HC Deb 07 February 1991 vol 185 cc496-516

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

9.5 pm

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

Last September the Government asked the Civil Aviation Authority to advise on whether the traffic distribution rules should continue for London and said that by March this year the CAA's advice should be forthcoming. In November the Government brought forward the timetable and asked for the advice by mid-January. The result was the CAA's report, CAP578, published on 22 January.

The traffic distribution rules are technical and have far-reaching consequences. They were introduced de facto in 1977 and were made formal by the Government in 1979. Among other things, they seek to affect Heathrow and British aviation in a significant way. They seek to restrict entry to Heathrow to those airlines already having rights to land there. They impose whole or partial bans on charter flights, on all cargo flights and on business and general aviation at Heathrow. They set out in 1977 to encourage the use of London Gatwick. The purpose of the rules, when first introduced, was to limit the pressure on Heathrow and encourage the development of Gatwick.

Against that background, it is remarkably disappointing that the CAA's report is, to put it mildly, wishy-washy. I find it very naive. Its conclusions are singularly limp and unconvincing. For example, paragraph 4.6 on page 14 says: As several respondents pointed out, the existing rule has heavily distorted the development of services at Heathrow and Gatwick. The Authority's predisposition is therefore to recommend abolition of the rule unless the arguments point firmly in favour of its retention. It goes on to say that, on the balance of advantage, rule 1 should be abolished, and in paragraph 4.7 it says: If Rule 1 were removed the Authority sees little logic in retaining Rules 2 and 3. One could hardly call that gripping or convincing stuff. It means, "You might as well do that because we are not quite sure." It is in that spirit that I criticise the report.

I have initiated this debate because I am one of 14 what might be described as Heathrow Members. We are all deeply worried about the implications of the report. Perhaps I should make it clear for the record who we 14 are, and as the hour is earlier than usual for the Adjournment, I assure any of my hon. Friends who happen to turn up that I shall be happy to allow them to occupy some of the time available.

I refer to my hon. Friends the Members for Beaconsfield (Mr. Smith), for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay), for Esher (Mr. Taylor), for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), for Surrey, North-West (Mr. Grylls), for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), for Slough (Mr. Watts), for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) and for Windsor and Maidenhead (Sir A. Glyn); my right hon. Friends the Members for Brentford and Isleworth (Sir B. Hayhoe) and for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie); and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Ground). I name them because it is important to realise how many hon. Members are affected by the report, and in so far as it is possible for me to claim to speak on behalf of my hon. Friends, my remarks tonight represent very much a heartfelt contribution from all the hon. Members I have named.

Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West)

I apologise to my hon. Friend in advance because I shall not be able to stay beyond 10 o'clock and so will not hear all the debate. Does he agree that interest in this subject goes wider than those famous 14? As a result of the current consultation exercise on the distribution of air traffic into and from the south-east, the number of constituencies affected by decisions taken in relation to the CAA report and what happens in that connection in the south-east concern the whole of the south of the country and the midlands. We in Bristol are as intimately affected by those decisions as are the 14 right hon. and hon. Members to whom my hon. Friend referred.

Mr. Wilshire

I accept my hon. Friend's point and shall come to the national implications. It is just that 14 of us see a clear constituency interest at stake and are working together to try to protect a group of people in that part of the south-east. My hon. Friend is right to say that the report has serious implications for Bristol airport and his constituency might have poorer air services were the recommendations in the report to go ahead.

The 14 of us have already prepared a document setting out our concerns, which we have put to the Secretary of State, urging him not to proceed in that way. I should like to place on record my thanks to the Secretary of State for meeting us at such short notice.

I shall summarise for the House the concerns that we have been considering for the past few days, which fall into two groups: first, the local aspects about which, as a group of Heathrow hon. Members, we are rightly concerned; and secondly, the national and international implications that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) mentioned. I shall place those concerns in the context of Government policy. The report starts by explaining that the CAA was given four policy objectives and we might usefully test how far the report has met those objectives. The first policy objective is: To take into account the full extent of the contribution which may be made by airports outside the London area"— exactly the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West. Paragraph 3.2 states that abolition would have a mixed effect. It should be remembered that we are trying to benefit the regional airports outside London. The effects mentioned in the report include fewer regional flights into Heathrow, less choice at regional airports and making it harder for regional airports to make a profit and contribute to the national aviation policy. Thus the report fails its first test. It does not meet the first policy objective.

The second policy objective that the CAA was given was to make effective and efficient use of existing and planned airport facilities in the UK and of available and planned airspace capacity If we consider the current situation—the terminal capacity being used at the three airports in the south-east, the runway capacity, and how much of the night quota is being used—we discover that: at London Heathrow, 102 per cent. of the terminal capacity, 99 per cent. of the runway capacity and 99 per cent. of the night quota is already taken up. At Gatwick, there is a similar pattern —88 per cent. of the terminal capacity, 86 per cent. of the runway capacity and 96 per cent. of the night quota are being used. But at Stansted, only 14 per cent. of the terminal capacity, 30 per cent. of the runway capacity and 10 per cent. of the night quota is being used.

The report suggests, however, that more traffic should be directed towards Heathrow. Such advice flies in the face of full terminals, full runways and a full night quota. Thus the report fails its second test—to meet the second policy objective.

The third policy objective is to promote competition among airlines in all markets to the benefit of users and so as to encourage a sound and competitive multi-airline industry in Britain with a variety of airlines of different characteristics serving the whole range of travellers' needs. The report, however, suggests scrapping the rules. We must consider how that would affect the third policy objective—it would certainly not produce more slots, or lead to a bigger choice over a longer time at Heathrow. The report makes it clear that it would kill competition for Heathrow from Gatwick and Stansted. It would have exactly the opposite effect to that stated in the policy and do nothing for competition on short-haul routes. Indeed, the report spells out in words of one syllable that something else would have to happen if competition in the short-haul market were to be improved. Therefore, the report fails its third test, because it does not meet that policy objective either.

