HC Deb 08 February 1973 vol 850 cc795-819
Mr. Speaker

Before I call the Under-Secretary of State to move the motion for the committal of the Maplin Development Bill to a Select Committee, I should inform the House that I have selected the first amendment in the names of the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) and the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley). Their other amendments are consequential upon that amendment. I suggest that the amendment be moved by the right hon. Gentleman when he rises to speak, after which I am prepared to allow a debate to cover both the subject of the motion and the points raised by the amendment. The remaining amendments not selected may be referred to during the debate.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

On your Ruling, Mr Speaker. You have not selected the three amendments standing in my name, but you have said that we can discuss them in the debate. How I should like to know how one can suggest increasing the number of members on the Committee if there is no amendment down to that effect. The dicussion might take place, but how can one ask for additional or, if need be, fewer members if there is no amendment down to that effect?

Mr. Speaker

The answer is that if I have not selected the amendment the hon. Gentleman cannot do it.

Motion made and Question proposed, That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of Eight Members, Four to be nominated by the House and Four by the Committee of Selection: That there shall stand referred to the Select Committee—

  1. (a) any Petition against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office at any time not later than the seventh day after this day, and
  2. (b) any Petition which has been presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office and in which the Petitioners complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled-up 796 Bill or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the said Committee,
being a Petition in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents: That if no such Petition as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) above is presented, or if all such Petitions are withdrawn before the meeting of the Committee, the order for the committal of the Bill to a Select Committee shall be discharged and the Bill shall be committed to a Standing Committee: That any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Select Committee shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of his Petition, be entitled to be heard by himself, his Counsel or Agents upon his Petition provided that it is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard by his Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition: That the Committee have power to report from day to day the Minutes of the Evidence taken before them: That Three be the Quorum of the Committee.—[Mr. Eldon Griffiths.]

10.23 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield Park)

I beg to move, after the first paragraph, to insert: 'That it be an Instruction to the Select Committee to investigate and decide upon the expediency of the Bill'. This is a Hybrid Bill, which always causes a great deal of procedural argument and difficulty. However, contrary to what is generally supposed, the practice of the House is not to exclude in the consideration of a Hybrid Bill the same powers and procedure in the Select Committee as for a Private Bill.

As the House knows, in a Private Bill, as well as dealing, as is intended, with the narrow points in the Secretary of State's motion, it is customary to call upon the promoters to prove their case or to prove the preamble—in other words, to show that the Bill is expedient and necessary.

The Select Committee of the House that considered the procedure on Hybrid Bills in 1948 stated that it could not recommend the House always to have that investigatory Select Committee or always to follow the practice that Second Reading in the House would be regarded as settling the question of principle and expediency.

In paragraph 18 of its report the Select Committee stated: Your Committee consider that neither doctrine can be applied inflexibly to all hybrid bills. In a particular instance it might be clearly indicated in the course of the debate on second reading that the affirmation of prim ciple was conditional upon the finding of the select committee that the expediency of the Bill had been established. Again it would be open either to the Government or to private Members to put down Instructions to the select committee in which the expediency of the measure is specifically referred to the committee for investigation and decision. In the absence of any indication or instruction to the contrary, however, Your Committee consider that the second reading of a hybrid bill should relieve the promoters of the onus of establishing the expediency of the Bill. We feel—and there was a clear indication from Conservative hon. Members opposite that they feel—that the Government have not made—[Interruption.] If the Under-Secretary of State would like to rise, I will give way. It is better for Ministers not to make interjections from a sitting position. As I was saying, both sides of the House, and certainly a wide body of public opinion, are not satisfied that the Government have established their case for the expediency of the Bill. If they believe—this is the real test—that they have a case, surely they would not object to putting it to a Select Committee. If they are not willing to accept that proposal I can only conclude, and I am sure that the country outside will do so, that they are not sure of their case and that they want to commit this House, the country and successive Governments to the large expenditure of public money without putting all their facts and evidence on the table.

We are asking that a Select Committee should have the opportunity of putting the promoters through the usual drill. Because the promoters happen to be the Government, they should not be exempted from the obligation that we impose upon every other promoter of this kind of Bill.

10.27 p.m.

Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)

I am pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) and urge that a Select Committee should look at the expediency of the Bill as it is a joint seaport and airport Bill. I hope that my hon. Friend, when he winds up the debate will say what effect it is likely to have on Merseyside and the port of Liverpool, which is unduly expensive because of the water having to be impounded behind dock gates. A look at the question of Severn-side has already been promised. I hope that my hon. Friend will decide to look at Liverpool. I am in favour of reclamation of land almost anywhere and of making Great Britain greater geographically. However, such reclamation should be where the population is, and more in the area of Cheshire and Lancashire than the South-East.

