HL Deb 22 February 1971 vol 315 cc848-918

4.40 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, this is the first time that I have had the privilege of addressing your Lordships' House, and I ask your Lordships for the kindness which you normally extend to those making their maiden speech. I also hope that what I have to say does not appear to be more controversial than custom demands on these occasions. I should first like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for the gracious tribute which he paid to my late father.

My Lords, the thought that I might wish to speak on this subject came to me one day last summer as I walked in Kew Gardens. It was a beautiful day and at the height of what we have now come to regard as the aircraft activity season. With the utmost regularity, every two minutes a large aircraft swept overhead on its way to touch down five miles further on. As it came over speech was impossible for 20 to 30 seconds and all pleasure in the day and the surroundings was destroyed. I thought how lucky I was that I could escape from this and go back to my home in central London that I was not one of those unfortunates condemned to live day in and day out under this barrage of noise.

I came away with two convictions. One was that the decision on the siting of a third London airport could no longer be delayed. The volume of traffic in the Heathrow area is now quite intolerable for those who have to live in it, and any increase in that traffic is unthinkable. The second conviction I came away with was that we never again should allow such misery to be inflicted on human beings. We must insist that airports be made to live with people rather than the reverse. Some time later and for amusement, I plotted an imaginary Kew Gardens five miles from the end of the projected runways at Foulness and at Cublington. At Foulness my walk would have taken place in the middle of the sea where no people live. At Cublington the same point fell within the bounds of Woburn Park. I do not think that I need say much more on this point, and I certainly do not intend to dwell on what has been called the irreversible environmental disaster that this airport would represent if built at Cublington. There will be many among the noble Lords who will follow me in this debate better able to paint the word pictures that conjure this up; but before I finish with this part of my speech I should like to quote the words of Mr. Niall MacDermot, Q.C., in his closing address to the Commission, when he said that anyone looking out over the Vale of Aylesbury would say: "It simply is unthinkable that an airport and all that it implies should be brought here."

My Lords, this is the physical response but alas! we cannot leave it at that; unless we wish to be compared to the gentleman who begged not to be confused with facts because his mind was already made up. We have to deal with 275 closely printed pages of close argument in the Report of the Roskill Commission, and we have to deal with the gloomy conclusion that Cublington is the selected site. I think that all noble Lords who have read the Report will have formed their own conclusions about what was actually said; but for the purpose of what I want to say in a moment I should like, briefly, to summarise what I believe was said. It is universally imagined that if you build at Foulness you will minimise the noise damage to the environment. This need not necessarily be true, because if you build at Foulness, Luton Airport will continue to grow and the noise irritation from Luton may exceed or at least come equal to that which would have been caused by building at Cublington. On the other hand, if you build at Cublington, Luton will shut down.

The second point was that the excessive transport user costs thrown up by the cost/benefit analysis were so high that it was the considered opinion of the Commission that Foulness might have great difficulty in becoming an economically viable airport. In consequence, they said, "You are going to do damage wherever you put this airport and so you may as well put it in the place which gives you the best chance of achieving an economically viable result." So, my Lords, they chose Cublington. It is from that decision, that conclusion, that Professor Buchanan has dissented so eloquently.

I should like to say two things about these conclusions. The first is about the noise at Luton. I believe that we could minimise the growth of Luton by administrative, fear. I further believe that the present climate will continue to grow and popular, and hence political, opinion will not tolerate noisy airports. I believe that noisy airports will face severe financial penalties. I believe it may be possible that airports and the airlines using them, and even passengers, may be asked to pay compensation to those who have to live around the airports. If these factors are taken into consideration, and the growth of Luton is controlled adequately, I believe that if we build at Foulness we have not necessarily thrown away all the advantages of peace to our lives which that represents.

My Lords, I should like to try to deal quickly with one aspect of the passenger user costs; and at this point to emphasise the central part that the cost/benefit analysis played in the two conclusions of the Commission. Without the high passenger user costs shown by this cost/benefit analysis, I believe that the choice would have fallen on Foulness. When we examine this cost/benefit analysis one or two rather peculiar omissions appear. The first is that it does not contain any regional planning considerations. I understand that the reason for this was that at about the same time that the Roskill Commission was set up a South-East Joint Planning Team also was appointed and charged with the task of formulating an over-all strategy for the South-East. When the research team for the Roskill Commission set up their cost/benefit analysis they did not have before them the recommendations of the South-East Planning Team. However, at a later date Dr. Burns, the Director of the Team gave his recommendations to the Commission. At the same time, he made an observation. He found it necessary, with all the experience of this Joint Planning Team effort behind him, to say that in his opinion the techniques of cost/benefit analysis were not yet sufficiently developed to assess that issue on a regional scale. My Lords, I do not wish to comment on this, but I find it somewhat surprising. I should have thought that a third London airport was very definitely an issue on a regional scale.

While Dr. Burns, in his evidence to the Commission, could see no overriding planning objection to siting an airport at Foulness, Professor Buchanan has seen the proposal in a much more positive light. He sees the possibility of using the airport as a means of promoting equality of wealth and opportunity between East and West London. He pointed out how to the East of London the inner ring of bad housing "thickens out" into what he describes as "a huge, obdurate mass of depressed and impoverished development", trailing away "through plot land into the South Essex corridor". He sees a third London airport, in a sense a captive industry, as a unique opportunity to bring a new range of activities and a new sense of life and purpose to the people living in this South Essex area. And, my Lords, at the same time, siting the airport in this area would drastically reduce commuting to London by those at present living in the Southend area. This area is at present one of the heaviest commuter outflows in the country. It has been said—and it was said by the research team to the Commission—that it is not possible to quantify this benefit. Certainly no benefit appears in the cost/benefit analysis in favour of Foulness. However, one estimate that I have seen found the benefit so enormous that it reduced the Foulness total net cost penalty by £100 million.

Time does not permit me to go on with the other points that I had thought of dealing with, but I hope that I have shown that to decide this issue on the basis of a cost/benefit analysis which at least can be shown to be suspect is not a good thing. On the one hand we have an irreparable environmental disaster at Cublington for which posterity will rightly blame us, and on the other we have the opportunity of a positive and enlightened scheme which may bring overall social benefit to an area which is less fortunate than its neighbours. I beg your Lordships to consider earnestly basing this airport at Foulness.

4.52 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great pleasure to me to congratulate the noble Lord who has just spoken: first because he is the son of his father, whom many of us remember with great affection and respect (he was a distinguished figure in this House for many years), and, secondly, for himself, because of the speech he has addressed to us. We realise that we have a new acquisition who is going to be able to make helpful and thoughtful contributions on the various matters that come before us.

I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Greenwood of Rossendale is not here at the moment, because I wanted to make reference to his speech, and in particular to the point that he was doubtful about the need for a third London Airport. It is a most remarkable statement to hear, particularly from my noble friend, and from my right honourable friend Mr. Crosland, because if any two people were responsible for the setting up of this Commission whose Report we are discussing, it is those two. For many years before that they were considering other alternatives, including Stansted, as a third London Airport. To say to-day that we do not need a third London Airport, and that we can improvise in some other way, is the most extraordinary statement that I have heard.

We all know as a fact—and the Report brings this out—that both Heathrow and Gatwick are already immensely overcrowded; they are suffering tremendously from congestiton. It is difficult to see how they can carry on under present conditions, and still less when traffic increases. We have in the Report the calculation that in the next twenty years traffic is going to increase (I think the Commission say) 14-fold. In that case, it is easy to say: why hurry? But if we are going to discover in two or three years' or five years' time that the Third London Airport is necessary in order to satisfy my right honourable friends, we shall probably find ourselves paying at least 50 per cent. more for it, and possibly will have to build it in a great hurry. So I think that what I have to say must be on the assumption that a third London Airport is not only necessary, but urgent.

Before I go further, I should like, as most noble Lords will wish to do, to thank the Roskill Commission for the enormous trouble they have taken in trying to arrive at a solution. It has been a terrific and most difficult task. I cannot remember a more difficult problem being put before a Commission, and certainly I cannot remember a Commission dealing with their subject in such a thorough and comprehensive way. Whatever our views may be about the Report, and the conclusions of the Commission, I am sure that we owe them a deep debt of gratitude for the trouble they have taken in producing so many facts from which it is possible to draw conclusions.

There is one other thing that I want to say about the Report. As I read it, the Commission have put forward, quite objectively, a case for each of the four areas that they have mentioned, and although they have eventually come down in favour of Cublington, they have not come down so heavily in its favour as to rule out the possibility of Foulness. They have decided on a balance of advantage, and it is quite easy, even on the facts that they have put forward, to come to the opposite conclusion and favour Foulness. The mistake that at any rate the noble Lord, Lord Molson, made, I think, was to assume that the Commission had ruled out Foulness and had come down heavily in favour of Cublington. That is not so. If it should eventually appeal to the Government to favour Foulness, I should not regard it as a blow to the Roskill Report: I should regard it merely as a minor and not as a major difference of opinion. The Commission have set out very fairly what are the advantages of each of these sites, and I think we should not be inflicting a blow on Mr. Justice Roskill if we did not accept the conclusion eventually arrived at by his Commission.

My Lords, I have come to the conclusion that the most suitable site is not Cublington, but Foulness. I feel that in a way the Commission have misconceived the position by not giving the fullest weight to certain things which they had to consider. I think that in weighing up the advantages of the two sites they should have considered very seriously facts which they have not taken into account. For instance, how does one measure the fact that here is an attractive site area, developed over the centuries, one of our most precious pieces of country, which inevitably will be destroyed if Cublington is selected as the site for this airport? Thousands of people would need to be removed from their homes; thousands of families. To where? It is going to be very difficult for them if they have settled in Cublington, and are working in the neighbourhood, to find alternative employment within reasonable reach.

I do not know whether some of your Lordships saw on B.B.C.1, last Saturday week, a programme called "Civilisation". The narrator was a Member—I may say a brilliant Member—of this House. He was describing what was happening to many of the most attractive parts of this country; how we were gradually losing them one after another. They were being destroyed and not being replaced. The attraction of this country is gradually disappearing, and the narrator talked—perhaps jocularly—about our returning to the dark ages. I hope that that fear is somewhat far-fetched, but it is remarkable that in my lifetime so many lovely parts of this country have been destroyed.

I cannot remember any that have been developed. I think the most attractive single piece of development in the past 50 years is Waterloo Bridge, or possibly the new Coventry Cathedral, which replaced the former cathedral. I cannot, offhand, think of very much more of which we can feel proud, or of which our children and grandchildren can or will be able to feel proud. Therefore, in saying that this is not a factor which deserves to be cost benefited, and in failing to take into account the value of the loss we shall suffer from the destruction of Cublington, and from the removal of the population, the Commission have really gone wrong.

There is an assumption that large numbers of families—and I think this will be one of the greatest exoduses on record—will be compensated. Figures are given in the Report showing that the families will get for their homes the market value as between a willing buyer and a willing seller, plus removal expenses, and an undefined figure for leaving their homes against their will. This undefined figure that they are to get is not permissible at the present time under the law regarding compensation. All they can get is the market value as between a willing buyer and a willing seller, plus removal expenses. If noble Lords opposite are going to introduce legislation to increase compensation in those circumstances, that may be something. Even if the people have all the compensation they want there is still the problem of where they are to find other accommodation.

Then there are substantial numbers of families—almost an equal number—who will suffer from the highest degree of noise. I am not a scientist, and therefore I cannot describe it in scientific terms. But these families will get nothing unless their property is going to be acquired. But if it is not felt essential to acquire the property, then the families can be left there without any compensation at all. I know that it will be open to the Government, if they so wish, to introduce legislation to provide for compensation in those cases; and that is what the Commission suggest they might do.

I am not arguing against paying compensation, but I want to give noble Lords opposite a warning: if they open the door to compensation on this kind of matter, they will be opening the door very, very wide; and they will be setting no limits to the compensation to which people will become entitled, because indirectly they are suffering from the results of improvements. So I venture to prophesy that in the end the Government will find that it is not expedient to open that door, and thousands of families in Cublington will suffer perpetually because of the intense noise that will be engendered if the airport goes there. On the other hand, the Report tells us that it is possible to provide an airport at the other place without the loss of a single building; nothing will have to be acquired by building over the sea, and only a few people will suffer intense noise. On those grounds alone, I suggest that Foulness is the better site.

We have been told in the Report that on the calculation the Commission have made—and it is quite understandable—Foulness will cost £100 million more. That sounds a lot of money until you remember that the cost of the whole scheme is estimated at £5,400 million. In comparison with that the figure of £100 million looks very small, but then they have taken into account the cost to individual travellers travelling the extra distance from London to Foulness as against Cublington. The extra mileage will not be paid for by those who are going to build the airport; it will be paid for by the travellers. It will not form any part of the expenditure of the community at all, and that accounts for £71 million of the £100 million. But if that is to be counted, why not count the loss which so many people will suffer financially if Cublington were chosen? They will suffer perpetually from noise and from the depreciation of their property, for which they will never get full compensation. Moreover, in the Report there is stated to be a margin of error of some £50 million. If you take those two factors alone, £71 million which are attributable to the extra cost of travellers—and I should like to challenge that figure, but I am not going to do so—and the £50 million, you have more than accounted for the £100 million of extra cost for Foulness. So I do not think much reliance can be placed on an estimate of what is going to be the cost of the airport, or on the contention that one is going to cost £100 million more than the other.

What must have struck the Commission most was that Foulness was going to be less viable; or they were afraid it might be not viable at all. Of course if that were the case it would be a most serious objection. But how can they say it in the light of the increasing traffic which they themselves forecast in, I think, Appendix 6? They forecast an increase in the next 20 years of something like a twenty-fold increase of traffic, a large proportion of it coming to the South-East. Therefore, I should have thought that there could be no doubt whatever as to the demand for an airport. And, after all, once it is built, passengers coming to this country, or leaving it, will have no choice but to go to Foulness—not that I wish to impose anything on them that is onerous. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has pointed out, if they come by train the train journey is only five minutes longer, and we may be able to cut that down. That is not a serious point. It may be a few coppers, a few new pence, more expensive, but I do not think that that is a factor to be taken into account when one is coming on an air journey from abroad, or going out.

