§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ The Minister for Trade (Mr. Michael Noble)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Before I explain the purpose and details of this Bill, the House will, I am sure, wish to join me in thanking the outgoing Chairman of the British Airports Authority, Mr. Peter Masefield, for his services and commend his leadership of the authority, which has become one of our most profitable nationalised industries, and in welcoming the new Chairman, Mr. Nigel Foulkes, who brings to this complex and demanding job a very wide experience of industry and management.
The object of the Bill is twofold: first, to increase the statutory limit on the authority's total borrowings; and second, to enable the authority to borrow, both temporarily and long term, in currencies other than sterling.
The existing limits were set in the Airports Authority Act, 1965, which imposed a limit on the aggregate of the B.A.A.'s borrowings of £70 million. The Act vested in the authority the four airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Prestwick. The net asset value, which was deemed to be a debt to the Government, was nearly £53 million. In the first five years of its operations to March, 1971, the authority increased the net asset value of these four airports to £75 million, an addition of £22 million. It has financed all but £5.5 million of its capital spending from its own resources, so that its total borrowings, including the initial capital 1006 debt, currently stand at just under £60 million.
The bulk of its expenditure has been at the two largest and busiest airports, Heathrow and Gatwick. At Heathrow, the authority has already spent nearly £12 million on the redevelopment of terminal 3 to cope with the new generation of jumbo jets and wide-bodied aeroplanes. This has involved building special piers jutting out from the terminals so that these large aircraft can he parked by the, piers and the passengers can then disembark by special air jetties straight into the terminal. Ten of these new pier-served stands have been built so far and another ten are being built. In addition, the authority has almost completely rebuilt terminal 1 and made substantial improvements to terminal 2.
At Gatwick the authority has extended the runway to the east and built a new taxi way and aircraft stands to facilitate its operations.
Less work has been necessary at Stansted and Prestwick. At Stansted the authority replaced the earlier arrangement of nissen huts with a terminal building which it is now extending for the second time. At Prestwick the authority has resurfaced the runway and built a new office block for Customs and for cargo agents.
The House will also expect me to say something about the authority's future plans for capital investment at its four original airports and at Edinburgh. I announced on 27th July in the House that the Government did not consider that it would be necessary to construct new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton or Stansted in the foreseeable future. I said then that we see the need for Heathrow and Gatwick to continue as major airports serving the London area for the foreseeable future, although we expect that it will be possible after 1980 to impose stricter limits for the purpose of controlling noise. I also said that the Government foresaw the possibility of dispensing with Stansted as a public transport airport and possibly closing at altogether when the third London airport becomes operational.
These decisions by the Government have, of course, imposed considerable constraints on the authority's planning. None the less it still has to cater for a continuing increase in the numbers of 1007 aircraft movements and in the numbers of passengers using the London airports. The authority handled nearly 16 million passengers at Heathrow and nearly 4 million at Gatwick last year. By the time the third London airport is operational these totals are likely to have increased very substantially. The bulk of the authority's future expenditure will be at Heathrow and Gatwick and the money will be spent, as in the past, mostly on more and better facilities for handling larger aircraft and ever-increasing numbers of passengers. Substantial sums will also go on making it easier for passengers to get to and from both these airports.
At Heathrow the authority plans to spend some £11 million on resurfacing the main runways and on developing the north-west apron area to take jumbo jets, and a further £15 million on furher improvements to terminal buildings and constructing more piers to accommodate the larger aircraft. During the next five years it plans to spend £6 million on the terminal and ancillary works for the new extension to the Piccadilly line to Heathrow and £5 million on access to the airport from the west. At Gatwick the B.A.A. intends to spend some £20 million on constructing two more terminal buildings, since the existing building is thought to be inadequate at peak times, and is making other substantial improvements to the terminal area. If planning permission is forthcoming for the westward extension of the runway the B.A.A. intends to spend £6 million on this extension and attendant aprons so that aircraft can be handled faster and more efficiently. Additionally the authority expects to spend about £4 million on improving access to the airport by putting in a new link road to the M23.
In view of the limited future foreseeable for Stansted the authority intends to spend only minor amounts on improving passenger facilities by enlarging the terminal building.
At Prestwick £1 million will be spent on overslabbing the runway and £1.8 million on a new cargo terminal. At Edinburgh the authority, in accordance with the terms of the transfer agreement by which it received the airport from the Department of Trade and Industry, has applied for planning permission to build 1008 a new runway and terminal complex. These applications are currently the subject of a public inquiry; if planning permission is forthcoming the authority will develop the airport with the aid of a contribution of three-quarters of the cost, up to a limit of £6.5 million from the Department.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
When dealing with Prestwick and Edinburgh, does not the right hon. Gentleman want to tell us about Glasgow and how things are going there?
§ Mr. Noble
I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman anything about Glasgow at this stage because it is not one of the B.A.A. airports. I should not like to stray out of order, even to please the hon. Gentleman.
As I have said, the authority has so far been able to finance a substantial part of its capital expenditure about 88 per cent.—from its own resources and it intends so far as possible to continue to fund much of its future expenditure in this way. It proposes to increase its revenue by all reasonable means including the introduction in April next year of a new scale of airport charges which should increase its revenue from this source by about 8 per cent. But the considerable expenditure to which I have just referred that will be necessary during the next few years at its major airports cannot all be financed from internal sources and will require the provision of additional capital. The necessary additional borrowings will be likely to raise the authority's total borrowings above the present limit of £70 million and it is for this reason that we are now proposing to increase the limit to £125 million.
I should point out that we do not expect this limit to cover substantial capital expenditnure required for the building of the third London airport at Foulness—although it will probably be adequate to cover preliminary expenditure, such as planning and engineering studies, which will be required before the airport can be built. The main purpose of the increase, however, is to finance essential development at the authority's main existing airports, to facilitate the movement of the increasing numbers of passengers, cargo and aircraft expected to use these airports during the next few years. A further increase will probably be required in a few years' time when it has been 1009 possible to estimate with reasonable accuracy the costs of the third London airport which will fall on the authority.
The second objective of the Bill is to empower the authority to borrow in currencies other than sterling. It is probable that the B.A.A. will not need to make use of this provision in the immediate future but it seems sensible to take the opportunity provided by the Bill to bring the B.A.A. into line with other nationalised industries in this regard rather than leave the matter to be dealt with on a separate occasion. All the other nationalised industries, including the Airways Board and the air corporations, have power to borrow in foreign currencies and there is no reason why the B.A.A. should be denied this facility. These borrowings will, of course, be strictly controlled: the persons from whom foreign currency may be borrowed and the terms on which it can be borrowed must, in accordance with Clause 2(1) of the Bill, be specified from time to time by the Secretary of State with the approval of the Treasury.
Clause 2(2) provides that all borrowings in foreign currency will be part of the total borrowings of the authority and as such must come within the limit fixed for total borrowings, which we now propose should be £125 million, and, so far as temporary borrowings in foreign currency are concerned, will also be subject to the same limits on temporary borrowings as apply to borrowings in sterling made under section 5(1) of the Airports Authority Act, 1965.
Clause 2(3) provides that the authority shall not have power to borrow in currencies other than sterling except as provided in the Bill and it removes any possible conflict with Section 5(4) of the Airports Authority Act, 1965, which provides that the authority shall not have power to borrow except in accordance with that Section.
Criticism is often levelled at our national airports, and it is right that we should require the highest standards from them. But I should perhaps today say something on the other side. In the relatively short time that it has been in existence the authority has shown a profit every year, after returning substantial sums to the Government in the form of interest charges and taxation. The net 1010 profit last year exceeded £5.7 million. The authority has carried out very substantial improvements at all its major airports—mostly financed from its own resources—and has at the same time continued to improve its return on net assets. It has become a substantial earner of foreign currency. All this has been achieved without any material increase in its landing charges—apart from the increases required after devaluation—though there will have to be increases in these charges next year.
As many hon. Members will know, Heathrow already handles more international passengers than any other airport in the world. All estimates, both in this country and elsewhere, point to an enormous growth in air transport during the remainder of this century and the burden of providing the necessary facilities to cope with this increase will fall in very large part on the British Airports Authority. This is a considerable challenge and the task of meeting it is not made easier by the Government insistence—which is, I believe, supported by all Members of the House—that the airports developments which are required must be carried out with full regard to the need to avoid damage to the environment so far as this is practicable and that noise from aircraft using these airports is properly controlled. On the basis of its present record, however, I think we can be confident that the authority will meet this challenge successfully. It is the purpose of the Bill to ensure that the authority's borrowing powers will be commensurate with the task that lies ahead. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ 1.20 a.m.
§ Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)
Let me first join the Minister in paying tribute to the outgoing Chairman of the British Airports Authority, Peter Masefield. As he is just retiring, I think the House would like to congratulate him on his endeavours in gradually shaping the authority into a sound public corporation and stepping out of the chair at a time when the authority looks so good. The authority has had a profitable year, and for the first time all its airports have registered a profit. The cumulative trading profits of the last five years—that is the life span of the authority—amount to £38 million.
1011 Peter Masefield was a part-time chairman, but I know from personal experience that he devoted a great deal of time to this job. It is time the chairmanship of the authority became a full-time job. It is a key job, not only because of all the airports that it has under its control and possible increases in the future, but because its operations can determine the financial success or failure of both B.E.A. and B.O.A.C.
To most of us who take an interest in these matters that is self-evident, and I should have thought that the development of airports of the future, and the fact that the major Foulness development is in the offing necessitated the appointment of a full-time chairman of the authority.
The right hon. Gentleman is appointing far too many part-timers to the chairmanships of major public corporations. The British Airways Board and the British Airports Authority have part-time chairmen who between them have at least 30 directorships. The situation is causing us to resurrect the old adage of "jobs for the Tory boys", with an occasional sop to Labour to mute its opposition.
In relation to the importance of the authority and its bearing on the finances of B.E.A. and B.O.A.C., is there not a need within the authority for a full-time industrial relations officer? The number of unions at each airport varies between 15 and 20, and there is now the background of the Industrial Relations Act, with all the detailed problems that will flow in its wake. The authority has a membership of 3,520, but indirectly, as the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries said when it examined the British Airports Authority, it is responsible for nearly 57,000 working people at its airports, and that is a considerable work force. The constant ticking of the General Aviation Services time bomb is still causing irritation at the airports. The last dispute between the authority and the unions over the future operations of General Aviation Services cost B.E.A. £750,000, and that is likely to plunge the corporation into the red for the first time since 1968.
The airlines already have to contend with severely fluctuating returns. They have all suffered heavily during the last two years because of a downward trend 1012 in traffic. B.E.A. was making strenuous efforts to avoid going into the red, but its efforts have been frustrated by one industrial act within the province of the authority, and no doubt the profit-improvement programme of B.O.A.C. will have suffered likewise.
One cannot emphasise strongly enough the need for good industrial relations at the airports and the need for constant smooth operations. That means taking a fresh look at the conciliation procedures to ensure that there is no breakdown in traffic handling and that the authority's airports never close. I am aware of the existence of the National Joint Council. and we have on many occasions pressed for every union and airline management, especially independent airlines, to recognise it, but there seems to be a feeling growing, in the industry that it is too far removed from the shop floor focal points of power and that more key shop stewards should be recognised and be able to participate in national as well as individual joint councils.
There may be a need for more recognition of key shop stewards in the B.A.A. structure, but the Minister should know; he should be better informed than we are about the extent to which this matter is really causing irritation at B.A.A. airports. As my hon. Friends the Members for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) and Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) are present and know much more about this than I do, I shall leave the matter there, save to urge the right hon. Gentleman to realise that there is a need for better industrial relations and the appointment of a full-time industrial relations officer, especially because of the effect which the authority can have on the operations of the two major corporations.
What of the national airport plan? The Minister knows that the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries recommended the presentation of a national airport plan. The British Airports Authority has five of the country's major airports. It could do a number of things. It could be allowed to plan a phased take-over of the larger airports in Britain, or it could first take under its wing all the small but essential airports in the fringe areas where it is necessary to maintain air communications. It could also be given the task of monitoring and surveying all the small airports at which there may be 1013 operations for the landing of contraband and people who are not authorised to enter the country.
Above all, if there were a national airport plan we should know much more about the siting of future airports. I concede that when we were in office we did not give sufficient though to this aspect of planning, but that was mainly because of the need to enact the legislation to establish the Civil Aviation Authority and the British Airways Board. A national airport plan could be discussed without necessarily having to wait for action by the Civil Aviation authority.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that admission. Is he seriously saying that the Civil Aviation Authority ought to have no say in formulating a national airport plan? What is most needed is control over expenditure on airports, and the answer may turn out to be an embargo on expenditure unless it has the approval of the Civil Aviation Authority.
§ Mr. Mason
I should not violently disagree with the hon. Gentleman, but my personal view is that when the Civil Aviation Authority is established and given its terms of reference and begins to work, airport planning should be at the bottom of its priority list. That is my view, because the authority will have a major task to establish itself. This is an innovation, and it must be remembered that 6,000 civil servants will move to a new public corporation. It will be a big job to weld itself into an effective functional body.
At the moment there is a jumble of five British Airport Authority airports, local government airports, joint user airports, those used by the local authorities and the Royal Air Force, and the subsidised Highlands and Islands airports. Allied with that is the problem of the future siting of airports outside the context of national planning. This hotchpotch does not make national sense, and the quicker we tackle the problem the better.