I should like to know from where the labour is to come. Will it come from London or is it expected that people should emigrate from the North-West to the subsidised—and I say that deliberately—South-East? I thought it was the policy of the Government to stop the drift to the South-East and to help development areas. The Bill will have a reverse effect.

How big a labour force is visualised? How big a city, and at what cost? Do the Government think that Merseyside will lose out both by air and by sea? We have no national airport or seaport policy. We know that Maplin was condemned by all the Roskill Commission with the exception of one member. Sir Colin Buchanan in the minority report, which has already been referred to, says that in his opinion and his terms of reference been different he would have chosen an airport in the central region. Liverpool is in that region. I rest my case on his argument.

Roskill, as we all know, went as far as the middle of Lincolnshire to look at sites for airports. However, his committee never went to the North-West. From that area the trains are already very fast. It is only two and a quarter hours from Liverpool Airport to London. There would be little environmental damage if Liverpool Airport were doubled up. The land is already there, and an international airport could be ready in 1977, as the chairman of the Merseyside Chamber of Commerce pointed out in a letter to The Times of 31st January.

It is all there at a minuscule cost compared with what we shall spend at Maplin. There would be much less noise than at almost any other airport. The aeroplanes could land and take off over the estuary because of the bend of the River Mersey. There is much less fog there than at almost any other airport. I happen to have my home right on the banks of the Mersey, in what I should like to see as the future flight path.

There is not room for four runways, but there is room for two with all the facilities for an international airport. All the infrastructure is there now, the roads and the rail. All that is wanted is a half-mile of loop line on flat land to join up at Ditton Junction.

If we had Customs trains specially built, the time taken to London would be only a very small number of minutes greater than that taken from Foulness, especially if we could use the much under-used Marylebone Station, which would take tourists into the heart of London. Is it not sensible to use our present capital infrastructure to the full and save hundreds of millions of pounds? Moreover, tourists would see some delightful country. Do the Government want all future tourists to come to London? If so, I suspect that London will cease to be pleasant to both them and us.

Nearly as many people live within 76 miles of Liverpool Airport as live within 76 miles of Heathrow.

Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, speaking at a luncheon to tell the world of the establishment of the new Merseyside Development Office in London, spelt out all the many advantages that Merseyside has. All its exports and manufactures were written on the menu. They are there for all to see.

I want finally to put some questions to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. What will be the cost of the seaport? What will be the cost of the airport? What will be the cost of housing the necessary labour in a new city? Where are the people to come from? What will be the cost of the necessary new roads and railways?

I am told that in the new airport in Tokyo the clutter of vehicles is so great that many people prefer to land in Osaka and take a fast train into Tokyo. That is a lesson for London Airport.

What will be the cost of moving Shoeburyness? I am told that it will be vast.

Finally, who has been to look at the Liverpool site, and when?

I hope that my hon. Friend will answer those questions, bearing in mind that we have 55,000 unemployed in the area and that an airport brings work and ancillary jobs.

The land is there, half ready for such development, as are the roads and the rail—the whole infrastructure. I urge flexibility, which would save vast sums of money.

I hope that my hon. Friend will come and look at our airport as a possible development instead of Maplin.

10.35 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)

I am grateful that the amendment has been tabled because the wording enables the House to debate things that we would not normally be allowed to debate. However, whether I support the amendment is another matter.

Mr. Malley

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should be glad to have a Ruling from you on this, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As I understand it, it is a wholly procedural point as to whether the Select Committee would have power to go into these matters. Since the House has settled its part of the matter in the debate on Second Reading, I would not have thought that it would be desirable now to have another Second Reading debate, particularly when many hon. Members have urgent engagements to fulfil tomorrow morning.

Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The position is surely the reverse of that outlined by the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley). The amendment says: That it be an Instruction to the Select Committee to investigate and decide upon the expediency of the Bill. Therefore, it must be relevant to discuss whether such a Select Committee should be able to investigate this matter. That can only be done by advancing reasons for saying that discussions to date have been inadequate. If the right hon. Gentleman did not want the amendment to be properly debated, why did he move it?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Perhaps I may advise the House on this matter. It is clear that, as a general principle, most things can be discussed on the motion. What cannot be said is that there should not be a Bill at all. That has already been decided. Within that framework, if hon. Members want to discuss things they should be allowed to do so. But they must realise that I reserve the right to say whether they are going too far and to pull them up if I think it necessary to do so.

