HL Deb 23 February 1971 vol 315 cc960-1051

4.25 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I rise to make one point only, but I think it is relevant. It was touched on very briefly in the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, but not, I believe, in the speeches of any other noble Lords who spoke yesterday, though I must confess that I did not hear them all. It relates to communications with the proposed third London Airport, if there ever is one—and I must say, having heard all the speeches this afternoon, that I doubt whether there will be—and, notably, communications with Foulness. For if it can be shown that the rail connection with Foulness (that is, its connection with London) can be reduced from the 44 minutes given in the Report to 23 minutes, then surely a great many of the objections to it—its remoteness from London, that it is situated on the wrong side of London, its inability to attract traffic, and so on—would obviously disappear, or at any rate would become less convincing. Foulness might still be more expensive but it would be more viable. And a good many of the arguments deployed by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, would no longer be applicable.

Such a connection can be made. It can be made by 1980, or even, I believe, by 1978. There is in existence a company, entirely financed by the Government through the National Research Development Corporation, known as Tracked Hovercraft Ltd., which is working on what the public know better as "hover-trains". These vehicles, as is generally known, are propelled on a cushion of air over elevated concrete rails. The same principle is employed as in the trackless hovercraft—in the great future of which I myself have never altogether believed, although, admittedly, the trackless hovercraft is useful in certain definite circumstances. But the hover-trains, as I remember pointing out some eight years ago, have a real future. They may even conceivably eliminate air traffic between centres up to 500 miles apart, thus adding to the amenities or (shall l say?) diminishing the horrors of our urban existence.

Experiments have been proceeding for many years in Britain, France and America. In America they have even reached the point when the hover-train will be put into operation, although admittedly for a short period, starting from Dulles Airport to the outskirts of Washington; and in Los Angeles from the airport to San Fernando. A great feature of the hover-train is that it can, in absolute silence, attain very great speeds, 250 m.p.h. at least, at much less cost than would be involved in the construction of a modern motorway and at a cost comparable with the construction of double-tracked railway lines. There is no reason why they should not run across built-up areas if necessary, just as the road to London Airport or the Westway were pushed through built-up areas, but at much less inconvenience to the inhabitants. In fact, in the case of the tracked hovercraft this could be done with scarcely any inconvenience, given the fact that the hover-train is a silent thing on stilts and is not pushed through the middle of houses as, in the case of a roadway.

Scheme for linking Foulness, with, for instance, King's Cross by this means and by various alternative routes were actually laid before the Roskill Commission. One paragraph on page 105 was devoted to their rejection of them, apparently on the advice of a firm known as Livesey and Henderson. This firm suggested that: … there was little prospect of such means of transport providing a marked advantage on routes to the four sites". That is a highly questionable statement. The routes would have to traverse built-up areas for part of the way. Of course they would; but why not? I have already said that they would be much more acceptable than the Westway or the Hammersmith Flyover, which were built when it was necessary to build them. The Re-port goes on: If the vehicles could not maintain their speeds over curves of a radius similar to that of existing conventional rail tracks, either the advantages of high speed would be lost for a large part of the journey or considerable problems of construction would arise. But Tracked Hovercraft submitted a blue print—and there is no reason to doubt its accuracy—in accordance with which, and allowing for the necessary curves, their vehicles would get from Foulness to King's Cross in twenty-three minutes as opposed to forty-four minutes by conventional rail. Lastly, my Lords, these, as I think, "weasel words" were inserted in the Report: The consultants suggested that both the French acrotrain and tracked hovercraft could be in operation by 1990. That is true enough; but Tracked Hovercraft also told the Commission that in their view this form of transport would probably be in operation by about 1978; and this particular and, as one would have thought, rather vital piece of evidence appears to have been suppressed altogether.

My Lords, let us now, for a moment, consider the plight of a passenger arriving at Foulness from America in, say, 1980, having travelled in a Concorde—or, indeed, arriving at Cublington, if, by some dreadful mischance, the appalling decision is taken to rape the Vale of Aylesbury. After a journey of three hours or less from New York, he would have to proceed to Central London, either by road or rail. If by road, he would, after a few miles get mixed up with local traffic, and almost certainly, if he came from the East, in a half-hour traffic jam in the City. I do not know how many cars will be on the roads by 1980; but I have no doubt whatever that to travel by road to Trafalgar Square from either airport would take the traveller anything from an hour and a half to two hours, depending on the time of his arrival.

If he preferred—as he very well might—to go by rail, the chances are that, even with the new engines of British Rail, he would be lucky if he actually arrived at King's Cross within the hour. And, as often as not, as we know, suburban traffic would get in the way, obliging trains to leave the airport at not much more than half-hour intervals. Presumably a completely new track would therefore have to be built, and the cost would be quite as great as that of providing a hovercraft or hover-train track—probably greater. In any case, even if a special track were built, the journey would take about 20 minutes longer than if the passenger travelled by hover-train. In the best circumstances, therefore, the journey from the airport to Central London, with allowances made for baggage collection, customs and so on, would at least compare with the time of the journey from New York to London. The old, old story.

Consider for a moment, my Lords, what would happen if the traveller arrived at Foulness and took a hover-train. A lovely electric machine would leave every two minutes on a shuttle service and he would be whisked in silence into Central London in 23 minutes. I may add that there would be practically no maintenance costs, because travelling on a cushion of air would involve no maintenance. If the passenger wanted to go on to Heathrow, for instance, with perhaps one stop in the West End, the additional time required would be—shall we say?—another 10 minutes. It seems to me that it is quite extraordinary that a Commission, who were supposed to be thinking in terms of ten years ahead at least, should have neglected such possibilities.

Perhaps being unduly influenced by a cost/effectiveness study that certainly did not take this into account, the Commission became rather prejudiced against Foulness as such; and were therefore, it may be, psychologically indisposed to consider any arguments for it. Or perhaps they were just tired by their monumental efforts and rather reluctant to think in other than purely conventional terms. But, my Lords, all who are capable of any imagination should surely come to the conclusion that when all the best technicians of the Western world are devoting themselves, as they now are, to the perfection of the hover-train, it will fairly shortly become a reality; I think there is no doubt about that. The electric motor, without which it cannot function properly—though it is functioning now, of course, to some extent—will, therefore, in all probability he perfected and the other technological difficulties will be ironed out. The whole contraption will then be noiseless and swift; and, unlike so many modern inventions, it will not pollute the atmosphere. So I earnestly trust, my Lords, that when the Government take their final decision they will at least take into consideration, as solid arguments favouring Foulness (that is to say, if there is to be a third London Airport at all), the great advantages presented by the hover-train.

4.36 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships have certainly already given us plenty of very valuable food for thought. The Department of the Environment, in which I serve, has wide and complex responsibilities, but two very simple aims; first, the conservation and enhancement of the best in our environment; and secondly, the clearance or the improvement of the worst. I need not stress to your Lordships how relevant are these aims to the issues now before us. Conservation of the best is not, of course, something we seek solely for the benefit of those who already enjoy the best; some of those who thought that we would be their champions are already bitter in their disappointment on that score.

My Lords—and I say this confident of your support—our aim, in encouraging the conservation of the best in town and country, is to ensure that the enjoyment of it may be ever more widely shared and of more general benefit. But, important as is that aim, it does not come first in our priorities. Our first priority—again I say this confident of your Lordships' support—is towards those whose environment is worst; towards those whose lives are lived in an environment rotten with dirt, decay, mess or noise. To have broad general aims like these does not imply any disregard of economic factors; rather the contrary, it implies a full concern, as full as anybody's, for our prosperity; but a particular interest in seeing that the prosperity which we are able to generate makes its contribution where it is most needed; where the environment is most impoverished and most damaged.

When it comes to airports, an important environmental factor with which the Department of the Environment is concerned, and for which my right honourable friend has general responsibility, is surely noise. Luton has long been in the news on account of noise, and at Gatwick there has just been an inquiry into the extension of its existing single runway; and a decision on that is pending. Only a few weeks ago my right honourable friend rejected a proposal to extend the runway at Yeadon, the airport serving Leeds and Bradford, in order to check the growth of noise there. When it comes to the airports to serve London, the worst environmental factor with which we are concerned—many noble Lords have mentioned it—is the noise now affecting 700,000 households, 2½ million people, living in the shadow of Heathrow, affecting at this moment four times as many people as would be affected if all the four new sites we are considering were put into full service altogether.

I have no hesitation in supposing that your Lordships will agree that one consideration, among many others, in building a third London airport, and in deciding when to bring the first runway of a third London airport into service, should be that of relieving the plight of those 700,000 households which are already daily drenched in the whine of jets at Heathrow. The fact that others may be more articulate about the mere threats to them should not for one moment be allowed to obscure this most important consideration. I was intrigued, as many of your Lordships evidently have been, at the method adopted by the Commission in assessing the value of the occasional inconvenience to be put up with by air passengers, many of them travelling on holiday, and in contrasting that with the continual annoyance of Heathrow jets endured in London by 700,000 households every day.

So that on top of all the other aviation arguments for a third London airport we see added the need, first to check, and then to curb the growth of noise from Heathrow. Meanwhile, I am sure it would be right to acknowledge with gratitude the restrictions and restraints that airlines and pilots are accepting now to ensure that the noise, and particularly the noise at night, at Heathrow is not worse than it is, and to make it plain that our Department is as wholehearted as anyone in supporting the search for a site where airlines can operate as freely as possible, both by day and by night; which can come into service as quickly as possible to make life easier for airlines and pilots; which can bring relief from noise at Heathrow, and which offers the opportunities of restraining further physical development at Gatwick, Luton and Stansted. I recognise, of course, that these considerations have to be balanced with others, but I set them forward as being of paramount environmental importance.

In this connection, it is good to see and to acknowledge the importance that the Commission attached to noise: so much so that at Chapter 7, paragraph 13, they acknowledge that right from the start, and even during daylight hours, the use of full power on take-off could not, even at the site of their own choice, Cublington, be permitted. One is glad to see that accepted by pilots and by B.O.A.C. Your Lordships in this connection may care to compare the impression that you received from reading Chapter 7, paragraph 13, where this restriction is said to be readily acceptable to Cublington, with the impression from reading Chapter 7, paragraph 19, where similar restrictions are described as unpopular with pilots at Heathrow and as involving a reduction in payload and/or full capacity. In this connection, I should perhaps draw your Lordships' attention to one further point on noise. At the end of Chapter 7 the noise contours and the other figures in Table 7.5 on, from which they are derived for the various sites, are not, as they stand, precisely comparable, for, as is explained in Chapter 7, paragraph 13, they are based upon operations with restricted power on take-off at Cublington, but on operations with full power on take-off at Foulness.

I should like to turn now to the question of the possible deferment of the decision, and to deal with the line taken by the noble Lords, Lord Greenwood and Lord Beswick, following their right honourable friend Mr. Crosland, in suggesting that there would be merits in deferring the decision on the Third London Airport and in waiting for STOL and VTOL. My noble friend Lord Drumalbyn will deal with the aviation aspects of that proposal and the expectations to be derived from it. But I would ask this of noble Lords. Are they ready to face the implications of such a decision on those who live now under the noise shadow of the existing London airports, and particularly Heathrow? Are they saying that we just have to leave them to dream the kind of dreams dreamed in Kew Gardens by the noble Lord, Lord Dowding—whose effective and telling maiden speech we listened to with such pleasure yesterday? For, in the light of the forecast of the traffic demands in the London area—only the London area—even in the relatively short term, is not deferment of action on a third London airport bound to lead to increasing pressures to make far greater use of the existing London Airports?


If the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt, what he has just said in the sort of challenge that he has put up only has relevance if he envisages having the first runway of the new airport in operation before 1980. Unless he is proposing to bring that forward —and no one so far has suggested this—there will be no relief for the people in London.


As my noble friend was saying at the outset of this debate, the Commission took three decisions, and they were unanimous about the first two. One was that they recommended that the first runway of the new Third London Airport should be brought into service in 1980. The second one on which they were unanimous was that the planning of that should be carried forward without delay.


Will the noble Lord be good enough to answer my question? He cannot press the argument or the challenge that he has just pressed unless he is prepared to say that the first runway of the new London Airport should be brought into operation before 1980: and that is something that no one has as yet said.


I agree that the Commission have recommended 1980 as the date by which it should be brought into service, but the Government will have to consider carefully all three recommendations of the Commission. They are not committed to accepting any one of them. The whole object of advancing the planning of the Third London Airport was so that there was room for manoeuvre on the actual date at which an airport could be brought into operation.


My Lords, now that the noble Lord has dealt with that question, would he be good enough to answer a question from me? Is the tenor of his argument this: that Heathrow will not be allowed to use its full capacity because of the noise consequences, and that a new airport is necessary to relieve those consequences? If that is so, that is an entirely different case from that put up at the time that this Commission was appointed, and an entirely different case from that considered by the Commission. I am not saying—indeed I did not say—that in my view it would be a good thing if Heathrow were closed down. But that is a different thing altogether.


The noble and learned Viscount is reading too much into my remarks if he reads that. Everything that I am saying now—everything that all three spokesmen from this Bench are saying—must be understood in the light of the fact that the Government have to take their own decisions after very careful consideration of all that has been put before them both by the Commission and by Members of this House and the other place. What I am saying is that, from the point of view of the Department in which I serve, this consideration—that is to say, the noise now affecting 2¼ million people around Heathrow—is of considerable importance. I am not of course saying that it is decisive or that it will be decisive in the last analysis.


Is the noble Lord saying that possibly Heathrow will not be allowed to be used to its full capacity?


I am not even saying that. What I am saying is that this proposal that the decision should be deferred is bound to lead to increasing pressure to make for greater use of the existing London airports, and that includes increasing noise at Luton, no prospect of relief at Heathrow, mounting pressure for a second runway at Gatwick and increased use of Stansted. I should have thought that all of those were undesirable on environmental grounds.


I am sorry to interrupt again, but the noble Lord is being so negative about what I said. I did not say that anything should be deferred. I went out of my way to say that a decision was urgent, and the noble Lord should not think that he can just dismiss all that by saying that they have to decide as between one of the four prospective sites. That is an entirely wrong conception of what I was trying to suggest.


My Lords, I am relieved to hear that the noble Lord agrees that the decision is urgent and will have to be taken soon. But if it is to wait for consideration of such possibilities as VTOL and STOL, on which my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn will touch more fully at the end of the debate, it cannot be taken as urgently as we believe it will have to be taken.

Before leaving the general subject of noise I should like to turn to the question of compensation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, referred yesterday. I can assure the House that, contrary to the suggestions of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, this is not a matter which the Government would think it right to overlook, or to put on one side—far from it. If, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, there was dust on the files when he left, there is certainly none now. The files have been added to considerably.

The Government, in accordance with their Election promise, are at the moment reviewing the whole issue of compensation for this kind of nuisance, and the review is covering all aspects of blight and injurious affection. I can assure the House that the Roskill recommendations on compensation, and indeed other possible solutions of the problem, will be looked at most carefully in the course of this review and in coming to a decision.

I turn now to planning and planning control, and its bearing on this. As the head of the Department which is responsible for planning, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is glad to note the Commission's acknowledgment of the need not only to give full weight, as they have done in Chapter 5, to planning considerations, both regional and local, in selecting the best site, but also to note that they acknowledge the need to use planning controls, in one way or another, to guide the secondary pressures that will arise whichever site is chosen.

The Commission conclude in their chapter on planning that any one of the four sites can be fitted into the broad strategy proposed for the South-East by the Joint Planning Team. This may well be so, in the sense that the proposed strategy is sufficiently flexible to be adapted to any decision on the third London Airport. I note that the Commission say that in their view, the balance of advantage on planning grounds favours Foulness. But I must stress that each site would create further problems, and I would emphasise the need for planning control to solve them.

In the case of Cublington and Thurleigh the risk is seen to be over-heating—too many jobs being sought by too few people. The British Airports Authority are quoted as saying (this is in paragraph 6.15) that this danger can be effectively averted by planning controls: and so it would. As the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, said just now, plans for Milton Keynes would certainly need drastic modification as well. In the case of Nuthampstead the conflict with the proposed regional strategy was worse than other sites, but not insuperable.

In the case of Foulness I think I should specifically refer to the proposals for a joint airport-seaport development mentioned by, among others, the noble Lords Lord Leatherland, Lord Simon and Lord Lauderdale. The Government have indeed received details of these proposals and will give them careful thought. At this stage, I would make only two points. First, in the planning context, both the majority of the Commission and Professor Buchanan identified difficulties if a major industrial development were to be involved—and, as we heard yesterday, so do Essex County Council. Whatever may be said now about the nature and scale of such development, the Government would need to look very hard at the planning implications, both economic and environmental. And in relation to cost-sharing I need hardly say that advantages would derive only from a situation where the infrastructure was genuinely shared rather than duplicated, and where the projects associated with the airport were viable in their own right.

The main point is that planning restraints are available and can, and indeed will, have to be firmly applied to control all the consequences once the final site is chosen. They may be needed to restrict overcrowding in South Essex: to curb over-employment in Buckinghamshire; to reduce loss of agricultural land around Nuthampstead, or, as the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, suggested, to stop the build-up of excessive noise from Luton. But there is no doubt at all that several of those planning controls will have to be used. The Commission and the British Airports Authority do a useful service in recognising throughout Chapter 6, and specifically at paragraph 6.15, that careful planning is needed, not only to fit the site in the right place, but also to guide and to control consequential developments of all kinds thereafter.

My Lords, I turn now, briefly, to the cost/benefit analysis, and the assump- tions underlying it—not, of course, that I shall attempt any detailed critique of it. This has already been done by several noble Lords already. I want rather to salute the Commission for their courageous—indeed adventurous—pioneering effort far beyond anything done before in this field. The Department of the Environment use cost/benefit analysis quite extensively, though in a much simpler form, to give some help to those whose responsibility it is to carry out and to control the highway programme. While agreeing with the Commission that such an analysis has its value, I think that from our experience, we would endorse still more strongly the view which the Commission themselves express at the end of their chapter on that subject that the cost/benefit analysis would never include everything that is relevant to their decision. Indeed, the whole of Chapter 12 is interlaced with warnings about the precariousness of conclusions based upon an analysis as adventurous as this one was. For this reason, perhaps above all others, while we should be grateful to the research team for their painstaking efforts, we should also thank the Commission for the honest and modest opinion they expressed in Chapter 12 as to the weight to be given to the evidence produced by this analysis.

