HC Deb 23 October 1973 vol 861 cc1004-111

Lords Amendment: No., in page 2, line 4, after "may" insert after such date as the Secretary of State may by order appoint".

Read a Second time

4.55 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I offered a manuscript amendment to Amendment No. 1. If that manuscript amendment were accepted, am I right in thinking that the amendment would be taken first? It will be within your recollection that the amendment is to delete "less" and to substitute "more". The amendment is one which I hope the Government and my hon. Friends will find acceptable and which will commend itself to the House. Therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that it is an amendment which the House will have the opportunity to debate.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The amendment in question has not been selected.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

I beg to move, as an amendment to Lords Amendment No. 1. after "date" insert not being less than two years after the date of the passing of this Act". In the short debate preceding the consideration of the Bill, some observations were passed from both Front Benches to the effect that it was hoped that the House would move on rapidly to consideration of the Bill. It appeared to be suggested by both Front Benches that we would dispose rapidly of the Maplin Development Bill.

Whilst I do not intend to delay right hon. and hon. Members, the House should not think of the Bill as something to be disposed of in haste. It needs further consideration. The action which was taken in another place and the amendments which have been sent to this House merit further consideration and study in depth. I am sure that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues on the Front Bench recognise that.

My amendment is about time. I seek to ask the Government for an assurance that they will not put undue pressure on the consideration of the many problems which will have to be faced in the execution of the Bill. Therefore, it is necessary for me to explain why it is necessary to write into the Bill the extra requirement of a two-year pause—I shall not say "delay"—so that this consideration shall be given the full and thorough inquiry and investigation which I believe it merits.

It could be argued that the Government are fundamentally right to build the next airport miles away from anywhere and as far as possible away from the people who will want to use it. That is an argument because, as the Government have said, they are aiming to build an environmental airport. However, it could be argued that that does not make economic sense. The nationalised airlines have advised against it. It could be argued, too, that two former chairmen, one of BEA and one of BOAC, have said that the decision to proceed with Maplin is wrong. It could also be properly taken into account that the former chairman of the British Airways Board, Sir Peter Masefield, fought when he was chairman, and continues to fight hard now he has retired, against the decision to proceed.

Sir Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)

I hope that my hon. Friend will not assume that Southend, which is six miles from the proposed airport, is miles from anywhere.

Mr. Crouch

I have been guilty of casting a serious reflection on the qualities of all the people who live in and around the South-East Essex coast. I offer my apologies to my hon. Friend and to all those persons living in that area, who are of great consequence. It is because of those persons and other persons who live on the other side of the estuary, in Kent, that I am prompted to ask for the requirement of extra time to consider the matter.

It could also be taken into account that the Roskill Commission did not recommend Maplin as the choice for the third London airport. The commission termed it "an inaccessibly sited airport". Further, I remind the House that Sir Colin Buchanan, who wrote the minority report, did not say that Maplin was the right site for Britain's next major airport. Last month the Association of British Chambers of Commerce said in its recommendation to the Government that the Maplin project should be written off.

It could be argued that the Maplin site is fundamentally wrong to serve the United Kingdom as a whole. I shall say something more about that later. It could be said that the next major airport should be in the Midlands, the North-East or the North-West.

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

Or the South-West.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Crouch

Or the South-West. It could be said that there is a danger of overloading the South-East with development money and that the provision of this airport and seaport would he to the detriment of other more deserving regions. In short, it could be argued that there is no case for Maplin, as I have recently argued in an article shortly to be published.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Waltham-stow, East)

Is my hon. Friend saying that there is a case for a third international airport?

Mr. Crouch

I am saying that we need time to find out whether there is a case for a third airport and where it should be. I am still in some doubt where the Government stand on this interesting argument which I have tried to pose. It is clear that they want the Bill, but they seem to have paused in their headlong dash into the unknown. They have accepted the decision of this House made in June that there should he consultations with the appropriate authorities regarding new factors in aerospace technology with particular reference to the development of quieter engines and short take-off and landing aircraft; and that as a result of such consultations—consultations which they promised to make and have written into the Bill—they would delay, vary or desist from the construction of an airport if those consultations lead them to such a conclusion.

I maintain that the Government could have removed this irritating clause and brought it back into the House with the whole procedure of a strong Whip and a bulldozer and in that way could have got their Bill. But they did not remove that clause; they did not take out this irritation, if it is regarded as an irritation. The clause which we put into the Bill when it went through the Commons is a clause for delay. This is why I speak of the need for building around that clause a statement of what those delays will be.

Why did not the Government remove the clause when the Bill was in the other place? I know that it can be said that they are bowing to the express will of Parliament when we debated this matter in June. But not only have they retained the clause or the real meaning of it; they have fundamentally strengthened it in the other place, and I am glad about that. The Government have made it the duty of the Secretary of State to consult and to report back to Parliament. Why have they strengthened the Bill? They have done so because they recognise that there could be a possible case against Maplin and they want to be sure that they have prepared a well-planned escape route.

But something else has happened since we last debated the subject. On 12th September the Secretary of State made a speech about the Maplin project in which he indicated generally that it would be delayed two years. He said that the project would not be required as early as he had thought, and certainly not as early as Roskill originally mentioned—in other words that it would need to come into operation not by 1980 but more likely by 1982. This view was substantially supported by the Under-Secretary of State, who elaborated on that delay in a speech on 25th September. Therefore, in effect, we have two more years to consider all the factors concerning the wisdom of building this airport and seaport on the Thames Estuary. This will mean more time and less haste in respect of any consultations with the specialist advisers to whom the Government have now decided they must talk.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

I think the hon. Gentleman accidentally misinterpreted what the Secretary of State said on this subject. I understood him to say not that he had deferred the arrival of the airport for two years because he wanted to do so but that he had found himself inevitably forced by circumstances reluctantly to delay the matter for two years. On reflection, I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that mine is the correct interpretation, rather than the one which he attempted to give to the House a moment ago.

Mr. Crouch

I cannot promise that I shall necessarily follow the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) in his deductions about what Ministers have said. We tend to make our own deductions about what Ministers say. I had the impression that the Minister was seeking to give himself a little more breathing space and elbow room in case he recognised that there was something in the arguments which were being advanced to him by so many expert authorities as to where both the seaport and the airport developments should be. But no doubt the hon. Gentleman will soon have his opportunity to make his own contribution to this discussion.

I maintain that the Secretary of State was determined to ensure that he did not commit a folly in this respect. This week we are discussing two very large, prestigious projects—Maplin today and the Channel Tunnel later in the week. It is interesting to think that both projects are to be decided in one week. I cannot blame the Secretary of State for his last-minute hesitation over Maplin. I want to ensure that we use profitably and productively the two-year delay which he so generously offered us. We have a duty to help the Secretary of State out of his difficulties. I am not making a last stand about this matter but a last effort to help the Minister over some of his burdens this week relating to these two great projects.

We have heard that the construction of Maplin would hamper the development of the reduction of noise around Heathrow and Gatwick. Some observations have been made by advisers on this question. We have heard that the enormous expenditure at Maplin to build an "environmental" airport could result in not relieving Heathrow and Gatwick of noise at all, and we should end up with an inaccessible, uneconomic airport in the Thames Estuary 50 miles from London. I do not say that this is the case, but this is still the view of many people.

I do not argue that we do not need more airports, but I believe that we should build them in the right places to serve the United Kingdom as a whole. What is the sense of an airport 50 miles from London, 150 miles from Birmingham and 250 miles from Manchester'? I must remind the Secretary of State that James Agate was wrong, and that civilisation does not end at Potters Bar.

Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)

Anybody who has been to National Airport, Washington, since the opening of Dulles Airport, Washington, knows that it is sheer fallacy to think that because one builds an airport miles from the centre the airport which continues to be housed in the centre of the city makes life any more pleasant for those who are unfortunate enough to live around it. This is a deception with which many delude themselves.

Mr. Crouch

I am interested to hear my hon. Friend's observation. I have landed at both airports. I do not think that Dulles Airport is a long way from the centre of Washington. Washington is not a great complex like London, and the situation is not so difficult. In modern terms the journey from Dulles Airport to the centre of Washington is the sort of distance about which we must think in terms of the urban sprawl of a city.

Mr. Michael Grylls (Chertsey)

My hon. Friend said that the proposed airport at Maplin would be inaccessible. Does he not appreciate that the proposed journey from London to Heathrow by the new tube extension will take 40 minutes and that the proposed journey from London to Maplin would take exactly the same amount of time? Therefore, it is not fair to say that Maplin would be inaccessible.

Mr. Crouch

Certain things have been set in train—I do not intend to make a pun—and the Underground development at Heathrow is already under way. I do him time to hold such consultations, make not know when it will be developed. The proposed rail connection linked with railways in London have not yet been announced. They will be enormous, and we will no doubt hear something about them. I am sure that the Government want two more years to consider all these massive problems and this massive expense at a time of considerable inflation.

We speak of Maplin costing around £1,000 million at 1972 prices. I am not being difficult to-day when I remind the Government of the concern in the House and in the country about this sort of expenditure and the immense transport infrastructure that Maplin will require.

It could be argued—I accept this—that there is a case for Maplin. But there is also a strong case against it. I am not saying this afternoon that the Bill must not go forward, although if Government business advisers want us to hurry it forward and would willingly take it away this afternoon I would be the first to congratulate them and to withdraw my amendment in support. I do not think that is the Government's intention.

In talking about the delay—which I think is so important—and the need for two more years, we must not ignore the consideration of the Midlands, the North-East, the North-West and the South-West. It may take two years for this idea to be absorbed in some of those areas of Whitehall where Ministers receive their advice and where national planning seems to be confined entirely to suiting London and the South-East.

I am asking for the extra time to be written into the Bill. The Government have said that another two years is available. They should therefore let us know their earnest of intent by putting this into the Bill. It has been said in another place, by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, that there is a need to … press on with our planning for all aspects of the Maplin project."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords; 17th October, 1973, Vol. 345, c.310.] Press on, yes. But I believe we should have a statutory delay of two years before we start reclamation, so that, under Clause 2(9), this duty that the Government have taken to consult so many other advisers, can be properly effected and not rushed. So that we can help the Secretary of State in his present task, we must give a study, and report back to Parliament. We do not want him to make a mistake.

The two years are needed by the Government to study "all the factors" affecting the need for the project. Again, I quote Lord Drumalbyn. What are these factors? They are the likely demand and capacity of our existing airports in Britain, the effect of the Channel Tunnel, the trends in aircraft size, reduction in aircraft engine noise, the development of short take-off and landing aircraft, and the prospects for the future supply of aviation fuel which is now becoming an immediate thought in everybody's mind. In future, it could well be cheaper to travel to and from Europe by rail through the Channel Tunnel rather than waste valuable aviation fuel in flying. It could be that that will be a more convenient way of travelling. It could even be a more favoured route to this country for many foreigners coming to Europe to land in France and take a train to London.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Has my hon. Friend heard of the possibility of anyone travelling to America by the Channel Tunnel?

Mr. Crouch

I was talking about Europe. It could well be, as interventions have shown, that some persons might well choose to take a train to Paris and pick up a plane at Orly or Roissy-en-France.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)

Does not my hon. Friend agree that, if this took place and people tended to go by rail to Paris, Britain would lose a considerable amount of air revenue?

Mr. Crouch

Yes. I am concerned about that. That is why I do not want us to build an inaccessible airport which no one will use. I would use Roissy Airport in France if I were an American, and take an excellent train under the Channel and

5 "(9) The power to make an order under this section shall be exercisable by statutory instrument, which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament; and before making such an order the Secretary of State shall consult with the Civil Aviation Authority, the British Airports Authority, the National Ports Council, the Port of London Authority, the Maplin Development Authority and such other persons as appear to him appropriate, and shall lay a report of the consultations and of his conclusions before Parliament and shall state in that report his assessment of the effect on other regions of any development to be carried out in or near the area in which land is to be reclaimed.";

end up at Victoria. I would not want to land in South-East Essex. I would still want to go to Heathrow or Gatwick or possibly Roissy Airport, or Schipol.

Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)

Since the rail trip to Paris would take 3 hours 40 minutes, how much time would it then take to reach the French air terminal in order to catch a plane to the United States?

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Crouch

I have no idea. I have been with a Select Committee of this House to look at the development problems of Roissy Airport. No doubt there would be the sort of delays associated with other airports. But people are not going to enjoy ending up at Foulness—or Maplin, as it is called—so far from anywhere, apart from Southend. If anyone wanted to go to Southend that would no doubt be ideal.

The other major factor which must be taken into account in these two years and which will want to be studied is the relative importance of regional airports-factors which have been pointed out to the Government in recent advice by the Association of British Chambers of Commerce.

The Maplin seaport tends to get carried along on the tide—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. If the hon. Member is going on further I must bring the attention of the House to the fact that the Chair has been lax in its duties. I was lax deliberately, but it seemed to me that, as the hon. Member's speech went on, it would be for the convenience of the House if, instead of discussing just Lords Amendment No. 1, plus Amendment No. 1 to it—which is now being moved—we could discuss at the same time Lords Amendment No. 4, in page 2, line 37, at end insert: Amendments No. 3 to Lords Amendment No. 4, in line 9, after 'conclusions', insert: 'thereon and his assessment of the probable effects of the road and rail communications to the proposed development on the environment of London and the South East'; Amendment No. 4 to Lords Amendment No. 4, in line 9, after 'conclusions', insert: 'thereon and his assessment of the probable effect of the proposed Channel Tunnel on the proposed development'; and Lords Amendment No. 12, in page 13, line 25, leave out Clause 25.

This would considerably widen the scope of the debate and would probably be for the convenience of hon. Members and the House. If that be agreed, I call the hon. Member to resume.

Mr. Crouch

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I imagine that by that you mean that I am now in order, when I might have been out of order before. I was saying that we need time to consider the question of the suitability of Maplin as a major seaport development. It can be argued that it is an ideal project. We have heard many arguments in favour of the fact that the water there is deep enough for an oil terminal and that there are deep water facilities for a container port. But all this must take time. The Government have a duty, which they have accepted, to consult the National Ports Council.

It is right that we should think twice before deciding to bring 500,000-ton tankers up the narrows of the Channel and into the Thames Estuary. Our objective should not be to provide a new home for the Port of London Authority at the bottom of the road or river but rather to decide on the right place for the major oil terminal and the biggest container port in Britain if not in this part of Europe.

I am by no means convinced that Maplin is the proper choice when considered on a national basis. I cannot imagine that the experts of the National Ports Council are going to be rushed into their recommendations. I should like to think they will be given plenty of time. All these requirements will need to be carried out under Clause 2(9) of the Bill, and the Secretary of State is required to report back to Parliament.

Sir Stephen McAdden

Does my hon. Friend realise that none of us has seen the plans for the port? The National Ports Council has not seen the plans. How can it go ahead?

Mr. Crouch

I am seeking not to be difficult but to help my right hon. and learned Friend, who may be in some difficulty later. I am not trying to overstress the point, but merely to say that I want to give him time. I hope that the House will grant this extra time and that he will accept it and say, "Thank you, I will write it into the Bill; you have saved my bacon again." Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend will want to say something about the seaport later. But time is not on the Government's side for carrying out the enormous task of consultation. We should not press them unduly—certainly not to cause any rush decision. We should give them time to make those studies and to be sure they are right. I suggest that we should recognise that and give them the time. The Government have said that there will be no major reclamation—

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)

Is it not also incumbent on the Government to give adequate time for local authorities which are being consulted to prepare their point of view? That has not been done.

Mr. Crouch

I can speak only for the local authority that I know—the Kent County Council—which has told me that the Government have fallen over backwards to consult it and have been generous in the time given. I agree that such consultations must be meaningful and if there are strong representations from such local authorities I hope that the Government will give time to digest them and report to the House any protests or otherwise about the environment which they may receive from those local authorities.

The Government accept that there will be no major reclamation or construction work until Parliament has decided whether there is a case for Maplin. To me, that is excellent. In another place Lord Drumalbyn said that the Government take the view that there is no time to be lost if the first runway is to he in operation in 1982. But the Bill does not say that Clause 2(9) is something which can be brushed aside, and that work to start reclaiming land to build the airport and seaport can start right away. That is not said in the Bill, and that is not the wish of Parliament. Parliament will not be brushed aside in this way.

My amendment is intended to ensure that that does not happen. Parliament told that there will be consultations. We are told that this is a "substantial undertaking". I am not saying that Maplin should not go ahead. I am merely trying to ensure that the Government do not make the mistake of jumping the gun.

I appreciate the Government's desire to press on, but I do not want them to put the pressure on those whom they have to consult. I am trying to save them from the embarrassment of any criticism that, although they accepted the amendment which we passed when the Bill was going through the Commons, requiring them to consult, they do not appear to like that amendment and are trying to bypass it and avoid the true meaning of such consultation.

The Government may have to accept some criticism of their proposals, and even amend their intentions. For this they will need time. It is a serious decision for any Government to amend its intentions.

My amendment would give them time for that and remove any doubt that the Maplin decision has already been made.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it the Secretary of State's intention to speak twice to this amendment? If that is not his intention, will he not listen to the debate before replying to it?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Rippon

It is my wish that we should meet the convenience of the House in these matters. I envisage that I would say something now to indicate the Government's position generally, and then there will be an opportunity for another Minister to reply to the debate. I have moved formally that this House doth agree with the Lords in their Amendment No. 1, and we are taking that together with the amendment to that amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) for the purposes of debate. I think that it would be for the convenience of the House to discuss at the same time the new subsection (9), which is Lords Amendment No. 4, which deals with the arrangements for the order referred to in the first amendment and with the report which is to precede the order. I suggest that we should deal also with the deletion of Clause 25, which is Lords Amendment No. 12, and at the same time we could have a discussion on the other amendments No. 3 and No. 4. to Lords Amendment No. 4, which deal with the matters which ought to be considered in the survey. We could have one general debate. Mr. Deputy Speaker, whatever view you may take subsequently of how the House will deal with amendments by way of voting or otherwise.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We are now dealing with Amendment No. 1. It will be in order to discuss those amendments which have been referred to, but they will be moved formally after this amendment has been disposed of.

Mr. Rippon

I appreciate that point, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I hope that it will be for the convenience of hon. Members on both sides that I try to resolve some of the doubts which my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury has expressed. The amendment which he has just moved is based on a misunderstanding of the position. I shall try to deal with that in due course, in the context of the way in which the Government are responding to the feelings of the House so clearly expressed in the discussions that we had on 13th June.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State explained in the debate at that time that the Government had no objection to the carrying out of a further study of the project, before we were committed to major expenditure—indeed, this was only common prudence. But we could not accept that the decision on this matter should be taken out of the hands of Ministers answerable to Parliament and entrusted to any body or bodies not so answerable. We accepted the feeling of the House and said that we were willing to meet the spirit of the discussion which had taken place. In the event, and in order, perhaps, to make the position quite clear, the House adopted a clause which proposed to give the Civil Aviation Authority control over the project.

I said on 13th June: There are certain difficulties about it, which my hon. Friend explained. It may be that on reflection, when we consider these matters, the House will be a little concerned about transferring the responsibilities of Ministers answerable to this House to bodies which are not answerable to this House, but this is a matter to which we can give consideration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th June 1973; Vol. 857, c. 1626.] That we have done, and I hope that those who supported the new clause on Report will feel that the amendments now being proposed are reasonable, and will be accepted here as they were accepted by the Opposition in another place.

I hope that the deletion of Clause 25 is common ground. We should now be turning our attention to the amendments which should be made to meet the legitimate concern expressed on Report. I look now, therefore, at the amendments to the Bill which the Government brought forward in another place. There are three main points that I should like to make about them generally.

First, the amendment to Clause 2(1) provides that the Maplin Development Authority cannot begin to carry out reclamation work until a date which is appointed by order. The order is made subject—under the terms of subsection (9)—to parliamentary procedure. Without reclamation there can be no airport or seaport at Maplin, so the decision on the project as a whole remains absolutely with Parliament. Moreover, I can give an assurance that we shall not enter into any major construction contracts for other aspects of it which are not directly covered by this Bill—for instance, the access routes—until Parliament has had the opportunity of considering the order.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Before my right hon. and learned Friend leaves that point, does he mean by affirmative or negative resolution? There is a tremendous difference between the two, because if he means negative resolution, circumstances can arise when praying time runs out—because of a General Election, swearing in and that sort of thing—before the House can intervene. Is he therefore definitely assuring the House that this will all be by affirmative and not negative resolution?

