HC Deb 30 January 1985 vol 72 cc291-394

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Major.]

Mr. Speaker

Before we start on this important debate, may I tell the House that so far I have had applications by letter from no fewer than 44 right hon. and hon. Members. I propose to adopt the 10-minute limit on speeches between 7 o'clock and 8.50 pm, but I hope that in view of the large number of hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate all speeches will be reasonably brief, please.

4.9 pm

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Nicholas Ridley)

In opening this debate we are honouring the commitment that we gave during the Second Reading of the Civil Aviation Bill that the House would have an opportunity to express its views on airports policy in the light of the inspector's report on the Stansted and Heathrow terminal 5 public inquiries before final decisions were reached.

I shall say a few words on the history of the matter and then on the procedures that we intend to follow.

Airports policy has exercised the minds of all Administrations, of whatever political persuasion, over a number of years. I shall not go back further into history than 1975–76, when the foundations of current airports policy were laid.

Following the decision to abandon the Maplin project, the then Labour Government published, in November 1975, part 1 of the "Airport Strategy for Great Britain", as a basis for further consultation. This set out a strategy for accommodating air traffic demand in the London area for the 1980s and identified several options to handle further growth in traffic in the longer term. Those included a fifth terminal at Heathrow, a second terminal at Gatwick, expansion of Stansted to a capacity of 16 million passengers per annum and further development at Luton.

In June 1976 the Government published the second part of that strategy, which dealt with the regional airports. This considered the way in which regional airports might be developed in the future and the possibilities of diverting traffic away from London to the regions. After extensive consultations on the basis of those documents, the then Labour Government announced their decisions in the airports policy White Paper in 1978.

Let me paraphrase the conclusions that were reached in that White Paper. It said that there was no case, in transport terms, for diverting traffic which had origins and destinations in the south-east to regional airports, and no case for the damage to the air transport industry which a policy of forced diversion would cause; that although some switch in traffic to the regions would occur naturally, this would not avoid the need for additional capacity in the south-east after 1990; that up to 1990, the growth in demand in the south-east should be accommodated by the provision of a fourth terminal at Heathrow, a second terminal at Gatwick, and the development of capacity at Luton and Stansted up to 5 million and 4 million passengers a year respectively; and that the Government would consider how demand might best be met beyond 1990. The possible solutions might be a major expansion at Stansted, the development of an existing military airfield as a civil airport, or the construction of a new airport.

Following the White Paper, the then Secretary of State for Trade announced, in August 1978, the establishment of an Advisory Committee on Airports Policy and a Study Group on South-East Airports, in which the main interests concerned were represented. Their immediate task was to give detailed consideration to the options for accommodating air transport demand in the London area in the longer term.

When the Government took office in 1979, those two committees were part way through their work and we therefore awaited their reports before making any decisions on airports policy. The reports were published in December 1979 and their conclusions, which were broadly the same as those expressed in the 1978 White Paper, were accepted—that the development of regional airports could not obviate the need to meet demand in the south-east and that in the light of the forecasts then available further airports capacity would be needed in the south-east before 1990.

In line with this assessment, the then Secretary of State for Trade, Sir John Nott, as he later became, while giving the Government's support to the fullest possible use of regional airports, announced that the British Airports Authority would be invited to bring forward proposals for the development of Stansted to meet the expected growth in demand in the south-east; and that because this raised issues of considerable national and local importance, the proposals and the wider social and environmental implications would be thoroughly examined by means of a public inquiry. In accordance with this undertaking, the airports inquiries were opened in 1981 and ran through until well into 1983.

By any standards, the inspector's report is a colossal piece of work. In 1980 the then Secretary of State for Trade, Sir John Nott, said: We intend the public inquiry to be wide-ranging and to give objectors an opportunity not only to expand on their objections to the Stansted proposal but also to question the need for a major airport expansion anywhere and to put forward alternative sites."—[Official Report, 21 February 1980; Vol. 979, c. 701.] No one could doubt that that remit has been fulfilled. The inquiries lasted for 258 days, brought forth around 4,000 written representations, and took oral evidence from some 250 witnesses. It is appropriate at this point for me to record my thanks and those of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to the inspector, Mr. Graham Eyre, Q.C. and his two assessors, for the conscientious and efficient way in which they tackled and discharged their formidable task.

However, before Ministers now is the equally formidable—some would say more formidable—task of reaching decisions on the 20 formal recommendations made by the inspector. I am sure that I need not summarise the terms of the inspector's recommendations. I am sure also that the House, like my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself, will have read every word carefully over the Christmas recess.

The issues before us are complex. Hon. Members have read the inspector's report and the reasons which led to those recommendations. Therefore, I hope that this debate will provide the opportunity for hon. Members to express their views on all these issues.

On the procedural side, the debate is taking place on the Adjournment. I should say why, and also amplify what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said on Thursday about the future parliamentary handling of this matter.

Normally, the inspector's report is published at the same time as the decision is issued. Although this is not the first time that there has been a debate in the House on a planning application before that application was determined, the holding of a debate in these particular circumstances presents certain difficulties.

Parliament has laid down in the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 a system for determining planning applications by the local planning authorities, and, in the event of an appeal or a calling-in of the application, by the Secretary of State. Members of the public have an opportunity to make objections, or other representations, to the local planning authority or to the Secretary of State, as the case may be. If the case comes before the Secretary of State, a public inquiry may be held.

There is no provision in the planning Acts for Parliament to play any role in determining planning appeals or called-in applications. The duty of making a decision in such cases has been placed, by Parliament, by the Act, on the Secretary of State, and he must, in discharging his duty, base his decision on the evidence before him, taking account of Government policy.

By holding a debate on a substantive motion and voting on it, the House could be held to be seriously prejudicing the proper exercise of our quasi-judicial function of determining the applications. While my right hon. Friend and I have the applications before us for decision we are unable to express any views on the issues covered in the inspector's report. To do so could prejudice our consideration of it. I know that the House understands and accepts that.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)


Mr. Ridley

In view of the extreme delicacy of my position in relation to not prejudicing that position, it would be better if I were not to respond to interventions. I know my hon. Friend will agree that on every other occasion I have always, I hope, been courteous to hon. Members who wish to intervene.

Thai would also mean that Ministers may not be able to vote — so as not to prejudice the decisions that my right hon. Friend and I will have to take — depriving about one sixth of the members of this House of the right to express their opinions.

Secondly, we have to consider what would be the effect of a vote on a substantive motion. Let us suppose that the House voted to reject the inspector's recommendations. If Ministers decided then to accept the recommendations, they would be disregarding the will of the House. But if they rejected the recommendations simply because that was the will of the House, rather than on the merits of the case, they would lay themselves open to challenge in the High Court. The parties affected, which could be numerous, could justly complain that the decisions were based on considerations extraneous to the inspector's report and that the whole painstaking process of public inquiry would be devalued.

I think the House will agree that the problem should be resolved as soon as possible, and that, consistent with proper consideration, is the Government's intention. Whatever hon. Members may think about the matters before us, I doubt whether they want to subject the whole process to a further period of delay and uncertainty. There has been uncertainty about a third London airport for over 20 years. This uncertainty has borne not only on the people of Stansted, but on those living near Heathrow, Gatwick, and other sites which have been proposed in south-east England and beyond. There has been uncertainty also for the aviation industry and those employed in it. To prolong this uncertainty will not make the problem go away. It would merely mean that we would have to return to it at a later date.

That is why this debate is taking place on an Adjournment motion. Indeed, there is no other way to proceed if hon. Members are to express their views and if Ministers are to discharge their responsibilities—unless, of course, the House simply wants no decisions to be taken and the whole matter left in limbo for a further indefinite period. This is not to say that I am not acutely aware of the enormous political interest which this subject has aroused — how could I think otherwise? But I suggest that the only way in which that great interest can be properly combined with the requirements of planning legislation is for the House to debate the issue, for Ministers to listen intently, and for no substantive votes to take place—to avoid prejudicing the decisions.

What I can confirm, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said on Thursday last, is that after the decisions have been taken and announced the House will be given a further opportunity to debate and, if it wishes, to vote on the Government's airports policy. What I have in mind is that the Government will publish proposals on airports policy when the decisions are taken and announced, as the inspector urged us to do. These will cover a wider canvas than the narrower one of these particular planning applications.

I should like to make it perfectly clear that we approach this debate without having reached any conclusions as to what the final decisions might be. We will listen carefully to everything that hon. Members have to say.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)


Mr. Ridley

I am sorry; I shall not give way. I did say that I feared it would be unwise for me to engage in debate on these complicated matters.

Before I leave the Floor to hon. Members, I should like to make one further point. Almost every airport policy decision in the last 40 years has been controversial. Wherever there is an airport, or the potential for an airport in this crowded island, there are people who object to its development, understandably so, and their views are of the utmost importance. But the aviation industry plays a vital role in transporting people and supports a large number of jobs of all sorts. Any responsible Government must take account of the interests of all these people. Airlines and airports exist only to serve the needs of the travelling public. Air travel is no longer for the privileged few; it is our objective to bring it within the reach of more and more people. Every Government have had to face these dilemmas and attempt to reconcile these conflicting interests. It is not an easy task. I can only say that my hon. Friend and I will do our best to get the right answer.

4.23 pm
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Is it not truly remarkable that we are debating on a motion for the Adjournment of the House probably one of the most important decisions in relation to airports policy to be taken for the next 10 years? The Secretary of State tells us that this is because he is in rather a delicate position. During this week his delicate position seems to have taken on more and more of a close resemblance to the perils of Pauline. He seems to stagger from crisis to crisis, for most of which he is entirely responsible.

It is not true that similar debates on airport policy or on planning applications have been handled in this manner. One way the right hon. Gentleman could have dealt with any legal difficulty would have been to have given a decision and then allowed the House to have a full debate, because he would still have had the right under existing powers to call new expert evidence if he believed that something worthy and important has been brought to his attention. He could have taken account of all the views of the different sections of the House of Commons.

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Will the hon. Lady admit that because it has been done in this way we shall get two bites at the cherry? If the Government had done as she has suggested — made a decision and then allowed a debate—we would have had only one bite at the cherry.

Mrs. Dunwoody

What has happened is much clearer. The Secretary of State started out trying to take a major decision by the back door. He brought in a Civil Aviation Bill, which was slung out by his colleagues. When that did not work, he decided that today we would have a debate on a Whip. When it became painfully clear that even his well-disciplined troops would not fall for that load of nonsense, he gradually reduced the Whip until suddenly, rather like the Cheshire cat, not only has the Whip disappeared but the payroll vote has disappeared as well. The payroll vote, which can normally be relied upon to troop through the Lobby, has been told that the Secretary of State is now in such disarray that the only thing he can possibly do to cover his own discomfiture is to suggest that we should have a vote on the Adjournment of the House.

We are all well aware that the Stansted report has far-reaching implications for the whole of our airports policy. We have had a week of leaks, a sort of, "Will they, won't they?" We are now told that we have had to proceed in this manner because there might be legal complications. The Secretary of State should have thought of that before he sought to push through the ceiling on Heathrow and take decisions that would pre-empt the decision that the inspector asked for in a carefully researched report. Today, we are being asked to decide on one area and to make policy in effect in a vacuum.

The report made clear that the inspector was anxious to give an overall picture of airports policy, but he could not. He made great efforts to run the widest possible survey before reaching a conclusion, but the nature of that system produced two main flaws. First, the inspector could not consider issues that were not brought to him for consideration. He actually mentioned the expansion of Gatwick, but there was no deep examination of the implications. The logic of the Government's desire for two equal and competing airlines is that they should operate from equal airports. Under those circumstances, Gatwick would have a second runway. That would mean destroying the village of Charlwood. The Government tell us frequently that we should face up to taking hard decisions. Why are we not being asked to push ahead in that manner? Could it be that all the voters in Charlwood are Conservatives?

That leads to the second flaw. Airport policy is being considered but there has been no debate on airline policy. The computer models have included such assumptions but that is not the same as a discussion of the problems in depth.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)

The Government have not seen fit to proceed with a second runway at Gatwick because they have an agreement with West Sussex county council forbidding them to do so.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I am well aware of that. The Secretary of State seems to think that he can take a salami approach to airports policy — putting a ceiling on Heathrow, ignoring the views of people living in that area, and simply pursuing his own interest in relation to one specific airport in the south-east.

There has been no discussion of the public expenditure implications or of the needs of regional airports, and precious little explanation of why the Minister is pushing ahead in this way. We all know why the debate is on the Adjournment. It is because the Government could not have faced the result if there had been a motion that could be amended and voted on in the proper way.

We need to consider what type of airline structure we want in this country. Should domestic companies such as British Midland be encouraged to limit themselves to being feeder services for B-Cal and British Airways or should they start their own international flights? Should there be one major flag carrier airline or two? Those questions lead not just to major decisions about airports but to major implications for licensing policy. It is crucial to decide which companies should use Stansted, if we want Stansted at all, and the type of service to be provided. Is tourism to take the lead from business travel or are we to have three major airports in the south-east warring for existing business, which will involve considerable interlining problems and serious implications for regional airports?

Since the last war, international business and international airline growth have been closely related. Do the Government expect that trend to change? If so, a more decentralised system of airports, extending regional airports and using them specifically as hub airlines not only makes sense but would produce positive dividends. The Government are using this inquiry to decide airline policy in general without proper consideration of all the airports. There is no consideration of Gatwick or the effect on Scottish airports and on major airports such as Manchester, which could develop, not just as a massive and useful international service, but act as a hub in relation to other regional airlines.

There was no comment from the Secretary of State about the investment implications. We should be considering the implications of Stansted for British airports finance. The British Airports Authority figure for capital needs this year is set at £150 million. In April, that will fall to £117 million. It will then be £139 million for 1986–87 and 1987–88. The external finance limit is also to fall in 1985–86. Those reductions are to take place at a time when Stansted is presumably to be built at a cost of more than £400 million. More than 75 per cent. of all investment will be at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted. What will be the effect of that on Scottish airports? Prestwick is under threat and a report is imminent with major implications for Scotland. It seems inevitable that landing charges will have to be raised in other southern airports to cover the investment involved, although many airlines are complaining that landing charges are far too high already.

We should also consider the investment implications for British Rail. We have no clear idea of the cost of a British Rail link with Stansted, although those who worked on the northern airline scheme, especially in relation to the Natural Environment Research Council, claim that £166 million would be needed to build the link. At a time when investment has fallen from £522 million to £270 million in 1983–84 at constant prices, British Rail will have to find extra money not currently allowed for. If the Government are serious about this, they should tell us the effect on British Rail investment, on provincial services and on important factors such as section 20 grants. Commuter services in the provinces will be under enormous threat because the Government have not taken account of the investment that British Rail will have to find.

Thirdly, and most important, the Government and especially the Secretary of State have created an atmosphere of distrust. Why has there been such virulence in the north about the suggestion that Stansted should go ahead? It is because people in the north have no faith in the Government being prepared to consider the public expenditure implications on such an enormous injection of capital into the south-east or the loss of jobs and inability to attract new industries to the regions that the development of Manchester airport could have prevented. The Government have deliberately made it clear that in their view the regions take not first, second or third place but fourth place in relation to developments in the south-east.

On 17 January 1985 the Government stopped all regional aid. That moratorium will have a direct and deleterious effect on everything that is important to the regions. Next year aid will be cut by £300 million, with a further cut of £300 million in each succeeding year. That aid is concentrated in the north and in regions outside the south-east.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

As one who rather admires Manchester airport and uses it a great deal, I am glad that British Airways is to extend its flights from that airport, but why are the landing charges there so much higher than those at other airports in this country?

Mrs. Dunwoody

As I have said, the BAA has no provision for the investment that Stansted will require. If the hon. Gentleman is worried about the charges at Manchester now, the result of the Stansted plan will be far worse. In common with many other regional airports, Manchester is capable of developments that would allow it to take a great deal more traffic, both international and domestic. Economies of scale would then make it easier for airlines using that airport to benefit from lower costs than are now possible.

Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)

The BAA boasts about the prices charged for franchise, enabling it to keep its charges artificially low because of the large number of people going through. If the regions had the same privilege of numbers, they could lower their charges.

Mrs. Dunwoody

That is exactly the point. Those who oppose the development of regional airports, and especially Manchester, are using the argument not in relation to economies of scale but because they want even more investment in the south-east.

Mr. Tim Yeo (Suffolk, South)

Is not the hon. Lady completely ignoring the fact that the pressure for developing airports round London arises from the fact that many passengers want to use airports round London? To develop Manchester airport in response to this demand in the south-east is rather like building an extra railway line into Manchester because there is over-demand for the railway into Euston.

Will the hon. Lady answer the point made by the trade union representive, Brian Crocker: We are most disappointed that it now appears to be Opposition Party policy to oppose any further development of Stansted and Heathrow Airports. We feel this is both impractical and unworkable.

Mrs. Dunwoody

If the hon. Gentleman will give me two minutes to continue my speech, I shall come to those points later.

The kind of attack that the Government have mounted, particularly on regional aid, is one reason why there is such deep distrust in the north of the suggestion that the development at Stansted should go ahead. The distrust of those in the north of the Government's claim that investment in Stansted will in no way be deleterious makes it impossible for them to believe in the sincerity of the Secretary of State. To combine these two plans at the same time is a failure of leadership, which reveals the Government's desperate economic problems.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

The hon. Lady has spoken several times as though she speaks for the north of England. May I tell the hon. Lady that she does not speak for the north of England? Teesside chamber of commerce wrote to me this morning to make sure that I put my voice behind Stansted, which would be in the best interests of the north-east of England.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I hope that those views are widely known, not only to the people in the north-east, who are very close to the excellent airport system that already exists round Newcastle, but to those who will be anxious to see a development of their own regional airport traffic and who will not take kindly to that kind of remark from a Member of Parliament who represents the area.

Two types of airline will have special worries about Stansted. Will Stansted be a repository for charter and domestic airlines? I ask this advisedly. The Secretary of State, when he brought in the Civil Aviation Bill, showed that the Government's interest was in selling landing slots. Allocation to the highest bidder means that British Airways will win, as will large foreign international airlines. The small airlines might find themselves pushed out into Stansted. It is possible that they will be unable to compete with the BA domestic feeder services or the international flights from Heathrow. Equally, the charter flights—and we believe that there is a good case for the development of tourist traffic in the north of England—might find that, with the availability of Stansted, British Caledonian will fight to have them thrown out of Gatwick. This will allow British Caledonian to expand and deal with some of the problems that it already has because of the restrictions to which previous Governments have agreed. It is, therefore, in line with the Government's abortive competition policy. Why is it that the Government have not made clear to the House their intentions for these two particular types of airlines?

Mr. Cecil Franks (Barrow and Furness)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Dunwoody

I was asked to keep my speech short. It has not been easy to do so.

Mr. Franks

Will the hon. Lady take the point that many Conservative Members, including Conservative Members representing the north-west, would be prepared to take common cause with her if, instead of trying to make points against the Government, she kept her argument to the issues involved?

Mrs. Dunwoody

Let the hon. Gentleman understand that the Secretary of State has responsibility for creating an airlines and airports policy. He has signally failed to do so. He has taken it to the extent of introducing a major planning report on a motion to adjourn the House because he does not want to have the matter considered in any great detail.

It is important also to understand that the implications of Stansted involve real problems for the people living round Heathrow airport. No contribution has been made by any Conservative Member about the effect about pushing up the number of aircraft movements at Heathrow. I believe that we should be asking why, if there is to be any expansion at Stansted, the Government are insisting on such a large expansion all at once. It is obvious that in economic terms it would be possible to build a £5 million passenger terminal without any difficulty. It would be economic and would greatly reduce the guesswork that has so far been done to justify the expansion.

For example, the Stansted plan involves building a taxiway but widening it from the standard 23 m to 45 m along 2,700 m of the 3,900 m length. In other words, Stansted would gain the potential for expansion into a two-runway airport. While that is not likely in the near future, it makes it plain that the atmosphere of distrust that has greeted the plan can be justified by these facts on which the decisions are being taken. It is possible that Stansted could be expanded rapidly without a great deal of difficulty.

The Labour party does not welcome the idea that there should be a fifth terminal at Heathrow. We believe that that would take 15 years to build. It is clear that it will take at least six to eight years to move the Perry Oaks sludge works and that would therefore not solve the existing problem at Heathrow.

Heathrow is the busiest airport in the world and the residents in the area already know that to their cost. Because of the history of airport plans by various Governments and the vagueness of the forecasting—and there is considerable doubt about the processes that were used for forecasting in the report since this is not an accurate science—the residents will not feel particularly safe if the sludge works are moved but terminal 5 is not given the go-ahead. They will rightly fear that there will be yet another change at some point in the future. They will want a much clearer statement from the Secretary of State that he is aware of the environmental danger to the people living round Heathrow airport.

Once again the Heathrow expansion is beset by all the same problems that we have seen in relation to the Secretary of State's airport plan. Is the expansion to ensure that domestic airlines can stay at Heathrow or is it to let BA take over the domestic airline market as well? It is claimed in the report that only another 51,000 people will be seriously affected by terminal 5. That brings the 1995 total to 274,000 people while the Civil Aviation Authority has already said that 943,000 people were affected in 1980. The damage that is being done to save Heathrow from a problem that it will have to solve before terminal five could be built is considerable.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Can the hon. Lady clarify her remarks for the benefit of people who work at the airport—or who might wish to do so—and who are involved in civil air transport there? Is her party not committed to the fifth terminal at Heathrow for environmental and other reasons? If that is the case, she is diametrically opposed to one of the important recommendations of Mr. Eyre, QC.

Mrs. Dunwoody

It is not Labour party policy to support the building of a fifth terminal at Heathrow. We believe that people who live round that airport have rights. I am well aware that people who work in airports have the right to have their jobs protected. Expansion at Heathrow would create extra jobs. Similar expansion at Manchester would create an equal number of jobs and the opportunity for many businesses to come into the areas close to the airport. It would also allow Manchester to act as a hub airport for many other regions. I should like to know whether Conservatives are prepared to take into account the effect of job creation when considering whether we should go ahead with expanding Manchester airport.

Working in a vacuum is always bad. The Government should make all their airports plans clear in the light of an overall air industry strategy. In turning their face on forecasting methods they are incapable of providing accurate statistical information. We should understand that many of the assumptions are about as accurate as trying to manoeuvre a poker hand.

