§ Mr. Speaker
We now move to the important debate on airports policy. I remind the House that 38 right hon. and hon. Members have already shown their wish to take part, so I intend to apply the 10-minute limit between 7 and 9 o'clock. I shall give some priority to those hon. Members who were not called during the questions on the statement made on 5 January, as I said I would. In drawing up my list of those hon. Members who may take part today I have taken into account those who spoke on 31 January, when we last debated this matter and, incidentally, how long they spoke for. If some hon. Members who spoke for 20 minutes on that occasion can cut that time down to 10 minutes on this occasion, that will be a happiness to many who failed to be called on that occasion.
I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.
§ The Secretary of State for Transport(Mr. Nicholas Ridley)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Government's White Paper on airports policy, Cmnd. 9542.In proposing an airports policy to the House on 5 June, I had to try to reconcile two interests which conflict. The first is the need to provide the airport capacity that is likely to be needed in each region of the country. The second is the strong views of many thousands of people living near airports about whether further development should take place in their localities. These matters had to be decided. Perhaps the worst policy of all would have been to postpone decisions.
In their 1978 White Paper, the Labour Government foreswore forcing airlines and passengers to go where they did not want to go:The Government rejects the suggestion that the air transport industry should be subject to the damaging restrictions on its operations which could be the outcome of the forced diversion of traffic to regional airports.I agree with that. But by virtue of our joint rejection of that course, there is no alternative to providing more capacity in south-east England.
However the Labour party may wriggle today, in a position of responsibility it would have had to accept the logic of providing capacity in the south-east for between 72 and 79 million passengers per annum by 1995, just as the inspector did. Economic growth, foreign earnings, and, most important, jobs in the aviation industry are at stake. So is the convenience of both business and holiday travellers.
On the other hand, the Government are acutely conscious of the inconvenience, noise, and development that airports bring to their neighbours. For these reasons we have not sought to provide any more capacity than is necessary, and to phase it so that it is provided only when it is necessary. I will discuss other aspects of environmental protection later in my speech.
I particularly understand and sympathise with the worries of people living near Stansted. They have fought long and hard against a busy airport there. My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) and many other hon. Friends have put their case with consistent force and skill. It is in recognition of this concern that we have restricted expansion at Stansted to the minimum necessary.
30 We have done our best to meet the concerns of those who really speak for Stansted. The development of the airport will be phased, with the first phase restricted to 7 million to 8 million PPA, an increment of only 5 million to 6 million on Stansted's current capacity. The growth of traffic will be gradual, the new terminal will open around 1990, but it is impossible to say when it will reach capacity. Gradual growth will make it easier for local authorities to plan supporting development which may be needed, such as housing and services, road improvements, and so on. It will help to guard against the strains imposed by rapid expansion on a relatively small community. Good and sympathetic design of the new terminal and associated developments will be very important, and I am sure that the British Airports Authority and the local planning authority, which will need to approve the detailed plans, will strive for it.
§ Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)
Can my right hon. Friend explain exactly how planning approvals will be given, in view of his statement that the expansion will be phased? Is he aware that many of my constituents would accept a phased terminal expansion—say to 4 million to 5 million PPA at the most, which is what is needed at Stansted according to the White Paper, and not between 7 million and 8 million? Is he aware, further, that the British Airports Authority made it clear to me when I visited its headquarters on Friday that it was bent on building a 15-million-PPA terminal. How will that be handled by my right hon. Friend?
§ Mr. Ridley
My hon. Friend seeks an assurance, which I am happy to give him. The British Airports Authority can apply for a 7 million to 8 million PPA terminal—I think that it is 50,000 sq m in area. It is again controlled by the number of air traffic movements, to which we hope the House wll agree to restrict Stansted. If the authority makes detailed application—it has only outline planning permission at present—which is outside that restriction, I would expect the local planning authority to refuse it, and there is always the appeal mechanism if it does not. I assure my hon. Friend that the planning defences are there to make sure that the Government's phasing of this development is adhered to accurately.
Our proposal to impose a limit on air transport movements at the airport commensurate with the first phase of development will, I hope, provide further reassurance to my hon. Friends and to local residents about the rate of growth of traffic. The legislation, which I intend to introduce at the earliest opportunity, will provide that the limit can be raised only with the approval of Parliament, which will have to be satisfied that this is necessary to meet the demand. This mechanism will ensure direct control by Parliament over the use of the airport. We cannot now be sure of the amount of demand at any time in the future, how much can be accommodated at Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton, and, above all, how successful the regional airports will be, with the Government's help, in attracting traffic. Parliament will be able to judge all these factors.
Aircraft noise at Stansted is being significantly reduced by bans on the noisier aircraft types, and we shall seek further to reduce the impact at Stansted by improving on the current noise abatement measures, which include restrictions on night operations. There is a review of night sleep disturbance currently under way. Quiet take-off and 31 landing procedures and noise preferential routes will be required. They will be supplemented with new measures, including a noise insulation grants scheme for the Stansted area.
In the light of the decision on phasing the development of the airport, British Rail will be examining the case for a rail link to Stansted. The cheapest option would be a simple spur to the Liverpool Street-Cambridge line, costing perhaps £50 million. The options will be assessed on exactly the same terms as a rail link to Manchester airport. I understand that British Rail thinks that the Stansted study could be completed by the end of this year. The Manchester study could probably be completed sooner than that, I look forward to reading them both.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)
The Secretary of State will be aware that some people in the Greater Manchester area are worried that British Rail may be loading the question of the Manchester airport link because of its reluctance to see people changing from train to plane to travel from Manchester to London. Will he make sure that the development of a rail link to Manchester airport is looked at in terms of its international impact rather than simply in terms of its competition with British Rail on journeys from Manchester to London?
§ Mr. Ridley
I shall seek to make sure of that. It is for British Rail to work out the figures and appraise the nature of the investment, but it is for me to approve it or otherwise. I shall make sure that this work is done properly. It will also be done in conjunction with Manchester city council and Manchester international airport so that they, too, can make sure that there is no suggestion—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not suspect that there is any such possibility—of the figures being wrongly put together.
I know there are many people in the Stansted area who oppose any more than a relatively small expansion. But there are also many who welcome the new jobs development will bring. Estimates of the number of jobs arising from expansion of the airport to a capacity of 15 million passengers per annum, both directly and indirectly, vary from 18,000 to 25,000. The inspector appeared to place more reliance on the lower figure; I have no better estimates as yet, but even on this basis it seems likely that development restricted initially to 7 million to 8 million passengers per annum would generate perhaps 10,000 jobs for the unemployed at Harlow, Braintree, Basildon, north-east London and even further afield—for instance, north-east Kent, which now enjoys good road access to the airport. Many people presently commuting to London from the area may obtain airport-related jobs. The more people from neighbouring areas take jobs there, the less will be the pressure for more housing to be provided.
My hon. Friends representing constituencies near Stansted are also concerned that low charges at Stansted might draw traffic away from the regions. This is also a fear shared by hon. Members from the north of England. For this to happen would be contrary to one of our main objectives, which is to encourage the growth of traffic at the regional airports. I assure the House that we will take the necessary steps to ensure that Stansted does not have an unfair advantage.
32 First, under the legislation I shall be introducing, the structure of the BAA, with seven separate companies under one holding company, will require separate accounts for each subsidiary and full financial transparency; this will inhibit cross-subsidisation. Secondly, the role of the Civil Aviation Authority, in regulating the general level of airport charges, will prevent any predatory price cutting at Stansted. Thirdly, if individal airport companies borrow from within the group or outside it, they will have to pay full commercial rates of interest. The expansion of Stansted will have to be a commercial investment. It follows that charges at the airport will need to rise steeply to meet the costs of expansion. The BAA board, since the decision on 5 June to approve the development of Stansted, has said that it will be consulting its airline customers on the increased charges required to meet the costs of providing the new capacity. The Government are determined to ensure that traffic is not attracted away from the regions by unfair competition.
§ Mr. Cecil Franks (Barrow and Furness)
My right hon. Friend said that the structure of the British Airports Authority and the seven subsidiary companies would inhibit subsidy. Many Conservative Members would like the word "prohibit" to be substituted for the word "inhibit", for many people are very sceptical about the good faith of the British Airports Authority.
§ Mr. Ridley
With respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks), I said that to set up seven separate companies will require separate accounts for each subsidiary and full financial transparency, but that is only part of what I said. I went on to say that we should insist—most probably through the articles of association—upon a commercial rate of interest being charged upon inter-company loans. Furthermore, the Civil Aviation Authority will supervise all charges to ensure that none of them is predatory. That is perhaps the most important measure. Any one of them, taken alone, is not adequate but, taken together, I believe that they will prove to be adequate for the purpose.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
The Secretary of State is referring to the future. Is he aware that what is happening now is a scandal? Last year, Stansted lost £3.88 million, an average subsidy of £8 per passenger. Its landing charges are one quarter of the landing charges in Manchester. Is the Secretary of State unable to take some action immediately to end that scandal?
§ Mr. Ridley
If the right hon. Gentleman will support the Bill which is to be placed before the House not only by his vote but by curtailing his speech, the sooner shall we have the power to do what he seeks, but in advance of that legislation I have no such power.
§ Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, North)
The Secretary of State has said that he does not wish Stansted to draw traffic away from the regional airports. Will he give a categorical assurance that there will be no hidden subsidies or cross-subsidisation for Stansted?
§ Mr. Ridley
I have already said this at length twice, so the hon. Gentleman already has my assurance. Our policy is the reverse of Stansted being in a position to attract traffic away from the regions. Its purpose is to help to meet the growth of unavoidable demand in the southeast, not to divert traffic which would otherwise have used the regional airports.
33 Finally, on Stansted, we have made it clear that no second runway should be built there. I am requiring the British Airports Authority to sell all surplus land that would be needed for a second runway. Its external financing limit will be set on the basis of receiving the proceeds of sale of this land.
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood)
Will my right hon. Friend say how many international airports operate in the 1980s with one runway?
§ Mr. Ridley
Without notice I am unable to give to my hon. Friend the answer that he seeks, but perhaps he would answer this question: how would our airports policy fare if I were to propose second runways at the three London airports which have only one runway at present?
§ Mr. Tony Favell
(Stockport): Will my right hon. Friend confirm, first, that the intention of the British Airports Authority is that Stansted should primarily be a charter flight airport? Secondly, how does he intend that the CAA should supervise the charging policy at Stansted? Thirdly, is there anything to prevent Stansted from making losses and also is there anything to ensure that it declares dividends to the holding companies?
§ Mr. Ridley
I do not confirm that the intention is that Stansted should be a charter airport. The White Paper has asked the CAA to consult all the airlines to establish what would be the right traffic distribution policy. I very much hope that the growth of scheduled services as well as charter flights will take place at Stansted. Secondly, with the information provided by separate company accounting, the CAA will undoubtedly have the power to supervise charges, both to prevent the exploitation of monopoly and to prevent predatory pricing. That is, there will be a limit both at the top and at the bottom. We shall ensure during the passage of the legislation that the powers to be made available are adequate. Thirdly, it is probable that Stansted will make losses in the early years as it develops. It is making losses already. Whether it is a separate company or whether it is part of the BAA, there still has to be the ability for it to make losses. Prestwick is also making losses. We cannot prevent a company from making losses, but we can roll up those losses in the balance sheet of the company so that it has to pay interest on them and finally redeem them when it enters a profitable period.
§ Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that if besides privatising it we changed the management structure of the British Airports Authority we might find that no losses would be made? Will he consider changing the management of the BAA as well as privatising it?
§ Mr. Ridley
I have complete confidence in the management of the BAA, and it is not part of my plans to do as my hon. Friend suggests. We shall have enough on our plate with this legislation.
§ Mr. Ridley
I shall give way to the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones), but after that I shall have to restrict interventions to those who have a constituency interest, otherwise I shall never finish my speech.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
I am most grateful to the Secretary of State. I served, as did the Secretary of State, on the Standing Committee on the Civil Aviation Bill, which fell apart and disappeared. He mentioned that there is to be legislation. A White Paper has been published and eventually legislation will be introduced. Will he say in what way that legislation will differ from the Bill that we considered earlier this year?
§ Mr. Ridley
The contents of the legislation are to be found in the last chapter of the White Paper, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman has studied. The Bill will contain the proposals that were included in the Civil Aviation Bill which the Government abandoned. It will be a wider Bill than the Civil Aviation Bill, but it will include many of the same powers.
On the subject of Heathrow, I must make it clear that we have not simply postponed or fudged the building of terminal 5. I have not ruled out the possibility for all time, but I am not convinced on present forecasts that it is necessary at all. Terminal 4, which is due to open early next year, will handle some 8 million PPA. Thereafter, the major constraint at Heathrow will be runway, not terminal capacity. When the runways reach saturation in the rush hours, growth in passenger throughput at the airport can come only from spreading the traffic to off-peak periods, which is unattractive to both airlines and passengers, or from an increase in the average number of passengers carried on each flight.
During the 1970s, particularly the first half, there were substantial increases in average passenger loads per aircraft at Heathrow, resulting from the introduction of larger aircraft. That growth has slowed down in recent years. Some have suggested that rapid growth in the average number of passengers per aircraft will be resumed, once runway capacity is reached. But many of the signs point in the opposite direction.
First, it is our policy to increase competition between airlines on domestic routes and to continue pressing for more liberalisation in European markets. Secondly, commuter routes are growing in importance, with a preference for frequent services and smaller aircraft. Thirdly, we are determined to maintain access to Heathrow for services from regional airports. Fourthly, aircraft manufacturers' order books suggest that there is now less interest in bigger "stretched" aircraft for long-haul services and, indeed, more airlines are considering operating twin-engined jets across the Atlantic.
The conclusion that I draw is that growth in passengers per flight at Heathrow is likely to be relatively slow, and that it is the runways which will be the constraint. Even if I am wrong, it will be a long time before extra capacity is needed. I ask the House to support the Government's decision to abandon the 275,000 air traffic movement limit, and to allow us to go back on our undertaking. The Government tried to implement this commitment in the Civil Aviation Bill, but the House did not entirely support us.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
I appreciate the impossible problem that my right hon. Friend had with that Bill, from the Labour and Liberal parties and from the 35 SDP, as well as from one or two of my hon. Friends. However, any decision to abandon the 275,000 flight limit will be viewed extremely seriously in west London. Will my right hon. Friend go instead for an increased number of passengers on each flight and stick as near as humanly possible to the 275,000 limit? Will he give an undertaking not to increase the number of passenger flights using Northolt?
§ Mr. Ridley
The market will determine the size of aircraft and the number of passengers carried. On our forecasts, it is unlikely that the number of passengers per aircraft will increase or that there will be a very great increase in the number of flights, as Heathrow is already fairly close to capacity. It would be better to let Heathrow determine how best to use its capacity to the full.
§ Mr. Robert McCrindle (Brentwood and Ongar)
Should not my right hon. Friend turn his attention to another factor—the type of flying that is likely to become more popular as we move into the 1990s? Do not many in the aviation industry predict a far greater use of scheduled rather than charter flights? If Stansted were developed primarily as a charter airport, might not any future decision about expansion come down quite easily in favour of terminal 5?
§ Mr. Ridley
I have already said what the Government think about terminal 5. With an ever more competitive and free airline industry, which extends into Europe, the difference between scheduled and charter flights will probably become less and less clear. I do not want to bind any given airport or airline to a particular policy. After all, the operators know best what they want to do and where they want to go. I believe it wise to run traffic distribution policy with the lightest rein possible.
On the subject of the ATM limit, I do not quite understand the point made by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). On 5 June, she criticised me for abandoning the limit, yet on every occasion her troops voted against a Bill that would have imposed it. I should make it clear that we shall continue with the policy of restricting night flights at Heathrow. Indeed, the studies that I referred to earlier could well alleviate night disturbance there. Quieter aircraft are already beginning to alleviate the nuisance at night, as well as during the day.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)
My right hon. Friend has given the impression today that terminal 5 will not be constructed at Heathrow in the foreseeable future. That is in direct conflict with what the White Paper says on page 59. Furthermore, there is a widespread belief that the removal of the sludge works must be a first step towards constructing terminal 5. Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that terminal 5 will not be constructed in the foreseeable future?
§ Mr. Ridley
My hon. Friend has anticipated my comments. If the House will allow me, I shall proceed, as interventions take up too much time.
We attach the utmost importance to airline competition and liberalisation. It has already yielded substantial benefits for the passenger. It is the most effective stimulus of all for extra regional traffic. If the choice is between more passengers using Heathrow and more competition,
36 there is no doubt that the passengers have more to gain from competition. That explains why we may not need terminal 5.
In addition, the development of Luton and Stansted will bring more runway capacity into effective use in the London airport system. It may be possible, as a result, to improve the utilisation of the existing terminals at Heathrow to cater for up to 42 million PPA, thus again reducing the need for a fifth terminal. But I accept that there are uncertainties about the mix of aircraft and the pattern of demand in the longer term, and that a fifth terminal might—I emphasise "might"—one day be needed, although possibly of lower capacity than 15 million PPA. That would not be a realistic option if the Perry Oaks site continues to be occupied by a sludge disposal facility.
The Perry Oaks works were there before the airport began to develop. They are an incongruous neighbour for the airport and I do not doubt that they would be better moved. The land they occupy would in any event provide valuable relief for the cramped Heathrow site. We have therefore asked the BAA and the Thames water authority to study the possibility of moving them, the costs, the alternative sites and methods of disposal, and the time that it would take. When those questions are answered, and we have a clearer view of how traffic will develop, we shall be in a position to assess whether there is a need for more terminal capacity.
On the question of road and rail links to Heathrow, we undertook in the White Paper to examine urgently what could be done to reduce congestion and to improve passenger access to the airport. I intend to appoint consultants to look at options for investment in the corridor between London and Heathrow. The study will cover road access by public and private transport, the Underground, and rail services. The large number of options to be considered inevitably means that this study will take some time. I am also establishing a working group, with the local authorities concerned, to look at options for traffic management in the vicinity of Heathrow.
As I said, all forecasts suggest that we need to provide capacity in the south-east for 72 million to 79 million PPA by 1995. Capacity will run short in the early 1990s. Even if we could provide a fifth terminal at Heathrow after the Perry Oaks sludge works have been moved, that would not solve the problem because it is primarily one of runway capacity. Further provision is needed at airports with spare runway capacity, which means Luton and Stansted.
Looking further ahead, south-east traffic can grow only by use of the five runways we have: two at Heathrow and one each at Gatwick, Luton and Stansted. Our policy is to make the best use of those resources. We have provided for 1995 and allowed room for expansion. We need not commit ourselves before we have to, but equally it would be senseless not to retain the capability to meet the growth in demand, if it happens. I believe that our decisions will provide the scope that our civil aviation industry needs to expand and prosper.
Our decisions have been widely welcomed by the industry, especially the independent airlines operating from regional airports. The airlines know that more capacity is needed at the London airports to provide for the growth of air traffic and the jobs that go with it. Nothing would stifle competition and damage the interests of the travelling public more than a shortage of capacity. That is why they have welcomed the Government's decisions.
§ Mr. Ridley
I shall not give way because I must make progress. I am about to talk about the regions, so perhaps the hon. Gentleman will wait to see whether I cover his point.
Our assumptions for the capacity needed in the southeast include an appreciation of how much traffic can be attracted away from the south-east to regional and Scottish airports. It is a prime aim of our policy to seek to get more traffic to go there, for three reasons. First, it will encourage development and activity in those parts of the country. Secondly, it will serve the interests of passengers there better to fly from local airports. Thirdly, it will relieve the pressure on the south-east. That is why we will look for every possible way of encouraging more flights to regional airports. Our record, as my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Silvester) said on 5 June, bears witness to our determination. In the last six years we have authorised £200 million of capital investment at regional airports, compared with only £14 million in the last five years of the Labour Government. International scheduled services from Manchester now total 33—of which 14 are new this year. The figures for Birmingham are 15, of which four are new this year.
What regional airports need is more concrete flights, not more concrete. We cannot force airlines to provide unprofitable services, but we can help by pressing for more liberalisation in Europe and by promoting regional airports when we negotiate air service agreements with other countries. No one can gainsay what we have already achieved. We have indeed done far more for regional airports than the Labour Government who preceded us, and who published a White Paper with dismissive comments aboutLimited scope for diverting passengers from the London airports to those in other regions.Imagine, therefore, the brazen nature of the Labour party's amendment today, which states:totally fail to foster a modern strategy for the regional airports".Since we are the first Government to do that very thing, the hon. Lady's amendment can be described only as breathtaking.
§ Mr. Allan Roberts
The Minister has not dealt with the point that I wished to make—and nor has the White Paper. Nowhere is Liverpool airport mentioned—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may groan, but it is important to the people of Merseyside. There is great anxiety on Merseyside that the proposals in the White Paper, coupled with the Bill to abolish the Merseyside county council, will cause Liverpool airport to close. Will the Minister give an undertaking that he will protect Merseyside from that eventuality?
§ Mr. Ridley
Liverpool airport will belong to the joint board that will be set up after abolition. However, if the districts can agree, it could belong to them in proportion to their shareholding after abolition. The decision of what to do with Liverpool airport will rest entirely with the districts and/or the joint board. I cannot give an assurance that it will or will not close; the decision is theirs, nor mine.
§ Mr. Churchill (Davyhulme)
May I, as a Manchester Member, say how much I appreciate the fact that since we last debated this matter in February, due to my right hon. Friend's liberalisation policy there has been a 75 per cent. 38 increase in the number of scheduled destinations to which one can fly from Manchester? It is important to my constituents and to the north-west as a whole, and we thank him for it. We further appreciate his undertaking that landing fees at Stansted will cease to be predatory. How soon is that likely to happen?
§ Mr. Ridley
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As I said earlier, the BAA board has already decided to start consultations with airlines about the increase in charges at Stansted that will be necessary. I imagine that those will come in within the reasonably near future.
The Government are committed to the development of Manchester as the major hub gateway international airport for the north of England. British Airways has begun services to New York this summer and will be adding Dubai, Bangkok and Hong Kong from November. But we have also encouraged foreign carriers to operate long-haul services from the airport—Qantas to Australia, E1 Al to Israel, and Singapore Airlines to the far east. We are also ready to negotiate with the United States Government the basis on which their airlines may operate direct scheduled services to Manchester, and an early date had already been fixed for these negotiations.
American Airlines wishes to begin a Chicago-Manchester service next summer. I hope that the negotiations with the United States Government, which could pave the way for other United States airline services, can be speedily and satisfactorily concluded. Manchester International Airport is being fully consulted about these negotiations. We have established a good working relationship with MIA and are discussing with its management a five-year plan for increasing the range of international services. We have already asked for work to be put in hand to assess the viability of a joint rail link to Manchester airport.
I think that that meets 95 per cent. of the demands of the North of England Regional Consortium—a limited development at Stansted, fair competition on airport charges, and positive policies for developing traffic to and from regional airports. But it has also asked for free access to regional airports for foreign carriers. That particular suggestion is not in its best interests. There are indeed advantages in services by foreign airlines, but a reasonable price must be paid by foreign Governments in return in the form of new rights for United Kingdom airlines or a more liberal agreement between us.
Even the United States, with its liberal policies and competitive aviation industry, insists on a satisfactory quid pro quo for its airlines, and so will we. To give up in advance any advantage we can obtain in negotiations for British aviation interests would be the worst possible deal, particularly for the regions.
The reason for that is simple. More jobs at any airport derive from the services flown by United Kingdom airlines than by foreign-based airlines which centre their operations overseas. The key to the development of regional airports is a strong network of services by British Airlines and the creation of local hubs, locally-based airline support services and local employment. We must strengthen their position, not damage their commercial prospects. The role of foreign airlines is important, but complementary.
These proposals have been welcomed by regional airports. Manchester airport welcomed our White Paper. The chief executive described it on television as: 39Good news for Manchester and good news for job prospects in the North West".Even the northern consortium, formed by northern local authorities, stated that the White Paper:may form the basis for the kind of development of regional airports which we would have liked to have seen after the 1978 White Paper".It called for an assurance that the Government and their successors would honour the White Paper's commitments. As long as this Government and this party are in office, it has that assurance.
So why did the hon. Lady call the White Paper aslap in the face for regional airports"?—[Official Report, 5 June 1985; Vol. 80, c. 312.]Why did the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) describe it as a "kick in the teeth"? Why did the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) describe it as a "hammer blow" to the regions, or the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish say that most people in Greater Manchester would be "disgusted"? The same day, the Manchester Evening Newscarried the banner headline, "Boosts for Ringway". Evidently Opposition Members are not even in touch with opinion in the North.
Just as we seek to encourage more direct services from Manchester to meet the demand in its catchment area, so we seek more direct services from the Scottish airports to meet Scottish demand. We will encourage new long-haul transatlantic services to Scotland, and more direct services to European destinations from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Glasgow and Edinburgh have done very well in attracting new services; Glasgow now has scheduled services to 10 international destinations, three of them new this year, while Edinburgh serves six European destinations, two of them new this year.
I have recently confirmed the present traffic distribution policy. We now look to the BAA to develop Prestwick as Scotland's gateway international airport for long-haul services, by exploiting Scotland's undoubted attractions for tourism and by providing services to assist its important new businesses. Prestwick, as a separate airport company, will probably operate at a loss initially, but I hope that it can be brought into profit very shortly. Our proposals give Prestwick a new opportunity to thrive.
These are our measures aimed at providing additional capacity in the south-east and encouraging more flights from regional and Scottish airports. Time allows me to deal only briefly with our proposals to privatise BAA and convert the major local authority airports into companies. We will have opportunities enough to discuss these proposals during the passage of the legislation.
These policies are complementary to our general aviation policy of encouraging airline competition, leading to an efficient industry providing a cheap and attractive service to consumers. We need to provide the country with an efficient and enterprising airports system responsive to the needs of airlines and their customers. Selling the BAA and imposing company disciplines on local authority airports will, I believe, meet this objective.
It is interesting that, apart from the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich, no hon. Member on 5 June questioned the decisions to privatise the BAA and to make the local authority airports into public limited companies. There are arguments we can have about whether the BAA should be privatised in one or two or seven airports. But they will arise in debating the legislation, as I said, and 40 I believe that we have the right answer. I also assure the Liberal party that there will be adequate proposals for regulating these airports and their changes as described in the White Paper, and I say that in view of the amendment which stands in the names of Liberal and SDP Members.
I believe that the policy described in the White Paper will provide the right framework for the expansion of our civil aviation industry, that it will allow enough, but not excessive, airport capacity to be built, and that it will cause the least possible disturbance to those who are adversely affected by airport development. I commend it to the House.
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:declines to approve a White Paper which encourages a form of further airport development in the south east of England which will disadvantage many of the local communities, inflict damage on the local environment, deny necessary public investment to other parts of the country, increase the gross economic imbalance between the north and south of the United Kingdom and totally fail to foster a modern strategy for regional airports.We have an opportunity with the new Civil Aviation Bill to set the airports pattern for the 1990s, which is a matter of enormous importance to the nation, not just because of the trade implications, but because of the social and environmental questions which we must address. It is essential that in doing our sums we are told clearly why it is necessary to develop airports in various parts of the country.
