HC Deb 16 January 1974 vol 867 cc522-4
10. Mr. Moate

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he now expects the proposed Maplin airport to be operational.

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

I have informed the House that the earliest practicable opening date is 1982 and this is still the basis of planning.

Mr. Moate

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, in view of the changed energy and economic circumstances, it is widely expected that the Government will cancel the Maplin project completely, using the forthcoming review as a pretext for doing so? Would it not be better for the Government to demonstrate that they, too, are willing to sacrifice some of their pet public spending projects and to end the uncertainty by cancelling the Maplin project now?

Mr. Rippon

No, I do not think that follows. Certainly recent events will be taken into account in the report which will in due course be brought before the House.

Mr. Maclennan

If the Government have resources available for the development of airports, will they look more favourably at the development of provincial airports, particularly in Scotland, and do away with the ridiculous anomaly whereby travellers from all parts of this small island have to make their intercontinental flights through London?

Mr. Rippon

Certainly. These are not conflicting claims.

Mr. Allason

Will my right hon. and learned Friend remind the House that the basis for the Maplin decision was the protection of the environment? I trust that is still his intention.

Mr. Rippon

The House agreed when we were discussing Cublington that Maplin was the environmental solution.

Mr. Lipton

In supporting the representations made by the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate), may I ask the Minister to bear in mind the recent remarks made by the Governor of the Bank of England to the effect that we shall be in a period of austerity until 1984? Should not this project go by the board at least until 1984?

Mr. Rippon

It will be all the more necessary for us to make our living in the world.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Will my right hon. and learned Friend instead cancel the Channel Tunnel project and use the funds thus saved for bringing forward the planning for Maplin by several years?

Mr. Rippon

That is a suitable matter for discussion when the report is published, but there is no reason why both projects should not go forward.

Mr. Crosland

May I reassure the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) that it will be only a matter of weeks before the next Labour Government cancel Maplin?

24. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will now list those parties with which he has had consultations on the Maplin review being undertaken by his Department.

Mr. Rippon

The British Airports Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority are assisting in the study at working level and the British Airways Board has been asked for information. Other bodies will be brought into consultation as the study proceeds.

Mr. Adley

In view of the ornithological implications of the project, may I ask whether my right hon. and learned Friend is able to differentiate between a lame duck and a dead duck?

Mr. Rippon

My hon. Friend will be able to make whatever observations he wishes when the report is brought before the House.

Mr. Allason

Does the list include those local authorities which are at present seriously affected by the existing airports in the South-East?

Mr. Rippon

The consultations will be wide and will include the local authorities. As I indicated to the House on 23rd October, it is intended that there should be a wide-ranging and comprehensive study in which everybody's views will be taken into account.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my right hon. and learned Friend discuss fully with the Department of Trade and Industry the implications from the balance of payments point of view, because it seems that few airlines that presently bring foreign exchange to this country will wish to use Maplin? Furthermore, will he do everything he can to encourage the development of quiet airliners as these will be valuable in the export sphere, whereas the same cannot be said of Maplin?

Mr. Rippon