HL Deb 11 December 1967 vol 287 cc861-1002

2.54 p.m.

LORD MACPHERSON OF DRUMOCHTER rose to call attention to Her Majesty's Government's decision to build London's third airport at Stansted; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have to declare a restricted interest in that I reside in Essex, but far enough away from Stansted not to be directly affected. I should like to thank the Whips for arranging to hold this debate to-day, the only possible time before the Christmas Recess, and to thank so many of your Lordships for attending this afternoon. This is a vital issue, and your Lordships have not had a chance to express your views on this subject, despite the fact that a White Paper has been issued and this problem was debated in another place last May.

It is most appropriate to consider this question at this particular time as it involves the planning of the spending of tens of millions of pounds, and it would be quite wrong to embark on this type of expenditure without the most careful study and examination. I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will also welcome this chance, in the present economic conditions, to show the world that financial projects of this magnitude are now going to be re-examined most carefully. As so much has been said and written about this project I propose only briefly to outline the main points, leaving more competent and experienced speakers to deal with the different aspects in more detail.

In the first place, I refer to the Report of June, 1963, of the Inter-Departmental Committee on the Third London Airport. In the foreword by the then Minister of Aviation it was stated that: Although the Government believe that Stansted should be selected and designated as London's third airport the primary reason for the Report was to give those affected the opportunity to consider and discuss the reasons for the choice of Stansted. This original Inquiry into the suitability of the various sites was dominated by aviation experts. The chairman was an Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Aviation, and out of a total of 16 members of the committee, 14 were airway special- ists. It is understandable that this first study should have been conducted by technical experts. But, as was to be expected, this meant an over-emphasis on the claims of this section of the community without due regard to the other interests involved, resulting in the Committee's decision that they would like Stansted as the site; and consequently they dismissed far too easily the other alternatives.

The Government of the day, although in favour of the choice of Stansted, made it clear that no final decision had been taken and that the possibilities of alternative sites would not be dismissed until after a public inquiry had been held. Sir Alec Douglas-Home wrote to Mr. R. A. Butler (as he then was) on September 13, 1964, as follows: It is important that this inquiry should be thorough and genuine and I want to make quite clear to you that the Government has in no way made its final decision, and cannot do so until it receives the report of the inquiry". As the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, is speaking this afternoon he will no doubt confirm and develop this point.

In October, 1964, the present Government came into power and, through the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, properly instituted an inquiry into the local objections. After a very careful and unbiased examination, the inspector who conducted this inquiry was so impressed with the case of the local objectors that he concluded that the choice of Stansted would be a calamity for the neighbourhood and would be justified only by a national necessity, which necessity was not proved by the evidence submitted. The inspector was ably assisted by the Government's appointment of Mr. J. W. S. Brancker as a technical assessor. Mr. Brancker is one of the most eminent international consultants, and he examined the Government's technical case most thoroughly, which he found wholly unconvincing. In fact the evidence failed to pass any cross-examination. Having instituted this inquiry, Her Majesty's Government appeared to disregard completely the findings of both their inspector and technical assessor and went ahead with the choice of Stansted.

What I do not understand is why this inquiry was undertaken in the first place if the findings and recommendations were to be ignored. In the final paragraph of the inspector's conclusions he stated: In my opinion a review of the whole problem should be undertaken by a committee equally interested in traffic in the air, traffic on the ground, regional planning and national planning. The review should cover military as well as civil aviation. This advice was not accepted and the Government decided against a further inquiry but to hold a review, not in public this time but behind the closed doors of Whitehall, and even the composition of the committee was a secret. This review resulted in the issue of the White Paper (Cmnd. 3259) which in no way vindicated the Government's case. The whole basis of the facts and findings has been shown to be unsubstantiated or false.

I sincerely hope that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will tell us what check was made on the Defence Minister's estimate of £25 million for the cost of removing the firing range from Shoeburyness. I cannot think of a more unsuitable place to have a major firing range in modern Britain than in the middle of the Thames Estuary. Those noble Lords who have studied the maps showing aircraft movement in South-East England must have been as horrified as I was to find this firing range in the centre of all the different air routes, forming an invisible barrier to aircraft 20 miles long, 7 miles wide and 60,000 ft. high. Whatever is decided about a third London airport, in the interests of safety and future air travel this range must be moved to a more suitable and remote site.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will also tell us why no estimate was included in their review for the cost of removing the military airfield from Wethersfield if Stansted were chosen. I find it difficult to accept the cost of £25 million for moving an obsolete firing range and only £8 million, as stated by Mr. Jay in another place, for moving a military airfield. We all know that this unhappy decision will not only require land for the airport itself—a total of approximately 5,000 acres—but thousands of acres will be necessary to house the 100,000 people required for this development and for the schools, shops, hospitals, new factories, offices, roads, et cetera, all on farm land where productivity is 60 per cent. above the national average, with an estimated loss of agricultural products of £1 million per annum.

According to standard practice, when the facts on which an inquiry has been based are materially altered, the inquiry has to be reopened and fresh conclusions drawn in the light of the new circumstances. In this case the evidence was submitted and conclusions were drawn on completely different facts. For instance, the Ministry of Aviation stated at the inquiry that the airport would have a pair of parallel runways with a possible short third runway in the distant future. Now there are to be two pairs, and only recently it has been announced that the angle of the runways is to be altered. I am sure that your Lordships will appreciate that the effect of four runways positioned at a different angle completely alters the noise pattern and greatly increases the volume compared with those originally considered. This means that additional and different people will now be in an area of intolerable noise. Those people were not given a hearing at the inquiry.

In recent months there have been further projects put forward by independent experts, and I was particularly impressed by the imaginative suggestion for the development of Foulness Island. This suggestion depends on the removal of the firing range whose existence has been the main reason why Foulness was not properly considered by the various inquiries. It also assumes that Southend Airport would not be adversely affected; in fact it would be integrated into the air pattern of the new international airport. To the layman, this plan appears to have overcome the noise and nuisance problem. It does not use valuable agricultural land; in fact it reclaims land from the sea and has an unlimited area for expansion.

An attractive feature to me is that it tackles the transport problem by creating a three-tier elevated link which would include a motorway, a monorail, giving rapid access into the heart of London. It would have the additional advantage of solving the transport problem from this vast area and linking up Tilbury Docks with London and the new airport. This plan would enjoy a high safety factor, as it is an established fact that the chances of passengers surviving in an aircraft crashing on approach or take-off over land is almost nil, whereas over water there is a high chance of survival, as was illustrated recently in the crash at Hong Kong when the majority of people were saved.

From the meteorological point of view, Foulness has a better record of weather conditions, of cloud and visibility statistics, than Stansted. It may be argued that this project will cost more than Stansted when the costs of the motorway and monorail are included, but the 16,000 acres of War Office land on Foulness Island, if sold after this development has taken place, will cover not only the cost of the motorway but also the cost of the airport itself. This means that a large, modern and safe airport could be built at less than the makeshift airport at Stansted.

There are two reasons why I have pressed the Government to debate this issue. The first is to draw attention to the way in which this problem of a third London airport has been handled. This is perhaps the biggest single planning decision which a Government of this country has ever had to make. Is it right for any Government, on such an important issue as this, to ride roughshod over county councils, regional and national economic planning councils, and a public protest of this magnitude? This is setting a most dangerous precedent for all future planning. The second reason I introduce this Motion is in the hope of persuading the Government to reconsider the problem in the light of the new evidence and the alterations to the regional plans put before the inquiry. We have at the moment one of the worst economic crises of the century. Surely, now is the time to show the world that vast financial propositions will not be entered into until a comprehensive feasibility study has been carried out, possibly in the form of a Royal Commission.

It has been intimated in another place that this whole question is so urgent that we cannot spare additional time for a further investigation, although I must mention that a period of one year elapsed between the inspector's report and the issue of the White Paper. The reason for this urgency was that the standard busy rate at Heathrow and Gatwick would have reached saturation point of runway capacity by 1973. But in the White Paper, paragraph 7, it was shown that the sustainable hourly rate of aircraft movement had now been increased to a total of 109. This was made up of 64 for Heathrow and 45 for Gatwick. Using the Inter-Departmental Committee's Table I at page 3 of their Report, this means that saturation will not be reached until 1977. Furthermore, in the 'seventies jumbo-jets and supersonic aircraft will be coming into operation. These larger aircraft carry more passengers per flight, and this fact alone defers the need for a third London airport by at least another year, which means 1978.

In these circumstances, my Lords, we have time to examine this entire question in depth without jeopardising Britain's competitive position in world aviation. I therefore urge Her Majesty's Government to reconsider this problem, and to examine in detail the other alternative project before they force schools and hospitals to close, and thousands of acres of valuable and beautiful countryside are lost for ever. I beg to move for Papers.

3.16 p.m.


My Lords, the House will be indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, for having initiated this most important debate to-day. In view of the tremendous interest which has been shown by, I think, 30 noble Lords who intend to speak, and because of the able way in which this debate has been introduced, I shall confine my remarks to the briefest possible.

This is certainly not a Party controversy, but I should like to enter a plea from these Benches that the Government should consider, even at this stage, changing their mind and preventing what may turn out to be a most unwise and far-reaching decision. I should perhaps say that, so far as I know, I have no interest to declare in this matter, except possibly as one who travels a great many thousands of miles a year in aircraft. But I think that in any event we should at least try to learn some of the lessons which can be learned from what has happened since the Stansted affair first came on the political scene.

So far as one can see, looking back with hindsight, a number of mistakes have been made, and indeed others are going to be made unless there is a change of view. First of all, as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, said, a mistake was made in the composition of the original committee set up in 1961. This was a technical committee, consisting almost entirely of people versed and expert in civil aviation matters, who appear to have been concerned only with the question of whether Stansted might be viable as a London airport. I believe that this was the wrong question. Instead of asking: will Stansted be all right as a London airport? they should have asked: where is the best place to put the third London airport which we shall require in the 'seventies?

What followed from that point, I believe, was that the Government accepted that Stansted should indeed be the third London airport, subject to the formality of a public inquiry. This, I think, was a fundamentally wrong approach, and typical of the way in which our Administration often works, by asking the wrong question and getting the wrong answer. I should have thought that the right answer would have been, as early as 1961, to have considered a national traffic and communications plan and to determine, as the inspector said in his Report, in the light of road, rail and other developments the best possible position for the third airport.

It seems that all along this has been treated as an airport problem, in isolation from any of the other factors which affect communications generally. Of course, few people want an international airport dumped in their midst. But I believe that we are all convinced, certainly I am, that a third airport has to be established somewhere, though I should have thought the Report by the inspector who conducted the public inquiry must throw very serious doubt indeed on the wisdom of choosing Stansted. It was a most damning document, and one I should have thought that a Government would be most irresponsible to disregard.

It may be that a new inquiry is not the right answer. I should like to know. It may well be that a Royal Commission is too unwieldy. But I should like to have it proved to me, because at the moment I should have thought that the inspector's recommendation was the one concrete proposal that we have before us. I think that one thing is certain; namely, that the plans for Stansted should not be implemented until the Government have exposed to Parliament their own national communications plan, if it exists, showing how they see the road, rail and air systems being developed in the national interest, and where the third airport fits into the plan.

I think also we ought to be told the truth about the timing of this matter. Is it really true that we must take a decision immediately? As I understand it, the work would not be begun on Stansted's new runways until 1971–72 and it would not be required until about 1974. I consider that some new appraisal should be made as quickly as possible from the point of view of traffic and communications, not just in regard to the location of airports. I would ask en passant whether we ought not to be anticipating needs for the new international airports, perhaps in the Midlands and in the North, towards the end of the 1970s? When one sees how long Stansted has been discussed, it makes one wonder whether that, too, should not be part of the national communications plan.

One of the advantages which has resulted from the public outcry is the amount of work which has been done on alternative proposals. I know that one must be careful not to have too many bright ideas in this field where technical experts can trip one up, but I, like the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, was attracted to the alternative of Foulness which, apart from the disturbance which it would cause to the School of Gunnery at Shoeburyness, seems to have a great deal to commend it. It does not enroach on good agricultural land, the noise nuisance is far less (and, indeed, the reclamation of land in a small Island like this is something which appeals to me) and I do not believe the technical difficulties are so great. I gather that the major problem is the actual cost of removing the firing range. I, too, should like to query the figure of £25 million. What is it made up of? Can the noble Lord give us a breakdown? It must be a most peculiar range if it has £25 million worth of equipment there. This is a matter in which one wants to be looking a long way ahead. Are we going to need this type of firing range in seven, eight or nine years' time? These are the sorts of things which a proper feasibility study should go into and should give the answers to.

One site which I have not seen mentioned at all—and there may be a good technical reason against it—is Blackbushe. This, I remember, had a very good weather record in the war, and was the sort of place you could always get into when everywhere else was fogbound. I believe that it is surrounded by Forestry Commission land. Perhaps it is not big enough, but it seems odd that one can find no reference to it in the reports.


My Lords, the noble Lord seems to be basing a good deal of his case on the fact that the 1961 Committee considered only, as he put it, the viability of Stansted. Would he say where he gets this idea from?


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. What I am saying is that after they had surveyed the different sites, they came down—and the noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong—and said that Stansted is a viable airport. But I do not think they said that Stansted is the best possible choice if you are looking for a third London Airport. That is the only point I wanted to make. My plea is that the Government should demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the choice of Stansted fits correctly into a plan for the proper development of our traffic and communications to meet the requirements of the last quarter of the twentieth century. So far as I am concerned, they have failed to do so.

3.25 p.m.


The Government have been much criticised for choosing the wrong site for the third London Airport, and for conducting the inquiries which led to this choice in a needlessly private manner, and are still being so criticised in this House. There are two quite separate points here: was the choice of Stansted the right choice? And was the choice reached in the best possible way? I shall deal with both. But first, a few general observations.

I have not hitherto heard it seriously contested that London needs a third airport. This was foreseen by those responsible as far back as 1953, when Stansted was, for the first time, designated as a likely site. Since then the growth of civil aviation has followed the expected pattern. This year there will have been, in round figures, 15 million passengers using the existing London terminals, Heathrow and Gatwick. Extrapolating, we may expect that by 1974 there will be 27 million, and by 1980 43 million wishing to use whatever terminals we may have for them around London. But the number of passengers gives an exaggerated impression of the rise in demand because the size of aircraft is increasing, so the ratio of aircraft movement to passenger movements is decreasing. We may expect the number of passengers to increase three-fold by 1980, but the number of aircraft movements to increase only by 75 per cent. This latter figure is speculative for the obvious reason that the very big aircraft we are talking about are not yet in service and we do not know their turn-round times.

Stansted first began to be borne in mind as a likely site for the third airport in 1953 because a preliminary examination suggested it would be. In 1961 the then Minister of Aviation judged that the time had come to conduct the more thorough study which would be necessary either to confirm that assessment or to find a better site, since the date when Heathrow and Gatwick would be saturated was then determinable and the next step was required. The Minister appointed a committee, and this committee considered not simply whether or not Stansted was a good idea, but also, in some detail, 18 sites, including Sheppey and Foulness. The result of this more detailed examination was to confirm the earlier rough assessment that Stansted was the right place. Their report was published in 1964, and was accepted by the Government. There were immediate local objections, and this was natural. The Government therefore sent an independent inspector into Essex to conduct an inquiry into these objections. We are now at the third stage: first, the rough assessment; second, the detailed examination and choice of Stansted as the right place; and, third, the inspector.

It is very important, and I shall return to this point later, to understand that this inspector's terms of reference were not to consider the need for a third London Airport, nor to consider the best site for a third London Airport, but to consider simply the objections to the proposal that the third London Airport should be at Stansted. He was not asked to inquire into the first two questions because the Government were satisfied then, on the evidence available to them, as they are satisfied now on the evidence which is now available, that a third airport was necessary and that Stansted was the best place.

The inspector concluded in effect that the construction and operation of an airport at Stansted would be unpleasant for those living in that part of the world. This has never been in dispute. An airport anywhere is unpleasant for those who live there. He went on to say, in effect, that he could not judge whether it would be more unpleasant for those living near Stansted than for those living near other possible sites, but that he thought the whole question should be reviewed yet again by a committee equally interested in air traffic, ground traffic, regional planning and national planning. This review should cover military, in his view, as well as civil aviation. The inspector's recommendation that the review should cover defence aviation now caused the Government to be faced with the following dilemma. If the review were to be conducted in public, with public submissions from public bodies and private individuals, it would not be able to examine the defence problem in any detail for obvious security reasons. If, on the other hand, it were to make a proper examination of this defence aspect, it would have to be done in private and, as we all know, private inquiries carry less conviction than public ones.

So the Government decided in 1966—and here we are at the fourth stage of the procedure—that the inspector was right and there should be yet another general review. But they decided that the defence aspect was so important—that is, that the right choice depended so much on how many defence airfields would have to be closed or reduced according to where you put your third London Airport—that, in spite of the disadvantages, this review should be conducted in private. All the interests mentioned by the inspector in his report—namely, civil and military aviation, surface transport, national and local planning, as well as the economic aspects and agriculture which he had not mentioned—were represented and taken into account in this review.

Its outcome was reported in the White Paper on The Third London Airport presented in May of this year. And once again it was the same; though the disadvantages of Stansted were obvious and grave, yet they were less grave than those of any alternative site. The White Paper was debated in the House of Commons and was approved there by a substantial majority.


My Lords, may I put one question to the noble Lord? He has stated that an important reason for not having another inquiry in public was, as I understand it, the defence aspect. Can he say why that was not quoted as a reason in paragraph 40 of the White Paper, where totally different reasons are given for not having the inquiry?


My Lords, I should imagine for reasons of length. There is such a mass of literature on this subject already that one cannot always give every reason. But even the House of Commons debate was not the end of the matter. When Mr. Crosland took over this summer as President of the Board of Trade, he naturally wished to inform himself about this hotly debated matter, and he caused work to continue in yet greater detail than before. The continuing work continued to show that Stansted had fewer disadvantages than any other site.

I will turn now to a comparison between Stansted and the three alternatives which ran it closest over the years of study and which are most commonly mentioned by knowledgeable people. The three alternatives are Sheppey, Foulness, and a possible site halfway between London and Birmingham which, for the sake of discussion, is generally taken to be the one of Silverstone. I must make it clear that when I say "Stansted" I mean what has come to be called Stansted II; that is, Stansted with the runways angled in a certain manner that will increase the cost by £8 million to £10 million but will greatly reduce the number of people who suffer inconvenience from noise. This is a local adjustment which has been proposed to be made on the same site. It is shortly to be discussed between the Government and the local planning authorities. I shall now examine these four sites under the five headings of, first, construction costs; secondly, noise and amenity; thirdly, agriculture; fourthly, surface transport; and fifthly, air traffic control and defence. I shall be giving figures and I could do this in many different ways.


My Lords, would the noble Lord say whether he is going to quote the figures which are contained in a document which, I think, was produced by the British Airports Authority, so that I may be able to follow them?


My Lords, I did not say that.


No, my Lords. I asked the noble Lord whether they are the figures.


My Lords, I did not follow the noble and learned Viscount's question.


My Lords, I was asking whether the noble Lord was going to quote the figures given in a document produced by, I think, the British Airports Authority.


No, my Lords, not specifically. I was saying that I could give the figures in many different ways. The costs incurred, wherever the airport was, would be incurred over a period of years. One must have a common base date for purposes of comparison, and that date for the figures I shall give will be 1970. Before I give them, I should like the House to bear in mind, simply as a rough, subjective measure of comparison, the cost of a new hospital and of a new university. A new general hospital of 600 beds costs about £5 million. A new university for 3,000 students costs about £15 million.

I turn now to the first aspect of comparison between the four sites; that is, construction costs. Stansted would cost about £59 million, Sheppey would cost about £65 million and Foulness about the same. I should explain that when, both now and later, I say "Foulness" I refer to a Foulness Airport on dry land, as it is mentioned in the White Paper, not to one which might be built on land reclaimed from the sea—an idea which has recently been discussed, especially by the Noise Abatement Society and by two speakers already this afternoon. The extra cost over Stansted, taking into account both land reclamation and extra surface transport links, of a Foulness in the sea would be perhaps £40 million. To continue now with the comparison of constructions on my four sites, the Midlands site of Silverstone might cost £62 million.

I should like to turn now to the question of noise and amenity, which is the most difficult of all to determine. First, we must get out of our heads any suggestion that people, or a majority of people, will not or do not want to live close to airports. Certainly the noise is bad, but the work and prosperity produced is good. We can see this reflected in the market price of houses close to Heathrow, which shows no appreciable deflection from the normal. We all know that people who live there object to the noise, and we all know what measures are taken to reduce it, but the fact remains that those houses are not standing empty because life is impossible, and they are not even changing hands at reduced prices because life is beastly.

The measure which has been adopted in order to make some monetary assessment of noise and amenity factors is the following. First, estimate the number of people living inside the noise and number index contour of 40; that is, the contour where people report not that life is beastly but that the noise is rather a nuisance—and, of course, it includes far more people than higher N.N.I. contours. The next calculation has been made of the number of buildings of various sorts which would, because of their nature or their closeness to the airport site itself, have to be soundproofed; and another calculation can be made of the cost of moving house to those families who minded the noise more than they liked the increase in jobs and wealth. The figures which resulted from such calculations showed that there was virtually nothing in it as between the four sites.

Now the House will no doubt feel, as we feel in the Government, that any money value which one may seek to put on amenity is bound to be unreal, and I simply mention this method of calculation as one way of thinking about this difficult matter. For my own part, I would attach far more importance to the question: how many people live within the N.N.I. contour where noise is a nuisance? Because, after all, soundproofing is not going to help you when you have tea in the garden, or walk down the street or have a picnic in the woods. The answer to this question of how many people live within the relevant contour is as follows. It is estimated, in round figures, that within the 40 N.N.I. contour there live at Stansted 20,000 people, at Sheppey 36,000 people, at Foulness 24,000 people and at Silverstone 15,000 people.

Even this calculation does not tell the whole story. We all know that aircraft approaching on exactly the same path, as they have to, every few minutes make a nuisance far out beyond the line at which a single aircraft is unpleasantly loud; and we all know that aircraft have to circle in vertical stacks which may make a continuous buzz when an airport is congested. It may be that aircraft approaching Stansted will, on days of heavy traffic only, have to come in rather high over Cambridge. But to get this in proportion, I would ask the House to picture in their minds a map of the Thames Estuary, and to visualise how Foulness lies in relation to Southend and how Sheppey lies in relation to the Medway towns. They are much closer than Stansted is to Cambridge, and Southend and the Medway towns are all larger than Cambridge.

I turn next to agriculture. The noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, said that the agricultural land in question at Stansted produced 60 per cent. more than the national average. So it does, indeed, but only if you include in the national average the wilderness lands and the moors and the National Parks and all the totally unproductive land. If you take it as against just the average of proper agricultural land, the difference is nothing like so great. From the point of view of agricultural land, there is very little to choose between the four sites, and I do not propose to dwell on this matter any more than is necessary to say that the agricultural land at Foulness is as good as it is at Stansted and that the land on the island of Sheppey is of lower quality than at Stansted or Foulness, but that it is most unlikely that all the extra development which follows a major airport could be squeezed on to the island. It would have to overflow on to the North Kent mainland, where the agricultural land is of the very first quality; that is, better than at Stansted.

I turn now to surface transport. The new surface transport links needed for Stansted would cost about £7 million; those needed for Sheppey would cost a minimum of £27 million—and much more if, as is possible, the rail tunnels in the Medway towns had to be duplicated; at Foulness the new traffic links would cost £22 million; and at Silverstone the cost would be about the same. The journey times from Central London achievable at this cost would be as follows: Stansted, 45 to 50 minutes; Sheppey, by road, half an hour longer than Stansted, and, by rail, 15 to 20 minutes longer; and Foulness about the same as Sheppey. One must also remember where the airport traffic in each case would end up in Central London. From Stansted it can come to Kings Cross, which is quite good for the sort of places international travellers are likely to want to get to. From Foulness it would come to Fen-church Street or Liverpool Street, and you would then have many thousands of extra people every day trying to get through the City. There has been some talk of new types of surface links—monorails, and so on. These are very much unproven, and the results of a study recently carried out in Manchester into the pros and cons of using these things in built-up areas throw a lot of doubt on them. I should not myself much care to have to justify the planning decisions which would be necessary to drive one of these through either the East End or South-East London.

I will leave my noble friend Lord Beswick to explain in greater detail than I the situation about air traffic control and defence, because of his great experience in those two fields, and will say now only that this is the factor which rules out Silverstone. Silverstone appeared very attractive on many other grounds, but defence decisions were taken in the 1950s which mean that the R.A.F. now has a vast capital investment in airfields which will be affected by any major civil airport in the Midlands. Such an airport at Silverstone would necessitate the closing of eight R.A.F. airfields, and would reduce the operation of thirteen others, which would leave Silver-stone at the very least £36 million down on Stansted.

Stansted may mean closing the United States air base at Wethersfield; Foulness would mean closing, and Sheppey would mean substantially reducing, the operation of the Municipal Airport at Southend. It is sometimes claimed that this would not matter because the Southend Airport could be used for housing, or some other useful development. But the air traffic which now uses Southend would have to be accommodated somewhere, either at a new minor airport or at the third London Airport itself, which would therefore suffice for the total load of traffic for a shorter time. It would shorten its life if it had to absorb Southend Airport. In other words, as regards the true social cost, the closing of Southend Airport is neither here nor there except that there is a negative money sign on the actual demolition of those buildings and the construction of others.

Both Sheppey and Foulness would involve the closing of the Army firing range at Shoeburyness and the Army would have to do its testing somewhere. The cost of moving and getting another place might be about £20 million to £25 million, which must be thrown into the balance against either estuary site. The noble Lord, Lord Byers, asked how that could be, and what the £25 million worth of buildings would amount to. That is not the whole story. There is also the question of buying the land—and it takes a lot of land to test shells—in some other place.


My Lords, am I right in thinking that the firing range was in fact moved during the war, to Llandudno? Was that very difficult?


My Lords, I do not know these historical points, but the noble Lord would be right in thinking that there would be a net cost of £20 million to £25 million in moving that range.


Not over the sea.


I heard the noble Lord say, "Not over the sea". The point about this form of testing is that you have to pick up the bits.

To all these figures we have to add the fact that if the third London airport is to go anywhere but to Stansted it is going to arrive later, because there must be many months of further examinations and inquiries. It is hard to cost this, but the attempt has been made and we must add about £10 million for delay for either Sheppey or Foulness. That must be done, because in any of these other cases we should be overrunning the saturation date for Heathrow and Gatwick and must reckon with an overall loss of international air traffic from this country to others, particularly France.

My Lords, the figures I have been giving are not gospel. They cannot be. But because the Government are better placed than anybody else to take all factors into account—



Noble Lords ask, "Why?" It is because the Government are at the centre and are able to call for facts from all quarters—a fact which is not true of any other possible assessor of this situation. Because the Government have more staff available, and because that staff has been working uninterruptedly on this problem for the last six years, we must accept that these figures reflect the true reality of social costs and social benefits more closely than and other figures we have got or shall get.


My Lords, would the Minister allow me to interrupt him? If the Government Lave so much staff who have worked so hard to get these figures out, how is it that we cannot have more details of the £25 million?


My Lords, security would be—



Noble Lords laugh, but perhaps those who have had anything to do with the testing of weapons will realise there is a point here.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that his Department, in a letter, have been given particulars of the break-up of the £25 million cost, and that in a short time I hope to reveal them to the House?


I am well aware of the fact that my Department have received those figures, but I am not at the moment in a position to say whether they can be revealed to the House.


But the noble Lord's Department have been given these figures.


