HL Deb 15 December 1954 vol 190 cc397-459

2.36 p.m.

LORD TEVIOT rose to move to resolve, That Her Majesty's Government should appoint a Royal Commission to report on the suitability of the sites of existing and proposed aerodromes, both civil and military, in close proximity to built-up areas, the terms of reference being wide enough to cover consideration of the safety and amenity of the civilian population and the cost involved, with particular reference to the case of Gatwick and to helicopter development. The noble Lord said: My Lords, as your Lordships know, I am always in favour of short speeches, but I am afraid that to-day I have such a lot of ground to cover that I may be a little longer than usual. This is not a political question at all: part of it, in my view, is of great national importance, and part of it is of international importance. I wish to make a few general remarks on the subject of aerodrome sites as war targets for legitimate bombing and guided missiles, resulting in enormous civilian casualties. We all realise that if war comes (which heaven forbid!) every aerodrome becomes a military target. I suppose there will be practically no civilian flying, as in the last two wars, and, so far as I can see, that means that an aerodrome immediately becomes a perfectly legitimate enemy target.

It has always surprised me that this question of civilian bombing has not been strongly taken up with all countries, with a view to trying to get agreement that no open town should be bombed. This cannot be done unless aerodromes are made away from built-up areas. It is said that "All is fair in love and war," but I feel that world public opinion would welcome an international agreement. I suppose that any effort towards this end would be carried out by the Foreign Office, and I am glad to see my noble friend Lord Reading here to-day. That effort should be made to avoid the infliction of casualties on the civilians. I beg Her Majesty's Government to take the lead in introducing this subject within the United Nations and N.A.T.O., and, in fact, to all countries, no matter what type of government they may have. I realise that the present existing large aerodromes probably must continue, but all new sites for aerodromes should be chosen where few, if any, civilians live, and where they can easily be evacuated should war begin. There are no right reverend Prelates here to-day, but I would ask all religious bodies to take up this humanitarian effort which I have in mind. I believe civilisation demands that, in choosing sites for new aerodromes, this matter should be borne in mind. The London Airport is so well-established that to move it would be impossible, but it seems to me that the question I have now raised rules out Gatwick altogether, quite apart from other reasons, to which I will come presently.

It may be said—in fact, it was said to me before I came into the House—that it would be impossible to get agreement between the nations. But that does not deter me, because I believe that the word "impossible" should not exist when it comes to this sort of question, and that we should do all we can to stop what has happened in the past. Let us not kow-tow to Satan without some protest. In the last war, suffering and misery was meted out to millions of innocent people. An enemy will always prefer to bomb a military target, and we must do everything we can to stop the civilian massacre en masse which took place in the last war. We cannot be parties to another Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am full of hope that atomic and hydrogen bombing will not come, but that, as in the case of gas in the last war, the terrible nature of these weapons will act as a deterrent. All nations must know today that, once they begin to use the hydrogen or the atomic bomb or gas, there will immediately be retaliation in the same form. I believe that we can do a great deal by a strong drive in the direction I suggest to stop this sort of thing, or at least to minimise it. The military targets, other than those behind the Iron or the Bamboo Curtain, are well known to all nations. There is no restriction on anybody coming over here and finding out exactly where the military targets are.

Now I come directly to the question of Gatwick itself. It is a most deplorable thing that in 1946, 1947 and 1949, the Minister—I do not blame him; his information was inaccurate, if I may put it in that way—stated quite definitely that Gatwick was to remain a minor aerodrome and would not be further developed; that Stanstead was to be developed and Gatwick de-requisitioned. That appears in Hansard of March 1, 1949. On the strength of that, what happened? The building of the new town of Crawley went ahead, with preparations for 60,000 people. I believe that at the present moment there is accommodation for 25,000 people at Crawley. This scheme has been proceeded with because of the assurances given by the Government spokesman that Gatwick would remain a sort of aerodrome where one of your Lordships might fly his private plane, or from which there might be short-distance flying. I also understand that there are quite important industries which have established themselves at Crawley, entirely owing to the Government assurances that there would be no major aerodrome at Gatwick. Now that the Government have gone back on their word in this way, all efforts should be made to stop any further building at Crawley; and wide publicity should be given to warn industry that, if the Government are to go on with this aerodrome—about which they appear to be keen—the development there must stop.

It is the most extraordinary thing to me, and I do not understand it. Government Departments seem to think that their scientists, their meteorologists and their experts are superior to other people. I do not think they are in the least superior—indeed, I should say that independent scientists have a much wider experience than Government officials. This brings me to the comparison with regard to weather. Everybody who has studied this question of Gatwick airport knows that there is a tremendous divergence of opinion between highly qualified and experienced men on the question of weather.

I now come to discuss part of the admirable Report of Sir Colin Campbell, which is extremely disturbing. It appears that there are very slipshod statistics with regard to the weather at Gatwick by day, and that with regard to the weather at night—which, as those of your Lordships who know anything about flying will know, is a very important question—there are no statistics or any information at all. I say that, before this enormous expenditure is embarked upon, there should be much more inquiry into the whole question of the advisability or otherwise of having a major aerodrome at Gatwick. Some people do not like the idea of Royal Commissions. I do not know any alternative in order to have an absolutely independent inquiry—an inquiry made by people who have no axe to grind at all—into this important question which, I understand, involves an expenditure of between £6 million and £10 million, and, if the whole scheme is carried out, somewhere between £15 million and £20 million. I want the terms of reference to be completely wide, with no restrictions whatever. The Colin Campbell Committee were very restricted because they were not allowed to touch on the subject of alternative sites. I wonder why. What were the Government frightened of? I cannot understand why there should be any restrictions on a question of this sort.

In the White Paper it was laid down that the London Airport is able in good weather to deal with air traffic for many years. In view of this, I ask the Government, why all this hurry? A noble Lord I understand is going to deal with the question of the rapid development lately of the helicopter. I understand that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, has said that helicopters should deal with all short flying, and he thought this would happen within the next ten years; and he is Chairman of British European Airways. In the White Paper and in evidence before the Campbell Committee it is said that Gatwick would be expected to deal with all planes of the type which would otherwise go to the London Airport.

Then it is reported on page 17 of the Campbell Report that Mr. Moncur, who is the Director of Works in the Directorate General of Works in the Air Ministry, on permanent loan to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, said that Gatwick is a very wet area in winter. I am given to understand that Gatwick has been out of use now for more than three weeks and I very much doubt whether it is capable of being used at the present moment. When I mention the names of authorities whom I am going to quote, I shall give their full title. I want to impress the House with the importance of these gentlemen and the right which they have to speak on this subject. The London Airport, I understand, save for a day or two of fog, has been operating all right in the last three weeks, but Gatwick has been out of commission altogether for any type, of use as an airport.

Then I come to page 20 of the Report, to the evidence given by Lieutenant-Colonel C. A. C. Turner, O.B.E., F.R.I.C.S., A.Inst C.A. He is a very important person, a Fellow of the Land Agents' Society, and Chief Executive Officer of the Crawley Development Corporation. What does he say? He says, referring to the development of Crawley, that the Corporation adhere to their opinion that the close juxtaposition of a major airport and a New Town is unsound in principle. Then I come to page 23.


I hope the noble Lord will forgive me if I interrupt him. I think he is referring to paragraph 113 of the Report, at page 21. Perhaps I might put the matter in proportion if I read out the words: Colonel Turner stated that the Corporation still considered that the juxtaposition of the Airport and the New Town was bad planning, but they now believed that the national need of civil aviation must over-ride planning considerations, despite their previous strong opposition.


I am afraid I did not hear the first part of what the noble and gallant Lord said, but no doubt it was not in favour of what I said. Then we come to page 23, Paragraphs 122, 123, 124 and 125, where we have the opinion of Mr. Ernest Gold, C.B., D.S.O., O.B.E., F.R.S., M.A. He gives with great authority and emphasis his adverse opinion on fog and describes the site as being "at the bottom of a saucer." All those who know Gatwick appreciate that it is in a depression. Those of your Lordships who own land which has any undulations in it know what happens: the lower land is always full of fog in the evening while the higher pieces of ground are quite clear. I want to emphasise the fact that these are not irresponsible people whom I am quoting; they are people of substance and authority on the subject about which they are talking.

I then come to page 27. I want the noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, to look at this point because it seems to me to be most important. In Paragraph 150, Sir William Graham Holford, President this year of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, describes the site as utterly unsuited to the future of the locality. Paragraph 164 says that Mr. Geoffrey Lawrence stated that to develop this site in the way proposed involved a breach of solemn Government assurances. I have already referred to that. It is dreadful to think that these people, not only the Crawley Corporation but industries, relying on Government assurances, have found themselves in great difficulties. Page 30, Paragraph 167, states: Mr. Lawrence dealt with the unsuitability"— of the proposed aerodrome— under three heads:

  1. (a) the weather, which he suggested ought by itself to be fatal to the prospect;
  2. (b) the natural limitations of the site subdivided into:—
  1. (i) too small;
  2. (ii) danger; and
  3. (iii) natural disadvantages which could be removed only at great cost.
I quote these things, and I hope that the Government will not, because an official of a Department says that this is all nonsense, cast away all this very important information, which comes from highly reliable sources. Mr. Lawrence, as I have said, says that on the ground of weather alone Gatwick is not suitable. The site at Gatwick is in a basin, and I am driven to understand—I hope the noble and gallant Lord will not dispute this—that the rainfall at Gatwick is 30 per cent. higher than that at London Airport. It is considered that in Crawley, with 60,000 inhabitants, there will undoubtedly be pollution of the air, which will increase the possibility of fog. Then there are opinions from various pilots of distinction who do not like Leith Hill or Russ Hill, and some of them say they would not have anything to do with the scheme.

Now I come to page 41. I am sorry to be so long about this, but I want my noble friend who is to reply, to know what I am getting at. At page 41, Mr. Harold Williams, Q.C., is extremely worried about the situation of his clients who, on the strength of Government assurances that this was to remain a minor aerodrome, have built factories and started businesses in this area. Then the statement was made that there had never been an accident at Gatwick. That is not true. In recent years there have been two fatal accidents there and, as I have said, pilots of great distinction rule out Gatwick altogether for large planes, particularly the type of plane that flies the Atlantic.

I turn to page 48, where we see this statement from Sir Colin Campbell himself in his Report to the Minister of Housing and Local Government: As, however, there is a difference of opinion between the parties about the weather at tunes for which no statistics are available, and as the objectors attach considerable importance to their criticism of this feature of Gatwick, I suggest that the evidence which both expert witnesses gave, and the statistical tables which they put in, should be carefully considered by such technical advisers as are at your disposal, and their views ascertained for your further guidance.


My Lords, again I regret to have to interrupt the noble Lord, but there is a sentence just preceding the one which he has read out, which I think will be of interest to the House. In paragraph 268, at page 48, these words appear: The data available, in my opinion"— that is, in Sir Colin Campbell's opinion— substantiate the view which was expressed by the Ministry's witnesses that meteorologically the site is suitable.


My noble friend has read one part, and I have read the latter part of that paragraph. It appears that the gentleman may be contradicting himself. At any rate, my noble friend is adhering to the part that he has read out, and I base my point on the part that I have read out. As I have already said, I see no reason why we should place any more reliance upon Government Department experts or scientists than on the type of person about whom I have told your Lordships.

It appears from paragraph 271, at pages 48 and 49, that there was an embargo on the discussion of other sites. Why? What was there to be afraid of? What is there to be afraid of in allowing anybody, if he is a responsible person, to "chip in" on a matter like this? I do not like the sound of that at all. Equally, why were not B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. called in to give evidence? The Government reply was that this was an Inquiry for the purpose of hearing objections, and that it was therefore unnecessary for either B.O.A.C. or B.E.A. to appear. But why? Here we have two great corporations, each undertaking an immense amount of flying. I should have thought that they were exactly the sort of people that the Government would rush to if they wished to get information or an opinion. At page 50, paragraph 276, the Government appear to me to admit hardship and loss of value. I should like my noble friend, in his reply, to say whether or not he can substantiate the information I have received: that B.O.A.C., have said they do not want Gatwick, but that they are satisfied with Hurn, which has proved to have 80 per cent. availability as against Gatwick's approximate 50 to 51 per cent.