I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman or his hon. Friend would tell us what they really think should be done about national airport planning and airport siting, without necessarily waiting for the 1014 Civil Aviation Authority to tackle the problem. The Minister could set up an inter-departmental Committee on national airport planning, or, better still, there could be a national committee with outside expertise. drafted in, to help prepare and formulate a policy long before the Civil Aviation Authority has time to get clown to this task.
I turn finally to the subject of aircraft developments and their bearing on airport structures of the future. This is the problem of the advent of short take-off and landing aircraft and vertical take-off and landing aircraft. The work of the Minister's Transport Aircraft Requirements Committee is bound to have an effect on airport structures and airport developments in future. Indeed, because of the likelihood of the short take-off and landing aircraft coming into being long before Foulness is actually established and fully operative, it may already be seen that Foulness could be the costliest white elephant ever sanctioned by the Government.
Militarily speaking the vertical take-off and landing aircraft has already proved its worth, but I concede that on cost and time-scale it may take well beyond 1980 for a commercial development of the military version. However, the Minister's Transport Aircraft Requirements Committee should know now its likely cost in research and development and its development possibilities in time. The Minister should be able to tell us whether because of VTOL we might be making a costly mistake in the development of Foulness.
However, I should have thought that most aviation experts would have said that the development of short take-off and landing aircraft was well within the possibilities of the next decade. That is bound to throw doubts on the future acquisition of large land masses for airports. It is bound to affect airport structures of the future and the siting of airports.
Because so much of this forward look into aircraft requirements and the siting and planning of airports will affect the operations of the British Airports Authority within the next decade, is it not time we had a statement from the Government about what the Transport Aircraft Requirements Committee is studying and when we are likely to know 1015 its conclusions? Aircraft firms have already submitted their ideas and their cost figures for research and development for short take-off and landing aircraft, and airlines, too, have submitted papers to the Department. I therefore press the Minister for a statement from his committee so that all concerned in the civil aviation industry may have at least an inkling of Government forward thinking on likely aircraft developments and requirements and subsequently how decisions will affect future airport developments.
There are many other topics which one could raise on this small borrowing powers Bill affecting so important a body as the British Airports Authority. The right hon. Gentleman did not mention aircraft noise or halting flights at Heathrow and the cost to the authority of that. He said that landing fees might go up next year but he knows that his Department has delayed the authority from increasing landing fees. Allied with aircraft noise there might have been an argument for charging landing fees according to the noise levels of aircraft.
Praise is due to the authority for its security following the phase of hijacking which caused so much concern. The police worked many long hours, but in retrospect they must feel satisfied and think that it was worth while. They have had great success in the past 12 months with an increased number of passengers and an increase in freight handling.
The Bill has our blessing. The British Airports Authority, although only five years old, is already proving its worth.
§ 11.35 a.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
I accept that air travel will grow in the next decade and that airports will have to expand the facilities that they provide, and I accept that the British Airports Authority will have to have increased borrowing powers. I accept that it runs its affairs well when it comes to big matters.
Some 10 years ago I landed at Nairobi Airport where I was told that whenever Air France landed an aircraft officials went to the airport authority and handed over a bottle of whisky as thanks for a safe arrival. I do not think anyone would expect any airlines to do that 1016 with the British Airports Authority. One accepts that in big matters it will provide a wholly adequate service.
But when it comes to looking after the lesser needs of passengers the authority sometimes seems to show a rather limited imagination. I hope that it will consider using a small fraction of the huge sum involved in the Bill to improve its performance in this respect.
The Minister has reminded us that 16 million passengers a year use Heathrow. It therefore seems surprising that there should be no adequate facilities in the three main terminals for any of those 16 million passengers to leave their luggage if they wish to go into London for a short time while in transit.
Many passengers leaving from Heathrow have arrived there by car, and it therefore seems surprising that there are no adequate breakdown facilities for cars in the central area. It is true that the A.A. provides a voluntary service. I am a member of the A.A. and I have used that service, and very friendly it is, but it is not wholly adequate, and I should have thought that it was up to the authority itself to see that this sort of service was provided.
At times I have had to meet passengers arriving at terminals 1, 2 or 3. I have been in communication with the authority about facilities for meeting passengers at terminal 3. Arriving passengers want to be able to see whether friends and relatives are there, and. at the same time, the friends and relatives wish to be able to see whether the passengers are about to pick up their luggage and come out.
Considerable sums of money are spent blocking the view of passengers to the outside world. I am told that this is because it is felt that if people could look into the arrival lounge they would see Customs officers going through the luggage of passengers. In fact, in terminal 3 screens have been put round the benches where the Customs officers inspect passengers' luggage. Behind the compartments where the Customs officers work, large frosted glass screens have been erected to block the view of passengers or those meeting them. This seems shortsighted and wrong. It is bureaucracy gone mad. Surely we want people to be able to see their friends when they come to meet them.
1017 The main problem and the reason for the authority being an unwelcome neighbour in so many parts of the country can be summed up in one word—noise. Even in my constituency, which is more than a dozen miles from Heathrow, changing the flight pattern has now produced considerable alarm and disquiet among residents.
I have the Press notice of the Department of Trade and Industry covering aircraft noise at Heathrow and Gatwick airports for the third quarter of 1971. The monitoring of departing aircraft suggests that there is only one infringement a day of the noise level. The infringement ratio is only 0.3 per cent. out of monitored day departures totalling 31,000. Statistically, that is not a bad record.
§ Mr. Goodhart
The night departure record of infringements is only 1.2 per cent. These figures suggest that the infringement level is at least one a day.
I suspect that the main problem is created not by departing but by arriving aircraft. The monitoring facilities provided by the Department do not seem adequate. During this quarter only 2.6 per cent. of the total approaches to Heathrow and Gatwick were monitored by radar, and then only to check their compliance with the glide path angle of 3 deg.
During the summer I spent a little time near Heathrow and I was struck by the amount of variation in noise created by aircraft of the same type, depending on their height. It seems that the monitoring carried out by the Department of Trade and Industry on arriving aircraft is not adequate. Indeed, I am not satisfied that when infringements are discovered the procedure for following up and penalising the aircraft concerned is adequate. The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) suggested a variation in landing fees depending on the noise level of aircraft. There may well be something in that suggestion.
I suggest that infringement of the noise level should be treated with greater urgency. If every time there were an infringement of the noise level the Airports Authority was charged £500 by the local 1018 authority over whose air space the infringement took place, it would be open to the Airports Authority to try to recover the money from the offending airline. If financial pressure were put on the authority to check infringements of the noise barrier, I suspect that the matter might conceivably be looked at with more urgency than it is now.
§ Mr. Rankin
Assuming that this nuisance is as widespread as the hon. Gentleman suggests, is he telling us that the arrangements made by the authority to deal with it are inefficient? Does not what lie suggests boil down to the fact that these arrangements should be tightened up? Has he written to or taken up with the authority the matter about which he is speaking?
§ Mr. Goodhart
I have writen to the airports authority. I am suggesting that there should be some tightening up. I suggest that it is on the arrival rather than on the departure side that most of the nuisance is created and that it is in this respect that our monitoring system stands in greatest need of improvement.
§ Mr. Noble
My hon. Friend knows that I am very concerned about this problem. I intervene only to explain that the difficulty with arrivals is that, though they could all easily be monitored, there is little that can be done about an aircraft exceeding the noise level because in 99 per cent. of cases it is probably due to the pilot being off the slope and having to increase power to get back to the right angle. This is an important safety matter. It would be extremely dangerous to go for a saving in noise and have more crashes.
§ Mr. Goodhart
I am aware that we have to balance safety and amenity factors in this respect. If we impose levels too tightly there may be a tendency for some people to take unnecessary risks.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Epping)
My lion. Friend may like to know that amongst my colleagues there is an expression, which is commonly used on flight decks about unreasonable noise abatement procedures all over the world, to the effect that no householder would ever hear a louder noise than that which would come from an aircraft landing on top of his house. There is no question of balancing 1019 safety against amenities. Safety must have absolute priority.
§ Mr. Goodhart
I accept that safety is infinitely more important than amenity. However, the imposition of any noise level must impose a degree of control limiting the choice of the pilot.
I believe that there is a certain element of unnecessary carelessness on the part of some aircraft coming into land at airports and that if greater attention were paid to the monitoring procedures applied to 'planes coming in rather than just going out there could be an improvement for the residents near airports without any loss of safety, which I accept must be our paramount consideration.
§ 11.50 a.m.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham)
I wish at the outset to congratulate the Minister on the recent introduction, to take effect next spring, of certain restrictions on flying at Heathrow. Although this action will by no means solve the problem of noise for many people living in the vicinity of London airport, it represents an important step foward and one which is widely welcomed, not least in my constituency.
Having congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on this forward-looking move, I hope that it will not be the end of his endeavours, in the face of mounting pressure, to tackle this problem. We need far more liberal noise-proofing allowances and further Government money for research into reducing aero-engine noise and related problems which we hope will eventually bring the whole problem to a reasonable size.
§ Mr. Rankin
I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that many of his constituents living in the vicinity of the airport have not taken the opportunity to soundproof their homes because of the enhanced rates that follow this action.
§ Mr. Kerr
I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. I agree that these grants have not been taken up to the extent that we would have liked because of the enhancement of rates. However, that is not central to the matter under discussion today.
I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) devoted a section of his speech to the question of General Aviation Services 1020 and the whole issue of industrial relations. Although industrial relations represents only one aspect of the British Airports Authority's activities, its failure in this respect has been quite dramatic, potentially if not actually, so that the Authority will end up with possibly the worst labour relations record of any nationalised industry. One is bound to ask, therefore, how this came about.
Hon. Members may know that I am one of the "airport M.P.s". Perhaps between 7,000 and 8,000 constituents of mine in one way or another are employed at Heathrow either by the air corporations or one of the ancillary activities. I am also a reasonably prominent member of one of the leading airline unions, A.S.T.M.S., and have been for the past eight years. I can fairly claim, therefore, to have had a ringside seat at the recent activities of the B.A.A. as well as of B.E.A., B.O.A.C. and the other elements present at Heathrow Airport.
On any comparison between the industrial relations of the air corporations, B.E.A. and B.O.A.C., and the other nationalised industry at the airport, B.A.A., there is no doubt that B.A.A. comes out extremely unfavourably, certainly from the labour relations point of view.
Like all hon. Members, I get a heavy postbag, but what sticks out a mile is the is the fact that a considerable number of people who over the years have been employed by the B.A.A. or have had dealings with the authority have been extremely dissatisfied, certainly dissatisfied enough to write to their hon. Member about it.
The complaints are mostly this side of earth-shattering—ill-judged desciplinary measures, unfair treatement by the airport police, petty corruption and so on—but the overall picture is one of extremely poor administration, insensitivity to the need for good labour relations and a desire to squeeze the last drop of juice out of all concerned in a way which would do credit to an Armenian bazaar merchant. I shall return to this point later.
The G.A.S. dispute has brought Heathrow grinding to a halt twice within the past two years. On present form, it is almost certain to do so again in the very near future, despite the appointment by 1021 the Secretary of State for Employment of an arbitrator to try to sort out the differences that exist between management and men there.
I was deeply involved in the strike following the G.A.S. dispute at London airport in the sense that, with a number of my hon. Friends, I worked hard to prevent that strike from happening. I spent the whole of one Friday early in November in a Committee Room of this House chairing a meeting between representatives of the men and Mr. Peter Masefield and other members of the B.A.A. management team.
Although we bargained for some six hours, my colleagues and I being the men between-the honest brokers, so to speak—the meeting broke up in deadlock and there followed a four—day strike which cost the nation a great deal, B.O.A.C. about £1. million and B.E.A. about half of that. That happened despite the assurances that Mr. Masefield and his colleagues had given that the men's jobs were secure in spite of the presence of G.A.S. at the airport. Those assurances were totally unacceptable to the men, mainly because of the complete mistrust they felt for the motives of the management, plus a greatly worsened employment situation.
There is a long history attaching to this matter, including many individual actions which, in terms of modern industrial relations, must be termed bad practices. Above all, the circumstances surrounding the granting of the handing contract to G.A.S., which is American-owned although Canadian-registered—it is not, as many people suppose, a Canadian company—planted the deepest suspicions in the men's minds about the type of people with whom they were dealing.
Moreover, the lack of open tendering for this extremely valuable contract and the previous association in Bristol between Masefield and a principal member of the G.A.S. organisation, plus the way in which the B.A.A. has acted recently in protecting G.A.S. by using its authority—some would say by abusing it—to channel business into the lap of G.A.S., has built up such an attitude of suspicion that agreement has been quite impossible.
§ Mr. Tebbit
The hon. Gentleman has forgotten, I am sure quite inadvertently, to remind the House that the question of 1022 the manner in which the contract was originally granted to G.A.S. has been thoroughly investigated by an inquiry set up by the former Government, which found that the suggestions which the hon. Gentleman is making were entirely without foundation.
§ Mr. Kerr
I am interested to hear what the hon. Gentleman says. I am as aware as he is of the findings of the Robertson Committee, but I do not agree with his interpretation of those findings. They are not acceptable in their detail to the men at the airport.