Just prior to December, the Secretary of State introduced a Civil Aviation Bill. It was concerned with only two aspects of airports development. First, it asked those in the area around Heathrow to accept that the right hon. Gentleman intended to break a solemn undertaking that he had given them to protect their environment. Secondly, the measure dealt in an extremely superficial way with the problems of the possible development of Stansted airport.
§ Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes)
Why, if Labour Members were so keen to impose a 275,000 ATM limit, did the hon. Lady request members of the Standing Committee considering the Civil Aviation Bill to vote against the sittings motion, because if that had been approved the 275,000 limit would have been introduced? Labour Members and the Liberal Member of that Committee agreed to her request.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
It was an appallingly bad Bill in every other respect—[Interruption.] Unlike Conservative Members, I am happy to abandon bad legislation. I repeat that the Secretary of State gave a solemn undertaking to keep air transport movements controlled at Heathrow. The latest plans seek to abandon that commitment.
The Secretary of State is suffering from a credibility problem. He says in the White Paper on the one hand that he intends to abandon the undertaking given to those living near Heathrow, while on the other he tells those living near Stansted that they have his solemn undertaking to use air transport movements to protect them in the future. That is extraordinary.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
Is the hon. Lady aware that if the Labour party seeks to impose an 41 arbitrary air transport movement limit of 275,000 a year at Heathrow—and we are already at that point—that will do away with jobs in the area?
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
In the south-east of England we are facing difficulties at Heathrow and Gatwick in that both are already close to their maximum usage. Air transport movements will not of themselves determine the way in which airports are usefully used in future.
We should be considering the infrastructure at Heathrow and the full implications of any suggestion to build terminal 5. The Government should make it clear that they have no intention of studying road and rail links without announcing what can be done to make life more tolerable for those living in the vicinity of airports.
The Secretary of State says that it is his intention that the Perry Oaks works at Heathrow should be moved and that there should be a survey as soon as possible—[Interruption.] By implication, he has made it clear that the extra land around Heathrow is needed. While he has said that he does not intend to build terminal 5, he believes that the crowded situation there makes it essential that any extra land should be rapidly developed. That is a clear indication that even if terminal 5 is not built the extra land that will be released by the moving of the Perry Oaks works will be used for airport development. That would put still further pressure on the area, when it is already suffering considerably from aircraft movements.
The Secretary of State tells us that because aeroplanes are becoming smaller there will in the future be less noise. If that is his view, why has he rejected the inspector's recommendation that further noise restrictions should be introduced by 1 January 1986? The right hon. Gentleman claims that that would be an expensive and unnecessary restriction on airlines. How can we take him seriously? If he genuinely believes what he says, he could take steps quickly to improve conditions for those living in the vicinity of Heathrow.
When the studies have been completed, particularly if it is suggested that British Rail should carry out developments affecting Heathrow and Manchester, will the right hon. Gentleman offer the BR board additional money to finance those considerable developments? If he intends, after surveys have been carried out, that BR should find the cash for those developments from within its own resources, there will be automatic cuts elsewhere in the country in BR services. The right hon. Gentleman should make the position clear about that.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
Before the hon. Lady leaves the subject of Heathrow, will she confirm, as she told the House clearly on 13 December 1984, that the Labour party does not welcome the idea that there should be a fifth terminal at Heathrow?
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
I had not left the subject of Heathrow, and I was about to address myself precisely to the issue which the hon. Gentleman has raised. I believe that there is no room for a fifth terminal at Heathrow. If one were introduced, I do not believe that it would improve the airport's facilities. Heathrow's capacity, in common with that of Gatwick and other south-east airports, must be considered carefully. I, note that STOLport is dismissed in the White Paper in one paragraph. There is little indication of the effect that its development would have on the number of passengers coming into the south-east.
§ Mr. Steen
It seems that the hon. Lady is working herself up to a frenzy unnecessarily. She has based her argument on a false premise, and she has developed her argument to a point at which she has become extremely excited. However, she will find when she reads her remarks that she is agreeing with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. She would do well to read the White Paper carefully. She is supporting my right hon. Friend in nearly everything that she is saying, and making a terrible mistake.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
One should never give way to the intervention-happy hon. Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen), who knows as much about airports as he does about buses in his constituency.
The Secretary of State is proposing to remove the ceilings on air traffic movements as one means of containing movements at Heathrow, and he has other proposals. It is important to realise that the White Paper suggests that there should be some control over airline slots. Is it seriously suggested that in future major airlines will be able to barter their slots one with another and sell their positions in the timetable? If so, the Secretary of State must know that many of his remarks about the expansion of domestic flights into Heathrow are so much nonsense. We want to see some understanding of the fact that a very small development of Stansted would enable the south-east more than to contain the growth that is envisaged either in the inspector's figures or elsewhere.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
The Opposition would have been prepared to accept up to 5 million PPA at Stansted. That would have created an airport which would not have been larger than regional airports, which would not have caused unnecessary difficulty and which would not have required massive public investment, which is a matter which concerns us, as such expenditure will have a direct influence on the amount of public expenditure that is available in the regions. However, the Secretary of State says, in effect, "I know that we have had our problems, but in future you may trust us. It is our intention to allow only a small development at Stansted." But he talks about 7 million and 8 million PPA which are far larger numbers than those handled at an average regional airport. He adds that it will be his intention that any development should be phased. If right hon. and hon. Members and their constituents imagine that any development at Stansted will remain at the figures quoted in the White Paper, they are more naive than I can possibly believe. If there is phased development to enable Stansted to handle 15 million PPA, I can assure the House that the airport's capacity will rapidly drift upwards to 25 million PPA. That will mean that Stansted will have all the developments of another major airport in the south-east, with all that that implies for the rest of the country.
§ Mr. Matthew Parris (Derbyshire, West)
How is it possible to argue both that demand for airports in the south-east is quite modest and can easily be satisfied with 43 modest expansion, and that as soon as facilities are in place at south-eastern airports demand for them will expand, and expand to the consternation of all local residents?
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
The Opposition have never said that air traffic movement demand is modest. We have said that there is a conscious way in which Governments direct traffic. Governments offer incentives. For example, they provide money. In their negotiating procedures they offer ways in which independent international airlines can obtain benefits. However, we are told by the Government that we are to take on trust the word of a Minister who gave solemn undertakings to those in the Heathrow area and who now intends to break them without so much as a by-your-leave.
The White Paper does not address itself seriously to the implications of the STOLport development. How is it that the Secretary of State can say that he expects STOLport to expand only to the extent of being able to deal with 1 million PPA when it is likely that if STOLport is to be viable it will have to handle 4 million PPA? If that happens, there will be a large extension of the traffic with the European airlines and we shall then find ourselves, possibly in a very short period, with excess airport capacity in the south-east. That should greatly concern the Secretary of State.
We are told that Manchester should be delighted with what it finds in the White Paper because it offers the airport many opportunities. Let us consider what is intended for it. Manchester has always been regarded as an international gateway airport, and that is the way in which it should develop. The Secretary of State has taken credit for the number of extra lines that are now flying into Manchester. At the beginning of the year, when there were considerable difficulties for Singapore Airlines, there was little evidence that he intended to do what he could to develop the activities of Manchester airport. There was far more evidence that it was his intention to try to restrict international development in the north-west.
§ Mr. Ridley
The Singapore Government first applied for the route to Manchester on 20 March. We could not respond to any suggestion from Singapore until an official suggestion was made. When that suggestion was made, it was dealt with in six weeks, which is about the quickest settlement of an international arrangement that has ever been made, especially one involving Manchester.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
As I understand it, Singapore Airlines had been turned down twice, and the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the application was made later in the year seems rather spurious. It was made clear to Singapore Airlines that it would not be allowed to go into Manchester. It was only after a considerable campaign in the House and elsewhere that the Secretary of State felt that he had to give way. It was clear that that was his attitude from the beginning.
In the White Paper, the Government pose a far more serious threat to the regions. Paragraph 6.28 makes it clear, by implication, that the Government see Manchester as a major international regional airport. The Secretary of State did not use that phrase today, but a similar one 44 appears in the White Paper. There are two key phrases elsewhere that must be taken into account when we are considering the Government's intentions. The Government state that they wishto encourage the liberalisation of air services wherever foreign competition is fair and British interests are not prejudiced.That appears in paragraph 6.6.
The White Paper states:increased access by foreign airlines to UK airports should be balanced by parallel improvements in access, of equivalent value, for UK airlines to that country.On the face of it, that seems to be a perfectly reasonable statement, until one realises that it could be used by the Government to restrict international flights into regional airports.
What will happen when, or if, British Airways becomes a private company? There seems to be some doubt about this privatisation, if one believes the reports in the Sunday newspapers about how the Secretary of State is "not amused" when his colleagues treat his efforts in the same way as he treats state assets and try to get their fingers on any available profits. If BA is privatised, it will become one of the private airlines and, presumably, will not be given precedence over other airlines in the name of the national interest. If that is so, it is a total negation of everything that the Secretary of State has preached to the House since taking office.
If Manchester airport is offered expansion to accept flights by European airlines and is told that there will be restrictions on other developments in the south-east, we shall be able to note how genuine are the undertakings given in the White Paper to regional airports. If the Government really wished to give positive support, there would not, for example, be an implied threat that if Prestwick does not become viable by 1989 it will be closed. The White Paper glibly talks about the fact that many people would like to fly into Glasgow and Edinburgh, but it also says that Prestwick will be retained, provided that it becomes viable by 1989. If that is the Government's intention, they should spell it out in considerable detail. They should not leave the Scots to find out that the Government intend not to protect Prestwick as a gateway international airport, but to leave it to sink or swim as a result of the interim arrangements.
One of the most extraordinary parts of the White Paper is the section devoted to privatisation. We are told that the British Airports Authority will be sold off as a single entity and made into a limited company which will be able to expand into non-airport activities. We are told also that one reason for the change is the fact that the company will be able to attract senior management with a much higher level of expertise.
The Secretary of State has rejected all those arguments in relation to the National Bus Company which he is now putting forward in relation to BAA. If the right hon. Gentleman genuinely believes that it is necessary to bring in extra finance, why does he not allow BAA to remain within the public sector and to seek finance elsewhere? There has never been any shortage of financiers anxious to put money into viable units. What is the magic which says that, somehow, we must sell off the British Airports Authority as one unit? The Government say, "Of course, we shall insist that it is broken down into seven individual companies and insist on the transparency of their accounts, but, nevertheless, we must keep them all together."
45 Has the Secretary of State never heard of creative accounting? Has he of all people never heard of accountants who manage to move money from one company to another?
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
The Secretary of State has given his colleagues a clear understanding that when BAA is privatised there will be no difficulty with transfer charging or cross-subsidisation. He has said that when all the clear sets of accounts are available it will not be possible to subsidise landing fees at Stansted. I say to all of you on the opposite side of the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Mr. Deputy Speaker, I know that you are well aware that anyone who is naive enough to believe that accountants are not capable of cooking the books has no place in this House. Stansted will receive exactly the degree of cross-subsidisation that is necessary to make it viable for the first five years of its life.
§ Mr. Soames
The hon. Lady is always fascinating. Will she lift the veil a little more? To what does she really object in relation to the privatisation of the British Airports Authority?
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
I would not want to take up too much time. I believe that privatisation is unnecessary and will lead to gross incompetence. It is an extraordinary decision in view of the fact that BAA is doing a very good job. Privatisation is a clumsy mechanism. The White Paper says that the sale of BAA will provide a means of controlling the various flights. Why is it necessary, on the one hand, to sell off the BAA and, on the other, to ask for legislation to perform the duties that are easily performed at present by the combination of the Civil Aviation Authority and BAA with the Secretary of State? The reason is the prejudice of the Secretary of State against any efficient state organisation. The right hon. Gentleman gives no evidence for believing that BAA is not doing a good job. He simply says that privatisation must take place.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
I must continue.
Will the Secretary of State give some evidence that local authority airports are not doing an efficient job? He acknowledges that they are doing an efficient job by saying that they are major businesses, some of which have a turnover of more than £1 million. However, he simply says, "The reason why I do not wish to retain local authority airports is that they should not be run with a committee. He gives no evidence to show that the passengers, the airlines or aircraft users in general are dissatisfied with the present position. Indeed, he would have great difficulty in trying to obtain that evidence, because local authority airports have developed efficiently and have provided high-quality facilities. Every year that passes shows that they not only are welcome to the passengers but are responding to the great needs in their areas. If an organisation is efficient, well run and has elected representatives involved in it, that is a sufficient reason for the Secretary of State to insist on selling it off.
The Secretary of State says that he does not intend asking for powers to force local authorities to sell their involvement in the airports. He says that he intends merely to create companies which are at one remove from the 46 local authorities and to ask them to invite private enterprise in the form of concessionaires or shareholders. The White Paper suggests that any finance required in the future must come from sources other than the state. Taking that factor into account, and the fact that the local authorities will be rate capped, one realises what the Secretary of State is talking about when he says that he intends encouraging local authorities to divest themselves of these involvements. His idea of encouragement is pistol-whipping in another form.
The White Paper shows clearly that the Government are not prepared to be honest with the House of Commons. They have not only asked for more development at Stansted than they need, but they have made it clear that, by favouring massive changes at Heathrow, there will be further development there. They have not given any indication that they will stick to their undertakings on terminal 5. It is their intention to force major changes on the British Airports Authority, without any justification whatever. It is their intention to change the pattern of local authority development in Britain. Above all, yet again it is their intention to put more and more money into the south-east.
I wonder whether the Secretary of State yet understands how deeply the rest of the country resents his policies.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
I wonder whether the Secretary of State understands that to come here and talk about the creation of 10,000 extra jobs in the Stansted area, the building of 17,000 houses, or the investment of £1,400 million, proves to the rest of the country that his true interest is not in a properly balanced transport policy, and least of all is it in any properly balanced financial development for any area outside the south-east.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
We know that the Secretary of State has in mind what he has always had in mind from the moment that he took office—to create a transport system which is not integrated, in which any private enterprise organisation which can get any benefit from state assets will be positively encouraged and where the passenger will be the very last person that can concern him.
It is a messy White Paper. It breaks the Secretary of State's undertakings. It asks for faith, which he will not find forthcoming from a House of Commons which has been disappointed more than once. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the electorate will take a very clear view of the way in which he has conned them.
§ Sir Humphrey Atkins (Spelthome)
Predictably, the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) spent a good part of her speech in attacking my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. We knew that she would do that. Unfortunately, almost all of her attack went astray because she based it on inaccuracies. She attributed words to my right hon. Friend that he did not use, she misread what was in the White Paper, and she gave the impression of not having mastered her subject very well. I know that she will forgive me if I say that her attack lacked the force that it might otherwise have had.
47 I had hoped during the hon. Lady's speech to hear what is the Labour party's policy on airports. I think I understood it. It is that it would do nothing to develop Heathrow, either by having more flights or another terminal; that it would restrict development at Stansted to 5 million passengers; and that it would therefore encourage the growth of air traffic elsewhere. However, the hon. Lady asserted that air traffic will not increase much over the next 10 or 20 years. If she really believes that, I counsel her to read Mr. Graham Eyre's report. She would get much benefit from reading it, because both Mr. Eyre and the White Paper disagree with her assertion.
If, on the other hand, the hon. Lady thinks that air traffic will increase, there is only one way in which people can be made to go to Manchester and other airports, and that is by direction. The hon. Lady used the word. I should like her to tell the House whether there has been—
§ Sir Humphrey Atkins
Will the hon. Lady be good enough to confirm that the Labour party's policy on airports is the same now as it was in 1978? In 1978 the Labour Government's White Paper rejectedthe suggestion that the air transport industry should be subject to the damaging restrictions on its operations which would be the outcome of the forced diversion of traffic to regional airports".Is that what the Labour party believes? If not, the hon. Lady is talking nonsense, is she not? [Interruption.] Perhaps we shall hear at the end of the debate.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
The Secretary of State is fond of quoting from a constructive document that was prepared by the previous Labour Government. What is clear is that there was felt to be no requirement for or possibility of a new airport, and the decision to abandon Maplin was reaffirmed. In addition, there was no intention to go beyond 4 million passengers or four terminals. That was clear and I have confirmed it today.
We do not want five terminals at Heathrow, nor do we believe that there should be any breaking of the undertaking given to the House of Commons.
§ Sir Humphrey Atkins
The hon. Lady's whole case seems to be based on her belief that air passenger traffic will not grow. If it grows, and passengers want to be able to use terminals in the south-east—
§ Sir Humphrey Atkins
No, I am dealing with the hon. Lady—either passengers must be allowed to do so or they must be forced to go somewhere else. We shall no doubt hear the point developed further in speeches from the Opposition Benches, and I shall be interested to hear them.
§ Sir Humphrey Atkins
I think that the hon. Gentleman is likely to be called. No doubt he will make a powerful speech, to which we shall all listen with great interest. I hope to be fairly short to enable him to do that.
I express my thanks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and to my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction for having refused 48 the application by the Uttlesford district council to develop terminal 5 at Heathrow. Obviously, the Secretary of State had an impossible job to do. He had to seek to reconcile the interests of the airlines, of the airport operators, of the passengers, and of those who live in the immediate vicinity of airports. As everyone knows, those interests are very different from each other. Clearly, my right hon. Friend has not wholly pleased everybody—indeed, I do not believe that anybody could do that—but I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his decision. I also congratulate my right hon. Friend on listening to the people who know what they are talking about. Obviously, he listened to the airlines and to the other organisations involved, but he also listened to the representatives of people.
I was astonished—as, I am sure, were some of my hon. Friends—to be told by British Airways that it had conducted a survey which showed that the residents of areas immediately round Heathrow backed terminal 5; in fact, it produced a newspaper saying "Residents back fifth terminal". British Airways sent me-and probably some of my hon. Friends—a breakdown of what it had discovered. I was most interested to learn that it had consulted 26 of my constituents. Dr. Gallup's polls are well known, but I think that he made a major error on this occasion.
I represent over 70,000 people and have sought to make it my business to find out what they think. I can tell my right hon. Friend and the House that the enormous amount of correspondence that I have received from individuals—plus the representations of over a dozen voluntary organisations, between them representing thousands of people, and of every elected member of the borough council and the county council, Conservative and Labour—expressed the same view, which was the direct opposite of what British Airways said, basing its assumption on having talked to 26 people whom I represent.
I counsel British Airways—for whom I have much respect; it runs a very good airline—to stick to the business it knows and to leave the business of finding out what people think to Members of Parliament and others who know how to do it.
I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has taken on board the fact that the problem at Heathrow is more of runway capacity than of terminal capacity. Indeed, the White Paper says that. The capacity of the runways is not completely clear, but it depends obviously on the spread of aircraft, and to some extent on their size. I understand that the larger aircraft must be further apart because of the turbulence that they produce in the air behind them.
There is an interesting table in section 4 of the White Paper showing that Heathrow's maximum capacity is currently about 300,000 passenger air transport movements a year decreasing, in about 15 years' time, to about the present level. Therefore, as my right hon. Friend has clearly demonstrated, the need for extra terminal capacity depends entirely on the loading of the aircraft. My right hon. Friend gave a figure of 112 per aircraft at the moment. If the limit in, say, 10 years is to be, as the White Paper says, 280,000 movements then to require the ability to move 53 million passengers, which is what terminal 5 would provide, would need a loading of 192 in each aircraft. I do not believe that that will happen because 49 —my right hon. Friend mentioned this as well—over recent years the increase in movement of aeroplanes at Heathrow has been in the smaller ones.
That development has come with the shuttle services to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast. It is clear that the traveller to any of those cities wants to be able to say, "I should like to get into a 'plane at 9, 10, 11 or 12 o'clock, whichever I choose", rather than to be told by the airline operator, "There is a jumbo jet at 9 o'clock and 4 o'clock and you must go in one of those." The airlines must provide what the passengers want, and, therefore, if the passengers want the frequency of service that they appear to have demanded over the past few years, the numbers per aeroplane will not rise that high. That is why I believe my right hon. Friend is correct to be cautious about the need for further development after about 1995. The White Paper says—I think everyone will agree with this—that forecasting is notoriously difficult. The forecasts contained in the 1978 White Paper mentioned by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich about the number of passengers in 1984 proved to be wrong. I do not blame her for that. Forecasts tend to be wrong and therefore my right hon. Friend is correct to go ahead only with what seems to be needed now and not to try to look into the year 2000 or beyond, because such forecasting is so speculative as to become unreal.
I am pleased that a study is being undertaken of the access to Heathrow by road and rail. I do not need to tell hon. Members about the difficulties of going to and from Heathrow by road at the busiest times of the day. The Cromwell road, the flyovers, the M4 and the approach tunnel become completely blocked at various times of the day. The journey can be and frequently is a misery. In Mr. Graham Eyre's report there was a clear indication that it would be difficult to improve that access. I am sure that it could be done, but it will turn out to be difficult and expensive.
The Underground is undoubtedly of enormous benefit to Heathrow, but in the long term there must be improvements especially if there are to be more passengers. The journey takes longer than that to Gatwick. Another difficulty is that it is not easy for people with luggage. The accommodation for people with luggage is not good in the trains or on the platforms. People travelling to Heathrow with luggage find greater difficulty than, for example, on the Victoria to Gatwick service. The rail service to Heathrow would need to be an overground service run by British Rail. That would be enormously expensive. However, my right hon. Friend will study those matters, and I hope that the House will be made aware of the outcome of the studies, because I should like to see it.
The general level of noise and the level of noise at night worry anyone who lives near an airport. The number of aeroplanes and their age affect the amount of noise. Those whom I represent wonder why the Secretary of State is prepared to announce now that he will limit the number of aeroplanes allowed to use Stansted whilst removing the limit on the number of planes allowed to use Heathrow. I notice two things, however. My right hon. Friend has no legal power to control that at present, but will seek it. I should like an assurance from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary when he replies that when the Bill is introduced it will be so drawn that my right hon. Friend will have the power to impose a limit at Heathrow and other airports if he so wishes. Such a power would of course be subject to discussion in the House.
50 I should like to suggest—
§ Sir Humphrey Atkins
It is possible to have the power to regulate the number of movements at an airport even if one does not own it, as the legislation will make clear.
I should like to make a suggestion to my right hon. Friend about noise. I understand that he proposes not to seek to enforce the 275,000 voluntary limit which is in force at Heathrow. I should like—I am sure everyone would think this reasonable—any increase in the limit to be tied to the decrease in the noise of the aeroplane. We are all aware that the Trident is to go at the end of this year, and that foreign non-noise certificated aeroplanes will be allowed to continue until 1988. We should urge my right hon. Friend not to respond to any propositions made to him to extend the date for the non-noise certificated foreign aeroplanes, and, secondly, only to increase the number of aircraft movements as those aeroplanes are phased out and further improvements in noise are made. He owes that to the people who live around Heathrow and other airports. I should like my hon. Friend to tell us when he replies that my right hon. Friend will seek to marry those two steps.
§ Sir Humphrey Atkins
My hon. Friend wishes to intervene but I have not finished the point that I was making. On the subject of night noise, I am pleased to see that a study of the type of noise that wakes people—that is not the phrase used, but that is what the study is about—is now being conducted by civil servants. That is encouraging.
I suggest that when that study is complete the movement of aircraft at night should be regulated under the new legislation. Furthermore, under that legislation penalties for breaches of the legislation should be substantially more severe than they are at the moment. For an airline breaking the minimum noise route agreements or making more noise than it should and not following take-off procedures properly, the penalties are small. The penalty should be severe for any airline that breaks the noise arrangements and disturbs those people who live around airports.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his courtesy. I am interrupting only because I believe that his well-argued speech contained one deficiency. Does he agree that over the past 10 years there has been a marked reduction in the amount of noise disturbance around Heathrow? That is a measurably demonstrable fact, and is due to the high bypass ratio of the turbo-fans coming into service. The trend will continue, and with the introduction in 1986 and 1988 of the new noise regulations to which he has referred the question of noise will become less important. Will he therefore recognise that fact by not seeking to impose an arbitrary ban on aircraft movements into Heathrow, because the reduction in noise has taken place while the movements into Heathrow have grown?
§ Sir Humphrey Atkins
I shall not do that for a good reason, as my hon. Friend will understand. On page 39 of the White Paper is a table showing the area affected by various levels of noise. If he reads the table he will find 51 that noise in the areas most affected—that is at the higher level of the noise and number index—has been reduced much less than anywhere else. Many of the people affected are those whom I represent, so I shall not agree with my hon. Friend.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
Will the right hon. Gentleman address himself to page 40 of the White Paper, which makes it clear that the inspector recommended noise limits and that noise monitoring procedures should be reviewed, to introduce lower limits on 1 January 1986? The next paragraph makes it clear that the Government have refused to do that.
§ Sir Humphrey Atkins
I am arguing specifically about the amount of noise suffered by those living near airports. If aeroplanes make less noise, it does not matter so much if there are more of them. To be fair to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, he introduced legislation into the House to give him the power to impose a limit of 275,000 ATM. He did not get that through the House, partly because of the activities of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich.
§ Sir Humphrey Atkins
Indeed—and some of my hon. Friends.
As my right hon. Friend has given up trying to impose that limit because he does not think that he will get it through, I am suggesting that any increase should be tied to the introduction of quieter aeroplanes. I think that that is a reasonable proposition.
Most of what I have said has related to Heathrow, but I believe that many of the points that I have made affect other parts of the country, most notably Stansted, which have, or will have, similar problems to those endured by my constituents over many years. I shall not attempt to argue their case—they will do that much better than me—but, given the satisfactory answers to the questions that I have posed to my right hon. Friend, I am glad to support the White Paper.
§ Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)
I should like to call attention to the amendment on the Order Paper in my name and the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
I agree with the point made by the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) about public transport access to Heathrow. It is a serious matter, and I hope to deal with it later.
I should like to start by putting on record the decisions taken by the Government in the White Paper that we welcome. The STOLport decision was taken before the White Paper was published, but it appears in it. That is an imaginative proposal. I welcome the fact that the way is now clear for the development to proceed, and I wish it every success. Despite the noise of helicopters, it is also important to find a permanent site for a heliport in the City.
I also welcome the abandonment of the 275,000 air transport movements limit, with which the right hon. Member for Spelthorne does not agree. The Secretary of State should express his gratitude to the Standing Committee for getting him off that hook. The right hon. Member for Spelthorne referred to the fact that some of us had not studied Mr. Graham Eyre's report. Mr. Eyre made 52 it clear that he thought that the 275,000 limit was absolute nonsense. We did not see how we could pass opposing legislation when that report was before us. Therefore, I believe that the right decision has now been taken and that the House, for once, helped bring that about.