The last of the policy objectives is to further the contribution of civil aviation to the UK economy. However, the report says that scrapping will not do. Paragraph 3.19 states: There is little evidence in terms of the wider effects on the economy as a whole … several foreign airlines would stand to gain … Much would therefore depend on the relative balance of advantage to Virgin on the one hand and to the loss to BA and the gain to these foreign new entrants on the other.

Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

Does my hon. Friend agree that that is one of the most important points, because if the CAA proposals are accepted, they are likely to lead to an increase in long-haul flights into Heathrow to the disadvantage of our own flag carrier, British Airways? It would be quite wrong even to contemplate that while my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is engaged in discussions in relation to the United Airlines' application for the Pan Am slots at Heathrow.

Mr. Wilshire

That is precisely what the CAA admits in the paragraph from which I quoted, because it says that Virgin will gain, provided that another British airline lost. It says that the real gainers would be foreign airlines. We have to compare that with the stated objective of making a contribution to the United Kingdom economy. The only contribution arising from the scrapping of the rules would be to foreign airlines, their shareholders and foreign governments. I hope that I have made it clear that the CAA has failed properly to respond to any of the four policy objectives.

Another issue in relation to the policy objectives needs to be stated. There is not a word in the policy objectives or anywhere in the report about people who live near any airport. The objectives and the report do not contain a word about the social and environmental implications of scrapping rules or doing anything else. The report makes it clear that we must consider the interests of airlines and their travellers. It is absolutely essential for the Government also to consider the interests of those who live near airports, because they have rights, too. The report is very remiss in making no reference whatever to such matters.

I readily accept that my constituents are all in favour of more choice and more competition. They would welcome better services at Heathrow and elsewhere, but not at any price. They see the scrapping of these proposals as leading to more noise, more traffic chaos on the roads near airports, more ancillary buildings such as hotels and hangars, and a greater demand for housing, of which we do not have enough at the moment. It is a one-sided bargain to do things for airlines and travellers while making life a misery for people who have to live near the airports. That is the policy context as I see it.

Given the disastrous attempt that the report has made to address that, we should look at local issues which are constituency matters for the 14 of us. They are all about creating extra pressure at Heathrow. The report admits that if its advice is accepted, pressure on Heathrow airport will increase in six ways. Airlines will fly into Heathrow for the first time. It will result in requests to transfer flights from Gatwick to Heathrow, and in little aircraft being swapped for big ones that can carry more passengers. It will result in charter flights arriving and in more cargo flights coming in and out when they feel like it, and it will produce even more pressure from business and general aviation.

Despite those six factors, nowhere in the report does the CAA make any attempt to quantify the amount of pressure that would be generated. Without the figures, it gaily goes on to propose that something should happen. Sadly, it is also beyond my personal resources to quantify the figures. The best that I have been able to do in the short time available is look at the current situation and try to draw a few tentative conclusions from it.

The current pressures at Heathrow look something like this. From the existing users who operate there within the rules, the bids for 1991 have resulted in requests for 10,000 more slots than can be accommodated. Without changing anything, 10,000 extra slots have been requested.

During peak hours, 9 am to 1 pm, Monday to Friday, there are 117 long-haul departures from Gatwick. The argument is that long-haul flights will focus on Heathrow and will transfer from Gatwick. We already have 10,000 slots being looked for which are not there and we have the prospect of up to 117 departures coming from Gatwick to Heathrow.

But what is available? The best figure that I can find for spare slots in the peak time, Monday to Friday, to put against that 117 is just nine. That is all that is available unless we take into the calculation what would become available if flights were allowed in between 5 am and 6 am in the restricted period. That would provide another 155 slots. Looking at the basic statistics, therefore, it is fairly obvious that that is the only place at which the pressure could be accommodated.

But the Government must insist on calculations of what the pressure really would be before any decisions are taken. I say that with all the feeling that I can muster. They must allay the worries of local people. First, they must allay the worries of local people about night flights. They are the thing, above all else, that disturbs people who live near airports. The problem of night flights is in a class of its own compared with all the other many troubles that we have. Day flights cause trouble, but most people who live near airports understand that their livelihood depends on day flights. It is the problem of night flights that we must address.

We need look no further than the submission made by the BAA to the CAA when it was drawing up its report to see that it is blindingly obvious that if the report was accepted the pressure would have to be relieved by more night flights. The BAA says in its document: To cope with additional long-haul services, consideration will have to be given to shortening the night restrictions period by say half an hour in the morning and/or increasing the quota. There we have it. There is the admission that that is the only way in which anything can be done to ease the pressure that would be created, and that would be a disaster for all those people living near all the airports in the south-east.

The second thing about which the Government need to reassure local people is whether more flights would produce even more of a demand for a fifth terminal at Heathrow. It is often forgotten that terminal capacity is part of the slot allocation calculation. With larger aircraft replacing smaller aircraft and extra flights, the result, as sure as day follows night, is more passengers. If the terminals are already full and there are yet more passengers, more terminals have to be built.

That will further complicate surface access, requiring more junctions on motorways such as the M25 and the M4 where there is already chaos. Somebody will have to decide on a site for a new sewage works and then somebody will have to face up to the problem of the need for more parking space. There will be greater demand for labour when there is no job pool anyway, more demand for housing when there is already insufficient near Heathrow, and all the ancillary developments, such as hotels, hangars, workshops and so on, will require land which is not readily available.

Mr. Shersby

I agree that it is vital to quantify the effects on Heathrow of the proposed abolition of the distribution rules. If that is not done, an enormous head of steam will be built up by the increased number of entries into Heathrow, for an extension of unrestricted flying hours, both morning and evening, and for terminal 5. For some time, it has almost been assumed by some of the major interests responsible for the running of the airport, as well as those who use it, that terminal 5 is almost a foregone conclusion. Not so long ago, we received assurances that a new runway would not be built.

Mr. Wilshire

I assure anyone who may be tempted to submit a planning application for a fifth terminal that it will be fought tooth and nail by a large number of people. The bad news for my hon. Friend is that if he thinks that the only problems confronting his constituents are night flights and another terminal, he should know that they also face the prospect of a third runway. Given that his constituents would live closer to it than mine, he probably has a great deal more to fear than I have.