It is essential to have a proper plan from the Secretary of State that will take account not only of the effects on regional airports but of the effects on Scottish airports, Heathrow and individual airlines.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster)

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) has done nothing but harp upon Manchester airport. Clearly she has not read the Eyre report. If she had she would have noticed that specific reference is made to Manchester. Mr. Eyre says that the idea that Manchester airport is being discriminated against has reached the stage of being a phobia. He therefore investigated with particular care and came to the conclusion that there is no evidence for that contention. Has the hon. Lady any further evidence than that which Mr. Eyre considered to justify her statements today?

Mrs. Dunwoody

There is no clear evidence that the inspector was right in saying that the assumption on which the northern consortium had built its plans were incorrect. If the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) believes that we are talking with any certainty about numbers I refer him to the section of the report on forecasts. The inspector says that by 1995 demand in the London airports could be 61 million passengers per annum, or even 89.3 million. The inspector looked carefully at the implications but he had to admit that when forecasting the size of aircraft, the noise, the number of passengers generated and where they would come from, there was considerable room for different interpretations. We do understand, however, that there is no room for doubt about what the investment will do if it all goes into the south-east of England and it is very plain that the effects of such massive investment will be very considerable on other regions.

This afternoon the Secretary of State has got himself into considerable political difficulty. He has not been prepared to come forward with a clear explanation of how he views the future of airport policy. He has not even been prepared to consider that, within a short time, another inspector's report about Prestwick and the Scottish airports will be published. He has endeavoured to stymie his colleagues, who do not wish to see any development at Stansted but who are not prepared to concern themselves about the implications for Heathrow, the regions or those airports that are important outside the London area.

The Government have gone out of their way to take decisions behind closed doors which have major implications for the future. Tonight's vote will show the heavy price that has to be paid for their dislike and fear of open government. If Government Members are really serious they will not support a Secretary of State who wishes to close all the options, with little concern for the airlines or the airports policy.

4.54 pm
Sir Humphrey Atkins (Spelthorne)

Over the years I have often been in disagreement with the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). Today is no exception. I particularly disagree with her on two matters.

The hon. Lady criticised the Government for having the debate today. It is strange that the Opposition should criticise the Government for having a debate in advance of a decision. Oppositions almost always say that there is no point in having a debate after a decision has been made because the Government do not listen but merely use their majority to push their decision through the House. Here we are, on a rare and welcome occasion, being given the opportunity to tell the Secretary of State exactly what we think and to give our views to him so that he can take them into account — I know that he will — yet the hon. Lady objects. That is strange.

The hon. Lady said that she had not heard much about the case in connection with Heathrow. Perhaps she has not heard it, but that does not mean that the case has not been made. If she missed it, she can hear it again now because I propose to talk about it. Although the case has been made, it is not as widely known as it should be.

Heathrow is in a ridiculous place. Nobody in his senses designing a capital city from scratch in a country governed by predominantly westerly airstreams would place the major airport 15 miles due west of the city centre. It means that every plane landing or taking off flies over the city centre. Any hon. Member who has had the pleasure of taking a cup of tea on the Terrace in the summer will be well accustomed to the sight of a stream of aeroplanes turning on to the flight path, apparently immediately over St. Thomas's hospital. They then travel the 15 miles to Heathrow, causing trouble and disturbance.

Thousands and thousands of aeroplanes fly over the middle of London, but — touch wood — no serious accident has occurred. That speaks highly for the pilots, engineers and flight controllers. I can remember only one accident, about 12 years ago when an aircraft fell out of the sky on to my constituency after taking off from Heathrow. Everyone on the plane was killed but by the mercy of Heaven no one on the ground was killed. The aircraft fell exactly 220 yards from Staines high street. We should be thankful that we have had no major accident. Long may that continue.

However, Heathrow is where it is. It has been developed out of all recognition over the past 40 years and it is still being developed. Terminal 4 is still under construction and is expected to come into operation later this year. That will increase Heathrow's present capacity of 29 million passengers a year by another 8 million. Yet Mr. Graham Eyre, in the report, recommends further development at Heathrow to cater for another 15 million people. He admits that it will take a long time for any such development and do nothing to solve the problem of providing enough capacity in the next few years.

It is important that the case against further development at Heathrow should be made today because Mr. Eyre says that if the fifth terminal is to come into operation in 1997 or later the go-ahead must be given now because of the enormously long lead time.

I am not sure whether the House is fully aware of the great weight of opinion around Heathrow against any further development. Surrey county council — my constituency is in Surrey — led a consortium of local authorities to put the case to Mr. Graham Eyre against any further development at Heathrow. The consortium consisted of the county councils of Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire, the London boroughs of Hounslow, Kingston-upon-Thames and Richmond and the borough and district councils of Mole Valley, Reigate and Banstead, Runnymede, South Bucks, Surrey Heath, and Spelthorne which I have the honour to represent. This involves a large number of people. There are about 1 million people in Surrey, about 600,000 in Buckinghamshire and 1.5 million in Hampshire. Therefore, we are referring to the elected representatives of more than 3 million people. That leaves out of account the London boroughs to which I have referred.

At a meeting that I attended last week to discuss this debate, we were told by the vice-chairman of the planning committee of Berkshire county council that the Berkshire county council is also totally against the development of a fifth terminal at Heathrow. Unfortunately, I do not know how many people live in Berkshire, but undoubtedly many people live in that county. I should also mention, though I hardly dare, that the chairman of the planning committee of the Greater London council was at that meeting and said that his council is totally opposed to any further development at Heathrow.

Mr. Michael Grylls (Surrey, North-West)

As the constituency of my right hon. Friend abuts mine, would he comment on that part of the report which refers to the noise impact and the urban growth impact of a fifth terminal at Heathrow on his area and also on my part of Surrey? No doubt my right hon. Friend's constituents, like many of mine, are concerned about the increase in noise, if there were to be such an increase, and the pressure upon urban development.

Sir Humphrey Atkins

I thank my hon. Friend for his invitation. I shall not rehearse all the arguments that were presented by the consortium to Mr. Eyre because anybody who wishes to find out what they are can read them. However, I shall refer to noise and to the effect upon the roads. I do not propose to dwell upon the subject of noise, for it is only two months since the Second Reading debate on the Civil Aviation Bill and I made the case on noise as well as I could then. Therefore, it would not be profitable to repeat it now. However, in chapter 42, paragraph 10.1, Mr. Eyre states: Air noise is a modern curse from which the unfortunate inhabitants of the Heathrow area have been required to suffer over a long period. There will be substantial improvements in the noise climate in the next few years"— I should like to argue that point with Mr. Eyre— but conditions will still be worse than at any other location in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Sir Humphrey Atkins

No; I am in the middle of this point and I shall not give way.

It is alleged that as time passes—this is part of the reason why Mr. Eyre believes that there may be an improvement — there will be less noise because there will be fewer aeroplanes. I have yet to meet anybody who seriously believes that 23 million extra people can be carried in and out of Heathrow each year without an increase in the number of aircraft. There is talk of super jumbos carrying 600 or 700 passengers to replace the present generation of jumbos. Indeed, terminal 4, which has not yet been completed, is designed to accommodate aeroplanes of that kind. It is worthy of note, however, that not only are no such aeroplanes flying but that, so I am advised, no such aeroplanes are even in production.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

I represent constituents who have suffered from serious and severe noise pollution for many years. The result has been that many of them have suffered physical and nervous breakdowns; and it is well known that those who live in Ealing and in the surrounding areas that have already been mentioned by my right hon. Friend cannot hold conversations inside their flats or houses during the winter, let alone during the summer. Therefore, noise, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out, is a major factor.

Sir Humphrey Atkins

I accept everything that my hon. Friend has said. However, I shall turn from the subject of noise, because we have already heard a good deal about it, to roads — another important part of the case made by the consortium. The difficulties surrounding getting into and out of London to the west are well known. When the construction of terminal 4 was being considered about seven years ago, Mr. Justice Glidewell, who wrote the report, said: Heathrow is London's largest generator of road traffic and the A4/M4 corridor is the Airport's most important route into and out of central London — it has been overloaded for many years. Mr. Justice Glidewell continued: Unrestrained road traffic growth in the past has progressively increased this overloading to such a degree that today it has reached levels that must be regarded as intolerable.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)

Would my right hon. Friend allow me to comment upon this part of his argument?

Sir Humphrey Atkins

No, otherwise I shall be on my feet all afternoon, and nobody wants that.

In his most recent report Mr. Graham Eyre was more dismissive. He said: conditions on the highway network in the Heathrow area and in particular along the M4/A4 corridor are unacceptable. In chapter 38, paragraph 11.9, he said that a working party ought to be set up to investigate what could be done about this difficulty. That seems to be quite a good idea until one realises that it has already been done. The Department of Transport's evidence to Mr. Eyre's inquiry was as follows: The overall picture towards the end of this century will therefore be one of a highway network under stress with drivers operating under considerable strain (and) … conditions are likely to get worse on the M4 itself. The Department went on to say: The Department have no proposals for any further roads in the area and indeed see no scope in providing any additional capacity in the A4/M4 corridor into Central London. Therefore, one is bound to agree with the statement made last week by the transport committee's chairman of Surrey county council: yet the A4/M4 corridor cannot cope with only three terminals at Heathrow. With a Fourth and Fifth terminal and over 1 million passengers a week, traffic congestion would be intolerable. Not only would the M4 come to a standstill; the M25 would be heavily over-loaded as well.

Mr. Adley

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he believes the Government have studied the plans by British Rail for tunnels both for its Western region main line at Iver and for its Southern region line at Feltham? Does my right hon. Friend agree that if one looks constructively at this matter and tries to reduce the road congestion to which my right hon. Friend properly referred, major investment by the state in the rail infrastructure to ease the congestion at Heathrow must be a vital part of these considerations?

Sir Humphrey Atkins

Indeed, it would have to be. If this development went ahead, any rail link would need to take a very much higher proportion of passengers than the current underground link because the underground link represents only about 10 per cent. of passenger traffic and is virtually insignificant.

Over a number of years, the Government have consistently stated publicly that terminal 5 will not be built. Sir John Nott, as Secretary of State for Trade, said: these considerations have led us to the view that a fifth terminal should not be provided." — [Official Report, 17 December 1979; Vol. 976, c. 36.] In another place, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade, Lord Trefgarne, said: We have come to the conclusion that a fifth terminal at Heathrow … would take perhaps 11 to 13 years to build … and would not provide a long term solution." — [Official Report, House of Lords, 14 February 1980; Vol. 405, c. 327.] Sir John Nott also said: I have made clear the Government's position. We do not favour a fifth terminal".—[Official Report, 21 February 1980; Vol. 979, c. 694.] My right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said in 1980 — it may come as a surprise to hon. Members to know that he was then only a lowly Parliamentary Under-Secretary: The Government's view remains as set out in the statement made on 17 December 1979 by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, that a fifth terminal should not be provided."—[Official Report, 3 November 1980; Vol. 991, c. 411.] That was confirmed by my right hon. Friend in a letter of 13 November to my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), and the letter was subsequently issued by the Department as a press release.

The present Leader of the House, who was Secretary of State for Trade in 1981, reaffirmed in a written answer on 13 May 1981, at column 273, the Government's view that a fifth terminal should not be provided. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre), the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade, said: The Government have stated their view on a number of occasions that a fifth terminal at Heathrow should not be provided."—[Official Report, 23 July 1981; Vol. 9, c. 193.] My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym), the then Leader of the House, said: the Government have on a number of occasions said that a fifth terminal at Heathrow should not be provided. That remains our policy "—[Official Report, 23 July 1981; Vol. 9, c. 544.] Finally, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wrote a letter on 19 October 1981 to my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst). Of course, I have not seen that letter, but it was quoted in the House by Mr. Iain Sproat, who was then the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade. He said that the Prime Minister had written: The Government's airports policy was announced by John Nott in the House of Commons on 17 December 1979 and has been repeated since. Small wonder then that hundreds of thousands of people believed in and took comfort from those assurances. Even less wonder that those of us who represent them felt able to say to anyone who expressed anxiety to us, "Do not worry. The fifth terminal will not be built. We have the Government's assurance on that." I have been saying that all those years and I said it during the last general election campaign. I have no doubt that some of my hon. Friends also did so.

Therefore, it will come as no surprise to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to discover that if my assurances prove to have been false, there will be no way that he can count on my support — only my opposition. However, I do not believe that it will come to that. The Secretary of State is an honourable man; we all know that. He said as recently as 21 November in reply to an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) — admittedly on aircraft movements rather than the fifth terminal: I agree with my hon. Friend that when a Government give a firm and unequivocal pledge of that sort it behoves them to seek to implement it".—[Official Report, 21 November 1984, Vol. 68, c. 301.] Therefore, I hope that I can rely on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to do exactly that.

It is only proper that any hon. Member who contributes to the debate should spell out, as far as possible, the line that the Government ought to pursue. I shall try to do that briefly. All our discussions and Mr. Graham Eyre's report are based on the assumption that, because an increasing number of people want to land in aeroplanes as near to the centre of London as they can, it is our business to make arrangements for them to do so. I suppose that it could be said to be the law of supply and demand, which, in general, is a very good thing. However, a balance has to be struck between the operation of that law and the wellbeing of the people it affects. There is nothing new in that; it is the basis of all our planning law.

For example, if a large number of people said that they worked in the centre of London and wanted to live in the city centre, so they wanted permission to build houses in Hyde park, any planning authority would immediately say that such a proposal would be so damaging to the environment of those living nearby that it could not be approved. I believe that the Government should say that to airline passengers: "So many more of you coming into Heathrow would so damage the quality of life of those living near the airport that you should land somewhere else."

The question of a fifth terminal at Heathrow is not an immediate problem, unlike the future of Stansted or developments at Manchester. No extra passengers would be able to use the fifth terminal until almost the next century. However, the Government would be wrong to give the go-ahead to a new terminal in defiance of everything that has been said over all these years.

5.16 pm
Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

I am very glad to be able to participate in so crucially important a debate, which may even prove to be an historic one.

I have two interests to declare. The first is that Manchester international airport, a most successful public enterprise in which, like all Mancunians, I take a legitimate pride, is in my constituency. It employs more people than any other enterprise there, and I am naturally anxious that it should go on expanding to provide more jobs in an area of unacceptably high unemployment.

My other interest in the debate is that I chair the all-party group of hon. and right hon. Members that liaises with the North of England Regional Consortium — NOERC. It was in that capacity that I sponsored early-day motion 146 on "Stansted and the Regions" which, with 233 signatories from all parties, has won more and wider parliamentary backing than any other motion awaiting debate in this House.

As the House will appreciate, I receive no financial reward from NOERC which, as most right hon. and hon. Members will know, speaks for 19 major local authorities in the north and represents millions of people, of all political persuasions and of none, in its opposition to the ill-conceived and unnecessary plan to develop Stansted as London's third airport.

The unemployment rate in the north is 17.1 per cent. In the south-east it is 9.2 per cent. The area immediately around Stansted has hardly any unemployment at all. The northern regions, with 27 per cent. of Britain's population, have 33 per cent. of its unemployment. The south-east, with 31 per cent. of the population, has 24 per cent. of the unemployment. Unemployment is a tragedy anywhere, but it hits much harder in the north, where losing a job means spending at least two and a half times longer on the dole before getting another chance to earn one's living.

In many parts of the north today we have male unemployment rates in excess of 50 per cent. In the city of Manchester there are now many localities where over two thirds of the under-25s are out of work. That is a shocking statistic from a city of which it was said, by one of the best economic historians to have written in the English language, that whoever spoke of industrialisation spoke of Manchester. It is a city today whose name has become synonymous with deindustrialisation. Moreover, even the figure of 66 per cent. unemployment among our young people in Manchester would be much higher but for The masking effect of the youth training scheme on youth unemployment. In this International Year of Youth, the prospect for most of our youngsters is from school to scrapheap.

Even to suggest a £1 billion-plus investment at Stansted not merely derides but mocks the ever-lengthening dole queues of the north. It excites not just total opposition but outright anger among my constituents. We cannot spend the same money twice, and it would be a crime against the north to plan expenditure on that scale in the south-east. Yet it would seem that the inquiry inspector's view of the relationship of Stansted to the north, as to where such vast investment should go, is that while it does not want it, we cannot have it. That is not just voodoo economics, but logic worthy of Fred Karno.

Until only a short time ago it was the Government's intention to take their decision on Stansted without reference to this House. That was their stance in one parliamentary answer after another, and they have made an important concession. In response to pressure they agreed to a parliamentary debate and I am both relieved and grateful that Ministers have now, if reluctantly, conceded Parliament's essential role in debating and deciding issues of this importance. The Government as yet have not declared a view on the inquiry inspector's recommendation on Stansted. By refusing to table an amendable motion for this debate, they have attempted to make it impossible for the House to declare a definitive view. What the 233 signatories of my motion wanted today was an opportunity to vote, not against the Government, but against the inspector's recommendation to develop Stansted to a capacity of 15 million passengers per annum. The only way in which we can now demonstrate our concern, in all parts of the House, is to divide the House tonight and to make it clear that we are doing so as the only means of signalling our opposition to the huge development of Stansted now proposed. This may well be the last parliamentary opportunity to debate Stansted before the Government take their decision, and I hope that enough right hon. and hon. Members on the Conservative Benches, by their votes tonight, will leave the Government and the country in no doubt what that decision must be.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

The right hon. Gentleman has made it clear that he is against spending a lot of money on developing Stansted, with the object of resources going to the north-west or the north instead. Will he make it equally clear, with equal emphasis, that he supports the view of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) that a fifth terminal should not be built at Heathrow, for exactly the same reason?

Mr. Morris

I shall be making reference to Heathrow as I proceed. Meanwhile I much admire the hon. Gentleman for the tenacity with which he fights his constituency case, just as I admire the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) for the admirable way in which he has campaigned for his constituency.

To proceed, I trust that the Secretary of State will himself agree that this House has much to thank the North of England Regional Consortium for. It is the only body prepared to look in depth at the regional airport option as an alternative to developing Stansted. The consortium has exposed the implications, both for public expenditure and tourism, of the Britsh Airports Authority's plans. It has drawn national attention to the widening chasm, in social and economic terms alike, between the south-east and other regions. Even more important, NOERC has shown how a positive policy for encouraging the development and growth of regional airports can assist in regenerating ailing regional economies.

Those with the stamina to have read the inspector's report must have been reminded, by its lengh and content, of some of the old transportation studies undertaken in the conurbations in the 1960s. Technicians were sent away with a brief to produce a shopping list of highway, rail and pedestrian schemes to meet the transportation needs of their areas for the indefinite future. They normally came up with a huge list of schemes. Costs were never questioned until the time came to look at how they could be implemented. Nor were future trends considered which ultimately rendered the proposed strategy largely unnecessary. The studies were models of academic achievement but had little or no relevance to the practical world. As a leader in The Times, of 11 December 1984, said perceptively of the inquiry inspector's findings: It would be a cruelly consistent end to a long story of muddle if Stansted were developed as a stop-gap for a gap which never happened. The North of England Regional Consortium is an unprecedented coming together of major local authorities as far north as Northumberland and as far south as Derbyshire. It commands political support from all parties throughout the north of England. It is supported by authorities and agencies in Scotland, including the Scottish Tourist Board, by authorities in Wales and the midlands, by chambers of commerce up and down the country and by trade unions at both a regional and national level. Over 500 individual firms either made representations to the inquiry inspector or to the Government and Members of Parliament in support of the consortium's case. I cannot think of any other single body which has ever attracted such widespread and positive support in a matter affecting airports.

There is no need in purely air transport terms for a further major development in the south-east of England to meet that region's air transport needs until the mid-1990s at the earliest.

The consortium has also shown that a very high number of regional air travellers are now forced to use airports in the south-east and that, if some of them could be reallocated to services from our regional airports, then expansion could proceed in the regions rather than the south-east. This would bring substantial economic and employment benefits to the regions and, as I have made clear, such benefits are urgently needed to reduce the widening disparities in both employment opportunities and social and economic conditions as between the south-east and the rest of the country.

Of all the alternatives to Stansted canvassed at the public inquiry none has been subject to more misinterpretation than that put forward by the consortium.

Let me give a few examples. The BAA has stated that we are against any increase in the capacity of the London system for all time. Yet we did not oppose the development of Gatwick terminal 2 nor Heathrow terminal 4. We understand and made it pikestaff plain at the inquiry that, beyond the time framework fixed for considering the case for a third London airport—the mid-1990s—there may well be growth in airport need which would justify further expansion of airport facilities in the south-east. But we also made it clear that the distorting effects of massively developing Stansted now, as opposed to some essential development in London later, could not be justified. The extent of any development will depend upon how long regional passengers have to continue using London's airports.

The BAA also said—it is now echoed by the CAA—that the consortium's alternative to Stansted would help foreign airports. That is a scare. It is a facile attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the uninformed. What it seeks to ensure is that passengers who originate in the regions, or who have destinations in the regions and are forced now to use London, will have to go on using London.

But why cannot our regional airports be allowed to accommodate regional passengers? Schiphol and Frankfurt are profiting already from the over-centralised air transport system in this country. What is more, failure to expand regional air services will benefit foreign airports even more.

As the House knows, the BAA and Government Departments rely on CAA surveys which classify passengers on the basis of where their journeys began on the day of the survey. The cumulative effect is that regional passengers who travel to London, or touring passengers who are forced to use London's airports despite the fact that they spend little or no time there, are actually counted as south-east passengers. In fact, they are passengers from Birmingham, Cardiff, the east midlands, Humberside, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and from everywhere else in Britain. To regard them as south-east passengers adds insult to the inconvenience they suffer.

Mr. Adley


Mr. Morris

I am anxious to proceed as quickly as possible, but I will give way to the hon. Gentleman if he wishes to make a brief point.

Mr. Adley

I am sure that many people will agree entirely with what the right hon. Gentleman has been saying, and I know from my business experience that it is true. Does he agree that the BAA is really disqualified from giving a rational opinion? It does not own any airports between Scotland and south-east England. The BAA simply wants to boost its area of responsibility, and it cannot be said to be a dispassionate witness.

Mr. Morris

The hon. Gentleman well reflects the strength of feeling that exists on both sides of the House about the orgy of propaganda to which we have been subjected over the years by the BAA.

As I was saying, to regard people from other parts of the country as south-east passengers adds insult to the inconvenience that they suffer. Yet an essential part of the case for Stansted is built on the delusion that they are from the south-east.

