I am certain that what he said about his predecessor will be endorsed warmheartedly indeed by all hon. Members, for many of us have happy recollections of Sir Thomas Moore. If, in the course of his membership of the House—which, I hope, will be very short—the present hon. Member for Ayr acquires the reputation of his 99 predecessor, he will have gained something to treasure.
Ayr is close to the affections of every Scottish hon. Member and of every Scotsman, whether or not he resides in Scotland.Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses For honest men and bonnie lasses.That is the privilege which the hon. Member has in coming to the House, and I hope that he will live up to it.
He impressed me with his confidence of approach, his fluency and precision of thought and the clarity of his diction, qualities which are found in so many Scotsmen but which are missing in so many others, whom I will not name. We Scots make full employment of the alphabet. No letter is kept unemployed and I am certain that all hon. Members were impressed with his confidence. We must attribute some of that quality to the fact that he follows such distinguished predecessors in the House. One, I believe, was Sir George Younger, who at one time was a Whip in a former Tory Government, while another was a Minister in a former Labour Government.
Having heard the new hon. Member for Ayr, I am certain that my hon. Friends will feel that he might be paralleled to a person who at one point in his life took the wrong turning. We would indeed welcome the hon. Member on this side of the House because of the great ability which he showed throughout his speech but which, peculiarly, was somewhat different from most maiden speeches in that there were several moments when I could have intervened in what I am certain he regarded as a highly non-contentious maiden effort. Since he put forward so many arguable points in his maiden speech it is obvious that we are in for something when he speaks on the next occasion, which I hope will not be too long delayed. We welcomed his speech and congratulate him on having made it so effectively.
It would be out of order for me, having said that, to attack the hon. Gentleman on many of the points he raised, but I hope that if he listens carefully to what I have to say he will realise that there is a great deal he has yet to learn about Prestwick and Abbotsinch. I have no intention of attacking him but, having 100 been provoked, I cannot forbear commenting on this subject.
I am in a somewhat difficult situation tonight because when I spoke last on this topic I was on the other side of the House. That was on 28th May, 1962, when, as the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey)—who has interrupted my speeches on several occasions in the past—will remember, I was somewhat critical of the proposed change. We are now proposing by the Bill to make the change, and I must confess that I cannot deny saying on that occasion in 1962:…I do not look with a very friendly eye on an independent airport authority."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th May, 1962; Vol. 660, c. 1040.]I am a firm believer in public ownership. Not only did I look on the proposed transfer with a little diffidence, but my hon. Friend who is now at the Ministry of Power and who spoke from the Front Bench on that occasion used these words:Instead of merely saying that the Ministries are not suitable for this kind of work, we should begin to analyse whether we can make them suitable for it.He went on to point out something on which I intervened when the present Minister of Aviation was speaking, and he said:If hon. Members are to be debarred from asking questions which are of great importance to their constituents and to themselves, should they not think again before they willingly surrender that kind of power into the hands of an independent authority?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th May, 1962: Vol. 660, c. 1031.]I will not quote further, though I am willing to do so if necessary. I thought it best to make my views of a previous debate known, because I looked askance at this departure of public and Parliamentary control from London Airport.
All of us who use that airport know of the many difficulties which exist there. I will deal with some of them later. I have quoted the words I used on a previous occasion lest certain hon. Members opposite try to remind me of them. As I say, I did not look on the proposed change with a very friendly eye and I must confess that I have not found, when studying the Bill, that I can become much more friendly towards it now.
I do not like to see public ownership disappear in favour of an independent authority, not an independent public 101 authority, as one hon. Member opposite there imagined, but an independent authority. There are many things of interest one discovers from using airports and air transport which I believe should come within the purview of Parliament. So when our control appears to be becoming more remote I cannot look on such a change without commenting on it.
In following what my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) had to say and, perhaps, incorporating one or two of the matters referred to by the hon. Member for Ayr, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, and want again to quote from what I said in the debate to which I have referred. I then said:Prestwick has an identity and common interest with Scotland. There is not really much difference between running an airport like Prestwick and one like Renfrew. The White Paper says that running an international airport is quite a different business from running a small airport in the Scottish Islands. That may be true in many ways; but there is not much difference in the running of Prestwick and Renfrew airports. The problems are much the same. There would be identity of purpose in keeping Prestwick, Renfrew. Edinburgh, Aberdeen and the Scottish Islands airports together as a complete unit, but less in taking one of them out and putting it in effect into an alien territory far from home."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th May, 1962; Vol. 660, c. 1044]The interests and purposes of Prestwick were not forgotten by me on that occasion, but I regret to say that there were only two Scottish voices in that debate; and that none of the Ayrshire Members on either side were there to support my view that Prestwick ought not to be removed from the airports in Scotland, but that they should be a unit.
As a matter of fact, I advanced the idea of creating a Scottish airport authority but, again, I am sorry to say that the idea received no support. When one finds little support, vocal or otherwise, for ideas advanced within this House there is little use in prosecuting them. I agree that, a long time after that debate, there were certain rumblings in Scotland about creating a Scottish airport authority and keeping the Scottish airports together, but that move came far too late.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire said in his own humorous way that Prestwick had saved the Government last week. He knows, and I accept, that 102 hyperbole has its place in debate—he also knows that this was hyperbole in excelsis. One may talk about diversions due to this reason and the next, but my hon. Friend perhaps forgets that the greatest diversion he and I ever had in travelling from London to Prestwick was when we could not land at Prestwick. We were diverted back to Heathrow and had to stay the night in a hotel in the centre of London. We travelled up the next morning by British European Airways.
I am certain that my hon. Friend must have forgotten that diversions take place from all sorts of airports——
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
But is it not true that that was only one event in 15 years, whereas there is fog diversion at Renfrew every winter?
§ Mr. Rankin
I must again remind my hon. Friend of the facts. No records of specific reasons for diversion of aircraft were kept until 1962. There can be many reasons for diversion—fog, heavy winds, wind hitting the plane on the side, and all that sort of thing. In view of the smiles I see, I must point out that with big, heavy jet aircraft a wind on the beam can send it rocking so much that it might become unmanageable on landing. These things can happen.
Diversions are due to many reasons, but it was only in 1962—due to Questions I had been putting in this House—that the airport authority began to designate the reasons for diversion. In reply to a Parliamentary Question, I was told that in 1963 the number of diversions from Renfrew Airport due to fog was four, and that the number of diversions from Prestwick Airport in 1963 due to fog was four. The numbers were exactly the same. And these are official figures.
I do not denigrate Prestwick in any way, because no individual member of this House has said more, or tried to do more for Prestwick than I have clone. Every interested person knows that, and HANSARD will confirm it. The matter of the extended runway, the new terminal buildings, the new aprons, the attempt to get the tunnel instead of having these circuitous approaches to the airport that my hon. Friend laments, as I do, were all matters hammered at by me in this House until, finally, they were announced by Mr. Watkinson, then 103 Minister of Aviation, as the programme the Government intended to promote. As that programme has not yet been completed in 1964, having been announced from this side in 1958, I asked some of my Prestwick friends, in all friendliness, "Would it not be far better to try to get the programme that has been announced in the House of Commons for Prestwick completed before they went after Abbotsinch?" I opposed the transfer to Prestwick from Abbotsinch, but I should point out that Abbotsinch has now been transferred to the Glasgow Corporation—as I am sure my hon. Friend will confirm——
§ Mr. Rankin
Very well, but the buildings are under way, and if one is to start undoing the work that has been commenced, and when the opening date has been announced as 1966, it would be a matter of the gravest offence to the greatest city corporation in our country. It would be very difficult for the Government to do this, because the decision to take airports such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen belongs to the very same White Paper as the decision to form an international consortium, and if bits of the White Paper are to be picked out without a warning being given that things which have been undertaken in good faith by a local authority are to be reversed, it will be a great act of betrayal and will cause lack of confidence in the City of Glasgow. I am certain that the Government would never dream of doing such a thing.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Would my hon. Friend give priority to the building of a terminal at Abbotsinch and the millions that are to be spent there over the schools, the houses, the hospitals and so on which are needed in the west of Scotland?
§ Mr. Rankin
My hon. Friend is excellent with the Opposition, but we on this side know him too well——
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present:
§ House counted, and, 40 Members being present—104
§ Mr. Rankin
I was replying to my hon. Friend's kindly interruption by telling him that, while it might create a little difficulty with the Opposition, that sort of thing does not carry weight here because we know him very well indeed. The expenditure on Abbotsinch is just like the expenditure on Prestwick—utterly irrelevant to the question that he put.
I hope that the question of the transfer from Renfrew to Abbotsinch will not he resurrected. It will be very wrong indeed, for the simple reason that Glasgow has accepted the position, and it is from Glasgow that the great mass of passengers come. So ridiculous is the idea of seeking to transfer a business which embraces 1 million persons from Abbotsinch to Prestwick that it has only to be stated to be rejected.
What has been said today about the difference in time of transit from Glasgow to Renfrew or Abbotsinch and Prestwick is nonsensical. I was a regular traveller for years from Prestwick to Glasgow. I have travelled by fast car, a Humber car, from Prestwick to my home. The airport authorities have always treated me with great respect for the simple reason that, despite all that is heard in this House, time and time again I was the solitary Scotsman travelling from London to Prestwick. So the airport authorities put a Humber car at my disposal to take me home, four miles out of Glasgow on the south side, and that car, going at 80 miles an hour, took me home in 40 minutes without interruption of any kind. At least, it seemed to me to be 80 m.p.h. I do not like cars to begin with, and perhaps any speed over 60 m.p.h. makes me nervous. I appreciated the fact that I was taken home. As I said, it took me 40 minutes. It takes me 15 minutes to get from my home to Renfrew. I appreciated what was said by the hon. Member opposite, who, like his family brew, seems to be getting younger and younger every moment. The difference in his times is purely imaginary. I have done both journeys, and in relation to the actual time of the journey, the difference is quite significant.
I trust that no thoughts reside in the mind of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the 105 Member for South Ayrshire and the hon. Member for Ayr who made his maiden speech.
I want to raise one or two points about the transfer of authority. Those of us who use London Airport are becoming, as a result of our experience, disturbed about the traffic, and we wonder how the consumer will fare under the new Authority. After all, everything in air services depends on the ticket. Everything necessary for aviation comes within the price of the ticket paid for by the consumer. Therefore, the most important person is the individual who will be using the aircraft. I should like my hon. Friend to tell us whether or not the transfer takes full account of the interests of the passengers. For instance, we have been told for years—this subject has frequently been raised in debate—that piers would soon be instituted at London Airport in order to cut out bus journeys to and from aircraft on the tarmac. How near to realisation are those piers?