The other matter which emerged from the long Friday which we spent trying to avoid the strike was the basic attitude of the management representatives to the men. During the whole of the period of six hours in which we were incarcerated in the Committee Room there was a deep resentment on the part of at least two members of the senior management of the British Airports Authority that the matter before us—namely, the threatened strike over the G.A.S. issue—was being discussed with the men at all. Words like "blackmail" and "conspiracy" came much too readily to the lips of the senior management representatives. One of my colleagues, the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson), who is a fairly new Member of the House, was incredulous that such an attitude could be adopted in 1971 to industrial relations problems. Incidentally, my hon. Friend was of great assistance to us in the negotiations.
I turn to the question of the future. We must all agree—I say this without rancour—that the departure of Mr. Masefield from his part-time job, in which he has not been notably successful, gives us some chance of a new start However, I must agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley and record my displeasure that another part-timer. Mr. Nicholson, has been appointed to succeed Mr. Masefield. I am sure that the problems of the British Airports Authority will never be satisfactorily solved as long as we try to do the job on the cheap by appointing part-time chairmen, especially, as in the present case, they seemingly have little, if any, experience of civil aviation, unlike the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), whose appointment as full-time Chairman of 1023 the Civil Aviation Authority has been welcomed by my hon. Friends and myself.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Anthony Grant)
The hon. Gentleman made a slip of the tongue. He referred to the new chairman as being Mr. Nicolson. In fact, it is Mr. Foulkes. I should not like the hon. Gentleman's strictures to be applied to the wrong person.
§ Mr. Kerr
As my hon. Friend says, he is still a part-timer, whether his name is Foulkes or Nicolson. We have had too much administration of civil aviation matters by amateurs to want any more. Perhaps the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) and Woking (Mr. Onslow) will concentrate on that aspect rather than try to make childish debating points.
I repeat that the necessary pre-condition of industrial peace at Heathrow is the ultimate removal of G.A.S. from the airport scene, not least as an earnest of the determination of management to make a fresh start and as a goodwill gesture to the men on whose co-operation essentially the future health of the British Airports Authority must depend.
I turn briefly to another aspect of administration at the airport which has annoyed me for a number of years, namely, the catering services. In the main, these are carried out on a sub-contract or contract basis by Sir Charles Forte's enterprise. Subject to a very loose control, it is allowed to charge more or less what it likes for the catering services. I am realistic enough to know that if we want the keenest prices and cheapest value we do not go to international airports, and I have no quarrel with people taking a reasonable percentage of profit from the sale of duty-free liquor, cigarettes, and so on.
But I complain strongly when the essential basic catering services, such as those dealing with coffee and sandwiches, which are normally the fare not of rich international travellers but, much more 1024 commonly, of mothers with three struggling children on the way to join their corporal husbands in Dusseldorf, or wherever it may be, become the subject of absolutely buccaneering charges which are frequently two or three times the going rate at a café only a mile or so down the road. This is shameful.
I have made that point personally to the departing chairman. I hope that not the least of the innovations which the new chairman will make in the administration of the British Airports Authority will be the institution of a review of these basic services, of which a captive clientele must avail themselves, to ensure that there is no exploitation in the way in which they are handled at the airport.
I wish the new chairman well. We on this side of the House will certainly be vigilant in examining the record, but he takes up his post with our best wishes.
§ 12.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I should like to add my tribute to the tributes which have been paid to the retiring Chairman, Mr. Peter Masefield, on the part which he has played in British aviation and in the British Airports Authority since its inception. I should like to comment on the profitability of the authority, although if I did I should be bound to say that many airlines feel very angry about the way in which the authority exploits its quasi-monopoly position. Many of them believe that if the target set by the Treasury were lowered from 14 per cent. to a more modest figure it would be of great assistance. I should like to comment on the way in which freight growth at the B.A.A. airports has disappointed many of us who had great expectations of it.
I should like to say a few words about labour relations and particularly the remarkable speech of the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr), who cast himself in the rôle of honest broker. The result was one of the more unlikely pieces of acting that I have ever had to sit through. The real test of a man who claims to be an honest broker is that he should be prepared to say outside the House everything that he says in it and to expose himself to the possibility of being taken to court if he indulges in actionable statements.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr
On the question of my rôle as self-styled honest broker, I 1025 assure the hon. Gentleman that I was accepted as such by both sides in the argument.
§ Mr. Onslow
That must have been an even more remarkable feature of the occasion, because throughout the hon. Member's speech I felt like moving that salt-cellars should be brought in so that we could take a pinch all round.
I should like to have spoken about the crime rate at Heathrow, including the extremely irritating minor thefts of which so many passengers are the victims, and about the abortion touts who hang about outside the European terminal. I should like to have said something about noise, to point out again to my right hon. Friend that it is not so much STOL as the advent of quiet engines which will affect the future of airports policy. I should like to have made a comment on the fact that it makes no sense under the Local Government Bill to transfer Gatwick out of Surrey into Sussex when all the emergency services for Gatwick will continue to be provided by Surrey.
I should like to have made a comment about my own pet annoyance at Heathrow, the way in which the porters hide the luggage trolleys so that they can get paid for a service which passengers could otherwise provide for themselves.
I should like, too, to have recommended my right hon. Friend to include in his reading an admirable French publication called Air et Cosmos. This week's issue carries a full supplement on Paris airports which should give him a fair idea of the competition that will soon face the British Airports Authority.
I should like to have made comment on all these matters if I had had the time, but I am speaking under a self-imposed 10-minute rule and I want to concentrate on one thing which has not yet been raised but is of considerable importance, and that is the question of the growth of passenger traffic through London's airports. The evidence given by the British Airports Authority to the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries gives figures of "unconstrained" growth projections which include an estimate of 81 million passenger movements by 1985.
I suppose that it could he assumed that a large proportion will be outgoing British tourists. Among the incoming 1026 passengers, there will be an even greater proportion of foreign tourists, and these figures seem to assume that this growth will go on indefinitely. It really occurs to me to wonder where all these tourists will go and what they will do when they get there. I greatly doubt whether we have the physical facilities to absorb such vast quantities of people in London, which seems to be the place they most want to visit.
I wonder whether we have enough attractions for them. I wonder how many Japanese camera', or plastic raincoats one can cram into Westminster Abbey without removing some of the statues. Will we have to provide new attractions for them, perhaps a regular changing of the Shadow Cabinet at Transport House?
However, I submit to my right hon. Friend and his colleagues in the Government that they ought seriously to consider whether there is not a limit to the amount of London we can tear down to make hotels or whether there may well come a time when people in London, and perhaps other parts of the country as well, will say "We have already absorbed as much tourist traffic as we can stand, and its growth must now be constrained." When that time approaches, and I believe it will, we shall have to redeploy the pattern of international air movements and make them much more widely dispersed throughout the country than they are at the moment. We shall need to build up Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, and other provincial airports as international airports. This, incidentally, could generate new employment opportunities in the regions.
We shall have to reconsider policies formulated in terms of unconstrained growth and to think instead in terms of constraint. That is yet another reason for opposing the Foulness decision. My right hon. Friend well knows that he has never been able to persuade me that it is right. I do not despair of persuading him that it is wrong, and if at any time he should want a new name for a Foulness airport I would strongly suggest that he might consider "Daftness" instead.
§ 12.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
I should like to begin by placing on record that I at any rate hold Mr. Peter Masefield 1027 in high regard. I think he has been an able Chairman of the British Airports Authority and I sincerely hope that his successor will follow his example. I at any rate think it very commendable.
Having said that I come to one point and one point alone because I, too, want to speak not only under a 10-minute rule but a rule for even less than that as my time limit. I refer to the need, in my opinion, to develop a helicopter service from Salmesbury in North-East Lancashire to Ringway airport. I interrupt myself Jo say how pleased I am that the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. David Walder), the Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary, is here listening to my observations because I am hoping that from his privileged position he will help me by putting pressure on the right quarters [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I speak from experience. Indeed, I was the best baggage man for a number of years.
Years ago responsible men in that part of the country had this aim in mind, and I would think the fact that at that time they had this aim in mind seems powerfully to suggest that it was a matter of substance. As one using Ringway airport frequently I can say that such is the traffic that it is almost impossible to get through Manchester to and from the airport. I would imagine that the time lost through dislocation in Manchester must be very considerable indeed. I really believe that the people of North-East Lancashire deserve something far better.
Since this move was initiated some years ago by people I have chosen to call responsible men in North-East Lancashire the tourist traffic in that part of the world has considerably increased. I would say that during the months of June, July, August and September, when there are the traditional holidays called in that part of the world the wakes, the traffic from North-East Lancashire to places like Spain and Portugal for holidays must have increased considerably.
I would think that some kind of helicopter centre at Salmesbury really would serve that area exceedingly well. I would add that I have taken up this point and the British Airports Authority thinks the idea well worth looking at, I would simply add that nothing has been done about it yet.
1028 I am certain this is something which would merit commercial success. I do not know, but I am entitled to say that the Government ought to set up some form of market research into this point. It would not be very difficult. I would think any reputable firm would be able to supply to the Government and the B.A.A. advice not only as to whether this is a desirable project but whether it is a commercial project. They are not necessarily one and the same thing, but I would say that it must be a commercial project before it becomes feasible, and I would think that it would be.
At the same time the Government ought to be persuaded to take upon themselves the cost of a feasibility study organised by some reputable market research people. This is a matter upon which, a week or two back, I took a deputation to the Department of Trade and Industry. We heard some sympathetic noises from the Minister with regard to the need for some form of greater investment in that part of the world. I would consider that this is a practical proposition and one well worth the Government's pursuing.
The helicopter base would serve areas like Blackburn, Bolton, Preston, Burnley and lesser but nevertheless important towns like Rawtenstall, Bacup and even Barnoldswick which is at the head of the Calder Valley. We are speaking of upwards of 2½ million people, and substantially more during the summer months, who drag their laborious way through Manchester to get to Ringway.
The market research to which I have referred should take the form of asking industrial concerns in the areas I have mentioned what they think about this idea and whether, if the project came into being, they would support it.
The link between North-East Lancashire and London would be considerably enhanced and a region which has contributed so richly and for so long to the economic well being of the country would be helped. The area is in need of some form of industrial stimulus and I am sure that the whole area would welcome this. I ask the Minister at any rate to agree to the setting up of the market research to which I have referred, to find out whether this would be a commercial project and, if the answer is in 1029 the affirmative, for the sake of the areas I have mentioned to get on with the job.
§ 12.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Epping)
I am glad that the British Airports Authority has made a substantial profit, but there is no particular merit in a monopoly making profits. There must be some unease at the target of profitability which has been set. It is a target that the airlines of the world would be happy even to dream of in these days, let alone achieve. It seems wrong that that target should be set for a monopoly when the airlines, which are in a highly competitive position, have to scratch around as best they can to make ends meet.
The increases in charges which will be coming next year will bear particularly harshly upon some users. In some cases the charge for a landing or take-off could be increased tenfold or elevenfold. This will apply to a small minority—businessmen using small aircraft. I can understand the point of view of the B.A.A., which can hardly allow small single-seater aeroplanes and aircraft carrying only three people to occupy a runway when a jumbo aircraft carrying 300 or 400 passengers is waiting to land, bearing in mind the landing revenue that it will produce. It would not be a bad idea for Her Majesty's Government to suggest where business aircraft carrying businessmen who wish to come to London should land.
. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) is not present as I want to deal briefly with his remarks about the General Aircraft Services dispute. I should declare my interest——
§ Mr. Dan Jones
May I say on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) that he is keeping a previous appointment with his trade union. He means no discourtesy.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am sure that the hon. Member for Feltham would show no unwillingness to be here when these matters are being discussed.
I refer the House to the final report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Disruption of Operations and Industrial Relations at Heathrow (London) Airport, Cmnd. 4449, of August, 1970. The sum- 1030 mary of conclusions and recommendations reads as follows:
I do not know whether other hon. Members have seen a different version of this but it seems pretty clear to me.
- "1. B.A.A.'s decision to encourage the establishment of an independent ground handling service at Heathrow was reasonable and well-founded.
- 2. We see nothing improper about the way in which B.A.A. went about choosing a company to provide such a service, nor in the terms of the contract signed between G.A.S. and the authority, save for the advisability of making certain amendments to the schedule of services to be provided.
- 5. We see no grounds for suggesting that the agreement with G.A.S. was a threat to employment prospects, wage standards, or established industrial relations procedures at the airport.
- 6. The unofficial shop stewards' liaison committee acted wrongly in encouraging industrial action against G.A.S. and pursuing policies of its own outside the constitutional channels.
- 7. The allegations concerning G.A.S.'s conduct in trying to attract business during the course of the dispute are misconceived.
- 8. G.A.S. should now be allowed to fulfil the contract made with B.A.A., subject to the amendment of the schedule referred to in 2. above."
I do not wish to exacerbate the matters in dispute and I pay tribute to G.A.S. for the way in which it has been careful not to do so on television, on radio, in interviews and so on.
I would not say that the national joint council is an ideal forum for settling industrial disputes. I am still a member of the union which walked out of the N.J.C. because it found it could not get its disputes solved through the N.J.C., but this is a difficult situation.