Finally, my Lords, Sir Colin Campbell's Report says at page 53, in paragraph 287–I do not want to weary your Lordships by reading too much, but I may get into trouble over this quotation too: There is one other matter to which I would call attention, and to which I referred at the commencement of this Report, namely, the absence of early consultation by the Ministry of Civil Aviation with the local authorities. The Surrey County Council and the Dorking and Horley Rural District Council resented, and, in my opinion, properly resented, the fact that a scheme of this magnitude, so seriously affecting their areas, should have been developed so fully without their being brought into consultation on it. It is difficult to understand why the Crawley Development Corporation should have been accorded confidences which were withheld from both Surrey and Dorking, and I hope that in future the Ministry will seek the views and enlist the support of the local authorities much earlier than they did in connection with Gatwick. My Lords, I am afraid that I have been a good deal longer than is my custom, but I felt that I must put this matter, and the views I had in mind, fully before your Lordships, with some, though not much, hope that the Government will come some way to meet the suggestion I have made, and will appoint either a Royal Commission or a body of that nature, to go into the whole question, not only of Gatwick, but of the sites for future aerodromes. I hope that they will take a sympathetic view of my suggestion.

Moved to resolve, That Her Majesty's Government should appoint a Royal Commission to report on the suitability of the sites of existing and proposed aerodromes, both civil and military, in close proximity to built-up areas, the terms of reference being wide enough to cover consideration of the safety and amenity of the civilian population and the cost involved, with particular reference to the case of Gatwick and to helicopter development.—(Lord Teviot.)

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, we have had the benefit of Lord Teviot's—


Would the noble Lord forgive my interrupting him, but is he going to speak twice in this debate? Is he going to reply to me as well, because I understood that it was arranged through the usual channels that I should follow the noble Lord, Lord Teviot.


My Lords, I am in the hands of the House over this matter. I am sorry if I did not realise the situation—it was lack of liaison with the Chief Whip. I thought that I might be able to inform the House of certain matters and then speak again, at the end. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, would be prepared to wait to the end.


I am only too happy to meet the noble Lord's convenience. If the Leader of the House would wish it that way, I am quite happy about it.


May I just say that I want to be in the position of having the final word. I do not know whether this procedure will permit that.


My Lords, perhaps I might say a word, as this discussion appears to concern the Business of the House. I think that the view of my noble friend the Minister is that he has certain information which will be of value to the House in their discussion of this difficult subject; and, if the House is agreeable, he would like to give that information as soon as possible. That would not of course preclude him, by leave of the House, from replying at the end of the debate to any further points. So far as the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, is concerned, he has put down a Motion on the Order Paper, and of course he has the right to reply at the end of the debate. I am quite certain that my noble friend will do whatever the House may wish, but there may be advantages in hearing at this stage what he has to say.


I am perfectly willing to follow the lead of the noble Lord and leave it to the House.


My Lords, I am very sorry, but no discourtesy was intended. I did not make my request sufficiently clear. I feel, however, that I may be able to put the matter in perspective and then, with the facts before them, noble Lords can take whatever view they may of the details I offer. It would not be appropriate for me to-day to follow the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, into the realms of conventions against this or that form of warfare. That is a subject which might well form the topic of another debate, and of course it has a relevance to all matters connected with aerial warfare; but within the terms of the Motion which the noble Lord has put on the Order Paper it would not be appropriate to follow him in that field to-day. With the leave of the House, I will make what might be called a prosy and statistical speech, but in this matter, which naturally arouses keen interest, and sometimes strong emotions, we ought to try to subject ourselves to the discipline of fact. This subject is necessarily complicated. It is technical and difficult to put before the House without charts, maps and other aids, a procedure which is clearly impossible. I must therefore do my best, by word of mouth, to try to explain the position as I see it.

There are to-day in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland some 600 safeguarded airfields, either active or on a "care and maintenance" basis; and, of these, some 320 are being used—50 as civil airfields; 30 by the Ministry of Supply, and some 240 by the Service Departments. In the last category 70 are used for non-flying purposes, so that not more than about 170 are effectively used by Service Departments. The land surface of these islands covers an area of some 93,000 square miles, of which some 14,000 square miles lie above the 1,000 feet contour line. Experience has shown that the character of the weather and the prevalence of low cloud, as well as the undulating character of our uplands, precludes the construction of airfields above that line. We are therefore dealing with the rest of the island surface, 78,000 square miles.

That may sound quite a lot, but we have also large urban areas which must be taken out. As a result of the pressure of the late war for increased sites for military aviation, a complete survey was made over the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland of all places at which there was the remotest possibility of constructing an airfield below the 1,000 feet contour line, and every potentially suitable piece of land was inspected and re ported upon. Before the war, there were some 158 Royal Air Force airfields, and about 100 civil airfields. At the end of the war there were nearly 700 airfields, so noble Lords will understand why this survey had to be so minute and complete. Even so, such was the need that one airfield site in Devonshire, was actually constructed at a height of 970 feet above sea level, and there was another, in Lincolnshire, as low as 5 feet above the ordnance datum line. Others had to be constructed in the Welsh hills and the hills in Northumberland, wherever there was a fiat piece of ground with an adequate flying outlet up the valleys. Some temptingly large flat areas had to be avoided, notably in Northern Ireland, because of the peat subsoil, and there were other surface obstacles, in the shape of coal mining and the resulting subsidences.

Apart from these natural difficulties there are other, man-made, obstacles—main roads, railways, canals, high-voltage power lines, factory chimneys, tall wireless masts and so on. Even where all other factors are sufficiently favourable, there is always the industrial haze carried along the prevailing wind, which is a very unfavourable factor for flying. From what I have said, it will be seen that during the war every good site that was available was developed, as were many that were not so good. When the war ended the late Government, very properly, created special inter-departmental machinery to consider the future of these airfields. By that machinery, in course of time, it was decided which airfields should be retained for permanent use by the R.A.F. or the Fleet Air Arm, which should be adapted for civil flying, which for research and development, either by the Ministry of Supply or by the manufacturers, and which had no immediate military use but could be retained for use in case of emergency. Apart from all these categories there was a further category of airfields which might be applied to another use, such as storage of army vehicles. Finally, there were those which could not be developed or which were so badly sited that they could be permanently returned to agriculture.

It was certainly fortunate that a definite and consistent policy was adopted in the treatment of airfields. With the obvious deterioration in the international situation in the late 1940's, and with the need to re-equip and expand the Royal Air Force, the demand for airfields was imperative, and these could be found among airfields which had been put on a "care and maintenance" basis. It is important to note that, with two possible exceptions, which I shall name later, no airfields, military or civil, have been planned to be constructed since the war. There has been considerable reconstruction of existing airfields and, much to the regret of myself and my predecessors, land has had to be taken, principally for the extension of runways. I feel bound to emphasise this point, because I believe there is genuine misunderstanding about it. The noble Lord, Lord Teviot, in his speech, and certainly in his Motion, mentions existing and proposed airfields and he used the words "new airfield sites."


If I may just interrupt the noble Lord, he will no doubt recollect that we had a debate, I believe on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, in regard to Abingdon, in which my noble friend Lord Glyn said he understood that a very large sum was now being spent in surveying sites for new aerodromes. Is that not so?


If the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, said that, I am afraid he was under a misapprehension. If I may continue, I think the matter will be plain to the noble Lord. The airfields which were given up or were adapted to non-flying purposes were naturally those which were least suitable for modern flying by reason of their location or because they could not be extended to suit the increased speeds of the modern generation of aircraft. Those which were retained just after the war for permanent use were those which were well-sited for their task and, so far as possible, had good permanent accommodation, domestic and technical.

Again, I think I ought to emphasise that upon no military airfield has new permanent construction been erected where there was none before the war. Airfields which had permanent construction before the war have had additions made to them, but we have not constructed new permanent accommodation on war-time airfields. So before what might be called the "parting of the ways," which probably was the invasion of Korea, there might have been some room for manceuvre within the frame work of the airfields which had been, so to speak, put to bed. But with the expansion of the Royal Air Force and with the need to find room for the deployment of the United States Air Force in this country, a very different situation has been created. So far from there being room to spare, a very great deal of contrivance and ingenuity has had to be used to fit all the units that needed accommodation into the pattern which war-time and pre-war development dictated. I say "dictated" advisedly, because our national resources have not been so plentiful that we could afford to abandon assets which had been created out of the pressure of events and recreate them elsewhere.

An airfield, as noble Lords are no doubt aware, is a very expensive asset, even one built during the war with temporary living and technical accommodation. It must have extensive runways, taxi tracks, and hardstandings. It generally requires domestic accommodation for upwards of 1,000 people. It must have adequate hangar space and buildings properly adapted to maintain the technical equipment which is so necessary for a modern airfield. It must have living quarters, light, power, water, sewage, and sewage disposal facilities, and, if it is to be occupied for any length of time in peace, there must be married quarters as well. An airfield is really a factory built round a runway, with all the complex services that this implies, and with a small township added. Operational and tactical considerations must fix the location of a large number of units, and the availability of flat land to extend runways predetermines the location of others.

Furthermore, we must not forget—as is often done—the very important question of air space. Our air space is exceedingly crowded, and with the increase in civil flying and the vital necessity to preserve certain flying lanes as free as possible from the dangers of interference by other aircraft, the location of units such as flying training schools has to be exceedingly carefully considered. Your Lordships will agree that it is not a good thing to have pupils who are under training frequently traversing, let us say, the main civil air route between London and Manchester. Good flying discipline with well-practised and well-equipped ground control systems, can do a great deal to make the best use of air space. But in the pursuit of air safety the choice of airfields, their relation to each other and the type of flying which is appropriate for a particular airfield, are all extremely important and critical factors.

May I sum up this part of my speech in the following way. Despite appearances, there is a very definite limit to the number of sites which are inherently capable of being developed for modern airfields, and all these sites have been surveyed. This apparent width of choice is still further restricted by operational and tactical factors and also by such manmade impediments as industrial haze, flying obstacles and road and rail communications. And overall there is the invisible but still very real pattern of flying control and flying safety. The necessity not to overcrowd the air space over these islands means that we cannot concentrate all our military airfields in the relatively less densely populated areas on the eastern side of our island. And behind all this, we have the effects of history, pre-war, war-time and post-war, which have dictated the actual locations of the airfields available for use. I have left on one side, because I think that to deal with it might be going beyond the limits of your Lordships' patience, the even more potent argument against over-concentration which was, I think, in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot in drawing up his Motion.

As a result, we find that we get this pattern: that the majority of airfields in active use, certainly the military airfields, are situated east of a line from West Hartlepool to Portland Bill. A large population—I think some twenty million people or so—live in this area, out of a total population, including that of Greater London, of just over fifty million. So that rather more than one-third of our population live in the area which contains something like two-thirds of the active airfields. I agree that that is unfair, and I wish it could be changed. While, from the point of view of human health and happiness, there may not be a great many benefits to be derived from the smoke that pervades the atmosphere over our northern towns, at any rate it is a potent factor in preventing them from being afflicted by the noise of aircraft. Facts, and especially geographical facts and the nature of our land surface, have dictated that a large proportion of our airfields are on the eastward side of the island.

Military airfields are, of course, not the only cause of the disturbance which has been complained of, though they are the most potent. The second most important factor is the location of the research and development airfields which are used either by the Ministry of Supply or by the aircraft manufacturers. Most of us, I think, agree—and we have had a good many debates in this House upon the subject—that the optimum development of the aircraft industry is in the national interest, and if a manufacturer is not to be unduly hampered he ought to have an airfield not very far from his production line. Clearly, the further the airfield is from the factory, the greater in all probability will be the manufacturer's need for hangarage for assembly and test on the actual airfield, leading to expensive duplication of capital and plant and also to difficult labour problems, because the more remote an airfield, the more difficult ii is to attract and retain skilled labour.

Then there are the civil airfields. These must be sited conveniently in relation to the traffic they serve. They must be in harmony with the basic air traffic control system—and I must insist again that that is of tremendous importance in the air space over these islands. They ought, if possible, to have a satisfactory weather record and there must be good access to the centre of population which the particular airfield serves. In the earlier part of my speech I said that there were two possible exceptions to my dictum that no new airfields have been developed or have been proposed since the war. The first is London's Airport at Heathrow. That London must have an airport, the best airport possible, is generally conceded, and although there have been numerous and very understandable local objections, I believe that the general consensus of opinion is that a better site than that chosen does not exist. Any site must have grave objections to those who live in the vicinity.