My Lords, we three on this Front Bench are here in this debate primarily to listen. All that remains for me to do now, on behalf of my right honourable friend and my noble friends, is to thank all the noble Lords who have spoken, and who will speak later in this debate, for giving Her Majesty's Government the benefit of their most valuable opinions upon this immensely important issue, and in helping the Government with their immensely important decision.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not detain you long, and before I begin my speech I must declare an interest. I was born and have spent most of my life, and since the war farmed, in the Cublington area. I think that will explain how I come to be a traitor, so to speak, to the county whose name I bear. Many noble Lords have spoken at length on the Commission, and I am not going to attempt to follow them. What I want to do is confine myself to the points in the Commission's Report which I feel have been overlooked, and also to the things which are important to us in the Cublington area and in our fight for the land we like. We in this area have lived for over two years with this threat of an airport. Everyone knows how detrimental and upsetting it is when one does not know from one year to the next what is going to happen. Only this morning in Cublington a very old lady came up to me and said, "What chance is there of my being able to stay in my cottage?".

I personally never believed that the Roskill Commission could choose the Cublington site. In the Report they describe the land as undulating. I know it pretty well and I would call at any rate some of it hilly; and quite hilly at that. Building the airport would entail the most stupendous earth-moving operation ever accomplished. If one motors through the site one comes to the South-West end of it in the valley running down from Stewkley towards Cublington. There is planning permission for a reservoir up to 150 feet deep, with the villages well above the water level. This is to enable the Buckinghamshire Water Board to supply water for the New Town of Milton Keynes, as we have been short of water in North Buckinghamshire. If the aerodrome comes, there is no explanation of what is going to replace that reservoir. That gives an illustration of the levels in that site.

There is also a wireless station there covering more than 100 acres which belongs to the Government. This has never been mentioned in the Report or in any other way whatever, but it comes in the area just at the end of a proposed runway. The whole of the area of the proposed airport is excellent farmland, and I should say has been so for centuries. Some noble Lords, I have noticed, have rather criticised it and said that it is second-class land. I am not in agreement with that. We have the finest grazing country in England, and what is now being seen is a result of the last war, when we gave up all our fertility to feed the nation.

In this area is a very famous farm called Creslow. It was a monastery at one time and had the largest field in England before the barley barons started their work. This field originally fattened cattle for the Court of Queen Elizabeth I. My Lords, the whole of that is to go under concrete. Does it seem sense? I believe that the Commission considered Cublington in the first place because of the presence of the war-time aerodrome at Wing. The aerodrome itself will lie between runways C and D on the new projected ground. This will contribute nothing to the new airport. The aerodrome is a very poor one anyway, having a big dip in the middle, and I believe that the Wellingtons and Dakotas of those days had great difficulty in getting in. It is also, as I know because I live quite close, quite a foggy area. It had a thick fog this morning.

The most important question I have, one which worries me most, has been given little attention in the Report. What is to happen to the people and communities of the villages—the doomed villages? There are three doomed villages—three for complete annihilation—and six for partial annihilation. What is to happen to the people? They get about as much notice in the Roskill Report as the geese on the Foulness mud flats. These villages have been from time immemorial inhabited by people connected with farming. They have always been isolated, with no railway anywhere near and only a limited bus service in recent years. In consequence, over the centuries they have become very close and interrelated communities indeed. Many of these people own their own houses—I am referring especially to Stewkley, the biggest village of them all. Some have acquired land which they farm as small holdings. These holdings have been handed down for generations; and although some may not be of a high standard, they are, my Lords, their homes. They have had them for centuries and they are rooted there.

The people in these villages to a great extent make their own amusements. Their village halls are fully booked all the year round. If the whole thing is broken up, where can they go? These people do not wish to sell their houses, at however inflated a price; they do not want to move. The old ones will be quite lost without their friends and relations all round them, and it would be absolute cruelty to force them, at the age of 70 or 80, into a strange town and a strange community. There is an attempt at the end of the Roskill Report to find a formula for compensating these people for their homes and land, both freehold and leasehold. But I am afraid that this is not a question of money. In many cases compensation is not an answer where people have lived in their homes for generations and have had the property handed down. They do not even know what their house is worth; they have never had a valuation, except, I imagine, when the rating officer has come round. They are going to lose everything in the villages. They are going to be like sheep on a moor, completely homeless. Your Lordships have all heard about the famous Norman Church at Stewkley. Cublington's Church, although not so fine, was moved from the valley, stone by stone, after the Black Death, by the devoted parishioners of those days.

I personally do not consider a third London Airport to be really necessary. More use could be made of several airports that are not now used to anything like capacity—Speke, Manchester, and some others. On the other hand, if it is absolutely necessary to have a new airport, I should like the following conditions to apply. It should be built on level ground which does not require any movement of people, the splitting up of communities or the wholesale destruction of buildings and farmland and where noise is not made a burden to so many. It must be some estuary site.

Cublington is programmed to be fully completed by 2002. It is more than probable that we shall have short take-off and landing, or even VTOL, by then. It was only thirty years ago when we had Hurricanes, and were very glad of them, and not a single jet plane at all; and now look what we have. So surely we can accomplish VTOL within another thirty years. When VTOL comes in, what will our descendants do with 13 square miles of concrete? What will they think of us for wasting all their valuable land, when there will be more mouths to feed? The land will be absolutely irrecoverable. If the airport comes to Cublington it will be the biggest operation of wholesale destruction and suffering which has ever happened in peace time. Even the Germans could scarcely do more when we were fighting for our existence—and all, as a gentleman in Stewkley said to me, for a slightly faster route to the Costa Brava.

My Lords, unless one lives in this area one cannot appreciate the anxiety and the uncertainty which exist. The people there are always doing something to raise money and funds, and to-day we had a pancake race run over two courses of eight miles around the doomed villages. I have actually brought up here two pancakes to-day to present to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, to show the people's gratitude to him for putting down this Motion that has led to this debate. My Lords, I have no more to say, except to repeat that the building of an airport at Cublington would be, in the words of Professor Buchanan, in his admirable and balanced Note of Dissent, "an environmental disaster".

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, before I come to the subject of this debate, I should like, if I may, to offer my warm congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Essex, who has just addressed your Lordships. A maiden speech in this House is always something of an ordeal and I thought he surmounted it admirably. I am sure that we were all moved by his personal championship of the people among whom his life is spent, and I felt too that it gave a special reality to the issues with which we are all faced. I hope that now he has come here and spoken to us and broken the ice, he will take the opportunity of coming to do so again.

My Lords, I must confess that I intervene in this debate, for however short a time, with very great diffidence; for I have an uncomfortable feeling, like the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, who spoke at the beginning of the debate this afternoon, that every conceivable point of any substance on this subject, on whatever side, has already been made many times. If, then, I "weigh in" once more it is on the old established political principle that no two people say exactly the same thing in exactly the same way. Moreover, one of the most important results which the Government hoped to get out of this debate was to discover the balance of opinion in this most experienced House on this most difficult subject.

I have, however, one special reason for speaking, and indeed I suppose I ought really to declare an interest, though it is not a very direct one and though it would be quite improper for me to appear as a spokesman for anyone but myself. I am the chairman of a Trust which is concerned with the affairs of Waddesdon Manor, where, as your Lordships will know, increasing numbers of people go every year for rest and refreshment and for the enjoyment of beautiful things in beautiful surroundings. Under the Cublington scheme, if that were approved (as I hope it will not be) I understand that Waddesdon would come into the area of "intolerable noise"—that is the expression which was given to that particular situation—and that is a danger against which the noble Lord, Lord Dowding, so rightly warned us in his extremely impressive maiden speech. But, my Lords, though I feel that this is something which I ought to disclose to your Lordships, it is not in fact my only—or even my main—reason for opposing the recommendations made by the Commission.

My own objections to the recommendations of the Report, as is the case, I understand, with many other Members of this House, are on far wider grounds, and these grounds are that it gives far too little consideration to aspects of the problem which ought surely to have weighed heavily with any responsible body in coming to their conclusions. It would no doubt be very unfair to suggest that Mr Justice Roskill and his colleagues have been entirely to blame for this. Indeed, as others have already said, I think we owe a considerable debt of gratitude to the Roskill Commission for the thoroughness with which they tackled what must have been for them a singularly unenviable task. As has already been said a great many times, the fault lies partly, or even mainly, with the terms of reference within which they were asked to work, and if they took the extremely limited view of their responsibilities which they clearly did, one can well see how they came to the conclusions at which they arrived.

But, my Lords, we here in Parliament, who are, I suppose, the trustees of the nation as a whole, surely cannot take so narrow a view of our responsibilities. There ought to have been first the question brought before us as to whether this vast airport which is to be created—the largest, I understand, in the world—should be properly placed to fit in with the requirements of London only or with the requirements of the country as a whole. That is an aspect which has just been dealt with very fully by my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne, and I expect others felt as I did, as I listened to him, that there was a great deal in what he said.

But, my Lords, what did Mr. Justice Roskill and his colleagues say about this particular aspect? In the Press statement with which they announced the completion of their task they said: It was no part of our task to devise such a plan"— that is, a plan for the whole country— and we have resolutely resisted any attempt to do so". No doubt that was a perfectly proper statement to make, taking the view that they did of their functions: but by what they said, in that one sentence—unless the Government are willing to re-open the whole question and go back to square one, which I believe has certain attractions to my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhome—the Commission have killed stone dead any of the wider aspects which many of us believe ought to have come within their considerations. I wish indeed, as my noble and learned friend has suggested, that we could go back to square one: but I am afraid it is impossible, in view of the urgency of providing a further airport, about which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has just spoken, and no one who listened to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, can have any doubt of how great that urgency is. I feel, therefore, that however much we should like to go back and have a national re-examination of the whole position, yet, faced with the situation which exists to-day, we really must go forward with what the Commission have recommended and decide what we feel about that—whether we are in favour of it or against it.

And now, my Lords, I should like to say a word about the "amenity" aspect, although actually I am afraid that "amenity" is rather too limited a word to use. What about the destruction of so many thousands of acres of fertile agricultural land, of so many beautiful and historic monuments of the past within the Cublington area, of the only unspoilt stretch of real country, as Professor Buchanan has said in his most moving Minority Report, between London and Birmingham? What about the obliteration of so many villages, some with history stretching back into the mists of the past? What do Mr. Justice Roskill and his colleagues say about that?

May I quote again from page ii of the Press Notice which was issued by the Commission? They say: We are fully alive to the destruction and hardship which a new airport would cause but conservation"— and I would ask your Lordships' particular attention to these words— does not consist only of a defensive strategy to preserve the past. It consists also of the provision of increased opportunities to satisfy future needs and where possible to put right the mistakes of the past. That was, I must confess, the only thing I found really shocking in the Report. How does one in fact put right the mistakes of the past—I use their own words—by erasing every feature of fresh unspoiled countryside over an area equal to that of the whole of central London and creating what is called a "noise umbrella" over an area of 350 square miles? I found that rather a terrifying commentary upon the spirit in which the Commission approached their task, and I feel there must be many among us here this afternoon who greatly prefer the more humane approach of Professor Buchanan.

So much—for I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House—for Cublington. And now a word about Foulness, which is apparently the only other favourite in this competition. Paragraph 15 of the shortened version of the Report—to which I have already referred and which provides so admirable a synopsis of the whole—although in the end it comes down against Foulness, sets down, I thought very fairly, as I think Lord Silkin said yesterday to your Lordships, what is to be said in its favour. Foulness, has, the Report says, first, the operational advantage of any site at sea level of being little affected by cloud"; secondly, it is relatively economical in its demand for additional controlled air space"; thirdly, it would close fewest public scientific establishments and cause virtually no interference to the operations of private manufacturers' airfields"; and, finally—and to me much the most important— If regard be had only to loss of homes, of countryside and to amenity, to loss or damage to churches, country houses or other historic buildings and to disruption of community life, there could be no doubt that an airport at Foulness would cause less loss and damage than an airport at either Cublington or Thurleigh. And it adds that though land would have to be taken to house the staff of the airport at Foulness—which I may say in passing is equally true of Cublington—Foulness involves no encroachment by the airport site itself or to land and no demolition of houses. Those are very substantial advantages. I should almost have thought them conclusive. There are, however, if one is to be fair—the Report says—some serious drawbacks to Foulness. The Ministry of Defence, we are told, might well require Foulness for its own purposes, and that would be a matter which we must all recognise as extremely important. But I am told that it now seems improbable that it will be needed for those purposes. If that is not finally decided, perhaps we may be told in the reply of the Government at the end of the debate. Then there is the destruction of wild life and coastline, which, the Report says, many people will regard as just as important as the destruction of historic churches and villages. No doubt that must be taken into account, though it will, I expect, not be regarded by all of us as quite overriding the other considerations that have already been mentioned.

Then, too, there is the question of accessibility, to which the Commission attach such great importance. I will not take up the time of your Lordships, towards the end of this long debate, over the elaborate comparative figures of passengers assumed to be likely to use (a) Foulness and (b) Cublington in the years 1991 and 2000, except to say that I do not see how figures can be stated with quite such accuracy and quite such confidence for periods so far ahead when the types of planes used may be completely different from those which are in use to-day.

And, of course, and very naturally, there is the question of comparative cost. Here, the Commission seem to assume that if the Government paid the whole cost of establishing the airport at Foulness that cost would be considerably greater than at Cublington; and I can well believe that is true. No doubt, as the Report very fairly points out, this could be reduced by the infusion of private capital, of which the offer, as we know, has already been made. But it appears that the Commissioners do not favour this, and feel that in such a situation the risk would ultimately fall on the airport authority which had built the airport, and that would mean ultimately the taxpayer. And they add that if private capital could be provided for Foulness why could it not be provided for Cublington? The answer to that, presumably, is that the special aim of the company concerned, as we were told by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, yesterday, is to use part of the land reclaimed for an ancillary scheme of docks; and docks can hardly be erected at Cublington. Moreover, if the alternative of factories were adopted, the amenity results would be likely to be even more disastrous than under the present proposals of the Commission. It is, however, by no means my purpose to weigh in in support of the Commission's scheme; I know far too little about it. But for the reasons I have just stated I cannot feel that the financial arguments against Foulness in the Report are necessarily conclusive, though I fully recognise that the initial cost of Foulness is likely to be more, and possibly considerably more, than the cost of Cublington. But, on the other hand, as was pointed out by Lord Silkin yesterday, the cost of compensation at Cublington is likely to be far greater than it would be in the case of Foulness.

Finally, there is the factor of noise, to which I, like the noble Lord, Lord Dowding, attach a very high degree of importance. In all the inland sites, as I understand it, noise is likely to be one of the most dominant considerations, as is already the case, as we already know to our sorrow, at Heathrow. But at Foulness there will be hardly any noise problem at all, and I cannot but think that that is a very strong argument in its favour. The noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, shakes his head, but that is what I understand, from the experts I have consulted, to be the case: the noise will be largely over the sea.


My Lords, I beg the noble Marquess's pardon; I am sorry I shook my head. He was disturbing me in that he was making the argument as though this were only an issue between placing the airport at Foulness or placing it at Cublington. I thought my noble friend Lord Beswick showed absolutely clearly this afternoon that there is a better way of dealing with this, a wider issue to be considered, and it might even mean putting the airport at neither place.


My Lords, I listened with the greatest care to what the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said, and it sounded to me as one of the largest gambles I have ever heard; it depended entirely on new types of plane and a change in the whole character of air travel. He may be right, but he may be wrong, and this is an urgent problem; this is not a problem to be waited over in case some—


Take it away from Hatfield Palace.



Anyway, those are my views. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, is entitled to his views, and very likely he knows more about it than I do; but as I listened to the debate I felt it was a gamble that we were not justified in taking.

I do not propose to keep your Lordships any longer. Indeed, I must apologise for having spoken for so long. May I therefore just say in conclusion that my inclination on balance, like Professor Buchanan's, on such information as is at my disposal—apart from all other reasons—is that since we are constantly told that England is rapidly becoming too small for the increasing population that wishes to live here, and since Cublington will make that worse, whereas Foulness will make it better, at any rate to the extent of the land that will be reclaimed from the sea, my inclination is to come down on the side of Foulness: and if the Government do come to that conclusion, our descendants—and, after all, this is very mach a long-term problem—will, I believe, thank us.

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, I want to focus attention on two short passages from Professor Buchanan's Note of Dissent, and I think I can assure the noble Marquess who has just spoken that they concern an aspect of the problem which has not been dealt with so far in the course of this debate. I have copied them out. The first passage occurs on page 157, in paragraph 43, and is as follows: … the location of the airport at Foulness could … make a powerful contribution to one of the biggest social problems of the country, namely that of East London … from the moment when the growth provoked by the industrial revolution started in earnest, and when, as a consequence, the wealthier people began to move out from the deteriorating residential environment of the innermost areas, there was a marked tendency for these people to move westwards rather than eastwards. The process resulted, by the beginning of the present century, in a metropolis with a marked polarity: the West End and the East End … The second passage occurs on page 158, in paragraph 45, where Professor Buchanan says: One of the reasons … why so little has been done for the eastern side of London has been the difficulty of persuading entrepreneurs to move in that direction. But the third London airport, in a sense a captive industry, seems to me to provide a unique opportunity to introduce a new type of activity into the area. It is difficult to think of anything else with the same potential tor building up a new range of activities and giving new life and hope to the whole of the eastern corridor. He goes on to refer to this as a major new influence at the end of the corridor which will initiate a regenerative process reaching right back to the heart of London where the East End butts against the City. May I ask your Lordships to move in imagination from Foulness, through East London and the City, to the West End—in fact to Kensington? Kensington, one of the not very many preponderantly residential areas of Inner London, is about to suffer the fate of Bloomsbury and Mayfair—not, as in the one case through the incursion of offices, and, in the case of Bloomsbury, through the immense proliferation of London University which has destroyed its squares, but through the proliferation of hotels. At the moment, in that area of West London a running battle is being fought between the amenity societies and the groups of organised residents, on the one hand, and the hotel developers, on the other. Not many people would regard our Borough Council, I think, as a progressive body, and it is certainly not a body which is impervious to the claims of those who see a profitable enterprise as a desirable aspect of Conservative policy. But even our Borough Council has said, in the case of hotels in certain Darts of the borough, "Enough is enough! Enough and no further."