Mr. Rippon

I do not think it need necessarily be by affirmative resolution. The negative procedure applies. But I give a firm undertaking on behalf of the Government that time will be found for this matter. I will explain further what we intend to cover in the survey and how we intend to report to the House, but I envisage that when the report is made Parliament must be given adequate time to consider the report and to debate it. That is the essence of the understanding between us all on this matter.

What I am saying on behalf of the Government is that the Bill and planning should go forward and the machinery should be adopted. But before any major construction contracts are incurred, not only on matters covered by the Bill, but on matters which do not directly come within the Bill, or substantive decisions taken, Parliament will have the report, will have an opportunity to consider it and will have an opportunity, if it wishes, to debate it.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned matters not directly related to the Bill. He has said that Parliament will have the opportunity of debating the report. Will Parliament have an opportunity to debate the new town that is envisaged?

Mr. Rippon

There are many matters to be discussed, including access routes. There is no question of the Government entering into major contracts on matters which we well understand should be the subject of a report that will give Parliament an opportunity to have a second look at the project. I hoped I had made that quite clear.

Mr. Spearing

Does it include the new town or not?

Mr. Rippon

It includes the access route to the new town. The position of the new town is somewhat different because, as we have always made clear, it was envisaged in the South-Eastern study which the previous Government set in hand that South Essex would be the growth area for the South-East of England and there would be a new town there in any event. That is a policy that would have to be put forward on its merits.

There is no question of establishing a new town without going through the various procedures required under the new towns legislation. So Parliament will have opportunities in different ways of expressing its views. We shall not set in hand the access routes that will serve, to some extent, both the new town and the Maplin project covered by the Bill until Parliament has had an opportunity to express a view. We shall not treat the access routes as being something simply for the new town and therefore outside the consideration of matters that arise from the Bill.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

What puzzles me, then, is why it was necessary to conclude so speedily the consultations with the local authorities about access routes.

Mr. Rippon

There is always the question of blight if one suggests a number of possible routes. This again is not a different procedure just for Maplin, but something we have said we will do all over the country. We will end the secrecy about motorway routes. We would give a brief opportunity—not too long because of the blight difficulties—for people to express a view about the possible alternatives before we suggest a preferred route. The consultations which have taken place on the Maplin access routes are in addition to, and not a substitution for, all the other statutory procedures which are required by way of publication of preferred route, by way of public inquiry and so on, before a decision is taken.

I wanted to make it perfectly clear that we would not proceed under other legislation, or another procedure, to deal with matters which might be thought relevant to the Maplin project, such as the access routes. I do not think I can give firmer guarantees than I have that we are determined that the study which will form the basis of a report will be thorough. We shall approach it in an objective and open-minded way.

There is difficulty in putting into a Bill all the matters that one would consider in a study. That is my difficulty about the amendments in the name of the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) and others which ask whether we will have regard to the position in the South-East, the effect on the environ- ment and the effect of the Channel Tunnel. I should not want to see particular matters written in.

I give the firm assurance that we accept the substance of the two amendments in the right hon. Gentleman's name and the names of his hon. Friends, although we think it would be a mistake to write them into the Bill. We will include those matters in the report

Dr. Glyn

I am not clear about this. I understand that my right hon. and learned Friend, quite rightly, wishes to give the House an opportunity to control the project. Will every factor have to be laid on the table by an affirmative order or will there be one further general debate on the whole issue? In any event, does this mean that there will be further delay in the Maplin project?

Mr. Rippon

This is the difficulty of setting out a list of all the factors to be considered. I said that we would cover in the report the two factors covered by the right hon. Gentleman's amendment. We intend to make it as wide-ranging as possible and I will try to indicate the sort of matters that it would cover. Parliament will have an opportunity to read it and then there must be a gap. There may be a general debate before the order or just one general debate on the order. The first thing to do is to get the report and give the assurance that Parliament will have time to read it and then, in the most convenient way, to debate it. It would be an order of great substance on whether to go ahead with the project.

I make it clear that the Government remain of the opinion that a new airport at Maplin is the right solution for the London airport problem. I do not want it thought that we have changed our view on the present evidence. But I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no question of our reaching a pre-conceived solution, and I hope he will accept that as an assurance in view of the doubts that he has expressed outside the House.

In considering these amendments, the House will want some account of the matters which we envisage should be covered by the study. I will try to convey the scope of it and indicate how we try to deal with the various issues.

Mr. Norman Tebbit (Epping)

Before my right hon. and learned Friend continues, I wonder whether he would clear up a point about the further two-year delay on the project from 1980 to 1982. Will he make it plain whether this means that everything will slide back two years, every date on the critical point analysis of the project will be moved on two years, or will we start three months late and finish two years late? Is the project impossible of achievement by 1980? Does not my right hon. and learned Friend think that it ought to be achieved by 1982?

Mr. Rippon

There is no question of a deliberate delay. It is easier if one deals with these two matters in logical progression and does not shift from what is to be in the study and how to deal with that to the points that I will make in answer to my hon. Friend's amendment. Roskill spoke of about 1980; I have spoken in the debates about the early 1980s. It now appears clear, as I said in the speech I made on 12th September, that the earliest practical date is the spring of 1982.

In that speech I endeavoured to explain how, taking 1982 as the planning date for the opening of the Maplin airport, the burden on national resources, both in finance and manpower, was likely to be spread in the next decade over these two projects. By the end of the decade, the total expenditure on the two projects might be about £150 million a year, or 0.3 per cent. of our gross domestic product, but it would not pre-empt much construction manpower. On the reclamation of land at Maplin, the expenditure would be nil in the current year, perhaps about £14 million in the next year and £17 million in the year thereafter.

We should put into perspective some of the rather exaggerated estimates of cost. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury talked once again of £1,000 million, but that is not a realistic figure. On Second Reading we gave figures explaining how there would be a build-up to about £440 million by 1980 and £825 million by 1990. Those figures did not take account of the new town, or access roads, because they were likely to happen in any event.

A great many people think that £1,000 million could be saved here and now and be available for distribution to the public, but that is not so if we look at the way in which the money will be spent.

One of the things which the study will bring out, and something we must face up to, is that this is not expenditure to be incurred at Maplin only; it will be incurred somewhere. That would apply whether one was talking about the airport or the provision of houses in the new town. If they are not provided at Maplin one would have to expand many more of the existing new towns than many people would think right or reasonable—for instance, Bracknell, Harlow or Stevenage. It is absurd to say that a saving can be made and that therefore one can forget about the problem for ever.

Mr. Adley

On that one point I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend if we are talking solely about the cost of airports. Can he, however, confirm that the cost of a second runway at Gatwick would be £8 million?

Mr. Rippon

I do not think I can confirm that figure. I should have said that the figures I gave covered the access routes, including rail, though not the new town itself. To expand Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, or Luton is not just a question of additional runways but the additional facilities which would be required to carry many more passengers. It is not a simple question of saying, "We can save £1,000 million which will be available for distribution in some other way." That is not so. First, the expenditure to be spread over a number of years is very little in the first two or three years. Moreover, a great deal of it, if not spent at Maplin, would be spent elsewhere.

It would be reasonable for the House to say that the survey we make should not deal simply with costs of Maplin and the arguments for and against it, but should bring in what is on the other side of the balance sheet and what we would have to do with regard to other facilities. It might be helpful if I went back and tried to explain what it is we intend to cover in the survey. Then if I have left anything out hon. Members may wish to ask me for a further undertaking not to forget this, that or the other.

Our study will be concerned with all the facts as far as we can judge them affecting the need for the project. That will cover the seaport as well as the airport. I hope that those who are primarily concerned with the seaport will forgive me if I devote most of my time to the question of the airport because I believe that to be of the most immediate interest.

The study will deal with the seaport in parallel with any formal consideration of the Port of London Authority's proposals under Section 9 of the Harbours Act 1964. I have already told the Port of London Authority, after consulting the National Ports Council, that I have no objection in principle to its proposal, but nevertheless there has to be further detailed consideration by everybody, including the National Ports Council, about any proposals that might be put forward. I think also that the House would wish to be kept informed of the progress of that side.

Our first task in the study will be to review forecasts of air traffic demand up to 1990. We shall draw heavily on the work carried out first by the Roskill Commission, and more recently by the Civil Aviation Authority

5.45 p.m.

At this point I should like to correct a misunderstanding held by many people, including the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), since the CAA's Report. It has been suggested that the Civil Aviation Authority's forecasts of demand are much lower than Roskill. That was the point raised by the right hon. Member for Grimsby on 13th June.

It is clear, if one studies the report carefully, that the CAA's forecast of demand for air transport movements in 1985 is only 4 per cent. lower than Roskill's figure. So there is, to date, fairly broad agreement on the scale of demand up to 1985; but we shall look again at the figures and take account of any fresh evidence that may be brought forward.

In our further work on demand we shall also take account of the various factors that have been mentioned by hon. Members on both sides of the House: greater use of regional airports, involving an acceleration of a trend which is already evident, the diversion of traffic to the Channel Tunnel—a factor which was allowed for in the CAA's forecasts, but we shall bring that up to date—supply and price of aviation fuel, and developments in aviation technology generally, including the introduction of larger aircraft.

When we have refined, as best we can, the forecasts of demand on the London airport system, we shall compare them with forecasts of the capacity of the existing airports which serve London. It was, of course, in the matter of capacity that the CAA report produced a somewhat different picture from that of Rosskill, principally because it assumed a much greater spreading of the peak at Gatwick.

Here, our first consideration will be of runway capacity, but we shall need to look also in much greater detail than the CAA report could at the constraints which are imposed by the capacity of ground handling facilities. This is a factor which I am sure is far too readily ignored by many people. Where major improvements to ground handling facilities would be needed in order to make use of runway capacities, the cost and the implications of doing this would form part of the second stage of the study, to which I now turn.

When we have established the facts about demand and capacity, we shall select for detailed study a number of different ways in which any extra capacity which might be needed could be provided, either with or without an airport at Maplin.

The British Airports Authority has given recently its views on the implications for the London airports—Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted—if Maplin were abandoned. I shall not go into detail, but it has said some things to which the House really must pay attention—and especially some of the more vigorous critics of the Maplin project. The British Airports Authority said: If the Maplin project were abandoned we should have to face a completely different problem—how to expand Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted to meet the air transport growth which seems likely to engulf the south-east in the 80s. Airport planning has a 10–15 year 'horizon' and we should have to change our plans immediately. Regarding Heathrow, it says: Passengers could double from today's 20 million a year to about 40 million in the mid-80s. … Air transport movements could increase by about 25 per cent. …". In other words, one assumes larger aircraft and fewer movements, but one still has the problem of the passengers. One would have to acquire further land immediately for extra terminal space, including the removal of a large sewage works. We shall have to consider where we should put that.

The BAA continues: The M4 motorway and the Piccadilly underground line would have to be supplemented by a surface rail link with Central London. We shall have to consider the environmental effects and the cost of that. It continues: Passengers could increase five times"— at Gatwick— from today's 5 million to around 25 million in the mid-80s and thence perhaps to 35 million by the end of the decade. Further land and terminal facilities would be required there.

With regard to Stansted, it says: Passengers could probably increase from today's 300,000 to about 8 million in the mid-80s. … About 1,500 acres of extra land would be needed and probably a further 1,000 if Stansted were to become a major two-runway airport for 1990s. This, it says, is taking account of the fact that regional airports should expand and take off as much traffic as possible. But when about 80 per cent. of the increased demand is from passengers who want to come in to the South-East of England or leave the South-East, that is a factor we must bear in mind. It must not be imagined anywhere that there is some enormous saving to be made in cost or environmental considerations if we do not have Maplin. If we do not have Maplin, we shall have to face up to the alternative.

I shall not prejudge what the study may say, because the House is entitled to ask for a survey which brings those factors more accurately into focus and gives other people an opportunity to comment on the British Airways Authority's report if they so wish.

Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend be kind enough to add the figures for Luton, which must be taken into account, where the charter traffic is the fastest expanding element in civil aviation? That will have a serious effect.

Mr. Rippon

Yes, we shall do that, because the Government's policy of developing Maplin assumes restriction of the use of existing airports and, one hopes, some easing of their present situation. I was trying to illustrate the sort of problems which we have to face in any survey and the sort of problems which the House will have to face when it considers that report.

Mr. Crouch

The House is interested in the report from the British Airports Authority, and the extract which my right hon. and learned Friend has read, but surely it is a fact that the authority is being frustrated by the whole idea of Maplin, which has put a blight on its planning intentions to develop regional airports and also Heathrow and Gatwick. That is the real complaint.

Mr. Rippon

The British Airports Authority's problem is different from that of the commercial interests which do not like to be upset and made to move. Its main problem is providing facilities, and it is concerned that we should press ahead as fast as possible. Meanwhile, in the interim, the British Airports Authority is envisaging expenditure of £100 million on existing airports. That is the sort of figure that one talks about even in a holding operation.

In assessing all our alternative strategies the report will look at other factors. It will deal not only with public expenditure generally, but also with the effect of noise and the local implications, and, in particular, with the effect on the environment.

Many people give the greatest weight to the question of noise impact, and we shall try to define the problem in sufficient detail to enable the Civil Aviation Authority to draw up noise contours for each airport as it would be used in each alternative strategy.

Many people base their opposition to Maplin on the hope that by the time it is completed there will be quieter aircraft. That is not a matter for me to go into in detail—

Mr. Adley

Why not?

Mr. Rippon

—because in winding up the debate my hon. Friend may be able to explain the progress that is being made on the aviation side, and he can speak with greater knowledge about the effect of the new developments in aero-engines. It should also be borne in mind that some of the new aeroplanes being approved are smaller—such as the HS146—rather than larger, and all those factors will be taken into account.

The study will review this whole question of noise and try to give an unbiased account of the facts about aircraft noise. We all recognise that progress has been made in this sphere, and there is a substantial body of opinion which believes that there are dramatic possibilities of reduction in aircraft noise. The Government will play their full part in all this, and—I should like to emphasise this—in encouraging the process.

It is untrue, as some have suggested, that the Government are not willing to see this progress because it undermines the case for Maplin. Over many years, successive Governments have supported the aviation industry in trying to produce not only more powerful but quieter engines, and that process will continue.

All I emphasise again is that even if all the aircraft noise could be contained within the perimeter of our airports—we are a long way from that at present—we would still have to face the passenger handling problem and the provision of various facilities.

I hope that I have indicated sufficiently that the survey really will be wide-ranging and that it will cover the problems raised on both sides of the House. It will cover the matters raised in the amendments suggested by the right hon. Member for Grimsby. It will not only take into account alternative strategies in the South-East but will bring into the picture what should be done as regards regional policy and regional airports. That is made clear in the final words of the new subsection (9).

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Waltham-stow, East)

Can my right hon. and learned Friend give some idea of when the report is due to be published? I understand that the hydraulic model test will be finished about March 1974. The report sounds to be so comprehensive that it is difficult to imagine its being published on or about the same date and it would suggest that the reclamation that would have happened immediately after the hydraulic tests will not now be able to go on because presumably the report will be waiting to be digested.

Mr. Rippon

A great deal of work has been done and the preparation of information is a continuous process. I think it would be a mistake to give a fixed date for the publication of the report, because it is important that when it comes forward it is a document of the sort of substance that the House will accept as representing evidence on which it can act. I hope that it will be available some time in the spring of next year or shortly afterwards.

Subsection (9) requires our study to be carried out in consultation with appropriate bodies and then our report to Parliament is a report of our consultations and conclusions. Work relevant to the report is already in hand and is being carried out in close collaboration with the main agencies involved with the first stage of the study—that is, the assessment of demand and capacity. Further consultations as required by the Bill will take place with these agencies and other appropriate bodies, including the British Airways Board, and when we reach the stage of formal consultations we shall talk to local authorities about aspects of the alternative strategies of interest to them. It is a mistake to think that local authorities are not being closely involved in the day-to-day work going on, and I have frequently paid tribute to what has been done, particularly by the Kent and Essex County Councils and others.

Mr. Jessel

When my right hon. and learned Friend carries out those consultations at that stage, will he consult those local authorities whose areas are close to the four existing airports around London and which would be adversely affected if Maplin were not built?

Mr. Rippon

Yes, certainly they will be consulted and I am sure they will wish to know what is happening and what is being said. Quite apart from any statutory bodies or agencies and the local authorities, I ought to make it clear that it is open to anybody who wishes to express views to let us have his comments at any time; and they will be taken into account in the study.

I think I need to emphasise that, although we wish to meet, I hope in a fair and reasonable way, the wishes of the House, there is a need to press on with the Maplin planning. Just because we are carrying out this study does not mean that we can afford at this stage to relax in any way our planning effort for the Maplin project. I think I made clear that the speech I made on 12th September in no way represented a weakening of the Government's view that Maplin will prove to be needed. I set out a statement of fact based on an opening date in 1982.

Mr. Grylls

My right hon. and learned Friend mentioned the question of the date earlier. Is he aware that many of my constituents and those in constituencies near London have been disappointed to see that the date has apparently slipped because they suffer from so much noise? Is it possible for him to try for the earlier date they were hoping for?

Mr. Rippon

We started off with the Roskill Report which said about 1980, and have always talked of the early 1980s. We have now done the necessary planning exercise on the realistic basis of an opening in 1982. That causes anxiety to many people. It may be that, as matters develop, there will be pressure on the House for the programme to be speeded up, but I think we must accept that as a realistic date for the present. We shall go ahead with the study as fast as we can, without in any way trying to rush it or put it forward in a way that would be unacceptable or be thought to be inadequate.

There is an urgent need, and the fact that plans are having to be made to expand existing facilities, albeit simply to meet a holding situation, shows how serious this need is. That is why I ask the House not to accept the amendment which has been moved—albeit with great eloquence—by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury, who took up a number of arguments which were raised in another place and suggested that it would be very helpful to all concerned if we decided not to do anything, whatever happened, until two years after the passing of the Act. That would prejudge any view that Parliament might take on the report and the effect of the amendment would be that, when making the order, the Secretary of State could not appoint a date for reclamation to start earlier than the end of October 1975, though the order might be made at any time. I think that would be a great mistake.

As my hon. Friend made clear, the amendment is obviously based on a misunderstanding. He has clearly misunderstood the purpose of the speech I made on 12th September and assumed that it was a deliberate deferment of the project. That was a mistake.

The amendment is unnecessary because the Lords Amendment No. 1 puts absolute control over the project and its timing in the hands of Parliament. It is wrong to put an artificial and arbitrary time constraint upon the project without any regard to the future situation or the findings of the study. The amendment is inflexible and one must bear in mind that it is so inflexible that it would, in fact, make impossible the opening of Maplin in 1982.

If the House decides that Maplin is necessary, it will decide that it is necessary that it should be opened as quickly as possible and not as slowly as possible. The amendment would delay the opening date for the seaport as well as the airport, without any rational consideration of the issues. I hope, therefore, that the House will agree that no useful purpose could be served by taking a view on the earliest date on which the order should be operative before the facts are put before it.

Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)

The Secretary of State says that no useful purpose will be served, but surely the contrary is the case. In the two years suggested there will have been a General Election and the fate of Maplin determined. If the Labour Party is returned to power, one of its priorities—unfortunately, this is not clearly understood throughout the country—will be to kill Maplin within days of the election. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but, in view of any contracts which may be placed, it is important that it should be understood that the Labour Party is serious in saying that, within days of its election, it will kill Maplin. It is therefore necessary to have a period during which consultation with the electorate can take place. Therefore, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not correct in saying that there is no purpose in this discussion.

Mr. Rippon

I am trying to do the Labour Party a certain amount of justice. I am assuming that it is serious and wants an objective study of the pros and cons.

Mr. Atkinson

The decision has already been taken.

Mr. Rippon

No. The hon. Gentleman may already have taken the decision, but I am sure that his right hon. and hon. Friends will be a little more prudent in the attitude that they adopt. We had better wait for the Opposition's election manifesto. Assuming that they are determined to kill the project in any event and that the report will not come until after the election, they can take that view at any time. There is nothing to preclude them from doing so.