Moreover, I suppose all of us in this House have had experience of travelling abroad. We do not ask ourselves, or try to ascertain, how far is the airport from the point from which we have to travel. We are not deterred by that. If we go to New York, there are several airports we might arrive at. Some are very much further from New York than others, but we are not deterred from travelling to one as against another merely by the fact that the distance to New York is somewhat longer. I thought it completely misguided to assume that people will refrain from coming to this country simply because Foulness is a rather longer distance to travel to than is Cublington. To think that is completely misguided. Admittedly, some people will come from nearer Cublington than Foulness, and that will make their journey a little longer. But I visualise, contrary to what has been said, that eventually there will be a choice, and that a traveller going abroad will not necessarily be confined to a particular airport; there will be services from London, from Foulness and from Gatwick, and he will be able to make his choice. At least, I imagine that that is a sensible arrangement.

I do not know whether anything else caused the Commission to come down in favour of Cublington. I think I have outlined the three main reasons, and I must say on that that I do not think there is anything decisive which would lead one to choose Cublington, regardless of the fact that if we go to Foulness we shall be saving some thousands of families from the horror of having perpetual noise day and night hanging over them. Professor Buchanan describes the destruction of Cublington as a major calamity for this country. We have survived, I am sorry to say, a number of other calamities of this kind, and it may be that we shall have others. I only hope that if such a calamity is to come we will try to replace what is lost elsewhere, if we can, possibly in connection with New Towns—I am not sure yet—so that we do not entirely lose the heritage which we have received from the past.

This is not a Party question, as will be obvious from what has been said by the two speakers from this side. We fundamentally disagree. I do not know whether noble Lords will be supporting me or will be speaking in favour of Cublington. At any rate, I hope that no one in this House will look on this issue as a Party matter or as a face-saving matter. We are here to reach the best conclusion we can. I have no interest whatever in any of the sites—I get my noise in my own way without these sites. We are simply out to say what we think and to listen to other people. Not only do I hope that the Government will take note of what is being said, but I hope that we ourselves will do so, because, having expressed my view, I cannot pretend that I have been able personally to make such a study of what is dealt with in the Report and ail the evidence that has been presented to the Commission as the Commission have done; nor have I recently been able to visit the sites, as my right honourable friend has done. I should have liked to do so, and in fact I intended to, but I just was not able to. However, I accept the description in the Report.

My Lords, I hope that we shall take a very objective view. I will give only one word of advice to Her Majesty's Government in considering this issue: do not be carried away by an alleged saving of money. Mr. Heath himself said that the cheap solution is not necessarily the best. That is perfectly true. Even if it turns out, contrary to my own view, that Foulness is the more expensive site, I still think that it would be preferential to Cublington, or to any of the other sites that have been suggested. I look forward with the greatest interest to hearing from the Government, and I am sure that they will apply themselves quite seriously and conscientiously to the task of making a choice.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, because he has said a number of things that I had contemplated saying, and for that reason I hope I can make my remarks briefer than they otherwise would have been. I was very glad to hear what he said about the Roskill Commission, because I think it will be the unanimous agreement of everyone in this House that it was indeed one of the most difficult assignations ever given to any Commission, and they carried it out with exemplary thoroughness. That being so, one needs a degree of boldness to challenge the conclusions reached by the Commission after their long and painstaking inquiry. But, like others who have spoken before me, that is what I am going, very boldly, to do. I must first declare my interest. First as Chairman of the Port of London Authority, whose territory includes the Maplin Sands, upon which the Foulness Airport will be constructed (if it is constructed) and also as Chairman of the Thames Estuary Development Company, who have been for some years promoting the idea of an airport and a seaport complex at Foulness.

I should have liked to take un the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, on his question as to whether a third London airport is necessary; but once again I am indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who I thought gave the answer to that in very clear terms. It seems to me quite inconceivable, if the estimates are even half right, that with airport travellers increasing from 17 million in 1969 to 259 million some time just after the year 2000 that the existing London Airports could possibly deal with this traffic.

I want now to direct your Lordships' attention for a few moments to—strangely enough !—the Roskill Report itself. In particular, I want to refer to paragraph 2 of Chapter 12, which is at page 118. In this paragraph the Commission were explaining the approach they were making to the matter of the use of the cost/benefit analysis, and in the middle of the paragraph I find these words, which I think are most important: Underlying this approach was the tacit assumption that there was no overriding reason why those who are prepared to pay for air travel should be denied the services for which they are willing to pay"— the words are used twice; then it goes on— an assumption which we"— that is the Commission— think it right to make if it is extended to include the resulting social costs as well. When I read those words I thought to myself that this was just the very thing which I should have thought was right. What then happened? If your Lordships will look at the opposite page, page 119, you will see in Table 12.1 the summary of the cost/benefit analysis, and this shows quite clearly, as I think my noble friend Lord Dowding said in his admirable maiden speech, that passenger user costs alone tipped the scale from Foulness in favour of Cublington. In other words, if Cublington is chosen it is the passengers who will enjoy the benefit of cheaper travel, for which other people will pay in the form of diminished amenity, greater noise and so on.

I know that a little later on, in Chapter 13, paragraph 45, there is a suggestion that this passenger user cost is not the only factor that tips the scale. But certainly I cannot find another one, and this seems to me to be completely out of accord with what has been said in paragraph 2 of Chapter 12. The disincentives are largely borne, not by the air travellers as part of the price of their travel but by the community generally, or by particular groups of the community who happen to live near the airport. One recognises of course that any international airport is going to be a blot upon the landscape and is going to affect a number of people adversely. But it seems to me that the only way in which one can apply the principle which the Commission say they accepted is by choosing the site where the damage is least, even though it means that the passenger pays a higher price, in time and money, in getting to and from the airport.

The principle is taken up a little further on with two paragraphs in Chapter 13; namely, paragraphs 41 and 42. I must say that I found them, in contrast to most of the other paragraphs in the Report, extraordinarily difficult to follow. They are very long, and I do not propose to read them to your Lordships I should, however, like to take you through them briefly, because they seem to show how it was that the Commission, having first agreed that passengers should be entitled to travel by air if they pay for it, left that idea and decided that they Were entitled to travel by air if somebody else paid for it.

Paragraph 41 of Chapter 13 starts by referring to various arguments that have been made, and says this: It is argued"— it does not say by whom, but I expect it is in the evidence— that the air traveller should be denied an accessible airport if the effect of meeting his needs is to damage the environment of those on the ground. I think this is the conservationists' argument but, if I may respectfully say so, it is put in a rather tendentious way by using the word "accessible". The airports we are discussing are all accessible within the ordinary meaning of the word, although some of them may be less easily accessible than others.

Having mentioned that this argument is put forward the Report continues: It may be possible to provide him with an airport which is both accessible and causes little environmental damage. Many seem to believe this to be possible everywhere but in the South-East. I assume that the Commission here are quoting from some evidence, but I think we could equally well say that many believe that this is possible in the South-East, because these are precisely the advantages which are offered by the airport at Foulness. As they say, it is accessible and it causes relatively little environmental damage.

Then we come to a sentence, in the same paragraph, which I find extraordinarily difficult: If this is not possible"— meaning, I take it, if it is not possible to find an airport which is both accessible and causes little damage— and a less convenient site is chosen the air traveller is said to have no ground for complaint. We do not accept this argument. Then the Commission go on to say, still referring to the argument: It would be valid only if there were some absolute right for some of those on the ground to have their interests treated by the community as compelling. My Lords, I thought that a most extraordinary sentence. With great respect to Mr. Justice Roskill, who is a good friend of mine, it did not seem to me that he could be the person who had drafted that sentence. It is a fluffy sort of sentence. So far as I know, nobody has an absolute right to anything; all rights are conditioned. But surely (and this Mr. Justice Roskill would remember much better than I, because he is a lawyer) the common law right of the man on the ground to object to noise of aircraft was taken away from him in 1920.


Hear, hear!


I should have thought that, in view of that, it is not a case of treating the interests of the man on the ground as compelling, but there is a case for treating them as requiring a great deal of consideration.

It is quite clear, of course, that there will be damage to the environment and to other people wherever the airport is situated, and what is wanted is a sensible balance within the principle, I suggest, laid down in paragraph 12.2, that the air passenger pays the cost, including as far as is possible the social costs. Of course, the passenger cannot pay all the social costs. For one thing they are not quantifiable, and for another there is no machinery for transferring the money from one party to the other. The best way that this principle can be met is, surely, by letting the passenger pay the small additional sum of money and spend a little more time in going to the slightly more distant site, thus in return minimising the damage to the environment and to so many people.

We do not have to push this argument so far as to talk about inaccessible sites, because they are not in question. It is this paragraph and the succeeding paragraph which seem to me to expound the philosophy adopted by the Commission. Here they are not drawing on the evidence they were given; they are expressing their own philosophy, that is, that the advantages and disadvantages as affecting the, community as a whole should be balanced irrespective of who in fact gains advantage and who suffers disadvantage. If we were a community of ants, I think it is conceivable that this is the sort of community we would live in. There would be ants that flew who would have certain privileges, and ants beavering about on the ground who would have the disadvantages. But we are not ants and this is not the sort of community we want to live in. The nearest human example might be a rigid Communist State. In my view—and I hope that the Government will give very careful consideration to this when they review the recommendations of the Cornmission—the right principle is that laid down and accepted by the Commission in paragraph 12.2 and then, for some reason, thrown out of the window.

As I have said, we do not want to press accessibility too far, but I think much too much has been made of the small amount of time taken to travel the distance between Foulness and London and Cublington and London, accepting the point that of course Cublington will attract some passengers from the Midlands. It seems to me that the Commission listened to a lot of evidence, when deciding which of four sites to choose, that the site nearest to London was the best. This was the evidence of the airlines, the British Airports Authority and others, and is perfectly intelligible evidence. But once one of these sites is chosen, I cannot see that this small difference has any relevance whatever.

I really do not believe in this enormous passenger resistance that is referred to. Who are the 30 million people who are not going to travel at all because the airport is at Foulness instead of Cublington? The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, again saved me telling a little story I had in mind. Curiously enough, it was also about Rome. I was going to say that I am not a very sophisticated traveller myself, but that if I was going to Rome I might perhaps ask my travel agent how long it took to get from the airport to the city. I do not know the answer, but supposing I was told 45 minutes, I can hardly imagine that I—or indeed any of your Lordships—would scratch my head and say, "That is terrible. If it were 30 minutes from the airport to Rome I would go, but as it is more I will stay at home". That is simply ridiculous, and I cannot believe that this very small difference is going to have the effect that it is said to have.

The noble Lord, Lord Dowding, in his very interesting speech, made some criticisms of the cost/benefit analysis, and I should like to add two short ones, if I may. First of all, on air freight, a sum has been put into the balance against Foulness on the ground that Foulness, being further away by road and rail (presumably from the manufacturers, where the things come from) will have a disadvantage for air freight. I do not know whether I he Commission took any evidence from forwarding agents or anybody who engages in this sort of business, because it seems to me the most extraordinary opinion to express. I think they would be told that air freight is likely to expand more greatly and rapidly to Europe than anywhere else. They know that Foulness is in fact closer to all the European airports than Cublington; that is to say, closer to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Brussels, Paris, Bonn, Frankfurt, Zurich, Milan. Air freight per ton-mile is much more expensive than road freight per ton-mile, and therefore the further you carry your goods by road and the shorter distance by air the better bargain you make. In fact on this particular issue Foulness should be given a bonus rather than a penalty.

The other point I want to mention is on the question of Luton, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood. I confess that I have found it very difficult to understand the argument. It appears to be this. If the airport is sited at Cublington, Luton cannot expand and will quite likely have to be closed down. If it is sited at Foulness, Luton can expand. But Luton, as has been mentioned, is a municipal airport, and the municipality is also presumably the planning authority, and it is entirely up to them whether they do or do not expand Luton. If they expand it and create more noise for their ratepayers and their neighbours, it seems to me that it has got to stand on its own feet. There was a suggestion that this could be stopped only by Government intervention—and here, I thought, even though we know that at the present time we have a Government dedicated to non-intervention, is a field in which they really could properly intervene. After all, we are considering not just a third London airport but the whole airport system of South-East England. If I could put this point to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, he might care to think about it. Supposing the Government in their wisdom—and I think they have wisdom—were to decide to site the airport at Foulness, what would be their attitude to an enterprising gentleman who was going to build an airport at Cublington to cash in on the advantages the Roskill Commission pointed out were associated with that site? The Government could step in and stop him. If so, why cannot they stop the expansion at Luton?

The noble Lord, Lord Molson, suggested that I should say something about the port, and I hone that I am not keeping your Lordships too long. The Port of London Authority believes that there is a great future in deep water port facilities on the Maplin Sands. This was, naturally, not considered in detail by the Roskill Commission, but some evidence was given on the subject, and considerable prominence given to the views expressed by Dr. Burns that there would not be room in this area for a seaport and the accompanying industrial development as well as an airport. I think the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, brought up the same point. This was, of course, supported by Professor Buchanan. The Roskill Commission summed it up by saying that they felt that in the light of this evidence the advantages, if any, are outweighed by planning and environmental disadvantages which would result from a joint project.

The fact of the matter is that the effects on the environment of a joint project have never really been evaluated. Your Lordships will remember that the South-East Essex planning team's report was not available to the Roskill Commission. It has since come out. The interesting point here is that in their Strategic Plan they estimate that this area could support a population up to one million in the year 2000, against 618,000 in 1970, a growth potential of about 400,000. The Roskill Commission estimate of the population required to support an airport-generated employment is 228,000. So there is quite a large margin still in hand. These figures are admittedly rough approximations; nevertheless, on the basis of those figures I think it would be most unwise to suggest that it is not possible to develop the port facilities as well as the airport.

What we in the Port of London Authority have in mind is a modern port for handling primarily hulk cargoes which employ very few people. Similarly, the industries which we hope would be attracted to the site are again the modern primary industries which are capital intensive and not mobile intensive. We think that there would be plenty of opportunity. It will need discussion. That discussion has already begun with the Essex County authorities and the South-East Planning Board, of course with the Government to decide whether this is a proper development. But certainly I should not like anybody to feel that the criticism of the joint development was more than a rather initial reaction to something the size of which is not really known or appreciated.