At this very moment the question is being fought out between an hotel development company and our Borough Council as to whether a new mammoth hotel shall be built at the corner of a conservation area fronting Kensington Gardens. That fight is still sub judice because the Borough Council's refusal to grant planning permission was challenged by the hotel developer, who appealed; and I think the matter is now in the hands of the Ministry. Personally, if I were a devout Catholic, I should feel inclined at this moment to go round to Westminster Cathedral and burn the biggest and most expensive candle as a prayer for the victory of the Borough Council in this respect.

One reason, though not the main reason, for this gigantic invasion of hotels is the growing pressure of tourists on the London area. Nearly all tourists want to come to England, and nearly all tourists who come to England want to come to London, very naturally. Already hotel accommodation is not adequate to meet their needs; and if it is not adequate now it will be even less adequate in years to come. That was one of the arguments put forward by the hotel development company which is now fighting over the site of a very good residential block in which a large number of people live and wish to go on living. But, of course, one reason why the progress of this hotel incursion has been to some extent assisted is that the hotels have been subsidised so far by the late lamented Government to the tune of £1,000 per bedroom. That has helped matters; and that subsidy, I am sure, was granted by the Government as an instrument of national policy for negotiating hotel development in the interests of the tourist industry and, I presume, in the interests of the balance of payments—which was probably a very worthy motive. But if national policy can be used to encourage the proliferation of hotels on behalf of the balance of payments, it could be used by the present Government to encourage, not necessarily the proliferation of hotels but the location of hotels, in order to secure some future development of the East side of London and the City, as envisaged in that passage I have quoted from Professor Buchanan's Note of Dissent.

He really holds before us a vision of what he describes as: a regenerative process reaching right back to the heart of London where the East End butts against the City. It is a vision and a long-term vision. Probably I shall not live to see it—I hardly think it possible—but the Prophet Joel has told us that young men have visions. He has also told us that the old have dreams; and my dream is a dream of this great City of London as a place where the citizens of this country wish to live and bring up their families, play in its parks, shop in its shops, gossip on its doorsteps; a City which will appear more worth while for tourists to visit because it will have personality and it will be the London that we know and have always loved. If it becomes nothing more than a tourist centre—well, those who have visited Bermuda will know what a tourist centre can become; and if they have visited it once they will not want to go there again.

Of course one has a price to pay for that vision. It is a price which was referred to by my noble friend Lord Greenwood of Rossendale when he spoke of the charm of Foulness Island, of its wide skies and its marshes. That has not escaped Professor Buchanan, who in his Note of Dissent says that: An area of remarkable fascination for its remoteness and loneliness would go. I fear that it would. I personally think that one aspect of its charm is the fact that one can, within a short drive of London, visit Foulness, come back through East London, through the City, through the West End to one's own familiar urban environment, and can feel as though one had sojourned in a foreign land; strange, in some ways almost unearthly, with a ghost village in the middle of it. The trouble is that if many people enjoy that fascination I shall not be able to.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, we are now three-quarters of the way through this long debate. I think I have heard most of the speeches. I have heard the impassioned speeches against the choice of Cublington and I agree with all that has been said. I was much moved by what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Essex, who knows that country better probably than most of us. I have heard also many noble Lords speaking in favour of the alternative of Foulness. But I am against Foulness. I belong to what seems to be the growing minority of noble Lords who believe that at the present time there need not be a third London Airport. If, later on, we decide to have another major airport in the London area or elsewhere, it would be a very different airport from any one which we could plan now. It would, I think, be something far more acceptable than the ones which are pictured in the Report which we are debating to-day.

My views are very much the views of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick; I think that he has mentioned all the important things that I intended to mention. But in some respects my point of view is just a little different from his. Put quite simply, my view is that if the Government accept the recommendation of siting an airport at Cublington or at Foulness, we are in grave danger, when two runways are in operation, of finding ourselves crying that all this has been unnecessary; that all this desecration, were it Cublington, or all this construction, were it Foulness, has been unnecessary because we are now going to have STOL machines and VTOL machines. Worse than this, I have an awful feeling that perhaps they would not even be our VTOL or STOL machines because, on account of the great expense of Cublington or of Foulness, the Government would not have found it possible to give adequate support to the research and development which is so essential to the creation of this new, and in my view vital, form of aviation. So we should be buying German, French or American STOL or VTOL machines in order to keep up with the operational Joneses.

This is not to be contemplated. As I have pleaded before in this House, we must maintain the lead which we now have in short and vertical take-off and landing. We must engage in the necessary research and development as soon as possible to reach this great next step forward in aeronautical progress. Perhaps, as I have said before, we should have partners—in fact I would advocate this. Let us invite our European friends to join with us in this great technological step forward. If we do not, they will go it alone. I want us to have our stake in the future, and now is the time to make the arrangements while we have so much more to contribute than anyone else. It will be a far, far better thing to spend the money which might have gone in creating a Cublington or a Foulness, in making them both unnecessary.

I agree with most of Professor Buchanan's reasons for not going to Cublington but, as I say, I disagree about going to Foulness. In fact, if I were told that there was jolly well going to be a third London Airport, I would still object to Foulness: first, because all the dark-bellied Brent geese, which Lord Beswick referred to so touchingly, may decide not to migrate—and one remembers the Heathrow hares, a quite determined lot who have never migrated. It seems to me highly probable that if some of the geese decided to stay around there would be a danger of a disaster of the first magnitude. I think the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, both mentioned the possibility of strikes. But this would be a bird strike on the grand scale, and if any large aeroplane inhaled a Brent goose up the engine intake the result would be appalling.

I have a second reason for not going to Foulness, despite the new gloze put upon it by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, when he spoke of these admirable devices, the hover-train and the various hover devices which are competitive with it. Despite what that might do, from all the investigations I have been able to make, I do not believe that the British Airports Authority would make Foulness pay. The problem is not one of the difference in time, the few minutes occupied in getting from Cublington or from Foulness to London; it is the position of these sites in relation to the rest of the country. I do not think that adding a seaport is likely to make the airport pay; nor do I gather, from a communication which I think many of us have received from the Essex County Council, that the quite splendid schemes which were outlined by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, yesterday would in fact be allowed to come to pass. So for me Foulness is out.

My belief is that if we start a forthright programme of STOL and VTOL development now—and I really mean now—we can hold out by putting another runway at Gatwick, by increasing the Stansted traffic and by moving the training activities at present at Stansted, and some at Gatwick, to another airfield. From the point of view of the people around Stansted and Gatwick, the noise situation need be little changed. This may surprise some noble Lords. I think that some may find that hard to take. But I ask them to bear with me for a few moments. I strongly suggest that it is better to develop sensibly and rationally at an existing source of noise than to create a new one.

I do not say that we could prevent ourselves creating a new source of noise from time to time, but there is a peculiarity about this noise problem which has not so far been mentioned in the debate. This nuisance is assessed in the Roskill Report, and by most people who are concerned with it, in terms of something called N.N.I. This is not, as many people think, the Noise Nuisance Index; it is the Noise and Number Index. It was invented by that highly distinguished body which, in 1963, under the chairmanship of Sir Alan Wilson, produced the Report on the Problem of Noise. The Wilson Committee had done some very serious and interesting research before producing the formula which gives the numbers which are used in the Roskill Report. For the many mathematically minded noble Lords in this House, I should explain that the formula is that the N.N.I. number equals the average peak noise load in p.n.dB., plus 15 log N minus 80, where N is the frequency of the occurrence of the noise. Noble Lords who have appreciated the niceties of that formula will realise that it has a peculiar consequence. It means that if you already have a high frequency of occurrence of noise, the increase of frequency will be less and less noticed the more and more the frequency increases. In other words, where it is bad, you cannot make it much worse.

Furthermore, and here I should like noble Lords who have not studied thoroughly the beginning of Chapter 7 of the Roskill Report to look at this with very great care, there is held out in those opening paragraphs the hope, and it is more than a hope, that engines can become a great deal quieter; just the ordinary engines of ordinary aeroplanes. One of the greatest living authorities, Dr. Hooker, who has designed or been responsible for the design of more successful jet propulsion engines than any other living man, gave evidence to the Committee and said that he thought that the noise-level in p.n.dB.—that is, the perceived noise decibel which takes into account the note as well as its loudness—could in the next couple of decades be brought down 15 units—15 p.n.dB. That is a very great deal indeed. Moreover, a consequence of the formula which Wilson pointed out in his Report is that quadrupling the frequency of occurrence is equal to 9 p.n.dB., and at the rate at which Dr. Hooker believes we shall improve we could bring down noise 9 p.n.dB at the same time as we were quadrupling the number of movements. This may seem very complicated to noble Lords, but I believe that when they read Hansard to-morrow they will find they will understand quite easily that this means that if we plan properly, we can contain the noise nuisance.

Perhaps suggesting at this stage, when we have become so used in the past few years to the notion of a third airport, that there need be no third London airport, may seem strange and almost rash, but I have not come to this conclusion—and I am sure neither did the noble Lord, Lord Beswick—without thinking about it deeply and talking about it to a great number of people. Noble Lords will say, "Well, so did the Roskill Commission"; but they were concerned with the problem of where to put the airport, and not whether there should be one. They were also concerned with the timing of the need. They concluded (and here I think they were absolutely right) that the first runway must be available in 1980. Very well, my Lords, in the solution which I have adumbrated, and with which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, agrees, we could have the second runway at Gatwick ready by 1980. I believe, from what I have been saying on the subject of noise, that by then we could have kept the noise in hand, and the people around Gatwick would be no worse off than they are to-day. We should before then have made the changes I have proposed for making Stansted's existing runway more productive; containing the noise nuisance there, too, in the way I have suggested. We can later, when we have this noise business taped, get more movements out of Luton and Southend.

I believe that this plan would have the support of the British Airports Authority, and I am sure that B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. would prefer to extend their operations at existing airports rather than start new ones at a new site. I believe—and I believe this very sincerely—that the operators can hold out until the early 1980s, by which time, if we make the right moves, we can have the first STOL aeroplanes at work and begin to develop a network requiring different and less obnoxious facilities. I listened carefully to what the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, said on this subject. He thought that STOL and VTOL are a gamble. Well, they are a gamble, but I think they are a better bet than investing the money in Cublingtort or Foulness.

But this, my Lords, means a positive policy, and a policy with a note of urgency in it. The Roskill Commission propose the positive policy of creating desolation and an airport at and about Cublington. I propose instead a positive policy of developing STOL and VTOL for short-haul services, which account for two-thirds of the movements through London's airports, and, by judicious adjustments to our present facilities, squeezing more and more out of them until, say, 1982, when the relief from STOL and possibly the beginning of VTOL should be evident. I propose, further, a policy of noise-containment for conventional aircraft. We should examine progress in, say, 1977 or 1978, to see whether any course adjustment is required. If it is, then we should have time to modify the programme to provide conceivably more conventional facilities in, say, 1985, if, as I think is extremely unlikely, they appear to be needed. But if they are needed, then we should have to consider the views which were expressed yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Royle, which I thought imaginative and deserving of the closest consideration. In this examination we could also assess what would be wanted in STOL/VTOL facilities, and the possible airport demands of the Concorde replacement with its vertical take-off engines.

This policy has merits other than just preventing the desecration of our country or giving ourselves the task of building an East-Coast white elephant; it has positive gains for the convenience and comfort of everyone which the old-fashioned aeroplane of to-day, trundling as it does for miles on the ground, flying in low and flying out low over square miles of country, can never give. I reviewed the merits of short take-off and landing and vertical take-off and landing in this House last April, and I am not going to make that speech again, but I will recall to your Lordships that I pointed out the enormous reduction in noise nuisance that it can provide. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, mentioned this. The area within the 35 N.N.I. boundary—the no-nuisance boundary—is reduced in some calculations to less than one hundredth, and that is, I think, the order of it. Safety can be greater even than that achieved by conventional aeroplanes. Economy, so long as we do not saddle the new operations with overheads appropriate only to convenional aircraft, will be satisfactory.

This development is bound to come. We must not be discouraged by any recent event from going ahead with it. On the contrary, here is a major task for a revitalised Rolls-Royce. In the interests of our future prosperity, we must not leave the development to others. What would be very sensible is collaboration with those others, the countries interested in and affected by this new, quite inevitable development. This collaboration might be through a merging of interests and facilities in a single European company, as I suggested in my speech at the dinner last September of the Society of British Aerospace Companies.

To conclude, my Lords, I plead that the Government should reject Cublington, reject Thurleigh, reject Foulness; that they should spend a little—and "little" is, I know, a relative term—on getting more out of Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and Southend. I plead that they should invest what would have been spent on a third airport first, on immediate developments in the field of engine quietness; and, secondly, on VTOL and STOL, supporting the investment already made in the Rolls-Royce jet engines in the Harrier and in the Dornier DO.31. We must invest to bring the future nearer and not to perpetuate obsolescence.

6.1 p.m.


My Lords, it is with some diffidence that I follow the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, because of his very great knowledge about this subject. But as my conclusions are the same as his I am emboldened to advance them, even though my arguments may not stand up to Government investigation. Is a third London Airport needed? If it is, then presumably Foulness, because of its coastal situation, would be preferable to any inland alternative. Therefore, with many others, I should like to record my opposition to Cublington.

The argument about the necessity for a new airport hinges on various facts and figures which may be disputed. These are the Roskill suggestions under the heading, "Airport capacity by 1980". We see that by 1980 Heathrow will probably have 312,000 aircraft movements, Gatwick 110,000 and Luton and Stansted 54,000, making a total of 476,000. Roskill then estimates that between 335,000 and 428,000 aircraft will be coming into the area by 1975, and between 421,000 and 589,000 by 1981; hence the need for a third airport with at least one runway by 1980. But, technically, the capacity of existing airports is much higher. I understand that B.E.A., in their figures presented to the Inquiry but not published, put it as follows: Heathrow, 328,000; Gatwick, 212,000, with two runways; Stansted, 54,000, and Luton, 54,000, making a total of 648,000 aircraft movements—considerably in excess of the Roskill figures. This, on Roskill's own estimates of 427,000 to 721,000 by 1985, makes a third airport unnecessary before 1985.

But I have heard it suggested by some very well-informed observers that the following figures would be technically possible: Heathrow, with three runways, 380,000: Gatwick, 212,000, which is the B.E.A. figure that I have already mentioned; Stansted, 150,000, which I am told would be possible even to-day; Luton, 54,000; Southend, 20,000; and Lydd, 12,000, making a grand total of 800,000-plus. So it is possible to argue that the potential capacity of existing airports is between 30 and 100 per cent. greater than Roskill suggested. Apparently at this present moment—not in 1980—Kennedy Airport. New York, manages 400,000, and O'Hare Airport. Chicago, 700,000. Why, then, should Heathrow's limit be 312,000 in 1980? The Jumbos have already led airlines to cut the number of flights out of Heathrow, and this check to growth could continue for some time. In addition, a Channel Tunnel could well cut the increase of traffic, particularly tourist traffic.

It can be argued that if the estimates are five or ten years out, it does not really matter. But in fact an error in estimation could prove vital for two reasons. First of all, the rise in provincial traffic will gradually generate pressure for more provincial air services. This has already happened in America, where the number of gateways into the United States is increasing the whole time. That is why I did not find myself in agreement with the views of the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal, at the beginning of the debate, when he said that the provincial centres could not help to provide some of the required capacity. If VTOL and STOL aircraft are taken into consideration—and how can I put it better than it was put by the last speaker?—then a third airport commissioned in 1980 could become redundant in our lifetime.

There is also the further point of noise. The area around Heathrow and Gatwick is already ruined—and I am not saying this with any lack of compassion; I am merely stating a fact. Nor must one forget the stacking areas. Coming from the North, we used to talk about being stacked near Watford. Now the term has become much more refined: we talk about being "held" for 20 minutes above the Bovingdon Beacon. That is made to sound as though one were admiring the view from Ivinghoe Beacon. But while we are being held, doubtless with a great many other planes, the Chilterns are being drowned by a dull roar. Must we have more stacking areas for a new airport? At least if the coastal site were selected, the planes could be stacked over the sea. I hope that the Government will think long and seriously before they spoil another part of England, instead of increasing the capacity of existing airports.


My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? He is rather ignoring the fact that it is alleged that increasing the capacity at Gatwick will spoil the whole interior of West Sussex.


My Lords, I fully appreciate that, and I said that I was not lacking in compassion. I was merely expressing facts and figures which I believed to be correct and which I feel must be taken into consideration before a final decision is made.

I was very tempted to take part in the discussion—I shall not call it an altercation—between the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. Having in my time been on a Front Bench myself. I took compassion on Lord Sandford, and decided that I would hold my fire. Nevertheless, I should like to add a few words about the discussion which took place at that time on the noise at Heathrow. My Lords, what is unacceptable noise at Heathrow? Is the present noise unacceptable?




If it is, then all I can say is that it is going to be very much worse by the time the first runway on this new airport, assuming that we have one, is laid down and ready for use. In my humble opinion, it is misleading to suggest that the noise will lessen. It will increase during the next ten years, and certainly until the first runway of the third airport opens. I would go so far as to say that the noise at Heathrow will continue to increase over the next two Elections. Therefore it is, as I say, misleading to say that we must get on with the new airport at once and then the unfortunate people at Gatwick and at Heathrow will be relieved. They will not be relieved for ten years, and even then the noise will probably stay at the level which exists in ten years' time.

