HC Deb 30 January 1985 vol 72 cc365-94

Ordered, That, at this day's sitting, the Motion in the name of the Prime Minister for the Adjournment of the House may be proceeded with, though opposed, until Twelve o'clock. — [Mr. Sainsbury.]

Question again proposed, That this House do now adjourn.

Mr. Thompson

I wish to support my hon. Friends the Members for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) and for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Silvester) and the many others who have spoken so ably against any significant expansion of Stansted airport. My views on this are coloured by three factors, which do not include my recent experience as a member of the Standing Committee on the Civil Aviation Bill. My boyhood was spent in north Essex, my early career was spent in the north of England, where I also stood as a parliamentary candidate, and I now represent a more northern and remote part of East Anglia.

My experience as a boy in Essex can be summed up very briefly. I was brought up in an area that includes not just Stansted but Thaxted and Finchingfield, which is regarded as the most beautiful village in Essex. It is quite wrong that anyone should ever have considered a major expansion of Stansted airport, because the case against such a development in that area is extremely strong on environmental grounds alone. It is amazing that the matter should have been under debate for so long. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said today that we must make a decision very quickly. Labour Ministers said the same in 1965. Why has no decision been taken in 20 years? It is because Stansted is the wrong place for such an expansion and the wrong place for a third London airport.

I also have strong links with the north of England and am glad to support the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks) and of Opposition Members, including the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike), who rightly pointed out the real and increasing divide between north and south. They should recognise, however, that this serious problem results from wrong decisions by Labour Governments as well as more recent decisions which they seek to criticise. Any opportunity consistent with the Government's economic strategy, which I support, to redress that imbalance between north and south must be grasped eagerly.

I have not tangled very deeply with the inspector's report, but I note that he refers to the North of England Regional Consortium as a leap of faith, but it is clear from the report that any decision to expand Stansted would be an even greater and more suspect leap of faith, especially in view of the environmental implications and the urgent need for improved communications in the area to make such a development possible at all.

Once a week I travel up the Whitechapel road, the M11 and—I hesitate to mention this again in the presence of the Secretary of State for Transport — the A11 to Norfolk. I am being given signals to get off the subject quickly. Those of us who drive up the Whitechapel road, through Leytonstone and up the M11, realise what foolishness it would be to have a large London airport sitting next door to the M11. As the Member of Parliament for Norwich, North—and I have an interest to declare because Norwich airport is situated in my constituency—I have to consider this matter in any judgment that I may wish to make in a debate.

In fairness, I should point out that in Norfolk there are mixed views on the question of Stansted airport. I know that it is the policy of Norwich city council and of Norfolk county council to oppose in principle any large-scale development of Stansted airport. They wish, rightly, to encourage the development of Norwich airport to serve the needs of the region. In my view, this must mean modest development for Norwich airport with a view to encouraging further business and tourism activity in Norfolk and East Anglia generally. This will surely help to preserve and increase job opportunities not only in my constituency but in neighbouring Norfolk constituencies.

To take just one example from my constituency, many people in Norwich are employed by the airline Air U.K. Ltd. I have their interests very much in mind when I come to any judgment in the debate.

I appreciate that the Government and the Secretary of State have in mind the encouragement and development of regional airports such as Norwich. The nub of the case that we are considering surely is that the inspector in his summary says: The growth of passenger demand will continue into the foreseeable future. In so far as that demand arises in the south east, it should be met by the provision of additional capacity within the region. With respect, I regard that as a non sequitur if ever there was one. As an ex-schoolmaster, I know that the demand for entry into Oxford university — or perhaps I should say Cambridge university tonight — is ever-increasing, but it does not follow that everybody will go to that university.

The Stansted question has gone on for far too long. We have all been subjected to an endless flow of statistics, circulars and so on. I believe that we must encourage increased activity and prosperity where there is room and people want it. If we change the rules by defeating the Stansted idea once and for all, the market will adapt and there will be benefit for all the regions.

Today we have a chance to end the pressure for Stansted that has been going on for 30 or more years and the pressure for ever more development in the south-east at the expense of the north. We have the opportunity to end the pressure for any south-east inland airport which will be to the detriment of people who live in these areas. We know, and have heard tonight repeatedly, that the case for Stansted expansion is weak. We know that it is wrong. Let us take this chance to make that clear once and for all.

10.8 pm

Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

I have great sympathy with the view expressed by the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) and I shall do my best to respond to it briefly because I believe that, especially in his latter remarks, he made an appeal to the House that we should consider carefully.

I believe that any hon. Member who participates in a debate should do his best to listen to the speeches that are made from the Government and Opposition Front Benches at the beginning of the debate. I have followed this rule in almost every debate in the House in which I have participated. It so happens that I did not hear the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) or the Minister, for which I apologise. [Interruption] If hon. Members listened, they would understand why I wish to intervene. I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, would not have called me if I were not entitled to take part. All hon. Members, if they possibly can, should listen to the opening speeches from both sides of the House. I say to Government Members, who apparently are irritated that anyone from the Opposition should speak in such terms, that I have participated in more debates on these matters than—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Foot

We had a debate on Stansted in 1968 or 1969 in which I participated and on which we voted. The Labour Government were proposing to proceed to build an airport at Stansted, although their proposal was tentative. The House was full and the vote was large. There were many differences of opinion and I was dubious about the case put from the Treasury Bench by Anthony Crosland on behalf of the Department of the Environment. As always, he made an extremely powerful case, but a few of us were not convinced by it. I have a strong recollection of the debates in the House on this subject. In that Parliament the Government majority was considerably narrower than it is today and therefore the way in which hon. Members voted was of more decisive consequence.

Not because of the failure of Anthony Crosland to present his case—he always did that well—but because of what I believed to be the de-merits of the case, I was not prepared to support the Labour Government on that occasion. I listened carefully to those who put the case against the extension of the airport at Stansted and I thought that their case was powerful. They have a powerful case today, which is why I intervene now.

I agree with the hon. Member for Norwich, North. I think that it would be valuable for the country as a whole if we could kill off here and now the whole idea of a large extension of Stansted. I shall be happy to vote to achieve that result at the end of our discussions, and I hope that as many hon. Members as possible will help to secure that result. Stan Newens, who knew the area well, would not vote for the Government, who were then supporting the idea of extending Stansted. I took the same view. One of the reasons why even so long ago we were so opposed to the proposition concerned, of what would happen to many towns and villages. If the plan for the expansion of Stansted had been carried through, it would have caused the wrecking of many communities.

Some hon. Members today have put their case strongly and I respect their case. Many towns and villages in Essex and elsewhere will be wrecked if the plan goes ahead. We have to be careful about doing that. I hate to vote for the wreckage of such communities. I only wish that some hon. Members who are so passionate in defending communities around Stansted were equally passionate in defending the communities around Abertillery and Ebbw Vale. Exactly the same kind of community spirit is involved.

I do not suppose that any hon. Member who tries to put the case against the Government's proposals will mock the community spirit of all the towns and villages that are to be found around Stansted. Those people are defending their communities. They cannot bear the idea of their communities being uprooted and wrecked unless it is for an absolutely paramount national purpose. The same community spirit exists in Abertillery, Blaenau, Nantyglo and all the towns and villages that contain mining communities. Perhaps some of those who so strongly defend the rights of the inhabitants of towns and communities in that part of England will also defend the rights of the inhabitants of communities that depend upon the mining industry.

So at least I am consistent. That is why, when the matter was posed some 20 years ago, I found it very difficult to go into the Lobby and say, "Let us vote for it, irrespective of the consequences for all those towns and villages". There is always a difficult and awkward balance to be struck. Some communities have to be uprooted and sacrificed to the national interest, but it ought to be done with the utmost care and reticence. There have been reports by inspectors, it is true, but I have seen inspectors' reports that do not pay very much regard to these important considerations. I do not say that all of those important considerations are neglected. A balance has to be struck. However, if many communities around Stansted would be wrecked by this proposal, we ought to be very careful before we vote for it. I shall not vote for it. Communities around Heathrow could make claims, too, but not quite the same claims.