Again, on reaching the airport one is struck by the chaos. I believe that there ought to be far closer supervision than there appears to be of traffic entering London Airport. Sometimes it is worse than chaos, and I have found it almost impossible when arriving at the airport to move into the lane from which I wish to disembark from my car. There is congestion everywhere. There is congestion in the little shanty building into which we go when we leave the aircraft. That was supposed to be a temporary building. I would ask my hon. Friend what "temporary" means in regard to the handling of passengers at London Airport. The congestion is appalling at times. I hope that my hon. Friend will realise that this little temporary adjunct to the terminal buildings is hopeless for handling incoming passengers. There has recently been an addition to the terminal building, and that building is already inadequate. There is hardly sitting room. If two aircraft are delayed, there is only standing room in the terminal building upstairs for those travelling on internal services. These are some of the things which have been awaiting solution for a long time. I want to impress upon the Minister the present position at London Airport with regard to the 106 handling of domestic incoming traffic and the provision of facilities and utilities. One only needs to require the use of the lavatories in that new building to find oneself in a long queue. That sort of thing has been going on too long.
An hon. Member opposite mentioned some of the places that he had been to in the course of his travels. I should say that there are few airports in the world that I have not used. The congestion at London Airport is greater than in any other that I have ever seen. That is a tribute to London. It is a busy airport and long may it continue so. That is why I think that the supersonic aircraft is a very important addition to air travel.
I hope when my hon. Friends come to consider that final suggestion of mine that they will not forget the importance of supersonic travel, along with the provision not merely of a better airport but of an entirely new airport near Heathrow, in keeping with modern development and needs to meet the world-wide demands in traffic which now exist and which London is handling to such a large extent. I am certain that unless we face the position in that way with a new airport, better and faster aircraft we are in the danger of losing the supreme position which we now possess in air travel throughout the world.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
I do not intend to get involved in arguments about the merits of Prestwick and Abbotsinch, except to say that many years ago I was the adjutant and instructor in the City of Glasgow Squadron and flew a great deal from Renfrew.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) on his speech, which was magnificent and well-delivered. I think that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) should look ahead to the time when blind landing equipment will arrive. It has practically arrived already. Aircraft, in a very short time, will be landing in fog. We are told about science and all the things that hon. Members opposite are thinking about, but they seem to have ignored the fact that for many years we have been 107 developing blind landing equipment which will be used at Abbotsinch.
It seems to me quite obvious that Abbotsinch must be the airport for Scotland from and to which masses of people travel. We heard the other night of the wanderings of Scottish hon. Members and how they were to travel from Prestwick, Renfrew and Glasgow Central. They were completely disorganised. I have heard it suggested that they now have to come to London on the Sunday night train to be certain of being in the House on Monday afternoon.
§ Mr. Rankin
I have heard that before. I was one of the 13. No hon. Member has ever said to me, "You have to come here, or you have to think about coming here, on the Sunday night train."
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I am very glad to hear that, because two of my Friends landed at Prestwick a week ago, during the bad weather, from North America. They were told to have some food after quite a long trip. They started off with soup. They were then told to leave their food and get into a bus which took them to Dumfries, where they waited 40 minutes for a train from Scotland. Without any dinner, they sat up all night in a train to London which arrived an hour or so late at a station near Olympia. If passengers are treated like that when they arrive at a fog-free airport, and have to sit up all night in a train, I think that there must be coordination between Prestwick and British Railways to see that passengers are brought to London in a satisfactory manner.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that those people had the opportunity of spending the night in a first-class luxury hotel at Turnberry?
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The hon. Gentleman may say what he likes, but the majority of people want to come to London to get on with their business. They came to London, but in a very uncomfortable way. I can well understand why the people in Scotland did not want a Scottish airport authority. It might have meant that they had to pay for it out of Scottish funds.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Scottish Members must iron out the difficulties among themselves about the merits of their respective airports.
I want to refer briefly to what the Minister said in his speech. He said that in 1960 the losses came to an end. They came to an end because the rents and landing charges were put up to such an extent that they were about the highest in the world. Of course, any losses come to an end if the customers are charged enough to ensure that the concerns will get out of the "red." I hope that in getting the Authority on the right financial basis it will take account that it has to be competitive with other world airports, because if the rates go up in Britain the others will follow automatically. I think that that is the first priority.
I do not mind Scotland being represented on the Authority, but why is it that an area like Manchester, which has one of the largest conurbations in the country, with an international airport, is not represented? There is just as much justification. I think that Manchester Airport is an example to everyone in Britain running an airport. Manchester took it over and provided a magnificent building, clean, and very efficiently run. Why is it that all this money has gone into Prestwick? Manchester is virtually an international airport, but not quite because the runway is not long enough to allow aircraft to take off with a full load to the United States or other parts of North America. Surely an extension of the existing runway at Manchester should have been speeded up long ago, and a second one built. To cover this enormous area in Lancashire and Cheshire, surely there is a big requirement to go right ahead and back this area. I hope that we shall be told much more about Manchester, which was hardly referred to at all by the Minister.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
There is also Liverpool, which is equally important so far as Lancashire and Cheshire are concerned.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Liverpool is important but, in terms of population, not quite as important as Manchester. If the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about Liverpool, he will no doubt be able to make his point.
109 Manchester Airport serves an enormous area, probably bigger than the Greater London area. We want to attract foreign aircraft to the centre of our country. That will help to encourage more trade. The attraction of foreign airlines to Scotland and to the North would be of great help to them in their developments.
I want to say some harsh things about London Airport. It is a poor shop window for Britain. In fact, it is a terrible place. The staff work loyally under extreme difficulty in almost every department. The control and safety at London Airport are second to none, and probably the best in the world. But that is almost all that there is to be said in favour of the airport.
In my view, any Ministry is quite incapable of administering airports officially, whether it be a Conservative or a Labour Ministry. I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) say that he was sorry to hear that the airport was being taken out of public ownership. The right answer has been found in this case. It will be run by neither free enterprise nor nationalisation, but by an independent authority rather on the lines of the Port of London Authority. I hope that it will do even better than the P.L.A. It is a great opportunity and I welcome the Bill on that account.
London Airport is certainly the busiest airport in Europe and one of the busiest in the world, handling about 9 million passengers a year. Last year, traffic increased by about 15 per cent. One gets the impression there that a lot is going on, that big alterations are taking place. But nothing seems to happen in the end and the position never gets better. It seems that we are always just trying to keep pace with the expansion of passenger traffic, and that is not good enough.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) was appointed Minister of Aviation, he asked me, "What will be my heaviest burden?" I told him that it would be London Airport and he asked me why. I said, "I think that it will be a millstone round your neck. You should face the situation now, pull half the place down and start again."
110 It was the post-war Labour Government which instigated the Airport, in January, 1946. The design was got out very hurriedly, before other nations really got busy with their airports. Two badly lit tunnels lead from the main road into the centre. The whole design is terrible and makes it quite impossible to have the expansion of the centre which should take place. All traffic, both freight and passenger, has to pass through these two tunnels. No other airport in the world has followed a similar pattern. If the 1945 Government had postponed the design by even a year or so, to await and study what was happening on the West Coast of America and elsewhere, they would have learned a great deal and ensured a better designed airport for London.
There are no real plans for modernisation of the airport. Two piers are being built on to the continental building, but when we compare the airport with other major airports abroad it does not begin to compare in efficiency. The car parks are congested, very expensive and quite inadequate. The passengers get rough treatment.
We often talk about the export of cattle to Europe. Perhaps we should pay more attention to passengers at London Airport. Our legislative time might be better spent if we did. Passengers are hurried into out-of-date buses in which there is great difficulty in getting two persons on each scat. One must wait until the slowest passenger gets down. The bus must go half way round the airport before reaching the domestic building. The situation on the domestic side of the continental building on a Saturday morning in the summer is something which has to be seen to be believed. It is outrageous that people who are paying quite high prices for travel should be treated in that way.
For the present situation, I blame also my right hon. Friends. When they took over this costly legacy in 1951 they should have scrapped the thing and started afresh, even at a cost of £4 or £5 million. Passengers only need to go to Orly Airport in France to see how an airport can be run. It is clean and tidy. One must walk a fair distance, but that is so in all modern airports. All the buses are very rarely in use. On the contrary, the main hall at London Airport is disgraceful. It is dirty and if 111 Lady Dartmouth ever said a true word it was in her criticism of the tea cups there.
Shoals of young men in leather jackets gather there in the evenings and one cannot move. Why is there not some control over people in the main building? Let us encourage sightseers, by all means, but let them go into the Queen's Building, and not in the terminal. There are insufficient lavatories and not enough telephones.
We have seen some improvements recently but, as I have said before, I was told that one airline had asked the manager of the airport if signposts could be put up to direct passengers and traffic around the airport perimeter. He asked the Ministry for permission but it was four months before it was given. That incident shows how impossible it is to have a Ministry running this kind of set-up.
What is the salary of the airport manager? I suppose that it might be £3,000 to £4,000 a year, whereas his opposite number at Idlewild gets £15,000 a year. I suggest that when the Minister appoints the chairman of the new Authority he should see that the post is really well paid and get a top man into the job. It is not a cosy job for an "old sweat". We must put in the best man who can be found. After all, 30,000 people are employed at the airport and this will be a very important job. We must be prepared to pay if we want brains and a man of vision capable of looking into the future.
Then there are the arrangements about luggage. Luggage belonging to passengers from Europe has to go upstairs by escalator and arrangements for bringing it down are poor. If a passenger cannot get his luggage before the escalator leaves the customs hall he has to go downstairs to collect it. If he manages to get there before the escalator deposits it at the end he is lucky. To have such a system is absurd. All luggage should arrive and be cleared of Customs on the ground floor.
Many people arriving at London Airport have to struggle with their luggage across the road and into the main building. I do not understand how it is that people have not yet been killed on that road. Something must be done about the 112 situation. One cannot expect people, particularly elderly people, to "hump" their suitcases across that road in all weather, often with snow and ice on the road. Some major modification must be carried out in that respect.
I hope that we shall be told something about the rents which the corporations and the independent operators are paying. These rents are outrageous. That description was given to me by various operators. The landing fees are high. What is the future role of Gatwick? It is to have more money spent on it. When will it be completed? Will airlines be compelled to move there?
B.E.A. has to land at Le Bourget instead of Orly, where it would prefer to go. Why has not Air France gone to Gatwick years ago? What is good enough for B.E.A. should surely be good enough for Air France. If we want to divert more traffic to Gatwick then we should insist that more airlines should fly there. The French have been very tough in telling operators which airports to use and we should adopt the same attitude.