I think this must be said, because it would be wrong, I think, for the Government to suggest that by making a quick decision and by announcing that they are going to have a new airport, they will ensure that the unfortunate people at the existing airports are put in a much better position. As I see it, they will not be in a much better position for a very long time to come; and by then, I hope, the forecast of the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, will have materialised. I hope that the new forms of aircraft, the short take-off aircraft, will perhaps make it unnecessary to have this third airport at all. Again I want to stress, perhaps because I come from a region, that in my view careful attention must be given to the development of the provincial airports, which will be able to provide the same service as is being provided to-day in America by Miami, which last year opened up a very large new service for B.O.A.C., and all the other provincial airports in America.

6.13 p.m.


My Lords, it is a very great privilege to follow my noble friend Lord O'Neill of the Maine, and I do so with great diffidence. I regret that I am not able to follow him in his expert knowledge of the flight paths over London, but I should like to retrace our steps to the afternoon of May 20, 1968, when the terms of reference for the Roskill Commission were announced. On that afternoon my noble friend Lord Aberdeen and Temair asked a very important question which has strict relevance to-day. He said: My Lords is there any hope that during the next two years research will be able to produce an aircraft which is silent and capable of vertical take-off?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 292, col. 486.] This afternoon my noble friend Lord Kinnoull and the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, have added a completely new dimension to this debate by telling us of the near availability of STOL and VTOL, and they referred to an article, which I regret I have not myself read, on QTOL. In a sense, I find it impossible to follow my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, through this door into an entirely new world of these developments, so I am going to confine myself to the Report itself and to comment as one not well versed in aircraft but one who has attempted to follow it; and I hope that it is as an amateur reading these Reports that some of my remarks will be received.

I feel—and I share the views of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne—that one of the most basic preliminaries to the Report was the terms of reference, and they were missing from the second page of the Report. It is something so fundamental that as I searched both the Index and the additional Index I could hardly believe it possible that the terms of reference should be quoted nowhere. My Lords, we are extremely fortunate in being able to refer to the terms of reference in our Library, but anybody purchasing this extremely expensive Report would have difficulty, if he were not able to do so, in referring back. Again and again in reading the Report I wanted to consult those terms of reference and to consult also the remarks made both in your Lordships' House and in another place, especially the introductory Statement by the President of the Board of Trade on that day.

A further suggestion I should like to make to the Government concerns the matter of setting out these terms of reference in future—and I feel this might be taken as a broad hint for later Reports over a wide field. It is that we should revert to a former custom, adopted years ago, when these Reports began with an open letter addressed to the Minister responsible for setting up the Commission. In that letter it was stated what had been carried out; and, furthermore, it gave opportunity for full acknowledgment of the work of the Commission and an opportunity to thank the staff and all those who had taken part in it. In this case we have to wait until page 147 before the very eminent staff appointed are thanked. I feel it is a pity that this acknowledgment should be buried in the final paragraph and that the thanks which are undoubtedly due to Mr. John Caines and his staff should be postponed until then.

A further difficulty I had was in the matter of transcripts of evidence; and I think that this subject is also very important. In order to consult them, we had to visit the Civil Aviation Library, where I regret to say the mediæval principle of the chained Bible still applies. Serious research' is inhibited by this method, because we had to copy out by hand those statements which we wished, as there are no facilities for photocopying on the premises. As it happens, I very much wanted to see the Document 5153, the evidence of Mr. Lumb on noise limits, and I had difficulty in doing so.

I wish to address attention to three factors. They are all technical ones. First of all, there is the question of the safety factor in relation to bird strike, to which several of your Lordships have made reference this afternoon. I share the anxiety which has been expressed for the dark-bellied Brent geese, and I have been in touch with the Ministry of Defence on the matter of ridding airfields, be they military or civil, of the problem of wild life, especially that of birds. I was very interested to hear that between 1946 and 1948 the R.A.F. undertook a control experiment, and at the conclusion it was found that the falcon units needed had to be on a permanent basis and that it was not considered feasible from an economic point of view. However, it was most encouraging to learn that the United States Air Force, which maintains no fewer than six airfields in the United Kingdom, have had falcon sections in permanent residence since July 1 of last year. The two falconers have between eight to ten falcons operating on each airfield, and it is claimed that the United States Air Force are delighted with the results. I suggest, my Lords, that this is one glimmer, at least, of hope for the future of the Foulness site; and it might possibly pre-empt that terrible consequence foreshadowed by the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, of an aircraft swallowing a Brent goose.

I should like to refer also to the question of corrosion. Because this is a highly technical subject, I do not feel myself qualified to do more than to draw attention to it; but I feel that it is very important when considering the operation of the Foulness airfield. To those who have had experience of operating aircraft or have had any knowledge of the difficulties of maintaining and managing aircraft near the sea—be it at Gibraltar, to which reference was made in regard to the problem of maintenance, or elsewhere—the question of salt-laden air and its effect on aircraft, particularly the highly-sensitive aircraft which we have to-day, is a very important matter.

I would draw your Lordships' attention to the question of noise. Though this subject has been referred to almost ad nauseam, I should like to raise a point which has not been mentioned hitherto. I would draw attention to Figure 7.5 in the Report. This shows the day noise contours, year 1995, for Cublington. Alone on Figure 7.5 in very small print it has the words "Restricted take-off. 2-Runway at maximum capacity". Most unfortunately, this indicates at once to those who are involved in this matter that aircraft are therefore going to be obliged to take off below maximum power. This inevitably creates a danger. It is a safety factor which must be taken into the reckoning and it must be remembered that if this restricted take-off is applied to Cublington, it will almost certainly rule it out straight away as far as the advisability of that site is concerned. The Report mentions this fact but does not dwell on it. I should like also to draw your Lordships' attention to a further technical matter which, if not the most significant, has not been mentioned by other noble Lords. This is in Appendix 12, headed "Airport Construction—Aggregates". The question of winning sand and gravel from the sea is going to be one of the economic advantages of Foulness and it will enable a total saving of £18 million to be achieved. That is one of the desirable advantages of Foulness. There is, however, the technical problem of whether the sand and gravel so won is going to be of the best possible specification; but I see no reason to doubt that it should be.

In conclusion, may I say that at the time when the Roskill Commission was set up and at the time it reported the question of the Countryside Act had not entered into consideration. I should like to refer your Lordships to Section 37 of that Act. That is the declaratory section, and it says: In the exercise of their functions under this Act and the Act of 1949 it shall be the duty of every Minister, and of the Commission, The Natural Environment Research Council and local authorities to have due regard to the needs of agriculture and forestry and to the economic and social interests of rural areas". Finally, I would make a special plea which was made in a book to which we referred in our last debate on December 11, 1967, The Stansted Black Book by J. W. S. Brancker. Mr. Brancker, who was employed as expert adviser, said: In spite of being in the business for more than thirty-five years, I do not believe that air transport has the right to inconvenience the public at large without limitation; it exists to serve people and not to annoy them.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, this subject has received tremendous attention not only during these past two days, as well it should, but also in a wide public debate which has been going on in almost continuous session during the Commission's deliberations, before the issue of the Report proper and after its publication. Many points have been made, many arguments produced, in evidence, in the Press; and now we have this debate, and there will be another one shortly in another place. I found, when I got down to it, that the Report made very good reading and was most instructive, especially to those whom it touches most. I should like to pay a sincere tribute to all the work done by the Commission, even though I may not agree with their conclusions. I think we have all to thank the noble Lord, Lord Molson, very much, not only for initiating the debate and giving us a chance to discuss it but for putting his case so well. I think we shall all agree that we have had some excellent contributory speeches.

It is all a question of an airport's effect on different people: on the people who live around it—and we have every sympathy with those who do now live around them; upon travelling people who use it—and I am afraid that they have not very much concern for those who live there; on the people who will live and work on it and whom nobody seems to have considered very much up to now—and at this moment it is the people around Wing and Cublington who are most affected and feel most strongly about the disturbances and elimination to which they may be subjected.

Finally, it affects the people—that is, all of us—who have to pay for a new airport. This would be so even if short or vertical take-off were closer or more promising; and I must admit a sense of great disappointment at the Commission's conclusion, in paragraph 5.20, that: … from the evidence … we cannot base our recommendation on the assumption that STOL or VTOL will bring about an absolute reduction in the pressure on conventional airport … This aspect has been dealt with extremely well by my noble friend Lord Kings Norton, whose thoughtful and helpful speech I think was about the best we have in this debate. I felt that he was most helpful to those of us who do not know so much about these matters, and I entirely welcome what he said: that there should be as great expenditure as possible on hastening this achievement.

We have not heard so much in this debate about Thurleigh. Here I must declare an interest; but I do not think the matter should be allowed to go by default. I have lived all my life close to it—in fact, four miles from the end of the runway, as it now is—and I think that few have paid visits to it. The Commission Report in Paragraph 13.52 says that … Thurleigh is to be preferred—perhaps only marginally—to Cublington. I would assure your Lordships, if you have not already gathered it from the Report, that Thurleigh is surrounded by countryside, by villages, by old churches, just like Cublington, which I also know quite well. I appreciate very much what the noble Earl, Lord Essex, said, and I should like to compliment him on his excellent maiden speech.

In addition, Thurleigh has the costly Royal Aircraft Establishment, which is important to research and defence. It also has a huge runway which is used for training air crews on the new planes. So there is already at Thurleigh a succession of large aircraft taking off and landing. People do not like it, and they know how much worse it could be if, by any mischance, Thurleigh were chosen as the other site. There are many other reasons why Thurleigh was not chosen, but lest it should be thought that people in the area are less concerned and are taking the attitude, "I am all right Jack," I would reassure your Lordships. They may be less prone to demonstrations but they are completely opposed to any inland site, especially at Cublington or Thurleigh. It is to be hoped that with the more general outcry against Cublington, no one will be tempted to consider Thurleigh as an easier, if more costly and less unpopular bet, and switch over the sites as a compromise. I believe that such a decision would be as disastrous as the present choice.

It is the reputation of Heathrow which has generated great hostility towards having an airport on anyone's doorstep. The reduction of noise, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, was welcome. I forget the exact percentage by which he said that it would be brought down, but it is the shifting of some of that noise to a different area; the spreading of the nuisance caused by airports, that we are considering. I would rather see smaller units capable of making use of unused capacity and servicing more restricted areas. We have good examples in Luton and Stansted, despite the nuisance caused there. But I agree with what was said by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, about that. I agree that these smaller airports would not be as viable as one huge complex.

The Commission dealt most carefully with the subject of extending facilities by the extension of runways and the provision of extra runways. But they say decisively that anything that can be done in this direction would not delay the necessity for a third London Airport for more than a year or two. I thought it rather a pity that my noble Leader Lord Jellicoe said that it was not possible to take the time to frame a national airports policy. With all the valuable work that has been done already I should have thought that it was possible; and that we could make some additions to the information that we have in this Report. For it is significant that the Commission say that there is no ideal site for London's third airport, and that so many noble Lords have already said, "So why have one?"

Whichever site is chosen, there will be great repercussions on existing airports; for example, at Luton. I go a long way with what Professor Buchanan said in his plea for the preservation of the second Green Belt round London—the first one has been considerably dented in places—and about what he calls an open background. It is the conservation of that which makes England what it is that we have very much at heart. Despite what was said by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, I do not think that this is entirely emotional. I think that the enjoyment of the countryside by our own people and our foreign visitors is an important and economic matter.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting him, I would say that I did not wish to suggest that that was an emotional matter.


I am obliged to the noble and learned Viscount. We are putting Milton Keynes in this open background and many existing villages wilt be swallowed. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, this will need replanning. The siting of a vast new airport practically next door would create a complex which would affect, and disturb with its noise, an enormous area and great numbers of people.

I would say a few words in conclusion about Foulness with its wide open spaces. I appreciated the eulogies of the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, and I am sorry that he is not now in the Chamber. I have not walked around Foulness as he has, but I do not think that he has walked around Thurleigh, and so we are equal. Foulness seems to be the popular choice of all who do not live there; and even those who do seem to welcome the thought of development in that area, as witness the South-East Planning Council. So much has already been said, and I will not go over the same ground, but I should like to make this paint. I was impressed by what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, about accessibility, though the cost of communication with London would be great. But I should think that, with a fresh start and modern development, passengers would reach London, or anywhere else, in pretty quick time—especially if they travelled on the air cushion that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, spoke about.

I should like to hear something from the Government about the warning regarding international airlines using, or not using, an airport at Foulness. This matter was dealt with by the Commission; it is an important aspect which should receive further consideration. I appeal to Her Majesty's Government to hurry up and to relieve the people at the inland sites of their anxieties, especially those at Cublington; not to hurry too much, but rather to give great and further thought to what is required; perhaps the extension of existing sites and the taking up of unused capacity in other parts of the country.

6.37 p.m.


My Lords, at this stage of the debate I have only two points to make, and I hope that I may succeed in making them within a period of five minutes as I think that an ample ration for anyone speaking so late in the debate as this. The first point refers to Gatwick. This airport was originally started as an auxiliary or overflow airport for Heathrow; and it was never considered to be an international airport. Various Ministers of Civil Aviation, of both political Parties, the British Airports Authority and others have time and again given assurances on that point. Nevertheless, Gatwick has continued to expand and, time and again those assurances have proved to be worthless.

I am not for a moment suggesting that those assurances were not given sincerely, but the speed of development of civil aviation during the last ten or fifteen years has been such that any forecasts have proved illusory. In the last few weeks there has been an Inquiry sitting to consider the extension of one of the runways at Gatwick. We have not yet received the Report, but I have little doubt that the extension will be allowed, in spite of a great deal of evidence given which, again I have little doubt, will prove in a few years to have been—I will not say false, but at any rate inaccurate. Is it surprising, my Lords, that in the circumstances a campaign is already being mounted in the whole of Sussex to oppose not the extension of the existing runway—I think that battle has probably been lost—but the building of a second runway? I venture to say that if it is decided to build that second runway the campaign mounted against it will make the present campaign by Cublington look like a mere ripple on the ocean. I therefore hope that the authorities will be warned.

My second point is one that has been made by practically all noble Lords who have spoken, and that is the problem of noise. I regard this as cardinal to the whole debate. I cannot help feeling that we may be looking at the problem from the wrong point of view. If an aeroplane can be made that makes practically no noise, nearly all the problems will have been solved. It is true that we should need the land—although if we are going to have the vertical take-off aircraft, we may not even need a great deal of that. Why should this not be done? I am certain that the aircraft manufacturers could do it. If they can put a man on the moon, surely they can make an aeroplane engine that does not make much noise. The trouble is that to develop it will be a very expensive business; and, of course, the big, international airlines, who are nearly all in financial difficulties, do not want to do it. If pressure is put on them to do it, they will probably say that it is not safe and will put up every sort of objection.

I believe that the airport authorities should get together and say to these airlines that their planes will not be allowed to land on the airports unless they produce the planes that meet with the airport authorities' requirements. Naturally, the airlines would have to be given a little time to develop the plane, but penalties could be imposed in the meantime; and if, within three years, five years or whatever period was fixed, certain airlines were not making any progress, then they could be fined by raising landing charges for their planes to such a degree that it would not be worth their while. It would only be necessary to get one big airline to do this, and the others would follow suit rather than lose traffic.


If I may interrupt my noble friend, he will realise that a great many aeroplanes come to this country from abroad, and therefore this kind of thing could be done only by international agreement.


I thank my noble friend. I thought I had made that clear; it is exactly what I said. Agreement must be reached between the airport authorities, and this must take some doing. But I am sure that this is the way to attack the problem, rather than to go on looking for a site in this country which really does not exist.

6.43 p.m.


My Lords, bearing in mind the length of the debate and that there are something like nine speakers to follow me, I feel that it is only courteous to be brief, and I shall endeavour to do so. Speaking as a Buckinghamshire man, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Molson for raising this discussion on the Report of the Roskill Commission. As will be appreciated after what so many noble Lords have said, to-day and yesterday, this matter has now become of great concern to those who live in Buckinghamshire and neighbouring counties. I personally was glad to hear that no decision will be made on the recommendation of the Report until it has been debated in another place. But let no one be in any doubt that uncertainty is causing tremendous distress.

I, for one, am not surprised at, and fully understand, the feelings and bitter disappointment of those whose homes and very livelihood could be destroyed by such a choice. At times like this emotions are naturally very strong. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, who in a Question on January 28 referred to rather strong feelings expressed too soon (I am putting it roughly) by people living in that area, now realises that this was a mistake. I personally feel that they have good reason; I can understand the reason, and I hope that to-day the noble Lord does, too.

I am personally not fully convinced of the immediate wisdom of constructing a third airport, over three times the size of Heathrow, in the South of England so close to Heathrow. This is a view held, I understand, by a number of jet pilots. Airspace over the United Kingdom is far too crowded, and spreading the load like this does not seem to me to solve the problem. If we are to add to the numbers of aircraft stacked, as they are now at various levels in the sky waiting to land, there is a very real potential danger here inland. The Southern half of the country (I have no particular vested interest in this, but I live in the South) seems to me to be littered with airports of all shapes and sizes; the sky is full of helicopters and jets.

If it is absolutely necessary for us to be saddled with another huge British airport, with four runways (and that is really what it amounts to, an airport with four runways, possibly near London), we might be wise to consider a site further North, with excellent rail services from the North to London. This is an opinion held by many people, and I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, who referred to the possibility of having an airport in South Yorkshire. If the airport has to feed London itself, then we have to forgive that. But at the moment I am not fully convinced of the need for a third London Airport three times the size of Heathrow.