The reason for the disturbance in the House tonight is the different balance of community representation. If anybody jeered at me at the beginning of my speech for getting up to speak on the matter, I would say to them that I have spoken before on the matter and that I shall always examine the possibilities for preserving communities that are fighting for their rights. Those hon. Members who have spoken on behalf of such communities are doing just that. I do not believe that the hopes and the rights of those communities should be killed off by one vote tonight. That cannot be done. Indeed, so strong is the case against the extension of Stansted that if sufficient Conservative Members were to vote in the Aye Lobby with the Opposition the proposal would be killed off. That would be a good day not only for Stansted but for the House of Commons.

However, I read in the newspapers that the Government propose to deal with the matter in a very different way. A report in today's Financial Times—I am sure that all hon. Members agree that the Financial Times reporter is a most reliable political correspondent who tells the Government exactly what they are up to and what is going on—says: The Government has ducked the threat of a Tory revolt and a probable defeat in the establishment of a third London airport at Stansted. It has instructed Ministers and their parliamentary private secretaries not to vote when the issue is debated in the Commons tonight; and has put its back-benchers on a one-line whip—a tacit encouragement to abstain. To deal with the matter in such a fashion is to demean the House of Commons. The Government must face up to these questions sooner or later. Why do they not face up to them now? Many Opposition Members have for many years conducted a campaign for the north-west in order to sustain the claims of Manchester, and, as we have seen tonight, many Conservative Members have put that case strongly.

The Government submitted to the demands for a debate and underlined its importance by agreeing that we should have an extra two hours so that more hon. Members could participate. For the Government then to say, "We shall make a mockery of the vote" is an insult not only to hon. Members who are interested in the subject but to the House. Adjournment debates are an important instrument for the House. Some of Parliament's most important debates have taken place on Adjournment motions. The Government have no right to say that they will not regard an Adjournment debate as a matter of importance and that Ministers will be told to stay away.

If the newspaper story is not true, I hope that it will be repudiated. The Minister who is to reply may tell us to wait and see how many Ministers vote. We shall count them. If all the Ministers vote—we know how obediently they turn up when they are required to do so—we shall know that the story is not true. However, if Ministers stay away, it will be a shameful treatment of the House by the Government and a special insult to hon. Members who have participated in the debate and pressed the case of their constituents with all the strength that they can.

It seems that some Conservative Members are irritated that I should be speaking in the debate. Apparently, they would rather debate the matter than win the issue. We would rather win the issue. We want to kill off Stansted. I was against it 20 years ago and I am against it now. If Conservative Members wish to assist us in killing off Stansted, they can vote with us, and if we achieve a substantial majority the Government will have to take account of what has been said.

If the Government try to pretend that the vote, which ever way it goes, is of no consequence, they will insult some Conservative Members, infringe the rules of the House and injure our possible ways of proceeding in the future. How can we have Adjournment debates if it is said that it does not matter which way they go?

Perhaps the most important parliamentary debate this century—the overthrow of the Chamberlain Government in 1940 — took place on an Adjournment motion. [Interruption.] I know that some hon. Members want to trivialise the debate and none more so than the Secretary of State for Transport, who will not last very long anyway. Any attempt by the Government to trivialise Adjournment debates will be injurious to the House. I invite all hon. Members who do not want to see the development of Stansted and want to uphold the rights of the House to vote with the official Opposition. That is the way to uphold the rights of the House.

10.23 pm
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

It is a great pleasure to be called to participate in the debate after the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), who is one of Parliament's great orators. I am sorry to say that on this occasion, as on others, the right hon. Gentleman allowed his emotions to overrun his appraisal of the mood of the House. I have great respect for the right hon. Gentleman and I happen to think that he is one of our distinguished parliamentarians. I am merely making the observation that, not for the first time, he has misjudged the mood of the House.

It is clear that the Eyre report is an important document. I believe that Mr. Graham Eyre has done Parliament and the country a great service by producing it. We have been given the opportunity to debate important and essential issues. There has been imput to the debate from almost every part of the country and I am delighted that I have been given the opportunity to make an imput to it from the most northern constituency that has featured in it.

No one can accuse me of having a direct interest in what is going on at Heathrow other than as a commuter from Scotland at least twice a week. However, I have an interest in aviation which I must declare at the outset. I have an interest in an airline company.

Airline companies respond to the needs of the market within operating restrictions, and it is the regulations that often present the problem. We have heard of the difficulties at Manchester airport, and I have intervened on one or two occasions to elicit some useful information. If we are to talk about free competition and the opportunity for customers to travel, we must examine the opportunities that are available to the airlines to provide a service. Unless the opportunities are open to the airlines, there is no prospect of them using our airports. On the other hand, if there are opportunities for the airlines because the regulations are so framed, we must consider why airlines do not want to operate out of certain airports. The usual reason is that the airlines are not convinced that it will be commercially viable for them to do so.

Observations have been made about charter operations and an attempt has been made to confuse them with scheduled operations. Scheduled flights have to be flown irrepective of whether the aircraft are full, whereas charter operators will not fly unless they have fully booked aircraft. That is the general pattern.

As a regular user of Heathrow airport, I recognise that Heathrow is the jewel in the crown of civil aviation in the United Kingdom. If we do not maximise the use of Heathrow airport, we are being foolish and doing a disservice to many of those who have spoken against development at Heathrow this evening. Unless Heathrow continues to meet the demands of the world's airlines and customers—that calls for giving them adequate facilities when they land because there is no point in having aircraft land there if the terminal facilities are inadequate and do not meet the needs of the customers — it will not prosper. I have believed for a long time that those who argue against the fifth terminal development have not taken on board the needs of the customers, and it is their needs that matter.

It is unfortunate that we have become bogged down in the air traffic movement limit, which I happen to believe is nonsensical. All the airlines would say that it is nonsensical, as would the Civil Aviation Authority. There is plenty of scope for additional movements at Heathrow. It is true that at certain hours of the day the airfield is fully utilised, but at other times it is very much under-utilised. The answer lies in the slotting arrangements, which are made by the airlines. It is not known by many who debate these matters that it is the airlines which agree on which slot a particular airline will occupy.

Mr. Gerald Howarth

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is the view of the airlines and the Heathrow scheduling committee that the airport's capacity is considerably more than 330,000 ATMs — nobody knows exactly — and that we should leave the airlines to come to a decision?

Mr. Walker

I agree. There is no doubt that the airlines and the national air traffic services which are responsible for the safe movement of aircraft agree that there is scope for additional ATMs at Heathrow. Of course, the prime consideration must be safety. That must be the only real consideration. Provided that it is safe to operate within certain limits, the maximum use should be made of Heathrow, the jewel in the crown.

There is scope at Gatwick for further development. It is wrong that we should be using the major runway there for commuter aircraft; there should be a commuter runway at Gatwick. I have been in small aircraft which have been stacked, waiting to come into Gatwick after heavier aircraft have landed, and that has been a frustrating experience. Let us develop Gatwick.

The whole Stansted issue must be considered sensibly and objectively. The runway and facilities are there and the terminal is coping with present demand. Stansted should be allowed to develop and evolve naturally, remembering that a substantial number of airlines want to go there. Hon. Members should note that the demand to use Stansted, particularly for charter operations, is increasing. That particularly applies to airlines from the eastern seaboard of the United States and elsewhere, and that interest should be allowed to develop.

Much has been said about Manchester airport, and I intervened earlier to refer to airlines which had authority to fly there but had not done so. At a given time in airline evolution, the economics may not make it practicable to use a licence to fly to an airport. We have lived through a period of intense difficulty when airlines, like everyone else, have had to face the economic problems resulting from the activities of the OPEC countries in the last 10 years.

As a result, there were times when airlines with licences did not use them because it would have stretched their liquidity to do so. That did not mean that scope did not exist for airlines to operate at those airports; simply that, at that time in their evolution, they did not have the capital to do so.

We are now entering a new era in airline and aviation activity and we should not look at the future in a blinkered way. Manchester airport has a great future and it should be a gateway to the north Atlantic and elsewhere.

It will not come as a surprise to hon. Members when I say that I am a great supporter of Prestwick. However, I shall not spend time tonight on that subject, other than to say that it is already a gateway. Those who ask why it is now coming back into use as a gateway should realise that that is happening because of the changing fortunes of the airlines. Things are improving, and I see opportunities ahead for them.

The Government must not muff this one. Never again must we be in the position of not being able to see a realistic future for the British airline and aviation industry. The Government should make the maximum use of Heathrow and Gatwick and allow Stansted to develop as the demand increases. That could mean an additional 5 million rather than 15 million passengers. Either way, there will be a demand to use Stansted because the runway and facilities are there and the airlines will want to use it.