The right hon. Gentleman told us something about Stansted. The situation is an open book at the moment, but we should be told more about the possibility of a fourth airport for London. It is acknowledged that it will not be wanted for about 15 years but, on the other hand, an airport takes many years to build. And what about intercommunication between all these airports? Are we to have monorails or helicopters—which will not carry sufficient passengers? This aspect must be gone into now and not as an afterthought.
Modernisation was a great theme among election speeches of right hon. Gentlemen opposite and in their manifesto. Here is their great opportunity to try to put right some of the muddles they began and which have not yet been put right. They have a chance to make amends, if they can, for the Concord fiasco which we have to suffer for another week or two before something more definite is known. All that has made a terrible impression not only in British aviation, but in aviation in Europe and the world.
The situation at London Airport has brought about frayed tempers and offhand treatment of passengers and that 113 must be put right. One of the first things the Authority must do is to look into passenger treatment.
I wish the Bill well. I only wish that it had been introduced two or three years ago. I asked on many Thursdays for its introduction, but it did not get priority. I suppose that resale price maintenance took its place, but it should have been brought in last summer. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but it did not help us at the time. I hope that the new Authority will be effective and that it will have an effective chairman and that it will be given all the powers it needs to improve our airports.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Edmund Dell (Birkenhead)
I am particularly glad to follow the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) because for many years he has been a great friend of Manchester Airport and for many years I was a member of Manchester Airport Committee and for a time its deputy chairman. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) speculated about what might happen if the Airports Authority tried to take over Manchester Airport. I can tell him now that it would be resisted. We have found at Manchester—and I am sure that this is the experience of all municipal airports, and apparently it is the experience of Prestwick, too—that one will get service and assistance from the Ministry of Aviation in developing airports in the provinces only if there are bodies capable of fighting for the airport requirements of the provinces.
That is the first reason why I welcome the Bill. I am glad that the running of London Airport is to be separated from the Ministry of Aviation. I hope that as a result of that the Ministry will be able to take a somewhat friendlier look than many times in the past at the requirements of provincial airports and provincial aviation.
As I said, for a time I was a member of Manchester Airport Committee. Again and again in all our negotiations with the Ministry of Aviation we found that the Ministry seemed incapable of being diverted from the affairs of London Airport to the needs of the provinces, and that will continue while the Ministry continues to be responsible for the running of London Airport. Scottish 114 hon. Members have spoken about Prestwick, but I am sure that if one studied the history of Manchester Airport, my argument would be easily substantiated.
For example, let us take the enormous struggle which Manchester Corporation had to put up in order to build its new terminal building which, according to the Ministry of Aviation, was unnecessary, too costly and much larger than Manchester required. Fortunately, Manchester fought back and got substantially, though not completely, what it wanted. If we had been dealing with a Ministry of Aviation with its mind less concentrated on the needs of London, we might have won that battle more easily, with less delay and at less cost. I am aware that the present Minister is a distinguished historian. Perhaps he will look back at these battles with his Ministry and see how Manchester battled to get a terminal building which has given the hon. Member for Macclesfield many lessons on how an airport should be run—for example, in treatment of passengers, arrangement of luggage transit and so on.
Let us take the example of the struggle which Manchester has had about the length of the runway. This runway should be extended. That is necessary for the aviation needs of that part of England. It has not been extended yet, but the battle is not yet over. If the Ministry were not responsible for London Airport—and one of the results of the Bill will be that the Ministry will no longer be directly responsible—perhaps it could take a clearer look at the problems of airports in the provinces.
This is not a question of Manchester only. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) mentioned Liverpool which also needs airport development. We have to become an aviation-minded nation to a far greater extent, and that requires the development of airports, among which municipal airports will be very important, throughout the country. I hope that one result of the Bill will be that the Ministry of Aviation will help far more than in the past to stimulate this development.
The second reason why I welcome the Bill is that I hope that the establishment of this Authority will improve the running of London Airport as a commercial 115 undertaking, as well as the services provided. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon said with what I thought was admirable moderation that London Airport was not the best airport in the world and not the worst airport in the world. I can confirm that it is not the worst. I have been at an airport in Patagonia where the passengers had to push the aeroplane in which they were to travel in order to untangle it from many other aircraft which had been parked around it. At another airport, again as a passenger, I had to help to dig the aircraft out of the mud. I have never had to do either of those things at London Airport, so I can confirm that it is not the worst in the world.
On the other hand, it is not good. It is not a good airport from the point of view of the passengers, or of those other considerations which the hon. Member for Macclesfield mentioned. One example is the loading of passengers, the way passengers are carted around in buses to get to their aircraft. We are now to have finger loading at London Airport, and about time, too. When we were putting forward our plans for the new terminal building at Manchester, we said that we ought to have finger loading, but in its wisdom the Ministry said that we did not need it and that it was far beyond anything Manchester required. We fought and persisted, and we now have finger loading at Manchester, but not at London.
I will not dwell on the movement of luggage through Customs, because the hon. Member for Macclesfield spoke about that, but what a contrast there is between what happens at almost any airport of any other capital city which I have ever visited and the situation when a large aircraft arrives at London Airport. Passengers have to lug heavy items of baggage from one place to another, to the Customs to look at it and back again. This is intolerable and all the time one is tripping over other people's baggage in the fight from one part of the Customs shed to another. The Customs authorities should not merely pay rent for the areas they occupy; they should pay passengers for opening their baggage.
The whole business of the profitability of London Airport should be considered. Again, there are lessons to be learned 116 from Manchester. For example, I wonder whether London Airport has adopted Manchester's system of fuel supply. The rent paid by the companies which supply the fuel at Manchester is related to the amount they supply. I do not know whether that is the case at London. When I was last told about it, I understood that it was not. An airport should be run as a commercial undertaking providing services and ensuring so far as possible that the public as a whole does not have to subsidise the running.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) spoke of public ownership. The Bill does not in any way interfere with that principle. What we need is a series of good, publicly run airports. I hope that as a result of the Bill we will have an independent Authority which will ensure that the airports under its control are properly run. I should like to know what are the plans to develop London Airport and to make it a better shop window for this country. The Bill is one step along the road to providing the capital city of this country with an airport which is worthy of it.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell) on what I understand was a maiden speech.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I am sorry. Some hon. Members are very modest and do not say when they are making a maiden speech. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for not having noticed that he had spoken before.
I was grateful to the hon. Gentleman because he did a good thing. He took us away from Prestwick and landed us at Manchester. I have been told for the last 20 years in this House that passengers never get stranded at Prestwick, but over the whole of that period this House has, and if there are any demerits in the proposal to transefer the administration of aerodromes from a Government Department to a public authority it is that those who wish to talk about Prestwick in future will be proscribed from so doing.
This seems to me the overwhelming reason why the House should afford the Bill an unopposed Second Reading. I doubt whether any area in the United Kingdom has had so many words spilt 117 over it as Prestwick. If anyone came to the House 15 or 16 years ago believing that Prestwick had a future, he would have been long since disillusioned because of the tirade of words addressed to him.
§ Mr. Shepherd
That is an admirable suggestion.
I have some sympathy with hon. Members who sigh for the departed grandeur of Prestwick. This is a field in which there is development, and if the size, capacity, pace and range of aircraft alter, so will the importance of aerodromes fluctuate. It is an unhappy thought that Prestwick has been by-passed by events.
I am glad that the Bill has been introduced, at long last. The Minister did not claim paternal rights, but he did express a proprietary interest in which he was not justified.
§ Mr. Shepherd
Some of us on this side for many years have been prepared for the Bill to be introduced, because, clearly, from the example given by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), the control of airports, which is, after all, an essentially commercial operation, is not suited to the methods of Government Departments. If it takes four months to get permission for putting up a notice, it is not much good. I have been trying to get notices put up at London Airport for many years. I have even been trying to get the tunnel lit so that people do not have to put their lights on and find that when they come back from a journey that the battery is flat, which has been the unfortunate experience of many people. Now the Ministry is about to light the tunnel effectively.
This method of operation, which brings some measure of business acumen to the administration of aerodromes, is likely to result in a more flexible approach and we shall be able to meet the changes before they overwhelm us. I am glad that hon. Members opposite are converted to this view, thus taking them a little way towards the time when they can accept the view that Government Departments could not do it but that a public corporation might do it. We may take them a stage further along 118 this path during this Parliament, and one day they may become as devout supporters of private enterprise as my hon. Friends and I.
I wish to say a few words about acquisition. I do not fear, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) does, that this Authority may acquire other aerodromes. I think that, on the whole, it might be a good thing if it did. I am very doubtful, despite the success which Manchester has had, whether the capital requirement of a modern international airport are within the compass of local authorities. I doubt whether that would prove to be the case. It is true that at Manchester we have done rather well, because until last year we gave the passenger a terrible service, although we get a pretty good revenue at a very low capital cost.
What we do to the passengers at Manchester is nothing compared with what happens to them at London Airport. However, now Manchester is having to pay a high capital cost. The terminal building is costing about £3¾ million and it faces the prospect of having to provide a second runway or certainly of lengthening the existing one. I doubt whether municipal authorities will find it possible to spend huge capital sums on development and still make a return to the ratepayers.
Much has been said about the need to be more flexible and to anticipate the problems of development. I wish to say something about Heathrow, because it has had rather a rough ride this afternoon. It is true that this airport has not proved adequate to the demands made on it. Everyone accepts that. It is true that a domestic building which I use together with many thousands of people is very unsatisfactory. It is equally true that B.E.A. is erecting at London Airport a new building for its departures and arrivals which will have a marked effect on the conditions in the domestic lounge. However, we have put a stranglehold on Heathrow because all the buildings were put in the centre of the airport. Once we did that, we prevented expansion. One of the lessons to be learnt is that if we build an airport and put the buildings in the centre it will kill expansion. This is what has happened at Heathrow.
119 I should like to make a few points about airports and the first concerns the Customs. I hope that we shall not have any weakness when the new Authority takes over, but that it will charge the Customs authorities for their space. If space is provided free, the user will occupy more than he needs. If space is charged for, the user will use less. There is no sense in the Authority providing more space for the Customs than they need. If the Customs have to pay, they will find, by some magic process, that their demands are not so great. I want to see these demands lessened and an economic price paid by the Customs for the space which they occupy at Heathrow or any other airport.
Secondly, who will operate some of the services? This is not dealt with specifically in the Bill, but I am concerned about the differences of opinion which have existed between operators and the Ministry, and, for that matter, between operators and Manchester City Corporation. Who will operate some of these services under the new set-up? Will it be possible for airline operators to operate their own baggage service under the new r égime? I hope that it will, because frankly the existing situation, whether it be at Manchester or Heathrow, is not very satisfactory. I hope that the Minister will ensure that when the details of the Bill are being discussed the right of operators to operate baggage services will remain a possibility because the present dichotomy between the operator and the airport is unsatisfactory from the point of view of the customer, with whom we are really concerned.
