HL Deb 26 June 1973 vol 343 cc1840-969

2.45 p.m.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Young I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time. The Bill we are debating to-day is one part of a many-sided project. At the heart of the project stands the need to provide London with a first-class modern airport. The reclamation of the land needed to provide a site for this airport could readily be extended to include a seaport, which would represent a logical progression of the historic movement of the Port of London downstream from the congested City itself and nearer to the deep water channel. In addition, the reclamation site could provide land for other development. All these facilities will need good communications with London and the rest of the country and this will mean new road and rail links. Finally, a new town will be needed to provide for the increase in population associated with the development of the reclaimed land, and will thus link with the designation of South Essex as a major growth area in the South East Strategic Plan.

The Bill is an essential part of the machinery needed for the implementation of the Maplin project as a whole. It does not provide the whole of that machinery. The airport will be constructed by the British Airports Authority and the seaport by the Port of London Authority, each using their own statutory powers. The access routes and the new town will be dealt with under other legislation. Our debate to-day is on the Bill, and I shall do my best to explain its provisions; but I recognise that it gives an opportunity to look at the project as a whole and I have no doubt that the main concern of many noble Lords who wish to speak will be about the need for a third London Airport.

First, I should deal with the main purpose behind the Bill. Before I do so I must make one general point about the Bill. It is a hybrid Bill, which means that those whose interests are affected in a particular way may petition against it. Some have already done so, when the Bill was before the other place; Amendments have already been made to the Bill in the course of the examination by a Select Committee there and I shall mention some of them. So far as this House is concerned. the period for petitioning ends on June 28. If there are Petitions the Bill will go to a Select Committee of this House.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord so early, but there are a number of prospective Petitioners who are concerned with the access to the airport by road or rail, and they point out that they are unable to lodge their Petitions because they do not know the routes along which the road and rail may go. In the case of those Petitioners, will there be a further opportunity to petition after June 28?


My Lords, I will ask my noble friend to reply to that question. It is a procedural one to which I do not know the answer. The first object of the Bill is to set up a Maplin Development Authority to carry out the reclamation of Maplin, some 28 square miles, at a cost of £175 million at 1972 prices. The Maplin Development Authority will have a duty to make available to the British Airport Authority the land needed for the airport and to the Port of London Authority for the seaport. If by any chance your Lordships were now to be of opinion that a third London Airport was no longer necessary, or alternatively, was necessary but ought not to be at Maplin, it would be pointless to proceed with the Bill. Both Houses received favourably the Government's announcement on April 26, 1971, of the intention to go ahead with the project and it is therefore logical for me to consider first whether the circumstances have so changed since that date as to vitiate the grounds on which the Government reached their conclusion that a third London Airport at Maplin should be provided by 1980. I should add that since then the necessary planning and preparation has been going ahead without intermission.

Of course, my Lords, the need for a third London Airport was recognised long before that date. It had become apparent that the congestion and the noise nuisance at and around the two existing London airports were already excessive and were becoming intolerable. It is fair to say that on the previous occasions when your Lordships discussed the question of a third London Airport—the Stansted debate, in 1967. and the Roskill Report debate in 1971—there was general, though not unanimous, acceptance of the need for it. What emerged from those debates was a general view that a new airport should not he located at an inland site; and that the Government should act with al possible speed to reduce the noise and inconvenience imposed on the people living around the existing airports and under the approaches to them, notwithstanding the fact that greater cost would be involved and that a coastal airport would be further removed from London. The only way to reduce the source of suffering would be so to site an airport that aircraft would approach it over the sea and would take off from it over the sea. If in addition the airport could be established by reclaiming land from the sea, that would be a further advantage. It was for these reasons that Parliament, on environmental grounds, preferred a seaside location to one such as Cublington, despite the operational and cost advantages of an inland site.

Of course there is bound to be opposition to the provision of a new airport, wherever it is sited. The most effective way of uniting such opposition as exists is to seek to prove that no new airport is needed yet or is needed at all. Some say that for various reasons the traffic forecasts on which the Roskill Commission based their recommendation for a 1980 opening, which the Government endorsed, were hopelessly out of date. They also prayed in aid the recent Report of the Civil Aviation Authority entitled Forecasts of Air Traffic and Capacity at Airports in the London Area.

Let us consider that Report, taking first the passenger demand arising at London airports. For 1980 the Civil Aviation Authority forecast passenger traffic at the London airports at 58 million compared with Roskill's 57 million; and they forecast air transport movements at 488,000 compared with Roskill's 482,000. To that extent, the Civil Aviation Authority's Report completely endorses the Roskill recommendation and the Government's acceptance of it. Looking a little further ahead to 1985, we find that the Civil Aviation Authority's forecast for air passenger demand is precisely the same as Roskill's at 84 million; while for air transport movements their forecast is slightly less—534,000 instead of 555,000. There is thus very little deviation from the Roskill forecast up to 1985. The Civil Aviation Authority made no forecast beyond 1985. The Civil Aviation Authority make clear in their Report that they have taken into account the growth in size of aircraft, the effect of the Channel Tunnel and some possible diversion of traffic to the regions. There is, and always will be, argument about the possible effects of these factors, but in taking them into account the Civil Aviation Authority have arrived at roughly the same conclusions as Roskill.

One thing that the Civil Aviation Authority's Report brought out strongly was that any forecasts must involve uncertainties and margins of error, particularly in the air traffic field when you are looking many years ahead. For example, the Report states that if the estimate of annual average rate of increase of passenger demand were only 2 per cent. out, the effect on the level of air transport movement would be the equivalent of four years' growth; that is to say, capacity would be completely filled four years earlier than if the estimate had been proved to be correct. We cannot rule out in our planning that the Civil Aviation Authority's estimates may be too low. The French, who are now constructing the third Paris airport at Roissy, estimate that passenger traffic through the Paris airports will rise from the 1972 figure of 16 million by 2.75 times to 44 million by 1980. The Civil Aviation Authority estimate that London's traffic will rise from 27 million by 2.15 times to 58 million over the same period. If we do have an increase on the Paris scale, there will be not 56 million but 74 million passengers at London's airports in 1980. As regards air transport movements, the International Air Transport Association has calculated that aircraft movements in the London area will increase by 2.18 times by 1985 compared with 1970; the Civil Aviation Authority's forecast for the London area is a growth of only 1½ times over the same period. An increase on the IATA scale would mean that all the London airports would be full to overflowing, even including Maplin.