The conclusion of one report was that there will be a need for a third runway in south-east England and a study is being undertaken to decide its location. The Government must assure people that this report will not pre-empt the study into a third runway. If one accepts the proposals and all the demand goes to Heathrow, it follows that the third runway will have to be located there. The Government must understand what that would involve.

The Civil Aviation Authority has said on more than one occassion that any additional runway at Heathrow would be fully utilised within five years, so we would quickly be back where we started. A third runway would also create a 50 per cent. increase in the number of flights —another 200,000 air traffic movements a year for local people to tolerate.

The construction of a fifth terminal at Heathrow would start with the demolition of two villages in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington. Two communities would be rubbed off the map. I suspect that the Department of Transport would rapidly reach the conclusion that large traffic lights would have to be erected at the M25 junction, because low-flying aircraft might risk hitting the roofs of cars on the motorway when they passed over.

A huge extension of the airport would bring with it a much greater security risk. Heathrow already has nine and a half miles of boundary fencing to guard, without another load of fencing round another runway, to the north of the existing airport. We would end up with the ludicrous situation of the world's busiest international airport having the A4 trunk road going slap through the middle of it. That would be absolute lunacy.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

My hon. Friend may recollect that when Heathrow was first planned, it was intended to close the A4 once the airport was fully developed, with the M4 taking the diverted traffic. My hon. Friend makes a good case. If he means to resist all development at Heathrow and wants the airport transferred from its present location to an alternative site, the obvious choice would be Stansted. Is my hon. Friend really suggesting that Heathrow should be totally closed, and a proper international airport offering entry into this country at a proper standard developed elsewhere in its place?

Mr. Wilshire

That is a fascinating argument. Heathrow is a high quality international airport, of which we can all be proud.

Mr. Wells

It is awful.

Mr. Wilshire

I do not consider it to be at all awful. That is a slight against my constituents and against this country's aviation industry. Heathrow is an impressive airport, which handles more traffic on an international basis than any other in the world—and it does that very well. I am not suggesting that we should rub out an entire airport. I mentioned that the proposal would rub out two villages, and my hon. Friend said that perhaps a road should be wiped out. If the airport is to be extended, why not wipe out several more villages as well?

That does not make my hon. Friend's case at all. My contention is that it has to be possible to link economic success, and the convenience of the air transport industry, with a decent lifestyle for people who live nearby. They live there out of choice, they work there, and they want the place to succeed. They just do not want their lives to be ruined into the bargain.

Mr. Stern

In no way do I disagree with my hon. Friend, who is putting an effective case on behalf of his constituents, but may I add a further frog's leg to the brew? Does he not also have to consider the desire of those travellers who choose to go to Heathrow at the moment? If they were told that they could not come to Heathrow, they might choose to go to Manchester or Bristol, but they might also choose to go to Paris or Brussels.

Mr. Wilshire

We understand that absolutely, but consideration must be given to keeping Heathrow as a hub. However, one then has to ask oneself what makes Heathrow a hub. The reason is quite simply that long-haul flights can come into Heathrow and there is an enormous choice of short-haul and domestic routes going out of Heathrow.

The report before us admits that if the proposals were accepted, short-haul and domestic flights would be pushed out of Heathrow. In fact, the proposals would go a long way towards making my hon. Friend's prediction come true, which is another reason why I am against them.

Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)

I apologise for missing the first part of my hon. Friend's speech—I shall read it with great interest—and I hope that he will excuse me if I ask a question which he may already have covered in his oration. He mentioned regional airports. Does he agree that it is essential for the Government to have a strong, inter-line system with all the regional airports in Britain? The strength of this country depends upon strong regional airports with regional airlines so that industry —whether Japanese, American or European—can be conveniently based in the regions and can centre on a hub going out into Europe and beyond?

Mr. Wilshire

How right my hon. Friend is. If the report is implemented, when he pops down to his local airport in Exeter—

Mr. Steen


Mr. Wilshire

I apologise. When my hon. Friend pops down to Plymouth to get on a plane to fly to London and into Heathrow, he will suddenly discover that the flight does not go there any more. He will no longer have the choice. He will have to go somewhere peculiar and catch a train, or walk. That will be the exact opposite of the objectives stated in the report.

I think that I have probably laboured the point about the worries of people living near Heathrow for quite long enough. Time may be on our side, however, and some of my hon. Friends may wish to say a little more.

The national and international issues that we need to consider are, first, the problem of United Airlines wishing to take over Pan Am routes, and where that leaves us. Secondly, we need to consider the implications of this country making unilateral changes in aviation relations. Thirdly, we need to consider the future of Stansted. Fourthly, we need to consider what the European Community is up to in Brussels as regards wanting to get its sticky little hands on slots, and we need to consider whether or not these changes will benefit or harm British aviation generally.

Mr. Wells

Is this going to go on for another half hour?

Mr. Wilshire

If my hon. Friend would like me to take him at his word, we could go on until half past ten. Is he here just because he is stuck as a result of the snow? Perhaps it is warmer here than it is in his flat. If that is what he would like, I will oblige him, but he may regret it by the time I suggest that we concrete over his constituency.

We must first consider the United Airlines-Pan Am route problem. The problem is that Pan Am wishes to dispose of some of its routes, but not all of Pan Am. Some of the routes are from the United States into Heathrow. United Airlines wants to take them over. But that would fall foul of the rules because United Airlines would be a new airline coming into Heathrow. That is exactly why the Government brought forward their timetable. They said, "We have a problem. We realise that the rules are difficult. Let's rush the job." Indeed, for a moment or two there was some panic that the Secretary of State would make a decision within days.

Yet, in addressing the issues, the report says that the position is an anomaly, a small problem arising from the rules, which was not envisaged when the rules were written. My experience over the years suggests that the worst possible move when faced with an anomaly is to go in for wholesale change of absolutely everything. To throw one's papers up in the air and start again because one has a small problem seems a silly way of trying to solve the issue.