NOERC has recently examined data from a highly impartial source which shows that, if the places of residence for United Kingdom residents and the places where foreign visitors spend the greatest number of nights is taken into account, the proportion of airport passengers using London's airports who originate from the south-east — or are tourists going to the south-east — is reduced from 80 per cent., which is the figure BAA constantly uses, to only 71 per cent. This reduction means that the regional share has been underestimated by nearly 50 per cent. This is but one of the fundamental errors which flaws the inquiry inspector's strategy.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)


Mr. Morris

I should like to give way but, in deference to the Chair, I feel that I should proceed.

The inspector's forecasts for the 1990s could have to be reduced by up to 6 million passengers due to the single discrepancy to which I have referred. In any event, we, among others, see his forecasts as far too high because of the unduly optimistic economic assumptions he makes. In this respect, they resemble, both in their optimism and probable inaccuracy, every previous forecast of demand which has been made.

The Secretary of State is welcome to examine our research, an opportunity which I earnestly urge him to take before he determines the inspector's report. To calm his nerves, perhaps I should disclose that the impartial source from which it derives is his own Department of Transport.

Other myths have been put about by the BAA. Sir Norman Payne's description of Stansted as an oasis of opportunity in a desert of decline is now notorious. In response, I will simply say that, compared with the inner city areas of Manchester, Liverpool and our other great cities in the north, with their male unemployment rates in many localities of over 50 per cent., the Herts-Essex area is nirvana.

Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)


Mr. Morris

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but I must get on.

The BAA's far-fetched story that the NOERC solution represents a real threat to Britain's earning potential may be clever propaganda, but portrays no understanding of current realities. It is a remarkable fact that there are now more direct regional services to Amsterdam than there are regional services to London. All we seek to do is ensure that more passengers use their local airports instead of foreign airports and, by so doing, generate a benefit for the nation as a whole.

Mr. Gale

Allegations have been made against the BAA, an organisation for which I hold no brief whatever. I understand that the BAA wishes, as I do, to see the regional airports developed, and I appreciate the concern which the right hon. Gentleman and others express. However, will the right hon. Gentleman say — I understand that he received this information in answer to a parliamentary question — how many available routes there are already to Manchester that have not been taken up?

Mr. Morris

I do not intend to be drawn into an argument about the BAA. I have indicated my view and will proceed with my argument, which I hope will help to inform the hon. Gentleman in full detail of the northern case.

There would be no net loss to the nation if some of the millions of inward tourists — and 62 per cent. of all nights spent in the UK by overseas visitors are spent outside London — arrived in Scotland, Wales, Manchester, Birmingham or other centres, instead of 94 per cent. of them having to pass through the south-east and creating unnecessary congestion at and around London's airports.

Mr. Graham Eyre's dismissive attitude to those whose opinions differ from his own clearly stems from the fact that the questions he asked of himself were fundamentally different from those posed by others, notably by the North of England Regional Consortium. He has sought to forecast need and recommends the provision of capacity so far into the future that he is accused of taking evidence from Gypsy Rose Lee. Yet I suspect that Gypsy Rose herself would have been speechless at his powers of prophecy, as she could have told him that there is no practical means of forecasting demand beyond the mid-1990s. To follow the inspector's line would have meant the implementation of what he calls "four-runway" monsters at Maplin, Cublington or, indeed, Stansted, over 10 years ago.

Of course, it is not for a planning inquiry to decide major issues of airports policy. That is ultimately a task for this House, and we must introduce some practical realism into the debate about Stansted in our deliberations today. It would plainly be ridiculous, at this juncture, to commit expenditure well into the 21st century.

Enormous sums of money are involved and it is clearly only prudent to make the best use of scarce existing resources by planning within a reasonable timescale. It is also plainly right that we must first achieve the aims of the 1978 White Paper on airports policy — a policy which successive Governments have strongly endorsed—and in particular the role it envisaged for our regional airports.

Since so many of my constituents work at Manchester international airport, perhaps I may be allowed to make a few comments about Manchester in the hope that Members with an interest in other regional airports will catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and speak of the effect of this debate on their constituencies.

Manchester international serves a catchment area of 20 million people, about 40 per cent. of the UK's population. As Britain's third airport, it was designated a category "A" international gateway in 1978. As the House well knows, it has maintained and built upon this status and, in 1984, was the UK's fastest growing airport. We had an increase in the number of passengers to more than 6 million.

The airport has a crucial employment role, not just in south Manchester, but for the north-west as a whole. It provides direct employment for 5,500 people, including the employees of airlines and support services. A further 15,000 people are employed indirectly throughout the region.

Manchester's continued success is crucial to the region's future, in the same way as growth at Newcastle, Leeds-Bradford, Birmingham, Cardiff, the East Midlands and other regional airports is important to the future prosperity of their regions. All of those airports have experienced steady growth in the deregulated inclusive tour and charter sectors. The position is not, however, so rosy in the scheduled sector. In Manchester's case, with the exception of the Qantas service to Australia, and the planned services to New York and Hong Kong, there are as yet no intercontinental scheduled services. This must be bad for industry and commerce in the north-west. The Civil Aviation Authority's own 1983 survey of passenger traffic provides evidence that direct services could be viably operated from Manchester to many other intercontinental destinations including Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Toronto, Johannesburg, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Singapore. Such services would bring substantial benefits to northern consumers and business men by improving trade links and generating much needed jobs.

Yet foreign airlines have been stopped from opening up intercontinental routes into Manchester. I know that some of my parliamentary colleagues will want to discuss this very disturbing result of the current licensing system, and I shall not go further on that point except to say that it is totally scandalous that Singapore Airlines has been refused permission to fly into Manchester.

Stansted poses a massive threat to the further development of all our regional airports. For it to operate viably, as Mr. Graham Eyre himself acknowledged, there would have to be licensing policies that effectively forced airlines to fly there. This is, of course, a policy that is likely to meet with considerable resistance from the airlines. Stansted is currently marketed as a low-cost airport with exceptionally low landing fees in order to attract business. It is operating at a loss and, in effect, is subsidised by the other British Airports Authority's airports at Heathrow and Gatwick. The regional airports, such as Manchester, which have to be individually profitable, cannot compete on equal terms. Even now they are the victims of totally unfair competition. I point out to the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale), in particular, that this explains much of the animus shown by right hon. and hon. Members representing the regions when they discuss the outpourings of the British Airports Authority.

The regional airports must be developed to satisfy regionally generated demand for air services. This cannot possibly be achieved if a heavily subsidised Stansted airport is allowed massively to expand. By positively encouraging the regional airports, we can benefit not only the regions outside the south-east; capacity would also be released at both Heathrow and Gatwick. The opportunity is now clearly available to us to make better use of the nation's resources. It is an opportunity that must not be missed.

I urge every hon. Member who shares my view to join me in the Division Lobby tonight.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. More than 50 hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye in this debate. I am afraid that some of them will be disappointed unless speeches are briefer.

5.42 pm
Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)

I shall do my best to heed that warning, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but you will understand that my constituency is at the centre of these matters because Stansted airport is wholly within its boundaries.

I thank the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), not only for the support he has given generally to a cause in which he and I believe, but for the measured and moderate way in which he has put his case. It would be churlish if I did not acknowledge the debt we owe to Mr. Graham Eyre for the monumental work he has undertaken. Although we shall dive into his studies and find bits that we like and bits we do not like, we cannot detract from the application he has shown. It is a remarkable achievement.

I realise that this debate could be a dreary recital of well-stated positions, which does not inform Ministers or help them in their efforts to listen to the views of hon. Members and make up their minds, or help those hon. Members who are still trying to discover the best truth to emerge from all this. Naturally, my hon. Friends will understand that I must defend my constituency position, but I hope that I shall make as constructive a speech as I can.

I acknowledge immediately that there is more than one opinion in my constituency. Some people would accept development of Stansted in varying degrees, but it could be said that there is almost overwhelming agreement in my constituency about limited expansion at Stansted, provided a reasonable limit can be set. I hope that the House will not be misled by the document that has been circulated — not to me but to others — by the British Airports Authority giving the results of a MORI poll, showing that the proportion in favour of some expansion is nearly 3:1. The authority had to extend its net some 30 miles from my constituency to obtain such a result. I acknowledge, however, that there is support for expansion at Stansted, even from some of the most vociferous opponents of the full-scale development that they fear threatens them.

I hope that I do not sound too pompous by offering a quotation from Edmund Burke which I hope will animate our discussions. In 1775 he said: Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interestss; which interest each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. In the end, the House must operate in that spirit, and I certainly do not intend to speak now or influence colleagues later in a manner that departs unduly from that spirit.

The fairness argument comes up time and again. There is a deep sense of injustice in my constituency about the singular tale of Stansted over the years. My constituents are concerned that this matter has come up repeatedly. I say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) — I am sure that he speaks for exactly the same basic causes as I do when he talks of his constituents' feelings and those of others—that we are all in the same boat because our constituents rely on the various promises that have been given over the years. To say that some promises are more recent than others does not destroy the validity of the point that people have relied on Governments in the past and have not been able to place much trust in them as a result of what has happened. If we cannot allow the past to bind the future, the only advice I can give to the Government is that the slate must be wiped clean. The Government must make their decisions in the light of the position as they see it now and on the best information available.

Mr. Eyre said that he felt that the proposition put before him regarding Stansted was very different from the other propositions. I suggest that the proposition at the heart of this matter is whether north-west Essex is a suitable place for a major airport, with the number of passengers rising to 25 million per annum. It is immaterial whether it has one, two, three or four runways. The basic question is whether it is the right place.

I shall deal with the fundamentalist argument. There seems to be a widely received truth that air transportation is good, and we cannot have too much of it. I want to enter a cautionary word so that we do not lose all sense of proportion and give to Government now and in the future a licence to unroll a carpet of concrete wherever the insatiable appetite for air transport takes them. Colin Buchanan, in his pamphlet published this week, gives us some sound advice—"keep a sense of proportion". I do not want to tread too far down that path. I recognise that people — my constituents among them — will want to travel, and I do not believe that they should be unduly denied the opportunity. We should value the important contribution that tourism can make. I am not one of those who will argue that the British civil air transport industry must be hampered in order to benefit foreign aviation industries. I accept those aims, but not at any price. I recognise that Mr. Eyre believed that the expansion should not occur at any price. It is a matter of judgment and balance as to what one thinks are the reasonable confines for expansion.

My hon. Friends will recognise that no speech of mine on this subject would be complete without a kindly reference to the "Big Brother" of the airport business—the British Airports Authority. The British Airports Authority is far less than its name implies but has far more influence than its territorial extent merits. That point was well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley). In the development of airports policy, I cannot help feeling that there has been far too close a relationship between officials of Government Departments and the BAA. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Mr. Eyre analyses very sharply how the wheels have been allowed to grind to make Stansted, time and again, appear the only option. With the BAA constituted as it is, no truly national policy can emerge.

The BAA boasts—the boast was echoed by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale)—that it has a great interest in the success of the regional airports. In making that boast, the BAA has all the credibility of the wolf inviting the third little pig to come to the fair. Throughout the whole business, it has shown a ruthless and sometimes unsavoury determination to get its own way.

I cite once again the MORI poll circulated by the BAA in a press release. It is headed: Most Stansted Residents Support Airport Expansion". Stansted Mountfitchet is a village with a population of 6,000 or 7,000. The poll was taken within a 30-mile radius of that village. That is typical of the deception practised by the BAA throughout the campaign. I hope that no hon. Member will be deceived by it.

Mr. Hayes

Has not the BAA gone so far as to buy 1,100 acres of land in the Stansted area at vastly inflated prices?

Mr. Haselhurst

I confirm what my hon. Friend says. That fact, too, has given rise to suspicion that the Government's decision will be prejudiced, even though we have been given assurances in the past that such factors will not affect the issue.

I believe that the inspector was less than fair to the regional argument. I have a decent northern pedigree, not only as a born Yorkshireman but as someone who had the honour to represent a parliamentary seat in the Greater Manchester area a few years ago. I do not believe that people should be forced to use regional airports. Mr. Eyre effectively exploded that view. However, it is reasonable to satisfy the regional demand that naturally arises in the regions. The right hon. Member for Wythenshawe produced some good figures on that point, and I know from experience that too many people have to travel to the south-east to fly to their destination.

The population argument is compelling. We are invited to believe that 17 million people in the south-east will fuel the expansion of aviation for ever. However, there are 37 million people in the north as a whole. There must be a great tendency towards growth in the regions, and it should be satisfied there.

We must adopt a more positive stance on future tourism from other countries, and ensure that the benefits of tourism in terms of jobs are spread more evenly throughout the country. That, too, would help airports policy. Mr. Eyre said: If tourism brings overall benefits and if its demands are to be met, then more effort will be needed to exploit the potential of other areas of the UK. He also said that he had little doubt that more could be done in that respect. A well-directed tourist policy could considerably ease our problems in the south-east. The regional argument has been under-played so far. I hope that the Government will recognise that more can be done than paying lip service to our regional airports.

There is also the question of urbanisation. The inspector recognised that it is very much a question of judgment. It is hard to predict how many people will want to move into an area because of a degree of expansion at the airport. I take the commonsense point of view that if 25,000 jobs are to be created by the expansion of Stansted to a capacity of 15 million passengers per annum, and if there are only 2,300 unemployed people in the constituency of Saffron Walden, it is likely that there will be a great deal of migration.

Mr. Eyre seems to believe that the capacity could be increased to 15 million, or perhaps 25 million, with only small effects on the environment of the area, but that if capacity is increased to 25 million and one catastrophe will follow. I suspect that it would be a matter of degree, and that catastrophe would manifest itself much earlier than Mr. Eyre was prepared to conclude.

Mr. Eyre produced forecasts and timetables. The House has every ground for being wary of forecasts on which we are invited to make decisions. We should consider past efforts. For 1985, the Roskill commission said that we would need to be handling 84 million passengers per annum in the London area airports. The CAA forecast of 1973 was also for 84 million. The Maplin review suggested 58 million to 76 million. The 1978 White Paper on airports policy suggested 51 million to 64 million. In 1979 the advisory committee forecast 55 million to 61 million. The 1981 Gatwick inquiry forecast 55 million to 61 million. What is the reality? It is about 45 million during this year.

I remember the chairman of the BAA assuring us within the Palace of Westminster that unless his policies were adopted the London airports system would be saturated by 1987. We now know that the Stansted terminal on which he had set his heart will not be ready until 1991, and that the saturation point will have not been reached by then. It is interesting that there has been a slippage of years that almost matches the passage of time since the inquiry began. I believe that Mr. Eyre's figure of 89 million by the year 2000 should be treated with great reserve.

Forgetting, for a moment, the complex factors involved in any such projection, let us ask ourselves whether it is credible to imagine that numbers in London will double by the year 2000. That is what we are expected to believe. The inspector showed clear preference for the development of Heathrow. He said in chapter 39 that: the application site forms part of an area which is more suitable for airport development than any other location in the south east and the whole of the United Kingdom. He turns to Stansted because of the timetable. On the question of the availability of a terminal 5, there is evidence from the Thames water authority that the inspector's estimate of 1996 at the earliest could be improved upon and that it is by no means certain that the Perry Oaks sludge works would have to be physically replaced anywhere.

The idea is that Stansted will take up the shortfall. I do not believe that, in order to take up the shortfall and carry us through to the year 2000 and beyond, we need to give the BAA the green light to build a Texas-scale facility at Stansted. Stansted would be prepared to play its part as a regional airport and to ensure that the disaster of saturation, were it to threaten within that time, would not occur.

I am obliged to say things about Heathrow that will not find unanimous support amongst my colleagues. I cannot help that. To some extent, I fear that I cannot avoid a head-on collision with some of my colleagues. I understand the interests that they represent. I know that the complaints made by the people living near Heathrow are generically the same as those of the people living around Stansted. I accept that more people live around Heathrow. It is still a moot environmental point whether it is better to utilise an existing facility than to start a wholly new one.

Mr. Eyre concluded that the fifth terminal would have no discernible effect on the noise climate, and the Government did not attempt to challenge that point.

Mr. Jessel


Mr. Haselhurst

The essential difference between the two cases is that, in any case, Heathrow will remain the major airport within the London system. The question is whether it is to be a decent and worthwhile airport. It may be asked whether Stansted is not also there already. Stansted occupies 900 acres. To make it the operational airport that it wants, the BAA is looking for almost twice as many acres on top—just for starters. That is the scale of what it is trying to do in north-west Essex.

Perhaps I should deal with the Schiphol argument, as it will no doubt rear its head again today. I do not want traffic going off to Schiphol but if interlining is the key, the choice must be Heathrow. I cannot envisage people taking a bus ride round the M25 believing that that is more convenient than going to Schiphol. If they went to Schiphol because London were, by chance, full, why should they not go to Manchester? Why should we not set out to ensure that we have another gateway airport which can do a good job for the British aviation industry?

Mr. Churchill (Davyhulme)

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is already massive interlining from the northern region to Schiphol, Frankfurt and Charles de Gaulle because there are so few direct schedule services from Manchester because of the lack of expansion in direct services overseas that we have been allowed?

Mr. Haselhurst

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He has helped to underline my case. Bearing in mind the inspector's recommendations for what could be done to improve Heathrow and surrounding areas, it makes more sense to spend money on improving access, organisation and the environment at Heathrow before spending large sums of money in the Essex countryside.

The report offers too grand a design for too long a term. Mr. Eyre claims that his plan will cope with need into the early decades of the next century. That goes beyond what we can reasonably be expected to decide. History suggests that planning capability too far ahead is fraught with considerable dangers. Are there not technological developments that could render the basis of our decisions irrelevant? I noticed in the press at the weekend that there is a possibility of a train based on magnetic levitation which could reduce the journey time from Edinburgh to London to one hour and the journey from Birmingham to London to 20 minutes. If, in the next 40 years, such a project becomes reality, it will have a revolutionary effect on aircraft movements in Britain.

We cannot know the future in another sense — a matter on which I reacted strongly to Mr. Eyre's report. He said that Stansted should go ahead on the basis of his recommendation only if the Government give an unequivocal declaration of intent that there will never be a second runway. There was hollow laughter in my constituency about unequivocal declarations of intent. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne will share in that laughter because we have all had our unequivocal declarations. Why would Mr. Eyre have been sitting on his inquiry if the declarations of the past had had any validity?

We must try to find a sensible plan. I commend a plan with components that include a fifth terminal at Heathrow, a commitment to the regions, the possibility of Luton making more of a contribution than has hitherto been considered and a role for Stansted. I am not saying that Stansted should bear no part of the expansion in meeting the need of the south-east, but I believe that Stansted within its existing boundaries can do all that is required of it. If it is put on its feet and, perhaps, separated from the BAA, local people will feel that they have more control. That would also enable the Government to say that they are going for genuinely incremental growth to bridge any shortfall that might arise. That is what John Nott said when he began the operation in 1979.

The Government should satisfy need according to national priorities with regard to environment and expenditure. They should make Heathrow the best airport in the world for its users and neighbours and recognise the widely held view that north-west Essex is not the best possible place for an airport-led industrial growth centre on the scale that Mr. Eyre proposes. In choosing a package of this general description — I do not want to be too particular about details — the Government might find that they would give some agony to everyone but that the benefits and disbenefits could be distributed according to a sensible order of national priorities.

6.4 pm

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

The hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) has made a strong and brave speech, in which he sets out the case against the full development of Stansted. I agree with a great deal of what he said.

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) made some pertinent remarks about airline policy. I agree with her that decisions on airport policy are interlinked with what we are about to do about our airlines. We have not debated that issue, but should have done. What will be the future of the independents? Will we encourage British Caledonian to grow? What will be the future of British Midland Airways and others?

If Stansted is to succeed as Mr. Eyre wants it to succeed, one of our independent airlines will have to establish a substantial base there. I do not see that happening at the moment. At the beginning of his summary, Mr. Eyre refers to strong public cynicism and the fact that there will never be consensus on airports policy. That is only too obviously confirmed by our mail and by the speches that have been made so far. No doubt there are many more similar speeches to be made. Mr. Eyre is right to say that there is a need for decisive action. With our national finances in disarray, we cannot afford to waste this opportunity of new investment in a vital wealth-creating sector of the economy.

I staked out my party's stance on Second Reading of the ill-fated Civil Aviation Bill. I have no regrets about how I cast my vote then or subsequently in Committee, because it was manifest nonsense to put that measure on the statute book before considering the implications of the report fully. Liberals have always favoured much greater emphasis on the development of regional airports, but neither the Government nor their predecessors have given as much encouragement as they should to such development. I regret having to criticise Mr. Eyre, because this is a fine report, but he treats the contribution that regional airports can make with insufficient thought.

With the privatisation of BAA still in the wings, and the abolition of the metropolitan county councils, the future ownership of fine airports such as Manchester, Birmingham and Prestwick is still not known. Moreover, applications for licences to use Manchester from Asian airlines such as Singapore Airlines have recently been refused. I am convinced that Manchester, possibly Birmingham, perhaps even Prestwick and one or two others can make a far more positive contribution to civil aviation policy than they are allowed to make at present.

Mr. Iain Mills (Meriden)

Birmingham airport is in my constituency. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that constituents who live 100 yd away from the taxiway would be extremely disadvantaged and most unhappy about the extra noise that would result from any major increase in traffic? Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that traffic should be redirected from London to Birmingham?

Mr. Ross

I find that a strange intervention, as I have recently been to Birmingham. The airport has recently spent £60 million on development and lengthened the runway. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that it does not want to encourage more use of the airport, that seems to be a terrible waste of money. Birmingham airport has the great advantage of rail links and a bus interchange and the National Exhibition Centre on its doorstep. If it is not policy to encourage people to fly in from the continent and America to use those facilities, I am surprised.

I welcome British Airways' renewed interest in Manchester, because when it was merged with BEA it let Manchester down. It is now proposing to reintroduce transatlantic flights this spring and intends to fly to the far east next year. That is much to be welcomed, but Manchester will need many more national and international links if it is to develop as a hub and spoke airport. Such development is essential to its future well-being.

The right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) spoke with great knowledge about Manchester airport. I shall not pursue his arguments, as I am nothing like as well qualified as he is to speak about Manchester. However, I hope that some of British Airways' promised financial help to the independents will encourage at least one of them to base itself at Manchester. We have only to go to Atlanta in the United States to see what United Airlines and Eastern Airways have done for that airport. An airline must invest heavily in Manchester if a hub and spoke system, which is desperately needed, is to be created. That would take some weight off London.

