HC Deb 22 July 1970 vol 804 cc507-9
1. Mr. Skeet

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will state the Government's policy on the location of the third London airport.

32. Mr. Allason

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is his policy on the location of the third London airport.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Frederick Corfield)

The Commis sion on the Third London Airport is expected to report towards the end of this year and the Government will then take a decision as quickly as may be in the light of the Commission's recommendation.

Mr. Skeet

Can the Minister be a little more specific about the date? When he says that it will be towards the end of this year, does he mean at the beginning of next year? Is he aware that if he wants to pay tribute to Conservation Year, 1970, a suitable place for the third airport is on the coast? Is he aware of the vast expenditure so far incurred by various parties to try to persuade him that the right location would be elsewhere than inland?

Mr. Corfield

I am sure that my hon. Friend will realise that the actual production of the report is in the hands of the Commission and not myself. As for the final decision, I hope that he will recognise that the Commission, with its terms of reference and composition, was set up with the agreement of all parties, and it would be quite wrong to prejudge the issue.

Mr. Allason

Has not the work of the Roskill Commission already demonstrated that there is no significant difference in construction costs between the four sites? In consequence, is not there now clearly a choice between the preservation of amenity and inconvenience to travellers? Will my hon. Friend ensure that inconvenience to travellers is given a higher priority than the loss of amenity to the rest of the population?

Mr. Corfield

I am afraid that I could not go along with my hon. Friend in agreeing that it is self-evident that the amenity points in any one direction.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

Will the Minister confirm that despite the immense importance of the Roskill Commission's report when it appears he will nevertheless not necessarily be tied to it in coming to his final decision? Will he confirm that the House will have an adequate opportunity of debating any decision that the Government recommend to the House?

Mr. Corfield

I accept that the decision when made, is a Government decision. We shall take account of the recommendations, but only account of them. As for a debate, I feel sure that my right hon. Friend will wish the House to be able to discuss the report.

Mr. William Clark

Does not my hon. Friend agree that if the third airport is put inland it is bound to cause more loss of amenity than if it is sited on the coast? Will he further confirm that although the economic implications of a third London airport are extremely important this should not be the only factor to be brought into account in siting the airport?

Mr. Corfield

The answer to the second part of my hon. Friend's question is "Yes", and to the first part, "No".

Mr. Russell Kerr

Can the Minister assure the House that his mind is not altogether closed to the possibility that a third London airport may not be needed after all?

Mr. Corfield

My mind is never closed to anything, but I think that it is improbable.