HL Deb 16 July 1970 vol 311 cc723-6

3.16 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether a detailed timetable for the proposed improvements at Turnhouse Airport has now been worked out and by what date the second runway is expected to be in operation.]


My Lords, the provision of a new runway at Edinburgh (Turnhouse) Airport and of a new terminal complex to serve the new runway and the existing main runway will be subject to planning permission and the purchase of necessary land. It is therefore not yet possible to settle a detailed timetable, though in association with the British Airports Authority we are proceeding as quickly as may be with the essential preliminary planning. These proposals are, of course, subject to the grant of planning permission and involve the acquisition of land. It is therefore unlikely that it will be possible to complete the new runway before the summer of 1974.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply, which I find difficult to accept as entirely satisfactory, I would ask him whether he is aware that Edinburgh Airport has the worst record for cancellations of any airport in the United Kingdom, and that until a second runway is in operation this intolerable state of affairs will continue? May I ask him, therefore, to approach the matter, and to urge his colleagues in the Government to approach it, with every possible urgency?


My Lords, the cancellation record of Turnhouse Airport is not entirely due to the unsatisfactory nature of the runway. The cause of one in five of the cancellations is the fact that the present runway is wrong for the prevailing wind. A much more frequent cause is the sea mist known locally as the "haar". As soon as the new runway is built the wind difficulties will be almost completely solved, but this will not solve all the problems. With regard to urgency, I am quite sure your Lordships will appreciate that, urgent as this airport is, other local interests such as may be affected by noise, the purchase of land, and matters like that, must also be taken into consideration. It is therefore very important that there are adequate local discussions.


My Lords, are we to understand that the new Government are unable to change the direction of the cross-wind at Turnhouse?


My Lords, while I hesitate to intervene in this Scottish matter, may I ask for how many years this matter has been outstanding?


My Lords, the future of Turnhouse Airport has been looked into for a number of years. There was a suggestion at one time that it should be handed over to the local authority. It has now been decided to transfer the airport to the British Airports Authority, and, as your Lordships will realise, the question of finance is important. Until one knew who was going to be responsible for this it was very difficult to make the necessary arrangements for major improvements.


My Lords, in the light of the noble Lord's reply may I ask him to bear in mind that the construction of the runway is infinitely more important than the construction of a new terminal building? Would he ask his right honourable friend to have regard to the fact that what is needed is a runway, and that the building can be provided at a later date? Would not the noble Lord agree that the time to be taken in all the calculations might be saved if the matter were taken in two stages—runway, and building?


My Lords, unfortunately it is the new runway that will require the new acquisitions of land and planning permission.


My Lords, arising out of the original reply, do Her Majesty's Government realise that, as the noble Lord himself has admitted, the runway, being situated almost at right angles to the prevailing wind, is extremely dangerous at the present time? I myself have seen a very near-accident take place there. Will the Government therefore expedite matters so far as they can, so that this present very dangerous situation may not continue for much longer?


My Lords, since everything at Turnhouse seems so unhappy and so dangerous, would it not be more practical and more economic if the Government gave up any idea of improvements there and improved the aerodrome at Carlisle instead?


My Lords, would it not be better if the new runway were somewhat longer than the other one, so that it could take bigger aeroplanes?


My Lords, in reply to my noble friend Lord Mansfield, may I say that since 1960 there has been only one notifiable accident at Turnhouse. On that occasion an aeroplane ran into a flock of birds and made a forced landing, but no one was seriously hurt. Of course Her Majesty's Government are conscious of possible dangers in the future. The answer to the noble Lord, Lord Ingle-wood is: No; Her Majesty's Government do not agree with that suggestion. In reply to my noble friend the Duke of Atholl I may say that it is intended that the new runway shall be built to 8,400 feet. We are not quite sure at the moment whether it will be necessary or desirable to have it quite as long as that, but that is the forecast; and at a later stage in the planning the length will of course be settled definitely.


My Lords, may I ask Her Majesty's Government whether the new runway will make much more effective the new navigational aids for blind landing?


My Lords, when the airport is finally improved the new facilities will have the most efficient and up-to-date equipment for blind landing.