I have given these various figures to show the hazards of air traffic forecasting and the differences that exist among experts. The Government, however, carry the responsibility for ensuring that capacity meets demand. So the Government cannot ignore the possibility that the Civil Aviation Authority's forecasts will prove to have been too low. For the present, we are content to proceed with the traffic forecasts which we have already been using, but of course we must be watchful for any trend towards a more rapid increase. For, as we all know, it is easier to slow down planning than to accelerate it.

Let me say a word or two about runway capacity. Since the Roskill traffic forecasts are substantiated by the Civil Aviation Authority's Report, one may ask what basis can there be for the renewed criticism of the need for Maplin. The answer lies in the section on runway capacity in the Civil Aviation Authority's Report. The main departure from previous calculations lies in the Civil Aviation Authority's estimate that Gatwick Airport could accommodate 168,000 air transport movements a year. This is an increase of more than 50 per cent. over the figure of 110,000 used by the Roskill Commission on the advice then available. The new capacity figure represents an increase of 130 per cent. over the number of air transport movements recorded at Gatwick in 1972. The increase in the Heathrow capacity estimate is more modest—from 327,000 air transport movements to 338,000, a 30 per cent. increase over 1972. Since people affected are looking for a decrease in air transport movements at Heathrow, an increase of 30 per cent. is not unimportant. It is almost entirely due to these increases in the theoretical capacity of the runways at the two airports that the Civil Aviation Authority's Report concludes that there will be a surplus of runway capacity in 1980, and also in 1985—but with one runway at Maplin. The main reason given for these radically revised capacity figures is an assumed more even spreading of demand throughout the day, the week and the year; that is to say, the levelling out of the peaks of traffic and the filling up of the troughs.

In a letter to The Times on June 1 the General Manager of Scandinavian Airlines warned that habitual traffic movements had shown themselves to be unyielding. How far, they asked, can traffic schedules be bent to conform with the theories of economists without completely losing their basic purpose, which is speed and convenience? In real life, peaks are always likely to be with us, as in the daily commuter rush and the seasonal August holiday trek. The letter also ventured the opinion that there was already a shortage of runway capacity, because no suitable time slot could be found at Heathrow for additional flights between 06.00 hours and 13.00 hours in the summer. In an article in Flight in March, the Operations Director of Britannia Airways said that they would like to use Gatwick, but that they could not, because there was insufficient capacity. The point is that from an airline's or an air passenger's point of view an airport is full if they cannot fly at or near the time they want to fly. In addition, we have the views of the British Airports Authority, who have the task of operating London's main airports. In spite of the Civil Aviation Authority's Report, they have confirmed their view that Maplin Airport will be needed by about 1980. I think, therefore, we must be very cautious about accepting these new runway capacity estimates before obtaining further confirmation of the way the trends develop; and this depends partly on passenger reaction and partly on the rate of introduction of larger aircraft.

On the size of aircraft, the impression is sometimes given, though not in the Civil Aviation Authority's Report, that there will be nothing but Jumbos and supersonic aircraft flying in the 1980s. The Civil Aviation Authority's forecasts assume that there will be some 1,000-seater aircraft flying in 1985. This might be so, but no manufacturer is actively considering building one at the moment. The largest aircraft now in service—the Boeing 747—can carry about 500 passengers. Aircraft subsequently brought into service—the Lockheed 1011 and the DC110—can hold about 350, and the European A 300B airbus rather fewer than this. The next generation of aircraft which manufacturers are actively discussing with airlines—the Europlane and Boeing 787 are examples—will accommodate about 200 passengers, while the Hawker Siddeley HS146, for which financial support is being sought, will hold about 100. And then there are the supersonics which will hold not many more than 100 passengers. So it would be wrong to assume that there will be a trend to bigger and bigger aircraft only. As Mr. Ian Colvin dryly remarked in the Daily Telegraph, the public may not care to travel in 1.000 seater aircraft". However, even if the runway capacity figures were accepted, we would come up against another real physical restraint. According to the forecasts in the Civil Aviation Authority Report, London's airports will be required to handle 84 million passengers in 1985, more than three times the 1972 figures of 27 million. The present and planned developments at Heathrow and Gatwick just could not cater for this amount of traffic. New terminal buildings, car parks, service roads and all the additional allied airport infra-structure over and above that now planned would be required. This would mean an expansion of the airport area, for the existing sites were never designed with this amount of traffic in mind. Noble Lords who use the airports regularly know the congestion that already exists at the airports and on the approaches to them at peak periods Your Lordships will not relish the thought of this congestion being increased and lasting for longer periods each day. There would he very little margin for contingencies. and any delay due to technical or other hitches would result in prodigious log-jams, with all the frustration and irritation that they cause.

It was on account of the shortage of ground area capacity at the existing airports that the Civil Aviation Authority Report concluded that in order to allow the total system to function effectively a second runway at Maplin might be needed by 1985. Given the need for airport capacity, we had to choose between the greater operational advantages which led all but one of the Roskill Commission to recommend Cublington and the planning and environmental advantages on which Sir Colin Buchanan based his Minority Report in favour of Maplin.