§ Mr. Mason
The hon. Gentleman will remember paragraph 3 of the summary of conclusions and recommendations from which he quoted, which reads as follows:There was a failure in communications and consultation about the contract which resulted in needless fears being aroused amongst airport workers about the security of their jobs. This was the principal reason for the industrial action taken against G.A.S.That paragraph partially balances the paragraphs which the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) has quoted.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I was coming to this point following my remarks about the N.J.C. There are grave faults in the machinery at the airport for dealing with 1031 these matters and I do not think that there is any easy answer. I do not think it would be an ideal answer of the B.A.A. to enter the N.J.C., because this dispute was sparked off by the airport's contractual relations with foreign airlines and G.A.S. which are not members of the N.J.C. The interests of many of the employees of B.A.A. differ sharply from the interests of the N.J.C. There is not an easy answer.
I have sometimes detected differences of opinion between the two unions involved. As I understand, there is no dispute whatever between the employees of G.A.S., who are unionised, and their employer. The reasons which were then valid for bringing another handling agency into the airport are still valid today, and it would be monstrous if, by industrial pressure, a perfectly reputable agreement and a perfectly reputable company were to be broken and the capacity of the airport to handle traffic reduced, as it will be unless there is a separate handling agency.
I join the hon. Member for Feltham in much of what he said about the cost of the catering facilities at the airports and the standard of some of the catering offered. It has often lived up to some of the worst standards of British Railways. The cost of a cup of coffee and a sandwich does not come solely within the province of the companies which operate the franchise. It is also within the control of the B.A.A. and what it gets for the franchise it offers.
This brings me to the question of noise. More people are assaulted by the noise of heavy lorries and more people suffer danger from them than suffer danger from noise from aircraft.
§ Mr. Tebbit
And, as the hon. Gentleman has said, motor bikes. However, the enforcement of provisions to control aircraft noise is stricter than it is for vehicles on the roads. How many roads are closed at night in the same way as our airports are closed at night to protect local communities?
I may have been a little harsh in my intervention during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart). There are many ways in 1032 which noise can be reduced without impinging on safety. I have already made some suggestions on this subject to my hon. Friend and I hope that I might suggest a few more. I have put some of these suggestions to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and I hope that he will take note of them.
This now bears on the dreadful prospect of Foulness. I have suggested that we are tackling this problem in the wrong way. Our forefathers regarded the privy as a rather nasty, dirty, noisy and smelly think and put it at the end of the garden, until some bright chap came along and invented the water closet which was installed indoors. We are taking the utterly negative approach of saying that we regard airports as nasty, dirty, noise and smelly and should put them at the end of the garden when in fact they should be close to our cities.
The contribution of this technically advanced country on the problem of aircraft noise will not be remembered in terms of adopting quiet engine techniques or of the fitting of engines with steep approach and landing paths. Our contribution will be seen as a long string of concrete stretching 50 miles from London to the East Coast, and covered with vehicles and another great slab of concrete stretching along the East Coast. This thought is utterly unacceptable. The sooner we turn away from the prospect of spending money on concrete and turn our thoughts to producing a decent, house-trained aeroplane which can be lived with and brought indoors, the better.
§ 12.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Mikardo (Poplar)
The hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) will forgive me if I do not seek to deal in detail with his points, but I found myself very much in agreement with him when he referred to the figure of 14 per cent. as the target for returns. He and the House will know that the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, in examining the methods of control of the nationalised industries in general, called in question the value and the scientific reliability of using the single figure of a percentage target on capital employed as a measure of efficiency and, still more, as a determinant of charges, especially in a monopoly or quasi-monopoly situation.
1033 The hon. Member is right to suggest a close, causal connection between this artificial target—which is a good deal higher than that applied elsewhere—and the price of the tea and sandwiches. There is a close connection between that and the attitude of operators—especially foreign operators, who sometimes get the rough end of all the sticks—to the British Airport Authority.
It is no accident that a large part of this debate has been taken up with the question of industrial relations. The Bill is designed to provide the authority with some more capital to carry out additional works and to create more facilities. The taxpayer will get value out of those facilities only when they are run efficiently and if they are run without interruption. This depends on whether the authority as an employer conducts its industrial relations in a proper way.
I am sorry to have to say, because I have a great deal of respect for much of the work and achievements of the B.A.A., that there has been one big gap in its operations; namely, in labour relations. That gap has shown itself in a notorious unwillingness—which is illustrated in the passage of the inquiry report quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), and is reflected in many other incidents in the authority's short history—to discuss new developments with its employees and the representatives of those employees before the die has been cast and before decisions have been taken from which there is no retreat. In other words, there is an unwillingness to consult when there is some point in consulting. It is no use consulting at too late a stage, because then nothing can be done to alter the position.
The Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, to which reference has already been made in this debate, made some comments on this matter. I can without immodesty commend these remarks because they were made after I ceased to be a member of the Select Committee. The Committee in its conclusions on the subject of industrial relations said in paragraph 104:There have been failures and it is not Your Committee's purpose to apportion responsibility for them. Failures, when they do occur, lessen confidence and make future consultation and communication more difficult. More1034than formal machinery, this is essentially a question of understanding and the will to consult.That suggestion relates not only to lack of expertise in industrial relations in the authority but to a lack of genuine interest by the authority in this subject. It is that which I think most mars the record of the authority.
§ Mr. Mikardo
No. I shall not give way to the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) because of his consistent rudeness in the earlier part of the debate, when he giggled and chattered his way through the speeches of hon. Members on this side of the House. I shall be delighted to give way to any other hon. Gentleman opposite, but if the hon. Member wants courtesy, he must himself show courtesy to others.
Later in the same paragraph, the Committee says that it believesas a general proposition that, accepting the commercial and other risks, a fuller, franker and earlier setting forth of the Authority's plans, aspirations and problems would evoke correspondingly greater co-operation and help from employees, airline operators and other users, and the surrounding communities, and they recommend such a course.Like others before me, I want to comment on the dispute which has arisen over General Aviation Services. That dispute was an outstanding example of the authority's inability combined with unwillingness to consult its employees properly and in time. The dispute has put the airport in turmoil for some months, and it is by no means ended yet. It caused a stoppage of work which, as we have heard, was very expensive and very damaging, not to the authority itself but to the two major British airline operators, B.E.A. and B.O.A.C.
Notwithstanding what the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) quoted from the report of the committee of inquiry. I am bound to say that if I were one of the workers engaged on handling at the airport I should not accept the finding of the committee that the contract which was entered into by the authority with the company did not carry with it some threat to my livelihood. It is very easy for a committee of inquiry to be ethereally objective about these matters. Such a committee is not in the front 1035 line. Equally, it is easy for hon. Members to be ethereally objective about them. But sometimes matters look different to the man on the job who sees a possible threat to his livelihood.
I noticed that the hon. Member for Epping was very selective in his quotations from the report of the committee of inquiry, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley corrected him. It is a fact that the British Airports Authority negotiated the contract over quite a long period and signed it without the workers whose livelihood might be affected or the unions which represent them being told a single word about it until after it had been signed. Whatever the merits or demerits of the contract—even if it were a perfect contract, about which there is some dispute—doing it in that way with the men being told about it only after it had been done was asking for trouble. Any first-year student on an industrial relations course could have told it was asking for trouble. The authority asked to trouble, and it got it.
§ Mr. Tebbit
Everyone accepts that the British Airports Authority made errors in the way that this matter was handled. The committee of inquiry accepted it. We all do. But surely the hon. Gentleman will agree that the B.A.A. was in a difficult position. The authority was not the employer of the men most affected. To a large extent, its approach was to keep the employers of those men informed, and it was for the employers of those men to keep their employees informed about what was proposed. I do not go along with this, since I have had the experience of being a nut in the nutcrackers at the airport. It is understandable that emotions will be aroused, but the only way of dealing with the emotion is by getting a clear and cold assessment from a committee of inquiry. In this case, the committee of inquiry was set up by people who genuinely wished to bring out the facts and not to cover up anything.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I agree that there is a technical defence for the B.A.A. in all this. I also believe that the authority was daft to rest upon that technical defence. In industrial relations, situations arise in which justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. That is true of all human activities, but, above 1036 all, it is true of industrial relations. At all times attempts must be made to shorten communications. I take it that that is what the hon. Gentleman had in mind when he implied that the authority was not very bright to deal with the matter as it did. The best way to cool down emotions is to talk to men, and to talk to them early and closely. The only hope in setting up a committee of inquiry is to put out a little of the fire after it has broken out. But the best industrial relations are concerned with the prevention of arson.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves this point, he has quoted from the Report of the Select Committee, and he will know that I, too, was a member of the Committee. If he looks again at the passage which he quoted—because I am sure he does not wish to mislead the House—he will see that it is a general observation of the Committee about consultation. It refers to consultation not only with employees but with airlines and consultative committees. It was in those latter areas especially that it was noticed that some of the mechanisms of the authority could have been improved. It was not only in the matter of consultation with employees.
§ Mr. Mikardo
The hon. Gentleman is quite right, and the passage which I quoted means that. An organisation like the British Airports Authority has a lot of people whom it must consult. The hon. Gentleman will recall that when the representatives of the foreign airline operators gave evidence to the Select Committee they were not wildly enthusiastic about their treatment and with the degree of consultation which they enjoyed with the authority. Certainly there are defects in other respects. However, two blacks do not make a white. The fact that the authority did not consult other people, including the airlines, does not excuse the fact that it did not consult the employees.
There have been several commendatory references to the outgoing chairman. I have known him for about a quarter of a century. I remember him when he was an aviation journalist. He is a man of many parts. He is a man of considerable and varied talents. Sometimes, I feel he is better at presenting plans than at 1037 executing them, and better at dealing with figures than with people. I do not think that in his many and varied talents, a talent for industrial relations is included. Certainly his standard in that regard in civil aviation generally suffered a grave blow when the Beagle Aircraft Corporation, of which he was chairman, was liquidated and it was discovered that the last 1½ years of its employees' contributions to their pension fund had not gone into the fund. It disappeared in some other way. By that I do not mean a dishonest way. I mean a negligent way. It did not strike a note of confidence in the hearts of working people. But let us not hark back. We have a new chairman coming.
My right hon. Friend said he thought the time had come when the authority should have a full-time chairman. I do not agree. I do not think there was any time when it was right to have a part-time chairman of the authority. The last Government made a grave mistake in appointing a part-time chairman and thus setting a precedent. This is too big and too dynamic an organisation for that. It is too subject to change and too rapid growth for it to be run properly by a part-time chairman, however distinguished and able he may be.
Considering it as an exercise in management, and making what I hope is a cold assessment, I do not believe that it is conceivable that this could be a part-time job. If the Minister had offered me the job—there was no chance of that, though it would not have been a bad choice on the whole—I should have said to him, first, "I am 10 years too old. I would have thought about it ten years ago" and, second, "Ten years ago I would have considered it only as a full-time job."
§ Mr. Noble
I was contemplating it, but the hon. Gentleman said that it should have been done ten years ago. The position being discussed is that of chairman. I accept that somebody must be full-time. There is a full-time chief executive and there is the post of chairman, and I do not think that they need be combined.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I do not want to go too far into this sensitive area of management technique. There are many organisations and circumstances in which it would be right, there being a full-time executive, to have a part-time chairman and wrong to have a full-time chairman. That would be true in an organisation whose activities do not change very much, except perhaps in volume or in degree but not in kind. It is not true in a new organisation which is in a dynamic situation, where somebody full-time apart from the chief executive is needed.
The chief executive has three phones on his desk and he is dealing with problems that arise today and tomorrow. A full-time chairman is needed to think about problems that may arise in five years' time—problems of the type described by the hon. Member for Epping.
However, there is to be a new chairman. It is to be hoped that he will consider what has gone before and have a greater concentration on good industrial relations in the authority. We shall have to wait until the awful General Aviation Services dispute is out of the way before the chairman can be expected to make a start on that. That matter is in suspense until 1st February while negotiations are conducted with an independent arbitrator appointed by the Department of Employment.
I express my thanks to the Secretary of State for Employment for very helpfully agreeing to appoint such a mediator. When that is all over, the whole business of industrial relations covering all the employers and all the workers at the airport should be considered afresh, from a blank sheet of paper. That should cover the authority as an employer, the British operators as employers, the foreign operators as employers, and all their employees.
The reason why this must be put together is that as it is at the moment it is not the authority but other organisations which carry the can for industrial relations errors by the authority. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley said, this was the case in the General Aviation Services dispute.
If Paddington, Waterloo and Euston railway stations were owned by a person or body other than British Railways and that body became involved in a row with 1039 its porters, with the result that no trains could run from those stations, British Railways would get it in the neck. That is an almost exact parallel of what has happened at London airport, and it is a situation which does not make sense.
There are three separate pieces of negotiation-cum-consultation machinery at the airport. There is the British Airport Authority's own joint council. There is the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport, of which the British operators plus one or two other British employers are members, and they negotiate and consult the employees of the operators. Then there are the foreign operators, who must do their negotiation separately through their own machinery.
The hon. Member for Epping said that it would be too glib and too easy for everything to go into the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport. I agree. Notwithstanding the hon. Gentleman's strictures, the national joint council has a really remarkable record of effective industrial relations. It has its faults and has made its errors, but I do not believe that any piece of industrial relations machinery in Britain, in either the public sector or the private sector, has such a good record.