My Lords, we are having a long debate and I should like to continue. Noble Lords who interrupt will have a chance of speaking. It is this fact—namely, the fact that these are the best figures we have got or shall get—which I think justifies me in informing the House that, with all reservations about unknown factors and about human fallibility, the overall difference in cost between Stansted and the other three sites is as follows: Sheppey would cost £31 million more; Foulness, on land—the cheaper Foulness—would cost £35 million more; and Silverstone would cost at the very least £62 million more. I would remind the House of what I said earlier: for purposes of comparison, a new hospital costs £5 million and a new university £15 million.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord this question? For the purposes of those figures, has he capitalised the future value of the agricultural production from Stansted, or not? Is that included, or not?


Yes, my Lords.

In recent days the decision to adopt Stansted has been criticised by many bodies, as well as by private individuals. The two bodies to whose criticism we must pay the greatest attention are the South East Regional Economic Planning Council and the Standing Conference of South Eastern Local Authorities. Both these have levelled their criticism not so much against the choice of Stansted as against the fact that they were not brought sufficiently into the consultations, and have asked that from now on they would be consulted on the planning of Stansted and on all the consequences of that for the surrounding area. I should like to say now that they will be consulted, and the Government look forward to fruitful consultations with these bodies on the remaining stages of the planning.

Having said that, I must admit that the way in which consultations and inquiries in this whole history have been handled has not been as good as could have been wished; but, and this is the point, it has been as good as could be achieved under existing law and practice. I have already described how the defence factor made it necessary for the Government to carry out the review called for by the inspector in private and not by means of a public inquiry. Defence matters must always, to a certain extent, be treated in this way. But there is another aspect in which the Government hope to be able to effect some improvements in future. At present our planning law lays it down—and practice in extra-statutory inquiry conforms with it—that the only way to apply for planning permission is for the would-be developer to ask for the answer "Yes" or "No" to a given development at a site named "A". The machinery then swings into action; the inspector hears objections and the Ministry, in due course, gives the answer, "Yes" or "No." For the very great majority of planning applications this is the best way; but for a few very large developments—and I would include the third London airport in that class—and perhaps for a few developments of a new type which raise unfamiliar questions, normally of a technical nature, this procedure is not sufficient.

For that reason, in the Town and Country Planning Bill which will shortly be laid before Parliament, the Government propose to introduce a new system which will enable someone wishing to initiate a development which is either very large or is of a very unfamiliar nature, and which raises questions of a national or regional and not only local importance, to make an initial application without specifying a particular site.* An inquiry can then be held into the preliminary question of where such a development should go and reasons may be heard for putting it on sites, "A", "B", "C", or "D". This preliminary inquiry will then choose one of those sites and then there will be a second inquiry of the familiar local type into the local objections or considerations affecting the site chosen. It is obvious that such a wider system will better tend to ensure that the right place is chosen and that the reasons for its choice are fully understood by all who may be affected. I should not like to leave this subject without recording my

* See OFFICIAL REPORT for Wednesday, 13th December, col. 1105.

own conviction—and, I believe, the conviction of all those who have been able to observe this matter developing at the centre—that if such a procedure had been in existence while the third London Airport question was being considered, it would not have come up with any other choice than Stansted; and, in view of what I have already said, perhaps the House may agree with me in this. But what this alternative procedure would have done would have been to carry a far greater section of informed and fair-minded opinion with it.

Finally, my Lords, I am not so optimistic as to suppose that I shall have carried all of your Lordships with me in what I have been saying. But to those who remain unconvinced I would say this: Is your objection based on a truly-informed and objective conclusion that some other site is better than Stansted? Or, on the other hand, is your objection based simply on your knowledge and love of Stansted and the country around it and this feeling that an airport there will bring bad consequences for the neighbourhood? If so, I should agree with you that it will. It will also, of course, bring good consequences in greater wealth and opportunities around. But this I admit—and the Government have always admitted it—it will bring bad consequences, too. If your objection is based solely on this and not on any comparison of these bad consequences with the bad consequences which would flow from the choice of any other site, I would ask you most earnestly to consult your consciences as to whether you should continue to oppose the Stansted decision. Because Stansted has been chosen, we know what the opposition has to say; we do not know what the opposition to Foulness or Sheppey would have to say, because they have not been chosen. But we may guess that it would be very much the same. This Chamber is not a place for gladiatorial contests between the representatives of limited local interests or between them and the Government; it is part of a national Legislature where wise decisions must be reached in the national interest alone.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened to the noble Lord with a considerable amount of sympathy because often in the past I have had to bat on a sticky wicket, as he has had to do to-day. I sympathise with him because I think that in a debate of this magnitude and importance some member of the Cabinet (who have a collective responsibility for this matter) should have been put up to speak. My approach to this matter is, I hope, objective. I have no interest in Essex; I have never lived there; I have been to Stansted only on two or three occasions. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, at the end of his speech posed two questions. One was, "Can you suggest an even better site than Stansted?" My difficulty is that I do not think it is for us—nor do I think it was for the objectors at the local inquiry—to produce better sites. My complaint is that there has been no thorough examination by all the interests concerned to see whether there is a better site.

One of the difficulties in dealing with this matter is that every time there is a debate, every time there is a Government statement, every time a new Paper is produced, the facts are always altered. I do not blame the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for that; but I will at this stage give one simple instance. He said in the course of his speech that it would take 45 to 50 minutes to get to Stansted by road. At the public inquiry, the Ministry's case was that it would take 60 minutes. And that was completely exploded.


My Lords, I hope the noble Viscount will forgive me for interrupting. I do not think I said it would take 45 to 50 minutes to get to Stansted by road. I believe I said that it would take 45 to 50 minutes to get there.


My Lords, I assume that if the noble Lord was talking, about Stansted, then he meant "to get to Stansted". I cannot think otherwise what meaning can be given to his statement.

My Lords, I was glad to hear, as I live only three miles from Silverstone, the noble Lord's emphatic and persuasive rejection of that as an alternative site. But he went on to say that the cost of building rail transport from Foulness to London would be £22 million and that the same would apply to Silverstone. I simply cannot accept those figures. Silverstone is only about 15 or 16 miles from the M.1, and a lesser distance from the electrified line to Crewe. It cannot cost as much as it would to build an entirely new line to Foulness over a distance of 50-odd miles. I give these two immediate instances of how difficult it is to accept the statements of facts and figures presented by the Government.


Perhaps I may make a further interruption. The noble and learned Viscount is introducing his own facts and figures with the idea of a construction of a new railway line the whole 50 miles from London to Foulness.


The noble Lord gave no details of how he arrived at his cost. But I should have thought that, on any view, with the road system as it is at present, to say that it would be necessary to spend £22 million to connect Silverstone with the M.1, or to construct a rail spur, was wholly unrealistic. I shall have more to say about costs later, as this has been introduced as one of the major arguments against the suggestion.

My Lords, I have risen to speak on this Motion because I think that the issues are not just local. I do not want to be critical in any Party sense, or to make any Party points, but I think the issues raised are of very great national importance. I attach some importance to the fact (I should have thought that the noble Lord would have attached some importance to it, but he did not deal with it) that in this case there have been breaches of well-recognised procedures; and that I regard as a serious matter. Also, I do not feel that it has yet been demonstrated that the decision to build a great airport at Stansted is right in the national interest. Despite what the noble Lord has said, I hope that what is said in your Lordships' House to-day will not be without effect and that the Government, even now, will pay some attention to the views of this House.

I was glad to note that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, did not produce the argument that time would not permit of a further proper and thorough inquiry. My Lords, I shall seek to show, as the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, did, that if that is put forward as an excuse for not having the inquiry which everyone wants it is really not an excuse that could be accepted. To-day we hear, for the first time, that the reason why it could not be held, although it would be an inquiry of the sort the inspector was recommending, is the defence interests involved, which would have to be dealt with in private and in secrecy. I find that very astonishing. May I remind your Lordships of paragraph 40 of the White Paper published in May, 1967? It said: The Government decided against an independent commission. In the first place, a decision either for or against Stansted was becoming urgent. Furthermore the Inter-Departmental Committee on the Third London Airport had already made a thorough examination of the question in 1962 and 1963; the subsequent publication of their report and the public inquiry itself gave an ample and well-used opportunity to all interests outside the Government to put forward their own points of view. Accordingly, nothing useful seemed likely to be achieved by initiating a further round of public discussion of the same material. Not only would such a procedure inevitably be very time-consuming but it would also have involved both the Government and all the other interested parties in renewed work and expense in preparing and submitting evidence; and at the end of the day the decision would still have been for the Government to make. There is not a single word there about defence interests making it impossible to hold that inquiry in public. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, in answer to an interjection said something to the effect that one could not put everything on paper. But it would require only one sentence to give that reason. It is not there. That is why I say that those who are feeling critical about Stansted are always finding that the arguments are altered. I am not attacking the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. No doubt he has been fully briefed on this subject, but he has been briefed to put up an argument not contained in the White Paper; and even if it had been it would, I think, have carried very little credibility because defence interests did come within the scope of a public inquiry and were dealt with there. It would be perfectly easy, as it was with that public inquiry, not to allow that inquiry to develop into the consideration of anything that was secret. It happened at one public inquiry and I cannot think why it should not happen at another one.


My Lords, I always ask that we should have more information about military affairs, but will not the noble and learned Viscount be fair on this point, and admit that my noble friend Lord Kennet did say that eight airfields would be affected; and the difficulty about having a public inquiry would be that one would have to say exactly what those airfields were being used for, what equipment was on them and why it was so difficult to move them?


My Lords, I do not accept that in the least. It was not said, with regard to Wethersfield, what equipment was on that aerodrome, or anything of that kind. The information was given in a White Paper, and could have been given at a public inquiry, and I have no doubt that that information would have been accepted. So, my Lords, I cannot accept that pretext as a valid pretext for not holding the inquiry which the inspector recommended.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that no one had seriously contested that a third London airport was necessary. I think that is the first question which has to be considered; and the second one is, as I would put it: if so, is Stansted the right place for it? With regard to the first question, the curious thing is that it does not appear to have been the subject of any real consideration at any time. It appears to have been assumed over the years that if the capacity at Heathrow and Gatwick were exhausted, then it would necessarily follow that there should be a third London airport. The White Paper published in 1953 proposed that Stansted should be held in reserve in case of an additional airport to Heathrow and Gatwick being needed later. But then the Estimates Committee of 1960–61 questioned the expenditure on Stansted, and that led to the appointment of the 1963 Committee.

That Committee were asked to consider, not where the third airport should best be placed in the whole country—nothing of that sort; they were appointed: to consider the requirements for a third London airport, including timing and location. The Chairman of that Committee was a Mr. Hole, then Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Aviation and now chief executive in the British Airports Autho- rity; and as the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, said, 16 members of that Committee—all except two—were concerned with aviation. There was one civil servant from the Ministry of Transport and an assistant secretary from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. The committee were well constituted to consider whether a third airport would be wanted, and when it would be wanted—and here I disagree slightly with the noble Lord, Lord Byers. I think the first matter to tackle would be to consider when more facilities for aircraft would be required than could be given to Heathrow and Gatwick.


My Lords, will the noble Viscount be kind enough to give way one moment more? He is now going back over this hoary criticism that the second Inter-Departmental Inquiry was overloaded with aviation people. I hope that he will come on to the fact, which I mentioned in my speech, that the third one contained representatives of all those interests which the inspector said it should, and two more. On the point about whether there had to be a third London airport, and that there could not be a third English airport, I would refer him to paragraphs 18 to 23 of the White Paper.


If the noble Lord really interrupted me to know whether I should deal with certain matters it does not encourage me to give way again. I certainly propose to deal with all those matters; but I wish, if I may, to deal with this matter first, because I think it is an important matter in the background.

I quite agree that the Committee were well constituted—I am not criticising that—to consider the question of a third air-part from the point of view of the use of aircraft. But, my Lords, I do not think that anyone could suggest that the Committee were an appropriate body to consider all the factors which ought to be taken into account in deciding where the airport should be placed. None the less, that Committee thought fit to express their views on planning matters and on transport facilities to and from London. It appears from their Report that they would have liked to have a third airport which was (if I may use the word which appears in their Report, but which my noble friend Lord Cones-ford may not like) omnidirectional, as indeed Gatwick and Heathrow are. But they were prepared to sacrifice that important requirement because they agreed that no site outside one hour's journey from Central London—and they meant Grosvenor Square—should be considered unless there was shown to be no alternative. They said that Stansted … appears to be the only one that will meet the criterion of one hour's travelling time from the West End. This statement was shown at the public inquiry not to be justified.

I put this question—and I hope that we shall have an answer to it from the noble Lord, Lord Beswick: Why should it be assumed, when the capacity of Heathrow and Gatwick become insufficient, that a third London airport is the answer? If we take into account all the factors, may not the right answer be to have it farther away, where it can be omnidirectional, and perhaps may be conveniently sited for some other centres of population? It was not considered at that stage whether there was any other possibility except a third London airport.

When Mr. Blake was appointed to hold his inquiries, his terms of reference expressly stipulated that objectors were not to question the need for a further major airport serving London. It might be said that it was inappropriate for considering this at the public local inquiry, but it was at that stage, before the public local inquiry, that there should have been the kind of preliminary inquiry to which the noble Lord now refers, when planning and all other interests affected should have met to consider what would be the best. Nothing would have prevented that under the existing law. Then there could have been a local public inquiry to hear local objections. One question which ought to be borne in mind is surely the question whether, when we take into account all the costs, the price to be paid by the community is not too high. And we must not give precedence to aviation.

Before I leave the Committee's Report, there are one or two passages to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention. The Committee said that: Stansted … lies in an area offering scope for large-scale population growth. None of the planning authorities agreed with that. They said: An enlarged airport at Stansted would inevitably stimulate residential development in the area. The airport itself might ultimately employ some 7,000 to 10,000 people; if allowance is made for families and for employment created indirectly by the airport, a population growth of between 25,000 and 50,000 could well be expected. In addition to this, the airport, together with the new motorway, would greatly enhance Stansted's attractiveness as an area for the development of commerce and industry and would make the locality a strong candidate for a planned increase in population on a larger scale. The planning authorities responsible are all against any such development.

The Committee said that the new airport must be ready by about 1973. That was based on their view that the capacity of Heathrow and Gatwick would prove to be insufficient. They assumed that a second runway would be built at Gatwick. That was proposed in 1963. In the White Paper of 1967, four years later, it was said that it was not certain whether that would materialise, and that it might be subject to a public inquiry. Then in June, 1967, the then President of the Board of Trade said in another place that it would be built. I ask to be told: Has nothing been done about that? It will certainly be wanted before a new airport with parallel runways, and it looks a little odd to argue about the necessity of building Stansted if nothing has yet been done about a second runway at Gatwick.

I think that it is important to note what the Committee really meant when they said that a third London airport would be required by about 1973. They did not mean that an airport with two runways would be wanted then. That is made clear beyond all doubt on page 15 of their Report, where they say: The full effect on airspace of Stansted's operations will not, however, be felt until, some years after it has come into use as the third London airport, the growing traffic requires a parallel runway system, that is, probably not before the late 1970s. I ask your Lordships to note those last words. So it would appear that all that would be required from about 1963 to the late 1970s is use of the existing runways at Stansted; and if a second runway will not be wanted till then, does not that make nonsense of the argument that there is not time to investigate the whole question properly?

Now I come to the public inquiry. At that inquiry, three members of the Committee of 1963 gave evidence in support of the Ministry's case. It was presented by no less an advocate than Sir Milner Holland. He did not call a single witness with authority to speak on planning questions. Perhaps no planning expert would support the proposal. The inspector reported that all the evidence submitted to him was to the effect that a development of this kind in this area would be bad regional planning. I have read the inspector's report. It shows that the Ministry's case as then presented was shot to pieces, and that the Committee's Report of 1963, if I may use an expression which the noble and gallant Field Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein frequently uses, was "hit for six."

I will not remind your Lordships about many of the observations in that Report, except this. In relation to noise, the Committee presided over by Mr. Hole said: Bishop's Stortford and other large communities nearby will not be subjected to discomfort from the noise of aircraft using the airport. The selection of Stansted would provide an excellent opportunity for the co-ordinated planning of the airport and nearby residential and industrial zones so as to avoid the noise problems that have created so much difficulty at Heathrow. They said that it would not create a "serious noise problem."

When we get to the inquiry we find that it is thought there will be a serious noise problem. The inspector's report makes it clear beyond doubt that the noise for many people will be quite intolerable. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, indicated that wherever we put the airport that is likely to be the case. But I do not take that view. In considering what is the cost of Stansted, surely all its costs should be taken into account. A good deal of what I had been proposing to say has already been said, but I find it difficult to accept the statements in the White Paper, bearing in mind that it says that the 1963 Committee's Report constituted a comprehensive and searching reexamination of the many complex issues. In the light of the inspector's report, I do not see how that Committee's Report can be so regarded.

Now I come to the part to which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred, to the review after the inspector's report. Who conducted that review? Who were its members? We have not been told. Were they all civil servants? We know who served on the 1963 Committee. Mr. Jay, President of the Board of Trade, said that one of the members of the 1963 Committee served upon this reviewing body. Did any of those who gave evidence for the Ministry at the public inquiry serve upon it? May we be told? It seems to me a very curious thing to have had anyone who served on the 1963 Committee, or who gave evidence in the support of the Ministry's case at the public inquiry, taking part in this searching and independent re-examination. I should like to make it clear that I am not questioning the sincerity of any member of the 1963 Committee or of any of the witnesses for the Ministry at the inquiry, but they were proved to be wrong in many respects. It seems to me odd, to say the least, that any of them should have been asked to participate in this further review.

When I read the White Paper, the first thing that struck me about it was that it was putting forward a very different case from that put forward by the 1963 Committee. The method of forecasting the capacity of Gatwick and Heathrow is entirely altered. They concluded that a third airport would be wanted in 1974 or 1976. It did not seem to me from reading that—and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will deal with this point—that two more runways will then be, required. I do not understand this conclusion in the White Paper to involve the rejection of the 1963 Committee's view, that a second runway at Stansted wall not be required until the late 1970s.

Then the White Paper (and this is the first time we get an attempt to do it) attempts to show that the third airport must be near London. I find it not uninteresting to note that only air traffic requirements were considered, and not the wider aspects of the problem. Then it is, as the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, indicated, that for the first time this White Paper put forward or revealed that the real plan was to build at Stansted not two runways, but four runways—two sets of parallel runways. Can Stansted be developed to hold two pairs of parallel runways? This has never been investigated. At the public inquiry there was no mention of it. Surely, if that is the plan, it must necessarily involve that a further inquiry should be held, and also that the first inquiry was really a waste of time.

What would be the extra men involved, and the extra noise? The assessor, Mr. Brancker, to whom reference has been made, has written that: If a second pair of runways is to be added, then the picture will be changed radically, and areas which were not considered at all at the inquiry will become subject to higher noise value. Then the White Paper goes on to consider a number of alternatives, including such as Silverstone, not even suggested at the inquiry.

We have heard a lot about cost to-day. No evidence of cost was given at the inquiry, but now it is—to try to help make out the case for Stansted. We have heard a lot about the cost of moving the Shoeburyness artillery range. We are told that it is £25 million, and that this really rules out Foulness. On October 13, 1967, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government wrote a letter which gave details of how that £25 million was arrived at. A figure of £4.3 million was attributed to the cost of building a sea wall if they moved to a new location—although, of course, not knowing where they would go to, they would not know at the time when these costs were estimated whether they would want a sea wall at all. It is figures of this kind which make one doubt all the figures about cost which have been used in the White Paper, and used again to-day.

Before I come to say more about cost, I find that the Government's approach at this stage is one of which I cannot avoid being very critical, and for this reason. When we had the Franks Committee, that Committee reported that a Minister should be under a statutory duty to submit to the parties concerned for their observations any factual evidence, whether from his own or another Department, or from an outside source, which he obtains after the inquiry. Here, from what I have mentioned of the contents of the White Paper—the reference to alternative sites not considered by the inquiry, the cost, and many other indications—it seems clear that a lot of information was obtained after the inquiry. After the Franks Committee reported the Ministry of Housing and Local Government sent out a circular which said: If new factual evidence is brought to the Minister's notice from any source after the inquiry, and in his view it may be a material factor in the decision, he will give the parties an opportunity of commenting on it. If the Minister considers it necessary, the inquiry will be reopened. Your Lordships will remember all the controversy in which my predecessor as Lord Chancellor was engaged over the chalk-pit case. That inquiry was also a planning inquiry, but not a statutory inquiry, and the Council on Tribunals took a part, with the result that Regulations were made which provide really for what the Franks Committee reported should be done. In two recent cases—with regard to the gas station at Bacton and the hoverport at Pegwell Bay—the inquiry has been reopened. But in this far more important instance, the Minister and the Government have not given the parties at the inquiry an opportunity of commentting on the new matter contained in the White Paper, and commenting before the decision was arrived at; nor have they reopened the inquiry. All that has happened has been the production of the White Paper containing the decision to go ahead. The Stansted Inquiry, though a planning inquiry, was not what is called a statutory planning inquiry, and the rules which had been made did not apply. It is upon this ground, as I understand it, that the Government did not comply with them in these respects.

The Franks Committee and the Council on Tribunals were concerned with the broad principles of justice. Everyone would consider it monstrous that after a case had been heard judgment should be based on matters which had not come out at the trial. Yet is not that what has happened here? On a matter of such great importance, I submit that on that ground alone the inquiry should have been reopened; and it may well be that when tested in cross-examination some of the statements in the White Paper could be shown to be as ill-founded as some of the statements in the 1963 Committee's Report.


My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Viscount what material it is that he is referring to as having been received after the inquiry?


The noble Lord has only to see what matters were considered at the inquiry and what is referred to in the White Paper. First of all, on the cost element, there was no evidence given as to cost at the inquiry. Now we are asked to accept, without any cross-examination or testing, differing figures on cost. As to the £25 million, there was no evidence before the inquiry about the alternative sites, such as Silver-stone. If the noble Lord wants to look further, if he looks at the appendix to the White Paper he will see that reference is there made to information given after the inquiry by way of confirmation from British Railways.


My Lords, all these were the matters considered at the review which had been called for by the inspector. Does the noble and learned Viscount consider that the Government should have refused the inspector's suggestion that there should be a review?


I do not think the Government complied in the least degree with the inspector's recommendation. There has been no evidence that they complied with it. We are not told even who conducted the review.


The noble and learned Viscount—


Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to continue. He did not like it when I interrupted him once, but I have given way to him a great many times. The point I was making is that, quite apart from that, there is an obligation, where there has been the public inquiry, to comply with the requirements of the Franks Committee Report, the Ministry of Health Circular, and with the principle of the thing in broad justice to those affected. That has not been complied with. That is my charge, and I stand by it.


My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount is kind enough to yield again. First he complains that additional matter is taken into account after the inquiry, at the review, and then he complains that there is no evidence that the Government have accepted the inspector's recommendation that there should be a review. I wonder which he means.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will later read what I said, he will see that it is not contradictory. I do not mind the Government's taking into account matters and information which come to them after a review.


I am glad to hear it.


The noble Lord really should contain himself. What I was saying is that, if they do, they are under an obligation, before reaching a decision, to give the parties who took part in the inquiry an opportunity of commenting upon that new information, and, if need be, of reopening the inquiry. I am surprised that the noble Lord, who I believe has some connection with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, should not be aware that this principle is accepted by his Department.

May I now come to another matter? The Standard Regional Planning Conference, formed in 1962, which has on it the chief planning officers of the Greater London Council, was never consulted; nor was the Regional Economic Planning Council, but in another place the Government sought to excuse themselves by saying that they could not consult them without breach of what I call the "chalkpit rules". It seems to me that the Government, in refraining from consulting them, have sought to take advantage of the rules, which they have broken in other important respects.


My Lords, I hate to interrupt the noble Viscount again but I presume he does know, does he not that the Regional Economic Planning Council was not set up in time to be consulted?


My Lords, I do not accept that it was not set up in time to be consulted. Certainly it was not set up before the public inquiry, but it has not been consulted yet.

My Lords, I know that I have taken a long time, but I have been interrupted a good deal and there are one or two other matters that I should like to deal with in this context, because the White Paper stated that the development order would shortly be laid before Parliament. That was in May. Now we are told that the reason for the delay is the realignment of the runways, which is being considered with a view to eliminating noise which, according to the 1963 Committee's Report, would be no obstacle. This means that the existing runway at Stansted would be scrapped, extra costs would be involved and the cost estimates would have to be revised. But it means more than that, as the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, said, because noise will be inflicted on people unaffected by the use of the runways proposed at the time of the inquiry. They did not object then, but they may want to object now; and, as I understand it, they are not to be given an opportunity of doing so. We are told now that the local authorities will be consulted. Consultation after the decision is no substitute for consultation before. I really do not think this will do.

Reference has been made to Foulness and other places. I am not going to suggest that another place is better than Stansted (I do not feel that I am competent to do so), but what I do say is that there has been no thorough examination of the other alternatives. I have received two massive publications, one dealing with Foulness Island and the other with building an airport on the adjoining sands. It is true that in each case the plan would involve the closing of the Shoeburyness artillery range. I understand there is a very good officers' mess there, but I gather that the rest of it is pretty obsolete. On account of the artillery range, consideration of Foulness appears to have been ruled out, but it would seem to me to be more in the national interest to move that artillery range than to create this great airport at Stansted.

I have been given a paper, which I was interested to see, in view of the noble Lord's comments. I have seen the noise and N.N.I. figures for Foulness from either angle. I understand that this document which I have in my hand was produced on the authority of the British Airports Authority. In this document it is said that noise would affect greatly Southend, Rochford, Rayleigh, Thorpe Bay, Shoeburyness and Leigh-on-Sea. When you look at those contours you find that it would not affect any of them if the runways were aligned in the same way as they are proposed to be aligned at Stansted. In this document it is said that Foulness Island is ruled out because the land there is very good agricultural land. So it is. But the Ministry of Defence control a great deal of it, and 60 per cent. of it can be used only for growing grass.

As to cost, while figures were given of costs, they have never been examined, although there was some effort at the inquiry to agree upon them, without success. I regard the arguments on that aspect, as so far advanced, as thoroughly unconvincing, and one of the things I am hoping is that someone, even now, will be appointed to make a proper and full inquiry. We were told by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that the Government really knew best; that they had more civil servants. I do not question the latter statement, but all these matters should be inquired into by an independent body, not just by civil servants. This has often been done in the past. Judges have often been required to act as chairmen of inquiries into such matters. Why should that not happen here, even now? If the result, after full consideration of this matter by a body which did not contain on it those who had previously formed opinions, was that Stansted was the answer as the noble Lord thinks it would be, I think the public would accept it. But as the matter stands now, I, for one, cannot think that the case for Stansted is proven.

In conclusion I should like to deal with one other matter. It may be said by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, when he comes to reply, that time will not permit of such an inquiry. This sort of argument does not come very well from a Government who have occupied so much time upon this matter, but I remember having been appointed, with the Lord President of the Council, to serve on a committee with an even bigger task than this committee would face. After the war we were both appointed to an Anglo-American Committee to consider and report upon problems of European Jewry and of Palestine. We were asked to complete that task in three months, and we did so. I cannot believe that, in the light of all the information that has now been gained, an impartial committee, presided over by a judge, would take a very long time to investigate and report upon this matter.

If I am right in thinking, as I have been told, that the White Paper itself shows that the capacity of Heathrow and Gatwick will not be exceeded until 1978, Stansted will not be wanted at all until that time; and there is one runway which could be used then. It took five years to build Gatwick from scratch. If we allow six or seven years, say, for the building of Stansted, that brings us to 1971 or 1972. Is it not ridiculous to assert that time does not permit of a proper inquiry? I hope that the Government, even at this stage, will listen to the plea I have put forward, a plea which has been expressed by many bodies. But if they are not prepared to do so, I comfort myself with the thought that the final decision rests with Parliament, and if the Government persist in a decision which is generally regarded as thoroughly bad, and which certainly has not been proved to be a good one, I hope that Parliament will not approve.