The Government suggest that Maplin is the right solution, but that, in deference to the wishes of the House, and in view of the great expenditure involved, it is not unreasonable to go ahead with the planning as fast as possible and, before any major expenditure is incurred, to come back to Parliament with a report. Parliament can then take any view that it likes. However, it is absurd to take the view that if it thought Maplin was right it should have bound its hands not to do anything about it until a later date. If the House comes to the conclusion that the survey, when concluded, demonstrates that we should proceed with the Maplin project, it will wish and need to do it as quickly as possible. Therefore, the amendment is misconceived.

Mr. Atkinson

The decision taken by the Labour Party is not dependent upon the kind of report to be published by the Government. The Labour Party has overwhelmingly come to the conclusion that, for other considerations, Maplin is just not on. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will ask my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) to clarify the position, I feel sure that he will tell him that a future Labour Government will kill Maplin within days of election.

Mr. Rippon

The Opposition must settle these matters for themselves. The Government wish the House to take a rational position, which is to see the evidence, to weigh it, and then to make a judgment in the national interest. I believe that most right hon. and hon. Members are prepared to do that.

There is not much dispute between my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) and myself. We all know that there ought to be another look at this proposal on the best available evidence before there is a firm commitment to heavy expenditure. We must realise that to rule out Maplin at this stage or by 1982 would involve prejudging the situation in what I should regard as a totally irrational way, whatever hon. Gentlemen opposite may say.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

I should like to assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that, quite distinct from some other parties, the Labour Party learns very rapidly.

Mr. Rippon

I agree with the hon. Gentleman on an enormous number of matters. I, too, put more faith in the Opposition than some of their own supporters. I do not believe that they will want to commit themselves to a totally irrational course of conduct. The out and out rejection of the Maplin option means an immediate commitment to all the other expenditure and environmental disadvantages without any weighing of the consequences. I do not believe that that is the wish of the House as a whole.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury, particularly in the light of that kind of comment, will agree that in the amendments the Government have brought forward we are determined to meet the wishes of the House to have a genuine wide-ranging survey and not to exclude any relevant matters. I hope, therefore, that in due course the House will agree with the Lords amendment and that my hon. Friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

I accept the content of the Opposition's amendments, but again I hope that they will not press for them to be included in the Bill, because it would look strange if we identified one or two factors, but not all others.

Mr. Anthony Crosland (Grimsby)

I shall try to make my speech rather shorter than the two speeches that we have heard so far. Otherwise the debate will never be concluded.

I thought that there was no doubt about the policy of the Labour Party. I will make it clear in case there is any doubt. The Labour Party is as of now unalterably opposed to the Maplin project—[Laughter.] What is funny about that?—and will not proceed with it.

We believe that the accumulation of evidence, which has now lasted two to three years, is sufficient to enable the House and the parties to come to a definite conclusion. The Labour Party has come to a definite conclusion.

Having said that, and knowing that the Government take a contrary view, obviously I welcome some of the remarks made by the Secretary of State this afternoon. At least the tone of ministerial speeches is a good deal gentler and less dogmatic than a year ago.

I welcome Lords Amendment No. 4, what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said about it this afternoon, and what Lord Drumalbyn said in the House of Lords on 18th June. But I also support the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), as the Opposition want to give the Government adequate time to carry out the review and produce the report that the Secretary of State has described in some detail. Although we are grateful for the promise of a review we still support the notion that there should be a two years' delay so that at least the supporters of Maplin can reconsider the matter.

Lords Amendment No. 4, when it speaks of a report, states that the Secretary of State shall lay a report of the consultations and of his conclusions before Parliament". The right hon. and learned Gentleman's conclusions will no doubt be reported in his own language. Well and good. However, when it comes to reporting the consultations, I hope that the views and advice tendered by these distinguished outside bodies will be printed and published in their own original words and will not be rewritten, doctored, bowdlerised or otherwise censored by ministers before being printed. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that there would be "no rigging". I welcome that. I hope it means that we shall have the actual written views of, for example, the Civil Aviation Authority.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

That would be a useful distinction compared with quoting out of context a paragraph in a letter from the Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority and not even laying it on the table.

Mr. Crosland

It was my inquiry that produced the publication of that letter. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I feel strongly with him on that point.

I take it that it is not really relevant for us to go over all the arguments that we have used in previous debates and that all that is relevant today is to point to some of the changes which have occurred since we last debated this matter in mid-June—changes which, in the view of many of us, greatly strengthen the argument for a two-years' postponement and a thorough inquiry.

I should like to mention briefly five new pieces of evidence that have come to light.

The first concerns noise, on which the Government's argument now entirely rests. Surely it cannot be maintained, in the light of the CAA figures, that there will be a shortage of runway capacity in the South-East by the mid-1980s or—despite what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said this afternoon—that there need necessarily be a shortage of terminal and ground handling capacity.

Therefore, as Ministers have made clearly evident, the critical case for going ahead with Maplin is noise. This is why the whole project has been presented so often in environmental terms. I have always accepted that the Government were right to give the first priority to the question of noise. Living, as so many hon. Members do, quite near to Heathrow, I regard noise around Heathrow—and Luton—as having reached intolerable levels. That is why, speaking for the Labour Party, I have said that our alternative to Maplin does not rest on a second runway at Gatwick or on a continuing expansion of traffic at Luton or Stansted.

I must refer to the report of the British Airports Authority, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman quoted this afternoon. I shall speak rather carefully about it, but I can certainly say that, following the publication of this report, had not the Secretary of State, shortly after that, announced a two-year slippage from 1980 to 1982 he could be certain to have had more than one resignation from the BAA as a result of a report which many experts think to be grossly misleading and greatly to understate the possible diversion of traffic from the London area to the regions.

I should like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman about one or two pieces of evidence which have come to light regarding noise and to ensure that they will be considered in the context of the report that he has described to the House.

6.15 p.m.

First, we read in this week's Observer that calculations done by Professor John Large of the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research at Southampton have produced some extremely important new knowledge on the question of noise. His study sets out in detail the kind of improvement that could be made if the Government set' about these tasks with great determination. I hope that the Minister for Aerospace and Shipping, if he is to make the concluding speech, will tell us whether the Government have received this report, and what comments they have upon it. Even more relevant, since this is a Government-sponsored piece of research, was the news in the Sunday Times of 22nd July that new forecasts have come from the National Gas Turbine Establishment at Pyestock. I quote the Sunday Times story and ask for a comment upon it. The conclusions were apparently circulated to Government Ministers nearly four months ago"— that is, four months before 22nd July. They came at an embarrassing time … Ministers therefore decided not to publish the Pyestock forecasts. I hope that we shall have an absolutely clear answer this afternoon as to whether the Government have received this report, and whether they have taken a deliberate decision not to publish it, because, as the hon. Member implied, we have already had considerable difficulty over accurate publication and we do not want to have any more. Certainly, if this report has deliberately remained unpublished and hushed up it would be a disgraceful situation. We are really in danger of reaching a situation in which reports which do not support Maplin are treated practically like the Watergate papers; they are a matter of such desperate secrecy. But if our discussions are to be adequate, we must have access to every piece of expert information that is available to us.

On the question of noise, I must repeat that I, like many others, think that the Government's priorities are hopelessly wrong. There was a very informative exchange at Question Time yesterday, which a number of hon. Members will have heard, which brought out the amount of money being spent on research into the development of quieter engines.

Mr. Adley

It did not bring it out.

Mr. Crosland

I accept that it did not accurately bring it out, but it made it clear that these sums were infinitesimal compared to the cost of Maplin, and that shows an utterly false sense of priorities.

The second point is the question of regional airports and the enormous upsurge of interest in regional airports in the last few months, accompanied by a quite legitimate demand that, if we can have a two-year delay, then, for heaven's sake, let us use that two years' delay to get something approaching a national and not simply a regional airport strategy. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman hinted, the figures show that already a steady diversion to regional airports is occurring. For some time, the Civil Aviation Authority has been conducting its survey in depth of regional needs and regional airport capacity. I was delighted to see that the CAA recently put the boot into BEA and withdrew from it the Birmingham-Brussels licence and gave it to British Midland Airways, on the grounds that BEA had been inadequately supporting regional services.

Since we last debated this matter, we have had the extremely important and authoritative announcement of airways policy by Mr. David Nicholson, the new Chairman of British Airways. He made it clear that he regarded the encouragement of regional airports in accordance with a national plan as one way of avoiding an early commitment to a third London airport at Maplin Sands. He went on: As air transport developed, passengers would begin to fly from, say, Manchester to Marseilles, from Birmingham to Brussels and he concluded by saying With reasonable expenditure at Heathrow, London's present airport system could cope until the late 1980s. —again, due to a stronger and stronger insistence on diversion to regional airports.

Finally, still on this subject, we have had—and this has already been alluded to—the very authoritative report of the Chambers of Commerce, and I quote one sentence from it: … reclamation of the Maplin sands does not in our opinion deserve to be the highest priority at present in Britain's development of air transport. A decade hence there may emerge new reasons for going ahead with it: but we doubt whether the reasons on which the Maplin recommendation was based now justify the expense. That is a formidable list of important pieces of new evidence. On the question of regional airports, the whole climate of opinion has markedly altered in the last six or nine months, and the Government certainly have no right to dream of going ahead with presenting the order to Parliament, at least before we have the Civil Aviation Authority's report on regional airports.

The third factor which has altered since mid-June is that a number of regional planning arguments now look significantly different. The new city in South-East Essex—I wanted to say this to the two Members for Southend, but they have disappeared for a moment—will be very much larger than most hon. Members thought when we discussed this matter a year ago, as we know now that we have seen the detailed plans. The access routes have now been published but they have not been adequately discussed. Certainly, they have not been properly discussed in the House since they had not been published when we last debated the matter in mid-June. There is a growing fear, to put it mildly, which is not confined to this side of the House, about the extent to which major investment projects are concentrating in the South-East. We have to remember that along with the airport there will be a great deal of indirect industrial investment, and this is investment which could go either in South-East Essex or in other parts of the country with very much higher unemployment.

The fourth factor which has changed—and, with respect, I am not sure whether the Secretary of State has quite grasped this point—concerns the Channel Tunnel forecasts of future cross-Channel traffic. When we last discussed this matter on 16th June, I do not think the Cooper Lybrand cost-benefit transport study had been published—if it was, it was literally within 24 hours of our debate on Maplin and none of us had had time to read it—but now that we have read it we find that the forecasts of air traffic are significantly lower than the Roskill forecasts, or than any forecasts which the Government had been using. The reason was that all previous forecasts had simply extrapolated from the trend of the 1960s when there was a vast once-for-all increase in charter traffic, which nobody now believes will be repeated. So we now have forecasts of the need for aircraft capacity and for air journeys across the Channel which have changed markedly since the middle of June.

The fifth point to which I want to refer, although the right hon. Gentleman said little about it, is the deepening mystery of the seaport.

Mr. Norman Tebbit (Epping)

I wondered whether the right hon. Gentleman was going to say anything about another point which has emerged more recently; that is, the sharply increasing price of aviation fuel which will change the cost relationship between the high-speed train and the aircraft, particularly on the routes to Europe. Surely that will make even the estimate about the cross-Channel traffic, to which he referred, look out of date.

Mr. Crosland

What the hon. Gentleman has said is absolutely right, and that will probably have the effect of altering the estimates still further in such a way as to cast doubt on the need for Maplin.

We have an extraordinary situation in the deepening mystery of the seaport. Once again, last Wednesday, the Minister for Transport Industries told the House that there were still no detailed proposals from the Port of London Authority. There is still no advice of any kind from the National Ports Council. It now appears from what I think is irrefutable evidence that the oil companies, at any rate, have no desire whatsoever for an oil terminal at Maplin. I have here the conclusion of the report of what is called the Economic Appraisal Working Group on the Maplin Oil Terminal Project. This working group consisted of representatives of ENI, Shell, Occidental, Total, Mobil, Burmah and BP, with two representatives of the PLA and under PLA chairmanship. So this was not simply a get-together by the oil companies alone. The conclusion of this report, which is dated 30th July, is as follows: based on the data available to the Economic Appraisal Working Group we conclude that there is no economic case at this time for the construction of an oil terminal at the proposed Maplin seaport for the receipt of crude oil and its trans-shipment by pipeline to oil refineries in and around the Thames Estuary. Furthermore the Working Group were unable to find any means by which the economics of the project could be sufficiently improved to make the project immediately viable. I repeat the central phrase: … there is no economic case at this time for the construction of an oil terminal at the proposed Maplin seaport. That is the oil part of the traffic. What about the other part of the traffic—container, general cargo and the rest of it? We have been given no arguments for the Maplin seaport. We have never been told how this fits into regional policy, what effect it will have on prospective port development on Clydeside, Humberside, Merseyside and Severnside, what justification there is for putting new port investment of this size into the South-East as opposed to other parts of the country, and whether the suggestion of a huge new port like Maplin makes any sense in terms of regional policy.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that since the date of that submission the new finds in the North Sea have, if anything, lessened the desire of the oil companies to have this type of terminal at Maplin?

Mr. Crosland

I would imagine that is true. That is a very important factor.

This report was published on 30th July, and so it must have been considered before. I repeat my question: why cannot this report be made available to the House? The PLA is a public body. Perhaps the Minister will consider this when he replies to the debate.

Apart from regional policy, we have never had any discussion of the environmental effects which the port will have in terms of extra traffic congestion, for instance, and we have never had any suggestion of anything which could possibly be called a national ports policy. After all, a lot of ports exist in Britain and much investment has been spent on them in recent years—on the East Coast from Grangemouth to Harwich; on the South Coast, Dover and Southampton; and in the West, Bristol, Liverpool and Greenock. In the light of the number of ports that we have and the kind of investment spent on them, do we need this vast new concentration on Maplin?

Many questions have arisen, even since mid-June, which the report must consider. New evidence on subjects such as noise is coming forward. The case for Maplin is now even weaker than it was in June. I suggest that two years is an absolute minimum in which to give the Government a chance to consider the matter.

Mr. Jessel

The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), like other opponents of Maplin, laid emphasis upon hopes that aircraft will become quieter in the future. He laid great stress on it. It was the first of his five points, and I think he went into this in greater length than he did in any of his other points.

I hope that no one without recent experience of living close to Heathrow or Gatwick or Luton will be complacent or over-optimistic on this point, because tremendous suffering is caused by aircraft noise and it would be wrong to assume that it will become much less without any substantial and convincing proof. My constituency in Twickenham is very close to Heathrow, and I find that what people complain most about is not so much the individual loudness or peak loudness of each aeroplane as the ever-increasing number of flights. This increase is remorseless year after year, and now at Heathrow there are about 600 aircraft movements a day. If there is no Maplin by 1985, I am told, there will be 1,000 movements a day at Heathrow. Already there are periods when aircraft go over every minute, or minute and a half, or minute and three quarters. If there is no Maplin, this sound will become almost continuous.

All the technical arguments to the effect that this noise will diminish rest on the assumption that this increase in frequency matters less than a decline in loudness of each flight. I believe that that assumption is false, and I hope that a fresh look will be taken at it. It would be quite wrong to assume that people living close to Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton will find their position more pleasant if the number of aircraft is substantially increased but if each aircraft is rather quieter than before. In any case, I remain to be convinced that the aircraft will become substantially quieter in the relevant time scale.

Of the 62 airlines which use Heathrow, a considerable number have been placing orders, yet to be delivered, of very noisy aircraft, such as the Boeing 707.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West) rose—

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Jessel

I do not say that all of the 62 airlines are doing so, but some of them are placing orders for some very noisy aircraft which are among the noisiest today. I would add that the life of such aircraft is about 20 years.

As to quietening of the existing aircraft by the so-called hush-kits, I remain to be convinced that they will get so much quieter that they will no longer be a nuisance, especially if the frequency increases.

In addition, we should remember that aircraft noise is not only engine noise. There is the noise from aerodynamic causes as the aircraft passes through the air. This makes an unpleasant whining noise which will not be removed by quieter engines. Therefore, the facile assumption, that aircraft will get so much quieter within the next decade or two that the noise will not matter, is false.

Apart from noise, there is the safety aspect. Sooner or later by the laws of chance an aircraft is going to crash around Heathrow. One did so only a year or two ago. By sheer good fortune it crashed on open space. If on that day the prevailing wind had been in the opposite direction so that the aircraft was taking off into the opposite direction, it would have fallen on a heavily built-up area. I ask the House to consider the possibility of 100 tons of metal, fuel, passengers and luggage crashing into a densely built-up area at around 200 miles an hour. This is an unacceptable level of risk at Heathrow with 1,000 flights a day, and it must be right to arrange for an ever-increasing proportion of aircraft in the future to take off and land over the sea instead of over residential areas.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

The most interesting words in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) were "as of now". He said that the Labour Party's policy was "as of now unalterably opposed" to Maplin. I noticed an interesting conjunction of words. I hope that we may place greater weight on "as of now" than on "unalterably."

If I were asked to identify the main feature of the movement of public opinion since I have been in the House, I would say that there has been a movement against the blinding heat of the technological revolution and toward the necessity for environmental considerations. This has been the general trend of public opinion. I admit that if aircraft are required to land farther away from the capital city there are certain economic difficulties, and it would be wrong for those of us who favour Maplin to be blind to this. In trying to identify the nature of the change in public opinion I have found that in recent years the public are becoming increasingly conscious about the environment and are increasingly ready to pay the cost of environmental improvement. The public want to be able to live a reasonable sort of life. My hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) says that the Labour Party is passionate about Maplin, but I do not believe that the party is at all passionate about it.

Mr. Atkinson

I did not say that the Labour Party was passionate about Maplin. I said that it was quite deliberate in its intention to kill Maplin within days of being elected.

Mr. Jenkins

That seems to be a rather passionate intention—to kill Maplin within days of being elected. I did not hear any such passion expressed on this subject at the recent Labour Party conference. It seems to have been a phrase which has been tossed out at a small meeting and it did not have the tremendous weight which my hon. Friend places on the subject. It is not a central issue of Labour Party doctrine. It is a question of what is the right thing to do. It is not a party or a doctrinaire or ideological question. It is a question of whether public money is properly spent on this project.

To identify the real nature of the problem we must look at the matter of the noise level. The highest noise level is 45 NNI—noise and number index—which is very loud. More often the noise level over Putney is 30 NNI, and only occasionally it is 45. It is loud noise. The number of people disturbed at the 45 NNI level at Heathrow alone in 1981–82 would be 200,000 compared with 200 people so disturbed at Maplin. Therefore, on environmental considerations, it is not a question of a slight difference. It involves hundreds of thousands of people, and this supports the argument for the construction of Maplin. People have been enduring this noise increasingly over the years and are greatly in need of relief from it.

I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State say, as his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has already told me, that the delay from 1980 to 1982 in the estimated date for the opening of Maplin is a delay of necessity, not of intent. I received a letter on this point from the Under-Secretary, part of which states: we have carried forward preparations to the point where we call estimate more clearly the timing of the various elements of the project. This work indicates that the Maplin airport cannot be operational before 1982. I regard this as a statement of an inevitable consequence rather than a statement of desire, and I hope that this is still the case. I was encouraged to hear the Secretary of State say that it is.

I do not wish to be opposed to my party in this matter. It has been said that I am acting purely from a constituency consideration. There is nothing wrong in that, even if it were the case. If one is alive to constituency considerations and makes a study of the facts one becomes increasingly assured that a serious mistake would be made in opposing the development of Maplin. National considerations then become associated with constituency considerations. I am unusually sure that I cannot be mistaken about this.

I offered an amendment to Lords Amendment No. 1, which is the amendment on which this debate is primarily hung. You considered, Mr. Speaker, that the amendment which I proposed was unacceptable. My amendment provided that instead of the words being: not being less than two years after the date of the passing of this Act. they should be: not being more than two years after the date of the passing of this Act. One reason why it was felt that my amendment was not acceptable was that it is a contrary argument to that contained in the amendment, but I believe it would be much better if we had an amendment such as mine rather than the one on the Notice Paper, which I cannot support.

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) referred to the matter of danger. I do not wish to exaggerate this point, and I agree that Heathrow Airport has operated successfully. Aircraft have flown into and out of Heathrow, as well as Gatwick, for many years without doing harm to anyone on the ground. But it is in the nature of events that 98 per cent. of serious jet accidents occur within 10 miles of the busy ends of terminal runways.

There was an air accident last year in France. Had this accident been transferred to this country it would have occurred over Putney. It resulted in some damage in France, and some people who were on the ground were killed, but had it occurred in this country the damage and the deaths would have been appalling and unthinkable. It is, therefore, sensible and reasonable to remove this considerable risk from our capital.