I come to the second exception—Gatwick Airport. In moving this Motion to-day, the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, dwelt at some length on this matter. I apologise if at one or two points I interrupted his speech, but I thought that both sides of the question ought to be put in close juxtaposition. I should be trespassing again too long on your Lordships' time if I entered into a major debate on this subject, which, I agree, has stirred public opinion, but I feel it my bounden duty to point out that there has been a comprehensive inquiry into that site. Sir Colin Campbell, who presided over that inquiry, declared the site to be suitable, and though there are legitimate differences of opinion—as there always are on matters of acute public controversy—about this or that aspect of the suitability of the site, I do not think that the fact that there was objection should overrule the fact that the inquiry was held and the choosing of the site was upheld by Sir Colin Campbell. The noble Lord has complained that the terms of the inquiry were narrowly phrased so that only the suitability of the site could be considered. I submit to your Lordships that it must be for the Government of the day to know and act if they consider that another airport is necessary, and they cannot let out to any other authority the decision about what is the best site in view.

I tried to explain to your Lordships in the earlier part of my speech some of the factors which operate in selecting a site for an airfield and some of the questions which limit the choice of site. I must tell the noble Lord that in my view the Government of the day, who have all the knowledge of the facts as they see them at the time, although it may be that the impact of new facts will change their minds, are the only authority which can finally decide upon the disposition and deployment of the country's airfields. No doubt the objectors will continue to object, and I am sorry that there has been an imposition upon them. I have naturally come into the consultations upon this matter, because all matters affecting air space affect me in my capacity as Secretary of State for Air, and I must tell the noble Lord and the House that, looking at it quite impartially—of course it is not my immediate ministerial responsibility—I have come to the conclusion that all other sites that were thought of and considered were not as suitable as Gatwick, largely because of the air traffic control problem. If the noble Lord does not accept that I am sorry, but it is my firmly considered opinion arrived at after careful and personal inquiry into this matter.

I will not take up the time of the House any further. If I am allowed to reply to the speeches, by permission of the House, I must not now go any further except to sum up what I have said. The location of existing airfields (and I must emphasise "existing airfields") has been dictated by the following factors: first, the physical conformation of these islands; secondly, the existence of certain man-made obstructions, such as roads, chimneys and smoke haze; thirdly, the increasingly exacting technical requirements of modern flying; fourthly, the historical development of these airfields; and fifthly, the military and international situation. In my view and in the view of Her Majesty's Government a Royal Commission could not affect any of these factors. A Royal Commission could, perhaps, reassess all the available sites, but frankly I think it would be rather silly to ask a Royal Commission to do something which has been done exhaustively already. They might select a few sites which have already been discarded, but I am sure that when they had worked out the cost of removing an existing airfield, as the noble Lord would invite them to do, from a point which was unfavourable with regard to amenity to one which might be more favourable in that respect, they would declare that the cost was prohibitive.

The fact is that, much as they would like to relieve one congested or built-up area of the burden of flying noise, if they tried to shift the airfield they would find that they would merely shift the burden on to another congested area. We are faced with some disagreeable facts which we, all regret. We are faced with the facts of scientific progress and of military tension. But unless we are going to declare that we will abandon our air power and give up civil flying, I am afraid that, in these crowded islands with their limited air space, the disposition of our airfields which has already taken place cannot be radically changed. I believe that a Royal Commission such as the noble Lord envisages would be powerless to effect any change in this respect.

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, tens of thousands of people outside the confines of your Lordships' House will thank the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, for raising this Motion this after- noon, because while what the noble and gallant Lord the Secretary of State for Air has said may convince all his experts, it will not convince one solitary Britisher who has to live in the noise and confusion adjacent to an aerodrome—and it will not convince one of the 60,000 people who will live at Crawley. I am also grateful that the noble Lord has raised this Motion because, in my view—a view, I think, widely shared—unless greater consideration is given in future to the amenity of the civilians in this country, there is going to be considerable trouble. I agree that a civil aerodrome must be situated near main communications, both road and rail; but in spite of all the noble Lord has said, he has not convinced me that there is not something radically wrong with any project which either places a town with a potential population of 60,000 on the perimeter of an airport, or places the perimeter of the airport next to a town of 60,000 population. I am afraid that the noble and gallant Lord, the Secretary of State, will have to use greater eloquence than he has done to convince the average intelligent person in this country to the contrary.

I do not suppose that the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, is concerned about the means by which his end is secured. I feel certain that he is more concerned with the end that greater consideration shall be given to the needs of the civilian population. That is absolutely incontrovertible. When one thinks of the gigantic task that this country has to achieve in this next decade, fighting for its life economically, how can people in towns and cities give of their best, and increase their production, when they are subjected to the menace of this noise? I am not convinced that we must have this aerodrome here—in fact, the noble and gallant Lord who has just spoken has convinced me to the contrary. If he means to tell me, or anybody else, that there is no other place to put an aerodrome than next to a town of 60,000 people, or that there is no other place for the town of 60,000 people than near an aerodrome, then, with the greatest possible respect, I say that I do not believe it.

I am going to take this opportunity of drawing the attention of your Lordships to another matter. I raised in your Lordships' House on October 27 the danger to life and property, and the menace of noise, to which 30,000 people living within 6,000 yards of the R.A.F. Station at Abingdon are subjected. I raise that matter again because, in spite of what I thought was the moderate way in which I raised the Motion, and the fact that I stuck strictly to what the noble and gallant Lord, the Secretary of State, has called the "discipline of fact", nothing has been done. I would just refresh your Lordships' memories about it. Here is an aerodrome virtually in a built-up area; it is within four miles of the City of Oxford. It has the great natural disability of a hill well known to many of your Lordships, Boar's Hill, which rises 400 ft. 3,000 yards from the centre of the aerodrome, and it is completely unsuitable, by any standard of measurement, for the purpose for which it is being used, as I will prove to your Lordships in a moment or two. There have been violent protests over a period of time, and as the result of a protest meeting which the honourable gentleman in another place, the Member for the area, and I attended, neither of us could be under any illusion as to the feeling of the local inhabitants.

There was one gentleman who appeared who happened to be an expert. I received a letter from him which I am going to quote to your Lordships. He says, quite frankly, that the aerodrome is ill-sited for the purpose, and he enumerates the loss of life and the details of five aircraft which crashed at this aerodrome in carrying out the type of training which I mentioned to your Lordships and to which I took such strong objection. Those of your Lordships who are technical will understand what I mean when I say that the type of training is what is called "circuits and bumps." The aircraft that are used for this training are four-engined transport aircraft of the Hastings and York types, which many experts have said are obsolete and dangerous—



I said "many experts": experts have told me that they are. Noble Lords have their own opinion, and I do not express my opinion; I am only giving the best information that is open to me, and I give it, with that reserve. But what happens is that as soon as the plane is airborne, the pilot is blindfolded by the dropping of glasses over his eyes; occasionally one engine is cut out, and he is told to land that aircraft as soon as possible. So the aircraft, while it is doing the half-circuit round the radius of 6,000 yards, never gets above approximately 300 ft.


I think it is only fair to say this. The noble Lord says that the pilot is blindfolded by dropping dark glasses over his eyes.




"Blindfolded'' was the word the noble Lord used. I suggest that what he means is that the pilot is put under conditions of night flying, or flying in cloud, but can still see all his instruments. I think it is only right to make that clear.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for his interjection. I think I said by dropping dark glasses.


The noble Lord did not say that the pilot could see the instruments. He said "blindfolded."


He must obviously be able to see something through dark glasses.


And he has a check pilot, a safety pilot, beside him.


This is important. This point was made by the noble Lord last time and he was corrected by my noble friend Lord Munster. He is giving the House an exaggerated account. He must not be inaccurate about this matter, because it sounds as if the R.A.F. subject their pilots and instructors, as well as the occupants of houses around the aerodrome, to a dangerous form of flying. I beg the noble Lord not to import prejudice into an important matter.


I do not want to import prejudice into the matter; it is far too serious for that, and I would not for a moment do it. But the fact is that emergency conditions are simulated—perhaps that is a better expression—and there are occasions when one engine is cut out and this fourengined heavy aircraft is flown for landing and goes on up and down, round and round; and this flying is carried out over the roof tops. I will say who the expert to whom I have referred is: he was the man in charge of the aircraft rescue squad right up to 1946. He says this: Can anyone really say that there is justification to subject the inhabitants to these same war hazards in time of peace? However much better the aircraft may be, however much more strict the flying instructions and regulations, the three hazards—human, mechanical, and structural—are not just myths and delusions. … They are real, very real, and though statisticians may try to prove to the local population that the risk is a fraction of a decimal point compared with the number of miles flown, they will not eliminate one iota the hazards to which the local population is now subject.


Perhaps the noble Lord will tell me the expert he is quoting.


He was the superintendent in charge of the aircraft rescue squad: I will give the name and address privately.


I think that, for the benefit of the House—


I will give it.


The noble Lord is calling in aid what I may call an expert witness. Let us test his expertness and know his identity. I do not know what the aircraft rescue squad was or where it existed.


The name of the gentleman is Mr. Kingerlee, and the aircraft rescue squad was a civilian rescue organisation which existed during the war and was taken over by the Ministry of Supply, I am given to understand, in 1946. I believe that it was run under the auspices of the Nuffield Group. That is my information, and that is the information given by this gentleman. He lives in the neighbourhood, and he gave me full permission to quote these facts and to give his name.


May I ask the noble Lord one more question?


I take it that the noble Lord will be able to join in afterwards in this debate, and he can contradict anything I have said then. Perhaps he will let me get on with what I have to say and not subject me to cross-examination, because I am giving your Lordships this information in good faith.


If I may respectfully intervene for one moment, the noble Lord is usually a fair debater. If I understood him he said: "I am going to read the opinion of an expert." If he does that, to start with he must produce the document from which he is reading, and the House is certainly entitled to know who the expert is and what his qualifications are. It is not convenient to give them after the debate. The noble Lord will exhaust his right to speak after he has sat down.


I have given the information. I cannot say what the gentleman's technical qualifications were, except that they were good enough to enable him to hold what I consider a responsible post in war-time. He was the gentleman who was solely responsible for "dragging in the wrecks," if I may use the expression. He gave me the details. I can leave those with the noble Lord after, and I cannot do more. He gives me the details of two aeroplanes that crashed into Boar's Hill.


Does the noble Lord mean that he was a motor haulier?


The noble Viscount need not try to bring scorn into this. This gentleman is a very responsible person and was in charge of an organisation which worked closely with the Air Force all the way through the war. I am told that this organisation—I gather that its proper title is the Aircraft Salvage Organisation—was responsible for salvaging 30,000 wrecked aeroplanes during the war. This gentleman happened to have personal knowledge of the activities of this particular aerodrome, and I give your Lordships that information because he says that the hazards that are carried on there now are precisely the same as were carried on during the war. That is the whole of my point: that, as well as the hazard of noise, there is the hazard of danger to life and property in carrying out this form of training. Let me make the matter perfectly clear. Nobody raises any objection to ordinary operational flying from this aerodrome—that is not an issue at all. It is that this flying which, as I say, continuously goes round a circle for a radius of 6,000 yards, and is terrifying for the local population, is dangerous, because we all know that if anything goes wrong with an aircraft, height and distance are the two greatest safety factors for the pilot.

Let me pass from that particular issue and come to another. What has distressed me so much over this controversy which has raged throughout this country about the siting of aerodromes is some of the statements that have been made regarding the veracity of statements by civil servants. I am as jealous as any of your Lordships that their reputation should be high. I think we all had a shock at the time of Crichel Down. I believe that that case shook this country very much. I have in my hand a document which was issued by the Protest Association at Crawley with reference to Gatwick aerodrome. It is headed: A sorry tale of incompetence, dishonesty and waste. and paragraph (a) says: Fifteen examples are given of deliberate dishonesty by civil servants. That is a very serious thing to say, because those of us who have been Ministers know that we often speak the words that are put into our mouths. When I was discussing locally this question of the low flying at Abingdon, the self-same accusation was made. People said to me: "An assurance given in this case is not worth the paper it is written on. You cannot believe a word they say." I was determined to try to find out the truth.

In the debate to which I have just referred, the noble Earl, Lord Munster, replied on behalf of the Government. I told the noble Earl that I was going to raise this matter to-day, but he has to be somewhere else and cannot be present. I do not charge the noble Earl, Lord Munster, with anything, because he was obviously speaking from a brief prepared by the Air Ministry. He said this about Abingdon Aerodrome (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 189 (No. 109), col. 793): The airfield, as such, has, I am informed, not been developed since the war: an undertaking to this effect which was given to the Oxford Preservation Trust in 1950 has, in fact, been faithfully fulfilled. I have here the correspondence which passed between the Oxford Preservation Trust and the then Secretary of State for Air. I want to read two or three extracts, and your Lordships will be able to decide for yourselves whether the undertaking to which the noble Earl, Lord Munster, referred, has, in fact, been carried out. Here is a letter dated June 20, 1950, addressed to the Secretary of State for Air by the Secretary of the Oxford Preservation Trust: this is what he says: Concerning Abingdon airfield, the City Council and the Trust were assured in June, 1948, that four squadrons, including many four-engined aircraft, were to be moved from Abingdon, that flying at under 2,000 feet within three miles of the city (except for taking-off and landing) was forbidden, and that the Ministry were doing everything possible to reduce the nuisance of low flying over the city to the absolute minimum. Any extension of Abingdon airfield would make nonsense of this assurance. The Secretary of State replied on June 29, 1950.