Mr. J. Bruce-Gardyne (South Angus)

Further to that point of order, though it is on a slightly different point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Am I right in thinking that the public expenditure implications of the proposed airport development are matters more properly to be discussed on the money resolution?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Yes, the hon. Gentleman is right.

Dr. Glyn

I am grateful for that Ruling Mr. Deputy Speaker. I read the motion and the amendment very carefully and before raising this matter I took advice. I shall endeavour not to go beyond the confines of the amendment.

I have a deep constituency interest because in terms of aircraft noise Windsor and Maidenhead are the worst-affected areas in the country. Do we or do we not need a third airport? Today it has been clearly indicated by hon. Members on both sides that the level of noise for people who live in and around London Airport is intolerable.

The second question that must be asked is whether there is any other possibility of undertaking something less expensive to achieve the desired object. I am convinced that it is impossible to do this at London Airport. It must be said that the sensible and modern course is to set such an airport in a coastal area, where, the noise element must be less to people who live in the area.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment and his colleagues have been extremely helpful in re-activating the Noise Advisory Council and in many other ways. I hope that he is in a position to elaborate slightly on one matter. Does he believe that we can look forward—not in the immediate future—to some alleviation of the present level of air traffic in and out of Heathrow? At the moment it is intolerable for the constituents of a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House.

The next point, which again has been made by a number of hon. Members, is that it is vital, if we are to build a new airport, to ensure that it is accessible to London. Here I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley), because I believe that most people wish to fly in and out of London, especially if their journeys are such that they are in transit and have to change aircraft. What is more, I was not impressed by the arguments about charter flights. People do not want to travel long distances by bus in order to catch their aircraft——

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)

They do.

Dr. Glyn

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. I should prefer to catch a fast train in the centre of London or go straight to the airport and get on an aeroplane. I am sure that many other air travellers would agree with me.

If we have a brand new airport and reclaim land which at the moment is of little value to anyone except the birds, we shall have the advantage of being able to construct a deep-sea port. The House must recognise that the combination of a deep-sea port capable of taking tankers of half a million tons and an airport will present a very serious rival to our competitors on the continent——

Mr. Tilney

And to Merseyside.

Dr. Glyn

I think that in years to come we shall say that this has been a good investment.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

They are supposed to be our partners.

Dr. Glyn

Yes. But they are our rivals in trade. We may be partners in the Community, but we are still competitors in terms of industrial exports.

I do not believe that the introduction of quiet aircraft is a viable alternative. However much money we spend ourselves, we cannot force foreign airlines which want to come to our airports to have aircraft which have been silenced. If we try to do that we shall exclude a large number of foreign aircraft from our airports. Instead, they will land in Paris, and we shall lose a great deal of trade and money.

I believe that it is in the national interest to have a first-class airport combined with the development of a complex seaport which will replace the Port of London. What is more, in the end the airport will relieve the congestion at Heathrow. A thought that occurs to me is that in the long term it might be possible to sell off a great deal of the Heathrow area, which I understand is worth £3,000 million, with the additional advantage of having all our noisier aircraft and all our night flights operating in and out of Foulness.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)

I will not comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn), because we all understand why he made it and the context in which he did. In my interjection during his speech, I said, "they do", meaning that people do not necessarily enjoy travelling in that way, but they do it because the proportion of scheduled traffic is smaller compared with charter work. If people are going on holiday for a week or a fortnight they are much less concerned about travelling for two or three hours to an airport than they would be if they were going on business.

That gives a much greater degree of flexibility than there would otherwise be in our airport pattern, and it is a possibility which I am convinced, from a reading of the Roskill Report, the Roskill Commission did not sufficiently take into account.

I thoroughly support the amendment which is designed to widen the powers of the Select Committee dealing with this Hybrid Bill. I want to concentrate on the procedure of this subject which has come to us today, prior to going to the Committee, and urge that the Committee should have its powers widened because of the way in which this has been dealt with by the Government. It is a point I would have made in the preceding debate if I had had the time.

The previous "non-debate" in this House concerning the principle of the Roskill Report was a wide one. The House was naturally concerned with whether, in view of the report, the third London airport, if required, should be at Cublington rather than elsewhere. There was relatively little discussion then about Foulness when I emphasised the point that if it went there it should be called Maplin. I asked what sort of airport should it be if it went to Maplin, and what sort of associated activities should there be.