I am sure all hon. Members would agree that if we were now constructing an airport to serve London no one in his right mind would dream of putting the airport at Heathrow. From the point of view of landing and taking off, Heathrow is the worst airport in the world because more people who live in the area are overflown by aircraft than in the area of any other airport in the world. This is one of the reasons why I believe that Maplin must go ahead.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby referred to considerations which have arisen since we last discussed this matter. But he omitted one point which is not unimportant. I refer to the recommendation of the Noise Advisory Council. The council told the Government that a third major airport for London was needed as soon as possible. After studying the reports from its various working parties on noise, the council stated that noise disturbance at Heathrow was now severe. It said that relief at Heathrow was needed as soon as possible, and that the most effective way of achieving this was likely to be a decrease in the number of aircraft movements. It believed that the only certain way to ensure such a decrease was the provision of a third London airport.

The council also referred to the matter touched on briefly by the hon. Member for Twickenham. It emphasised that the economic life of existing noisy aircraft is still comparatively long and that retrofit arrangements for reducing noise are not likely to make a very significant impact so far as can be realistically foreseen. It considers that optimism about the rate of improvement may have been over-stated by some of the proponents of these techniques. That is putting it mildly.

I believe that expenditure on Concorde has been a great mistake and I think that now, with a little bit of hindsight, the Concorde project would not have been started. That was the view of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). Although I believe that expenditure on Concorde is a mistake I do not believe that this expenditure on Maplin would be a mistake, and I hope the Government will press ahead as fast as possible.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)

Noise forecasts of the type that the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) has just made are technical matters and it is difficult to argue about them. Nevertheless, a great many forecasts have been made and it is most important to study them carefully.

As one who has always opposed Maplin, nevertheless I have great sympathy for those people who live round Heathrow. I did so myself for many years, and I understand their feelings. However, forecasts of noise reductions cannot be dismissed glibly as over-optimistic. For example, the figures put forward recently by Mr. Flowerdew hear examination. He said that in 1972 2,200,000 people around Heathrow were subject to the 35 NNI line and that, without Maplin, using Department of the Environment formulae, it could be down to 450,000 people by 1985. That is with- out Maplin. He was saying that the introduction of new wide-bodied, quieter aircraft would reduce enormously the number of people suffering from severe noise nuisance in the Heathrow area. Earlier, the hon. Member for Putney quoted a low figure for the number of people who would suffer from noise nuisance if we built an airport at Maplin. That figure was arrived at only by the use of the same formulae as those on which Mr. Flowerdew based his forecasts. The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. The answer may be somewhere in the middle, but still there would be many more people affected in Kent and Essex than is the case at the moment.

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

The Noise Advisory Council is the body set up by the Labour administration to advise us about its judgment of all these highly complex matters. The council is composed of the best experts available to us, and they reached the judgment which was quoted accurately by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins).

Mr. Moate

I have seen Press comments on the reports of the Noise Advisory Council and I have seen a number of other reports from many other experts. In those cases it is normal to see some substantiation of them. In the case of the Noise Advisory Council we get only a short unsubstantiated statement. I am a little sceptical about that body, which I understand is staffed fully from the Department of the Environment. I do not say that the Council is wrong and that others are right. But there is an overwhelming body of opinion emerging to the effect that we shall have very much less noise round existing airports as a result of new technologies. Supporters of Maplin tend to brush that aside. We cannot afford to do that.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Some of the opinion suggesting that there will be a sudden drop in the noise round London is put forward by people who have an economic interest in not having Maplin.

Mr. Moate

Even people like Professor Walters, a member of the Roskill Commission, admit that the commission did not make adequate allowance for the introduction of wide-bodied, quieter aircraft. There is a great deal of evidence to show that noise nuisance round Heathrow and Gatwick will become less and that a far greater contribution to that reduction in noise will be made by the introduction of new aircraft than by constructing Maplin.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) is a little illogical in his approach. He wishes to relieve his constituents of aircraft noise. His argument is for the total closure of Heathrow. But Heathrow will stay there. It is a fact of life that there is a major international airport situated close to a large residential area. It is not yet up to capacity. The Government plan more aircraft movements there by the mid-1980s. Even with Maplin, his only hope lies in quieter aircraft. Maplin will make only a small contribution to the quality of life of people living in the area of Heathrow. But it will do so at a tremendous cost to Essex and Kent in economic terms, in terms of a wrong regional policy and in terms of the environment. I say nothing of its effect on the general economic efficiency of our aviation industry and of the country as a whole.

Mr. Jessel

Does my hon. Friend agree that, if there is no Maplin, Heathrow will have to be developed and used to its full capacity, whereas if there is an airport at Maplin it will be possible as a deliberate act of policy to restrict the number of flights in and out of Heathrow and to operate it at below its technical capacity?

Mr. Moate

That is possible. However, there is no suggestion that Heathrow will not be developed to its full capacity. If we are not to have a new airport at Maplin until 1982 it will be possible to develop Heathrow to take far more passengers. At the moment £100 million is being spent at Heathrow to improve passenger handling capacity, probably nearly up to the 40 million figure to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State referred as though it was a dreadful threat. That will happen anyway. It has to be faced as a fact of life. We cannot dodge it.

Mr. Adley

Taking my hon. Friend's point and the point made by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), does my hon. Friend agree that if those hon. Members who speak for their consti- tuents round Heathrow and Gatwick made a thorough study of the facts they would agree with the point which the hon. Member for Putney half made and with the point which I made on Second Reading and again on Report, that the only way to make Maplin work would be to phase out Heathrow and Gatwick completely over a period of 10 or 15 years?

Mr. Moate

There is considerable logic in that argument. However, Mr. David Nicholson, the Chairman of British Airways, said recently that it would cost £40 million to transfer only 10 per cent. of British Airways activities to Maplin in terms of operating costs. It is clear, therefore, that Heathrow will have to remain as an international airport and a nuisance to many people living nearby.

As one who has consistently opposed Maplin, nevertheless I pay tribute to the Government for having gone even further than accepting the spirit of the amendment moved in this House on Report. They have said that this matter should be the subject of a further vote in this House. I pay tribute to the Government's willingness, however belated, that there should be further parliamentary control over this proposition.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State argued with the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) about the Labour Party's having adopted a somewhat irrational posture. However, it was only very recently that the Government moved from their own slightly irrational posture in favour of the project and decided to take a second look at it.

Now we are told that we are to have a further review and a report, probably by the spring of next year. If it is to be done properly, that is a colossal undertaking. It means virtually a new national airports policy study, taking into account all the regional implications, a new national ports study, the study of all the noise implications and all the representations coming from local authorities, and reporting back to this House by the spring. It is like compressing into a matter of months the Roskill Commission's work, which took years. I should have preferred my right hon. and learned Friend to say "It may take a year or even two, but we shall come back with a thorough report".

There has been one significant change in recent months. Whereas the Government maintained that it was desperately urgent to have this new airport by 1980, nearly every report that has come forward since say that we have more time, that time is on our side. We know that there is sufficient runway capacity at existing airports to carry us over until 1985. Let us use the time wisely. If some people say that we must not waste time, I suggest that it is far better to do that than to lay waste large parts of our our countryside in Essex, with massive envirronmental damage, and to waste much needed economic resources which could be better directed to other regions of the country. Even if there is no net national saving, I suggest that there is an overwhelming case for a proper regional strategy and a proper national airports study.

The other day I was reading a debate which took place in this House in June 1967. The Conservative Opposition of the time were calling for an independent inquiry into a national airport policy, in the context of which a decision on a third London airport could be taken. The Opposition argued that it was wrong to make a decision about Stansted or any other international airport except in the context of a national airport policy. In office we have taken a decision on South-East airports and set up a national inquiry into airport policy specifically excluding the South-East. That is quite irrational.

In moving the motion then my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) said: I believe that the Government will make a very great mistake if a false sense of prestige or a miscalculated judgment of the urgency of implementing some immediate decision leads them to cling obstinately to their present choice. Those words are pretty apt today. It was my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) who wound up the debate. He said: they persist in thinking that standing firm on the wrong policy is a sign of strength. What they talk about as being firmness appears now to very large numbers of people, notably on this issue, as just plain, ordinary obstinacy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th June 1967; Vol. 749, c. 770–861.] I concede that the action of the Government in allowing a further debate and vote next year, with a report to be brought before the House, means that they cannot yet be accused of clinging obstinately to their policy. But how much better it would be if they took the opportunity available in the amendment put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), and took two years to make the fullest possible study of the project, with all its implications for our national economy.

Two years is not too long a time in which to come to a right decision on this project. We have time. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment and use wisely the time which we have available.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Atkinson

The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) raised two important matters which should be cleared up. First, the report is not to be a reappraisal of the fundamental considerations. It is not to revalue the original factors which led to the decision being taken to have an airport at Maplin. The report will deal with second thoughts on matters other than the fundamental aspects of the whole argument.

One or two Government hon. Members giggled when I referred to the Labour Party having taken a decision. It was suggested from the Government benches that that decision was taken by the Labour Party in advance of the publication of a subsequent report. It was thought hilarious that the Labour Party was being irrational. It did not occur to Government hon. Members that their Government, as the hon. Member for Faversham has said, came to the conclusion that they had sufficient evidence to take a decision as big as the Maplin decision on the evidence available. The fact is that the Labour Party had similar evidence on which it could come to a decision. Therefore, if it was rational for the Government to decide on Maplin, surely it is rational for the Labour Party to make a decision against Maplin, having considered the same kind of evidence.

There is nothing irrational about the Labour Party's decision. Let me restate its position. The Labour Party, and the Parliamentary Labour Party in particular, has come to a decision against Maplin. It has said clearly and unequivocally that immediately after the General Election, if it is elected into Government, it will kill the Maplin project. I hope that the Press will take that decision seriously.

The Press has not so far announced to the country the Labour Party's decision on Maplin—namely, that it would kill Maplin. There are tremendous implications. I ask the Press to debate the issue throughout the country and to let people know that the Labour Party has taken that decision.

I support the amendment which provides that the matter should be put back for two years. I do so because we shall have a General Election within two years. It is the opinion of many hon. Members that we shall have a General Election in October 1974. I accept that there are those who do not have quite that amount of confidence. Some Government hon. Members feel that the Government should run to March 1975. However, the majority opinion is next October.

If that is the case, there is an overwhelming argument for delaying the whole business for two years and for the Government not to be involved in intermediate contracts between now and the General Election. Let us wait to see what the people have to say about Maplin. Should they decide to support a future Labour Government, it will mean that Maplin will be killed as a project.

There is another reason for delaying the decision for a further two years. That does not concern the further report which is on its way. The research projects, investigations and exploration which are now going ahead affect many planning projects throughout the South-East and some of the London boroughs. They are having an adverse effect upon rehousing and redevelopment schemes which are envisaged anywhere near the line between the centre of London and Maplin Sands. I appeal to the Government to consider that aspect, bearing in mind what is clearly the Labour Party's position—namely, that if a Labour Government are elected, any outstanding contracts for building work which are made between now and the General Election will be stopped. That being the position, there might be some unfortunate consequences for any company which might be tendering to undertake that sort of work.

Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings) rose—

Mr. Atkinson

I shall give way in a moment. We should be aware of what is involved in the Labour Party's decision. We could be spending or committing ourselves to spending large amounts of money between now and the General Election, and such contracts will be broken if a Labour Government are elected.

Mr. Warren

The hon. Gentleman has been speaking with great authority about his party's policy. Will he confirm that his party's policy on the breaking of contracts has been agreed with the TUC and that full compensation will be paid to all the workers involved in the contracts which his party proposes to break?

Mr. Atkinson

I raised the subject because of the tremendously important implications.

Mr. Warren

Will the hon. Member give an assurance?

Mr. Atkinson

In a moment. It would be wrong for us to talk flippantly about a £1,000 million or £2,000 million project without recognising the implications if the present Government are defeated at the next General Election and if there is a change of direction for the third airport project. That of necessity puts in jeopardy existing contracts in terms of continuity of work, financial commitment and many other matters. If it is not the intention of a future Labour Government to continue with the work put in hand by the present Government, there must be a breaking of contract somewhere; otherwise we would perpetuate useless work.

The hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren) is right to ask for assurances, but it is not for me to give them because I am in no position to do so. It has been made clear that this is the Labour Party's intention, and the hon. Gentleman must ask my right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench the question he seeks to put to me. My right hon. Friends, and particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), have announced in clear terms that this is the policy of the Labour Party. Therefore, if trade unionists and contractors take on contracts in this development, they must be quite clear about the implications.

Mr. Jessel

May I seek to draw the hon. Gentleman a little further into the future in terms of Labour Party policy? If the Labour Party loses the next General Election but one and by that time, in 1978 or 1979, Maplin airport is half built, will it then cancel the project and drop the contracts?

Mr. Atkinson

That is a hypothetical question.

Mr. Jessel

So is the other one.

Mr. Atkinson

It is not for me to look into that particular crystal ball. I am talking about the General Election which must take place within the next 18 months. We are concerned about the work that is now being placed and the research teams which are now being assembled by various authorities. I am concerned about three areas of activity. I refer first to the work to be undertaken by the local authorities, secondly to the work being undertaken by British Railways, and thirdly to the work to be placed by the Maplin Development Authority. Those three organisations within the next 12 months are committed to vast research, and this will involve considerable resources in furthering the development of the project.

The decision taken by the Government has blighted property and possessions in the South-East. It has already, in advance, blighted work on the drawing boards in considering future plans. The fact that the scheme is projected into the future will cause tremendous difficulties. The high-speed rail links between Maplin and Kings Cross will bisect my constituency, and this has already caused delays in certain planning proposals. Planning authorities will have to put back large rehousing schemes in my borough until they know the decision about the rail links and roads.

Mr. Allason

I am sure the hon. Gentleman agrees that it is wholly undesirable that there should be any delay in this matter and that there should be an early decision. If that is so, why is he in favour of a two-year delay?

Mr. Atkinson

Because the project is so large that there should be maximum national consultation. I do not envisage the total scrapping of a third airport, but I doubt whether it should be at Maplin. I am not opposed to a third airport on the coast elsewhere, for there are good arguments for such a proposal. I am arguing that the third airport should not be at Maplin. I feel that there should be maximum consultation and that this should take place after the General Election. I am arguing that the Government should not do too much damage in the next 12 or 18 months by placing contracts but that they should delay the whole project until a clear decision is taken. If after the next General Election there is seen to be mass support for the project, we must bow to that decision and no more will be heard about overriding problems, except perhaps about consideration of peripheral issues. The project would then go ahead in those circumstances. I am asking the Government to alert the various teams employed by the three authorities I have mentioned not to undertake initial work or to organise themselves on the basis that this project of necessity will go ahead. It may be that following a General Election a different decision will be taken.

We must remember that there is much work to be done in terms of soil mechanics, exploration of various kinds, and research by various design teams brought together by British Rail, and that this will involve a great deal of expenditure. Extensive underground work will have to be undertaken, and I understand that the railways intend to go in for a fast link underground. There are enormous implications in all these factors and much money will be spent in the next 12 months. I am arguing that if we wait until after the next General Election for a decision to be taken, we shall avoid a great deal of disruption. To put the matter colloquially, we are making the best of a rotten position.

What I have said may sound somewhat illogical to Conservatives, and they may be right in criticising some of the weakness in my argument. I understand the weakness of our case. Unfortunately, many authorities find themselves over a barrel in that they can do nothing about the situation.

Let there be a decision to go ahead with rehousing in the north-east of London. Let us also go ahead with road development, new bridge construction and so on. All these plans have been put into limbo because planners are inhibited by their lack of knowledge of what is to happen. If the Government put back a firm decision, this will allow the planners to have confidence in what they are doing. At the moment we are getting the worst of all worlds. We are suffering because of the decision that has been taken, and we are suffering even more because the official Opposition do not go along with the Government in this important project. This is a unique situation in a massive development of this kind. I do not recollect a similar project of this size dividing opinion in this way. On these grounds I ask that the matter should be put back for a period of two years.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

I find myself wondering what exactly the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) was saying. It appears that the only thing he objects to about the Maplin project is the choice of Maplin. When he says that the Labour Party will not go ahead with Maplin, he is not saying that the Labour Party will not go ahead with the third London airport on some reclaimed site. It appears to me that it it is the choice of Maplin, no doubt because it has been made by a Conservative administration, that the hon. Gentleman finds unacceptable. Be that as it may, I shall oppose the amendment. I believe it is a wrecking amendment which, if passed, is likely to damage the Maplin project to a point where it can have little or no usefulness.

7.15 p.m.

1 believe that the choice of the Maplin site, while it may in itself have been made for environmental reasons, was born out of necessity, which no one has yet denied—the fact that we may well reach saturation at the existing airports serving Greater London and the South-East. Therefore, one either accepts the Roskill concept of the ideal cost-benefit site, namely Cublington, or—and I wonder how many of us could disagree?—that an inland site for a new airport is unacceptable today on environmental grounds.

It seems right that the Secretary of State should have told the House today that he is initiating a new study to reconsider all the arguments that brought the Roskill Committee to its solution of Cublington. However, he is now applying those arguments to the need for a third airport to serve the South-East. He has said—and I hope that he can fulfil his promise—that we are likely to have that report by next spring. I should have thought that optimistic. Just the same, I welcome his statement in particular because, as I said in an interjection, it is thought that the hydraulic model that is being used to test the shape of the reclamation will have produced its results in or about the spring of 1974.

I interpose here to say that I was a member of the Select Committee which for three weeks considered the whole Maplin project and listened to the petitions against it. The chairman was the late Martin Maddan—a most able chairman, whom I am sure many hon. Members miss. One of the things that struck me forcefully about those intensive three weeks was the amount of research already in hand by the Department of the Environment.

To suggest that the decisions on the project have been made with minimal effort to find out the truth of the arguments would be an appalling fallacy. In fact, we were impressed all the way through by the arguments presented by counsel representing the Department of the Environment; in particular by the statement that no work would start until the shape of the reclamation had been decided, and that even then the reclamation would take place phase by phase.

We had impressed upon us the need for speed. Clearly, if the airport is to meet a demand it must be there to meet it. If it is built after that demand is peaked the demand will go elsewhere. I wish that we were in the position of the French, who are to open their third Paris airport next spring, but we are not. We have to wait for ours.

What we must not be guilty of is to delay the airport concept any longer than absolutely necessary. It may be argued that the new study will prove that all the Roskill arguments are invalidated, that there will not be saturation at Heathrow and at Gatwick, that aircraft noise reduction techniques are just round the corner and that other technological inventions are so close that to go ahead with the airport would be nonsense.

Since I believe, however, that the Government do not look upon Maplin as a prestigious project, whatever that may be, but as a necessity, and that they are going ahead with the project because it is a necessity for the good of the country I also believe that if the project were no longer for the good of the country, they would willingly stop it.

The reclamation as now planned is a phased reclamation. It could be chopped off year by year—it is not one of totality. Indeed, at this moment we are talking only about reclaiming 14,000 acres out of a possible 18,000 acres, which would, in effect, mean a two-runway airport.

It is a pity that we do not make more of the argument about secondary social advantages that may well come to that part of South-East England as a result of the project. Anybody who has driven to Southend is conscious of the appalling road links to that area. Therefore, a motorway to Maplin could provide a badly-needed road link, to South-East Essex, which could be a boon to all the people in that region.

The same goes for the train link. Indeed, I hope that that train link will become a very fast link—a high-speed passenger train link—which also could be of great benefit to commuters living in that part of the country.

I come now to the question of noise. The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) said that the only leg the Government now had to stand on was the concept of Maplin as a noise-free airport, or at least an airport that would relieve Heathrow, Gatwick and Greater London of noise. This is just not true. Maplin will be there to meet the need to relieve congestion. Although the CAA figures may depart marginally from Roskill, to the extent of 4 per cent., they do not depart to any great or marked degree so as to allow him or any of his hon. Friends to say, "All right, we do not need Maplin and we shall not need Stansted, Southend, or Luton". They cannot say it. They know that if they do not have Maplin they will have to develop Stansted, and we all know what happened the last time anybody suggested that. They will have to develop Luton, even if Luton does not want it, and they will have to develop Southend—which at present is a sleepy, small town airport.

That is the price they will have to pay. They will also have to pay the price of new terminal buildings at Heathrow, and. more important, a new access to West London, because the M4, by any Ministry of Transport standards, is already saturated. Has anybody estimated the cost of a new access route from London Heathrow through to West London? It must be enormous, but it will be a necessity if we are to develop Heathrow to the maximum extent.