What was the date of the first letter?


June 20. The second letter is June 29, 1950. It states: I can give you absolute assurance that Abingdon will not be selected as the fourth airfield for development.


Which airfield?


The "fourth airfield for development." I think the controversy first started about the deployment of airfields right round the city of Oxford.


If the noble Lord has the correspondence, it is important to define what the "fourth airfield" was. Which were the first three?


Fairford, Upper Heyford and Brize Norton.


I think I can explain that. The "fourth airfield" was a group of American airfields.


The point I am making is that the Secretary of the Oxford Preservation Trust says that the Trust were assured in June, 1948, that four squadrons, including many four-engined aircraft, ware to be moved from Abingdon. I will leave the correspondence with the noble and gallant Lord afterwards.


Has the noble Lord the letter from the Air Ministry to the Oxford Preservation Trust?


No, I have only this statement, but I should not think that the Secretary of the Oxford Preservation Trust would make a false statement.


The point is that if we are talking about undertakings, it is very important to have, the precise terms and the precise nature of the undertaking. Debate by reference is not satisfactory, if the correspondence exists. The noble Lord prefaced his remarks by talking about good and bad faith and he raises the issue of good and bad faith. It is important that, if he is implying that there has been bad faith, he should fully substantiate it.


No doubt the undertaking which was received by the Oxford Preservation Trust in June, 1948, can he produced. This is a statement by Mr. Smith, J.P., the Secretary of the Oxford Preservation Trust. How can it be said that that undertaking has been fulfilled?


Which undertaking?


The undertaking that four squadrons of four-engined aircraft were going to be removed front Abingdon. I think it is common sense to interpret that as meaning that four-engined aircraft were not going to be used at Abingdon, but I can assure the noble and gallant Lord that Transport Command are using four-engined aircraft, Hastings and Yorks, at Abingdon, and they are carrying out this type of training which is subjecting the local inhabitants to so much discomfort and danger.

The other statement by the noble Earl, Lord Munster, was this. He refers to the North-South runway of 2,200 yards and the East-West runway of 1,600 yards, and goes on to say (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 189 (No. 109), col. 793): The longer runway was laid down in line with the prevailing wind and therefore that North-South runway is used far more than the East-West runway. When I looked at that twice, I thought, "That is strange: the North-South runway in line with the prevailing wind." So I verified it, and I verified it by means of the noble and gallant Lord's own Department. I got in touch with the Meteorological Office of the Air Ministry, Headstone Drive, Harrow, Middlesex, who wrote to me on November 23: I am instructed by the Director to give you the following information regarding prevailing winds in Berkshire. A monthly analysis of wind direction at Abingdon covering the years 1949–1953 indicates that the prevailing wind is Westerly, except in the months of March and May when East-North-Easterly winds tend to predominate. There we have one Department of the Air Ministry saying that the North-South runway is in line with the prevailing wind and another Department of the Air Ministry saying that the prevailing wind is directly at right angles to it.


May I interrupt the noble Lord? If he is talking about winds, it is very important to know their strength, because one can land out of wind quite happily at up to fifteen knots. It is most important, when talking about prevailing winds, to give the strength of the prevailing winds.


At the present time I am not interested in the strength.


But there is no sense in talking about prevailing winds unless one considers also the strength.


I will not give way. I am quoting a statement by the noble Earl, Lord Munster: The North-South runway was laid down in line with the prevailing wind. The noble Earl, Lord Munster, did not say anything about strength. Here is a department of the Air Ministry directly contradicting that. That is all I say. If one department is right, the other is wrong. I happen to live in a house with a weathercock on the top. When I read the noble Earl's statement I went out into my garden and I thought: "That weathercock does not know its business," because it is always pointing more or less in a westerly direction. That tempted me to make the inquiry, and that is the information I elicited.

Surely this is a serious matter. The reason why I say that that aerodrome is quite unsuited for the purpose (it is suited for operational flying and it is suited for light flying)—I say this speaking as a layman; experts may contradict me—is that the East-West runway, which is the short one, cannot be used in the direction of West to East, because the planes would fly directly into Boar's Hill. The North to South runway has to be used. If the majority of the flying is done on that runway, it must be done against the prevailing wind, or with the prevailing wind at its side. That disturbs me. During that debate—I am sorry I am taking rather more of your Lordships' time than I had anticipated, but noble Lords who have thought fit to interrogate me must accept the responsibility for that—


Oh, no!


—one of the statements made was that the R.A.F. were there first and the built-up area came afterwards. I have explained to your Lordships that the built-up area is due to the industrialisation of Oxford, which has led to 5,000 or 6,000 people employed in the Cowley Works, and their families, coming to live in that area. There is now a population of 30,000 living within 6,000 yards. Only the other day I learned—I saw it published—that the building of another 500 houses is contemplated in the same area, which will mean another 2,000 population in a very short space of time. I understand—I say "I understand" because I may be wrong about this—that the additional houses are to fulfil an undertaking given to another Department to house some of the workers from the Harwell Atomic Establishment. Is not this the same as Crawley and Gatwick all over again? I feel that the noble and gallant Lord should look at this in a commonsense way. Operational flying from that aerodrome nobody minds. The planes are up and away. But surely it is wrong and surely it cannot be justified that fourengined heavy aircraft should fly night and day over the rooftops of 30,000 human beings, terrifying them by day and keeping them awake by night? Surely what the noble Lord said in his interim speech cannot be true, because I gathered from what he said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, that not only is the R.A.F. immobile but it is practically static, because there are no other sites that can be developed for this type of thing. Surely that takes some believing.

I make no complaint about training; undoubtedly it is eminently necessary. But if you want to carry on this training, surely it is quite wrong to do it in a built-up area, an area which is growing, in spite of what I contend were undertakings given to the contrary. Surely we have not to wait until the day comes when the population of this country do what the inhabitants of Markyate have had to do in order to get some recognition of the completely impossible conditions under which they live; they have had to block up their road to direct attention to their distress. I have tried to state the case as fairly as I can, with all the facts at my disposal, and in spite of suggestions that I am perhaps biased, which is not the case. I ask the noble Lord to give this matter reconsideration. I am sorry to say this—I do it with a full sense of responsibility—but if there is today an unfortunate antagonism between the Service Departments and the civil population, so far as this area is concerned. I must, with the greatest possible respect, place the blame firmly on the shoulders of the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, who, I feel certain, would be the last person to hedge his responsibility.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Lord who has just sat down in his remarks about the part of the world in which he lives. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for Air knows full well that my village, which is 400 or 500 years old, and my own house are on the edge of an aerodrome which for four years was in continuous use, and from which 700 gliders practised every day, dropping tow ropes all over the village. It was by the mercy of God alone that nobody was killed. So I have suffered continuously from the use of aircraft "on my doorstep." I may say here that the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, helped us in our village, and saved some of our old cottages almost from annihilation. There are certain points about Gatwick that I should like to raise with the Secretary of State, and I will divide them under three heads. First of all, I should like to refer to the question of town planning in connection with the new town of Crawley. As I understand it, at the moment from 20,000 to 25,000 people are already there, and eventually there are to be another 25,000 to 30,000 people. Have they been told the truth about this plan? Do they realise what it is to live in that kind of atmosphere? If they are told the truth, and they take a chance and go there, that is their business. But have they been told the truth about it?

Secondly, have the Civil Defence people been informed what they are to do? Here, as I understand it, there is being built a new aerodrome which will really be for defensive purposes. Should we be unlucky enough to have further hostilities, we shall see this aerodrome turned into a military aerodrome. What have the Civil Defence people to do about this? Have they got to evacuate 60,000 people? Is that the idea behind the decision of the Minister of Transport? I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, and other noble Lords, have experience of experts informing the Secretary of State for Air that it was possible to drain and dry certain aerodromes to make them fit to land on. But we know, to our cost, in regard to many aerodromes, that that has not been so in practice. That is the position with the aerodrome near my home at the moment. There the runways are flooded. Of course, we have had abnormal rain, but in the normal course of events the grass verges of the aerodrome are flooded every winter; yet the experts have told us "we can deal with that. You need not worry." Of course, that aerodrome was built on a watershed. What about this new aerodrome?


Which aerodrome is that?


That was at Steeple Ashton—the noble Lord has been there: I have lived there my life. The aerodrome was built on a watershed. Today, the grass verges beside the runways are flooded, as they are every winter.

Now let me turn to the Gatwick scheme. I believe that running through, or nearby, this aerodrome there is a river called the Mole (I think it is well named); and there are four other little Moles. Are we to understand that the Thames Conservancy Board will guarantee that that aerodrome will not be flooded, when we appreciate that the water for the new town of Crawley is coming from the Medway and that its outlet will be into the Mole? I do not believe that any decision, or any sort of statement, could be made by the Thames Conservancy Board, to the effect that they could guarantee this aerodrome will not be flooded. We are told that we have to spend between £6 million and £10 million on this new aerodrome. I venture to say that, if the water cannot be controlled, a great deal more than that figure will eventually have to be spent on the aerodrome.

May I deal now with the question of agriculture? Seven hundred acres more of agricultural land are to be taken for this new aerodrome; a new station is to be built, and so on and so forth. Has the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries been consulted on this matter? We are told by Sir Miles Thomas that B.O.A.C. do not want this aerodrome—he ought to know. Then the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, who is not here to-day, has already said that in ten years' time B.E.A. will not need it. Who does need this aerodrome? Who is it wants this aerodrome? I think that the Secretary of State for Air really means to tell your Lordships to-day that it is for defence purposes. If that is so, then the public should be told, and should be stopped from going into the new town of Crawley. That may be the real answer.

There is one interesting point, and I am wondering whether it has been studied by Her Majesty's Government. There is a little company called Airports, Limited. In 1949, when the late Government were about to de-requisition this airport and a certain time had to elapse, the shares of Airports, Limited stood at the large sum of 11d. each. On the eve of the first decision being taken to extend Gatwick—it had not been taken; that is the point—the shares rose by nearly 1s. to 1s. 10d. What caused that action? Before the second decision was taken, the shares had risen to 8s. 3d. or 8s. 6d.; and already that company has made three-quarters of a million pounds. Who is going to pay out that company—the Treasury, the Ministry for Air? There is nobody else that I can think of. But we shall pay in the long run. If your Lordships think that over, do you not think that those are the people who really want this airport extended. I agree with my noble friend Lord Teviot. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give this grave and vital question serious con sideration before they embark on a further extension costing the public £16 million although three-quarters of a million pounds or more has already been made by this little company.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, I was very sorry to hear some of the things that were said to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, in the course of his speech. My impression of the incident was that the noble Lord, with great courage, was venturing on to highly technical ground, ground that I should never venture to tread myself, and that in the course of doing so he made some slips, I think of phraseology. It was very right and necessary that those slips should be corrected, as they were; but I feel that it was going altogether too far to suggest that the noble Lord was trying to import prejudice into this debate. I have heard the noble Lord speak on many occasions, and on highly controversial subjects in this House, and I have never yet heard him try to import prejudice into a speech. In the way that one gets a general impression of these things, I have always felt that he was regarded as a very fair debater. On that account, to charge him with importing prejudice into this debate, I say, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, was going altogether too far.

Whatever else may be thought on this subject of Gatwick, we must all agree that it was extremely unfortunate that a £50 million project for the Crawley New Town was allowed to be started and proceeded with on the strength of a promise made in 1947 that Gatwick would not be developed, a promise which was not revoked until 1952. Nothing has been said this afternoon about the great expense and destruction involved in this rescinding of that promise. Runways will run across the London-Brighton road, involving the lengthening of one stretch of road from one mile to three miles. Three other roads have to be diverted, and everything now existing at Gatwick has to be scrapped. New terminal buildings and a new railway station will be necessary. All existing equipment at Gatwick must go, and 1,000 acres of good agricultural land must go—at a time when the Minister of Housing does everything possible to avoid taking agricultural land. Some fifty or sixty houses may be razed to the ground.