The matter will not be solved by changing the traffic distribution rules because the United-Pan Am dispute raises the question of bilateral agreements. They have to be renegotiated. The British Government have tried to renegotiate them and the whole thing has come unstuck. There is no progress on the bilateral implications, so there is no urgent need to deal with the report.

Mr. Steen

I am sure that when my hon. Friend the Minister is considering the bilateral agreements he will also be aware of the six freedom uplift, with which I am sure that he is familiar. The six freedom uplift was arranged after the war when the American airlines were allowed to fly into Heathrow and have all their planes stationed there to fly off to Europe. It seems that when the Americans ask to come into Heathrow with a new airline, the Government should address themselves to the six freedom uplift. It would mean that the British and European carriers were discriminated against because the American airlines had the right to fly from America into Heathrow or Gatwick and fly on to Europe in their own planes. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government should consider that point, too?

Mr. Wilshire

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government must take into account the knock-on implications because at every turn in the report the suggestions seem to have three, four or five disadvantages attached. My hon. Friend referred to one of the key disadvantages which must he considered.

The second international and national issue which we must address and which the Government must understand is how wrong it would be to make unilateral change when giving access to an airport. The report makes it clear that to open up London Heathrow on a free-for-all basis would be of undoubted benefit to foreign airlines. That should not come as any surprise. It is obvious.

The way in which international aviation always has worked, and I suspect always will work, is that if one gives someone a benefit one demands something in return. But the report suggests giving away a benefit without expecting anything in return. Let us test that against what happens elsewhere in the world. No other city in the world which has more than one airport allows a free-for-all into its airports. To me, the implications are straightforward. If United States airlines want free access to whichever London airport they choose, we want free access when we go to New York to either J. F. Kennedy or La Guardia, as we choose. New York would not give us such access. The same would be true of Washington. We most certainly would not be allowed into National airport in Washington. If we talked to the Japanese airlines and the Japanese Government, they would not allow us free access into either of the Tokyo airports. Yet we are told that it would be a good idea to allow Japanese airlines to come into whichever United Kingdom airport they choose, which would give them an enormous advantage. That seems crazy.

The third national issue is Stansted. A detailed reading of the report shows that the Civil Aviation Authority admits that when the rules were introduced they were a great success. They did exactly what was intended for Gatwick. In the early days, Gatwick was a small, struggling regional airport. Today, it is the world's second busiest international airport after Heathrow. The report accepts that it is a great success.

The Minister for Shipping and Public Transport (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin)

The third busiest.

Mr. Wilshire

All right. I will settle for the third busiest —even that represents a vast improvement—but I will quarrel afterwards with anyone who disagrees with me on this point: it is still proof of how successful the rules have been.

The current position is exactly the same, except that the airport in question is Stansted instead of Gatwick. We have a third London airport with 86 per cent. spare terminal capacity, 70 per cent. spare runway capacity, and 90 per cent. of existing night quota unused. But all of that is ignored, and it is suggested that traffic should be directed to Heathrow. That is exactly the opposite of what the rules were designed to achieve; yet the case for rules remains as strong as ever.

The fourth issue which constitutes a national problem concerns the EC. The people in Brussels usually look around for things that can be seen to be of benefit to them. More often than not, such things are a great disadvantage to the nations concerned. The EC has set its sights on controlling slot allocation. At some stage we shall have to argue with Brussels about why we should keep control of the allocation of slots in this country. It seems to me that, if we are to have that argument, it would be silly to throw away the strongest bargaining card that we are ever likely to have—the rules which control who has access at the moment.

The final national issue can be stated in the form of a question: what overall harm will be done to British aviation? My earlier quotation made it clear that foreign airlines will benefit, but what will the change mean for British aviation? The report says that Virgin will benefit. It is fine that a British airline will get some benefit, but the report says that Virgin will benefit only if British Airways loses, which does not seem to do much for the overall benefit of British aviation. The report says that there will be fewer domestic flights at Heathrow. I shudder to think what British Midland will make of that. The report says that there will be less scope for regional airports and for the small regional airlines. Will Brymon be pleased about that? The more I look at the report, the harder it is to find benefits for British aviation. It does not encourage competition; it gives foreign airlines a walk-over. This is not liberalisation—it is a reduction of choice—and it all seems to me to add up to a very compelling case for rejecting the CAA's advice.

Nevertheless, I am a realist. Despite all the logic that we can bring to this issue, the Government may be determined to do something. If that is the case, I ought to address some issues. First, I urge the Government not to rush. There is no need for haste. The United-Pan Am situation is on the back burner. If the Government take their time, they will have an opportunity to quantify the effects of the pressure on Heathrow, and that might help them to make a better decision. If they take their time, instead of giving us four days to come up with our response, other people may have a reasonable opportunity to give a considered opinion.

Secondly, if the Government are determined to press ahead, let them not scrap the rules but modify them. There are some benefits to be derived from increasing competition and liberalisation, but the report makes it clear that there are disadvantages. It also totally overlooks the need to protect local people. The only way to block the disadvantages and to protect people living near airports is to go down the road of modification rather than that of abolition.

If the Government are determined to go ahead, how will the slots be made available if there is more liberal access to Heathrow? The report suggests that airlines might voluntarily give up some of their slots. Pigs will fly before that happens. It also suggests that it might be possible to take slots away by lottery. That is not the way to run international aviation. The slot allocation system is voluntary. We cannot order airlines to give up slots. If slots are not yielded up, airlines which seek them have a legal remedy under the operator's licence held by Heathrow Airport Ltd. It could go to the courts and force action to be taken. According to the law, the Secretary of State would then have to make regulations. If the rules were scrapped, we should end up in the Alice-in-Wonderland situation of scrapping them and then forcing ourselves to introduce new ones. Time is needed to think that through properly.