This was taken up later by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir Bernard Braine), who initiated a debate on 28th May 1971 to which the present Minister for Aerospace and Shipping replied. He gave a rather inadequate answer to the concern expressed by hon. Members over constituency points. The hon. Member for Essex, South-East said: I should be grateful if my hon. Friend could give some information as to the length of time before a firm plan emerges. Would this be one year, or two years? The Minister did not give a very firm reply. He said: We are aware that we are involved in an exercise of a much wider issue than simply building an airport. It is a major environmental development. All too true. Then I asked at the end of the debate: Can the Minister say when the Government will produce a White or Green Paper on this issue setting out preliminary thoughts? I should have said "intentions" in respect of the White Paper. The Minister replied: Regarding the precise way in which the Government will let their views and conclusions be known on this matter, which will require public ventilation and discussion, the Government will choose appropriate methods to ensure that that happens."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th May 1971; Vol. 818, c. 744–5.] As far as I know, that has not happened. I went to the Library and checked whether it had received any public documents from the Department of the Environment or the Department of Trade and Industry about specific plans for the Maplin project other than those which we have in the Bill. There is very little. Certainly all the questions which I and others put concerning the degree of industrial, secondary or tertiary development around the area of South-East Essex, the possible design of the railway, whether it should run straight from London, how far it should initially use existing routes, whether there should be a motorway at all, have not been answered.

I raised this in the first debate on this subject because I contend that there need be no motorway at all. All these issues were raised. I fully expected, perhaps being a little naive and a relatively new Member, that the Government with knowledge of the great financial liability they would be incurring. would bring out documents dealing with industry, new housing, railways, roads and so on—not necessarily a final scheme but some idea of what, if the House decided to go ahead with the detailed scheme, it would be letting itself on for.

We have had none of these things. I do not think the hon. Gentleman can claim that we have. We have his statement of 9th August, when he admitted that Maplin: will create a need for large-scale urban development in South-East Essex. My right hon. Friend intends that this shall be built to the highest environmental standards. The Government propose to designate a substantial area for development by a New Town Development Corporation, working in close collaboration with the local planning authorities. We expect to publish a draft designation order early next year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th August 1972; Vol. 842, c. 1745.] I wrote to the Under-Secretary of State and have had correspondence with him about the nature of the new town—whether it is indeed to be a new town or merely additions to existing ones. He courteously replied. I fully expected, before the Bill was published, that we should have some documents telling us what these associated developments were to amount to, but we have had nothing.

This would be a reprehensible course for a reasonably efficient business organisation putting forward a prospectus to investors, let alone its customers, yet the Government, despite all their furore about the environment and planning, have taken it in this case. It means that people who wish to put in petitions, if they can get them within the Long Title of the Bill and to the Select Committee upstairs, may not be able to get at these points because they will be beyond the ambit of the Bill, which, we are told, deals with the reclamation of land off the coast and all that goes with it, such as industrial develop- ment and navigational aids on the mainland. They will not be able to deal with the consequential developments at this stage, although they will be even more important in the end than the airport itself.

This is why I urge the House to pass this imaginative admendment. The Government have not only let down the side democratically but are being deliberately perverse in not telling us what it all involves. The Under-Secretary of State may smile, but I do not think he has contradicated my charges. It is a black day for democratic government if this is what has happened, and I strongly support the amendment.

10.52 p.m.

Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)

I hope that, when the expediency of the Bill is under consideration, attention will be given to the urgency of giving some relief to the people living around London Airport, as my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn) has pointed out. It was mentioned by the Secretary of State and the Minister for Aerospace in the debate, but it was not possible for hon. Members who live in that area to give it support during our debate earlier.

I hope that the Select Committee will seriously consider the need to bring forward the first new runway as soon as possible to bring relief. The noise around Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton is mounting year by year. It is becoming an intolerable burden on the people who live around these airports. Last summer was a very bad time for my constituents, for those of my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor, and for those of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell)—indeed, the constituents of all three of us suffer very badly.

Part of the reason was the introduction of a new beacon, the BOR beacon, which channels aircraft much more accurately down the minimum noise routes. Such was the pressure of public opinion last summer that the Secretary of State was forced to say that he would reconsider the whole question of minimum noise routes. It is now being considered by the Noise Advisory Committee. We hope that as a result of the inquiry some changes will be made in the minimum noise route policy.

I say this to stress again that the need for the third London airport is badly felt in the great conurbation of 2 million people who live around London's chief airport, and hence the urgency for getting on with the project by building the first runway at Maplin as rapidly as possible.

10.54 p.m.

Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)

I do not want to give the impression that I am rising to speak because I failed to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or Mr. Speaker's, during our debate on Second Reading, so I will curtail my remarks and briefly express my support for the amendment.

I am sure that anything which extends the scope of the Select Committee to examine the expediency of the Bill must be right. If one thing emerged from our earlier debate, it was the general dissatisfaction with the power that Parliament has to examine the far-reaching implications—which go far beyond the airport question alone—presented by the Bill.