It seems to me, therefore, that the advantages of a piece of reclaimed land—which at this moment is a firing-range—and two access routes, custom-built for the purpose, with their secondary social advantages to the area in general, present a better proposition, even assuming, as I say, that one was prepared to build all the extra accessories required at Stansted, Luton and Southend.

Finally, a word on noise. I understand that there are at this moment in commercial service in the world 8,300 civil airliners, of which only 350 fit into the so-called quieter category. We talk about hush-kits and quieter engines, but we refuse to accept that those engines which make noise were designed in a technology which did not consider noise as a parameter. If we are now to make those engines silent, and we have to start all over again, the cost of converting each engine for each airliner will simply be unacceptable to the airlines which run them.

It may well be that some Government will have the courage to say, "Just the same, we will not have noisy airliners operating at our airfields. We will impose noise limits or noise fines, or an FAR 36—only much tougher than that—or a noise certification order which will make it impossible for world airlines to operate those aircraft. Only the quiet ones will, therefore, be allowed."

But I do not believe that many hon. Members honestly think that any Government would feel that they had the right to tell airlines which had invested millions of pounds in their fleets that they should write those fleets off at a stroke simply because of this one parameter.

That being so—and I remind the House that BEA has been operating Viscounts for 18 years, so that one can take it that airlines will be operating noisy aeroplanes for 10 or 15 more years—the idea that one can cut out Maplin and tell the people around Heathrow and Gatwick, "We shall see if we can quieten the engines, but, whether we can, or whether we cannot, you will have to put up with it", will be unacceptable in environmental terms.

I have no difficulty, therefore, in opposing the amendment or in congratulating my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for his announcement about the new study. I sincerely hope that the House will not run away with the idea that Maplin is a party project but will see it as a most valuaable addition to the overall economy.

Mr. Gwynoro Jones (Carmarthen)

The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) made certain rather dubious assertions, First that there is an air traffic demand which Maplin is supposed to meet. Over the last few years, the growing burden of expert evidence has tended to disprove the theory that there is such a demand and that there will therefore be a problem towards the end of this decade and at the beginning of the next in terms of runway and terminal capacity.

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) and my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) built their case around the environmental problem and noise in connection with Heathrow and Luton. This is a major problem, but it is not central to the issue. Maplin must stand or fall in its own merits. Heathrow will not disappear it Maplin is created.

Noise cannot be the governing factor because it must be remembered that the problem arises in various other parts of the country with for instance low-flying military aircraft. Thousands of such flights take place every day. With contour flying at 200 ft. above sea level in populated parts of South-West Wales and Scotland, the environmental problem, noise, and the danger of a plane crash—of which the hon. Member for Twicken- ham made a great deal of play—is present in these areas as well, yet the Government have no intention of stopping such exercises. It is therefore fallacious—indeed, dangerous—to defend Maplin on the basis of the environmental problem. One could argue for other parts of the country which are daily confronted with similar dangers—for instance, where there are bombing ranges, and in areas where low-flying exercises take place over towns and villages in Carmarthenshire and elsewhere.

The Maplin project must stand or fall on economic grounds, namely, that it is there to meet a demand. I am sure that the Secretary of State, by calling for a further reappraisal, is telling us that he is not sure about the economics of the case; that he is not sure a problem exists. If the Government are satisfied that Maplin is needed, why have a further review? If the Government are determined to press ahead why bother with the extended study that is now taking place?

I submit that the two-year extension proposed in the amendment is of value for many reasons. First, the Secretary of State must be aware that there is a growing feeling in the regions and nations of Britain that there is a tremendous imbalance in likely future Government expenditure between London, the South-East, the regions, Wales and Scotland. There is a growing feeling that prestige projects involving mammoth Government expenditure are envisaged over the next decade or so for London and the South-East—projects that will increase the disparity between, say, Wales and London and the South-East.

Mr. Rippon indicated dissent.

Mr. Jones

The Secretary of State shakes his head, but if he were to come to Wales or Scotland more often I am sure that he would be far more aware that this disparity exists. The two-years' extension would enable the Government to have a re-think on that matter and allay fears as to Government expenditure intentions.

If, as the Government claim, there is a need for a third airport, why not make the building of such an airport central to solving certain regional problems? An airport—or a seaport—could be used as a means of eradicating certain regional imbalances. The selection of an alternative site could be part of a regional policy, because the provision of such a basic infrastructure service as an airport could cause the regeneration of a region.

7.30 p.m.

One could make a case for Severnside, but I shall not develop it tonight, because of the time factor. Severnside has powerful arguments in its favour as a seaport and as an airport. It has assets and facilities which, if used, could help to solve the regional problems of South-West England and South Wales. Land is available. Communication with London is good, ports facilities exist, and it is near a development area. It would at least help to meet and solve some of those problems. One could argue strongly in that direction.

The two-years' extension for which the amendment calls could tie up the question of the need for the airport with the question how it could help to solve regional problems in a part of Britain. The cost—£1,000 million or whatever it is—is a mammoth figure. This country is not in a position to have another failure such as those we have had in the past. Concorde is clearly a failure. Whatever one wishes to say about Concorde—

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)


Mr. Jones

The hon. Gentleman says "Rubbish", but time will prove who is right. That it is a failure is my assessment.

Therefore, the regional aspect must come into this decision. Over the last few months there has been a growing use of the regional airports. Therefore, why not use this two-year period to also look into the methods whereby the facilities at the regional airports could be improved to solve the problem of congestion?

The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East made great play of the question of congestion. But Maplin will increase the burden on essential services for London and the South-East, where already the services are over-stretched and the demand upon essential services is reaching its limit. Therefore, in view of the congestion in London and the South-East, Maplin is wrong.

Maplin has become a sensitive issue which divides Members on both sides of the House. One of my hon. Friends who spoke earlier, supports Maplin on a constituency basis. That is perfectly laudable and reasonable; he was elected by his constituents to defend their interests.

Now that we have been told that there is not such an urgent need for Maplin as was first thought, the Government can well afford to take the two years for which the amendment calls to reconsider the whole problem in terms of the regional impact, the regional airports, and the question of how it could solve the problem of congestion in London and the South-East.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) said, if we are returned to power Maplin is one of the first projects we shall kill. If we have this amount of money to spend—£1.000 million, or whatever it is—let us tie it up into providing better airport facilities, but also as a basis for improving and correcting the regional imbalance.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

The amendment, which seeks to defer action by a further two years, has much to commend it but it still leaves many weaknesses inherent in the Bill as a whole. It has much to commend it because there are other aspects still uncovered in the Bill taking the project as a whole.

The House may be aware that within the last year public tender prices by contractors have escalated by 47 per cent., according to the latest figure I was given. This has two important bearings on this matter. Any estimates given to us by Ministers on Second Reading are substantially and significantly obsolete by today. There tends to be an inherent assumption in quoting costs of future events that inflation does not matter because even in times of gross inflation all costs tend to rise by the same amount, that the relationship between expenditure of this kind, gross national product and taxation yields remains recognisably constant.

I have never seen any evidence to support this assumption, but it is implicit in those who state a cost on Second Reading, do not amend it on Third Reading, and do not amend it again tonight, when during the months between Second Reading and tonight public works tenders have increased by about 20 per cent. One-fifth of £1,000 million is £200 million. So to those of us who earlier predicted that the total cost of Maplin would be not £1,000 million but at least £2,000 million in the event, it looks as if already a fifth of the difference between the Government's figure and ours has been overcome by events, and not even one year has yet gone by since Second Reading. Therefore, the arithmetic in which those who favour the Bill place their trust is already extremely shaky.

There is, however, a much more important consideration. During this period the price of constructing houses throughout the United Kingdom has increased by leaps and bounds. These matters are closely related. I do not believe—this is not a statement of faith but a reasonable assumption—that one can drop hundreds or thousands of millions of pounds worth of public works contracts into the system without stimulating an insupportable degree of inflation in house building costs.

Ministers may say that some of the houses which are to be built at Maplin, if the Bill ever achieves actuality, would have to be built somewhere for the increase in population, in any event. That is true, but it is such a minute truth as not to be strictly relevant to the major argument. With the unsatisfactory showing of house building in both the public and the private sector, due among other factors to the escalation in costs, the further gross aggravation of that by dropping this quantum of public works contracts into an unexpanded capacity will be insufferable. This is something to which serious thought should be given.

My right hon. and learned Friend was at his best in the sense of being all things to all men this afternoon. Everything he said could have been welcomed if looked at uncritically by those who support an airport at Maplin, and by those who oppose an airport at Maplin.

The definitive statement of the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) was of equally succinct ambiguity when he said that the position of the Labour Party "at this time" was "unalterably", and so on. Either the position is "at this time", and may alter at another time, or it is "unalterable". I think he will agree that those two were somewhat circular.

Mr. Crosland

May I clear up once and for all what was not a very happy phrase? What I intended by the phrase "as of now" was that the Labour Party's policy is already at this moment unalterably opposed to Maplin.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I am most grateful. If something is unalterable, it means that it does not alter with an efflux of time. I am glad that that ambiguity has been cleared up.

We have heard much about parliamentary control. We are discussing Lords Amendment No. 4 with this, and it will be noted that the statutory instrument procedure therein contained is not that which gives Parliament the maximum opportunity of controlling the executive. It is that which gives Parliament the minimum opportunity of controlling the executive.

I asked my right hon. and learned Friend a question in an intervention on this point, and unfortunately, as was typical of his whole speech, his answer was so bland as to be meaningless. Why is it that the Government did not write into this amendment—I understand it was a Government amendment in the House of Lords—the affirmative resolution procedure so that action could not be taken by the Minister without the authority of the House? That would have been consistent with the undertakings given by the Minister, but that is not what has been done.

As the House well knows, and as the Select Committee on Delegated Legislation has highlighted, statutory instruments, by the negative resolution procedure, can come into effect as soon as they are laid. They do not have to wait for the 40 days of praying time to pass before they come into effect, as some people innocently believe. The form of words which my right hon. and learned Friend used was consistent with a situation wherein, although praying time had elapsed and, therefore, a vote of the House could no longer annul a statutory instrument, as long as the Government gave time for a debate the Minister's undertaking would have been fulfilled. But it would not have the effect of annulling a statutory instrument.

In this Session of Parliament the Government gave time for the consideration of motions concerned with the annulment of statutory instruments the praying time for which had already expired. This is not a hypothetical situation; it has already arisen. It may be outside the control of the Government. Praying days, as presently defined in Standing Orders and in the Statutory Instruments Act 1947, include the three days at the beginning of a new Parliament when no business can be entertained except the swearing in of new Members. If the Government, in good faith, intend that there should be a debate within the 40 days but a Parliament conies to an end, they may find themselves powerless to carry out the undertaking that they have given. That is not hypothetical, because under the last administration there were only four days of praying time remaining against the order setting up the new county borough of Torbay. Three of those four days were taken up with swearing in Members at the beginning of a Parliament.

Praying days can be lost for many other reasons—for instance, because a new Speaker is being elected that day, when no other business is taken. Praying days include, as is known to the Chair, Saturdays and Sundays. They include Fridays, when the practice of the House, though not its Standing Orders, prevents prayers from being entertained. They include days when the House adjourns out of respect for some Head of State who has died. There are many reasons whereby even acting in good faith the Government are powerless to honour an undertaking that time will be given for a debate on a statutory instrument subject to the negative resolution procedure.

7.45 p.m.

Therefore, if the Government are in earnest in saying that they intend under Lords Amendment No. 4 that no action should be taken to set about the construction of Maplin Airport without parliamentary consent, it is absolutely incumbent on them to amend Lords Amendment No. 4 so that it is the affirmative resolution procedure rather than the negative resolution procedure which activates the Bill. This is critical. Unfortunately, misunderstandings grow out of the sort of language which has been used.

The Minister for Aerospace and Shipping (Mr. Michael Heseltine)

There is not such an amendment on the Notice Paper.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

That intervention would have been more helpful if my hon. Friend had said which amendment he believes has that effect.

Mr. Heseltine

I am sorry; I was trying to clarify the matter. There is not an amendment on the Notice Paper to turn the present negative resolution procedure into affirmative resolution procedure.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

There is not, but the Secretary of State gave undertakings which could be met only by the affirmative resolution procedure. Yet the Government have not sought to amend Lords Amendment No. 4 so that it would be, if passed by the House, compatible with the undertakings given by the Secretary of State.

Mr. Heseltine

If my hon. Friend felt that he was not able to accept the negative resolution procedure, why did he not table an amendment which would have enabled us to debate this matter and, perhaps, reach a conclusion on it? Now it is too late.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Because I was not pre-informed by the Secretary of State of the nature of the undertaking which he intended to give in his speech. He did not yesterday send me a copy of the speech he intended to make today. Yesterday, presumably, he knew what undertakings he intended to give. I did not know what undertakings he intended to give. As he knew yesterday what undertakings he intended to give, he could have carried out that undertaking by tabling a Government amendment. I could not table an amendment to encompass an undertaking of which I was unaware until this afternoon, when it was too late to table an amendment I hope that that explanation is conclusive. Precognition is not a quality which I claim.

It is typical of the manner in which the Bill has been handled that ministerial action is in no way consistent. There was an occasion before Second Reading when a colleague present in the Chamber and myself went to visit my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) in his Department. At the end of that meeting my hon. Friend gave us a solemn undertaking that the Government would completely reconsider the Bill in the light of the representations which we had made, which would have taken several days to reconsider. Within hours my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, in an interview with a journalist, said that the Government were determined not to reconsider the Bill. It is events of that kind that make me wish to see written into the Bill words which render inevitable the carrying out of undertakings given, rather than procedures which, even with good will on the part of the Minister concerned, can be frustrated by events outside his control.

The negative resolution procedure is basically suitable for uncontroversial matters. The affirmative resolution procedure is that which is appropriate to highly controversial matters, because it means that the Government must find time for it in their programme if they wish to activate whatever is the matter concerned.

I shall ask again whichever Minister winds up this debate to tell us why the Secretary of State, who, presumably, knew yesterday what he was going to say today, did not table an amendment to Lords Amendment No. 4, substituting the affirmative resolution procedure for the negative resolution procedure.

Reverting to Lords Amendment No. 1, as amended by Commons Amendment No. 1, after 'date' insert not being less than two years after the date of the passing of this Act'", there are other merits for this. As an Opposition Member pointed out, there is a considerable amount of blight resulting from the uncertainty about whether Maplin construction will ever begin. There are people living at Foulness who, should it become certain that the project will go ahead, will need completely to reorganise their lives because their homes will be destroyed, their livelihoods will be taken away, and their children will have to go to other schools.

When a whole community is annihilated, two years is not an excessive luxuriance of time in which to remove themselves to some other location. They do not know now whether they will have to move. They will not know, should the Bill become law, whether they will have to move. They will only know that they have to move on the day when the Government lay the statutory instrument. That is the first moment that they will know whether they have to move.

On human grounds there is an excellent case for embodying my hon. Friend's amendment about two years. That does not mean that the Government cannot enter into contingent contracts, a contingent contract being one with a break clause in it. It does not necessarily, therefore, postpone the construction, the completion, or the operation of an airport by as much a period of time as the amendment might by form suggest, because preliminary work can be authorised. There will be tremendous amounts of tender work to be done—consideration of tenders and contract writing—which could be done on a contingency basis with the two-year amendment included.

I welcome Commons Amendment No. 1 to Lords Amendment No. 1 on human grounds, quite apart from the fundamental ground that, if we are unable to secure the total defeat of the Bill, at least the longer the whole project is delayed the greater will be the opportunities of testing its necessity against events which have happened, as opposed to events which are anticipated. The whole history of economic prediction in this country since 1945—if it shows anything—shows the imprecision of the economic predictive arts. George Brown's famous National Plan would not even sell as a publisher's remnant two years after it was published. He received the full co-operation of the CBI, the TUC, the Associated British Chambers of Commerce and every source that could assist in terms of prediction, and yet the work was worthless within 24 months.

I do not believe that there has been such a dramatic transformation in the predictive arts that we are now in a position to launch into such a desperately inflationary project as this at the moment. The more the project can be delayed the better will be the opportunities for dispassionate reassessment as time passes.

Mr. Graham Tope (Sutton and Cheam)

My intervention will be brief, because inevitably at this stage in a debate on a subject which has been discussed on so many previous occasions most of the points I wish to make have already been made.

I agree with the points made by the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), and I start my remarks in a similar vein by saying that the Liberal Party, too, is unalterably opposed to the Maplin project—fullstop. Perhaps I could also follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) and say that should a Liberal Government be returned after the General Election we, too, would kill Maplin dead.

My hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) has spoken on three occasions in the House on this subject. On the first occasion—as long ago as 1971—he questioned the need for a third London airport. At that time I believe he was in a minority—a minority that has grown substantially since then.

My noble Friends in another place have frequently questioned the need for and many of the assumptions underlying the Maplin project. I do not intend to rehearse the arguments which have been made by many hon. Members.

I do not believe that anything has emerged to strengthen the Government's case for going ahead with the Maplin project. Nothing the Government or the dwindling band of friends of Maplin have said has done anything to allay doubts or satisfy public questioning about the validity of the project. Indeed, it seems that the longer it is delayed the more doubts there are.

The right hon. Member for Grimsby raised a number of these doubts which have emerged during the Recess. For instance, the Chairman of the British Airways Board has complained of inadequate consultation. He estimated an annual loss of £40 million to that public corporation if it is forced to go to Maplin. We have had the report of the Air Transport Committee of the British Chamber of Commerce, which itself has strongly questioned the concept of Maplin and has called for a national airport policy. Sir Peter Masefield, writing in Flight, has also questioned the protect.

In last Sunday's Observer we had the report of Professor John Large's study in which he has said that far more could be achieved to help those living near Heathrow if we were to concentrate on quietening aircraft and new flying techniques rather than by going ahead with the Maplin project.

There are many points which one could rehearse again and again, not least of which is the current world energy crisis, which has been highlighted even more by the tragic events in the Middle East. Why do we seek to go ahead with an enormous—I think a prestigious—project at Maplin without yet taking into account where our energy resources are to come from and what those implications are?

I have referred already to my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles. Earlier this year, in another debate on this subject, he said: I think this is a public expenditure mistake, a communications blunder and an environmental disaster. Above all, I think it is a regional planning catastrophe and it ought to be withdrawn."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February 1973; Vol. 850, c. 723–4.] We have seen nothing since that time to alter or to shake our belief that he was right then and that he is right now. We should prefer the abandonment of this project. I made that clear at the beginning of my remarks. But, failing that, we support wholeheartedly the amendments, particularly that seeking the delay of two years, which will give the Government time to consider this matter further.

I welcome the Secretary of State's explanation tonight of the contents of the study, and I feel sure that the study will conclude that the Maplin project should not go ahead. On those grounds, we shall support the amendment.

8.0 p.m.

Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)

The Government have already had to accept, for practical reasons, a two-year delay in the opening of Maplin and have now put it back to the spring of 1982.

My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbuy (Mr. Crouch) outwardly seeks in his amendment to put back that opening date by a further two years, but I believe that his real objective, and certainly the objective of most of those who have spoken in support of his amendment, is to wreck the Maplin project.

Either delay or total abandonment would be a very heavy and quite unnecessary burden on the environment of London itself and the surrounding green belt. It is easy from a tranquil seat in Canterbury to say that we have plenty of time to go on reviewing this matter. Nobody who lives under the noise stress of aircraft from Heathrow, Gatwick or Luton would support that statement for one moment. People living in those areas demand relief as soon as the Government can provide it, and I was delighted to hear the Secretary of State saying today that they will press on with all speed to complete their studies so that no time is lost, if Parliament decides to go ahead, in getting Maplin opened at the earliest possible moment.

Delay or abandonment would be a heavy burden on the environment, as I have said. But it would also be a burden on international air traffic seeking London, as the means for the handling and dispersal of passengers and the gathering and redispersal of staff working at Heathrow, Gatwick and the other airports become more and more congested.

We have been given by the British Airports Authority a picture of the surging growth of air traffic that we must expect in the 15 years between 1970 and 1985. Between those dates the United Kingdom total passenger traffic would increase from 31 million to 131 million 87 million would be aiming at the London area; and 44 million passengers—a fourfold increase—would be aiming at regional airports. There would need to be a great expansion there.