The most important aspect of the decision to abandon the 275,000 limit is that it should continue to ensure access to Heathrow for the smaller independent British airlines, which badly need to link up with the international routes if they are to survive and prosper. I still regret the fact that the Secretary of State did not implement the Civil Aviation Authority recommendations in full last autumn, which would have obliged British Airways to surrender more of its routes and given the independents a greater opportunity to expand. However, I suspect that the promise of rolling down to Rio with Lord King proved too great a temptation.
I also welcome the decision on the Perry Oaks sewage works. Whatever the future needs of Heathrow, it makes sense to get rid of those sewage works. Therefore, I commend the proposals in paragraph 5.15 to set the wheels in motion. It enables us to keep our options open on the future expansion of our principal airport.
I now come to the points of disagreement with the policy document. It is, of course, a typical political compromise. How one can claim that one intends to restrict Stansted to 8 million PPA when at the same time one gives outline planning consent for 15 million is beyond my comprehension. I am a chartered surveyor, and I have had to deal with people who have had outline planning consent, then failed to obtain detailed consent and found themselves in difficulty. They usually received substantial compensation if they found that they were being deliberately blocked by a local authority, and more likely consent would be given. A privatised British Airports Authority will exploit its assets to the maximum, so to suggest that 8 million would be the limit of expansion is rather dishonest.
I recall the Secretary of State's comments when his decisions were leaked to the press some three weeks before the publication of the White Paper. They do not do him much credit, as he said that the people of Stansted were being alarmed unnecessarily, if I remember his words correctly, although I am quoting them from memory.
By his action, the Secretary of State has made the task of the regional airports to expand that much more difficult. The rail link to Manchester should be a firm commitment now. It should not just be up to British Rail to survey it and come up with a report in about six months, although I am glad to hear that it is likely to come before Christmas. If we could have a firm commitment that the rail link will be built, that would give the airport a tremendous boost and perhaps encourage one of our independents to establish its main base at Manchester, for that is what I believe Manchester desperately needs. Manchester would then join Gatwick and Birmingham, and they would be the only three major airports that I know of with truly integrated transport systems providing through-routes to many parts of the country.
§ Mr. McCrindle
I return to the view of the Liberal party on Stansted. I am not sure whether I entirely follow the hon. Gentleman's remarks. He spoke disparagingly about the attempt to impose a limit of 8 million PPA, but does that mean that he would prefer a limit of 15 million for the expansion of Stansted, or would he prefer 25 53 million? Alternatively, is he telling us that the Liberals would entertain no expansion at all? It was not clear from his remarks.
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Gentleman should read my speech of 30 January, when I made it clear that we are in favour of the expansion of Stansted to 5 million. We believe that the rest of the expansion should be taken up by the regional airports. We look upon Stansted as a form of regional airport, not as a third London airport. There should be a 5 million limit. I hope that that is clear.
§ Mr. McCrindle
If 8 million is unrealistic and the hon. Gentleman is criticising the Government for attempting to restrain expansion to that level, why is 5 million more realistic?
§ Mr. Ross
I said it earlier in my speech. I shall see the hon. Gentleman outside afterwards.
The Piccadilly line into Heathrow leaves a great deal to be desired. As the right hon. Member for Spelthorne said, it is slow, uncomfortable and inadequate. Instead of inviting British Rail to consider various propositions, the Secretary of State should instruct BR to produce a firm scheme and provide the necessary finance for a direct rail link into Heathrow.
I was pleased to see Prestwick mentioned in the White Paper. It might have a future if it had a rail link.
Schiphol already has one rail link, and by June 1986 it will be able to offer rail connections throughout the Netherlands and even further afield. We live in an overcrowded island which cries out for good public transport. Why have we been so slow off the mark? Heathrow should have been connected to the British Rail network years ago. However, there are still no firm plans for that.
My party and I also disagree with the proposed privatisation of the British Airports Authority. I went with the Select Committee on Transport to Japan and the United States last year, and I believe that we published a worthwhile report. We recommended the type of structure which the Secretary of State has approved, though we felt that the Scottish airports could probably manage their own affairs.
Nevertheless, I accept that there are strong arguments for keeping the seven airports together, not least the promotional aspects, and in providing a career structure and retaining the expertise of the people running large airports. Therefore, I do not object to that decision, but privatising the lot is dangerous and unnecessary. The fact that the Secretary of State concedes that tougher regulations will he necessary surely means that even he appreciates the dangers.
With 80 per cent. of all our air passenger traffic, BAA represents a huge monopoly, now public, but soon to be private. Sell 49 per cent., perhaps; raise bonds, as they do in Japan and the United States; but do not sell overall control. I do not know of any large commercial airfield in 54 the Western world that is not in some form of public ownership—whether owned by the Government, a municipality, or, as in New York, a port authority.
I give the Secretary of State credit for leaving our municipally-owned airports alone and allowing them to make their own decisions about their future ownership. No one who gave evidence to the Select Committee had anything but praise for the local authority-owned airports.
Those who desperately want Britain to succeed accept that our airports and airlines need every encouragement. On the whole, they are a success story, and we do not have too many such stories these days. However, I still believe that we have given too much to one dominant airline and are about to concede too much to one airport authority and to one area of the country—the the south-east. A much more determined effort to build up two or three of our regional airports, of which Manchester is the prime example, could have been made. That will now become more difficult, which is why my hon. Friends and I will vote against the policy document.
§ Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)
This is undoubtedly a clever package. It is likely to secure the approval of the House and it blurs many of the issues sufficiently so that the Government keep all their options open; it is indeed a skilful exercise.
However, this is also a disturbing package. I recall that on 30 January, 70 of my right hon. and hon. Friends voted against the principle of massive expansion at Stansted and that nearly 100 of my right hon. and hon. Friends declared in an early-day motion that they did not particularly relish that prospect. I have greatly appreciated their support in the pressures that have undoubtedly helped to achieve a better result than might otherwise have been obtained.
Yet, we seem to be getting what we did not want. The decision on the planning application is a fait accompli. Many might think that north-west Essex was an overwhelmingly inappropriate place for London's third airport, but the decision has been confirmed and the environmental arguments have been swept aside with no more than a few ritualistic sentences.
I cannot help being disturbed—I may not be alone in this complaint—by the fact that two previous inquiries that considered the matter in depth have been set aside. That is a poor reflection on the procedures that we adopt in this country.
The House might also understand my grieving for the memory of my predecessors at Saffron Walden, Lord Butler, and Sir Peter Kirk, who fought strenuously on this issue. I do not want to be too disagreeable, but I had to give notice to my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) that I would refer to something that he said on the television programme "Panorama" and virtually repeated in the House recently. He said that when the question of Stansted was taken to Cabinet,Rab Butler was a bit unhappy about it because he thought it would interfere with his shoot … he had a good shoot near Stansted and he thought it would upset the pheasants and their shooting possibility but he was a big man and he waived that objection aside.That remark has been taken extremely badly by the Butler family and by the people living in Saffron Walden. First, it is factually inaccurate to say that there is a pheasant shoot near Stansted. There might have been a 55 shoot near Stanstead hall, the residence of Lord Butler, but that is 30 miles from the airport. We shall not be able to prove until 1992 exactly what Lord Butler said in Cabinet, but it is unfortunate that my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion made that remark. It would have been better left unsaid.
I have been told that I must be realistic about the issue. I hope that I have always been realistic. I have never taken the narrow view. I have always tried to understand the Government's difficulties and to recognise the interests of our civil air transport industry. I believed that there was a better way of meeting the national interest and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will acknowledge that I went well beyond any constituency brief in the views that I put to the Government when seeking a reasonable accommondation.
It may be said that I helped to secure a retreat from the prospect of a 50 million passenger airport at Stansted, but my constituents and I still face the prospect of an airport with 15 million passenger capacity, which many of us believe to be excessive.
What is the constituency brief that I should hold? I am thought of as being anti-Stansted. The sub-titles of the "Panorama" programme referred to me as the leader of the anti-Stansted group. That is an example of the shorthand way in which the issue has been considered over the years and that approach has not helped to ensure rational discussion.
It is not a question of being for or anti-Stansted. My Conservative association in Saffron Walden has favoured limited development to 4 million or 5 million passengers a year. The North-West Essex and East Hertfordshire Preservation Association, a well-established local body, favours expansion to 4 million passengers. The argument has been about how much expansion would be appropriate. The Gallup poll found a majority of 68 per cent. for limited development, and the concept of limited development is one for which I have always stood.
However, if it is possible to get a consensus on the meaning of limited development, which is difficult enough, it is an enormous problem to get any limit to stick. How can one guarantee a stopping point between zero and 25 million passengers per annum, which is the capacity of a single runway? That difficulty fuels the fears about any package that the Government ask us to accept. So what is wrong with the Government's clever package? First, the environmental threat remains. I am not sure that the planners will be able to preserve the area in the way that the Government urge them to do. Will the planners get firm backing from the Government for their decision?
Secondly, I believe that the capacity is being provided in the wrong place. The arguments set out for London area capacity in paragraph 4.9 of the White Paper would be all very well if one read "Heathrow" for "London". That is what interlining is all about. Passengers will not be persuaded away from Schiphol and Frankfurt if they have to be bussed round the M25 from one London airport to another. That is why the industry will press for terminal 5.
Thirdly, do the Government sincerely want to help the regions? There has been a plethora of new routes, but they can be taken away. History shows that that can happen. 56 Much is said in the White Paper about the needs of the regions, but will they be bankable assurances in two or three years' time?
The Government promise extra support for Manchester, for example, in the bilateral negotiations. The White Paper refers to increased emphasis on the attractions of Manchester. I wonder how far that will carry weight in the hard political discussions between Governments about permanent routes for Manchester and other regional airports. Certainly, Birmingham international airport is sceptical about what is to be done.
When I talk to British Rail I worry because of its concern about how it will serve its customers who come from the midlands or the north to Stansted and not merely from Stansted to London. If British Rail is thinking in such terms, the Government should accept that many others still believe that Stansted airport will siphon business from the regions.
I criticise, but what would I do? I believe that the development of Stansted would have been better on the north-west side of the runway, where there are existing facilities. It would be possible to concede a generous part of the application site area to ensure that the site is large enough. When I attempted to put that view, I encountered all sorts of legal obscurantism and a new attachment to the public inquiry system. If the Government had held that same attachment during the previous inquiries they would not be in this difficulty. We are now told that the public inquiry system is the best of systems and that we must do nothing to traduce it.
When I suggested that it would be possible for the planning application to be turned down and for the Government to introduce a special development order in the House outlining their exact policy, I was told that that was impossible for legal reasons. The legal reasons were never given.
I put a case to the Government—that of Essex county council v. the Minister of Housing and Local Government 1967. That seemed to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the best legal minds that I could contact, that the Government in their policy decisions were completely uninhibited and that they would not have been at risk of being taken to the High Court. I cannot understand their fear of the High Court. The Secretary of State has certainly been no stranger to it in his tenure of office. An extraordinary degree of obfuscation has been applied to something on which the House could have been allowed to take a decision. Instead, today we are discussing a White Paper about a planning application and a decision. By developing the west side of the runway at Stansted there would be more environmental protection and a physical limitation on the expansion beyond a certain level.
Terminal 5 will have to go ahead. That will upset some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, although perhaps not their constituents. I quarrel with my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) who complained about the basis upon which opinion polls are taken. Samples might be small but they have been taken in my constituency, too. I am surprised that my right hon. and hon. Friends who guard the Heathrow interest are entirely happy with the package. The air transport movement limit has gone—rightly. The door is still open to a fifth terminal. The site at Perry Oaks is not being considered for use as a dance hall—we can be sure of that. In view of the promises made by previous Governments about 57 Stansted, which seem to have disappeared, I would not be too confident about what might happen if I were in their shoes.
The Secretary of State's figleaf is runway capacity. It is difficult to forecast the future and the Secretary of State this afternoon generously recognised the uncertainty. However, between the two or three assorted paragraphs in the White Paper and the closely argued details in chapters 5 and 7 of the Eyre report, I have no doubt which I prefer. Mr. Eyre's detailed arguments have not been set aside. He had the benefit of all the inputs in determining whether terminal capacity or runway capacity was the restraining factor. He decided that terminal capacity was the restraining factor. Nothing in the White Paper disproves that.
The White Paper contains a contradiction. On the one hand, paragraph 5.10 says thatas the proportion of larger aircraft using the airport increases".On the other hand, it is said that because of the likelihood of more domestic operators wanting runway slots, the rate of growth in the average number of passengers per aircraft is likely to be reduced. The uncertainty is demonstrated in two sentences in the same paragraph of the White Paper. The more careful, factual analysis was done by Mr. Eyre who has the benefit of the CAA to advise him.
Apart from that, I ask the House whether it sounds right to swing from the view expressed by the inspector, that another terminal at Heathrow would provide 15 million extra capacity, to the Secretary of State's view that it could not provide any extra capacity. There must be some point between nil and 15 million in such an uncertain business where a compromise can be found. The White Paper is unconvincing on that matter. The politics involved in foreign airlines suggests that that might well prove to be right and that they will not give up too many slots in favour of smaller airlines.
§ Mr. Bowen Wells
Does my hon. Friend agree that if the number and size of aircraft landing become smaller, landings will become more frequent and that, therefore, there will be a greater need for stands to which those aircraft can go? Does he accept that whether one considers bigger airports or smaller aircraft extra terminal capacity and stands for the aircraft will be required?
§ Mr. Haselhurst
That is absolutely right. The White Paper acknowledges the case for putting the Perry Oaks land inside the airport, to improve the airport's design, if not its capacity.
The Government should have a firmer tourist policy to help the regions. The Government should do more than "look to" airlines and tour operators to develop tourist traffic starting or finishing at regional airports, as the Green Paper suggests in paragraph 6.21. It is too easy to continue the bias towards the south-east. Why on earth should surcharges be imposed for travelling from Manchester or Birmingham? If surcharges were not imposed, perhaps the market would distribute the traffic differently.
The White Paper makes no suggestion for the diversion factor in the number of people who are lured from south-east airports because of extra services at Manchester and the regions. Some people who might otherwise use south-east airports perhaps could be satisfied by the facilities in the regions.
What will be the effect of my proposals? In the short term Heathrow would have a capacity of 42 million— 58 the new fashionably high figure. Gatwick would have a capacity of 23 million—the fashionably low figure. Luton would have a capacity of 5 million, and Stansted 5 million. That adds up to 75 million, assuming that the present optimistic forecasts are correct. I do not think that such targets will be met. I believe that it is possible to find another way of dealing with the problem.
In the long term, terminal 5 could add 10 million more passengers for Heathrow and on the north-west side of the runway at Stansted a further 5 million could be accommodated, if that were necessary. That would meet the forecasts for the year 2000—again, assuming that the forecast is accurate. It would be foolish to forecast beyond that.
I would do one more thing. I would separate Stansted from the other London airports. The White Paper does not go far enough here. Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends would prefer the Government to go further in legislation to create competition between airports. In paragraph 9.2 the Government admit that the BAA enjoys a near monopoly. That says it all for those of us who have experience of this subject. Not everyone takes the roseate view that the BAA operates the best airports in the world. A little competition would be no bad thing.
Things could have been done differently and the Government's own criteria might have been better met in the process. I accept that things might also have been worse. So much is left open in the White Paper that almost anything could happen, so my constituents should not despair, but some points should have been left less open. Heaven knows, the Government have had long enough to think about it. The inquiry lasted 258 days and a further half year has passed since the report reached Ministers' desks.
I ask the Government to make a firm statement about protection of the environment and support for the local authorities. The BAA should not be the sole determining force for the new safeguarded area. That is setting rabbits to guard lettuce. Essex county council should also have a say in that determination. The BAA should be committed to the sale of the presently safeguarded land which it does not need. It is not enough for the Government to "expect" the authority to get rid of that land. We need a guarantee. There should also be an agreement between the BAA and Essex county council that there will be no second runway. As Mr. Eyre stated, such an agreement would supplement the Government's unequivocal declaration of intent. Moreover, if the Government think that the site has high quality road links around it, as suggested in paragraph 5.29 of the White Paper, and that £2 million is enough to put everything right, they should come out and have a look as soon as possible because it will take a good deal more money than that.
I welcome the proposals on noise compensation. I hope that the question of possible purchase of affected property will be given urgent consideration because many houses outside the immediate area of application are extremely vulnerable to noise disturbance. The BAA has been throwing money around purchasing other properties, so I hope that the Government will ensure that anyone in a difficult position will be able to get out of it.
The potential for this package to go wrong influences me against it overall. It goes against what so many have fought to defend over a long period. With a maximum capacity of 7 million to 8 million passengers per annum, the project could be contained and the disturbance 59 balanced against the jobs and prosperity that an expanded airport might bring, but above that limit it may not be possible. If the Government will give a guarantee that the capacity cannot be extended beyond that limit, I will vote with the Government today, but without that assurance I shall have to decline to do so. I hope that by their further actions the Government will recognise the real aviation needs of this country as I have tried to define them, will understand the concern for the environment and will be sympathetic to the social and unemployment problem of the regions and thus cause the lower limit that they have set for Stansted to endure in practice and not be breached.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
The hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) has made a brave and distinguished parliamentary speech, one which I shall long remember with admiration. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman not just on the power and eloquence of his advocacy, but on his constancy and sincerity in what has been a deeply worrying time for him.
When we debated the Eyre report on 30 January, 70 Conservative Members defied the Government by voting with the Opposition at the end of the debate. It was one of the biggest revolts against any Government by their own parliamentary supporters since May 1940. From all parts of the House there was almost total condemnation of the proposal to develop Stansted as London's third airport. There was also unprecedented cross-party support for an airports policy which, by reducing regional disparities, and more especially those between the northern regions and the south-east, would help to unite what was and still is a divided nation.
Neither the fundamental issues nor the context have changed since our debate in January. The north is every bit as stricken by depression as it was then. The arguments for discriminating in its favour in any debate about where to direct new investment are even stronger now than they were four and a half months ago. While some 5 per cent. of people are out of work around Stansted, there are unemployment rates of more than 40 per cent. in many parts of the north of England. Male unemployment rates of more than 60 per cent. are common place and more than two thirds of the under-25s are out of work in localities all over the north.
Against that background, northern Members of Parliament, if they are to act in good faith toward the communities they represent in the House—indeed if they are to represent them at all in any meaningful sense—have to insist that any new investment must go where it can do most good in reducing the deep and increasingly dangerous divide between north and south in Britain today. If the Secretary of State questions the depth of that divide, let him spend one day in Eccles and the next in Esher; one day in Failsworth and the next in Farnham; one day in Wythenshawe and the next in Windsor; one day in Salford and the next in Stansted.
I have two interests to declare in this debate. First, Manchester international airport is in my constituency. Secondly, I chair the all-party group of right hon. and hon. Members which liaises with NOERC, the North of England Regional Consortium. I receive no financial reward from the consortium, which speaks for 19 major local authorities in the north, and for millions of people 60 of all political persuasions and of none, who came together to oppose the ill-conceived and unnecessary plan to develop Stansted as London's third airport.
On 12 June NOERC met in emergency session to discuss the Government's White Paper. While recognising the consortium's success in forcing the Secretary of State drastically to modify the proposals made to the inquiry by the BAA, which were largely endorsed by the Eyre report, the outcome was an expression of deep concern that the Government had missed an opportunity to respond to the urgent national need to reduce the north-south divide.
§ Mr. Morris
I am extremely sorry, and I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but out of respect for the many others who wish to take part in the debate I regret that I cannot give way.
I have here three weighty documents published by NOERC documenting regional disparities in Britain today. They are well argued, objective and of compelling relevance to any debate about airports policy. Why has not the Secretary of State responded to them? It is the Government's failure even to comment on these three important documents which prompts NOERC's anxiety that the limited expansion of Stansted, announced by the Secretary of State on 5 June, is only the start of a remorseless expansion of that airport into one of the biggest in the world. To give the House the flavour of NOERC's reaction to the White Paper, I quote from a statement which followed its meeting on 12 June. It states:The framework proposed for the development of regional airports is at the present time only words. The Consortium wants these words translated into action.I put it strongly to the House that we must judge the adequacy of the White Paper on a basis similar to that of our judgment of the Eyre report in January. I emphasise again that neither the fundamental issues nor the context have changed. The issues are, first, the need to ensure that any response to the Eyre report takes account of the economic and social disparities between the regions of this country; secondly, the issue whether the development of Stansted on the scale proposed is necessary and in the wider national interest; and, thirdly, whether practical steps are being taken to enable our regional airports to fulfil the role the Government envisage for them.
Although it was never made explicit, Whitehall's policy for years has been simply to let the south-east grow. The unemployed of the north were urged to get on their bikes to search for jobs, presumably in the south-east as there are precious few to spare anywhere else. The Sunday Times of 28 April—in a "Memo to Maggie"—advised the Prime Minister:To tell Patrick Jenkin…to amend the planning legislation to allow further growth in the South-East".The basis for that advice was a recent survey indicating that the south-east is where 60 per cent. of new firms want to be.
Reading that call for the further "south-easternisation" of this country, I was reminded of how J. B. Priestley summed it all up when he journeyed, also at a time of deep depression, through the England of 50 years ago. He wrote:For generations this blackened North toiled and moiled so that England should be rich and the City of London a great power in the World but now this North is half derelict and its people, living on in queer ugly places, are bewildered and unhappy.61 The north's reaction to what is now happening is not only one of bewilderment and unhappiness. There is increasing anger in the north. No longer is it prepared to lie down as the dole queues lengthen and while more and more of its young people are consigned from school to scrapheap. The need for new decisions on airports policy provided an opportunity for the Government to offer hope to the people of the north and to show that their needs and aspirations are understood and appreciated. Any appraisal of the White Paper shows that this opportunity has been missed. This is not only a disappointment, but a tragedy. Last week the consortium was unanimous in calling on the Government to provide time for an early and wide-ranging parliamentary debate on regional disparities.
The proposal to develop Stansted has become the symbol of the divisions that beset this country today. The Government's response to the Eyre report is seen as crucially important to the northern region as a whole. Of course, the Secretary of State's decision to expand the airport to one of 7 million to 8 million PPA could have been worse. Had it not been for the working together of northern Members of Parliament of all parties, and the tireless exertions of the hon. Member for Saffron Walden and others on the environmental issue, I am sure that we would now be debating a decision to proceed with all haste to an expansion of Stansted to 15 million PPA as recommended by the Eyre report. I am just as sure that we would now be contemplating a continuation of the cross-subsidy which Stansted presently enjoys from the duty free shop at Heathrow.
It has been put to me that, because of the policy changes that our campaigning has achieved, we should now be grateful for small mercies and accept the Government's decision. Indeed, as the House knows, the White Paper had a mixed reception in the north on the day of its publication. We are so used to being kicked in the teeth that when we are politely hit over the head instead, as on 5 June, it generates enthusiasm that our message might at last be getting through.
Let this House be in no doubt, however, of the north's very deep concern that new resources and, therefore, new jobs are now being channelled into the prosperous south-east. For the south-east there are easily quantifiable gains in the White Paper. For the north there are as yet only words. For the south-east, a huge new investment is planned that will give at least 10,000 new jobs in the short term to an area of virtually full employment. Such an investment insults and further embitters the dole queues of the north, and we now call for an unequivocal assurance that the increase to 7 million to 8 million PPA at Stansted is the absolute ceiling on its expansion.
On the question of subsidy to Stansted, I welcome the Minister's statement earlier today, which went further than his reply to the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Silvester) on 5 June. The White Paper talks of the need to "inhibit" subsidy. Let me make it crystal clear: we want the subsidising of Stansted not just to be inhibited but totally eliminated. Moreover, we insist on fair competition soon.
When the BAA, either in its present or restructured form, puts forward its Stansted investment strategy to the Government for appraisal, we will expect to see the strategy published so that it can be subjected to the widest possible parliamentary and public scrutiny.
I end my remarks on Stansted with one final point. On 30 January I pointed out that CAA surveys classify 62 passengers on the basis of where their journeys began on the day of the survey. The cumulative effect is that regional passengers who travel to London, or incoming tourists from abroad who are forced to use London's airports despite the fact that they spend little or no time there, are counted as south-east passengers. NOERC has shown that if the places of residence of British passengers and the places where foreign visitors spent the greatest number of nights are taken into account, the proportion of people using London's airports who originate from the south-east, or are tourists going to the south-east, is reduced from 80 per cent.—the figure which the BAA and the Government have been using for years—to around 70 per cent.
The Secretary of State agreed in the House on 5 June that the 80 per cent. figure was out of date and said that it was now 75 per cent. I shall not take the matter further today, except to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether his 75 per cent. figure has been applied to the demand planning values put forward in the Eyre report in order to ascertain the extent to which demand at London has been overstated. As this was a subject on which he was allowed to throw dust in the eyes of viewers of the BBC's "Newsnight" programme on 5 June, I hope that he will not try to evade my question.
§ Mr. Ridley
I am happy to respond to the right hon. Gentleman. It would perhaps be wiser if he put the figures round the other way; in other words, instead of 75 per cent. of passengers originating in the south-east, 25 per cent. originated elsewhere. The point is the same, but it might help the right hon. Gentleman to understand.
The right hon. Gentleman may be aware that of those 25 per cent., only about 5 per cent. originate from the north, more than 5 per cent. fom the south-west, and a large number from East Anglia, Wales and other parts of the country in respect of which Manchester would not be the suitable airport. The right hon. Gentleman should therefore analyse the figures given in the White Paper. He will be able to ascertain the origins and destinations of all the various groups of passengers, and he will realise that it does not strengthen his case to quote such figures.
§ Mr. Morris
My question to him concerned the demand planning values put forward in the Eyre report. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will at least now agree it is wholly wrong that millions of people should have to catch London-bound trains in order to fly to foreign destinations.
The White Paper is said by the Minister to reflect a more positive and realistic view of the contribution that regional airports can make to air transport to and from this country. As always, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. There will be many tests of the Government's sincerity, and some will come very soon. The outcome of every application for a new airline to fly to a regional airport will be a test of their sincerity and of the White Paper. We shall carefully monitor the Government's response every step of the way. I must emphasise that the process will not start next year. It starts now.
The Government cannot be allowed to treat the development of a policy for regional airports as a mere paper exercise. Solid commitment is called for from Ministers and civil servants alike. It also requires positive mechanisms to turn precepts into practice, and we shall insist that they be put in place urgently.
63 It is grossly unsatisfactory for the White Paper, in paragraph 6.21, to acknowledge the potential for regional tourism and simply to conclude that, when opportunities exist, the Government will look to airlines and tour operators to develop tourist traffic starting or finishing at regional airports. This does not go nearly far enough, and fails to take any account of the Government's present policy of promoting only London abroad. There is a clear need to look at the structure of the tourist industry, and I ask the Secretary of State to ensure that this is done, urgently and in some depth, either as part of the inquiry headed by Lord Young or in some other way.
Their long-term potential will not be achieved until the Government commit themselves to an "open skies" policy for the regional airports. Ministerial commitment would then be there for all to see, including the airlines. There is no indication in the White Paper that this has been considered, nor is there any hint of provision, which would greatly improve viability, for duty-free facilities at all airports that desire them. Will the Minister comment on that in his reply and on the need to protect access to Heathrow for the smaller regional airports? How does he respond to the urgent plea for a mechanism for reviewing licensing decisions, and other appropriate issues, to test the consistency of the Government's commitment to the development of regional airports?