There have been suggestions in the Press and in Parliament recently that there are no longer pressing environmental reasons for easing the noise burden which has lain on millions of people living or working near existing airports for many years, because larger 'and quieter aircraft are being introduced into service more rapidly than was envisaged at the time of the Roskill Commission. The Government are well aware of that. Indeed, in the consultation document Maplin Airport: Choice of sites for runways, published by the Department of the Environment in April, 1972, it was stated quite explicity that we expected a substantial improvement in aircraft noise reduction over that envisaged by Roskill. Noise contours were drawn up and compared with those prepared by the Roskill Commission at Maplin. The 1972 35 N.N.I. contour covered an area only half of that covered by the Roskill 35 N.N.I. contour. Even more dramatically, the number of houses within the 35 N.N.I. contour fell from 20,300 to 1,360. When we produced these calculations last year the opponents of Maplin protested in chorus that we were deliberately under-playing the effect Maplin would have; we were virtually accused of "cooking the books". Now the opponents of Maplin are using the very calculations we made in the consultation document in an attempt to demonstrate that noise is no longer a serious problem.

Let us look at the facts. Even on the revised lower noise levels the Maplin 35 N.N.I. contour calculated for 1990 covered an area well over 100 square miles in extent—24 miles long from one end to the other—from Windsor to Westminster in the Heathrow context. Fortunately, at Maplin 90 per cent. of the 35 N.N.I. area is over the sea; this is the great advantage of the site. If these 100 square miles-plus were superimposed over the existing noise levels at inland airports, the benefit of making a corresponding improvement in the noise situation at those airports would be lost. We all realise it is not much consolation to someone living in a house within an area of noise nuisance to know that his is only one of 2,000 or even 50 houses affected, but whenever a new airport is located—or even if there is no new airport and the noise levels at existing airports increase—some people are bound to be affected. The aim must be to ensure that the numbers of people affected are kept as low as possible. For those who are affected there is a new entitlement to compensation for depreciation in the value of their property under Part I of the Land Compensation Act. There is also a discretionary power to acquire property from owner-occupiers where the noise is greater than they could reasonably be expected to live with, though I doubt whether there are many (if any) such places likely to arise at Maplin. And of course the Secretary of State has power under Section 15 of the Airports Authority Act to introduce a sound insulation scheme.

I have various comments to make on recent articles written and speeches delivered on the environmental aspect in the last few months. First, although one newspaper article mentioned that the Civil Aviation Authority figures envisage a 30 per cent. growth in air transport movements over and above present levels at Heathrow, nowhere did 1 see any mention that the growth envisaged at Gatwick was 130 per cent. I find it very difficult to believe that any improvement could be effected at this level of growth for the many thousands adversely affected at Gatwick, even with quieter aircraft. No mention was made of the fact that closure of Stansted and Southend and the closure or severe restriction of Luton would mean an end to the noise problem for many thousands of people around those airports. Nor was any mention made of the fact that the opening of Maplin would enable us to consider further night restrictions at Heathrow and Gatwick. N.N.I. contours are used to measure daytime noise disturbance only, because there is as yet no generally accepted method of measuring night-time disturbance. Yet it is at night that disturbance is most upsetting; this is the reason why we impose limits on the number of movements at night at Heathrow and Gatwick. Nevertheless, there are many thousands of movements a year, and a great number of people around Heathrow and Gatwick could be Liven greater relief once Maplin is in operation. In addition, the "night" period for movement restrictions is generally taken to be 11.30 p.m. to 6 a.m. More relief still could be given by spreading the restriction period over more hours so as to cover the evening period when children are being put to bed and the morning when many people like to sleep on beyond 6 a.m.

Finally, I must emphasise that while there are at the moment no planned restrictions for the operation of Heathrow and Gatwick post-Maplin, the then Minister for Trade stated in the House on July 27, 1971, that the advent of Maplin would enable the Government to impose stricter limits on air traffic movements at Heathrow and Gatwick and to apply other restraints at those airports to reduce the impact of noise. It is certainly the Government's intention so to use the resources of Maplin as to make a distinct improvement in the environment of millions living around Heathrow and Gatwick.

None of the improvements at Heathrow and Gatwick to which I have referred would be possible without Maplin. Indeed, if the estimated runway capacities at these two airports were to be fully utilised on the basis of the Civil Aviation Authority's calculations, the people affected by noise from these airports would have to endure the noise of some additional 480 aircraft every day, on average, above what they experience at present. One point more on the noise aspect. The Wilson Committee on Noise which reported in 1963 stated, on the basis of a social survey carried out for the Com? mittee in 1961, that there was an acute noise problem around Heathrow. Since 1961 aircraft movements at Heathrow have just about doubled. People who live in the area are not therefore looking for a marginal improvement in the noise disturbance they are now experiencing. They want, quite justifiably, to go back to the pre-1961 levels. This can only be achieved through the introduction of quieter aircraft and the advent of Maplin. Governments have been saying for some years that real progress in the battle against aircraft noise can be made only through the twin aims of quieter aircraft and the correct siting of airports. The quieter aircraft are now coming, and at Maplin we have the opportunity of creating the United Kingdom's first environmental airport. Now is the time not to draw back but to press on with the second of our twin aims.

In his statement on May 8 the Minister for Aerospace and Shipping said that there was nothing in the Civil Aviation Authority's Report to change our view that Maplin Airport was needed as soon as possible. What I have said amplifies the reasons he gave in his statement. Whatever the actual timing of the need on runway capacity grounds—and there is obviously scope for argument here—there still remain other factors such as noise, congestion and ground area capacity which argue strongly in favour of an opening date at the earliest practicable time. Moreover, the forecasts which have been made by the Civil Aviation Authority only go up to 1985. Nobody has suggested that the expansion of air traffic is suddenly going to come to an end at that date.

What happens when our patched-up London airports finally burst at the seams? Panic measures would be required to deal with a situation which would, in reality, have been intolerable for some years, and the Government would be castigated for not planning ahead. The critics of the Maplin scheme seem to be in the situation of hoping that something will turn up. VTOL, STOL, RTOL, diversion to regional airports have all been quoted from time to time as possible solutions. The Government do not think that any of these affect the reality of the situation, which is that we must have additional airport capacity to serve the London area for the rest of the; century and that this can only be sensibly provided at Maplin.