Those who think that if we do not allow the development of Heathrow, including terminal 5, to take place — the commuter airlines will have access to that major airport — are kidding themselves. Unless we guarantee an increase in movements and increased facilities to meet that increase, airports throughout the country with commuter services going into Heathrow will face problems.

I therefore counsel those who have been discussing the issue from the narrow aspect of their local airports to remember that, whatever happens in the future, Heathrow will continue to be the jewel in the crown and the magnet and that we shall want our commuter aircraft to use that airport.

10.34 pm
Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow)

One of the great mysteries to me has been the fact that during the past 20 years the most consistent piece of Government policy—no matter which party has been, in power—has been the desire to undertake the major expansion of Stansted airport. Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry, for the Environment or for Transport, after collecting their seals, after the kissing of hands ceremony and after leaving Buckingham palace, go back to the great white Lubianka in Marsham street and go through the secret, simple and moving ceremony of being given the documents dealing with a major expansion of Stansted airport.

It is right and proper that there should be passion in this debate from hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) and, if he gets the opportunity, my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), because they live in the area and have their constituents' interests at heart. I commend my hon. Friends for that. There are, however, many people in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) who have fought against the major expansion of that airport for 21 years. Promises have been made and broken by successive Governments. It is right that Stansted airport's expansion, which seems to behave like some great unslaked vampire, should finally be laid to rest this evening.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), in a forceful and perceptive speech, made it clear—

Mr. Eric S. Heifer (Liverpool, Walton)

I just want to explain the mystery to the hon. Gentleman. Does he not realise that there are civil servants who have these plans in little cubby holes and, when they find a Minister stupid enough to take them out and make them his own, they are presented to the House of Commons as Government policy?

Mr. Hayes

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but I shall say no more on that matter. I understand what he says.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds rightly said that long-term passenger predictions had been horribly wrong. There is no reason why the figures put forward by the inspector will be wrong as well. It would be foolish to deny that there will be an increase in passenger demand in the next few years, but we should not forget that it would be a grave mistake to expand Stansted airport, to the detriment of the environment and of the people. We are talking about investment in the infrastructure worth about £716 million, about the British Airports Authority spending £1 billion in extending a terminal, and about extending a rail link at a cost of £170 million. All the time our Chancellor and our Government are telling us that we should be particularly worried and careful about the public sector borrowing requirement.

It is about time the Government grasped the nettle of understanding that we must have a consistent and coherent airport strategy and policy that will bring us fairly and squarely into the 21st century and beat off foreign competition. We should accept wholeheartedly the inspector's recommendation to expand terminal 5 immediately. Let it be expanded to take 53 million passengers, but at the same time let Stansted be allowed to expand naturally from 5 million to perhaps 6 million or 7 million passengers.

Ours is the Government of free competition. Where is the free competition at Stansted at the moment? The airport is heavily subsidised, but still loses £4 million a year. We are the party of free competition and market forces. Let us give the north a fair slice of the cake. We have not done so over the years. That is one of the reasons why I shall not vote with the Government this evening.

British Airways has made it clear that a major expansion of Stansted airport would be an economic disaster. The split-site operation would increase BA's operating costs by about 5 per cent. It would add £150 million a year to those operating costs.

Mr. Tim Smith

That is British Airways' problem.

Mr. Hayes

It is the taxpayers' problem, and it will be an even greater problem for the taxpayer because it will be a further shadow cast over the privatisation of the airline.

How will my constituency be affected in terms of jobs? The effect will be devastating. One of my largest electrical employers, who employs several thousand people, made it clear to the public inquiry that it would consider pulling out of the constituency. There would be a net loss of jobs, though we have heard about the mass migration of thousands of people into my constituency. The inspector talked about the urbanisation of Harlow. There are already only 14 acres of development land left. The housing list grows longer every day, yet the inspector talked of the possible substantial urbanisation of Harlow. He said that about 17,000 dwellings would have to be built in the area.

I understand the real fears of those hon. Members who have a constituency interest in terminal 5. However, what does the inspector say about noise? He says: I am wholly satisfied that the development and operation of a fifth terminal would not have a perceptible effect on the noise climate in the Heathrow area. The development would not delay the improvement or rate of improvement in any way that would be discernible to those affected by Heathrow air noise. The first message that should be brought home to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is one that was made to him forcefully in the CAA debate. The limitation on air traffic movements of 275,000 which the Government intend to impose at Heathrow is nonsense. It will make nonsense of terminal 4, and it will make terminal 5 utterly impossible. I am sure that many of my hon. Friends accept that, with the new microwave techniques, it is possible to have more than the 330 air traffic movements suggested in the CAA's revised figures.

As the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) said in a speech with which I wholeheartedly agreed, we must make it clear to the Government and the country that the House will not be ridden over roughshod. My hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction must realise that a number of hon. Members are dissatisfied with the present proposals and that a number of us will not allow our constituencies and our communities to be devastated.

10.43 pm
Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

Because of the great importance of Manchester international airport, the Opposition's contribution to the debate has been dominated by my hon. Friends from the north-west of England. However, we do not mean to imply that the debate is about Manchester airport. It is about airport strategy and policy for the country as a whole.

We all accept that—as the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) rightly said — Heathrow will continue to be the centre of the United Kingdom's airports policy. Although we are defending our communities and their interests, we have a common cause with other northern airports such as Newcastle and Leeds-Bradford, Scottish airports such as Prestwick. The hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Hayes), he spoke with a clear constituency interest, but that is not incompatible with a national airports policy. We must have such a policy. That is what is so disappointing with the inspector's report. It is not an objective report about a national airports policy but one that is premised and predicated by pressure from the airline establishment, the CAA and the BAA, which have a strong vested interest in the development of Stansted.

The CAA was not designed as anything other than a regulatory body. That it should have chosen, 48 hours before the debate, to weigh in on the side of the inspector's report and Stansted calls into question its future and reputation. The report is premised by acceptance of the orthodoxies of the airline establishment. I pay tribute to the North of England Regional Consortium, which has made information freely available to all hon. Members. It is one of the few groups that has given us the opportunity to examine arguments that run counter to the report, the airline establishment and, it seems, the Secretary of State.

The report does not tackle some basic facts. There is no adequate discussion of the costs of developing Stansted. That should be compared with the Roskill report, which made a detailed examination of the cost structures then available. As to the evidence on which the inspector bases his report, I should like to quote from Colin Buchanan's pamphlet "Deadlock at Stansted". He writes: The result of the Inspector's approach is strikingly illustrated by his own estimates of the future distribution of air travel. By 1995 the passenger through-put in London airports will be twice that of all the other UK airports put together. With a mere 17 million people living in the South East and 37 million elsewhere it sounds like forecasting gone mad". He is right, because the inspector talks of 75 million movements in the south-east and only 36 million in the rest of the country. He is effectively telling people in the north, Scotland and Wales that they will either be denied the opportunity to travel through airports or will have to go through airports in the south-east. That is ridiculous and an insult to my constituents and those of many other right hon. and hon. Members.

The amount of capital required to develop Stansted is also unacceptable to those of us who do not represent the south-east. Even the minimal estimates of the inspector are for perhaps £500 million. The more realistic estimates of the North of England Regional Consortium reach £1.3 billion. We simply cannot accept so much investment going to the south-east. I do not want to deny the southeast of its share of public investment, but it would not be acceptable for such a massive development to go ahead in one region at a time of public expenditure restraint and directly at the expense of other regions. In Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow we need investment in housing, schools and the infrastructure. Such cities have housing crises and decaying sewers. They have a manifest need for investment both to create employment and facilities that are decaying. We could not, therefore, accept that investment.

Moreover, such investment would deny other airports their place in the airport structure of the United Kingdom. If Stansted is developed, it will guarantee that Manchester airport cannot be the gateway airport, about which even the Government Front Bench will refer to in glowing terms. Given massive airport development in the southeast, airlines will not allow their aircraft to fly into and out of the north of England.

We were willing to co-operate with British Airways recently about the CAA report. But British Airways has not been a friend to Manchester airport in the past. It has taken a defensive strategy and has known that it is safer to operate from the south-east. It was not prepared to experiment and to move to Manchester, where the commercial gain exists, but at a higher risk.