I am sure that it should be very relevant for the Select Committee to consider the expediency of the Bill in the light of many of the points raised already. My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn) particularly referred to the question of a seaport. This emphasises the fact that the House has never considered the full implications of the Bill. It might be right or it might be wrong that there should be a major seaport development at Maplin. We do not know whether it is intended that the Port of London Authority should transfer virtually the whole of its activities in the Thames to Maplin. That has been implied. But surely we should have the right to examine this in detail before the matter takes off to such an extent that Parliament loses the power of scrutiny over it.

Earlier in the debate we were given some facts and figures by my right hon. and learned Friend. My right hon. and hon. Friends have been very helpful in the last few weeks in trying to provide facts and figures to help us to make a decision earlier this evening. I think that we made the wrong decision and that we shall live to regret it very soon, both from my constituency viewpoint and the national economic viewpoint.

The point is that all these facts and figures have come so late in the day. Perhaps that is our fault for asking for them too late. Nevertheless, Parliament should have the facts and figures presented to it clearly so that we can make a clear decision. I suspect that we shall know more about the new parliamentary building—as we have very attractive models of it upstairs; including the fixtures and fittings, the contents and even probably the pictures—when we come to make a decision on that than we know about this project which we voted on tonight, which will run into several £1,000 million of public expenditure directed to that region.

The Select Committee should have wider powers than it has at present to examine the general expediency of the Bill. One particular aspect we should consider is the expediency of the Bill in the context of a national airports policy. That point surely has emerged in the debate today.

I cannot believe that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is opposed to the concept of a national airports policy. It was put forward very forcefully by the Conservative Opposition in a debate that took place in 1967. the report of which I read. The then Opposition urged that a decision on the siting of a third London airport should be postponed until a full national examination had been made on a national airports policy. Sadly, that has changed and the Government have now taken a decision in isolation for the South-East of England. They have established an inquiry into a national airports policy, but excluding a major sector of the country with regard to air transport movements. I cannot believe that that makes sense.

Touching further on the question of the use of regional airports, it has been established that there will be a massive increase in the number of passenger air movements and the number of aircraft movements in the foreseeable future. We cannot avoid that. I believe that that is proven, although I suspect that many of the statistics are grossly exaggerated. If the statistics were right, I think that most people would give up travelling altogether because it would be so unpleasant to travel in such large quantities, with millions of people crowded on to the beaches of Majorca or the Costa Brava. People go somewhere with a purpose, and once one reaches the forecasts for 1990s or the year 2000, the figures take a little believing.

Nevertheless, these are increasing trends, with which we have to cope. I argue strongly that we could postpone a decision. If the Select Committee decided that it was expedient to do so, it should have the power so to do. If there were a delay of one or two years we could well resolve the problem of those years by increasing the amount of traffic diverted to our regional airports.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) referred to Liverpool. He put forward quite a strong case. I was interested in some figures from the Department of Trade and Industry which show that at present Liverpool has some 15,000 aircraft movements annually. The Department estimates a provincial airport could carry 70,000 air transport movements per annum in the non-scheduled category. In other words, Liverpool Airport is highly under-utilised. I obtained similar figures for Bristol, Cardiff, Gloucester, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds-Bradford, and Birmingham—that is, many of the main provincial airports. They are all heavily under-utilised. Indeed the degree of under-utilisation, taking a rough figure from the Ministry reply, shows that one could increase air transport movements in the regional centres by 400,000 a year. We want only a small slice of that to give us the extra two or three years to provide the extra capacity to allow for inquiry into the decision we have regretfully taken this evening.

We should examine these points and particularly the possibility of diverting to regional centres charter flights which often carry people on a once-a-year flight. Many of these passengers would be prepared to spend a little extra time travelling to places like Bristol, Liverpool, and Birmingham, particularly if the money which is to be spent on communications was spent instead on improving the rail links to the regional centres.

I hope that the House will decide to extend the powers of the Select Committee so that it can examine the expediency of the Bill in the light of the many factors involved and not least that of the environmental damage it will inflict, particularly on my constituency.

11.1 p.m.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

do not claim to be an expert on procedure and I cannot quarrel in detail with what the right hon. Member for Sheffield. Park (Mr. Mulley) said in opening this debate. However, the amendment is fundamentally bogus.

This issue has been widely discussed over the past year or two and the case has not been effectively made that new developments have altered the basis of the Government's original decision or of the arguments advanced in that time. The brilliant summing up of the main debate by the Minister for Aerospace and Shipping effectively dispelled the large number of doubts raised.