This is our judgment of the situation on the best information at present available to us. We shall clearly want to review all the factors again before finally committing ourselves to major expenditure on the project, even though it is unlikely that this review will produce new evidence to change the general picture that I have outlined. Parliament will have a further opportunity to consider before the committing of expenditure on the reclamation project. It is not until a contract for a major stage of reclamation is let that any substantial part of the £175 million will be committed.

Your Lordships will be aware that a clause was added to the Bill against the Government's advice in another place. That is Clause 25, which lays a duty on the Civil Aviation Authority in consultation with the Maplin Development Authority and the appropriate Minister, to keep under review the developments of new quieter aero-engines, short takeoff capability or other relevant factors affecting the operations of civil aircraft, and to take such action as may be appropriate to delay, vary or desist from the construction of an airport on land to be reclaimed as a result of the passage of the Act.

As Government spokesmen made clear in the debates in another place, the Government accept the spirit of the clause and also of the other clauses which were debated with it. We agree that before there is any substantial commitment of public money to this project we ought to look again at all the factors affecting the need for the project and to make up our minds then whether and when it is right in the light of the very latest information to make a start on the project.

What we cannot accept is the implication in Clause 25—I say implication because the drafting is defective—that the Civil Aviation Authority should be given the executive role in deciding whether and at what pace the project should go ahead. As the Secretary of State made clear in another place, it cannot be right to take away from Ministers who are answerable to Parliament the responsibility for making decisions of this kind and to give it to a body like the C.A.A. which are not answerable to Parliament. We cannot therefore accept Clause 25 as it stands. In our view the right course is to put the responsibility for carrying out a review on Ministers. Some may say that it is not necessary to give Ministers a statutory duty to carry out a review, since that is what any prudent Government would have done anyway before finally committing themselves to major expenditure on the project.

Let me make it quite clear that this proposed Amendment does not mean that we are in any way resiling from our present judgment that the project will need to go ahead, and that it will need to do so in time for the airport to he opened to traffic in the early 1980s. But in view of the concern that has been expressed, and of the fact that issues have been raised on which it will not be possible to take a definitive view before the Bill reaches its final stages, the Government believe that it would be right, for a project of this magnitude, to provide in the Bill for a further opportunity for Parliament to debate the scheme before a major contract is let. We shall therefore be bringing forward an Amendment which will provide that the Maplin Development Authority are not to exercise the powers conferred on them by Clause 2 until authorised to do so by the Secretary of State; and that the Secretary of State's authoriation is to be given in an Order which will be subject to Parliamentary procedure and which will be preceded by a detailed report to Parliament.

I turn now to the provisions of the Bill. Clause 1 and Schedule 1 to the Bill deal with the Maplin Development Authority. The Secretary of State has already announced that the first Chairman of the Authority will be Sir Frank Marshall. The main function of the Authority will be to reclaim and maintain land using the powers conferred on them by Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill. In exercising their functions the Authority will have to comply with any directions given to them by the Secretary of State under Clause 4 of the Bill.

It will be the duty of the Authority to make available to the British Airports Authority the land needed for the airport, to the C.A.A. the land they need for navigational facilities and to the Port of London Authority the land needed for a seaport. In addition, the reclamation is expected to produce some 3,000 to 4,000 acres of additional land which has to be included within the seawall in order to achieve a satisfactory hydraulic shape. The Authority will be responsible for the management and disposal of this land. So far as the development of the "remainder" land is concerned, while the Bill grants planning permission for the airport and the seaport (and also for the M.D.A.'s own reclamation works), it does not confer any special planning status on the remainder land. The development of this land will be subject to the policy laid down in the Essex County Council structure plan; planning permission from the local planning authority will be required for individual development proposals; proposals for industrial development will need to be supported, in the usual way, by an industrial development certificate; and, in addition, Clause 2(5) of the Bill provides that the uses to which this land is to be put are to be subject to the Secretary of State's approval.

The Government have already made it plain that they do not think that it would be right to allow on this land industries like oil refining, petro-chemicals or steel manufacture. Following discussion in another place the Under-Secretary of State undertook to write these restrictions into the Bill, and an Amendment will be moved accordingly at an appropriate stage. The financial structure of the M.D.A. is dealt with in Clauses 13 to 16 of the Bill. The Authority's borrowings and their investment programme will be under the control of the Secretary of State. The Bill puts a limit on the Authority's outstanding borrowings of £200 million—a limit which may be raised by Order to £250 million. Clause 2(1) of the Bill authorises the M.D.A. to carry out specific reclamation works. The plan and section deposited with the Bill are an integral part of this clause, and I have arranged for reduced scale copies of these to be made available in the Printed Paper Office. I can make available the full scale copy in the Library.

The total area of the reclamation site shown on the deposited plan is some 18,000 acres. This is a large area, but the reclamation does not present any serious technical problems, or involve the application of advanced technology. We can therefore predict fairly confidently the cost of the reclamation; which, as I have said, is estimated to be £175 million at 1972 prices. This figure is based on the assumption that most of the material for the seawall and all the reclamation fill will be dredged from the sea. May I say in passing that to produce good, flat, well-drained land in the South-East of England to-day at a cost of around £10,000 an acre is by no means out of the way.

We do not intend that the whole of this reclamation will be undertaken at once. Although we think it is right to choose a site which can accommodate four runways, we expect that the first stage of the project will be for a two-runway airport, with additional runways being added if and when the traffic so demands. So we expect the initial reclamation to extend to some 14,000 acres, of which some 6,500 acres would be for the airport and some 2,500 acres for the seaport.

Reclamation on the scale proposed may be expected to have some effect on the tidal régime in the surrounding area. All the proposals for reclamation will therefore be thoroughly tested on the large-scale hydraulic model which has already been constructed at the Hydraulics Research Station at Wallingford, to enable the M.D.A. to plan the works in such a way as to minimise the hydraulic effects. I may say that the Hydraulics Research Station are reasonably confident on the basis of their general knowledge of this area, that the shape shown on the plan would have no serious adverse effects.