The Government should see the report for what it really is. As I said at the beginning of my speech, it is wishy-washy. It is also fatally flawed. In paragraph 4.1, the report admits that regulations are necessary. In paragraph 4.2, it admits that to scrap the rules would result in long-haul flights pushing short-haul flights out of Heathrow. The report also admits that domestic services are already under pressure and that to scrap the rules would increase that pressure. It admits that to scrap the rules would accelerate the reduction of choice at Heathrow, and new terminal facilities would be needed. Furthermore, it admits that the existing rules led to the successful development of Gatwick. The clincher for me is that paragraph 4 admits that nobody—not even those who seek access to Heathrow—agrees with the totality of the CAA's advice. It is a damning list, and it proves that the advice flies in the face of the Government's stated objectives.

When the Minister replies to the debate, I ask him to remember why the rules were introduced. They were introduced to limit pressure, which is now even worse, and to encourage the development of Gatwick and Stansted. I ask him also to remember that local people have rights. They know how good Heathrow is, but they are entitled to a decent night's sleep. How does the Minister intend to ensure that they will still get that? I hope that he will tell us that he intends to reject the CAA's advice. If he cannot say that today, I hope that he will say that he will seriously consider modifying rather than scrapping the rules. It is essential for all of us—the Minister, the Government and all right hon. and hon. Members—to think about the people who live near any airport as well as about the airlines and air travellers.

9.48 pm
Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) for his notable contribution to an outstanding Adjournment debate. This has been a very busy week for him. He, like a number of other hon. Members who represent constituencies around Heathrow, has been totally immersed in the arcane mysteries of the traffic distribution rules. Together with his colleagues, he has made strong representations about them to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State could not have been more helpful, sympathetic and prepared to listen to the arguments that we have put to him. My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne has made the point well that we are debating this matter because, suddenly, something that was urgent has become extremely urgent and that is the resolution of the problems arising from the difficulties of Pan American World Airways and the wish of United Airlines to fly to Heathrow.

My noble Friend the Minister for Aviation and Shipping, Lord Brabazon of Tara, wrote to the Civil Aviation Authority in September 1990. He said that the Government believe it is right in principle for Government to intervene in the operation of the civil aviation market only when and only to the extent that circumstances make it necessary. That principle very much underpins our approach to aviation liberalisation in Europe, where the UK is continuing to play a prominent part in securing a better deal for passengers. In that context, I am conscious of the belief in some quarters that the London area traffic distribution rules are difficult to reconcile with this liberal approach.

My noble Friend did not leave the matter there. He wrote again to the Civil Aviation Authority in November last year, saying: There are, as you know, a number of developments occurring on the international scene, both in Europe and America, and we think it would be very helpful if we were able to consider the full picture at that time, including your advice on the future of the Traffic Distribution Rules. It is right and proper for the Minister to make that request.

I am here representing the interests of those who live in my constituency of Uxbridge and I am sure that, if my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) had not been absent on parliamentary business, he would have been here, because a large part of the airport is in his constituency. We are concerned at the high speed with which the matter is being considered. Had it not been for the devotion to duty of my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne in producing, with some of his colleagues, an admirable paper that we were able to put to the Secretary of State within a few days, this matter might have slipped through almost unnoticed.

I represent a constituency in the borough of Hillingdon. Hillingdon is the local authority that looks after the interests of London airport. If the pressure builds up in the way suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne—

Mr. Wilshire

Hon. Members who represent areas around Heathrow are sensitive people. To correct the record, Hillingdon looks after 80 per cent. of the airport and Spelthorne and Surrey look after the other 20 per cent.

Mr. Shersby

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; I accept his division of responsibility.

The future development of the airport is important. Those who live around it believe strongly that Heathrow is vital to the interests of the nation and to their future livelihood. At the same time, they do not believe that Heathrow can be expanded indefinitely. If the proposals go through quickly and without proper consideration, it will lead to the sort of pressure described by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne.

That in turn will lead inexorably to pressure on the Government of the day for an increase in night flying, the construction of terminal 5 and, even more important from the point of view of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington and myself, the construction of a third runway, not on the present airport site but between the A4 and the M4. That would cause massive environmental damage to Sipson, Longford, Harmondsworth and West Drayton. I am here to speak for the interests of those who have as much right to be considered in relation to the rules as those who operate airlines and the passengers who fly on them from all over the world.

Mr. Wells

The constituents for whom my hon. Friend rightly speaks strongly should be knowledgeable about the original airport design. I too was brought up under the approach path to London airport's present No. 1 runway. The original design included the closure of the A4 and the construction of two further runways north of the present airport. Because of the advocacy of my hon. Friends who live in the area, that development was stopped. I put it to my hon. Friend that, unless Heathrow is prepared to expand and modernise to become the premier airport of the country, of which we can all be proud, and where passengers are properly treated—as opposed to what happens at present—it should close.

Mr. Shersby

My hon. Friend refers to an original plan for Heathrow. I was born and brought up in my constituency, and I know every inch of it. I watched Heathrow being built when I was a small boy, so he cannot tell me anything about the plans. Those plans were drawn up a long time before anyone dreamed of the volume of air traffic that we have today. Therefore, we must address the problem in the light of modern conditions. We must have regard to the possible environmental damage to a vast area around Heathrow if the matter is not dealt with properly.

Very good representations have been made to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State by a number of local authorities, not least Buckinghamshire county council, which is also concerned about the flight path. I have had the opportunity briefly to discuss the matter with the Secretary of State. I want to record my thanks to him for two assurances which he gave me and other colleagues who saw him this week. He assured us that there would be no more night flights, even if they were applied for, and that there would be no increased runway alteration at Heathrow. Those are two valuable assurances. He could give those assurances without interfering in any way with his ability to consider the recommendations.

I do not want to take up any more time; my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne has deployed the arguments very well. It is vital that, as a result of the Pan Am-United difficulty, we do not rush into decisions which will tie the hands of the Secretary of State in reaching a sensible decision about any application that may be made for a fifth terminal or an additional runway.

I recall two things that happened during the past few years. I recall my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) giving an assurance that air traffic movements at Heathrow would not exceed 275,000 a year. I believe that there are now well over 300,000 movements. I also remember clear assurances being given about no further terminals, yet, listening to those who have an interest in developments at Heathrow, one would think that another terminal was a foregone conclusion.