This debate marks a further chapter in the long and hard-fought campaign by NOERC and its parliamentary supporters in all parts of the House to ensure that the "Case for the North" is both heard and fully understood. The consortium has been abused by a tidal wave of propaganda from the BAA. It was forced to fight an inquiry which was neither sensitive enough nor even equipped to consider the issues NOERC was raising. Yet the consortium has some outstanding achievements to its credit, and I want in particular today to pay warm tribute to John Gunnell, Roger Taylor and Howard Bernstein who, among others, have served NOERC with such distinction. Never before has the case for the regional airports been so effectively made. Never before have local interests, or political differences, been set so completely on one side, enabling councils to join in common cause throughout the north.
The north has been roused. It will no longer lie down and allow the process of "south-easternisation" to go unchallenged. That is the most important achievement of our campaign. It is now understood that only by acting together can we ensure that our case is properly made and heard. The Government must now be warned that we no longer have any intention of being good losers.
§ Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)
The centre of my constituency is 10 minutes by road from Manchester international airport and it lies directly beneath the main flight path. The House will remember that not many years ago an airliner crashed on Stockport when approaching the airport. Despite the proximity of the airport, and despite the fact that it lies directly beneath the flight path, Stockport is desperately anxious for the expansion of Manchester. Unlike people in the fortunate south, the people of Stockport, and the whole of the north-west, welcome a noisy sky, because for them it means jobs and increased prosperity. I fear that this White Paper will mean 64 a quieter sky in the north-west. For that reason, I regret that I shall not be joining my right hon. Friend in the Lobby.
§ Mr. Sumberg
Before my hon. Friend decides to take that rather radical course of action, will he bear in mind the following fact? When the White Paper was announced, Gil Thompson, the director of the Manchester airport authority, and Roger Taylor, the town clerk of the city of Manchester, to whom reference has already been made, publicly came out in favour of the White Paper and said it was a good deal for Manchester and that it had their support.
§ Mr. Favell
I shall bear that fact in mind, and I welcome the great support that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has given to the scheduled traffic at Manchester, and his efforts to improve it. However, as my right hon. Friend knows, I am concerned about four fifths of Manchester's business—charter flights. Some 82 per cent. of Manchester airport's passengers travel on charter flights. The BAA has made it abundantly clear that Stansted is planned as a charter flight airport. It is the BAA's intention to build up scheduled flight activity at Heathrow and Gatwick and to encourage charter flight traffic to move to Stansted, just as it moved the charter flights out of Heathrow and into Gatwick in the 1960s and 1970s. History is about to repeat itself, except that this time charter flight traffic will move from Gatwick to Stansted because of the BAA's ambition to build a second hub at Gatwick.
A large dedicated leisure airport north of London is bound to attract traffic from the regional airports, because for charter airlines big is beautiful. It is not a question of where the passengers want to go but of where the airlines want to go. A family going on its annual holiday to the Mediterranean has to fly from the airport offered by its package tour operator, not from the airport of its choice. Many of us from the north have made long treks to Gatwick, not because we want to travel from Gatwick but because the charter flight operator serving the package tour operator goes from Gatwick. In recent years, even Luton has been losing business to Gatwick, not because people north of London want to travel to Gatwick, but because the airlines have chosen to operate from there.
However, as the terminal catering for 15 million passengers a year is built at Stansted, the charter flight operators will be attracted there. In particular, the BAA will make sure that they go there, just as it moved them out of Heathrow 20 years ago.
Airlines will be attracted not just from the south-east but from the north and the midlands. As Dan Air stated in a recent press release:Flights a distance away from an operator's base must increase costs and problems with crews as a result of longer duty hours away from base.Charter flight operators want to operate from their base and once their base is moved to Stansted flights will move from Birmingham, East Midlands, Leeds and Bradford and Manchester airports.
I repeat that 82 per cent. of Manchester's passengers travel on unscheduled flights. At Leeds and Bradford, 73 per cent. of the passengers do so, at Birmingham 74 per cent. and at Luton 99 per cent. That is where the big business is. It is this business that the BAA wants to attract. I fear that it will do so with its monster leisure airport north of London—Stansted.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
At the outset, I state clearly that I believe that this policy document, as the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) said, is written from a south of England point of view and is detrimental to the interests of Scotland, the north of England and Wales. I shall be outlining examples to highlight this point, dealing mostly with the Scottish aspect.
Even the introduction to the report makes its perspective clear. The report originated because of the Heathrow and Stansted development issues. It states:The Inspector was invited to consider wider airports issues than the two applications before him … The Government is publishing this White Paper to explain its response on these wider matters and to set its decisions on the London airports in the context of an airports policy for the country as a whole.In section 2, the report identifies that nearly two thirds of the United Kingdom's foreign visitors arrive by air. Tourism is one of our most successful growth industries, and it does Scotland no good that so many potential visitors are directed to the south of England as their point of entry to the United Kingdom. Likewise, the inflow and outflow of goods to the United Kingdom is heavily concentrated on one airport—three-quarters of our visible trade in 1984 passed through Heathrow.
These facts emphasise the quite unacceptable economic centralisation that we have. There is no doubt that the south-east will wish to retain the advantage, and if the development at Stansted goes ahead, plus a further extension to Heathrow, there is no doubt that this cornering of the market will be retained.
As around a quarter of the international passengers using the London airports have their origins or destinations outwith the south-east, it makes sense to put a priority on the development of international services from other airports instead of investing in further developments from the south-east. However, the Government are worried that this will lead to inconvenience and extra cost for some people in the south-east who might, in future, have to use airports outwith the south-east to fly internationally. I put it to them that that is exactly what travellers from outwith the south-east have had to suffer for many years. But the Government do not seem to be concerned about the extra cost and inconvenience to people from Scotland or the north of England as long as they can bolster the stranglehold of the south-east on international air traffic.
In 1978, Scottish airports handled only 4.5 per cent. of United Kingdom international air passenger movements. By 1983, the figure had risen to about 5.2 per cent. That is a welcome increase, but it is not nearly good enough, especially when an excellent airport such as Prestwick remains grossly under-utilised at about 16 per cent. of capacity.
The report tells us that international services are possible on some 1,500 routes from the so-called "regional airports", but only about 100 routes are being operated. The recommendations in the report will do nothing to change the situation. They may even exacerbate it.
It is noticeable that, if the interests of the south-east are at stake, the Government will rush in to be helpful. In the case of Stansted, they are keen to provide a fast rail link. In the case of Heathrow, they may go ahead with a new British Rail service similar to the one between Victoria and Gatwick. However, Prestwick is a different case because it is in Scotland. We have been pressing for a fast rail link 66 between Prestwick and Glasgow for years to help the development of the airport. Without that, it is at a real disadvantage. Only now do the Government mention the possibility of opening a station on the Glasgow-Ayr line and, even then, there is no clear commitment that the type of fast link necessary will be provided.
§ Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the rail halt at Prestwick, and I have myself made the point before. However, does not he agree that the Scottish tourist board should be involved in the discussion of this matter? There is no point is simply relying on the institution of a rail halt without added backup from the Scottish tourist board.
§ Mr. Stewart
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. It is surprising that the tourist board has not been active in assisting those authorities and Members of Parliament who have pressed for that rail link. The absence of a rail link pinpoints the fact that no effort is spared for the southeast, and that the other international airports in the country can look after themselves.
Prestwick is supposed to be one of the three gateway airports at present. But that is an empty phrase without the commitment and the finance to ensure its development. Were it not for the political embarrassment that would be caused to the Secretary of State, who is the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), I think that the Government would have let Prestwick go down the drain. They are not really bothered about developing international air traffic to and from Scotland, and they should not pretend otherwise.
The Scottish National party would like all airports in Scotland to be controlled by a publicly owned Scottish airports authority. If the Government are determined to press ahead with the privatisation of the airports, we shall want the Scottish airports to be sold off as a separate concern.
We believe that Prestwick must remain Scotland's gateway for all transantlantic flights until such time as its utilisation reaches a high level. I have already mentioned the importance of establishing a direct fast rail link to Glasgow, but road links must also be improved, and air feeder services to Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh should be developed.
Overall, the problems and opportunities facing Scotland's airports must be treated in a Scottish context. We are fed up with being treated as just a regional offshoot. That simply will not do.
The CAA-controlled airports in the Highlands and Islands must be treated as a special case. Only Balivanich received a serious bid for takeover, and that was from the Western Isles council. No one seriously wanted to buy the others. Because of the economic and social position in the Highlands and Islands, thanks to the policies of successive British Governments, it is necessary to consider these airports in a different light from others until such time as they may become profitable.
I mention in passing that among the silly decisions being made by the Government is the idea of deregulating the air services in the Highlands and Islands. The two firms operating there, British Airways and Loganair, are working virtually on a shoestring. The British Airways part is in the black for the first time. To allow competition on these routes is ludicrous and will be to the detriment of the area.
67 Many organisations in Scotland, apart from my party, are completely opposed to the further development of London's airports at our expense. They include Lothian region, Glasgow district, the district councils in Ayrshire, the Scottish tourist board and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry. The North of England Regional Consortium is also bitterly opposed to further expansion in the south-east, and so it should be.
But it is also worth mentioning that it seems to me from correspondence that I have received that most people in Hertfordshire and Essex do not want Stansted and most people in west London do not want a fifth terminal at Heathrow.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am referring to evidence that I get in my mail from people in these areas. Why are the Government so determined to press ahead with these developments? The people in west London were given an assurance that air transport movements at Heathrow would be limited to 275,000 per annum. Now the Government want cynically to break that promise. They are now making promises to the people in Essex about the limits to which Stansted will be developed. I tell people in Essex to believe the Government at their own risk.
Tonight, the House has the opportunity to accept or to reject the proposals in the report. I believe that all hon. Members representing constituencies in Scotland, the north of England and Wales, regardless of party, should stand up for their areas and reject the report.
§ Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)
The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) is deeply ungrateful. The largesse distributed by this Government to his constituency and elsewhere in Scotland is breathtaking. Every other constituency in Britain would be grateful for similar assistance.
I must declare an interest, in that I am the Member of Parliament who represents Gatwick airport as well as the British Airports Authority. Therefore, I have a number of different interests in the debate.
I am one of those who wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on what I consider to be a first-class White Paper. It is pragmatic, coherent and clever, and I thank my right hon. Friend on behalf of all those who live near Gatwick airport and in the rest of West Sussex. The fact that there will not be a second runway at Gatwick is a great relief to my constituents and those of other hon. Members who live and work near the airport.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
The hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) is the one man in the Chamber who is right to be pleased with the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman has given him everything that he wanted. There cannot be a second runway at Gatwick, because the second terminal has blocked it. The hon. Gentleman is right to praise the Secretary of State for his action. I regret that I cannot join him.
§ Mr. Soames
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is also my friend. He will now understand what charm can do. It has taken a great deal of effort on my part to secure this agreement from my right hon. Friend. I can assure the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) that it was not easy with the ranks of the big battalions ranged against me.
68 My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) is not present at the moment. However, it must be said that I have nothing but respect and admiration for the way in which he has conducted his campaign against the development of Stansted. My gain is his loss. There will be an impact on his constituency, though I do not believe that it will be as bad as his constituents fear.
The development of Stansted and Luton is sensible and provides a pragmatic decision against a very difficult background.
It has to be said that the Opposition amendment is careless of the national interest. Whether Opposition Members like it or not—and I know that they hate it—by 1988 tourism will be our largest industry. The entire White Paper is crucial to the development of that business, which is another reason why I congratulate the Secretary of State.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
When the hon. Gentleman has stopped pouring oil over the Secretary of State, will he consider that one way in which tourism will develop is that tourists will rapidly become tired of the overdeveloped and overcrowded south-east and will increasingly go elsewhere in the United Kingdom, as at long last they are beginning to do? They will require airports elsewhere than in the south-east.
§ Mr. Soames
That has been the secret of my right hon. Friend's success. If tourists come to this country, they may fly to any airport in the United Kingdom that they wish. The right hon. Member for Western Isles and I are regular passengers on aeroplanes to the north. One can fly to any destination in Britain, and more power to the regional airports as they develop.
The arguments of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) are completely unconvincing. She is opposing for the sake of opposing, and for no other reason. She is playing party politics for the lowest kind of motives. I note, as will the hon. Lady, that right hon. and hon. Members of the Social Democratic party and the Liberal party are no longer in the Chamber. That is depressing, particularly when one considers the great confusion that exists between the two parties. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) appears to agree with the White Paper, but his noble Friend Lady Burton of Coventry called in another place on 5 June, using the words "We on these Benches", for a second runway at Gatwick. I am sure that the House will note the great divergence between the policies of these two minor parties.
In clear contrast to Stansted a second runway at Gatwick would mean the physical destruction of one village. It would also severely affect two other villages and put the airport perimeter within one mile of Horley, which has a population of over 16,000. That would have been an intolerable decision to take, and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for not having taken it.
I am delighted that the British Airports Authority is to be sold as one unit and that the airports are to be formed into separate companies. I agree with the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich that it is important that the accounting should be seen to be absolutely transparent. May I ask my right hon. Friend to give an undertaking that he will ensure that the BAA sells any surplus land that it may have at Gatwick which it bought against the development of a second runway? I should like that undertaking to be given this evening, if possible.
69 I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to paragraph 9.6 of the White Paper. The new British Airports Authority plc will be able to expand into non-airport activities from which the BAA, as a nationalised industry, has been excluded. We need to examine carefully the kinds of activities which the BAA intends to undertake. They should be clearly and tightly defined in the Bill. I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend would consider that point carefully.
This is a highly satisfactory conclusion not only for my constituents, but for those of many right hon. and hon. Members with Sussex constituencies. This White Paper is in the national interest. That is its true test. It is a responsible and pragmatic document, and once again I congratulate my right hon. Friend and his officials.
§ Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, North)
I wish to speak about Newcastle airport, the major international airport in the north-east of England, which plays an important role in the communications and economic growth of the region. Uniquely, the airport is in the constituency of both the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) and myself. By a strange quirk of constituency boundaries, a small part of Newcastle airport is in the Hexham constituency, while the rest of it is in mine.
Newcastle airport is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. If ever there was a rags to riches story, Newcastle airport must surely qualify. Many years ago, when I first became a member of the Newcastle city council airport committee, it was no more than a collection of wooden huts. It started with a grass runway. Continuous development has brought it up to its proud position as an international airport, with the type of facilities one would associate with scheduled and charter services—a club and executive flying.
The faith shown by the north-east regional airports committee in the 1960s in accepting a master plan to take the airport into the 1990s has paid dividends. In its jubilee year, a deficit has been converted into a surplus of £2.54 million. The local authorities of Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and Durham, which carried the financial burdens throughout the development, are now enjoying a bonanza to rate funds of over £4 million in the three years ending 31 March 1985. This is a great public asset for tourists, business men and visitors to the industrial and commercial heart of the north-east of England.
Passenger numbers have increased from 43,000 in 1954 to 1.25 million in 1984. Aircraft movements in the same period have risen from 4,300 to 31,000. This increase in passenger air traffic and profitability is solely due to the foresight, enterprise and pioneering spirit of past members of the Newcastle city council airport committee and to past and present members of the north-east regional airports committee.
I should like to place on record my appreciation of the late Sir Stephen Easton, the chairman of the original city council committee at the time when the Secretary of State for Air officially opened the grass runway airport in July 1935. I should also like to place on record my appreciation of the late councillor Frank Russell, who chaired the committee after the war, when the airport was handed back by the Air Ministry; councillor Dr. Harry Russell, who succeeded Frank Russell and who, after 40 years of service, is still a member of the committee; alderman 70 Andrew Cunningham who chaired the newly formed regional committee of local authorities and oversaw the building of the new terminal and runway extension that was opened in 1967 by Prime Minister Harold Wilson; and councillor Bill Collins who chaired the committee when the £8 million extension was completed and opened by him in 1983. Sadly, ill health caused him to relinquish the chair last year.
The tremendous developments and growth at Newcastle airport is evidence of the valuable role of regional airports. It justifies in its entirety Government support and demands and decisions to ensure that developments continue throughout the years ahead.
Why should we now be subject to the threat of privatisation, with the consequential loss of millions of pounds of profit to the ratepayers, who had to suffer losses in years gone by? Given that the airport remains in the hands of the public in the north-east, the ratepayers will get back all their investment in the next two years. Then they will share in the bonanza of increased air traffic. If the councils that now run the airport are forced to transform it into a public limited company, the consequence will be the loss of loans and grants from the European Community, which have played a considerable part in the further development of the airport.
The Secretary of State has said twice from the Dispatch Box that he has no intention of forcing regional airport owners to turn themselves into public limited companies, yet paragraph 9.15 of the White Paper says:The Government will introduce legislation at the earliest opportunity to effect these changes, providing powers for the Secretary of State to require designated local authority airports (for instance, those with an annual turnover of more than £1 million) to be formed into companies.That covers Newcastle. The Secretary of State must make up his mind. Either he is to legislate, in which case he will force regional airports to turn themselves into public limited companies, or he is not.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Michael Spicer)
I suspect that there is a little confusion in the hon. Gentleman's mind. The distinction involves passing legislation to form plcs. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that we would not force those plcs to be privatised.
§ Mr. Brown
That does not alter the fact that if the pies are exclusively owned by the local authorities the owners' will be precluded from obtaining any funds from, for example, the regional fund. That is much too high a price to pay, especially if the Secretary of State and any subsequent Secretary of State does not honour the commitment to leave those airports in the hands of local authorities.
We have seen a steady build-up in the number of European services operating from Newcastle to destinations such as Amsterdam, Oslo, Stavangar, Bergen, Copenhagen and Paris. We are hoping for further international destinations, including North America—we already have Canada—without putting our trunk routes into Heathrow in jeopardy.
The Minister has the thanks of the north—east, in so far as he has seen fit to lift the limitation on air transport movements into Heathrow. Indeed, our aim is to satisfy the demands of the travelling public for scheduled services into and out of the north-east of England, and we appear to be achieving it with increasing success. Obviously, we 71 do not want to be inhibited in any way. In 1984–85 1.25 million passengers were carried, which represented a 12 per cent. increase on the preceding year. I should like that figure to continue to increase.
I hope that the Minister will give an assurance tonight that Newcastle's access to Heathrow will be protected. I have already said that I welcome the fact that we have gone over the original figure, but everyone in the north of England would feel outraged if Newcastle did not continue to be part of that increased figure and if the traffic were shuffled off to another airport, such as Gatwick or Stansted. I should like to put some specific demands to the Minister. Perhaps I should rephrase that and say that I seek early and sympathetic consideration for Newcastle's application for a parallel taxiway. Will the Minister earnestly consider my request that two crucial areas of terminal development should be brought forward into this financial year? I refer first to the fact that significant improvements are needed in the international arrivals and baggage reclaim hall. Secondly, we need a further development in the two-level pier, with associated air-side handling lounges with the necessary public amenities. That would ease the awful congestion that occurs when two broad-bodied jets arrive or take off simultaneously.
Newcastle is due such consideration if for no other reason than that it is an efficient and economic airport. I shall pray in aid just one statistic. Our landing fees and navigation charges for 1985–86 are still being held at 1984–85 prices. I implore the Minister to bring those projects forward into this year. We are asking not for Government assistance but for the Minister to say tonight, "I am pleased to concede to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Brown) that the northeast regional airport can spend its own money on making such vital improvements."
I should like to pay a personal tribute to Jim Denyer, the airport commandant, who took up his duties with Newcastle city council in 1952. He is an ex-wartime fighter pilot and a former winner of the King's Cup air race. As a member of the airports committee for some years, it is my pleasure to pay tribute to the drive and enthusiasm that Jim transmitted to the community. He has been a source of inspiration over the years to members of that committee, and the airport's quality is due in no small measure not only to the elected members but to Jim Denyer, and his dedicated staff and work force at the airport. When he hangs up his wings, he will, indeed, be difficult to replace. I hope that the Minister will be able to send out a message of hope at the end of this debate.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker(Sir Paul Dean)
Order. I remind hon. Members that the 10-minute limit on speeches is in operation.
§ 7.5 pm
§ Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington)
The package before us is clever and devious, and it also panders to the anti-noise lobby. It is clever because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has used it to split the opposition among Conservative Members. He has given some hostages to fortune to the north, and made some promises 72 that it will be difficult to deliver. Those in the north who believe that there is something in it for them should read the White Paper again very quickly.
The package is devious, because the report says, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has reiterated, that terminal 5 has not been ruled out for ever. Yet on 5 June, my right hon. Friend replied to my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) saying:I am pleased to be able to honour … the Government's pledge that terminal 5 would not be constructed."—[Official Report, 5 June 1985; Vol. 80, c. 312.]Either the door is not closed, as the White Paper says, or my right hon. Friend is "pleased" to honour a pledge that terminal 5 will not be constructed. My right hon. Friend cannot have it both ways. He should come clean and give us his view of the future of terminal 5. If he does not want terminal 5, he should have the courage to stand up and say so. But if he thinks that there is a future in it, he should withdraw the comment that he made to my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham. But my right hon. Friend must be a little worried because, as most people know, Conservative Members face a three-line Whip. If my right hon. Friend is so certain, he would have thought twice before applying it.
I shall vote against the package this evening. I have been consistent so far, and I shall continue to be so. Heathrow airport, including terminal 4, is within my constituency, and no doubt terminal 5 would also come within it. I was surprised to hear some of my hon. Friend's talk about the problems of those living in and around Heathrow. One would think that no one living round Heathrow wanted a fifth terminal. But I say loudly and clearly that my constituents want terminal 5 because they want 15,000 jobs. I should point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell), who is not in the Chamber at present, that noise means jobs and economic activity in my constituency. It was interesting that some hon. Members, who claim to represent those who live under the flight path, should say that life is unbearable for them and that it is dreadful to live in the area. Are house prices in Twickenham and Richmond standing still or falling? No, Sir—they are rocketing up. If things were that bad, people would not want to live in the area. Some of my hon. Friends completely misunderstand the nature of noise and its relationship to aircraft movements. But perhaps in due course we shall see changes that even they will have to accept.
Heathrow must have priority, because the airlines want to use it. They want a fifth terminal. I thought that the Government believed in consumer sovereignty. I thought that that was important. I did not believe that this Government would try to push those who want to come to London off to some—with respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst)—God forsaken hole in north-east Essex. The countryside is beautiful, but Stansted would be inconvenient for Americans, for example, who want to see the delights of London. Thus, I am surprised that consumer sovereignty should have taken second place.
I shall reiterate what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said to me when we were discussing my suggestion that we should reduce the number of domestic flights into Heathrow because there was a limit to congestion. He said that we could not do that because people who were going on holiday to London did not want to go to Stansted or Gatwick. He said that they wanted to 73 go to Heathrow. That is what my right hon. Friend said when we were talking about domestic flights. But that principle is even more relevant to international movements. When people come to the United Kingdom, they want to come to the airport of their choice—Heathrow—and do not want to go anywhere else.
In general, the community around Stansted is opposed to the proposals, although a limited expansion would probably be acceptable. The airlines do not want to go to Stansted, and nor do most travellers. Indeed, they would certainly object to being bussed along the M25 between Heathrow and Stansted. Anyone who thinks differently has something wrong upstairs—he must be stark, staring bonkers.
There will be international repercussions if we force airlines to do something that they do not want to do. Will we return to the old days, so that foreign countries will say, "If you force us into Stansted, British flights into our countries will have to go to some military airport at the back of beyond." This package will be the biggest white elephant that anyone has ever seen.
There is no point in turning a public monopoly such as BAA into a private monopoly. If there are to be changes towards privatisation, why on earth can there not be a Heathrow Ltd. and a Gatwick Ltd.? Why need there be a holding company? The Secretary of State told me that a holding company was reasonable because if the two airports were in competition Gatwick would go out of business. I thought that the market place allowed for that; it is all about the fittest surviving. But my right hon. Friend has given BAA control of the holding company, and that is crazy. The airports should be independent. Heathrow should make its profit and fight on, and Gatwick could compete from a different base and attract a different type of customer.
We all know how the BAA has used and abused its power in the past. We all know how it has cross-subsidised Stansted, and it is about time that that was stopped. It should have been stopped years ago. Let us have two separate companies—Heathrow Ltd. and Gatwick Ltd. We could also have Stansted Ltd. if the proposals are realised.
This package was produced in the hope of getting it through. The Secretary of State faced a similar position when he tried to introduce the 75,000 limit at Heathrow. We know the package will go through because my right hon. Friend has split the Conservative opposition. However, some of us will stand firm and he will at least have to listen to what we say. I believe that terminal 5 will come in due course, despite my right hon. Friend and his White Paper.
§ Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)
The real winners in this airports policy are the civil servants. When 40 years ago the Americans left a large slab of concrete in Stansted, some of those in Whitehall determined that one of these days, sooner or later, a Secretary of State would come along whom they could persuade to share their view that there should be massive airport expansion at Stansted.
There is an alternative, but it has not been contemplated. There is a do-nothing strategy—and by that I mean do nothing. The day would then come when those allegedly wishing to fly into Heathrow or Gatwick would be told, "There ain't no room." That would be one 74 way of achieving what many Opposition Members and some Conservative Members want—proper priority to be given to our regional airports.
The White Paper lays down certain policy objectives in section 3. One is toencourage the use and development of regional airports so that they meet the maximum demand they can attract.That is a laid-back policy because it puts the onus on the regional airports to attract passengers. That is my complaint, not simply against the authors of the White Paper, but, in some senses, against my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody).
On page 21, paragraph 5.25, the White Paper says about Luton, "It"—the Government—would welcome growth of traffic at Luton which would enable the airport authority to make the best possible use of its facilities.Paragraph 6.2 states:increasing use of regional airports ensures better use of the existing infrastructure. These airports also have a role to play in relieving pressure on capacity at the airports in the South East.In the context of the main thrust of the White Paper, those words are no more than pious hope.
The difference is shown in the section on regional airports. In paragraph 12.8 the White Paper says about Luton that the Governmentwill invite Luton Borough Council to bring forward proposals to increase the airport's capacity up to about 5 mppa.Paragraph 12.11 then says that the Governmenthopes that Manchester and other regional airports can help reduce the pressures on the South East by attracting more traffic.The difference between the word "invite" and the word "hope" is much more than semantics; those words were chosen with care. "Invites" implies some kind of encouragement; "hopes" simply conveys idle indifference, and that is our complaint.
I pit the demands of Birmingham international against no other airport in the region—neither Newcastle nor Manchester. The case for regional airports is the sensible use of every one of them. Birmingham has a first-class new terminal currently handling 1.7 million passengers a year, but is able to cope with many more. In the Government's own words, that would make the best possible use of its facilities.