British Airways will naturally always want to base its principal operations at Heathrow. If Prestwick and Birmingham can attract more international and local flights, they should be actively encouraged to do so. Prestwick could easily be connected to British Rail. That might be its saviour. I am sorry that the gentleman who wishes to run cheap flights across the Atlantic has not yet received his licence. I cannot criticise the reason for that, which I gather is that the financial arrangements are not yet satisfactory. Nevertheless, if a People Express-type operation could use Prestwick, it could save that fine airport. It is essential that Manchester should have a direct link to the west coast main line as soon as possible. That should be an early commitment on behalf of the Government. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe will agree with that.

When dealing with Heathrow, the report clearly shows that there will be an increase above the 275,000 ATMs, if present trends continue. That is not an excessive limitation. The figure could rise to 300,000. The report further states that the figure will decrease again with the introduction of larger aircraft. In the consultation document which the Government issued last year it was repeated that the 275,000 limit, which the Government accepted six years ago, would be reviewed in the light of progress and the introduction of quieter aircraft. Those developments are now upon us and there does not seem to be a total commitment on the Government's part not to go above the 275,000 limit.

Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes)

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether he is opposed to the 275,000 limit? If so, is he not opposing the Government's wish to control aircraft noise by that limitation?

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman has already issued a press release in his constituency blaming me for the defeat of the Civil Aviation Bill. I am not opposed to going slightly above the 275,000 limit. I shall come to the reason why shortly. We have not done enough about noise and traffic congestion. That must be rectified if Heathrow is to retain its dominance, which it will and must do.

Restrictions on ATMs at Heathrow, as the hon. Gentleman knows, hit the very people whom we wish to encourage, that is, the independent airlines, which were going to be forced out of Heathrow. That is the reason why we must go slightly above that figure. All the evidence shows that that is not unacceptable.

Extra finance for insulation aids is essential. The Secretary of State should take the opportunity to see what The Japanese have done at Osaka and Norita. They have spent vast sums on dealing with environmental problems. People who live near those airports are far more satisfied than are citizens in the United Kingdom who live near airports because so much more has been done for them.

Mr. Eyre says that the Noise Advisory Council should be resuscitated, and that is a good idea. It is also extremely important that new connections are built as rapidly as possible both for public transport and to the motorways. I agree with the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) that British Rail must be brought to the airfield as quickly as possible. He mentioned a link line between the southern and western regions. That would open up the whole country to public transport and to the public using Heathrow. That would greatly relieve traffic jams. We could even link the airfield to the Channel tunnel.

There should be a total ban on night movements except in emergencies. The Secretary of State should take that recommendation on board — it appears in chapter 58. Mr. Eyre makes a host of recommendations about noise, which the Government should accept. Money must be spent to lessen the misery of people living near airports. That can be done.

As Mr. Eyre said, the sewage works at Perry Oaks should have been moved long ago. That action should be taken now, whether or not it is decided to develop T5. The Thames water authority should be instructed to find an alternative site, if it needs one. Heathrow needs room to breathe and that action would keep our options open while we see how accurate the current forecasts are on traffic movements. As the hon. Member for Saffron Walden said, they have been fairly inaccurate in the past.

In 1979 I said that a limit of 15 million ATMs might be acceptable for Stansted. I have since changed my mind. Since then there has been substantial investment in many regional airports especially in Manchester and Birmingham. I also believe that the cost in terms of loss of amenities and high-class agricultural land is too great. Moreover, Stansted could turn out to be a monstrous white elephant. One only has to think of Newark, which was a white elephant for a long time.

As a recent leader in The Times stated, "Stansted can wait". We should let it develop naturally to the 4 million mark and then assess the position. If the demand is there we shall have to take action, but at the moment I do not believe that it is and, therefore, Stansted should be left alone to see what it can do for itself.

Following the report, the Secretary of State should give priority first to ensuring the future well-being of the independent airlines, on which so much of the future depends. We must not let British Airways totally dominate the scene. We should take steps now to improve the facilities at Heathrow before we talk of further expansion.

Mr. Jessel

The hon. Gentleman said that he was in favour of improving facilities at Heathrow. Will he make it clear to the House whether or not he favours having a fifth terminal at Heathrow?

Mr. Ross

It would be a great mistake to make a commitment which I or a successor might regret in future. I shall not follow the path of previous ministerial mistakes. I am certainly not committing my party to T5 now, nor in the foreseeable future. I would encourage Manchester and any other regional airports that fancy their chances. I would continue to make improvements at Gatwick to press on with Stolport, and to make better provision for business executives at Farnborough or Blackbushe. Above all, I would take urgent action to improve our public transport links to our airports, with particular emphasis on rail, which should be utilised to a greater extent than it has been. I have given a commitment and I believe to be an honest one.

6.17 pm
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst). The House will appreciate the great sincerity of his speech and the skilful and dignified way in which he dealt with a position that must be extremely difficult for him. I respect and acknowledge many of his points.

I declare a constituency interest. Gatwick airport is in my constituency, as is the head office of the British Airports Authority, British Caledonian, British Airways, Dan Air and many other operations. I am therefore surrounded by a good deal of conflicting advice, which is why my remarks this evening are entirely my own conclusions.

Three important points make the basics of this matter. First, air transport is a thriving and growing industry in Britain. Recent growth has been rapid, and substantial further growth is predicted. The industry has a remarkable record in employment and in the creation of jobs. It has a wonderful record on the earnings of foreign currency and on bringing to Britain enormous numbers of foreign visitors, who have materially benefited our balance of trade. For the industry to continue this excellent record and, in particular, for it to continue to create a substantial number of jobs in future there must be an adequate airport capacity throughout the United Kingdom, especially in the south-east. The inspector has clearly identified when existing airport resources will be exhausted even if the arbitrary limit on air transport movements at Heathrow is relaxed.

Secondly, some views suggest that the development of airports in the midlands, the north and Scotland can replace the development of further facilities in the south-east of England. Airports away from the south-east are all developing strongly, and good luck to them, not just because there is a political will from this House and from the public corporations and others for them to develop, but because there is a strong demand for air transport which is being met by the development policies of those airports.

All the projections are that the growth of both scheduled and charter services at airports away from the south-east will continue. It will be necessary for those airports to be developed and I strongly support the principle. But in no way should that further development reduce the requirements in the south-east. Both can, must and should be met equally.

Thirdly, and most importantly, in the discussions to date there has been little reference to the interests of the customer. It has been a fundamental feature of Government policy that more attention should be paid to the needs of the customer in all sectors of our commercial life. The inspector has considered in depth the needs of the customer and he has found that those needs are best met by the provision of substantially more airport capacity for London and the south-east.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that the customers who travel from the north of England, Scotland and Wales who at the moment have to travel to the south of England will not be served by the expansion of Stansted but would be better served by the expansion of the regional airport system?

Mr. Soames

I hoped that I had made it clear that I am greatly in favour of the expansion of the regional airports.

The inspector has considered the needs of the customer. If we want those customers to use British airlines and British airports, there is no option but to provide for airport capacity in the area of the country to which they wish to fly. That, I am afraid, remains largely the London area. If that is not done, the customer will elect to overfly to another capital such as Paris or Amsterdam.

Any decision which does not favour a development of airport capacity in the south-east over the next 15 years will be a decision which ignores the interests of the customers and the opportunities for the air transport industry to create jobs and to earn more foreign currency. Indeed, I have here a letter from the chairman of Dan Air which makes it plain that unless his company is able to develop in the south-east it will not be open to him to assist in the development of the regional airports in the north. In what way could such a decision be consistent with any Government policy objective?

Let me now deal with the facts and figures about the British aviation industry. In 1983 the United Kingdom civil aviation industry earned a profit from the rest of the world of nearly £500 million. Over 100,000 people are directly employed in civil aviation in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom's civil airlines fly more passenger miles on international routes than any other country's airlines save those of the United States. The United Kingdom total is nearly twice that of France, our nearest European competitor.

In 1983 £18,000 million worth of foreign trade was handled at Gatwick and Heathrow alone — 15 per cent. of the total value of the United Kingdom's world trade. The best estimates are that, of the £4.25 billion that tourists brought to Britain last year, £3 billion was spent by 60 per cent. of the tourists who entered the United Kingdom through Gatwick and Heathrow.

I in no way decry the role of Manchester or any of the other regional airports, but by anyone's standards the industry is a formidable contributor to national prosperity. It is an industry in which, apart from the United States, we indisputably lead the world. For us not to face the disagreeable, tough and difficult decisions that lie ahead in a sensible manner would be to throw away an enormous national advantage.

The permissions already granted at Gatwick and Heathrow take those airports almost to saturation point and the limited development of Stansted—as recommended by the inspector and by the 1978 White Paper of the Government of which the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) was a member — is the most sensible, practical and easy course to adopt.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the views of the West Sussex county council on these matters, with which I entirely concur.

Mr. Michael Marshall (Arundel)

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that a number of his hon. Friends from west Sussex are here to support him tonight and would wish to be associated with precisely what he has said?

Mr. Soames

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I had seen that I was much sustained by my hon. Friends from west Sussex.

Successive Governments have not faced up to the need to establish and sustain an airports policy. There have been attempts to determine policies in the past but resolve has always wavered when decisions to implement them have been sought. Perhaps over-zealous forecasting of future requirements has provided arguable grounds for procrastination and delay. That situation does, most emphatically, not now prevail.

The absence of decisions in the past has foreclosed many options, particularly the possibility of a new green field location, and the inspector's report has now picked a difficult and tortuous way through the options that remain open—better ultimate use of Stansted and more use of Heathrow. The inspector is right to suggest that that can make the necessary contribution within the required time scale and the proper aviation context.

If support for international aviation and the protection of Britain and London's position at the centre is to be sustained, as it should be, there is no alternative but to develop the strength of the London system where that is practical. The risks of not doing so are that international traffic will be lost, not to Manchester or Birmingham—sadly—but to Schiphol, Frankfurt or Paris.

Manchester and other regional airports already exist and have had opportunities to develop services. But that has not come about through any fault of their own but because the air transport industry cannot be persuaded in terms of the realities of life that those airports are part of the London system. I can assure the House that many years passed, as many hon. Members will know, before Gatwick was able to acquire real status as an international airport for that very reason.

The inspector's recommendation for Stansted is the only sensible one that can be made if capacity for the early 1990s is to be met.

Mr. Adley


Mr. Soames

May I, please, press on?

The inspector is right to seek firm assurances to limit Stansted's capacity to a single runway comparable with Gatwick. That reduces significantly some of the powerful arguments against a larger, more developed Stansted. The runway is already there. A motorway passes close by and the railway line is not too far distant. A new terminal and supporting developments such as servicing, cargo facilities, car parking and other airport-related facilities will obviously be needed. But the land consumed by those will be modest compared with the original proposals for a fully developed two-runway airport.

A second terminal may be necessary in the distant future, but if the Heathrow proposal is accepted and becomes operational in the 1990s that will be a long way off. The urban development, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden spoke, to support a Stansted expansion will also be correspondingly modest. Unemployment within the labour markets in the travel-to-work area and improved productivity suggest that the demand for new housing and the supporting infrastructure will be less than objectors have forecast. The only room for manoeuvre in the short term is now at Stansted. The resolve to proceed should not be compromised by wishful thinking that Manchester or Birmingham will do instead, because I am afraid they will not. Many will argue that the investment needed to develop Stansted, and Heathrow later, should not be made in the affluent south-east and that it would help to remedy economic imbalance if it were to be made in other regions. I have sympathy with the idea behind that expression, but I do not believe that airport development is footloose in that way. If it is not made in the London system, it will not be made at all.

I now draw the attention of the House to the inspector's summary of overall conclusions in which he deals with the lessons from and the consequences of the past.

Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)

My hon. Friend has talked about additional capacity in the south-east. Is it not a fact that the second terminal at Gatwick will increase capacity there by about 50 per cent.? Will my hon. Friend say something about the fact that the second terminal is slap bang across where a second runway could have been built?

Mr. Soames

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me such a tremendous opportunity to say how grateful I was that the second terminal was located right where a second runway would have gone, because it forecloses the possibility of any development along those lines.

As I was saying, in the summary of overall conclusions the inspector said: The history and development of airports policy on the part of administration after administration of whatever political colour has been characterised by ad hoc expediency, unacceptable and ill-judged procedures, ineptness, vacillation, uncertainty and ill-advised and precipitate judgments. Hopes of a wide sector of the regional population have been frequently raised and dashed. A strong public cynicism has inexorably grown. Political decisions in this field are no longer trusted. Regardless of the very real and understandable concerns, the Government should accept the recommendations of the report. It has been an exhaustive, extensive and excursive inquiry, and the national interest, which should be paramount in this matter, dictates that the Government should accept the inspector's report, in which they should be sustained by the overwhelming majority of the House.

6.33 pm
Mr. Doug Hoyle (Warrington, North)

I can well understand the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) expressing a point of view that is tailored to his constituency. It is a valid point of view, considering the interests in his constituency, but it was obvious that it was not shared by all of his colleagues. When it comes to the vote, I hope many of them will join us in the Lobby because it is vital that we get away from the concept that when we debate air tranport we talk only about the south-east of England. It goes far wider. The trouble has been that the concept of air transport in the past has related only to the south-east. If someone is coming to this country by air, it has been very difficult to come in any other way than through the south-east.

A case should be made in the House for the development of the regional airports, and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) for putting that case. That view is shared by many Conservative Members. If the proposals outlined in the report go ahead, they will lead to a widening of the north-south divide—a divide that is far too wide already. The north gets a poor share of the national cake. Unemployment is far higher in the north than in the south. Because of the Government's economic policy there has been an overall decline in industry, but that decline has been far more rapid in the north than in the south. Service industries are more developed in the south than in the north. The same occurs in the Health Service and in education.

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced recently that aid to the regions will be cut. That will make the position far worse. If the development of Stansted goes ahead it will add to the burden that we have to bear in the north. I do not believe that it is possible to plan air transport to the year 2020. That is far too far ahead. It is reasonable to look only as far as the 1990s or the year 2000. The Eyre report has tried to look too far ahead. Therefore, hasty conclusions have been drawn in regard to Stansted. The inspector was trying to fill a gap to the 1990s but his recommendation is an expensive way to fill that gap. The cost would be £1,500 million to £2,000 million. That is money that should go to the regions.

We have to get away from the idea that the only way people can come here is to fly to London and then travel to the regions. A case should be made for the hub and spoke approach of using Manchester airport. Of the people who come in via London, 30 per cent. do not want to do so. They should be allowed to fly to the regions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe said that only 38 per cent. stay in London while the rest go elsewhere.

I represent a constituency, Warrington, North, with one of the most successful new towns, and a very successful science park. If we are to attract related industries, they want to be able to transport their goods all over the world. Therefore, they want good communications, which means airport facilities.

Airport facilities are also necessary for tourism. Chester is an important tourist centre in the north-west. If we are to attract tourists, regional airports, particularly Manchester, should be developed.

Mr. Bill Walker

I am fascinated by what the hon. Gentleman has been saying. I ask him to accept that I am not an enemy. Can he suggest how airlines can be persuaded to take up the licences that already exist but are not used for services in and out of Manchester? What positive suggestions can he make to encourage airlines to develop services? There is not a shortage of terminal facilities or gateways but the airlines are not going there. What does the hon. Member suggest?

Mr. Hoyle

That is a fair point, but airlines have been prevented from going to Manchester as a matter of policy. Manchester has been excluded as a gateway to the United Kingdom for United States airlines because a bilateral agreement between Britain and the United States discourages them even from considering operating scheduled services from Manchester. Other foreign airlines wishing to use Manchester have been refused licences by the Government unless a British carrier gains something in return. That is one of the problems that Manchester has faced. We all know that Singapore International Airlines wishes to fly from Manchester, but at present it is unable to do so.

We want to develop intercontinental services. British Airways has recently announced a gratifying expansion of services from Manchester. There will be flights to New York in April, to Hong Kong in the autumn, to Munich, Malta and Geneva this summer and to Athens, Madrid, Oporto and Lisbon in 1986. Those are welcome signs for the future, but if Stansted goes ahead that welcome growth will be very much less. Even worse, not only will Manchester and other regional airports fail to develop fully but I fear that Speke airport in Liverpool may be forced to close. That would be a tragedy for Merseyside, with the loss of 500 direct jobs and many more indirect job losses. All airports generate jobs. Manchester accounts for 5,000 direct jobs and probably 15,000 indirect jobs. Here I must disclose an interest because 10 per cent. of the direct jobs are in Cheshire. Expansion is therefore vital to my area.

Manchester is at the centre of a region with 20 million people — 40 per cent. of the total United Kingdom population — whereas the south-east contains only one third of the population. There is no immutable rule that all major airport facilities should be in the south-east. If we are to attract employment as well as tourism to the regions we must do all that we can to ensure expansion of airport facilities. If Stansted goes ahead that development will be cut back and instead of getting away from overlocation of facilities in the south-east we shall underpin the existing system and further impoverish the regions. We do not want that to happen. We want the regional airports to expand. The success of Manchester shows that this could be achieved, with feeder services from the other regions. I do not share the pessimistic view that if Stansted does not go ahead the benefit will go to the continent.

Mr. Mark Carlisle (Warrington, South)

Not every hon. Member can speak in every debate, but he will appreciate that the case being made by the hon. Gentleman is of as much concern to people in my constituency as it is to those in his. The extension of Ringway airport and investment in those facilities and the jobs that they support in our area are thus equally important to both of us although we are on different sides of the House.

Mr. Hoyle

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that intervention. We both have thick files of correspondence from companies in our constituencies pressing for the expansion of Ringway airport. It is no use spending public money on developing an attractive new town such as Warrington if the aim is then defeated because the airport is not expanded as the industries so successfully attracted to the area desire. Warrington has become one of the most successful new towns and a most attractive place to live, but businesses coming in regard the expansion of scheduled services and cargo facilities at the airport as vital to success in the future. They are glad that the new cargo terminal is going ahead, but the scheduled services are equally vital.

I have noted the number of interventions from Conservative Members to rebut the argument that the south-east is the answer to all our problems. I fear that if Stansted goes ahead it will not even be ready in the 1990s as the inspector has suggested. It may also prove to be a white elephant, involving vast and unnecessary expense. In looking to the year 2020 the inspector has looked much too far ahead. We cannot foresee what will happen by then, but if we go ahead with regional development we shall begin to see what further developments are necessary. The inspector suggests that Stansted will make a huge leap, catering for 15 million and eventually 25 million passengers per year, but we do not know whether airlines will go there. Charges will be low because the BAA is subsidising them, but we do not know whether that will be sufficient incentive. The Government will have to provide further inducements, but I fear that after all the disturbance and expense the traffic will not materialise. We know that there is demand for additional traffic in the regions. We know that the regions will respond, as the success of Manchester shows.

I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State say that he intended to listen to the arguments. I hope that everyone will listen. Even better, I hope that Conservative Members will express their disquiet in action by voting with us today. The Government will then appreciate fully the extent of the opposition to the Stansted proposal among Members on both sides of the House. The question crosses party lines and it cannot be decided on a party political basis. We must reach a decision based on what is best for the national interest. It cannot be good to widen the north-south divide in this way. The divide is already widening. One way to redress the balance is to put more money into the regions.

If we do not put more money into regional airport developments we shall be cutting off an arm that is vital to the regions, especially the north, in attracting new industry if there is an upturn in the economy. Without that development, we shall be competing with both hands tied behind our back. I hope that in the Division today the whole House will show that the answer lies not in Stansted but in developing the regional airport system.

6.49 pm
Mr. Fred Silvester (Manchester, Withington)

The average length of speech so far has been 23 minutes. I hope to be rather quicker than that.

Mr. Eyre, the inspector, described himself as a "reluctant volunteer" in this exercise, and I think that there is every reason for that. This is clearly a political decision. The method of using the planning inquiry is proving very unsatisfactory.

I give my thanks to the Government for arranging the debate. I have never criticised them, nor do I, for not tabling a substantive motion, but it leaves the House in a difficulty. I hope that somebody is beavering away in my right hon. Friend's Department to find a better way of coming to solutions and bringing these matters before the House in future.

The inspector has deluged us with figures. There is not a lot to be said for trying to quote them all, but one thing must be said. On the inspector's own figures the case for a massive expansion of capacity in the south-east has not in my view been made out if one interprets that massive increase as the necessity to build Stansted to the extent he sets out.

In 1985, to use the inspector's figures, there will be nearly 10 per cent. more capacity than passengers. In 1990, there will be about 4 per cent. more capacity than passengers. I refer to the south-east, using his figures. After 1995, if one accepts terminal 5—and I know that some of my hon. Friends would not — but without Stansted there will be 13 per cent. more capacity than passengers. It is not until 2000, if one accepts the inspector's figures, which most of us do not, that one begins to go over the top. On this basis there would be no urgency for any of us who did not object to the development of the fifth terminal.

Now hold on a minute, says Eyre, "there is a problem between 1993 and 1995; we shall go over the top before the terminal is completed. The shortfall amounts to 25 million passengers, he says, if BAA fully utilises its assets at Heathrow and Gatwick rising to 8.5 million if it does not.

Even if those projections are not overestimated, as I believe that they are, the shortfall is still based on the assumption that Luton does not go up to 5 million, that Stansted does not exceed 2 million and that there will be virtually no growth in the share of the regional airports between 1990 and 1995. None of those three propositions seems to me to be tenable.

If one takes those three possibilities, one observes that there is plenty of opportunity to fill his perceived gap without going into massive investment in Stansted. On the other hand, if we proceed with Stansted, we make proposals for another 15 million passengers at minimum, we have an expenditure of give or take £1 billion and the destruction of a large area of the countryside in order, let us be clear, to relieve the pressure on BAA and tour operators for the need of a little ingenuity and effort between 1993 and 1995.

The inspector's case for Stansted therefore rests in my view not on present needs but on future prospects. He wants to find a solution until 2020. The inspector said: … the London airports system must have a capacity capability which could meet needs as, when and if they arise over a period of the next 30 years or more. Such a proposition is untenable. If it were applied to any other activity, the people involved would of course applaud it. But it is absurd to suppose that such resources can be diverted as, when and if they may arise over 30 years.