If, however, the reclamation does have any adverse effects, the Bill contains special provisions for compensation. Clause 21 deals with the liability of the M.D.A. for damage arising from the hydraulic effects of the reclamation works—siltation, scouring, or alteration of tidal flow. Clause 23 is a wholly exceptional provision in that it provides for payments to be made to people who suffer loss because the reclamation interferes with their exercise of public rights. There are a number of people who at present get their livelihood wholly or partly by fishing or gathering shell fish or white weed over the Maplin Sands; and as the nature of the Sands will be completely changed by the reclamation, the Government have thought it right in the special circumstances to provide a remedy for these people.

While dealing with reclamation I would draw the attention of the House to the four clauses, Clauses 9 to 12, which were inserted into the Bill by the Select Committee in another place. These all deal with the protection of amenities—the protection of fauna and flora at present found on the reclamation site; the preservation of navigation in Havengore Creek; measures to prevent the reclamation leading to interference with recreational sailing in the Crouch and Roach waterways, where this is reasonably practicable; and restrictions on the carriage by road to the site of certain materials and goods until a satisfactory new road access has been provided.

I come now to the seaport. The reclaimed land will provide an excellent site for one. Planning permission is granted for it by Clause 7(2) of the Bill, but is limited to 2,500 acres. This limit was written into the Bill by the Select Committee in another place; and on this basis, and on the basis of their discussions with the Port of London Authority, the local authorities concerned are, I understand, content. But although the Government have accepted in principle the idea of a seaport at Maplin there is at present no firm Ministerial commitment to it. The Port of London Authority have been informed that there is no objection in principle to their proposals for an oil terminal and a unit load terminal. The P.L.A. are now working upon their proposals, and are consulting potential customers, with a view to making a formal submission to the Secretary of State under Section 9 of the Harbours Act 1964. Before coming to a decision on the P.L.A.'s proposals, the Secretary of State must seek the views of the National Ports Council who have to be convinced that there is clearly a consumer demand. The National Ports Council will advise them on the effects they foresee for other ports and on the situation of the ports nationally.

As I have said, the access routes to Maplin, and the new town, will be dealt with under statutory provisions. I have not received a message from the Box, but as these matters are dealt with by other statutory provisions I imagine that the procedure there will be governed by other statutory provisions. The House will, however, be aware that routes for a new motorway and railway to Maplin have been under study for some time, and so has the location of the proposed new town. The Secretary of State has promised full public consultation before decisions are reached on these matters. Ideally, the Government would have wished to make the Consultation Documents available before this debate took place. This has not proved possible; but I understand that they will be published quite soon. After that there will be full opportunity for comment by all concerned, and the Secretary of State will consider all the representations carefully before announcing his decision and activating the statutory procedures. All these procedures will take time, and I can assure the House that there is no question of expenditure on these aspects of the project being committed before the laying of an Order authorising the commencement of the reclamation work, which Parliament will have an opportunity to consider.

My Lords, I want to say a brief word on costs—and I apologise for having kept the House for so long. The estimated cost up to 1990 is £825 million at 1972 prices. This covers reclamation, the construction of the airport, the provision of the access links and the construction of the seaport, but it does not cover the new town because this represents investment that would have to be undertaken anyway. I have already made the point that the reclamation of land represents good value for money in terms of the value of the end product. The seaport also represents expenditure that will be undertaken only if it presents the prospect of a good return. One is left, therefore, with a figure of some £640 million for the airport and its access links. Those will be used also by the seaport and, of course, represent a contribution to improving transport facilities in an area where improvement is needed anyway. Supposing Maplin is not constructed, all the air traffic growth will then have to be dealt with at existing airports serving London. By 1990 these airports would have to handle probably 50 million to 60 million more passengers each year than in 1980. This is about the order of throughput on which our estimate of the cost of a fully developed two-runway Maplin Airports is based. My Lords, I say this merely to make it quite clear that a very great deal of this expenditure would in any case have to be incurred and it is sheer nonsense to talk about an expenditure of £1,000 million for Maplin that could be saved and need not be incurred in some way or another.

My Lords, may I just conclude in this way? We need the legislation so that the Maplin Development Authority can be set up and can start to plan in detail for the reclamation. We shall then be able, subject to the judgment of Parliament on the outcome of our review, to make an early start on the project if, as we believe, the review shows that there is still a need for the Maplin Airport to come into operation as early as possible. But if we did not now set up the machinery needed for implementing the Maplin project we should be closing the option of going to this site—which the Roskill Commission considered to be the best site on planning and environmental terms—for many years, and possibly for all time. It has taken successive Governments 12 years to arrive at this point; and I think we should be deluding ourselves if we assumed that, once having gone back on our decision to go to Maplin, we should be able either to find another site or to reactivate the Maplin project without a very substantial delay.

To sum up, a decision to-day to go ahead with this Bill is not a final one, because we intend to provide an opportunity for a further vote by Parliament before the Maplin Development Authority are authorised to go ahead with the reclamation. By contrast, a decision to drop the Bill would close an option which we should all surely wish to retain—the option to provide a major new airport for London on an unrestricted site where noise nuisance can be confined almost entirely to areas over the sea. In effect, it would mean that we were saying that, come what may, we would handle all London's airport growth in the foreseeable future—no matter how great it might be—at the existing airports. The weight of evidence is that air traffic, passenger and freight will continue to increase, and that whatever developments there may be in quieter or larger aircraft, and taking account of the Channel Tunnel, of the possibility of some diversion to airports outside the London area, a third London Airport in the early 1980's is needed and that Maplin is by far the best place for it.