I urge my hon. Friend the Minister for Shipping and Public Transport to take care in what he says tonight. We shall take careful note of what is on the record.

9.57 pm
Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)

I want to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), who has done a great service to the House. I am only sorry that there are no Opposition Members present, because they would have benefited from hearing what he had to say. It is a tribute to my hon. Friends, who are greatly concerned about these matters, that there is such a large attendance on this side of the House. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for attracting so many hon. Members on this side of the House on such a bad evening.

I am glad to see the Minister on the Front Bench. When he became responsible for aviation, the national media drew attention to the fact that he loathed travelling by plane. I am told that he has been so well trained now that he cannot be kept out of the air. It is especially good that he has found time to be here to answer this debate.

I have three short but pertinent points to make, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will do his best to deal with them. First, we should do nothing that could damage our airline industry. We must do something to help it. It is going through an extremely difficult time. It is one of the greatest success stories in Europe, but is facing problems—so much so that British Airways, which was floated four years ago at, I think, £1.30 per share, has risen to 5p over the asking price in only the past few days, having reached an all-time high of £2.40. That reflects some of the difficulties that one of our major airlines is currently facing.

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

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

Mr. Steen

I was saying that, four years after flotation, shares in British Airways are today only a little higher than they were. It is understandably cutting services. Within Great Britain, it has decided to stop flying to Eire, and services to Newcastle upon Tyne and elsewhere have been cut.

I give those examples to show that, if British Airways is facing difficulties, the rest of the industry is facing even greater problems. It would be seriously unwise of the Government to do anything that might cause additional difficulties to airlines even as large or prosperous as British Airways.

The airline industry at Gatwick is facing problems. Dan-Air, which has done such a great service to this country, is about to be sold off in part, and the family fortunes have disappeared overnight. That airline, which provided a wonderful charter service for passengers and pioneered the cheap holiday, is in difficulties, and Air Europe is having to refinance its activities. The Minister should be conscious of the fact that nothing should be done by our Government that would cause additional problems for our successful private enterprise airline industry.

My hon. Friend the Minister should bear in mind the fact that slots at Gatwick, which at one stage were scarcer than at Heathrow, have become increasingly available in the past year for airlines that want to fly from there. It would be a mistake for my hon. Friend to do anything that would encourage airlines to transfer to Heathrow, thereby under-utilising the infrastructure established at Gatwick in the past decade. The Government must have some regard to the fact that Gatwick has much available space and that it would be a mistake to try to cram more aircraft into Heathrow.

My second point is about regional airlines. It is good to see my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) in his place; his interest in regional airlines is well known. He and I and some other hon. Friends went to see my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State this morning to discuss this point. I pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) and for Cornwall, North (Sir G. Neale), who joined us this morning. My right hon. and learned Friend greeted that distinguished delegation with his customary courtesy and intellectual brightness, even at an early hour of the morning. He understood our concern in Devon and Cornwall, should the services from the west country be forced to disappear.

Brymon Airways has pioneered a first-rate service from Cornwall and Devon to Heathrow and Gatwick. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives and I were extremely troubled to learn that Brymon Airways is to discontinue its service into Gatwick in March simply because the landing charges there have become so excessive that it cannot afford to fly a 50-seater aeroplane into that airport. The charges made by the British Airports Authority to land a Dash 7—a 50-seater aeroplane—are approximately the same as those to land a jumbo with 450 seats.

I am concerned that any rearrangement of the slots or of slot negotiations that could result in regional airlines such as Brymon Airways or Manx Airlines being displaced from the major hub airports would have a serious impact on regional development. In Plymouth, there are many new industries—Japanese and American. The Harris Corporation is building a £16 million microchip factory in the South Hams. Its directors and staff often fly into Plymouth out of Heathrow, having connected from the United States. We must encourage regional airports and help them to grow. If we force regional airlines out of the market by making it so costly for them to land and to take off at the major hub routes, it will do a great disservice to the Government's whole policy of regional development and the revival of regional enterprise.

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the case that he makes so eloquently on behalf of his constituents could equally be made on behalf of the whole of Cornwall? Brymon Airways is one of the most useful tools of regional policy, both in attracting inward investment to the two counties of Devon and Cornwall and in enabling existing firms, such as English China Clays, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) at the meeting this morning, to continue their business. It is important that a firm with international business should have a feed into Heathrow, and therefore a link to the international airlines.

Mr. Steen

I could not have made the point better than my hon. Friend has. Although the Secretary of State reassured us that grandfather rights at Heathrow and Gatwick would not be lost if the Civil Aviation Authority rules were implemented, the cost of landing could not necessarily be protected adequately.

Thirdly, although the Secretary of State reminded us that legislation in the 1980s protected airlines from excessive increases in landing charges, I have done some research that shows that, although the amount by which the landing charge may rise is fixed—the formula is the retail price index minus one—the formula is for the totality of all the landings, not for individual landings.

Brymon has told us that, over the past five years, its landing fees have increased by 116 per cent. in peak periods and by 134 per cent. in off-peak periods. It makes the case extremely forcefully that a Boeing 747 with 450 seats is able to absorb the £432 fee for landing far more easily than a 50-seater aeroplane. The Government must intervene so that the smaller airlines and the regional airlines are not pushed out of the major hub airports.

It is only right to give the Minister some time to reply. Having made those two points, it would be appropriate for me to sit down.

10.3 pm

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

It may be "right to give the Minister time to reply" and I shall do my utmost to co-operate in that. I hope that my hon. Friend will feel that it is right that those with constituencies near Heathrow should also have some time to discuss the distribution of London air traffic. Of course, the London distribution of air traffic interacts closely with the whole problem of aircraft noise.

As you will remember, Mr. Speaker, from when you were my Whip 20 years ago, I have been concerned then and since with this matter, which is of great concern to many of my constituents. Aircraft noise is a pestilence. It ruins people's quiet enjoyment of their homes and gardens and affects their work in offices, schools and hospitals and churches on Sundays. We had to battle 10 years ago even to get take-offs from Heathrow stopped during the two-minute silence on Remembrance Sunday.