Alongside the development of the airport has been the tremendous development of the Magleu railway from the car park to the airport. It is the first example of a pneumatic motor train in the world, and great interest has been expressed in it abroad. But the argument is not simply about the sensible use and development of Birmingham. It is about the economic future of Birmingham and the west midlands, as it is about every other region in the country. Each job at an airport will create two or three jobs off the airport.
The west midlands has an unemployment rate overall of 16.5 per cent. Almost within walking distance of Birmingham airport there are areas of the city with male unemployment rates of 40 per cent. or more. Birmingham has a great deal to offer, much of it developed with public money. That is the argument for the sensible use of facilities. Birmingham is establishing the first inland free port. It has the tremendous success of the National Exhibition Centre which, against the doubts of all those Jeremiahs who said that it could not work, does work, turns in a profit and there is now talk of expanding its provision.
A wide tourist region is served from Birmingham international airport, from the rolling, undulating hills of 75 Shropshire in the north, leading to mid and north Wales, to Warwickshire in the south, centred around Stratford-on-Avon. The ludicrous nature of the Government's policies—as with the nature of my Labour Government's policy between 1974 and 1975—is that we are apparently content for people to come churning through Heathrow and Gatwick and then catch a day coach to Stratford-on-Avon to visit the delights of that area rather than have the tourists coming directly into Birmingham and spreading out. That would not only ease the congestion in London and the south-east, but in a real sense would help the economy of the west midlands.
Thousands of millions of pounds have gone into the building and widening of the Ml, the M6, the M5 and the M69. We have excellent road facilities, when the cones are put back on their shelves, and we have a first-class rail link between Birmingham and London. I remind the Secretary of State that the trains into Euston and other stations in London actually go back to the north. They do not come to London and then disappear into a black hole. They go to the north and can take passengers with them.
It is inevitable under the White Paper policy that the level of investment envisaged for the development of Stansted must mean less being done in the regions. A pound cannot be spent twice. If it is spent in the south-east, it cannot be spent in the midlands, the north, the north-west or Scotland.
Nor is it simply a question of meeting estimated demand. The fallacy that it is represents a laissez-faire policy which is adding to the great divide between north and south in Britain. What the White Paper proposes will attract air traffic to London, whereas we should be adopting a get-tough policy with operators, particularly those who conduct flights for holidays and pleasure. We should be telling them, "We want you, but not every tourist journey needs to start in London."
We know from the activities of some tourist bodies, such as the Heart of England tourist board in the west midlands, that once people discover other areas of the nation, they think, "Why have we been paddling around the dirty streets of London all these years?"
The policy in the White Paper does not put any pressure on airlines to expand their regional operations, despite the fact that at Birmingham international landing charges have been held below the rate of inflation, at only 3.3 per cent., and that the recent rise has been the first since 1983.
I quarrelled with the last Labour Government for being too limp with regional airports, and I continue my quarrel with the Conservative Administration. We cannot keep tipping concrete over the southern corner of England. One day—I hope that it will be sooner rather than later—the House will tell the Government of the day, "Enough is enough. A halt must be called now."
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
You must often feel, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the best politicians are often those who listen rather than hold forth most forcefully. In politics preconceptions are exceptionally dangerous.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on having listened for so long with such patience to so many conflicting points of view and on having sought 76 with assiduity to reconcile them. I recognise that at many stages in that process I may not have made matters easier for him.
The speech of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) was deeply depressing for those who care about British civil air transport. She adduced a totally negative policy. She suggested that there should be no further growth at Heathrow—or at Stansted, beyond a modest increment to a maximum of 5 million PPA—and that somehow all the extra growth should take place in the regions and the north.
The hon. Lady acknowledged that it would not be a voluntary process. She recognised that the only means of achieving such a policy was by direction. That is the last thing that the travelling public want. That is why I regarded her contribution as depressing, and I set it aside on that basis.
I thank my right hon. Friend for having lifted the arbitrary 275,000 air transport movements a year limitation that had been planned for Heathrow. I was sorry that we had to reject his Bill to achieve that end, but I hope that with hindsight he will feel that that temporary unpleasantness was worth while.
If that legislation had been enacted we should now be facing a real difficulty, as we are already at the 275,000 ATM point. We should be having to face the invidious task of turning traffic away. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend recognised the force of the inspector's arguments and abandoned the limit.
My right hon. Friend is right to suggest that as operations develop over the years we shall be able to judge what should be the upper limit for Heathrow. Undoubtedly, there will be further improvements in air traffic control. One can see computerisation developing further, the use perhaps of artificial intelligence, better ground handling and many similar features which, in the years to come, will enable a greater number of air transport movements to be handled.
People were unreasonably fearful about the impact of noise on the communities around Heathrow. I am sad that their fears were pandered to. We live in the real world and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) pointed out. public representatives such as ourselves must represent the fears and anxieties of our constituents.
I appreciate that, for example, my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne and my hon. Friends the Members for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), for Twickenham (Mr. Jesse!), for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) and for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay), among others, must live with the representations made to them by their constituents about airport noise.
Times are not only changing, but have changed. The table on page 39 of the White Paper to which I referred in an intervention shows beyond peradventure that noise disturbance in the vicinity of airports has already diminished. When the new noise regulations are in force—they will ban, from the beginning of next year, those United Kingdom registered aircraft which are not noise certificated, and from the beginning of 1988 those foreign registered aeroplanes which are not noise certificated—we shall have a different situation.
We must consider developments in other parts of the world. Too often we in this country are parochial, when air transport is a global industry. At Washington national, for example—it is perhaps the most sensitive of all 77 major airports—two types of aeroplane are now able to operate round the clock, even through the so-called night noise curfew. They are the 757, powered by the RB211535-E4, and the British Aerospace 146.
So quiet are they that their movements are imperceptible outside the airport boundaries. That is the way in which modern technology is transforming the situation. Indeed, as I argued in the debate on Maplin 10 years ago, it will become increasingly possible to bring airports closer to centres of population rather than banish them to the countryside.
We are already seeing that in microcosm with the approval which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has, rightly, given to the STOLport in docklands. That instance proves the point, though there is another aspect of airports policy which is germane to this debate. This is the key issue of surface access, to which several hon. Members have referred.
If Stansted is not to become the white elephant that my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) fears, we must have good surface access. Otherwise, it will become another Narita. It must not take, say, three hours to get to or from an airport. Coming from Stansted, it is fine until the end of the M11, but heaven help anybody in the rush hour traffic from there on who wants to get into the centre of London. Rail links are, therefore, crucial, as they are to Feltham and Iver for Heathrow and from Prestwick.
The question of the environment is rightly a burning issue. I feel for the people of Essex, because the Stansted area is the last unspoilt piece of countryside near London. If too much development is permitted there, the result could be catastrophic for that beautiful part of the country.
The economics of civil air transport being what they are, I am sure that the pressure will still be for further growth at Heathrow. Passengers on scheduled flights want to go to Heathrow, and that is where the interlining connections are to be found. That is where surface transport access is best, although it is still not good enough.
I am glad that, at least implicitly, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has left the door open for a fifth terminal at Heathrow. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) put it so tellingly in an earlier debate—my hon. Friend has ministerial experience in these matters—we can build an airport at Mount Pleasant on the Falkland Islands in 18 months when we set our minds to doing so, yet we cannot move a sludge disposal works and construct a terminal at Heathrow, which is virtually on our doorstep. As my hon. Friend said, that does not make sense. However, I am pleased that studies are being initiated. If private money is forthcoming from the airlines and property companies, there is hope that the fifth terminal can be built, but first the surface access must be constructed.
Heathrow is the jewel in the crown. It is an incomparable national asset. I am so pleased that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not, I believe, even faintly inhibited its further development. As the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Brown) said, so many provincial airports depend on good access for their feeder services into Heathrow for their own viability. I am pleased that the White Paper sets out sensible and pragmatic steps. My right hon. Friend has listened., and we thank him for that. We hope to be able to help him construct an even better policy in future.
§ Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)
It is a great pleasure to be called to participate in the debate immediately after the contribution of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). The hon. Gentleman and I are the chairmen of our respective parliamentary aviation groups. It is a great pleasure to listen to the hon. Gentleman when he speaks with knowledge, feeling and passion.
First, I shall address myself to the noise factor. The limit of 275,000 ATMs was plucked out of the sky. It seems that no thought was given to it. British aircraft that are coming on, such as the Jetstream, the super 748, the ATP and the HS146 will provide good, quiet, efficient and effective service as feeder aircraft. They are British aircraft and I hope that British airlines will buy them as well as others.
The 10-minute rule is in operation and I shall not allow intervention in my remarks. On a previous occasion I allowed two Conservative Members to make their speeches during my 10 minutes and I do not propose to concede any of the time that is available to me this evening.
In my days as a navigator when my pilot wanted wind speed and direction the procedure was to fly two minutes one way, two minutes in another direction and two minutes in a third direction. When that had been done he expected me to have calculated wind speed and direction. I returned from Washington last week and during the flight I was admitted to the flight deck. I pressed a button and I had before me wind speed, direction, alternative airports, landing time and remaining fuel in one fell swoop. I had never felt so redundant in my life. All my skills had been overtaken by technology. If I had been able to put my finger out of the cockpit I might have been able to carry out some first principles. I might have been able to find the pole star, had it been night time.
There have been great technological advances that have led to a decrease in aircraft noise. I believe that the noise that is involved in holding aircraft will decrease when technology permits us to control airliners when they are 1,000 miles or more from their destination. It will be possible to control them all the way efficiently and effectively. The noise factor should be laid at rest for a while. It seems that aircraft noise will become quieter and quieter notwithstanding a greater number of landings.
I advise those who served on the Civil Aviation Bill in Committee to read the Hansard record of the proceedings. The reports make fascinating reading. It seems that the Secretary of State has completed an extremely quick learning curve. The Bill was published on 9 November and our first sitting in Committee took place on 11 December 1984. The Committee could not agree a sittings motion. It could not agreeThat during the proceedings on the Civil Aviation Bill the Committee do meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at half-past Ten o'clock.The Committee could not agree a sittings motion when it met on 18 December. The Christmas recess intervened and the Committee met for a third time on 12 January 1985. During our proceedings on that day the Secretary of State adjourned the consideration of the Bill in Committee.
The Secretary of State wanted, by means of the Bill, to honour his promise of a limit of 275,000 ATMs, which involve landings and take-offs. Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the Chamber, I want to congratulate him 79 on having completed a quick learning curve. The members of the Committee who considered the Civil Aviation Bill did nothing for legislation but the Committee enlightened the Secretary of State, the junior Minister, the civil servants and everyone else who was involved in the proceedings. As I have said, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on allowing the limit of 275,000 ATMs to go out of the window. The Secretary of State may now leave the Chamber if he wishes to do so.
Manchester airport has been betrayed once again. We hear phrases such as "we think", "it may be" or "the Minister hopes". However, we know that landing fees at Stansted were realities. There was cross-subsidisation. We know that that operated to Manchester's disadvantage and that Manchester suffered. All that we have is a promise from the Secretary of State that he will consider Manchester's problem. Unfortunately, the problem will continue to exist while he does so and Manchester airport will suffer. The principle of cross-subsidisation has been established and it is being implemented. When I meet the chairman of the British Airports Authority he always tells me, "Lewis, you must realise that we support Manchester airport." When I ask the chairman how the authority is giving it support, a blank expression crosses his face.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
Very well. I agree to allow the hon. Gentleman to intervene on the understanding that he is brief.
§ Mr. Hanley
Will the hon. Gentleman deny that there has been a near doubling of destinations from Manchester because of Government policy over the past 12 months?
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
I am worried intensely about some of these routes. I am concerned about what might be withdrawn in lieu of them. I hope that the Secretary of State will ensure that he gets secure bilateral arrangements into Manchester. That is the most important factor of all for Manchester.
There must be an improved infrastructure in the north-west. I hate having to say this to monetarists, but there must be some distortion if we are to secure investment in the north-west. We have a marvellous airport but we do not have a rail link. I shall be grateful to any Conservative Members who support the claim that Manchester airport must have a rail link. The White Paper states implicitly that there will be a rail link for Stansted. I ask the House and the Secretary of State to agree that there must be an effective rail link to and from Manchester airport by the same token.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
It is stated that there will be an investigation, but the provision of a rail link is not writ large in that paragraph. If the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) reads the document carefully, he will see that it implicitly states that the project at Stansted will not proceed unless it can be justified. We want a clear undertaking that there will be 80 an improvement in the north-west as a result of the establishment of a rail link. That link is essential for Manchester.
The hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) is the lucky one. He has everything that he wanted—a roadway and the possibility of a second runway being blocked because the second terminal blocks it. That is the perfect situation. I must say:That unto every one which hath shall be given".I say to those who represent wealthy constituencies in the south-east, "Remember your fellow Britons living elsewhere where there are unemployed people. We ask not for extra money but for the capital investment that is directed towards Stansted to be allocated to the northwest." Stansted represents a threat to Manchester because that airport is being built primarily through contract work for tourism to transport people in and out of this country. That development will rob Manchester.
I conclude with a final appeal to the Secretary of State: give us a favourable response on the proposed rail link to Manchester airport.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
In the light of the reception that I have exceptionally been given, and in view of what has happened during the past few days, I feel peculiarly diffident about disagreeing with the Government in the Division Lobby tonight.
If anyone had any doubt about this debate's relevance, he could dispel it simply by looking at the news tickers. During the past five days, we have all watched the tragic shuttling of the TWA Boeing from Algiers to Beirut. The human poignancy of the story has grasped world attention. The reason is that nearly everyone in the Western world either flies or hopes to fly. This underlines my basic point. Aviation has become one of the world's basic industries.
This debate must, therefore, go to a central point—that Britain must remain at the centre of world aviation and provide the world's airlines, passengers and freight movers with the best available facilities. Unless we do so, the great world airliners of tomorrow, which I guess may be bigger and carry more freight, will stop at only one place in north-west Europe. I hope that it will be in Britain, but, if we are not careful, that one world airport in north-west Europe may well be on the continent and our country may become a satellite in aviation terms.
I welcome a great deal of the White Paper—privatisation, the prospect of competition, the removal of the limit on the numbers at Heathrow and the great encouragement given to regional airports. Nevertheless, I shall be constrained to vote against the motion that the House takes note of the White Paper, for three principal reasons. The first reason is based on environmental grounds. For four and a half years I was Under-Secretary of State for the Environment. During that period I paid particular attention to countryside issues. I am sorry to say that my right hon. Friend's policy will mean urbanisation and industrialisation for Essex, which is an important part of our countryside. Many thousands of acres of our scarcest commodity in a small island—land—will be stolen. Dozens of our villages and some of our market towns will be transformed into dormitories for the airport- 81 related industries which will certainly come to the new Stansted airport. This policy will unroll a carpet of concrete, roofs and electricity lines over one of the most charming rural environments in Britain. I regret all that.
I have never doubted that Stansted must increase to take 7 million or 8 million PPA. It could do so within its existing capacities. However, to extend capacity to 15 million PPA is an environmental mistake, and for that reason I shall oppose it, as an East Anglian Member.
Secondly, I object to the policy enshrined in the White Paper on national planning grounds. For four years I was, for my sins, Minister with responsibility for planning. Perhaps I was not a very good one. But the biggest planning threat to our country now comes from London's spreading outwards—south to Gatwick and perhaps eventually to Brighton; west, as it has already done, to Heathrow and beyond to Slough; north along the Birmingham corridor; and, now if the White Paper is accepted, north-east to Harlow, Stansted and beyond. We are faced with the prospect of the worst planning feature of American life—megalopolis. The danger is of "Londonopolis" spreading concrete over far too large an area of south-east England at the expense of other parts of Britain.
While I had responsibility for transport, I tried to ascertain why it cost so much more to move goods from one place to another in Britain than in Germany or France. I discovered that our highways and railways are just as efficient as anyone else's for the transportation of goods between cities, but our national average is pulled down by the sheer scale of London and the fact that so many transport movements must pass through Greater London. We should not be extending London, but limiting it. We should not be concreting more of the area around London; we should be conserving it. So on the broadest ground of national planning strategy, this policy of building up Stansted is wrong.
My third objection to the White Paper is based on aviation grounds. I am sure that our policy must be to ensure that Britain has a national airport of a standard and on a scale that will be the most attractive in the world. During the period when I was responsible for the ill-fated Maplin programme, which the House passed and the Opposition cast aside, I learnt two things: first, that an international airport must have all its facilities in one place—baggage handling, security, the lot; and, secondly, that it must be indefinitely extendable. It must be able to grow, because no one can foresee the future. We must, therefore, site an airport where all the facilities can be provided on one spot and where there is capacity for growth. Only Maplin could provide that combination. But Maplin, alas, is dead.
It was a national folly for the Labour Government to kill Maplin. But if the killing of Maplin was the first step towards the historic removal of London from its primacy in the eyes of the world's airlines, tonight we might be taking a further step along that tragic road. For we are deciding not that London will have a great omni-competent international airport, but that it will have three or four different airports, all of them inadequate to meet the challenges of tomorrow, none of them sufficient to provide in one place the totality of services that are required.
We all know that Heathrow is inadequate—that it is too small and that its site is limited. We all know that, if it is to succeed in international terms, it must become 82 bigger and better. There is only one site for this to happen—the sewage works. Perhaps the Minister will convey to my right hon. Friend, for whom I have the greatest affection and admiration, that it is a sad prospect that a Government who could successfully build a new airport in 18 months in the Falklands, 8,000 miles away, should be defeated at Heathrow by a sludge farm. There is something nationally humiliating about that.
I sum up. Let us by all means have the 7 million or 8 million passengers in Stansted. Let us encourage Manchester in every way that we can. But let us make sure that we have in London a national airport which is the best in the world. We shall not get it by a fudged policy which says, "Maybe terminal 5, maybe not terminal 5; maybe 7 million at Stansted, maybe 15 million at Stansted."
It was said of my right hon. Friend's White Paper that at long last, after 30 years, he has grasped the nettle and taken a firm decision. He has done no such thing. He has left all the options open. Therefore, I cannot support him.
§ Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)
The Minister, in opening the debate, quoted in aid Mr. Gil Thompson, the director of Manchester airport, as being in favour of the proposals. I do not know whether there is any connection, but seven days previously Mr. Gil Thompson received an OBE from the Government. [Interruption.] People do respond to such things.
The Minister also quoted in aid the Manchester Evening News. He quoted the headline. He did not quote the leader following the Government's White Paper, which was critical of the White Paper and called for some concrete proposals, let alone some more concrete in Manchester.
The Government have not moved away from the Graham Eyre recommendations which so many Conservative Members oppose; they have moved nearer to them, including the proposed removal of the sewage works and the proposal to go ahead with the fifth terminal. The Government have not, in the White Paper, ruled out the increase to 25 million PPA at Stansted.
If the White Paper has convinced Conservative Members that the Government have made any concessions or have moved in any way at all, it is a clever piece of propaganda, because I do not believe that any significant concessions have been made by the Government from their original position. The Government have landed at Stansted and the development will, as originally envisaged, go forward to the original figure of 15 million PPA, and then probably much further than that. A thick fog has been created around the Government decisions. Although at first sight the Government appear to have landed at Manchester, Luton and Heathrow, the real conclusion to be drawn from the White Paper is that there has again been a diversion to Stansted.
I support Manchester international airport as the key airport in the north-west of England but, as Member of Parliament for Bootle, and representing a Merseyside constituency, I am also greatly concerned about Speke airport in Liverpool. Speke has hardly been mentioned in the report, but I do not believe that Liverpool airport can survive if the proposals in the White Paper go ahead. I do not believe that it can survive, let alone have a rosy future, without a massive expansion of Manchester international airport. To have a viable future, Speke airport needs to be linked into the international airport at Manchester.
83 Manchester has 180 airport movements a day and made a profit of £12 million last year, yet the White Paper has the audacity to suggest that the Government are not convinced that the running of local authority airports through joint committees is the most effective means of managing substantial businesses. Manchester airport is a success story, and it is run by a committee of a local authority. It was conceived and pioneered by a local authority, in the true spirit of municipal pioneering. It is run effectively by a joint committee of the county and the city. Indeed, a Conservative Member, from a sedentary position, commented that Manchester has a fine airport. It is a tribute to municipal Socialism that the airport exists and makes a profit of £12 million.
Merseyside county council owns Liverpool airport, where there are only 30 air movements a day. The annual loss approaches £3 million. That debt will not be accepted. When I intervened, the Minister said that he could give no undertaking about the future of Liverpool airport, and that it is up to the districts, which might come together and take over the airport; if not, it would be up to the passenger transport authority that is being set up by the abolition Bill, rate-capped from its inception. The Secretary of State knows that the districts, many of them rate-capped and with cuts in grants and inadequate targets, will not take over an airport with a debt of £3 million. He knows that the passenger transport authority cannot take over that £3 million debt, because it will be rate-capped at its inception. The Secretary of State should give an undertaking that the money will be forthcoming to sustain the airport.
Liverpool has only five summer holiday charter flights leaving each week, and some scheduled domestic services. The airport is, sadly, underused. Less freight comes into the airport in a year than through the seaport container terminal in the docks in my constituency in half of one of the container vessels. That is the situation at present at Liverpool airport.
Money has been spent on a new terminal at Speke, but the one crucial missing element required to draw charter trade is a duty-free shop. The airport would be far more prosperous than it is now, and it would possibly break even, if it could attract a charter trade. As I have said, it would attract that trade if it had a duty-free shop. The Customs and Excise has ruled that out because there are not enough passengers, so we have a Catch-22 situation. If the Government would give an undertaking that the Customs and Excise would agree to the granting of a duty-free shop, Liverpool airport would start to thrive.
There has been mention of the issue of freedom of choice. Many of my constituents, and others throughout the north-west, have very little freedom of choice in where they fly from. They fly from the airport that is nominated by the travel agent or bucket shop. They have to go to Luton and to Gatwick. It is not only a myth to say that there is freedom of choice. It is a myth to suggest that there is something wrong about directing companies or flights to the north-west, where there is no freedom of choice now.
Visitors from countries such as the United States like to visit Wales, Chester and Merseyside, which is becoming a growing tourist attraction, as well as the Lake district. Many of them would prefer to fly into Manchester or Liverpool and start their holiday there, rather than 84 having to go first to Heathrow. It can take longer to get from terminal 1 to terminal 3 than to travel from Manchester airport to Liverpool airport. Sometimes one has to wait 20 minutes before getting on a bus. The congestion and difficulties are tremendous.
Privatisation is presented as an alternative. Tomorrow a private company, Airports International Limited, is making a presentation to Merseyside MPs. The company does not want to take over the Liverpool airport, with its debts. It wants to have a management contract and, in the company's words, to make the airport more efficient, but it does not want to take on responsibility for the airport.
Liverpool airport should have a future. Tourism on Merseyside is increasing. Merseyside is becoming much more attractive to tourists. Liverpool airport reflects the economic position in Merseyside. If there is to be any development of Merseyside's industry, and if unemployment is to go below 20 per cent. in the travel-to-work area, that development has to be linked with the expansion of Liverpool airport. If Liverpool airport closes as a result of the White Paper and the Government's plans to abolish the metropolitan county, it will be another nail in the coffin of Merseyside. It will signal a loss of jobs not only at the airport but in the hinterland.
Manchester airport should be linked with Liverpool airport. There should be a rapid rail transit system linking the two cities. What could become Manchester's second runway has already been built at Liverpool. There are no noise problems because the flight path is mainly over the estuary. That runway would be ideal as a second runway for Manchester international airport. That is the kind of opportunity open to the Government if they would accept the regional alternative. I do not believe that the Government can develop the capacity of Stansted to 15 million PPA and beyond. Luton borough council will be invited to put proposals to increase Luton's capacity to 5 million PPA. The report's conclusions state:The Government will encourage the development of Manchesterairport. I wonder what "will encourage" means. The report states that a planis being drawn up … to provide a positive strategy for increasing the range of international servicesat Manchester. That will not happen if Stansted is developed. Section 6.32 does not contain a commitment. It states:The Government would expect to approve capital expenditure on a second terminal at Manchester when this is justified by demand and return on capital.It will not be justified by demand and return on capital if Stansted goes ahead and is developed as is envisaged in the White Paper.
I do not believe in the kind of expansion figures for the increase in passenger traffic that the Secretary of State quoted. Any commitment to the regional alternative will be on a wing and a prayer. If Conservative Members are conned by the White Paper, when they previously opposed the Government's proposals to build Stansted because they supported a regional alternative, then they have been misled and are more gullible than I believed that they were—
§ Mr. Roberts
I urge the Government to reconsider the matter and I urge those Conservative Members who have doubts to vote according to their consciences.
§ 8.1 pm
§ Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)
I am beginning to think that I am one of the few Members of the House who do not have a constituency interest in the matter. I shall address the House from the national perspective.
Air transport is one of the more successful industrial sectors of the British economy. British Airways, the world's favourite airline, is a major earner of foreign currency, a major employer and one of the most internationally competitive businesses. In contrast with other European nations, the United Kingdom enjoys a second major international carrier and a number of smaller airlines. The United Kingdom must not jeopardise the future of a sector in which it is internationally more competitive than any other member of the European Community.
Further, air transport does not stand alone. It is vital to the competitive position of manufacturing and service industries, which are increasingly dependent upon air transport as international and European marketing and development become even more important.
An island nation, on the periphery of the European Community, cannot afford to lose the competitive advantage in air transport that it enjoys. Because of a common language and history, the United Kingdom will remain the preferred European base for many international airlines. Failure to achieve a viable airports strategy would, in all the circumstances, be economic and national folly. Britain leads, and should continue to seek to lead, Europe in air transport.
No air transport strategy in which capacity falls short of demand can be regarded as successful. Two questions are involved: how much capacity, and when? Mr. Eyre sought to provide estimates of levels of demand which he believed it would be prudent to meet. He did not assert that his figures would necessarily be reached or that they would not be overtaken, but rather that capacity to match demand should be available and capable of operation by the time the levels of demand are reached. He projected that by 1995 demand of 75 million PPA would exist in the London area and 89 million PPA by the year 2000. His figures are drawn from an extensive and thorough review of the evidence then available, based on an examination of the methodologies. It is doubtful whether those figures could be improved.
It follows, therefore, that if the proposals for our airports strategy fail to produce sufficient capacity to match projected demand, that strategy will have failed. To succeed, that demand must be met in the London area and in the regions. We must ensure that capacity is available when and where it is needed. Ideally, new capacity should be available as soon after 1990 as possible.
One substantial misconception must be dealt with before we consider where and when capacity is needed. No part of the airports policy has been as confused or has given rise to such acrimonious debate as the role of the regional airports. Demand is greater in the south-east. Airlines will not develop regional services if there is no demand, and nothing said by the Opposition has managed seriously to bring into question Mr. Eyre's conclusion that there is no shortage of capacity in the regions. There is shortage of capacity in London and the south-east. A sensible airports strategy, therefore, must meet the likely 86 increase in demand in London and the south-east. Prudent consideration requires that 75 million PPA be provided by 1995.