There was just one other point in connection with the port that I would mention, in case your Lordships have picked it up. I could not find it when I read the Report again, but somewhere, in the gentlest possible way, the Commission suggested that those who were advocating the development of a port have been a little not disinterested in promoting the idea of an airport because this would be a convenient way of getting rid of the land which would be reclaimed by the dredging of a channel to the port. No evidence was taken by the Commission on this matter and I am glad to tell your Lordships that the surmise is without foundation. The calculations made so far show that the amount of spoil from dredging the channel would be sufficient to reclaim only some 5,000 or 6,000 acres, which is less than the amount required to make a viable port and supporting industrial complex; so from that point of view there is no need for the airport to go to Foulness at all.

I am afraid I have detained your Lordships for a long time. Putting the value of your Lordships' time at the top end of the scale, I think my speech has cost about 55p. I apologise, and I must not impose on your Lordships' generosity any further. I hope that when they come to look at this problem the Government will most seriously consider the question of whether the passenger should not, so far as he can, pay for the social cost by means of paying a slightly higher access cost, in return for relieving the community as a whole of some of the burden.

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, we all know that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has this keen interest in combining an airport with a seaport. I do not wish to follow him along those lines. I wish to deal entirely with the airport itself. But I think it is perhaps worth while mentioning that the view of the Essex County Council, the planning authority for that part of the country, is that they would favour an airport plus a minor seaport, but that they would not favour an airport plus a major seaport: they feel that that would bring about too great a concentration both of people and of industry in a somewhat narrow piece of land.

I own no quiet, pleasant, peaceful moated manor in the Chilterns. I possess no property in Foulness or Southend. I am no longer the chairman or vice-chairman, or even a member of the Essex County Council. So I have no personal interests to declare. I can approach this problem almost as a virgin. Like other noble Lords, I wish to pay my most admiring tribute to the Commission. I think that in those spheres where they have been able to make judgments based on sound, solid evidence they have given us some helpful information. But in other spheres where the factors have not been quite so tangible I think they have tended to blind themselves with science and they certainly have left many of us cross-eyed and bewildered. They have wandered so far into the forest of figures that they have failed to see the wood for the trees.

I think we have to approach and assess the difficult and complicated task which faced the Commission by viewing it in the form of a parable. It is the Parable of the Eligible Young Man. He was being pursued by four eager suitors. He was in a state of confusion, as any of us would be in such circumstances. But at last he thought to himself, "Ah, I have a solution. I will have a cost benefit analysis." So he proceeded to allocate points to each of the four maids in respect of various characteristics. He awarded so many points for family background; so many points for education and sophistication; so many points for wealth or poverty; so many points for temperament and disposition; so many points for beauty of face; so many points for attractiveness of figure, and, of course, some more for varying degrees of chastity.

That all seems very statistically proper. Unfortunately, within a year he found that he had made the wrong choice. Why had he made the wrong choice? He had allocated too big a value to one characteristic and not a big enough value to another characteristic; and of course for some of the characteristics he had allocated no points at all. I believe that in this case if we pay too much attention to the columns of statistics that have been placed before us, and do not pay enough attention to some of these intangible factors, then we may find ourselves in similar trouble. So I think that we must now cast aside our statistical blinkers and decide this matter on the basis of plain common sense.

Viewing it in that way I find myself saying: "Cublington out, Foulness in"; and the other two sites are non-starters. We have heard that we shall be confronted in the near future with short or vertical take-off planes and with very improved scientific landing equipment and that this may render a third London airport quite unnecessary. I do not take that view. I do not see every airline in the world simultaneously equipping its planes with vertical or short take-off power. I do not see them simultaneously equipping their planes with this improved electronic landing equipment. It will be many years before all the airlines using the airports of Britain find themselves in that position.

We now find that the skies are rapidly becoming more overcrowded, and that the number of air passengers is going to rise to 200 million a year. I feel that so far ahead as we can see we shall need a third London airport. And I feel a little sceptical when I listen to people (I do not name them: they are friends of mine) saying that a third London airport will not now be necessary, when three years ago at the time of the Stansted scheme they were impressing us with the very severe urgency of the affair and the need for an immediate decision. I recall the debate that we had on Stansted. I tried to put up a logical case against Stansted. I tried to argue that it was unsuitable. I argued at the same time that Foulness was much more suitable. To-day I find that those very arguments which I used against Stansted are applicable to Cublington, and I find that all the virtues I then found at Foulness remain with us to-day.

My Lords, we have to assess the rival merits of Cublington, on the one hand, and of Foulness, on the other. For that purpose I shall need to refer to the findings of the Commission. I think the factors can arrange themselves under about half a dozen headings. The first of these is air traffic control. I suggest that this is a very important factor, because the whole idea of having an airport at all is to be able to get planes up in the air and to bring them down again. What do the Commission say about this? They say that Foulness is the best from the point of view of air traffic control. They say that it would lead to smaller delays, and would result also in reduced air mileage, whereas Cublington would be the most difficult. The choice of Cublington would cause congestion of air space in and around North-West London, especially at peak hours. And, goodness gracious! it is on the traffic at the peak hours that we have to decide upon the merits or demerits of a particular airport. The Report also says that Foulness will have less effect on other airports, and would result in a smaller loss of air space. The British Airports Authority and B.E.A. both say quite blankly that Cublington is the least acceptable site.

The National Control Air Service, whose views I treat with some respect, say that Cublington and Heathrow could not operate together without a loss of capacity, and that it would produce a very difficult traffic control situation. They say that the holding areas of Cublington and Luton overlap each other, and that the Luton runway is incompatible with Cublington. We are also told that Foulness is the farthest away from the other airports, and so its flight paths and its holding areas would not prejudice Heathrow or Gatwick. Finally, on this point, the Commission themselves say that Cublington is the worst for fog and snow, and Foulness is the best. This question of traffic control is very important indeed. It is the vital factor, and the verdict of the Commission there is that Cublington is not as good as Foulness.

Then we look at another factor: defence. I am not going to exaggerate the importance of the factor of defence, and I will content myself by saying that it is a fairly important factor. Perhaps not to-day, but in the event of any trouble it would be important. The Ministry of Defence say: Foulness is the only site which would involve no R.A.F. redeployment. Cublington would involve redeployment and involve us in considerable expense. Cublington would considerably degrade R.A.F. operational capability. The verdict of the Defence Ministry is that Foulness is by far the least objectionable, and Cublington creates the worst problem for operational flexibility and capability. The Ministry add this warning note: A recommendation of Cublington could encounter opposition from the Defence Ministry. I do not want this defence question to be confused by bringing in the Experimental Establishment at Shoeburyness. We know that if the airport is at Foulness this establishment will have to go. But the Commission tell us, quite plainly, that all three inland sites would make the eventual closure of Shoeburyness necessary. So there is no debit or credit item there, either for or against Foulness or Cublington. On this question of defence, with whatever importance your Lordships attach to it, Foulness is the best and Cublington is the worst.

Then we look at agriculture. There will be far less loss to agriculture at Foulness than at Cublington, simply because most of the land is going to be reclaimed from the sea. The Country Landowners' Association and the National Farmers' Union both say that Foulness would involve the least loss of agricultural land and would involve the displacement of fewer farmers.


My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend would permit me to say something on that one point? Did he also notice the suggestion was made that Professor Webley should be asked to advise on this subject? He was asked, and advised in a different sense entirely.


My Lords, I appreciate that, but I prefer to take the view of the practical farmer rather than that of an ivory tower professor. Next we come to the South-East Strategic Plan, which is going to govern the ultimate use of land in this part of the country. It says that there would be a loss of agricultural land in this area, whether we have an airport or not. The Commission themselves say that Cublington would make a more serious impact on the countryside than Foulness. As we know, the Countryside Commission and the Council for the Preservation of Rural England both come down in favour of Foulness.

Then there is the road and rail access to the airport. The Commission say that Foulness would involve heavier expense for the construction of railways, and that the new road would be needed sooner at Foulness than at Cublington. But there is something else we are not told: we are not told that the Southend railway is already scandalously overcrowded at the moment, that it already needs expansion and that British Railways in pre-airport days were considering the question of laying down two extra lots of lines. As for the road, it is known that the road is inadequate even for present traffic, and the authorities have been considering for some years the question of its improvement. The only point I want to make about the road and rail question is that we cannot validly debit the airport with the whole of the expense that has to be incurred on improving the road and the rail communications. What is more, the new road to Foulness, when it does come, will cause less damage than the new road to Cublington, both to agricultural land and to the beauties of the countryside.

The next factor is noise. About this there is no argument at all. The Commission say that Foulness is outstandingly better. The noise is largely over the sea, whereas, with regard to Cublington, along with Heathrow and Gatwick, there will be a constant semi-circle of noise over South-West and North-West London. Foulness has another advantage in the matter of noise. Southend airport will be closed, and that will relieve up to a quarter of a million people of the noise which they suffer at the moment. Instead of Foulness creating more noise it will bring about less noise than we have at the present time. Moreover, on this question of noise, I feel that the Commission have considerably under-debited Cublington for noise disadvantage. They have certainly included a debit in respect of noise damage to houses, but they nave not included anything for the noise damage to factories, offices, shopping areas and so on.

The next factor which we cannot leave out of consideration is the social advantages that will occur with the one site or the other. I feel here that all of them are in favour of Foulness. Some of them can be calculated in money's-worth; some of them can be counted merely in terms of human living. There is unemployment to start with. The Foulness and Southend area is an area of very high unemployment. The establishment of an airport there, with its ancillary industries, would be a boon, whereas at Cublington there is already excessive employment growth on the road North-West from London. I mention Stevenage, Hatfield, Dunstable and Luton. There is a grave fear that you might there get economic over-heating and that you would get an inflationary wage system.

With regard to planning, Foulness and its surroundings offer a delightful opening for the scandalously overcrowded people of East London. The public services are already established in that part of the country; they would merely need extending and not constructing from scratch. Shopping services are available. All our planning experts say that it is very desirable that people should be within 10 or 15 miles of a big town, for social and shopping purposes. There are those facilities in Southend. It would be a convenience to the people and would bring increased prosperity to the town. Then there is the question of amusements and amenities. Those of us who have had anything to do with new towns know that the question of amenities and amusements and entertainments is one of the most difficult problems with which we have to deal. It makes all the difference between happy people and discontented, moody people. Southend has all these amenities in abundance and at certain times of the day it has the greatest amenity of all—the sea.

Then there is the question of housing. According to expert planning calculations Southend and district has accommodation available for 85,000 new people without building any more houses at all. There are boarding houses of the old Victorian days which are now under-occupied, there are widows and pensioners living in houses with an enormous amount of spare accommodation, and the council itself fears that it may have too many houses. Here is the Southend Standard of a fortnight ago. A splash heading on the front page says "Council houses going spare". If Foulness were chosen there would be less need to spend money on housing than would be the case with Cublington. Fewer houses would be pulled down at Foulness; there is not a single house on the Maplin Sands. There would be little uprooting of people, whereas at Cublington we know that at least 1,000 families would be uprooted.

Then, as ancillary to this argument, we have the Basildon New Town not so very far away, a place where some of the people could be accommodated and where some of the second echelon industries could similarly be housed. Then there is the question of commuters. Every day 40,000 of them leave Southend and district to come to London. I am not suggesting that all of those 40,000 will want to work on their doorstep: some of them are executive and clerical people who have their jobs in London and must come to London, but some of them would inevitably find their way into employment in the airport and in the industrial establishments set up around it, and they would not need new housing because they already have their houses. Then the airport staff could presumably be transferred from Southend Airport to Foulness Airport, and they again would need no new houses to accommodate them. The South-East Strategic Plan states that South-East Essex needs more people. Obviously, if it is to have more people it must have more employment, and that is precisely what the airport would provide. So from the social point of view everything seems to be in favour of Foulness.

We now come to the vexed question of accessibility. The merits of Foulness have so far appeared to me to be overwhelming, so the Commission bring in some intangible factors to cancel them out. The chief of these is what they call "surface accessibility". This is of some importance and it is not to be dismissed airily, but I feel that the Commission have grossly exaggerated its importance and by so doing have turned the balance sheet from a Foulness credit into a Foulness debit. The Commission state that Foulness is farther away, less popular and more expensive to reach. But the facts about this story really ought to be unveiled, and they are these. By rail there is five minutes difference, by road there is 12 minutes difference, and if you find yourself with five or 12 minutes in hand, is it really vital? If you save those few minutes what do you do with them? A holiday maker going on holiday from Foulness Airport would find that his wife was able to give the baby another feed in those last few minutes and a business man would be able to make a final study of his documents and assemble his ideas for his business engagement. Or he could relax—and do not let us laugh if I suggest that relaxation is of value in this world in these days. It is not wasted time. Anyhow a holiday maker makes his journey only once a year and a business man probably makes his journey half a dozen times a year.

Yet the Commission debit Foulness with this factor of inaccessibility with £167 million or £207 million. They are not quite sure which is the right amount, but £40 million is neither here nor there, according to their calculations. These sums represent two items. There is £71 million for extra road and rail fares in which the passengers are mulcted, and £96 million or £136 million in respect of passengers' wasted time. They have multiplied those items by millions of passengers over a period of 25 years in order to get those figures of £71 million or £136 million, and this wipes out the advantage which Foulness has hitherto possessed. But this calculation of 25 years of so many passengers a day in order to arrive at the figures which are debited against Foulness seems to me to be too much like Rolls-Royce's finance for my liking. The Commission hem-selves say: There is considerable uncertainty about the figures for wasted time. They have already revised them, and if we work out what those passengers' petrol and rail fares are going to cost over the period of 25 years on the basis of the number of passengers that the Commission tell us about, it works out at 1s. 3d. per person worse through going to Foulness rather than going to Cublington.