I know the national joint council fairly well, because I have been a member of it since it was set up about 25 years ago. I think that I am its only surviving founder member. In spite of that, the national joint council has had a very good record and has done some very good work. The present General Air Services interim settlement, including the appointment of the mediator, was not done by the British Airports Authority or its joint council. It was negotiated by the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport, which technically has no locus standi in the matter.
The national joint council has even negotiated the withdrawal of the actions stupidly entered in the courts by the British Airports Authority against half a dozen of its shop stewards. I say "stupidly" because, again, any first-year student of industrial relations could have told the authority that it would never get as much out of a provocative action like that as it would cost it in the long run.
1040 I quote one other short passage from the First Report from the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, which tends strongly to reinforce my argument. Paragraph 100 contains this statement:Your Committee would only note that the Authority's pay awards tend to follow those agreed by the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport for corresponding grades and that the fact that the Authority consult directly only their own employees—one-twentieth of Heathrow's labour force—has on occasion led to difficulty there. The Authority, not being part of the National Joint Council for Civil Air Transport, has no obligation or machinery for consultation with those other airport workers who may, nevertheless, be directly affected by its actions. The Authority has a direct interest in the wellbeing of the airports and those who work there as a whole. Your Committee recommend that the Authority should as a matter of urgency consult with the other employers as to how this difficulty can best be overcome.The logical way of overcoming it is to have one machine covering them all. One could not pick up all the others and stick them into the national joint council as it is at present. We on the council are looking at our own machinery to see whether it cannot be improved. Starting with a blank piece of paper we should aim at a single machine for the whole lot.
§ Mr. Tebbit
Not everyone reaches the same conclusion. Recommendation 13 in Cmnd. 4449 states:We are satisfied that adequate machinery exists for consultation between the British Airports Authority and its employees, and that the Authority is not reluctant to use it. The unions should themselves pursue the matter of consultation with more effort.Recommendation 15 says:On balance, we favour the continuance of the present separate negotiating structure for B.A.A.'s employees.As usual in an industrial situation, there are as many recipes as there are cooks to call in to stir the broth.
§ Mr. Mikardo
Of course there are, and some of the recipes are written with more authority than others. I wish the hon. Gentleman would stop quoting that report as though it were holy writ and the last word in human wisdom. It is true that it was not produced very long ago, but the authority has not been in existence for very long, and the time since the production of the report is a not insignificant fraction of the total lifetime of the authority. Whatever was said in the 1041 report, it did not bring a solution to the G.A.S. problem. The water has been flowing under the bridges, the aircraft have been landing on the runways, ever since that report, and even if it were true at the time it will not go on being true for ever.
As one who has been involved for 25 years, much longer than any of the members of that Committee, I think that a great deal of what they say in the report is a lot of junk. I think that the logical answer is one machine, but I am saying not that it should be accepted but that examination of the matter should be started from a blank sheet of paper. That inquiry did not do that. It took the status quo as read, and examined the matter from there. That is why I think its conclusions are constrictive, inhibiting and unimaginative.
§ Mr. Mason
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for what he is saying, because it emphasises what was partially mentioned in the Robertson conclusions. The hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) should not pick out the conclusions that suit his case. Recommendation 4 says:Urgent consideration should be given to improving the mechanisms of communication and consultation between employers and employees at the airport.Paragraphs 11 and 12 also say refer to these matters. My hon. Friend is pointing out that trying to build on the old, as Robertson suggested, is not sufficient.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. The point is that the matter should be looked at from scratch. We have three separate pieces of machinery. Some trade unions are involved in all three while some are involved in one or two and not the others. The union of the hon. Member for Epping is involved in two, and so is mine. There is a great deal of interlocking.
On both sides, amongst the employers and airline operators and amongst the unions, there is a great deal of good will which could be brought to bear to find a better way to deal with the problem. There is a great deal of expertise. There are many people who would be glad to help. All hon. Members want to see an effective and prosperous civil aviation in- 1042 dustry in Great Britain, using airports that are run efficiently and are "happy ships". That has not been 100 per cent. the case up to now. We want to improve the position. I believe that a real change of attitude within the B.A.A., which may well come with the new chairman, and a change of machinery might lead us a long way towards that, and create a situation in which the new facilities to he provided with the money that the Bill will permit the authority to borrow will he used in the most effective way for the benefit of all users of civil aviation and all taxpayers as well.
§ 1.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)
Although I cannot say whether the remaks of the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) about the Beagle Aircraft Co. Pension fund were correct, I should like to place on record my own high esteem for Mr. Peter Masefield and what he has done for the British Airports Authority. If I had run such an authority with as much success in profit terms as Mr. Masefield has had, I should have thought that I had not done a bad job. I wish him well in his retirement and hope that some other means may be found to employ his many outstanding talents.
I do not want to involve myself in the financial affairs of the authority, except to say that, having been originally lent £70 million, out of which it had to spend £53 million on the assets it took over, it has administered the remaining £17 million with great success. Its trading profit ever since it was set up, and the fact that it can now state that its assets are £74.7 million and can show a return year by year of about 12 per cent. on the money borrowed, constitute a remarkable record for which it deserves our congratulation.
However, it is clear that if air traffic expands at the great speed at which it has been expanding in past years the authority will need to spend large sums of money to improve its airports, and it is conceivable that it will be asked to be responsible for more as it proves its worth. I have always thought that the name "British Airports Authority", if it is to mean anything, must in the end mean that the authority is responsible not just for the airports in the London area, 1043 as was originally the case, but—the taking-over of Edinburgh airport perhaps shows the right approach—should become a "British Airport Authority" in the true sense of that title.
§ Mr. Rankin
I think the hon. Gentleman will find that Prestwick has also been taken over. Does he realise that that places Glasgow in deadly danger?
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
Whilst I am grateful for that intervention, I do not think I should go too far into the problems of Scottish airports, both because I am not a Scottish Member and because those airports perhaps have special problems; but I take the hon. Gentleman's point.
As I think we are all aware, a new generation of airliners is coming, and they will have special requirements in terms of passenger and cargo handling and so on. There will be the DC10 and Lockheed 1011 airbuses. The jumbo jets are already with us, and there is now talk of a giant jumbo, an 800-seater aircraft. The need to handle large numbers of passengers from these aircraft will stretch all the passenger-handling facilities at our major international airports. Therefore, the ability given by the Bill to the authority to spend more on improving its terminal facilities is right and badly needed.
At Gatwick the B.A.A. has in hand a 3–4-year programme to double the size of the terminal and provide better passenger-handling facilities, including separating the incoming from the departing passengers, which seems right.
The authority is rebuilding Edinburgh airport, and says that the work will be finished in 1975. Those who have been to that airport will agree that it has not been one of the brightest jewels in this country's airports crown.
§ Mr. Rankin
In view of what the hon. Gentleman has just said about Edinburgh, may I remind him that Glasgow has just completed the rebuilding and renewing of a great part of Abbotsinch airport.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
Again I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. My father was born in Glasgow, and I have a soft spot for that great city. I am 1044 delighted to hear that its facilities have been improved.
But in my speech I want to concentrate on London Heathrow, because that airport is without any question the No. 1 airport of Great Britain, and now ranks as the third largest port in the United Kingdom. It is surely remarkable that an airport can have grown to a size where it stands comparison with London and Liverpool. It handles 16 million passengers a year, and the estimate is that by 1975 it will be handling 23½, million passengers a year. In other words, in three years there will be an expansion in passenger terms of 7½ million, which by any standards is enormous. It is expected that by 1980 Heathrow will handle 30 million passengers. and I repeat the point that these passenger expansions will stretch the present facilities to a great extent.
Clearly, more money will have to be spent not only on passenger-handling facilities but on the aprons on which air-craft stand, on the loading and unloading piers to which aircraft are brought, and on the baggage and cargo handling facilities. I understand that the authority is considering the possibility of a new terminal building at that part of the airport which is called Perry Oaks, which is to the west of the existing airport.
If we have a superb airport, if we have the right facilities to handle modern aircraft, if we think we can handle 23 million or 30 million people through that airport, that is in itself not enough. It is not enough to bring people to our country. We must have the ability to get them from that airport to wherever they wish to go in the United Kingdom. Whenever I have talked to the authority it has made the point that by its estimation 70 per cent. of the people fly into London airport go into London and stay there while they are in this country. Therefore, the access between London airport and London is almost as important as the passenger facilities at the airport itself.
I am aware of the improvements that have been made to the road access—the M4, the tunnel, and so on. I am also aware of the tube link that is to come out from Hounslow. But I cannot help wondering whether those two access routes will be sufficient to meet this enormous expansion in passengers. If we are talking in terms of access, we cannot 1045 think just of passengers. We must think also of baggage and cargo, because cargo is becoming another important part of airline operation.
Without pressing the point too far, I remind my hon. Friend that the M4 is already a fairly congested motorway, certainly in the morning and evening, and I hope he will not close his mind to the suggestion of a British Railways link, which, for the moment at least, appears to have been shelved. I hope that he will bear that possibility in mind so that that we shall not always have to say, and perhaps say with more feeling than we do now, that the longest part of our air journey was the journey from London to London airport.
Having made that point, I now turn to the ban rightly imposed by my right hon. Friend on night flying at London airport. I am certain that all those living around Heathrow and under the flight paths into the airport must have welcomed that announcement with an enormous sense of relief. It so happens that the Question was in my name, and, therefore, I was particularly pleased to get the answer that I did, because last year I tried to introduce a noise abatement Bill. I have always felt that this problem of noise cannot receive too much priority.
A night flying ban is right with the present state of aircraft engines and the noise they emit. If I welcome the relief that the ban will give, simply because it is being proved by doctors and scientists that noise can cause real physical damage, mental stress, and all sorts of other irritations, and, clearly, the loss of a night's sleep is a serious form of irritation and reduces the ability of a person to do his job, I must go on to say that we must appreciate that the ban will impose a cost upon the authority because of the business that it will not now get.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
Yes. It will also mean that more traffic will come in during daylight hours and there will therefore, be an imbalance in the way the airport is used. There will be a greater throughput of passengers and cargo during daylight hours but I suspect the authority will wonder how it can ever recoup the money it will lose during the hours of uselessness at the airport.
§ Mr. Tebbit
Would not my hon. Friend agree that, rather than having a night ban, noise limits should be set which, even if they are unattainable now, would be the mark for which the manufacturer and operator should strive? Unless there is a good market for it, the quiet aeroplane will be slower in coming, to us.
§ Mr, Rankin
One has to be careful when talking about a night ban, bearing in mind especially the fact that night starts at about four o'clock in the afternoon. To impose a ban from that hour would be a deadly interference with the trade of the airport.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
Once again I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.
However, I come back to the question of the ban on night flying and take up the point to which my hon. Friend has brought me, and that is the whole question of the new generation of quieter aircraft which are now being introduced. They are flying in America, and we shall probably see them flying into this country in 1974. These aircraft—mainly the air buses but some would say the jumbos, too—have a measure of quiteness that is welcome. The air buses, the D.C.10, the TriStar and the A.300 will have built in the quality of quiteness. This is a quality which has suddenly become appreciated by the aero-engine industry. It is a quality which only five years ago no one seemed particularly interested, and it will be a boon not only to people on the ground but to those who fly. That is a double bonus, though I submit that it is also a necessity if we are to have a growth in air traffic without imposing an enormous strain upon people living near airports.
I believe that it is the responsibility of the authority, supported by the Government, to ensure that the question of noise and noise levels receives priority whenever the concept of operating an airport is under discussion, and I should wish to see these new generation aircraft coming into service rather more quickly than has been envisaged because of the intrinsic merits which they bring with them.
1047 The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) said that, leaving aside the air buses with their inherent quietness, we should think about landing charges, which should be higher for aircraft that made more noise. There is something to be said for his suggestion, but I want to advance the possibility that there should be simply a noise tax levied at airports on aircraft. That noise tax would be based on an optimum general noise level agreed by the British Airports Authority as being reasonable in terms of the aircraft likely to come into an airport. I have Heathrow in the forefront of my mind.
That general noise level having been imposed, all airliners would be certificated, through the Air Registration Board, as able to achieve a particular noise level. If the noise level were greater than the optimum general noise level imposed by the authority, the operators would pay a noise tax, and that tax would increase by the number of decibels over the optimum level which an aircraft made.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)
Would not the effect of that be that foreign aircraft coming to this country would tend to go to other airports, such as Paris, rather than pay additional dues? Would not this proposal need international agreement?
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
My hon. Friend is arguing against himself, because if aircraft come to this country, they cannot go to Paris.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I take the opposite view. The hon. Gentleman's suggestion is interesting and the arithmetic should be examined, but I foresee two difficulties. One is that the charges for landing at an airport, high as they may be, are such a small part of the total cost of an aircraft's journey that increasing them, contrary to what the hon. Gentleman says, does not act as a deterent. The B.A.A. has used lower charges at one airport and higher charges at another in an attempt to move the traffic, but it has not worked.
Secondly, however much is charged in tax, it will not be as much as the opera- 1048 tors will save by having noisy aircraft. The danger would be that the operator would believe that having paid his tax, he therefore had a licence to be as noisy as he liked, and the operators would save money that way.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
That is a powerful intervention, and I listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman said. If I try to make my speech allowing for his intervention, I shall probably end up by talking nonsense. However, I am extremely grateful to him. I shall think again about this matter, and I should like to say how greatly I appreciated what he said.