I should like to ask what consequences would flow if the Select Committee were given power to investigate and to decide on the expediency of the Bill. What would happen if they said at the end of their deliberations that it was inexpedient? This has not been properly considered by those supporting the amendment. We should land ourselves in a ludicrous position. The House, after serious debate and years of discussion, has come to a conclusion and it would be nonsense if the Select Committee should be in a position to reverse that.

I should not wish to run down Select Committees of the House, but I do not believe that the kind of Select Committee which is likely to be appointed on the sort of basis envisaged would be in a position to come up with a genuine and thorough analysis of this complicated issue. It is right that these matters should be decided by Parliamentarians rather than by Roskill Commissions or others. I am sure that the right decision has been taken. Several of my hon. Friends have outlined once again the appalling damage which would be done by noise or by congestion in the Heathrow region if we reject or seriously defer the Maplin project.

I simply put forward as a constituency point that the consequences of defering or abolishing Maplin would inevitably mean an enormous increase of traffic from Luton, Chesham and Wendover, in my constituency, have suffered heavily as a result of night flying from Luton. The Government have, to their credit, taken steps to contain night flying, but although it is not on as large a scale as it is from Heathrow, it is a misery to people who live in the area. The decision to go to Maplin is entirely admirable.

Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)

Does my hon. Friend realise that night flights from Luton are far worse than they are from Heathrow?

Mr. Raison

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, but of course his constituency suffers from this problem even more than mine. The reason is that aircraft on night flights from Luton fly low in order to avoid Heathrow traffic.

Mr. Moate

Everyone who is anxious to get rid of night flying seems concerned that it should go to Maplin. I wonder if those hon. Members who wish to get rid of it realise that they are planning to of transfer their misery on to large numbers of people living in my constituency who will be just 10 miles from the end of the runways at Maplin Airport. The position is very serious and we shall all not get off scot free.

Mr. Raison

I accept the legitimacy of my hon. Friend's point. But we are talking about the agglomeration of night flying around Heathrow, Luton, Stansted and Gatwick, all of which stand to be relieved by the creation of the new airport. The felici tic calculus points to this being the right decision.

11.7 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

I wish to inquire about two procedural points. The first relates to line 5 where it says any Petition against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office at any time not later than the seventh day after this day …. What I want to know from my hon. Friend is what kind of days these are. There are all sorts of days in our procedures. Are these days when the House is sitting or do they include Sundays? If they are purely calendar days, that leaves precious little time after the Bill has received its Second Reading for petitioners to get their petitions printed and deposited in the Private Bill Office. It is such a short time as to make the process derisory. Mr. Speaker said that we could discuss consequential amendments, one of which directs itself to this point in that it seeks to leave out 'seventh' and insert 'twenty-eighth'. It is covered too by amendments which were not selected. For the Government to provide such a short period in which petitions can be presented after Second Reading is almost to abort the whole purpose of the Select Committee. It would be an evil day if this device were used to frustrate the proper procedures of the House.

Mr. Mulley

It is clearly in the Government's mind that they may well intend that. They go on to provide that if there are no petitions, which may well arise as there is not enough time, the Committee does not need to meet.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

That is another of my fears. My other principal fear is that if the Committee meets to deliberate on petitions, only those who are present in the Committee Room will know what is going on. Although this is a Select Committee of the House on a public Bill it will be dealt with under the Private Bill procedure to this extent that there will be no daily publication of the minutes of evidence taken unless the Committee so directs.

The Secretary of State's motion says that the Committee shall have the power to report from day to day the minutes of evidence taken before it. But to have the power is not necessarily to use it. That is why I put down an amendment to leave out "have the power to" and insert "shall" so that those of us who cannot permit ourselves the luxury of being present in the Committee Room all of the time can nevertheless allow ourselves the demi-luxury of reading the proceedings the next day as they would have been ordered to be printed.

Will my hon. Friend also let me know the Government's intentions? Is it their intention that the permissive power they take should be used, or is that permissive power put in as a matter of form with the result that we may find that we do not know what the proceedings in Select Committee have been until they are terminated?

11.10 p.m.

Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North East)

I share the unease of my hon. Friends about the procedures which are being adopted. If I may intervene in the argument between my hon. Friends the Members for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) and Faversham (Mr. Moate), the point is that those who served on the Committee on the Concorde Bill and supported that project understand the fears of people about what may happen in 10 years' time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury says that we should not endeavour to frustrate the will of Parliament by doing anything which might cause the Select Committee to express a view against that expressed by Parliament in giving the Bill a Second Reading. But that is just the point. If a Select Committee discovers changed circumstances five years hence and finds that Parliament made a mistake, even at that late stage it will not be too late. We should not have gone so far down the line that we should not be able to turn back. I am sure that hon. Members who served in Committee on the Concorde Bill will agree about that.