Mr. Eyre concluded that only Stansted could be expanded to cover the shortfall of capacity in the early 1990s, and that to meet demand in the late 1990s and into the next century extra facilities at Stansted and Heathrow would be needed. That is a safe and viable strategy. It is broadly the one that the Government are adopting. By expanding Stansted to 8 million PPA in the near future, and leaving the door open to future expansion at Stansted and Heathrow, the Government are ensuring that there will be sufficient capacity to meet demand for some time.
I wish for a firmer commitment to the construction of a fifth terminal at Heathrow, but I am sensible of the fact that a fifth terminal remains an option should the need arise. During the inquiry, Mr. Eyre commented that hitherto airports inquiries and policy had been characterised by uncertainty. What arises out of the White Paper and these proposals is a sure and considered strategy which seeks to meet demand; a national strategy that will provide sufficient capacity to meet demand at the minimum environmental cost; a strategy that will ensure the maintenance of the unique international status of the United Kingdom's air transport system; and a strategy that will ensure that Britain continues to be a world leader in air transport well into the 21st century. That is a strategy which will ensure that we continue to be competitive in a business where, for once, we lead Europe. It would be folly to jeopardise that lead unless we must.
§ 8.8 pm
§ Mr. David Lambie (Cunninghame, South)
I apologise for missing the beginning of the debate, but I was visiting a British Aerospace factory at Prestwick airport with my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudon (Mr. McKelvey). Unfortunately, the visit lasted longer than I thought it would and I missed the shuttle from Glasgow.
That visit was unusual for Scottish Members of Parliament because we were faced with a problem. It was not the usual problem of redundancies and closures but one of success. British Aerospace has so many orders for its Jetstream that it cannot get them out regularly. The factory was worth the visit, if only to hear of that problem.
Certain aspects of the Government's White Paper attracted me, even though I speak from the Opposition Benches. If one excludes the privatisation of the British Airports Authority, there is much sense and worth in the proposals. I say that as a Scottish Member of Parliament; as a regional Member of Parliament.
During the past five years, the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs has carried out two inquiries—one into the future of Prestwick airport and the other into the effects of the privatisation of the BAA on Scottish lowland airports policy. The Government have accepted most of the proposals in both those reports. As Chairman of the Select Committee, I must thank the Government for doing so.
The Select Committee stated that the traditional policy on Scottish lowland airports and on retaining Prestwick as the international gateway and the long haul airport for the Atlantic, carried out by all Governments over a long period, was to be maintained, if only for a temporary period of four years. We stated that the activities of the other lowland airports—Glasgow, Edinburgh and 87 Aberdeen—should be concentrated on journeys within the United Kingdom, and between the United Kingdom and Europe. The Government have maintained that policy, and I am glad of that.
I am not worried about the period of four years because halfway through we shall have a general election, and if all the trends continue as they are now, we shall have a change of Government. I hope that my Front Bench will give us an assurance tonight that the next Labour Government will carry out the policy on Prestwick airport of previous Labour Governments and of the present Conservative Government.
When the Select Committee considered the effects of the privatisation of BAA, we said that the future of the Scottish lowland airports depended on their being tied to the London airports. At that time we were thinking mainly of Heathrow and Gatwick. We said that if BAA is to be privatised, the Scottish lowland airports should retain their connections with BAA, but they should be controlled by a Scottish company, and the BAA should be the holding company. The Government have accepted that with one small addition. Instead of having one Scottish company running the lowland airports, the Government have said that there will be individual companies for each of the four airports. I have no objection to that. In my opinion, the more decentralisation there is, the better. That is why I support devolution for Scotland.
Therefore, the Government have accepted that the Scottish lowland airports should be tied to the London airports. That will be a good thing for the passengers in Scotland. As the BAA has always stated and as the Government said in their White Paper, I believe that we shall see a continuation of the expansion of air transport. I have no doubt about that. The Scottish airports cannot compete with London. We must keep our ties with London, but we must develop the facilities that we can develop best. I do not see Heathrow, Gatwick or even Stansted as the enemy of the Scottish airports. I am more afraid of the build-up of Manchester airport, and of it taking on the role of the airport not only for the north-west of England but for north Britain, as I have often heard. If there is a build-up of Manchester airport, I do not see that bringing any benefit to the Scottish people who want to fly in and out of Prestwick airport.
Therefore, I realise, as someone who is interested in the aerospace industry, that if we do not build up the London airports, the alternative is not Prestwick, Manchester, Liverpool or Birmingham—it is the major airports on the continent of Europe. If we are to maintain our position as a major centre of world air transport, we must develop the London airports.
This is where I have a criticism of the Government White Paper. The Government are giving commitments to build up the infrastructure for Stansted and Heathrow. They must also give such assurances to build up the infrastructure of the Scottish airports, especially Prestwick. I cannot justify the spending of £166 million on better rail connections to Stansted, £150 million on a rail connection to Heathrow, or £25 million to £50 million on an extension of the tube unless we get the same assurances for Scotland. We need direct motorway connections with Glasgow, Edinburgh and Prestwick. We need a railway station similar to the one at Gatwick airport—though not on the same scale—on the main Ayr-Glasgow line, 88 with the halt at Prestwick airport itself. If our infrastructure is built up, the Scottish airports will have a future.
Unfortunately, Scotland has a population of only 5 million. We have four lowland airports. We are all fighting one another for trade. I hope that, now that the Government's policy has been confirmed, the Scottish people will come together, and hon. Members on both sides of the House representing Scottish constituencies will fight to make sure that the Government provide money to build up the infrastructure for the development of Scottish airports.
I also welcome the proposals in the White Paper on the Highland and Islands airports. The Government tried to sell those airports. Luckily for the Scots and the Socialists among the Scottish people, no one would buy them. Now the Tory Government are going to form a public company in Scotland, based in Edinburgh, to run those airports, which I welcome. I hope that when the next Labour Government take over, we shall extend the same policy that the Tory Government are carrying out for the Highland and Islands airports in Scotland to the rest of the airports in the United Kingdom. I hope that we shall renationalise the British Airports Authority and put it under Government control once again.
§ Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)
I shall concentrate on the effects on Manchester international airport of the White Paper. I was delighted that the chief executive of Manchester airport was awarded the OBE in the birthday honours list. Gil Thompson has done an enormous amount of work for the airport in our area. The comments by the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) were unnecessary and had no taste. He should be ashamed of himself for making such a scandalous statement.
There was a statement on 5 June when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State inaugurated the White Paper. It goes a long way towards meeting the objects of the North of England Regional Consortium. That was and is an all-party group working on behalf of the north. It is a pity that the political prejudices of certain Opposition Members have now taken flight. If they bothered to study the White Paper, they would find that there is a great deal in it for Manchester airport, which was enhanced by the statements on the night of its issue by the airport's chief executive and the town clerk of Manchester. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) made some silly statements that day. She and the right hon. Member for Manchester Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) should have known better. They led the parrot cries of Labour Members from the north-west. Those hon. Members were bleating either because they did not understand what my right hon. Friend had said or because they did not want to understand it. There are none so blind as those who do not want to see.
It is difficult to accept that those hon. Members belong to a party which, when in government in 1978, published a White Paper that gave little joy to regional airports. It said:The Government rejects the suggestion that the air transport industry should be subject to the damaging restrictions on its operations which would be the outcome of the forced diversion of traffic to regional airports.I cannot imagine that there was much dancing in the streets of Manchester at that time.
89 The present Government have done far more than any other for Manchester international airport. We have 6 million passengers per annum and it is expected that we shall have 30 per cent. growth to the end of the decade. The melancholy moaners and Jonahs on the Labour Benches are always asking for more international flights from and to Manchester. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said today that of 33 scheduled international services at Manchester, 14 have started this year. I cannot see what Labour Members are playing at.
We must never be complacent. We in the north of England must keep fighting the battles, but I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for a number of reasons. First, he has confirmed that Manchester is a gateway international airport outside London. Secondly, he has restricted Stansted to a first phase of 7 million to 8 million PPA, with a provision that an increase will have to be referred to Parliament. I am particularly grateful for the enormous help that will be provided to Manchester by the fact that it will be competing with Stansted on equal terms.
I always thought that it was wrong that landing charges at Stansted should be so low because of the subsidy from the profits of the so-called duty-free shops at Gatwick and Heathrow. The fact that Stansted will in future be competing on equal terms with every other airport in this country is good news for our regional airports.
I also welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend has agreed that Manchester's second terminal can go ahead when there are sufficient passengers to justify it.
The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) waxed long and loud about the need for a rail link, but we have to accept that the Government have approved the Windsor link which links the railway systems in the north and south of Manchester. In addition, there are promises in the White Paper of discussions about the provision of a direct rail link to Manchester airport. We have been asking for that for many years and it would give the airport an enormous boost.
We have also had the promise that agreements will be renegotiated to get more international flights in and out of Manchester. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will have some good news to give us when he replies to the debate.
Section 6.29 of the White Paper points out that regional airports have a great part to play and that licensing policy is important.
Licensing policy can have a direct effect on the growth of regional airports. The White Paper confirms that about 13 per cent. of the passengers using Heathrow and Gatwick began their journeys in Manchester's gateway catchment area. It is important to get more international flights using Manchester, and it is essential that any application should be dealt with as speedily as possible.
I remind my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of what happened with Singapore Airlines. As he said, once Governments got involved, an agreement came quickly—within six weeks. However, before that, Singapore Airlines had been trying frantically to get the flight. The airline wanted to fly into Manchester and the airport wanted it to fly there. Somewhere, there was a stumbling block.
American Airlines now wants to fly from Chicago to Manchester. I recognise that that will require a renegotiation of the Bermuda 2 agreement, but I emphasise to the Under-Secretary the urgency of the 90 situation. I cannot imagine American Airlines being prepared to hang around and wait for a decision. I hope that the application will be dealt with speedily, because I fear that if we do not snatch the opportunity American Airlines will gravitate to an European gateway airport and a great opportunity will have been lost to Manchester.
My information is that American Airlines would like to start its Chicago to Manchester flights next spring. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will give us some idea of the Government's thinking on the issue. I am told that, for protocol reasons, American Airlines was not allowed to write directly to the Department. Apparently, only Governments speak to Governments. I hope that the Government will show American Airlines how welcome it would be in flying to Manchester.
I have also been told that Air Lanka wants to fly direct to Manchester. The opportunities are there. Manchester must be allowed to grasp them.
I do not have to emphasise that it is essential for Manchester, as a hub airport, to have a strong base carrier. That is one reason why hon. Members from the north-west fought last year for British Airways to be the major operator of scheduled services. We are delighted that BA has introduced new services, but I question whether the New York-Manchester route is being pushed as hard as it could be. There should be a substantial demand from passengers to fly from Manchester to New York, but they must be aware that the flight is available. I urge BA to remember how hard north-west Members fought for the airline last year and how much we wanted such flights to be arranged. We hope that British Airways will give us deeds to match its words.
As the base carrier, British Airways should be given the first chance to capitalise on the opportunities offered at Manchester. I note that the White Paper says that foreign airlines also have a role to play in developing a Manchester hub.
The airport authority is doing all that it can to promote the airport. It is building up five-year and 10-year plans to identify routes that, over time, will show sufficiently strong regional demand to justify operations. It is in the interests of northern passengers and the regional economy that those routes should be operated when they become viable.
The first option to operate those routes must be given to British airlines, but if, having been given the opportunity, the British airlines cannot deliver, foreign airlines should be given the opportunity to serve the routes. In other words, British airlines would have the first option on any route identified within the plan for Manchester, but they must not be allowed to prevaricate to prevent a competitor from serving the needs of northern passengers. Blocking tactics at Manchester airport are over.
For example, if a viable route to Pakistan is identified, the opportunity should be offered to British airlines, but if those airlines do not wish to operate the route, bilateral negotiations should seek to open the way for a foreign carrier to serve the route. I trust that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will establish a detailed framework in which that could happen. If British airlines do not take advantage of the route opportunities, they can at least gain from the connecting traffic that will be generated on new routes operated by foreign airlines.
91 It is no longer acceptable for bilateral negotiations on air service agreements merely to look at each route, one for one. They should take into account the wider benefits to be gained, within and beyond the aviation sector.
Tourism is a growing industry here and we must do as much as possible to sell this country to tourists. British airlines successfully sell package holidays to the Mediterranean and other areas. Foreign airlines could do much to boost our tourism.
I do not apologise for concentrating on the effects of the White Paper on Manchester airport. We are all fighting our own corners and speaking on behalf of the people we represent. I welcome the fact that the White Paper shows a willingness to look after northern interests. I hope that we shall see its words put into action and I look forward to the greater prosperity of Manchester international airport.
§ Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)
I view the White Paper differently from the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery). I believe that the White Paper is a kick in the teeth for the north of England and the regions. I have made that comment before, and I believe that I am correct. The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale said that Manchester airport had grown because of Government policy. I would say that it has grown despite Government policy, and that it has grown because of the progressive foresight and management of those responsible for the airport.
I was involved in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the development of Manchester airport when massive capital injections were made in that airport. Such injections have always been made. That is why Manchester airport is so successful, and why it will continue to be successful. The success is due to local management decisions. I resent any suggestion of privatisation in the White Paper.
The Secretary of State said that the only Opposition Member who spoke against privatisation on 5 June was my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). That was a silly remark, because Opposition Back Benchers were limited in what they could say. The Opposition are opposed to the privatisation of the British Airports Authority.
The White Paper provides few reasons for privatisation. It says that privatisation will provide greater freedom for management and that it will lead to efficiency gains and greater response to customers. I do not accept that. If that is true, why do we not legislate to ensure that the British Airports Authority has the freedom and ability to meet customer demand itself? Privatisation is not justified and I believe it to be the wrong approach.
I recognise that the White Paper tries to reconcile the many different views expressed in January when we had a debate on the subject. That debate revealed a strong view that, for whatever the reason, the development of Stansted airport was not favoured and that hon. Members wanted more development of the regional airports.
The Secretary of State said earlier that the vote on that occasion was only on the Adjournment. That was a silly remark, but one gets used to silly remarks from the Secretary of State. A strong view was expressed. The reasons for that view were different, but the decision was clear and decisive.
92 The White Paper is a result of that debate, and it tries to provide a compromise. It is the result of pressure from the North of England Regional Consortium and of the Government's failure to obtain full support for their civil aviation legislation. The White Paper does not deal with the problem. It fudges and dodges the issues. It offers nothing positive to the regions.
When the Government produced the White Paper, they had the opportunity to change the direction of Government policy, not only for airports, but for the regions in general. They could have shown their confidence in the regions. I believe that the Government are not concerned about the regions. The White Paper underlines that attitude.
§ Mr. Roger Stott (Wigan)
I wonder whether my hon. Friend heard the argument of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry), who said that we should develop Stansted because of the number of journeys that start in the south of England. I was tempted to intervene and say that 8 million journeys a year originate from the north of England and that that figure was growing. The hon. Member for Banbury asked why those journeys should have to start at Stansted, Gatwick or Heathrow, when they could start from Manchester or Prestwick.
§ Mr. Pike
That is the whole point of the exercise. People in the north of England and in other regions should be able to travel direct from their local airports. I travelled from Heathrow to Manchester on Friday last week. I caught the 11.30 am plane, which did not take off until midday because at least nine planes were queueing up to take off. The passenger sitting next to me was not a Labour party supporter. He was a business man who lives in the Manchester area. He said that he detested using London airport. He has to travel abroad and tries to use Schiphol rather than Heathrow. That is just one example of a person having to go to the continent to make a major journey when Manchester should provide such facilities.
The vice-chairman of the Labour group on the Lancashire county council said:This is an issue on which all parties of all Local Authorities in the North are united and the Consortium will continue to press for a statement from the Government on the regional disparities between the North and South. We will not allow the Government to gloss over this issue and concentrate public expenditure in the South East. The development of Manchester Airport must be seen as a regional development which will benefit enormously all areas of the North West.That is a fair expression of the position. I agree that we need the rail link to Manchester airport. That would open up the airport. Earlier in the year I welcomed the Windsor link between north and south Manchester, but we need the next step—the link to Manchester airport.
The White Paper talks about between 38 million and 42 million passengers for Heathrow. The current figure is 29 million. The projected figure for Gatwick is between 21 million and 23 million, when currently 14 million passengers use that airport. The projected figure for Stansted is between 7 million and 8 million, when 500,000 currently use it. It is estimated that at Luton the number of passengers will increase from 2 million to 3.5 or 5 million and that the figure for STOLport will be 1 million. Those figures are biased in favour of the south-east.
People should not have to got to the south to travel abroad. More flights should go from Manchester and other regional airports. That should be positive policy. People would use the regional airports if flights started from them. 93 Flights from Manchester for charter holidays are taken up very quickly. That forces many others to travel to London by air or by rail to start their journey.
The recent history of regional airports has been affected by unfulfilled Government promises over a number of years. We now need a regional policy which makes a real attempt to eliminate the disparities and to give unrestricted access to all airlines wishing to exploit the opportunities offered by the regional airports. We want a strong commitment to expand and develop the regional airports. It is time that the role of the CAA was changed to make it a priority for that body to ensure that the requirement to develop the regional airports is fulfilled and is not merely the subject of lip-service. I strongly urge the Government to secure the future of the regional airports in that way.
§ Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes)
In general, my constituents and I welcome the Government statement and the White Paper as a realistic assessment of future air travel demand into the next century and the geographical location of that demand. We must satisfy the demand in the south-east. I would have preferred the Maplin solution and the foresight shown in that proposal and I regret that it was voted down. Stansted is now the only viable airport that can meet the demand in the time available. If we do not satisfy the demand in the short term there is no doubt at all that the business will go abroad and we cannot afford that.
My constituents are also grateful that the awful prospect of a fifth terminal at Heathrow has been removed for the foreseeable future and perhaps for ever, but a number of questions remain to be answered. First, if the Secretary of State has taken powers to limit flights at Heathrow, when and at what level of aircraft movements does he intend to use them? Secondly, I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State wishes to improve the environment of those living around Heathrow but there was a glaring absence of any reference to night flights in his statement today. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State will rectify that omission when he winds up the debate. We need clarification as there has been much discussion recently in The Standard and in the local media about why that subject has been left out of the discussions so far. We do not want it to be a wooden horse to increase misery. Thirdly, why is the Thames water authority to be allowed to continue to investigate the removal of the Perry Oaks sludge works?
My constituents utterly rebut the finding of Mr. Eyre that the restriction of air traffic movements makes no significant contribution to the control of aircraft noise. I applaud the Government's actions on this in recent years. In seven or eight months' time, Trident will go and 12 months later foreign equivalents of Trident will also go. Frequency is just as important as noise level. If that is not so, why should there be a limit on Stansted not just for the first phase but for the second phase? We want parliamentary control at Heathrow, too. All airports should be subject to environmental controls over the number of flights. It is a mistake to believe that a reduction in noise should mean an increase in flights. I take the analogy of a little drop of water which is innocent enough by itself, but a constant, unremitting drip, drip, drip becomes Chinese water torture. Heathrow is my constituents' Chinese torture.
94 If all planes were as quiet as the BA146 and the Boeing 757 with the RB 211 engine, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) has said, I am sure that my constituents would not mind an increase in air traffic movements. But all aircraft are not as quiet as that. Nevertheless, the 275,000 ATM limit proposed by the Government is being lifted before the quieter engines come in. That limited but welcome restriction was regarded as correct when the Government introduced the Civil Aviation Bill just a few months ago, but that legislation was rejected by the Opposition, by four Conservative Members as a result of constituency pressure, and by the Liberal spokesman in the Standing Committee. Why, just a few weeks later, has it been decided that that restriction was wrong? If any one of those dissenting members of the Standing Committee had taken a different view, that limit might now be law. The pledge given at the inquiry into the fourth terminal has now been reversed.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)
If my hon. Friend reads the Official Report of the first sitting of that Committee, he will realise that I did not vote as I did as a result of constituency pressure, of which there was none.
§ Mr. Hanley
I apologise to my hon. Friend. I accept that that was true for him, although not for the other three Conservative Members.
Night is the only time when there is any respite from the possible maximum of 72 flights per hour at Heathrow. It is not good enough to suggest, as the Eyre report does, that double glazing will bring relief. We cannot double-glaze people's gardens, nor can we double-glaze Kew gardens or Richmond park, and people cannot sleep comfortably on warm summer nights with the double glazing closed. People are entitled to some respite, but even then the existing 15 to 20 night flights disturb their sleep. Section 8.2 of the White Paper states:There is no absolute measure of disturbance from aircraft noise".But there is—it is called absolute misery.
There is another reason for limiting the number of flights. Perhaps it has not been mentioned so far because we find it too uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it must be stated, and not just to be alarmist. I refer to safety. We have been lucky that there has been no major accident over a built-up area of London when many other cities have suffered terribly in this way. We are lucky that there have not been more such accidents world-wide, but there have been some, and lives have been lost. Hon. Members should consider what would happen if a really serious accident took place over London. We have been blessed with good fortune but if pressure grows to increase the number of flights, and if the time between planes taking off and landing is reduced, the unthinkable will happen some day. The worst of all turbulence is caused by the vortex behind the bigger planes. We need fewer, not more, large planes if the excellent safety record that we have enjoyed so far is to continue. The airlines will attempt to increase the number of flights to the maximum, but the Government must carefully monitor the spacing of flights and not allow an increase beyond what is absolutely safe.
On both safety and environmental grounds there must be a limit. We are not all killjoys or environmental Luddites in Richmond and Barnes. We do not turn our backs on the demand to fly or pretend that we do not use Heathrow airport ourselves. Through our suffering we 95 have contributed to the growth of one of Britain's major industries—the aircraft industry—but enough is enough and it is time to spread the load. We should like to have the best airport in the world, but we do not believe that it should built inside the M25 close to one of the biggest cities in the world. We do not believe that the best airport in the world should have aircraft flying directly over 3 million people and affecting 5 million people indirectly.
Planning permission for the fifth terminal has been withdrawn, but there has been much comment on the Government's invitation to the Thames water authority to investigate the removal of the Perry Oaks sludge works and 1.5 million tonnes of sludge. There are still questions to be answered. I accept that it is a very valuable site—doubtless extremely valuable to a privatised Thames water authority or a privatised British Airports Authority—and much could be built on it, whether it be warehousing, factories or whatever. The fact that the sludge works might be removed will improve the value of both airport and water company, but it is time to rule out any possibility of a fifth terminal being built on that site, which would almost double the number of aircraft movements. Speculation about grandiose schemes of that kind should not be allowed to flourish and to cause anxiety as they have in recent weeks. In any case, it will cost millions of pounds to remove the sludge works and it will take years to go through the public inquiries and planning procedures all over again. It would be far fairer to the potential shareholders of the BAA and Thames water to clear up the prospects now.
I greatly welcome the encouragement given to the expansion of the northern airports. It is strange that many hon. Members have steadfastly refused to recognise how Government policy has increased the number of destinations from Manchester airport by more than 75 per cent. in the last 12 months. This Government really have done something for the northern airports, and they have done wonders for the numbers of people flying out of Manchester. Why would there be celebrations about Singapore Airlines if it were not for the Government's policy on liberalisation?
Perhaps in 15 years' time there will be even greater demand in the north. It is up to the north to prove that demand and to try to get people to fly from Manchester to foreign areas. We in the south do not want to accommodate those who do not want to come, but other areas must prove that demand and work for it. There must be an equitable spreading of the burden and a recognition of the reality of the unpleasant side of aeroplane travel. My constituents realise that aircraft noise will not go away entirely. However, it will reduce, and numbers must not make up the equation.
There is nothing sinister in trying to improve access to Heathrow. In particular, we must improve the rail network. The improvement to infrastructure is not a wooden horse. Existing facilities and levels are bad enough now, and they will get even worse if there is an increase in the number of flights. Luggage carrying must be catered for, as it is at Gatwick.
I therefore welcome this White Paper, but I beg an answer to these questions.
§ Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)
No other debate in this Parliament has typified the gulf that exists between the north of England, Scotland and Wales and the south-east cult which has permeated our discussions. The hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) talked about the problems of his constituents who cannot sleep without double glazing. I sympathise, but my constituents cannot sleep because of the problem of lack of jobs. The unemployment rate in Manchester is twice the national average. In my constituency, there is 50 per cent. male adult unemployment within 15 minutes of Manchester airport. That is why the development of Manchester is so necessary, and that is why the Government have not done enough.
The White Paper deals with the future development of the London airports and the role of the regional airports. Much is summed up in that philosophy. In effect, it says that for London airports one should read "national" and that the regions comprise the rest. We are told that civil aviation is vital to our prosperity, but that means the prosperity of the south-east, with the regions taking their share of what is left.
I speak in defence of Manchester airport, but I am confident that I speak for the airports of Scotland, the north-east, and Yorkshire—[Interruption] The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) nods in agreement. I am glad, because this is a common cause outside the south-east.
Throughout the White Paper we are told that an airport creates employment. It does so in the south-east, but if that prevents the development of airports in the north-west or any other region employment does not matter. This Government of two nations have a national airports policy for the south-eastern region and a regional airports policy for the rest.
However, it would be uncharitable if I did not recognise the fact that the Secretary of State has moved some way towards recognising the case put forward by the North of England Regional Consortium and others who have lobbied him. I pay a limited tribute to the Government in that what we now see has been modified compared with what we saw at the beginning of this year and last year. We have made some progress, although not enough.
I also concede that at the third time of asking Singapore Airlines was given its route into Manchester. That is welcome, but we do not welcome the fact that the Government have not yet put pressure on other airlines with licences to operate those routes. The Government are not in negotiation with the United States Government and others to bring other airlines into Manchester where, as the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) said, there is a proven demand. We do not need lessons and lectures from the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes that we need to prove the viability of our airports. That is mere cheek and insufferable pomposity from someone who, rightly, is trying to protect his own constituents but is denying my constituents the right to fly from their own airport. My constituents know where they want to fly from. They live only minutes down the road. This is one of the largest unemployment black spots in the country, yet it is a mere 15 minutes from the airport. Manchester needs that airport for its economic prosperity. We need that airport, because in a modern economy it is not satisfactory to have airport infrastructure 97 based on one region. If the industry of Manchester and other areas is to be resurrected, it is not satisfactory to have our air traffic shipped through the south-eastern airports. We demand that we be given viable national hub airports. That is what Manchester is asking for, and that is what it needs, given the size of the city. That is what it needs as the prime economic region of the north-west.
That is also mirrored in the needs of the other regions such as the west midlands, Scotland, Wales, the north-east and Yorkshire. The Government should not take the view that because of their inertia they have a policy that does not treat the regions unfairly. They must not lose sight of the fact that the action they have taken inevitably favours the south-east. All the British airlines have failed to develop Manchester and the other regional airports, and they will operate on the safety-first principle—that it is far safer to go into Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted rather than adopting the entrepreneurial stance which the Government favour and proving that it is viable to operate from Manchester and other regional airports.