My Lords, I should like to mention one point before I sit down, which I am afraid I omitted, and that is to take this opportunity of amplifying the statement made by the Under-Secretary at a meeting at Burnham-on-Crouch yesterday evening. He said—and I can confirm—that there is no intention of building a bridge across the river Crouch at Burnham or lower down the estuary, and that there is therefore no reason to fear that yachts will be prevented from sailing up the Crouch and making the turn into the Roach. This is not of course to say that, among the options that might be considered for roads from London to Maplin, one out of several possibilities might be a route that could involve the crossing of the Crouch a good deal higher upstream. But I emphasise, as did the Under-Secretary, that no decision will be made on any of these possible routes until everyone concerned has had the opportunity of commenting on these options. My Lords, as the Under-Secretary, as I understand it, had to face a rather more noisy meeting than I am facing to-day, I think it is best to put that on the Record now.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down can he tell the House whether the expenditure of £825 million includes the road and rail communications which will have to be made, or is it exclusive of road and rail?


My Lords, as I see it, it includes the cost of reclamation, the construction of the airport, the provision of the access links and the construction of the seaport. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Lord Drumalbyn.)

3.29 p.m.


My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, for the exposition that he has made, and with the clarity we associate with him. And even though I hope to speak for a little shorter time than he did, I do not complain at all about the length of time that he took; indeed, I am most grateful for the way in which he has deployed some of the figures. He has deployed them, I must say, rather more usefully than his right honourable and honourable friends in another place. And if this Government were capable of producing a Hansard, let alone a new airport, we should undertake to study the figures carefully—because I believe that they need to be studied.

First, I must declare my interest. As is known, I work in the aerospace industry. The British Aircraft Corporation, as partners in Jaguar, M.R.C.A. and space, has no particular axe to grind so far as the siting of Maplin is concerned. Nevertheless, it remains my own personal view that the future of the civil side of Britain's construction industry and of civil air transport, and indeed of this country as a commercial centre, will be significantly affected by the choice we make. I also declare an interest as one who lives under the approach path to Heathrow. I know that those who complain about noise do not exaggerate. We have created a nuisance for all those who live along that line which is quite incompatible with truly civilised living. I am, therefore, intimately concerned with the solution of this problem, either by dealing with the nuisance at source or by the Maplin attempt to transfer it elsewhere. It is the means, not the end, which is at issue. I also have a personal interest as a taxpayer. The cost, said to be £1,000 million by some, put at £825 by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, exclusive of the most expensive access routes which will he necessary and which he put at 1972 prices, which are already of course of out date, will have to be met by the taxpayer or by increasing the already inflationary Budget deficit.


My Lords, the noble Lord said "exclusive of the most expensive routes". Which does he mean by "the most expensive routes"? I made it plain that the access routes would be covered.


Then, my Lords, I misunderstood. I thought the noble Lord said, in answer to the question from behind him, that it did not include the access routes; and I am much obliged to him. Nevertheless, we are talking about a figure which, as I say, is £825 million expressed in terms of currency which is already irrelevant to the present day.

I was going on to say that it was only three weeks ago at that Box that a Minister was compelled to confess that the strain of this Budget deficit was so dangerous that some economies have to be made. Moreover, it was stated specifically that it was the construction industry which was so overloaded. Probably there is no more inflationary sector in the whole of our economy than the construction industry, and this is so especially in the South-East. The Channel Tunnel Green Paper claimed that Maplin and the Tunnel together will take up only 5 per cent. of our construction resources in the South-East. Many will think that a conservative estimate. But more will also recall that it was the last straw that broke the camel's back, and if that straw weighs 5 per cent. of the total load then collapse is almost certain.

Of course, work will not start at once, but to contemplate spending £825 million with each and every pound inflationary, when inflation is our worst national enemy, when the construction industry is distorted, if not corrupted, by its present load, and when this applies most to the South-East, is surely displaying a considerable measure of financial imprudence—and I use that word "corrupted" with some care. I had in mind particularly the kind of thing that I read in this week's Economist, about what is described as the "lump". I say just this much more about the figure of £825 million. The noble Lord makes a great deal of the point that in any case it would have to spend elsewhere. His right honourable friend in another place emphasised this, too. But does he really mean that the kind of improvements that will he required in other existing airports would come up to anything like this figure of £825 million? I have the figure, for example, of the new airport at Roissy in France. The total building costs of that great new, fine airport will be £272 million. How then can he say—


My Lords, I also was in touch with the French Embassy and I was given a corrected figure last night of £600 million, which is a very different state of affairs, for the Roissy Airport.


My Lords, I quote from an official publication. Maybe here again we are including access costs and roads in one case and not in another. But the noble Lord here is talking about the cost of building airport facilities, buildings and so on, and I am suggesting that the figure for airport buildings is of the order of £272 million at Roissy. I suspect that the figure which the noble Lord is quoting is for the overall cost including the access roads and everything.

What are the arguments for this financial sacrifice? If it has to be made, then we must make it; but what are the arguments eor it? The Times leader of June 15 had this to say: The ground on which the argument for it is placed has shifted too often too quickly for the project to command full confidence ". It goes on to say that first the argument was the impending exhaustion of runway capacity, then the lack of passenger handling facilities, then the noise relief for people—like myself—living in the flight path to Heathrow and Gatwick; and now the argument which the noble Lord has just put is that the enormous cost of Maplin would be equalled by alternative provision at other airports.


My Lords, I do not want to exaggerate. I did not say "equalled". I said that this expenditure of £1,000 million would have to take into account the fact that a great deal would have to be spent, including all the passenger facilities and handling facilities and aircraft handling facilities which would have to be provided anyway.


My Lords, of course they would have to he provided. I am interested that the noble Lord has now slipped back to the figure of £1,000 million, which must have some significance somewhere. Of course money would have to be spent elsewhere. The question is whether it is of this order, and I am venturing to suggest that, on the basis of Roissy and other cases—there is a new Stewart Airport in the United States, for example—the indications are that this figure is grossly overestimating the expenditure that would be needed for the improvement of the terminal and runway capacity at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stanstead—


And the access route?