It is not only the peak loudness of each flight, but the sheer number of flights, and through Heathrow these amount to about 900 per day. So in peak hours they come over every two minutes and the noise of one has hardly gone before the next one comes. Of course, it is worse in summer when people are in their gardens, or at night when they want to have their windows open.

It must be said that not everyone minds about aircraft noise. Some people do not mind about it at all. But to others it is acutely annoying and in some cases it causes mental illness. People do not merely want the noise contained. They want a substantial and permanent reduction in it.

This Conservative Administration have done more than any other Government to restrain aircraft noise, but from among all the Conservative Ministers involved in this matter in the past 11 years, no one did more than my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) when he was Secretary of State for Transport. He curbed the number of night flights and his decisions were later endorsed by my right hon. Friends the Members for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) and for Hertsmere (Mr. Parkinson). He stopped the Heathrow-Gatwick helicopter link when the M25 was constructed arid he stopped the construction of the fifth terminal at Heathrow. When, on 5 June 1985, he announced that latter decision to the House, he answered this question from me: Is my right hon. Friend aware that very many of the 1.75 million people living around Heathrow, who were dreading the intolerable traffic congestion and noise that would have resulted from a fifth terminal, will be immensely grateful and relieved at the decision not to build a fifth terminal and to turn down the current planning application? My right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury replied: I am pleased to be able to honour the Government's pledge that terminal five would not be constructed".—[Official Report, 5 June 1985; Vol. 80, col. 310.] It was therefore acknowledged by the Government, that there was a pledge that terminal five would not be constructed. That followed eight other statements by the Government which were quoted by Sir Humphrey Atkins in his speech on 30 January 1985, reported at columns 304 and 305 of Hansard.

No one should be in any doubt that it was then clearly announced by the Secretary of State that Government policy was a pledge that a fifth terminal should not be constructed and that it would be a departure from Government policy even to say that there is no definite policy today, as there was a Government pledge that it should not be built.

I hope that when my hon. Friend replies to the debate he will confirm that the current Secretary of State for Transport, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), will be just as robust as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury was in protecting the environment of the many hundreds of thousands of people living around Heathrow. That remains to be seen, but I felt some encouragement from the meeting yesterday set up by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), who I congratulate warmly on setting up that meeting and on initiating this debate.

A word on night flights, to which the CAA report refers. There should be a complete ban on night flights, except in emergencies. It is uncivilised, intolerable and totally unacceptable that tens of thousands of people near Heathrow should be woken up at night just so that a few hundred people can get marginally cheaper holidays.

The Government stopped any increase in night flights three times running. Successive Secretaries of State for Transport have held the limit to an average of 15 flights a night in the summer season, against commercial lobbies from interested parties in aviation. However, that is not enough—night flights should be stopped completely and the night hours lengthened from the present times of 11.30 pm to 6 am, which is only six and a half hours—much less than most people need for a decent night's sleep.

Many of my constituents arrive at their offices at 9 am, in some cases 9.30 am, and may have risen at only 8 am. Others may rise at 7.30 am. It is totally wrong that the night limitation on noise should extend to only 6 am. People need at least eight hours sleep; most people need eight and a half or nine hours. The Government should insist on putting the peace, quiet and health of the people before commercial interests. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will satisfy me that the Government intend to take a fresh look at that subject.

Mr. Steen

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. While speaking earlier in the Adjournment debate, I should have declared an interest. I have an interest in British Midland Airways, which is part of the Airlines of Great Britain group. Although I was not speaking on that subject, I should like to declare that interest.

10.17 pm
The Minister for Shipping and Public Transport (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin)

Yet again, we have witnessed a remarkable debate on, and interest in, issues relating to aviation and Heathrow and airport capacity—wider subjects than the concept outlined in the Adjournment debate. I am sure that the House is grateful for the extra time that it managed to secure to discuss what are undoubtedly important issues for many people living in the south-east, close to our major airports.

The last time that we had such a debate was some time ago. I think it was an Adjournment debate and it was initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire). It was interesting and related to the Civil Aviation Authority's advice on runway capacity. I found it a fascinating debate because all my hon. Friends accepted the need for an extra runway, but none of them wanted it to be at the airport in their districts.

Tonight, in a similar way, we have witnessed the rightful concerns of Members of Parliament, faced with the problem of having a major international airport close to their constituency. As a number of my hon. Friends have acknowledged, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has held meetings with many colleagues to discuss different aspects of the subject. One meeting, at which the traffic distribution rules were discussed, was referred to by my hon. Friends the Members for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby), for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) and for Spelthorne. A meeting this morning on regional services was headed by my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen). There is no doubt that the issues to which my hon. Friends referred are very much to the forefront of my right hon. and learned Friend's mind.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne and the subsequent speakers on addressing the important issue of London air traffic distribution. As the House knows, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State is presently considering the advice given to him recently by the CAA on the future of the London rules in CAP 578. He has said that he hopes to reach a decision soon. I should make it clear from the outset, and I am sure the House will appreciate, that it would be wrong for me to anticipate tonight the result of those decisions, comment on them or on the CAA's advice. I hope that hon. Members do not expect me to do so. My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne asked me to give him a clue, but if I did so it would suggest that I knew the answer and that my right hon. and learned Friend had made up his mind. He has not, which is one reason why I cannot give a clue as to the result. No decision has yet been taken.

Mr. Wilshire

My hon. Friend's comment that the Secretary of State's mind has not yet been made up is helpful, and I am grateful.

Mr. McLoughlin

I am glad that my hon. Friend found that comment helpful.

Tonight's debate has been longer than is normal for an Adjournment debate, and it may not be possible for me to cover all the points made so well by my hon. Friends. I shall check carefully the report of the debate and if any issues need an individual response, I shall write to my hon. Friends with a more substantive reply than I may be able to give now.

Mr. Jessel

Will my hon. Friend make certain that he refers to the important question of night flights?