The north-east has passengers. Our catchment area represents 20 million people. I should be delighted to know what the Minister finds so amusing about the plight of Manchester airport. If he is listening, perhaps he would like to leap to his feet and explain. In the absence of any comment from him, I repeat that Manchester airport has a catchment area of 20 million people. That is as large as that in the south-east. The area deserves the third international airport, but not at the exclusion of developments in Leeds-Bradford, Speke or other regional airports. That would not be the case with the development of Stansted. If Stansted is developed, Manchester and all other regional airports would not have the necessary capital made available to expand.

The issue is important for the north-west, and it unites hon. Members from all regions. Hon. Members representing the south-east recognise the need for an airports policy, which will maintain the supremacy of the south-east as the centre of the air industry. But they recognise, as we do, the importance of allowing people who do not live within an hour of London the opportunity of an airport structure which serves their interests as consumers and in developing the economies of those areas.

10.53 pm
Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)

I speak as the authentic voice of Heathrow airport because the entire airport, including terminals 4 and 5, lie within my constituency. The development is vital to the from the north on both sides of the House, I find it amazing that some of my hon. Friends, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), should be unconcerned about the creation of so many jobs and more concerned about the problems of noise.

As I understand it, all airlines want T5. Travellers coming to London want to arrive at Heathrow. I remind my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of a comment he made to me when I suggested that some domestic movements could be moved from Heathrow elsewhere. He said: When people fly to London, they want to come to Heathrow, not Gatwick or Stansted. I hope that he will bear that in mind when he comes to make some decisions.

Regional airports have an important part to play in the future of civil aviation. Being in favour of terminal 5 does not mean being opposed to regional expansion. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have rightly made the point about the need for the Government to take into consideration the north and its problems of unemployment and so on. I fully support a scheme that would allow for the expansion of Manchester and other northern airports alongside the development of terminal 5.

A third major airport at Stansted is not wanted. The Government should bear in mind that that strong view has been put forward during the seven hours of this debate. However, a marginal increase in traffic movements would be accepted by those who live in and around the area, but nothing more at this stage.

Terminal 5 is seen as providing the best solution for future additional airport capacity. The inspector saw terminal 5 as providing an opportunity on the best site anywhere in the United Kingdom for airport expansion to modernise and improve Heathrow's facilities. There will also be the increased prosperity throughout the area to which I have referred.

The inspector dealt fully and comprehensively with noise. He dismissed the arguments of the well organised and articulate anti-Heathrow noise lobby. One wonders how many of those people who complain about noise have moved into the area since Heathrow has developed at reduced house prices and now want to maintain the value of their properties. The inspector said that terminal 5 would not make a perceptible difference on either the level of noise or the rate of noise reduction in future. I fully agree with that.

The inspector also said that the 275,000 ATM limit was misconceived and ill-advised, and he produced substantial evidence to justify that view. Approximately 20,000 general ATMs at Heathrow could be moved immediately and I should like to see that happen straight away.

One wonders why the Government tried to introduce the Civil Aviation Bill to bring those movements in. My guess is that it had something to do with civil servants who seem to be controlling civil aviation and its policy developments in Britain. At times Sir Norman Payne could be substituted for the permanent secretary in the Department of Transport and nobody would notice the difference in the work done.

Infrastructure improvements are necessary in the Heathrow area whether or not terminal 5 is built and prior to the coming on line of terminal 4. The inspector supports the view of the Hillingdon borough council that the Hayes bypass should be built. He felt that it had a strategic role to play and should be given trunk road status or 100 per cent. funding from the Department of Transport. He went on to say that the Department's view as to why it should not be a trunk road or 100 per cent. funded was wholly unacceptable and he could not understand the reasoning or the lack of it.

The expansion of the Piccadilly line would make a real contribution to the access to Heathrow, and that was also supported by the inspector. As we have heard, British Rail is developing a junction at Iver station and a link from there to Heathrow is a possibility which could also make some contribution to solving the potential access problems of the airport.

Terminal 5 has the advantage that it could be financed by the airlines and would provide an attractive rate of return if Heathrow were to be privatised. That is also important in the context of the public expenditure aspects of the capital investment. Government capital investment would be modest but long overdue in the successful part of south-east England where public investment has not kept pace with the increase in economic development. The Government must bear that in mind when they make their decision.

I am pleased that the British Airports Authority has suddenly come round to being in favour of terminal 5. If or when terminal 5 comes on line, we must ensure that the dirty hands of the BAA are kept away from it. It created chaos when it organised the operation of terminal 4. The people who want to use terminal 4 have not been consulted about the layout. The concessionaires on the car hire side have been told that they will have small kiosks where only one person will be able to work and where they will not be able to use their computers.

The British Airports Authority is not interested in the problems. When I wrote to my hon. Friend the Minister of State about some of the problems, I am sure that the reply I received was written by civil servants. It defended the British Airports Authority's view and suggested that the authority was doing a damn fine job. It is an appalling organisation and it is about time someone investigated its operation. I understand that the Monopolies and Mergers Commission will be doing so in the not-too-distant future; it is long overdue. There has been very little consultation between it and anyone else about any airport that it controls anywhere.

The development of terminal 5 must be put in train immediately. That means giving all the planning consents necessary to get it off the ground. Regional airports can be expanded along with terminal 5. Neither is mutually exclusive. The south-east does not need a major third airport. The development of terminal 5 calls for infrastructure improvements along the lines I have suggested.

11 pm

Mr. Malcolm Thornton (Crosby)

Those of us who are in favour of regional airport development are delighted because nobody has been against their development. We were delighted to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State say in his opening remarks that it is the Government's desire to bring air travel within the reach of more people. The most effective way of doing so is to bring it within their reach literally by letting us have the option to expand the regional airports.

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) referred to those who are opposing regional airports. I do not believe that anybody is. What we are concerned about is that many decisions that have been taken seem to frustrate actively the growth of regional airports. That is what a fundamental part of the debate is about.

There is a chicken and egg situation. We say that there is a demand for the development of regional airports. How can we test the demand if policies seem to work against regional airports going out and capturing the market that they say exists? In its press release of 17 January British Airways said: We are committed to introducing international services from regional airports whenever there is enough customer demand to make them viable. We know from our surveys that Manchester is the main candidate for our second international hub, and now that Government aviation policy has been finalised, we are pressing ahead as fast as possible. That airline, which has actually tested the market, is saying to the Government, "Give us the opportunities; we will provide the services because we believe that the demand exists." We are asking for a fair deal so that we can test the market for regional development.

I want to refer to the frustration that we have experienced at Liverpool airport. I do not pretend that it can ever be the sort of airport that we hope Manchester airport will become. It will play a complementary role. One of the areas for expansion has to be the charter market. An important part of the package is the duty-free facility. Whenever we have asked Government for a duty-free facility to enable us to market Liverpool, they have moved the goal posts. They said we should have 50,000 passengers; we got 50,000. They upped it to 70,000; we got 70,000. Then they upped it yet again to 100,000. What price the encouragement of regional airports policy? If my right hon. Friend wants to encourage regional airports to expand, the Government must give them the means to test the market and attract customers.

The debate is about more than airport policy; it is about the north-south tilt. It is about the effect of a massive development at Stansted on regional development, on investment and on the commitment of Government resources. It is about the damage that will be done to the chances of the regional economies picking up in what will be a difficult period for us all in attracting investment.

The Government must strike a balance between a viable future policy for airports and airlines and the right economic balance for the regions. I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State not to disregard those two important elements of the equation. We in the north-west and the north will not lightly forgive a Government who make a decision which will make it difficult if not impossible for us to attract the investment which we believe would be diverted if the expansion of Stansted were to go ahead. That message is coming to us loud and clear from chambers of commerce and business men in our areas. I urge my right hon. Friend and his colleagues in the Cabinet to take that message on board. This is perhaps the most important decision that we as north-west Members will be called upon to take in our lifetimes. I urge the Government not to ignore our message.

11.7 pm

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

I am grateful for this opportunity to express the views of the north-east group of Members. I intend to be brief, and I apologise for the fact that other parliamentary duties prevented me from attending the whole debate.

I should first point out an inconsistency in the discussion. Many hon. Members, on both sides, have stressed the need for regional development and the importance of airport facilities in that context. Others have claimed that the expansion of Stansted would demolish the surrounding countryside and interfere with the rural quietness. Frankly, the north-east would welcome some noise in the current silence of industries no longer in use while so many people are on the cobbles, suffering enforced indolence due to lack of investment. We badly need the injection that regional airport development would provide.

