HC Deb 01 February 1982 vol 17 cc6-7
7. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Trade how many passengers used London's airports in 1981 in comparison with 1980; and how many air traffic movements were involved.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade (Mr. lain Sproat)

In 1981 the four London area airports, Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, handled 39,382,030 terminal passengers and 404,717 air transport movements. The corresponding figures for 1980 were 39,553,508 terminal passengers and 430,531 air transport movements.

Mr. Haselhurst

Do not those figures, especially when taken together with the forecasts for the future scale of passenger traffic—and taken also with the introduction of larger aircraft—cast considerable doubt on the proposition that there will be a shortfall in capacity at those airports by 1987?

Mr. Sproat

No, Sir. In six of the 12 months traffic in 1981 was higher than in the corresponding months of 1980, indicating a return to growth. However, a comparison of the total figures for the year needs to allow for the effects of the air traffic control strike in May and June and the bad weather in December. In any case, I ask my hon. Friend to reflect that it would be a poor idea to base long-term forecasts merely on one year's figures.

Mr. Coleman

The Minister mentioned Gatwick airport. Has he any information concerning a second terminal at Gatwick? Has he had any reports of the situation at Gatwick airport on 3 January this year, when chaos reigned because of the inadequate facilities?

Mr. Sproat

The representations for which we asked, following the new traffic forecasts, are now being considered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. We shall announce conclusions very shortly.

Mr. Wilkinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most significant statistics is that there is no tendency for air traffic to Stansted to grow, which seems to indicate that airline operators are not particularly keen to use that airport, whereas there is every propensity for air traffic movements at Heathrow to grow, so that the need there is for good terminal and passenger handling facilities?

Mr. Sproat

I hear what my hon. Friend says but, as the matter is currently before the inspector at Stansted, it would be improper for me to comment.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Does the Minister agree that it is most undesirable for the House to substitute itself for the inquiry at Stansted? Is it not equally dangerous to accept the sort of advice that has been given by the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst), who is, of course, leading an anti-Stansted campaign? Does the Minister agree that for Britain to restrict airport development at this stage could lead to the very dangerous position of allowing Amsterdam to become London's third airport—something that this country ought not to contemplate?

Mr. Sproat

My agreement in principle with the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question prevents me from commenting on the second part.