At the same time freight would, on current trends, increase even faster.

The Government have just confirmed that Maplin could be opened by 1982. It could, shortly after that, be taking 40 per cent. of the traffic, including most of the night flights, aiming at London. This would leave the other London airports—Heathrow and Gatwick—to control their growth. I thought it was highly imaginative of one hon. Member to talk about the case for closing down Heathrow and Gatwick entirely. No one in his senses considers that a practical proposition.

Gatwick and Heathrow could control their growth, Luton could reduce its traffic, and Stansted and Southend could close. In this way Britain could come to terms, in a civilised manner, with the soaring demand for air travel both in this country and outside. But without Maplin we would be facing a truly terrible prospect for environment in the South-East. In these 15 years from 1970 to 1985 Heathrow passengers would increase from 15½ million to 50 million—over three times. Gatwick passengers would increase from 3¾ million to 35 million—nine times. The three other airports round London would together increase from 3 million to 35 million passengers—nearly 12 times.

To handle this traffic the expansion of these airports, the congestion of air and ground traffic, the pressure for service buildings and housing for the airport staff, and the demand for new access by road and rail would further clog the congested areas round Heathrow and Gatwick. These pressures would spread outwards far and wide into areas now set aside as essential for London's green belt. Added to all this would be the increased noise, by day and by night, of the larger number and the increased weight of planes. This all adds up to a serious deterioration of a great part of London's environment.

Apart from the environmental cost, the financial cost of the expansion of these airports to their limits in crowded areas of exceptionally high land values would be astronomical. We are beginning to see this already in the areas around Gatwick.

By 1985 to 1990 we should again be in desperate need of a third great international airport in the South-East. Where would it be? In Stansted? Perhaps. In my judgment, it would inevitably come back again to Maplin, because in 1985, even more than a few years ago, the public would demand an airport not inland but on the coast. What an absurd result that would be—in the meantime to have sacrificed London's environment, clogged up our air traffic, and made a spendthrift waste of public money. That, in general, is why I am strongly opposed to this amendment to the Bill.

I want for a few minutes to speak against this delay on behalf of the Dorking constituency, which suffers from aircraft noise on the east of Gatwick, which is in my constituency. and on the west from Heathrow.

When the Government's choice was made in favour of Maplin my constituents, who continue to bear the main burden of night flights in the London area, began to look forward to a limitation of flights by day, to the virtual cessation of night take-offs, as at Heathrow, and to the gradual replacement of noisy by quieter planes. They also began to look forward to the reduction of the wild pressures on land which are making the defence of the green belt such a desperate nightmare for the planning authorities in our area at both county and district level.

If Maplin were delayed or abandoned my constituency and, I believe, its neighbours, in an area which is largely green belt, would face spreading congestion of roads, houses and industry and, above all, the din, continuous by day and by night. of heavier and more frequent aircraft. This would he the effect if Gatwick had to expand to handle, within 12 years from now, nine times the passenger traffic and an even greater expansion of air freight. It would mean a great second runway, additional housing for an extra 150,000 airport staff with their families, a great expansion of aircraft service industries and roads to carry passengers and airport staff. The whole of the surrounding green belt area would be sacrificed to a parliamentary bungle. This would be the more intolerable because people would know that it had been quite unnecessary.

My constituents are already feeling these pressures on their area, especially on land, suddenly sharpened by the mere threat that Maplin might be frustrated. They are becoming increasingly militant in the face of the threat of uncontrolled expansion at Gatwick. Once again, I believe rightly, they are becoming active and angry supporters of all the grass roots protest movements in the South-East which demand that the Government should hold firm to their decision over Maplin and should not be prevented from having Maplin's first runway in operation in 1982.

The quality of life of millions of people in the South-East will become affected by what this House decides today. I hope that the amendment will be defeated and that Maplin—a decision that was made on good environmental grounds—will stand.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)

I am amazed and surprised that the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair), for whom I normally have a high personal regard, should so dangerously mislead his constituents. If he honestly believes and tells them that they will gain some relief from aircraft noise, even if we start building Maplin Airport tomorrow, he is dangerously misleading them. In 1982—

Sir G. Sinclair rose—

Mr. Huckfield

May I just finish this point? Even if we started building Maplin Airport tomorrow and could get a diversion of some aircraft by 1982—I hope that the hon. Gentleman will listen, because I am referring to him—the natural growth of airport traffic would already have eaten up that diversionary possibility.

The hon. Gentleman is seriously misleading his constituents on another matter. If the kind of energies and finance that the Government propose to divert into the construction of Maplin could be diverted into research and development of quieter aeroplane engines, I think that the hon. Gentleman would get some genuine relief for his constituents. If he wishes to intervene, I shall gladly give way.

Sir G. Sinclair

It was not I who projected relief for those people who were suffering round Gatwick and Heathrow; it was the Secretary of State, when he announced the Maplin project.

Mr. Huckfield

All I can say is that in believing the Secretary of State the hon. Gentleman is perpetuating that dangerously misleading impression.

We have come to a stage where nobody in the airline business seriously wants Maplin. The British Airways Board does not want it, nobody whom I know privately in the British Airways Authority wants it, and certainly the Government's chosen aviation brain child, British Caledonian, does not want it. As the hon. Gentleman knows, British Caledonian is certainly the main scheduled operator out of Gatwick. So we have a situation in which none of the people who ought to be influencing aviation debates is really in favour of Maplin airport—least of all the tourist operators who are operating out of Luton and are allegedly disturbing the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason).

Mr. Allason

The hon. Member may not be aware that the tour operators out of Luton realise that they are likely to face increasing night restrictions, and they are perfectly happy to move to Maplin, where they will be able to operate right round the clock without restrictions.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Huckfield

If the hon. Gentleman can produce for me one constructive body representing tour-operating opinion which is solidly 100 per cent. in favour of Maplin, I shall gladly accept the point that he has made. So far I have not seen such a body.

The commodity which this amendment is asking for is time. I believe that we need time to consider very seriously some of the new information that is coming forth, and this amendment would give us some time—perhaps not enough, but it is worth supporting. The interesting factor is that every forecast that comes forward about the growth of air traffic demands is more accurate. The Department of Trade and Industry's forecasts and the Roskill forecasts were superseded and updated and made more accurate by the Civil Aviation Authority's forecasts. But most up to date of all are the forecasts made in connection with the Channel Tunnel study project, and the interesting fact about the Channel Tunnel figures is that they are not only more accurate than the Civil Aviation Authority's figures; they are retrodictive. In other words, if one uses in reverse the formula which the Channel Tunnel study has used, and uses it to analyse the growth of traffic which has already taken place, it fits. So what I am saying to the Minister—and I hope that he will make some reference to this point—is that we already have evidence that each set of statistics on aircraft runways and terminal demand that comes forward is more accurate, and we certainly need time to improve upon even the Channel Tunnel study's demand forecast.

It is very interesting that the Department of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) must have believed in the accuracy of the Channel Tunnel demand forecast, because, as lie knows, the Minister for Transport Industries has already made an attempt to revise the profit share which the Government will attempt to take from the Channel Tunnel. If the hon. Gentleman does not accept the accuracy of the Channel Tunnel forecasts, why did his own Department revise upwards its profit expectations from the increased Channel Tunnel traffic flow which it projected? It seems to me that we have reached a situation in which one part of the Department of the Environment already believes that there will not be so much traffic from Maplin because it will go via the Channel Tunnel—which is why that part of the Department has revised upwards its profit expectation from the Channel Tunnel—but the other part of the Department has not cottoned on to what the first part has done.

I should also like to hear some reference made by the lion. Member for Bury St. Edmunds to some of the very challenging projections and statistics put forward by Professor Peter Bromhead in his book "The Great White Elephant of Maplin Sands." Whether or not one accepts in its entirety the kind of projection made by Bromhead, that four-track high-speed railway systems are an alternative to increased airport investment, it remains a fact that at least in Germany and one or two other continental countries there is definite evidence that their Governments regard investment in four-track high-speed rail systems as a definite and superior alternative to increased airport investment. So we have already reached a stage where some fellow members of the Government's Common Market have already concluded that it is better to spend money on increased railway investment than on increased airport investment.

The hon. Member for Dorking and the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) seem to believe that building Maplin will make aviation quieter, but they must know that about 65 per cent. of the aeroplanes coming into Heathrow at the moment are of the BAC 1–11 Trident type, most of which are fitted with the Rolls-Royce Spey engine. Hon. Members also know that Rolls-Royce has calculated that a complete re-fanning project for the Spey engine would not cost more than about £30 million. It would be possible completely to refit and refan the engines of 75 per cent. of the aeroplanes coming into Heathrow, to reduce them to a noise level of no more than street level acceptability, for about £65 million.

Mr. Michael McNair Wilson

Oh, no!

Mr. Huckfield

If the hon. Gentleman wanted to question that fact, he had a chance to do so in his own speech. When the Minister concludes the debate will he say something about the money which the Government have been spending on research into quieter aircraft engines? It seems to me that if this Government want to show some sincerity about making aircraft engines quieter it would not do any harm to spend more money on research and development into the subject. If the hon. Gentleman wants to talk about the economic consequences for aviation operators, I submit that they would have to do something with their 707s and DC8s. I accept that those aircraft and others of that generation are noisy, but it would be cheaper for the Government to buy up every one of the 1,400 707s and DC8s which we have operating throughout the world than to build two runways at Maplin. Those are the sort of cost alternatives that lie before this Government.

The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) made a valuable point when he described the effect on house-building costs of going in for a mammoth public expenditure project such as this. I presume he already recognises that, whenever a local authority is trying to get a public sector housing contract completed, one of its biggest difficulties always arises when there is a motorway or a bypass project in the vicinity. If one talks to local councillors who have been trying to push through an expansion of their public sector housebuilding, one finds a problem arising when there is a motorway or bypass project in the vicinity. One of the chief difficulties is that the housing part of the hon. Gentleman's Department lays down cost yardsticks for building houses, but not for road building. It will not lay down cost yardsticks for building Maplin airport. That means that the effect which road-building projects have on public sector housebuilding projects will be magnified many times by the start and construction of Maplin.

Mr. Rippon

It will have no effect whatsoever.

Mr. Huckfield

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that it will have no effect whatsoever he ought to know more than that about housing and the labour situation in the South-East, particularly in the London area. Of course, he has a provincial constituency.

Mr. Rippon

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, he must make a distinction between the two sides of the construction industry—the building industry and the road construction industry. He will have noticed that although we have held back certain public sector programmes we have not held back the road programme, because that is not under the same sort of pressure. He must understand that the housing problem is altogether different.

Mr. Huckfield

I am absolutely amazed that the Secretary of State can think that the labour which builds roads is not very often the same as that which builds houses The difficulty encountered by local authorities wanting to build houses is that many builders cannot get the labour, because more money can be earned on a motorway project.

I maintain that we need more time. The amendment would give us more time, because every project for researching into the future demands statistics. Every project and report that has come forward has produced a more accurate projection and, above all, a reduced traffic demand in the future. The amendment gives us more time. In the meantime, by all means let us have an extension of the terminal buildings at Heathrow. Let us have an extension of the terminal at Gatwick. That has got to be done. But please let us have more research and a more accurate forecast of future demand. That is why I support the amendment.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Adley

As we are debating Lords amendments resulting from the passage of what was new Clause 2 standing in my name on 13th June, the right thing for me to do would be to start by acknowledging the way in which the Government have, as they were bound to, accepted the will of the House expressed on 13th June and have re-written the new clause in another place. That is what we are debating today.

I should like to dwell mainly on the effects of that clause and say that we in this House have a duty to see that these words are implemented. It is the words "shall consult with" which I should like to clarify. It would be wrong to suggest that this is a voluntary consultation agreed to by the Department of the Environment. We all know that the consultation results from the passage of the new clause through the House of Commons. The day following that debate The Times commented in its leader entitled "The Commons does its job" as follows: The Maplin project needs to be comprehensively reappraised before resources (and reputations) are committed beyond the point of no return. It is this need for a precise definition of the report of which my right hon. and learned Friend has spoken this afternoon that I intend to probe a little more deeply.

Many of us have noticed the changed attitude of my right hon. and learned Friend towards those of us who have been expressing concern over a period of three years, or certainly since the rejection of Roskill by the Government, about what was likely to happen when this issue came up for final decision. I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to accept that there is a tremendous amount of public anxiety not only on whether or not we need a new airport in South-East England but on the way in which this decision has been taken.

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend a number of questions? He told us that the report will cover a review of the forecast of air traffic, and he included the greater use of regional airports, development of aviation technology and ground handling facilities. I want to know whether he will do two things: first, talk to people who normally talk to the Department of Trade and Industry; and, secondly, consider appointing an independent chairman for this inquiry. It would be frustrating the will of Parliament as expressed in the new clause if it were merely to be an interdepartmental inquiry, with members of the Government committed to the Maplin project standing in front of a mirror and talking to themselves.

May I suggest somebody like Professor Hugh Ford of Imperial College as the sort of person who could perhaps chair the type of inquiry which my right hon. and learned Friend has mentioned this afternoon. I should be very grateful if he would consider the appointment of such a person.

I should also be grateful if, when the Minister for Aerospace and Shipping winds up the debate, he will spell out in some detail the degree of co-operation which exists between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of the Environment in the planning and progress of the Maplin project. This is one point which has always been of great concern to me.

I want to know whether my hon. Friend the Secretary of State or any other Minister in the Department of the Environment has spoken to Rolls-Royce at all since that Department has taken charge of the handling of this Bill. I should like to know what discussions have taken place between Department of the Environment Ministers and the directors and board of Rolls-Royce on this important question of noise reduction. I should like to know whether in Lords Amendment No. 4 the words "other persons as appear to him appropriate" would include discussions with Rolls-Royce.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the arrangements which the American Government have undertaken to carry out a thorough quietening of aircraft engines? Yesterday in an exchange at Question Time it seemed to me that my hon. Friend the Minister for Aerospace and Shipping indicated that a very small sum of money was being spent on quietening aircraft engines. Is he aware that the American Government have put 40 million dollars for development of the relevant technology at the disposal of the Boeing and Douglas Corporations? I am talking of present jet aircraft. In 1975 effective hush kits will be coming off the production lines for Boeing and Douglas. Will my hon. Friend give me an assurance that he will seek out this sort of information in the review which is to be undertaken? Can we be assured that we shall not find that he is talking to people who are simply giving him the answers that he wants?

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

Could my hon. Friend tell me the sort of level to which these hush kits reduce the noise of these airliners? Could he compare it with the noise level of the 1011, for instance?

Mr. Adley

The answer is, to meet Federal Aviation Regulation No. 36, with which my hon. Friend is, I am sure, familiar.

I now pass on and deal with what has been done with aircraft at present in service. It seems to me that at the moment the Americans are arranging to make their aircraft quiet, and this does not apply only to aircraft flying in and to the United States. It means most of the aircraft which will be in service on European airlines, whilst we with Tridents, 1–11s, VC-10s and Rolls-Royce Conway-engined 707s appear to be doing nothing in this direction.

What consideration has the Department of Trade and Industry given to the real likelihood of these British aircraft not being allowed to land in Germany? I take that as a random example, as it a country which will shortly be introducing noise restrictions. What is being done to ensure that British airlines which purchase British aircraft will not find themselves penalised? Is it not the case that the airlines will only spend on noise reduction money which they are obliged to spend by Parliament?

I repeat a point which has been made this afternoon and say that we should be considering far more stringent controls on aircraft noise than merely considering Maplin as a means of moving that noise from point A to point B.

I turn now to another point about the report which my right hon. and learned Friend mentioned this afternoon. I have asked him about Rolls-Royce, and I hope that that company will be drawn into the consultations. I also want to know whether my right hon. and learned Friend or any of his Ministers at the Department of the Environment have had direct consultation with the Chairman and Board of British Airways. I ask this because it would be totally unsatisfactory if British Airways and Rolls-Royce continued to have consultations only with the Department of Trade and Industry when it is the Department of the Environment which is handling the Maplin Development Bill. People have said that we cannot organise our airports policy merely for the benefit of the airlines. I accept this. But British Airways is hardly a bucket shop operator and it is important that the Government Department which is handling the Maplin Bill should have direct consultations with British Airways. A number of right hon. and hon. Members have pointed out the difficulties over the way Ministers have tried to present the case for Maplin to hon. Members of the House. This is a bone of contention. I have long felt that we are not getting information, but that we were merely getting answers which were destined, hopefully, to quieten us.

Yesterday I asked the Minister for Aerospace and Shipping what he intended to do about the fact that BOAC—I repeat, BOAC—is not required anywhere in the world to use more than one airport for its scheduled services. In answer to my question about BOAC he said that British Airways already operates from Heathrow and Gatwick. I was aware of that. My question was about BOAC, and I find it annoying to receive an answer to a question I did not ask.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

I wish to clarify this point. It is impossible for me to answer a question about BOAC when it no longer exists. If I am asked a question of this sort I must answer it in the context of what BOAC is today; in other words, part of the British Airways Board.

Mr. Adley

I also asked a Question last week about BOAC, to which I was given a Written Answer. This Question was: in how many cities in the world is BOAC required to operate scheduled services into more than one airport? That Question was answered last week, and it referred to BOAC's present operations. I do not wish to pursue the point. If I have not made my point in these few remarks, perhaps I am over-ambitious in my attempts to get straightforward answers to straightforward questions. British Airways is extraordinarily concerned about the present arrangements, and it is foolish for anyone to deny that.

I ask my hon. Friends to ensure that when the report is set up the Department of the Environment will have direct consultation with British Airways. That is not unreasonable. If British Airways is required to move some of its operation to Maplin, will it find it is alone or will the Government try to persuade foreign carriers also to move to Maplin? At present the Government do not have powers to compel TWA or Pan-American to move to Maplin. I ask my hon. Friend to consider what they are doing before they wreck British civil aviation and our national freight carriers, of which we are rightly proud.

I had another Question answered last week. I asked how many airlines had the Government requested to move from Heathrow to Gatwick since Gatwick opened. I was told in the reply that Bulgarian Airlines and Loftleidir had moved to Gatwick, but even these airlines had put on the pressure and were now back at Heathrow. They are hardly the two most important airlines in the world, but they got their own way.

We must be careful about what might happen within a few years, for a great deal of work has gone into building up one of the finest airlines in the world.

Another matter bearing on the report which my right hon. and learned Friend announced today is whether we can be assured that it will incorporate the national airports plan upon which the Civil Aviation Authority is working. This is a factor of real significance. The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) spoke about the way in which at last Britain's airlines are beginning to realise that not all their customers live within five miles of Hyde Park Corner. The Chairman of British Airways now estimates that 40 per cent. of his airlines' customers live north of Birmingham. We are seeing a realisation at last by our national carrier that it is necessary no longer to supply services only from London and to drag people from all over the country to South-East England. The French have realised it. The President of Air France made a very interesting speech about it recently. I shall not weary the House with quotations, but in the course of his speech he said that the development of regional services in France in the past five years had shown a total transformation. The same happened years ago in the United States. It will happen in this country. Services from Newcastle, Birmingham, and Southampton to Marseilles and so on will emerge with our entry into the European Economic Community and the resultant changes in air traffic patterns and traffic rights.

In an intervention earlier today my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn) suggested that no one would cease to fly to New York from London if Maplin were developed. However, we have heard a great deal today about Professor Large from Southampton University. I happen to have spoken to him several times in the past few days. He lives near Southampton. He tells me that if intercontinental services are transferred from Heathrow to Maplin he will not spend at least three or four hours getting from Southampton to Maplin. Instead he will fly from Eastleigh or Hurn to Paris and pick up another plane there.

8.45 p.m.

I remind the House that there are five times as many people who fly living to the west of London than to the east. We must keep in mind the likely effect on air traffic patterns of a Maplin decision. It is silly to ignore them. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will tell us what consideration has been given to the effect of a Maplin decision on airports like Hurn at Bournemouth and Lulsgate at Bristol and the new traffic which is likely to be generated at those airports. It is inconceivable to take the Maplin decision in isolation from a national airports plan. Incidentally, Bristol people find it strange that they are deprived of resources for an instrument landing system while apparently the South-East is to be provided with yet another expensive airport.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) spoke of the difficulties of his constituents, and we appreciate them. But it is not just a matter of Dorking or Canterbury. It is Dorking or Liverpool, the Gorbals, Bristol and everywhere else in the country which is deprived of resources to develop its airport as a result of this Maplin decision. Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool. Glasgow and the other great cities of Britain have grown up and thrived on commerce. Effective modern airports are essential to them, as the British Chambers of Commerce point out in their report.