We welcome the Secretary of State's comment that there will be no hidden subsidy for Stansted airport. However, I believe that that promise is akin to the already criticised promise about air traffic movements at Heathrow, which showed that when it suits the Government to change their mind there is a change of policy.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) challenged the Secretary of State to say whether he would do something immediately about cross-subsidisation. The right hon. Gentleman said that he does not yet have the power. But he certainly has the influence. If he says to the BAA that he will insist that it takes this action, is he seriously telling the House that the CAA will say, "No"? Is he seriously saying that if he were to threaten adding a rider that the CAA management should conform with his wishes, he would be told, "That is none of your business. We will not do that"?
If the Secretary of State is telling us that, he is literally not a fit person to command his office. He should take that action, in the interests not only of Manchester airport but of all BAA airports, in Scotland, elsewhere in the north and even at Heathrow and Gatwick, because every person who flies through them is subsidising passengers going through Stansted. It is in the Secretary of State's power and patronage to take this action, and he should do so tomorrow morning, if not tonight, if he is genuine about his commitment that charges will rise at Stansted. The charges will begin to rise if he tells the BAA to put them up, because it will listen to him. It would be foolish and dishonest to pretend otherwise.
Manchester needs the unfreezing of the present structure of the licensing policy. We want unrestricted access to Manchester because we know that there is a future for an airport of that size in that region. We have already seen the pattern of charter flights and what happened in that market. The restriction of the system under the present structure is a disadvantage to regional airports but is an advantage to the safety-first policies of the airlines and the south-eastern airports. By unfreezing the structure we can offer not only Manchester airport but, more generally, the Manchester economy some help.
I remind the Secretary of State that some time ago he said that there would be no subsidy to develop Stansted and that the £270 million from private capital was a modest amount of money. That modest amount of money would 98 so dramatically transform the economy of the north-west that we would gladly see the development of Stansted there, but under this Secretary of State we shall not see it because his commitment is not to the northern region. He represents the south-eastern region.
§ 9 pm
§ Mr. John Mark Taylor (Solihull)
As the protagonists of north and south take a short, compulsory break in these affairs, perhaps I might be permitted to say a word for the English midlands, and in particular for Birmingham airport. It is not in my constituency of Solihull—although it lies in the borough of Solihull—but in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills). I think that he will agree that Birmingham airport is possessed of uniquely fine surface communications—surface access as my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) described it.
Birmingham airport has a frontage to the A45, M45 continuum to the M1. It is on the crossroads of the M6 and the M42, leading to the M69, and northwards again to the M1. It is flanked by the London to Birmingham railway, a famous railway that has a marginal utility in the other direction as well. From the airport to the station there is the unique Maglev. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) accidentally I think called it a pneumatic operation, and said that it operates from the car park. Actually it links the airport terminal and the station using a unique piece of technology—magnetic repulsion providing the weight support for the vehicle and its passengers. On the same campus, in the National Exhibition Centre, we have the foremost exhibition centre in the United Kingdom.
The airport is a municipal one, and, under the ownership and management of the West Midlands county council, a splendid new terminal has recently been completed. I was involved, and pleased to have been so, in the municipal decision and subsequently in another place in securing some funding from the European Investment Bank. I pay tribute to the architect, Mr. Alfred Wood, and to the airport manager, Mr. Bob Taylor. In short, we have an excellent airport, well able to take its place in a free and fair aviation market.
Birmingham's ambition, which is a good one, is to consolidate a basic framework of scheduled aviation operations and, as an overlay to that scheduled framework, it can expect to provide a comparable amount of charter aviation and some general aviation as well. The Birmingham airport lobby asks only of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that he keeps our merits in his mind whenever he considers and reviews airport policy. It is asking not for any favours but that he does not give its competitors unfair advantages over it. That is I think a very reasonable request for one of this Government's supporters to make of them.
I make one other request to the Secretary of State, and it is a more local one. I ask him, please, to hasten the transition to plc status and encourage private equity holding in the airport. However, until that process is completed, I ask my right hon. Friend to ensure that he protects the standing of Solihull borough council and its proper desire to see one of the most important assets in the borough move to the desired new ownership in a proper, responsible and organised way.
§ 9.5 pm
§ Sir Walter Clegg (Wyre)
This has been a most interesting debate. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) was almost incoherent in the way that she put forward her own policies and criticised those of the Government.
Having an interest in the North of England Regional Consortium, I was struck by the fact that, even though it is supposed to be an all-party group, the response of Opposition Members from the north to the contents of the White Paper was such that I was made to feel that the all-party aspect of the consortium could stand very little more of that niggardly attitude.
The consortium said that itrecognises that the strength of its case has forced the Secretary of State and the Government to impose drastic modifications on the proposals which the BAA were invited to bring forward in 1979 and which were largely endorsed by the Eyre report.That is a very fair assessment. We have talked a great deal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about the regional problem, and he has understood it completely.
Of course, the regions have reservations, especially the north-west region. They want to be sure that there will be no cross-subsidies at Stansted. My right hon. Friend referred to that, and I can assure him that we shall be watching to see that there are no subsidies to Stansted. It is vital to the development of air traffic into Manchester that there is no cross-subsidy. We want fair competition.
We also welcome what my right hon. Friend said about the rail link and that probably we shall have a report on the Manchester link before we get one on the Stansted link. Opposition Members representing northern constituencies have failed to acknowledge that a great deal has been done by Governments of both parties in the past to ensure the availability of road services to Manchester airport and the development of the environment round the airport. Therefore, there is only the rail link to complete the pattern of access to Manchester airport. We already have a magnificent series of motorways round it. If we can get that rail link, we shall have completed the pattern.
The White Paper is clear that Manchester will be the international airport for the north of England and the midlands outside the south-east, and we want that to continue.
The other problems of the north have been somewhat overlooked. I have in mind the smaller regional airports, and I think especially of Blackpool, which is quite close to my constituency. The development of the STOLport in London's docklands giving access to aircraft from the north-west capable of landing and taking off in a short distance would be a great advantage to the smaller airports in the north and feeder airports such as Carlisle and Liverpool.
The airports in the north-west need to be assured that they will have continued access to Heathrow for a considerable time to come. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State put Manchester's problem admirably. More flights into Manchester are needed. It has the capacity to absorb another 35 per cent. before another terminal would need to be considered. The White Paper refers to the possibility of a second terminal at Manchester. Perhaps British Airways should consider making Manchester airport its hub for the north. The White Paper clearly envisages that possibility.
My right hon. Friend has had a difficult task to perform in formulating his conclusions, and he has been criticized 100 by almost everybody. He has had to take some very difficult decisions. Because of the pressure that it has been able to apply, the North of England Regional Consortium has produced a good result for the north. We ought to welcome it, not criticise it.
§ Mr. Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)
I am grateful for the opportunity to make a short contribution to this debate. It is good to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre (Sir W. Clegg). May I concentrate on that part of the White Paper that relates to the proposed expansion of Stansted. Perhaps I should preface my remarks by saying that I cannot detect any benefit of convenience to my constituents if that airport is expanded; nor can I detect any environmental disadvantages. Therefore, I hope that I speak with a reasonably open mind.
I realise that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has had to take some appallingly difficult decisions. I understand and sympathise with the general thrust of his recommendation—that there should be a gradual rather than a radical approach to the provision of airport facilities in the south-east of this country. However, the expansion of Stansted to 7 million to 8 million PPA will have serious environmental consequences. If that expansion takes place, we shall be creating not only a third airport for London—and an international airport, to boot—with a sixteenfold increase in the number of passengers using the airport; we shall also be creating the equivalent of a new city in what by any criterion is beautiful English countryside.
I disagree with the Eyre report about the likely expansion, not of developments within the curtilage of the airport, but of the facilities without that are linked to a modern international airport. If Stansted is substantially expanded, effectively we shall give the green light to the maximum capacity use of a single runway airport. This has happened at Gatwick. There may be only 7 million to 8 million passengers, but ultimately there will have to be a second terminal, with 25 million PPA using the airport. That problem has to be faced now rather than later. That cannot be allowed to happen by default in a few years' time.
I cannot accept some of the Eyre report's conclusions about the environmental consequences. The report says:Harlow, Bishop's Stortford, Stansted and its environs can accommodate the order of development associated with the expansion of that airport.I do not believe that that will be so. I speak with the perhaps modest authority of being a fellow of the Royal Town Planning Institute, which obviously takes some interest in town and country planning. I cannot believe the Eyre report's conclusion that thebalance of urban growth can be accommodated by relatively modest increments to existing towns and settlements, without unduly affecting the character of the area or abandoning the policy of general restraint.I believe that the exact opposite will happen on almost all counts.
We are accepting a decision to increase Stansted's size from 900 acres to about 2,300 acreas, and we are using some of the highest quality agricultural land in the country in order to do so. We are talking not only about a new terminal building of 1 million sq ft, a maintenance area, and all the cargo handling and rail and motorway link roads that will be necessary, but, in the case of Harlow 101 —to quote the report—about "relatively substantial urbanisation growth." In the case of Bishop's Stortford, there will be "airport related residential development".
I am appalled by the report's admission that the green belt to the east of Harlow would go. As president of the London Green Belt Council, I must say that it is quite wrong for Mr. Eyre to suggest that it would have gone anyway. I believe that far more than 10,000 extra dwellings will be needed in the vicinity of the airport in Hertfordshire and Essex.
I detect a strange theme running through the Eyre report when it addresses itself to environmental issues. Mr. Eyre seems to be minimising the adverse environmental effects involved in a one-runway airport expansion, but maximising and underlining the evil consequences of a second runway, which he says would be agrotesque invasion of pleasant countryside.The report says that it would have "grievous visual consequences" which would be "wholly unacceptable". If that is so for a two-runway airport, it must be partly true for a one-runway airport.
From my study of air traffic growth forecasts, I believe that the forecasters have nearly always got things wrong and have nearly always overestimated. Of course, they may be right now, but we should be slightly cautious about the figures. If I am opposed to the expansion of Stansted to the 7 to 8 million PPA mark, let alone the 15 million mark recommended in the report, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is perfectly entitled to ask what policy should be adopted. I believe that we must utilise to the maximum the existing facilities at airports in the south-east. We must go for the maximum 25 million passenger throughput at Gatwick, and we must accept that Luton should be encouraged to take the full 5 million. I add to those figures the 1 million that will come with the STOLport, which is an eminently sensible development.
Existing capacity at Stansted amounts to 2 million passengers, although at present it is only a quarter utilised. However, Stansted could take 4 million passengers. I think that that would be the maximum throughput of passengers for Stansted, using its existing perimeters and existing parameters. Ultimately, we must develop terminal 5 at Heathrow. I cross swords with some of my hon. Friends, as I believe that that is the most ideal parcel of land in the south-east of England, and even in England, for airport development, and I do not believe that the development of terminal 5 would have any perceptible effect on the level of noise. I join those of my hon. Friends who have said that the 1986 and 1988 regulations on noise will be a considerable help and will substantially improve the noise level in the Heathrow area over the next few years.
Compared with Gatwick, Stansted has poor rail links. It is not only further from central London, but the rail link would have to go into King's Cross, which is substantially further away from central London than Victoria. Stansted also has a poor road link compared with Heathrow.
I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that if Stansted is expanded and developed along the lines of the White Paper it will become the charter and tourist air traffic Mecca of the south-east. It is in that area where, with imaginative and positive planning, more than a marginal amount of traffic could go to the regional airports.
It is for those reasons that, I regret, I cannot support the White Paper. We all tend to use selective statistics to the best advantage in making our case. If the Government accept that the existing Stansted airport, within its 102 perimeters and parameters, could take a throughput of up to 4 million or possibly 5 million passengers, what the White Paper is doing is embarking upon the building of a new international airport for the south-east which is ill placed strategically and in the most sensitive and important environmental area, simply to cater for an additional 2 million to 3 million passengers.
The Government have the wit to find alternative ways and other sites to provide for those additional 2 million to 3 million passengers. It is because of the appalling environmental consequences that I regret to say that not only can I not vote for the Government motion, but that I feel impelled to vote against it.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)
I welcome the opportunity to follow the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) because I agree that the development of Stansted will be environmentally disastrous for the south-east. It will also be disastrous for the country as a whole. The Government are again allowing so many national resources to be invested in the south-east rather than in the north-west.
I do not believe that any Government, of any party, have given much help to Manchester international airport. It has reached its present position because of straightforward municipal enterprise and has prospered in spite of Government rather than because of them.
I regret that many Conservative Members from the north-west appear to have been bought off by the Government, and in exchange for very little. All that the Government have done is to license a few additional routes into Manchester. Some of the routes are not that important. Indeed, it is not the number of routes but the frequency of the service that is the key to whether the routes are used. It is unfortunate that some hon. Members have so easily given up on the north-west and are not prepared to sustain pressure on the Government.
I would have more sympathy for the Secretary of State if he would deal with the cross-subsidy of Stansted. Earlier in the debate he said that there was nothing that he could do about until he had legislation. He knows perfectly well that if he told the BAA that he wanted the cross-subsidy stopped, there would be a good chance of that happening and of him being able to enforce that. He would carry a great deal more credibility in Manchester if that happened this year rather than next year or the year after. It is certainly one of the issues on which we shall press him hard.
There is also the psychological problem that causes a great deal of resentment in the north-west—the assumption by travel agents and others, especially in the south of England, that it is perfectly reasonable for someone in Manchester to work out how to get to Gatwick, Luton or Heathrow, but it would be absurd for people in the south-east to work out how to get to Manchester. We must convince people that already in many instances it is much easier to get to Manchester international airport than to many of the airports in the south.
Not only is there a psychological problem, however, but there is the problem that the Government have not paid sufficient attention to building up the infrastructure around Manchester international airport. The hon. Member for Wyre (Sir W. Clegg) said that there were superb motorways into Manchester airport. While it is true that the roads coming from the Wirral and the north are quite 103 good, the routes coming from around the Manchester area, including the M61—we must not overlook the Barton bridge problem—create a major bottleneck, and business people using that airport are constantly complaining that the two lanes over Barton bridge become a traffic congestion area every morning and put people off using the airport.
From the east side of Manchester, the fact that the M66 still has not been built and that, up to now, there has been only public consultation on it is a handicap. It would make a great difference if that were completed, as it would if the piece of the M63 in my constituency, from Portwood to Denton, was built, improving the link to the M67 and the Sheffield area. There is much that the Government could do in terms of the motorway network around Manchester which would have a big effect on Manchester international airport.
In the short time available to me I wish to concentrate on the rail link. It is sad to think that, although Manchester international airport is within two miles of the railway and that for the last 10 years people have been talking about making the link, the furthest we have got is a feasibility study. I accept that many airports are within two miles of a railway line. However, the line of which I am speaking, coming from Wilmslow to Manchester, would enable the station to be called airport station. I assure the Secretary of State that the addition of that two-mile railway link would make a tremendous difference to the airport.
In his opening remarks, the right hon. Gentleman said that he would consider the feasibility study carefully. I press him hard to do that. He should study in detail the position of British Rail in the matter. At present, BR is running a major advertising campaign and is trying to draw people away from the Manchester-Heathrow shuttle and on to the railways. In virtually all the stations in the Greater Manchester area are pictures of an aeroplane with the question:How can you improve the shuttle? Turn it into a train.I do not blame BR for that sort of advertising, although I must, cynically, point out to BR that if only it had kept its existing services up to May, particularly in terms of the time it takes to travel from Manchester to London, rather than reduce the frequency of trains—particularly dispensing with some of the early trains which enabled passengers to get from Manchester to London early in the morning—it would have done better in terms of competing with the shuttle.
Many people fear that because BR sees itself competing with the Manchester-Heathrow shuttle, it is less sympathetic to putting in the two-mile rail link of which I spoke. I repeat, it is vital that that rail link is made. It would improve the journey time for many people travelling to Manchester airport, and I hope that the Minister will examine that with great care.
Attention must also be paid to developing the cargo aspect of Manchester international airport. I appreciate that much cargo travels with passengers, but more could be done in business terms, with more destinations for cargo. Nowadays, many items of machinery are sent by plane, and that trade could be developed.
In relation to interlining, it has been pointed out that Heathrow is becoming less attractive for people from Manchester, particularly in view of problems with delays at Heathrow. The size of the airport make it unattractive. 104 People in the north-west want the opportunity to have through services to their destinations in Europe, rather than having to consider interlining at Amsterdam or one of the other European centres.
It would be wholly unacceptable to the people of the north-west if they had to interline through an airport such as Stansted. They would regard that as deplorable. They want the necessary services provided at Manchester.
I appeal to the Government to permit more licences in Manchester and to come up with some of the basic money for the infrastructure of Greater Manchester, which would help the airport to expand, encourage an improved road network and establish the two-mile rail link, which would make a great difference in practical and psychological terms in that it would help to convince people that Manchester international airport had a major role to play in Britain's airports policy.
§ Mr. Terence Higgins (Worthing)
I am sorry that my Select Committee duties prevented me hearing the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. My contribution to the debate will be appropriately brief. I wish to take up some of the issues which have been raised in the speeches of those who have contributed to the debate following my right hon. Friend's introduction.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is right to ask the House to approve the White Paper. His policy of having adequate airport capacity with the minimum environmental damage seems to be exactly the right approach. Gatwick is already the fourth largest international airport in the world and my right hon. Friend was right to say that there should not be a second runway. Some time ago the West Sussex county council and the British Airports Authority came to an agreement on the issue. If we had opted for a second runway, the damage to the environment would have been considerable. Development around the present airport has been greatly increased by the existence of the airport and by industrial and light industrial expansion. If there were to have been further expansion, the almost total build-up between London and the south coast, with virtually no countryside intervening, would have had a serious impact.
The second reason why I am glad that we did not opt for a second runway at Gatwick is based on aircraft noise. Over the years aircraft noise has caused considerable trouble in my constituency. Originally, there was great trouble over the noise caused by piston engined aircraft. Eventually we managed to get the route changed but only after General de Gaulle's death. It transpired that the route went over Worthing so as to avoid the general's country home. Subsequently, I had a sympathetic response from the Civil Aviation Authority when the stacking area was moved from above my constituency to a less highly populated part of the region.
Aircraft noise is a serious problem and I am disturbed by the references in the White Paper to night flights. Unless I have misunderstood the White Paper, it is curious that there is reference to night flights in the summary and conclusion but not in the sections that are directed to aircraft noise. This is a factor that my right hon. Friend will be right to consider in the light of the study that is being carried out into sleep disturbance.
In directing my remarks to sleep disturbance I shall talk of Heathrow as well as Gatwick. I find little justification 105 for aircraft flying over central London at three o'clock or four o'clock in the morning. I hope that my right hon. Friend will carry out a further review of policy in the light of the study that has been undertaken. I hope that he will consider also whether there is not a case for a ban on night flying. If capacity is extended generally, the need for night flights should be reduced significantly.
My right hon. Friend's decision on Stansted is the right one but it raises a number of difficult questions. Much reference has been made in the past few speeches to cross-subsidy and I welcome my right hon. Friend's determination to ensure that that does not create a false balance between the various airports that are now projected. I welcome very much the action that my right hon. Friend is proposing to take following privatisation to prevent a monopoly position being exploited by the privatised operation. A separate plc under a holding company should provide a solution, especially if it is supervised by the CAA. Emphasis is placed on the need to charge a commercial rate of interest in the context of investment decisions.
I hope that the Treasury will take up the frequent recommendations of the Select Committee on the Treasury and Civil Service and will not continue to treat the proceeds of privatisation as a reduction in public expenditure. I hope that it will regard the proceeds as a means of funding the public sector borrowing requirement, which seems to be the more rational approach.
We shall have to be rather careful in deciding exactly what it is that we are privatising. It is well known that a great deal of the revenue that is derived from our airports comes from duty-free shops, which are effectively retail shop concessions. In the context of the statements in the press today about the harmonisation of internal taxes and value added tax, for example, within the Community, we should consider whether the duty-free arrangements will continue indefinitely. If they are not to continue, what is likely to be the effect on airport revenues? We may be selling off something which in the event turns out to have a comparatively short life when set against the length of life which airports typically enjoy.
The overall balance that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has struck is right. It would not have been possible to produce a solution that had the support of every hon. Member. There are many who, in no circumstances, want further airport capacity and many others who say that we need it. My right hon. Friend is doing all that can reasonably be done to encourage regional development. It would perhaps be going too far to say that the balance was a judgment of Solomon, not least because, effectively, my right hon. Friend has been faced with the proviso that various aspects of the industry have to be split up between the various claimants, whether he likes it or not. My right hon. Friend has struck the right balance and I hope that the House will approve it. As my right hon. Friend said when stating his objectives, the measure will provide adequate capacity with the minimum disadvantage to the environment.
§ Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me to speak for the first time in a Stansted debate on behalf of my constituents of Bishop's Stortford, Sawbridgeworth, Hertford and Ware whose area will be most affected by the urbanisation and housing aspects about which my hon. Friend the Member 106 for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) spoke so eloquently. I acknowledge the great help and sympathy that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his Ministers have exhibited and the courtesies that they have extended to me and others who represent the area most effected by the White Paper's proposals.
If, during my speech, I appear to be bitter and angry, I hope that the House will forgive me, because the decision to build a large international airport at Stansted is a source of deep resentment and anger for many of my constituents, who have been fighting this development for more than 25 years through three different public inquiries. They have paid the bills in both time and money to resist successfully the possibility of locating a three or four runway system at Stansted. They have now been told that, because a runway built by the Americans in 1947 can accommodate additional air traffic movements, they must accept an airport which is initially capable of handling more traffic than is at present handled at Gatwick and potentially able to handle at least 25 million PPA—just under the number handled at Heathrow at present.
With Gatwick, Stansted is the obvious site for a second runway, should it be needed, simply because open fields provide the required space. Apart from our vigilance and resources, we are comparatively defenceless in the face of the much larger number of Members of Parliament who represent more populous constituencies around Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester. Perhaps even more importantly, we are unable to muster the resources of the Government or the British Airports Authority to present and plead our cause before inquiries or Government Departments. The selection of Stansted for expansion is inevitable, not just because of the figures presented by the inspector, but because we can command far less political clout.
There can do no doubt, whatever else is said, that the White Paper does not present the best solution to our airport problems. It presents a solution for which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State believes he can obtain a majority in the House. It is as cynical and repulsive as that to my constituents. Let us be clear: it is the wrong policy.
What would be the best policy? I hasten to explain that my constituents are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices in the national interest to provide the necessary airport facilities in the London area, should they be required, and to allow Stansted to expand to meet market demand unimpeded by BAA's financial requirements to make a 15 million PPA terminal pay. The present capacity of each of the airports should be, and must be, fully utilised. My right hon. Friends say that that is their policy. Not only should the capacity be fully utilised to save my constituents from the noise, pollution, urbanisation, traffic congestion, and the ruination of thousands of acres of agricultural land which already the areas round Heathrow and Gatwick must tolerate, but because it makes industrial and commercial common sense.
For passenger and cargo interlining on scheduled services—a unique advantage with which Britain's geographical position endows us—we need one London airport, not three. It is that feature that would distinguish us from the European alternatives in Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam. We need two London airports only as a second best; with three we lose our commercial advantage over the European competition.
If proof is needed, look at the failure to get airlines to move from Heathrow to Gatwick. Iberia Airlines refused 107 to move to Gatwick. British Airways moved to Gatwick because the Spanish airlines said that if they were moved out of Heathrow British Airways would be moved out of the central airport in Madrid. Having said that, I should like to examine the alternatives to the White Paper under the following headings: a terminal 5 at Heathrow; a second runway at Gatwick; Manchester; Stansted; urbanisation and denationalisation.
Terminal 5 at Heathrow is clearly necessary for the development of that airport, in order to accommodate traffic not only in passenger numbers—on which we have tended to concentrate too much in the debate—but in terms of the number of aircraft coming into Heathrow. My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) poured scorn on the Secretary of State for accepting different figures for airport runway capacity at Heathrow from those enunciated by Mr. Eyre in his report after a three-year inquiry. There is undoubtedly additional runway capacity at Heathrow which should be fully utilised if the Secretary of State is to be consistent with his original policy aims.
Terminal 5 at Heathrow not only offers additional passenger capacity; it offers cargo capacity, car parking capacity, and airport-related activities which are not at present entailed within the confines of the airport boundaries, much to the disadvantage of those who live around that airport.
Terminal 5 would improve Heathrow airport so that it would no longer be a second-rate airport. Most of us have had to suffer the indignities of travelling through Heathrow. I refer particularly to terminal 3. The airport needs drastic improvement. It needs it not only at terminal 4, which will be a great improvement, but terminal 3 needs to be reconstructed, as does terminal 1. Terminal 5 is needed to take the additional capacity while those improvements are being made.
In particular, we need a first-class international airport so that we can receive our valued guests in the way that we would like to receive them. They should not have to arrive at a second-rate, scruffy airport, much of which does not work. The building of terminal 5 is necessary not merely in statistical terms and in terms of passenger movement; it is necessary from every other consideration, so that we can be proud of our premier airport.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) said, a second runway at Gatwick would undoubtedly create a miserable additional environmental imposition on the area round Gatwick. My right hon. Friend's plea and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) are equally valid in relation to Stansted; in fact, more so. The policy advocated in the White Paper will mean visiting upon Stansted the indignities visited upon those in the Gatwick area. As such indignities are not imposed on Stansted at present, the proposal would create a third misery area when we need have only two.
There is no quarrel between me and hon. Members who advocate Manchester as a second hub airport for Britain. I hope that my right hon. Friend will urge the CAA and his officials to ensure that airlines wishing to come to Britain can go to Manchester if they choose, and that Manchester will be developed. It is nonsense to bring people down our roads to London airports. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) 108 complained about the inadequacy of the motorways around Manchester. There is no motorway around London, let alone cross motorways to the east, west, north and south. None of the London airports is as well served as Manchester.
The crying need for a rail link is to Heathrow, not to Manchester or Stansted. Heathrow needs a dedicated rail link to alleviate the congestion from the airport into west London. My right hon. Friend should develop Stansted, as he proposes, only if he wishes to make the Finchley road as impassable as the Cromwell road. I am sure that he does not wish to do that.
My hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction has been dealing with this matter. I received a welcome letter from him today. My hon. Friend said that the inspector's recommendation for an initial 7 million to 8 million PPA at Stansted had been accepted. My hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet and I do not believe that limit will be maintained. My hon. Friend the Minister said that only 10,000 dwellings would be needed and that they could be accommodated within the curtilage of Bishop's Stortford, Sawbridgeworth, Harlow, Birchanger—a neighbour of Bishop's Stortford although in Essex—one other small village, and Stansted.
If my hon. Friend has accepted the expansion on that basis, he should not approve planning applications that the district councils have refused. I believe that only 5,000 dwellings should be needed—half the figure—because the passenger figures have been halved. The district councils have been refusing planning permission and—I believe cynically—there has been a refusal to establish a green belt to protect Bishop's Stortford. I am sure that they did that because they wanted to keep open the option to expand Bishop's Stortford when Stansted was developed. My hon. Friend the Minister said that when he considers the establishment of a green belt around Bishop's Stortford he will take into account the alteration to the structure plan. We shall all be watching that carefully and we shall be vigilant to guard against any encroachment.