However, I believe that such a tax would have three material advantages. First, if the tax were great enough—and to some extent this answers the objection—operators who were flying old and noisy aircraft would get rid of them more quickly than they had intended, because if they knew they had to pay a tax to operate them they might as well buy new aircraft even if they bought them sooner than they intended.
Secondly, the operators would seek ways in which to silence the engines of current aircraft. I will return to that point in a moment.
The third possibility is that the tax could be so high at a certain place that aircraft would be diverted to other airports, as my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn) suggested. That would be no loss, for we want such aircraft out of London. I suspect that if the operators concerned wanted to operate into London, they would wonder whether they had the right fleet to do so and might be persuaded to get rid of their current aeroplanes and operate quieter aircraft.
I know that it is far too easy to stand here and ask why every operator does not retro-fit his aircraft with quieter engines or put hush kits in engines, even though hush kits cost about £250,000 a time. Having said that, I am not entirely satisfied that we should turn our backs on the possibility of quietening existing generations of aero-engines.
I recently visited Short Bros. and Harland in Belfast which has been making the pods for the RB211 engines for the Lockheed TriStar. One part of the requirement for building that pod was that 1049 it should be made as part of the silencing equipment for that engine, which everybody acknowledges to be probably the quietest aero-engine of its size in the world today. Indeed, listening to that aircraft both in America and at the Paris Air Show I was tremendously impressed by the low noise levels which it has reached. I asked the Belfast firm whether what had been done for the RB211 could be done for existing jet aero-engines, and it categorically said that it believed that considerable silencing could be achieved with the present generation of jet engines.
I ask my right hon. Friend to bear that in mind and to see whether further emphasis can be placed on the need for airline operators to silence contemporary jet engines and to buy the quieter aircraft that everyone in the industry throughout the world wants to sell and which are wanted especially by the people who live in the area of airports. Rolls-Royce genuinely believes that it may be able to silence the ubiquitous Spey engine, and if so that would have considerable advantage.
But if silencing is one part of dealing with the contemporary noise levels, more is needed in terms of noise monitoring. I do not believe that there are enough noise monitoring teams at London airport to allow airlines to be told, "This will not do". I understand that one of the reasons why no penalties are imposed is that if penalties are attempted, an airline would almost certainly ask, "Why are you hitting me when you know perfectly well that X, Y and Z are also coming in with noisy aircraft? You do not have enough units to catch them, so why penalise us?" I may be wrong, but I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would deal with that aspect, because it is important. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) that financial penalties should now be imposed on anybody breaking even the present reasonable noise limits in operation at London airport.
The great objection to bringing a third London airport close to London was that aircraft noise was unacceptable in a great conurbation and that we did not want aircraft any nearer than we could help. So the airport was pushed out to Foulness. If we can now achieve a rapid transition from noisy aircraft to quiet aircraft, or if we can silence exist- 1050 ing aircraft or divert noisy aircraft from London, the argument for having the third London airport outside London begins to fade. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the new generation of quiet aircraft immediately makes the possibility of a second runway at Gatwick a reality. The people who live around Gatwick will not care whether there is a second or even a third runway if they are not bothered by noise. All that will matter then will be what can be put into the area of the airfield.
A generation of quiet aircraft, possibly including restricted take-off and landing, or short take-off and landing types would make the possibility of a short take-off and landing runway at London airport north of the Bath Road a possibility. Quiet aircraft would mean that restrictions on night flights would not be needed.
This bonus of quietness could transform the way in which we use our airports, and it could transform their financial viability. It could result in the lifting of all restrictions that have to be imposed because of noise. It could also meet the point which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit), who was a pilot in B.O.A.C., when he said that safety must be the first consideration of a pilot. Those of us who have flown in aircraft would like to think that the pilot has that uppermost in his mind. He must feel that he can use such power as he requires to land or take off safely. He must also know that, because he needs to use the power, he is not blasting people out of their beds or imposing an unbearable noise burden upon them.
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ Mr. E. S. Bishop (Newark)
I agree with many of the comments made by hon. Members on both sides of the House, particularly those of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), whose speech on occasion was interrupted by the speeches of other hon. Members.
A great deal of sense has been talked by hon. Members. I do not want to go over the points which have already been made, especially on the human relations side, referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) and others, and the comments about noise, 1051 which is a most important aspect. The success of any venture depends on human relations and on the facilities given to the public. Even the discussion on the price of coffee and sandwiches is relevant. However, I want to change the discussion to another plane.
The hon. Member for Walhamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) made some very important points regarding access to the country. He said that it just was not good enough to get people to this country; we must make sure that there are adequate travel facilities for them to get to the areas which they wish to visit.
When I go abroad members of other Parliaments sometimes ask what area of the country I represent. I invariably say that I am the Member for Sherwood Forest, because much of Sherwood Forest is in my constituency and most people in the world have heard of Robin Hood, whose example I try to follow in this House in trying to take from the rich to give to the poor. Anyone who seeks to do that these days has plenty of scope with the present Government in power.
I will not pursue that matter further except to say that the anxieties expressed by hon. Members today, in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones), about the problem of access from our areas to London and to other parts of the country where people can travel to and from the Continent and further afield are relevant to this kind of debate when we are discussing airports, the location of facilities and so on.
In the East Midlands we have, for example, the airport at Castle Donnington. However, if people want to see some of the Peak District of Derbyshire, parts of Nottinghamshire and other historic areas which we would like to introduce to them, there are problems of access. Although people can travel to the Continent in half an hour or even less these days, they have to spend many hours getting to and from airports. This is a great difficulty and makes the competitiveness of British Rail and other means of transport very realistic.
In some ways it is opportune that we should have this debate today, only two days after the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill in which I introduced the subject of the future of the aerospace in- 1052 dustry which finished at about one o'clock yesterday morning. It was probably one of the longest debates of the night and I may have made one of the longest speeches. I must try to make up for it now. I would hope that this kind of debate could be held on another day because it is difficult to do it justice on a Friday. I do not think that we can discuss this matter without trying to fit it into the future of the aerospace industry which was and is relevant today.
We should underline again today the need for a comprehensive plan for aerospace for the types of aircraft which we possess, because the way that they will he used also dictates the kind of airports we shall need and where they shall be sited in the next two or three decades. In the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill I did not ask for a complete blueprint of our aerospace industry for the future. I do not ask for that today about our airports. The Government would do well, however, to assure the House that they are thinking seriously and deeply about the changing pattern of air travel and the demands and services which will be made and needed in the next couple of decades at least. I am not suggesting that a great deal of work has not gone on behind the scenes. There is the work of the National Air Traffic Control Services Department of the Board of Trade and many other bodies—manufacturers, the B.A.A. and others—have carried out surveys and market research.
Many aspects need to be taken into account, not least noise. We must start at the beginning and try a bit of prevention. My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar spoke about the need not only to put fires out but to prevent them starting. Also, as the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) said, safety is all-important and must come before noise in order of priority.
I have pointed out on several occasions that the Government should indicate what they are doing to enable and encourage manufacturers to carry out more research into the problem of noise. I hope that financially and with the use of technical facilities the Government are pressing on with that matter. As was mentioned by the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East, with the TriStar and the 1053 RB211 we have something which gives greater encouragement to hope that manufacturers have made a start.
There are problems about trying to impose penalties at a later stage upon those who buy the aircraft they have to buy, the way they operate, and so on, and on aerodrome owners who may be penalised if noise is excessive. I took part in the proceedings in Standing Committee on the Civil Aviation Bill this year. I know that there are Sections in the Act, to which I made reference recently in a debate on a noise order, which give the Board of Trade power to take action, but this is not good enough. We must start at the beginning by impressing upon manufacturers the urgency of getting rid of noise as much as possible. I have previously made the point that noisy noise should not be allowed. This is better achieved by prevention than by cure afterwards.
I made a strong plea in my speech during the debate on the future of the aerospace industry on Wednesday that there was need for comprehensive planning to begin at once and for the Government to have some idea of the air transport needs of the next 20 to 30 years, not because we need to know what rôle air transport is to play in relation to the increasing congestion of road transport, how it will compete with the exciting and speedy development now taking place within British Rail and road transport, the building of a Channel tunnel or the development of V/STOL, but because immense sums are involved in the design and manufacture of aircraft and in the expensive ancillary services which must be taken into account. If this debate had taken place on another day of the week undoubtedly many more hon. Members would have been present to take part and to impress upon us the importance of all these aspects.
The number, location and planning of airports depend not only on the kind of aircraft we want to use but on the loads they will carry. For many years airports have been concerned mainly with the safe take-off and landing of aircraft, but that is no longer the whole story.
The development of airports over the years has involved the provision of ever-longer runways. They have grown in length and strength, from 3,000 ft. to 1054 14,000 ft. We now need to examine the requirements of the present and likely wide-bodied aircraft such as the jumbo and supersonic transport.
There have been in the design of aircraft—and I speak as a former member of a civil airports authority in Bristol—changing routines for the unloading and loading of freight and passengers. The ratio between the area occupied by passengers and airframe has improved and this improvement has gone on with developments since the DC3 to the Boeing 707 era and on to the Concorde.
This brings me to the subject of V/STOL design. Britain leads the world with the Harrier and the technical developments of this aircraft should be used as part of the further developments that are being considered by manufacturers. However, the work of manufacturers is only one part of the story and I ask the Minister to enlighten us on the planning and design arrangements that exist between his Department and local authorities on both sides of the Channel.
We should be thinking in terms of the provision of facilities for vertical and short take-off and landing aircraft and aircraft of the future that will adopt other techniques. In other words, we need to provide a comprehensive network involving provincial cities so that areas of beauty, such as the Peak District and other conservation and National Trust areas, are easier for people to visit, not only visitors but residents.
A number of statements have been made by the British Airports Authority and other bodies on this subject. I do not believe that there is much likelihood of our getting short take-off and landing, much less V/STOL, until about 1985, but a lot of work must be done before those developments are introduced.
It is vital that the proper liaison exists between the authorities concerned. Air safety procedures and general regulations must be considered. We have no time to lose because the threat of competition against the aerospace industry is very real indeed. At present this competition is coming mainly from rail travel. Road travel seems to be getting slower with the passage of years, with increasing congestion. On the other hand, the slowing down of road travel could help to make air travel even more popular.
1055 These issues affect not only the pattern of airports but their facilities. Consider, for example, the time it takes to get to airports. When one bears in mind the time it takes to get by, say, train to Heathrow or Gatwick, locating one's flight, waiting for take-off and so on—with the same expenditure of time at the other end—one sees that the development of vertical take-off and landing aircraft could be a great boon. The time-scale could be considerably reduced by establishing airports in more accessible areas. In my opinion this must be the pattern for the future.
Not only is this research urgent in connection with the potential of V/STOL aircraft, but in view of our having embarked on the Foulness airport, which will not be ready until the 'eighties, we might avoid having to lay many miles of concrete which will not be necessary when other developments in air transport come along.
We spent many hours earlier in the year debating the Civil Aviation Act, which envisages the transfer of substantial amounts of property from the Department of Trade and Industry and other Ministries to the new Civil Aviation Authority. I understand that if my hon. Friend the Member for Govan has an opportunity to take part in the debate, he will be particularly concerned with this aspect in view of the number of Scottish aerodromes that are liable to be so transferred.
During our debates on the Civil Aviation Act we heard that the present navigation services were costing about £27 million a year. I understand that that sum includes both operating expenditure and depreciation. Some air navigation services which are at present covered by the Departments concerned will be transferred to the Civil Aviation Authority. As the charges for those services will also be transferred, I would like to know whether this shuffling of financial responsibility on to the C.A.A. will mean local airport authorities having to pay higher costs. As this seems obviously the case, these additional costs will undoubtedly be passed on to the airlines and from them to the passengers.
This rather sly way of transferring liabilities from the Department of Trade and Industry and other Departments, including the Ministry of Defence, will en- 1056 able the Government to save on taxation but will undoubtedly mean higher charges to passengers. May we have an indication of Government thinking on this? By how much do they envisage that fares and freight charges will go up?
I understand that Government property, being Crown property, does not pay rates although there is a contribution in lieu. When such properties are transferred to the C.A.A., which will be a commercial undertaking, this advantage will not apply. This, too, is bound to lead to increased passenger charges.
May we be given an idea of Government thinking in relation to aerospace policy? In October my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) sought information about the Marshall Committee, which I understand is an internal body looking into certain matters for the Department. When I tried to get some information on this subject yesterday I was told that the Government did not wish to give very much information out about this committee. I could not be told its terms of reference and what it was doing. Unless we know more about this body—and I see no reason for secrecy in this matter—and about Government thinking on aerospace policy, we are bound to be in difficulty in discussing this subject.
Finally, what liaison is there with Europe in anticipation of our joining the European Economic Community and how is it liable to affect British airport policy?
The questions I have raised and those raised by other hon. Members are important. The Minister might do well to give us more information on the few occasions that we have the opportunity of taking a comprehensive look at aerospace policy and airports policy. None of the questions I have put today has been rigged at the initiative of the Minister. We often give him the chance, by means of friendly and helpful questions, to vindicate the Government, and they need all the opportunities they can get on that score. I hope that we shall have a useful and constructive reply to the debate.