In this account of what I would call destruction, nothing has been said by Her Majesty's Government, so far as I know, about the destruction which will be involved outside the boundaries of the new Gatwick; but it is clear that a great deal of timber will have to be felled, and there is a possibility that the whole village of Charlwood may also have to be razed. I am sorry that statements have been made to the effect that the Ministry of Civil Aviation have behaved dishonestly in certain matters and transactions which have taken place. I should not for one moment associate myself with statements of that sort. I am quite sure that the Ministry of Civil Aviation would not deliberately behave dishonestly in connection with anything which has taken place. "Dishonestly" is a very strong word. I feel it is a case, as we saw ever Crichel Down, where a Government Department, having once made up its mind that it wanted something done, was determined to beat down all opposition in order to drive its purpose through, and was not, perhaps, always too—I do not wish to say scrupulous; perhaps punctilious is a better word, in its dealings with those who opposed its plan. Here, for example, it seems that, before local people had time to consider the scheme, they were told that the Minister of Town and Country Planning had sanctioned it, although the Act prescribes that such sanction can be given only after the local authorities have been consulted.

However those things may be—and perhaps there have been some regrettable incidents of that sort—the question to-day is not whether the Ministry or Her Majesty's Government have indulged in suppression, or in misleading statements, but whether the project itself is sound. Is a new airfield necessary and, if so, is Gatwick the proper place for it? Those are the matters that we are called upon to consider. It is claimed that the Gatwick project is necessary to deal with the peak period of summer air travel, especially for Channel Islands traffic and for French resorts near at hand, such as Le Touquet. It is also said to be necessary to provide for bad-weather diversions from London Airport. If Gatwick is to be a bad-weather standby, it seems clear that there must be some limit to the number of regular services that can be operated from that airfield. I understand that the Ministry want to run 170 movements from Gatwick. The words they used were that the number of movements might ultimately amount to 170. As Gatwick stands to-day, it can run 100 movements daily, and of course there is no objection whatever to the fullest possible use being made of Gatwick within the existing boundaries—even fuller use than is considered possible today. That might necessitate the construction of a concrete runway, but would involve considerably less expenditure than is now proposed. I am told that, with such a concrete runway, Gatwick could handle all B.E.A. traffic. If those facts are true, I cannot help feeling that the case for disturbance and expense on the scale proposed has not been made out.

On the question of bad-weather diversion, some papers which I have seen assert that the Chairman of B.E.A. has claimed that weather records compiled over a period of ten years show Gatwick to be very suitable as a diversion airfield. That, of course, is very strong evidence indeed; but it also happens that his Chief Executive later said that no such records existed; that there were no records existing ever a period of ten years, and that records existed for only two years, 1948 and 1949. Further, those records, in the words of the Chief Executive, show that Gatwick could have been used on only 55 per cent. of the occasions when London Airport was unusable. The White Paper claims that this figure should be not 55 per cent. but 66 per cent., but I understand that the estimate of 66 per cent. was made on the strength of experience gathered over only three months in 1952 and 1953.

On this question of weather, I would ask: have any night records been kept, or any figures reported pertaining to the night time? I cannot ask what figures were reported to the Cabinet, but on this conflict of figures which I have quoted it seems that a bad misapprehension must have occurred somewhere. On calculating with accurate statistics, it may be that having regard to the number of diversions which may be expected this great destruction, disturbance and expense will be incurred for quite inadequate reasons. The official figures are that we may expect a maximum of twelve diversions on any one foggy day; and for those twelve diversions at least two alternative airfields already exist. As regards these alternatives, there is Blackbushe which is already landing the largest aircraft. It has another advantage in that it stands on uncultivated heath, and would involve no waste of agricultural land. There is Hum, which is now the main diversion airport. Hurn and Blackbushe, on the Ministry figures, will have to take 34 per cent. to 45 per cent. of the diversions, even with Gatwick functioning as proposed.

Then there is Filton, with its £5½ million runway which was built to accommodate the "Brabazon Folly" and at the expense of considerable destruction indeed. They destroyed a by-pass road in order to build it, and Bristol still has to contend with the problem of the traffic in its narrow streets which the by-pass was built to overcome. Filton has never been used. Why duplicate such destruction at Gatwick when Filton is there ready to be used? I should like to know, in that connection, what B.O.A.C. say about it. Certainly there is a very strong rumour that B.O.A.C. could find a use for Filton. Whilst speaking of alternatives, may I remind your Lordships of what the White Paper says? The White Paper somehow manages to associate the Gatwick project with: the future of this country in world trade, and as a great Power. I should describe that as pitching it rather high. I think it is rather exaggerated language to describe passengers having very occasionally to go by train from Filton to London instead of from Gatwick to London.

In connection with the Gatwick project, has F.I.D.O. been sufficiently considered? I understand that the Ministry put the installation cost of F.I.D.O. at London Airport at some £130,000 and that were it installed there would be a landing charge of £120. The installation cost would be far less than that of building Gatwick and the landing charges would amount to far less than the cost of running Gatwick after that project has been carried through. I have been told that B.O.A.C. want F.I.D.O. Have they said that while they want it it would not entirely meet their needs? I am told that B.O.A.C. would like to see F.I.D.O. installed at the London Airport. Does the Minister say that the London Airport with F.I.D.O. installed would not meet the requirements for diversion, the estimated figures of which I have given?

I notice, too, in connection with this question of F.I.D.O., that during the war fighter stations were installed at Home, which is three miles from Gatwick, and at Redhill, which is five miles from Gatwick. There were no doubt very good reasons for it, but at the same time, while those fighter stations were established Gatwick was not used. Why was that? Various expert opinions have been quoted to-day. I think the pilot who wrote to The Times has already been quoted and I would draw attention to this particular passage from his letter: Gatwick was one of the foggiest places along the route through South-East England. Also, a war-time flying control officer has gone on record with this statement: I frequently found Gatwick not serviceable, so that I have come to regard it as an almost defunct airfield. Pilots have told me of the extreme danger of landing at this airfield owing to its ill-advised position so near the main London-Brighton railway line.


I do not wish to interrupt the noble Lord unnecessarily, but perhaps it would save time if I dealt at once with that particular point. Certainly there is one pilot, who has been quoted, whose evidence goes that way. But the British Airline Pilots Organisation, the main organisation of civil pilots in this country, gave Gatwick a clean bill of health after very extensive inquiry.


I am very glad indeed that I gave that quotation since it has brought a complete reply from the Minister. I do not want to go at any length into the question of rail communications between Gatwick and London. I think the chairman of B.E.A. once spoke of special trains waiting at Gatwick to take passengers to London, but I understand that far from being able to keep special trains waiting to take passengers to London, British Railways see considerable difficulty in increasing their existing services from Gatwick to London. It would be very helpful if the Minister could tell us this afternoon exactly what the position is with regard to British Railways and Gatwick at the present moment. There seem to have been rather contradictory statements made in the past, and it would be helpful to know exactly what the position is to-day as between the Ministry and British Railways.


I should like to be quite precise as to the information for which the noble Lord is asking.


A letter appeared in The Times which referred to there being special trains waiting at Gatwick to take passengers to London. Is it the case that British Railways have said that they cannot increase the existing services from Gatwick to London? It is, of course, part of the case for Gatwick that it is wanted as an airfield at the peak of the holiday season, which happens also to be the time when railways services are most fully extended. There is also—if I am to quote the confusion which seems to me to exist—this point. On October 6 the Ministry said: There have been discussions with the Railway Executive which we are continuing. It has also been said that there was no communication whatever with the railways until November, 1952, when they turned down flat what was then the current proposal—a proposal which has been since superseded. That is why, in view of some apparent reluctance on the part of British Railways in this matter of communications between Gatwick and London, I venture to ask that we may be told what is the position to-day as regards the Ministry and British Railways in respect of these communications.

On the question of cost, which has not been dealt with at any great length this afternoon, we know that one runway at Gatwick will cost £6 million, that having gone up already £1 million from the original estimate of £5 million. Is there at the present moment any approximate or final estimate of the cost of the whole scheme? All I am aware of is that Stage 1 will take four years and cost £6 million, and that Stage 2 will take six more years and cost £10 million more. That is £16 million in all for Stage 1 and Stage 2. If these are estimates, I should imagine that they will be very greatly exceeded, and I think it is fair to ask whether any reasonably approximate estimates of the cost of the whole job haw yet been arrived at. Surely the Government are not going ahead with this project without having some idea, at any rate, of what it is going to cost.

I will not take up the time of your Lordships by quoting many opinions, even expert opinions, which have been advanced against the Gatwick project—they have been quoted fairly extensively this afternoon—but the weight of opposition is certainly very strong indeed, and I should like to ask at this point whether the Government are completely satisfied that Gatwick, as planned, will be up to international air standards. I ask this question because not only would it be a most serious thing to embark on this great project, at great expense, for what might not be up to those standards, but it would be very detrimental to our civil aviation prestige, as well as very serious for our civil aviation, if the project were put through and were found to fall below those standards.

I understand that Silver City Airways will be using helicopters next year. I understand that they already have a permit for helicopter cross-channel freight services, and that they will run cross-channel passenger services as soon as twin-engined helicopters are available. The development of flying boats also has to be considered in this connection. Gatwick may figure with the Brabazon in civil aviation's collection of white elephants, yet I believe the Ministry or already talking about another airfield, additional to Gatwick. Of course, Gatwick airport, as planned to-day, could not be extended. I have also seen quotations from statements of the Ministry in regard to helicopters containing such words as "perhaps" and "never." If this project goes through, when will Gatwick be in full use? Apparently the second runway will not be begun until 1965. Will not the helicopter by then have made many aerodromes obsolete, especially aerodromes for short-haul traffic, the main purpose for which the Gatwick Scheme is being embarked upon? Moreover, the developing pattern for airfields may well be to put there away from big towns—very likely on the coasts, because, as traffic continues to increase the noise from jets will make life completely intolerable in large towns, unless, of course, that noise can be overcome, something about which I have no information—and to bring passengers into town with helicopter services. Such plans as this at Gatwick may be the plans of people who are not looking far enough ahead and who are not considering what the future pattern will be.

Is London Airport being used to capacity, or is it the case that only three out of seven runways are in use? Is it proposed to build Gatwick to accommodate services which British European Airways apparently confidently anticipate will be flown by helicopters before the Gatwick project can be completed? How many movements an hour is London Airport now handling? Is the number at all comparable to the hundred an hour managed at Chicago? Cannot more use be made of existing facilities? Cannot we somehow "squeeze up" and make do with existing facilities while we are finding out what the future of the helicopter and the flying boat will be in civil aviation?


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, because these matters are very complex, whether he is dealing in absolute figures or whether the figures have to be qualified? I have no knowledge of Chicago airport. The noble Lord quoted a figure of 100 an hour. It is important to know whether that is peak load in best weather, or whether it is maximum capacity in bad weather, because all these matters affect the planning of airports. If he could tell the House whether there are qualifications or not, it would be helpful.


I have not that information, so I will put the question in another form. Is the Minister satisfied that as much use is being made of London Airport as is made of other airports under comparable conditions? I will omit the figures and put my question in that way. I fear that I have taken too much of your Lordships' time, but I feel that I have put some questions which require answering before we can be completely satisfied that this Gatwick project is necessary or that, if there must be a new airfield, Gatwick is the best place for it. If these questions can be satisfactorily answered, then I am sure that the doubts will be removed from many who entertain them at present; and, if so, we should be only too ready to wish good fortune to this new project.

4.46 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, for putting down this Motion today, because undoubtedly in many quarters there has been a good deal of uneasiness about the Gatwick project. I am afraid that I cannot go anything like so far as the noble Lord or the noble Viscount, Lord Long, in the arguments which they have put forward. In the first place, I feel that civil airfields must be planned for peace and not for war. In the second place, I do not think one can avoid siting the major airport of a brig city, at any rate in this country, near some built-up area. I am sure that we cannot find any suitable civil airport for London that does not have that objection. During the war I had the misfortune to belong to an Admiralty department which had to find airfields, and I can assure your Lordships that every possible airfield we selected had some objection—it was either the best piece of agricultural land in Fife or somewhere else. The next question, as I see it, is this: is a second airport needed for London? I think the answer to that is undoubtedly "Yes." B.E.A. have said that congestion will take place at London Airport by 1958.