The White Paper said with regard to Stansted: The loss of land would be part of the high price to be paid for the benefits of the airport to the nation". It has yet to be demonstrated that the price to the nation of putting the airport at Stansted does not far exceed the benefits which would result. It has yet to be demonstrated that another site, taking into account all the relevant factors and not just air traffic, is not more suitable. As I say, I hope that, even at this stage, the Government will have second thoughts and decide that there must be a further inquiry before this project goes ahead; and if the Government so decide I, for one, shall think it not a sign of weakness but a sign of wisdom. I apologise to your Lordships for having made the longest speech I have ever made in your Lordships' House.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, unlike the noble and learned Viscount to whose very powerful speech we have all listened with such interest, I have a personal interest to declare in this matter in that I am a resident and a farmer not all that far from Stansted itself. My home, I gather, will be in the area of aircraft stacking and therefore will be subject to some nuisance. I was at one time chairman of the group of hospitals, one of which is in Bishop's Stortford, affected by this scheme. And I have a very great love born in my childhood from bicycle rides in that area, of places like Thaxted and the other lovely parts of that countryside. So I approach this problem with a considerable bias against the proposal to make Stansted the third international airport of London.

When, not long ago, I found myself in the Board of Trade, in the Ministry responsible for this particular project (although I myself had no departmental responsibility for it) I thought it right that I should look into it with considerable care. I will admit immediately that even three years in Government had not entirely dispelled from my mind the belief, which I believe some of your Lordships share, that it is occasionally possible for officials to subordinate the welfare of the public to departmental and administrative convenience. So I did not go into this matter with a completely unbiased mind; I was hoping—I confess this quite frankly—that I should find my suspicions that Stansted was a bad place would be confirmed. But I did not. Having gone into it as carefully as I could at that time, I came to the conclusion that although Stansted was far from being an ideal site for a third London airport it was, in the circumstances that obtained at that time, in 1964—and that still obtain to-day—the least bad of any of the areas that presented themselves.

We have heard a great deal about independent experts and how important it is that this matter should be submitted to independent experts—the assumption being, of course, that the officials who originally looked into this matter were not independent but were, for some reason or other, already prejudiced in favour of Stansted. In the initial stages, as my noble friend Lord Kennet has made very clear, there were a great many areas which were looked at, a great many potential sites which were investigated; and the people who looked into this were, in their different ways—and they comprised a very wide range of people—all experts, and they were all completely independent, in that none of them had any particular reason for favouring or opposing any particular site. The answer they came to was that in the circumstances Stansted was the right place; and the arguments put forward in support of this view were manifold and very detailed indeed. It would be pure waste of your Lordships' time if I rehearsed those arguments. Most of them you have already heard, very ably expressed by my noble friend. Others of them I am sure you will hear from my noble friend Lord Beswick at the end of this debate, whenever that may take place; and from the look of it it will be at a fairly late hour.

What I should like to deal with briefly now is not so much whether or not Stansted should be the third international airport—because, as I say, we have heard the arguments in favour; we shall hear more, and I personally believe that it is the best—but what lessons we can learn from this (as I freely admit it to be) sadly mismanaged affair, and how we can organise our affairs so that in the future we do not have to make use of what I describe as being the best possible site or the least bad site in to-day's circumstances, but we can in fact choose the ideal site and make sure that the country gets, in fact, the best, instead of what is only a second or third best.

The first point I would deal with, of the two lessons for us to learn, has already to a large extent, I am glad to say, been answered by my noble friend Lord Kennet. That is the question of a public inquiry. Of course, public inquiries are essential in any planning matters of this sort, in any matters involving compulsory powers of purchase or utilisation of land—the type of thing with which my noble friend's Ministry concerns itself so much, as do other Government Departments. But what is suitable to inquire into regarding the desirability of making use of one site or another, or one particular site for a particular project, in one locality is clearly of no use at all when it is something which is undoubtedly going to arouse a great deal of local opposition wherever the project may take place. We know perfectly well that if Stansted had not been chosen, if the choice had been Sheppey, or Foulness, or Silverstone, or anywhere else, the local inquiry there, with the opposition rightly and naturally engendered to it by local inhabitants, would have been such that it would have been almost impossible for the inquiry to come up with a result other than it did for Stansted; that is to say, for the locality it is a bad thing and it can be justified only if overriding national interest makes it necessary.

In these circumstances, I think it is essential that we should with the least possible delay develop a new form of inquiry for matters of this sort, where not only local objections are listened to but where it is open to, if not incumbent upon, those who object locally to propose alternative sites for this proposed development, and where those areas which have been proposed as alternatives are given due warning that they are down to be named and so have an opportunity of presenting their case, either agreeing or disagreeing. Until we have that form of public inquiry, I do not see that it will serve any more useful purpose than it has done in the case of Stansted. As I say, my noble friend has given an indication that the Government are already working in this way. I am extremely glad to hear it, and I sincerely congratulate him and his Department on learning this lesson so surprisingly quickly.

The second and more important lesson that we should learn is the need for having really long-term and comprehensive planning for any projects of this kind. I have no desire to make a Party political point here, because I admit quite freely that it could well have happened had we been in power at the time instead of noble Lords opposite, but the great error in the siting of Stansted arose not in 1964 or 1965 and in the years which followed from then—although there were errors and stupidities, I freely admit—but in the 'fifties, when we should have been looking at a comprehensive transport plan for the whole country; and, coupled with that comprehensive transport plan, we should have been looking at our defence plans and at our industrial development plans also.

So far as air transport is concerned, the primary object is to transport people as rapidly as possible to as near as they can be landed to the area where they wish to go. There is no point in bringing people from Rome or New York who wish to go to London and depositing them in Newcastle, Manchester or Edinburgh. You must put them as near to the centre of London as you can. Assuming, as I do, and accepting the arguments that have been put forward that there will be need for more people to be landed close to the centre of the City of London in the mid-1970s than Gatwick and Heathrow can possibly provide for, we must have an airport which is as close to the centre of London as possible.

Your Lordships know perfectly well that geographical distances are not the only or, indeed, the most important criteria. There may be places which are miles further from the centre of London, but because of access into London, either by road or by rail, the journey takes a shorter time than if you put the passengers down closer. I would also say that the modern air traveller and the traveller of the future is going to be more inclined to travel from the airport to his appointment by road than to have the nuisance of getting on to a train and then getting out at Victoria Station or King's Cross Station, or wherever it may be. So we must concentrate increasingly on means of road access.

Secondly, although the majority of passengers want to come to London, there are many who wish to go to the Midlands—to Birmingham, Manchester, Coventry and further North. Therefore, the ideal site for a third London airport from that point of view would, if the noble and learned Viscount will forgive me, be quite close to his own home. At least it should be somewhere in the neighbourhood of Silverstone or Luton, in that general area North of London, between London and Birmingham, close to the good main line to Euston, close to the good main road, the M.1, which possibly might have to be strengthened and enlarged in order to take the extra transport. Had this plan been thought out in the 'fifties, in my submission that would have been the ideal spot. Furthermore, again with respect to the noble and learned Viscount, there are areas there which are not famous for their great natural beauty or for the unspoiled character of their rural amenities.


My Lords, I am afraid that the noble Lord does not know the country round there at all well. It is far more beautiful than at Cambridgeshire.


My Lords, I am glad to say that Cambridgeshire for the moment is not at issue; I think my noble friend Lord Butler of Saffron Walden will agree with me on that. I was not saying that there was no beautiful country there; I was saying that there are areas there which could be utilised without impinging too greatly on rural amenities or beauty. Furthermore, there is considerable industrial development already taking place in many of these areas. So, without being too specific, all these things point to somewhere in the Luton area.

But, of course, that has been knocked entirely on the head, as my noble friend pointed out, by the fact that there are a large number of military aerodromes which were put there on a deliberate defence decision during the 'fifties. That decision, I suspect—noble Lords who were concerned with this will correct me if I am wrong—was not taken as part of a general national development plan, integrating air transport, road transport, industrial development and the rest. It was taken in a vacuum, devoid of and divorced from all other considerations. That is where the initial error arose in this whole planning of where our third national airport should be.

As I say, I do not want to make Party political capital out of this. I am bringing it up only in the hope that, because of these faults which have taken place in the past, we shall learn for the future, and we shall in all future types of development make absolutely certain that the military aspects of the problem, the amenity, the industrial and other aspects of planning, the whole urban rind rural planning of the country and our transport projects will be coordinated in order to complement each other instead of antagonising each other. It is too late to do anything about that so far as the question of Stansted, Sheppey or any other place is concerned.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt, would he not admit that there is a possibility of a further public inquiry?


My Lords, I have not yet come to that point. I have not thrown it out, and I will deal with it, although in fact it is far more for my noble friends on the Front Bench to answer that. But I will deal with it now. I am not at all opposed, in theory or in principle, to a further public inquiry, but I believe that this has been inquired into, if not ad nauseam, at any rate to such an extent that there is nothing further that can come out of an inquiry so far as the people who have made the decision are concerned. I do not believe that there are any new factors which have not been assessed and taken into consideration.

Hitherto, I have said that I support the Government in what they have done. I will now criticise them for their handling of this matter. I do not believe that this matter has been well handled or sensibly handled; it could have been done in a far wiser way. I do not believe that the result would have been any different. I certainly disagree with my noble friend Lord Kennet when he says that the inquiry which was recommended by the inspector could not have been held in public because of security reasons. Quite frankly, that does not "wash" at all. The inquiry could have been held, and I believe should have been held, in public, and when certain matters arose which were of security significance, the evidence could easily have been taken in camera and not published. But the whole bulk of the inquiry could, and I believe should, have been held in public.


My Lords, if we had done that, I wonder whether the noble Earl, Lord Dilhorne, would have let us get away with it?


My Lords, the noble Lord has asked me and has promoted me at the same time. That is the ordinary way that you deal with matters which are in secret. It does not stop the inquiry being held.


My Lords, demoting him again, I am sure that the noble and learned Viscount would not have allowed the Government to get away with anything that they should not have got away with, and I think he would have done his best to have stopped them getting away with things even which they should get away with. But I do not believe that he would have succeeded in doing this; and in any case that is no reason for not having done it in that way.

I shall not detain your Lordships any longer on this point. As I say, I think the Government have handled this in a clumsy way. I think they could have put forward their reasons far more convincingly than they have done, and I think that the inquiry in particular should have been in public. But I am not pressing them now to reopen the matter and to have a further enquiry. I do not believe that it would add anything at all to the knowledge that is already there. I do not believe that it would alter the decision which I consider has been rightly taken. All it would do is still further to delay. I am sure it will take far more than three months to have an adequate inquiry into this highly complex matter.

Without going into all the details of the need for speed, the noble and learned Viscount mentioned the fact that there was one runway already at Stansted and that there was no need for the second runway until late in the 'seventies, so the whole matter could be postponed, as I understood him, until then. But it is not simply a question of runways. If Stansted is going to be a major international airport, a great deal of expenditure, quite apart from that on runways, has to be undertaken, such as expenditure on terminal buildings, facilities, road and rail links, and so on; and to do all this for one runway when one has not decided already that a second runway will be on the same place would be highly irresponsible and a waste of public funds. So I accept the argument for speed, and therefore I do not support the request for a further inquiry. I believe that the Government are doing the right thing. I only wish that they had done it in a rather more manifestly right manner.

5.2 p.m.


My Lords, I have been involved with Stansted since this project was first thought of. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred to some investigations in 1953. I remember feelings before that, when I was a Member for the district. In fact, since 1929 I have known the district thoroughly. I know every village, every church, every road, every lane, every end, every hamlet, and every pub; and I know most of the people affected and how much they are likely to be affected. I find it difficult not to let this sentiment govern solely my discretion and judgment in this matter.

I am taking part in this debate for the purpose of asking for the holding of a proper public inquiry. I say to the Government that they little know that what is concerning my friends in the Stansted district is that they feel they have been bulldozed and not properly treated. They feel that justice has not been done and that the case has not been proved. I would congratulate the Essex and Hertfordshire Preservation Society and their officers on their long fight, and also my successor, Mr. Peter Kirk, the Member for Saffron Walden. I hesitate to say that the fight has been successful, because whenever success has come our way the Government have adopted methods, which I think have been illegitimate, to counter, to ignore and to depose the public will.

Our first success was getting the inquiry set up, and it is quite legitimate for those who have been involved in Stansted to take pride in the results of the inquiry. The noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, to whom we are indebted for introducing this debate, referred to a letter from the then Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, written to me when I was Foreign Secretary and Member for Saffron Walden. That letter was certainly written, and willingly accepted by me because I was having rather a difficult time in my own constituency. It promised that the inquiry would be impartial. The inquiry was impartial, and I am going to detain your Lordships, not for very long since I cannot improve on the case put by my noble friend Lord Dilhorne, just to remind you of that inquiry and of what the inspector said.

The inquiry said, first of all, that it would be a calamity for the neighbourhood if a major airport were placed at Stansted. Such a decision could only be justified by national necessity, and necessity was not proved by evidence at this inquiry. That, really, is the text. I believe that if my friends were satisfied—and I know my successor as Member for Saffron Walden has already stated this publicly, and the deputy chairman of the Hertfordshire and Essex Preservation Group has also said so—by a public inquiry that this was inevitable, they would accept it, and I would accept it. But what we are blaming the Government for is for not having such an inquiry and in not following up what was suggested by the inspector himself.

The only thing the inspector said which was favourable to the Government over Stansted was that the proposal succeeds on the viability of air traffic. Of course, it does. If you are going to get a large, beautiful piece of open agricultural country, carve it up as you want and alter the runways as you want, naturally you can make it viable for air traffic—at colossal expense. That is obvious. But he also went on to say that there were strong arguments against it on grounds of town and country planning, and the point has been dealt with by my noble friend Lord Dilhorne. The inspector also found that there is bad ground access from London, and he said: I consider that the proposals put forward would be unacceptable to passengers and airlines to an extent that might make the airport of only moderate value. It is ridiculous for me to sit in your Lordships' House and listen to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, talk about its being 45 or 50 minutes to London. During the whole of my early years in Essex I lived at Broxted, which is likely to be almost completely destroyed as a village, and I know that it is impossible to get from Stansted, even on the M.11, in 45 minutes to London. If, as is suggested in the evidence, there is to be a rail link via Tottenham, King's Cross, Farringdon, Holborn Viaduct and Blackfriars to Victoria, it will be quite impossible to do that in 45 minutes.


My Lords, I agree. I think that my noble friend meant, if he did not say it, that the rail journey time from King's Cross to Stansted would be 45 minutes. The road journey, of course, is much greater.


My Lords, I have travelled on these railways all my life, and I should be very surprised to see them improved to that extent. If they are thinking in terms of a monorail, on the lines of the one I saw from the Japanese airport to the capital when I was visiting Japan as Foreign Secretary, then they are talking business and I do not mind listening, but I do mind listening to the Government when they exaggerate or underestimate the difficulties of this distance.

The inspector went on to mention noise, about which I shall speak later. He said that this would change the character of the neighbourhood, which is quite obvious, and that it would result in the loss of much good agricultural land. Those who have spoken hitherto have not dealt at length with one agricultural feature which I want to deal with. I calculate that the total land requirements of Stansted, in regard to the two double runways, would come to some 15,000 acres. I have consulted Sir Dudley Stamp's Land Utilisation Survey, and I find that there is only 4 per cent. of the land in Britain which is better than this. Four per cent. of our land is quite excellent, notably in Lincolnshire. Then comes some 15 per cent. of the land which is "the best arable". In that comes the whole of the Stansted area. Eighty per cent. of the rest of the land of Britain is inferior to that of Stansted.

I have consulted the National Advisory Service and the Cambridge University School of Agriculture, and I find that 15,000 acres would produce a total in value of cereals of about £750,000 per annum. That includes sugar beet, potatoes and other crops grown on cereal acreage. Livestock in the Stansted area would amount in value to some £230,000. That would come to a total of nearly £1 million a year. I have compared this with the calculations on North Essex farms, done by the Cambridge University School of Agriculture which costs those farms, and when I farmed there I used to get my costs in that way. That is an enormous sum of money—£1 million-worth of food—and with our balance-of payments difficulties I think it constitutes an important argument against proceeding at Stansted, unless it can be proved absolutely at a public inquiry that we cannot do any better. I believe, for example, that Essex has done its bit with Bradwell, Hanningfield, Basildon, Harlow and other places where agricultural land has been taken. Therefore, I consider that this seizing of 15,000 acres of agricultural land is one of the most serious aspects of the whole matter.

I have said already that the inspector came down in favour of an inquiry. My difficulty is that since this statement by the inspector no public investigation of an impartial character has ever been set up. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that the Government were right. That sounds like one of those political pamphlets which are put out by either side of the House, and I do not want to get involved in a political discussion, since this is not a political matter; but I was told as a Young Conservative that the Socialist Government always said, "The Government are right". The noble Lord has now said it; but that is not good enough for the people. They simply do not believe it. The Government may be satisfied that they have been perfectly right, and they may have put endless pain and labour into their efforts to prove this matter. But it is no good telling the people that the Government are right: there must be an independent inquiry.

I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Walston, who preceded me, that it would be perfectly possible—my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne agrees with me—to segregate the defence aspects of an inquiry, to have them either independently or in camera, and it would be perfectly possible for the Government now to concede a public inquiry and reserve the whole defence position. It would appear now that the same group within Whitehall, experts and civil servants, have throughout steamrollered this decision through, resulting in the White Paper, with all its innuendoes and inaccuracies.

One of the greatest inaccuracies and difficulties in the White Paper comes from paragraph 40, which was quoted by my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne. This is quoted by Mr. Brancker in The Stansted Black Book with which I have been provided, and from which I want to make one or two quotations. Paragraph 40 contained, as one of its reasons for not having a public inquiry, the following: Furthermore, the Inter-Departmental Committee on the Third London Airport had already made a thorough examination of the question in 1962 and 1963; the subsequent publication of their report and the public inquiry itself gave an ample well-used opportunity to all interests outside the Government to put forward their own points of view. But according to Mr. Brancker: One thing which the public inquiry did show was that the Inter-Departmental Committee had not made a thorough examination of the question. With the exception of the viability of Stansted in terms of Air Traffic Control, and the fact that it was physically possible to build a pair of parallel runways on the site, almost every other bit of evidence came to pieces under cross-examination. This statement therefore is wholly erroneous and cannot be accepted as a reason for not having an independent commission. In my view, therefore, the White Paper in paragraph 40 is quite inadequate, as my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne has made out, and I think that is the most important conclusion of Mr. Brancker in what is called the "Black Book".

He comes to several other conclusions. He draws attention to the fundamental inconsistency in the White Paper about the actual size of the proposed airport. At the inquiry, as we know, the third London airport had to be shown capable of providing space for one pair of parallel runways. No mention was made of two pairs of parallel runways. Therefore, the White Paper concept of an airport equipped with two pairs of parallel runways completely alters the conditions under which Stansted had been investigated at the inquiry as a suitable site. Two pairs of runways have a completely different meaning, and necessarily a much greater effect on overall cost and a much more serious impact on amenities, especially with regard to noise.

The Government say that they have re-sited these runways. Well, I wrote to the Prime Minister himself and pointed out that the old runways caused the aeroplanes to come straight over the spire of Thaxted church, one of our most priceless gems of architecture in the country. If those runways are re-sited to avoid Thaxted church, well and good. But I have no knowledge of how they are to be re-sited. I have no possibility of going before an inquiry to put my case or to hear, and I believe that just that sort of thing ought to go before a public inquiry so that we can be reassured. Mr. Brancker goes into a great many more points, which I think I had better skip, owing to the late hour of the debate. But I think his book, The Stansted Black Book, is a very important one for noble Lords to read.

My Lords, I want to say just a word now about the alternatives; and I must say, in deference to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that he gave us some facts and figures about alternative places. I am perfectly ready to be convinced on this matter, but I have had from the Noise Abatement Society, with a request that I eventually write a preface to it, a closely reasoned case for this new idea of using Foulness off the land, in the sea on reclaimed land. I was dining with my good friend Dr. Luns, the Foreign Minister of Holland, on Monday, and he was telling me how much his country had reclaimed land from the sea, and how much bigger they were now than some of their neighbours, although in the old days they had been almost the same size.

We must have a little imagination in this country. We must look ahead and have ideas. And if it is possible to scrape up sand from the sea by the dredging which can be done and make a place, as this Noise Abatement Society report says, which is over the sea and away from the land, and if we can connect that with London by a monorail, then we shall have solved our problems. I agree that it may be very expensive, but why should not this matter be looked at by a public inquiry to satisfy us whether it is the best place? I am also taken, despite the horror of my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne, by the idea of Silverstone. It is a very good site in England as such, and a very good place. But I think we want much more satisfaction than staccato utterances, such as we had this afternoon, that these places are not possible, because I do not think conviction has yet been carried that Stansted is inevitable at the present time.

I want to say just a word about noise, and this quotation comes out of a little book called The Stansted Affair: A Case for the People. Professor Richards speaks as follows about noise: It is clear that the noise which will arise from the proposed airport at Stansted will render life intolerable to the present inhabitants of this rural area and will hamper them in their daily routine. Every effort must be made to keep the nuisance of any airport to a level very much below that at Heathrow. He then goes on to declare that it is difficult to envisage an ultimate population of less than 100,000 in the area, taking into account other industries directed to the region, and a school population of some 25,000. In the work of the Stansted Working Party, Dr. Bungay, my old friend the education officer in I Essex, introduces a report on the effect on schoolchildren which this airport is going to have. It really is an extremely serious decision for our area, and I honestly believe that unless it is accompanied by some much better evidence than we have had hitherto there will continue to be boiling and seething indignation, which will not be a good start for any venture like this of the third London airport.

I should like to summarise my remarks quite shortly. First, this decision is a disaster for the neighbourhood. Secondly, it is contrary to all sensible town and country planning, and the Plan for the South-East. Thirdly, it represents a major setback for food production. As the first bulldozers are not expected on the airfield for several years, the right course, as suggested by the public inquiry, is to have a proper inquiry now, before the matter is settled. There is plenty of time. There is more at stake than living conditions and airports and people's happiness. What is at stake is the handling of this matter by the Government. Democracy, if it is to work properly, must see that justice has been done, and that has not been realised by those of my friends who live in this area. They do not think that justice has been done. What they feel now is not that the bulldozers are several years away coming on to their homes and cottages, but that the bulldozers are already here in Parliament, and that this matter is going to be pushed through whatever happens. I sincerely appeal to the Government. They will get us all on their side if they concede a proper public inquiry, defence matters being segregated, if you like, and then the Stansted Friends, who have as their slogan "People not Planes!" will be able to say honestly that the Government care more for people than for planes.

5.19 p.m.


My Lords, I have to declare a personal interest, for I am involved with churches and schools that will be gravely affected by the decision to build this Stansted Airport. Recently I attended the council meeting of a church college of education in the area—a college that is expanding rapidly—and the council believes that if this airport is established the college is doomed. The noise would be intolerable, even with double glazing. The noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, has spoken about the airport with the special authority that his long and distinguished record in Government sanctions. I entirely agree with his summary and believe that he has precisely expressed the feelings of so many people who live in Hertfordshire as well as in Essex.

Recently I received from the clerk to the Hertfordshire County Council notice of a resolution passed at their last county council meeting on November 28. I quote the terms of it: … as it is now proposed to realign the runways at Stansted and to increase their number from two to four, this Council again urges the need for a full inquiry. Such inquiry to consider road and rail communications, the grave problem of providing a satisfactory educational environment and, in particular, the planning and economic consequences of accommodating a large additional population in an area where the Regional Economic Planning Council and other statutory bodies are not in favour of development. My Lords, I tried to weigh what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said when he advised us that people should search their consciences. It seems to me that people in the area, with a knowledge and love of Stansted, wish to reach a truly informed and objective conclusion—those, I think, were his words—but they simply have not the necessary information available to them at present. So I continue to support this request for a public inquiry. I believe that the North-West Essex and East Hertfordshire Preservation Association has done valuable work. It does not say, "Put the airport anywhere so long as it is not on top of us". It says, "The airport policy chosen must be demonstrated to be the right one if sacrifices are to be called for in the national interest." I submit that that is a very representative point of view. I will not enlarge on the public indignation which is felt in the area, because facts about that have already been so adequately given. But I believe that it is important to emphasise that the Government's decision should be challenged, first, because of its competence and, secondly, because of the method followed to reach it. The Government have announced that the runways are to be realigned. I do not know that officially we have ever had a notice indicating the first alignment. But it is worth noting that although the new alignment might give Bishop's Stortford a little less noise —and that would be welcome to us in that area—it would increase the noise at Harlow, and so another dense community would suffer just as much as Bishop's Stortford would have done.

My Lords, the secret inquiry has disquieted people. If it is impossible to have another inquiry, I hope that at least the Government will consider publishing as fully as possible the results of the last inquiry, omitting the sections which refer specifically to defence. The noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, and other noble Lords, have mentioned the food production factor, and I shall therefore not cover the ground I had intended to cover, but I am grateful to the noble Lord for his figure that £1 million worth of food a year might be lost if Stansted were to be fully developed.

I turn now to the noise factor. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, mentioned the people who live in the Heathrow area, and indicated that they were not desirous of moving from that area. I have seen the report of an analysis recently taken in the London Airport area, in which people were questioned about their reasons for wishing to move. It discloses that their motive was not that they wanted to get better living accommodation; it was not that they wanted to be nearer their work; it was that they wanted to be away from aircraft noise. There may have to be further delay if there is to be this independent inquiry, this further inquiry, but I am certain not only that the people who live in this area would feel that they had had a fair deal, but also that confidence elsewhere would be restored in Government procedure by inquiry if our request received the attention it deserves.

I have only two more points. I apologise for the fact that an engagement in the diocese, which I cannot avoid keeping, means that I must leave the House before the conclusion of the debate. I regret that I shall not be able to hear a number of subsequent speakers, but I shall carefully read the Hansard report of the debate, particularly the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. Finally, perhaps I may say how I appreciate the hard work and the diligence of civil servants, and the hours they must have given to preparing their case for Stansted. I accept that another inquiry must add to their work, and I am certain that this is already onerous enough. Nevertheless, I consider that a case has been fully made out for another inquiry in depth.

5.26 p.m.


My Lords, if the Motion before your Lordships' House concerned the failure of successive Governments to evolve a national airports policy that fits in with regional development and our environmental objectives I should not be speaking in support of the Government this afternoon. However, I believe that much of the criticism aimed at the Government over Stansted is unjustified, and I shall try to show why, in my view, the Stansted decision should stand at this late stage. However, before I do so, perhaps I may offer my apologies to the House as, owing to a previous engagement, I shall not be able to stay until the end of the debate.

Secondly, perhaps I should declare a rather unusual interest. My home in the country is some 15 miles from Stansted as the crow, or should I say the jet, flies, but only 3 miles from Wethersfield Airport, which, as your Lordships know, will eventually cease to operate when Stansted is fully developed. The choice before me, therefore, was a very difficult one, but perhaps I may say in passing that Wethersfield has one great advantage. Through the courtesy of the American Base Commander, there is virtually no flying at weekends, whereas so far as Stansted is concerned, of course, if it is fully developed as an inter-continental airbase peak flying will probably be during the weekends.

