HL Deb 12 May 1971 vol 318 cc1060-3

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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent, when making a decision about the siting of an airport at Foulness, they took into account the consequential effect that dredging at the mouth of the estuary and land reclamation there would have on the flow of water in the further reaches of the Thames; and to what extent the need for the proposed Thames barrage will be affected by this work at the estuary mouth.]


My Lords, the Roskill Commission concluded that reclamation at Foulness could be undertaken without adverse effects on the régime of the Thames Estuary. The Government are satisfied that this project will have no effect on the Thames barrier.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for that Answer. Is it not a fact that the deepening of the channel at Foulness for a deep sea port, and the reclamation of land, confounds the entrance to the Thames considerably, and that the inflow will not rise as high as it does at present?


My Lords, of course if the idea of a major sea port was combined with that of a major airport the whole dredging operation would take on a different character. That possibility was taken into account by the Roskill Commission, and my original Answer covers that possibility.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that his Answer really indicates the superficial way in which this matter has been judged so far? Is he aware that the Answer that I really expected to this Question was that developments at the mouth of the estuary would have a beneficial effect on the flow of water up the Thames, and will he look at this a little more closely? Will he realise that apart from the ridiculous idea of having an airport, there would be considerable advantages if the seaport venture was developed?


My Lords, I could not agree that the expenditure of all the time and over £1 million of cash in research into this project has resulted in a superficial study.


My Lords, the noble Lord has not answered my question. He said in his Answer that there would be no adverse effects. Of course there will be no adverse effects; there may well be some beneficial ones. The noble Lord was so concerned to defend this ridiculous airport idea that he overlooked the kind of Answer which he might have given.


My Lords, while welcoming the airport decision, I wonder whether my noble friend could tell us what study group has been set up in what Ministry to determine the exact location of the airport and to consider studies of the proposed deep water port and associated industrial development, and to whom should those interested address themselves?


My Lords, no, not at this stage and without notice; but if my noble friend would like to put down a Question on that point I will see that he has an answer.


My Lords, regarding the reply that my noble friend gave to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and his reply to Lord Nunburnholme's Question, the large sum he mentioned emphasised that the trials carried out by the Thames Estuary Development Company, which were accepted by the Roskill Commission, prove conclusively what the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has said. It should be emphasised that the two very large models which proved all this support the conclusions which were announced.


My Lords, may I ask Her Majesty's Government whether we may have a debate on this subject, so that the benefits of Foulness, subsidiary to the airport, may be fully discussed?


My Lords, it is not for me to say what we can and cannot debate. I should have thought this was a subject which we had gone into fairly thoroughly.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that efforts will be made from many quarters to denigrate the decision which has been arrived at to establish an airport at Foulness, and will the Government stand firm by the decision?


My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that if land reclamation would serve the purpose intended to be served by the mechanical barrages, the saving of expenditure in a mechanical barrage would thereby be a very considerable contribution towards defraying the expense of the port and airport development?


My Lords, we are getting on to another question. If the noble Lord wants to ask me questions about the Thames barrier, he will have to put down a Question.


My Lords, would the noble Lord suggest to the proper authority that this very disagreeable name be now changed?


My Lords, that is another question.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Earl the Leader of the House would consider, through the usual channels, the desirability of having a debate so that we can elicit more information than is apparently available to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, at the moment. I wonder whether he considers that there is a chance of finding any time between now and the Summer to have a debate, and whether he might not be better advised now to recommend the withdrawal of the useless Industrial Relations Bill so that we can talk about something which is important and contemporary.


My Lords, I find it extremely difficult to grasp the exact relevance of the noble Lord's question.


My Lords, when a Statement is next made on the subject of Foulness, could there he some comment on the idea postulated in today's Times newspaper about a steelworks at Foulness?


My Lords, that again is another matter; but if the noble Lord cares to put down a Question it will be answered.