There is a side of the operating of civil airfields which I do not think any noble Lord has mentioned this afternoon. It has been assumed that there are two possible conditions of an airport: one, when the weather is clear, and the other when the airport is closed down completely, because of fog, so that aircraft are diverted elsewhere. There is, however, another condition, which exists in this country probably far more often than the second alternative, in which the airport is under ground control approach, when the aircraft have to be stacked over the airfield at intervals of 1,000 feet and brought down one at a time in order to avoid danger of collision. I think that in his intervention just now the noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, was thinking of this point. When considering the saturation of an airfield, a day when the cloud ceiling is 1,000 or 800 feet is very different from a perfectly clear day, even though in the former condition the airfield is open and it is perfectly safe for planes to land.

My next question is this: Is Gatwick a suitable site for a modern airport? I think the answer is undoubtedly, "Yes." I feel sure that bogginess and other ground difficulties can be overcome by modern civil engineering. There have been objections with regard to the hills in the vicinity. I feel sure that any airline pilot would be delighted if he never had to land on an airfield where the interference from high ground in the vicinity was greater than it is at Gatwick. But there is another side to this question. I feel that the future picture of civil aviation is most uncertain. It has been said, and I think it may well be possible, that in ten years' time all short-distance hauls, say London-Amsterdam, London-Brussels and London-Paris, will be flown by helicopter. These short-distance services have now become almost an absurdity, with sometimes less than an hour in the air and two hours or more in a bus. There will be other factors in the more distant future, such as vertical take-off, and so on.

I am not attempting to say that Gatwick is not entirely suitable for a major airport, but I want to ask this question, which is one that, so far as I can see, having read the reports, has not been fully considered. Are there not other suitable airports which could be made to do, at much less cost, where there are existing runways which could be improved, instead of embarking now on the expenditure of this large sum of money for entirely new runways? I feel that it is rather like putting a project before a board of directors for the supply of a Rolls-Royce for the use of the chairman, and its being argued that nothing but a Rolls-Royce is suitable to the chairman's dignity. The board might well say: "Well, chairman, we should like to give you a Rolls-Royce, but we feel that You can carry out your duties almost as well with a Humber Pullman, at any rate for the next few years until the company is in a position to pay a higher dividend to the shareholders."

Putting what Lord Winster said in slightly different words, I think that in these things not only must justice be done, but justice must seem to be done. I do not feel that the Government have yet convinced the public at large that possible alternatives have been fully considered. They might not be as good, and perhaps not so convenient for passengers; but I do feel that they might be made to do for the next few years until the future picture of civil aviation is clearer. There is Blackbushe, an airfield now being used for large aircraft, which has modern runways that might be developed. I feel that the question of controlled lanes—I know that it is a difficult question—has not had sufficient thought given to it. Cannot we alter the controlled lanes in some way, so as to make use of another airport instead of spending now this vast sum of money? All I want to do is to ask the Government whether they cannot think again and think of a possible cheaper alternative. The noble Lord, Lord Teviot, suggested a Royal Commission, and no doubt that will be considered. I would not perhaps go as far as that, but I do feel that there is a case for considering alternatives more carefully.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, the debate on the Motion moved by my noble friend Lord Teviot has divided itself into two parts: one the question of Abingdon, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and the other the question of Gatwick. With your Lordships' permission, I should like to make some remarks about the particular aspect of Abingdon with which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, dealt. I do so because I had considerable experience during the critical part of the expansion of the aerodromes of the Royal Air Force in 1938, and up to and during the war, and I had particular responsibility delegated to me by the then Secretary of State for giving Ministerial approval to aerodromes. Let me assure the noble Lord that it is the dirtiest job any Minister can possibly have to do. It is a horrible job. You will never please anybody; you will cause distress and dislocation. And unless one is firm in the determination to do one's duty as one sees it, refusing to be swayed by any considerations or pressure from any quarter (and I can assure the noble Lord that pressure comes from many quarters), one would be doing the defence of this country an ill-service.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, was defended by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, who said he thought Lord Lucas of Chilworth had been dealt with rather unfairly, and that he was usually a fair debater. I agree. I am sorry for the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, living as he does adjacent to Boar's Hill, because obviously he is suffering from the effects of the essential training of our Royal Air Force.


If I may interrupt the noble Lord, I would point out that I am not speaking on behalf of myself. I am only a minor sufferer. I speak on behalf of thousands of others who are major sufferers.


With all sincerity, I feel sorry for the noble Lord and for all those others for whom he is speaking. But if I may say so, I think his distress for those others has swayed his sense of balance in his speech today. The noble Lord said, speaking of the dislocation, inconvenience and distress caused to the civil population—I think these are his words—"There is need for greater consideration of the civil population. The nation's economic fight is made more difficult by this dislocation." That may be so. But if we made the nation's ability to defend itself against an enemy more difficult by deliberately and unnecessarily retarding the training of our airmen we should be doing a far greater disservice than by any dislocation caused to the civilian population.

The noble Lord cited in support of his case on the unsuitability of Abingdon a letter from an expert. I understand that this gentleman was connected with the air rescue squad. If my memory serves me right, that was a most efficient organisation run by Morris's, which went out and pulled in aircraft which had been wrecked through various causes up and down the land; bringing them in, salvaging them and sending them for repair. But that had absolutely nothing to do with the technical aspect of flying—piloting, navigation or radio. With respect, no one who has done noble service on the highways and byeways of the country pulling in wrecked aircraft can call himself an expert as regards the technical aspects of flying.


I do not think the gentleman in question would do so. What he had was an expert knowledge and wide experience of the cause of the accidents happening in various localities.


With respect, let us get this right. He could not have a knowledge of the causes of accidents. All the poor fellow would see would be a wreck of an aeroplane, and until there had been a court of inquiry, and a report on the cause of the accident, he could not possibly know what it was. I wish to say nothing against this gentleman, but let me remind the noble Lord of the definition of an expert. A gentleman who knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing. I do not say that that applies to this gentleman, but let the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, remember that when he comes here and cites an expert who has absolutely no connection with the subject which the noble Lord is discussing. I was distressed that any so-called expert should label the Hastings and York aircraft as dangerous. I understand that that was what the expert told the noble Lord.


I am glad that the noble Lord wants to make this matter clear. That expert ventured no opinion. What I had in mind when I said "some experts"—I believe I am right: the noble Lord will correct me if I am not—was that at the time of the Stansted accident one of the experts, the Air Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, said that these Hastings aircraft were out of date. I have heard that said also by other experts, but do not tie that label on to this particular gentleman, because he never ventured that opinion.


Let us agree on one thing in your Lordships' House this afternoon, for the sake of the airmen who are flying to-day and tonight in Hastings and Yorks. Those aircraft may not be the most modern, but that has absolutely nothing to do with whether they are safe and airworthy aircraft. Like the noble Lord, I have flown in both. I have actually flown one of them myself, and if I called the York "old-world but very charming" I do not think it would be a bad description, because it is a very comfortable aeroplane and will not do any harm at all provided it is treated fairly and reasonably.

On this question of Abingdon, I wonder whether the noble Lord appreciates the processes of mind through which any Minister has to go when he is selecting or approving an aerodrome site or agreeing, after protests such as have been made, that a particular usage should continue. First of all, the Minister has only about half the country to deal with for training; the other half is in the operational sphere. Then he has to consider the suitability of the aerodromes in relation to other aerodromes, and whether the circuits, as it were, are safe and free from interference by other aircraft on other aerodromes. Then he must think of the suitability of the runways as regards strength, particularly in the case of these large four-engined aircraft. Many aerodromes, with their fine concrete runways, which noble Lords see when they motor along the highways, or from the train, are quite unsuitable to take these heavy aircraft, because they have not been so constructed to carry the weights involved.

Next, the Minister has to consider, having listened to his advisers, the suitability of the approaches—what is called the funnel of approach—for day and for night use, to see hat it is sufficiently free of obstruction in the direction for landing and the direction for taking off. Then he has to think of the need for control buildings. Once you have placed your radar control buildings and what is called G.C.A.—ground control approach—you are really compromised as regards that aerodrome, because you cannot take those aircraft away to another aerodrome and exercise them from there unless you have your radar control.

It is really an impossible task for any of us who has not a full knowledge of the facts, and the benefit of such advice as a Minister has, to condemn the usage of a particular aerodrome for a particular purpose. I think we must assume that the Minister has tried to see whether it is possible to do this particular training in another locality on another aerodrome. Nobody wants to cause dislocation. Nobody wants to cause interference, and everybody regrets it. But I think one must assume that our Ministers and their advisers are good citizens who would wish, like the noble Lord and myself, to see that there is a minimum of interference and dislocation. If, finally, they have come to the conclusion that this training, which is essential—the three-engine take-off and the three-engine landing—must be carried out, and on, examination can find nowhere else where it can be carried out; and if they are satisfied that it is being carried out in the best way, having regard to the safety of the occupants of the aircraft and the amenities of the nearby neighbours, then I think We must say that, while we sympathise with those who are suffering from this nuisance, their suffering is necessary in the greater interests of national defence.


May I ask the noble Lord whether this extremely charitable doctrine applies whoever happens to be the Minister, and whatever his political complexion may be?




I thank the noble Lord very much. We shall bear that in mind.


We may differ in political views, but I do not believe that Ministers differ in their feelings of administrative responsibility to the general public. I do not want to pursue that aspect of the debate any further, because I hope that I have made the position clear as I see it. I sympathise with the noble Lord, but I believe that, having taken those facts into consideration, there is no alternative but to accept the situation.

I wish now to make a few remarks about the Gatwick Aerodrome. Like other noble Lords, I am in the position of wanting to support Her Majesty's Government on this matter; but I must say, with respect, that it is made a little difficult sometimes. In my view—and there is no dispute about this—the approach to the authorities was in some respects unfortunate. Certain authorities might have been consulted in a better way and at an earlier date. But that unfortunate fact does not detract, in my mine, from the main consideration, and that is that Her Majesty's Government, the Cabinet, must have the final responsibility of saying whether or not the Gatwick project should go on. It is a major decision of Government policy, a decision which the Government must make, and for which they must accept responsibility.

Nevertheless, they ask of noble Lords, and indeed of the public, quite a lot when they ask for support for this decision, which, I repeat, only they can make, and which I am sure is made on the best possible advice. They are asking quite a lot when they do not give the answers to various questions that have been raised, not only to-day, but in the past. We are told that a second airport is needed and that London Airport is going to be over-crowded. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, raised the question of the number of Chicago movements as against the movements at London Airport. What we should like to know clearly is: Is London Airport at present being worked to full capacity, or is it capable of greater traffic volume? Do the Government anticipate that, in two or three years' time, the traffic volume will be such that London Airport will not be able to cope with it, even in fine weather? If the Government tell us that even in fine weather the second airport is needed, and that after consideration they have come to the conclusion that Gatwick is the best site, then I think we must accept that fact. But if we are told that it is really for diversionary purposes in bad weather, and for certain auxiliary services of British European Airways, then I think we can ask two further questions and expect to hear the replies.

My two further questions are these. If we are told that it is for diversion, we have not yet had made clear to us whether the operating companies would welcome Gatwick as their main diversionary airport. British Overseas Airways at present have Hurn as their main alternative. Are British Overseas Airways willing to take Gatwick as their main alternative in place of such alternatives as they have at the present time? My second question is this. If British European Airways are, as I am told, going to run their Channel Islands services from Gatwick, do they need much larger runways than Gatwick has at the present time? If they do, it means that there must be enlargements of runways at the Jersey end, and so far I have not heard of any proposal that the Jersey runways should be lengthened in order to accept aircraft despatched from Gatwick. If there is not a proposal for enlargement of the Channel Islands runways to take larger aircraft, would not the existing runways at Gatwick continue suitable for Channel Islands traffic over the next two or three years?

All aerodrome sites are suitable and unsuitable, to some degree. It is for the Government to evaluate the suitability factors and the unsuitability factors; we cannot do it here. What we can ask for, however, is further information to show that when a large sum of the taxpayers' money is going to be spent, all these questions have been gone into and can be answered to the public's satisfaction. I was interested in the views of the noble Lord, Lord Winster, as to the possible development of the helicopter in the future. The history of aerodrome development in this country is one of practice lagging always behind needs. Noble Lords will remember Hounslow. In 1919 we started our first civil airliner and Hounslow soon became too small. We moved to Croydon, already an existing aerodrome. That proved too small and, after many complaints over several years by operators, we had the Greater Heston project. The last Bill in this connection passed by another place and by your Lordships' House in 1939 was a Heston Aerodrome Extension Bill. Thank goodness it did not become law, because that project would be quite inadequate for our needs to-day. I wonder whether this project at Gatwick will be sufficient for our needs in ten or fifteen years' time: whether in ten or fifteen years' time, with the introduction of the helicopter which will do the short hauls, with this terrible growth of noise, the sounds from "jets" which may make civilised life impossible near aerodromes, and the possible development of flying boats—whether, say in 1973, we shall look back and say: "The capital investment in Gatwick made in 1955 was entirely wise." That is my worry.