There is, I believe, general agreement that a third London airport will soon be necessary. This becomes clear when one looks at forecasts of future traffic and the utilisation rates of Heathrow and Gatwick. These figures are widely available and known to your Lordships, and I will not take up time in repeating them. There would also, I hope, be general agreement that in an overcrowded country like ours any airport, no matter where we put it, is bound to cause some disturbance and annoyance. This means that a decision to build an airbase at Sheppey or at Foulness, or at any of the many other sites suggested, would lead to protests and criticism by local interests and, no doubt, attempts would be made to reverse the decision.

It is of course possible to minimise noise and disturbance by locating the airport in a sparsely populated area. Unfortunately, noise, and its effect on the locality, is only one of the many conflicting considerations such as safety, air traffic control, access, compatibility with existing airports, costs, and so on, that have to be taken into account. If lack of noise were the overriding consideration, the new airport would probably be located in the middle of the ocean; if access were all-important, we might put it in the heart of London. However, what we have to do is to consider the relevant aspects in order of priority and pick a site that offers the best compromise.

According to the experts, the key factors favouring Stansted are air traffic control and safety. The problem is to preserve our high standard of safety in conditions of ever increasing traffic. Therefore, from a technical and operational point of view Stansted is superior to any of the other sites considered. This was the conclusion of the Inter-Departmental Committee that has been so frequently referred to by noble Lords in the debate so far this afternoon. I am aware that attempts have been made to question the decision on technical grounds; but there is no evidence that the original decision was wrong. The Inter-Departmental Committee were staffed by experts who had access to all the relevant information, and they spent over two years considering the question. There has been no attempt by the Government—or, indeed, by the British Airports Authority—to hide the adverse environmental consequences. Valuable agricultural land will be sacrified. But that is only one of the many factors that have to be taken into consideration; and loss of land is part of the inevitable high price that has to be paid for the benefit to the nation of the necessary new airport.

In my opinion, it is a gross exaggeration to say, as has been done on some occasions, that in selecting Stansted the Government are defying public opinion. Opposition to Stansted (and I in no way criticise—indeed, I respect—those who have organised it) has been provided by a competent and highly organised campaign of local interests, backed by most of the Press. It has been described as the most remarkable lobbying of the decade. To such interests the loss of good agricultural land and the possible threat to an historic church are of the utmost importance. I understand their concern, for I, too, have a deep affection and appreciation of the many lovely villages and churches I know in that part of Essex. But despite the understandable strength of local feeling, those who are opposed to the use of Stansted do not represent the whole of public opinion or, necessarily, the national interest. And it is the national interest that I want to stress.

My Lords, in my opinion, the national interest is best served by having a third London airport in operation by the middle-1970s, by which time Heathrow and Gatwick, with the additional runway, will not be able to cope with the increased air traffic. Are we really going to be in a position in the early 1970s to turn away increasing passenger and freight traffic, and tourist trade, for it to be snapped up by Continental airports? The Chairman of the British Airports Authority recently estimated that Britain would lose over £12 million in foreign currency earnings in the one year of 1974 if the third London airport were not in operation by that time. And the longer the delay after that, the greater the annual loss.


My Lords, I wonder whether I may interrupt the noble Lord. I am not sure where he gets his facts from in this particular case. It has been clearly shown in the Government White Paper, which no doubt the noble Lord has studied, that the saturation point of the runways is now at 109 per hour. If the noble Lord refers to Table I in the Inter-Departmental Committee Report he will see that it is in 1977 that the saturation point of 109 will come into operation; not 1973 but 1977.


My Lords, I said 1974. In speaking this afternoon, I do not pretend to be an expert; but I can assure the noble Lord that I have studied the matter carefully, and have done quite a lot of homework on the White Paper. I have said that I am no expert; but surely no new inter-Continental airport can come into operation overnight. And whether it comes in 1973 or 1974, the fact remains that nobody can tell for certain whether the annual increase rate in passengers is going to remain at 14 per cent., whether it will drop to 12 per cent. or go up to 16 per cent. Nor can anyone say exactly when the jumbo-jets will come in to handle the bulk of the traffic. One can only say that obviously during the next ten or twenty years a lot of traffic will not be carried in jumbo-jets. Therefore I do not think any of us can be swayed too much by future estimates of traffic; one can only predict the trend. I am quoting the estimate made by the Chairman of the British Airports Authority within the last few days. I think it is of great importance. Once we lose traffic to the Continentals, not only passenger traffic but freight traffic, which is going up at a greater rate, it will be extremely hard to attract it back.

My Lords, I do not believe—and I admit that my whole case stands on this—there is any possibility that any new, large, multi-purpose international airport can be ready to operate in the middle-1970s unless the Stansted decision stands and the necessary work starts soon. In my view (and I have considered the subject at great length), at this late stage it would be wrong for the Government to give way to pressure to reverse their decision and to start another round of time-consuming surveys, consultations and inquiries. On average a Royal Commission takes about three years to report, and a Departmental Committee about two years. In my view, my Lords we simply have not the time to repeat the whole process. It is likely that after a new inquiry Stansted would be chosen once again. To quote from an interesting article in the Sunday Times: There are enough immutable factors, however, to suggest that even if the Government, with the assistance of a Royal Commission, goes over the ground for a third time, Stansted will again emerge as the number one candidate. But even if a new site is selected, it will be criticised by different local interests in the same way as Stansted is at present. My Lords, in my opinion we must not delay any longer. We must not start new time-consuming inquiries. We must get on with the job; otherwise we shall face serious economic consequences which would be harmful to the country.

5.41 p.m.


My Lords, I accept the need for a third airport around London. Indeed, it may well be that in future years three airports will not be sufficient. Nevertheless, I believe a decision upon Stansted now would be wrong. It may be that some time in the future a decision on Stansted could be right, or maybe not; but before any decision is taken I feel convinced that the nation's needs regarding airports should be examined on a far wider front and in far greater depth than has hitherto taken place with three Inter-Departmental Committees and one public inquiry. I say that from a somewhat different angle than that adopted by other noble Lords who have spoken today, for I believe that as well as the social aspects which have been spoken about so eloquently there should be a full examination of the economics embracing likely trade and passenger trends and a ful examination of technical aspects of future types of aircraft, of future landing needs and of future systems of control which may well make the limitations which the British Airports Authority talk about to-day quite outdated.

I believe that all those things should be examined, and the possibility in years to come of vertical-lift aircraft, which in twenty years may well affect our airports policy. Someone in the air world once rather facetiously stated that he looked forward to the time when cars would be parked on London Airport runways and the aircraft would take off from the car parks. We have not got there yet, but that is the sort of imaginative proposition of the future which should be taken into consideration in the wide review which I advocate.

My Lords, these wonders—new controls, new systems of radar, new types of aircraft—are all just round the corner, as it were, and it is not sufficient for Government Departments to say, "We know best on all these matters". I do not believe that the nameless experts in the corridors of Whitehall, or that excellent new body, the British Airports Authority, have the wide knowledge, or probably the time, to carry out the examination which I feel is necessary before any decision is come to. I cannot accept what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, seems to say, that "the gentleman in Whitehall knows best". I am not impressed by the reply that there have been three Inter-Departmental Committees and one public inquiry. Nor am I impressed by the dictum of the new President of the Board of Trade in his words, "I have satisfied myself again …". The Executive are not always right. Their views are sometimes seen through the wrong end of a telescope and they get a very small vision of the future.

I should like to remind your Lordships of an incident when the Executive were rather short-sighted about airports. Plus ça change, plus c'est la méme chose." When I look at the debate on June 6, 1939, on the Air Ministry (Heston and Kenley Aerodromes Extension) Bill, I see that the Minister used these words on behalf of the Executive: The need has arisen, largely from the requirements of present-day and future aircraft in regard to airports. High-powered and high-speeded aircraft and the use of navigational aids necessitate longer runways than those of the present size, built when the aerodromes were constructed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, June 6, 1939, col. 373.] The Minister went on to say: The future of civil aviation requires a ring of terminal airports in which Heston is designed to play a leading part as one of the chief airports. As the House was informed on the Air Estimates of the new types of civil aircraft being ordered with Government support,"— just as to-day— and while these are air-liners of great technical advance, nevertheless they unfortunately need two thousand yard runways …" [col. 374.] On Third Reading the Minister said: I believe that this is an airport which will be one of the finest, if not the finest, in the country, and will be a credit to the country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, July 12, 1939, col. 2366.] This was in 1939. Yet at that time Sir Frank Whittle was working on jet engine development. At that time the pressurised super-Constellations were undergoing their test flights in America. In those days people were talking of supersonic travel—Whitehall was not, but other people were. Six years later we saw how inadequate and short-sighted was our thinking in 1939, and London Airport was developed. It was the Executive who were short-sighted. The finite mind of man has very strict limits of vision. In 1939 the Executive had such a short vision and the Minister, speaking on behalf of the Executive, had also very short-sighted—let me quickly say that the Minister was myself. We can now see how it is wrong to leave this great decision to the men in Whitehall alone.

My Lords, do not let us repeat the errors and short-sightedness of 1939 in 1967 and 1968. Let us have a wide inquiry into the aspects and future of civil aviation and national airport needs, not only London needs but national airport needs, before we tie ourselves to something we may be regretting greatly in the course of a very few years. I should prefer to take the risk of delay which was spoken about by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, and not have the airport ready by 1974. The arguments against the dangers of delay are expressed from a rather partisan point of view, and one could easily destroy them, but I would accept the dangers rather than trust to the assurances of the Executive which have led to a wrong decision now.

If we had an inquiry, perhaps a Royal Commission, and it endorsed the decision of Stansted, I believe that the public would accept that gladly with conviction. If a Royal Commission rejected the Executive's view, the nation, while excusing those who had come to a wrong decision, would nevertheless be glad to find that they had been saved from its implementation. I urge consideration not of the London needs, but of the national needs for a generation ahead by a body of wise, disinterested and experienced men, whose findings would command public confidence and support. Unless this is done, I hope that we shall object to further proceedings on the Stansted Order when it comes before your Lordships' House. This is not a Party issue. I can see no great constitutional crisis because we take a view on Stansted. And I hope that the Order will be rejected, unless the Government give an undertaking now that they will hold the inquiry asked for by the majority of noble Lords who have spoken to-day.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, first may I apologise for not having been here when the noble Lord moved his Motion. I had to be in Birmingham at the annual general meeting of my company. I must declare an interest, because my family have a house within a few miles of Stansted. As we have heard from various speakers this afternoon, this is not a Party issue. I doubt whether any other issue of this kind has raised such a storm of protest. It is not just from the locality, as has been suggested, but from people and organisations all over the country and without regard to Party.

I support the demand for a further public inquiry, not because I know whether there should be or should not be a third London airport, or whether it should be at Stansted or not. I support it because I do not know, and because I think that we cannot know until there has been the wide public inquiry which was called for by the inspector in his report.


My Lords, is the noble Lord certain that the inspector called for another public inquiry?


I agree that the inspector does not say a "public" inquiry, but this is the whole implication of paragraph 48 of his report. The Government say that they have made this inquiry, and that the results are set out in the White Paper. But what happened? The inspector held his inquiry between December, 1965, and February, 1966, and reported in May 1966, but his report, of great public importance, was kept secret for a year. It was then published along with the decision of the Government, and almost at the same time the White Paper was published. Then, as we know, the Government said that nothing useful was likely to be achieved by a further round of public discussion.

I do not propose to go into the details of the White Paper. It is full of statements presented as facts which the public are expected to accept, notably the estimates of costs. The record of the Government—of all Governments—as a forward estimator, particularly in the aeronautical field, gives me no confidence in these estimates. But since the secret, private inquiry carried out by the Government, by civil servants, when we are asked to-day to recognise as knowing best, various things have happened. It now seems that there will be four runways instead of two. The existing runway, which was given as one of the ways in which money was to be saved—indeed, as one good reason to put this airport at Stansted—is to be discarded and put on one side. The runways are to be realigned, affecting quite different people. We have heard that at the peak there are to be some 160 flights an hour, but we were told before that the peak would be something like 64 flights an hour. Yet the Government say that they are going on, that it is best for the country that this airport should be built, and that it would be a waste of time to hold further inquiry. Can one wonder that there is strong public feeling that the public is being pushed around and that the Government do not care about people as individuals, for all their talk about planning?

Turning to the wider issues, the White Paper assumes without question that it is necessary to provide for all the air traffic that may offer itself to London, and it very nearly assumes that this should be done in the cheapest possible way. It seems to me astonishing that a Government committed to planning for social reasons should take its stand on these propositions. In other spheres, it makes great play with cost-benefit analysis. There is very little of that in the White Paper on the case presented to us.

The fundamental question in all these problems is: What price should the community pay for technological progress? The forces which drive us on are naturally commercial ones; it pays the airlines to meet the demand. But they do not have to pay the social costs. It is the duty of the Government to take these social costs into account. Our social legislation for the past 150 years provides many examples. It used to pay to employ women and children in mines and factories, but we thought the social cost was too high. It would pay to pour smoke out of factories and homes into the atmosphere, but legislation has decreed rightly that there should be smokeless zones. It pays to make motor cars available as cheaply as possible and use them when and where we like, but we are still struggling with the social cost this is imposing on us. It would pay to-day to concentrate factory development in the Midlands and South-East, but as a nation we are willing to pay a high price to prevent this and to direct factories into development areas. This is what regional planning is about.

Can there be any possible reason for not asking these same questions about airports? There is no overriding reason or need to meet the full commercial demand. We do not have to meet all the demands for air traffic. We have heard this afternoon from the Chairman of the British Airports Authority that there will be many more airports by some date undefined and we have got to provide them. But why? We have just as much choice here as we have had, and still have, on similar issues. It is not self-evident that it would be a material disaster if some air traffic were diverted to the Continent, or even to the Midlands or the North of this country. But if we are willing to pay the price—and for all we can say now, we may be—it is not evident that it should be the cheapest price, in money terms. Another site may be slower to reach, much less convenient, more expensive to the airlines or to would-be travellers and more costly to build. But it would not necessarily be against the wellbeing of the whole community.

All these are not arguments for or against Stansted, but they are arguments for a full inquiry, with all the facts before it, and an inquiry at which all the interested parties, national as well as local, have an opportunity to give evidence and to hear and comment on the evidence. The Government say that this will cause intolerable delay, and that a third London airport is so urgent that we cannot wait. But if the issue is important enough—and if ever there was an important issue, this is one—we can and should wait. As we have heard this afternoon, there is ample time. The estimates in the White Paper are already suspect, The advent of large-capacity aircraft has meant that people and goods can be carried with relatively fewer aircraft. The runway capacity problem is reduced. This is even recognised on the movement estimate given in the White Paper.

But wherever London's third airport goes, it will entail expensive, extensive building to accommodate the 100,000 or so people who will be dependent upon it. It will need the building of roads and rail access. It will alter for all time huge areas of the countryside. There have been accusations and counter-accusations, and statements about which Government has done well or badly. My Lords, I think that all of us, whoever we are, are to blame. The melancholy history of our failure to make a national airports plan—indeed, our progressive retreat from this very idea—is set out in a Fabian Tract, No. 377. I recommend this to the President of the Board of Trade, who has written several books about the future of Socialism and the great planning Party. There is a lesson to be learned from this, and it is that it is not yet too late to look at this thing properly and in a national context.

Before a final decision is reached, let all the facts be openly—I repeat, "openly"—considered, and the convenience of air travellers and the airlines weighed against the changes that the inhabitants of the South-East will have to face. It is for these reasons that I appeal to the Government to institute now, before it is too late, an open further inquiry into this whole problem. I should like to add this warning—it is not a Party warning: I do not belong to any Party. The Government seriously under-estimate what people feel about the way they have handled this matter. There is a feeling throughout the country, in all Parties and in all walks of life, that the Government have behaved unfairly and unreasonably, and this is a very potent force in British public opinion.

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Plowden. My only embarrassment is that he has expressed so well my own views on this matter that, in consequence, I must modify my speech. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, for introducing what I believe to be the most serious issue raised in any debate in which I have taken part in times of peace. We are discussing what the Government themselves hope to be the greatest airport in this country, and perhaps the greatest airport in Europe. It is to be planted in the middle of valuable agricultural land, in a countryside of unique value to London and to its own inhabitants. All this is to happen in defiance of the views of all informed planners—the planning authorities, societies interested in planning, and individual planners of great fame, both national and local. It is to happen against the express recommendation of the inspector, who held a long public inquiry, and against the view of his expert assessor, who has a worldwide fame, and whose letter to The Times and subsequent book have been quoted by, among others, my noble friend Lord Butler of Saffron Walden in his splendid speech this afternoon.

I ventured to interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, when he gave as a reason for not holding a public inquiry the fact that confidential matters of defence might fall to be considered. There are many answers to that which have been given. But is it credible that that was the true reason, when the Government had actually set out their reasons in paragraph 40 of the White Paper and defence does not appear among the reasons set out? The paragraph has been quoted in full by my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne, and in part by my noble friend Lord Butler of Saffron Walden; and my noble friend Lord Butler of Saffron Walden also quoted the devastating reply of Mr. Brancker, the assessor. The fact is, of course, that the reasons given in paragraph 40 for not holding a public inquiry are so contemptible that something better had to be thought out, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, produced a much better reason. The only trouble was that he had not looked at paragraph 40 of the White Paper before he produced it.

I have mentioned some of the remarkable features of what is now proposed. I come to another point. All this is to be done in direct contravention of the pledges of Ministers of the present Government and of their predecessors. The two noble Lords who have ventured to speak from the Back Benches in favour of the Government's proposal have said that it is too late now to have a public inquiry or further consideration. What they wholly overlook is that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he was Minister of Aviation, gave an express promise that this point would not be taken. Let me read from a letter written by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer to Brigadier T. J. P. Collins, Chairman of the Planning Committee of the Essex County Council, on September 24, 1965. I quote from it; far more is set out on page 30 of The Stansted Black Book, but I will read a few sentences: First, it was represented to me that, unless the terms of reference covered the question of timing, it would be possible for Ministers to make the inquiry a formality by refusing to follow up indications in the Inspector's Report that an alternative site was preferable to Stansted, on the pretext that the necessary study and survey of the alternative site would take too long and development of the airport could not wait. I assure you that this will not occur. If the outcome of the inquiry is that another site is to be preferred to Stansted, this will be followed up and it will not be ruled out for lack of time to study and survey the site. I wonder what the present Chancellor of the Exchequer will think when he reads the argument that it is too late to do anything else; that it is too late to honour the pledge that he then gave in those considered terms.


My Lords, is the Lord contending that the outcome of the inquiry was that another site would be better than Stansted?


My Lords, if a new public inquiry showed that this was the best site then in all probability I would accept that, subject only to this, that the question would then be that which was so well posed by the noble Lord, Lord Plowden: we should have to consider whether the airport was worth the price we had to pay. But I think the case for an airport is so strong that, if there were such an inquiry—a public inquiry of merit presided over by some such person as a High Court Judge—and it were possible to cross-examine the witnesses in favour of the present proposal, I should accept the result of that inquiry.


Would the noble Lord be so kind as to give way for a moment? I gather, then, he is not contending that the inquiry said that another site would be better, and he cannot therefore be alleging that the pledge has been broken.


Indeed, my Lords, I am alleging that the pledge has been broken. I read the passage; it speaks for itself. I am quite content that the public of this country and the Members of this House shall decide between us. What more emphatic decision could one have in a public inquiry than the words of the inspector? I cannot find the relevant paragraph just at the moment, but I am perfectly certain the noble Lord can find it for himself, and I will paraphrase it. It is to the effect that the airport would be a disaster to the locality, and that it could be justified only on the grounds of public necessity—and that public necessity has not been proved. In fact, my Lords, it is paragraph 21, which says: It would be a calamity for the neighbourhood if a major airport were placed at Stansted. Such a decision could only be justified by national necessity. Necessity was not proved by evidence at this inquiry". If that is not an indication that alternative sites ought to be considered further, I do not know what is.


Will the noble Lord allow me to intervene?


I will yield to the noble Lord in a minute, but I should like just to finish this point. If that statement does not directly bring the pledge of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer into question, I do not know the meaning of the English language.


My Lords, other sites were of course considered, as I recounted at some length in my speech at the beginning of this debate. The pledge of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was to the effect that if another site emerged from the inquiry, or from the review (I do not mind where), as being preferable to Stansted, the argument of delay would not be adduced in order to rule out consideration of such alternative site. It has not been, because no other site has been suggested.


The House and the country can judge between us, but how on earth an inquiry into Stansted could prove that another site was superior I do not know. That the report of the inspector indicated that in all probability another site would be superior I do not think is open to doubt, but I am absolutely willing that the public should decide between us.


My Lords, if the noble Lord had heard my initial speech he would have heard me say that the inspector was not inquiring into other sites. That was done by the review recommended by the inspector.


My Lords, if the noble Lord really thinks that the review recomended by the inspector was a secret examination in some room in Whitehall, which the Government say has taken place, though they will give us no indication as to what its nature was, nor even who conducted it or who took part in it, I say again what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Plowden: that it is absolutely obvious that that was not what the inspector intended.

I am absolutely amazed at what the noble Lord has said. After all, the reasons why the public inquiry has not taken place, as I pointed out earlier, are set out in the paragraph of the White Paper which has been read by my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne and quoted in part by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden. It used to be said that justice must not only be done, it must also be seen to be done. The policy of the present Government seems to be this: injustice must not only be done; injustice must be seen to be done. And that is what, up to date, they have accomplished.

The planning outrage is the most monstrous that I can remember. It was my concern for what was happening to town and country, my love of architecture and the urbanity of our historic cities and the beauty of our villages and the serenity of our countryside, that first drove me into politics. It was on these subjects that I had spoken (and sometimes written) before I entered the House of Commons, 32 years ago. I hope the House will pardon me if I speak with some passion on this subject. It soon became my lot to be the first Minister to become exclusively engaged on the subject of town and country planning, and it fell to me to pilot through the House of Commons the Bill setting up the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, and thereafter to take a leading part in the House of Commons in the planning legislation between 1942 and 1945.

As a result of my lifelong interest in this subject I am convinced that, unless the decision on Stansted is reversed, town and country planning in this country will be considered a bad joke. England has made notable contributions to town and country planning. No value which the art and science of town planning are designed to serve will have any chance of survival, if this Stansted decision stands and there is no further public examination. Transport, my Lords, is a great servant but a bad master. To imagine that you can plant an immense airport in the midst of the rural scene, in defiance of every considered plan for the area, without disastrous effects is to say goodbye to the use of reason. The results will be devastating.


My Lords, will the noble Lord be kind enough to allow me to intervene? I apologise for intervening so often, but so many things are said which ought not to be unchallenged. The noble Lord talked about putting down an airport "in defiance of every considered plan for the area". I would remind the noble Lord that Stansted has been reserved as a possible site since 1953. I wonder whether he considers the plans for the area which were in vigour between 1953 and 1964 to have been unconsidered.


My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord, whose concern—whatever he says to-day—for the cause of town and country planning I do not question, and to whose concern for amenities I have before paid tribute, would for a moment dispute that the transformation now proposed from the airport already there to what may be the greatest airport in Europe required further planning consideration. That transformation has received no support whatsoever from any planning authority, local or national, or from any planner of repute.

I think it is quite absurd (and here I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Plowden), to put the convenience of air travellers before every other consideration of the national interest. I am going to give an interesting example of this predominance and interesting evidence of where the authors of this scheme are to be found. I was once—although I have forgotten most of what I knew—a classical scholar, and sometimes studied textual criticism. I am going to bring before the House a rather amusing example, I think, showing whence these proposals emanated.

Noble Lords may have read in paragraph 51 of the Report of the Inquiry, that Sir Milner Holland, the very highly skilled advocate, putting the case for the Ministry of Aviation, dealing with accessibility, said that the airport must be within "one hour's travelling time from Grosvenor Square".

We know, of course, that the airport will not be within one hour's traveling time of Grosvenor Square, but that is not the point I wish to make. I ask noble Lords what they really think of such a requirement. The greatest airport in Europe, perhaps, is to be built in valuable and hitherto unspoilt country; and one of the considerations which may make that necessary is that, whatever the objections may be, the airport must be within one hour of Grosvenor Square.

Why Grosvenor Square? Something in my mind went back to another reference to Grosvenor Square. I remember a debate, in which I took part, initiated by my friend the late Lord Brabazon of Tara, on February 22, 1962. I then read extracts and referred to "the Report of the Committee on the Planning of Helicopter stations in the London Area." As a result of the criticism that I, and I think others, made in that debate, and the eventual waking up of the local planning authorities in London, I do not think anything further has been heard of that absurd White Paper. But this is what it said, on page 4: the helicopter station should be not much more than a quarter of an hour from Grosvenor Square. This is very interesting because it proves that these curious officials—God bless them !—who were in the Ministry of Aviation and have now been transferred to the Board of Trade, have always had this idea that the only thing to be considered in relation to any development of the aircraft industry was how long it would take to get to an airport from Grosvenor Square. The wider interests, the interests of agriculture, the interests of town planning—all those do not matter at all.

A ghastly feature of the Stansted outrage is that its authors seem quite unconscious of what it is that they are destroying. I wonder whether I may mention a few things. I think that another noble Lord had intended to be here to put the case for the National Trust, but as he is not here perhaps I may mention Hatfield Forest, 1,049 acres, in the immediate vicinity of Stansted, held inalienably for the public good by the National Trust and visited by some 45,000 people every year, now about to be ruined by noise and other interference. Is that not something deserving of a little consideration? It may be that some noble Lords read the splendid letter from the sculptor, Henry Moore, in The Times—his eloquent protest. I remember many years ago visiting friends among the artists' colony in Great Bardfield. Mr. Masefield seems to think that all that concerns visitors to this country is how to get, with enormous rapidity, to the centre of London—I expect that is again Grosvenor Square. Does it never occur to the British Airports Authority that some people might like to come to this country to visit our historic villages and see our beautiful country; that they would be prepared to take a little longer to get to the centre of London, if London were a pleasanter place in which to stay, and if our countryside remained a beautiful thing to enjoy.

Are not the blunders of the siting of Heathrow and Gatwick already sufficient? Must we, in making a greater airport than either, repeat all the blunders that were then made and ensure that, because of the nuisance it will be, even this new airport will not be fully operative? Rather more than thirty years ago, on June 18, 1937, I made in the House of Commons my first protest against what we were doing to town and country. I then read a few sentences of what Professor Trevelyan had written. I wonder whether I might remind noble Lords of what Professor Trevelyan said: Without vision the people perish; and without natural beauty the English people will perish in the spiritual sense. In old days the English people lived in the midst of nature, subject to its influence at every hour. Thus inspired, our ancestors produced their great creations in religion, in song, and in the arts and crafts—common products of a whole people spiritually alive. It is still not to late to fight for such an England. But you have an alternative: you can turn England into a sonic slum and obey the faceless men who have produced this plan.

6.32 p.m.


My Lords, I promise to be short. I would respectfully suggest that the question which Her Majesty's Government ought to be considering is not whether Stansted is the best site for a third London Airport, but the question as to the best site for this country's main international airport, designed for carrying out the functions of an international airport, and at the same time serving London. So far as I am aware, that question has never been considered.

I would suggest that such an airport should fulfil certain conditions. In the first place, it should be sited, so far as possible, in a sparsely populated area. In the second place, its operation should cause the minimum noise nuisance to those living in the neighbourhood. In the third place, its operation should cause the minimum nuisance by noise to the inhabitants of London itself. In the fourth place, as an international airport it should not only be capable of handling an increasing denisty of air traffic, but actively encourage the maximum use of its facilities. Fifthly, it should be served by a fast system of communication to Central London, either by conventional rail, monorail or possibly hovertrain.