On the advice of my hon. Friends, I went to see members of the BAA on Friday. I had great difficulty in obtaining an appointment with any of BAA's senior people. They eventually agreed to see me at 8.30 am. I went to plead, after consultations with the leading group that has opposed the development of Stansted for 25 years, that the BAA should increase the terminal capacity incrementally. That is what the inspector's report recommended and what my right hon. Friend intends.
I told the authority that we could gain a reluctant acceptance of and play our part in the national airport strategy if the authorities agreed to build the terminal to take only 4 million to 5 million passengers initially. I have never come away from a meeting feeling so angry. Those members of the BAA should take a course in the Industry and Parliament trust which you, Mr. Speaker, chair so ably. The BAA is planning to build, in accordance with its outline permission, a 15 million PPA terminal. It is intent upon providing the infrastructure to accommodate that figure. It is reluctant to build a terminal which will carry only 7 million to 8 million PPA. That is its intention, despite the Secretary of State's advice that it will have to get the House's approval to do so. That is the unacceptable face of public monopoly. It needs to be controlled, and the 109 BAA should be told that its proposals need to be subject to the will of the House and of the people. It should be particularly sensitive to my constituents' needs.
The figures in the White Paper state clearly in table 5 on page 13 that in 1990 the shortfall in London airport's capacity will be no more than 3.5 million, and in 1995 it will be 5 million. Therefore, there is no earthly reason to provide additional capacity over those figures at Stansted. I sincerely hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, when negotiating with the BAA, will say that he will not tolerate any additional capacity over those figures.
I should like to refer to privatisation. I am not convinced by the proposed safeguards against cross-subsidisation that are envisaged in the seven-company plc with a holding company. It would be so easy to make losses in any one of the seven companies and absorb them into the holding company. I believe that cross-subsidisation of all kinds and inter-company pricing arrangements will take place so that Manchester will not compete in a free market.
The local government airports are to be made plcs but they should also be unsubsidised by their local authorities so that we can compete fairly in the market. To try to slow down the development at Stansted, we must have separate airport companies that compete. In that way there will be competition and service to the passenger. That is the best solution.
Stansted is the victim of the failure to develop Heathrow properly, of the failure to build a second runway at Gatwick, and of the selfish lobbying of those who live around those airports and politicians who fear them. Acres of countryside will be despoiled by the development of the third airport, and there will be an imposition on a whole new group of inhabitants. That development will be commercially disastrous.
I believe that my constituents will not rest and will not be content until the best use of existing airports is made. In that connection, I welcome the expansion of Luton and the STOLport. Terminal 5 must be built, and Heathrow must be made into a first-class airport. The expansion of Stansted should take place slowly, to a total of 4 million to 5 million passengers, and not straight away to 7 million or 8 million, and then to 15 million and possibly 25 million passengers. Urbanisation should be severely restricted and controlled by my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction. A dedicated rail link to Manchester and Heathrow must be built. We must privatise all airports individually. We must encourage tourism to the north and the developmemt of Manchester as a hub airport.
If we do not receive those things, we shall oppose every planning application; we shall oppose every attempt artificially to increase traffic at Stansted; we shall oppose the development of that area into one urban sprawl because we could build houses on the whole of east Hertfordshire and north-west Essex even now. We do not have any unemployment. This imposition is a terrible thing for my constituents. Unless we have to play that part for a national purpose, to provide the capacity, we should not be asked to do so.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
I can well understand the feelings of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), who spoke with great force; but my constituents and those of many hon. Members with constituencies near Heathrow are just as concerned about 110 their environment as are my hon. Friend's constituents and have suffered far more than their fair share of noise and traffic congestion.
There are about 750 flights a day in and out of Heathrow. It is too much. Not only the peak loudness, but the sheer frequency of flights interferes with people's quiet enjoyment of their homes, especially in the summer when the windows are open, and gardens and with the work of churches, schools and hospitals. People's whole way of life is affected. They cannot tolerate it any more. The noise must be reduced.
The great majority of the 1.75 million people living around Heathrow dreaded the intolerable increase in noise and traffic congestion that would have resulted from a fifth terminal at Heathrow airport. They are grateful and relieved that the Government have decided to turn down the planning application for a fifth terminal. I was particularly grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State who told me:I am pleased to be able to honour … the Government's pledge that terminal 5 would not be constructed."—[Official Report, 5 June 1985; Vol. 80, c. 312.)As the inquiry inspector showed, there was never a chance that the fifth terminal could be completed before about 1996. Planning permission has now been refused. My right hon. Friend has confirmed that the decision has not been merely postponed or fudged. He has repeated that, after the opening of the fourth terminal, the major limiting factor at Heathrow—taking all the technical factors into account—will be runway capacity Even from an aviation point of view, a fifth terminal would not be needed, as there would not be the matching runway capacity for it. In the light of that, the confidence of my constituents has been reinforced and we have every reason to believe that the Government will hold to their decision.
The planning application for a fifth terminal has been refused; and there is no reason why such an application should not be refused again if anyone has the temerity to apply in the future.
§ Mr. Jessel
I do not believe that the sewage sludge works will ever be moved. If there is one thing that is more unpopular than an airport, it is a sewage works. Many people find the smell of a sludge works at least as unpleasant as the noise from an airport. An acceptable alternative site will never be found. The study will be a futile exercise.
If a planning application for a fifth terminal has been refused once, it can be refused again. One cannot stop another planning application from being made. Anyone can apply for planning permission for anything anywhere. That is the law. The previous application came from a rural district council 40 miles away. I have no doubt that people will apply again and that they will be turned down. The political factors—the concern and anxiety of many people around Heathrow to prevent more noise and traffic congestion—will remain.
§ Mr. Haselhurst
Will my hon. Friend acknowledge that he is privy to the views of the Thames water authority and that an alternative site does not necessarily have to be found for sludge works of the size of the Perry Oaks works? There are under consideration at least three options for what would happen after the sludge works were moved.
§ Mr. Jessel
There is no evidence that that is likely to work out. The evidence presented to the public inquiry by the Thames water authority was that it did not know of any way in which that could be done and that no alternative was likely to be cheaper or more practicable than the existing system at Perry Oaks.
§ Mrs. Dunwoody
There seems to have been some change in the attitude of the water authority since one of its members worked for the airports authority.
§ Mr. Jessel
The policy of the Thames water authority is decided not by the chairman but by the authority as a whole. It has not produced a satisfactory reason for moving the sludge works from Perry Oaks. I am prepared to bet that the issue will be resolved in a few months' time and that it will not be feasible to do it.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) intervened, because, as she said on 30 JanuaryThe Labour party does not welcome the idea that there should be a fifth terminal at Heathrow."—[Official Report, 30 January 1985; Vol. 72, c. 299.]I wish that that view had been confirmed by the alliance parties. In another place the alliance spokesman, Lady Burton, said:I believe that a fifth terminal at Heathrow should be made available as soon as possible"—[Official Report, House of Lords, 11 February 1985: Vol. 460, c. 22.]That view was confirmed by Baroness Seear, the leader of the Liberal party in the House of Lords, who said in a letter to a lady living in Ealing:In the airports debate we have been following the line adopted by Lady Burton who is leading for the Alliance on this subject and who has studied the matter in great detail.
§ Mr. Jessel
I shall not give way more readily as a result of shouting and screaming. I shall give way in a moment. I only wish that my concern for the environment was shared by the alliance.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. No one in the House deliberately misleads, so the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) must rephrase his remark.
§ Mr. Stephen Ross
The hon. Gentleman is misleading the House, and he knows it. The leader of my party has explained our position, and the remarks of the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) are not strictly correct.
§ Mr. Jessel
I have received letters from the leader of the hon. Gentleman's party which said nothing to contradict the statement by Baroness Burton which I have just quoted. That statement was confirmed by Baroness Seear.
I regret the abandonment of the 275,000 ATM limit. That limit was killed by the Standing Committee on the 112 Civil Aviation Bill by a majority of 10 to eight. Had the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) voted differently, the Chairman of the Committee would have had to use his casting vote so that the proceedings could have continued.
The current figure as shown in the White Paper is 274,000 ATM, and I am told that the runway capacity will limit flights to between 305,000 and 310,000 at the peak in 1990, and that thereafter the figure will drop due to the changes in the average spacing of aircraft and the fact that there will be fewer middle range aircraft. If I had to choose, I would rather we had no fifth terminal and that we had to abandon the ATM limit.
In the 10 days since the Secretary of State made his planning decision, my constituents have expressed increasing anxiety about night flights. They are worried that with no fifth terminal, but with no ATM limit, the pressure will be for more aircraft to be allowed to operate from Heathrow at night. I have conveyed my anxiety to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. My right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) has referred to that, as has my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley). I hope that the Minister will make it clear that no increase in night flights will be allowed at Heathrow.
§ 10.4 pm
§ Mr. Robert McCrindle (Brentwood and Ongar)
To judge from the contributions so far from both sides, in an ideal world we should all seek to travel freely wherever and whenever we chose, with an airport close at hand but with no noise or pollution and no effect on the environment, but that is clearly not possible, so some suffering by some people is inevitable. Perhaps ideally the aim of an airports policy should be the lowest common denominator of shared misery for all who have an airport in their vicinity. In other words, Government policy should move towards some use of all airports and no absolute concentration on one airport and, to be fair, the White Paper is to some extent aimed in that direction and to some extent achieve that aim.
What, then, are my reservations and objections? Unlike my hon. Friends the Members for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) and for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), I have a constituency interest in two directions. In the populous southern part of my constituency there is a broad welcome for the prospect of developing Stansted airport because it is perceived that that will bring to the county of Essex a level of prosperity which, it is hoped, will spill over into the area around Brentwood. It is no secret that that part of the constituency is a very long way from the flight path into Stansted. People in the Ongar area are not so fortunate. They are very close to the flight path and I have to report a very profound objection on their part. In the absence of a clear-cut constituency interest, I sought a compromise and it is abundantly clear from the White Paper that the Government have done the same. My only regret is that in seeking a compromise on the Stansted issue the Government and I do not seem to have connected.
Had it been decided to develop Stansted to a capacity of between 7 million and 8 million passengers per annum, full stop, I could have supported that, but 15 million represents a sword of Damocles to those of my constituents who live near the airport. It is with some regret, therefore, that I must tell the Government that I cannot accept the proposal for 15 million passengers per annum. Before my 113 hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State or anyone else points out that that can take place only after a parliamentary vote, I must make it clear that I am not greatly impressed by that safeguard. Anyone who looks beyond the print of the White Paper knows—indeed, it has been partially proved by the difference in attitude that the Government have been able to generate since the last time we debated the matter—that a determined Government who believe that we should move to the second stage of development at Stansted are likely to get their way in the House.
That is bad enough, but there is then the possibility of an increase to 25 million passengers per annum at some time in the future. I am aware that that would be subject to a fresh planning application but, given the ease with which the planning application to move towards 15 million was apparently accepted, albeit in two instalments, my hon. Friend the Minister will appreciate that my constituents are not reassured and regard as unacceptable the possibility of an increase not just to 8 million or 15 million but to 25 million passengers per annum.
To some extent their anxiety might be lessened if an assurance could be given—it may still be possible to give it this evening—that when or if in the mid-1990s some further expansion of airport capacity is required, there should be a further full inquiry as to whether such expansion, which is clearly proven, should be catered for via a fifth terminal or stage two at Stansted, which would increase that airport's capacity to 15 million passengers per annum. The findings of such an inquiry should be debated, and should not merely be subject to approval by affirmative resolution. I suspect that hon. Members on both sides of the House would concede that that is one of the flimsiest protections that could be extended to constituents around the Stansted area.
I am personally convinced that the growth in air traffic over the next decade is more likely to be in scheduled services. At the very least I envisage that there will be an end to the distinction between charter and scheduled services. If I am correct, the fifth terminal is much more likely to be an appropriate vehicle for expansion at that time.
If that is also the Government's assessment, it would greatly assist us if they now indicated whether they would be prepared to move beyond what they conceive to be the safeguard of an affirmative resolution and to say that they will require a fresh study whose findings will be debated on the Floor of the House.
Let me assume that my eloquence does not succeed in persuading the Minister, and that Stansted expands to between 7 million to 8 million passengers per annum in the immediate term. I wish to explore the nature of this expansion and to examine the likely effects on my constituents. I have a few questions that I wish to put to the Minister. To what extent will the Government indicate a preferred pattern of traffic mix at Stansted airport? They may say that they may wish to leave this to the market or to the CAA, but in recent history they wished to encourage the transfer of scheduled services from Heathrow to Gatwick, and they indicated that as their preference. Therefore, there is no reason why this evening we should not press them to underline the pattern of traffic they would prefer at Stansted as it develops.
Do the Government envisage a pattern of services that is predominantly charter and which provides more package tour facilities, with travellers coming predominantly from 114 the northern home counties? That is important. Alternatively, do they foresee a major extension of scheduled services from an enlarged Stansted?
Here I declare an interest in that, as the House knows, I am an adviser to British Caledonian. Although most of my points are pure constituency matters, I make no secret of the fact that I wish to see the maximum development of Gatwick. Does the Minister foresee a necessity to transfer some of the charters from Gatwick to Stansted, or will it merely be necessary to stop any further expansion of charters at Gatwick? On both matters I remind the Government that they are on record as saying that they wish to see the expansion of further scheduled services from London's second airport.
My constituents are also concerned about the adequacy of the road and rail facilities, to which many hon. Members have already referred. One has only to travel along the M11 to anticipate that it would be extremely overloaded, leaving aside the bottlenecks that would result where it ends in the London borough of Redbridge. Has adequate consideration been given to the great difficulties in that regard?
There are problems also with the rail link that is contemplated between London and Stansted. If I am correct in discerning that the pattern of Stansted traffic is likely to be such that it comes predominantly from the northern home counties and the north and east of London, can the Government begin to justify the development of a road link? If they cannot because there is insufficient traffic coming from central London to Stansted, it is extremely difficult to see how Stansted airport can ever effectively get off the ground.
It may be that even to develop Stansted to the 7 million to 8 million PPA level would be extremely difficult to achieve. I am not saying that that would come as a great disappointment to me, but the Government must have some thoughts about the pattern and type of traffic likely to use Stansted and the adequacy of the road and rail links. Do they have any idea about where the main traffic is likely to come from? If it is from Essex, Hertfordshire and the northern home counties, there will be no justification for a rail link, which in turn would seem to show that even to think about developing Stansted up to the first level is difficult to justify.
I wish that we could have restricted the expansion of Stansted to 7 million to 8 million passengers. As we are not able or prepared to do that, I doubt whether I can find myself supporting the White Paper. If, as I suspect, we have given the green light to Stansted to move ahead to 7 million to 8 million, some questions must be asked about the anticipated pattern of flights. I want also to know a little more detail about the restrictions on night flying, which would, I hope, make it more bearable for my constituents around Stansted. Finally, I should like a word about road and air links.
Shared misery is one thing, but completely to change the pattern of life is another. It is incumbent upon those of us who represent areas around Stansted to do all in our power to minimise its effect on the way of life of those whom we represent.
§ Mr. Ken Eastham (Manchester, Blackley)
It is only a little while since we last debated this important subject. In January the debate was well attended, and many Conservative Members were extremely critical about the 115 proposals. One after another they opposed the possible changes in the south-east. It was clear that the Government were so concerned that the Whips Office had to organise a special voting procedure to give them some respectability and to ensure that there was no rebellion. That opposition showed the Government what their Back Benchers thought of these proposals.
However, since then there have been one or two changes. Numerous Conservative Members have reversed their arguments and tonight have made points different from those that they made in January. One becomes a little suspicious. How many of those Conservative Members have been nobbled and persuaded into praising the report, which has been changed little since January?
The Government are trying to put a gloss on it and to say that things have improved, but we should remind Conservative Members who represent northern regions that they have a responsibility to serve the people who elected them. Never mind about their loyalty to the Government. The people who supported them at the ballot box in the past in turn expect their support when they consider this very important basic issue. For that reason, I have been extremely disappointed by the attitude expressed by some Conservative Members in the debate.
We have now had an opportunity to study the White Paper, and I for one am interested to see that it says that the regional airports must play a greater role in the handling of traffic. Hon. Members representing constituencies in the northern regions have been saying precisely that ever since this debate first began, and I give notice to the Government that northern Members will continue to make the point, because no case has been made to justify the Government's present proposals.
It is also recognised that too many people from the north are forced to take flights down to airports in the south-east before they can make connections for continental destinations. Our objections are constant, and this massive, consistent investment in the south-east has to end somewhere, somehow. The rest of the country does not seem to matter to the Government. The areas of highest unemployment in Britain are the very areas being neglected in the White Paper's proposals.
We maintain that development in the north would be far cheaper than the proposals in the White Paper. Not only would it be cheaper, but it would save much of the heavy burden that will fall on the taxpayer if the Government's proposals are approved.
I am sure that many of the arguments advanced today repeat what has been said in earlier debates. When the Minister made his statement a few days ago, he said that the investment in Stansted would represent a cost of £270 million, but we know that that is not the sum total of the investment. As I have said before, it is little more than a toe in the door, and later no less than £1,000 million will be spent in the south-east.
It is also said that there should be an inquiry into the feasibility of a Stansted rail link. I remind the Government that Manchester airport has been begging for a rail link for the past 10 or 12 years. A small spur of line could link the airport to mainline communications, thereby greatly improving its freight potential and profitability. But even in British Rail thinking there appears to be a preference for the south, and I have no doubt that later on British Rail will justify adding a rail link to Stansted. The proposal for such 116 a link to Manchester international airport could be implemented at a very small cost, yet this is an area where British Rail cannot see the justification for the expenditure.
Manchester international airport has a long history of sensible investment. Decisions have been taken over many years by men of vision and courage. They have not asked the Government to get them out of difficulties. Local politicians were confident that there would be a need for greater airport capacity, and their confidence has been fulfilled.
Manchester has a very good safety record. It is provided with the most up-to-date landing equipment which equals the best international standards. Manchester airport is well run and reliable and, what is more important, makes a magnificent profit. Few other United Kingdom airports can boast of similar profitability and such sensible management.
People in the north do not want to have to travel south to make international flight connections. Tourism is in difficulty and cost is therefore of great importance. Extra flight connections to the south-east, or from the south-east to the north, would add considerably to the cost of tourism. Ministers recognise that tourism would create many job opportunities in the north.
If the Government believe in competition, our demand is that no hidden subsidies should be given to the airports in the south-east. The profit and loss accounts show that financial support of all kinds is given to the unprofitable airports. If the Government believe in free and fair competition, their airports should be run as Manchester runs its airport.
The Secretary of State has promised that opportunities and new routes will be offered to the airports in the north. I hope that he will fulfil those promises. It is not unreasonable to remind civil servants of those promises, because they can influence Ministers. We want them to ensure that no obstacles are placed in the path of competition and of the new opportunities which the Government claim will be offered to the north. I have very serious reservations, but only time will tell.
We have heard that the residents of Stansted do not want this expansion to take place. Nor do the residents around Heathrow. The environmental lobby in the south-east does not favour this expansion, either. Reference has also been made to the loss of prime agricultural land, yet the north is crying out for its fair share of this development and possible prosperity. Many people in the north are already expressing bitter disappointment. The Secretary of State has made a bad decision that will be very costly for the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Order. The winding-up speeches are expected to begin at 11 pm. Seven hon. Members still wish to speak, and they have strong constituency interests. May I appeal to them to restrict themselves to about four minutes, and it will then be possible to call them all.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)
I shall be as brief as possible.
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham) about the rail link. I do not deny 117 that I have a constituency interest. I oppose the fifth terminal at Heathrow for three principal reasons—first, access; secondly, increased noise; and thirdly the congestion that would be caused if the Perry Oaks site were moved.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on a dextrous, political compromise. I also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) on his excellent speech. He has helped us to defend the interests of our constituents who live under the flight path. If the numbers of air traffic movements are increased, I hope that they will be balanced by quieter aircraft. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State promised to keep a close watch on night flights, and I am sure that he will honour that pledge. If the airports are privatised or municipalised, I hope that my right hon. Friend will ensure that they do not exceed the limits.
About 80 per cent. of the traffic to Heathrow is by road, despite the underground rail link. Other existing rail links could be used. Because of the winding of the Thames, it is virtually impossible to widen either the Talgarth or Cromwell roads. We know that they are absolutely saturated and there is no hope of improvement. That is one of the cardinal factors.
Noise insulation grants are minimal and the White Paper promises that that will be considered. Of course, it will not help people in their gardens in the summer, but it will give them some alleviation of the noise.
I hope that my hon. Friends will follow my lead and be brief. I do not believe that terminal 5 should be built. I hope that my right hon. Friend will confirm that it will be a very long time, if ever, before it is considered, and even longer before it is built.
§ Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)
Not for the first time, I rise to question the logic of the Government—indeed, to question their sanity. Last week the Prime Minister said that the Government appoint expert advisers and then retain the right to reject their advice. I remind the House that exhaustive public inquiries have been conducted into the Stansted proposals which, on both occasions, have come out with firm conclusions against them. Yet, again the Government have cynically chosen to disregard those conclusions.
My naked plea tonight is for my patch because of the levels of unemployment in the region. In my constituency is the airport of Teesside, known during the war as Goosepool. Every borough that contributes to the maintenance and management of the airport has an unemployment level for adult males of slightly above or below 30 per cent. I suggest that the level of adult male unemployment in Stansted is less than one tenth of that. Therefore, people in the north-east are justified in asking whether the Government proposal is based on political vindictiveness simply because the north-east is a stronghold of the Labour party.
We have heard of the need at airports for runway capacity, road links, rail links, potential traffic volumes and all-weather flying capability. As I explained when we last debated this subject, Teesside airport has excellent road links—motorway standard roads right to the gates—and excellent runway capacity. It is capable of taking any aeroplane flying in the world today, and in any kind of weather, because it has excellent all-weather flying records. Sadly, it proves that only when other airports fall 118 down on their provision in that respect and they have to use Teesside in a fall-back situation. We can get them in when the others cannot.
Teesside airport has excellent rail links, so much so that when Jumbos land at Teesside, because they cannot land anywhere else, we can manage to put on class 125 trains which get passengers from Teesside to central London little more than an hour later than they would get there from Heathrow. As for potential traffic volumes, anyone flying from Heathrow to Teesside or from Teesside to Heathrow will agree that it is like travelling in a community of the United Nations, because so many people have to be ferried to the north-east, having landed in the metropolis.
In other words, Teesside has all the factors that hon. Members are complaining other airports do not have—the road and rail links, the runway capacity and the all-weather flying capability. Teesside would, therefore, be easier to develop than any other airport in the country.
Sir Norman Payne said of the Stansted decision:It is one for which the BAA has striven long and hard because we believed"—that is, the BAA—it is the only way of meeting our duty to provide enough airport capacity in time to meet demand.If that is so, will the Secretary of State say so? If not, will he say so? If it is so, how can any of those 70 hon. Members who voted against the Government in January now support the White Paper proposals? How can the Government now expect support from the regions for their policy?
I rose to question the logic and sanity of the Government. My sanity questions the Government's logic and my logic sees that the Government have no sanity.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)
I must at the outset declare my interest in that I am chairman of two companies which have an interest in flying and, therefore, in airports.
I welcome the White Paper and I am sure that I speak on behalf of many in the aviation industry who believe that my right hon. Friend has, for once, listened to what those who fly in and out of airports have to say.
Airlines go where they believe there are customers and they fly those routes on which they believe they will make profits. All the talk that we have heard about airlines not going to different places derives not from a lack of runways or terminal capacity but simply from the fact that the airlines have not particularly wanted to go there. One must go on to ask why.
I welcome what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, and I am not the first Scot to say that in this debate. My right hon. Friend has given deep consideration to the many problems of passengers, of those who fly them and of those who operate airports.
I welcome also the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is insisting through the White Paper that the Civil Aviation Authority is given additional powers so that it can oversee the new public limited companies and the new monopoly that could and may occur, which could have an adverse effect on the airlines and subsequently on the passengers. I am glad that my right hon. Friend recognises that there is a need, even when deregulation takes place, for the customers' interests always to be borne in mind. I remind my right hon. Friend that in a democracy it must be right that in matters so vital as airports and civil 119 aviation policy there should be a recognised appeal system direct to the Secretary of State for Transport through the House. I should like to see written into any subsequent civil aviation Bill a proper appeal procedure so that we can ensure that Parliament still has some say over the plcs.
The Scottish lowland airports are controlled by the British Airports Authority. The plc arrangement will generate the right circumstances and enable Prestwick, which is the only one not in profit, to return to profitability. It was in profit until 1981, and with a relatively low-cost operation it should not be too difficult to bring Prestwick into profit.
There are eight Highlands and Islands airports and I recognise the advantages of having one company running them. The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) chose to ignore the £3.7 million that comes from the Scottish Office to subsidise their operations. There is scope for some savings and perhaps my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will choose in due course to examine the franchising of the management of the airports. I believe that it is through the management that savings can be achieved as a result of greater efficiency. That would be in keeping with our intention of providing a proper service and facilities to the people of the Highlands and Islands. More importantly, the service and facilities must be provided at a price that the taxpayer feels is justified. Therefore, we must examine costs constantly. I do not say that they can be eliminated but it is vital to achieve the best possible value for money.
There are some parts of the White Paper with which I would argue, but they are not sufficient to cause me to feel that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not done a good job.
§ Mr. Graham Bright (Luton, South)
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State knows that over the years that we have discussed airports I have always pleaded a special case for Luton. I am delighted and grateful to him for 120 recognising that Luton has a part to play in the London airport system. The fact that this has been spelt out has lifted an enormous black cloud that was threatening Luton airport with possible closure.
Luton borough council is prepared to tackle with enthusiasm the task of preparing Luton airport to take its quota of 5 million passengers a year. The newly refurbished terminal will be opened next month and that will be a milestone in achieving that which I know the Government want to be done.
I shall re-emphasise the damage that has been done by cross-subsidisation. If anything has stunted the growth of regional airports, it is cross-subsidisation. It has certainly damaged Luton airport.
§ Mr. Bright
Luton has a capability of 3.5 million passengers a year, but it is handling about 1.8 million. That is the consequence of the predatory pricing policy that the BAA has implemented in trying to shift lucrative trade from airports such as Luton. That is ludicrous when the BAA has argued that more capacity is needed in the London area. At the same time it has been doing its level best to close one of the London airports.
I welcome the proposal to form local authority airports into public limited companies. It will free those airports from the restraints imposed by local authorities and will enable us to reward airport directors. Airport managers will not be tied to local government pay structures, and we can welcome these airports to full commercial operation. I hope that we will recognise the need in this modern world to involve managers and workers and to allow workers to participate not only in management but in the success of airports. This will make all local authority airports more successful.
The threat to Luton has been removed. In the future, the Chilterns will reflect very much what has happened in the M4 corridor in the Thames valley. I believe that Luton airport will ensure that much prosperity comes to the area, which has more than its fair share of unemployment.