Another point which I wish to stress concerns the constabulary about which I interrupted the Minister. I have been rather concerned for some years at the difficulties with the police at London Airport. The number of complaints per year against the police there, having regard to their small number, is disturbingly high. Of course, there are reasons for this when police are restricted to a very narrow field of duty such as that which London Airport imposes. It is not work of a very exciting character. But I am not satisfied that the standard of recruitment is as good as it should be, or that the regard for the passenger is what it should be. I say this with some diffidence, but I think that, on the whole, 120 the courtesy displayed by the police at London Airport compares most unfavourably with the courtesy of the constabulary in general. It compares unfavourably with the courtesy of the constabulary on British Railways, for example, who do an excellent job in this respect. I hope that the Minister will try to do something about this.
When I have taken up this matter, I have been told that it is not possible to pay the same rates to the constabulary at London Airport as are paid outside. If the lower levels of pay are a cause of getting rather less satisfactory personnel, I hope that this matter will be examined, because when foreigners come to our country through London Airport it is essential that their first contact with our police should give them no cause for dissatisfaction.
I know that there are problems. I am an employer in the area of London Airport and I know that everything is ghastly around the airport because so many people are paid so much for doing so little. I hope that the new Authority will bring some sanity into the labour market at London Airport and that we shall have, perhaps, rather better service at considerably less cost.
I want to say a word also about costings at airports. I wonder how far costings of any effective nature have been worked out by the Ministry of Aviation. If one looks at the Report of the Select Committee there seems to be doubt whether anybody really knows what the services cost. I do not underestimate the problems of costing in this sort of activity, in which there are so many component parts, but it is essential that we bring to this activity much more commercial direction than we have had before.
The first essential in any job in trying to get it done better is to find out what it costs. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will see that the new Authority is strongly supported in this direction. If one does not know what an activity costs it is not so easy in a mass of interlocking activities such as an airport to find out. Unless one knows what one's costs are, it is extremely easy to go the wrong way.
Obviously, we will support the Bill in the Division if a Division is called, 121 because we think that it will do something to take away the rigidity of Government control and give us some of the flexibility which a public authority can command. I hope that the Minister will bear in mind the point made by another hon. Member that an individual with a consumer interest should be appointed to the Authority. I am not in favour of the appointment of a lot of such people, but one might be of value to the Authority if he could represent the consumer interest.
Far too often, in both private trade and certainly in Government activity, the consumer and user is lost sight of. I want to see changes so that the consumer or customer is better thought of, more efforts are made to please him and less concern is shown by those who are doing the job about their own welfare. If we can secure the appointment to the Authority of somebody who is really interested in seeing that the customer gets a good deal, this will do something to make civil aviation more acceptable.
We have in Manchester an example at which the new Authority should look. It is one of the best airports in the country and it may be the best airport in Europe. At about the same time, the Italians, of all people, have produced one of the worst airports in Europe at Rome. It compares most unfavourably with that at Manchester. If the new body looks to Manchester for design and general handling of passengers, it will get an example well worth following. It is not often that we can say that something new in Manchester is probably the best in Europe, but I believe this to be true of the Manchester Airport and I hope that the new Authority, when it begins its operations, will go and see Manchester and how effective a provincial airport can be.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie (Caithness and Sutherland)
I rise to give a qualified welcome to the Bill. It is obvious that in the specialised field of catering for international airports the new Authority should do much better than the Ministry in operating on a wide field of four different classifications of airport. It is quite obvious, also, from the speeches of hon. Members that there is considerable room for improvement in the services available at airports.
122 I make no apology for returning to Scotland. If the Scottish Members talk a great deal about their country, and especially about Prestwick, it is because they have something to moan about. They have a job to do and they do it, apparently, extremely well. I will not, however, pursue this aspect for long, because many of the points which I intended to make have been made by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger). I must say with some trepidation that I agreed rather more with them than I did with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), who spoke with force on the subject of Abbotsinch.
I am glad to see that the Minister has made provision to meet the fears of the people of Scotland about any new authority taking away the chance of Prestwick developing as a Scottish International airport. There were many people in Scotland who would have welcomed the chance to pay for a Scottish airport authority with Prestwick as the centrepiece of its network of airports.
The wecome given to the new Authority in Scotland will depend not so much on the provision of facilities at Prestwick, or an improvement in its beautiful new building, but upon the amount of traffic which passes through Prestwick Airport going east as well as west. We in Scotland feel that Prestwick is used very much as a staging post to London. Few services go from Scotland to the Continent. In spite of the fact that Scottish exporters are doing £130 million worth of business with the Continent, they have in nearly every case to come to London to fly to the Continent. This increases the congestion at London Airport. If we had direct services to Brussels, West Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and elsewhere from Prestwick, this would, without doubt, cut down the congestion at London Airport.
The Government have talked a great deal of sense about the cost of the great conurbations and the fact that they intend to extend prosperity all over the country and to use the whole country. With this, we are in entire agreement. I ask the Minister to consider where he will site the headquarters of the new 123 Authority. I suggest that he follows the policy of his colleagues and places it outside London—and, of course, I suggest Prestwick.
It is not at all necessary for the efficient conduct of the main airport—London—that the Authority should be sited there. If it were located at Prestwick, this would give the proper degree of dispersal which the Government so much desire and would give the people of Scotland far more confidence that they were to be considered and in the intentions of the Government than the appointment of a minimum of one member to the new Authority.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Doig (Dundee, West)
I should like to assure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie) that I have no intention of talking about Prestwick.
§ Mr. Doig
However, I wish to take him across the Border again, because there is another part of Scotland called Dundee, which is the second largest industrial and commercial city in Scotland, second only to Glasgow. Its nearest airport is 50 miles away. It is a very important area, and adjoining it is another very unfortunate industrial area, Fifeshire. Dundee is a development area.
The reason I welcome the creation of the Authority is that we have failed in the past to get an airport for Dundee, but when we have a different authority we may get an airport in the future. I am not blaming the present Minister, but I am looking at him with hopeful eyes, because since the Bill provides for the Authority to acquire and to provide airports under the direction of the Minister I am hoping that our present Minister will be a bit better than the previous one.
The last Government produced a White Paper on development and growth in Central Scotland, and it contained a statement that Dundee must have a regular air service. We had a Report of the Scottish Aviation Advisory Council saying that Dundee sticks out now like a sore thumb as the only 124 large industrial area without an airport. We think that this is shocking, so much so that the local corporation has gone to the trouble of providing an air strip. We have already an aerodrome at Leuchars, and when the road bridge which is now being built over the river is complete Leuchars will be only 15 to 20 minutes ride away in a car or bus.
Dundee does considerable business with the Scandinavian countries, but Dundee businessmen who frequently dispatch goods to Scandinavian countries have them routed via London Airport, a very roundabout way. The present Government say they want to diversify industry widely and that they want offices to be moved away from London to other parts of the country. Do not let us make the same mistakes with aerodromes we did with offices. Yet that is exactly what we appear to be going to do. There has been talk in this debate about a fourth London airport—a fourth, while we have not one at all yet within 50 miles of Dundee. If the Government really want to diversify industry then they should bear in mind that an airport is one of the things which attract industry to an area. We have already a considerable amount of industry in my area, but an airport there would be a very great attraction indeed to more industry to come, and it would help the Government in their plans for diversification throughout the country.
If the Government are considering an international airport, particularly one for travel to countries to the East rather than to the West, then places on the east coast of Scotland should become more important. Of the three cities on the east coast, Dundee is the central one and, therefore, the most convenient. It has by far the largest amount of industry, and is commercially the most important, of the three Scottish cities on that coast. It would seem to me, therefore, that if there is any possibility of creating a new international airport in Scotland it ought to be provided on the east coast, and Dundee should be the site for it.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
While I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) 125 in all he said, I should like to make one or two comments on it in a moment, but before doing so I should like to join in the congratulations extended to my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) on his maiden speech. In his speech he said he was not equipped with very much aeronautical knowledge. I thought he did extremely well as a novice, and I think that everybody who listened to him will also have that opinion.
Of course, I appreciate the desire of the hon. Member for Dundee, West to try to improve the facilities of Dundee, but I would point out to him that while it is very easy to talk about providing airports and running air services to and from particular cities it is not quite so easy to operate them. I speak from some experience, as the hon. Member may know, as a director of an airline. Before one can operate an air service one must have an assurance that there is a good traffic potential, and in some areas, unfortunately, that traffic potential is just not there, arid if in such places local authorities were to open aerodromes, undoubtedly they would get into very serious financial difficulties and the ratepayers would not welcome their efforts. Also, there is the fact that at the moment the Customs authorities demand that there should be about a thousand foreign flights per annum if the authorities are to provide adequate Customs facilities.
I should like to comment on some remarks passed on the other side about Prestwick. Divergencies of opinion seem to exist on the opposite side of the House about certain proposals in Scotland. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) was justified when he said that there was a possibility that there might be an undercurrent of disagreement on the other side even in a non-controversial field of this type.
I thought that the Minister was a little ungenerous when he opened this debate. I do not think he is the sort of Minister who needs to be ungenerous in his approach to a subject, because I think that the impression he has made on this House, has been a very good one, so I thought that he might have been just that bit more generous by admitting frankly that he found this excellent Bill awaiting him when he arrived at his Ministry and was 126 very glad to accept it and to bring it forward.
I think most of us who have any interest in matters affecting aviation welcome this Bill and will welcome the establishment of an independent authority. I have one reservation to make about this, and I think quite a few hon. Members on either side will join with me in it. It is that the moment the independent Authority is set up the rights of Members of this House will cease. We shall not be able to question the Minister about the operation of anything coming within that Authority's functions. I think that is unfortunate. I believe it is the view of the general public that we in this House should be able to question Ministers about bodies of this sort. Why should they be cushioned against any question, criticism by, or suggestions from, hon. Members here, when a private firm can be mentioned in this House, reference can be made to it, and the Minister can be questioned on matters relating to its functions and behaviour? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether a safeguard can be written into the Bill to ensure that the activities of the Authority can be questioned in the House apart from the one occasion each year when we shall have an opportunity of discussing its accounts.
I think that we all have one object in mind with regard to this Authority. We wish to see our major international airports compare favourably in every way with the best in the world. I believe that the only way in which we can advance towards that aim is to have an independent body such as the Bill envisages. The Authority will have to consider the interests of the operators, of the travellers, and to a lesser extent I suggest of the Exchequer and the taxpayers of this country.