—and including any new roadway around the sludgeworks at Heathrow, if the noble Lord wants me to go into any detail. But I am saying that the first argument about runway capacity as originally deployed has been demolished by the officially assisted study of the Civil Aviation Authority; and although the noble Lord himself quotes figures in slightly different ways this afternoon, the fact of the matter is that that Report by the Civil Aviation Authority was assisted by the D.T.I. and by the B.A.A. and has hitherto not been challenged at all. I find it somewhat disturbing that the noble Lord now should suggest that this Report is in some way not to be relied upon.

However, let me say that I am not disposed to gloat over the reversal of Government forecasts, for I recall very clearly in December, 1967, speaking from the Front Bench opposite, when I said that the capacity at Heathrow—the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson, is smiling; he will recall it—would be exhausted by December, 1973. I said that in 1967. Of course there have been mistakes, but they have all been mistakes of overestimating the strain that would be put upon the Airports, not the other way round. It is not simply that everyone is going to travel in the Jumbo-jets. The noble Lord made considerable play about 1,000-seater aircraft. I myself have my doubts about that, too. I am not at all sure that anything over 300 or 400 is going to be entirely acceptable. But the fact is that it is not simply the Jumbo-jets that are carrying the additional people. When one remembers the work horses of the short and medium haul—the DC3s and the Viscounts and the rest of them—and how they have gradually increased in size, we see the importance of the trend. The figures given by the C.A.A. report suggest that the average per aircraft will be 175 (I think is the figure) instead of 162. If the passenger traffic is marginally increased it will simply mean that the load factors of these larger aircraft are increased. So there is a bigger margin built into some of these assumptions than the noble Lord led us to believe.

Moreover, one other important consideration to which the noble Lord has not paid much regard is that this is not simply a matter of the increase in size of the aircraft which are carrying more passengers per aircraft; it is the fact that the air traffic controllers, with new equipment, have become so much more skilful. The C.A.A. report makes a special point of this when it says that much of the increase of runway capacity will be due to the more rapid clearance of runways, better marshalling of aircraft before takeoff, better control of separation, computer-assisted approach sequencing and accumulation of operating experience. This is a factor which the noble Lord really has to take into account. Moreover, let me say this to him: when he tends to suggest that we are not relying upon a sufficient margin of capacity, all the assumptions which the C.A.A. report makes are based upon Government policy which requires —as they put it: Stansted and Southend to be closed after 1980; severe restrictions at Luton from 1980 to 1985. But if we did not go ahead with Maplin the fact is that Stansted and Southend would still be in operation, and therefore there is this additional margin of capacity to which the noble Lord really should pay rather more attention.

There is one other point I should like to make because I feel rather keenly about it myself; I am interested and enthusiastic about it. I have sometimes said that one of the most important pieces of technological advancement made in the last year or two is the bag which one can carry on to the airport and put under the aircraft seat. One can cut one's journey time to Paris down by something like 10 or 20 minutes if one is not compelled to wait for the baggage coming through the other method. I am informed that B.E.A., with their new TriStars, will have a proper luggage compartment and that a passenger can carry on his own baggage. The effect of all this is going to be that the movement of passengers through an air terminal will be much speeded up. If the Common Marketeers will properly exploit the economic advantages of the Market and do away with all the Customs and passport procedures at airports for intra-Market passengers, how many more people could we get through the terminal without the congestion that some of us experience when we try to travel abroad? So I suggest that the capacity problem, in the air or on the ground, is not decisive. More serious now, I think, is the nuisance factor. It is in this area that the really radical possibilities have not been fully appraised.

The Roskill Commission were criticised for not taking sufficiently into account the significance of aircraft development. I think much of the criticism was unfair, and for two reasons, Firstly, their terms of reference should have placed greater emphasis on this aspect—they were terms of reference given by a Labour Government and I am not making any Party point about that. Secondly, I think at the time (looking back) the technology champions put the emphasis too much on the possibilities of VTOL and STOL. To a large extent they were wrong, or at any rate they were over-optimistic. But their mistake lay in the fact that even three years ago it was not fully appreciated what a difference would be made by the high by-pass ratio engine; and we have too, the possibilities of the Dowty Rotol fan engine, which is still to be fully developed. With these engines the noise reductions can be obtained without the economic penalties which went with the very short takeoff. Moreover, we now know that noise shielding can lessen the nuisance of this reduced engine noise even further.

If to all this we add the fact that these aircraft will be more manœuvrable and can climb away much more quickly, and with more sophisticated means of control and navigation can be kept further away from noise-sensitive areas, it will, I hope, be accepted that we have moved into a quite new area of possibilities. I am suggesting that it would be folly to press on with the Maplin project, precipitately adopted in the first place, without taking into account the results of recent intensive work and studies, both by private industry and by Government establishments.

I have no doubt that others will elaborate on this theme and I will restrict myself to some indication of what is possible. Current aircraft—as the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, also indicated—are causing a noiseprint of 18 square miles. By 1978 or 1979, with aircraft then operating, that degree of noise could with certainty be cut down to the order of 1.5 square miles. Further development could restrict the 90 P.N.dB. noise from this type of aircraft within the Heathrow boundary altogether. When Mr. Rippon said in another place on May 16 that these new quiet aircraft will still cause suffering to many people equivalent to 40-ton lorries outside their houses, he was, I suggest, simply casting doubt upon his objective judgment in these matters.

I am well aware, as the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, himself indicated, that there are other factors which have to be taken into account; for example, the time taken for phasing out the old aircraft, or modifying them. I know that there are complexities which ask for a total reassessment. The much quoted Mr. Flowerdew, who was deputy research director of the Roskill Commission, says this: Maplin will, on the most favourable case (the C.A.A. assumptions) save about 200,000 people from exposure to aircraft noise in their homes and about 22,000 people from exposure to relatively severe aircraft noise. In contrast, expected technological developments will remove over one and three-quarter million people from the noise affected areas and over a quarter of a million from the more severely affected areas. In other words, improving engine design is about 10 times as effective in reducing the impact of noise as Maplin. One could go on to say that Mr. Flowerdew's claim is too conservative for, of course, if we put our effort into cutting noise at source the resulting benefit will be shared by all those around the provincial airports as well.