The inspector's report is riddled with his fixation for certainty and the desire to complete the whole issue once and for all. I think that he wants to go down in history as the man who did it. He says: The production of a committed strategy now should remove the need for major reappraisals, examinations, studies and inquiries during the next 30 years or more. Such a conclusion shows that intelligence is no guard against naivete.

My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) drew attention to the changes that are occurring in technology. If we are considering the period between now and 2020, I am convinced that our children will be on package tours into outer space by then. The only certainty in all this is that the pace of technical change has far outgrown the ability of people to forecast accurately the way in which airport movements will develop.

As to the effect on the north, the inspector, as one might expect, was dismissive of the case for the north. He showed intense irritation. It seemed as though one was disturbing the smooth running of his mathematical model. Many of the points that he dismissed were not so daft as he seemed to imagine. He dismissed 1 per cent. of public expenditure on the airport alone as insignificant. I should like to hear that confirmed by the Secretary of State for the Environment. The inspector dismissed the proposition that profitable nationalised institutions such as BAA should make a contribution to the Exchequer. I look forward to having confirmation of that from the Chancellor. The inspector ignored totally the general economic effects of airport development in the northern region.

More important, the report spells out clearly why Stansted as planned will siphon off the growth from the regional airports. The inspector himself does the job. He is describing not three airports but an airport system. He is talking about a single category A gateway international airports system. It is one airport in three places. The object of the exercise is to transfer non-scheduled and other leisure services to Stansted in order to transfer scheduled services from Heathrow to Gatwick. Luton, it is said, will attract leisure services inside and outside the south-eastern area.

The concept of one south-eastern airport sounds fine as a unit until one examines what it means in practice. The British Airports Authority made a profit on its trading concessions last year of £98.8 million. Only Heathrow broke even on traffic costs. Four million pounds went to Stansted. We are told by Mr. Payne that that subsidy is to continue.

British Airways sent all Members of Parliament a position paper which says: As an inducement to prospective airlines/users, Stansted charges would remain lower than those at Heathrow or Gatwick. Considering Gatwick expansion as a discrete investment, the level of income generated would be unlikely to be sufficient to provide an adequate return on capital employed. In such circumstances, Stansted would rely on a cross-subsidy from Heathrow/Gatwick. At present that £4 million works out at £11 per passenger. Applied to Manchester, it means that the airport would be getting the equivalent of £66 million subsidy a year. I am not asking for a subsidy — we do not want one — but I am making clear the size of the operation already taking place at Stansted. Tour operators at Stansted will be paying £1,079 in landing fees. In Manchester the figure is £3,995. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) asked why Manchester is so dear. In fact, Manchester is the cheapest outside London. The reason why London is cheap is that if one multiplies that £11 by the 450 passengers in a jumbo one comes pretty close to the subsidy affecting Stansted.

It is clear that whatever my right hon. Friend decides to do we must be certain that Stansted is maintained as a discrete operation, relying upon its own operations to make its own profits. I wonder whether, if that condition is imposed, the British Airports Authority will be quite so keen to take it on.

Today we are confronted with many scares. One of them is that we are trying to compel people to go north. There is a certain irony in that because for years people in the north have been trundling down to Luton to pick up their tours. Some of us did not take kindly to the CAA which is reported as saying Short of compelling people in London and the South East to travel by road and rail to the Midlands and North in order to catch flights … We have been doing that for 10 or 15 years, so that that is a bit thick.

We are not seeking compulsion. If the imbalance in subsidy between Stansted and the regional airports were put right the ability of those airports to compete, particularly in the leisure trade, would be much sharpened and there would be a considerable movement in the airlines' own choice about where they sought to go.

The second limitation on the development of the airports is licensing. Reference has been made to unused licences. There is a penumbra about negotiations which never quite come to the surface. The Ministry will say "We have not had an application." The reason is that people will not spend nine months preparing an application if they know that it will be turned down. There is a lot of wink and nod in this business. Some licences which were dropped have been taken up again.

Specific and important changes have to be made. For example, we cannot fly into Manchester from the United States if we do not use BA. We are covered by the Bermuda 2 agreement. That applies to freight as well as passengers. I referred to an example the other day because it staggered me. The largest American freight airline is Flying Tigers. Four times a week that airline flies between Brussels and New York. About 70 per cent. of the freight comes from the north of England. It goes by truck and boat to Brussels and is flown in an aircraft which passes over Manchester airport.

I know that my right hon. Friend will do his best to bring about changes in Bermuda 2, but he may not be so keen about some other matters. Many licences have been opposed by British Airways in the past. It is a matter of assessing whether the development of the airports is as important, more important or less important than British Airways' profits.

Let us take the classic case of Singapore Airlines. Opening up the route between Singapore and Manchester would mean some loss of money to British Airways. Our estimate is about £2 million revenue, which means that we are talking about a much lower sum in terms of profit. One must set against that the fact that our business men have to take an extra day off, and other factors. These matters have to be decided with a fresh mind. We have to look at them from the point of view of the people who use the regional airports. If we do that, we shall begin to see a different ball game. We should consider better the tourist trade and improved communications by rail and accelerate the links with the main rail lines. We should make a better effort to ensure that the 29 per cent. of people who begin their journey in the regions are accommodated in the regions.

My right hon. Friend is a worldly-wise man. I think that he and I share a scepticism about many of the propositions put before us which parade as idealism but which are merely vested interests dressed up. However, I urge him, just occasionally, to recognise that for some issues scepticism is a bad guide. Opposition to the Eyre report is one such issue.

There is a solution in which practicality, realistic planning and vision walk hand in hand. In coming to that conclusion, I want to leave my right hon. Friend with this thought. I want him to understand clearly that the sense of division in the country is not drummed up for the occasion. It burns in the minds of people of all politics, and of none. It is not a passing fashion. One can feel it; one can taste it. It is in the very pulse of the north. The remedy does not lie in huge sums of money — though they may be important — nor in yet more statistical analyses. The remedy lies in commitment and, above all, in imagination.

The Eyre report is the product of an unimaginative, legal and bureaucratic tradition that the Government set out to challenge. It is clever, polite, arrogant, logical—and wrong. It is concerned with established guidelines for policy and not with establishing a new national policy.

Despite the speech of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), which I found offensive and silly, I am asking all my right hon. and hon. Friends who feel that the massive expansion at Stansted should not take place to vote with Opposition Members for the Adjournment of the House.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. I remind the House that the 10 minute limit on speeches is now in operation. I appeal for co-operation. If time is nearly running out, I shall try to assist hon. Members with some sign language.

7.7 pm

Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)

I am grateful for being given the chance to follow the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Silvester), who made two observations which have thrown my speech somewhat. He began by condemning the Eyre report. The hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) has the full report with her. I am sure that she will pass it round to any hon. Members who wish to read it. I have only the summary. Chapter 10 on page 28 bears out what the hon. Member for Withington said. Paragraph 7.7 of the conclusion states: Regional airports should not"— note the words— and cannot make so large a contribution to satisfying future demand as to remove or substantially reduce the need for further capacity in the south-east. We know the inspector's view right from the start—he is totally prejudiced.

Hon. Members of my age group in the Chamber today will remember that when the silent films gave way to the talkies the Indian always used to say to the cowboy "White man speak with forked tongue." Likewise speaks the chairman of the British Airports Authority. He knows my view. He tells us in the north that he has no objection to regional airports. One must ask what he has done to assist the regions. The answer is, precisely nothing. When the Civil Aviation Bill was going through the House I said that it was the "Civil Aviation (Norman Payne) Bill". He has left his mark on the report.

Mr. Gale

Of course he was heard. He gave evidence to the inquiry—so did NOERC.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Of course he was heard, but this is supposed to be a neutral report. The hon. Gentleman should not be excessively influenced by one person or one organisation. The north-west and the north have been ignored. The views of the people of Manchester are not unknown. We believe that we deserve a share. I agree totally with the recommendation in the Eyre report that Heathrow should be expanded. I believe that the figure of 275,000 movements per annum was plucked out of the air.

When I last spoke on this issue, I referred to the time, 45 years ago, when I was a navigator. When we returned to base we were stacked at various levels, normally at 500 ft., and wondered whether our fuel would run out. The stacking caused noise problems in the area. This is happening above places like Midhurst. It is no laughing matter if one lives at Midhurst. However, there have been substantial advances in technology since then. To put my point in perspective, I should mention that at the end of the war I was using some of the most advanced radar equipment in the world. When I now enter a cockpit, I am staggered by what can be done.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

The hon. Gentleman says that he agrees with the Eyre recommendation about Heathrow. The hon. Gentleman also mentioned noise. Does he not think that it was a little presumptive of Eyre to recommend that there should be a curfew, not only at Heathrow, but at Gatwick, when his inquiry did not consider the problem of noise? No evidence on noise was taken. Surely, therefore, the number of movements into and out of Heathrow is pre-empted if a stipulation is imposed that there should be a curfew. Because of the technological advances to which the hon. Gentleman referred, surely it is time for the curfew to be a thing of the past.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Traffic-handling methods will be substantially improved. Aircraft will stay on course and will be controlled from perhaps 2,000 miles away. These methods will result in economic cruising and low speed safe flying. As for the hub and spoke concept, aircraft like the Super 748, the ATP and the 146 will be extremely quiet. They are mainly hub and spoke aircraft. Therefore, their operational performance will improve. This bears out the point made by the hon. Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin).

There will be similar advantages with long-haul flights. The Airbus is a much quieter aircraft. Those of us who used to try to sleep at the end of a grass runway with a couple of Merlin engines going over every two minutes sympathise with those who live near Heathrow. However, the noise level at Heathrow will steadily decrease, particularly by 1986, when the Trident will be phased out. The BAC111s will be able to fly only if they are fitted with hush kits. The new generation of aircraft will be quieter. We shall move to about 330,000 movements per annum at Heathrow, with less noise being generated. So the figure plucked out of the air of 275,000 movements per annum is no longer sacrosanct. Therefore, I support the creation of a fifth London terminal and an increase in the number of landings at Heathrow.

However, I cry, "Halt, hold, enough" about Stansted. I want there to be positive discrimination in the interests of the regions. The British Airports Authority practises discrimination over its pricing policy at Stansted and Luton. The local authority at Luton has complained bitterly that, while Stansted was and is being subsidised by Heathrow and Gatwick for handling predominantly charter flights, Luton, which is engaged in the same business, is being undercut on account of cross-subsidisation by the British Airports Authority. It seems that Eyre is a very expensive proposition if it is related to what is said by the BAA. We are told that Stansted will be a super charter airport. Although it may take some scheduled flights, it will be used mainly by charter aircraft. That is unfair.

I deal next with the north-west and the north, a deprived area that needs to be supported. Questions have been asked about why certain routes have not been taken up. Predominantly, it is because they are unattractive routes. It is as simple as that. Let us not make a mystery out of something that is simple. I hope that the projected flights by British Airways from Manchester to the United States and from Manchester to Hong Kong are a great success. This region needs to be supported. This project demonstrates what can be done with scheduled flights. If flights were attracted to the north, the load factor in the south-east would be relieved. Instead of traffic being diverted from Heathrow to Schiphol, it will be diverted from Heathrow to Manchester. There will be positive discrimination in favour of the north-west.

My only regret is that Ministers will not be present for the vote tonight.

7.17 pm
Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

I am grateful for the opportunity to follow the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones). I cannot support all that the hon. Member said. Nevertheless, I respect his tremendous experience and his views concerning regional airports. I shall confine my remarks to the reasons why I believe that a fifth terminal should not be constructed at Heathrow. I do not intend to deal with other issues. However, the Government must reach a conclusion on Stansted, Gatwick and the provincial airports. They must make up their mind about how to approach the matter and at the same time satisfy both the major and the smaller airlines.

Even if we began work tomorrow on a fifth terminal it could not be completed before 1996. That is an important matter. Even if we began work this week upon that terminal it would be too late to meet the immediate demand. Even if work upon the necessary road and rail connections were to begin now, they could not be completed before the year 2000. Even if it were authorised, this would be too late.

My constituency is one of the worst affected by noise. I have fought consistently to reduce the noise, by pressing for a limit on the number of flights and by urging the development of quieter aircraft. Such planes will result in some reduction of the noise. The noise level under the Heathrow flight path is not only almost unendurable during the day, but is unacceptable at weekends. I do not accept that the noise can be reduced in the immediate future, whether or not quieter aircraft are introduced.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned the Roskill commission, the third terminal, the number of flights being limited to 275,000 a year, the fourth terminal and so on. I thought that the fifth terminal had been buried without trace. Unfortunately, it was brought back to life by a planning application by Uttlesford District Council.

I object to the fifth terminal because it will lead to increased noise, traffic congestion and the removal of the Perry Oaks sewage station. There is also considerable opposition from local councils. Between 500,000 and 1 million people already suffer the almost unendurable noise under the flight path to Heathrow. The removal of the sewage plant might not take as long as was first thought, but it would still delay the building of a fifth terminal. Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Surrey county councils and others oppose the building of a fifth terminal. I received a letter today from Berkshire county council setting out its objections.

One of the most difficult problems posed by a fifth terminal would be road congestion. Cromwell road is the most congested part of London apart from Hyde Park corner. The extension of the Piccadilly line was welcome, but I am told that it carries only 8 per cent. of the Heathrow traffic. Whatever we do, we cannot improve the road network. The Cromwell road and Talgarth road areas are so built up that it would be impossible to widen those roads. Even if they were widened, they could still not take all the traffic. If a fifth terminal is built, traffic will be nose to tail from central London to 10 miles outside the city. Even if the rail link were completed and the Piccadilly line were extended further, people would still choose to use the roads, which would result in enormous traffic congestion.

The Government have given numerous promises that a fifth terminal would not be built. Sir John Nott said: we do not favour a fifth terminal, and that is also the view of the inspector." — [Official Report, 21 February 1980; Vol. 979, c. 694.] On 3 November 1980, in column 411, my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said in answer to a question that the Government's view remained the same as was stated in the House on 17 December 1979. On 23 July 1981, in column 193, in answer to a question put by me my hon. Friend the then Under-Secretary of State for Trade confirmed the Government's views again and, on 3 March 1982, I intervened repeating the Government's pledges. Pledges were also given on 22 February 1984 in column 948, on 21 November 1984 in column 301 and on 20 December 1984 in column 567. The Government have given unequivocal pledges that they will not construct a fifth air terminal.

Apart from increases in noise levels, practical difficulties will be caused by the building of a new terminal. Much more important, though, are the pledges given by the Government. The circumstances have not altered and I trust that the Government will honour those pledges.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is always generous in giving way, but he was not able to give way to me today when I wanted to ask him a question. The form of our debate was inevitable because of the legal complications, but a vote in the House will be of no significance, because it could be interpreted outside as a vote for or against the fifth terminal and for or against the development of Stansted. The whole thing is mixed up. If hon. Members vote to reject the inspector's report, are they rejecting the fifth terminal? Are they rejecting the development of Stansted? Are they rejecting regional airports policy? The truth is that they will be rejecting the lot.

Surely the object of the debate is to give the Government the opportunity of listening to those of us who have constituency and national interests at heart and to form a judgment on our views.

Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)

My hon. Friend says that any vote in the House could be interpreted in any way, but I hope that no vote will be interpreted as opening the way to a reconsideration of a green field site.

Dr. Glyn

I agree with my hon. Friend. A vole in the House would be meaningless because the public and the press could interpret it as meaning whatever they wanted it to mean.

The Government gave a pledge and I rely on them to make sure that it is honoured.

7.27 pm
Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)

I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in the debate and to follow the excellent contributions that have already been made.

The debate is important, and the Secretary of State said that he would listen carefully to what was said. I hope that he will also take careful note of what is said. Ministers will not be voting at the end of the debate, and it is therefore important that as many Conservative Members as possible vote to show the strength of the House's feeling on this issue.

I strongly support the case put by the NOERC, and I oppose the major development of Stansted. I support a national airports policy, with more development of regional airports. That will best meet the needs of the nation in the years ahead.

The financial involvement in Stansted would be £450 million for the airport and associated developments, £160 million for a rail link and between £500 million and £1 billion for infrastructure, depending on the ultimate potential of the airport. That investment will be made at the expense of other parts of the country. It will not be additional public expenditure, and the other parts of the country will have to pay for that major investment in the south. That is a major factor.

Airports attract jobs, and I am aware of the developments that took place because of the foresight of the former Manchester city council, and later of the Greater Manchester and city of Manchester councils, which co-operated with each other. I have that awareness because at one stage I lived close to Manchester airport. The councils have always been prepared to develop the airport in advance of demands to meet the needs of those in the area. Job opportunities are not confined to Manchester airport. Developments within the airport have a ripple effect in the area generally.

Unemployment in the north is far worse than in the south. In the south as a whole there is unemployment of between 6 and 9 per cent., and in the Stansted area there is a very low rate of unemployment. It would be wrong to create more job opportunities in an area where opportunities are already better than elsewhere instead of taking the development to the north. Job opportunities for white collar and service industry employees in my constituency are minimal as it is heavily over-dependent on manufacturing industries. It is over-dependent also on factories and other industrial buildings which were erected before 1914, which have long since seen their better days. It is important that development money should be put into the regions.

There are about 20 million people living in the area around Manchester airport, and if more services were available from the airport they would be used. By concentrating on Manchester airport, I do not underestimate the importance of developing other regional airports. I am emphasising the importance of Manchester because I am well aware of its importance in constituency terms. If those living in the Manchester area want to take a flight from Manchester airport for their holidays, it is necessary for them to make an early booking with the travel companies. That is imperative if they want a flight direct from Manchester. Two years ago I tried to get a flight to Bulgaria from Manchester and was unable to do so. Ultimately, I had to accept a flight from Gatwick.

Bringing one's wife and children down from Manchester to London so as to fly from Gatwick can involve considerable additional cost. Those who do so will opt to fly, to travel by train or to use their car. There is extra expense, and sometimes great inconvenience. Those who use their car are left wondering in what state they will find the car when they return from their fortnight's holiday.

I am glad that the Minister for Housing and Construction is on the Government Front Bench because I am aware that he received a copy of a letter which appeared in the Daily Telegraph a few weeks ago on housing development. The letter which was sent to him was signed by Mr. Alf Norris and Mr. Patton, the chairman and secretary of the National Housing and Town Planning Council for the North West Regional Executive Committee. The letter is directed to the housing development that would have to take place at Stansted. This would happen at the expense of housing in other areas.

The letter reads: During the past few years housing programmes have borne the major part of public expenditure cuts and the incidence of identified homelessness has increased. Against such a background many local housing authorities will view the recommended development of Stansted with concern and dismay. In his report Mr. Graham Eyre, QC estimates that a projected capacity of 15 million passengers a year would require the construction of some 10,000 new homes and if capacity were boosted to 25 million passengers some 17,000 new homes might be required. The evidence presented to the inquiry by the Department of the Environment made it clear that development in and around Stansted should be facilitated by a reallocation or re-distribution of resources and the Government could not be committed to provide new additional capital investment. If that is taken literally, it means that the Government will deprive other areas to pay for development at Stansted. At the same time as paying for that development, they will not get the type of air service that they require in the region. I am sure that the argument on housing could be advanced to cover hospitals, schools and many other items of infrastructure.

It is clear that financial and infrastructure developments, and future Government capital investment would have greater emphasis on the south if the Stansted development were to go ahead. It is believed in the north that there is currently a two-nation divide. If the Government decide to go ahead with the Stansted development, the divide will become even wider. That will strengthen the belief of many that the Government intend to make Britain a two-nation state.

It is no good issuing licences and then saying that they are not taken up if they do not include destinations to which people wish to travel. It is obviously important that passengers should be able to fly direct to America from Manchester. Many industrialists in my constituency have emphasised the importance of communications. They speak of the need to improve the motorways and the railway system and stress that there should be much better direct air connections to the continent and the United States.

The argument that I am presenting is supported fully by Lancashire county council, which believes firmly in the proposals of the North of England Regional Consortium. Those proposals are supported in turn by the North East Lancashire development association.

I presume that within the past couple of days most hon. Members have received the book entitled "Deadlock at Stansted: The Way Out" by Sir Colin Buchanan. We all know of Sir Colin's reputation on road transport. I am sure we are all aware that he served on the commission which considered the third London airport in 1968–70. Sir Colin's conclusions are important. The book states: Complicated and intertwined and to some extent unassessable though the issues in this controversy may be, they nevertheless seem amenable to a commonsense judgement. It cannot be said that a proven case exists for a third London airport; the London airports system as postulated by the Inspector seems designed to continue a heavy draw-in of traffic from the regions to the disbenefit of regional travellers; to give the regional airports greater scope would make sense in relation to the spread of the population and would aid economic recovery; and finally there is the incontrovertible environmental case against the expansion of Stansted expressed by many parties with a strength and conviction which no government could over-ride except by decree little short of brutality. Everything surely points in one direction, namely to leave the position as it is described in the guide book". That sums up the case, and I hope that when the Division takes place Conservative Members will support Opposition Members in the Lobby.

7.37 pm
Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

It is 12 years since my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), the then Prime Minister, told me to get on with the job of building a third London airport and to have it ready by about 1985. The reason for his instruction was the report to which the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) has referred. It told us that by 1985 to 1990, on all the projections of the British Airports Authority, the Civil Aviation Authority and the other aviation organisations, London would be so clogged with aircraft and passengers that everything would come to a dead stop.

We are now in 1985. We all know that I failed—and that the third London airport was not built. However, London has not come to a dead stop. That leads me to conclude that the Government should be sceptical of all the statistical certainties that are offered to them by experts. Sir Norman Payne has been quoted today as calling Stansted an "oasis of opportunity". Norman Payne, as he was when I was an Under-Secretary of State in the Department of the Environment and the responsible Minister, told me that Stansted was the wrong place and that the right decision was Maplin.

Had we gone for Maplin, it would have been the right decision for the nation and the right decision for hon. Members who represent people around Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton because we would have moved the growth of traffic away from these places and put it where it belongs — on a site adjacent to the sea. But for the fact that the Conservatives lost the 1974 election, Maplin would today be in operation. In the event, the Labour party killed it. As a result, we now face the sad fact that we shall require more airport capacity in the south-east by the early 1990s, but we do not have it. So the only question is where is that capacity to be provided.

My view is similar to that of British Airways, whose chairman I admire. I favour increasing the use of Stansted to the capacity that it now has. That could probably reach to between 4 million and 5 million passengers per year, and while that would not be greatly popular in the area such development could be sustained. It could also be done quickly and relatively cheaply, and with the M11 already in place that would be a sensible decision to take.