We must ensure that London Airport has the most up-to-date air navigational aids in the world. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) referred to the fact that we shall soon receive the full benefit of the considerable research encouraged by the last Government into aids for landing aircraft during foggy conditions. I feel certain that the right hon. Gentleman is pressing ahead with this matter, and that the latest equipment will be installed at London Airport at the 127 earliest possible moment. The Authority will undoubtedly install it as soon as possible.
I do not think that it is generally known that the landing fees at London Airport are the second highest in the world. Allowing for the extras involved, it costs £269 to land a Boeing 707 at Kennedy Airport, but it costs £361 to land one at London Airport. If an authority can bounce the price of an article it sells or the facilities that it has to offer, or it can charge whatever fee it likes, it will never be in the red, but it will not provide facilities at prices comparable to those charged at many overseas airports. I hope that the new Authority will make an effort to keep down landing fees to ensure that British airport charges are not out of line with the other major airports in the world.
I hope, too, that the new Authority will exercise restraint in the prices charged for accommodation. These charges inflate the overheads of airline operators and make it more difficult for them to compete with overseas airlines. It also makes it more difficult for them to pay their staff at a rate which most of us consider they ought to be paid.
In 1962 I referred to the Customs authority not having to pay for accommodation for which the independent and other aircraft operators were charged, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon referred to this again today. In 1962 Customs offices at London Airport occupied 34,000 sq. ft. of office space, valued at about £2 per sq. ft., making the total value of £64,000 per annum. Not a penny was paid for that accommodation by the Commissioners of Customs and Excise, but other airline operators had to pay for it, through the inflation of landing fees. I hope that the Minister will give an undertaking that when the new Authority takes over it will not be loaded with the cost of Government offices. As my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield said, if Customs and Excise had to pay for this accommodation, it would exercise a salutary effect and we would probably find that its accommodation requirement was considerably reduced.
One or two hon. Members had made the point that office accommodation at 128 London Airport is extremely expensive. It seems to me that unless this accommodation is required for the day-to-day running of the Customs facilities at the airport, the office staff might well be moved elsewhere, where there would be less congestion and it would be less expensive.
I have one other point to make on the question of Customs facilities. Anybody who has been to London Airport will probably believe that they leave much to be desired. He will probably agree that at times there are interminably long waits, in the various halls, before baggage comes up, is examined, and cleared. I hope that as a result of the new look we shall find that passengers' baggage is not only cleared through the Customs more quickly but is handled in a much more up-to-date manner. At the moment it is handled almost as if, if a person were travelling by ship, his baggage was taken from him at the dock gate and he saw nothing more of it until he got on to the ship, he having no control over it and wondering all the time what had happened to it. The baggage arrangements at the airports at the moment are absolutely out of date in every way.
The same thing applies to the car park arrangements. Anybody who goes to the airport would agree that, especially at the height of the summer traffic, the car parks are utterly inadequate to cope with the number of people who go there and wish to leave their cars, very often for short periods, while they take people to the terminal or bring them from it.
Above all, the Authority must have a considerable amount of flexibility. It must be capable of a great deal of forward thinking and forward planning. It is essential that it should not be caught out by events. Above all, it should take a look at the buildings at London Airport. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) made a pertinent remark when he said that great difficulty had been caused through the apparent fact that the airport had been built round the buildings which were in the centre. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield said that the buildings should have been pulled down soon after they were put up, and that we should have started again because of the considerable difficulties which they created. I hope that the Authority—and the Minister in the 129 meantime—will realise that any future buildings must be capable of rapid and almost infinite expansion without destroying the airport as a whole.
There is also a need for improving the access to and from the main international airports and the centre of London. Necessary as that is at the moment, it will become even more essential in the future if we are to maintain the present amount of internal air traffic, which plays its part in providing revenue for London Airport. In the next few years we can expect great improvements in the movement of rail traffic between the centre of London and many of the large provincial towns, including those in Scotland. These improvements will so speed up rail traffic between those centres that the time lag between travelling by air and travelling by rail will be very much reduced, and it will become more advantageous to travel by rail.
The time has come when the Minister should give his attention to the possibility of creating a monorail system from the centre of London to London Airport. This is becoming increasingly important. The speed, ease and comfort with which people can get from the airport to the centre of London will also become important, not only to nationals travelling internally but to people coming here from abroad.
It is clear that the composition of the Authority will be very important, and confidence on the part of the public or air operators in the Authority will depend very much upon its members. I have no doubt that the Miinster is seized of this. I was pleased when he said that he was considering the customer in relation to London Airport. But airlines are also customers and are seriously concerned in this matter. The airlines, the nationalised Corporations and the independents, must buy and accept the services provided by the Authority and pay handsomely for them.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether there is some way in which a representative of the airlines may be included in the membership of the Authority. I realise that here there is a difficulty. Paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 of the Bill states:…the Minister shall satisfy himself that that person will have no such financial or other interest as is likely to affect prejudicially the 130 discharge by him of his functions as a member of the Authority…This creates a difficulty over the appointment of someone currently connected with an airline, but if that is not possible, it might be possible to appoint someone who has been actively engaged in the running of airlines in the past and who could represent the interests of the airlines—someone like Sir Miles Thomas who has a great knowledge of airline operations. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give consideration to that.
Is not it possible for the Minister to indicate what is likely to be the remuneration of members of the Authority? I cannot endorse too strongly the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield who said that this job would have to be paid for; that it is one which should attract the most able men and a job which could set the pattern of British international airports in the future and create the right sort of impression on people visiting this country for the first time.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
My excuse for intervening briefly in this debate is that I have been a little surprised to find that hon. Members on both sides of the House appear to be in love with airports or at least to enjoy a special relationship of some sort with them. Sometimes it seems almost to be a sort of love-hate relationship, but it is a close relationship and one which I do not share. The only time that I like airports is at that moment after the aircraft has landed and I have alighted from it and can assure myself that I am back on the ground again.
In the debate the words "customer" and "consumer" have been used virtually as though they were interchangeable. I wish to say a word on behalf of the involuntary consumer of aircraft noise. He is a chap who seems to me to have been largely ignored during the course of the discussion so far. I think that he is important. I hope that when he replies to the debate, my right hon. Friend will say something about the effect of the change brought about by the Bill upon the question of noise, which is dealt with in Clause 14.
I can well believe that my right hon. Friend found this Bill on his desk when he came into office. I wonder whether it would have been brought forward if he 131 had not found it there. It appears to be a Bill which may perhaps—I hope on this point he will be able to give the necessary assurance—be a barrier in between the people who live in the vicinity of airports and who have to endure the increasing noise created by airports, and this House. The Authority, it says,shall take such measures as the Minister may direct for limiting noise and vibration.Let us hope that it will be possible for us to raise specific points concerning matters of noise in relation to specific airports, because it seems to me that the proper place for international airports is on the coast. This will possibly bring some comfort to my hon. Friends in Scotland who have made this complaint about one particular airport.
London's airport at Heathrow is so situated that in the six years during which I have been living in the fairly near vicinity, life in that part of the world has become increasingly noisy. People living not only in Hounslow, but as far away as Putney, Barnes and Richmond, find that their lives are becoming increasingly unpleasant. I suspect that aircraft from all over the Continent home on my flat and then turn sharp right over it. In Putney we do not have to worry about supersonic bangs; we have all we can put up with already with subsonic screams.
I was interested in what the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) said about the monorail. One of the great advantages of monorails is that they do not have to be short. They can accelerate and, once having accelerated, they can travel long distances very quickly. I should like to ask the Minister whether he will tell us that the changes made in this Bill, the creation of the Authority, will not have any effect in preventing the total removal of London Airport from Heathrow and its reciting at Foulness, or some place equally distant, thus preventing it from being a total nuisance to the people in the area. A monorail from London to Foulness is perfectly possible.
I hope that the Minister will have complete control on this question of noise, which is gradually getting worse year by year. It is getting more and more serious, and I believe that it is absolutely right that international airports in future must be based upon the coast. It is very probable that one might 132 be able to assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that there is a very good future for London Airport as a national airport, as an airport of interchange within the country. I suspect that there is no long-term future for London Airport as an international airport. I hope that the Minister will agree with me.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Reader Harris (Heston and Isleworth)
The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) referred to the fact that so many hon. Members who have spoken this afternoon seem to have a love-hate relationship with airports. I, too, have noticed that. Representing Heston and Isleworth—the runways of London Airport run to its boundaries—my relationship with London Airport is a love-hate relationship, with a great deal more hate than love.
This is not to say that London Airport has done nothing but harm to Hounslow and the surrounding district. Of course, that is not so. It has brought a great deal of prosperity, and, certainly, I have little sympathy with an association recently formed in South-West Middlesex, called the Association for the Re-siting of London Airport, which wants to move the airport completely to somewhere on the coast. I think that this is unrealistic. If it were ever done it would cause a great deal of harm to a large number of my constituents.
Nevertheless, the airport has caused a great many problems, chiefly in connection with noise. I am glad that the hon. Member for Putney mentioned this, and I shall refer to it, because perhaps at some day in the future when the members of the Authority are being appointed, they may do some homework before they assume their duties which will include reading speeches made on the Second Reading of the Bill. It is only right and proper for them to realise that noise is a very important subject indeed.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) said that the most important people were those who bought the tickets and rode in the aeroplanes. I am quite sure that they are very important. Other hon. Members said that the airline operators are important, and of course they are important, too. But so are the people who live around the airports. The new Authority will have a 133 difficult job, as the Ministry of Aviation has had, in trying to reconcile the differing viewpoints of all those varied interests.
I do not particularly welcome the Bill. My feelings on it are fairly neutral. I do not believe that successive Ministers of Aviation have done so badly over the last 20 years that we shall suddenly see a dramatic change with the setting up of this new Authority. I suspect that there is some feeling that the grass is always greener on the other side of the hill and a feeling that perhaps this new body will perform miracles which the Ministry were unable to perform. But the truth is that the Ministry has been faced with a rapidly growing industry and, at the same time, has had innumerable restrictions placed upon it by the Treasury, who have not allowed the Ministry to spend all the money that it wanted to spend. I do not know whether the new Authority will have any greater luck in this direction. If it does, so much the better.
I will not go into a long tirade about the evils or shortcomings of London Airport. Other hon. Members have done that. I live so near to the airport, politically speaking, that if I were to set about that subject I should be at it for half the night. But I shall leave that subject aside.