We live on a small island. It is not easy to find space for all the roads and motorways that we need so badly; for houses for people, and for airports. The time is rapidly approaching when we must seriously consider cutting our coat according to our cloth, unless we wish to have our land disappear under a veritable sea of bricks, mortar, concrete and tarmac. The United States, for example, are in a comparatively different position: they have all the space on the ground and in the air. Land development for their great freeways and flyover crossings and airports does not cause quite such a headache. They are a large country; we are a small one. When I think that it will cost over £500 million to build this airport (I believe that is one estimate, and it will probably cost a great deal more), I think of the various problems that we are faced with to-day in which some financial support is needed. I wonder whether we have our priorities in the right order.

There is the further thought that, with the rapid development of the aircraft industry, the time may not be too far distant when vertical take-off aircraft will make long runways redundant. This kind of future development cannot be ignored. I am sorry to be repetitious here—I know that this has been said by many noble Lords earlier. But it is important to refer to it.

Of course everyone will respect and appreciate the hard work and industry of Mr. Justice Roskill and his Commission over some two and a half years or more, but one cannot be expected to wait so long in silence when the most beautiful countryside of Buckinghamshire is threatened with permanent devastation on such a scale. The shock of what many thought might just be an unpleasant rumour having turned into reality has indeed been great in the county.

A week or so ago, on a Sunday afternoon, I motored slowly through the villages in North Buckinghamshire destined at the moment for destruction or to be made uninhabitable through noise. I do not know how many noble Lords have taken the opportunity to visit the villages, of North Buckinghamshire and in the Vale of Aylesbury, but I suggest that a Sunday drive out there is well worth the journey. A couple of bottles of beer and a few ham sandwiches in a pub in the Vale of Aylesbury is a very pleasant way of spending a Sunday afternoon.

The community is largely a rural and farming one, closely knit together, living where their parents and grandparents have lived for centuries. Buckinghamshire is a great historical county, the cradle of English history. What distinguishes it above all others is its association with famous men and famous deeds: the immortal memory of John Hampden, a martyr of liberty, for instance. In every corner of Buckinghamshire there is something to recall that it was in critical days the home of freedom-loving enthusiasts. Is it to be wondered, then, that this threat to the county should stir up a hornet's nest of fury?

The villages of Cublington, Soulbury, Dunton, Stewkley, Stoke Hammond, Whitchurch, Aston Abbotts, Wing, to name a few, have now only one defensive weapon, their voice, and it is a strong voice. Demonstrations invariably lead to violence, but the demonstrations in Buckinghamshire have been peaceful because they are receiving the united support of almost everyone. Professor Colin Buchanan, distinguished by his planning expertise, has plainly stated that the choice of Cublington would be a grievous blow to conservation policies and an environmental disaster. There must be many a pub in the villages I have mentioned whose toast to-day is: "Buchanan for North Bucks". Frankly, I do not know whether I would go along with that because I am not sure of his political affiliations.

Part of the Roskill Commission's proposals, on the advice of its expert consultants, was, I believe, that an airport city to house many thousands, including airport workers, should be built about two miles from the airport site. This would be joined to the already planned New Town of Milton Keynes, designed to house an eventual population of 250,000. No wonder that the Buckinghamshire County Council, of which I am a member and chairman of its main spending committee, is deeply concerned with the effect that an airport city would have on the county. The necessary network of new roads would have to be built, and others widened to serve the airport and its city—27,000 acres for the airport city, a similar acreage for Milton Keynes. This would mean that 50,000 acres of Buckinghamshire countryside would be swallowed up in one great gulp.

I feel that it would be wrong not to emphasise the effect of noise on education and other services. This is already a problem near Heathrow. Interruption from aircraft noise makes speech inaudible and has a devastating effect on the life of a school. The teacher's task is markedly more difficult and more exhausting. Oral methods of teaching lie at the root of much of the work being done during the school day. Interruptions break the continuity of the lesson and the concentration of the children. Problems of this kind will arise in all fields of study, lectures and learning through the medium of television, radio or film.

There are many schools in North Buckinghamshire, some big comprehensive schools already built and others planned for 1,400 pupils, together with a college of education and further education colleges. If the third London Airport is sited at Cublington, a noise zone will be created stretching from Thame on the borders of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire at its South-West end, to Bedford at its North-East end—a distance of around forty miles. There are already some 29,000 households living in the noise zone proposed by Roskill. Naturally, a large area like this contains hospitals, old people's homes and other places particularly vulnerable to noise. Something like 127 schools would be affected so badly that sound insulation work would have to be carried out to keep the noise at a tolerable level. The estimated cost of this work, on 1969 prices, is something like £3.7 million—nearly £4 million. In terms of £536 million to build the airport, that is not much, but nevertheless it is a lot of money for the county to find, not to improve schools, but merely to keep down the noise level.

The alternative to all this must be Foulness on the coast, where general disturbance and human misery is kept to a minimum, or, as I have suggested, in the North of England where an airport might not be so unwelcome. It has been said that too much emphasis has been laid on the human, emotional side of the problem, but I think this is most important, and that is why I have rather stressed it. These are people, my Lords, human beings whom it is proposed should be uprooted from their homes and planted elsewhere. This is going to hurt. They are not just statistics in some report. I think that the concluding paragraphs of the Buckinghamshire County Council's Memorandum, paragraphs 56 to 59, concerning environment conservation and the permanent destruction of a large slice of one of England's most beautiful counties for the sake of an airport when there is an easily recognised alternative site are well worth reading.

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not detain you for long at this hour. You must be very weary after a positive torrent of eloquence on this subject. I should like to congratulate the Government on the way that they are dealing with this matter. It is absolutely right, before reaching a decision, that they should hear as many opinions and voices as possible. I am sure that they must have benefited from the extremely informed debate that this House has had up to now and will, I am sure, benefit additionally from the debate in another place. I sympathise with the Government in the difficulty they have in reaching what is a most recalcitrant decision. I am sure that with the advantages that they will enjoy of hearing an opinion on all sides they will not make the egregious error of accepting the recommendations in this Report.

In making what appears to be a highly critical comment, I am not all that critical of the Report. In many ways it is a very good Report. Lawyers will be acquainted with the occasional phenomenon of reading at considerable length a judgment from a very learned judge which appears, as you read it, to point inexorably towards a particular conclusion, and discovering at the end that the judge has arrived at the quite opposite conclusion. Reading this particular Report, one arrives almost inexorably at the conclusion that the proper site for this airport is Foulness. That appears to be imminent throughout the document. If I had not known of the conclusion that had been arrived at in the document, I would not have realised in reading the Report that they were going to recommend Cublington. Two reasons only are given for this in the Report. One is that Foulness is less accessible. The second is that it will be more costly.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord glossed over the reference to the fact that the air operators would not use it.


I am much obliged for the intervention, but that is caught up within my reference that it is less accessible and that it presents aviational difficulties. I certainly was not convinced, nor were the Commission convinced; because their major reasons for this recommendation were expressed to be that Foulness was less accessible, that fewer people would use it; and they gave an estimate of the number of journeys less that would be made over a period of years. And secondly they said that it would be more costly.

As to the second of these reasons, I do not think that this is an appropriate matter to come within the recommendations. I believe it quite proper for the Commission to point out that the airport will cost another £50 million, £60 million, £70 million, or whatever it is, but that is purely a Governmental concern. I do not think that one should ask the Commission to reach a decision on that particular ground. They cannot know the economic considerations and priorities in relation to Governmental expenditure which determine whether one should spend one or another sum of money. They are absolutely right in drawing attention to the matter, and there it ought to end. I was wholly unconvinced on the aspect of expenditure.

On the aspect of accessibility I am—and I think it is my only claim to speak in this debate—a regular air traveller. I am sure that the House will be appalled to hear that your Lordships were almost deprived of the possible benefits of further orations from me when, the other day, the undercarriage of an aeroplane in which I was travelling mutinously failed to descend. I am sure that you will be immediately relieved that my presence here to-night demonstrates that this was not an irremedial disaster. The fact remains that I travel very frequently by air—I need to do so.

My conclusion is, I believe, shared by a great many air passengers: that unless you are making a very short journey it is really irrelevant whether you travel half an hour or an hour to the airport. I would say that as between travelling five minutes and half an hour, certainly that has a relevance in relation to one's journey; but if one is setting off for somewhere at a remote distance it is not all that important to the traveller that he should arrive at the airport within a matter of a few extra or less minutes. I think that much too much importance has been attached to this consideration. There has been in this Report a nicety and solicitude extended for travellers in relation to air travel which is extended to no other branch of humanity in relation to any other facilities provided by Government. It is absolutely staggering that so much concern should be paid to the question of whether a few minutes more or less should be expended on travelling to a place from which you are going to some remote part.

Although I believe this to be a good and careful Report, it is, unhappily, a Report by gentlemen who certainly started with some rather unfortunate preconceptions. If I may read a paragraph which I think sets the tone of the whole document, and conveys the spirit in which they set about the inquiry, it is this rather astonishing observation which appears in The Historical Background: The hostile jibe during the second world war that this country was no more than an aircraft carrier should in the last thirty years of the present century be a source not only of pride but of economic and political strength. I do not know which of your Lordships will share with me a total repugnance to that sentence. I do not feel proud of the notion that this country will in the next thirty years become an aircraft carrier. It is no part of my aspiration, and I doubt very much whether it is part of the aspiration of anyone here who is in the same frame of mind.

However, this document starts with an imperative. The imperative is that we must find a third London Airport and every other consideration must go by the board. The source of that is the terms of reference, which, as was rightly observed by the noble Lord speaking from the Government Benches, do not appear anywhere in the document. Nowhere in this document does one find argued the most cogent of the considerations that is relevant, which is whether the cost, in aesthetic terms, in environmental terms, in terms of the despoiling of an area, is in fact excessive in terms of the aviational benefits to be received. One would have thought that at least half of this massive document would be devoted to that particular debate, but there is not a word on the subject—or barely a word on the subject. There is a footnote which says that some other body, some other subcommittee, had considered how imperative it was that we should have these additional aviational facilities and they obviously outweighed every other consideration.

If we are going to inflict on a section of our fellow countrymen what it is not an exaggeration to describe as the absolute Dantesque horror of planting a new aerodrome in the area in which they live, surely we ought to weigh most carefully whether corresponding benefits have been achieved. I do not believe that we have done any such thing. I believe that this document points very firmly to Foulness. I believe that if Foulness is not the solution, there can be no other solution.

This is the second debate we have had on this subject. We debated Stansted, in which debate a number of noble Lords spoke, and it emerged at once that there was the most violent and bitter antagonism on the part of the residents of that particular area against the installation of an airport there. We are now debating Cublington, and again it emerges that the section of the population housed there—it emerged from the speech of the noble Earl who has just sat down—will fight à outrance to prevent the installation of an airport there. We shall be starting a bitterness and a corrosion within a section of the community that cannot be worth any compensatory benefits derived from it.

It is no use saying that we must live in the 20th and the 21st century. It is no use saying, as they say here in an astonishing paragraph, with which I find myself in disagreement: 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 Waddesden Manor. So that, in order to enable some enthusiast to see the Sistine Chapel within seconds of his having reached the decision to do so, we are to despoil an immense area of beautiful countryside and ruin acres of agricultural land. It is of course the spirit of this enthusiastic flying saga that informs the whole of this document. It is people who do believe that we should leap into aeroplanes without a moment's delay and set off to see the Sistine Chapel, as though that would be the major motivation of most air travellers, who seek to justify what is going to be, in topographical terms and in rural terms, an absolute outrage.

I am wholly in agreement with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Luke, when he said that we should dismiss the notion that any inland airport is a possibility in human terms and in civic terms. We should, on the whole, accept that if a third airport is necessary—and I think a case is made out for this—it should be at Foulness, where there would be a minimum of disturbance, and where, astonishingly, a large section of the population actually welcome it. To have an area where people are welcoming an airport should be such a delight to the Government that I should have thought they would make the decision without a moment's hesitation.

However, my Lords, in any event one thing we should certainly do is to delay. I have recently twice had the weird experience of travelling in a Jumbo jet. If anything establishes the extent to which we are forgetful of ordinary civilised considerations in pursuit of air travel, it is this abominable instrument. If we are thinking in terms of extending a facility of this kind to the human race; if we are thinking in terms where we place in front of every æsthetic consideration, every notion of beauty, of tranquillity, quiet and repose, the necessity to hurl ourselves in all directions through the air at maximum speed, then I despair of civilisation.

7.5 p.m.


My Lords, I am indeed at a disadvantage following the noble Lord who has just sat down in his most humorous but in fact extremely businesslike approach to this problem. It crossed my mind, with a giggle, when everybody has been asking, as the Roskill Commission asked, "Is there an ideal site for a third London airport?" to ask myself, "Is there an ideal site for any airport?". That is a reasonable sequence of thought. Having been unable to attend your Lordships' House yesterday, I studied during the morning the OFFICIAL REPORT Of yesterday's debate, and I have listened to practically every speech this afternoon. As a result, I have been able to put aside practically everything that I was going to say, because it has already been touched on. Therefore shall confine myself to a few points which do not appear to have been mentioned, and in doing so I am going to refer to the Stansted debate to which the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, referred.

I concluded my speech on that occasion with the following words: … I have no interest in Essex"— nor indeed have I any in Buckinghamshire— but I am jealous of our agricultural heritage and have respect for our countryside. I am influenced by some knowledge and experience of airports and of the noise problem. I am confident that the right plan for modern aircraft is to stack, take off and gain height over the sea, and that, as we see in other parts of the world, such would be achieved by an airport which I visualise on the sands, connected to London by a barrage controlling the tides."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11/12/67; col. 943.] So in one respect I support Professor Buchanan. Indeed, I would resist any further measure of delay, although what the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has just said makes one realise that perhaps some reconsideration as to timing might be wise.

One point occurred to me on hearing his speech, and about that undercarriage: the fact that an airport has its connected planes stacking over the sea, over sandbanks and over mud is a safety factor in an emergency—which is always a possibility although, fortunately, more and more remote as design improves. But I turned to my diary and, with some amusement, I read the entry I wrote on the day of the Stansted debate: Made my speech containing my suggestion of a new airport and barrage"— this is my point— and road/rail complex, but nobody appeared to notice. However, The Times published a letter from me on the subject a few days later, and I trust that your Lordships will therefore forgive me if I return to this barrage proposal. For, somewhat to my surprise, I have not noticed any reference in any of the speeches to this ever-present problem of the flood threat to the Thames and to London, although in fact some of the papers circulated to us from, I think, Messrs. Bernard Clark and Partners made reference to this matter; and I shall return to that again.

Since the Stansted debate there have been, as we all know, a number of developments: we have heard of them. There is an established recognition of the flood danger to London; there has been the decision of the Port of London Authority to develop docks at Maplin Sands, and there has been a general acceptance of the need for orbital highways around cities to relieve their internal traffic. My main impression of the mass of papers which has encompassed me, as it has encompassed all of your Lordships, in this matter is the vast cost of whatever has to be done. I ask myself, as my noble friend Lord Simon said, "Why cannot this cost be shared?". And, my Lords, what about private capital?—a point which I think was referred to by my noble friend Lord Lauderdale.

The flood protection plan for Woolwich seemed to be the most speculative affair because the actual incidence cannot be foretold, and I can find no estimate of the cost of protecting the land between Woolwich and the sea in the considerations for the mechanical barrage there. Your Lordships may ask: what has all this to do with Roskill? My Lords, it is this. One of the many proposals to which I have referred by Messrs. Bernard Clark and Partners was, in fact, printed in The Times on December 30, 1970, and this includes the desirability of a massive land reclamation. This is what was said in The Times: A result of this would mean that low-lying areas of London, at the moment susceptible to flooding, would no longer be threatened. The danger removed, these districts could be developed without the expense of antiflood walls. That, my Lords, is why the flood protection plan is connected with the Foulness proposal. Land reclamation on a massive scale, if it will control the floods, is surely the answer to our problem.

If the scales have not already been tipped, I should say that that tips them in favour of the airport on the sands—perhaps more costly than Cublington, as the Roskill Report says, though it may be contended that it would be less expensive in the long run if the cost were shared and the cost of flood protection were included as part of the contribution towards the cost of the whole complex.

But, my Lords, a massive road/rail highway between Essex and Kent would be part of this proposal (indeed, it is forecast in one of these Reports), because it could be superimposed upon land reclamation. In this respect—and with respect—I differ somewhat from Mr. Clark and his partners in the alignment of this line which he connects with a Channel Tunnel. Could not the line be such that it would primarily provide for a direct, fast rail link between Foulness and Heathrow and Gatwick and the Victoria area? I understand that the speed of rail vehicles of a modern design has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and if this link were the primary connection between Foulness and London it would bring the traffic to the terminal complex which already exists in the neighbourhood of Victoria, both existing and, I believe, prospective.

The TEDCO proposal that King's Cross should be the terminal of any communication with the Third Airport seems to me to be out of reason, if what we want in the air requirements of London is rapid passage between airports for transit passengers. Whether or not we join the Common Market, the volume of cross-Channel traffic is bound to develop; and whether or not there is a Tunnel (and I am not one of those who favour it), a road link between the Channel and the Midlands, bypassing London, would be invaluable and a boon to the new London dock system. Indeed it would go some way towards meeting the need, expressed by various noble Lords, of providing the Third London Airport with ready access from the Midlands—added, as I suggest, to a substantial bypass to London itself.

I think that everybody has accepted that an airport on the sands would reduce the noise problem to a minimum, and I doubt whether the people of Kent need worry very much on this point. It has been developed in the debate, and I do not know how many of your Lordships saw the B.B.C. 2 programme called "Westminster", on Saturday night last, in which a number of Kent objectors took part. My information from air operators is that, with fully loaded aircraft, on full bore, in most winds Kent would not be subjected to offensive noise.

There is one other point that has not been fully developed; it is connected with the effect of restrictions either on flying hours or on load, which latter is inevitable if you are not going to allow aircraft to take off at full bore, on the earning power of an aircraft. I do not think this factor has received sufficient attention in the cost effectiveness studies on the revenue side, although perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, may differ from me in that connection.