§ 1.50 p.m.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)
I hope that the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) will forgive me if I do not take up his points, because I imagine that the inhabitants of Robin Hood's land are not 1057 so troubled by aircraft as my constituents. Like the people in the constituency of the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr), my constituents are worried, in particular, by the noise at Heathrow. It is no exaggeration to say that about 2 million people are directly affected by it. In addition, a very large number of people who work at Heathrow live in my constituency. But not only the people in the area of Windsor but people in the rural areas are becoming affected by aircraft noise. If one lives in a lovely country area, it is no compensation to have to have double glazing installed and the windows closed all the time.
I wish to put on record the appreciation of my constituents for the sympathetic way in which the Minister has dealt with the question of night flights. It is a tribute to him that he has listened to the representations of every hon. Member who has approached him. He has discussed the problem with my colleagues and myself, and we are very much indebted to him.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) mentioned the question of monitoring. Rightly or wrongly, there is a theory that pilots know in advance exactly where the monitoring stations are sited, even though they may be mobile. I do not know whether that is true, but perhaps the Minister will look into this matter. If we are to have a monitoring system, it is essential that it is adequate. It is difficult to achieve a wide coverage, but if such a system is to be effective it must have a wide spread in order to catch the person who is infringing. Recently I flew over my constituency at a height of about 2,000 feet and I had a long talk with the pilot about the noise problem. He gave me a perfectly reasonable explanation for it and I accepted it. However, such noise is almost unbearable.
I turn to a small but very important point, namely, the question of General Aviation Services. The hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) made one or two very cogent points. He pointed out that it is the public who are suffering. He said that this was a sensitive area, and also that the Robertson Report made a technical defence. Far more important was the point made by the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), who 1058 referred to paragraphs 4, 11 and 12 of the Robertson Report. Whoever is at fault, the Minister must consider whether, in view of the very large number of unions involved and the highly complex structure, he and his colleagues in the Department of Employment should get together to see whether a better management relationship can be created in this technical and extremely difficult field.
Mention has been made of the new runway for the jumbo jet. I should like to know, as a matter of information, how great will be the increase in noise when it is completed.
Reference has been made to the question of improvements at the terminal. When passengers arrive or embark at London airport, they often have an extremely long walk to get from or to the aeroplanes. In Paris there is a moving platform which obviates this difficulty. The situation at London airport is particularly annoying, not so much for invalids, for whom special facilities are available, but for elderly people, who find the walk very tedious.
How does my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State envisage the new extension of the Piccadilly Line working when it is completed? Will there be separate carriages? Will there be non-stop trains? Most passengers take baggage up to the weight limit. What facilities will be available when the new extension is open to help passengers get their baggage to the street? This is a practical problem. Will there be special luggage vans on the trains? It would be as well if we thought about these matters well in advance. Presumably the new extension will operate in conjunction with the normal services on the Piccadilly Line, which are already congested. The idea of the extension is very good and I support it, but there are a number of practical points which have to be considered well in advance.
Is there any possibility at this juncture of constructing a monorail? If a monorail were built above the M4, it would be possible to bring passengers directly into London. I made this suggestion in connection with Foulness and it was not all that badly received by the Government. We must look a very long way ahead. I have my doubts about whether we shall have quieter aircraft in the immediate future. Whether the suggestion about taxes on aircraft noise are practical 1059 and whether we as a country can implement it without international agreement I do not know. As I indicated in an intervention, if the sanctions were heavy, as they would have to be to be effective, many operators might decide not to land their aircraft at London. Although we want quiet aircraft, we do not want to drive international traffic away from this country to, say, Paris or Brussels, with the result that we would never get it back. This point must be carefully considered.
I welcome the Foulness project because I hope that it will alleviate some of the annoyance we are suffering and are likely to suffer in the next five or seven years before developments like vertical take-off and quieter aircraft are in operation, not only by ourselves but by other countries. Anything that the Government can do to alleviate the hardship suffered by people in the area will be much appreciated.
§ 2.0 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
I, too, would like to take this opportunity of joining in the tributes which have been paid today to Peter Masefield. I have known him from the first time I ventured into anything associated with aviation and from that moment, which almost coincided with my first appearance in this House, we have been friends and that friendship will continue. I missed the parting ceremony for him, but he and I are arranging for a private one which, I am sure, will he as good as that enjoyed by the larger crowd who said farewell to him just before Christmas.
I was interested in what the hon. Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn) said about the monorail. For a long while that fascinated us in dealing with the problem of transferring the crowds from central London to the London airports. The information which was given to me in my search for information about it received very careful consideration from the Government of the day. At that time it was hot news. One gentleman, now in charge of fares at Glasgow airport, was able to tell me a great deal more than published reports were able to do. It was said that a venture into the London streets was just not feasible and that was the sole reason for not proceeding with that form of transport.
§ Dr. Glyn
I am most interested in this because I think that the hon. Member has really hit on the point. The difficulty, presumably, is not along the stretch of M4. The difficulty would be at the last section, immediately leading to the terminal. Presumably we could get over that by terminating the monorail before it reaches the terminal.
§ Mr. Rankin
I am not going to pursue that topic much further today but propose rather to think of those things which press upon us at this moment as a result of the wonderful change in the type of aircraft and in the expansion of the service which the aircraft gives us. There have been these changes and developments during the time of my membership of this House. I recollect that when I started travelling up and down to London, to and from Scotland, it was not possible to get six people into the aircraft five was the maximum. The time spent in the aircraft was not in the least fascinating because we had always after leaving Glasgow, to come down at Liverpool to give the aircraft more nourishment. So our journey was in two parts, Glasgow to Liverpool, where we refuelled, and then on to London, with the result that a large part of a day was consumed in getting here. Yet we thought it was well worth it.
It was fascinating to be carried even at the height which a D.H. Rapide could reach. It was wonderful to travel at that height as compared with travelling on what, to us, had become the slow express train from Glasgow to London. Moreover, we were flying at 90 miles an hour, not 600 miles an hour as now we do, taking a single hour to make the flight.
I mention that because such amazing progress is something for which we should say "Thank you". How much more can we hope for? Can we reduce that flying time and increase the speed of the aircraft? Can we raise the speed of the aircraft to 800 or 900 miles an hour? Could we do so in a service which was really just a local service? What type of aircraft would we need for that speed? Could we afford that type of aircraft?
On the international routes, of course, there are greater speeds than those at which we travel between Glasgow and London; but they are feasible because 1061 the distances are much greater and greater crowds can be carried and higher fares charged.
More people are willing to pay higher fares without a murmur. Every weekday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, a full load of passengers leaves London airport for Glasgow and travels up there inside one hour, in a packed machine, whether at 4 o'clock, 5 o'clock, 6 o'clock 7.30, or 9 o'clock at night. That is the weight of this traffic, and it is equalled by the weight of the traffic coming down from Glasgow. When we compare that traffic with that which was flying in 1947 when I started, we have to pay tribute not only to those who direct it but to the men who fly the aircraft for the manner in which they fly—and safety they have always made their first requisite in flight.
All during these years those aircraft have made noise and all during those years the public have protested about that noise made by them. Yet crowds of people use them, and bigger crowds use them; despite the protests and despite the noise the number of air passengers has gone on growing. People have come here, to the House, to meet me and the committee over which I presided, to protest about the noise at London Airport. That was after we moved from Croydon, Croydon was once our port of call, before we moved to Heathrow. Yet, as I say, despite the protests which have gone on growing about the noise, more and more people are using the aircraft, and more and more people are using them even although fares also have increased. More people go to see the aircraft and to watch them at the airports. Yes, of course, and those crowds are bigger now than they ever were at any time in my flying life.
The number of persons who come to the House to complain has greatly diminished. The amount of protest has decreased. It may be that people are getting used to noise and it is being accepted, but my answer is different. The complaints are decreasing because they are getting more attention from those who produce the aircraft. Noise has become an important issue, and every possible attempt to reduce it is being made at the scientific and practical levels. The result is quieter aircraft, larger aircraft and demonstrably speedier aircraft. So 1062 the aircraft as a method of transporting people is more widely used than ever and, of course, produces more problems. The problems are being met, but certain unhappy tendencies are appearing.
Prestwick, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports have been mentioned. Prestwick is not making as much profit as many people hoped, and the same applies to Edinburgh. So the British Airports Authority is now taking over Prestwick and Edinburgh airports, and Glasgow is to remain alone, carrying passengers between Glasgow, London and other places. I have no objection to that, but Edinburgh and Prestwick are to be kept going by financial support from the Government. If financial aid is to be given to Edinburgh and Prestwick, as it will be, Glasgow must not be left out in the cold.
Thousands of people belonging to Glasgow who have given loyal support to aviation in that city are worrying. Is Glasgow to be the only municipal airport operating on the Glasgow/London route against two other Scottish airports sustained by Government money for which Glasgow citizens are taxed and from which Glasgow citizens will get no benefit?
Preparations are being made. A great new motorway has been completed between Edinburgh and Glasgow. A motorway has long existed between Prestwick and Glasgow. They are the avenues which will carry the fast traffic bearing to Glasgow passengers who have travelled from London to Edinburgh or Prestwick. Edinburgh and Glasgow are just about the same distance apart as London is from London airport, so that time will not be a factor. It used to be a factor; the journey to the terminal was too long, and that prohibited expansion.
I hope the Minister will not ignore this. I hope he will see that the Secretary of State for Scotland is duly informed of what has been said and done and that the Scottish Minister responsible will not act unfairly against one of the three major Scottish airports. Give us equality of treatment.
If preferences are to be given to Prestwick and Edinburgh, these must be equated by aid to Glasgow. A development which was begun more than four years ago and is now almost finished has upset the traffic flow in Glasgow, and 1063 Glasgow has had to face most of the cost although her passenger and cargo trade has been interrupted. So she has lost from this new development. Can we have an assurance that she will not be punished further by the Government sustaining the two other airports which will be competing with her while Glasgow is left out in the cold?
I am glad to see the Under-Secretary nodding his head more vigorously now than when I began to raise these points. I hope that I have a friend at court and that we shall get a fair deal from a fair-minded Minister.
§ Mr. Rankin
I can go as far as I like. I am on my feet and I am talking on behalf of Glasgow airport, which I have always talked about ever since we flew from Glasgow in the D.H. Rapide. My hon. Friend did not hear that part of my speech. Now we are up in the clouds flying at 600 miles an hour, and not at 90. Glasgow is a great airport and serves a great city the trading needs of which must be met.
I leave the matter there. I know the House has been patient with me, but I know that we all have the weekend to rest up a little. I leave the matter in the hands of the Government and I hope that the result will be profitable for the City of Glasgow.
§ 2.20 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Anthony Grant)
I assure the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) that I was paying the closest attention to what he said. If I became a little rigid in the last few moments of his speech, I was fearful lest every time I nodded I would be taken by the hon. Gentleman to have made an enormous commitment. As a matter of courtesy, I shall answer the hon. Gentleman's points first.
Of course we understand the problems in Scotland and the long history of rivalry between Glasgow and Prestwick, but it is Government policy that Prestwick shall be developed as an intercontinental airport while Glasgow shall be developed for medium and short-haul traffic. I know that Glasgow fears that if the British Airports Authority planning 1064 application to develop Edinburgh were to succeed, Glasgow would be subject to appreciably greater competition even in its medium and short-term rôle. I assure the hon. Gentleman that that is not the intention.
The purpose of the B.A.A. application is to improve the reliability of air services using Turnhouse and the facilities for passengers in the expectation that the economy of the area will be assisted. Nor in practice is Edinburgh likely to poach Glasgow's traffic, save perhaps at the margin. Glasgow by virtue of the greater population, industry and commerce in its catchment area, the shorter surface journey for bulk traffic and its better spread and frequency of service, would be able to hold its own.
As to the point about which the hon. Gentleman particularly asked me, yes, we will look carefully at the situation. I will see that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is fully aware of what the hon. Gentleman said. I assure him that he made his point vigorously and that it is not entirely outside our knowledge.
This has been a wide-ranging debate, possibly a little wider ranging in many respects than the rather limited objective of the Bill, which is for the simple purpose of extending the B.A.A.'s borrowing powers and to give it power to borrow overseas. Nevertheless I do not regret that the debate has been wide-ranging because it is fair to say that every speech made on both sides has contributed something to the thinking on civil aviation and has been helpful and will be carefully considered, not least by the B.A.A.
Unfortunately, because of another engagement, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade cannot be here and I understand the reason why the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) has had to leave.
I was pleased to hear the tributes paid in this debate to Mr. Masefield, tributes which were well justified. I was also pleased to hear the kind remarks about Mr. Foulkes, the incoming chairman. Mr. Foulkes is a man of great experience and with all the qualities that he requires for this particular rôle, particularly that of management. I know he will be fortified by the expression of good will which we heard this afternoon.