There are two points which I want to stress. First, I want to come back to the very important point about who will answer for the Authority and to whom questions will be put. There are a dozen hon. Members or more who will wish to continue to put Questions to the Minister, very often on the subject of noise. In addition, there is a local authorities airports committee, which will continue to want to make representations. There are residents' associations which over the last few years—and I can speak only for the 14 years during which I have been here—have made representations.
In the innumerable representations which hon. Members and others have made to successive Ministers of Aviation we have been received with nothing but courtesy and kindness. Ministers have not always done all that we wanted, but they have always been accessible. About 10 or 12 years ago I invited at least two successive Ministers of Aviation, or Civil Aviation as they were then called, 134 to spend a day in my constituency. The first was Lord Pakenham and the second was Mr. Lennox-Boyd. They gave freely of their time to listen to the complaints of local residents and they visited their houses to see the damage which, it was alleged, had been done by vibration. We have had good relationships with successive Ministers.
My feeling is that when the Authority is set up the whole subject will be carried a little further away from us and it will be that much more difficult to get Questions answered. I am sure that we shall be treated with politeness, as we always are by the chairmen of nationalised boards, but it is always a little colder and the answers are not quite so readily forthcoming as they are from a Minister.
More recently, the Parliamentary Secretary in the last Government spent a night at London Airport to see what the noise was like for residents during the night. On the whole, we have had very good treatment from Ministers. Shall we continue to receive that treatment? To whom shall we make representations on the many matters which concern the local residents, and, in particular, to whom shall we put questions about noise?
It is heartening to know that the Minister is reserving to himself the right to give directions concerning the mitigation of noise, but who will run the noise monitoring machinery? Will the right hon. Gentleman maintain his own staff for this purpose, or will there be an Airports Authority staff to do this job? Will the Minister have a staff or department at his headquarters to which the Authority will, if necessary, make reports. This information would be much appreciated by the many people concerned and would allay some of the fears of local residents, who fear that there will not be the same degree of control as previously.
Other questions need answering. Who, for example, will make important decisions about how many night flights will be allowed in and out of London Airport between April and October? The number of these has been increasing in the last two or three years and we are hoping that, sooner or later, the number will be stabilised. We hope that in 1965 there will be no increase on the number of night flights allowed in 1964, although from the point of view of people living 135 around the airport, even the number this year has been too great. I suppose that it is too much to expect that the number will be decreased. Will the Minister make these decisions himself and will we be able to question him about them in the House?
I am pleased to see that the Bill will cover Stansted Airport, because many people living in south-west Middlesex hope that Stansted will become operational as an international airport as soon as possible. I made a short speech on this subject last July and within seven days of making it an anti-airport committee was set up in the Stansted area by local residents who, I understand, are now lobbying my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) to ensure that an international airport is not built in the area. Fortunately, I do not have to decide these matters, but I must reiterate that people near London Airport are hoping that Stansted will become operational soon so that the pressure may be taken off London Airport.
The second main point I wish to raise concerns people in the employment of the Ministry of Aviation. Provision is made in Clause 10 for the setting up of an airport police force. What is to happen to the existing fire-fighting service under the new set-up? There is at present the Ministry of Aviation Aerodrome Fire Service, the members of which are wondering who will be responsible for fire-fighting under the new setup. Will the Minister be responsible for making the fire-fighting arrangements at the four airports which will come under the Authority?
I was closely associated with this subject not long ago, when I represented officers of the Aerodrome Fire Service. I have not represented them here during the last year or so, although many of them are my personal friends. I have known them for years and am keenly aware of the uncertainty which exists in the Aerodrome Fire Service about the future of the service.
I need hardly remind the Minister that many of those officers served in the National Fire Service during the war. When the war ended they had to decide whether to make a future for themselves 136 in local fire brigades or by joining the Ministry's Aerodrome Fire Service, which at that time seemed to offer them a good future in what they thought would be an expanding industry. Since then all sorts of things have been going on in the Ministry of Aviation, including many changes of policy.
There is now a proposal to hive off some of the Ministry's aerodromes under the control of the Airports Authority. Some have already been closed down and much uncertainty exists among the personnel of the Aerodrome Fire Service about their future, lest the service should be run down by the Ministry. It would be disastrous if he were, so to speak, to truncate the Aerodrome Fire Service by taking away some of the personnel and putting them under the Airport's Authority while, perhaps, maintaining his own aerodrome fire service in a very much smaller form. There are great advantages in having a larger and more integrated service. It enables the Minister to provide adequate training facilities, and it also enables a degree of interchangeability which, in fact, gives opportunities of promotion, all of which are very necessary if the spirit of the service is to be maintained.
Once these four aerodromes have gone over to the Authority there will, presumably, still be quite a lot of aerodromes under the Minister, although I believe that it is intended that many should be passed over to the control of local authorities. That is another aspect of the uncertainty that is in the minds of members of the Minister's fire service. What is to happen to the fire-fighting arrangementes at other aerodromes such as Belfaest and Renfrew? Is Benbecula still operational? I believe that it is. What is to happen to the fire-fighting arrangements at Cardiff and Edinburgh?
It would be helpful if the Minister could continue to be responsible for the fire-fighting arrangements throughout all the aerodromes in Britain, because in that way he would be able to maintain the high standards that have existed in the past, and which we hope will continue in the future, but which can only continue if the service is unified, with proper training facilities and proper prospects for those serving in it.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
One lion. Member has said that the international airports could not possibly be within the control of the local authorities, so a very important point is at issue here. I think that the Government must definitely make up their mind on the control of international airports. I have long believed it ridiculous that, for example, in the Lancashire area we should have an international airport based on Manchester and an airport at Speke, which is not an international airport although it is increasingly trying to be one.
As a result, there is a certain amount of competition developing between the two airports. I think there was a good deal of merit in a previous argument of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power that Burtonwood could well have been the centre of an international airport to cover both the Manchester and the Liverpool areas.
Two things are required. First, it is necessary to have a number of international airports at strategic positions to assist the economic development of the various regions. This is important, because we not only need international passenger services, but, more particularly the development of freight traffic from international airports. We in Liverpool are desperately trying—we have, in fact, done quite well—to develop our freight services.
It is interesting to recall the history of our municipal airports. It began as a municipal airport way back before the Second World War. During the war it was taken over by the Ministry, which operated it for a time and then decided to drop it. The local authority was faced with either taking over the airport or allowing the ground to be used for housing purposes, or something like that. The local authority decided to take over the airport. Since that time both the passenger and the freight services have developed tremendously.
Local authorities, despite the success of Manchester, are not in a position seriously to develop an international airport, certainly not in competition with another local authority 20 or 30 miles away. Consequently, I believe that we must have airports in strategic positions 138 which will cater for a large industrial area for the purposes I mentioned.
I feel that municipal airports or airports based upon large cities should have an inter-city travel function. Although we have not the vast distances that exist in the United States, we must agree that Britain is well behind in air travel between cities. When I visited the United States on a trade union mission I discovered that aircraft were used like buses there. An aircraft dropped one at a city and then went on to another city. That does not happen here. Yet we could surely devise almost a bus service system for air travel between our cities.
It is essential to look at the problem as a whole. By that means we could develop our international facilities, between Britain and Europe in particular, and at the same time build up our intercity travel. That is the perspective that we ought to have.
The Bill includes the words "and any other aerodrome provided". Does this mean that the Authority will have ideas about developing aerodromes which at the moment are not in existence? Does it mean that Burtonwood might be looked at again with a view to becoming an international airport catering for both Manchester and Liverpool, while, at the same time, the two other airports there would be given the facilities required for inter-city travel without over-burdening the ratepayers in the two cities? I hope that we shall have a reply from the Minister about this very important point.
I am very much in favour of monorail sytems because the build-up of traffic in our cities is becoming fantastic. The Buchanan Report made the important point that it was essential to keep the traffic away from pedestrians. I think that we can help do this by having monorail systems between city centres and airports. This ought to be considered. It should be considered not only in connection with airports. I believe that many of our larger cities should develop monorail systems in any event, to relieve the tremendous congestion in city centres. However, I would particularly support the idea of a monorail system for London Airport.
In conclusion—I have no intention of making any long speeches; I believe that if one makes one's points as quickly as one can, one's speeches are better and 139 more effective and are heard with greater respect—I should like to know exactly what will be the relationship between the Government and the Authority. It is important that the work of the Authority should be questioned and discussed in the House. It is true, as has been suggested, that an independent authority can be questioned more than private firms can be; indeed, private firms are not questioned in the House unless it is in relation to something like the Ferranti business.
As I say, we ought to know exactly what the relationship will be, how far the Government will be responsible and how far the views of the Government will be impressed on the Authority. If we are to have a national economic plan and regional planning the development of our airports must be part of our regional planning. If we are to have economic expansion in areas like Merseyside we have to have an airport capable of helping to develop that economic expansion. This is vitally important, and I should like to know from the Government precisely what the relationship will be and how far the ideas of this Authority will be integrated into the national and regional plans that the Government have in mind for our economic expansion.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
When my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) opened the debate from this side of the House he said that it would not be long before the eagle eye of Scotland fell upon this Bill. He was right but perhaps not precisely in the way he thought—that is upon the rather vague wording of the passage in the Bill which refers to Scottish representation on the Authority, because the eagle eye fell, rather more on the merits and difficulties of Prestwick. In this connection I turn to a pleasant task which is to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) on his maiden speech. I do so with absolute sincerity. I am sure that the whole House would agree that he spoke ably; that he made a well-informed speech that was fluent, confident, and largely non-controversial.
There was one tiny point of controversy, it seemed to me, on the question 140 of fog, but perhaps I did not understand it. I think that my hon. Friend said that he regarded Prestwick as one of the most fog-free airports in the world, whereas the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) seemed to regard the airport as constantly subject to fog. Perhaps this reflects the clarity of vision of my hon. Friend as opposed to the somewhat foggier representation of the difficulties at Prestwick which we have had from the other side.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), when he congratulated my hon. Friend with great courtesy, nevertheless said that he wished him a very short stay among us in the House. I hope that my hon. Friend will accept from me that those of us on this side of the House wish him every bit as long a stay as his distinguished predecessor.
In his speech, he mentioned two or three points which I thought were particularly valid in the context of the debate. First, the high investment which might be necessary for the Ministry to require the Authority to put in on noise abatement and the loss of revenue which might result from the closing of airports to certain types of aircraft. This has not been touched on by any other hon. Member and I feel sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will pay attention to it.
My hon. Friend also mentioned the question, of navigation services, and the difficulties that had arisen at Prestwick and perhaps elsewhere over misunderstandings over the parking of aircraft and so forth. I wonder if he would agree that this bears very much on the question of consultation generally, in which the airline operators also are involved. This is an important point and airline operators are still disturbed about the short passage on consultation in the Bill, to which I shall return later.