Newcastle is not the only important factor. I wish to make a special plea for the Teesside airport, which has a record for all-weather access unequalled by any other airport in the country. When all other airports have been closed, it has been able to take the largest craft. It also has excellent road and rail facilities at its boundary fence, and British Rail, for all the ineptitude of which some people complain, has put on inter-city 125 trains at the drop of a hat to get people to London almost as quickly as they would have got there from Heathrow.

I shall not go into detail now, but I hope that hon. Members will go into the points that I have made. I believe that the whole structure of airport authorities and management in this country is so crazy that it needs to be thoroughly examined and completely reconstituted.

11.9 pm

Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

I shall be brief. The hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) is fortunate because he and his hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) have not been present during the debate. Some hon. Members have been present since half past three. It was all very well for the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) to say "Get on with it". We listened to a very boring speech from her at the beginning of the debate which lowered the tone and started the debate in a bad way. If the hon. Lady has something to say, I hope that she will get up and say it.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I shall be delighted to do so.

Mr. Speaker

Order. That will take time out of the debate, will it not?

Sir Fergus Montgomery

The debate revolves round airport policy, and I make no apology for putting the case for the north. Many hon. Members representing northern constituencies have tried desperately hard to make clear to the Government how anxious we are to have further development of the regional airports. The Government must heed the message of the two nations and recognise that, if there is to be a massive investment for a third major airport in the south-east, there will be an almighty explosion in the north of England. We badly need that investment in the north, which we believe will produce jobs and assist the region.

All Members of Parliament have been swamped with circulars in the last few days. I had to laugh at one which I received from a group which said that it would oppose the situation whereby passengers who had an origin or destination in south-east England were forced to fly from a regional airport. That point was taken up by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel).

I get a little sick of the fact that the north of England always seems to be treated as the poor relation. It is the people from the north who have to come down to Heathrow or Gatwick to make flights out of the country.

I disagree with the inspector's estimates of future London demand. Thousands of passengers from the north would be only too delighted if they could make their journeys direct from a northern airport instead of having to travel through London. Many figures and statistics have been given, but, in order to allow some of my hon. Friends to speak, I shall omit them. I cannot help feeling that the forecasts used by the inspector have given a false picture.

I am sorry that the inspector seems to have paid so little attention to the case that was put forward by the North of England Regional Consortium. I hope that my right hon. Friend will pay more attention to its case than was paid by the inspector.

Manchester international airport is a successful airport. It is Britain's third largest airport and already services 40 British and foreign airlines. However, I believe that under successive Governments — Labour and Conservative — the interests of Manchester airport have been subordinated to south-east England. I wonder how much thought has been given to the loss of time by business men who have to fly abroad on business and make the journey from Manchester or the north to Heathrow or Gatwick. How much more convenient and time-saving it would be if they could make their international flights from Manchester airport. If there were more international flights from Manchester it would be a great boon to businessmen in the north, it would improve trade links and it would generate much-needed jobs. Until such time as those services are provided, the northern business man must continue to waste time and money in travelling via London, Amsterdam or Frankfurt.

That brings me to the case of Singapore Airlines, which has already been touched on in the debate. This airline wanted to fly direct three times a week each way between Singapore and Manchester. It was perfectly happy to have straightforward competition with the British airline, which wanted to fly the same route. This was a tremendous opportunity for Manchester airport. Somebody in the Department of Transport refused the application on the grounds that there were not enough potential passengers to justify more flights. That smacks of the old adage of the man in Whitehall knowing best. If Singapore Airlines, which is one of the most efficient airlines in the world, believes that it makes commercial sense to fly from Singapore to Manchester, who is it in the Department of Transport who would argue on that score? I remind my right hon. Friend that when the Glasgow to London monopoly route of British Airways was opened to competition from British Midland, the number of passengers increased by 30 per cent., prices fell and the service improved. That pattern should be encouraged.

I make no secret of the fact that so far as airport policy is concerned I want to know what is in it for Manchester. Every hon. Member will be fighting his own corner for the area that he represents.

I question some of the recommendations of the inspector, for example, that Stansted should be expanded to take 15 million passengers per year by 1990 with a further growth thereafter to 25 million, with no second runway to be allowed. Heathrow's capacity is to be increased from 28 million passengers to 38 million when terminal 4 is completed next year and to 53 million by 1995 with the addition of the fifth terminal. I am still unconvinced that we need three major airports in the southern corner of England. I query whether a boost to the economy of more than £1 billion should be applied to the Stansted area where unemployment is not a major problem. Such an investment would be welcome in the north.

Massive development at Stansted would undermine the regional airports. They have an important part in the economies of the regions. They could play an even more important part by encouraging new industrial investment and the development of tourism. It should never be forgotten that they could have an enormous effect on relieving pressure on the London airports. However, I realise that regional airports would have to face much greater difficulties if they are competing with a massive subsidised airport at Stansted.

There is an answer to my right hon. Friend's dilemma. If he gives regional airports real encouragement they could release capacity at Heathrow and Gatwick and make a large-scale expansion at Stansted unnecessary. It would also make the best use of national airfield resources.

I realise that the purpose of the debate is for Ministers to listen. I beg my right hon. and hon. Friends not to dismiss the case for the north as contemptuously as the inspector did. It makes great sense to utilise to the full the airport capacity that we have, rather than to spend enormous sums on Stansted.

Sir Colin Buchanan has just published a pamphlet, at the end of which he states: To give regional airports greater scope would make sense in relation to the spread of the population and would aid economic recovery. I hope that that phrase will be heeded when the decision is finally taken.

11.17 pm
Mr. Tim Smith (Beaconsfield)

I am opposed to the construction of a fifth terminal at Heathrow because of the damaging effect that it will have on my constituency. It will result in increased noise and affect the roads and the environment.

As the chairman of the South Bucks district council, Mr. Peter Janes, recently said: If Heathrow is expanded it will again be the long suffering population of the Heathrow hinterland who will endure the consequences of more aircraft overhead, more traffic on local roads and major erosion of the green belt. Aircraft noise is of particular concern to my constituents in Colnbrook, Dorney, Burnham and Taplow. They wish the 275,000 limit on air traffic movements to be imposed and kept. So do I.

The M4 is already overloaded. The M25 will be at capacity when it is opened. Further pressure will be put on local roads and the whole point of the M25, which for my constituents is the relief of local congestion, will be lost.

The green belt in south Bucks is already severely damaged. Only last Monday I had an Adjournment debate on the situation in Iver. I said: Iver is under attack from every quarter". — [Official Report, 21 January 1985; Vol. 71, c. 834] If the fifth terminal is allowed, the Perry Oaks sewage works will have to be moved either to south Iver or to Dorney. Both villages are in my constituency and both propositions would be totally unacceptable to my constituents.

Both the M4 and the M25 pass through Iver, and now the Department of Transport wants to build a motorway service area in Iver and British Rail wants to build a park-and-ride there. If the fifth terminal goes ahead, Slough might as well become part of Greater London, along with Iver and Colnbrook. We might as well give up the pretence that it is in a green belt and accept that we are the unwilling victims of urban sprawl.

Each time a motorway has been built, gravel has been extracted locally. Now the inspector suggests that more gravel should be extracted to build a fifth terminal. Therefore, any remaining part of the green belt will become a giant rubbish tip.

When I gave evidence to the inquiry, I dealt in detail with the effect on south Iver and on Dorney. Because of the shortage of time I shall not deal with that again. All I would say is that because it would severely damage the quality of life in south Buckinghamshire I am totally opposed to the inspector's recommendation that a fifth terminal should eventually be built at Heathrow.

11.21 pm
Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)

An advertisement in today's copy of The Times from the North of England Regional Consortium begins: This is the third time that the British Airports Authority have tried to foist Stansted upon the public. On two previous occasions they have failed. But at the third attempt, and after the expenditure of millions of pounds and even more millions of words, their persistence has brought them a favourable report from the Public Inquiry Inspector. In this debate we have heard a great deal, much of it disparaging, about the British Airports Authority. If its persistence has borne the truth of the national interest in upon the inspector, then all power to it. If what this advertisement says and really means is that its millions of pounds have bought it the inspector, then that advertisement is scurrilous.