Secondly, I strongly favour an improvement of our regional airports. But I am not in favour of coercing people. We should go for the development of regional airports, notably Manchester, in line with genuine market demand. I am not sure what that demand is. We heard from the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) about the Bulgarian airline's letting down Manchester. Perhaps it had reasons for doing that. I favour increasing regional airports but only at the rate that proper market demand will bring about.

Neither of those solutions — the development of Stansted and developing the regions—will fill the gap in London. I have therefore come to the reluctant conclusion that the right decision is to get on now with the fifth terminal on the sewage works at Heathrow. I regret to have to say this because I, too, as a Minister gave pledges that we would not increase Heathrow airport nor build at Stansted. But we are today in a new situation. We have to deal with things as they are.

We should, therefore, get on fast with the fifth terminal at Heathrow, and I must tell my hon. Friends, whose feelings, heaven knows, I understand, that this will not be as bad as they fear. Fortunately, there has been a dramatic quietening of aircraft. The noise problem will not be as severe as they suggest.

Unfortunately, our record as a nation in getting on with great and imaginative projects is not good. We did not do the Thames barrier well. We have failed so far with the Channel tunnel. That is why I am concerned over the inspector's depressing conclusion that we could not build a fifth terminal at Heathrow before 1995 or later, that it could take 15 years. That is not acceptable to a modern nation. I appreciate the differences, but we built an airport on the Falklands in about 18 months.

The problem, however, is not the building but the planning. There is the rub. The Minister will find in his Department, if he turns up the records, ample material from the water industry — I had some reponsibility for that, too — to demonstrate that the technology is available rapidly to change the sewerage system at London airport, by flaring and other systems. We do not need, as the inspector suggested, two or three years to test the feasibility of removing the sludge beds. It is feasible. Nor do we need three or four more years to complete the removal of the sewage works to another place. All of that could and should be truncated.

The Government should therefore decide quickly to get on with the fifth terminal and put all their backing behind it. Let them bring before Parliament a special development order. Never mind having further planning inquiries. Let us get on with it now, reflecting on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Silvester) that Governments of both parties have lacked the ability to grip exciting, important national projects and carry them through effectively.

What my right hon. Friend wants to hear today is where we stand. I recommend that we should take Stansted to its existing capacity, build up the regional airports as far as possible in accordance with what the market demands and, above all, go now for the fifth terminal at Heathrow. Let us make London the best and most modern airport in the world.

7.45 pm
Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)

Hon. Members will note that I am wearing a Manchester International airport tie. Thus, my allegiance is not in any way hidden. Manchester International is extremely important to my constituency. The only trouble with it is that it is not called Stockport international as it should be because it is only 10 minutes away from Stockport and the main flight path goes directly over my constituency.

Despite the extreme importance of that airport to my constituency, I join other hon. Members — this shows that we are not being dog in the manger over the issue—in recognising the necessity for some expansion in the south-east, although that is contrary to the view of many pressure groups in the south-east. Indeed, to us in the north-west which is short of jobs and suffering great unemployment problems, it seems extraordinary to build a second terminal at Gatwick right in the centre of the place where the second runway should be, all to reduce expansion.

We would give our right arm for that sort of chance around Manchester. We find it equally extraordinary that people in the vicinity of Heathrow should be campaigning against further development, although that would result in a boost to the economy and more jobs. Because we find that extraordinary, we in the north-west are inclined to say, "A curse on your house and to heck with you in the south-east."

However, we have a duty to United Kingdom Ltd. and we recognise the extreme importance to Britain of the aircraft and airline industry. For that reason, and having studied the figures, we accept that there must be some expansion in the south-east. Where is that expansion to take place? The choice seems to be between terminal 5 at Heathrow and an expansion of Stansted, or both.

The Department of Transport has accepted that there is need for expansion, at the most by 15 million passengers, and it is clear that the best place for that expansion is Heathrow. That is where the passengers want to be. At present, Heathrow is the largest and most successful hub airport in Europe. To retain its success, it must expand, otherwise the traffic will go to Schiphol or Paris—not because Stansted has not expanded but because Heathrow has not expanded. That will drive additional transport away from the south-east, and the sooner we recognise that the better.

Anybody who has taken an interest in the airline industry realises the importance of hub airports. Where better to look for proof of that than Atlanta where, with a population of just over 1 million, that city last year catered for 38 million passengers. That happened merely by developing a hub network. If we do not continue to expand our hub network at Heathrow, we shall be failing not just the south-east and the north but the whole nation.

It is nonsense to suggest that scheduled traffic can move to Stansted. It will not move there. People do not want to go there. We have seen what happened when people tried to direct traffic from Heathrow to Gatwick. We remember that Air Canada, Air Portugal and Iberian Airways said, "Over our dead bodies." In fact, they did not go to Gatwick and, in the end, British Airways moved its Iberian routes there and suffered a great loss.

There is absolutely no need for development at Stansted. There is the proposed terminal 5 at Heathrow, the second terminal at Gatwick, now being built, and there is capacity at Luton by catering for 3 million. During the past four years the number of flights into Luton has decreased because of the predatory methods adopted by the British Airports Authority at Stansted and Gatwick. That is what will happen to the rest of the regional airports throughout the midlands and the north of England if this vast airport at Stansted is expanded to take 15 million passengers. It is clear that the only flights to use Stansted will be charter flights, no scheduled flights. That will have dreadful effects on the regions.

Only 7 million or 8 million charter flights use airports in the south-east. From where will the expansion to 15 million passengers come? Assuming that every single charter flight moved from Heathrow and Gatwick to Stansted, there would still be room for another 7 million passengers. Obviously, the extra traffic will come from the regional airports — East Midlands, Leeds-Bradford, Birmingham, Manchester and Luton — and will have a devastating effect on those regions.

Clearly, we must improve the scheduled services from Manchester, and I support what hon. Members representing the north-west have said. I point out to those hon. Members who represent airports in the midlands and north of England the number of charter flights as a percentage of international flights using airports in the regions: East Midlands, 90 per cent.; Leeds—Bradford, 72.7 per cent.; Birmingham, 73.5 per cent.; Manchester, 81.6 per cent.; and Luton, 99.6 per cent. Would not Sir Norman Payne like this 15 million capacity leisure airport at Stansted? What effect would that have on the regions, losing not what they hope to obtain in the future but what they already have?

7.52 pm
Mr. David Young (Bolton, South-East)

The one mistake that hon. Members have not made in this debate is to argue that this is a party political matter. It is extremely useful that the Ministers will not participate in the vote. It is important to recognise that ministerial pronouncements are not exactly written on tablets of stone, no matter which party the Ministers represent. The atrophying effect of office as shown in a person's mental attitude seems to suggest that some people do not look at the position outside the south as flexibly as one would hope.

I hope that we are arguing for a distribution of airports, which are vital economic necessities covering and servicing not just one part of Britain, of which London is the capital, but the whole of the United Kingdom. It is valuable to point out that we are not talking about a country the size of the United States, where there are thousands of miles between cities. We are talking about a fairly small island in which it is useful to find that economic resources and transport resources, of which airports are the key, are distributed to allow the development of our national assets.

I am not making political points, but it is important to note that there was unemployment of 5 per cent. in the constituency that I represented in 1979. Even with the adjustment of statistics, the rate is now between 20 and 30 per cent. We are talking about Manchester airport, which serves not just Bolton and the north-west, but is an international airport. There are 70,000 unemployed youngsters under 25 and another 20,000 youngsters on various schemes in the north-west. There is long-term unemployment of 100,000 in the same area. In the south there is unemployment of between 6 and 9 per cent., and perhaps around Stansted the rate is much lower—3 per cent. or so.

My argument concerns not simply the fact that the airports produce jobs, but the fact that an airport at Manchester provides the economic gateway to the region. What employer from Japan or elsewhere will establish a factory in a north-west town when he needs to fly to Heathrow and then drive up motorways for three or four hours? The north-west has lost many key manufacturing industries. When and if the economic revival comes, the airport will be the vital link and the lifeline by which we can regenerate economic activity.

Manchester airport is midway between Scotland and the south of England. A great deal of tourist trade can be generated by air communications, and that is vital to the region's economy. In the past, Manchester airport has been actively discriminated against. The long-stay car park at Manchester charges £2.90 a day, while the charge at Stansted is virtually a few pence a day. I am told that, because of the Bermuda agreement, American carriers are not allowed to fly to Manchester airport.

We are asking for what the textile industry has requested under all previous Governments — fair competition. We do not make our request on a party basis — Labour, SDP or Liberal. It seems that SDP and Liberal Members cannot find time to attend the debate. We ask those who have an interest in the north-west region to support its key airport. If a third airport is created, it should be created in an area that will serve not only the north-west but virtually the north of England. We have a right to say to the official minds, "Britain does not stop at Watford."

Mr. Tim Smith (Beaconsfield)

Civilisation stops at Watford.

Mr. Young

It depends on the area from which one comes. Judging by the behaviour of some hon. Members, I should not have thought civilisation had even entered the south.

It is necessary to recognise that millions of north-west constituents will depend on Manchester airport, including the communications thereby provided. We need the support of the House — [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentlemen wish to have the Floor, I shall give them the opportunity to do so. It might be useful if they listened to the northern and not simply the southern point. We are talking about the north, and hon. Gentlemen would be courteous if they listened to our point of view.

We should recognise that many hon. Members, from all parties, are talking on behalf of their constituents who will need this link, and we hope that the vote will show the Minister that that link must be provided.

8 pm

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

The hon. Member for Bolton, South-East (Mr. Young) has spoken with great force about the needs of his town and region. I will take up later the points that he made.

First, however, I should like to remind the House of the population statistics for the areas around Heathrow and Stansted. The Home Office figures, based on the 1981 census, show that within 10 miles of Heathrow there are 1,700,000 people. Within 10 miles of Stansted, there are 115,000 people — only one fourteenth as many. The large number of people living around Heathrow are just as sensitive to the quality of their life and surroundings as anyone else. I include my constituents in Twickenham, Teddington, the Hamptons and Whitton.

The House should not forget that five Members who represent constituencies near Heathrow are either Ministers or Whips, and, by convention, they do not speak on matters affecting other Departments — my hon. Friends the Members for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe), for Putney (Mr. Mellor), for Esher (Mr. Mather), for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) and for Reading, West (Mr. Durant), who is in his place. My hon. Friends have made their views known in their own way, and no one should assume that if there are five fewer speakers from the Heathrow area the people living there are any less well represented.

The large population around Heathrow has been told time and again that it is Conservative Government policy not to build a fifth terminal at Heathrow, and it has believed it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) quoted eight instances of statements by Ministers in the present Government to that effect. I can add another. On 4 August 1981, when he was Secretary of State, the Leader of the House wrote to me on this point. He said: In his letter to you on 13 November 1980, which was issued as a Press Notice by my Department, Norman Tebbit, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade, confirmed that the Government's view remained unchanged; and in reply to a Parliamentary Question by Kenneth Carlisle on 13 May 1981, I re-affirmed the Government's view that a fifth terminal at Heathrow should not be provided. I do not think this can leave you in any doubt about the Government's view on this matter. Those repeated statements of policy have come to be seen as amounting virtually to pledges. There will be a great sense of betrayal in constituencies around Heathrow if a fifth terminal is built. Those who want the pledges abandoned are saying that the opinion of a planning inspector who is no more than an adviser — albeit a distinguished adviser — should carry more weight than the commitment and good name of a Conservative Government.

The previous inspector, Mr. Justice Glidewell, was just as eminent as Mr. Eyre if not more so. He reported on the Heathrow fourth terminal with great distinction and took exactly the opposite view. He said: it is in my view essential that, if they decide to permit Terminal Four, the Secretaries of State"— The Secretaries of State for Trade and for the Environment— should at the same time reiterate that it is the Government's policy that there will be neither a fifth terminal nor any major expansion at Heathrow". That view was accepted by the Government. There is no reason whatever why the House should attach more weight to the opinions of Mr. Eyre than to those of Mr. Justice Glidewell.

The traffic aspect is extremely important. With three terminals open at Heathrow, the number of passengers there per year is 28 million or 29 million. When the fourth terminal opens later this year, it is expected that there will be 39 million passengers per year. If a fifth terminal were built, there would be 52 million — nearly double the present figure. That could mean an extra 60,000 or 70,000 passengers passing through Heathrow every day, with all the necessary back-up services. Eighty per cent. of passengers go to Heathrow by road and, however one may fiddle about with railway lines, that proportion is unlikely to drop substantially.

Most hon. Members are familiar with the A4, the Cromwell road, which leads through west London towards Heathrow. That road is already heavily congested, and not only at peak hours. The extra traffic for the fourth and fifth terminals would jam up the Cromwell road. Mr. Eyre had no adequate answer to that problem. The congestion would spread into parallel roads and, eventually, throughout west London.

There are already 750 flights a day through Heathrow. At times, a plane flies over my constituents every 1½ minutes. It is the frequency of the flights that distresses people, not merely the peak loudness of each flight. The assumptions made by the inspector and repeated by various statutory bodies are based on the noise and number index. I was glad to see from a letter that I received only this morning from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport that the noise and number index and the formula for assessing the amount of aircraft noise is under review and that there will be a fresh report on it in April. The new report may render invalid some of the inspector's assumptions about the measurement of aircraft noise.

People in my constituency and neighbouring constituencies will not be content with a continuation of the present level of aircraft noise. They want a substantial and permanent reduction. The burden of aircraft noise must be shared more fairly. It is totally inequitable to pile more and more of a burden—whether the burden is in the form of traffic or of aircraft noise—on the 1.75 million people living around Heathrow in order to protect the far smaller population around Stansted. We should remember that, although I heard what my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) said, three out of four members of that population do not want that protection in any case. Even if we take those living within a 10-mile radius of Stansted rather than a 30-mile radius—

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Jessel

A significant proportion of people within the 10-mile radius do not want protection.

Stansted is not virgin territory. There is a great fat runway two miles long there. That excellent runway is under-used. The excellent motorway connection between the M11 and the M25 and other good roads provides the capacity for a great deal more traffic. All those national assets are being under-used.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

The situation is ludicrous. Neither Heathrow nor Stansted appears to want the extra facility, but Manchester is longing for it.

Mr. Jessel

The nub of the problem is that every year 3 million more people want to fly in and out of south-east England. The figure for this year is 47 million, not 45 million as has been said. The inspector calculated that the figure would rise to 61 million in five years and to 75 million in 10 years. He worked out that by 1990 there would be no more room at Heathrow and Gatwick for any more passengers. He also calculated that there is no way in which the fifth terminal at Heathrow could be opened before 1996.

It is only in the past few days that we have suddenly been told that there will be no need for a new waterworks. If so, why was not that point made during the inquiry? The case remains completely unproven. The inspector found that, because of the need to move the waterworks at Perry Oaks elsewhere, it would take 12 years to construct the fifth terminal at Heathrow. The fifth terminal at Heathrow, therefore, could not do the job in time. He concluded that only Stansted could provide the additional capacity to meet the demands during the early to mid-1990s.

The Manchester argument, about which we have heard a great deal and will no doubt hear a great deal more, sounds all right until we ask what it means. It means that someone who lives in Twickenham, Eastbourne or Finchley who wants to take a holiday in Spain after 1990 will be told "Sorry chum, you cannot go through Heathrow or Gatwick because there is no room for you. To get your holiday in Spain you must go to Manchester". People will not stand for that. The same is true for incoming Americans who want to do their usual Tower of London and Stonehenge trip. Rather than come through Manchester they will go to some other country—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman's 10 minutes have come to an end.

8.10 pm
Mr. Graham Bright (Luton, South)

This debate is crucial to my constituents. Since 1979, we have had to live with the possibility of Luton airport having to be closed if there is major development at Stansted. That would mean the loss of more than 7,000 jobs and the closure of the second largest business in my constituency. I do not know of any other right hon. or hon. Member who is faced with such a prospect. My sentiments are shared by my hon. Friends the Members for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) and for Bedfordshire, South-West (Mr. Madel). The prospect is utterly unacceptable to us.

It is ironic that the threat of closure should ever have hung over Luton. The discussion about the siting of London's third airport ignores the fact that Luton is already the third airport in the capital's system. With 2 million passengers a year now, a capacity to take up to 5 million passengers a year, excellent motorway connections and an adjoining railway line to London — it is much closer than Stansted and takes only 30 minutes—Luton airport is perfectly capable of playing a greater role, especially in scheduled services. Indeed, we would welcome the opportunity that a longer runway and parallel taxiways would give us to expand our passenger handling capacity to 10 million — double the present capacity. That would involve taking only 100 acres of land. That is an option which would increase the capacity and the flexibility of the London system and remove pressure for the development of Stansted.

The recent problems of Luton airport have not been confined to the threat of closure. It has faced difficulties because of the existence of heavily subsidised facilities and charges at Stansted which are, of course, designed to attract our charter traffic away. The BAA has used its monopoly at Heathrow and Gatwick to squeeze out competition from Luton. That casts serious doubt on the BAA's claim to be the guardian of the national interest in airport matters, especially when its justification for developing Stansted is supposed to be the need to meet international competition. If it is not prepared to meet competition fairly at home, the claim is bogus.

For that reason, I am not prepared to go the whole way with the inspector, Mr. Eyre, at the recent planning inquiry in blaming successive Governments for the difficult problems that we now face. Any Government must take into consideration the views of their supporters, the environmental lobby, transport interests and many other factors.

Mr. Eyre has overlooked the pressure that a major public sector monopoly, the BAA, can bring to bear on policymakers in the long term by its insistence on the need to cater for passenger growth. It has an overwhelming interest in buttressing its own position. Hence the unremitting pressure since 1965 for the development of Stansted, the difficulty in developing a coherent strategy for regional airports and the BAA's efforts to take over Luton and the major regional airports in the 1970s and, now, to preserve its monopoly. Until it is broken up and its component parts are sold to the private sector within an appropriate regulatory scheme, such conflicts will have to be resolved politically rather than settled in the market.

I do not believe that either the BAA or the inspector has made out a convincing case for the instant development of Stansted. According to Mr. Eyre's figures, he expects 61 million passengers to pass through London's airports each year by 1990, but his assessment of the passenger capacities of the existing planned and committed London airports system for that year is 63.5 million passengers. That might well be an underestimate as Heathrow, with a capacity of 38 million passengers a year, Gatwick, with a capacity of 25 million passengers a year, and Luton and Stansted combined, with a capacity of 9 million passengers a year — with the expansion of Luton it would obviously be greater—there would be an overall capacity of 72 million passengers a year. We shall have the capacity to handle the anticipated level of passenger traffic in 1990 irrespective of whether we decide to develop Stansted now. It is entirely wrong to suggest that Stansted is the only choice that will meet the demands of the 1990s in time.

The public inquiry has reinforced the argument for the development of a fifth terminal at Heathrow. The Perry Oaks site is clearly more suitable for airport development than any other location in the south-east and, indeed, the whole of the United Kingdom. The inspector believes that it is better from an operational point of view than terminal 4 and its development would prevent the imposition of the costs of split-site operations in our domestic airlines. British Airways says that its costs would rise by one fifth if Stansted were developed. There would also be a chance of relieving pressure on the central terminal area and the main access roads and tunnels into the airport. As heathrow is the hub of our international air services network, and as the development of the airport to full potential offers major operational savings to the airlines, a fifth terminal is the logical solution for the south-east.

Growth in the south-east, whether at Heathrow, Gatwick or Luton, is not the entire answer. Regional airports such as Manchester and others in Scotland have reached, or are reaching, critical stages in the development of their services. They have catchment areas and unutilised capacity sufficient to handle far greater numbers of passengers. The existence of the BAA in its current form must not be an obstacle to their development. It will be no service to Britain to reinforce the BAA's grip on our airport policies by promoting the growth of Stansted. Luton is ready, able and willing to play its part, with a fifth terminal at Heathrow, in coping with passenger growth in the south-east for the foreseeable future. It makes sense to expand our existing airports and to avoid artificial commitments on air traffic movements and terminal development of the disastrous kind that were made in the 1978 White Paper. Moreover, ignoring the potential of our regional airports will not be acceptable any longer.

There is no profit in looking back at the past 20 years of confusion and missed opportunities. Now is the time for new policies and, if possible, a new consensus. Nobody in north-west Essex wants major development at Stansted. However, such expansion is possible at Heathrow, Luton, in the regions and in Scotland. The only body with a real interest in developing Stansted is the BAA. It is that body, and the project that it has conceived, that should disappear in the interests of the whole nation.

8.17 pm
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

I found it rather entertaining to hear the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) trying to shove passengers off from Heathrow to Stansted as there are obviously many people in the south-east of England who want further development at neither Heathrow nor Stansted. In the north, however, we would give our right arm just to have the opportunity to expand regional airports, the survival of which might be put at grave risk if the Government's weight is put behind the Stansted proposal.

When the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) extolled the virtues of Maplin as a third London airport, partly because it was by the sea, I smiled wryly because Liverpool airport is by the sea and has many of the virtues to which he referred. The hon. Gentleman talked about not coercing people to use such an airport. The hon. Member for Twickenham revealed yet again the gap between the imaginations of those who live in the south and those who live in the north when he said that his constituents could not be forced to go to Manchester or other northern airports to go on holiday or travel on business. I have news for him. That is precisely the problem that people who reside in the north of England face.

A person who lives in Liverpool and wishes to go on a summer holiday to a foreign land can fly direct only to Yugoslavia, thanks mainly to the drive of Merseyside county council. If he wishes to go to Spain, he may get a flight from Manchester. But the weight and balance of airport development is tipped towards the south. Those of us who live in the north must drive to Luton or get the train to Heathrow or Gatwick. That is part of the problem of living in the north of England, but many people in the south are unready or unable to recognise it. The expansion of Stansted will endanger the role of Manchester and the complementary airport of Liverpool.

The airport of Liverpool is already threatened by the plans to abolish Merseyside county council. No one has made it clear whether any authority will be capable of assuming that responsibility when the council is abolished. Far from getting a second terminal, Liverpool airport has recently managed to get a grant of £1.9 million — that shows at least some commitment on the part of the Government — towards building a new replacement terminal. We would love to be able to say that we were building a second terminal.