If we are not to have flying at night (and, judging from what the noble Lord said about the possibility of trouble with the second runway at Gatwick, the remedy there may be the same as at Heathrow: no flying between certain hours), that inevitably detracts from the earning power of the airport. And if, similarly, aircraft are not allowed to take off at full bore, this will be, when we realise how important is the freight aspect, a serious factor in estimating the cost/effectiveness of an airfield. My Lords, I will not say much about the VTOL and STOL side, though my information is that, so far as profitable passenger and freight operations are concerned, it will be many years before that system is viable—although of course for passengers STOL may come sooner than we expect.

Another matter that I should like to mention concerns the Brent geese. I, too, am a bit of a bird-watcher, and I love geese. But I do not think the preservation of their territory is a matter to compare with the problems outlined in the most attractive maiden speech of the noble Earl, Lord Essex. The geese will find somewhere else to go; distances present no difficulty to them. Brent geese are shy and they will go somewhere else. Admittedly there is a potential danger to aircraft from the geese, but I am informed by an airline executive that the geese of Foulness are probably no more of a threat than the vultures in Bombay or the seagulls in Rio. In short, my Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, that Foulness is the place, and that an airport at Foulness should form part of a complex with the London Docks, with flood control and a road link with Kent; and I believe that such a scheme is within the capacity of our planners if they are prepared to "think big".


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I think he said that Bernard Clark and Partners suggested that if we reclaimed the land in the Thames Estuary it would be more necessary to have a Thames barrage. I saw them this afternoon and they told me that by narrowing the Thames Estuary there would be less likelihood of flooding. Can the noble Lord tell rue anything about that?


Yes, my Lords. I am very glad the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, has made that observation, because that is what I meant to indicate. Their recommendation is that by adequate reclamation the floods themselves would be controlled without the necessity for these vastly costly mechanical devices. Where I differ from Messrs. Bernard Clark & Partners is not that they have suggested that there should be no barrage there (they say that a barrage is unnecessary because its place would be taken by reclamation), but because they show a road connecting with Kent in the neighbourhood of Herne Bay. My idea is that it should be further West. In the TEDCO paper there is an indication. It says: It is unthinkable that when the Channel Tunnel is built there will not be a bridge over, or a tunnel under, the Thames much further East than any of the present crossings so that this Channel Tunnel rail/road traffic to the North and Midlands can avoid London. What I am suggesting is that this connection should be combined with fast monorail or other passenger connections between the third London Airport, Gatwick, Heathrow and Victoria.

7.20 p.m.


My Lords, if my speech fails even to get off the runway, I hope that noble Lords will understand that it is because I have tried to trim its wings in view of the lateness of the hour and my position in the batting order. I have no particular interest to declare in either Cublington or Foulness. I have to confess that the rejection of Nuthampstead favoured me personally, where I live, and I was only too aware that one of the sites considered at an earlier stage was only a mile or so from my back door. In principle, I have for a long time been disposed to prefer a coastal site to an inland site. This does not mean, however, that I was not prepared to read Roskill, and that I did not read Roskill. I have in fact done so carefully, and I should like to join in the tributes paid to the thoroughness, extensiveness and ingenuity of the work they undertook and the Report that they have presented to us.

I was prepared to have my mind changed if certain difficulties were thrown up by the Report. I had hoped that Foulness would be chosen as a basis for a national airports policy and in due time perhaps, as the cornerstone of a national transport policy. I had hoped that it might thus be possible to alleviate immediately distress at the other airports in the South-East, stop any increase in the movements and noise stress at these, and, with VTOL and STOL (about which we have heard a lot that is perhaps more encouraging than the views on it in the Report), we should then be able to maximise the advantages which these aircraft would bring, and which would I believe also be brought by what are termed S.S.T. aircraft.

I mentioned a national transport policy, and here I had in mind that in due time—perhaps at the end of the century or before—we should come to a point where not only would these short take-off and similar aircraft be the norm, but also we should be making use of unconventional—or in our present view unconventional—overland high speed transport systems. I said that if the Report posed certain particular difficulties I was prepared to be persuaded. I took the view that a coastal site should be rejected only if, first, it represented a cost that we could not entertain; second, it did not meet air traffic and safety requirements; third, it was not possible physically to build it; and fourth, it would not pay its way.

On the second of my requirements, concerning air traffic and safety, I am satisfied that Foulness is all right in terms of the Commission's findings. The Commission certainly do not suggest that it could not be built. Therefore, the third of my points is met. As to the question of cost, and whether it would pay its way, here the cost/benefit analysis seems to overshadow the issue. However I look at it, it is rather like looking into a child's kaleidoscope into which have been put too many pieces of one colour or one over-large piece; however I shake it, one figure always dominates, and that is the figure for passenger user costs. They have a direct bearing on whether the airport would pay its way, if one accepts Roskill's figures, inasmuch as they bear on, among other things, the amount of traffic likely to use the airport in its later stages.

On capital cost, if one accepted that Foulness could be the cornerstone of a national airport policy, as I have suggested and as I hope the Government may look at it, then the extension of Luton, which represents £18 million in the cost/benefit analysis as a dis-benefit to Foulness, would not need to be considered. Nor would the subjective cost of £11 million for noise.

On the question of passenger user costs, I know that many noble Lords have spoken on these; but I should like, if I may, to add one or two comments. It seems that here we come to the crux of the issue, since whatever view one may take as to whether the Commission did or did not put the market considerations above the environmental considerations, no one could dispute, on looking at the table in which they aggregate the cost/benefits, that the passenger user costs dominate it. Hence it is not surprising that they have received so much attention in our debate yesterday and to-day.

How much value should be put on them? Some would say none; others might say a great deal. I do not think they should be admitted in terms of whether or not one is to go ahead with Foulness. It is not without interest in this context that when we are looking at the time value element this expresses differences in aggregate of times that are a matter of only five minutes for rail and 12 minutes for road travel. These represent in many cases only a very small proportion of the total journey time for a traveller. As to the question of the value to be placed on time, to what has already been said I would only add that it has some of the appearance of a bit of a red herring; and when one knows that the time value calculations include a valuation for children accompanying their parents, seeing them off at the airport, or other people doing the same thing, voluntarily, then in relation to the value, the very much lesser value, placed on other subjective costs, it takes on a somewhat grotesque character.

My Lords, I shall be interested to hear what answers are given to the noble and learned Viscount regarding defence matters. I think that a very big question mark hangs over these, and certainly Foulness enjoys an advantage.

Before I sit down, I should just like to say that I was amused yesterday to hear the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, say he had not spoken in the Stansted debate because he had been advised not to make his maiden speech on that occasion. I received similar advice from a similar source on my side. I do live near Stansted, and I should like to say I derive some comfort from what the Report has to say. But we had our first jumbo-jet the other day and the graph in the Report which includes projected growth at Stansted and Luton makes the Commission's conclusions on this look a little like the curate's egg. I do hope that Stansted will come to an end and that there will be a reduction of flying at Gatwick, at Luton and at Heathrow generated by the adoption of Foulness as the cornerstone of a national airports policy.

7.31 p.m.


My Lords, I know very little about airports and so I shall say very little about a subject on which so many experts have already spoken. I merely want to place on record my implacable opposition to the creation of any new airport anywhere in England, at least in the crowded southern half of England. I am, of course, aware of the fact that an airport on the coast will cost more than an airport nearer to London, if we are talking about an airport somewhere near London, but I do not see how you can measure people's lives in terms of money.

To destroy a great tract of beautiful countryside in which many people have their homes would, in my opinion, be a crime, an act of vandalism for which posterity would not forgive us, and it would be a negation of all the fine talk that we have recently been hearing about the quality of life. The time has surely come for Governments to cease spoiling people's lives in the sacred name of progress.

For many centuries English people held a legal right to peaceful enjoyment of their property. I do not know whether that right has ever been legally abolished, but successive Governments, and indeed local government authorities, have ridden roughshod over it time and time again. Perhaps this is the moment for us to reassert that right and to say that no Government should have the power to take it away; that no Government should be allowed to go to three or four villages and say, "You will all move".

There is, Lords, a body of opinion which is gaining more and more support every day to the effect that more civilisation need not and should not mean more noise, more dirt, more pollution and less fresh air and sunshine. Even in New York there are objections to the noise of Concorde. If the inhabitants of New York can object to noise and dirt, surely we can, too. Let us take a step forward towards more civilisation by saying a loud and clear "No" to the idea of any airport near London.

7.33 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to knock yet another nail into what I fondly hope is the coffin of any suggestion that an airport be built at Cublington. At this late stage in the debate, heaven knows it is difficult to find any room left to knock another nail in, but I took very strongly the point of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, when he said that it was not merely important that the Government and all the interested parties should hear the individual judgments of Members of your Lordships' House but that a general balance of opinion should emerge; so I shall trouble your Lord ships for a very few minutes longer on this very topic.

I, like so many of your Lordships, admired the colossal labour that went into the preparation of this Report. Also, like so many of your Lordships, I found many of its conclusions doubtful and much of the reasoning employed in coming to these conclusions actually specious. The figures themselves I found no way of questioning. As one easily intimidated by technology, I was much encouraged by how many of your Lordships treated the mystique of cost/benefit analysis with such easy familiarity and even dared to doubt the figures and turn them upside down. My faith in human nature has been quite restored by that. I had really thought that we were coming out second best to the computer world, and I am most encouraged.

In the conclusions of the Report there are many things which noble Lords have already commented on. For example, I think the question of the port at Foulness was unfairly treated. By "unfairly", I mean that it was scarcely treated at all. As someone knowing nothing whatever of the advantages and possibilities of a port at Foulness, I had hopes of learning a great deal from reading the Report. I learned nothing. All I learned was that the Commission had decided that because they had not been asked specifically to comment on the port and they were not in a position to recommend a site for a port, they would say no more about it. Yet it appears that the existence of a port alongside an airport at Foulness has been much canvassed as one of the great advantages.

I know that it has also been suggested that a vast increase of industry on top of the airport and the port would not be a good thing, but I have yet to see the suggestion that unless a vast influx of industry arrived in Essex the port would not be viable or the airport would not be viable, and I was disappointed that the Commission told me so little about the port. I was disappointed in their handling of the VTOL situation. I see that if vertical take-off aircraft become a reality it will be some time before it happens and I see, according to the projections of Cublington and Foulness, that if the airport were at Foulness any possible impact of the VTOL aircraft on the situation would come only just after Foulness received its second runway. Is this to suggest that because Cublington, if it were chosen, would have a runway somewhat earlier, the immense waste of effort involved would be any less distressing? Merely because the impact of VTOL was coincidental with the second runway at Foulness seems to me to be no argument whatsoever for suggesting that Cublington is a better site.

However, in the course of to-day's debate I have been even further encouraged by learning a new phrase, QSTOL. Unfortunately, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, I did not read Flight this week, but I understand that QSTOL must be "quiet take-off aircraft", and it suddenly occurred to me in a flash how nice it would be if the technology of this country were applied to making aeroplanes quieter. This is the one thing that everyone regards as a consummation devoutly to be wished—not faster or bigger or shinier, but quieter—and if our technology were applied to that how much more happiness there would be not only in your Lordships' House but also over the whole spread of the country.

On the matter of priorities, in its reasoning this Report seems to me to be more than a little specious. Much has been made of the unfortunate paragraph about the journey to Rome to see the Sistine Chapel, but in fact the sentence which precedes it is very dubious indeed: If an air traveller wishes to make his journey, whether on business or holiday, we see no reason why he should not be allowed to do so. It is not a question of allowing him to do so. I dare say that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, in his capacity as Chairman of the Arts Council, sees no reason why the inhabitants of the Hebrides should not be allowed to hear grand opera, but I also doubt if he is going to build an opera house in the Hebrides to ensure that they do. This sort of argument is merely a semantic confusion. It is not a question of permitting and allowing; it is a question of encouragement. Indeed, there is a passage here which suggests, as if it were a great horror, that on considering the length of journey to Foulness a business man might actually decide not to make his business trip. What sort of a business man, faced with the decision of a 39 or a 44 minute railway journey, will cancel a business appointment abroad? If that is the hope for English businessmen, then we can relax at once—no airport is necessary.

But the most serious point of all is the one which so many of your Lordships have already made. I will not labour it further. It is, of course, the proposed destruction of Cublington and the area round it. It parenthesis, I noticed that the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, said today that those concerned with defending this area had raised the sum of £55,000 for this purpose. I wonder how many of your Lordships thought with me at the time how monstrous it is that a sum of £55,000 should have to be raised to prevent one's house and one's home from being bulldozed; that the mere suggestion in official circles—not a recommendation or at this point an endorsement—should cause sums of this magnitude to be subscribed, much from outside sources and most from people who probably can ill afford it.

But if one wants one last quotation from this very dubious recommendation of the Report, with which I will take issue, it is in its second paragraph. The noble Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, this afternoon impressed upon us that in this matter we must not take or recommend a decision for emotional reasons. With the greatest respect to the noble Viscount, I do not believe that there are emotional reasons. There are reasons expressed with emotion. If that is the case, then I welcome it. He also suggested that we must give our opinion on this matter only after calm and dispassionate judgment. I defy anybody to wade through this document for its whole length in a white-hot passion; it is physically impossible to do so. So, my Lords, as I come to my conclusion, it is with the calmest and the coolest judgment that I can summon, and I say that if we permit the area round Cublington to turn into an airfield the world will believe that Britain is going backwards to barbarism. Any country that could permit the desolation and the outrage envisaged would be looked at by others, and rightly so, as a nation of vandals.

This Report, taking issue with Professor Buchanan, says: Professor Buchanan regards the planning and environmental factors as he interprets them, as constraints to which all other factors must be subservient. No matter how well a particular site will serve as an airport in other respects, if that site fails to satisfy planning and environmental considerations, that site must be rejected. We cannot accept this approach. With the destruction envisaged, if that is what is meant by "planning and environmental considerations", then the Roskill Commission may not be able to accept that approach. But I accept it and, if I judge aright, the majority of your Lordships accept it. I beg Her Majesty's Government to accept it.

7.44 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships long, because I have been approached from all sides not to speak at all However, I have one point that I should like to make; namely, that the planning and the reclamation of Foulness must not be taken as concerned solely with an airport, but also as concerning a seaport, an oilport and a manufacturing and industrial area; and also that there must be in the plan a residential area. All these ancillary interests would make Foulness the Midlands of the East Coast, with the benefits of the seaport and of an airport on their doorstep—and we all know that people work very much better on the East Coast than anywhere else in England.

I have here a map from Bernard Clark and Partners to the effect that 600 square miles in the Thames Estuary can be reclaimed. I make the figure only just over 500 square miles. However, the total area amounts to 320,000 acres. If this land were reclaimed and sold at £5,000 per acre it would realise £1,600 million. That is a lot of money. I do not believe that the seaport or the airport and the overhead rail will cost that amount of money. I think the Government are going to make a profit. In these days I say let the Government make a profit; I am all for it. Finally, we should have the finest airport in the world, and a seaport second to none. My Lords, think big; think the future!


My Lords, I must apologise for intervening at this late hour, but I want merely to ask a question which I hope the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, in winding up will be able to answer in the negative. The question is: is it really true, as noble Lords have suggested, that people who live in the noisy areas around Heathrow and Gatwick can expect no relief during the next ten years, either by alternative routing or the quietening of existing aircraft? Further, is it true that they must in fact expect increasing noise, caused by additional movements?

7.47 p.m.


My Lords, I must first of all apologise in that my absence from London made it impossible for me to be here yesterday for the first half of this debate. However, everything that I have heard this afternoon and this evening, and everything that I have read in yesterday's Hansard, has made it clear to me that the Roskill horse has already been flogged very nearly to death, and it is hardly necessary for me to flog it much further. I should also say that it is by mistake that I appear in the list of speakers as winding up for the Liberal Party. The fact is that I just did not know how soon I was going to get back to London and I asked to be put late on the list. This is in no sense a winding-up speech.

My Lords, if at any moment, at any time, and in any circumstances I had read of a proposal permanently, irrevocably and deliberately to despoliate the Vale of Aylesbury and much else besides, I should have been horrified. When I read it in the Report of a Commission of this kind, and when, in particular, I read the principal reasons why the Commission so decided, I am sickened. The reasons that we have I quote from paragraph 13.58: The first is that it makes substantially less demand upon the nation's resources. The second it that the benefits to air travellers are greater. On the first point, there is already precious little green unspoiled land left near London. Even among what remains, the Vale of Aylesbury is unique. Can its loss possibly be measured in financial terms? I do not believe it can.

On the question of distress, can the distress suffered by the thousands of people who will be evicted from their homes, and the countless thousands more whose lives will be made a living hell by noise and pollution be measured in such a way? The Roskill Report is perfectly right when it says that there are certain factors which cannot be quantified—horrible word, quantified—but if this is the case, and indeed it is, surely all this means, if they cannot be fitted into a cost/benefit analysis, is that the resulting cost/benefit analysis will be inaccurate; it does not mean that those considerations can be ignored. The second reason is that the benefits to air travellers are greater. Are we really going to put the interests of air travellers, who may use the place for a few hours a year, above those of the residents of the area that is threatened with destruction, and for whom it is their home, and their only home?

I do not want to develop these points any more as they have already been developed over the past two days at enormous length by far greater intellects and far more persuasive tongues than mine. The real reason why I put my name down to speak this afternoon is to make one particular point, which I think has not been adequately covered either in the debates in this House or in the Roskill Commission's Report. It is the question of the threatened properties of the National Trust, on whose executive council I have the honour to serve.

