HC Deb 12 March 1979 vol 964 cc18-9
13. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether his Department has now formed a view as to the optimum size of the third London airport; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Clinton Davis

The advisory committee on airports policy was established to advise on these matters. I understand its current view is that a new airport should have the potential to be expanded ultimately to include two runways and to handle around 50 million passengers a year.

Mr. Haselhurst

Do the Government accept the view which appears to be emerging from the advisory committee on airports which was set up by the Government? Is not the swift formation of that view by the advisory committee rather a marked contrast to the calculated vagueness of last year's White Paper?

Mr. Davis

It would be quite wrong for me to prejudge the consideration of these matters by the advisory committee and by the study group on South-East airports. They have put forward this view, but of course it will have to be the subject of a consultation document in due course which the Government will have to approve in principle.

Mr. Costain

The Minister's Department cancelled Maplin and the Channel tunnel, but does the Minister appreciate that British Rail is now trying to reincarnate the Channel tunnel? Will not this have a bearing on the need for a third London airport, and when will the Government make a decision on the Channel tunnel?

Mr. Davis

I think not. The hon. Gentleman will no doubt address his question on the Channel tunnel to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Mr. Jessel

Since the Government White Paper last year was quite clear about the fact that a third London airport would be needed sooner or later, is it not better to get on with that as quickly as possible instead of planning to enlarge Heathrow and Gatwick, thereby increasing the suffering of people living round those airports?

Mr. Davis

The extensions at Heathrow and Gatwick were spelled out in the White Paper. They are inevitable, as, indeed, is some expansion at Stansted and Luton. The fact is that we must deal with the short and medium term as well as the long term. As to long-term development, I believe that it is absolutely right to have a proper basis of consultation, so that people who have a direct interest in these matters will have an opportunity to have their say as a result of which they cannot allege that the man in Whitehall knows best.

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