Therefore, my request is for an assurance from Her Majesty's Government that if a second main aerodrome is needed within the next few years—and if the Government say so, I must accept it—they will satisfy themselves that this is being done on the most austere lines, that there is no modification of the scheme which would reduce the cost, and that we could not be more conservative and more humble, perhaps, in our demands as to what should be or what should not be. We want the maximum safety, we want the necessary runways; but do not let us build beyond the immediate needs of the next seven or eight years. If the Government tell us that they are preparing their estimates of expenditure on the basis of the next seven or eight years and that a second airport is necessary, then, like other noble Lords here, I shall be convinced that the Government's case is absolutely watertight. I can then give them the support which I want to give but which I find it difficult to give until certain questions have been answered.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, when I saw the Motion on the Order Paper I was a little unhappy, because I felt it was drawn far too widely. I had thought that the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, was really to deal with Gatwick Airport. I have a feeling—I hope I am wrong, but I make no apology for having that feeling—that this Motion has been drawn a good deal wider, if possible to make something of a smoke screen. I may be wrong; I hope I am wrong.


Would the noble Lord explain what he means by a "smoke screen"? I cannot fathom that.


A smoke screen is composed of a great many particles of red herrings. Much has been said this afternoon and there is little more to be said, particularly after, if I may so with great respect, the excellent speech of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, which I was pleased to hear. When he, started he said that the debate divided itself really into two sections, one dealing with Abingdon the other dealing with Gatwick. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, has covered some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. Lord Lucas of Chilworth said that possibly it was my fault that he had spoken for so long, but, honestly, I cannot be responsible for the, I know unintended, ambiguities in what he said and which I had to try to sort out. But there is one point further which I should like to ask. I should like to know what the noble Lord meant when he talked about the figures of accidents at Boar's Hill. I believe he spoke about a Mr. Kingerlee who gave him details of accidents. They were obviously prior to 1948, I think I am correct in saying. The noble Lord subsequently spoke about training in four-engined type of aircraft at Abingdon. I do not think the four-engined type of training aircraft of Transport Command have been used at Abingdon since 1948, and I do not know of any accidents at Boar's Hill since 1948; I have not heard of them. So I do not think it is really right to make that statement without adding a qualification to mention that the accidents were prior to that date.


The noble Lord invites me to clear up the ambiguity.


The unintended ambiguity.


I accept the noble Lord's courtesy, as always. I went on to say that Mr. Kingerlee said that these accidents, the ones to which I referred, were caused by that type of training. They happened to be four-engined bombers at the time. It was at the time when Abingdon was a Bomber Command station and the type of training they were doing was what are called "circuits and bumps." Then I went on to read from his letter in which he said: and the same conditions are prevalent now because the same type of training is being done, but not by the same aircraft but by similar aircraft. Does that clear up the ambiguity for the noble Lord?


I am grateful.


Transport Command has been in occupation of Abingdon since 1946, so this was probably during war time.


Yes, when it was a Bomber Command station.


During the war?




I am grateful to the noble Lord. In war time there was a black-out, and there is not now. Then the noble Lord talked about "heavy aircraft." No doubt these four-engined aircraft are very heavy, but I doubt whether under this form of training they are being flown at their maximum all-up weight. It is a question of the tare weight of the aircraft and the maximum all-up weight. There is one further point. The noble Lord talked about a North-South runway and an East-West runway. In regard to the prevailing wind, it makes a great deal of difference whether it is due north or due south or whether the wind is slightly off, and so on. It is a little difficult to understand unless the noble Lord gives the proper figures of the runway directions and the prevailing winds. It may he nearly 10 degrees out either side.

My Lords, in the past we in this country have developed a great trade at sea. We are a great passenger-carrying nation; we are a great freight-carrying nation. We are seeing in our time a great expansion in the number of passengers carried by air—it is growing all the time. Passenger traffic across the Atlantic by air is growing; it is already over half that carried by sea. I think that in our lifetime we shall see the majority of these passengers carried by air, and I think that applies to freight also, particularly with regard to urgent and light freight. Are we, because of some inconveniences, going to stop this country from continuing as one of the leading countries of the world in the matter of trade? I do not think we should do that.

Many people live beside a railway line. I live in London, beside a railway line. My bedroom overlooks the line where a number of electric trains run. Furthermore, although services stop at midnight, or just after, the place is used as a "car park" for tube trains, which arrive at one o'clock or two o'clock in the morning and go "Peep" when they let off the brakes; and then at six o'clock in the morning the one and only steam train goes by—that is how I always know the time. People get used to living near noises. I have lived for twenty months within 300 yards of a single runway, and the average number of movements on that runway per twenty-four hours was 650. Within three weeks of living there one did not notice it at all. In fact, when one woke up and there was no noise one remarked that the weather had clamped down a bit and they had cut the number of movements down to one every ten minutes. So I think we can get used to this noise.

As my noble and gallant friend the Secretary of State for Air said, every aspect of the site must be considered, and one thing that has to be considered is where the airfield lies in relation to the normal traffic entering and leaving it. If Gatwick is to be concerned mainly with European movements it must lie somewhere to the east of a line drawn north and south through London, and as close to that line as possible. There is no point in taking forty-five minutes in getting from London to Paris, or from Paris to London, and then taking an hour and a half to get into the centre of the city; nor should an aircraft have to take two hours going to a diversion aerodrome. I think that another point has not been properly brought out. Although it may be stated that on 55 per cent. of the days that London Airport is unserviceable, from the point of view of weather, Gatwick is also unserviceable, the 55 per cent. is based on a small number of days. It is then that the possible use of more distant aerodromes, like Blackbushe, is necessary. Whilst it has not the railway facilities, it is usually in operation when London is out because it is higher. It does not suffer from fog, but from low cloud. When Blackbushe is out London is in. But although there may be a small number of days when both Gatwick and London Airport are out, Gatwick is well worth having, I think, because of its better train facilities.

The noble Lord, Lord Teviot asked why B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. had not been called into the considerations. The inquiry, of course, was set up for the purpose of hearing objections to the plan. Quite obviously, if B.O.A.C. and B.E.A, who are being asked to use Gatwick under certain conditions, had any objection, they would have been objectors. Furthermore, I am convinced, as I am sure are a number of other noble Lords, that there has been consultation between the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Corporation. I just cannot believe that it did not take place. I know that there may be better sites than Gatwick. I would hazard that Southend Airport, which could be extended, and the railway service to which could be electrified for the amount of money that is being spent on Gatwick, has probably the best weather record in the country, save Blackbushe; but there may be many reasons why Blackbushe is not so good as Gatwick. I think we have to accept the Government's view about this matter. The Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation have taken immense trouble in this matter. They have taken a view, which I think they have arrived at in a more simple and direct manner than would be possible under a Royal Commission. I think we ought to accept it. I, for one, should not wish to see a Royal Commission. Therefore, if this Motion is taken to a Division I shall go into the Lobby against it, as I hope will other noble Lords who have experience of flying.

I should, however, like to make one suggestion, which may be a bit of crystal-gazing. I should like to see the main trans-Atlantic aerodrome on the other side of the Downs, somewhere near a fast railway and, in particular, in a fog-free area, which is not the case round our great city. The reason I say that is that when a passenger gets out of an aeroplane from overseas he has to face customs and immigration officials, and from the time he leaves the aircraft until he boards a bus anything forty-five minutes to an hour has passed. Why is it not possible to have a six-coach electric train, so the passengers of one or two aircraft could get into the rear two coaches and move up through an immigration and customs carriage to a luncheon carriage in the front part of the train? Having passed through all those carriages, they would reach their destination having saved an hour. They would be deposited free of customs and immigration, and for all practical purposes would have saved the time that it takes to get from London Airport. If that could be done, London Airport could quite easily handle all the Continental traffic, and at the end of a very fast railway you could have the trans-Atlantic airliners.

Before I sit down there is one question which I should like to ask my noble and gallant friend. He may not be able to answer it to-day, but perhaps he will be good enough to find out the answer. I know that in the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation there is a Report which was made some considerable time ago on the ground traffic that will be generated on the roads outside London Airport when it is operating at its peak. I believe that Report to state that 2,000 vehicles per hour will be generated by London Airport. If that is true, I ask that this fact be brought to the notice of the London Transport Traffic Advisory Committee, because the Great West Road and our ancillary roads coming into London are already fully trafficked.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, I have had an association with Abingdon airfield for over thirty years. I was a Member of another place when that airfield was developed, and I rise only because, over all the years that I was there, I have never known anything in the way of misrepresentation by any civil servant or by anybody at the Air Ministry. I cannot believe that there is now any alteration. What has changed greatly, through modern invention, is the type of aircraft which use that airfield. It must be remembered that the Air Ministry have no free choice as to where they can go, for this island is like an aircraft carrier off the coast of Europe. Moreover, the United States occupy an enormous number of stations, which greatly reduces their availability to the Royal Air Force and produces much difficulty.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has raised this matter on several occasions, and I feel acutely that up to date there has been a total lack of co-operation between the Ministry of Town and Country Planning and the Air Ministry. It may be that people have not thought that co-operation was necessary, but I agree that it would be a great mistake to put up 600 new dwellings for people who are to live there and to work in Harwell. Nobody wants to be put down in Government married quarters in an area subject to this disability of noise and disturbance. It is not right to blame the Air Ministry for the mistakes of the past. It is essential that this training should go on. I would tell my noble friend Lord Teviot, who has introduced this Motion, that I do not believe a Royal Commission is the right vehicle to study the matter: it is probably too long and too tedious. Surely there can be some collaboration between the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, the Air Ministry and local authorities.

I do not think it is appreciated, except by people who live there, that this new development of jet aircraft has produced in our civil life something which, in certain circumstances, is quite intolerable. The dilemma is that the R.A.F. have to fit the necessary training into our very small island, using aircraft which are extremely noisy and which, wherever they are put, will cause a great deal of inconvenience and distress to a large number of people. I believe that my noble friend, having introduced this Motion, will have succeeded in his objective without a Division if the Secretary of State will give an assurance that in future there will be more collaboration between the Minister of Town and Country Planning and local authorities, so that houses will not be built in the funnel of the approaches and exits of some of these airfields. In these preparations far war which we in our generation have to suffer, it is not right that the civil population should be subjected to these trials unless there is more assurance that the Government Departments concerned have collaborated to see that, where possible, they are avoided.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a very interesting and informative debate with powerful opinions expressed in many quarters of the House and a great many questions asked. The debate has concentrated itself largely on two main questions: Gatwick, which is a civil airfield, and Abingdon, which is a military airfield. My noble friend, Lord Teviot, mentioned Gatwick in his Motion and I did my best to inform myself upon it, but, with the best will in the world, I could not anticipate all the questions that have been asked. I have done my best to get the information during the course of the debate and will try, within the limits of the patience of the House, to answer as many questions as I can. If I cannot answer every question now, I will undertake that I myself, or my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport, will write to the noble Lord and try to give him the information.

We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, who has just sat down, for his comments about the relations between the Air Ministry and his constituency, particularly in the neighbourhood of Abingdon. So far as I am able I do my utmost to see that where inconvenience can be minimised or mitigated it is done. Wherever possible I make personal visits with my Under-Secretary of State, or we go individually. We have made a great many contacts with civil authorities and local authorities in the course of our journeys, but we cannot perform miracles. We cannot silence jet aircraft nor, of our own accord, ease the international tension. We cannot stretch the land surface of these islands and we cannot, alas! improve the weather. We have these ineluctable facts to deal with. It is perfectly true that people who find themselves afflicted in a locality naturally protest and feel deeply upon it. It is very difficult to persuade people who do not wish to be persuaded of the broad view which a Government must take, because they feel the impact and they cannot be expected to have the wider knowledge.

With the air this is particularly true, for without a very detailed "presentation," as the Americans term it, with charts, maps, statistics and records, it is quite impossible to explain fully and exactly our situation in these islands. I can only ask noble Lords to believe that we really study these problems and that we do not act carelessly or in bad faith or in neglect of the feelings of the civil population. I am very much aware that to bear the burden of the defence programme and particularly of the expansion and re-equipment of our Air Force we need public support. It is essential for the public to believe that this is necessary and, whore inconvenience or worse is caused, that they are suffering it in the service of the country. The chairman of a local authority not very far from London with whom I had talks recently said. "If we are convinced that this is in the interests of the defence of this country we are perfectly prepared to put up with the local inconvenience." It is my task, and that of my Under-Secretary, to convince the public in that way.

