HC Deb 07 March 1979 vol 963 cc1227-8
1. Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will hold a public inquiry into the British Airports Authority's application for a second terminal at Gatwick airport.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Peter Shore)

Yes, Sir. The planning authorities have been told that this will be done.

Mr. Johnson Smith

As this application, if it were successful, could result in a fourfold increase in passenger traffic at Gatwick airport, will the Secretary of State ensure that the terms of reference of the inquiry are not confined to the effects on the local environment but will take into account the effects on the region as a whole, if not the nation? Will the inquiry take into account the wider social and economic effects, including the current review of the strategy of airports for the South-East?

Mr. Shore

I shall consider this matter carefully when I formally call it in, but there are certain procedures that have to be gone through before I shall be in a position to do that. As the hon. Gentleman knows—and I fully understand his interest in this question—it is my task to issue a rule 6 statement, and in that statement I shall identify the major matters of concern. It is open to the parties to discuss that rule 6 statement and to let me have their views on its circumference.

Mr. Tebbit

Will the Secretary of Etate ensure that the inquiry's outcome and his reaction to it are not delayed in a way which would limit the capacity of the London airports below what will be required in the years to come?

Mr. Shore

I am, I think, proceeding with proper speed with this inquiry. As the hon. Gentleman undoubtedly knows, the inquiry into the fourth terminal at Heathrow is also proceeding, and obviously we must bear in mind the whole question of the timing of the provision of airport capacity against the growth in passenger need.

Mr. Jessel

Why should the Government think in terms of a second terminal at Gatwick, or a fourth terminal at Heathrow, thus inflicting more suffering on all those living near those places, instead of going ahead now with the third London airport which the Government said in their White Paper is needed? Why wait until the 1990s?

Mr. Shore

The hon. Gentleman knows that the question of the third London airport is much more complicated. It has engaged the minds of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House for a number of years. There is the question where a third London airport, if it were decided that it was a national necessity, should be located. That is not an easy matter to decide. I do not think that I can be drawn further on that today.