HC Deb 16 February 1977 vol 926 cc486-7
11. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make a statement on the progress of his consideration of the proposed expansion of Stansted Airport.

Mr. Guy Barnett

The consultations on airport strategy for Great Britain, including the possibility of increased use of Stansted, will be completed shortly. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade will make a statement after there has been full consideration of the views expressed.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Essex Members are grateful to his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade for giving them an opportunity of discussing this matter with him? Is he further aware that those throughout Essex and on both sides of the Chamber who won a battle in defence of the beauties and amenities of Stansted are resolved not to lose the war?

Mr. Barnett

I am looking forward to meeting the Stansted Airport Action Group this week to discuss matters as it sees them from its angle. I cannot prejudge the statement that my right hon. Friend will ultimately make, but at present we are considering the views that have been expressed on both sides of the argument.

Mr. Newens

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that opposition to the expansion of Stansted is based not solely on noise considerations but on wider planning considerations? Is he aware that there would be considerable problems about housing the workers if there were a large-scale expansion, especially if Harlow were to fall foul of any decision relating to new town development in future? Although we are not opposed to a limited expansion, will my hon. Friend remember that there will be strong across-the-board opposition to a massive expansion on a site that we have discussed at great length in the past?

Mr. Barnett

The views that my hon. Friend has expressed have been put to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and myself in the consultations that we are undertaking. If my hon. Friend wishes to expand on those views by correspondence, we shall be glad to receive any information or views that he cares to give us.

Mr. McCrindle

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that his right hon. Friend's approval of Skytrain earlier this week means that there will be an automatic increase in the use of Stansted in the immediate future? Is he aware that there are many who would be prepared to consider a moderate increase in the use of Stansted but would be totally opposed to converting Stansted into a third London airport, either directly or, as some may fear, by stealth?

Mr. Barnett

That view has been expressed to us. It is a view that we shall bear in mind in our considerations.

Mr. Heseltine

Does the hon. Gentleman understand that the prevarication that lies behind his answers this afternoon will cause the gravest concern among all the communities that thought that the issue had been finally resolved, as they will now find that it is apparent that the Government are reopening the issue?

Mr. Barnett

I am absolutely astonished by the hon. Gentleman's question. The Government are the first Government to have undertaken a national review of airport policy in full consultation with all interests involved. I do not think that we can be blamed in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests. The consultation is bound to involve delay. As a consequence, we shall come forward with a national airports policy of a sort that the hon. Gentleman would never have produced.