We have heard in this debate a great deal about the north and about Heathrow, but very little about Stansted. There are lies, damned lies, and statistics. Hon. Members do not, of course, use the former, but we have heard a great deal about the latter. I do not believe that many hon. Members are unconvinced of the need for airport expansion in this country, so the question is not "what" but "where".

Hours ago I was asked by the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) what my interest in the matter is. I hold no brief for the British Airports Authority. My constituency is unlikely particularly to benefit, any more than is any other constituency in the country, from an airport at Stansted or anywhere else outside my constituency. I recognise the regional needs of the north and I recognise also the need for the expansion of regional airports, but we are debating a third London airport.

The case against another terminal at Heathrow has been made very forcefully by my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins), and by my hon. Friends the Members for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) and for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) and, will I hope, be made by my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), who is yet to speak. The nub of that argument is, "Yes, we do need more capacity, but," as my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne said, "land somewhere else."

The prime case against Stansted was made by the hon. Member in whose constituency that airfield is situated, my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst), who claimed to be speaking for the general good. My hon. Friend went on to criticise a MORI poll which showed that people in the area would welcome an expansion of that airfield because that poll was conducted within a 30-mile radius. It does not seem to me that 30 miles constitutes "the national good", the subject that we ought to be debating tonight. My hon. Friend went on to say that people have an insatiable appetite for air travel. I would ask hon. Members to consider that both I and my colleagues who sit on the tourism committee seek to attract new visitors to this country and the business and money that they will bring. If there is an insatiable appetite for air travel, and if it is bringing people to this country, that is all to the good.

I come to the case for the north, about which we have heard so much. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), at the beginning of this debate, when many hon. Members who are now chipping in were not present, said that not to locate this new and much needed airfield in the north would be "a crime against the north." I recognise the case for the north. I understand what unemployment means — it is 19 per cent. in my constituency.

However, we are talking, not about regional aid, but about the need for a new airport. I believe that the airport must be situated at Stansted. We have failed in the debate to consider what my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) described as "the interests of the customers"—the visitor and the international airlines. They wish to visit London and the continent. If we ignore that fact, we shall miss out.

If we do not adopt the report, 20,000 jobs will go to Schipol, Frankfurt and Paris. That will be because the House has not seized the opportunity to build the airport that is needed, where it is needed, now.

11.26 pm
Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes)

In the few minutes that remain, I wish to express with all the vehemence that I can and with all the weight that I can muster the passion felt by my constituents about the airport inquiries and the misery that they suffer from living under the Heathrow flight path.

Noise is the most important consideration for my constituents and for nearly 3 million people who live in the vicinity of Heathrow. I resent the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Whitfield), who said that I should not complain about the quality of life for my constituents in wealthy Richmond. Noise is noise. Whether a person is employed or unemployed, old or young, noise at the levels around Heathrow is unacceptable.

Whatever minor reductions may come from new technology, an increase in aircraft movements would provide a prospect of even greater honor. An unlimited hell is already unbearable for many of my constituents. A small drop of water is harmless, but the constant unremitting repetition of that drop — the Chinese water torture — drives its victims mad in terrifying agony. Heathrow is Richmond's water torture.

In a statement made to Mr. Eyre during his inquiry, and kindly repeated by him in the report, it was said: Modern technology has reduced aircraft noise from the totally unacceptable to the merely unbearable. The report stated: Air noise is a modern curse from which the unfortunate inhabitants of the Heathrow area have been required to suffer over a long period. The report went on: The present noise climate in some areas around Heathrow is worse than people should be required to accept. The inspector said that double glazing might help, but double glazing does not help in Kew gardens or Richmond park or when people are trying to sleep with the windows open on hot summer evenings.

Aircraft noise and the horrendous levels of traffic, both in the air and on the roads in my constituency, are the blights of the area. There is no doubt that the development of a fifth terminal at Heathrow will increase aircraft movements beyond the unacceptable. Indeed, the level is already unacceptable.

British Airways has said that it proposes to increase the number of movements to 400,000 a year by modern technology and by using two parallel runways. The Government's position is what my constituents believe and what I have always told them. I hope that the Government will confirm that Heathrow will not be expanded beyond four terminals, air transport movements at Heathrow will be limited to 275,000 a year, for environmental reasons, Gatwick will remain a single-runway airport, regional airports will be developed to their full potential and that it is in the national interest to provide adequate facilities for future demand for air transport in London and the south-east. As Sir John Non said, Stansted has chosen itself.

In summary, my constituents and I look for a realistic and viable development at Stansted, encouragement for regional airports as demand is created, an environmental limit at Heathrow, continuing noise reduction orders and, above all, no T5.

11.29 pm
Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

This has been a parliamentary rather than a political occasion. I pay tribute to hon. Members on both sides of the House for the commitment that they have expressed to a regional airports policy.

I regret that time prevents me from listing one by one individual Members and their comments, but I pay tribute to the outstanding speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), which graphically set out the argument. He left no one in any doubt about the justice of his case. I pay tribute also to the speech of the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst). As we expect on these occasions, he was fluent, coherent and impassioned in some instances, and rightly so. He has demonstrated over the years his determination to protect his constituency from what he sees, understandably enough, as the likely ravages of Stansted.

It has been suggested that, because the debate is being held on a motion for the Adjournment of the House, its importance is not particularly substantial. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) has demonstrated that that is not so. He observed that various important debates have taken place over the years on such a motion. It has been suggested in the newspapers that as the payroll vote, as it is somewhat disrespectfully known — Ministers and their Parliamentary Private Secretaries — has been instructed to stay well away from the Government Lobby this evening, the result of a Division will not matter. It is argued that the Government will have shown that it is not significant by keeping the pay roll vote away and thereby downgrading its importance. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent has adequately disposed of that assertion. I hope that the House will reject it.

We have heard individual Members making out a case on behalf of their region or constituency regardless of party affiliation. They can best make out their case, and dispose of the Stansted argument once and for all, by using their votes in a Division. I understand that the Secretary of State claims that he has a quasi judicial role as he and the Minister of State, Department of the Environment is responsible for making the decision. I accept that. But to claim that the same quasi judicial role extends to every Minister stretches constitutional credulity, to say the least. I am sure that it provides a convenient excuse for the Government to explain away tonight's defeat, if defeated they are to be, but that will not make it any less relevant.

The Secretary of State said in opening the debate that the Government felt that this was an unprecedented opportunity for the House to debate a planning matter before a decision had been reached. The House should be suitably grateful for that. Of course, in the circumstances, it is understandable enough that the right hon. Gentleman glossed over the fact that the only reason why we are having the debate is that he has failed twice to get a sittings motion for the Civil Aviation Bill in Committee. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but when he tried to explain away yet another disaster for which he had been responsible he said that there would have to be a debate on this issue because of the Committee's failure to approve its sittings motion.

Unless we dispose of this matter this evening, the House can be sure that it will come back to haunt us. In December 1984 there was an article in the London Evening Standard by Mr. Max Hastings in which he left readers in no doubt that the first proposal to build Stansted airport was brought forward in 1967, when the then chairman of the British Airports Authority made it plain that unless Stansted went ahead the prospects of aeroplane landings and take-offs at London's airports would be diabolical to say the least by the mid-1970s. However, Sir Peter's worst fears were not realised in the mid-1970s and there is no sign and no evidence in the mid-1980s that his fears are more realistic 10 years on.

However, I may have some good news for the House. Regardless of what the civil servants dust down in the Department of Transport and the Department of the Environment, the track record of the Secretary of State for Transport suggests that he will be with us on the question of Stansted, for he is a long and consistent opponent of the construction of London's third airport. I do not often get the chance to praise him, but I am delighted to think that I shall be able to praise him on this occasion for what I hope will be his consistency. As a long-standing opponent of London's third airport, I hope that the House can rely on the right hon. Gentleman to make the right decision when the appropriate time comes.

On 13 June 1973 we debated the question of London's third airport when we discussed what was then the Maplin Development Bill. Indeed, one could easily delete "Maplin" and insert "Stansted" because the same arguments apply in both cases. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) was the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment at the time. Earlier tonight he said, bravely if cavalierly, "One cannot rely on Ministers' promises." He should know because he was responsible in those days.