We have all heard a great deal about Stewkley Parish Church—about which, incidentally, the Report, totally inaccurately and, in my view, highly tendentiously, says that it can be moved. It cannot. We have heard much less about Waddesdon Manor, which is the home, after the Wallace Collection, of the second greatest private bequest in this country. We have heard even less about Claydon, which is not only the home of the family of Florence Nightingale but is also the possessor of the most superb suite of rococo rooms in this country. We have heard less still about Ascott, with its superb collection of English and Dutch paintings. None of these houses, it is true to say, is going to be razed to the ground if an airport is built at Cublington, but the whole tranquillity and peace, which is vital if they and all the things within them are going to be appreciated and loved, will be lost for ever. What about the Trust's 4,000 acres of Ashridge Estate, including Ivinghoe Beacon; unspoilt downland and beechwoods, through which the public is free to roam at will? If the airport is built at Cublington the whole of that estate will have just about as much rural tranquillity as Kew Gardens, and any of your Lordships who have been to Kew Gardens in the last five years will know what I mean by that.

I come to the question of Foulness. The National Trust cares every bit as desperately about the coastline of this country as it does about stately homes and their art collections. Those of your Lordships who are members of the National Trust—and I am sure that all of your Lordships are members of the National Trust—will understand and believe me when I say that. But is this not the only country in the world where the interests of birds are placed above the interests of humans? If a certain amount of area has to be despoiled for ever, is it not only sensible, is it not self-evident, that the maximum possible proportion of that area should be over the sea? If it is, then we are forced to the conclusion that no inland site for an airport can be acceptable.

One thing I should like to say about Foulness concerns a point which, certainly in the speeches that I have heard this afternoon, has not been stressed; that is, that the site at Foulness is infinitely, or very nearly infinitely, expandable. We have heard so much this afternoon about whether a third airport is or is not in fact necessary. If we have an airport at Foulness, a third airport will not be necessary; nor indeed, will a second airport be necessary. Foulness can be built—and I hope that it will be built—on a huge scale; a scale big enough to make both Heathrow and Gatwick redundant. It will be able to concentrate the entire foreign civil aviation of this country in one place. That place will be very largely over the sea, and the noise levels, the inconvenience levels, the pollution levels will be at a minimum. If, as may happen, though God forbid! in some future time that airport becomes too small, it can be expanded; more land can be reclaimed, more runways built, and more passenger terminals. There will never be a problem. We shall never be in the position that we are always in whenever an office building, an airport, a station or anything is built nowadays, that by the time is it built it is already too small. This has happened all the time at Heathrow. It could never happen at Foulness.

With the hovertrain, about which my noble friend Lord Gladwyn has told us, travelling at 250 miles an hour once every two minutes to the centre—and this is not a dream; this is perfectly practical—everybody will be happy. The long distance air travellers will be happy, because the problems of getting to the airport will no longer exist. Transit passengers in particular will be happy because they will have to bother no longer about getting from one airport to another, and crossing central London as they do so. The airlines will be delighted because at last all their stock, spares, offices and equipment will be in the one and the same place. Finally, and most important of all, the people of the South-East will be happy, because at last they will be free of that tyranny of noise and pollution which so many thousands have suffered, and with which so many thousands more have been threatened for very much too long.

7.57 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a very curious, poignant and ironical debate, because all your Lordships will remember that not so long ago it was proposed in this House that there should be a third London Airport at Stansted, and there was a great outcry not only against the idea of Stansted but about the supposed failure of the Government to have examined the matter sufficiently in detail and sufficiently publicly. The Government were sent away like very naughty boys—I think my noble friend Lord Greenwood will bear me out on this—in order to set up a Commission and do it all publicly and better than we had done it. The Commission duly reported, and the Commission's Report is before your Lordships' House, and you do not like it. What a difficult situation in a democracy this is!

I believe that not one single noble Lord has spoken in favour of the solution brought up by the Commission, the very setting up of which was determined by this House. Speakers in to-day's debate have been divided between those who say, "Don't let us have Cublington; let us have Foulness", and those who say, "Don't let us have Cublington; let us wait." Many noble Lords have had a grand time going over the Roskill Commission's Report. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, produced a wonderfully high level rending noise, and my noble friend Lord Leatherland yesterday produced a spendidly racy rending noise, both of them, I thought, very effective. The Report can indeed, be faulted all over the place. There are obvious and glaring faults, not in the way the cost/benefit exercise has been carried out but in the way it was set up in the first place in the questions asked. If I may take one example, the whole finding in regard to Foulness rests on the passenger user cost. That means the difficulty of getting there. If you turn to paragraph 10.1 of the Report which introduces this concept of passenger user costs and access, it says as an example: People in the Nuthampstead area for example might find it preferable to fly to Scotland from a nearby airport—should there be one—instead of travelling to London to catch a train or even not travelling at all. This is obviously so: if you did happen to live anywhere near Nuthampstead and there was a plane from there to Glasgow, you would take it. This is undoubted common sense and wisdom. This is the kind of thing we need.

We then carry on to paragraph 10.2 and we find that the argument is changing somewhat. We are dealing with Foulness now. It says: For some potential air travellers the inaccessibility will deter them from their air journey. Yes, indeed, if they live near Nuthampstead and they want to go to Glasgow, they will not go to Foulness. I agree with my noble friend Lord Beswick, who said that the day we go to Paris by way of Maplin Sands will be absurd. Of course, the day we go to Amsterdam by way of Maplin Sands will be more sensible. The paragraph continues: The more pronounced this effect is, the greater the risk that London will cease to be an important station on the world's main air routes. Now by a kind of sleight of hand, in a few lines of print, we have passed from how to get from Cublington to Glasgow, to how to get from London to New York or London to Singapore; and it is perfectly obvious that things that might deter you in the one would not deter you in the other.

In paragraph 10.3—I am not going through every paragraph of the Report, but these are points which I should like to bring out; perhaps the Government would like to pick them out from Hansard later and think about them—there is a bit about how they have taken the Ministry of Transport's appraisal of road investment schemes in order to find out where drivers want to go. They asked the Ministry of Transport, "What do you do about deciding where to build a road and finding where the drivers want to go? How do you relate the two facts?" This is all about road users wanting to go between one place and another; it is not at all about people who did not want to use the road, and simply wanted to get to an aeroplane to get to a much more distant place. It seems that the Ministry of Transport's excellent ways of calculating this requirement have been carried over into the access costs, in arriving at that enormous loading against Foulness in the final charts.

Now I do not say, "Do not have Cublington; have Foulness" —far from it. I give these examples of the fact that the Roskill Report is based all the way through on what you might expect "homo economicus" to do, and, especially, what you might expect that sub-species, "homo economicus touristicus" to do in different circumstances. They are perfectly right to have found out and to have told us. But what the Government have to do now—and, my God!, I pity them—is to take this data and from it decide what is going to be right for our country. They must ask themselves, "What do we think is going to be best for this country? What do we want to do as the elected Government? Of course, if we want to, it will be right for a Government of either Party to take a course other than the cheapest."

Of course it will be right, if they want and judge it right to do so, to take a course which may involve certain persons in greater suffering for a time—that is the swings and the roundabouts. You need not necessarily follow the immediate short-term pay-off. I hope that the Government will have the courage to consider the regional planning aspects, to incur certain costs on the economy as a whole if need be—but not necessarily on the taxpayer—if in their judgment it is for the general social benefit of the country. And I believe that we are here taking the biggest planning decision, at least for the South-East of England, which will ever be taken until we come to the next century.

I have paid great attention, as have all of your Lordships, to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton. It was an important speech, coming from whom it did, and I was struck—how could one not have been struck?—by his programme, which came in two parts. First of all, we get the quieter engines by 1980—and he was fairly sure about that. Secondly, we get OSTOL. He did not put a date on it, but he did not seem to doubt that we shall get it; and his proposal was that we should go ahead with the second runway at Gatwick. I think that was the main part of his interim recipe. We should then examine progress in 1977, by which he meant that if it appears in 1977 that we are not going to get quieter engines by 1980, and QSTOL very shortly after, then we may have to think again and take more unwelcome courses. I was immensely struck, also, by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine—a practical and political one, if you like.

I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, was preparing a Party issue in trying to pin on us all the continued and extra aircraft noise at Heathrow between now and 1980, because there is going to be that, anyhow. Two Elections are going to be covered by this increase and I do not think there is any hope of getting out of it. What we are talking about is the course to be adopted to decrease the Heathrow noise after 1980. If you adopt Roskill lock, stock and barrel, start planning now, and do exactly what he says, you do not get the first runway at Cublington till 1980, and the same will be true of Foulness, so that has to be faced.

One may be encouraged in this matter by one bit in the Report which I do not think anybody has mentioned; that is the passage where the Commission themselves are talking about VTOL and STOL, though not QSTOL. They state at the end that they do not think that STOL and VTOL are going to be of any help for a very long time; they end up on a rather depressing note. They then state, in effect, that this view supposes that the Government or industry are not going to provide large sums for all that is involved in developing one of these aircraft. They said that because they did not receive very much evidence on the VTOL and STOL questions. What they did receive was mostly devoted to the question of VTOL, and they said that this development is a very complicated thing to do and is a long way ahead in the future; that it will cost millions, it is very sophisticated and there is not very much hope.

They did not go too closely into what has become known as the less sophisticated approach of STOL, which could even be a sort of medium take-off—MTOL.—because something that could get off in half-a-mile would be usable in the centre of a big city, provided it was quiet enough. This is where the hope lies. I gather that since then the arrow of hope has been turning much more towards this. Moreover, one of the bogies they saw in the way of the development and use of VTOL was that there might not be small airports or pads ready for it in the centre of the places people go to—Paris, Madrid, Ibiza and all the rest.

The other difficulty about VTOL was that you cannot bring it down vertically through a mass of horizontally landing aircraft, and it is difficult to mix on a conventional airport. But if we come to the less sophisticated half-and-half idea of Slot., which still rolls horizontally, though very much shorter, there is no difficulty about slotting that into an ordinary conventional airport which we already have and which is handling conventional fast landing and take-off planes. So there are two factors there which have developed more favourably to the approach that my noble friends and I are advocating since the Roskill Commission finished their labours: first of all, the fact that it looks differentially easier to develop STOL with a "Q" in front than VTOL and secondly, the fact that the Commission's fear about the development of specialised infrastructure applies to VTOL, bur not to STOL to anything like the same extent.

If I may finish with two general points, they are these. First of all, in the Report, in the Government's thinking, to a certain extent in the last Government's thinking, in everybody's thinking, it is taken for granted that there has to be a lot of public money in the infrastructure of the aviation industry. I wonder whether it is not time now to begin to question ourselves about this. At one time it was thought that Foulness was going to be free to the public because there was a great amount of private capital corning in, because of the port. But then it was discovered that under the law as it stood you could not avoid a heavy charge on the ratepayers. You had to provide a lot of infrastructure, and all the rest of it, and this was going to fall on the public purse, willy-nilly. Are we perhaps taking it too much for granted that such expenditure should fall on the public purse? Why should we not devise a form of financing where the full cost of travelling by air is borne by those who wish to travel by air? Do we need to subsidise even by remote control? Do we need even to make favourable loans for the development of airports? It seems that the industry of aviation, as opposed to aircraft building, is something that ought by now, after fifty years, to be learning to forecast its own demand and to buy its own equipment, including airports, in a rational enough way to do without public subsidy; to do without, even, very large public loans. It can raise money in the market in the ordinary way. I think it might be time to begin to turn in that direction.

If we do that, we shall free a certain amount of public financial capacity theoretically—and what a good thing it would be if it could be spent on developments where public money is more properly spent! They are the dubious ones, which may not pay off. The State is not going to go broke, though firms do, as we know to our cost recently. Let the money be sunk in the development of doubtful engines; let it be sunk in brave projects—not in forlorn hopes, nothing stupid, but let risks be taken with public money rather than with private money. If private firms go "bust", the suffering is hard indeed to rectify. In the other case the Government have to rectify it, and Governments, as I say, do not go "bust". This ties in with what Lord Kings Norton—


Governments do.


No, not yet they have not. It is a long time since a Government went "bust", but firms are going "bust" every week now under the present dispensation. This ties in with what Lord Kings Norton was saying about the need for courage in developing the QTOL engine. I would say, "Sink money in it". I would say, "Approach the Germans, the French, the Italians, anybody else around the place who is interested in it." I only did not add the Americans to the list because it might be politically easier at the moment not to. Let us get it off the ground in a major and a brave way, and let us then look at it again. I do not perhaps say, "Let us wait until 1977", as Lord Kings Norton said; but let us look at it again in 1973. By then, if it is not working, it may be that the Roskill Commission Report will take on a new immediacy and relevance. But for the moment I am among those who do not believe that it should guide the Government very closely in the decisions they have to take within the next month or two.

8.12 p.m.


My Lords, we are coming now towards the end, I hope quite closely towards the end, of two days of debate, and they have really been memorable days. We have had some very remarkable speeches: speeches from experts, speeches from people with a very deep interest in the subject. Here, I should like to refer right away to the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Essex to-day. I have always been told that when anyone makes a maiden speech he should choose a subject he knows intimately. Certainly the noble Earl followed that advice, for he quite plainly knew intimately not only the place he was talking about but the people who live in it, and in consequence he made an extremely effective speech with which everyone will have sympathised deeply.

Some noble Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, have put forward complete packets, as it were, of alternative suggestions for consideration. There have been an immense number of criticisms, questions and suggestions, and even some wholehearted support occasionally.


There has been no wholehearted, support of the Roskill Commission.


No, my Lords; I am talking of criticisms of various aspects. I have not suggested for one moment that there has been wholehearted support of the Roskill Commission's recommendations. What I meant to convey was that there has been wholehearted attacks on Cublington and wholehearted support from time to time of Foulness; that sometimes it has been modified support, and so on. I do not intend to go through all the various questions that I have been asked, and to deal with them separately—obviously, that would take an immensely long time—but perhaps I might be allowed to deal with one or two of the questions straight away before I come on to my speech.

Towards the end of the debate the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, asked a very pertinent question about how far we could expect relief within the next ten years so far as noise was concerned around Heathrow and Gatwick. My Lords, the answer must be that this is a factor that is likely to persist, unless limits on day travel as well as night travel movements are imposed at these airports, for the next tell years or so. The opening up of the third airport is the only prospect of significant relief, although we hope that during the period quieter aircraft will slowly turn the tide. But they will not really be in regular service until about 1985 onwards. I think one has to face this fact.

At the same time, one of the main reasons why the Roskill Commission were asked to look into the question of the third London Airport was to make sure that this noise nuisance in these areas did not become so great as to be completely intolerable over an even wider area than it is at the present time. The figures have been quoted of the immense number of people who are affected—700,000 homes around Heathrow and about 2¼ million people. These are very large figures. This, I am afraid, is the answer which I think the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, expected. I am sorry that it cannot be a more satisfactory one.


My Lords, I wonder whether I could interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? May I ask him whether he is aware that, if he is saying that it is not possible to get a quieter engine until 1985, he is wrongly advised?


My Lords, we know that steps are being taken to quieten down engines now, but at the same time, of course, their power is growing. But I accept what the noble Lord has said. The question is on what scale we are likely to get a quieter engine by 1985.

I should like to reply to the direct question which my noble friend (I am not allowed to call him my noble friend; the noble and learned Viscount) Lord Dilhorne asked about Brize Norton. The Government will naturally give the fullest consideration to this problem before reaching their decision, but I cannot give further information to the noble Viscount on that subject at this time. I think he will appreciate that it would have been wrong to have reached a firm conclusion on that particular matter. It is one, I think he will agree, that needs to be looked at in the perspective of the whole subject.

My Lords, although my noble friend Lord Salisbury is not here, I think your Lordships would like to have an answer to the question that he put about the Foulness range. Here the Ministry of Defence are reconciled (I think that is the best way to put it) to a move sooner or later, and wherever the third airport is situated the growth of air traffic over the Thames Estuary will make a move inevitable. But a decision to develop Foulness as quickly as possible would present the Ministry of Defence with the difficult, though one would hope not insuperable, problem of finding an alternative location.


My Lords, by that I hope the noble Lord does not mean that there would be a move to the Welsh coast.


My Lords, we have enough problems about moves to-day without considering that one in detail.


I can promise the noble Lord that there would be an uproar if that occurred.


My Lords, the problem is that whenever you try to move something of this kind to somewhere else, and establish it somewhere else, there is uproar. We had it about Stansted and we are having it about Cublington to-night. That, to a large extent, is what this debate is all about. My Lords, we are deeply grateful to my noble friend Lord Molson for having initiated this debate. We all admired the great skill and force with which he presented his case, and he certainly set the tone for the debate.

It would be presumptuous on my part to attempt at this late hour, or at any hour, to evaluate the advice that has been proffered to-day. The Commission said that there were two different approaches to the problem that had been set to them: the market approach and the planning approach—and that neither on its own could provide the answer. Some noble Lords differed from that opinion to-day. They said that the one, the market approach, seeks to make the maximum use of the nation's resources and so to increase the nation's wealth; the other, the planning approach, seeks to identify certain socially desirable aims such as the conservation of the countryside and the best distribution of population and employment. The Commission stressed that both these approaches are indispensable and need to be blended. Individually, I suppose, we are all predisposed to stress one or the other according to our temperament, our profession perhaps, and even our personal preoccupations.

The Commission had the very difficult task of reaching a judgment impartially and dispassionately. Their methods have not always been understood. In particular, it is easy to criticise the cost/benefit analysis. No one would claim that the method is infallible. Nor did the Commission. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, drew a very vivid and not altogether inappropriate analogy which delighted your Lordships. Nobody would claim that the method was infallible but it is, nevertheless, an important tool when sensibly used for helping decision-taking, especially where simple commercial criteria are not applicable. But it is a developing tool and we cannot afford to be uncritical in our approach to it or in our interpretation of its results.

As the Buckinghamshire County Council have pointed out, there are elements in the problem that have not been covered and some that could not be covered by a cost/benefit analysis. That is not to say that they were not given their due weights by the Commission in reaching their conclusion, although opinions will inevitably differ as to what their due weights should be. At least it is fair to say that the Commission, in their position of impartiality and after two years of study, are as well placed as any one person or any other body to reach a judgment. It is for the Government now to consider whether there are any factors which could not have been or were not given their full weights from the national point of view. But whatever may be the conclusion that the Government must reach and present to Parliament, it is right to recognise and to express the greatest gratitude for the immense amount of time, work and thought that the Commission and their staff have given to the problem.