In my opening remarks I tried to put in proportion and explain the facts of the air situation. Might I adduce one other fact which I did not then bring out? In support of my point that one does not really ease the problem by shifting it round, I would point out that there are in fact thirty-one stations within four miles of towns having populations of 30,000 or more. They are not all equally active or equally operational stations, but it shows that in these islands, particularly in the eastern and southern parts, there is not much room in which to manœuvre; therefore we must get away from the idea that there are any easy alternatives.

Now may I deal first with the military problem of Abingdon? The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, used the phrase that it was "entirely unsuitable" for the use to which the Air Ministry had put it. I do not ice how the noble Lord can possibly know that. He has not the responsibility and he has admitted that he has not the technical knowledge. Is it likely that my colleagues on the Air Council, who are very experienced airmen (some of them have fought in two wars) and who have long experience of technical aspects of flying as well as experience as pilots, would tolerate the use of an airfield for eight years if it were entirely unsuitable? The noble Lord feels strongly; he represents the feelings of his neighbours as he has every right to do; but he does not do his cause any good by making these exaggerated statements. There was no deliberate falsification, as he seemed to imply, in the speech of my noble friend, Lord Munster, the other day. The fact is that the Hastings aircraft can take off into a slight cross wind—I think it is a 25-mile wind, a 15 degrees off wind—with perfect safety. That is why the North-South runway, which is not absolutely due north and south but the nearest that can be constructed to those points, is mainly used.

Lord Balfour of Inchrye, in a very informative and helpful speech, brought out the fact that the Hastings is a very reliable aircraft, like the York. It is our main transport aircraft, and not a very old one. It has a very good safety record. On this point of danger to civilians I did my best to ascertain the facts, because I think it is as well that the civil population should have some reassurance about it. In the last three years there have been only four aircraft accidents on or near airfields, involving two civilian deaths and two civilians severely injured. Having regard to the number of airfields in use and the intensity of flying, I think it will be agreed that that is a very remarkable record. I hope the House will feel that it reflects very well indeed on the discipline of R.A.F. airfields, and that it will be some reassurance to people who live at Abingdon. It is a very good airfield. It is in the right district, and it fulfils a most useful purpose as a Transport Command airfield.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, made representations to me and to my Department. We did our best to alter times and schedules in order to mitigate the nuisance to the local inhabitants. Abingdon was one of the places which my Under-Secretary visited. I really do not think that Parliament or any noble Lords can ask Ministers to do more than go and see things for themselves. I have tried to deal with that matter, and I certainly will look at it again with the whole of what has been said about it in mind; and if there is anything further which I can do to mitigate the trouble which is complained of, without inflicting hardship on other areas and without, I must add, undue expense to public funds, I will do it. But do not let anyone suppose, unless he is prepared either to ask for more money for defence or to put up with less defence than we haw now, that we can afford to spend a great deal of money on new works in other parts of the country, taking thereby more agricultural land, when we have this very dense equipment of airfields in the country. One other point with which I should like to deal was brought out by Lord Lucas. I am informed—though I could not get the document because it is in the archives at Hayes—that there was never any undertaking not to fly four-engined aircraft from Abingdon. The only undertaking was that we would take away four squadrons of Yorks. That war done. There has been no bad faith and no misrepresentations in this matter. I hope the House will note that particularly.

Now we come to the problem of Gatwick. I will try, if I can, to answer some of the main questions which have been asked. The Government—particularly my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation—are responsible for estimating what the increases of civil flying traffic will be. No one can be certain, but trends are there and can be measured. It is clear to the experts who go into these matters—and not all experts are to be deplored—that the capacity of London Airport will be insufficient, within the time scale when Gatwick will appear, to deal with all our civil flying. When I interrupted Lord Winster to ask about Chicago I did so because that is a very important fact to know. Lord Waleran, I think, also brought it out in his speech. The weather in these Islands, unfortunately, as we know only too well, is of a very indifferent character. I do not know if it is an exaggeration to say this, but I should think it must be, for flying purposes, some of the worst weather in the world. The struggle between Atlantic weather and Continental weather takes place over these Islands. Consequently, we get a series of depressions, fronts and other things; and these are continually passing and re-passing over England and Scotland. Therefore we have to deal not with the optimum conditions, but with the ordinary average conditions in which services are going to operate. People who have to study this problem know that the number of movements under instrument control, as compared with the number of movements when there is a clear sky and visual approach, is very small indeed. The proportion varies, of course, with weather condition. So, if you are planning for civil air traffic, you must take that fact into account, and must not quote figures about optimum conditions.

There are two types of secondary airport. There is the alternate and the diversion. So far as the transatlantic traffic is concerned, I am informed that the main alternate airport is Hum. That means that when an aircraft leaves New York the weather report says that conditions are such-and-such, and it looks as if London Airport is "out." The weather at Hum is reported good, and accordingly the flight plan is made for Hum. Noble Lords are well aware of course how important is the flight plan. But it sometimes happens that the meteorologists for whom I am the Minister responsible—though I am not responsible for their reports—say that they cannot forecast the weather over London airport or, perhaps, cannot forecast it accurately. The aircraft travels within landing distance, and has then to be diverted to Gatwick. Lord Teviot, in the course of his speech, said that the weather at Gatwick had been different from that at London airport all this week, and that landing conditions there had been quite good. That is just the point. The weather is different. It need not be better weather; it just has to be different weather; and there can be a diversion of the plane from London airport to land at Gatwick. It is in pits alternate and diversionary capacity that we have first to consider Gatwick. Then there are the peak periods. When there is bad weather in the peak periods, it would be a poor advertisement for flying conditions in this country, and for our airlines, if Continental and other passengers had to be landed many miles away and motored to London.

The noble Lord mentioned Blackbushe. I was attracted to that idea myself when Gatwick was being investigated. I thought it was good heathland, and if it were used agricultural land would not be disturbed; and I imagined that there would be a number of other advantages. But we looked into the traffic patterns with great care. I got my own navigational experts on the job, the experts from the Air Ministry, and I got them to check with the experts of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. I made them compare their results, check them over, dissect them, and get a generally agreed answer. The answer is that it is impossible to get a heavy traffic pattern between Farnborough and Blackbushe to work: it is too dense. Other factors have to be taken into account, including training airfields and military airfields. It just will not fit in. These are the facts—it may be that they will be regarded as disagreeable facts. I cannot pretend that those who live near Gatwick will appreciate them, but the facts are there, unpalatable and indigestible though they may be. I assure noble Lords that this matter has been gone into with the greatest possible care; it has been agitated through Government circles and between Government Departments, and the answer has been arrived at after what I might almost call agonising doubts have been resolved.

Several other questions were asked by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, and if I may have five minutes to go through them I will not detain the House longer. The noble Lord mentioned rail services. I understand that British Railways have said that they will be operating four services an hour between Gatwick and London, two slow and two semi-fast. What a "semi-fast" train may be I am not sure; but at any rate I believe that the rail services are thought to be adequate for the purpose. That is a very important point when it is desired to get people into London quickly. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, asked me about runways, and I understand that it would not be possible to fit into the boundaries of the existing airfield a runway which would be suitable for the purpose for which Gatwick is to be used. Unfortunately, it means taking some more land, but not the 1,000 acres mentioned in the debate. The amount will be nearly 700 acres, 290 in the first stage and 400 in the second stage, which is rather less than anticipated by the noble Lord. The taking of fresh agricultural land is to be regretted in any case but, if I may add this, I feel that that is one of the reasons, and a very compelling reason, why the existing airfield pattern is so important, even though it restricts us a good deal. Even though other sites are available, it would be wrong to use good agricultural land when existing airfields have facilities.

In regard to F.I.D.O., which has been considered with other questions, I understand that this device is useful in dispersing what is called radiation fog, which occurs on a very cold night with a clear sky, when the air cools rapidly and moisture condenses in the cool air. It is not, however, of much value when there is persistent fog under low cloud. Therefore, F.I.D.O. alone would not serve as an alternative to Gatwick. On the question of drainage, I understand that the Thames Conservancy Board have stated that this problem could be satisfactorily resolved, and also that the drainage in the areas below the aerodrome would be improved. There certainly has been a controversy about the weather, but I have already read to your Lordships the remarks ore Sir Colin Campbell, and it is the view of the Director of the Meteorological Office, Dr. Sutton, that the weather for the circumstances in which Gatwick will be required is satisfactory; and, as I pointed out to the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, the weather conditions are alternative to those under which the main London Airport can be used. I ought to say that at the moment Gatwick has not a hard runway: it has a grass runway. I believe that the Jersey Airport authorities are considering extending their runway, which is already 5,000 feet long.

As to consultation, the then Minister of Transport, the present Secretary of State for the Colonies, deplored the feeling that there was a lack of consultation. He felt that it was difficult to enter into negotiations with local authorities until there was a firmer basis for discussion. Although I have not had an opportunity of consulting him about this aspect, I feel I can assure your Lordships that it was certainly not his intention, or that of his Department, to override local feeling, without consultation and without giving to local authorities all the possible consideration that can be giver. I realise that I have not met all the points that have been made, and I repeat that I will read the debate with care, and where a point has been made, or a question asked, which I have not dealt with, I will see that the noble Lord concerned receives a reply.

Finally, may I say, for I have spoken too long to-day, that I beg noble Lords, when they consider this problem, which is an acute one, and which I am afraid may well become more acute, to temper emotion with judgment. I should like them to read this debate with care, and I would ask them, if possible, not to inflame public opinion about this matter, but rather seek to inform public opinion about the difficulties in which the Government are placed. I assure your Lordships that my colleagues and I who have to deal with this matter are fully aware of the inconvenience and hardships caused. We regret them, we shall do what we can to mitigate them, but we cannot remove them. I would say to my noble friend Lord Teviot that I hope that, after listening to this debate and on reflection, he will not divide the House upon a question on which I think it should not be divided. In all sincerity, he cannot believe that a Royal Commission can do the work which the Government must do and for which the Govenment must be responsible. He will mislead the public and mislead his friends, for whom he speaks so often and so eloquently, if he really believes that a Royal Commission could discern some easy way out of a problem which causes us all so much concern.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened with great care to the whole of this debate. I should like to tell the noble Lord, Lord Waleran, that there is no "smoked herring" at all about my remarks or my Motion. I feel very strongly about the subject: there was no subtlety about it at all, and I hope he will bear that in mind.


I am prepared to accept that.


Thank you. I want now to ask my noble and gallant friend the Secretary of State for Air one or two questions: I do not know whether I shall receive an answer. First, why did the Minister change his mind? Why, as a consequence of that, do we have an aerodrome and a new town being built cheek by jowl? To me that is an appalling re-sponsibility to take. I do not know whether the noble Lord can tell me how it can possibly have come about that Crawley is being built to accommodate 60,000 people and alongside—or right bang in the middle of it, one might say—is this aerodrome, which is going to be a major airport to help the London Airport.

As noble Lords will realise, to a great extent I based my speech on the Report of Sir Colin Campbell, which, as I said, was very disturbing. Sir Colin Campbell was full of "ifs" and doubts about the whole thing. For the information of the noble Lord, Lord Waleran, I will tell him that if he looks at page 51 of the Report, he will see that Sir Colin Campbell comments quite strongly on the fact that B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. were not called in, so far as he knew.


That is agreed, but I do not know that Sir Colin Campbell knew; he says it himself.


Here is the Report which was made to the Government on this subject and I am bound to pay attention to what Sir Colin Campbell said. My noble friend the Secretary of State mentioned that Sir Colin Campbell had said it was a suitable site for an aerodrome. Let me read just how he qualifies that: The advantages and disadvantages of the site emerge in the summary of evidence and speeches set out in the preceding pages, and on balance, and subject to your being satisfied on the several points I raise in these observations, I consider that the Ministry's contention that Gatwick is a 'suitable' site for an aerodrome for the purposes for which they intend to use it was established. Sir Colin Campbell puts the word "suitable" in inverted commas, which does not seem to me to be a very strong opinion. He continues: As to whether it is the most suitable site which could be found, it is not, because of the limitation of the scope of the Inquiry, possible for me to express an opinion. If the noble Earl, Lord Munster would pay attention to what I say, and not jeer and laugh at somebody who is trying to do a service to his country, I should be very pleased. My feeling is so strong that I cannot urge myself to withdraw the Motion. At the same time, I do not want to divide the House. Therefore, I ask those who are supporting me in this debate not to divide the House but to let the Motion be negatived.

On Question, Motion disagreed to.