If those conditions were to be accepted as valid, it would mean this. In the first place, the site should be either on the coast or in the Thames Estuary, where the approaches would be largely over water, so reducing to a minimum the noise nuisance to those living nearby. In the second place, the site should be at some considerable distance from the centre of London, and not, like Heathrow, so placed that as your Lordships well know, aircraft approaching to land in the prevailing wind fly low over Chelsea, Kensington and indeed over Westminster, an operation which I think I can safely say is nowadays causing many of us to pass sleepless nights.

Thirdly, no restrictions should be placed on aircraft movement at any time during the day or night. In this connection Heathrow now restricts its traffic, particularly at night, because of the quite understandable complaint due to the nuisance by noise. They are in fact turning away traffic. Fourthly, that international airport should be served by a fast rail system to London and, at the same time—I think this is an important point—Customs and passport officers should be available on the train to carry out their duties during the journey. I think that most of us have experienced the frustration of a journey by air from, say, Paris to London when, after a fast flight—they get faster every year—one is kept waiting at Heathrow for the luggage to be unloaded and transferred to the Customs room, followed by a tedious wait while the Customs officers carry out their duties. This is followed by a slow dreary journey by bus to London. The time take by the actual flight is often far shorter than the time taken after disembarking from the aircraft and arriving in London.

Before I come to Stansted, I should like to say that if my conditions are accepted, Heathrow itself fulfils none of the conditions; and the only argument that I know of for the retention of Heathrow, let alone Stansted, as an international airport appears to be that so much money has already been spent there. I venture to think that that is unsound reasoning. If a fundamental mistake has been made, the only solution is to cut the loss and to start afresh on the right lines. Heathrow, I would submit to your Lordships, is entirely unsuitable for it; present purpose, that is to say, as an international airport; and certainly any further expenditure on Heathrow ought, in the national interest, to be stopped at once.

I want now to turn to Stansted. Stansted fulfils none of my suggested conditions Indeed, I suggest that it would give rise to yet another complication. One of the most important of an international airport's functions is to cater for the "in transit" passenger. Let us suppose that a passenger from Stockholm wishes to fly to Montreal, and that there is no direct flight available from Stockholm to Montreal. That passenger might well fly from Stockholm to Stansted by a Scandinavian airline, with a view to flying on to Montreal by B.O.A.C. How is he to get from Stansted to Heathrow? No direct rail service is available; no fast communication connecting the two airports exists by rail. The only suggestion that one can make is that there should be a ferry service by air between the two airports, creating more and more noise over London, which is quite unacceptable.

I therefore venture to suggest to your Lordships that what is required is an airport some 50 to 80 miles from London, with its approaches over water, connected by a fast rail system to the centre of London. We have heard a great deal about Foulness. I for one would hesitate to advocate any particular site for such an airport, because so far as I know Her Majesty's Government have never considered this problem. But if and when they do consider this problem, it is obvious that Foulness is one of the possible sites which should be considered—and when I say "Foulness" I mean the Foulness site as reclaimed from the sea.

6.38 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise for not being present at the beginning of this debate, and I must apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for not hearing what he had to say. I recognise the difficulty of the decision on this matter, but I must also say that I am not "on lobby" as the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, suggested, and have no interest in Essex. I have, however, been interested in aviation for quite a number of years, not least in the development problem which arises from airport siting. One thing that strikes me about this problem now is much in line with what my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye has said; that is, that it is extremely easy to make grave mistakes as to the future in aviation.

I know it sounds easy to say that our forbears were stupid, but they were just as clever as we are on the facts available to them. May I give some idea of the sort of mistakes which have been made? The first guideline for aircraft that I know of was in 1929, 1,000 yards by 600 yards. That was the official recommendation. Perhaps some local authorities may have made some serious mistakes. Much more serious was what happened ten years later. The Maybrey Report, which was a very careful Report, produced by those best able to do so at the time, decided on a standard-size airport to which aircraft constructors would have to conform. They laid it down as 1,300 yards by 1,000 yards. That situation did not last through the war, and ten years later came Heathrow. By that time yards had been changed into feet, so that the 4,000 feet of 1937 had been doubled to 9,000 feet. That was a step forward. But by 1952 the view was expressed on behalf of those developing the airport that this should be long enough and strong enough to serve any aircraft likely to be operating in the foreseeable future—and, incidentally, there were to be 160 movements an hour from Heathrow. It is quite clear already that we have not obtained one-quarter of those movements, and the runways are now to be extended by about 50 per cent.

Ten years later we had the Inter-Departmental Committee of 1963, and we find this statement: As a basis for our studies we have assumed that supersonic transport will require no more from navigational ground facilities and airports than the most demanding subsonic aircraft… That is a very brief statement, and I doubt whether it is accurate. Are we going to say that the Concorde, let alone the aircraft beyond it, is going to demand no more than the Boeing 707 does at present? It is on this ground that I am going to be bold enough to question the technical wisdom of going to Stansted at all.

The first point about Stansted is that it is going to be restricted from the word "Go", and I believe it is fundamental, in developing a new airport of this importance, that it should be unrestricted. I do not believe that sufficient ground is going to be available during this period. Mr. Jay said 3,600 acres, but then added tentatively rather over another 1,000 acres. A simple mathematical calculation, taking two pairs of runways at full length, would mean obviously a bigger size than that. I notice that the inspector talked of 10,000 acres being affected, and the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, talked about 15,000 acres. If we are going to do something worth while, surely we should think in terms of, say, 15 square miles—something really big. This is what the Dutch have done at the entrance to the river at Rotterdam. They have there created some 15 square miles of land, on which they have already let factories to Krupps, I.C.I., Shell and Volkswagen. This gives some idea of the importance of the development which can take place. I am told that it costs about £5,000 an acre and is sold at £12,000 an acre. So that shows what can be done.

The fundamental consideration here is that we have to think about a fourth airport; and if there is one thing that stands out quite clearly it is that there is not going to be room in South-East England for a fourth London Airport unless it is at the same place as the third. One could certainly not put a double airport at Stansted in any circumstances what ever. It is obviously economically desirable that the third and fourth airports should be at the same place. I think that the place to look for this is somewhere in the Thames area. I do not know whether Foulness is the best place, but there is nowhere else where one can get conditions in any way resembling those to be found in the Thames area. Such a choice should be of considerable value to the Port of London Authority in depositing dredging material; they would be glad to have somewhere to put the sand which they would dig out. At Rotterdam they are working to 65 ft., whereas the draft in the Thames is not much more than 30 ft. The time may come when port and quay facilities will be required not in London, as at present, but at the mouth of the Thames.

I would remind your Lordships that by the end of this century the country will increase in population by 50 per cent. Are we going to cram this population all into one area? Is there not a great deal to be said for opening up a new area to be served by a good railway, an area which might thereby become one of great importance? I know that there are difficulties and that the old bogey of Shoeburyness keeps cropping up. I do not know about Shoeburyness, but I know that at the Admiralty we stopped experimenting with guns ten years ago—and maybe in ten years the War Office also will stop experimenting with their guns. I may be wrong in that, but I think we ought to have some solid evidence on the subject. Communications are difficult, but if one opens up land there may be a benefit from the capital gains tax. At least something of this sort will accrue to those who develop it. The Inter-Departmental Report of 1963 says, rather ominously, that we should look at the fourth airport in four or five years' time "when the future may be clearer". Well, my Lords, four years have gone by since then. Is the future any clearer? I should have thought that there is only one thing that is clear, and that is that these two airports have got to be in the same place.

The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury (who is not here at the moment), obviously took a pro-Stansted line by saying that there is no time. I am quite sure that there is time, for the reason given by the noble Lord, Lord Plowden; and that is what we may make much more use of provincial airports which are at present greatly under-utilised. Indeed, one of the problems of congestion is due to the fact that B.E.A. and other airlines are funnelling all their services through London before they go overseas. I am sure that this is no excuse for not having an investigation. Thirty years ago it was very difficult to persuade people that big new factories would go up in developing areas in Scotland, the North of England and elsewhere. We know that they have gone up. The first was Rolls Royce, whose factory went up well before the war; and I am quite certain that a large number of overseas airlines could be persuaded to operate from the regions, and indeed from the development areas.

I find it very hard to see how any President of the Board of Trade could ever have agreed to paragraph 22 of the White Paper. It is a pure piece of guesswork. If you are developing in Wales, in the North-East, or in Scotland, the first necessity is to provide good communications. He says that it is impossible. I think this is the essential element of a regional policy which no doubt Mr. Jay, and I dare say Mr. Crosland, would be anxious to see. The slightest examination of the figures suggests to me that somewhere in the region of 3 million people come to airports in the middle of London from outside London. I quite accept that a third airport is necessary. I have said that regional airports can be used merely to postpone the time when that becomes necessary.

Let me ask the Government to take a long view of what has happened. The Civil Aviation Departments have made a succession of poor judgments on this, and they may well be making an equally poor judgment at present. Let us avoid the sort of error which the railways made 100 years ago in selecting the wrong gauge. It may be that, if they had chosen the right gauge, many of the problems of the railways would not be with us to-day. Let us try to avoid that if we can. Let us for the moment divert all the aircraft we can to the Provinces, for this will be an enormous advantage to the economic development of this country. Let us then look to see where we are and make an airport which will be unrestricted and which could be the finest airport in Europe or in the world.

6.50 p.m.


My Lords, at this hour, with 17 speakers hopefully waiting, I shall be very brief indeed. It would be most complacent to think that after some 16 or 17 speeches, with 17 more to come, one would have anything to say which would not already have been said and which will be said after I have sat down. But there are three short points which I should like to make. The first is that, having heard the Government's defence, I believe they regard the matter as really resolving itself into a very narrow point; that the inspector (and I must confess that I do not see it in the same way, though I certainly accept that they are putting forward this contention with total sincerity) recommended that there should be a review, and they are saying that there has been a comprehensive review but it has not been in public.

May I venture to suggest to the Government—who will know that I bear them the friendliest disposition—that this is a rather naïve suggestion? I do not think it can really be suggested that the views of the inspector in this matter will be met, and, above all, the misgivings and worries of people who live in the area will be allayed, by saying that a review has been conducted in private. If it is suggested that such a review has taken place, I think that at least—and I am by no means sure that this would be enough—the fullest details of the personnel connected with such a review ought to be published, so as to inspire confidence on that score.

My own belief is that the inspector intended that there should be a further public inquiry, and I would urge on the Government, even at this late hour, and knowing, as I am sure to be the case, that their concern is to press on with what they regard as a vital commercial and industrial necessity, that they may be insufficiently taking into consideration a factor which is of paramount importance, and that is the fears and anxieties—if I may use the word, the positive neurosis—that they have created among the people who live in that area. One has only to visit the area to realise that people have been living under a most horrible threat for very many years, and I do not believe that the Government are conscious of the fact that they have unwittingly—and not only this Government, but their predecessors—inflicted on that community very terrible hardship. It would at least be a comfort to hear some expression of real regret and concern for the population of that area.

It is a most delightful part of the country. It has the most delightful amenities. It has beautiful countryside and elegant, charming period houses. But people are living there under the threat of seeing the whole thing totally erased. Yes, I say "totally erased". despite the nod of dissent from the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. I think that people who are living there in anticipation of the arrival of this vast airport are people who are justifiably exercised and worried by what is to happen to their homes.


My Lords, I do not know whether perhaps there is a feeling in Stansted, and indeed in the country in general, that if you fly an aircraft over a pretty old house the old house falls down. Of course it does not. There are far more listed buildings, buildings of historic and architectural interest, within the noise range of Heathrow than there will ever be at Stansted, and they are all standing up very nicely.


During the afternoon I have had cause to admire the doggedness with which the noble Lord has maintained the defence of a by no means easy subject. I shall not comment on that observation, because I may be compelled to be a little unkind.


My Lords, we have the village of Finchingfield, one of the most beautiful villages in Essex—we call it the picture-postcard village—and over that village the Sabre jets from Wethersfield fly continuously during the week—luckily, as I have already said, not at the weekend. Those houses are still standing. The people may suffer from that inconvenience and noise from Wethersfield, but the beautiful houses and the beautiful church are still there.


My Lords, I imagine the noble Lord would not deny that jets do in fact damage houses near the runway.


My Lords, on a point of Order, I should like to remind the House that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, is addressing it.


My Lords, I think that these contentions are a little unworthy and almost a little desperate. Anyone who visits that area and observes the plans that are intended to be put into operation in relation to the area can have no doubt about the legitimate misgivings that are entertained by the local population. I put it no higher than that. Of course, it must be necessary for the better welfare of the community to undertake painful decisions, to do damaging things, but what I regard as of paramount importance is that people should be satisfied, and publicly satisfied, of the necessity. That is where I have very grave doubts about the wisdom of seeking to brush off this matter on the footing that, having carried out a private review, that suffices and it is unnecessary to make a public demonstration of the fact.

I am very much inclined to agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, said. I think, without putting it in melodramatic phrases, that to some extent the democratic process is on trial here. Quite apart from the quesion of where we put an airport, which must be a matter of great importance, the survival and working of the democratic process is something which, in importance, transcends any other consideration. It may well be that, if the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, is to be believed, the Government will be inflicting a benefit on the people by bringing them within the vicinity of this noise. But they do not believe this; they believe that they are going to suffer great harm and great damage, and when people are put into that position it behoves the Government to establish, and to establish publicly, that there is a need for this damage to be inflicted.

I think it would be a totally mistaken policy to tell people that there are departmental and similar considerations which make it difficult, awkward and uncomfortable to have a public investigation. If I may say so, democracy and the working of the democratic system may often be tiresome, awkward, difficult and uncomfortable. But I am perfectly convinced that the present Government are as wedded to this system as any Government we have ever had. I am perfectly convinced that if they are now proceeding in a fashion which, in this instance, gives rise to doubts and misgivings, it is because they have some misapprehension on something where I am afraid I cannot follow them.

I therefore urge them at this moment, however late it may seem, however important it may seem to put this airport into the earliest possible use, to give consideration to the question of whether a more important issue is not involved, whether there is not a principle which, as I have said, transcends the question of where we put an airport, and which makes it necessary to satisfy the residents of this area that if their amenities are to be affected they are being affected for a good purpose—for the public welfare.

6.58 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships very long, but I feel I have a contribution to make, perhaps especially as I have no sentimental attachment to Essex or Hertfordshire or the area of Stansted. If I do not follow the noble Lords who have already spoken it is not because I do not share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, whose powerful speech impressed me greatly; it is not because I do not share the expressions of dismay which we have heard about the destruction of valuable agricultural land and of our unrivalled countryside; nor is it that I do not worry about the question of amenity, and particularly noise, which has been mentioned by so many of your Lordships.

In this connection I refer not only to noise, as such, affecting people on the ground, but noise in the same way as the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, spoke of it; in terms of its restriction on the value of an investment in an airfield, and also the restriction on the investment in aircraft in terms of services being restricted, with further restriction on the pay load of aircraft because of noise, which therefore impairs the value of the investment in the aircraft. I agree very much with what the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said about ancillary airports such as Prestwick and the like, which leads up to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, that there are other con- siderations beyond the fact that there should be another big airport near London.

On February 2, 1953, I took off for India in a Comet 1 into a north-easterly gale, and we crossed the coast above Sheppey. I had one ghastly glimpse of the seaward end of the Thames Estuary or that day. Your Lordships will recall the disastrous floods which the gales and the spring tide of that day caused; and I am consequently one of those who believe that, with the disappearance of the Zuider Zee, which is so rapidly being totally reclaimed, those who warn and warn again of the risk of future disaster to the lower reaches of the Thames, and to much of London itself, are absolutely right.

The subject was covered in the illustrated section of the Observer a few weeks ago, and in that paper a barrage was indicated as being the likely outcome. For this reason, I believe that work on such a barrage should be wedded to the construction of London's third airport. Therefore I favour a site on the Essex sands, rather than at Stansted, with the barrage being used as the road-rail link with the South Bank of the Thames, feeding into the much easier connections which, as your Lordships will have seen in the papers, are praised by those who support Sheppey as the proper site for the third airport. The shortness of this route in terms of time and of cost is commended by the supporters of Sheppey for that very reason. Incidentally, I am one of those who regard with the gravest suspicion the White Paper's figures for the road-rail communication with London from Stansted. Did the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, say that £7 million was the figure?

My Lords, such an airport as I and so many visualise on the reclaimed sands, and the barrage, will call for a massive assemblage of highly specialised machinery, labour and "know-how", all of which could in some measure be shared between the two, with consequent vast economies on both projects. I am tempted to ask your Lordships whether the consideration of this possibility is acceptable to you, in which case even if the advantages of the Stansted proposal are marginal (which I do not agree), and even if that proposal is unacceptable, an inquiry should undoubtedly be held; and in this respect I agree with every word spoken by the noble Lord who has just sat down. In such an inquiry the possibility of the scheme I have put forward could be considered by those concerned.

Before I sit down there is one other matter I wish to raise. I have listened throughout the debate, but I have heard no reference to the pilots' views. Such an inquiry would undoubtedly result in the pilots' associations giving evidence and in the views of the men who have to fly the aircraft being heard.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked on what it was that those who were unconvinced about Stansted based their feelings. As I have said, I have no interest in Essex, but I am jealous of our agricultural heritage and have respect for our countryside. I am influenced by some knowledge and experience of airports and of the noise problem. I am confident that the right plan for modern aircraft is to stack, take off and gain height over the sea, and that, as we see in other parts of the world, such would be achieved by an airport which I visualise on the sands, connected to London by a barrage controlling the tides.

7.4 p.m.


My Lords, it has been contended that some of the best speeches that were ever made were never delivered, and on that basic premise I was inclined to refrain from speaking, that mine might be counted among them. However, I was moved to speak by some remarks that were made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and also by a desire to speak in support of the inimitable and admirable way in which the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, presented the agricultural case against Stansted and at least in favour of reopening the inquiry. I must confess an interest, in that my son lives within the periphery of Stansted, in that beautiful village called Ugley—and, indeed, it is a beautiful village, as many of them are round there.

One of the points the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, made about the agricultural evaluation was that the claim about the productivity of the land in the Stansted area being 60 per cent. in excess of the national average was correct only because the national average was inclusive of hills, moorlands and mountains. That is in fact wholly untrue. It is 60 per cent. in excess of the average of the tillage acreage of this country, which is a very different thing. Therefore, to evaluate at some £1 million worth of production the 15,000 acres that are likely to be taken even then undervalues, under-assesses, what the impairment of agricultural production could be. Because there is nothing more deleterious to agricultural production than being on the periphery of a large conurbation. The encroachment by trespassers, by dogs and so on, inevitably varies the type of farming and the productivity pattern or attainment that can be carried out.

Therefore, against the background of the current balance-of-payments situation, there is, I consider, a new factor that can be brought into consideration; and I believe that this new evidence merits a further inquiry. It is that if agricultural production is going to be lost to the tune of £1 million per annum, then with devaluation it is going to cost that much more hard-earned currency in the export of goods and services in order to pay for what is being displaced in that particular area by way of productive effort in agriculture. Those are the points which I think add to the case that has already been submitted to the previous inquiries, and which I think amount to new evidence which, by itself, creates a prima facie case for a new inquiry.

7.8 p.m.


My Lords, I have no interests whatsoever to declare. I do not live in Essex. I know it slightly, and love it very much, but I have no connection with it. Moreover, I have no connection with the firm which has produced this excellent alternative to Stansted as a third London airport. Before I start, I should like to comment on one or two things which were said by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. I am sorry he is not here to hear them, because he might have been able to contradict them. I am joining in this debate purely because I feel that the people who live in and around Stansted—and, in fact, all those who love open English country—have had less than justice done to them.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, talked about sound-proof houses. My Lords, does he really think that we are going to live inside our houses, with all the windows closed, all the year round, summer and winter? Some of us are still mobile enough to enjoy working in our gardens, and one has not much protection from aircraft noise there. In fact, even at Epsom, where I live, which is a good way from Heathrow, I have more than once—quite frequently, in fact—had to stop speaking for the space of one or two minutes while a plane was going overhead. So far as the re-siting of the runways is concerned, it does not make much difference in noise. Whether a plane is directly overhead or not, it is going to make just as much noise.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, also referred to greater development in Stansted bringing greater wealth to the neighbourhood. Money does not always mean happiness. I have no doubt there have been great developments at such places as Battersea, Brentford and London Airport itself; but does he really consider that because of their greater wealth those places are preferable to the Cotswolds, the South Downs or the Weald of Kent? I cannot see that such an attitude is really worth considering. I do not deny that a third London airport is desirable; and I venture to differ slightly from my noble and learned friend, Lord Dilhorne, who said that he felt it need not be near London. I feel it must be near London because, in spite of everything we have done to build new towns and overspill areas and all the rest, there is no doubt that the centre of civilisation still remains in London. It is the centre of Government, the centre of the arts and the centre of finance; that is where business people and artists will want to come.

I am very impressed by one thing in the brochure about the new Foulness airport which I expect most noble Lords have seen. It is the extraordinary series of utterly inaccurate statements which have been made by the British Airports Authority. For instance, in regard to cost, Stansted is given as the lowest. The new Foulness airport would cost presumably about £30 million—and that is not such a very high figure when one remembers that a single Concorde costs £7 million. But they have not taken into consideration the fact that an enormous amount of good argricultural land will have to be bought at Stansted and compensation will have to be given to the farmers who are deprived of their farms. It is estimated that about 9,000 acres are affected.

As far as road access is concerned, the Airports Authority say that the building of a motorway will be £20 million more expensive at Foulness. But consider the facts. Most of the Foulness motorway would be over flat, undeveloped land, whereas the opposite is the case with Stansted, where the country is hilly and the contours run across road direction, This can be proved by the fact that on the railway line between King's Cross and Stevenage there are seven long tunnels. Therefore, construction of a motorway from here to Stansted would be far more expensive. Thirdly, there is the effect on defence activities. That is stated to be large at Foulness; but actually the present firing range is practically obsolete and, in any case, with the new scheme which proposes to reclaim land from the sea, no land will be taken at all.

The Airports Authority claim that if Foulness were adopted the aerodromes at Southend and Rochester would have to be closed, even if they were still operational. That is not true; they could still remain open and would be relieved of a great deal of heavy traffic which they are not really capable of handling. The Authority are quoted as saying that in the case of Stansted the towns affected would be Bishop's Stortford, Harlow, Sawbridgeworth and Thaxted. But there are others to the West and North that will be affected: Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City, Hertford, Saffron Walden, Cambridge, Royston and Chelmsford, which together have a population of 438,275. All those will be badly affected by aircraft noise; whereas with the new Foulness scheme using reclaimed land no towns would be affected because both approach and take-off would be over the sea. Reclaimed land may be thought to be rather an extreme method; but, in fact, it is practised constantly in Holland; and it may be of interest to remember that a reclaimed land scheme was used for the purposes of the Montreal Expo 67. If it is possible to do this for a temporary thing like that exposition, surely there is even more reason to do it for an important thing like an airport.

My Lords, Governments are made up of human beings, and any human being cart make a mistake. Perhaps one might say that this Government hold the record for having made more mistakes than any other; but whether that is your Lordships' opinion or not, there is no doubt that every Government have made mistakes. But how much more should we respect them if they would only come into the open and admit it, instead of hedging round and producing a lot of completely un-understandable statistics and trying to make out that they are right. As far as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, thinks, the Government "know right". I can only say that my experience has been that they "know wrong".

7.19 p.m.


My Lords, in rising, to speak in this debate I should like to preface my remarks by saying that I am not an expert on air transport requirements; I have no technical knowledge about the engineering problems involved, and I do not live in the Stansted area—in fact, I live in quite the opposite direction. But I have some thoughts—and I have had some little experience in the past—of land usage and it is in this connection, and on one other matter, that I should like to offer to your Lordships such ideas as I have.

I do not intend to comment on the rights and wrongs of what has happened over Stansted so far. We have all heard most of them, I think, this afternoon from any distinguished speakers. There is also The Stansted Black Book and the recent consulting engineer's report on Foulness. It is my view, my Lords, that if there is a reasonable alternative site on land of low productive value which could be engineered to fill the needs of national air requirements, that site should be chosen, even though it might cost more initially, and even if it means altering a decision taken at Government level. This, as many speakers have said this afternoon, is not a Party political issue and should not have been treated as such.

We have in Britain a population of some 54 million which, we are told, will increase again substantially within the next twenty years. That is inevitable. As a nation we have become more dependent on purchasing food from agricultural countries overseas, with the profits of our industrial exports. It is problematical whether this facility will continue indefinitely in the future, or whether indeed food will always be obtainable from overseas. At the same time, the population growth in our towns and cities over the past 100 years has resulted, as we all know, in the disappearance of much agricultural land of high potential under housing and factory buildings. As I see it, we have reached a stage when the likelihood of a further rapid increase in the productivity per acre in Britain, such as has taken place due to scientific invention and improved management, is less certain; and I believe that we shall face either a higher bill for imported foodstuffs, with consequent loss of sterling reserves, or a reduced standard of living through our inability to feed ourselves adequately.

The proposed airport at Stansted, with its runways, service buildings and perimeter urban development, must result, as many noble Lords have said this afternoon, in the loss of many more thousands of acres of land of high agricultural productivity. The figure of 15,000 acres was given by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, in his most interesting speech, and that, my Lords, is 22 square miles. As has been stated so often, this airport, if it is eventually built, will affect rural life over a wide area, and there will be a further reduction in land available for producing homegrown foodstuffs worth £1 million a year, as the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, pointed out—and this is production year after year, as the noble Lord, Lord Netherthorpe, reminded us. Of course this is happening daily all over Britain where the needs of housing and industry are urgent, and there is not much which can be done to contain this continual drain of agricultural land under building. But on this issue of an airport, where there may be a good alternative site on land of less or no agricultural value. I submit that there is an overwhelming case for sensible land usage which should be given far greater attention.

I am one of many, my Lords, who believe that we can no longer afford to dissipate our limited land resources as casually as we have in past years. It is not so much a question of priorities; it is a question of attitudes of mind. Other countries have similar problems even with lower population figures relative to their land mass and some are, as we all know, energetically evolving modern ideas to deal with these problems. Indeed, all over the world the need for intelligent land usage is essential if the next generation is to avoid the inevitable retribution that will overtake nations which believe to-morrow can always take care of itself. The land which we have in our care to-day to feed our future population should not be so easily destroyed when, with forethought and wise investment, our needs might be met through greater imagination in land use and, in this case, possibly by reclamation from the sea.

Most of your Lordships have probably read the consulting engineer's report on Foulness with the same interest as I did myself. Surely we can hope that this proposal will now be considered seriously by the Government. It seems that in this report we have a concept which is truly imaginative, and sufficiently factual to make further expert examination imperative before further planning takes effect at Stansted. Surely reclamation of land from the sea is in the national interest where it can be put to such good use.

The Low Countries have been doing this sort of things for centuries and we, too, should now start utilising what potential resources of this nature we may have and thereby reduce pressure on our very limited land space. If Foulness was found to be a feasible airport site, as it is indicated it might well be, and if air safety is at least as good as at Stansted—and it is claimed that it is safer—it appears to me to have a number of other very considerable advantages besides those of good land usage. Communications would be immeasurably superior to those possible at Stansted. For example, by its position on the coast Foulness could facilitate rapid transport to continental ports and to the fast developing East Anglian ports, as well as those of Kent. Whether it would bring air passengers nearer to Grosvenor Square, I am unable to say.

The introduction of hovercraft connections could speedily transfer passengers and air freight over wide areas of the Thames Estuary, including the Port of London and Tilbury and to industry on both banks of the river. Another great advantage of Foulness, in my view—and this is my second point—is that the noise factor which, as so many speakers have said, must add greatly to the dis- comfort of those living in the Stansted area, would be much reduced if the new airport were built on the seashore.