But there is one point about the £167 million and the £71 million that we must be clear upon. The Government do not have to pay those millions; it is only a notional balancing item—a figure which they first thought of and then adjusted, and which, by some coincidence, happens to swing the balance over from Foulness to Cublington. If the Commission consider that accessibility is the predominant factor, then let us consider Heathrow. It was accessibility that gave us Heathrow; and is not one Heathrow enough without having another?

There is another point here—a minor point, perhaps, but not irrelevant. I wonder whether the Commission attached sufficient importance to it. When Foulness gets going, will not all the airports in distant parts of the country put on feeder planes to bring their passengers down to Foulness and land them on the tarmac, so that they can climb immediately into their main line planes for the Continent? This factor might make Foulness the most accessible of all the sites after all. I ask your Lordships not to be too frightened by this story of inaccessibility. The Commission admit that it is not true. They say that by 1991 there will be over 20 million passengers at Foulness and that by the end of the century there will be 80 million. The Commission also stated this: We readily accept that the majority of air travellers will not be deterred from flying merely because the airport is at Foulness rather than at Cublington. The next point I want to turn to concerns the construction costs of the airport. There is not much difference between the costs of Foulness on the one hand and Cublington on the other. It depends which page of the Report you look at. You get a plain figure and then you get all kinds of additions, substractions, revisions and adjustments, and by the time you have finished puzzling them out you feel like a housewife in a supermarket on Decimal Day. The summary of capital costs which is given in the Report shows Foulness as being £6 million dearer and this is for building the airport, the runways, the taxi-ing ways, the terminal buildings and all the facilities within the airport boundary. It also includes the costs of the roads and the railways leading to it from London. This is real, understandable money; you can get your hand on it. But then the Commission bring this £6 million surplus up to £78 million surplus by adding over £70 million for what they call "current and operating costs". Now this £70 million has nothing at all to do with constructing the airport or with operating it. What is it? It looks like our old friend "extra rail fares and petrol" once again for the few extra miles from London to Foulness over a period of 25 years, and I should not like to be the auditor auditing accounts of that kind. If you take off that £70 million difference it brings the constructional difference for the two airports down again to the original £6 million.

Then, my Lords, we really ought to take off another £18 million which has been charged to Foulness in the balance sheet for extending the length of the runways at Luton. Many of the experts say that this is not necessary. I have a feeling that the people of Luton will say that it is not desirable. They are complaining about the noise they have now: they will not want the additional noise from the larger planes which will use the longer runways. If you take that £18 million Luton expenditure which has been debited against Foulness away from Foulness, you then find that Foulness is actually £12 million cheaper. But these construction costs are so qualified and so confusing that I would not attempt to make a point of them. But I do say this very definitely: that it is wrong to get the idea in our heads that the honest construction figures show that Foulness would be measurably dearer than Cublington.

At this stage, my Lords, the Commission make a very wise distinction in the use of some of their figures. They say: These construction costs are resources costs; that is to say, they make a direct demand on the goods and services of the community". I think we can all understand that. But then they go on to bump up the costs against Foulness by adding another kind of cost, the disbenefits between Foulness and Cublington. They say: These are subjective costs which do not give rise to any immediate claims on the nation's economic resources", and that, of course, is a point which is well worth remembering. By far the biggest of these subjective costs, as they call them, is our old friend the debit of £136 million or £96 million for passengers' extra rail or road time: these few extra minutes per passenger multiplied by the hundreds of millions of people using the airport in the next twenty-five years. This kind of arithmetic once again makes Foulness appear dearer than Cublington. Incidentally, many of these passengers will be foreigners.

I think the Commission have taken he wrong line here. These fares and time ought not to be charged against Britain. They are really an invisible export, something which is bringing foreign currency to this country. Again, I do not know whether, in valuing this twenty-five years' worth of extra petrol that people will use careering down the Southend arterial road, allowance has been made for the fact that most of the cost of petrol goes directly to the Exchequer in tax so that it can reduce our income tax. But cost/benefit analyses are really very funny things, and they are admitted on all hands to be of a very experimental nature. The fact I want to make here is that the difference between the cost of the airport and its road and rail communications is very small, and anyhow final costs usually differ from original estimates by very considerable sums. We have the Rolls-Royce engine and the Concorde as examples of that.

Now it is this cost/benefit analysis that is going to swing the decision against Foulness if it is allowed to go unchallenged. I have already mentioned that too little has been debited against Cublington for the noise that will be created there. I have already mentioned that a grotesque amount has been debited against Foulness in respect of passenger time. But I do not know whether the Commission have offset this so-called loss due to passengers' extra time on land by the fact that their journeys to the Continent will be 50 miles shorter by air. Has this been credited in the cost/benefit balance sheet to Foulness? This is a real hard fact, my Lords, because when I came up this afternoon I was looking at some of the posters in the railway station, although not the kind of posters that your Lordships are thinking about. This was a travel poster, and it announced that Channel Airways, because their air journey from Southend was much shorter in the air to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Brussels and some other Continental centres, had reduced the fare for the journey by £5. Southend is near to Foulness, and I feel that there may be reductions in air fares from Foulness to the Continent as there have been from Southend to the Continent and this ought to be taken into account in the balance sheet. But more important, my Lords, is this: some very vital factors have been left out of the cost/benefit balance sheet altogether. There is regional planning. Why is that left out?


My Lords, I wonder whether I may interrupt the noble Lord for one moment, before he goes on to his next long subject, to draw his attention to certain facts? He has already spoken now longer than the Leader of the House, speaking on behalf of the Government, who anyway is notoriously long-winded—I say that with due deference—and he has already spoken six minutes longer than the noble Lord who moved the Motion, and he has already spoken ten minutes longer than the average—an unduly long average—of 23 minutes. There are 24 speakers on the list to speak to-day and the same number to-morrow. I feel that perhaps he is taking a little more of your Lordships' time than is reasonable.


My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord should have wasted three minutes of our time on that intervention, but I will try to come to an end sooner than might otherwise have been the case.

The Commission have left out some very important factors. Regional planning is one. Why is that? Surely this is what the whole exercise is really about. The Commission say they recognise that on a planning basis Foulness is preferable to Cublington, so why not credit Foulness with an item in the cost/benefit balance sheet in respect of this factor? All that the Commission say is: We did not see any practical way of expressing in monetary terms the regional planning factors or the value of preserving the countryside". Then the cost/benefit balance sheet gives no credit to Foulness for these 85,000 fewer people who will need to have houses built for them in the Foulness and Southend area.

If this whole verdict is going to turn on the cost/benefit analysis, can we accept it? There are far too many uncertainties. I have here a list of 12 uncertainties which the Commission admit, with which I will not trouble your Lordships, but they on their own confession have changed their minds so many times and have altered their figures so many times that I wonder whether we can have any confidence in the figures which they finally put before us. I doubt it—and so do they—because they devote a whole chapter to what they call "margins of error". I will not quote from it as I would have done, but their last comment in this chapter on "margins of error", when they deal with the cost/benefit analysis as a whole says: "We do not claim that it tells the whole story". It certainly does not. It leaves one very big item out and it puts a great big questionable item in.

My Lords, I feel that Foulness has the advantage, when we look at it from the points of view of air traffic control, defence, agriculture, noise, regional planning, unemployment, social conditions and housing. The money side of the equation, I think, can be juggled to suit either side, but we are not dealing with money alone; we are dealing with people, the people of this generation, and our children and grandchildren who will come after us.

There is this final consideration. We live in a crowded island with little land to spare. Do we want to add to that land or do we want to subtract from it? Foulness would add 13,000 acres to the territory of England and we would possess it for ever. If you want to include this in the balance sheet with a cash denomination of £20,000 an acre it would add £260 million to our national assets and the Commission do not put that in their cost/benefit balance sheet. It was, according to one version of history, at Canewdon, only a few miles from Foulness, where Canute made his vain attempt to keep back the sea. We now have a chance to reverse that page of history and create a great expanse of new land that will push the sea farther away than Canute ever thought possible. My Lords, I think that that is well worth while.

6.21 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that I shall commend myself to your Lordships, and particularly to the Liberal Benches, by being very brief, by not repeating any of the arguments that have already been adduced and by assuming that your Lordships have already read the Roskill Report and have found out for yourselves the flaws that lie within it. I was tempted at one stage, but for the fact that I have some points to raise which have not been raised, to say, "Ditto" to all the speeches; "I am for Foulness"; and to sit down. But perhaps your Lordships will bear with me if I mention one or two points which have not been raised.

I met the Chairman of the Commission, not long ago, and when I told him that I was in favour of Foulness, and was hoping to speak in this debate, he replied, "I hope that you have read the Report and I hope that all who speak will have read the Report." At that time I had not read it. I have now; and I am still in favour of Foulness. Whatever site is chosen, I think it will be a small consolation, albeit a consolation, that the decision will be taken as the result of a Report that is so painstaking and so careful and contains such a considerable marshalling of the facts. It is beautifully reasoned and, I would add, is admirably written and is a standing reproach to the average Government document.

But, when you have mustered all the statistics in the world, this is not really a justiciable issue, it is a political issue. Hence this debate. Whichever is chosen, as the Third London Airport, the people affected are fortunate, as I have said, in that the issue and the outcome will have been discussed, reasoned and debated—a consolation which was denied to the first and second airports. It was not thus with Gatwick whose development has been Topsy-like and higgledy-piggledy over the last 16 years.

My Lords, it is not unusual, in any debate affecting the environment, that somewhere behind a speech we hear the low murmur of an axe being ground and of a log being rolled. I think therefore that I ought to declare my interest. I have a house within a few miles of Gatwick, and for 20 years I was one of the four Members of Parliament whose constituencies abutted on that airport. It is an under-statement to say that I have been aware of the problem since Gatwick was first designated as an alternative airport in 1954. It was designated as an alternative airport because the weather was different. And after 16 years I noted with interest the other day that both Heathrow and Gatwick were closed down by fog. But with the passage of the years, with the changing needs of the airport, with the changing types of aircraft and the growing volume of traffic, I ask your Lordships to realise the extent to which the second London Airport, unplanned, has come to overshadow the lives of thousands of people in the area. Thousands have gradually seen the loss of amenity and the change in the neighbourhood that they have known and lived in for many years.

But, of course, there are two sides to every question; there are those who have been attracted to the neighbourhood by its proximity to Gatwick. But the fact remains that a total environment in a comparatively rural part of the South-East has been changed for the worse over these years. May I remind your Lordships that Gatwick lies halfway between Crawley New Town and Redhill? It is therefore a fact that from Merstham to the other side of Crawley New Town you have over ten miles of urban sprawl slicing across the Green Belt. If you have ever driven down to Brighton, it is not until you are beyond Crawley New Town that you can see anything which you can recognise as a Green Belt, or indeed as a rural area. In short, the second London Airport, without being officially so designated, has come into being without the inquiry that has in this case been vouchsafed to Cublington and Foulness, and to the non-starters.

I hope that your Lordships will realise that what I have said by way of introduction is germane to the main issue of the debate; because many of us are concerned that the disputation about where the Third London Airport should be sited might involve delay and might be used by the vested interests as an excuse for increasing the use of Gatwick by involving a second runway on that airport. Therefore I welcome the very clear statement in the Roskill Report (and it has been echoed in the words of my noble friend to-day), the conclusion accepted by all members of the Commission, that a second runway at Gatwick is no substitute for a third London Airport.

If I may, I will quote part of paragraph 53 from Chapter 5 (page 34) of the Report. The Commission say: … it was suggested to us by the Chairman of the British Airports Authority that a second runway at Gatwick was needed because of what he described as 'four lost years' due to the change of policy in setting up the Commission instead of proceeding promptly with the proposed third London airport at Stansted. We are unable to accept this view in the light of our clear conclusion that the forecasts of traffic and of airport capacity show that a third London airport can be provided at any of the four sites before present airport capacity in the London area is exhausted. Now, my Lords, mark these other words which follow immediately: Indeed Mr. Masefield agreed that if these forecasts were right it would have been premature to have started building an airport at Stansted four years ago. For the future there will be something of a credibility gap when it comes to considering the recommendation of the British Airports Authority. This is reinforced by other quotations which I could cite against the suggestion that the second runway at Gatwick would increase the reluctance of airlines to use the Third London Airport.

One would have thought that the categorical statement I have quoted might allay any fears that exist, but I think those fears will once again be aroused by the eruption into the debate over the weekend by Mr. Anthony Crosland, whom I think one could describe as the only begetter of the Roskill Report, with the suggestion that we should have no Third London Airport but should make more intensive use of existing airports in the South-East and much further afield. I echo every word that the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, said. We cannot just sit and wait for these marvellous new aircraft. We have to deal with a situation which is already absolutely intolerable.

Therefore, my Lords, my plea to-day is for an assurance from Her Majesty's Government that while the battle rages between Cublington and Foulness, with Crosland intervening, there will be no weak solution by allowing any further and unnecessary extension at Gatwick on any grounds whatsoever; but that, if this is even considered, the second London Airport will at last be vouchsafed what it never has had—an inquiry on Roskill lines, weighing up all the implications, economic and planning. And I may say that I welcome very much the sympathetic remarks of my noble friend Lord Jellicoe about those who already suffer, and have suffered for many years, and whose patience was long ago exhausted.

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should like, first, to join with those noble Lords who have expressed their appreciation to Mr. Justice Roskill and his Commission on the manner in which they performed the task which they undertook. That is a particularly pleasant task for me because Mr. Justice Roskill and I are friends. We were, and still are, Benchers of the same Inn of Court.

I think I ought to add to those words of congratulation a few words of sympathy as well. I believe that Mr. Justice Roskill and his Commission were set what proved to be an impossible task. They were required to find a site for a new airport; it was to be linked with London and it was to relieve the pressure of the traffic at Heathrow. As I hope I shall show in a moment, I do not believe that such a site exists anywhere where an airport of this kind could be constructed without bringing about all the social and material damage which will be caused if this airport is placed at Cublington or Thurleigh.

My Lords, I doubt whether the public has realised the magnitude of what is proposed. This airport will be the largest in the world, three times the size of Heathrow. It will occupy 15,000 acres and employ something like 65,000 staff. It will handle initially 600,000 flights and accommodate something like 100 million passengers in a year. When the industrial development which will go with the airport is completed it will employ something like 75,000 people. This vast undertaking is to be thrust into the countryside without much consideration for those at present living there. Never has there been an invasion of the countryside equal to this. Villages, farms, homes, churches—all will be swept away; hundreds of persons will lose their homes.