I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for Aerospace and Shipping for the great encouragement he has given in agreeing to look officially at the Severnside proposition. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have for long asked for this proposition to be studied. Two years ago the hon. Members for Abertillery (Mr. Jeffrey Thomas), Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield), my hon. Friends the Members for Gravesend (Mr. Roger White), Hampstead (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg), Monmouth (Mr. John Stradling Thomas) and I signed an all-party motion seeking this study. We are all extremely grateful to the Government for taking the bull by the horns and agreeing to it.

I turn to the understandable fears of my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) and my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn) in whose constituency until very recently I lived. Noise will not be removed from the 2 million people who live around Heathrow merely because of the building of a large airport at Foulness. There are only two ways in which noise can be prevented. One is by making aero-engines quiet and the other is by closing Heathrow or Gatwick. I have never supported the Maplin Development Bill and I did not do so tonight. Had the Government said that they were ruthlessly determined to put environment above all else, to close down Heathrow and Gatwick, use the resources to pay for Foulness and to provide increased air transport facilities in the regions, I should have felt able to support them.

Coming back to the proposals for the Select Committee, the answers we have received recently about unknown cost, unknown lines of railway and roads, unknown site for the new firing range at present at Shoeburyness, unknown details of the London motorway box, all militate in favour of a continuing Select Committee.

The time may cone when we have to quantify the cost of the environmental decision that the House has taken tonight. The figure of £1,000 million for Foulness may be a slight exaggeration in 1973, but no doubt it will not be by 1980.

Perhaps my hon. Friend will confirm that the cost of building a second runway at Gatwick would have been £8 million. If that be the alternative cost, we should know about it.

I commend to my hon. Friend the extraordinary circumstance of a similar decision which is facing the people of Canada. The decision was taken a few days ago about the second airport for Toronto at Pickering. The Federal Canadian Government had to decide by Friday 2nd February whether to acquire the land on which the airport would be built. There is a strange similarity between the Pickering and the Foulness situations. The Federal Canadian Government have now authorised the purchase of the land much in the way that the House has tonight given a Second Reading to the Bill to start digging at Foulness.

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that he will look at what is happening in Canada and will look particularly at the remarks of the Canadian Minister for Transport who said that an independent board would be set up to hear views on the airport and the urban area around it so that the decision could be changed if it produced any vitally new facts on technology or changes in the attitude of the people that might point to a different conclusion. He said that the Government could be moved to reconsider although the odds against reversal were tremendous. In the Canadian decision of a few days ago there was a loophole, if that be the word, whereby the Government could get out if things changed substantially.

I commend to my hon. Friend the proposition that a Select Committee should sit to look into the Maplin Development Bill so that 10 years hence those of us who served on the Concorde Bill recently will not be faced with the problems with which we were faced a few days ago.

11.17 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for he Environment (Mr. Eldon Griffiths)

This debate has been an afterglow to the discussions that we have had during the day turning on an amendment moved by the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) to a procedural motion. I must advise the House that in my view it would be entirely wrong to accept the proposals made by the right hon. Gentleman.

The House of Commons has tonight made a decision. Therefore, it cannot be right to depute to either four or eight of its Members the duty or, indeed, the opportunity of reversing the decision that the House has taken. This House has decided that it is expedient in the national interest to proceed to dredge and reclaim the land and provide it for an airport and a port. Having decided that it is expedient so to do, it must be constitutionally wrong to say that a small body of Members of this place should be asked to take on the duty of telling the House that it was wrong.

Mr. Mulley

The hon. Gentleman has put a most interesting constitutional proposition to us. Perhaps he does not know that when the Select Committee recommended that only on some occasions should it be right for it to have this power to investigate and decide, the then Conservative Opposition divided the House against the proposition because they held and argued that the Select Committee should have that duty on every Hybrid Bill.

Mr. Griffiths

The right hon. Gentleman may quote precedents. I am simply giving my view and the reason why I must advise the House that it would be wrong to depute to eight of our number the duty of deciding that the decision we have just taken, that it is expedient in the national interest, is wrong and that that group should determine that it is in- expedient. I do not think one could accept that proposition.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

Surely the position is that until there has been discussion and a vote on Third Reading the House has not taken a final decision. If we can get advice meanwhile from the Select Committee, or any other form of Committee, it is perfectly constitutional that we should do so.