Basically, however, the Government will have to weigh up considerations about the best use of economic resources and the viability and prospects of the candidate airports together with the environmental gains and losses. It is not only the sites that have to be compared. The airport, wherever it is, is bound to make a dramatic impact on the environment and amenity in the surrounding area and some impact on the lines of communication to London. As to the latter, it would be rural amenity that would be affected on the way to Cublington and mainly urban amenity on the way to Foulness, where two new motorways, we are told, would ultimately be required. As to the surrounding area, there would be a great loss of open countryside, historic and beautiful buildings and even entire communities at the inland sites. No less than 1,000 houses on the site and in the safety zone would disappear from the face of the earth at Cublington and 600 at the other two inland sites. This means an enormous upheaval and real distress for a lot of people.

At Foulness, the coastline and wild life would suffer. The noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, thought that this perhaps was not really a balancing factor to take as against other considerations. In all cases, the population would increase substantially in order to provide the 65,000 airport workers estimated to be required for a four-runway airport—although I would remind your Lordships that that is 25 years off. To provide that amount of workers would need an extra population of close on 400,000 in the case of Cublington or Thurleigh. If Cublington is chosen, the plans for Milton Keynes will have to be modified even if the population target there were not altered. The effect of the airport upon environment will therefore constitute a most important factor in the Government's considerations and the fact that there are aspects of it which are not included in the cost/benefit analysis will in no way diminish the weight to be attached to it.

My Lords, there can be no doubt that from the powerful opening speech of my noble friend Lord Molson onwards, the views expressed in this debate have been overwhelmingly against a third London Airport at Cublington and substantially in favour of Foulness, although some noble Lords want neither. The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, asked whether we needed a third London Airport at all; and a good many others have echoed his views. But, after all, it was the Government of which he was a Member which was finally responsible for the Commission's terms of reference.

The Commission answered the question put to them about the timing of the need for a four-runway airport by saying that, planning should be carried out so as to ensure that the first runway of the third London airport, wherever it may be, would be operational by 1980. By that time the three airports owned by the British Airports Authority: Heathrow, Gatwick with one runway and Stansted, plus the municipally owned airport at Luton, would have a capacity, as my noble friend Lord O'Neill said, for 476,000 aircraft movements a year. The range of aircraft movements in 1981, as he said, for the South-East is expected to lie between 421,000 and 589,000. Clearly, therefore—and I do not think that he disputed this—another runway, whether at the third London Airport, whether at Gatwick or elsewhere, is likely to be needed by 1980.

Certainly, advice given about Gatwick was conflicting. The advice of the noble Lords, Lord Beswick and Lord Kings Norton, was that the idea of a third London Airport ought to be discarded and that the Government should press ahead with the development of short take-off landing aircraft, whether "Q" or not, speedily and energetically and meantime provide a second runway at Gatwick. On the other hand, my noble friends Lord Reigate, Lord Cork and Orrery and to-day, my noble friend Lord Mersey, among others, made clear their strong opposition to any build up of air traffic at Gatwick. Of course, any application for a new runway would be subject to the usual planning procedures.

My noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery asked why the Commission were asked to consider a four-runway airport. The reason can only have been that the traffic forecasts for the South-East indicated that eventually a four-runway airport would be required and that it was judged to be more economical and more efficient to have one large airport rather than two or more smaller developments. Some have argued in the debate to-day that it would be better to have a number of smaller developments; others, notably the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich, looked forward to an almost indefinite expansion at Foulness should it be required.

But nobody envisages the completion of four runways by 1980. Appendix 20.8 shows the timetable on which construction costs were based. The timetable allows for the second runway to be provided in 1986–87 at Foulness and in 1983 at the other airports. The third runway was not expected until 12 years later and the fourth, seven years after that. This is a very considerable time lag that is envisaged.

The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, referred to the proportion of the future traffic of a third London Airport assumed to come from the South-East. I am sure that he has studied Table 10.5 of the Report on page 103. This shows the various percentages estimated at the dates 1991 and 2000.


My Lords, I think I quoted from the paragraph which follows that table.


I am obliged to the noble and learned Viscount. My Lords, the proportion from London and the South-East naturally varies with the site. I recall that the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, mentioned the extremes being 80 per cent. for an airport at Foulness and 68 per cent. at Thurleigh; and at Cublington the figures are 73 per cent. in 1991 and 71 per cent. in the year 2000.

There have of course been studies of the origins and destinations of air passengers before the Roskill Commission Inquiry. The then Board of Trade, and now the Department for Trade and Industry, have carried out such surveys, and more are planned. These surveys have so far tended to confirm the estimation made by the Commission rather than the opposite view.


My Lords, the noble Lord will appreciate that the studies made, as shown by the Roskill Commission, were on statistics obtained in 1967 and 1969. My argument was that the potential growth must be related to the size of the population and, whatever the present pattern may be, there may not be the same potentiality for growth in the South as in the North.


My Lords, there were studies made last year on Scottish airports and also, I think I am right in saying, at Liverpool and Manchester, and one or two others. The results of these are due to be published before long. I am not sure whether they were before the Commission, but I certainly hope that they will be before the Government when they take their decision. I am just making the point that these forecasts from the studies were certainly before the Commission, and so far we have no reason to suppose that there has been any change in the forecasts.

At first sight it may strike noble Lords as odd that there should be this preponderance of air journeys generated in the South-East and that it would be wrong to assume that it will continue. But is it so odd when one considers that many of the journeys in question (about half in 1969 and it is assumed that the number will grow to over half in 1981 before reducing again to less) are made by non-British residents; in other words foreign tourists and businessmen? One has to hear in mind the enormous increase in tourist traffic to this country. It has been 20-fold over 35 years.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will look at the paragraph after the table to which he has referred, he will see that only 25 per cent. of the growth is estimated to be foreign.


My Lords, the point I am making is that we are discussing two forms of growth; the growth that is to come from foreign journeys and the growth from home journeys. All the noble and learned Viscount is saying is that the two are likely to keep more or less in parallel in the future—this is the forecast. Whatever the attractions of the rest of this Island, there is no doubt that the overseas visitors concentrate their attention on London; or at least they want to include London in their programme.

It is with this thought in mind that I suggest that those who, like the noble Lord, Lord Royle, urge the claims of airports far distant from London, may have to look at this more carefully. Most air journeys are short or medium-haul, and it is not at all reasonable that travellers, both British and foreign, should undertake a surface journey from, say, Liverpool to Central London; a journey three or four times longer than the duration of their air journey. I do not think that this can be contemplated.

There is now plenty of spare capacity at provincial airports, while in the peak periods the London area airports are crowded. But still the airlines, tour operators and passengers prefer London, for market reasons. The difficulty is further compounded in that the 20 to 30 per cent. of London area traffic, with its origins or destinations outside London and the South-East area, would, if forced out, be fragmented to all the other areas in which it is generated; and thus would not do enough to generate a useful level of services at any one place to any one destination in most cases.

Certainly it is sensible to have a national airport strategy—indeed, I think it more important to have a national airport strategy than to have a fixed national airport plan—which seeks to ensure that international flights are not frustrated by lack of capacity at airports outside the South-East, and successive Administrations have tried to ensure this; for example by the development of Prestwick and Manchester. Equally, a sound national strategy requires that we cope with the problem of growth and demand in the South-East which, for the reasons I have given, cannot be shuffled off elsewhere. My Lords, all these questions, or forecasts, will be most carefully examined by the Government in the course of making up their minds and I need hardly say that everything said by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, in his most pungent speech, will be looked at extremely carefully.

If I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, made a most interesting and constructive speech. Everything he said also will be considered extremely carefully. I am afraid that at present I am advised that the position has not changed as much as he hoped regarding short take-off and landing, and vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. I am advised that on the most favourably informed estimates they are unlikely to make any significant impact until the late 1980s. The noble Lord, of course, also has informed estimates, as I know. I am not saying that these aircraft will not be there; but they are not likely to make a significant impact. One has to remember that we cannot have a D-Day for aircraft. We cannot change, from one day to another, from long take-off to short takeoff and landing aircraft. As such, my Lords, these aircraft might well affect the need for a third runway which the Commission's construction timetable does not envisage until at least 1995; or the fourth runway which, as I have said, is expected some seven years later.

There are considerable problems involved in the idea. As someone has already said, it is gambling on the short take-off and landing or the vertical takeoff and landing aicraft in order to obviate the need to take any decision now. As the noble Lord, Lord Beswick suggested, to put one's faith firmly in the short take-off and landing aircraft involves not building a third London Airport. In turn, that involves increasing the use of Heathrow, building a new conventional runway at Gatwick and making greater use of Luton and Stansted. The noble Lord also mentioned an airport on the South Coast, and putting down short take-off and landing runways at some or all of these places. Perhaps even more important, assuming short take-off and landing aircraft, some unspecified site—such as Poplar Docks as he said—in or near Central London would have to be found that would not create environmental or competing use problems.

All this will offer small comfort to those (and noble Lords have many times referred to their plight) who are suffering noise nuisance at existing airports. It seems to be a certain formula for increasing this nuisance. Moreover, my Lords, STOL and VTOL aircraft are now lagging far behind conventional aircraft in passenger-carrying capacity, and seem likely to do so for many years. The noble Lord mentioned planes carrying 100 passengers, I think, and he said they were likely to cost more in competition and would be handicapped. It is this which renders their economic operation doubtful. It is true that this could also result in needing two or three times as many flights with STOL and VTOL planes as with the conventional aircraft they are to replace.


May I say that I think the noble Lord has a point about the increased number of flights that would be necessary to carry a give number of people? May I ask him this question, in all seriousness? When he says that an aircraft of this type could not be expected to be operating until the late 1980s, has he made any inquiries, or caused any inquiries to be made, of those people who will be responsible for making them? Is this the sort of estimate that they themselves would make?


I did not say I did not think they would be operating. I said that I did not think they would make a significant impact until the late 1980s.

My Lords, finally on this point there is the question of expense. In evidence to the Roskill Commission it was said that development of a short take-off and landing aircraft alone could well cost something over £250 million, and even that might not be enough to cover all the engine costs. On top of that there could be something of the same order of cost for the full system, in terms of developing, producing and installing new air traffic control equipment, new STOL airports and new types of navigation equipment. It is far too soon for any Government—and this is the point—to commit themselves to a course of action which would involve such costs. Two more years of study, at least, I am told, is needed before firm decisions one way or the other can be taken.


My Lords, is it improper to suggest that the Minister is advised by a lot of pessimists?


What the noble Lord has said will certainly be carefully studied. But we have examples of over-optimism which are not particularly encouraging at: the moment.


My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting him?—but this really is the most important matter of the whole debate. Surely the Government are going to pay very serious attention to the whole problem of short take-off, because unless they do this we may be faced not with an expenditure of £250 million in the development, but with an expenditure of £500 million or more on a useless airport.


This is a question of timing and fitting in the requirements.


Yes, of course.


The question is how soon we could be in a position to start work on this and, having started work, how soon we could expect aircraft to be produced, and then how soon we could expect them to be produced in sufficient numbers to make a significant impact. Surely these are the problems.


Surely the noble Lord will agree that I have given him an interim policy which covers that point.


I agree that the noble Lord has given me an interim policy, and I have said already that that policy will be carefully examined as a whole. But it has to be examined very carefully indeed. What I feel I must do at the moment is to give the posture of the Government in the matter as of now.

It was for these reasons that the Commission concluded that it could not responsibly place reliance on STOL or VTOL to bring about an absolute reduction in the pressure on conventional airport capacity until the end of the next decade at the earliest. They could not responsibly place reliance upon it. The Commission concluded that, to meet the expected growth in demand, a new airport in the London area would be needed by 1980. This raises the question: should this demand be artificially curtailed or should it be ignored? On this the Commission said: Generally it has been accepted that this country should not purchase peace and quiet at the expense of cutting itself off from the world's air routes. That the economic cost of doing so would be considerable cannot be questioned. Lack of provision for the air traffic demand could have a serious effect on our tourist trade. This would not be much offset by reduction in numbers of British holidaymakers going abroad, because, in the first place, these holiday-makers may make more effort to escape the English summer by using sea transport than potential visitors to this country may make so as to experience it. Secondly, the loss of United States and Canadian tourists, among others, would not be offset by a reduction of British tourists, for example, to Spain.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a personal question? Does he subscribe to the view that there are American and Canadian tourists who do not care whether they come to Britain or, for instance, to France; who simply want to go to Europe, and do not know the difference between one country and another?


No. But experience shows that they will do what they want to do; and if they are not allowed to do what they want to do when they come here they will go to France instead.

British overseas trade will also be hampered, particularly in highly competitive fields, and it would not be possible to offer future relief to those suffering excessive noise at the London airports. Unfortunate consequences would arise for our own airlines operating overseas if we could not offer foreign airlines the facilities that they want in this country. This, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, knows has already happened in a particular case, and we do not want it to happen again. We are at present a net exporter of aviation services to the tune of £38 million a year—this is the net gain to the balance of payments.

If the Commission are right in forecasting the enormous growth of air traffic from 19½ million passengers in 1970 to 122 million in 1991, and 259 million in the year 2006, at the London airports alone—and we have seen no convincing arguments to the contrary, despite Lord Goodman's doubts—failure to provide adequately for this growth may condemn future generations to live in an economic backwater, unable to compete effectively with other States in the Western World. So far as we are aware, no country has decided not to try to meet the air traffic demands expected to be made of it.

In conclusion, my Lords, I should perhaps make the point that, as has been obvious in the course of this debate, Foulness would be a popular choice for the site of a third London Airport. On the other hand, after studying the question in great depth and detail, we are bound to recognise that six out of the seven eminent men who formed this Commission, and who clearly were far from insensitive to environmental matters, found themselves in agreement that Cublington was, on balance, the best site, and Thurleigh the next best. I should perhaps remind your Lordships of the section in their Report at the end of paragraph 66 of Chapter 13, on page 141. The majority of the Commission said this: It is some measure of the extent to which each of us was able to give full weight to all the factors involved in reaching our recommendation—including the environmental matters about which Professor Buchanan feels so strongly—that each of us, uninfluenced by any of his colleagues, has independently felt compelled to make the same recommendation however reluctantly. Why has this come about? Why has each of these six gentlemen come to this conclusion? It is not, as they are at pains to point out, simply that they can see no further than the cost/benefit analysis. The Commission, for example, looked at the prospects of financial success of the airport they had in mind in the context of each of the sites. It was the Commission's view that an airport at Foulness would not be as certain of success as an airport at either Cublington or Thurleigh: it might need a constant subsidy from the taxpayers. An airport at either Cublington or Thurleigh would, in the Commission's view, be more resilient, in that the higher traffic flows forecast would allow an airport at either to show a return even if actual traffic is down on expectation.

But even this is not conclusive. The Commission, having quantified all those items which they thought could be quantified, came to their recommendation on a balance of advantage on the issues as a whole, including such unquantifiable elements as the relative worth of open rural background and the preservation of wild life. It is particularly in the importance to be given to such unquantifiable items as these that we in this House and Members of another place must seek to weigh the broad national interest. It is this that the Government are now seeking to do, and the advice given in the contributions by your Lordships will be most helpful to the Government in that task. When the Government have made up their minds, they will make the decision known to Parliament and then there will be an opportunity for debating that decision in both Houses.


My Lords, before the noble Lord finally concludes, may I ask him whether he is able to answer a question which I put during my speech? It was the question of planning around existing airports. Can he say whether the Government are looking into the question of introducing strict control of planning around existing airports?


My Lords, I do not think I can add to what my noble friend has said on the subject of planning. Perhaps my noble friend would like to raise that question at another time.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether at least he is going to look into the question of the development of the hovercraft, and the hover-train?


My Lords, I beg the noble Lord's pardon; I had that point down on my special list. Of course what he has said will be carefully studied, and it will undoubtedly be one of the factors to be considered.

8.51 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to express my heartfelt gratitude to every noble Lord who has helped to make this what I think can be called a remarkable debate. We have had speeches from those with experience of Government; we have had speeches from those with great technical knowledge; we have also had speeches from noble Lords who expressed the feeling of the people in the countryside, and those who live near either the threatened areas or in areas where airports already exist. I am sure that we should all wish to express special gratitude to the two noble Lords whose maiden speeches have added quite considerable distinction to our debate. One thing that is certainly remarkable about this debate is that I can think of no other Commission who have made a recommendation that has subsequently been debated in either House and not a single speech has been unequivocally in support of the recommendation made.

My Lords, we all admired the nimbleness of the Government speakers who spoke for quite a considerable period of time without in any way disclosing to us what was really going on in their minds. Every time one thought that the next sentence was going to disclose an indication of where their preference lay, or of what argument had particularly weighed with them, that sentence was immediately followed by another, expressing the diametrically contrary opinion. So, at the end of the time, we are left in the position in which the Government intended us to be: completely unaware of what is going on in their minds, or whether anything is going on in their minds. They have, however, assured us that they will give our debate the most careful—and I think one speaker said "respectful"—consideration.

I think I can draw three conclusions from what has been said, and I rely upon my noble friends to correct me if I am wrong. The first is that the Government will take an early decision. The second is that they will have consideration for the suffering of those who live near existing airports and suffer from the noise. The third is that they will take into account some of those broad, national considerations which the Roskill Commission, rightly or wrongly, thought they were debarred by their terms of reference from taking into account. Since no Minister has risen from the Treasury Bench to say that I am rash in having drawn three solitary conclusions from the three speeches which have been made, I assume that my deductions are justified.

My Lords, after general discussion such as this, which is usually based on a Motion asking for Papers, it is customary for the mover of the Motion to ask permission to withdraw his Motion. To-night I feel there is no need for me to do so. After more than 40 of your Lordships have spoken, it surely must be the case that the House cannot avoid taking notice of the Report of the Roskill Commission. I hope, therefore, that when this Motion is put to you, the "Contents" will have it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.