Another problem which I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will consider needs to be looked at in the proposed study is the clogged-up state of air traffic control in the English Channel which could result from a Maplin decision.

Another matter which must be considered is bird strike. We have been modest in that we have not over-emphasised the problem of large birds and large jet engines coming together simultaneously. I hope that my hon. Friend will read an article by James Wentworth Day in Country Life the week before last. I speak as one who was recently involved in a forced landing in a Trident at Lisbon Airport. When I reached the ground after a full emergency landing one of the airport officials said to me "We built the airport near the River Tagus. We assumed that the gulls would go away, but they did not."

Another matter to be considered is the GLC's attitude towards Maplin. It is no use the Government thinking that they can build an airport at Maplin and ignore the GLC's attitude towards road and rail communications.

I have gone on far too long—

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Adley

I am concerned about Maplin, but I am not pathologically opposed to it. I have said consistently that I should be prepared to accept Maplin if Gatwick and Heathrow were phased out. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorking intimated that that was nonsense and that it could not be done. I do not believe that that is right. Heathrow is now handling 257,000 air traffic movements compared with 420,000 at Atlanta Municipal 372,000 at Los Angeles International and 671,000 at Chicago O'Hare.

Sir G. Sinclair

What about capital investment?

Mr. Adley

I think that my hon. Friend will agree—

Sir G. Sinclair

The capital investment and all the work and services surrounding Heathrow and Gatwick will surely not be wiped out in any real world which we can foresee. That was my point.

Mr. Adley

Le Bourget, a substantial airport, will be closed when Roissy Airport is opened. We are looking ahead and considering a 15-year running programme. To release hundreds of acres at Gatwick and Heathrow would be substantial compensation for developing Foulness. The original Foulness concept was of four 19,000 feet runways, which would presumably work round the clock. That would be a considerable advantage of the three runways, two at Heathrow and one at Gatwick, which operate during daylight hours. It is a proposition which could bear serious study taken, as it should be, with the development of regional airports.

The debate which will follow the completion of the new report is the time for final decisions to be taken. Today is not a day for blood-letting. As my hon. Friend indicated to the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson), there is a certain oddness about determining entirely one's attitude after having just been told that there is to be a substantial report as a result of representations which have been made and actions taken in Parliament. If I am assured that there will not be an hour and a half's Prayer on a negative resolution but that we shall have a full day's debate, that would set my mind at rest after hearing the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop).

Mr. Atkinson

What the hon. Gentleman's Ministers are not saying is that when the report is debated they are likely to go back on the original decision. There will be no change. Let us not be under any misapprehension.

Mr. Adley

The hon. Gentleman can draw his own conclusions. I have long believed that Maplin, taken by itself, can turn out to be a massive investment in the past. I hope that the report which we have been told about today will be thorough, open and honest, and will enable a well-informed final decision to be made. I end with the plea that the report should be led by an independent chairman.

Dr. Glyn

I find it hard to resist making a long speech on this subject, since my constituency is one of the worst affected by aircraft noise. I do not intend to rehearse all the arguments that have been advanced on previous occasions. I shall confine myself to one or two important points.

It is clear that the level of noise in and around London Airport has now become intolerable. Furthermore, a new factor has arisen—namely, that we have recently had two serious accidents at Heathrow. The first was the Trident disaster and the second was the incident when a Jumbo jet nearly took the roof off one of the girls high school in my constituency. These two factors prove conclusively that an inland airport is not only dangerous but causes an unreasonable amount of noise to the 2 million people who live in and around it.

One of the objections which have been canvassed to the Maplin project concerns its distance from London. I do not believe that this matter is of cardinal importance, for it already takes a considerable time to get from central London to London Airport. Even with the extension of the Underground system to Heathrow there will still be considerable difficulties with the carriage of luggage. It might even be necessary to open an entirely new road from London to Heathrow if Heathrow expands, as it will have to do if a third airport is not constructed. In terms of Maplin, there are opportunities to build both new roads and reconstruct major railways which could reduce the travel time from London to Maplin to almost exactly the same time as it now takes to get from Heathrow to central London. Therefore, the argument about distance is a red herring. In the modern transport world there is a chance that we shall develop some new ideas which will ease the situation. It is surely easier to construct a fast railway along the two existing railway tracks than to pull down houses to construct a road.

Another argument that has been canvassed—and this is a quite reasonable one—is that considerable noise reduction will follow from the introduction of hush kits on aircraft. I believe that this will involve a number of difficulties. How shall we force foreign airlines to adopt these kits? They may say, "We shall not agree to do so, but instead will land at Paris, where there are no restrictions." Therefore, the noise levels will continue to cause inconvenience to people who live in and around the airport.

I turn to the question of expenditure. In the next decade or so aircraft movements are bound to increase, and one or other of our airports will have to be expanded at considerable cost. Therefore, expenditure at Maplin cannot be regarded in isolation. The Maplin scheme also has the advantage that the financing will be carried out on an annual basis, and a sum as large as £1,000 million, or whatever the figure may be, will not need to be found in one lump sum.

What are the alternatives to Maplin? One possibility is to increase the size of London Airport and also Gatwick, to keep Stansted in operation and to perpetuate problems which at the moment are unbearable. I was interested to hear the Labour Party declare its policy. As I understand it, a future Labour Government would be committed to discontinuing the Maplin project. This is something which the country at large wants to know. I think it can also be said that, so far as one can understand, the Liberals intend to discontinue Maplin. Therefore, both Opposition parties are firmly pledged to oppose the construction of Maplin.

One of the important things that came from the debate was that the Government have accepted that the decision should be a parliamentary one. I should like a clarification. My right hon. and learned Friend was kind enough to give me some clarification but, as I understand it, there will be two stages. One will be a resolution. I shall not say whether it might he negative or affirmative, as that has already been dealt with, but this resolution will be debated, and then special bits, such as roads and railways, will have to be debated separately, because they involve many other factors and authorities.

I should appreciate clarification when my hon. Friend concludes the debate, because all sections of the House have been concerned about the procedure. I am sure that there will be adequate time for debate but it would be a help to the House if he would be kind enough to say something about the exact procedure—whether there will be one debate and subsequent resolutions laid on the Table.

I believe the opportunities which present themselves at Maplin to be unrivalled. If we build a deep sea port and have super lines of communication between Maplin and London, we can rival any airport or seaport on the Continent.

It may mean other airports being run down and other seaports suffering, but in the long term this country will be equipped with something that no one else has—a large and efficient air terminal combined with a seaport, and that can only be to the advantage of our country. There are many other aspects I should like to have dwelt upon, but we have to face that, if we do not go ahead with the project, we shall have the inevitable decision about increasing the number of flights from London Airport and other airports, which would be unacceptable.

I hope that Her Majesty's Government will press forward. I fully understand that the two years which have been added may be necessary and that this has not been done because the Minister wishes to delay his decision. I ask the Government to proceed as rapidly as possible. It is a hope to those of our constituents who realise that it may be some years before they get relief, but it is a light at the end of the tunnel for which so many of them for whom I have the honour to speak look forward.

Mr. Peter Hordern (Horsham)

I have always thought that the main argument in favour of Maplin was an environmental one. It surprised me to learn the positiveness of the declaration of the Opposition that they will kill Maplin like a dead duck soon after the election, if they win it. This has been asserted by the spokesman for the Liberal Party as well.

The attraction of that argument, such as it is, is that there might be a considerable saving in public expenditure. I am not one of those who have been keen about increasing public expenditure, but I am absolutely in favour of the Bill and of the development of Maplin. The public expenditure argument needs close examination. I hope that that will be given by my right hon. and learned Friend during the survey which is being undertaken and which we have been told will be available in March.

A good deal of further news has come forth since our previous discussion on Maplin in June and July. I am sure more will come out. But the main point which will emerge very strongly, I believe, is the cost of alternative works which will have to be undertaken if Maplin is not proceeded with. It is difficult to get any precise idea of what these costs will amount to but it is certain that, if Maplin does not go ahead, one would have to think in terms of the development of Stansted, Luton and a massive development at Heathrow, and particularly Gatwick, with which I am more than somewhat concerned.

The West Sussex County Council has done a good deal of work on projections about the extra facilities that it will have to provide and the extra work that it will have to undertake if Maplin is not proceeded with. I should like to draw the attention of the House to some of these matters because I believe that the cost of developing the airports and all the infrastructure that would be required if Maplin were not proceeded with would actually exceed the present estimated cost of Maplin. I cannot say for certain; nobody can; but I can give one or two reasons why I believe that this would be so, at any rate in relation to Gatwick.

9.0 p.m.

In the first place, the present estimates are that by 1980 at Gatwick the passenger throughput will increase from about 5 million to 17 million. If Maplin were not proceeded with—and if this amendment were carried it would delay for a further two years the construction of Maplin—it seems certain that the figure of 17 million would reach 32 million, which is the present limit for one runway at Gatwick. Nobody can say for certain what would then be required by way of development of the other airports, but if a second runway at Gatwick were to be required—and it seems altogether likely—it would mean a throughput of about 57 million passengers a year, and that would mean a massive extra expenditure on airport facilities.

Let me give some indication of that. It would mean that the present airfield would increase from about 1,500 acres to 4,500, or more than seven square miles. As the House will know, the M23, the main London to Brighton road, is at present under construction. West Sussex County Council's estimates are that a second motorway altogether would have to be constructed if Gatwick had to be provided with a second runway. Further to that, the rail link between London and Gatwick would have to be considerably expanded. Not only would there be the cost of the railway at Gatwick; it would be necessary to devise a completely new rail system on the exits from London, which now suffer from considerable bottlenecks.

That, of course, is dealing merely with the cost to the immediate environment of Gatwick itself, but the cost to the county councils and the other local authorities would be even more severe. It is estimated that if a second runway were to be built the airport work force at Gatwick would amount to about 70.000 people, there being now about 11,000.

The Gatwick, Crawley and Holley area is already designated as a growth area, and the estimates are that the population will increase, without any extra addition. to about 200,000 people—by natural growth alone. If the work force at Gatwick were to amount to about 70,000 people it would mean that an additional 180,000 people would have to be accommodated. Unfortunately, there are considerable difficulties about housing these people in the area of Surrey and East Sussex, partly for green belt reasons and partly for other reasons such as drainage. It is almost certain, therefore, that the larger part of this extra population—the 180,000 extra, in addition to the 200,000—would have to be housed in West Sussex. What that would do to the environment of West Sussex is literally unimaginable, but it would completely destroy the countryside as we know it. Land in West Sussex is, I would think, now the most expensive of any in any part of the country. The cost of that would be simply phenomenal.

I turn to one other matter. This would take place on the very doorstep of Crawley new town, in my constituency, and it would mean that industrial firms there would be competing for precisely the same labour force as that required by Gatwick Airport. There is an extraordinary shortage of labour in Crawley, and there has been for some time past. It would be impossible to imagine that the industrial expansion which Crawley has had in the past few years would continue. Many industrial firms would be forced to consider leaving the constituency altogether and going to other parts of the country. The natural development of one of the oldest new towns in the country would be stunted if Maplin were not proceeded with. That is an important point, which I ask hon. Members opposite to consider. The people of Crawley will be most interested to know that it is the policy of the Labour Party to cut down the development of Crawley, and I shall have something to do with telling them.

In this debate much has been said about the environment and particularly about noise. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) has already said that the noise level is intolerable. All I add is that, on the present estimates, if Maplin were not proceeded with it would mean Gatwick having to continue with night flights, from which we particularly suffer—and not only that; the amount of traffic from Gatwick and from Heathrow would mean that in the height of the summer there would be flights over the heads of my constituents every one and a half minutes.

The House will not be surprised to learn, therefore, that I hope that the amendment to the Lords amendment will not be carried.

Mr. Warren

I hope that my own Front Bench will forgive me if I start and end with a criticism, as I was one of the loyal supporters of Maplin the last time I spoke in the House. It seemed to me yesterday that Ministers at the Department of Trade and Industry clearly showed, on the subject of engine silencing, that they still have not appreciated the tremendous amount of work that needs to be done before the public's expectations can possibly be met.

Much more money has to be spent in this area, and, from some of the statistics which have been bandied about tonight—for instance, those put forward by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield)—it is clear that there are many misleading reports about the ability of aero-engine manufacturers to silence engines to the level that the public would find acceptable.

The hon. Member for Nuneaton postulated a sum—I am sorry he is not here to correct me if I misheard him—which implied that an engine noise reduction of 75 per cent. could be achieved on the Spey engines now in service. This is quite impossible. No way is known even to achieve a 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. reduction. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) is away at the moment, because he has obviously spent a happy recess being brain-washed by American engine manufacturers as to what they can achieve. What he specified is nothing better than Rolls-Royce is already achieving on the engines delivered to the Rolls-Royce TriStars being sold in the United States.

It is a great shame that so many opponents of Maplin are tending to mislead the public into believing that the problem of engine noise can be conquered before Maplin is opened. I believe that this leads us away from the main problem which faces the whole of the South-East of England—not just the noise but the total traffic flying in the skies.

A recent survey taken on the departure and terminal destinations of passengers using Heathrow showed that 85 per cent. started from, or were destined for, places in South-East England. We must be clear that we are talking about an extra airport for South-East England. We should not confuse this with another need in this country, for a national regional airport policy. The two things are separate, but we must proceed on both together to find solutions to both at the same time.

I should like the Department of the Environment and the Department of Trade and Industry to get together with a sense of urgency to look at the question of regional airports, so that we can filter out the continuing belief in so many people's minds, ever since the time of Roskill, that it is not a South-East England airport that is needed but that we are really talking about an airport related to the whole country.

Opponents of Maplin do not tell us where the passengers and the flights will go, building up over the years, if they are not allowed to land in the London area. In the last 20 years, there has been an average compound rate increase of 12 per cent. per annum in the number of passengers and flights operating into this country.

The solution proffered by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), that passengers should go to Paris if they want to fly the Atlantic, should be taken up at this stage. My hon. Friend postulated-I referred to the Channel Tunnel White Paper to find out—that if somebody wanted to fly the Atlantic in 1982 in a Concorde he should go from London to Paris. According to the White Paper, that would take 3 hours 40 minutes by rail. He would then go from Paris to Roissy-en-France, which would take another hour, making 4 hours 40 minutes. He would then be invited to embark on a Concorde, taking 3 hours 40 minutes to reach Kennedy. This really does not make sense.

We should keep in mind that if a passenger wishes to travel by air it is right that he should travel to a reasonable place—from the public's point of view —in order to do so. It is not sensible that he should have to travel for 3 hours 40 minutes to a foreign country in order to get his aircraft.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East is not here, as I should have liked to take up a point he made. Everybody wants to put air transportation services somewhere else, and I wondered whether this applied to the airport of Hun, in the new constituency of Lymington.

I turn to the very important political statement made by the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson). He told us that within a few days of being elected the Labour Party would kill Maplin. He gave a warning that all contractors who had started on the project would have their contracts broken. He advised me that my questions on the subject should be directed at members of the Labour Front Bench, who would answer them.

There are three questions which come out of this debate to which we must have answers from the Opposition tonight. First, has Labour's policy the backing of the Trades Union Congress? Secondly, what compensation would be offered to the contractors and their workers for lost work and lost jobs? Thirdly, is this policy accepted by all trade-union sponsored Labour Members of Parliament?

Lastly, I say to all the opponents of Maplin who want to hide their heads in the sand there, believing that the problem will go away if they do not look at it, that they should take more time to analyse the data available on the problem facing the South-East of England in its demand for air transportation. The statistics given by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) clearly show that we must have a better explanation from the Government of what they are about in pursuing the case for Maplin.

I do not believe that the general public has yet understood or felt the demand for Maplin, which must be brought out. The Department of the Environment and the Department of Trade and Industry have a duty to show that there has been no change in the three years since the Roskill Commission concluded its hearings, although there may have been a change in phasing and rate of build-up, and so on.

With continuously decreasing air fare structures, the Government may say that they must accelerate Maplin. However, the object must be to provide a better airport service in South-East England, and I commend the Government to move a little faster with the job.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Allason

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren) that there is a great deal of wishful thinking in the search for a solution to the vexed problem of aircraft noise in the South-East. It is easy to say that one can cure it by producing quieter aircraft. I have a little experience of quieter aircraft because the RB211 is the quietest engine in the world and flies over my constituency in the TriStar. I regret to have to tell the House that, while it is more silent than the other type, it still gives rise to complaints. We must not think that it is so silent that it whispers along and nobody notices it.

There are complaints about the TriStar, not in the volume that we receive about the BAC1–11 with its noisy Spey engines, but it is noisy and it disturbs people. Some people say, "Spend only £60 million on the Spey engines and they will be almost as quiet as the RB211 ".

That is not good enough. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is not an easy solution, to spend a little more money—£200 million—and then get quiet aircraft. It cannot be done—certainly not in the time scale we are considering.

Many opponents of Maplin have vested interests. We have heard of examples among the airlines. It is regrettable that when airlines inform the public, they do not declare their interest. People quote them, saying that if British airlines do not want to move to Maplin, that must be conclusive. Of course, they do not want to move because it will cost them money.

The same applies to other interests. Hotels, for example, at Heathrow do not want to see any reduction in traffic. They, equally, must oppose Maplin. I think that the Government could help here. I am not aware that the Government have given any indication to the airlines of who is to pay for the cost of moving.

A levy on passengers will not be the answer. If a levy is put on all passengers passing through Maplin by way of higher fares in order to recompense the airlines for the cost of moving, this will be counter-productive and drive traffic away to Continental airports. I urge the Government to say what they will do to compensate the airlines for having to move to Maplin. If they do so, perhaps some of the objections put forward by the airlines will be put forward less violently.

Mr. Crouch

It is a question not of where British airlines fly from—they could fly from many airports in the United Kingdom—but of where they have their maintenance, engineering and administrative base. I am advised that it would cost them several hundred millions of pounds to move from their base at Heathrow and clearly that is a charge which would have to be taken up by the Government.

Mr. Allson

That is precisely what I mean. It is worrying airlines wherever they may be based—Heathrow, Gatwick or Luton. But now we have significant figures for the growth that would take place if Maplin were called off. Heathrow, for example, would at least double in size. Consequently, additional facilities which the Government need not pay for will have to be installed anyway by the airlines. Suppose that Heathrow's capacity increased from 20 million to 40 million or 50 million passengers a year, Gatwick's from 5 million to 25 million or 35 million passengers a year, and Luton's, Stansted's and Southend's together from 3 million to 35 million passengers a year. In relation to those increases—and they are what is necessary if Maplin is called off—we are told by the Labour Party that Maplin will not be built. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) is not here, because I should like to quote him on Luton. He said that "noise at Luton is now intolerable", and he gave a pledge about what the Labour Party intended to do. He said that "there should be no indefinite expansion of traffic from Luton", whatever that may mean.

How on earth will it be possible, at Luton, to have any sort of reduction of traffic, or lack of expansion of traffic, in the light of those figures? Does the Labour Party intend that a third London airport should be built at Stansted to take figures equivalent to Heathrow or Gatwick? It is clear that unless Maplin is built, Luton will have to expand, and that is my extreme fear. That is what the Labour Party will not face, nor will the Liberals.

I give the House my alternative, and this is what will happen if Maplin is not built. I believe that the people of the South-East of England will revolt. They will not accept an increase in traffic of the order that I have just indicated—doubling or trebling. It would be an intolerable increase. Therefore, there will have to be the most severe restrictions on traffic in the South-East. It will have to be a matter of priority passengers flying from South-East airports to destinations outside the central land mass of Europe. If passengers want to go to Europe, they will have to go by other ways, perhaps by the Channel Tunnel. There should be no night flights at all, and there should be no charter holiday flights. Those who wish them will have to leave from airports outside the South-East.

In those circumstances, I visualise an extreme cutting down on air travel from the South-East and some reasonable respite for the people of Britain. We must face the fact that that is the alter- native if we do not have Maplin. There is no easy option over this.

Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)

I apologise for not being able to attend the whole of the debate. I shall not take up the time of the House for more than three minutes.