My constituency is in a county which has an average unemployment rate of more than 20 per cent. One third of the 150,000 unemployed have been without a job for well over a year, and often for well over two years. Therefore, we would welcome another terminal. However, we cannot even get a duty-free shop at Liverpool airport because of the arbitrary qualifying quota of 100,000 international passengers laid down by the Government. Yet many passengers who travel from Liverpool airport are international passengers, who must take an internal flight from Liverpool to Heathrow or Gatwick to pick up an international flight.

Many decisions are taken by the Government and their advisers whose roots are in the south. Not everyone needs or desires to start a journey from London airport. Airports such as Liverpool could handle a greater volume of traffic. Liverpool airport has one of the most up-to-date runways in the country, which has even taken Concorde. The drive of Merseyside county council has led to the development of a new control tower, modern fire-fighting facilities and the beginnings of the development of a new replacement terminal. Flights go out and come in over the river, which is a safe route. Liverpool airport is more often fog-free than most airports in the United Kingdom, and is an ideal diversionary airport for Manchester, Gatwick and Heathrow.

Manchester airport is connected to an excellent motorway system, which includes the M56, M53, M57, M62 and M6. It is an ideal site for development, providing the Government create the balance more in favour of the distressed parts of the United Kingdom, that is, the north-west.

I plead with the Government to consider the position carefully and to examine what is happening in the House tonight. The only reason why the Government have not called a three-line Whip tonight is that they realise they they are not satisfying the House with their proposals to expand Stansted and Heathrow, which totally ignore the needs of the north-west and the northern regions.

If the Conservative party wants to confirm the view of many people that it is fast becoming the south of England nationalist party, it should continue with its present trends. If it wants to expand and ensure that areas such as Merseyside get their fair due, it should consider Manchester and Liverpool airports. There is no use talking about regional policy while cutting regional aid. In Merseyside the six local authorities have suffered a cut of £176 million since 1979. That cannot be allowed to continue.

The Government can show faith with people in the north-west by not supporting further development in the London area. They should see to it that Manchester gets its fair rewards. They should consider the disadvantages that at present accrue to Manchester, and consider regional complementary airports such as Liverpool. Such a move would introduce much investment and economic activity in that deprived area.

8.25 pm
Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) made a staunch and eloquent defence of the interests of his constituents, as I would expect. I do not doubt the fervour with which he and other hon. Members have put the case for the expansion of regional airports to serve the economic interests of their areas.

The demands of those regions are persuasive, and the environmental and economic interests of the hon. Members who represent seats most closely affected by prospective development in the south-east are understandable. Although I cannot claim to have as direct a constituency interest as them, I hope to display more objectivity and less emotion.

I, like all my right hon. and hon. Friends, have read the report with care. I am bound to declare my credentials at the beginning, which are that I broadly support the recommendations of the Eyre report. I hope that my views and those of other hon. Members present in the Chamber will be taken fully into account by Ministers.

When the subject was first raised about 20 years ago, there were projections for air transport growth which have not been fully realised. Nevertheless, there have been great opportunity costs from not making the essential decision at that time about the development of a third London airport. It is ironic that since Sir Peter Masefield first espoused the case for a third London airport at Stansted we have gone full circle via Wing and Maplin back to Stansted, and now face the same decision 20 years later.

Did we serve the national interest by failing to grasp the nettle, prickly though it was, during those years? Has not the time come to make a clear and final decision? There must be no more prevarication. The people, regions, towns and communities involved are entitled to expect a clear and final decision. That decision should be the one set out in the Eyre report.

Too often we assess the future capital cost of such a decision, but fail to take account of the cost incurred through failing to take a decision earlier. A heavy responsiblity rests with a succession of Ministers with responsibility for trade and aviation, who have not served the country well by failing to make a decision on this highly sensitive, political, judgmental issue. Nevertheless, such a decision can now be made and it should be for a major expansion of Stansted airport.

There has been far too much talk this afternoon about the alternative advantages of meeting, by a minimalist approach, the least possible forecast movements of air transport. There has been insufficient desire to satisfy fairly empirically verifiable and objective judgments as to what passenger transport demands will be in the south-east over the next 15 to 20 years.

It is self-evident, from careful reading of the report, that there is no alternative to the development of Stansted. Much as one might like to see the demand-led expansion of some regional airports, the hard fact is that while certain improvemens can be made, and some new routes can and should be opened — I hope that will happen — consumer demand, both internationally and domestically, will remain predominantly in the south-east.

Mr. Churchill


Mr. Nelson

Like others, I have waited to make my speech. I have a limited time to make my points and I wish to conclude my remarks.

From my reading of the report, such a demand will be prevalent. It behoves the Government to respond and the recommendations in the report, in particular for the expansion of Stansted, will in my view satisfy this.

However, I link with that the importance that I place on the need not to make any concessions or to fudge judgments in responding to the report. In their eventual response to the inspector's report, the Government will be heavily tempted to try to satisfy, for political and other motives, all the fair points of view which have been represented. I shall judge the Government's response by the extent to which they genuinely take the opportunity to do objectively what they consider is in the national interest, and not to dilute an essential decision which should be made for the future.

Although Heathrow, Gatwick and other areas have been developed in the past, they have been developed too slowly and in such a manner as already to lose a substantial amount of business and traffic to elsewhere in the world. No one can assess the value and extent of business that we have already lost to Paris, Amsterdam and elsewhere in terms of passenger movements, freight and the associated business. However, I believe that the cost to Britain has been enormous. That is the cost of failing to make decisions 20 years ago and in the intervening period.

We must have hope for the future. We must not proceed on the most pessimistic assumptions about economic growth and the attractions of Britain both for business and tourism. We should proceed on the basis that we will make new facilities work and that they will attract new business to Britain through Stansted and elsewhere. Therefore, not only should there be a firm Government resolution and decision in favour of the Eyre report, but it must not be watered down.

There will inevitably be behind-the-scene bids for a Government response to suggest a phasing of any increase at Stansted, for a limit on the number of passengers who can be dealt with and for an absolute guarantee that the capacity will not increase beyond a given level in the foreseeable future. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will resist these overtures to the extent that they have taken note of my remarks, although I recognise that it is a matter of judgment. I believe that I have made my point. I want the report to be implemented and I want no watering down of its recommendations.

I am not on my own. I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) said earlier. Much of what T have said in support of Stansted rests on the efficacy of the rail link with London and it is essential that that is not intermittent but is a direct through link.

With those remarks, I hope that I have left no doubt in my right hon. and hon. Friends' minds as to my views on the issue.

8.33 pm
Sir Walter Clegg (Wyre)

I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson). It is particularly galling to those of us from the north to find that when we are forced to take flights from Heathrow or Gatwick we are supposed to be starting our flights from the south-east and are south-east originated. We are nothing of the sort. We are forced there by a set of circumstances.

One of the penances of debating in the House of Commons is to hear speaker after speaker making one's points infinitely better. Many powerful voices have spoken for the north of England tonight. In particular, I want to take up one or two of the threads which my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Silvester) pursued.

First, my hon. Friend talked about the feeling in the north. He said that it was something tangible, something that could be touched. I can back him up on that. The north has a chip on its shoulder, and I do not like that. At one time it was a nice sporting chip—one will have a better chance of playing for England if one plays at Lords than at Old Trafford or Headingley. But it has become worse than that.

As the circumstances have changed between the south and the north, I have become worried about the south-north feeling that is developing. I want to see it stopped. That is why we have heard that the North of England Regional Consortium covers all the old rivalries within the north and stretches from the Irish sea to the North sea, from the Solway to the Mersey, and from the Humber to the Tyne. All have united in opposing the development of Stansted for the reasons which have been cogently given in the House tonight by those supporting the North of England Regional Consortium.

We sometimes misunderstand why there is the concentration of flights in the south-east. It is partly historical and partly due to the fact that the airlines have found it easier because of the cross-subsidisation of the southern airports which is not available in the north and which makes our landing charges higher.

I read something in the inspector's report which I found rather strange. He said: Governments can do little to influence the entrenched pattern of air services which is inevitably governed by market forces. It is nonsense to say that the Government cannot change that pattern. It is ludicrous that the market is referred to there as a free market when one thinks of the International Air Transport Association, the Bermuda 2 arrangement, the licensing restrictions and the communications between Government and Government.

My fear—it is shared by many of my hon. Friends in the north — is that the present position will be frozen into the system because expenditure on Stansted will make those airlines which operate from it wish it to work, and the wish will be father to the thought.

We do not want to play dog in the manger with the south of England. If it needs expansion for its own purposes, so be it, but I am implacably opposed to a major development at Stansted. My feet will take me into the appropriate Lobby tonight, and I shall not be alone.

8.38 pm
Mr. Robert Litherland (Manchester, Central)

Unlike hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, I must confess that I am not an authority on airports. I have been impressed by the breadth of knowledge that has been expressed in the debate.

However, as a representative of an inner city area, I am an authority on deprivation. As a former member of the Manchester city council, although, regrettably, never on the airport committee, I am extremely proud of that airport. The alderman who cut the first sod of grass at Manchester airport had to have police protection against a volatile crowd who did not want the airport. There has been criticism in years gone by because of the imposition on the rates. But what a difference today! Today that airport is the dual jewel of the north: it makes contributions to the rates and a marvellous contribution to the region.

I was dismayed at the beginning of the debate when I listened to the south-east lobby. We have heard the Watford gap mentality coming through once or twice. The North of England Regional Consortium has been criticised for its role. Some of the arguments have put forward the old divide and rule idea of separating Manchester from the other regions. The consortium does not want a "beggar thy neighbour" mentality. We have regard for unemployment in the south-east. Arguments have been thrown at us about job creation. The 50 per cent. male unemployment rate in one part of my constituency should be compared with the level of unemployment in the south-east. In Greater Manchester about 70,000 of the under-25s are unemployed; 100,000 have been unemployed for over six months. That is deprivation.

The consortium has pointed out that comparative statistics on unemployment are well known and need not be rehearsed. There is a substantial difference between the unemployment rates in Scotland, Wales, the north and the midlands and those prevailing in the south-east. The creation of further jobs in rural Essex and Hertfordshire will have no immediate beneficial effect on unemployment in other parts, including the south-east. The proposal to create a further 25,000 jobs in that area, where unemployment averages 6 and 9 per cent., is not a priority. Indeed, it is inconsistent with the Government's location decisions on such developments as the Nissan car factory, which, for a variety of reasons, was routed to the north-east. In regard to the disparity between the north and the south-east, average earnings are lower in Greater Manchester. The inner cities are at a disadvantage.

Objections are coming not just from Manchester. At the inaugural meeting of the North of England Regional Consortium three years ago there were people from all over the country, and there was support across the political spectrum, just as we have heard in this debate from the hon. Members for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Silvester) and for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst). Local authorities and the tourist trade supported the chamber of commerce. They realised that the spin-off effect, if Stansted should be developed, would be to the disadvantage of the northern regions.

The consortium asks legitimate questions about resources. What effect will the reallocation of resources have on the capital expenditure plans for local authorities at a time of dwindling capital allocations? Who will fund the 17,000 new houses and all the infrastructure that will be required? Will it be the Manchesters, the Liverpools, the Sheffields or the Newcastles? The consortium points out that even inner areas of London will not be immune. So we have decaying urban areas badly in need of revitalisation which will be subsidising new towns in the south-east. The regional dimension has not been taken into consideration in the report. The question about priorities has never been put. Justification cannot be made for expenditure well in excess of £1 billion in the south-east at a time of cutback in public sector financing which will affect the north.

The inquiry has dwelt only on the development of airport facilities and has missed out completely the importance of the air transport industry. There are two important elements. Without question there is a need for wider consideration of the development of the air transport industry in the United Kingdom. Secondly, the decision taken ultimately by the Secretary of State must take account of the regional dimension. The spread of aid for the regions is very thin. Many regions are in dire need of revitalisation. This is an opportunity that should not be missed. This is only one aspect of regional policy.

There are further broader issues concerning major capital investment. In his evidence to the Stansted inquiry the leader of West Yorkshire metropolitan county council indicated that regional policy must take account of regional conditions, which are so bad that no national investment decisions should be taken without first considering the regional dimension. Therefore, it is not just a Manchester versus Stansted argument. Attention must be drawn to the neglect of the midlands, the north and Scotland. If Stansted is developed, if a fifth terminal is built at Heathrow, and if there is a Channel tunnel, this island will eventually sink, as has been forecast, because of the imbalance of being weighted down by the south-east of England. There is a case for regional airports. Finance invested in the regional airports would act as a catalyst to revitalise and reinvigorate areas with tremendous human resources. To neglect them further would be a catastrophe.

At the Stansted inquiry, and throughout its case since, the consortium has argued that there is no need in purely air transport terms for a further major development in the south-east of England to meet south-eastern air transport needs. All the analyses show that an excessively high percentage of regional air travellers are currently forced to use airports in the south-east. If those travellers could be reallocated to services from local regional airports, expansion could take place in the regions and not in London.

The consortium has also argued that the effects of the reallocation would be to bring substantial economic and employment benefits to the regions. Such benefits are more than justified by the widening disparities in employment opportunity and social and economic conditions as between the south-eastern region and the remainder of the country. That is not to say that the consortium has ever failed to acknowledge equally dire problems which exist on a localised basis in parts of the Greater London conurbation, but merely to observe that in quantitative terms the scale of the problem elsewhere is greater. Like most of my hon. Friends, I appeal to as many as possible Conservative Members to support our campaign by joining us in the Lobby tonight.

8.48 pm
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

I am genuinely sorry for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. He has as disparate a portfolio as the craggy-visaged, iron-watchchained Alderman Foodbotham, chairman of the Bradford tramways and fine arts committee in the old days, about which Peter Simple writes so eloquently. One day he is on the buses; the next day he is proposing a Bill to deal with London regional transport; the next day it is those confounded airports again. I am only glad that at least we have given him some respite from the Civil Aviation Bill. I am sure he is glad that we have, particularly if he studies the inspector's report. I hope that at the end of the debate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State or the Minister of State will state clearly the Government's intentions with regard to that legislation. The unanimous verdict of all informed parties is that the artificial statutory limit of 275,000 air transport movements per year at Heathrow is totally unjustified. Moreover, taken annually, the 275,000 ATM limit will be exceeded this summer even before the fourth terminal comes into operation in the autumn. I hope that this matter can be laid to rest today.

Secondly, I hope that the Government will listen to the very wise words of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), formerly a Minister responsible for these matters. In a powerful and succinct speech he emphasised that Heathrow is a major national asset. The inspector, too, made that point. There is no airport with a comparable range of international services anywhere in Europe and we would be foolish indeed not to maximise its potential. As Mr. Eyre pointed out, however, to do so we need—and have needed for many years — a fifth terminal on the Perry Oaks site. I hope that at the very least my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction will approve that planning application.

We are all conscious of the pressures in the western part of London. A necessary prerequisite for such a development is the construction of a motorway spur from the M25 to the fifth terminal, proper railway links to Feltham and Iver, an extension of the underground system to the fifth terminal and improvements to the M4 and the A4, as well as the trunking of the Hayes bypass to which my hon. Friend for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) will no doubt allude if he is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Many people are worried about the potential noise impact of such an increase in capacity at Heathrow, but we should not be too alarmed. The inspector sets out good figures to prove the point, as do British Airways, and they explain that the introduction of new noise regulations at the begining of next year for British-registered aircraft and at the begining of 1987 for most foreign-registered aircraft will mean that the noise nuisance, which is such a worry to many local residents, will diminish, even if the passenger throughput at Heathrow is dramatically expanded.

Mr. Jessel

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that it is not just the peak loudness of each flight but the frequency and number of flights — already 750 per day — which distresses so many people? I might also point out that the runways go east and west whereas my hon. Friend's constituency is to the north of Heathrow—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. The hon. Gentleman has had his 10 minutes and he is now trying to nick someone else's.

Mr. Wilkinson

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not think that intervention was really worthy of my hon. Friend. I have always supported full use of Heathrow, just as I supported the full use of regional airports when I represented the constituency of Bradford, West. I still support the expansion of regional airports. The expansion of Heathrow should be seen as part of an overall strategy. It has not been made sufficiently clear in the debate that the future of many regional airports is directly tied up with the future of Heathrow. The feeder services which run from the regional airports into Heathrow to interline with international services are vital to the survival of many of the regional airports. I think that the inspector is broadly right when he says that there is only marginal potential for alleviation of demand through the expansion of regional airports. That is not to say that the regional airport expansion should not take place. There is a manifest case for it on grounds of regional development and equity, on economic grounds and on air transport grounds, but we should not delude ourselves that it will make all that much difference.

For all those reasons, I believe that from about 1995 we shall need a further expansion of the fifth terminal across the western perimeter road to the ground now covered with market gardens. I believe that is the most sensible strategy. Forecasts must always allow a margin for error. The inspector has made very generous allowance for error. His projection is way above the mean between the lowest and highest estimates of future demand. The CAA's own figures in document CAP 502 show that up to 1995, even with the present confines of Stansted, the additional demand that the inspector envisages for the south-east airports can be met. If Luton airport is developed up to 10 million passengers per year, as my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright) suggests, and if Heathrow is used to the full with a fifth terminal and 53 million passengers per year, it will be possible to meet the demand planning value given by the inspector for the year 2000 with Stansted handling only 5 million passengers per year.

Before we unnecessarily despoil the most beautiful countryside around Stansted I hope that we shall do everything possible to maximise the use of Heathrow. It is not beyond the wit of man to provide alternative sewerage facilities to those at the Perry Oaks site. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds was absolutely right about that. I believe that such an overall strategy could provide the basis for a consensus on which the Government, the Opposition and the country could unite. It is for this reason that I put it to the House. For this same reason, too, I am pleased that we are not making it a party matter in the Division Lobby. I believe that we should express the view that, with future demand projections so uncertain, it would be quite wrong to commit ourselves, in effect, to putting a Gatwick, with 15 million passengers per year, or, by the mid-1990s, the virtual equivalent of today's Heathrow, in the exquisite and unspoilt countryside of Essex. My hon. Friends and I believe that would be wrong and we shall seek to express the view in the Division today.

8.58 pm
Mr. Churchill (Davyhulme)

The Secretary of State, in opening the debate, referred to the extreme delicacy of his position, a phrase which one can well appreciate from one who finds himself poised so awkwardly on the horns of a dilemma.

The House is invited tonight to give its verdict on the inspector's proposal for a massive expansion of Stansted and for a huge investment of resources in the south-east of England. Such a development in my belief is undesirable and unnecessary, and would represent a most un-cost-effective use of national resources.

The inspector betrays his own south-east bias in the concern which he expresses about the possibility that, were there to be major expansion of regional facilities, people from the south-east might conceivably have to go to Manchester to take an aeroplane, yet he takes little account of the plight with which so many northerners have been confronted and remain confronted and, if the inspector has his choice, will for ever more be confronted: that they have no choice when they want to go abroad but to interline via Heathrow or one of the European transit points.

Although Manchester is the greatest city in the United Kingdom outside the capital, there are no more than 20 foreign destinations to which one can fly direct from Manchester. On some of those flights there are restricted traffic rights and many of them are scheduled only one day a week.

What we in the north are battling against is the concept so admirably displayed by the latest British Caledonian advertisement which, for the benefit of those hon. Members who do not travel regularly through Manchester airport, I read: Manchester—London—one stop—the world". It is to this precisely that we in the north object. Why do we have to go via London in order to get to the world? Although I have the greatest respect for Sir Adam Thompson and for his admirable airline, which I use regularly, the advertisement epitomises the problem with which we in the north-west are confronted, that we have to travel via London or one of the European Community countries to get anywhere.

This is an outdated syndrome which has been dead and buried for 15 years in the United States. There was a time — people have forgotten it — when one could not get anywhere in the United States without going via what used to be called Idlewild, now JFK. Anybody with any sense travelling now to a destination on the west coast, the south or the mid-west will go many miles out of his way to avoid the horrors of JFK and the eastern seaboard airfields.

Exactly the same attitude has developed among northerners who, although we recognise that at present we are forced to interline, will interline more regularly via foreign airports—Schiphol, Zurich, Charles de Gaulle—in order specifically to avoid Heathrow airport.

The huge numbers of passengers from the north have no choice at present. I was intrigued that the BAA should have let the cat out of the bag in its earlier propaganda for the debate which took place in the House before Christmas. It proudly paraded the fact that no less than 80 per cent. of the passengers coming through the London area airports wish to do business in London or the south-east. However, the flip side of that coin is that no less than 20 per cent. of passengers have no wish to go anywhere near the London area airports. The latest figures for 1984 show that the figures on which the inspector based his report are entirely outdated. At present it is not 20 per cent. who do not want to go near London area airports but 29 per cent., an increase of 45 per cent. on the figure on which the inspector based his decision.

Nearly 15 million travellers from the regions who have no wish to pass through London have to do so. That is the equivalent of the entire throughput of Gatwick airport. It is estimated that that 15 million will have increased to 25 million by the end of the decade. In consequence, the London area airports are unnecessarily congested. This in turn leads to demands and fatuous proposals such as we have had from the distinguished inspector, the only effect of which will be to aggravate the situation whereby northerners are unable to travel from their local airports and more and more people are encouraged to go through London. The extent to which people are interlining via other terminals might not be readily appreciated in London.

We have heard the suggestion that if we restrict growth at Stansted people will use other European airports. Many northerners are doing precisely that. Business men wanting to fly to Hong Kong from Manchester will go to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Dublin or Paris to avoid Heathrow.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Is it not hopeful that in the autumn people will be given the opportunity to fly direct to Hong Kong from Manchester with British Airways?

Mr. Churchill

Yes. I warmly welcome that. It is long overdue. At present people are more likely to use Swissair and travel via Zurich which gets them to Hong Kong two hours sooner than flying British Airways via Heathrow.

I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) that, far from there not being the demand in the north-east or the north-west, in 1981 — thanks to Sir Freddie Laker — no fewer than 11 DC10s a week flew between Manchester and the United States. Three flew to Los Angeles, four to Miami and four to New York city. Today there are no such flights.

I am delighted that British Airways is planning a three-times-a-week service as from the autumn this year. We shall then be served about one quarter as well as we were by Sir Freddie Laker's airline before he was done down.