Mr. Griffiths

The right hon. Gentleman ought to know that the Bill will now take its proper course. The Select Committee's duty will be to listen to the evidence of the petitioners, if there be any, and to report back to the House and advise us in what way, if at all, we could amend or change the Bill to save the rights of those private persons who may be affected.

Once we have heard from the Select Committee, the whole Bill goes to a Standing Committee. The House will then go through the normal procedure of the Standing Committee and report it back on Third Reading, whereupon the House will make a final conclusion. I am making the narrow point that tonight the House has taken a decision and it must be wrong to say that a number of hon. Members should go away and retry the case which we have considered.

Let us consider the duty of the Select Committee that is now to be appointed. It will hear the views of petitioners. If the right hon. Gentleman's proposition were to be accepted, the petitioners would be invited to advise the Select Committee whether the decision of the House tonight was or was not in the national interest. It cannot be right to say that a number of non-Members of this House with, maybe, private interests should be invited by the right hon. Gentleman's motion to tell us whether we have made a judgment that is expedient in the national interest.

Mr. Mulley

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right—it is not right. The purpose of my amendment and the purpose of the normal practice of the House when dealing with Private Bills, is that the onus is on the promoter to satisfy the committee. The petitioners, if they are interested, can naturally ask question, but the onus of evidence is on the promoter and it is for the committee to ensure that the promoter discharges that duty. My case is that, because the Government have seen fit not to discharge that duty to the House, they should be asked to do so before the Select Committee.

Mr. Griffiths

The issue of whether the Bill is expedient or not can only be determined by the House. Tonight the House has taken that decision and that is as far as we can go.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop


Mr. Griffiths

My hon. Friend has already made two contributions. He should let me get on in the interests of a lot of other hon. Members who really have had enough. My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn) asked whether he can have an assurance about the alleviation of noise for his constituents. That point was made by several hon. Members. No one can promise that there will be an alleviation of the noise. It can be said, however, that if the airport is to be built at Maplin the increase of noise, which is becoming intolerable in those areas, will not happen at anywhere near the same speed. In that sense that can he a material alleviation of the possible distress for people in that area. The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) asked that some further documentation should be published about the ancillary developments to Maplin. As soon as the consultants' report on the possible routes for the motorway and the highways is available, my right hon. and learned Friend has said—and he said so in this House—that he will make it possible for the House to know what decisions he has reached. He will see that there is full opportunity for discussion on the matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) asked specifically about the meaning of seven days' notice. I am advised that it means seven calendar days. There is nothing unusual about that. The motion has been on the Order Paper since before Christmas, and there has been no lack of notice.

Mr. Spearing

An undertaking was given about the roads and the railways. I mentioned that the Government intended or appeared to intend a large-scale amount of urban settlement and development of industry. The hon. Gentleman said nothing about that. Perhaps he will deal with it now.

Mr. Griffiths

The hon. Gentleman is plainly not aware of the normal planning procedures in this country. When the time comes for the designation of the new town it will be done under the new town legislation. There will be plenty of opportunity for a public inquiry. If the hon. Gentleman is diligent, and I have no doubt he is, he will have his opportunity to make known his feelings at that time.

I think that it would be wrong of me to try to answer the whole of the Second Reading debate all over again. I can only say that on the ground that I indicated at the beginning of my remarks it must be wrong at this stage to say that we should give the Committee the instructions which the right hon. Gentleman proposes. It is better not to accept the amendment but, rather, to agree to the motion.

Mr. Tilney

Will my hon. Friend look at Merseyside, as he has promised to look at Severnside?

Mr. Griffiths

That is a matter in the first instance for my hon. Friend the Minister for Aerospace and Shipping, but I shall put to him the point made by my hon. Friend.

Amendment negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Ordered, That the Maplin Development Bill be corn-mined to a Select Committee of Eight Members, Four to be nominated by the House and Four by the Committee of Selection.

Ordered, That there shall stand referred to the Select Committee—

  1. (a) any Petition against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office at any time not later than the seventh day after this day, and
  2. (b) any Petition which has been presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office and in which the Petitioners complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled-up Bill or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the said Committee,
being a Petition in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents.

Ordered, That if no such Petition as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) above is presented, or if all such Petitions are withdrawn before the meeting of the Committee, the order for the committal of the Bill to a Select Committee shall be discharged and the Bill shall be committed to a Standing Committee.

Ordered, That any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Select Committee shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of his Petition, be entitled to be heard by himself, his Counsel or Agents upon his Petition provided that it is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard by his Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition.

Ordered, That the Committee have power to report from day to day the Minutes of the Evidence taken before them.

Ordered, That Three be the Quorum of the Committee.