I am prompted to rise because of a remark made by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope). The hon. Gentleman spoke of what he called "a dwindling band of support" for the Maplin project, and it is here that the record must be put straight. At the end of the previous Session, a number of us who were concerned at the mounting opposition to this project-which seemed to many of us to be based on misinformation and misconcept—formed a group which is now actively supported by the West Sussex County Council, the East Sussex County Council, the Surrey County Council, the Hertfordshire County Council, a number of London boroughs, amenity associations from Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and the National Noise Council, among other organisations.

Together, those authorities and organisations represent the interests of literally millions of people. This is not a dwindling band. This is a steadily swelling band of people who are increasingly and deeply concerned at the prospect of any further delay to this project. The House and the country should know that.

A number of these organisations and authorities are engaged in deep studies of the consequences of abandoning the Maplin project. I hope and believe with confidence that they will be able to contribute to the inquiry announced by the Minister this afternoon and that they will confirm the remark by the Chairman of the British Airports Authority, Mr. Foulkes, when he spoke of the hideous alternative that we shall face if a third London airport is not built at Maplin.

We have heard descriptions of this from a number of my hon. Friends. We all know something of the congestion that would inevitably occur, the night flying that would increase, and the planning considerations that would mean accommodation for between 60,000 and 70,000 more people near Stansted; between 20,000 and 25,000 near Heathrow; between 25,000 and 30,000 near Luton, and at least 150,000, as my hon. Friends have said, near Gatwick. This is simply not on, and for the Labour Party and the Opposition to speak of abandoning the project without admitting that those would be the inevitable consequences, and without a word as to how they would cope with them, is simply bogus.

The amendment asks for more time. Surely, the House remembers that we have now been studying this problem for nearly 20 years. Is that not long enough? How much time do we need? I earnestly hope, on behalf of all those represented in the organisations that I have mentioned, that my hon. Friend will press on with this project with all speed and give us that assurance this evening.

Mr. Gordon Oakes (Widness)

First, let us be clear that we on this side of the House do not wish the Bill to proceed at all. We had hoped that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech on 12th September, when he spoke of a delay of two years, might have been the harbinger of the Bill either dying unmourned in the recess or perishing in some way in the corridors between this House and the other place.

The Government have brought the Bill back today. They are persisting with the Maplin project, despite the arguments not only from this side and many of their hon. Friends but from very many informed bodies and the whole of the aircraft industry. Not one of them give definite favour to the Maplin project.

It has been said that the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) is a wrecking amendment. I do not think that it is, but I wish that it were. All the amendment says is that there shall be no carrying out of work for a period of two years.

The Secretary of State, when replying to his hon. Friend's arguments, seemed to imply that for two years there would be a complete moratorium on planning. That is not my idea, and I am certain that it is not the hon. Gentleman's idea. I think it reasonable to say that for two years no actual works should be carried out on the project to give at least 24 months' thinking time to the Government, to the Civil Service Departments and to this House to look at all the aspects of the situation, so many of which have been discussed tonight.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to be making concessions. His hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) said that he seemed to speak both for and against Maplin. Let us be clear that any agreement by the Government has been reached because they have been literally beaten into submission on these matters. In the first instance, on Report, against the advice of the Whips, a clause was passed by the House that required the Government to listen to various statutory bodies before proceeding. That was not the Government's idea. It was the idea of the House, and it was vigorously opposed by the Under-Secretary and by the Government.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to misrepresent the record. I said in the House, with the authority of the Secretary of State, that the Government accepted the spirit of what the House proposed. We had difficulties over the form, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and it is wrong to suggest that the Government vigorously resisted. On the contrary, we did not.

Mr. Oakes

There was a Division. If the Government accepted the spirit of the proposal, one would not imagine that they would have gone to such lengths as they did to divide the House. That was not the end of it. In the other place, an amendment was put forward by the Earl of Perth to include the National Ports Council among those bodies. That amendment was resisted by the Government. But they were beaten in the other place, so now they accept it.

Another amendment put forward in the other place suggested that the Government must consider the effects of the proposed development on the regions. The Government won that vote in the other place by 88 to 86—a majority of 2—in a House where one imagines the Government Whips would have a completely free rein. So that was a moral defeat which was then accepted by the Government.

The Secretary of State came to the House today and, almost as the paragon of virtue, said that he was acceding to the wishes of the House. However, that was because the Opposition or the other place have obtained the inclusion of provisions within the Bill that required him so to do.

The hon. Member for Tiverton made a most interesting speech in favour of the House of Commons rather than in favour of or against Maplin. He was in favour of this House having the right to debate fully the various reports which may come forward.

I thought that the Minister for Aerospace and Shipping was somewhat unkind to his hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton when he had the temerity to suggest that he ought to have put down an amendment to take out the negative procedure. I remind the Minister that the Lords Amendments were printed only yesterday and that even our amendments on this matter are starred amendments, so there was very little chance, in view of the haste with which the Government are proceeding, for any hon. Member to put down an amendment of the kind that the hon. Gentleman clearly had in mind and would have been a valuable addition to the Bill. If the Secretary of State is right and is honest with the House when he says that eventually the whole matter will be debated in full, why is not the affirmative procedure laid down, if necessary, by a Government amendment? This is a Government amendment in the other place, so why put the negative procedure in in the first place?

Many hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to be in doubt—I know not why—about the Opposition attitude to Maplin. I will repeat, for the avoidance of doubt, what my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) clearly spelled out to the House this afternoon. In principle, we are opposed to Maplin. We are opposed to it on a number of grounds. If a Labour Government are elected during the next two years, as I feel certain they will be, the Maplin project will not proceed.

There are a number of grounds for saying that. The first argument has been mentioned, though not sufficiently. I refer to the regional argument. This is a complete reversal of the policy of successive Governments in ensuring that development and assistance for development goes not to the overcrowded South-East but to the development areas.

What have we got this week? As a Merseyside Member, may I remind the House of what Members from that development area face in the business of the House this week. Today we are discussing not merely an airport, but a seaport that hon. Gentlemen opposite have described as a rival to Rotterdam—it is of that size—and a city in the South-East region that will eventually be the size of Hull.

Tomorrow the House will be debating cane sugar. The biggest worry in that debate for most hon. Members from the North-West and Scotland is that refineries in the development areas may close because of Government policy with the EEC.

On Thursday we are to discuss the Channel Tunnel—another massive South-East project. This is a complete reversal of the policy of successive Governments in trying to give aid to the regions.

I am sorry that in this debate—the same thing happened in the last debate-we should over-emphasise the discussion, important though it is, on the airport. I remind the House that in addition to the airport we are considering a massive seaport, and that, in my opinion, can only result in drawing trade away from such ports as Liverpool, which has already slipped from second to third place behind Southampton in the United Kingdom. It will also draw trade away from the Scottish ports and the development areas. In fact, it is intended to have such purpose.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

My hon. Friend seems to be enunciating a new proposition. When we were in Government we were not opposed to a third London Airport. True, my right hon. Friend has always opposed Maplin, but my hon. Friend is enunciating a new proposition if he is suggesting that we are opposed to a third London airport as such. That has never been our position, and I hope it will never be our position.

Mr. Oakes

What I was talking about was the effect on the regions. But on the question of the airports, may I say to my hon. Friend that we must take account of the increasing volume of scientific information, particularly over the past 12 months. Aircraft can be made quieter if money is spent on them—and I shall go into that point later— the flight paths of aircraft and the arrangement of air traffic can be improved, and in the light of that information it is not essential that a third London airport be created. But I shall enlarge my arguments on that aspect at a later stage.

On the question of the seaport, much more consideration ought to have been given by this House to one of the major developments in the economy of this country, which can have nothing but disastrous effects not only upon the region of my hon. Friend but upon the regions of hon. Members on both sides—in Scotland, Wales and the North-East. I refer to the development of a new town and a new seaport at Maplin.

Mr, R. C. Mitchell (Southampton. Itchen)

It is not only a question of regions; it is also a simple question of bad economics. Is my hon. Friend aware of the speech of Sir Humphrey Browne, the Chairman of the British Transport Docks Board, on 11th June, who said that all the container facilities planned at Maplin could go to Southampton at a cost of only £10 million, because we already have the land and the infrastructure?

Mr. Oakes

I quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell). That is true of Southampton, and it is also true of Liverpool, where vast sums of money have been poured into developments which, presumably, will become redundant to a large extent if this other vast sum of money is spent on Maplin Airport.

May I now mention another matter to which insufficient consideration has been given during this debate, although it was dealt with by the hon. Member the spokesman for the Liberal Party, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Tope), and by one of my hon. Friends; that is, the question of oil. Is it not fatuous that, when every hon. Member talking to a constituent is invariably asked whether petrol rationing is to be introduced, and when we are worried about the future of oil fuel in this country, we are talking about a massive airport at Maplin as well as a massive oil refinery there. The oil refinery is something that will not be in existence until the 1980s, and yet the Government confidently predict that during the 1980s we shall get most of our oil supplies from the North Sea. They will not come into Maplin because they will come in by pipe, and all the other supplies of heavier Middle Eastern oils can come into the country through the existing western ports, including the Anglesey oil terminal which this House debated only last year. So we are going to build a massive oil refinery on the east coast, in the worst possible place to attract huge oil tankers along the Channel and over the Goodwin Sands. But, worst of all, it may not be needed at all, because our oil supplies will not be coming in bulk tankers during the late 1980s if the Government's forecasts about North Sea oil are correct.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

The hon. Gentle-many, who took part in the Standing Committee proceedings on this Bill, knows full well that the Government have expressely said that there will not be an oil refinery or a petro-chemical works at Maplin.

Mr. Oakes

I apologise to the House and to the hon. Gentleman for using the word "refinery". What I meant to say was "oil terminal". An oil terminal is certainly intended at Maplin, and the arguments which I have been advancing apply with much greater force to an oil terminal than to an oil refinery.

I come to the question of aircraft noise, because that is bound up with oil and fuel. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins)—I appreciate his concern—the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) and the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) have been worried about the noise of overflying aircraft which drive their constituents virtually insane. I wish that Maplin would have an effect upon that. The difficulty is that in the 1980s their astonished constituents will find that Maplin has done nothing whatever to help them. What would help those people in Heathrow, Gatwick, Speke and Manchester, and, indeed, in the world's airports, would be quieter aeroplanes. We are talking about an airport which will come into being in 1982. We are, therefore, talking in the first instance about the 1980s and then the 1990s. I do not think most constituents would care how many aeroplanes went into or out of an airport if they went silently It is the noise which is the problem.

Mr. Jessel rose—

Mr. Oakes

No, I cannot give way now. What we are suggesting is that if a fraction of the expenditure on Maplin were applied to making aircraft quieter, not just with hush kits but with newly designed aircraft, we would give relief not only to the people of London but to people in the whole of the country, and this would contribute to a solution of an environmental problem the world over.

May I remind the Minister of his reply to a question which was asked in the House yesterday twice by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason). He asked: Will the Minister now tell the House what substantial sums the Government are spending on research and development of quieter aircraft engines? He did not get a reply the first time he asked the question, so he persisted and asked it again. The Minister's reply was: The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the costs of the RB211 engine are running very high. That, in itself, is sufficient answer. It is not. We want to know how much. The Minister went on to say: The Dowty Rotal experiment is, again, costing over £2 million."[OFFICIAL REPORT. 22nd October 1973; Vol. 861, c. 679.] Maplin is costing probably over £1,000 million and is not contributing in any way to quieter aircraft, whether in the South-East or in the whole of the country.

I will mention briefly the two amendments standing in my name and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby, one relating to the access routes and the other relating to the Channel Tunnel. As to the access routes, again there has been completely insufficient debate on this vitally important problem of the whole of the South-East of England. The reports which were produced to Members of the House by the Government came out, I think, the day before the Committee stage in another place, so that the other place did not have an adequate opportunity to discuss them. Neither the Select Committee of this House nor the Select Committee in another place had seen them. The Standing Committee had no opportunity to discuss them. The first opportunity to mention them has been in this debate today on the Lords Amendments.

It is important that we consider these access routes. A questionnaire was sent out by the Government to people in south-east Essex—I give them credit for that—asking which of six routes they preferred. I do not know the number of replies, but I gather that it was not up to expectations. From a private conversation that I had with the Under-Secretary, I gather that the Department expected more replies. I am not surprised that the Government did not get more replies. It is rather like a man in court being asked "Do you want a sentence of imprisonment, or a fine, or probation?" when the man wants to plead not guilty. Most of the people in this area are entirely against Maplin and are, therefore, not concerned with which of the six routes to an airport which they do not want is the preferable route. Let us look at the routes, which we have not discussed in any detail, but which must be of concern to hon. Members on all sides who represent constituencies in Essex and the South-East.

9.45 p.m.

The first and most important consideration is that none of these projected routes extends to London. They stop 12 miles outside London. Can the Government imagine what road congestion would be lie within London, and getting out of the city, if motorway or rail links terminate 12 miles outside the capital?

Another matter which has not been discussed in any detail, but which was referred to in some detail in an excellent report by the London Chamber of Commerce, relates to inter-airport travel. Under the present travel proposals there are no adequate arrangements for travel between Heathrow and Maplin, or between Gatwick and Maplin. Passengers would have to come out of Heathrow or Gatwick, travel to London, make their way across London and then join the railway link to Maplin.

The hon. Members for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) and Canterbury are right in what they say about this. As continental travel develops from regional airports—not only from Southampton airport, but also from Liverpool and Manchester airports—I should probably prefer to fly from Paris to Brussels by a connecting flight rather than on a flight to Heathrow from Speke airport, and then have to get from Heathrow into London and from London to Maplin, which is what is proposed under the access routes.

Much more discussion is needed about access routes. The Secretary of State said that he would accept and include these matters although he was not in favour of the amendments. That is precisely what was said in another place about the ports amendment, and precisely what he said to his hon. Friend who was successful in getting this House to accept a new Clause on Report.

Access is a vital matter which must not be left to chance. It must be included with those other considerations of which the House must take cognisance when it is deciding whether Maplin is to proceed.

What I have said about access routes applies with even more force to the Channel Tunnel. There has been hardly any discussion on the Channel Tunnel in relation to Maplin. I will not go into it at length because an opportunity for discussing the Channel Tunnel will arise on Thursday.

However, there is muddle and incompetence in Government thinking over these two projects in the overcrowded South-East region. Both projects are at the expense of the rest of the British Isles.

Therefore, I ask my hon. and right hon. Friends to vote, and I hope that the hon. Member for Canterbury presses his amendment. If he does not, we wish to vote on it because we think it is a good amendment. It proposes to defer all construction work for a period of two years to give the House, and the Government, the chance to think clearly about the future, and about what they are doing.

I ask my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite to put this safeguard in the Bill so that the access routes and the Channel Tunnel must be considered by the Secretary of State before deciding upon the future for this project.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

This is a very involved and complicated subject, but the two points of clarification emerging from the speech of the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes) are that the Labour Party is opposed to Maplin and will not proceed with it, and that it wishes to build the Channel Tunnel in some other part of England than the South-East.

I was surprised to hear the way in which a few vague assurances about quieter aircraft and the opportunities for changing flight paths in the South-East of England justified the view, in the hon. Gentleman's opinion, that we should not proceed with Maplin. I assume that we, can draw only one conclusion. It is that regardless of the further work that the Government believe to be necessary to satisfy the House, the Labour Party has decided that it is to be expansion for Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and even Stansted on a vastly increased scale. I am delighted to see the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) in his place. He must remember many of the bitter arguments that we had when he was responsible for trying to put additional traffic into Stansted. Here we are, once again moving along that dreary path.

Everyone accepts that a massive growth in air traffic is coming. No one seriously disputes that, although we may argue about the rate at which it will come. Whether we argue for 1985, 1990 or 1975, looking forward for the rest of the century, the South-East has a massive problem in terms of air movements and numbers of passengers, and it would be irresponsible for anyone facing the great uncertainties of the future to decide tonight to abandon the proposal to put the third London airport at Maplin.

There are those who argue that we should give priority to the regions. They are right in that, but they ignore the amount of regional support already being given which today is running at record levels. The fact is that there exists considerable capacity at airports in the regions. It would be possible for services to appear now, if anyone wished to apply for licences to operate them, and to operate frequencies of the kind that we are told would be provided if the third London airport were not built. The only alternative, however, is some form of direction of people from the South-East of England to airports throughout the country. As it is obvious that the services are not appearing at present, and that there is no indication that they will appear on the scale anticipated by the Opposition, the only way would he some form of direction.

I do not believe that anyone who has seen the origin and destination surveys of people using the airports of the South-East, and who is aware that some 83 per cent. of those travelling through the airports of the South-East have either their origin or destination in the South-East, can seriously believe that a significant part of the traffic, over and above what we have taken into the calculations already, can be directed to regional airports.

Perhaps I might make one point of detail touching on the speech of the hon. Member for Widnes. He spoke of the communications links stopping 12 miles outside London. In fact the rail link is planned to go to Kings Cross. The road link is a matter for the Government as far as the GLC boundaries, and from there it is a matter for the GLC to work out in the London area. I do not believe that anyone suggests that the GLC will fail to discharge its duties in that respect.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

But what are the Government's proposals for the road link? Can the hon. Gentleman say where it should end and how people are to get into central London?

Mr. Heseltine

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is aware as I am that it is a matter for the GLC to determine the road pattern within London. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends would be the first to complain if the Government were to seek to usurp the powers of the GLC to plan the road pattern of London. Where the Government are responsible for the communication links, the plans are well known and clear. The rail link will come from Maplin into the centre of London at Kings Cross.

The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) said that a number of factors have changed substantially during the course of the dialogue which has gone on on this matter. He said that the principal changes were concerned with noise. He quoted a number of reports, either journalistic reports or reports which which are supposed to have been sent to my Department, which have not been published and which have been suppressed by my Department. The right hon. Gentleman said that all these reports supported the general argument which he has put forward. He said that noise was the principal argument now left for the Maplin project.

I must say that that is not the case. Noise is, of course, an important part, and always has been, of the argument for going to Maplin. However, we have heard enough in the debate, if we needed reminding of it, to know that it is far from being the only argument. My hon. Friends the Members for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) and Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) have indicated as clearly as possible the problems which they know would exist if it were decided that Gatwick, for example, must contain the sort of increased traffic which would be necessary if we changed the present policy of restricted planning at Gatwick. The congestion, and the environmental pressure arising out of providing the infrastructure around existing airports are other arguments for going to the coastal site of Maplin. There is already a relationship between this problem and the South-East Joint Planning Study Report, showing a development in the area which could be done in partnership with the development of a third London Airport.

My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn) referred to the safety argument, which cannot be ignored. It is not true to say that noise is the only factor. It is an important factor, but not by any means the only one. It would have been reasonable for the right hon. Member for Grimsby to have quoted other reports; for example, the report of the Noise Advisory Council would contradict some of the evidence which he put forward about noise.

I hope that the House will accept what I am about to say in addition to the assurance given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. The Government are now in the process of preparing a report for Parliament which will include all the latest views which they have been able to collect about noise. The arguments put forward by Professor Flowerdew and Professor Walters and the techniques which have been suggested in one or two other reports which have been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman will be considered and dealt with in the Government report. They will either be adopted, or if not, the reasons why we did not use them will be dealt with in the report.

When we produce the report we shall deal with all the latest views. Following consultation with the organisations which are deeply involved, such as the Civil Aviation Authority, we will publish our views on the latest noise implications for Heathrow and Gatwick, with and without Maplin. It will then be possible for the House to reach its own conclusion about whether the noise argument has been exaggerated. I believe that it will be seen that we have not exaggerated the situation.

The right hon. Member for Grimsby might expect me to confirm that there has been no report from the NGTE at Pyestock which has been suppressed. Such a suggestion arose out of a newspaper article. I must also make it clear, however, that my Department is in constant touch with the establishment at Pyestock. There is a flow of information going both ways. But to suggest that there has been a report which has been suppressed is not the case. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that assurance, as the House of Lords accepted the assurance given last week by my right hon. Friend the Lord Drumalbyn.

Even if we build Maplin and have a third London airport on a coastal site, that will not be the end of the noise problem. It will be important for us to indicate in our report the areas within which more can be done. In addition to those areas hon. Members will welcome the moves which are now being made. We have intensified the noise insulation grant scheme at Heathrow. We have introduced a similar scheme recently at Gatwick. I say with pride—I am not in any way ashamed—that we have now spent or committed some £190 million on the Rolls-Royce RB211 engine. The technology which we have thereby learned, about quietening engines, has been extremely valuable.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

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