Mr. McLoughlin

I hope to do that, and I shall also deal with the matter of regional airports and all the other important issues that were raised.

First, I shall speak about the background to the CAA's advice. In July 1989 the CAA submitted recommendations for modifications to the present London traffic distribution rules, following a request for advice which we had made the previous year. The changes that it proposed were relatively minor, and we took the view that, rather than make these adjustments at the margins, we should wait until we had seen the authority's wider advice on long-term airport capacity and could consider the whole picture.

The CAA's more wide-ranging advice was duly submitted last July. In September my noble Friend the Minister for Aviation wrote to the chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority to say that, having given thought to the question of traffic distribution—including in the light of our belief that intervention in the operation of the aviation market should be kept to a minimum—we had decided to take stock of the continued need for the London rules. Accordingly, the CAA was asked to provide advice on the removal in whole or in part of the 1986 rules.

During November, the CAA carried out the consultation required by statute, and it published its advice on 22 January. After considering the various issues, the CAA advised that the balance of advantage in terms of user benefits lay with the abolition of Heathrow rule 1, which prohibits international scheduled passenger services by airlines new to Heathrow. Having taken that view, it believes that it would be logical to go on to remove Heathrow rules 2 and 3, which prohibit, respectively, whole-plane charter traffic and, unless certified by the Secretary of State, new domestic services. However, the CAA believes that the reasoning that underpins Heathrow rule 4 and Gatwick rule 1, which restrict access to those airports of business and general aviation and of all-cargo services, remains sound and that these two rules should be retained.

I shall now deal with the issue of night noise restrictions, which was raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) and for Spelthorne. I know that their concern is shared by other hon. Members with constituencies in the area. The CAA noted in CAP 578 that many airlines have called for either an extension of the operating day or for only super-quiet aircraft to be allowed at night. It also noted that in the event of abolition the BAA would seek a relaxation of the night limits to allow for larger numbers of long-haul arrivals in the early morning.

The Government have always acknowledged the concerns of those living near major airports, not just in words, but in practical ways. The 1985 airports policy White Paper set out as one of our objectives the need to minimise the impact of airports on the environment generally, and our policy on night movement restrictions has served to encourage airlines to replace their noisier aircraft with quieter ones, thereby reducing noise during the day as well as at night.

I know that aircraft noise at night is a particular worry. The House will recall that we did not accept the suggestion by the CAA in 1989 that the night noise restrictions at Heathrow and Gatwick should be relaxed. That decision by my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State was welcomed by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne. I assure my hon. Friend and other hon. Members with anxieties on this score that there is no change whatever in that position. We continue to believe that the present regime, which was set in 1988 and runs until 1993, represents a reasonable balance between the interests of air transport services users on the one hand, and of the environment on the other. It follows that we have no plans to relax the existing restrictions. I am glad to give that assurance to my hon. Friends the Members for Twickenham, for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) and for Spelthorne and to all other hon. Members who have for a long time expressed concern. In particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham has for a long time done a great deal to champion the cause of his constituents and has attempted to get the right balance. We must recognise the importance of a major international airport while doing our utmost to protect the rights of our constituents.

We have commissioned new research into sleep disturbance caused by aircraft. Some preliminary field work has already been carried out and there will be more extensive monitoring this year. The steering group set up to oversee this research includes representatives from each of the Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airport consultative committees, and Manchester airport is also taking part. The results of the research should be available in 1992 in time for the next review of the London airport night restrictions. There will, of course, be public consultation before new restrictions are applied.

I recognise the importance of regional airports and services. Not long ago, Birmingham airport was commended on the service it provides. I see here my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor), a senior Whip, who often uses Birmingham airport. We pay tribute to it for the way in which it serves the local community. Regional airports are vital and we wish to encourage them.

More generally, various other noise abatement measures, such as noise preferential routes and the use of quiet take-off and landing procedures, are used and will continue to be used. In particular—this is an important point—we have no plans to end the system of runway alternation that applies at Heathrow. That is another matter which has long concerned my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne. That again is an assurance which hon. Members who represent the Heathrow area will welcome.

Further development at Heathrow is obviously a great concern to all hon. Members who represent the Heathrow area. Proposals for further terminal capacity at Heathrow would need to be brought forward in the proper way and planning permission sought and I would of course expect the environmental aspect to receive close scrutiny. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham is about to write to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State on that and other matters, and we await that with interest.

Similarly, I do not believe that decisions on the rules read across to the much larger question of future south-east runway capacity. That is a longer term issue directed to the year 2005 or thereabouts. Work on that is going forward separately in a group established for the purpose. That working group is looking at the wider implications of runway development at a number of locations examined last year by the CAA in air traffic control.

Several of my hon. Friends have rightly talked about domestic services at Heathrow and how they might be affected by the abolition of the rules. We are very much aware of the concern that there is on that point which has been emphasised since the publication of the CAA's advice a few weeks ago. I well remember my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) pointing out how vital the regional services are to his area, and I am glad that he had an opportunity, together with my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams, of putting it concisely to my right hon. and learned Friend only this morning.

Mr. Steen

In respect of the services from Heathrow.

Mr. McLoughlin

From Heathrow, and also into Heathrow.

We are aware of the concern that the landing charges at the main London airports might in themselves make it uneconomical to mount services on thin routes into the region. The Government are clear that the airports must not be permitted to abuse their position or unfairly to exploit their users, through their charging regime.

With that in mind, we provided in the Airports Act 1986 for the economic regulation of airports. The power contained in section 41 is of particular relevance, since it allows the CAA to take appropriate remedial action where it believes that the airport operator has adopted a trade practice or pricing policy that unreasonably discriminates against any class of user, or a particular user, of the airport. A mechanism exists for that purpose, and we shall carefully consider the information that my hon. Friend presented.

I listened carefully to my hon. Friends' comments about the possible impact that accepting the authority's advice might have on domestic services, and that issue is one to which we shall give careful thought. The House will understand that I cannot say more at this time—

The motion having been made at Ten o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at half-past Ten o'clock.