I have three suggestions for my right hon. Friend. Will the Government develop positive policies to the maximum to ensure that regional demand is satisfied? That must mean a major expansion of Manchester and other regional airports, and abandoning plans for major developments at Stansted. Secondly, will my right hon. Friend give the BAA its marching orders? Will he make it clear to it that the predatory pricing in which it is indulging at Stansted by subsidies from Heathrow and Gatwick is unacceptable? As an example I cite the cost of landing a jumbo jet at three airports. At Heathrow the cost is £4,930, at Manchester £3,908 and at Stansted £1,071 — barely one quarter of the economic charge that has to be made in Manchester. As a direct consequence Manchester has lost at least one regular far east freight flight. It has now gone to Stansted. The massive volume of freight which goes by road to London is ludicrous. Some goes on roll-on/roll-off ferries to Amsterdam and elsewhere. But half the freight delivered to Manchester airport is sent by road to Heathrow for onward transmission.

Finally, I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he ought to reconsider the Bermuda 2 agreement and adopt a liberal policy towards foreign airlines. If need be, he should take British Airways and British Caledonian by the scruff of the neck and make it clear to them that their dog-in-the-manger attitude towards those who are seeking traffic rights out of Manchester and the regional airports must change. Those hon. Members who represent Manchester constituencies and constituencies elsewhere in the north of England will not accept what is believed to be an undesirable, unnecessary diversion of resources to a misconceived project in the south-east.

We demand that the Government should take full account of the case for Manchester. Until Manchester becomes the second international gateway of this country, I could not support any major development at Stansted.

9.12 pm
Mr. Ken Eastham (Manchester, Blackley)

Stansted has been an issue for many years. However, it is only during the last three or four years that it has come to a head. There is a strong belief, which cuts right across party lines, that the Stansted proposals will not benefit Britain in any way. We are referring not just to an airport but to the infrastructure that would be needed. Very considerable investment would be involved. Roads, sewers, rail services, houses, and schools would have to be provided, and they would cost many hundreds of millions of pounds. We believe that massive expenditure of this kind ought to be invested somewhere other than in the south, as is consistently the case. This should take place, not just because of the expenditure that would be involved, but because of massive unemployment in the north. In the Stansted area, unemployment stands at about 9 per cent., yet in the north-east and the north-west of England unemployment stands at over 40 per cent. Because of this massive unemployment, money ought to be invested in the north.

Ministers have attempted on previous occasions to convince hon. Members that there is no alternative to Stansted: that if Stansted is not developed the traffic will go to Schiphol. It is not a convincing argument. Hon. Members of all parties have been critical of the theory that people would rather cross the English channel, involving additional expense, and travel to Schiphol than go to an airport in the north of England. I represent a Manchester constituency but this is not a Manchester issue. Hon. Members who represent northern constituencies recognise the very great importance of investing in Manchester airport.

This campaign has continued for three years. It can be said unstintingly that hon. Members of all parties readily recognise that if Britain has very limited resources at least some of its investment ought to be directed towards the north. Manchester is a most successful airport. We ought to pay tribute to the pioneers of the past who had the foresight in a new venture to invest in the early 1930s. The airport is now highly successful and operates at a profit. We are not asking for a handout. We want common justice; the Government's resources should be spent in a different area and not always in the southern counties.

Non-political bodies strongly support Manchester's case. Chambers of trade and chambers of commerce—hard-headed business men — recognise the advantages for Britain of redirecting money to the north. They urge strongly that money should be invested in Manchester airport. We are not considering only the future of Manchester airport. The European Community recognises that some of this country's gravest problems occur in the northern areas. The Community would have sympathy with those who press that investment should be directed to the north. No Government can ignore the problem of the regions. Yorkshire, Newcastle, Greater Manchester and Liverpool face serious economic difficulties.

The Government continually say that they want to expand the service industries because they have the potential to create wealth and jobs. What better investment could there be than money to attract business to the north, which would help tourism, the hotel trade and the catering and food industries? The north has many cultural attractions which would be interesting to foreign visitors. Too often, tourists fly into London and never visit any other part of the country. London is always complaining that it is becoming overused and overheated because of the strain put on its resources.

The north has some of the finest countryside in the world, yet it is underused. It is a resource that costs nothing and it is there for the taking for tourists who fly into the north. I do not make a case for Manchester alone. People who flew into Manchester would not necessarily stay in the city. They would go to other nearby areas. The Lake District, for example, is one of the most beautiful areas in the world.

People in the north often feel great resentment when their area does not get its share of investment. The Government could do something positive and invest money in the north. I shall be supporting the north when I vote tonight.

9.18 pm
Mr. Patrick Ground (Feltham and Heston)

I have both a constituency and a personal interest in the debate. My constituency is immediately to the east of Heathrow, under the flight path, and my personal interest is that for six months I appeared at the airport inquiries representing the Greater London council — one of the comparatively few ventures in which the GLC supported declared Government policy.

A strand that has been picked up in many speeches is the case presented by the North of England Regional Consortium. There was a great deal of evidence given at the inquiries, which occupied the time of the inspector for about four years and about 250-odd working days at the inquiries. The evidence was examined in considerable detail by an inspector who declared himself to be basically sympathetic to the case being advanced. I must remind those who have relied upon the evidence that it was rejected by the inspector, who rejected also the criticisms of Government policy that were involved in the evidence. The inspector did not hesitate on many occasions to criticise Governments of both political colours. At page 28 of chapter 10 of the summary the inspector states: Development of further services out of regional airports has not been hindered by any action or inaction on the part of Government which, in so far as it can influence the situation, is actively seeking to encourage the introduction of more services at airports in the regions. That is a clear finding by the inspector that it is not Government action or inaction that has brought about the present position in respect of regional airports. He says that the solution lies principally in the hands of the air transport industry to recognise when demand appears in sufficient amounts at the airports. It is not that capacity which is lacking — indeed, many regional airports already have excess capacity. What is lacking is the perception of adequate demand on the part of the air transport industry.

One of the matters that has somewhat surprised me about the debate is the little amount of emphasis that has been placed upon runway capacity, which is one of the most important considerations for the Government in choosing between Stansted and a fifth terminal at Heathrow. At Heathrow, irrespective of whether the Government adhere to their intention to impose a limit on the number of air transport movements, the airport is now operating close to its capacity.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burtonwood)


Mr. Ground

Approximately 275,000 air transport movements will take place at the airport this year.

Mr. Hayes


Mr. Ground

The maximum capacity at present for practical purposes is between 300,000 and 305.000 air transport movements.

Mr. Bill Walker


Mr. Ground

Therefore, there is a maximum, for practical purposes, of another 25,000 or 30,000 air transport movements with the present runway capacity. On the other hand, at Stansted — the figures that I have given are confirmed by the British Airports Authority—

Mr. Walker


Mr. Ground

—and they are close to the figures put out by the Civil Aviation Authority. Members may have their own calculations and no doubt anyone who is interested in the airport has his own calculation of runway capacity. The 1982 figures tell us that at Stansted, with the existing runway, there were about 5,000 air transport movements. The finding of the inspector was that the capacity of the existing runway, with the development proposed of 15 million, would result in a capacity of no fewer than 165,000 movements.

In other words, there is that potential increase with the existing runway of 160,000 air transport movements. That must be a major consideration when contemplating an investment of several hundred million pounds, and the Government must have that important consideration in mind when making up their mind on the report.

Mr. Churchill

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that the CAA's estimate is for 330,000 air transport movements capacity at Heathrow airport?

Mr. Ground

That figure was in the report this summer. The BAA estimate is for between 300,000 and 305,000. But even if my hon. Friend is right to refer to a capacity of 330,000, the extra runway capacity beyond the current use is limited. It is an additional 55,000 movements, which compares unfavourably with the additional capacity available at Stansted.

It is all very well for my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) to refer to special orders to remove the Perry Oaks works, but not many hon. Members would be enthusiastic about the prospect of Perry Oaks being located in their constituencies. Indeed, it would be a draconian step to allow a sewage works on the scale of Perry Oaks, one of the largest in the country, to be relocated in the green belt, in an hon. Member's constituency, without a public inquiry and the normal safeguards.

If hon. Members think it is difficult to find a site for an airport, they will know that it is equally difficult to find a site that is acceptable for a sludge works on this scale. Any hon. Member not aware of that would soon discover it if the proposal affected his area. There was more than a week's evidence on that issue at the inquiry and, having heard it all, I believe that the inspector's estimate—that it would not be completed until the mid-1990s—could be optimistic.

I regard it as fantastic for my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds, after all the evidence has been given, to come forward with a quick solution. The fact that the project will take so long is plainly an important factor in the Secretary of State's eventual decision.

Two recommendations in the report involve a clear departure from Government promises — the proposal to abandon the 275,000 movement limit and the recommendation of the eventual construction of the fifth terminal—though I will not go in detail over the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) and others who referred to Government promises about both those matters. The Government would commit a major breach of faith if they acccepted either of these recommendations.

A fundamental point behind the inspector's recommendations is the fact that there is a need to maximise existing investment at Heathrow. I remind the Government that the last and largest investment at Heathrow — the construction of terminal 4 — occurred in the full knowledge that there would be a 275,000 limit and that, on completion, no fifth terminal would be permitted. That was the basis on which that major investment occurred. I suggest that those who are responsible cannot in fairness now complain of the need to maximise their investment or previous investment further.

Mr. Gerald Howarth

Will my hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Ground

I must continue, because of the time.

The belief that people living under the flight path could not distinguish between 275,000 movements and 300,000 or more movements is one basis of the inspector's decision. Last week I told a meeting of my constituents that the inspector thought that they could not tell the difference between the 275,000 and 300,000 movements, and they were incredulous. They said, "Where does the inspector live?" When I said that he lived in Sussex, they thought that explained everything.

I assure the Government that the people living around Heathrow are extremely sensitive to changes in the method of operation of the airport and in the number of movements. I entirely support the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel). Further restrictions on night movement and a rail link would be welcomed, but one must emphasise for the people concerned the great importance of the effect of the number of movements. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham that the number of movements is one of the greatest irritants and nuisances to the people living around the airport and under the flight path.

The Government's promise to limit the number of movements and to restrict further development at Heathrow matters greatly to the people living around Heathrow who have relied upon that promise. I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to follow a course of sensible investment by applying the criteria of runway capacity, to which I have referred, by looking at the practicalities of the matter in terms of timing and by respecting the Government's clear unequivocal pledges.

9.33 pm
Mr. Cecil Franks (Barrow and Furness)

This debate is on one of those rare issues which, though controversial, cut right across party political loyalties. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) on the way in which he presented the case not just for Manchester international airport but for the north. His speech was as good and balanced as the speech of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) was bad and unbalanced. To make a partisan political speech on a cross-party issue was an act of crass political ineptitude. The hon. Lady did her case and our case no service.

I declare an interest in this matter. I am one of three hon. Members — certainly the only Conservative Member — who have been members of the Manchester international airport committee. During the years before I became a Member I had the privilege of watching the growth of that airport and the pride of people in the north in that growth. That growth occurred not because of any Government direction or of any assistance from the British Airports Authority, British Airways or the Civil Aviation Authority — all of whom sought to thwart the development — but because of natural market forces. That reason should delight the hearts of Conservative Members.

One voice not yet heard in the debate is the voice of the consumer. The BAA pontificates about future demand and tells us where the consumer will want to go. British Airways pontificates about where, in its opinion, the consumer wants to go. However, we have evidence of what consumers themselves want. Some consumers want to fly direct to London—to Heathrow. The solution is simple — build a fifth terminal. Many consumers, equally, want to fly to Manchester. That is evidenced by the growth of Manchester international airport. The solution again is simple — allow the airport to develop naturally. Some consumers may wish to fly to Stansted: so be it; allow Stansted to develop naturally. Why should Conservative hon. Members, of all people, be asked to deny natural market forces? That defies the logic upon which we were elected.

I am one of a fairly rare breed of politician. I am a Conservative Member from the north. A rarer politician is the Labour Member from the south. I say that, not to score some dubious or spurious point over Opposition Members, but to emphasise the fact that there is a north-south divide which grows wider and wider. The political and economic division of our country is something of which we in this House should feel ashamed.

We constantly hear, from some hon. Members on these Benches, reference to the philosophy of one nation. If we believe in that philosophy, it is time that we started to practise it. I often look with envy at my colleagues from Scotland and consider how much time they are given in which to fight for their case. I do not begrudge them that time. I look with equal envy upon my colleagues from Wales who can further their causes in a similar manner. All too often, in the early hours of the morning, I look with great annoyance and equal envy at those from Northern Ireland who are able to occupy the time of the House for hour after hour. The real Cinderella of the House is the north of England. Hon. Members representing the north lose out time and time again in the opportunities afforded us to present our case.

The solution to the problems of the airline industry in Great Britain is obvious. We propose to deregulate the bus industry. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Secretary of State for promoting that policy. We deregulate this and deregulate that, but we neglect to deregulate fares, routes and licences in the airline industry.

The international airline passenger traffic is organised in a cosy cartel between national Governments and national airlines. The arrangement is just as much opposed to the interests of the consumer as is the rigging of oil prices by the member countries of OPEC. If we condemn OPEC for operating a cartel against the interests of the consumer, we should be just as vociferous in our criticism of the national airlines, which, to an equal extent, operate against the interests of the consumer. None is more guilty of that than British Airways. Its record is disgraceful.

About four weeks ago, I was abroad with a member of the Government. We travelled on a charter flight from Gatwick to Zurich and the return ticket cost £59.50. Because of urgent Government business, he had to fly back early on a scheduled flight. For a single ticket on a scheduled flight from Zurich to Gatwick he was charged £180. When that Minister complained to me, I could do no more than remind him that he is the Minister responsible for privatisation. Perhaps he will now practise what he preaches.

The House has been given many statistics, and I should like to give two more. One illustrates Manchester airport's natural growth in spite of the obstacles. There were 100 per cent. more charter flight passengers last year than five years ago. For the same period, there was only a 2 per cent. growth in the number of passengers on scheduled flights. Those statistics invite the question: why? The answer is obvious. Charter flights are unfettered by regulations while scheduled flights are at the whim of the CAA. It is virtually impossible for a scheduled airline to fly to Manchester, as is evidenced by British Airways' opposition to Singapore Airlines. United States airlines have met similar opposition because they are not part of the Bermuda agreement.

I give the second statistic to refute the spurious argument that everyone who flies to the United Kingdom wants to go to London. There is no evidence to substantiate that view. According to the British Tourist Board, 2.5 million United States citizens flew to London last year. One third of that number then visited the north. Why could they not fly to the north in the first place? I have not yet heard a sensible answer to that question except that there are vested interests determined not to be broken although that might be in the interests of consumers and the north.

At 12 midnight I shall go into the Division Lobby to register my opposition to the inspector's report If the Government believe in the free market, let there be a free market and a free vote in the House when we have to make a decision.

9.43 pm
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

The hon. and learned Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Ground) was worried on two counts: first, that there are too many flights into Heathrow, and, secondly, that there is a problem associated with getting rid of the sewage works. May I inform him that the people of Greater Manchester are only too willing to have the extra flights but do not want the sewage works. The trouble is that the deal usually works out so that people in the north of England get the sewage works and others get the flights. We want a much better deal.

The hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks) might believe firmly in free market forces, but his choice of Manchester airport as an example was unfortunate. He should know from his service on Manchester city council that it was the enterprise of that council and more recently, the Greater Manchester council that did much to develop the airport. Almost all hon. Members who have spoken in favour of the north-west argued that we need more assistance from the Government if that airport is to develop and become more successful. The case for the north-west has been forcefully presented to the House, and I hope that the Minister will take note of it. I slightly regret the fact that there has not been as much emphasis in favour of pump-priming and development in other regions, such as the north-east, Yorkshire and Scotland.

Developments at Manchester airport have done a great deal to increase job opportunities both in services provided at the airport and in firms, which realise that by setting up offices and service depots in the Greater Manchester area they have access to the whole of western Europe. In my constituency several firms are now able to serve the whole of western Europe from a base in Tameside or Stockport. Such places are probably as efficient as any others in the United Kingdom and, probably, in Europe. I hope that the Government will do all they can to encourage that development.

The time spent at an airport is extremely important for firms which are sending out service engineers or spare parts. The speed with which people and equipment can be handled through Manchester airport is impressive. One cannot begin to compare the speed of arriving at Manchester airport, hiring a car and reaching the motorway with the problems at Heathrow. It is much faster via Manchester.

The hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill) said that there was no sense in encouraging people to fly from Manchester to Heathrow and then to a European destination, and that the sensible thing was to make it possible for them to fly directly from Manchester to an increasing number of European destinations. The slowness of progress through Heathrow means that most regular travellers to Europe from Manchester prefer to change anywhere but at Heathrow. Therefore, it is in our interests to give people the opportunity to fly directly to their destinations rather than to interline somewhere else in Europe.

Heathrow will not be able to meet the needs of travellers to interline at Heathrow. The more terminals, the longer one will spend moving from one to another. Regular travellers find the time spent moving round an airport particularly frustrating. There are now sufficient people in the north-west who want to fly direct to European destinations. The Government should give every encouragement to getting direct flights from Manchester to those destinations. They should not insist that people take the shuttle to Heathrow.

One of the major problems for Manchester airport is that many people do not appreciate how easy it is to reach it. It annoys me when I wait at the airport to hear people expressing surprise about how easy it was to reach the airport. From most of the northern part of Britain it is easier to reach Manchester than Heathrow. It is sad that so many people still assume that Heathrow is easier to reach than Manchester.

A rail link into Manchester airport would break that psychological barrier and improve communications further. As the railway is within two miles of the airport, it is scandulous that the Government have provided money to develop rail links and improve communications to all the southern airports but not for the rail link to Manchester airport. I say firmly to the Minister that if he wants to convince people in the north of England that he believes in Manchester airport he must make sure that money is available for the rail link.

I have a slight fear that British Rail's heart is not fully in that rail link because it still sees itself in competition with the airlines for travel to London. Certainly the most recent British Rail advertising campaign is an attack on the shuttle service. That is shortsighted of British Rail. If it were to encourage the link by putting up the money or getting the Government to do so, more people would want to use the railway into Manchester and it would gain more passengers than it would lose to the shuttle service.

I hope that the Minister will listen to the voices that have been raised in the House today arguing that money should be spent in the regions rather than in the south-east. In particular, the Government should put up the money quickly for the rail link into Manchester airport.

9.50 pm
Mr. John Whitfield (Dewsbury)

We have heard many interesting speeches tonight, many of them expressing sectional interests of one sort or another, but my heart bled when I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) complaining about the likely effects on the quality of life of his constituents of the establishment of a fifth terminal at London airport.

Twickenham has the jobs and the money that the airport provides. The people there are lucky enough to live in the M4 corridor, which is often referred to as the golden triangle of the nation. They have the convenience of a major airport on their doorstep. I understand that the value of houses in Barnes and Richmond is as high as anywhere in London. Yet my hon. Friend comes to the House and says that we must worry about the quality of life of his constituents.

My hon. Friend's constituents are a little naive if, living on the borders of the world's No. 1 international airport, they think that that airport will not be jealous of that position and seek to maintain it. I hope that I may be forgiven for saying that they are also somewhat naive if they believe the solemn and binding undertakings of politicians.

I had intended to say quite a bit this evening about the British Airports Authority, but scorn has been poured on its head from both sides of the House and it ill-behoves me to add to it. However, let me urge on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State a point relating to the cross-subsidisation which is practised between Heathrow and Stansted. My right hon. Friend will soon be urging upon the House legislation on buses, which I for one completely support. We shall hear many arguments from the Government Benches about the evils of cross-subsidisation. I see no reason why the same principle should not apply in the aircraft industry as in the bus industry.

Until my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks) spoke in his forthright manner, little had been said about tourism. There are many tourists in London. If we are to worry about the qualities of life, one should remember that those qualities are considerably eroded for at least nine months of the year in London. The number of tourists in the city and around about, particularly in the city of Westminster, amount to a public nuisance. The hotels are full and the theatres are packed, often with philistines who do not know the difference between a good play and a bad one. We have already heard that one third of the people who are forced to fly to the south-east have no desire to visit it. If we have to suffer the blue rinse route—I know that there are currency and other advantages to be obtained from it — there is no reason why it should not start at Manchester rather than at Stansted or Heathrow.

The regional tourist boards are well equipped to cope with any number of tourists. My own regional tourist board, Yorkshire and Humberside, has produced a magnificent brochure, which I have just read. It has almost persuaded me to take my holidays in Yorkshire, which I have not done for a long time. If it has that effect on me, surely it could lure tourists from the North American continent to the north of England. Surely they could be persuaded to visit York minster just as easily as they could be persuaded to visit Westminster; the Castle museum in York is just as much of an attraction as the British museum and the Humber bridge as Tower bridge. Many American tourists have already done London once. Statistics show that they are spending less and less time in London.

I am surprised that so little reference has been made in the debate to the position paper which British Airways issued on 15 January. It is clear from appendices A and B of that document that British Airways itself has many reservations about Stansted. I shall not waste the time of the House by reading quotations from that paper, but I urge my right hon. Friend to study it, if he has not already done so. It is clear from the document that British Airways, our major flag carrier, is reluctant to use Stansted and believes that if the regional airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, were properly utilised, the need for Stansted would be at the very least a buffer, a contingency to fall back on.

As always, it is the convenience of the indigenous air traveller which seems to be the last consideration in matters such as this. I was interested to hear my right hon. Friend say when opening the debate that airports and air travel should serve the public. I urge him to remember that it is the public who live in this country who are to be served. The principal objective of the British Airports Authority should not simply be to launder the international air traffic which passes through London airport. That must be a secondary consideration.

My right hon. Friend should not turn his back on the north. He should resist the self-interested representations of the institutions of the airline industry. Any further concentration of charter air travel in the south-east will be extremely divisive. There is no overwhelming evidence of a need to develop Stansted. The airlines themselves are reluctant to go there. Regional airports can and should take up any excess demand. The fact that Mr. Graham Eyre, about whom many kind things have been said today, says in a rather pompous manner that the regional airports should not help out with the problem in the south-east is abominable. It shows the southern bias of the man, and we have heard that he lives in Sussex. [HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraceful".] It is not disgraceful.

I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to think very carefully before committing large amounts of unproductive Government expenditure to developing Stansted. If following my advice and the advice of so many other hon. Members means that Mr. Graham Eyre occasionally has to travel to Manchester to take an international flight, so much the better—it may broaden the man's mind.

9.59 pm
Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)

Having been straining at the leash for some time, I am grateful for being released from the starting gate—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

  1. BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE 16,223 words, 1 division