Are these matters inseparable from the construction of a modern airport? My Lords, I think that they are. I do not think it would be possible to find a site which could be said to be connected with London but which would not give rise in some part of the country to precisely the kind of hardships about which we have been protesting this afternoon. As one read through the mass of evidence—I do not remember seeing so much evidence in a single case before—it became clear that the construction of a new airport of this size and magnitude anywhere in the region which may be described as being linked with London is not a practical proposition unless one is prepared to bring about the hardships that the provision of this airport might bring.

The Foulness site provided the Commission with a splendid opportunity, but alas! they cast it aside. An airport at Foulness would be constructed at least partially on land reclaimed from the sea, and the difficulties which would present themselves at the other sites would not be experienced there. Foulness would certainly have great advantages and I hope that it will prove to be the site chosen by your Lordshipe when the time comes to express your views. So far the other sites have not found many friends in your Lordships' House. That shows how unfortunate were the Commission that their choice should fall in the wrong quarter, after the long, painful and protracted investigation which they undertook, lasting for more than two years.

Before I conclude, my Lords, there are one or two matters with which I should like to deal; the first might be described as a major matter, although hitherto it has not attracted much support in your Lordships' House. It is the question whether a third airport is necessary for London at all. When I began to consider this case I thought that the result of my study of the evidence would convince me that a third airport was not really necessary. On the whole, I think that conclusion was wrong; and I would hesitate to advocate delaying the construction of a new airport, mainly because I feel that one might very likely end by regretting such an action. Air travel is increasing and has almost overwhelmed other forms of travel, and it may well be that although the need for a third airport is not at the moment so apparent, before many years have passed we should regret it were we to hold back now. Nor do I see any reason why we should do so. The provision of a new airport could proceed quite well on the Foulness site. So far not many of your Lordships have argued that we could dispense with a third airport. I hope that feeling is general.

If it is not practical—as I believe that it is not—to construct an airport of the requisite size anywhere in the proximity of London, we have to ask ourselves what can be done to relieve the pressure at Heathrow and, to some extent, at Gatwick. My Lords, I have not found it easy to analyse the traffic evidence in the Report, but I believe that there is a considerable amount of exchange traffic at Heathrow. A large number of passengers fly into Heathrow and change aeroplanes, and then fly out again, either on the same day or within 24 hours. I should have thought it possible to divert part of that traffic from London altogether, to some part of the country where it would be possible to construct an airport of the necessary size without the social consequences which would be inseparable at Cublington or Thurleigh. Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell me whether it is a practical suggestion, and what the number of exchange passengers who fly into Heathrow or Gatwick and fly out again in 24 hours is likely to be.

Those are the only two matters about which I desire to say anything. I have no doubt that the general sense of your Lordships to-day in favour of the proposal for Foulness is the right decision, and I hope that we shall see it carried through.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask, as he raised the question of exchange traffic, whether a difficulty would not arise unless an aeroplane passenger list was entirely exchange traffic? I doubt whether that would be so. Some passengers will be wanting to get to London and some will be exchange passengers. That will lead to difficulties.


I was speaking purely of exchange passengers who come in and then go out again in 12 or 24 hours. If a passenger wants to stay and travel the same journey perhaps a week or a fortnight later, I should not regard him as an exchange passenger.


My noble friend has misunderstood me. I said there would not be aeroplanes with solely exchange passenegers.


I do not think it would be necessary.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, my speech to-day is in support of the line taken by the noble Lord, Lord Molson. I have been for some time driven to support an offshore site on the Maplin Sands if only from the massive and perhaps unprecedented negative presented to every other site by every other county, even Essex, which after winning the battle of Stansted and halting the beast, offers it a site, a kind of gift horse in its own county, as well as a kind of atonement. I came here to reinforce the rural representations of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, and to speak with the voice of the urban, the suburban dweller and the commuter. I find allies everywhere. To start off with, there is the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who added, I think, 2½ million to the army that I was hoping to speak for to-day. Then there are the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, the noble Lord, Lord Dowding, in his eloquent maiden speech, and lastly the noble Lord, Lord Reigate. These are voices from urban areas.

In view of the fact that two noble Lords have spoken on what I intended to say at the end of my speech, I will refer to the Gatwick extension first. The noble Lord, Lord Reigate, expressed his detestation of this. The Surrey County Council in the last year or two have written to the Board of Trade describing the noise as intolerable. I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Molson, in saying that it is becoming intolerable. It is not; it has been intolerable for a long time. It is getting worse, and people are not going to have it. The majority of the Roskill Commission said there was no doubt that the people who lived under this noise abhorred it; and Professor Buchanan described it as a hideously undesirable neighbour. Everybody everywhere is against it.

I noted with appreciation that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, mentioned the population consequence of a second runway at Gatwick on Crawley New Town, of which perhaps he was the father—I do not know. I think the noble Lord should come and see it; I think it should rank with Waterloo Bridge as something he should see. I have no interest left in the ordinary sense, but Crawley moves over my former ancestral lands and I take a great pride in it. I have no wish to put back the clock. I see this town, founded as a growth town, with many new industries such as electronics and so on, getting Queen's Award after Queen's Award. I think they have more awards than anyone else. It is a relatively restricted area, with the mole drainage system. One of the menaces of the expansion of the second London airport at Gatwick is that the additional population, the 70,000 upwards per runway, will squeeze out this beautiful little town. I feel that I have a kind of ancestral ditty to represent it and to ask Her Majesty's Government to do nothing about extending this airport without careful inquiry.

There are 3 counties, 6 urban district councils, 6 rural district councils, 41 parish councils and 3 rural parish councils, all lined up to stand against this extension of Gatwick. If you want to know why they are already lined up in order of battle, it is because the B.A.A. are going marching on, unless they are told otherwise. They have announced their intention to extend the first runway and to lay down the second runway, and the choice of Foulness or Cublington has nothing whatever to do with their intentions. I am hoping that the Government will say who goes where in the matter of airports, runways and flights.

The Roskill Report is to me a most satisfying document—I am referring only to the majority Report. Having this feeling that we must go offshore, I had a haunting anxiety lest Foulness should prove inefficient or in some way impossible. I do not want anything but a first-class British International Airport No. 1, gradually replacing all others in the South-East region, and for the rest of the country, as Professor Buchanan suggests, a British International Airport No. 2 somewhere else. Meanwhile, the opposition in this country comes from the people who suffer under these noises and those who are likely to suffer in future.

We are increasing in the region at the rate of one million a decade. We must find more room for them. Planners like the prospect of finding more room for them. Without increasing population you cannot do new things: you cannot move, otherwise you leave derelict areas, empty houses and firms that cannot operate. So this increase of population is looked forward to with enthusiasm by the planners. They can do something with it. But we must not use up our country by contaminating 350 square miles here, there and everywhere. The people of the future as much as those of the present are entitled to be relieved from the burdens so eloquently stated, and to have the rest of the country in which to develop according to a reasonable plan. I often think how hard the planners try, and how successful they are. I see the most splendid things in this city.

The absence of a national plan leads us at once, in paragraph 1324 of the Report, to the absence of any regional plan, because in that paragraph the Roskill Commission enumerate four existing London airports and five runways. We talk about the third. Where does the third come in? It is really the fifth. They clearly indicate that there is no phasing out in contemplation, and when the idea of phasing out Luton was presented to them they regarded it as almost incredible and unthinkable. How many runways do people want? I presume that they want the five that they have, otherwise they would not be trying to build another one at Gatwick. Therefore, they want six runways. Allowing for expansion for the future and for the internal airport in the West, I suggest that you must earmark six runways to Maplin Sands for the future, otherwise you will be pressed politically again and again. One has to look at the possibilities of silence and at V.T.O., but the prospects are not at all good. I think that silence died with Rolls-Royce, and dead silence is going to be succeeded by a lot of noise. Anything else is the diversion of power and is inefficient. Therefore I agree with the Commission: we must plan for noisy aircraft and put them where the noise does not matter.

In looking at this gift horse from Essex, many people have attacked various points, including the costing. I think the noble Lord, Lord Dowding, dropped a small bomb, questioning the £100 million, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, dropped another, saying that it was very small. I should like to say how small; I think it is 2 per cent. I think that £100 million is 2 per cent., or a little less. It disappears in contingencies and errors and a few other things which are not worth thinking about. Therefore the cost does not matter. What matters is the channel of communications, which has to be fitted with some care along the North bank. The things that make me happy are, for example, all the technical matters, reclaiming the gravel, and so forth, which I once saw being done by the Russians in a North African port, and I wondered: "Can it really last? Will it subside?" Here the Commission are perfectly satisfied with the technical feasibility. That is very good. The weather is satisfactory.

We turn to the handicaps. By far the greatest disadvantage is the inaccessibility of Foulness. Great play has been made that its accessibility takes only five minutes longer. I think it is more than five minutes. I give the Commission credit for having thought carefully on the matter. It is a question of organising the communications. It is all right when it is only five minutes for one person, but for 5 million people it may be much more than five minutes. That is the difficulty. I could not find anything satisfactory in the Commission's Report—I daresay through faults of my own—to account for the freight that is carried by London Airport's various aircraft. I want to ask a question: Is not the value of the freight carried through London Airport bringing it into third place in all the ports? The Port of London is first, Southampton is second and London Airport is third. I cannot find anything about it. I think that, quite apart from passengers, we need to settle down to the freight business. It may be that in time this aircraft lift will produce the most valuable freight of any port; it is moving ahead so quickly.

I will miss out a number of points because other people have made them well and better, and I want to take a tour round the counties. In addition to reading the Report, in addition to having briefs, I telephoned the five counties. The spokesmen for Essex made it perfectly clear that they felt a duty, in the public good, in the spirit of the Caesars, pro bono publico, to offer something if they could: and they offered Maplin as a sacrifice. If anybody said: "You can have a MIDA instead", nobody would be better pleased than Essex—they have offered something for the public good. That is something we should look on with great care before we reject it, because it is the only offer anywhere. Everywhere else is rejected, not only stonily but under arms. Of course Essex will get benefits. I think the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, said how suitable Southend-on-Air, adjacent to Southend-on-Sea, would be to develop a happy satellite city of 300,000, or whatever the number was, added on to the existing community, with all its maturity and empty accommodation—all the 84,000 which I think he mentioned—and that there is such an advantage to be able to do things, if you want to do them, quickly. What we want is speed, and an airport, in any case, is going to grow more rapidly than, say, Crawley New Town, which I think is just 21 years old, or thereabouts. It is still growing, and is going to double in size. That is why we do not want the other people coming in.

I confirm what the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, has said, and with great respect to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, I would point out that Essex County Council do not want, cannot take and cannot contemplate what is called a MIDA—this industrial complex added to a marine port. Never mind what TEDCO says, of which Southend, as well as the noble Viscount, is a member. Southend may like it, but there is every sort of evidence from the Roskill Commission, majority reports, minority reports, the planners, Essex County Council themselves—that you cannot take this MIDA there. Presently I shall come to Kent who want it and who are preparing to receive it. And I should like their case to be carefully considered.

Now we move from Essex across to Kent. Kent are opposed to being contaminated by the noise of Essex, and I sympathise, and I think that that case should be considered. I am hoping that six runways will be found which will subscribe to what I call the "N.N.N." standard: the "No Noise Nuisance" standard. In other words, nobody in Southend, nobody in Southend-on-Sea, nobody in Southend-on-Air or Sheppey, will be disturbed by the noise. Kent have quite a strong case. The case, as it was put to me—and I put it with the greatest possible reserve—was that the difference between a noisy site and a silent site is £28 million, and they discussed what that was in so many thousands per householder, and so on, all with regard to persons present, and no regard to persons future, and no regard to the development of holiday facilities for the "East Enders" at Sheppey. Why should they have their holiday resort contaminated for £28 millions? One half of one per cent. is not worth bothering about. In order to look at the subject in this detail you want to see what size it is. If it is possible to clear it all at what I would call a "nominal cost" given these high figures, then it should be in the interests of Kent.

Kent have a secret hope. I said to them, "You say that you are getting nothing to compensate you for this. Have you any hopes? What are your intentions in the Medway? Have you none?". They said, "Yes; a MIDA. That is what we want. Our consultants are busy on the job and will be reporting in due course. We shall be sorry if anybody decides to put a MIDA on Maplin before considering our claims. We have deep water without bridging." Therefore, with respect to the noble Viscount the Chairman of the P.L.A., who must know this subject better than I do, I ask Her Majesty's Government to consider the claims of Kent in due course—something very big and very important, another third of a million population, I suppose, a MIDA in the Medway. Kent have that same idea of rejuvenating the South bank as was so eloquently expressed by Professor Buchanan in regard to the effect of the airport on the North bank. And why should not the South bank be treated equally well? I used to work in Bermondsey, and I like the idea of the South bank, with all its derelict Surrey Docks, and so forth, being revived by something. I look forward to that, if it is possible. It is an adjunct to what we are talking about, but it has been mentioned, and it is important.

Now I turn to the other people, the other counties: West Sussex, East Sussex, Surrey. All their eyes are focused on Gatwick and its risk of expansion. Why? Because the Roskill Report—the Majority Report—says: "If you go to Foulness, the chances are that Gatwick will expand; that every other airport will expand." This fear will be dismissed if we can take it that Her Majesty's Government will say who goes where, what airport goes where, what runway goes where. And, if it is decided to expand at Foulness, let it be considered whether the aim should not be to make it, in thirty years' time, the major British international airport, thundering out to sea, full throttle, no restrictions, all round the clock—surely, my Lords, an airport that would be welcome to all the airlines of the world once it was established.

7.1 p.m.


My Lords, I do not propose to take up much of your Lordships' time, but there is an aspect of this matter which I think has not been mentioned so far: the effect of the choice of Cublington on what is known as general aviation. General aviation is a term to describe all civil aviation other than airline operations. It includes flying clubs, training establishments, charter flying, business and what is called "executive" flying, and private flying. General aviation is increasing rapidly in this country, and would undoubtedly increase even more rapidly if and when we joined the Common Market.