When the Maplin Development Bill was being debated, the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) moved new clause 2, which read: It shall be the duty of the Civil Aviation Authority, in consultation with the Maplin Development Authority and appropriate Minister, to keep under constant review technical developments of new, quieter aero-engines, short take-off capability or other relevant factors affecting the operations of civil aircraft, and it shall take such action as may be appropriate to delay, vary or desist from the construction of an airport on land to be reclaimed as a result of the passage of this Act. The hon. Gentleman moved the new clause in such a persuasive manner that the then Conservative Government suffered a dramatic defeat. No fewer than 15 Tory Members bravely demonstrated their principles by going into the Lobby with Labour Members. They thereby defeated the Government and wrote that important new clause into the Maplin Development Bill.

I am glad to remind the House that among those 15 good brave men and true was the present Secretary of State for Transport. As I said, praise for the right hon. Gentleman does not fall easily from my lips, but praise him I shall — it will probably do his career even more damage than he has done to it himself — if he demonstrates that virtue of consistency tonight and reaffirms his bravery of 13 June 1973.

In those days the Conservative party was led by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). He and the present Secretary of State for Transport were hardly the best of friends, for the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup had had the temerity to fire his right hon. Friend from his then post at the Treasury.

However, there has been no such occurrence under the present Government. Bearing in mind the close relationship that obviously exists between the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister, one can only hope that he adopts that consistency for which I have praised him so as to impress on the Prime Minister the fact that objection to the construction of London's third airport is as great now as it was in 1973, when he made that stand.

Mr. Soames


Mr. Snape

I will not give way. The hon. Gentleman took more than 20 minutes, which is more than I have to wind up the debate. He did not say a great deal, though, to be fair to him, he said it prettily.

No case has been made for London's third airport. The statistical evidence is conflicting, to say the least, and the fact that the BAA has demonstrated its belief in London's third airport should impress nobody. The BAA has been a consistent supporter of the third London airport since the idea was first mooted. That is hardly surprising, because the effect on its finances is like winning the jackpot. No hon. Member needs to be reminded that, if the British Airports Authority is privatised in the Government's passion for privatisation and the third London airport is a going concern, BAA will be even more valuable when it comes on the market.

I agreed with a great deal of the speech by the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks), who spoke with passion and commitment. I know that, as he comes from the Manchester area, he would wish to defend the future of Manchester airport. He said that the free market economy should dictate what happens in these matters, but I point out to the hon. Gentleman that that is not true anywhere else in the world, and there is no reason why it should be true in this country. The hon. Gentleman would leave it to the operators to decide where to fly, but I believe that the prospects of regional airports booming and developing are grim. All around the world it has been necessary for Governments to direct airlines as to which airports they should use. [Interruption.] It is not rubbish. A Right-wing Government in France had to direct French airlines and other airlines to use Charles de Gaulle airport, because when that airport was built all the airlines said that they would not use it. The Japanese Government, who were hardly a Left-wing Government, had to coerce the world's airlines to use the new Marita airport because it was so far from the centre of Tokyo. So market forces will not do the job.

Mr. Franks

It is the consumer who determines the free market.

Mr. Snape

It is not the consumer. Despite my praise for the hon. Gentleman's speech, I have to say that part of his speech was somewhat simplistic. He argues, as we do, that the consumers do not have a choice and are not allowed to dictate the market forces as they affect British regional airports. The arrogance of some hon. Members from the south of England who seem to believe that the only people who wish to buy tickets for international flights are based in and around London has to be heard to be believed. Are there no business men in Manchester or Birmingham who may wish to fly to, for example, the United States?

The Secretary of State — I am afraid that my praise for him is over; we are now back to our normal relationship—who professes a deep and undying belief in private enterprise, has prevented airlines from flying into our regional airports as a deliberate act of policy. Where is the free enterprise and consumer choice in that? This whole argument is riddled with inconsistencies.

Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)


Mr. Snape

And he is my Whip!

There is a fairly modern and prosperous airport in Birmingham.

I was astonished to hear the silly intervention of the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills), who, having intervened, headed for the door in mortification. He has not been seen since. I was astonished to hear him say that the capacity at Birmingham airport should not be increased. Despite spending £63 million on a brand new terminal, no more aeroplanes than at present should be allowed to take off and land there, because it would disturb the hon. Gentleman's constituents. I cannot understand an hon. Member who pleads such a case on behalf of his constituents. People living by an airfield should expect aircraft to take off and land. If any hon. Member took that attitude to a railway station, he would be laughed out of the Chamber. However, the hon. Member for Meriden said that, despite all the public expenditure on Birmingham airport, no other aeroplanes should be permitted to take off and land there.

An overwhelming case has been made for the regional airports. Every hon. Member, with the exception of three Conservative Members, has condemned the Government's proposals. For goodness sake, let the House of Commons speak out tonight. Let us kill off once and for all the myth that Stansted is necessary by casting all our votes in the same Division Lobby this evening. Only in that way can we plan the way forward. Only in that way can the country have a sensible aviation policy — a policy that, under successive Governments, it has long lacked.

11.46 pm
The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. Ian Gow)

The debate has lasted for nearly eight hours. It will come as no surprise to the House to learn that not a single member of the Social Democratic party has spoken and that only one Liberal Member has made a contribution. Although, excluding the Front Bench spokesman, 11 Labour Members have made speeches, it is the Tory party that has made the most massive contribution—[Laughter.] Oh yes. There have been 26—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am anxious to hear the rest.

Mr. Gow

I am anxious to hear it myself. No fewer than 26 of my right hon. and hon. Friends have contributed to the debate.

It is not always wise to believe all that one is told, but I am told that the Opposition Whips were deeply concerned about the imbalance between those speaking from this side and those speaking from the Opposition side. They went out into the highways and byways and found the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), who had not even heard my right hon. Friend's opening speech.

No one who has listened to the debate can doubt the importance of the decisions that have to be taken or the strength of feeling in all parts of the House. Today's debate has underlined the wide range of interests that will be affected by those decisions. Although the planning applications relate to Stansted and Heathrow, the whole House accepts that the decisions that will have to be taken will be of deep relevance to the future of airports policy and to every part of the United Kingdom.

My right hon. Friend and I have listened to the debate with the greatest care, but the House will understand that, as my right hon. Friend explained at the beginning, we cannot comment on the arguments that have been deployed. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) acknowledged that fact.

I also remind the House that the procedures under which we are operating were not fashioned by my right hon. Friend or by the present Government. The procedures were laid down by the Labour Government in 1974. Scarcely had the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent got his feet under the desk at the Department of Employment in 1974 when the order was laid on 11 March 1974. It was one of the first measures of the Labour Government. The time for my right hon. Friend and the Government to explain the reasons for our decision and the time to comment on the arguments that have been advanced in the House and elsewhere will be in the later debate that was promised by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House last Thursday and which was reaffirmed by my right hon. Friend today. I cannot prejudge or be seen to be prejudging issues that are before my right hon. Friend and me for decision.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Gow

I have little time.

Hon. Members

"Give way."

Mr. Speaker

Order. In fairness to the Minister, his time has been cut.

Mr. Gow

The inspector's report ranged widely. He has expressed conclusions on the present Stansted and Heathrow proposals—

Mr. John McWilliam (Blaydon)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is rather inappropriate to raise points of order at this stage.

Mr. McWilliam

I must raise this point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister seems to be claiming the protection of the sub judice rule. Could you make it clear to the House that the sub judice rule does not apply to this debate?

Mr. Speaker

The Minister is a lawyer—I am not. I thought that I heard him say that he could not prejudge the issue.

Mr. Snape

He is a divorce lawyer.

Mr. Gow

The inspector has expressed conclusions on the Stansted and Heathrow proposals and on broader and longer-term issues of airport policy. Some hon. Members have paid tribute to the massive work that the inspector and the two assessors have done. I should like to join in paying tribute to them.

It might be helpful for me to explain the matters that are before my right hon. Friend and me and the procedures that we are required to follow. There are two principal matters for determination. The first is an outline planning application dated 25 July 1980 by the British Airports Authority for the expansion of Stansted airport to a capacity of about 15 million passengers a year. The second is an outline planning application dated 18 June 1981 by the Uttlesford district council for the extension of Heathrow airport by the provision of a fifth terminal and associated facilities and works.

Dependent upon the Stansted application are a number of other applications, including an application for planning permission for the carrying out of road works to give improved access to the airport, seven applications for listed building consent, an application for planning permission to re-erect three of the listed buildings on a site at Burton End; and a compulsory purchase order made by the BAA relating to land at Stansted.