My Lords, the time has gone by when planners, Government or any other body, can disregard the effect of noise on the public, and choose to say, as they do, "They will get used to it, let them grumble." It is steadily being established by medical investigation here and elsewhere that traffic noise, and particularly the intermittent high screech of jet aircraft, has a progressively deteriorating effect on the human nervous system, with accompanying disorders and increasing irritability and nervous tension.

This noise factor is a facet of airport planning which needs to be given greater attention, for with the introduction of the, Concorde in the early 1970s it is my own belief, from what I have heard over past years, and following the recent tests which have been carried out here, that the people of Britain, as well as those living in other densely populated countries, may not accept the much more shattering sonic boom of this plane over their heads and may insist, if it is to fly at all, that it does so over the sea. Foulness would be a much more suitable airport for the Concorde in this respect than any inland position, and I suggest that Her Majesty's Government should give this some extra thought.

In conclusion, my Lords, I should like to add my thanks to those already expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, for initiating this important debate to-day, with a dispassion and clarity which has been most impressive. In supporting the great weight of opinion shown in your Lordships' House in favour of the Government convening a public inquiry on Stansted and the siting of the new London airport, I hope that they will immediately investigate the possibility of an alternative at Foulness. I also urge Her Majesty's Government to accept that they need to carry public opinion with them on this matter, as it is obvious that so far insufficient attention has been paid to the opinions of the many fully responsible and informed bodies concerned with the siting of this new airport.

In the midst of all other difficulties, this is the time to think big and imaginatively for the future. I suggest that if the technical details of Foulness can be established and are favourable, the long-term cost is not likely to be so much greater than the cost of Stansted that we cannot and should not afford it. I feel sure that the country would warmly welcome such a constructive and exciting project as reclaiming land from the sea and building the most modern airport in Europe, with all that could mean in new hope and new pride in a national determination to create something out of nothing, rather than destroy more of what is best in our rural landscape.

7.32 p.m.


My Lords, I should declare that I am a former Chairman of Essex County Council and for fifteen years or so have been the leader of my Party on that Council, both in control and in opposition. But to-night I feel like an Essex nationalist. I feel that I should apologise to your Lordships for appearing in the rather unusual role of a Party political eunuch. Perhaps this is not so strange as it sounds. This Stansted scheme was conceived under a Conservative Government. The Labour Government were left to carry the baby. That was perhaps in the natural order of things, but the present Government have gone one step further and have decided to have this little Tory love-child legally adopted. So your Lordships see the difficulty in which I find myself.

In my appeal to the Minister, I do not intend to embroider what I say with any appeal to sentimentality. Of course, among the people of Essex there is to a certain extent a sentimental feeling about this question—but only to a certain extent. There are men and women, many of them in the eventide of their lives, who are to have their homes taken away. There are farmers whose forebears have tilled the same fields for generations, and who have now to see them sunk in a sea of concrete. While we talk so much about national parks, here is a delightful, quiet little corner of England that is to be rudely disturbed. As I say, I do not intend to base my appeal to the Minister on sentimentality, a sentimentality that might be a subject for tears. If it can be proved legitimately, by proper inquiry, that Stansted is the right place to put this airport, then I feel that the sentimental feelings of the people in the neigh- bourhood must be subordinated to the greater need of the nation's interest.

I do not think that there is any doubt about the need for a third London airport, but I ask myself three questions. First, is Stansted the right site? Secondly, was the procedure which led to the adoption of Stansted impeccable and above public criticism? Thirdly, is the cost which is put before us beyond dispute? My answer is, No. And I think that that is the answer of a large number of people. I feel that the Ministers are being too magnanimous in showing loyalty to the civil servants who conceived this scheme. It is the Ministers who are suffering for that loyalty at the moment, and this is something that grieves me very much. I feel that all the possible alternative schemes that have been mentioned ought to have their sites put under the same kind of microscope of a public inquiry as the one held at Chelmsford.

Let me take the last of my three questions first—the question of cost. The White Paper says Stansted will cost £51 million, less £4 million for the existing runway, making a net total of £47 million. I do not believe that figure. The Ministry themselves said that it was only a rough indication. My noble friend Lord Kennet (and tonight I underline the word "friend") now alters that figure completely, and says that Stansted will cost £59 million, against the £47 million mentioned in the White Paper, while Sheppey would cost £65 million, against the £132 million in the White Paper.


My Lords, perhaps I could explain the different figure. The one I gave was for Stansted II, with the runways turned. This, as I said, adds £10 million to the cost.


My Lords, my noble friend said that these are "the best figures the Government have". I remember a somewhat similar turn of phrase being used with regard to a Prime Minister about ten years ago, and used then in a derogatory sense. I want to know when we are going to get a final figure. We have had a hotch-potch of figures from the White Paper to the present debate, and we do not know where we are.


My Lords, may I make one point clear? It will help your Lordships later on, when I wind up and have another lot of figures. My noble friend used the 1970 corrected figures. I propose to use the figures that appear in the White Paper.


My Lords, let me take the figures in the White Paper. To that £47 million net we have to add something in the region of £10 million for the cost of realignment of runways. It might probably be £14 million more, because the £4 million existing Stansted runway is going to become useless; but for the purpose of argument let me call it £10 million. Add half a million for the cost of the road link from the airport to the M.11. The White Paper puts it at £1 million, but I am assured that it will cost at least £1½ million. Then we have to add £2 million in order to expand the size of the M.11. As originally planned by the Ministry of Transport, the M.11 was to be of six lanes, but it will require an extra two lanes to accommodate all the traffic that is going to be generated by the airport. These figures are from somebody whose name I cannot mention but who really does know his job. What did my noble friend say?


My Lords, I said it was a pity the noble Lord could not say by whom he was informed.


And it is also a pity that my noble friend could not tell us who were the members of this departmental inquiry. Then add £10 million for the transfer of Wethersfield. Wethersfield is a very sophisticated establishment, and I doubt whether £10 million would cover the cost, particularly as we are told that it would cost £25 million to transfer the antiquated artillery depot from Shoeburyness.

These additions increase the already identified extra cost at Stansted by £22½ million, from £47 million to, roughly, £70 million. This excludes the possible full cost of the transfer of Wethersfield, which I have counted as £10 million, and excludes £5 million for the rebuilding and soundproofing of schools in and around Stansted and Bishop's Stortford. It also excludes all the new schools, the fire stations, the clinics and the police stations that will have to be built to accommodate the extra 100,000 inhabitants. It excludes the capital value of the food produced on the farmland to be taken: that is, £1 million a year loss, capitalised at say £15 million. This, I know, will not appear directly as a budget item in the cost of the Ministry—it is merely a cost to the country—but I think it must be taken into account.

It excludes also the subsidy that may have to be paid to B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. in respect of the removal of any of their buildings and installations from Heathrow to Stansted, and these are running into a cost of £43 million. It also excludes the £45 million being spent on enlarging Heathrow, because Stansted will not be able to cater for all the air traffic of future years. So it really looks as if this Stansted scheme will cost well over £100 million. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, can laugh, but the figures that he put forward were, he said, merely the best figures he had; and the Ministry said they are only a rough indication.


My Lords, I should not let the noble Lord's figures go past without saying that they are completely unfounded and irresponsible.


Let me show how unfounded they are. Is it unfounded that £10 million is to be spent on realigning the runways? Is it unfounded that another £10 million, or something near it, is to be spent on transferring Wethersfield? Here is £20 million out of the £22½ million that I mentioned, to be getting on with.

The White Paper estimate also excludes some less specific and perhaps more doubtful contingent liabilities. There are six military airfields under the stacking area of Stansted. I do not know whether they will be able to be used to their full capacity for their present purposes if Stansted is established. But what I do know is that the very reason why Silver-stone was turned down was because it had eight military airfields under its stacking area. What is sauce for the goose may be sauce for the gander. Then, big road expansions will be needed inside the Greater London Council area; that is to say, from a point somewhere about Wanstead, where the M.11 will end. If we do not have those expansions there will be a terrific pile up of road traffic just inside the Greater London area. Obviously I cannot put that into figures. If it is suggested that we should use the North Circular Road, I will merely entertain noble Lords by saying that it took me over two hours to do ten miles round that road a few weeks ago.

While I am discussing the White Paper estimates on cost, I want to see what is said about the railways. When the White Paper compares Stansted with Sheppey it includes £40 million for extending the main line from Sheppey; but it does not include anything at all for extending the main line from Stansted. I think we know that expansions in both cases will be necessary, and this might add more millions to the estimated Stansted cost. Incidentally, in suggesting that the mainline expansion for Sheppey will cost £40 million I think the White Paper may conceivably be in error, because British Railways now say that the cost of that expansion will be £25 million, of which £12 million, anyway, was being spent in order to cater for existing overcrowding on the railway. So this £40 million which is debited against Sheppey really comes down to £13 million when we make a comparison between Sheppey and Stansted, and that narrows the gap which apparently exists between the rival schemes. I am sorry to say that I have no confidence in the figures of cost that have been put before us, either in the White Paper or from other quarters since.

The second question that I asked myself was whether this decision had been reached in a way that was impeccable and beyond public criticism. History tells us that we have had the public inquiry. But it has since been suggested that that inquiry was not of the very full statutory kind which was mentioned after the chalk-pit case. As a result of the chalk-pit case it is understood that if any new evidence is heard after the inquiry has been formally closed, then the protesters shall have the opportunity of cross-examining on that new evidence. If it is now definitely stated that this was not a full statutory inquiry at Chelmsford, it was a pretty good smokescreen; and this is how a large number of people in Essex are beginning to regard it.

What happened at the inquiry? There were six criteria on which the inspector pronounced. He pronounced in favour of Stansted on one, and against Stansted on the other five; and he thought, as has been said, that a review of the whole problem should be undertaken by a Committee equally interested in traffic in the air, traffic on the ground, regional planning and national planning. What notice did the Ministry take of that recommendation? They did not set up this new public inquiry. Instead, they had a private inquiry of their own, and they heard new arguments from many people, no doubt members of the Civil Service, experts in aviation. These experts in aviation, many of whom had been involved in the original Stansted choice, naturally stood by their original decision and refused to admit that they had been wrong in the first place. There was no chance for the protesters to cross-examine on the new evidence.

But this is only part of the story. In addition to spurning the inspector's findings, after the original public inquiry had been closed, and after all the cross-examiners had been sent home, they secretly altered the whole basis of the scheme. The runways were doubled; the amount of noise was doubled; the amount of land to be taken was considerably increased. It is something like a motorist who has successfully defended himself against a charge of parking but who suddenly finds himself convicted behind his back by a "packed" jury on a charge of dangerous driving, although he never had the charge put to him and never had a chance to deny it.

So the people in Essex, quite understandably, are beginning to feel that not only are they being badly damaged, but they are being badly double-crossed, as well. We are now told that the scheme has been changed again, and that the runways have been realigned. This is certainly going to relieve some local residents of the inconvenience that they were going to suffer from the noise, but it will bring a whole lot of other people right into the direct line of fire. Are they to be given a chance of cross-examining on this new decision? No, of course not. The change, on the whole, I should think is an improvement. But we are told that the wind on certain days will come in such a direction that the new runways in their new direction will be unusable. That means less efficency, and it means a loss of income to the airport.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord would like to say on what proportion of the time this will be so.


No, my Lords; because the information that has been given is so carefully kept very secret from us. All this chopping and changing about, this doubling of the runways, this slanting of the runways—what a condemnation it is of the slipshod way in which the whole plan was originally conceived! And let me add for emphasis that it was conceived by the Conservative Government of that day. But is it so surprising? It was hatched by the same people who conceived the now roundly condemned and hopelessly inadequate airport at Heathrow. They were wrong then. Might they not be wrong now?

The third question I ask myself is whether Stansted is the right choice. The only thing that has been proved so far by the public inquiry is that it is the wrong choice. Many other schemes have been put forward. There are Sheppey, Foulness Island and the sands off Foulness. These three all have one indisputable advantage over Stansted. The planes will stack over the sea, they will land from the sea, and in the case of the two Foulness schemes they will ascend over the sea and the noise will be eliminated almost completely. The risk of a crash over a residential area will be eliminated almost completely. And, my Lords, planes do crash—one crashed and burst into flames on Stansted airport only last week.

Now if I were to try to assess the technical merits of these various schemes I should be told that I have no expert professional qualification, and of course that is true. I am just a simple citizen, but I have yet to hear that simple citizens have been deprived of their rights. These schemes have been drawn up by real experts. Some of them, perhaps, contain a little "special pleading", but I think that is all the more reason why they should be submitted to examination by an impartial committee before they are turned down, as they have been turned down by the Ministry so far, and that they should not be turned down by a secret group of the Ministry's own men—the very men who were responsible for the Stansted decision in the first place, and who naturally do not want to depart from that decision.

Perhaps I may try to make one or two comparisons between these various airports. In the first place, as has already been said, Stansted would take thousands of acres of rich farmland at a time when our balance of payments demands the production of more food at home and not less, and further thousands of acres of land would be taken for industry and for housing accommodation which will have to be provided around the airport. If we are told that Foulness also comprises good farmland (as we probably shall be), the answer is that more than half of it is not used as good farmland, and the Shoeburyness authorities will not allow it to be so used. The Foulness reclamation scheme will take no land at all.

In regard to visibility and fog, the situation is worse at Stansted than at Foulness. At Stansted it will be necessary for the aircraft to fly overland nearly 40 miles inwards and 40 miles outwards, whereas Foulness needs no overland flying at all. We know that airline operators like to reduce their time in the air as much as possible, and 40 miles at slow speed would be a big burden on their fuel consumption—a burden that would not exist if Foulness were adopted.

Then there is the question of military flying. There is no proof in the White Paper that military flying would be affected, but there are six military air-fields in the stacking area of Stansted airport, as I mentioned some time ago, and with aircraft continually going up and coming down, and with twice as many military aircraft flying each day as there would be civil aircraft, I have a feeling that there might be some interference. I hope this will be investigated, or that my noble friend Lord Beswick, a very distinguished air pilot himself, will be able to give us satisfaction on that point.

I will be reckless, and say that instead of adding to the difficulties of Southend Airport, Foulness will ease those difficulties, because it will be able to take the big night-flying jets that now land at Southend, about which Southend is already complaining and against which it is taking municipal action. I think Stansted might be less popular with the airlines because of the additional fuel consumption which might be involved. At Foulness there would be no overland flying and no need to slow down speed, apart from the stacking operation, so there would be no undue wastage of fuel.

Looking at the question of industrial development at Stansted, this would take rich farmland, whereas at Foulness there are thousands of acres of virtually unused land where industry would be a blessing rather than a curse. And if we look at Sheppey, the planners there are loudly demanding such development, and did so by means of notices printed in the papers last week.

I should like to ask what happened before Stansted was chosen. Were the airline operators asked whether they thought Stansted was better than Foulness? Were the pilots asked? Were the international airline authorities asked? I think the answer is "No" in each case. Was the London Regional Planning Conference asked? The answer is "No". What is the view of the Greater London Council? The answer is that the G.L.C. is dead against Stansted, as also is the Essex County Council Planning Authority. Was the Department of Economic Affairs asked? The answer is "No", although that Department is already considering the whole question of national airport policy. Was the South-East Economic Development Board asked? It certainly was not asked. I shall probably be told that the Board was not in existence at the time of the inquiry. But it has been in existence since, and it has not been asked, and the Board now says that the proposal for Stansted airport will compel them to reinvestigate their whole strategy for the Eastern Region.

My Lords, what is the use of having planning organisations if you do not ask their advice? I admit that Stansted is nearer to London as the crow flies, but we are not crows, and we do not travel like crows. Big road and rail developments would be needed, no matter which of the airport sites is chosen. I wonder whether it is realised how much extra traffic will be generated by the third airport, wherever it may be. We are told that by 1980 this third airport will need to handle nearly 55,000 passengers a day. With seven people in a car this is nearly 8,000 cars a day; with 3½ people in a car it means over 15,000 cars a day. With 35 people in a coach, it means over 1,500 coaches, and with 800 people in a train it means nearly 70 trains. This problem of transporting people from the airport to inner London by road will be enormous, especially in the rush hours.

In some of the documents that have been circulated some futuristic transport schemes have been put forward. Personally, I have my doubts about a good many of them. I think that what we have to visualise is a special electric railway running direct from the airport to central London, overground, on fairly cheap land, until it reaches the London border and then diving underground into a specially constructed tube. The journey would be quick, taking only 30 or 40 minutes, and the Customs examination could take place on the train, thus eliminating one of the great irritations confronting foreign passengers when they arrive in this country. Under such a scheme as this—and I am sure it will have to come some day—the time distances between Stansted and Foulness or Sheppey would be virtually the same.

I come now to the subject of noise. At Stansted it would be a menace; at Foulness it would hardly be a problem at all. I am not going to talk about statistical tables of decibels, of which we have had many quoted. I just want to speak about plain noise in people's ears. The Stansted scheme's authors have tried to belittle the noise problem at Stansted by comparing it with Heathrow. They say the Stansted noise will be only a fraction of that at Heathrow, and they reach their verdict by taking the amount of noise and multiplying it by the number of people. That is sound up to a point, but what are they going to do about it? They are going to put down another 100,000 people into the Stansted area, thus immediately cancelling out this very clever argument.

May I take a side glance at what I might call a new strategy, though of course it is not part of my basic case against Stansted? Would it not be better, instead of keeping the Heathrow failure—and failure it is—in addition to Stansted, to scrap Heathrow, where in any event you have to spend £30 million or £40 million in the next few years in bringing it up to date, and build at Foulness or Sheppey a super airport to cater for the traffic both of Heathrow and of Stansted. Experts say that it is possible. We could sell the Heathrow land for housing; that would help to pay for the cost. That is only a sideline suggestion, remote from the main lines of my argument.

I think the Ministry are giving us a botched-up job, just as they did at Heathrow. I do not think they are looking far enough ahead. We have to look to the 1990's and to 2000, and not merely to the late 1970's or 1980's. We do not want the Heathrow story all over again where we built an airport that is wholly inadequate and very objectionable. Whatever is said about costs of the rival schemes, we have to bear in mind that this is capital expenditure to be spread over a long period of years and will be revenue-earning; therefore we want the assets we create to be the best possible, and to have the best possible revenue-earning potentiality.

I was going to say something about Shoeburyness, but owing to the time I will not do so. I will say one thing, however. The lawyer representing the Government, when he appeared at the inquiry, had the opportunity of putting a witness into the box to testify to the indispensability of Shoeburyness. But he did not put him in the box, and this makes me suspicious because lawyers do not usually keep a valuable witness out of the box.

The original Departmental Committee of 1963, whom I have already criticised and who, of course, in this non-political role I am adopting, I have to say were a Tory Departmental Committee, originally suggested Stansted. They stuck to Stansted all the way through. How did they decide on Stansted in the first place? Did they inspect all the airfields. Of course not. They inspected only one, and that happened to be Stansted. Yet the Committee had eighteen months in which to carry out their inspection. Their Report says: Our advisers have visited the more promising of the alternative sites and we ourselves have visited Stansted. Stansted was the only one they took the trouble to look at. I think the Government of that day should have sent them back on their business to do their job properly. The Government should have got their little book of quotations out and directed the Committee's attention to the one which says, "the gentleman in White- hall does not always know best". But I think the main reason why the Committee picked on Stansted, back in those days, was that it had an existing runway. This is virtually now going to be scrapped, so the whole basis on which the entire Stansted scheme is based has been swept away.

It is not my duty to argue the case for Sheppey, or for Foulness Island or Foulness sands. I certainly prefer the reclaimed land scheme. It would add to our acreage, instead of reducing it. It is engineeringly practicable, as has been shown by the airport designers of Holland and by the people, as the noble Lord, Lard Somers, said, who designed and constructed "Expo 67" at Montreal. I think it would be a good idea if we showed the world that Britain can do something really imaginative. It may be said that reclaiming these vast areas of sands is a dream, to which my retort is, Stansted is a nightmare.

The inspector said: Much of the evidence seemed to me to be rather superficial". and his assessor added: …almost every piece of evidence came to pieces under cross-examination. My Lords, on nearly every count the case against Stansted has serious elements of doubt, and I think that the benefit of the doubt should be given to Stansted. There is, without doubt, time for another inquiry. We know that Heathrow and Gatwick are to have their leases of life extended by a number of years. We know that a consortium of civil engineering firms can work wonders when it is put on the job. Finally, there is that promise of which we have been reminded; the promise that shortage of time would not be used as an excuse for steamrollering through a Stansted decision. I think that promises are very good things. Cannot we be especially virtuous to-night and say that we will keep this one? I think we should have a new Commission, sitting in public. If that were to happen, justice would be seen to be done, and nobody would then have any reason to complain. I want to save the Government from a very embarrassing situation, which is not entirely of their own making. I think that a new Commission would be the best thing for the Government, for Stansted and for the country.

[The sitting was suspended at 8.6 p.m. and resumed at 8.40 p.m.]

8.40 p.m.


My Lords, it is rather like starting a race as a greyhound straight out of the trap on to a cold track, to be first off after an adjournment; so I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I make a particularly bad speech. However, so far as speaking is concerned, I have only one advantage, and that is that I am usually quite brief; consequently, I shall not detain your Lordships long. I have no interests to declare on this subject. Therefore I do not have to search my conscience, as requested by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. However, I felt that the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, made such a good case for Silverstone that I was momentarily worried, being a supporter of motor racing. It would appear that there is but little chance of Silver-stone ever being chosen as the site for the third airport. Undoubtedly, the third airport will be the most important airport we shall have. This is obvious, because this airport will have to meet the demands for aircraft until about the year 2,000. Consequently, this decision should not be rushed into.

The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, made an impassioned plea that we had no time to waste. This brought to my mind an article written in the Daily Express by Mr. Robert Pitman back in June, when he said that it seems strange that the chairman of the Airports Authority should be only a part-time appointment. This seems a pity, in view of the fact that the Airports Authority are one of the most important Boards in the country; and if there is such a hurry and urgency at the moment, it seems strange that we do not have a full-time chairman. However, that is by the way.

I feel that this decision on the third airport must be based to a certain extent on flexibility. Many noble Lords have made excellent speeches to-night and covered most of the technical ground, but I feel that one point that was not covered was that the aircraft that will be using this airport for some years to come are going to change considerably, and that flexibility in terms of what changes are going to be necessary to the airport has not really been thought of fully in terms of the capacity of the airport.

It seems that Foulness could offer far greater flexibility than any of the other sites mentioned. It would be a great pity if Foulness were ruled out on cost alone, because the reasons that have been given for the extra cost of Foulness rather than Stansted seem to be a little dubious. For instance, the £25 million for moving the range is a little strange. After all, I believe this range was selected originally because it was easy to recover cannonballs. In this day and age it seems that that particular role has been superseded. Surely the closing of Wethersfield would offset the cost of moving the range, and in our present economic position we cannot afford to fire off any significant number of shells without going "into the red". The really important point is that if the airport at Foulness could be more effective in terms of flexibility, then obviously the range is of no significance.

Another aspect of the choice of the airport that has worried me somewhat is that everyone has been talking about rail times. To me, this sounds as though we are talking about the glorious age of steam. I do not think we should even consider a system of transport that would be obsolete by the time it was built. We should look ahead and examine the possibilities of the hover rail trains. After all, if it is travelling at 300 miles an hour the hover rail train could, even with a start and stop time, reach London in well under 15 minutes. So let us look ahead to the needs of the future and plan a system that can make the most of the technical advances and use these technical advances now. Heathrow and Gatwick have proved to be inadequate in many ways so do not let us make this mistake with the third airport.

8.45 p.m.


My Lords, if I am the exception and am not interrupted by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, I can promise you the shortest speech of this evening. I venture to interpose my opinion on your Lordships for two basic reasons only: first, because of the experience that we in Devon have had of what I might call "the Ministry", the hands of Whitehall, and secondly, because I am a farmer. A year or more ago, on three separate occasions, the Ministry went ahead with dismemberment plans for the county in which I live, for no other reason that I could see than that this was in the administration pipeline. On one of those occasions the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said that it was one of the most stupid things the Government had done. However, he advised his followers on that occasion not to vote against it. He got very little thanks from the Government.

So it is with Stansted. I think it is because the scheme was in some sort of pipeline that the Government must go ahead with a plan which, as practically all your Lordships have said, is not a good one. But the faceless ones of bureaucracy and their front men seem to say "Go", while everything else says, "No". All the figures, all the promises, all the local opinion say "No" to Stansted.

The noble Lord, Lord Bannerman of Kildonan, in his admirable maiden speech last week, underlined what all of us from the Provinces dislike so much about London and what it stands for to us. How we envy Scotland and Wales and their inbuilt facility for protesting against the governesslike attitude that we all feel is coming from London towards us now! They all know what is best for their little Jimmie! I hasten to add, however, in the parlance of those who are dealing with racial problems, that some of my best friends are in London. I leave to others who are more able than I to enunciate on broken promises, Disregarded inquiries, ruining of amenities, noise and safety problems. These factors have been dealt with, I will not say ad nauseam, but continually this evening. They all go to argue against Stansted as the third airport.

Secondly, I come to my own bee in my own bonnet. My particular bee in the bonnet is that I feel that in this world of so much starvation, population explosion, or anything else that you like to call it, it is downright immoral to put good productive land under concrete, tarmac, bricks or water when there is an alternative. As a farmer, may I say—and this has been mentioned by many speakers this evening—that it is a stupid thing to do in our present financial difficulties.

Surely one would have to be an awful cynic not to be thrilled by the possibilities of the new Foulness scheme, where you add instead of subtracting from your country; where you interfere with no amenities; where your noise is over the sea, and so on, ad infinitum. And if the Gunners are going to lose a range, there are plenty more good ones to be had all over the place, from Dartmoor to the West of Scotland. Apart from that, all else is gain by the new Foulness scheme. To my way of thinking it would be worth it, even if treble the cost of Stansted. I should like the noble Lord to-night to send for the pantechnicons, if only to give Whitehall a headache. However, if and when the Stansted Order is laid, all I can suggest to your Lordships is that it be thrown out lock, stock and barrel, no matter what anybody says anywhere else.

8.51 p.m.


My Lords, I have to declare an interest, in that I live ten miles from Stansted. At the time of the public inquiry I received a map from the Noise Abatement Society which informed me that I should be living in future on the edge of the intolerable noise area. However, I was prepared to await the findings of the public inquiry and accept them. I think that goes for everybody who lives in that part of the world. But we all know and have again been reminded this afternoon, of the controversy which this project has aroused since then. First of all, we had the Government White Paper going against some of the recommendations of their own inspector, followed by a bulldozing debate in another place in favour of that White Paper, followed by "Black Books" and counter recommendations, all of which have been ignored. Why? Anyone who has read the literature—and there has been lots of it—on this subject will quickly realise that Stansted has become the "sacred cow" of the faceless bureaucrats at the Board of Trade, and any realignment of runways cuts little ice.

Having said that—and I realise the Government have had a pretty rough ride to-night—I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, when he sums up if he could give us an undertaking in regard to the Lea Valley Regional Park, a report on which was submitted by the Civic Trust and the recommendations were approved by this House, that the new realignment of the runways at Stansted will in no way affect the recreational amenities. A large capital development is scheduled for this recreational park, and there will be no point in having it if it is made intolerable by aircraft noise.

Finally, I want to go into the ground communication aspect. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that the estimated time by rail would be 45 to 50 minutes. Did he mean from Stansted to Liverpool Street, or from Stansted to Victoria?


To King's Cross.


At present the non-stop diesel trains from Bishop's Stortford take 45 minutes—that is, if there is no congestion on the line. The electric trains take anything up to an hour, with intermediate stops. Therefore I should have thought it would take a little longer, over the hour, to get to King's Cross.