The choice of Cublington as a site for a large airport would involve a control zone stretching across the centre of this country. Such a control zone would very seriously affect general aviation whose flying within that zone would be heavily restricted. I suggest to your Lordships that the future of general aviation is a matter of very considerable importance; yet it received the scantiest consideration by the Roskill Commission. I will not weary your Lordships by citing from the Report, but, so far as I can see, the future of general aviation is only cursorily mentioned, in paragraphs 18 to 21 of Chapter 8.

Let me take an example. At Kidlington, an airfield near Oxford, a firm known as C.S.E. Aviation are running probably the largest training establishment in this country. They train British Overseas Airways Corporation and British European Airways pilots and aircrews. They are now training pilots and aircrews for Swissair, Olympia Airways (the Greek airline), and now Japanese Airlines. At Kidlington they have a large amount of expensive equipment, a considerable fleet of aircraft and a team of highly qualified instructors of various kinds. A large airport on their doorstep at Kidlington would be fatal to their highly important training activities. And yet, as I say, this whole subject has been condensed by the Roskill Commission into two short sub-paragraphs.

I would submit to your Lordships that there is a question of principle involved in the use of our airspace; because, after all, the airspace about our country belongs to all of us, and it ought to be available to all of us, free, so far as possible, from restriction. And, as I say, a large airport at Cublington would in practice result in very serious restrictions, and the control zone would soon become the monopoly of the airlines.

I would now say just a few words about the Roskill Commission. Very unfortunately, the Commission's terms of reference were limited to advising on the best site for what is called the Third London Airport, or a third airport to serve London. In fact, as I think has already been mentioned, there are already four airports serving London: Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted. Consequently, what the Commission were really concerned with was selecting a site for a fifth London airport. I suggest to your Lordships that London, taken by itself, does not need five airports to cater for its needs.

The Roskill Commission (and it has been suggested that the learned Judge who was Chairman of it might have read his brief a little more broadly; but he did not), therefore, were concerning themselves with what was a completely irrelevant problem. After staging probably the most elaborate and expensive inquiry ever undertaken by a Government Commission, the Roskill Commission have necessarily produced an entirely irrelevant answer. In the process they have wasted over two and a half years of invaluable time, and it has cost the unfortunate taxpayer over 1 million, to say nothing of the cost incurred by the individuals and bodies who gave evidence in favour of, or against, one or other of the sites. Now, by a majority, the Commission have selected a site, for an unwanted and unnecessary fifth London Airport.

Nevertheless, my Lords, there is a real problem, and it is a great pity the Commission did not consider it. Is there a need for an international airport to serve the South of England and the Midlands? I suggest to your Lordships that there is—and a very urgent need. Such an airport would serve the South of England and the Midlands, and would incidentally, but only incidentally, also help to serve London. Professor Buchanan, whose views must surely command great respect, recognised this point. He mentions it (I give the reference for the sake of the Record) at pages 149, 156 and 159. As he says, what we need is a national airports policy. And of course he is right. The Roskill Commission, apart to some extent from Professor Buchanan himself, did not consider any such policy; and of course it may be said that their terms of reference did not allow it.

May I now turn to Heathrow? At present England's international airport is at Heathrow. It can hardly be in a worse place. Yet enormous sums of money have been spent, and I fear are probably still being spent, on developing and enlarging it. In the prevailing westerly winds, as we all know, aircraft crawl in low over Westminster, Chelsea, Chiswick, Hounslow, and so on. One day an aircraft coming in to land at Heathrow will crash, possibly as the result of a bomb on board; and it will crash into a heavily built-up area, not only killing the occupants of the aircraft but ploughing through houses, hospitals, factories and shops, leaving behind a trail of destruction and causing the loss of innumerable lives. With the help of a bomb on board, of course it might fall through the Palace of Westminster. My Lords, must we wait for a disaster of this kind to happen before taking action to avert it? I suggest to Her Majesty's Government that the answer must be, No. What is the right action to avert it? The action is surely this: first of all, to develop Foulness as quickly as possible; secondly, to operate Foulness to its maximum capacity; thirdly, to reduce the traffic in and out of Heathrow; and fourthly, for heaven's sake! to stop spending vast sums of money on Heathrow.

7.9 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, because while listening to every speech, I think, that has been uttered in the House to-day I began to wonder if there was anybody in the House that I could follow. But in the course of his speech, particularly the middle part, I felt very much in sympathy with the noble Viscount because it leads me to the point I want to develop. The only other two speeches, so far as I can remember, which give me a lead-in are those of my noble friend Lord Greenwood of Rossendale and the noble Lord, Lord Henley, who said one or two things which greatly encourage me to say what is in my mind.

Nothing was written into the terms of reference of the Roskill Commission except consideration of the Third London Airport, and I think this is where the mistake was made in the very beginning. Why are we always talking—and we have now been doing so for several years—about a third London Airport? I am not going to take up much of your Lordships' time, but I suggest that for a long time past our thoughts should have been concentrated not on London's Third Airport but on the needs of the nation as a whole, including London, and so look for an additional—or more than one additional—British international airport.

When people arrive in Britain by air they are not particularly concerned about the distance between the place at which they land and London. What they are concerned about is the time it takes to get there from wherever they land. It is the time element that is so important, rather than the distance; and so, as might be expected from me with this accent, and with my relationships, I think of the North-West. I think in terms of Liverpool and Manchester airports. Why must we always think about somewhere South of Northampton for a new airport? Liverpool is crying out to extend; and the same applies to Manchester. Manchester is making an application for a second runway; and Liverpool, around Speke airport, has acres and acres of land that could be developed. The people of Liverpool, and particularly the business interests, are very anxious that it should be developed and that a new airport should be built, or at least that the present one should be extended.

Let me point out that to-day, because of the electrification of the railways from London to the North-West, the centres of both Liverpool and Manchester are within 2 hours and 35 minutes of Euston. That is at this moment. So what could happen? Let us take Liverpool, to begin with. There could be a link from Speke Airport, at Liverpool, which would be only one and a half miles. There could be a station in the airport and a link to the Liverpool-London main line. Where has our imagination been? Why should there not be on a train connecting Liverpool Airport with London a coach which would deal with Customs? Why have we not all these years been trying out this idea? Why is it not possible to have a Customs examination on the train and so save all the frustration and waiting for the examination of our baggage? Not long ago I travelled from Scotland down to Heathrow, and I did not get out of Heathrow Airport in under an hour: it took longer than it had taken to fly direct from Scotland This is the frustration of our time, and I believe that we should have the imagination to get on with the job. One improvement that I suggest is to have a Customs coach on the train.

We have the seaports at Dover and Southampton, with the railway running alongside the docks. Why should not the railway, as at Gatwick, run alongside the airport? In terms of time, Cublington and Foulness are nearly as far away from London as Manchester and Liverpool are, so why should we worry about a few minutes? After flying for six hours from the United States of America, or perhaps 24 hours from the Far East, what does a difference of half an hour mean to anybody who wants to get to London, once he has arrived in England? It seems to me that the solution of the problem is to think in terms of more international airports. Geographically we are only a small country, and it would therefore be easy, if necessary, to connect every part of the country to London.

But think about the other links, so far as Liverpool and Manchester are concerned. There could be links to the North, links to the North-East, links West/East, towards the East Coast. All these could be done from extended Liverpool or Manchester airports. It may be argued that Euston is an overused station and too busy, so that we could not get any more traffic in there. All right. We have closed St. Marylebone Station. Let us reopen that and get some of the traffic on to that line from Liverpool and Manchester into St. Marylebone, instead of Euston Station. I believe that these airports could service areas further North, and in Wales and the East, and the like. Buckinghamshire and the Foulness areas do not want this new airport. They are all screaming out against it. Liverpool and Manchester want to extend. Why should we play about with people who do not want it when there are other people who do? Take-off and landing from Liverpool and Manchester can easily be over the Irish Sea, so there would be a minimum of noise over those great conurbations. There is room at Liverpool for an airport as least as large as Heathrow.

Apart from railway links there are the road links. The M.6 runs very close to both these airports, and would be used as a link. Then, of course, Liverpool is a great exporting city, with its docks. Manchester, too, has the Ship Canal, and can link in that way.

My Lords, I have now been speaking for a longer time than I had intended, in view of the number of noble Lords who have to follow me, so I will summarise quickly the advantages of my proposals. They are: a minimal intrusion on the environment; excellent road and rail nation-wide communications; fewer topographical or other physical problems; less disturbance of residential development; no air traffic control difficulties; site area equal to Heathrow; site works and land costs comparatively low. And, my Lords, lastly, overall costs almost infinitesimal as compared with what we are discussing for Foulness and Cublington. I wanted to be brief and I hope that I have been, but I hope that I may have put an idea or two into the minds of the Government. My plea is that what I have said may be closely examined.

7.20 p.m.


My Lords, for at least one idea that came from the noble Lord, Lord Royle, I believe we should all be obliged and grateful; namely, his suggestion of a Customs coach. When he was speaking of Liverpool he was no doubt aware that the computer model used by the Roskill Commission ignored the traffic pattern not only of Liverpool but of Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh. That brings me to a firm declaration of interest, which is that my Scottish home base, Castle Gogar, Corstorphine, lies at the edge of Turnhouse airfield and therefore I have some interest and anxiety, although a remote one, about the layout of its expansion.

Amid the uproar of obscure enthusiasm in which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, initiated the Government side of this debate I could not help feeling that he might well have taken Marcus Aurelius for his text: There is a proper value and proportion to be observed in every act'. Our problem is to balance three different considerations. First, the economic: what will jack up our growth rate from its present 1½ or 2 per cent. to something like West Europe's 4½ per cent.? Second, the environmental: that though half our population live on 3 per cent. of the land area, the intervals between are being rapidly despoiled and we must ask ourselves whether we cannot put the wide areas of wilderness to some use. And, third, the technical: only two runways are needed meantime; the other two are not needed before the end of the century, if then, but we shall not know until the mid-80s whether STOL or VTOL are going to make the difference. What is quite clear—and I say this again in reference to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Royle—is that, for better or worse, not only do 80 per cent. of air passengers and freight go through London but studies show that they want to go through London.

I join others in praising the Commission's patience and expertise, but their contradictions remind me at points of sheer technological arrogance, "the very obstruction of wisdom". The way the econometricians have boldly chosen, often in an arbitrary fashion, which data to measure and which measurable data to ignore, I say, from the point of view of their boldness, makes mediæval school-men disputing about how many angels can dance on a pinhead seem humble children by comparison.

But though the study was undertaken in mystic abstraction from the world of the senses, it is only fair to recognise that the Commission did labour under two disadvantages: first, the lack of any national airport policy, of which we have already heard plenty; and, second, the lack of any really relevant regional development policy—a matter to which the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, referred.

Not only did the South-East Strategy emerge very late for the Roskill Commission's consideration, but nine months after the new Government took office we are even now debating this subject without the smallest sign that our Government have been, or are, revising the regional development policy they inherited, which is derived from the Barlow ideas of 30 years ago—revising this in any fashion that is meaningful to the problems of the present time.

So in the planning context Roskill had very little to go on. What the Commission did have was the last Civil Aviation White Paper (Cmnd. 4213, of November, 1969) which claimed simply: Airport location makes little difference to regional development"— although the Scottish experience of attracting science-based industries contradicts that altogether.

Then the Commission had the benefit of Dr. Burns's evidence whilst he was immersed in his South-East Strategy study which, in turn, had largely been conceived in an epoch of statistical inflaation before the Registrar-General had been forced to revise his end-century population predictions downward by no less than 11 million to correct a guessing error now put at 100 per cent.

The fact is that an airport is both a captive industry and a facet of the many-sided interface of trade and industry in some three dimensions—not only air, but also land and sea. It is a facet of this many-sided interface in which the development of sea power and the new ships that plough the seas is very relevant to the fact that inland industrial sites are in general throughout the world of less interest than in the past. There are developments that also call for increasingly perceptive regional policies.

Brushing aside the favourable cost features at Foulness, Roskill simply summed up the difference as one between overheating at Cublington and overcrowding at Foulness. This was taken as making the case against any sharing of costs between air and seaport put together. The South-East Strategy study has since been over-simply taken for the view that these two things, the seaport and the airport, could not conveniently be accommodated without urban development either spreading North of the River Crouch or congesting the South Essex corridor. But in fact any housing damage to the Dengie peninsula is physically containable; if you go there you are not on the route to anywhere else as you would be at Cublington.

The South-East Strategy study at Appendix C makes some interesting remarks: The airport at Foulness could provide a much needed stimulus for growth. Also employment opportunities at the airport may lead to a reduction in commuting from South Essex into London … hence less new urbanisation would be required than if another site were chosen. The availability of the labour force now employed at Southend airport, which would have to close, might also limit the need for additional urbanisation … From a recreational point of view growth on the scale envisaged in South Essex would put additional pressure on the area's limited countryside amenities, although it has been accepted that this is less important than the achievement of other objectives especially since a new Thames crossing would bring a wider range of recreation facilities within reach". Then the South-East Economic Planning Council has just declared: We see no overriding reason why such a port should necessarily be associated with such massive industrial development that it could not be accommodated … There is no doubt that it would be cheaper if there were also an airport, and that there is thus a potential national asset here which should not be forgotten … We consider the advantages he heavily with a location at Foulness … We cannot believe that Foulness would not be made viable and even popular fairly quickly … The Council unanimously recommends this course to Her Majesty's Government. So on the question of overcrowding, the argument simply does not stand and we have eminent planning authority to support us in this. If there were any shortage of land let us go back to Mr. Bernard Clark who, although he is chided in the Report for his underestimation of reclamation costs, we should surely hail and salute as the man who first thought of the Foulness reclamation idea which others have since decided is technically feasible. He has now gone further and said that if you want more land, reclaim it East of the Denge Peninsuala out to what he calls Buxey Island.