My hon. Friend also mentioned the secondment of staff. That is a very relevant point and has been on the minds of many of us who have taken an interest in the Bill. Could I take it further and ask the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us something about the engineering staff who are bound to remain permanently at these airports and who are at present employed by the Ministry as opposed to the Authority, rather than simply about the secondment of administrative staff to 141 which, I understand, my hon. Friend was referring? In particular, I mean transferability of pensions. Has thinking got to this extent yet? I should be interested to hear homething about that.
We have had a good, useful and even penetrating debate—that is, when we managed to penetrate south of the Border, away, in particular, from Prestwick and Abbotsinch. There has been a very wide measure of agreement on the objectives of the Bill and, indeed, on the administrative provisions. In addition, there has been an equally wide measure of apprehension and doubt about the implementation of the Bill and the tasks that the Authority will have to face. That has been the theme and keynote of the debate.
These tasks will be as varied as the speeches have been today. There is the question of the discomfort at London Airport, which was mentioned by many hon. Members. Interesting comparisons have been drawn. One hon. Member spoke of his alarming experiences at various airports. He should make a list of them as places where one should not holiday. The discomfort strikes everyone who uses London Airport frequently and this will be a major task of the new Authority.
There has also been the question of the neglect of the provinces and the claims of municipalities. We have heard protagonists of the claims of Liverpool, of Manchester and Dundee—both for and against—and the Authority must also pay attention to these. The delay in dealing with the Ministry on a wide variety of questions is also something about which operators feel strongly. My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) mentioned this aspect and it is something that we expect the Authority to improve markedly and at an early date.
The question of bad design was first brought out, in relation to Prestwick, by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire. Perhaps he took comfort from the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) and others about mistakes in the design of London Airport, which, of course, was brought into being under the last Labour Government. It has always amazed me that this narrow tunnel, a built-in bottleneck, which it would be extremely expensive and difficult to alter, should have 142 been a basic factor in the design. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) mentioned that.
A number of hon. Members mentioned intercommunication between the airports and London and between the airports themselves. Apart from monorail, there are other interesting ideas, such as an overhead tubeway and even the use of hovercraft. Anything that the Parliamentary Secretary can say about the future in this connection will be of interest.
I turn now from the tasks of the Authority to a subject which we could usefully spend more time discussing and on which I should be grateful for comments from the hon. Gentleman. It was brought up by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham. The Authority will exercise a monopoly. The airline operators cannot land their aircraft anywhere else, except at considerable risk. It is, therefore, perfectly natural that there should be concern at this stage about their relationship with the Authority. This is provided for in a comparatively short passage of Clause 2 which says:In the management and administration of any aerodrome the Authority shall, in accordance with arrangements approved by the Minister, make such provision as the Authority thinks necessary to ensure that adequate facilities for consultation with respect to matters affecting their interests are provided for users of the aerodrome…From the brief conversations which I have been able to have with operators, both flag carriers and independents, I think that it is fair to say that that does not represent an adequate explanation. I have had it put to me that there is a strong case for representation of the airline operators on the Authority itself. I do not wish to take up a firm position about this—I would hesitate to say that I have enough experience of the matter to do so—but I have been greatly impressed with the case which has been advanced and I think that the House would be glad to hear the Ministry's view on this question. I know that in the past the Ministry has been strongly against such representation, but on no ground which I could discover which was convincing.
The subject of charges for landing, rights and rentals, is something which concerns the airline operators in particular. The charges are remarkably high and the operators feel that if they could secure representation on the Authority 143 and put their case—and one of the purposes of this operation must be to cut costs not only at the airports, but for the operators—they might be in a better position to argue their case.
There seems to be nothing to prevent the Authority from arranging through a byelaw to take over one or other activity now carried out by the airline operators and regarded by them as essential to their efficiency, or even to the safety, of their operating. I will cite an instance. A few years ago, it was suggested that the Ministry might take over apron handling and loading. This could have been profitable to the Ministry, but the proposition was rejected and this responsibility remains in the hands of the airline operators themselves. Nevertheless, as they see it there is a risk of such a thing happening and there is no doubt that that would make for inefficiency and increased work, for there is a statutory requirement that the airline operators must ensure that their aircraft are safely loaded; so that if they did not do the job themselves, the operators would have to appoint inspectors to check what was done by the Authority. I know that this is the sort of thing which concerns the operators, and their answer would be representation on the board of the Authority.
The answer of the Ministry in the past has been that it would regard the loyalties of any airline manager on the Authority as being divided, that he would have to have regard not only to the balance sheet of the airline, but to that of the Authority and that these responsibilities would clash and that the policy should, therefore, be rejected. However, there is very little difference between that position and the position of a managing director, or chairman, of a subsidiary company on the board of the parent company. There are often divided loyalties of this kind, but in a case like that the member of the board in question must have regard to the overall ownership of the company or group.
§ Mr. Burden
Surely my hon. Friend would agree that he would have to be a tough and efficient character, one individual representing the operators who could impose his views on the rest 144 of the Authority. Would not the fact that there would be six or seven other members of the Authority ensure that his views were considered, but that there was no question of his being able to impose his decisions on the Authority?
§ Mr. Hastings
I entirely agree. All I am arguing is that there is a strong case for representation of this kind. There is a direct comparison with A éroport de Paris authority on which there are, not one, but two representatives of Air France. This works very well and any clash of interest seems to be resolved perfectly well. Anybody who doubts that has only to visit Orly Airport or Le Bourget Airport outside Paris and make comparisons between the methods of passenger handling there and at London Airport. Airline operators argue with some force that the Port of London Authority has users on the board and therefore why should not they also?
The next point to which I turn and which has been mentioned by more than one hon. Member concerns intervention by the Minister under the provisions of the Bill. There are, I think, seven or eight provisions in the Bill which enable the Minister to intervene. There is the general passage in Clause 2, I think, the question of reserves, the employment of capital and other matters. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon said, it is quite certain that the Minister will have to keep a close eye on the development of the Authority in its early stages. My plea is that the very wide powers in the Bill which he enjoys over the Authority, which are wider than those given in the Air Corporations Act, for instance, should not be over-indulged once the Authority gets going, because there must be a risk of removing initiative from the Authority and forcing it to depend too much on decisions of the Ministry so that the point of the whole project is lost.
May I take an example which seems to me relevant—the Air Transport Licensing Board. This comprises eight or nine highly qualified members who pronounce on all applications. But practically every application, I think, whether it is granted or turned down, goes to arbitration. A commissioner is then appointed by the Minister and the 145 commissioner finally makes the recommendation to the Minister who either turns it down or upholds it.
What is the point of this exercise? It seems to me that it makes for delay and reduces the Authority to something which does not enjoy the power which it was originally intended it should. We should seek to avoid this kind of situation developing with the Airports Authority.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
Whatever is or is not the point of the Air Transport Licensing Board procedure, which was set up under the 1960 Act, it is in no way analogous to the position of the Airports Authority. The former is a judicial, or semi-judicial, procedure, and the latter is an executive authority. The relationship of the Minister with the Airports Authority will bear no relation to that with the Air Transport Licensing Board.
§ Mr. Hastings
I cannot accept that. If there is too much intervention by the Minister with any authority—be it judicial as in the case of the A.T.L.B. or executive like this—or too much dependence on the Minister direct, it reduces the effectiveness of the Authority. It is legitimate to draw a parallel. Certainly, the airline operators to whom I have spoken would do so.
I turn finally to a point which has been made by many hon. Members on both sides, including my hon. Friends the Members for Stratford-on-Avon and Macclesfield. This Authority will succeed in direct relation to the quality and calibre of those chosen as members of it and, in particular, of the chairman himself. This is widely recognised. We are dealing with a dynamic and growing industry, and it would be a tragedy if, at the outset of the work of the Authority, as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield hinted, places were found on the board for distinguished civil servants or ex-airmen who, though doubtless entirely deserving, who had no proper experience of business. Any temptation on to find places for people in that category must be resisted and the Authority must be seen to constitute the sort of dynamic business body which the airline operators in particular would look to and respect.
146 I have tried in the course of a few minutes—I do not want to spend much more time since the House wants to hear what the Parliamentary Secretary has to say in winding up—to summarise some of the principal points which have been made and to put one or two more which seem to me to be relevant but which have not been treated in the depth in which they might have been. There is much more that could be said. Clearly, however, the principal reflection must be that the Bill is welcome, that its provisions seem to the House, at least on first inspection, to be adequate and efficacious but that there is considerable apprehension about the width of the task which the new Authority will face and that we have a long way to go before we can claim that we have a group of international airports of the standard which we have every right to expect.
Therefore, with these reservations and hoping that the Parliamentary Secretary will answer some of the points that we on this side have made, we welcome the Bill. It makes obvious sense that this vital link in the chain of communications should be taken out of the hands of Whitehall and placed upon an efficient business footing. This is a Conservative Measure, as my hon. Friend pointed out at the beginning of the debate, and to that extent it is a step wholly in the right direction. We wish the Authority well in the urgent and arduous task which awaits it.
§ 9.27 p.m.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation (Mr John Stone-house)
My first duty is to congratulate the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) on his maiden speech from the Dispatch Box. He spoke in support of the Bill and we are glad about that. I hope that the hon. Member will not feel it too churlish of me if I hope not only that he spends a very long time at that Box, but that he will be able to spend the whole of his career in the House from that side.
It is also my duty, and I am delighted to perform it, to congratulate the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger). He made a forceful and well-argued speech. The whole House was much impressed by his contribution and looks forward to hearing from him again many times.
147 It is very satisfactory that the principle of a new public corporation has been wholly accepted during the debate. By passing the Bill, we will be adding the British Airports Authority to the already considerable number of publicly-owned authorities. B.A.A. will join B.E.A. and B.O.A.C. in the family of Corporations designed to serve the interests of the air traveller. The British public, already bemused by initials, will have to learn yet another set of initials.
The B.A.A. will be operating in an industry which has been expanding at a phenomenal rate, as a glance at the statistics confirms. In 1953, the total number of passengers handled by the four airports of Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Prestwick was 1,460,000. By 1963 the total had reached 9,605,000, or nearly a sevenfold increase in 10 years. The figure this year will be over 10½ million and by 1973 the number of passengers travelling by air will reach a total of at least 25 million to 30 million from these four airports or those which will be brought into the Airports Authority to meet this demand. Clearly, with this anticipated growth, it would have been quite wrong to have retained these major airports within a section of the Ministry. To cope with this upsurge of demand and complexity of so many passengers and airlines a new authority is required.