As regards the road communications, both on the A.10 and A.11, I did a timing exercise the other night, which happened to be last Friday, a particularly bad night. I did not time it from Grosvenor Square, but from Harrod's car park. It took me exactly two hours to get from Harrod's car park to my home, which is ten miles nearer London than Stansted. This is not an exceptional case; it has happened before. The average time, if one keeps within the speed limit, would be 1½ hours and, I should think, 1¾ hours to Stansted. If the M.11 is built I gather that under the present planning it will terminate somewhere on the North Circular Road in the Woodford area, but in order for buses to get from the proposed Stansted airport to the Victoria Air Terminal I should have thought that road would have to be extended a good deal further into central London to get the journey within the time limit proposed; that is to say, one hour.

Another aspect which ought to be borne in mind is that there is a very high volume of heavy traffic on both the A.10 and A.11 going into London with vegetables and agricultural produce for Covent Garden. All this traffic will go over to the M.11 when it is built, thus congesting that road even more than was expected with the increased traffic from the airport. Therefore we shall be back to square one.

One section of the White Paper which amused me was paragraph 57, in reference to Silverstone: Silverstone also has other drawbacks. Access from London would not be as good as for Stansted; the road journey, via the M.1 and a special link road, would on a tentative estimate take about 100 minutes even in off-peak periods …". Well, my Lords, as I have explained, it often takes 100 minutes to get to Stansted. I think I have said enough on this subject, but I hope the Government will bear in mind the two points which I have raised. The first is in regard to ground communications, as I am quite convinced, by personal experience, that they have underestimated on this factor. The second is in regard to the undertaking which I should like to have about the Lea Valley Regional Park.

8.58 p.m.


My Lords, all the things which I thought of saying have been said already, several times over. At this late hour I will not burden your Lordships with repetition. I propose simply to confine myself to saying that I strongly support the plea of those speakers who have argued for a new and comprehensive public reappraisal of the project for a third London airport and, pending such a reappraisal, for the suspension of the Government's decision to locate that airport at Stansted.

The case for a further exhaustive indepent public study of London's airport problem seems to me to be quite inescapable. Seldom can a demand for such a study have been so powerful and so widely supported as this has been. The study should cover not only Stansted, but also the various possible alternatives, including in particular the imaginative and far-sighted suggestion to locate an airport on reclaimed land off Foulness Island. Indeed, one might go further and say that what is needed is a national airport plan into which various regional and national airport needs can be fitted, and for this a Royal Commission might perhaps be the right answer. But so far as Stansted is concerned, cannot the Government be now persuaded to take heed and suspend their decision, pending further study?

9.0 p.m.


My Lords, I rise in support of the Government in their proposal to develop Stansted as the third London Airport, not because I believe that Stansted is the ideal site, but because it was by far the best of the sites proposed. I am not convinced that the Board of Trade's priorities are correct in their assumptions on the overspill of air traffic from Heathrow and Gatwick, the latter surely being capable of handling comfortably a 50 per cent. increase in traffic, and more with further expansion.

I feel that the original Report on the development of the third London Airport was outstanding, not for what it said, but for what it did not say. A great number of the present objections were bound to follow as a consequence. I am interested in the development of aviation in the South-East of England, and particularly in the continued development and operation of Southend Airport. Noble Lords on both sides of the House may wish to know that it is a municipal undertaking and is the only airport in the country which, without State aid, is making a net surplus and making a considerable contribution to the local general rate fund. It employs 2,400 people, and in terms of air transport movements is the second or third busiest airport in the country; in terms of air freight it is the third busiest; and in terms of export freight the statistics show that it is second only to Heathrow.

In reply to my letter to the Prime Minister expressing my concern at the refusal of the Minister of Housing and Local Government to grant Southend Corporation planning approval for the extension and widening of the subsidiary runway at the Airport, the Prime Minister, in his letter dated October 17, stated: I fully share your views on the importance of Southend Airport and the contribution it makes". My Lords, at the Stansted Inquiry certain assurances were given in evidence concerning air traffic at Southend Airport with the development of Stansted, and I shall constantly seek confirmation that there will be no interference in the operation of Southend Airport or with its operating companies. I agree with noble Lords who have already spoken that there is a strong case for a further inquiry forthwith. In conclusion, I reiterate that I shall stand by the Government's decision for the development of Stansted, with the reservations that I have made.


My Lords, I would just add one sentence to what the noble Earl has said. This has been a devastating debate. I think the Government must revise their views and stop this Stansted business altogether. In the whole of my Parliamentary life, I have never heard a more devastating debate than this has been. It has been "murder."

9.4 p.m.


My Lords, before elaborating briefly on some of the points which have occurred to me, I should first like to refer to some points which have been made during the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, who kindly brought this subject to the Floor of the House, mentioned Southend and it seems to me that perhaps the problem has been erroneously put across. Because if the Foulness project were elaborated upon, or came to fruition, then, whatever anyone might say, Southend would have to stop operating. If you look at the alignment of the runways proposed at Foulness, you will find that the take-off path of one of the runways at Southend and the landing path of another of the runways are quite conflicting, and short of restricting the rate of movement at both airports it would be necessary to stop operating at Southend. This, I am advised, is the professional viewpoint.

Secondly, to go further on the Foulness proposal, which seems to be rather "money no object", I feel that the monorail proposal which is an integral part of the Foulness plan—whether we build in the sea or just alongside it—deserves more study. Certainly, it could not be ready in the time required, even it one were to put the time back to, say, 1980. A monorail giving a speed of 300 miles an hour just does not exist at this moment of time; nor is it likely to exist before 1980.

The other objection to Foulness, which particularly applies to the proposal to put all the runways on land reclaimed from the sea, concerns approaches over the sea. Many noble Lords have said that this is a good thing, but it is not altogether a good thing. If I may make one or two points on that, I should first like to say that it is practically impossible, and certainly has never been done or even projected hitherto, to install what is known as a Category 3 I.L.S. on a runway which has approaches over the sea, because there is no firm base for some of the runway aids. This Category 3 I.L.S. is necessary for the blind-landing operations with which B.E.A. are now experimenting, and which they are expecting to go into service in the near future at London (Heathrow) Airport. Also, I understand that there are considerable civil engineering difficulties in the reclamation project at Foulness, and I do not think that the report which was widely circulated to your Lordships before this debate went sufficiently into those points. I am by no means qualified to judge on the civil engineering aspects, but those who are tell me that the problems have been underestimated and that, in particular, the costs are wildly optimistic.

May I now come on to the points that I want to make, which do not necessarily arise directly out of the debate we have had to-day? It seems to me that the necessity for the Government to maintain their decision to build at Stansted has now become not only an over-emotional point but a point of national economic importance. After all, we have had two Government Departments endorse the decision, and we are faced with the problem that the growth in London's air traffic during the next five or six years, up to 1973 or 1974, is going to be such that by that time, without any shadow of a doubt, Heathrow and Gatwick will be overtaxed. We have been told (and nobody, I think, is in any position or would wish to doubt these figures) that by 1973 or 1974 the total number of air transport movements offering to Heathrow and to Gatwick combined—and this allows for some increment in the traffic at present being handled at Luton and Southend Airports—will be of the order of 350,000 movements per annum.

In addition to the increment in traffic at Luton and Southend, we are expecting, within the 350,000 movements, to have improved the facilities at Gatwick—to have built a second runway, to have improved the air traffic control procedures currently in operation and, in particular, to have adopted more widely than at present a device known as an A.T.C. transponder, which at this moment is used to only a limited extent on the airways. Also we shall have improved the ground facilities at London, Heathrow. We shall have expanded the parking areas, and to a degree some of the runways. We shall also have built the cargo terminal at London, Heathrow, which will in itself attract additional traffic. Therefore, by 1973 or 1974, or even a year later if you insist—because, after all, a year, I suppose, is within the tolerance of accuracy that we can expect in these calculations—we shall be faced with the requirement to build a third London airport. No, my Lords, not to build, but to have in operation a third London airport.

The question, therefore, is not: Do we require a third London airport? The case has been made out overwhelmingly by some noble Lords, perhaps unwittingly, but certainly by the Government and, of course, by the Airports Authority. On the point of the Airports Authority, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, made mention of the fact that the chairman of the Authority is a part-time chairman. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to say that if the noble Lord knew the chairman as many other noble Lords and myself do, he would know very well that the integration that the chairman has effected of his other activities with his duties with the Airports Authority is such that he certainly puts in more time and effort than many other people do who are so-called full-time chairmen.

But, to revert from that digression, we have now to decide where to put our next, our third, London airport. If we wanted to put it at Foulness, or at any of the suggested sites other than Stansted, there is no doubt at all that we should have to wait well beyond 1973 or 1974, which, whether we like it or not, is the date by which we must have a third airport.

I feel that the arguments that have been put forward to oppose Stansted are perhaps not altogether fair. We know that there are a number of picturesque and no doubt desirable villages in the Stansted area; and certainly it is valuable agricultural land. But it is not the most valuable agricultural land in the country. And, after all, we are not going to take the 15,000 acres that have been suggested; that is not, I am told, the area of land that is required. The maximum is 9,000; so that to say 15,000 acres is really erroneous. But the countryside, although, as I have said, it is good, is not perhaps perfect. I am told, for example, that there are used-car lots in the area, or at least within reasonable distances; and, as one noble Lord—it was the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, I believe—said, the fact that an aircraft is flying overhead does not mean that buildings suddenly fall down. They do not, my Lords; this has been proved time and again.

The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, said that the removal of the air force base at Wethersfield would cost £10 million. I wonder whether the noble Lord realises that that base is operated by the United States Air Force, and not by the Royal Air Force; and presumably they have already been consulted about the removal of their impedimenta from that base. In the aviation world, at least, it is common knowledge that that base is due for closure, anyway. I think the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, also said that there were six or seven airfields under the holding pattern of Stansted. I was flying the holding pattern last week. There was only one airfield underneath, which was Wethersfield. I should be interested to know what were the others.

Finally, my Lords, I should like to confirm the point that Stansted, in my view at least, is the only possibility for this third airport. If we now decide to hold further public inquiries or a Royal Commission, or whatever is decided upon—and despite what my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne said this must take longer than three months—it surely will impose another delay of at least two years. This would be unacceptable within the time scale we are thinking of, because by then it will be too late; the traffic will have gone elsewhere, and the substantial revenue that we expect to recover from foreign visitors will be lost. I would therefore close with a plea that the Government should stand by their decision to build the third London airport at Stansted.


The noble Lord mentioned 9,000 acres as being the amount of land required for Stansted. Is that not the ground needed for the airport only? That figure surely would not include the ground needed for the various buildings roundabout, and for housing all the workers on the airport.


My Lords, I do not have the precise information to answer that point at the moment. I should have thought that the accommodation for personnel and their families who would necessarily be attracted to the airport would largely be found in the area already built on in Bishop's Stortford and other neighbouring towns.

9.16 p.m.


My Lords, I came to your Lordships' House to-day holding the opinion that, on the facts as I have seen and understood them, there had not been enough public inquiry as to where London's third airport should go. Even after hearing my noble friend Lord Kennet and my three noble friends who have spoken in favour of the decision, and the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, who has just sat down, I still think there is a very strong case—to me it is an overwhelming one—for reviewing the matter main. But at the same time I should like to offer my sympathy to my noble friend Lord Kennet who has had all afternoon to bear such very heavy fire.

I want to make only one short point, and that is about costs. I do not know by what means the Government department or departments concerned arrived at their estimate of the comparative costs of Stansted and the other sites; but it is a fact of human nature which is found even among the most hardheaded businessmen that the estimate for the job which won favours in one's mind has a tendency—I will not say anything stronger than that—to come out lower than the job one does not want to do. This is a psychological fact, and perhaps the Government, and indeed everyone else concerned in this matter, would look at the comparative costs again, bearing this point in mind.

9.19 p.m.


My Lords, I am the 27th speaker in this debate, and one might suspect that there is nothing more to say; and in fact, I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a few minutes. However, the case that I wish to lay before you has yet to be fully unfolded. I believe that one of the great privileges of speaking in this House is that matters of national importance may be discussed in an atmosphere conducive to determining the true facts of the case without recrimination: and to-day I claim this privilege. I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, for bringing before us this important issue and I sincerely believe that the Government will have cause for reconsidering their view.

The aspect I wish to deal with concerns noise, and in this connection I feel that I should declare an interest in so far as I am much concerned with the aims and objects of the Noise Abatement Society. I am not a civil engineer I am in no way involved in airport control or navigation, but I would remind your Lordships that it is thanks to the fact that the Noise Abatement Society commissioned the report which we are fortunate in having before us that such great interest has been shown in the Foulness "Mark II" over-the-sea plan. This is a highly professional report, and it is greatly to the credit of the Noise Abatement Society, which has taken an infinite amount of trouble in gathering together not only material relating to noise but also material on dredging the Thames Estuary. It has produced a mass of material on the question of a rail link, or a possible transport link, between Foulness and London.

The starting point of my argument is the Starred Question by my noble friend Lord Foley on "Airport Take-off Noise Limits and Safety" which came before your Lordships' House last Thursday and is recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT, at columns 777 to 779. At this late hour I do not feel it advisable to refresh your Lordships' memory on the matter. I feel sure that your Lordships will remember the substance of the questions which arose and which related to the fact that airline pilots are obliged to cheat the regulations in order to take off with safety. This I beg the Government to regard as a matter of deep concern. We want our third London Airport to be a very safe place. We have had several very serious accidents this year: one near Manchester, one in Sussex and one, which was mentioned last week, when an aircraft blew up at Stansted itself. These are matters of enormous public concern, and the safety aspect is one which will recommend the project of Foulness "Mark II" over-the-sea plan as being of prime importance.

I do not think that the Government have adequately considered the noise problem. We have had a number of statements this afternoon, but what they mean, by implication, is that we are being rather silly about noise. This is not so, and I would draw the attention of your Lordships to the most thoughtful speech by the noble Lord, Lord Wedgwood, on the subject. Further, I would reexamine White Paper (Cmnd. 3259), of May of this year on the findings of the Stansted inquiry. The inspector, Mr. G. D. Blake, outlined the main criteria and in Appendix 2, paragraph 2(iii), one of his ideal criteria for a major London airport is stated to be A situation in respect of noise which would not inhibit operations. This again is a crucial matter my Lords. Surely the 24-hour use of an airport is one of the most economic factors to be considered, and this is given only in the two possible alternatives to Stansted, Foulness and Sheppey. I should like to quote paragraph 3(d), on page 26 of the White Paper where the inspector's views are very clear. The paragraph is headed "Noise", and says: The amount of noise generated by an aircraft was likely to stay fairly constant in the foreseeable future and supersonic aircraft would probably not aggravate the problem. Noise would affect more people at Stansted (where a hospital and some 20 schools would have to be closed) than at any of the alternative sites. I turn next to the immediate practical steps which the Noise Abatement Society has taken in connection with this important matter. For nearly eight years now the Noise Abatement Society has been pressing the various Government Departments concerned in order to build a major London airport on Foulness and Macklin Sands, in the Thames Estuary. This airport was designed to be four times the size of Heathrow and capable of handling the whole of London's air traffic for the foreseeable future. I wish to pause here for a moment because my noble friend Lord Trefgarne brought up the matter of the acreage of Stansted and mentioned 9,000 acres, which is a perfectly correct assessment. It must be remembered that the present size of Stansted is 877 acres. My noble friend Lord Somers brought out the important fact that we have to double the size of acreage, to 18,000 in this case, in order to eliminate the people caught in the noise nuisance net.

I am not going to deal with the noise-nuisance factors or the technical aspects of this problem. Everyone is fully briefed on the subject by the diagrams featured in Figure 10 of this Report which show an area surrounded by a red contour. But I should like to take issue with my noble friend Lord Trefgarne in regard to category 3 I.L.S. It has been found possible at two notable airports where landings take place over the sea, Kaitak, at Hong Kong, and La Linea, at Gibraltar, largely to eliminate this problem. However, I do not speak from experience, as my noble friend clearly does.

The Noise Abatement Society has taken up the challenge and has formed a consortium prepared to undertake the building of the new airport at no cost to the taxpayer and, in addition, to provide rapid means of transport to Central London. The consortium would hope to recover the £50 million cost by being permitted to build a town for some 250,000 inhabitants on what would then be the obsolete Heathrow Airport. This solution to the London aircraft noise problem was too simple for the Government to grasp. In 1963, when they decided on a third London Airport, without proper advice or independent inquiry they again rejected Foulness and chose this most unsuitable site at Stansted. The plea on the ground of the intolerable noise level has especially been brought out in the pamphlet entitled The Case for the People, by Professor Richards, which the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, mentioned, and I recommend this pamphlet to your Lordships' attention. I have spoken for too long on the matter of noise and noise abatement, but this is crucial to the whole question of deciding whether Stansted is or is not desirable. In my view, it is clearly quite unacceptable.

9.29 p.m.


My Lords, like the speakers who have gone before me, I should like to express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, for initiating this somewhat long debate to-day. It is absolutely right that your Lordships should discuss this vitally important matter. It has rightly been called one of the most important decisions of planning policy which this Government, or any other Government, is likely to be called upon to face. This is an area where questions of national interest, of planning policy and of amenity interweave, an area incidentally in which your Lordships' House has almost invariably shown itself to be both responsive and responsible. It is right, therefore, that this House should have placed itself in a position to tender advice to the Government, and that it should tender it, as your Lordships are very well able to do and I think have done this afternoon, in an atmosphere free from any undue Party bias. I should like to make one point clear straight away. I have not approached, and we on these Benches do not propose to approach this question in a factional or Party spirit; and I was glad to see that a number of noble Lords opposite took the same stance.

It is also right that this House should have an opportunity of discussing this matter now. No Order has yet been laid. No irretrievable step has yet been taken or need be taken. We have a new Minister with the Board of Trade and one who has a fresh and alert mind. There is still quite enough time for the Government to think again. All Governments have to think again on occasions. Moreover, since there is no Order before your Lordships' House to-day, we can consider this matter dispassionately. We have been able to weight the pros and cons, in so, far as we can get at the facts—and that is not very easy—without having to look over our shoulders at the possible political and indeed constitutional issues which we shall have to face if the Government decide, against all the advice which has been tendered to them in your Lordships' House, and against so much evidence, to proceed by Order.

I should also like to make it quite clear that we on these Benches are at one with the Government in their desire to equip our country with really adequate and up to date airport facilities. Of course we are. We recognise that really good and carefully sited airports are as important to us in the twentieth century as well sited seaports were to us in the nineteenth century. True, the Port of London has been overturned as the premier seaport by Europort, but we are at least at one with the Government in their desire to see airports that serve London and the London region remaining as the premier airport complex in Europe.

Nor do we wish to quarrel with the Government's contention that a new airport to serve the London region within a decade or so may very well be required. I would agree that that need has been pretty well established. Nor would we underestimate the difficulties confronting this or any other Government in deciding on the location of a major airport of this nature. It may be easy enough to fit a great intercontinental airport into the great and open land masses of North America or the Eurasian Continents, but it is not an easy matter to accommodate such an airport within our relatively small Island, so limited in extent, and so rich, and yet so fragile, in its natural and architectural and man-made beauty. It is no small matter to find a suitable place for such an airport within reasonable distance of London. All this is, I think, common ground.

It is also, I think, common ground, or it has been for all save four or five of the almost thirty speakers in your Lordships' House this afternoon, that the case for Stansted is not yet proven. We all agree that it passes muster on air traffic control grounds, and there will be no need for the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, when he winds up the debate to labour that point. But on all the other grounds considered at the public inquiry it fails or, at least, it has not been seen to succeed. On access from London, I quote the inspector: I consider the proposals put forward would be unacceptable to passengers and airlines to an extent that might make the airport of only moderate value. Those are pretty strong words, and they have not, at least in my view, been effectively challenged in your Lordships' House this afternoon.

On the question of noise, the White Paper blandly states that Stansted is acceptable in that ground. I should like to know to whom it is acceptable, save the Government and their experts. Certainly nothing that has been said in your Lordships' House has convinced me that it is acceptable. Loss of agricultural land: we have heard the arguments on that very forcibly deployed by, among others, my noble friend Lord Butler of Saffron Walden and the noble Lord, Lord Netherthorpe.

Then we come to town and country planning, the aspect which worries many of us perhaps most of all. A great intercontinental airport in a region such as this part of Essex will have vast implications in terms of population, transport requirements, industrial development, and the need for more social and physical infra-structure—a point which the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, rightly made.

Just once again, I should like to quote the inspector on this point: All the evidence submitted to me was that development of this kind in this area would be bad regional planning. As my noble friend Lord Conesford has said, it has been condemned as such by all responsible planning opinion, and there is the remarkable fact that no responsible planning bodies have yet been properly consulted. Of course, local—indeed, regional—considerations need not necessarily be paramount; the decision to go ahead could still be justified by national necessity. I would again contend that national necessity was not proved at the inquiry; indeed, the reverse. It has not been proved in the Government's White Paper, and it has certainly not been effectively sustained in your Lordships' debate this afternoon.

A number of noble Lords have referred to what I hold to be one of the cardinal recommendations of the inspector, namely, that a new review of the whole problem should be undertaken. The Government have claimed that they have followed the inspector's recommendation by undertaking a further departmental review. I must confess that I share the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, as to whether or not that really was following the inspector's recommendation. They claim, too, that nothing useful seemed likely to be achieved by a more open inquiry, in view of the public inquiry which had already been held. But new facts and new arguments have been advanced since that inquiry was held. A further wide-ranging inquiry would have a great deal of new material to bite on, and indeed a rather different Government case to examine. I take but a few examples. All these examples have been given in your Lordships' House this afternoon and it is impossible to advance any fresh ones.

There is the question of noise. The Government no longer accept the 45 N.N.I. (noise and number index line) as a starting point, although the Government witness accepted it at the inquiry, and it has very wide ranging implications. There is the question of access. As my noble friend Lord Conesford pointed out originally, the road access was based on Grosvenor Square, for some reason, and rail access to Victoria. Perhaps for good reasons that has now been changed, and rail access is to King's Cross and Liverpool Street. I do not wish to argue the pros and cons of that: all I would say is that the Government once again have changed their tune.

Thirdly, there are the new air traffic calculations in the White Paper—more movements of passengers, I think I am right in saying, coupled with rather fewer movements of aircraft—which naturally derive from the advent of the jumbo jets. All this is perfectly explicable and understandable. But in fact in some considerable and significant measure these estimates take some of the urgency out of this particular issue at the present time. Again the Government have changed their tune. But this is not all. There have been vital changes in the proposed layout of the airport itself. We have now learned—and it was made clear in your Lordships' House this afternoon—that instead of a pair of parallel runways, or possibly three runways, there are to be two pairs of parallel runways. We now learn that the proposed runway direction is to be realigned. Perhaps more important still, the Government have shown by the consideration which they have given to sites far removed from London—to Silverstone and Bedford—that they were prepared to cast their net far wider than did the Inter-Departmental Committee some five years ago. Again they have changed their tune. I am not quarrelling with that, but it means that a different Government case is being made. We have heard again—and this is new or recent—that a fourth London airport may no longer be required; again a change.

And finally the question of costs. The question of costs was not considered at the inquiry and it has a tremendous bearing on the possible alternatives to Stansted. I think the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, made a devastating critique of some of the Government's costings, and for his pains he was reproached by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, as being "unfounded and irresponsible". All I would say is that the Government costings, such as I have seen, are pretty flimsy and bear some looking at. But I do not see any point in bandying about these criticisms on these technical points across the Floor of your Lordships' House. Surely the answer is to test them by an impartial inquiry.


My Lords, perhaps I may clear up one point, in fairness to my noble friend. The word "irresponsible" was used, but that was in connection with a particular item which the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, mentioned, the closing down of certain B.O.A.C. facilities at Heathrow. No one has ever mentioned they should close down and go to Stansted in that way.


My Lords, let me get this right for the record. I did not use the word "closing"; I said the removal of certain of their buildings and installations from Heathrow to Stansted.


My Lords, I do not wish to come between the two noble Lords opposite, but these points of relative detail need to be sifted at a further impartial inquiry. There has certainly been enough change of front on the part of the Government to justify, by that itself, a further and open inquiry. But there are many other grounds which justify it. There are the limited terms of reference of the original inquiry, the fact that it was not considered within the framework of a national airports plan, tied to a national communications plan—to quote the noble Lord, Lord Byers. There is the fact that there was no deep consideration of the alternative sites. There is the fact that there was no proper cost-benefit analysis, such as the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, has rightly called for And fourthly and finally, and not least importantly, there is the fact that as yet nothing has been done to allay what the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, called the legitimate misgivings of the local population. Nothing has been done really to ensure that the democratic process here not only works but has been seen to work.

As I have listened to this rather long debate this afternoon I have been almost irresistibly reminded of the debate in your Lordships' House nearly six years ago on Ullswater. I have been reminded of that evening when, under the persuasive spell of Lord Birkett—and I wonder whether there is any Member of your Lordships' House who heard the last great speech from that great advocate who will ever forget it—your Lordships exercised your undoubted right to reject that part of the Manchester Bill which dealt with Ullswater. I have been reminded of that debate not just because, like the noble Lords, Lord Kennet and Lord Beswick, this evening, I happened then to be on the receiving end of it, but also because the issues confronting your Lordships' House then were in many important respects not dissimilar from those which confront you to-day. There was the issue of need. I do not think that any of your Lordships then contested the need of Manchester and of the North-West for more water, any more than most of your Lordships would wish to contest the need of this country, and indeed of the London region, for a great new airport.

There was the issue of urgency. Manchester and its supporters claimed that their thirst for water had to be satisfied within a matter of a few years; just as the proponents of the Stansted solution, like the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, claim that a decision to go ahead with this project must be taken without any further delay whatsoever. Then, as now, the Government experts tended to support this plea of urgency. Finally, there was the choice of the site. Manchester and its supporters took the view—and were able to support that view with cogent argument—that only from Ullswater could the region's thirst for more water be satisfied in time. To-day, the supporters of the Stansted proposal claim that, unsatisfactory though the Stansted solution may be in certain respects, any alternative is even more unsatisfactory. Then, as now, this argument for what I would call the unique site was supported by the Establishment experts.

These are not the only similarities between the two cases. Then, as now, there was a deep sense of outrage. Those who opposed Manchester six years ago were imbued with an intense determination that the fate that had befallen two of their great lakeland gems should not befall Ullswater. They were imbued with an intense conviction that the Establishment, whether in Manchester or in Whitehall, had examined the whole question too narrowly and not in its wider regional, or indeed national, setting. They held, and hold, strongly and sincerely that had the facts been looked at in a wider setting, quite dispassionately, a more satisfactory alternative would have been found. And this sense of outrage was sustained by a feeling that in a matter where intense local feelings had been aroused, and where wider amenity issues were at stake, neither the local nor the national issues had been properly ventilated, and that those who represented them had been overridden.

The parallel between these two cases is really quite close. Those who are opposed to Stansted are determined that the fate that has befallen Heathrow shall not befall a quiet and characteristic East Anglian landscape. They, too, are imbued with an intense conviction that this airport, this whole issue, has been regarded too narrowly. They, too, feel that justice has neither been done nor been seen to be done; they feel, to use my noble friend's expression, that they have been bulldozed by the big battalions of Whitehall. They consider that in a matter so vitally affecting local, regional and national interests, there has been quite inadequate consultation. Above all, in both cases the opposition is far more than merely local. It has been made clear time and time again in your Lordships' debate this evening that in both cases the opposition is local, regional and national.