As to the costs of Foulness, not only did Roskill ignore the cost-sharing of the bund, the drainage, and the land link associated with both the airport and the seaport, but they counted the extra six minutes land link cost three times over; they counted the higher money costs, they counted the higher time costs and then they added in as a disbenefit a 7 per cent. loss of potential passengers. The Report's summary, which was somewhat misleading I think we should all agree, even suggested that Foulness would not pay as an airport soon enough, though that is very far from the evidence given by the British Airports Authority.

Then the Commission missed the private enterprise point altogether. It even suggested that developers would just as readily offer at Cublington what they had offered to do at Foulness. But private enterprise developers have not offered to develop Cublington. They have offered to invest heavily in an air-sea-port-MIDA at Foulness. They have done this just because they see this three dimensional land-sea-air transport interface at the epicentre of a 400-mile radius circle from Berlin to Lyons to Glasgow. They see this as something which can offer great benefits to the country and profits to the developers. The need for an oil-ore port is already attested by participation in TEDCO of Rio Tinto Zinc who want an ore port, and Shell who want to bring in oil.

Taking the figures generally, crude oil now coming into the Thames is of the order of 25 million tons a year, and the experts expect this to go up to somewhere towards 100 million tons by the end of the century. If the economies of scale made possible by very large crude carriers cannot be enjoyed, then we shall all suffer an oncost through the extra price of fuel through that limitation. Imagination may be but a poor matter when it has to part company with understanding. But this project is fathered by private enterprise inspired with the same sort of imagination as generated a Rotterdam which provides one-half of all the Netherlands' annual economic growth. Private enterprise sees benefits from the rising value of land put to industrial use. Roskill says that is unfair unless foreign industry is brought in. But that is what is expected, and certainly what is hoped for. As for considering rising land values as being some sort of black subject that should not be considered, it is the very anticipation of rising land values which is at the basis of all our New Towns investment.

Time is short, as the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has made clear. Certainly it is too late for another investigation. But I want to ask Her Majesty's Government seriously this question—and I hope that perhaps tomorrow we may get an assurance about it. Having heard what Parliament has to say, and having made up their mind, will the Government come back to Parliament with their ideas so that we can have a chance of again debating them? Of course, if the decision is for Cublington, then Her Majesty's Government must by legislation come back to us. But supposing they decide to sanction extra runways and misery at Gatwick or Stansted or extra use of Heathrow, or all three together, or, indeed, suppose they decide to do nothing: whatever they do I for one hope that they will come back to Parliament and that we shall have a chance to express our views, not only by voice but if necessary by vote, as to what they decide. That is the assurance I ask for tomorrow.

In conclusion, Foulness offers flexibility. Reclamation unwanted for a four-runway instead of a two-runway airport could very well he put to industrial development. The Government will be judged on this, not only on their attitude to environment, but on whether they seize—or whether they duck—one of the greatest social, planning, regional development growth opportunities of our lives, in which private enterprise prays only to be allowed to take a large share of the capital risks. It does so with an imaginative grasp of the new geography of modern Europe and of the incredible benefits which nature has showered on this Island set, as it is, in the mouth of the Rhine. It may be true that "the form of Government can never be a matter of choice, that it is almost always a necessity." But, as President Hoover once said, The art of government in a democracy is the art of yielding to pressures.

7.35 p.m.


My Lords, if I should inadvertently refer in the course of my speech to the "Lauderdale Report", I hope I may have your sympathetic understanding. I am left with somewhat of a feeling that my noble friend has covered almost as much of the ground as is covered by the Commission and I hope he will forgive me if I do not follow him in his quick jumpings from Rio Tinto to Marcus Aurelius and back again. I intend to begin with a question directed to the Government. I hope it will be answered, because it is of some importance. It is this: why were the Roskill Commission told, when they were set up, to consider an airport of four runways? Why four? Why not say two airports of two runways each? What thinking, what inquiry, what research, what form of decision led them to decree that only a project of this gigantic size was to be considered and no other? I do not know the answer, but I think it would be of interest to a great many people.

I ask another question, one to which I can provide some sort of answer myself. If the airport that we are discussing is the third London airport, where then is the second? That question also is of some importance, for one may suppose that the three would form an integrated group under a co-ordinated plan. As we have been told often enough to-day, there is no such plan. Moreover, there are already three London airports sufficiently so named: London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London Stansted. There is no doubt that London Heathrow is the first. That leaves either Stansted or Gatwick as the second, and both are slowly growing without any decided plan for their future or any regional inquiry of any kind.

The one with which I concern myself is Gatwick, which affects the county in which I live and which, by implication, is in fact the second London airport: by implication only; by inference, if you like—it is not so stated, but by inference from the many references that are made to it in the Roskill Report. What then is the function of Gatwick? I know of no official pronouncement on this matter since the public inquiry in 1954 to hear local objections to the development of Gatwick. The inspector's report then stated the purposes for which the Ministry of Civil Aviation intended to use that airport, as follows: … to serve as the main alternative airport for diversions from Heathrow and as a base for charter flying and to take over from Heathrow and Northolt certain short-haul services of a largely seasonal character. I take that from paragraph 1.7 of Roskill. That was 16 years ago, and, so far as I know, the intention remains unchanged.

Another, and again local, inquiry has just finished hearing objections to a proposal to extend the existing runway there to 5,000 yards. With this extra length transatlantic aircraft will be able to carry enough fuel to fly on the extra 750 miles to Chicago, without landing for refuelling at New York. Does that sound like charter flying, or certain short-haul services of a largely seasonal character"? Hardly. Much the same sort of thing goes on at Stansted. Nobody knows where it is all supposed to lead to, so long-term environmental planning becomes impossible.

If this sort of proceeding is still thought sensible, perhaps we should extend that principle to the new airport. Perhaps we should put down, say, a couple of runways at Cublington, and a runway-and-a-half at Foulness, and see what happens. That, at least, may make the despair of the planners of Milton Keynes something less than total. Doubtless such a scheme would be criticised as verging on the slapdash, and so it would be. But that is what is happening at Gatwick. I do not know whether the runway will be extended or not, but I understand that the master plan of the British Airports Authority calls for a whole second runway bringing that airport to more than twice its present size.

Do your Lordships know, or are you sure, what that means in terms of housing and of people? The county planning officers of West Sussex, East Sussex and Surrey have estimated that it could mean a new town of as many as 165,000 people in 30 years. Once you had a town and you built an aerodrome alongside to serve it. Now you plan a four-runway airport and alongside it you have to build a town the size of Bristol. But at least that is planned, and you know what you are going to get. At Gatwick nothing is planned, and nobody knows how it is all going to end. Only one thing is clear to the people living there and to the authorities who are responsible for future planming—I think my noble friend Lord Reigate will confirm me in this—and that is that the longer it takes to build a new airport, the more certain it is that more traffic will be squeezed into Gatwick, and the more—piece by piece, and unplanned—it will grow. It would surely not be unreasonable for the Gatwick people to ask what sort of traffic increase they may expect in the interval before the first runway at the new airport is ready for operation. To be specific, they might ask, and I now ask: what is the forecast for the air traffic movements at Gatwick in 1975, which is not very far ahead? I ask the Government this question in the hope that they may be able to improve on the wild estimates that it is possible to extract from Roskill—estimates that must be attempted, even though the Commission are able to say, as they do in paragraph 4 of Appendix 5: We were told that Gatwick's capacity was already and was likely to remain limited by its proximity to Heathrow. In paragraph 5.24 there is given a range of estimates for the 1975 movements at Heathrow sand Gatwick combined. In paragraph 5.27 the Commission give their research team's estimates for Heathrow alone. Subtract one from the other and presumably the estimate for Gatwick alone is what you get. And what you get is its lowest estimate, of 45,000 movements, and the highest estimate, of 138,000. The highest estimate is no less than three times the size of the lowest. If that is the best that experts can do in forecasting for only four years ahead, how would you like to be a county planning officer in those parts? In 1964, the B.A.A. forecast that Gatwick, even with two runways, would reach the limit of its capacity somewhere between 1977 and 1981. Does that estimate still stand? The Roskill Commission reject it, referring to, our clear conclusion that the forecasts of traffic and of airport capacity show that a third London airport can be provided at any one of the four sites before present airport capacity in the London area is exhausted. So we have Roskill believing that Gatwick can hold out with one runway, and B.A.A. believing that it can barely be done even with two. What kind of a dream world are we trying to live in and operate in? To put an end to all this uncertainty—and it was partly for this purpose that the Roskill Commission were appointed—may this new airport, wherever it is to go, please be proceeded with with the utmost despatch? It surely would be wickedly wrong if Gatwick—and, similarly, Stansted and other places—were to be forced to expand unnecessarily simply through delay in setting up the great new installation that was intended for their relief.

My Lords, may I say a brief word of a more general kind on the Report? I agree wholeheartedly, and at once, with all those people who have said that it is a tour de force. It is indeed a great achievement. I believe also that the Commission, once they had begun their work, showed remarkable fairness and openness of mind in hearing and balancing the conflicting views brought before them. I say "once they had begun their work" because I confess to being a little disturbed by a couple of things that the Report reveals concerning the Commission's approach to that work. When the terms of reference of the Commission were announced in your Lordships' House the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked this question: … will the Commission be entitled, if they so wish, to recommend a site which is not either in Essex or Kent, or anywhere particularly near London … if the Commission thought that it might be more desirable to have the airport further away from London—for example, on Severnside—would they be entitled so to recommend?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20/5/68, col. 484.] To this the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for the Government, replied (col. 484): As for the scope of their Inquiry, it is not limited geographically, and if, in the light of technical evidence before them, the Commission thought that the airport ought to go outside the immediate London area, there is no reason why they should not make a recommendation in that sense. In the light of that exchange, and remembering also that there is no mention of a London Airport in the actual terms of reference, it seems to me odd that the Commission began by excluding the possibility of any such technical evidence ever being offered to them at all. For their first step in drawing up a list of possibilities was to decide to look no further than 80 miles from the centre of London. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, was surprised on reading that.

In the opening paragraphs of the Commission's recommendation in Chapter 13, the Report speaks both justly and eloquently of the importance and difficulty of striking a nice balance between economic and environmental factors. But in the middle there appear the two sentences that have already been quoted by my noble friend Lord Molson. I will not repeat the first, but the second sentence says: We see no reason why the pursuit of leisure should not allow a flight to Rome to see the Sistine Chapel but should permit a car journey to Audley End or Waddesdon Manor. No more do I. And I am sure that the more stately of my noble friends who throw their premises open to the public will see no reason why, on those occasions, I should not walk round them, as a member of the public, for my pleasure. But I think they would see a reason if I were to do so while discharging fireworks and banging on a drum.

My noble friend Lord Molson described this passage in the Report as "misleading, inaccurate, and silly". My comment is that I think the Commission have been guilty of a piece of special pleading here. The argument is not about whether we should be allowed to fly but about whether, in so doing, we should be allowed to make ourselves obnoxious to the people on the ground. Noble Lords may think that I am making a bit too much of this. It may be that it was only an inadvertence on the part of the writer of this passage in the Report. If so, I would refer such noble Lords to page 35 of the Report. Here it says: … there are those who argue that there might be no need to attempt to meet the growing demand for airport capacity. That argument was based— … partly upon the supposition that where-ever the airport went the price to be paid in terms of environmental damage would exceed the advantages of meeting the demand. Now this is what the Report says in reply to that: … we are of the clear view that there is no social or economic reason why those who are willing to pay the price of air travel should be arbitrarily denied the opportunity of so doing. Well, well! Is there then no social reason why, if I can afford a motor bicycle, I should not be allowed to ride it roaring up and down the Bishops' Corridor? My Lords, the whole of our Common Law is based on the broad proposition that the individual may do more or less as he pleases so long as he does not bother his neighbours. And now comes Roskill with a proposed exception to that basic law in the person of the traveller by air—provided he can afford the fare. Of course, there is no reason why he should not be allowed to fly, but there is every reason why he should not be allowed to do so to the annoyance and discomfort of hundreds of thousands of people on the ground.

I suspect, though most certainly without imputing any such conscious intention, that the majority of the Commission were in fact mentally preconditioned to lend rather more weight, as the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, has already suggested, to economic factors than to environmental factors. Why otherwise should they find it possible to quantify noise and accessibility in terms of money but not the social and employment magnetism, for example, of an airport? I question whether the latter assessment, which is by far the more objective of the two, is not less of an imponderable than the other, rather than more. If you can work out some totally notional way of estimating in terms of cash the value of sitting for an extra quarter of an hour in a train, can you not also evaluate some of the more important environmental changes caused by the mere proximity of an airport? I am still persuaded that this Report is a great work, but I am less able to persuade myself that the arguments that have been assembled lead to the conclusion which has been reached by the majority. I therefore declare myself a follower of Professor Buchanan, and I am pretty certain that there are quite a large number who will agree with me in that.

If I may go back to the beginning of the debate, I should like to refer to something said by my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal. I think he spoke of the Government's intention to pay close regard to what was said in both Houses of Parliament, and not to decide until they had first done that. But I do not think I am likely to be wrong if I say that I do not think the Government will ever decide what shall he done, if your Lordships do not like it. There is no question—this is the advice that I have and your Lordships will probably agree with me—or very nearly no question, of the Government's ever deciding to put an airport at Cublington without your Lordships' approval. Whatever steps may be taken—whether Affirmative Resolution, Negative Resolution procedure or Private Bill—your Lordships' approval is required and I think it just as well that we remember that, and remind the Government of it, during the course of this debate. I not only declare myself a follower of Professor Buchanan. I also avow that I hope with all my heart that neither Cublington nor any other inland site will ever be subjected to the screaming nightmare promised by this Report.

7.52 p.m.


My Lords, it is extraordinary how agreeably these long debates pass when you find that you agree with all the speakers. I do not suppose any Report which came to an evidently wrong conclusion has been so severely torn apart before, or for so long a time, and I hope it goes on to-morrow as successfully as it has to-day. Some of the speeches were a bit moderate for me; a hit judicial. This does not seem to me to be a case which requires a very judicial approach. When you hear the opening speech of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, followed by what I thought was the admirable maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Dowding, you have a case which is absolutely unanswerable; and why you want 18 volumes of evidence as well I really do not understand.