1065 This enables me to touch on a rather more controversial point raised by the right hon. Member for Barnsley and other hon. Members about the part-time chairmanship of Mr. Foulkes, about which hon. Members are anxious. The possibility of having a full-time chairman was not overlooked but was, on the contrary, carefully considered. However, we found no evidence whatever from the past record of the B.A.A. that a full-time chairman is required in what, after all, is a relatively small nationalised industry. The part-time chairman, Mr. Foulkes—like Mr. Masefield before him—is supported by a strong board which, in line with the Select Committee's views, contains four members, including the chief executive, who are all full-time executive members of the B.A.A. We believe that it is sensible and likely to lead to greater harmony in the operation of B.A.A. for the chairman to be part-time so that he will be able to look at the broader picture. That was the thinking behind it.
§ Mr. Bishop
Even if the idea of a part-time chairman is accepted, there is surely a difference when the two chairmen between them share 33 directorships. I am wondering whether they will be unloading some of their other responsibilities so that the part-time job will not be such a small part of their working week as would appear possible.
§ Mr. Grant
I understand the anxiety in this respect but I am satisfied that the responsible and distinguished men who undertake these tasks on a part-time basis are fully aware of their responsibility. This applies to the present appointment as much as to any. Certainly I believe Mr. Foulkes will be an excellent chairman and will bring the great qualities of management, which he acquired in an outside capacity, to bear on the duties he has to fulfil. This leads me to the second major point made by the right hon. Member for Barnsley.
§ Mr. Onslow
Before my hon. Friend leaves that point, would he comment on the characteristically unpleasant and ungenerous comment by the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) about Mr. Masefield and the hon. Gentleman's reference to the Beagle pension fund? My hon. Friend will know that this matter was fully examined by the Public 1066 Accounts Committee and, although there were many elements of the Beagle operation which were not to the credit of the previous Government, that particular allegation was one in which no substance of truth could be found.
§ Mr. Mikardo
It would be wrong to use interventions in the Minister's speech to pursue this argument with the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow). However, may I say that I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman said because on behalf of my union I negotiated the payment of Government money to replace money which had disappeared from the pension trust fund.
§ Mr. Grant
I do not think it is worthwhile pursuing the point any further. The minutes of evidence make what my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) said quite clear. However, I do not think that this matter is relevant to our consideration of the Bill.
I move on to deal with industrial relations, which was the point raised by the right hon. Member for Barnsley. Of course, good industrial relations are vital, and it is true that the authority has not had an ideal, or the happiest, history in this respect. Nevertheless it is important to get these matters in perspective. The number of strikes by authority employees over five years has been relatively small. The majority of employees concerned are airline employees and not employees of the authority. That should be said to keep in perspective the existing state of industrial relations in the authority.
The right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) urged the appointment of an industrial relations officer. This is not a procedure which we should adopt lightly. It is a matter primarily for the authority itself, and I am sure that it will take note of what has been said. Certainly the Government arc prepared to discuss the possibility with the authority. However, it should be considered in the context of the fact that the record of the authority in relation to its own employees is not as 1067 bad as some hon. Members have sought to suggest.
I come now to the G.A.S. case. The strike was stopped by a general agreement that G.A.S. would take no more contracts for three months. We were all very glad that the strike ended in those circumstances. It was also agreed that discussions on the future of ground handling operations would take place. I am very pleased that the parties have accepted the offer made by my hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment to lend them an experienced mediator. He has not yet been appointed but that will be done shortly. I hope that it will lead to an extremely satisfactory outcome.
The last thing I want to do is to say anything which might interfere with any arrangements affecting G.A.S. in the future. Nor do I want to say anything which might damage industrial relations. The Government understand the need for good relations as, I am sure, does the authority itself.
I want to put the speech of the hon. Member for Poplar in a slightly different light. The hon. Gentleman made some very selective quotations from the observations of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries. In order to correct the balance, I too must be a little selective and point out that in its conclusions the Committee used these words in paragraph 104:Much has been done to achieve effective consultation and communication … Your Committee hope that each side will review the evidence which the Sub-Committee received and will better understand the problems, anxieties, needs and endeavours of the other.I think that puts the position into rather better perspective than the hon. Gentleman's quotations did. He rather sought to indicate that the fault was all on one side——
§ Mr. Mikardo
I reject totally any suggestion that I said or implied, directly or indirectly, that all the fault was on 1068 one side. There are no grounds for what the hon. Gentleman has said.
§ Mr. Grant
My point was that the hon. Gentleman's quotations from the Report of the Select Committee were a little selective. I merely made another quotation to give a broader picture.
We all agree about the need for good industrial relations and I know that the authority will be motivated by its awareness that the interests of the consumer, the customer, must be paramount. I am sure that under Mr. Foulkes the authority will have this very much in mind.
The right hon. Member for Barnsley also referred to the necessity for a national airports plan. Whether there is a need for such a plan at the moment or in the future is debatable. At the moment the situation is by no means bad. The biggest problem has been in London and the South-East but not throughout the country as a whole. It was that which led to the decision about the third London airport.
The first requirement is for full economic studies of demand to be made. Such studies must go very wide and no decisions can be taken until they have been completed. Studies of demand have been undertaken already and the work will be completed by the Civil Aviation Authority, which will be given the necessary staff. At present the staff is in the Department of Trade and Industry. It will be transferred to the Civil Aviation Authority. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman, if this was his point, that this matter can be looked at in isolation from the Civil Aviation Authority's own activities. It is essential that these studies, which may or may not lead to a national airports plan, should be continued. However, we believe that they should be continued by the Civil Aviation Authority, which will be able to look at these matters in the broadest possible way.
A number of hon. Members referred to vertical take-off and landing and short take-off and landing aircraft. They asked whether they came into the consideration of the siting of London's third airport. The subject raises matters which are very wide of the scope of this small Bill. I make only this general observation. If there is a successful development in this fascinating subject of VTOL and STOL 1069 and it leads to practical commercial operations, I assure the House that our advice is that it will come a good deal later than some hon. Gentlemen anticipate. While we all see the possibility of exciting and dramatic developments, the Government's problem is what is to happen immediately and we are quite convinced that the immediate problem can be resolved only by a third London airport. I should not like to pontificate upon what is likely to happen in the far-distant future. The immediate need is for a third London airport and a decision has been taken in that respect.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I hope that my hon. Friend will make it clear what will happen to the third London airport in about 1990—and that is a very conservative estimate—when we find that it was not needed.
§ Mr. Grant
I shall not be persuaded by my hon. Friend to go too far into the realms of the future on the Second Reading of a small borrowing powers Bill. I am content to concern myself with the immediate requirement and that is my reason for saying what I have said.
I remind the House of the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade on 27th July in which he set out how he saw the immediate pattern emerging,the position of Luton how Stansted would be phased out in due course and so on. I feel that we should look at the Bill in that context rather than in terms of longer projections. The Bill deals with the borrowing requirements of the British Airports Authority in the next five years, and that should be the context for our discussions.
The theme of the interesting speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Woking—I do not want to engage in a debate about Foulness with him—was that a substantial part of the growth, which he described as unrestrained, in the number of people coming in by air stemmed from foreign tourism, and he felt that something should be done. Again, I think that it would probably be unwise on this Bill to debate that at length. I content myself with saying that the tourist trade contributes substantially to our invisible earnings, its earnings have risen a great deal in the past few years and it presents a considerable success story. I feel that 1070 we should be careful not to do anything which could damage one of the country's vital national interests. However, I can tell my hon. Friend that the problem which he outlined—the over-concentration of tourists in the capital city itself—is one which the Government and, perhaps more important in this context, the tourist board to which we have delegated authority understand very well and recognise as a major difficulty.
Studies have been going on under the auspices of the English Tourist Board to work out plans whereby the tourist can be moved away from London itself. If my hon. Friend wishes to pursue the discussion with me in another sphere, that of tourism, I shall be delighted to do so.
The hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) raised several points which were not exclusively directed to the Bill but related more to the Civil Aviation Act, in the Committee stage of which he played a distinguished part. First, as I understood him, the hon. Member for Newark asked whether the Government were satisfied with the progress being made in planning airports for the future, and he drew attention to the future of aerospace policy as well. We are satisfied with the progress of planning. A big step forward was taken whether people like it or not, in determining the airport pattern for the South-East by deciding the site for the third London airport and by indicating, as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade did on 27th July, the rôles and future of other airports such as Luton and Stansted.
Studies are being made of air transport demand in other areas. These will be continued by the Civil Aviation Authority when it is set up in April. The Civil Aviation Authority will have the duty to advise my right hon. Friend on the pattern of aerodromes in this country. We are satisfied that this is the best way to deal with the matter. There have not yet been consultations, as it were, with the C.A.A. because it is not yet in existence.
The hon. Member for Newark asked also what airports had been transferred from the Department of Trade and Industry to the C.A.A., at what price and how the valuations were arrived at. For the same reason—that the C.A.A. will not exist until April—none have as yet been transferred. The only airports to 1071 be transferred are the small aerodromes in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
Referring back to the Committee stage of the Civil Aviation Act, the hon. Gentleman referred to the cost of navigation services and asked whether it would be borne by the C.A.A. The costs falling on the C.A.A. for navigation services are outside the scope of the Bill today. However, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the Civil Aviation Authority will, at present rates, cover all the costs and make a profit on the navigation services which it will provide for the B.A.A.
Next, I come to the question of liaison with Europe in anticipation of our joining the E.E.C., about which the hon. Member for Newark asked. There has been close liaison with Eurocontrol—that is, on route navigation services—and we are certainly maintaining the liaison already established with Europe, for example, through the European Civil Aviation Conference itself. This will continue.
§ Mr. Bishop
I go some way with the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) on the question of the third London airport and I feel that the comments we have made, although they may appear to go rather wider than the Bill, are directly relevant because the position of the B.A.A. must be looked at in relation to other policy matters. One has to consider it in relation to aerospace policy generally. On that ground, we have pressed for more comprehensive thinking.
§ Mr. Grant
I agree that one cannot consider this matter in isolation, and the hon. Gentleman may rest assured that Ministers will note what what both he and my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) have said.
My hon. Friends the Members for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) and Windsor (Dr. Glyn) asked about aircraft noise and monitoring. Noise monitoring is in force at Heathrow and Gatwick. I am not in a position to say whether the criticisms made about the technicalities of the monitoring are right but we shall carefully note what has been said and let the hon. Members know whether the criticisms are justified. At Heathrow and Gatwick the limits are 110 P.N.dB. by day—that is, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. —and 102 P.N.dB. by night.
1072 Under the new powers given by the 1971 Act it is intended that the B.A.A. will take over responsibility for monitoring from the Department of Trade and Industry. Consultations with this in mind are proceeding and what has been said by my hon. Friends will be taken carefully into account.
I think that I have answered all the points which can be said to be relevant to the limited scope of the Bill, and those which I have omitted touch far wider matters.
§ Dr. Glyn
Because the Bill covers a number of airports and because it is an allocation of money Bill, I am sure that it was in order for us to discuss wider matters related to the running of the airports. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade mentioned the question of rail and other links, all of which comes into the picture. Specifically, I should like to know who is to pay for the rail link. Will it be on this Vote or some other?
§ Mr. Grant
As I understand it—I am speaking of the cuff, subject to correction—it will not come out of the moneys under this Bill. But, as my hon. Friend said, it is important to look at these matters in the broadest possible context. What I had in mind was that many of the points raised go wider than the strict ambit of the Bill and some of them concern other Departments. However, I am glad that they have been raised because they enable us to see these matters in a broad context.
This is a relatively modest Bill but it will enable the authority under its new chairman to operate over approximately the next five years because of the borrowing powers. It is in this respect a limited Bill. There are also the provisions in the Bill for borrowing abroad to put the authority on the same basis as other nationalised industries.
I understand the points of criticism which were very thoughtfully expressed by the hon. Member for Poplar and my hon. Friend the Member for Epping about the accountability methods and the percentage profit which has to be raised. I know that this is debatable and is constantly being considered by the Treasury. This is a nationalised industry which is by no means a monopoly in the sense in which some other nationalized 1073 industries are. This industry has successfully made this profit and has operated in this way; and would that many other industries did the same.
We can look back on the work which has been done by the B.A.A. with a considerable degree of praise and we can look forward to the future, the authority having these new powers, with some degree of confidence. The task of the B.A.A., and indeed of the Government, in the 1970s is to balance the difficult task of dealing with the rapidly developing demand for civil aviation and the complex growth in the industry with the equally powerful need to conserve the amenities of the community, needs which were well expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Walthamstow, East and for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart), at the same time being dominated with the paramount need to preserve safety in the air.
§ Mr. Grant
I am about to finish. I believe that the authority discharges its duty in this respect very well and will do so even more in the future. The Bill is a modest limited vehicle to help the authority along its way in the difficult but exciting times that lie ahead. I therefore commend the Bill to the House.
§ Mr. Rankin
I was faced with some difficulty in getting in. The hon. Gentleman said something that disturbed me. He indicated that I might have been on the circumference of disorder in my earlier remarks, but I took it that I was not completely out of order. I thought that my remarks were important and pertinent.
Do I also take it from the hon. Gentleman that there will be a possibility of discussing the matters peculiar to Scotland which I raised?
§ Mr. Grant
The hon. Gentleman can be assured that he can always discuss these matters with me or with my col- 1074 leagues in the Department. I will convey what he has said to my colleagues in the Scottish Office. We are always prepared to discuss these problems with him, and I realise that they are constantly changing.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Clegg.]
§ Committee upon Monday next.