While I am speaking in this strain, and in conclusion, I should like to draw the attention of the noble Lord who will be replying to two aspects of Ullswater which may have their moral for us this evening. When I was preparing for that debate I naturally took advice from those most qualified to give it, the experts. I grant that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, is a great deal more at home in the air, in the planning of airports, than I was in the water in attempting to help to plan Manchester's water supply. Nevertheless, he will undoubtedly need, as will other Ministers, to take advice from those most qualified to give it.

I would only remind him that six years ago it was the unanimous view of the Government experts that there was no valid alternative, within the time-scale to which we were working, to the particular solution then proposed by the Manchester Corporation. However, when your Lordships had pronounced, and pronounced against Manchester; when Manchester, and indeed the Government, were right up against it, it was quite remarkable how, in quite a short space of time, not only one or two, but a dozen or so alternative solutions came to light. Indeed, the ultimate solution was one which was rather different from any of those. The moral is that expert opinion, however expert, especially entrenched expert opinion, must be very carefully weighed indeed. I put this in only because of the almost touching faith in the infallibility of Whitehall displayed by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, this afternoon.

The second point I should like to recall to your Lordships is that when this House had pronounced against Manchester a Committee of Inquiry was set up over which I had the honour to preside. The membership of that Committee was wide. It included representatives from all the main local authorities, and had there been regional bodies at that time, it would have included them, too. It included the experts, the opponents, and the "Crown Prince of amenity", the noble Lord, Lord Strang, who was then Chairman of the National Parks Commision. This wide membership was matched by wide terms of reference. It is precisely a further inquiry of this general nature which so many of your Lordships have asked the Government now to undertake.

I should not wish to prejudge the precise form of the Inquiry: that is clearly a matter for Ministers. I would only say that some Inquiry of this nature, be it a Royal Commission or be it something more expeditious, is most emphatically required. It should have the widest possible terms of reference; it should be able to consider this particular framework in its general setting; it should be able to deal with regional planning policy; and its membership should be such that it would contain men and women espe- cially qualified to advise on the long-term planning implications of the various choices now before us.

In conclusion, I should like to express, with all the force at my command, the hope that the noble Lord will take back to the Government, and to the Ministers concerned, the strong and, indeed, virtually unanimous view of your Lordships' House that a further full and open Inquiry is required before any final decision is taken. It would be a sign of confidence on the Government's part, not a sign of weakness, to commission such an Inquiry forthwith before they ask your Lordships' House to pronounce one way or the other on a possible Order. There are precedents for such an Inquiry, and the importance of this issue is almost unprecedented. I sincerely hope that, even at this very late hour, in view of the extraordinarily emphatic opinions expressed from all parts of this House to-day, the Government will choose a course which both simple justice and common prudence dictate.

9.54 p.m.


My Lords, in another capacity I was somewhat reluctant to agree that the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, should take this day when we could have used it, as I thought, much better for the purpose of Government legislation. But I am bound to say that from his point of view he has made very good use of the time which he has gained. As the thirtieth speaker in this debate, I am sure I shall not be expected to take up all the points which have been made, but I hope to deal with the essentials.

The noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, has made out a formidable case against Stansted. However, what he and his friends have not proven, and indeed what they have not really attempted to prove, is that another adequate and equally efficient site is available. What has been argued is that we need another public inquiry. I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, that he was in error when he suggested that the 1961 and 1964 Committees were concerned simply with the task of considering the viability of Stansted. Their remit was much wider. In fact, they considered over 12 airports and gave their thorough consideration to all of them before they came up with the answer of Stansted.

Moreover, the second review which, as the Government spokesman has claimed, was instituted as the result of a recommendation of the inspector at the public inquiry was not composed of the same people as the original whole Committee. It is quite true that, in accordance with practice, that Interdepartmental Committee has not been named, but I can say that the chairman of the Committee came from the D.E.A., and all the interests which had been mentioned by the inspector at the inquiry were represented on that review. There were members from the Department of Economic Affairs, from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, from the Board of Trade, from the Treasury, from the Ministry of Transport, from the Defence Services, from the Ministry of Agriculture, and the only two persons who sat on both—they did not really sit on both, as they were not members of the Committee—were a technical witness and a secretary.


My Lords, the noble Lord says that the names will not be revealed. Does the noble Lord recognise that the 1963 Committee disclosed the full nature of their Report, the members and their positions? Is he really saying that names cannot be disclosed now? Will he indicate who were the members who served both on the Committee and on the review?


My Lords, for myself I can see absolutely no reason why the names should not be given, and I would certainly consider whether they should be given to the noble and learned Viscount. But in accordance with practice, as I understand it—and I think the memory of the noble and learned Viscount will be the same as mine—the names of such a Committee are not made public.


My Lords, the noble Lord has said, if I heard him correctly, that there were two members of the Committee who also took part in this review. I also asked whether any witnesses at the inquiry took part in this review.


My Lords, I have no doubt that expert witnesses giving factual evidence probably gave evidence at the two different inquiries, but the con- stitution of that Committee was completely different, its purposes were different, it was entirely in accordance with the recommendations of the inspector at the inquiry; and of the two names which appeared in the two lists one was a technical expert, whose evidence I do not believe has been challenged on either side of the House, and the other individual served as one of the secretaries on both occasions.

I am all in favour of the democratic process, and I accept that Committees of Inquiry have their uses. But, really, they are no substitute for Government. It was once thought, by many of us, that a Committee of Inquiry would solve the problem of the aircraft industry but, with all respect to the noble Lord, Lord Plowden, who spoke earlier, the exercise that he conducted into the aircraft industry was not a very helpful example to set in this connection.

One point which significantly has not been made in this House, except to some extent by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, is that the third London airport is not required. As the public debate about Stansted has progressed, the complaint that we really did not need a third London airport has been dropped. In the Report of the study commissioned by the Noise Abatement Society—and, like the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, I too should like to offer my congratulations to the Society on the constructive attitude which they have adopted to this controversy—there was absolutely no attempt to question the need for a third London airport. They emphasised that the need was there, and indeed the need had been made, to quote them, "frighteningly clear". The real argument, then—and I think this is the point that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne—is where and, to an important extent, when this airport is needed.

Now I do not believe that in this comparatively small and thickly-populated Island, the frustrations and the limitations placed upon the choice as to where this airport should be are fully appreciated. I can quite understand the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, not wishing me to refer at any length to the air traffic control aspect of matters, because it does not really fit in with his argument; but when one considers the limitations which are placed upon us, it really is—


My Lords, I wonder whether I may interrupt the noble Lord. If he had been listening very carefully to my speech, he would have heard that I paid due recognition to the fact that the Government were faced with an extraordinarily difficult choice.


What the noble Earl said in this context was that he hoped I would not labour the question of the air traffic control problem, but I propose to labour it because it is very relevant to the argument which I propose to set out.

What I am also saying is that if one considers the limitations which are placed upon us, and if one considers them fairly, I think there would be very much less talk about Governments riding roughshod over individual wishes, or of Civil Service bureaucrats ignoring people's rights. As the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, said, some of us have been through all this before, not only as in the case of 1939 but later, in the 'fifties, when the search was made to get an agreed second London airport. I recall then these same so-called bureaucrats, the civil servants, to whom I was very pleased to hear the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St. Albans pay a much-deserved tribute. It would be easy for these civil servants, in the light of this lobbying, to throw in their hand. That would be the easy way out. The hard thing for them to do is to continue to say what they believe to be right; and I think it is entirely wrong and unfair of noble Lords, in this House, and others outside, to attack these civil servants, who are trying to do their job, and just dismiss them as bureaucrats, quite regardless of the public interest.

My Lords, in the case of that search for a second London airport, I can see now those civil servants coming back into my office and endeavouring to put down on the map the details of the land that was available for a runway about 5,000 feet long. Either the flat areas were covered with houses, or else, if you went out into the open spaces, you had a piece of territory which, if levelled off for a runway, would start off as a cutting and would end as an embankment. There are these limitations which have to be understood. But more important than the limitations of the terrain is this prob- lem, in terms of space, which is posed by the air traffic control requirements. It is difficult for those of us not directly concerned with this matter to appreciate the volume of air space which is needed to accommodate traffic using a major airport, and the relationship of the siting of one airport with another. If we are to make the right judgment in this matter, we must take this aspect fully into account.

There must be space in the close vicinity of the airport for marshalling the arriving and departing traffic. For an airport with twin landing streams to parallel runways, it is necessary for the aircraft approaching to settle down on their respective radio beams at different altitudes. With a glidepath of about 3 degrees, and the lowest joining height of 2,000 feet, the aircraft need to take up their position at least ten miles from touchdown. To this ten miles must be added a couple of miles for getting the aircraft settled on their approach path from their arrival route, and an extra three or four miles to give flexibility to the controller to keep up a high movement rate. Thus we need, from the beginning of the runway, something like 16 miles.

On the departure side, the distances are not so great, but space has to be allowed for them to fan out departures so as not to cause delay on the ground. Bearing in mind that airports must work in doth directions, one is left with a volume of space required which is about 40 miles long by 20 miles wide, from ground level up to about 5,000 feet. To this must be added airspace at a higher level, where aircraft can be held should there be an interruption in operation at the airfield or should the arrival rate temporarily exceed landing capacity. These volumes are egg-shaped, approximately 20 miles long by 15 miles wide, and they extend from about 5,000 to 15,000 feet. With these criteria in mind, it is not difficult to appreciate the huge area around an existing major airport which virtually sterilises, pre-empts, space. When one comes to consider it, the site of another airfield, a new airport on the extended centre line of an existing airport, with its runways pointing in the same direction—as one might expect, with the prevailing winds—would have to be about 40 miles away; while a new airport to one side of an existing one could possibly be made to operate satisfactorily as close as 30 miles away.

I am bound to confess that my own personal view was that the new airport should be to the North, in Cranfield possibly, or, for other reasons, there is a case for going to the South-West. But when one sees the demands of air traffic control translated on to the charts, it seems that to the North it is quite impossible without breaking into the air space of other airports and other airfields. My noble friend Lord Kennet touched briefly on the question of military airfields. If one considers that to the North of London—and this relates to the suggestion made by the noble and learned Viscount, of the airport at Silverstone—


My Lords, with great respect, I did not suggest Silverstone. I am dead against it. The only point on which I can support the Government is on their objection to Silverstone.


My Lords, I am glad that the noble and learned Viscount has indicated the difficulties involved in moving a nuisance from one place to another. So far as Silverstone is concerned, if one were contemplating another major international airport there it would affect some 21 military airfields. When my noble friend Lord Kennet spoke about the additional cost of £62 million which the construction of this airport at Silver-stone would entail, he was thinking primarily of the cost of moving at least eight of those 21 military airfields out of the air traffic control zone.

If one sees this problem set down on the charts, it is the fact that the obvious, sensible and safest area is to the North-East of London. Stansted makes sense air-traffic-control-wise, and it brings an international airport nearer to a sector of England less well served by Heathrow and Gatwick. To some extent this meets the second consideration of the noble and learned Viscount, in so far as it does, to some extent, fulfil the need for a regional airport. It is offering to another area of England an international airport facility.

My objection to a site East of London, apart from the amenity consideration, rested upon surface access considerations. For anyone in a hurry—and here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden—to have to go through the City and through the eastern sprawl seemed to me an exercise in obstinacy. But much of the dissatisfaction that has been expressed to-day about road possibilities deals with the present road system. The Stansted project takes forward transport planning into account. I have more details than were available at the inquiry about the long-range road planning in North-East London. I hope that the noble Earl will not say that this is another case of our changing our tune. It is a question of being able to give, in rather more detail, some of the points expressed generally at earlier inquiries.

The Ministry of Transport expect the M.11 to be complete from Stansted to the North-East corner of the motorway box at Hackney Wick by about 1975. By then, or shortly afterwards, the eastern section of the North Cross route, the northern section of the motorway box, may be built, together with a line to King's Cross to join the Western Avenue extension. This would take the motorist to as near Central London as, say, Portland Place. But even if no motorway is assumed closer to the centre of London than the North-East corner of the motorway box, the Ministry of Transport now estimate the approximate average off-peak journey time by road between Central London and Stansted in about 1975 to be of the order of 65 minutes. This may sound, and I confess it does to me, somewhat optimistic, as it assumes an average of 50 miles an hour for 35 minutes on the M.11 and then 30 minutes to Central London from Hackney Wick. Nevertheless, even if it is optimistic, it compares favourably with the available alternatives.

I propose to say more about the Foulness possibility later, but in relation to this question of accessibility by road Foulness shows up badly. Assuming a construction of a 10-mile dual carriageway link to the site from the A.127 near Southend, and various improvements to junctions along the A.127 to the Greater London Council boundary, or an entirely new road from the site to the G.L.C. boundary to replace the A.127, the off-peak estimate for that journey from Foulness is still 85 minutes. Incidentally, it was put to me, when I inclined to pessimism on this prospect of struggling to Stansted airport by road, that of course not all air passengers using their own cars will start off from Central London. Much of the traffic will join the radial road at one or other of the London ring roads; and, given a good omni-directional air service from Stansted as well as Heathrow and Gatwick, potential passengers, I am sure, will start to sort themselves out, choosing the most accessible Airport and tending to relieve pressures now building up en route to the present two London Airports.

A comparison of rail journey times is also favourable to Stansted. The times given to me are 45 minutes for the Stansted—King's Cross run, and over an hour from Foulness to Fenchurch Street. Foulness (I now refer to the Foulness proposal on the sands) seems to have emerged, certainly to-day and I think recently, as the most serious challenge to Stansted; and in large part I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, that this must be due to the excellently produced and very persuasively presented study commissioned by the Noise Abatement Society.

Foulness has none of the disadvantages, with one minor exception, from an A.T.C. point of view, presented by other considered sites to the North or to the West. But in the claims about amenity and the lower noise factor the Foulness supporters overlook the practice of aircraft fanning out, as I have said before, from the flight path after the initial climb. When I recently pointed this out to one Stansted critic and said that people at Southend would suffer—and more people than at Stansted—his response was, "Well, at Southend they are used to noise." But I am sure this is not the attitude of most of those who urged Foulness as against Stansted.

I am certain that this Foulness proposal needs to be studied very carefully, but leaving aside, for the moment, accessibility, if we study the Foulness proposal carefully, it is shown to fail on two other counts—on cost and on timing. Taking land costs at Stansted, as given in the Study, the additional cost of constructing a similar airport at Foulness would be at least £20 million.


My Lords, can the noble Lord give more precise figures of how that is arrived at?


My Lords, may I finish what I am going to say? If I can give the noble Lord any more information, I shall be glad to do so. To that would need to be added the additional cost of road and rail improvements of some £14 to £34 million. To this again has to be added the cost of replacing this controversial Shoeburyness firing range. I am bound to say, speaking for myself, that I have never treated this one very seriously, though I have no doubt at all that it will cost a great deal to move it to some other ground. But the figures I give do not include Shoeburyness, and I do not believe that the figure influenced any decision on this matter as between Foulness and Stansted. Few can argue that, given a few millions either way on these estimates, Foulness would have cost some £50 million more in total, but the item with the biggest doubt about it must be the cost of preparing sand, which, as the Study itself says, at high tide is some three fathoms below water, to take the weight of modern aircraft. I am sure that the engineers are right when they say that it can be done, but I agree with the noble Lord who said that to say that it can be done, and to say that it can be done at a given figure at this point of time, are two very different matters. And when it comes to claiming that the original estimates are certain, one has to be as starry-eyed as the Conservative Minister who said originally that the Concorde would cost us only £70 million.

Just as important as the extra construction cost would be the extra construction time. No responsible Government could commit the millions required for the reclamation of the sands of Foulness without far more research than has been undertaken so far. Tidal studies and a detailed soil survey would take at least nine months. It is estimated that it would take four years to assemble the seven reclamation dredgers, 20 trailing suction dredgers and the substantial fleet of barges needed for this project. To say as the Report does, that the work could be done within two years is sheer wishful thinking. The carefully considered professional advice available to the Government suggests that Foulness II could not be operational before the late 1970s, and that assumes no unforeseen engineering snags.


My Lords, the noble Lord has dealt with the project of Foulness which involves the reclamation of land. His main objection there has been the time and delay in dredging and clearing the land. Would he say what are the objections, so far as they are different, to the Foulness project using Foulness Island, which he knows is in the scheme?


My Lords, I could go into the details, which are not all of the same order. But I was endeavouring to deal with the case that has been made to-day about Foulness II. The objections to the other have been published in the White Paper, and I had not proposed going into them again. Maybe I could, but I want to deal with the possibility of an Inquiry, and if I may be allowed to get on, I shall soon turn to that.


My Lords, I have been extremely interested in what the noble Lord has said about the possibilities and difficulties of the Foulness solution, in particular what he gave as his personal opinion about the removal of the Shoeburyness range. May I take it from that that at least his personal opinion would be against the War Office view which was expressed in the Inter-Departmental Committee's Report, that it was irreplaceable, and against the view of the military witness who took the same standpoint at the Court of Inquiry? May I also ask whether, when he talks about the removal of the Shoeburyness range, he has all the facilities there in mind?


I have no doubt that in a court of law the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, would call those leading questions. I am not against what was said by the military people. All I say is that I do not believe that their view would be the deciding factor, if on other grounds Foulness appeared to be suitable.

I want to deal with the question of the loss of agricultural production, to which the noble Lords, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden and Lord Netherthorpe, referred. I think the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, spoke of a potential loss of £1 million a year in the loss of food; and I accept that import savings at the present time are very important indeed. But so, of course, are export gainings and the earnings of foreign currency. If one takes the estimate of the British Airports Authority, who say that for every 1 million overseas air passengers lost the country would lose £12½ million in foreign currency, then I think we have to accept that this loss of food production, regrettable as it is, is more than outweighed by the loss of foreign currency that we should suffer unless we had this third London airport on time. By 1977, on present growth rates, 7 million passengers would have to be turned away unless we have this additional airport capacity, and of the 7 million 40 per cent. are estimated to be overseas visitors.


Can the noble Lord give us some more information as to the basis on which the British Airports Authority says that these tourists will earn £12 million for this country? Is it landing fees, or what is it? Is this information coming from the Board of Trade or from the British Airports Authority?


The figure is made up in some detail by the paper which was put in by the Airports Authority, which has been circulating round the House, and of which I should be glad to provide the noble Lord with a copy. I wanted to save the time of your Lordships, but it is made up of three elements. There are the actual earnings of the Airport Authority—and their present earnings are put at £5 million a year in foreign currency, mostly in landing fees; there is the question of earnings by our own airlines, and the amount of money spent by overseas visitors coming into this country.

I want to deal with the point which the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, made about the possibility of a public inquiry, without putting back the third airport to beyond the time at which saturation point would be reached. The whole Committee, as the noble Lord, Lord Netherthorpe, the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, and, I believe, others have said, estimated that the saturation point would be reached by 1973 with this 104 per hour at the peak hours. Some play was made of the fact that there were other figures in the White Paper, and that the saturation point was given as 109 per hour at the peak hours. I do not think there is really anything in this. The White Paper figures were given on the basis of later information. In either case—104 or 109—we could cope up to 1973. In that, I do not think there is anything between us. But after that, says Lord Dilhorne, we can manage until 1977 by using the existing one runway at Stansted, and in that event, up to 1977 we should have time for this additional public inquiry.


The noble Lord has, I know not intentionally, put words into my mouth. I did not say that. I pointed out that the Committee had said that the second runway would not be wanted until the late 1970's.


I should hate to put words into the mouth of the noble Viscount but I do not believe what he is now stating is very different from what I thought he was saying, namely, that the second runway would not be needed until the late 1970s. In fact, they said 1977, and I am accepting that, with one runway in operation, we should be able to cope up to the year 1977.

The noble Viscount's point (I think I am now quoting him correctly) was that, given that fact, we should have ample time for a public inquiry. But from 1973 the estimates are that there will be an increase of 14,000 movements a year, which certainly one runway at Stansted could accommodate, but only if the 14,000 movements actually went to Stansted. However the truth, which we cannot escape, is that the airline companies will not go to Stansted to use this one runway unless their air terminal facilities are there. We have to accept that those same airline companies just will not invest the money for the additional facilities unless the airport at Stansted is a permanent one. They just will not put in the necessary facilities if it is only for a matter of two or three years. Then again, no Government and no local authorities would be justified in spending the money on road improvements—which the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, said was so important if we were going to use Stansted—if there was a possibility in the year 1977 of moving to another site.

So we come up against the stark fact that permament additional capacity is needed by 1973 or 1974. The question which the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, posed is: Could we get this permanent capacity by 1973–74 and still hold a public inquiry? My Lords, it would depend upon the type of inquiry. The noble Viscount suggested that the streamlining was feasible, but he then went on to talk about the necessity for cross-examination. If we are to have the cross-examination which he obviously requires, the degree of streamlining is doubtful indeed.

What we have done is to formulate an estimate for three possibilities: Stansted, another inland site and a Foulness-type site, given another public inquiry. I do not know whether I can go into all the details, but for Stansted, if we were to have a public inquiry, which might take anything from 1½ to 3 years, according to the degree of streamlining—


Three years!


One and a half years I should have thought was the most reasonable estimate, but that would mean 5½ to 7 years including the time of the public inquiry. The other site, if it was an inland site, would be a matter of 7½ to 8 years. If it was a site of the Foulness type, given a public inquiry taking about 2½ to 3 years—and that would be absolutely essential in order to get the engineering facts required—then it could not possibly be in operation for another 9 to 9½ years.

So on these estimates, which I think Lave been fairly and objectively made, we have the possibility of an elapsed time (including the inquiry) in the case of Stansted of from 5½ to 7 years; in the case of another inland site 7½ to 8 years, and in the case of a Foulness-type site, 9 to 9½ years. This clearly brings us back again to Stansted. If the inquiry again came out in favour of Stansted we should be all right as a civil air power; but if it did not we should be sunk. We should then not have the capacity which will be needed after 1973–74.

My Lords, I do not underestimate the noise nuisance and the loss of amenity to some residents in Essex which an airport at Stansted would bring. But much of the feared nuisance is, I believe, psychosomatic. There are twenty times as many people affected by noise around Heathrow as will be troubled, even on the wildest estimate, at Stansted. Most of the people so affected at Heathrow accept it as an essential national requirement.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, asked me a specific question about the effect on the Lea Valley Regional Park. If the runways are realigned roughly North—South the general pattern of traffic to the South of the airport will be nearer to the East, which should improve the situation in the Regional Park, but it is too early to indicate the extent of the improvement. But even without that improvement which the realigned runway would bring I feel that the noble Lord has exaggerated the dangers.


My Lords, it was I who asked the question, and I am very grateful to the noble Lord for specifically answering it.


The noble Earl has changed his seat; he was sitting earlier where the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, now sits. May I put this point to the noble Earl? Aircraft now using Heathrow pass over Richmond Park at a lower altitude, and far more frequently, than they would over the Lea Valley Regional Park. Wild life and natural bird life has by no means gone as a result of aircraft crossing over. My wife, who is more interested in these matters, tells me that during last year in Richmond Park there were seen a great-crested grebe, a red-breasted merganser, a Brent goose, sparrowhawks, kestrels, and stock doves; and barn owls have been seen breeding. I cannot think it would be the end of all things if at 3,000 feet a certain number of aircraft passed over the Lea Valley Park.


My Lords, would not the noble Lord acknowledge that aeroplanes over Central London to-day are an infernal nuisance?


They are a nuisance; whether they are an infernal nuisance is a matter of opinion.

On an A.T.C. judgment there is little to choose between Stansted and Foulness, but I should have thought that any fair and impartial person would accept that on the counts of capital cost, construction time and surface accessibility the national decision must be for Stansted. Perhaps I may be permitted one other reflection on surface accessibility—and I was reminded of this by what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden. It was just about twenty years ago when I first heard the joke about the designer claiming that he had designed an aircraft capable of flying at 25,000 miles an hour. His friend said, "We shall be able to fly round the globe within one hour", and the designer said, "No my friend, two hours". "But", said his friend, "at 25,000 miles an hour you get round the globe in one hour". "Ah", said the designer—and this was 20 years ago—"it will still take one hour to the airport".

We now go round the globe at just about 25,000 miles an hour, or at least the astronauts do. But we are still talking of elapsed time at off-peak period of 65 to 85 minutes. I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, that if we really meant business we should be giving more thought, more money, doing research and conducting more inquiries into construction problems on the surface travelling to the airport. A purpose-built vehicle, travelling at 100 to 300 miles an hour, probably with customs and traffic control processing en route could widen the choice of airfield considerably. But as the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said, that must be something for the future, and it cannot be brought within the time scale needed for this third London airport.

In answer to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, I would say that it has been an interesting debate. I have no doubt that it has been a useful debate, in one way or another. It has been a debate in which noble Lords, responsible and informed, have stated their opinions, and what they have said obviously must be considered and assessed.


My Lords, the noble Lord is coming to a conclusion. He has been very good in seeking to answer questions. I asked him one question about the second runway at Gatwick, but it may have slipped his memory. Has anything been done about that? Because that affects the urgency for the third airport. I asked him a specific question.


Yes. The estimate I made of 104 or 109 movements in 1973 was based upon the construction of the second runway at Gatwick.


My Lords, may I query that point with the noble Lord? Did I hear him say that in regard to the runway at Gatwick? That, surely, does not tie up with what was said in the White Paper. There are 45 at Gatwick.


That is quite true. It is 62 at Heathrow.


It is 64, I think, and 45.


In good faith I am saying to the noble Viscount that my estimate of the saturation capacity in 1973 is based upon there being a second runway at Gatwick. One of the difficulties about the second runway is that it will not double the capacity of the present single runway. It will have to be built too close to the present runway to enable either one to be used to the fullest capacity.

I was saying that it would be wrong to ignore what has been said to-day. But it would be equally wrong for me to suggest that Her Majesty's Government, after all these inquiries and studies, with the best professional advice available to them, should attempt to dodge their duty of taking the decision simply by the easy expedient of appointing another Committee of Inquiry.

10.38 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon, and also to those noble Lords who so patiently and attentively listened to the various speeches. I should like to congratulate the noble Viscount for his strong and forceful speech. If the noble and learned Viscount had been conducting his case in the courts he would have won hands down. I was pleased to have support for this Motion from the Bishops' Bench, from the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of St. Albans. I am sure that everybody was impressed by the sincerity and strength of the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden and the noble Lord, Lord Plowden.

We all respect the speeches from the Government Benches. It is not easy for those noble Lords to speak against their Front Bench. The noble Lords, Lord Leatherland and Lord Raglan, are to be congratulated both for their speeches and for showing the country that this is not a Party political issue and that everyone is concerned, irrespective of Party. The Liberal Benches contributed to the debate a fine speech from the Leader of the Party, the noble Lord, Lord Byers. Only five speeches out of 31 were against this Motion, and it has been most apparent that the House in general was not in sympathy with the Government's case. Everybody on both sides has made fine speeches, and I hope I shall be forgiven if I do not mention every speaker by name. But may I congratulate my friends from the Cross Benches, the noble Lords, Lord Strang, Lord Wedgwood, Lord Netherthorpe and others for their support? I am sure that the House would like me to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, upon his brilliant speech; and, lastly, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for bravely trying to sum up the Government's case.

I must, however, correct one point. I, and I believe most of the noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon, are not for or against Stansted. What we are asking the Government is that they reexamine this case. I do not accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, regarding Foulness Island. The Dutch are doing a similar operation with the building of Europort at Rotterdam, and I understand that they are prepared to assist us with our problems. Lastly, I do not accept, or understand, what the noble Lord was saying about the standard-busy rate at present, and I should like to refer the noble Lord to paragraph 7 on page 6 of the White Paper.

My Lords, a very clear case has been made out by all those speakers who have supported this Motion. This has not been answered by Her Majesty's Government, and I sincerely hope that they will consider your Lordships' feelings before laying an Order on the Table of this House. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at eighteen minutes before eleven o'clock.