I shall not go through any of those arguments again. They are absolutely unanswerable, and I believe we all think that. I believe that even the Ministers, who in the end have to make a judicial decision, all agree with Buchanan. It is very common to get up and say that one will not go through all the arguments again, but I really am not going to repeat them. I want only to draw your Lordships' attention to one aspect; that is, the comments made on Roskill by the South-East Planning Council, of which I am a member. Here I propose to risk rather uncertain prosecution under the Official Secrets Act by telling your Lordships what happened at the meeting where those comments were decided upon. It was rather dramatic. Our distinguished chairman, Sir Maurice Hackett, said, This is a draft. Before we go into details, is there anybody who thinks we have gone too far?". There was dead silence. He then asked: Is there anybody who thinks we ought to moderate any part of what we have said?". Again, there was dead silence. Finally he asked: Is there anybody who agrees with anything that Roskill said?". There was dead silence again.

I have the greatest respect for the work that was done by the Commission and for the people who did it. What they had to do was very difficult, and all the work, until they came to their conclusion, was thoroughly good. But the conclusion was wrong, although it was possible from those premises to draw the right conclusion. We had 40 men round our Council table and they were a really distinguished group. We had two chairmen of New Town development corporations, two county council chairmen, one county council clerk, six professors of town planning, social administration, economics and a couple of other subjects of the same kind, and eight distinguished and prominent people from local government. All those people had some connection with, and knowledge of, planning, and it is interesting that all 40 of them agreed with the most distinguished planner on the Roskill Commission, Professor Buchanan. There were only two people on the Commission who were distinguished in planning. So, before I sit down, which I am going to do almost at once, it is worth making the point that if you get a group of people who really know what they are talking about, it is not only possible but almost inevitable that they will follow Buchanan rather than the Majority Report. That will add a little weight to our discussions.

I have said that I do not feel in the least moderate about this subject, but I wish to declare that I have no interest in this issue. I used to live in the Cublington area but I do not any more—I wish I did. I used to worship at Wing Church, which is the oldest Saxon church in England; I used to go a lot to Stewkley, which probably has the most perfect small Norman church in the country, and I am absolutely appalled that anybody could come to the conclusion that has been arrived at by the Commission, particularly after having so much evidence. I think that the Commission must have been punch drunk; that is the only possible way of explaining their decision. I thought it was time somebody spoke rather immoderately, and I hope I have done so, because I certainly feel that way.

I came into your Lordships' House three days before the Stansted debate. I begged my Leader to let me make my maiden speech in it, but he said, "You really cannot." But I felt just as strongly over Stansted as I feel over this, and I am glad to say that the South-East Planning Council has stated unequivocally that, in their view, any inland site is highly objectionable. Over Stansted my right honourable friend Anthony Crosland had the courage to reverse the decision and get us off the hook. I hope very much that in this case the Minister in the Government will be as brave.

7.58 p.m.


My Lords, at this late hour, on the first day of this long and very important debate, I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a very few minutes. I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Dowding, on an excellent maiden speech. If he was dreaming last summer in Kew Gardens, I was dreaming in the Norman church of Stewkley only last Wednesday. I put my name down to speak in this debate because I was the only Member of your Lordships' House to visit the Cublington area on a Parliamentary visit last week, and as such my speech to-night will mainly concern the choice of Cublington as the site chosen by the Commission.

In the course of the day we traversed the whole area and gained valuable knowledge and insight of what a tragedy it would be to the environment if this destruction took place. The villages visited, which are on the perimeter of the proposed airfield, included Stoke Hammond, Drayton Parslow, Stewkley, Wing, Soulbury, Cublington, Whit-church, Oving, Weedon, and Aston Abbots, before we finished our tour at Aylesbury. Moving north from Leighton Buzzard, on the eastern perimeter of the proposed area there is the area known as Brickhills. There one is struck by the very undulating nature of the ground, and one wonders whether the Commission ever visited it in daylight. These are not little mounds, my Lords, but big hills which would involve the moving of many millions of tons of soil before any construction at all could take place. Stoke Hammond and Soulbury are on the North-Eastern extremity of the proposed site and are well within the 55 N.N.I. contour line (the highest possible for noise) this being the area of take-off and landing. At the South-Western end the villages of Oving, Whit- church, Weedon, Hoggeston and Dunton are equally affected.

We then passed through Drayton Pars-low, on the Northern perimeter, inside the 35–55 N.N.I. contour belt. The land here flattens out towards the Western area, and here lie large arable fields of, I was told, second-grade land, but very well farmed—in parachuting language, my Lords, a perfect dropping zone for many fully equipped divisions. But I can assure your Lordships that these divisions would not cause anything like the amount of damage or devastation that is going to be caused by the bulldozing of this area—and this would be for all time.

Turning South into the airport itself, we approached the proposed site for terminal buildings, together with all the lead roads, under-passes and flyovers that a modern airport requires; and here we stopped at Stewkley, which the Commission propose completely to annihilate for this purpose, together with the village of Cublington. I should like here, my Lords, to give you my thoughts as I looked over that magnificent Norman church last Wednesday, whose Norman arches inside could well be valued at £2 million each. Before entering the church I looked up at the tower from inside a house opposite, just across the road; and I thought to myself, "I could well be here in 15 years' time looking up at an indicator board telling me,' We regret to announce a delay in the departure of flight so-and-so owing to a technical fault or other operational delays'." No, my Lords; this just must not happen. That church is the diamond in the crown of the Vale of Aylesbury and its environments; and the Saxon church of Wing and the other historic churches are the rubies and the emeralds in that crown which are part of England's heritage. Has technology the right to bulldoze away hundreds of years of history, and replace it with a concrete jungle that could well be a white elephant in 20 years?

I should like now to refer to the community itself. This is not an emotional plea. The destruction of this area would be the destruction of a civilisation. The Cublington area is a most stable community. Disruption at Foulness would be far less. The Cublington area is very closely knit environment-wise. The Roskill Commission have put the air traveller and the air operator first, whereas the needs of the community and the nation fall second. The whole concept has been dominated by the mammoth cost/benefit analysis which cannot make evalutions of environmental considerations, and this is where the deficiency lies. No, my Lords; the Third London Airport must not be at Cublington. If there is to be one at all, Professor Buchanan was right to opt out for Foulness. My Lords, Cublington must not die. The whole crux of the matter is that there must be a national airport policy before work on any of these sites is allowed to start, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give this matter very serious thought before any action is taken.

8.4 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support the Motion of my noble friend Lord Molson on the Report of the Roskill Commission on the Third London Airport. I am sure the whole House is most grateful to Mr. Justice Roskill and to his Commission for all the work they carried out for the nation on this vital matter—probably the most important planning decision this House and another place will have to take in this century. I should also like to thank my noble friend Lord Molson for giving us an opportunity to discuss this matter, and for the admirable speech which he delivered to this House this afternoon. I may say that I have no interest to declare in the matter under discussion.

I would say at the outset of my speech that after giving the matter very careful thought, and having read a vast amount of literature on this important subject, I have come down entirely on the side of the Minority Report of Professor Buchanan; that it would be nothing less than an environment disaster if the airport were to be built at any of the inland sites. If it is to be built at all—and the Roskill Commission think it ought to be built as early as possible—I should like it to be at Foulness. I have tried to study the financial implications of this great problem, and I must say that I am very worried about them. The whole financial future of a third London Airport is based on future projections which so often in the past have proved to be wrong. I should like, without boring your Lordships too much, to quote a few figures of the proposed capital costs of Cublington and Foulness, and to compare them with the capital costs of London Airport, owned by the British Airports Authority.

On page 244 of the Roskill Commission Report, Table 1A, the total construction cost, estimated at to-day's prices, for a four-runway airport and the building of roads and rail communications is given as the vast sum of £536 million, and that at Foulness as £564 million—a difference, on this enormous capital cost, of only 5.6 per cent. That difference is very small. If one takes the interest and sinking fund at Foulness on a capital cost of £560 million, it works out at 8 per cent. interest (and I have taken the 8 per cent. interest; to-day's bank rate is 7 per cent., plus 1 per cent., making 8 per cent.) and a 2 per cent, sinking fund, at compound interest over a 21-year period. That means that this project would require interest of £56 million per annum. If only half an airport, two runways, were to be built, it would probably be about half that amount, about £28 million per annum. The British Airports Authority made a gross profit in the year 1969–70 of £5,615,873 and a net profit, after tax had been paid, of £3,160,855 on this total, as can be found on page 28 of the Report of the Authority.

I am sorry to have quoted so many figures, but I ask Her Majesty's Government, who have great experience of these matters whether it will ever be possible to earn an economic return on the proposed new London airport at the present enormous capital cost that I have quoted, or will it have to be subsidised from State funds in the future? I should like to know, if it is possible to know, how it is proposed to finance this airport, because, studying the accounts of the British Airports Authority further, one finds that they have borrowed, I think, £55 million from the Board of Trade and they are nearly up to their limit of borrowing. They would have to come back to Parliament, they say, for a very large increase to meet this enormous expenditure in the future. I am not against a third London airport if it is absolutely necessary, but, with the figures I have quoted to the House to-night, I cannot see that, except by putting up the landing fees a great deal, it will be possible to forecast an economic return on the enormous expenditure which will be incurred if the building of this airport is carried out. But if it is carried out at all, I feel that it should go to Foulness, where its construction will not involve the taking of any beautiful agricultural land or the pulling down of any buildings at all.

8.10 p.m.


My Lords, this is a subject of deep concern to many Members of your Lordships' House. That is evident from the remarkably long list of speakers to-day and to-morrow—the longest list that I can recall on any single subject. I shall be very brief. It is indeed a matter of deep concern to everyone who values and loves this island that we have inherited from the past and who cares for its future. The area of Cublington is an area that I know well and have known from childhood: the Vale of Aylesbury and the Chiltern escarpment, an area still marvellously rural and peaceful in spite of its nearness to London. That, if the airport at Cublington is developed, will be profoundly changed. The peace and quiet will be shattered over a wide tract of country, some 300 or 400 square miles; ancient villages will be wiped out of existence and their people dispossessed of their homes, ancient and beautiful churches will be destroyed. I find it difficult to speak of this without deep emotion. But I believe that even those most affected would accept it all if they were convinced that in the national interest it was necessary.

That seems to me to be the question to which we must address ourselves: Is it necessary? We must all admire the patient and dispassionate care with which Mr. Justice Roskill and his colleagues have devoted themselves over a long period of time to their task. We can do so warmly and sincerely, without agreeing with their judgment or accepting their conclusions. Many of your Lordships will agree with me when I say that, on the most general grounds, in a small island, grossly over-populated, it must be lunacy to develop a major international airport on a well-populated inland site if a suitable alternative coastal site on new land reclaimed from the sea is available.

Professor Colin Buchanan, in his Note of Dissent, makes a case on general planning grounds (grounds on which of all the members of the Commission he alone is pre-eminently qualified to speak), a case that is so strong as to be irrefutable. I find his argument, resting on a dispassionate assessment of environmental and economic values, put forward with conspicuous humility and regard for his colleagues with whom he cannot agree, a moving document. He alone has been able to see the wood, as it seems to me, while his colleagues are irretrievably lost among the trees of that jungle of calculations and statistics, many of them highly speculative, into which their researches have plunged them.

When we examine the Report in detail there appear to be a number of conclusions arrived at by the Commission's research team in their assessment that do not carry conviction. There are many; but I will confine myself to three of them.

In the first place, capital cost. As a result of the Press statement issued by the Commission before Christmas, it is commonly supposed that the costs of providing an airport at Foulness would be £100 million more than for Cublington. The calculations are complex and difficult to follow; but an analysis of the figure shows that the construction and running costs of Foulness would, in fact, probably be marginally less (perhaps substantially less) than for Cublington. Secondly, noise. The Commission, in my view, greatly under-estimate the damage inflicted on a community by noise; but they are clear that the "noise umbrella" at Cublington would cover 300 to 400 square square miles as against 90 square miles over the land at Foulness. If they had taken—as in my view they should have done—the more northerly site at Foulness, the site known as Foulness B II, the disparity would be far greater.

Thirdly, time. The saving in travelling time to the centre of London from Cublington as compared with Foulness is stated to be five minutes. In their computation of passenger user costs, if I understand it correctly, the Commission aggregate the five minutes for the many millions of travellers involved over a quarter of a century and evaluate the total. This produces an enormous figure of cost that is totally unrealistic. It does not really mean anything at all. It is cost analysis gone mad. For 90 per cent., possibly for 99 per cent., of travellers to arrive five minutes earlier at the end of a very long journey is of no significant value in terms of money at all.

I will not continue the detailed analysis; it is getting late. But, in sum, the effect is that Foulness is no dearer than Cublington, probably cheaper, while the damage to the community and environment, it appears, is incomparably greater—in my view so great as to be quite unacceptable. Apart from the general lunacy—I can call it nothing less—of developing a great international airport inland when a coastal site no less convenient and no more expensive is available, what could be more lunatic than to put it down alongside the New Town of Milton Keynes—a New Town of a quarter of a million inhabitants, a New Town most carefully planned with regard for amenity and environment?

In one of their earlier documents the Commission provided a map showing what they call "the area of intolerable noise" created by an airport at Cublington and showing also the extent of the New Town; and they remark, perhaps rather innocently, that the area of intolerable noise does not encroach upon the New Town. It is true that it does not encroach: the boundary lines do not overlap; but they run together. What, in effect, is being said is that on the Benches opposite your Lordships may be in an area of intolerable noise while we on this side are not. It is totally unrealistic. Of course, the damage to the New Town, which was carefully laid out to provide the best possible amenities, must invariably be immense.

After studying the Report and a great mass of other papers, it is my belief that an airport at Foulness on the site known as Foulness B II, would be wholly viable, no more costly and infinitely less damaging to the community than an airport on any other of the sites considered. My original question was: is Cublington necessary? It appears that it is not necessary at all; that there is a very much better alternative. I hope profoundly that the Government will decide that they cannot accept the majority views of the Roskill Commission to develop the new international airport at Cublington and that they will give us an assurance at the end of this debate that at least they will not do so without first submitting the question to a free rote in Parliament.


My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until to-morrow.

Moved accordingly and, on Question Motion agreed to.