HC Deb 08 March 1993 vol 220 c647
2. Mr. Jessel

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to reach a decision on the number of Heathrow night flights.

Mr. MacGregor

We asked for comments on the proposals to reach us by 30 April. We shall consider all the responses carefully and I hope to announce decisions by the end of June.

Mr. Jessel

As one comment, is my right hon. Friend aware that my constituents regard night flights as totally unacceptable and that any increase would make them very angry? They consider that night flights should be stopped entirely, except in emergencies.

Mr. MacGregor

I hope that my hon. Friend recognises the need for some night movements, but I acknowledge the importance of balancing that requirement with the legitimate concerns of local residents. The present regime attempts to do that. If we did not replace it, there would be no restrictions whatever, so it is right that we should be considering what should be done at the end of the year. I know of my hon. Friend's great concerns, which he has already made clear to me. I assure him that the consultation is genuine and that we shall listen to all representations before we take decisions for the future. We have been endeavouring to seek a better system for the future, taking account of new developments—particularly in aircraft technology.

Mr. Bennett

Does the Secretary of State agree that the most effective way to reduce pressure on Heathrow is to develop regional airports such as Manchester? Will he congratulate Greater Manchester's local authorities on their enterprise and the opening of terminal 2? Will he press British Rail, because it is scandalous that the 40 yd of track needed to link the airport with routes to the south is still not built?

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman's last question was a little remote from the issue of Heathrow night flights. As he knows, we are encouraging regional airports in a variety of ways. There has been a big improvement in regional airport output in recent years—not least at Manchester, which is now a major European airport. I congratulate all involved. I am glad that private sector finance has been involved in that expansion. The right way ahead is to continue the private sector development of regional airports and, wherever possible, privatisation of them, too.