The House will remember that, on 3 December 1980, the then Secretary of State for the Environment announced, in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst), that he had called in the British Airports Authority's application for the expansion of Stansted. He announced that he was appointing Mr. Graham Eyre QC to hold a public local inquiry into the proposals. Mr. Eyre was appointed subsequently to hold concurrent inquiries into the other matters to which I have referred.

On 12 February 1981 Mr. Philip Maynard was appointed as assessor to assist the inspector on planning and environmental matters, and on 8 April 1981 Mr. William Woodruff was appointed as assessor to assist on aviation matters. The inquiries opened on 19 September 1981 at Quendon park, near Stansted.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Gow

No, I have little time. The inquiries were adjourned on 28 October 1982. They were resumed on 11 January 1983 at the Crest hotel, Heathrow airport, and were closed after a total of 258 sitting days. The inspector's report was delivered on 28 November 1984, and published on 10 December 1984. It was made clear to the inspector that the inquiries were to be wide-ranging and that the Government intended the fullest opportunity to be given for objectors to express their views on the proposals both about Stansted and Heathrow, and for alternatives to be considered.

During the inquiry the inspector sought and was given the express assurance that he was not precluded from considering matters which ran counter to Government policy. The inspector took full advantage of those assurances and his inquiries were conducted, as his report has been framed, to take account of such matters.

The answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) is that in this case planning applications have been made, have been subject to long inquiries and are now awaiting decisions under the normal procedures laid down in the planning Acts. Despite the suggestion made by my hon. Friend, the question of a special development order cannot arise at this stage.

I remind the House that if my right hon. Friend and I should be disposed to disagree with any recommendation made by the inspector as a result of taking account of new evidence or a new issue of fact not being a matter of Government policy, we are under a statutory duty to inform the parties to the inquiry and to afford them an opportunity of making representations on the new evidence or new issue of fact. Initially it is for Ministers, and ultimately for the courts, to decide whether any material received after the inquiry constitutes new evidence or a new issue of fact that should be referred to the parties for comment. The fact that others may claim that certain material is new evidence or a new issue of fact does not make it so automatically, nor does it follow necessarily that it will influence Ministers' decisions or lead them to agree or disagree with any of the inspector's recommendations.

It is obvious to the House and clear to the Government that it is most desirable that my right hon. Friend and I should reach our decision on these applications as soon as possible, consistent with that thorough examination and consideration of the inspector's report that a matter of such great importance requires.

We shall follow strictly the rules which have been laid down by Parliament provided in the statutory instrument which was approved in 1974. We consider that we have now reached the time when final decisions need to be taken about the future of policy for airports. To every hon. Member who spoke, I say that his contribution will receive proper consideration. My right hon. Friend and I will come back to the House with our decisions at the earliest possible date.

Question put, That this House do now adjourn:—

The House proceeded to a Division

Mr. Dennis Canavan(seated and covered) (Falkirk, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the inevitable defeat of the Government in this Division can you tell the House when the Prime Minister will be going to the Palace to offer her resignation?

Mr. Speaker

I think that that is hypothetical.

Mr. Canavan

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Presumably once the vote is announced the House will adjourn and there will be no further opportunity to raise points of order or for any other Member to speak. It is therefore important that you, as Speaker of the House of Commons, give a ruling as to what will happen as a result of the defeat of the Government. I suggest that following that defeat you should summon the Prime Minister to make a statement as to when she intends to offer her resignation.

Mr. Speaker

All this is hypothetical. None of us knows what will happen. But if the House votes to adjourn that is what we shall do.

Mr. Canavan

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the House votes in favour of the Adjournment, that will be tantamount to a defeat of the Government, but there will presumably be no opportunity to raise points of order after the result is announced.

Mr. Speaker

I can do nothing about that. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Adjournment is in the hands of the House. If the House votes to adjourn, we shall adjourn, and I shall not be here. If the House votes not to adjourn, we shall proceed in the normal way.

Mr. Canavan

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to give notice that if the Government are defeated in the Division I shall seek to raise a point of order afterwards to say that the Prime Minister should go to the Palace and offer her resignation and that there should be a general election.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I call upon the Tellers.

The House having divided: Ayes 247, Noes 0.

Division No. 84] [11.58 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)
Adley, Robert Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)
Alton, David Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)
Anderson, Donald Bruce, Malcolm
Ashdown, Paddy Buck, Sir Antony
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Caborn, Richard
Ashton, Joe Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Campbell, Ian
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Campbell-Savours, Dale
Baldry, Tony Canavan, Dennis
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)
Barnett, Guy Carter-Jones, Lewis
Barron, Kevin Cartwright, John
Batiste, Spencer Chapman, Sydney
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Churchill, W. S.
Beith, A. J. Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Bell, Stuart Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Clarke, Thomas
Bermingham, Gerald Clegg, Sir Walter
Blair, Anthony Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Body, Richard Cohen, Harry
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Boyes, Roland Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Corbett, Robin
Bray, Dr Jeremy Corbyn, Jeremy
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Cowans, Harry
Craigen, J. M. Heddle, John
Cranborne, Viscount Heffer, Eric S.
Crowther, Stan Hicks, Robert
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hind, Kenneth
Cunningham, Dr John Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Dalyell, Tarn Home Robertson, John
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Deakins, Eric Howells, Geraint
Dewar, Donald Hoyle, Douglas
Dickens, Geoffrey Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Dicks, Terry Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Dobson, Frank Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Dormand, Jack Jackson, Robert
Douglas, Dick Janner, Hon Greville
Dubs, Alfred John, Brynmor
Duffy, A. E. P. Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Eadie, Alex Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Eastham, Ken Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Ellis, Raymond Kirkwood, Archy
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Knox, David
Ewing, Harry Lambie, David
Farr, Sir John Lamond, James
Fatchett, Derek Lawler, Geoffrey
Faulds, Andrew Leadbitter, Ted
Favell, Anthony Leighton, Ronald
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Lester, Jim
Fisher, Mark Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Flannery, Martin Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Litherland, Robert
Forrester, John Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Foster, Derek Loyden, Edward
Foulkes, George McCrindle, Robert
Fox, Marcus McCurley, Mrs Anna
Franks, Cecil McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Fraser, J. (Norwood) McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Freud, Clement McKelvey, William
Galley, Roy Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Maclean, David John
George, Bruce McTaggart, Robert
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Madden, Max
Godman, Dr Norman Madel, David
Golding, John Malone, Gerald
Gould, Bryan Marek, Dr John
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Mates, Michael
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Maxton, John
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Maynard, Miss Joan
Hampson, Dr Keith Meacher, Michael
Hargreaves, Kenneth Meadowcroft, Michael
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Michie, William
Harvey, Robert Mikardo, Ian
Haselhurst, Alan Miscampbell, Norman
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Monro, Sir Hector
Hayes, J. Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Skinner, Dennis
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Nellist, David Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Snape, Peter
O'Brien, William Spearing, Nigel
O'Neill, Martin Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Park, George Stott, Roger
Patchett, Terry Strang, Gavin
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Straw, Jack
Pendry, Tom Sumberg, David
Penhaligon, David Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Pike, Peter Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Prescott, John Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Thornton, Malcolm
Radice, Giles Thurnham, Peter
Randall, Stuart Tinn, James
Redmond, M. Torney, Tom
Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S) Wainwright, R.
Rhodes James, Robert Wallace, James
Richardson, Ms Jo Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Wareing, Robert
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Weetch, Ken
Robertson, George Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) Welsh, Michael
Roe, Mrs Marion Wheeler, John
Rogers, Allan White, James
Rooker, J. W. Whitfield, John
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Wilkinson, John
Rowlands, Ted Williams, Rt Hon A.
Ryman, John Wilson, Gordon
Sackville, Hon Thomas Winnick, David
Sheerman, Barry Wood, Timothy
Sheldon, Rt Hon R. Woodcock, Michael
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Young, David (Bolton SE)
Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE) Tellers for the Ayes:
Silkin, Rt Hon J. Mr. Frank Haynes and
Silvester, Fred Mr. Don Dixon.
Tellers for the Noes:
Mr. John Browne and
Mr. John Nicholson.
Mr. Canavan

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Government have been defeated—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House now stands adjourned.

Adjourned accordingly at twelve minutes past Twelve o'clock.