As mentioned during the debate the new Authority will have to turn its attention to the improvement of facilities at London Airport, Heathrow. We recognise the validity of some of the criticism made during the debate today. The incredible growth in traffic through this airport was not, frankly, anticipated. The Europa building, 10 years ago, had to handle 1½ million passengers a year. It handles 7 million a year now. Few internal passengers on domestic airlines were expected to travel through the Britannic building, and it was reasonable to expect only 100,000 would be handled each year. Today, actually the figure is over 2⅓ million a year and the Britannic building is quite inadequate for the task, particularly during the three hours of worst congestion in the early morning and late afternoon.
The House will be pleased to know that arrangements are already in hand 148 to relieve the congestion of incoming passengers on domestic routes by providing new facilities at the southern end of the multi-storey car park. During the weekend I had an opportunity to look at this site for this temporary provision, and I believe that it will help those, particularly, who are coming from Manchester and Scotland. B.E.A. could help also by sending its present Channel Islands services through Gatwick, and I hope that it will consider this suggestion. In the long term the position for the short haul routes will be vastly improved by the building of a completely new building in about four years' time to provide a new terminal for all the British short-haul airlines.
Heathrow is one of the world's major airports. In fact, it handles more international traffic, with 6 million travellers a year, than any other airport in the world. It is fourth in the league after Chicago, New York and Los Angeles in the total number of travellers using its facilities. It is coping with this pressure with only 2,800 acres of space, which is, of course, far smaller than most international airports. The new Paris Nord will be three times this size. It is clear, then, that the best possible use must be made of the available space at Heathrow, particularly in the central zone, where every piece of land is extremely valuable. It will be one of the tasks of the new Authority to cope with this very pressing need.
There are one or two points I should like to refer to—to freight, for instance. This is a growing part of air transport business. Consideration is now being given to establishing a freight area on the south-west periphery of the airport, which could be linked to the centre by a new tunnel. The total cost of this new development would be about £10 million, some of which, of course, would be the responsibility of the airlines.
We are also considering—in fact, there is already some progress in this respect—the development of piers which will obviate the necessity for the use by travellers of what has been rightly described as the rather old-fashioned bus service. These piers will also provide for nose-loading, so that the passenger will not have to walk across the tarmac. The position actually is that one pier is now being built. This, we hope, will 149 be completed by next May, and a second will then be commenced. Unfortunately, they cannot all be built at the same time owing to the dislocation which would result.
There will be two piers at the Oceanic building, and these will help intercontin éntal routes considerably.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I am not in a position to give the exact cost, but T will see that the details are sent to the hon. Gentleman.
Next, there is the question of the use of car parks. One multi-storey car park has already been built and is being used to a considerable extent. There are plans to build a further two, so that there can be greater economy in the use of space.
The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) raised a number of points, and I shall do my best to deal with them. He referred, first, to the interests of Scotland. My right hon. Friend intends to see that the interests of Scotland are fairly represented, but if there is a point in the phrasing of Clause 1(5) I am sure that we can look at that in Committee.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to the handling of cases. We agree that there is a need for this to be improved. In fact, there are plans for customers' baggage to be handled more effectively, and we hope that this will also improve the flow through the Customs procedures.
The Customs authorities pay only a notional rent today, but when the Authority is set up they will be expected to pay an economic rent. This will also apply to the Ministry itself. It will pay a rent for the facilities which it has at the airport.
The hon. Gentleman asked some questions—which, quite frankly, I found a little confusing—about the powers of the Minister in relation to the Authority and its acquisition of new airports. This seems to me to be quite clearly explained in Clause 2, particularly in subsections (4) and (6). Subsection (4) gives the Authority power toacquire, or assume the management of, any aerodrome in Great Britain…150 but, as the hon. Gentleman will see, under subsection (4) it cannot do this without the specific authority of the Minister.
§ Mr. Maude
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman found the questions confusing. The point is that the Bill does not say how the Authority acquires an airport which is already in operation as a going concern. It is clear how it acquires land to provide a new one, but it cannot do it under the ordinary compulsory procedure which a local authority can use. Is it done by Order in Council, or what? We ought to know.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
it is not the intention of the Minister to have the Authority taking over the already successfully run municipal airports. I think that the House will agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell) made a powerful case for the successful municipal ownership of airports. It will not, therefore, be the intention that the Authority should interfere with the running of airports by the municipalities, but, where the Bill gives it the power, there is the assumption that the municipalities will agree to transfer.
If the Authority wishes to go further than that, and wishes to have special rights over particular airports without the approval of those who are at present in control of them, it will have to gain the support of the Minister, and he will have to take steps to see that these airports are converted to the Authority's control. We do not expect that the Authority should need, or should want, to take over municipal airports which are being successfully run, as so many of them are today.
We do not envisage, however, that the Authority is to be prevented from becoming a managing agent for an airport where the existing authority—be it municipal or in any other form—wishes the Authority to take over this function. There is ample provision in the Bill for the Authority to do just that.
We are grateful to the hon. Member for raising, in addition, the question of the interests of the consumer. He asked how those interests would be represented. We would wish to propose, in Committee, an Amendment to Clause 1(4) to allow the Minister to appoint men or 151 women who are experienced in the representation of the interests of consumers. We believe that the Clause as at present drafted is restrictive on the Minister. He must be free to appoint someone who can be seen to represent the interests of the consumers on the new Authority which to be set up.
While I am speaking about Amendments, I should point out that it will also be our intention to propose that the Authority should, if it so desires, be enabled to set up a taxi service. At present, there seems to be some doubt whether it would be able to operate such a service. If there is any doubt we would hope that the Committee would agree to such an Amendment.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Not an air taxi service—a road service, so that communications between airports as well as between Heathrow and the Metropolis can be seen to be the responsibility of the Authority, if it wishes to have that responsibility.
§ Mr. Rankin
If my hon. Friend admits the need for a taxi service at the airport will he remember that there are other services also to be considered? Does he not think that he is helping to establish a case for the Authority's having direct running control of the other services?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I am sure that the Authority will bear that point in mind. The use of specialist subcontractors has already been seen to be a very successful aspect of the provisions at Heathrow. It will be up to the Authority to decide in detail how it runs the airport, but I am sure that the point that has been made will be considered.
The hon. Member for Ayr raised a question about the navigation services. We are grateful to him for providing us with an advance indication that he would do this. Clause 2(1) debars the Authority from providing navigation services except with the written consent of the Minister, while Clause 22 defines navigation services as including directions in connection with the movement of aircraft and also the movement of vehicles in a part of an aerodrome used for the movement of aircraft.
We visualise that before the vesting date the Minister will enter into some 152 kind of formal agreement with the Authority allocating to it responsibility for the control of ground movements except in the aircraft manoeuvring zone. It is because the problem of devising a general definition of a manoeuvring zone is a difficult one that the draftsman has adopted a definition of navigation services which goes wider than that.
In practice, there is already a satisfactory line of demarcation between the airport management's sphere of responsibility and that of air traffic control, and we foresee no problem arising in this respect from the transfer of the management function to a separate authority.
As for the other point raised by the hon. Member, we are expecting no problem to arise in connection with the secondment of staff. The staff will be free to choose to do exactly as they wish. If they wish to transfer to the Authority and make that their career, their terms and conditions will be maintained. At every stage established Ministry staff will be consulted, either through the staff side or the trade union representation, to ensure that there their interests are well maintained.
§ Mr. Shepherd
One of the most valuable activities at Manchester is that of the committee set up by the local chamber of commerce. It is of immense benefit to both sides. I wonder whether the Minister will consider the possibility at each of these aerodromes for the Authority to have a committee of liaison with the local chamber of commerce. This has been of immense value at Manchester.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
As the hon. Gentleman knows, Manchester does not come within the terms of the Bill, but my right hon. Friend will bear his suggestion in mind. It will be passed on to the Authority when it is set up. It seems to be a very helpful suggestion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell) asked what plans there were for improving London Airport. I have given some particulars. We hope that a new building may be erected in four years' time to relieve the congestion at the Europa building. The new building will be available for all the British short-haul airlines and we hope, by taking advantage of other developments there, to provide better services for 153 the traveller. The Ministry will not fall down on its duty to continue to improve facilities at Heathrow between the time this Bill is being discussed and the Authority assumes the responsibility.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) asked whether the Minister will continue to be responsible for the control of the Authority. There will be some reserve powers on the part of the Minister and these are fully laid out in Clause 2(6). It would not be the intention of my right hon. Friend to interfere with the commercial operations of the Authority once it is set up. It would be free to carry on with the job of running these airports in the interests of the airlines and the consumers.
The hon. Member for Heston and Isle-worth (Mr. R. Harris) raised a number of interesting questions about noise. I wish to assure him, as I shall be taking a direct and personal interest in this subject, that there will certainly be no less attention paid to it on the part of this Parliamentary Secretary than on the part of the former occupant of this Office. I hope very soon to be able to have discussions with the municipalities in the locality so that we may hear their point of view. I am hoping that within a few weeks I shall be able to make some proposals to the consultative committee about the night jet allowance for next year.
The Authority will be wholly responsible for providing the fire-fighting service. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) raised the question of the Foulness development. The Bill in no way improves or worsens the prospect of the development of the Foulness Airport.
§ Mr. Burden
Can the hon. Gentleman give any idea of what are to be the fees of members of the Authority, particularly the chairman? This is a very important point and we should like to know something about it.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
This subject will be discussed with the Treasury when the Bill is passed. Soon after that we hope there will be an announcement about the composition and, of course, about the earnings. As my right hon. Friend said we hope that the Authority will be able 154 to take over towards the end of next year.
This has been a valuable debate.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Before my hon. Friend concludes, may I ask whether he would agree to look again at the Abbots-inch project in the same way as he is prepared to look at the Concord?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I can assure my hon. Friend that all his words during this debate will be carefully examined. I have not referred specifically to Abbots-inch Airport, because it actually comes outside the terms of the Bill, but we will be considering all the points he has made. We thank him for them.
§ Mr. Rankin rose——
§ Mr. Stonehouse
I am not proposing to give way again.
We are going to look at all the points raised in relation to the controversies about Scotland. At one stage I thought that I had wandered into the Scottish Grand Committee. There were so many contributions made by our hon. Friends from north of the Border. We are grateful to them for the speeches they have made.
As I have said, we have had a valuable debate. I believe that this Airports Authority will be able to do a very fine job in building up the services which our airports are providing for airlines and passengers so that we can play a very honourable part in what is one of the fastest-growing industries of the world. This will be, we believe, one of the best shop windows that the United Kingdom could display. I therefore hope that the House will see that the Bill not only receives a Second Reading today, but has an easy passage through Committee and its remaining stages.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)
Order. The Minister had finished what he was saying and had sat down.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).