There is one other aspect of this noise problem. The ambient noise around London is higher than for the underdeveloped countryside. On my hillside in Cornwall I can hear them calling in the cattle for milking in the early morning over a mile away; I am told that a B.B.C. team which went down to Maplin recently in order to take some measurements of noise were only able to measure the flapping in the breeze of a marker flag some quarter of a mile away. This is an entirely different situation from that which we now experience around the big cities. It will be possible, a few miles from Heathrow, to keep engine noise levels below the background effect. But the effect down on the coast of Essex and on the Essex countryside would be very different indeed. I suggest that the natural qualities and values to be found along that coast have gone from London anyhow, probably for ever. We should pause especially when the C.A.A. now says that a long pause is possible without penalty, before we begin to destroy that special peace along that coast.

There is another category of persons whose interests, as my noble friend Lady Burton of Coventry often emphasises, who should be more fully considered; namely, the air passengers. We now talk of 50 million and more a year. Their needs should be taken into account. According to a University of Southampton study, the centre point of origin of these passengers is some two kilometres West of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's garden in Downing Street. The majority of them will have almost as far to travel, in terms of time, to Kings Cross as they do now to Heathrow; and when they get to Kings Cross they then start on the expedition down to Foulness. There are no potential passengers to the East of this proposed new airport. To the South they are cut off by the Thames Estuary. It was largely this quite bizarre geographical fact that led the Roskill Commission, after the most thorough research ever undertaken in this field, or probably any other field, to conclude: Neither direction of airlines nor subsidy of surface passenger movements is the answer to an inaccessibly sited airport. And that went on to say in the course of a most deeply reasoned exposition: The nation cannot afford to decide the site for this airport on the basis of a serious misallocation of scarce resources. I have no time to deal in detail with the road and rail access routes although the cost of them and the environmental damage done by them is of extreme importance. I asked last week whether we could expect a Government statement about that aspect of the problem, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said that they were quite separate issues. I am very happy to hear her noble friend say to-day that they are all bound up in one complex, but we are still without the necessary information. We do not yet know where these road and rail routes will run and I am suggesting that it would be quite intolerable if those who are affected by this plan are not able to lodge appeals before the Select Committee after June 28, if it is not until after that date that they get this necessary information.

My Lords, there is one other point I should like to make. I asked another question —


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, may I say that if he will examine this Bill itself, I think he will see that it is not really appropriate that petitions should be made about matters that are external to this Bill. We are dealing with the Maplin Development Authority and what they do with this Bill.


My Lords, if we can at some other stage make the necessary arrangements for an amendment, then I accept what the noble Lord says, but he knows full well that once we have made this decision with this Bill, we have also made, in principle, the decision about road and rail access routes. It is not good enough to suggest that because there is no reference in this Bill to those routes that those who are affected by them should not have the same rights of appeal.


Hear, hear!


I asked another question about the possibility of restraining residential development in the area previously protected for a second runway at Gatwick. The noble Baroness on that occasion said that if the Labour Opposition were pressing for a second runway I should say so. I can well see that at election time in a village hall that she would have got a nice polite round of applause for that kind of repartee, but it is not a serious answer to a matter which I think her noble friend introduced as a serious one. I was not even asking for a second runway. I was suggestiong that we should keep our options open and not allow the residential tide to come in. This particular problem reminds me of the famous remark made by Sir Winston Churchill of the late John Foster Dulles when he said that he was the only bull he knew who carried around his own china shop. And here we have a creator of nuisance which also at the same time encourages people to come in and be affected. I hope that we can get another look at what is happening around Gatwick so that we do not allow the area hitherto protected to be covered by potential complainants.

I say, therefore, that I am not looking at this matter in a Party way. The Government themselves ought not to think that it is a political Party dispute. Certainly the responsible journals do not take it in that way. A Guardian article said recently, that the Government should be disbelieved is neither surprising nor unfair. … What we saw on Wednesday night was the culmination of a process which has been going on all this year …"— that was the Wednesday night in the Commons— a genuinely free vote would have disposed of Maplin for good and all. The Times, besides the other doubts I have quoted, says in a leader: The Maplin project needs to be comprehensively reappraised before resources (and reputations are committed to the point of no return. The Times never gave wiser advice than that. The Financial Times says in their leader that the Government

should now be taking out options … this means keeping the Maplin planners at their desks at a compartively low cost: it also means postponing the land purchasing and reclamation works … until the last possible moment … for the airport's opening—if it proves to be needed. The Economist, of course, was much more certain. It said: It is an airport that nobody in aviation wants or considers necessary. It is not a substitute for Heathrow …". They say of this Bill, It is a sorry and tattered Bill. the Lords should now throw it out. My Lords, despite the robust certainty of the Economist, we do not intend from this side to vote against the Second Reading. The noble Lord has indicated that the Government propose to amend the new clause which was inserted against the Government wishes in another place, and I agree with him about the nature of those proposed Amendments. Of course, it should be Her Majesty's Government and not the C.A.A. which should take responsibility for the necessary decision. But on Committee stage I hope that there will he all-Party support for an Amendment which will put teeth into that new clause and will ensure, by Statute and not by Ministerial undertaking. that no work is done and no money spent until Parliament has seen the results of what The Times calls a comprehensive reappraisal. To do less than that would be shirking our duty. To do that. I suggest. would be to the credit of this House.

3.59 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that all will agree that seldom has one been so deluged with comprehensive briefs on any issue as on this. I have endeavoured to bring half of them into your Lordships' House, at risk of rupturing myself, but I could have doubled or trebled that number, so great is the interest outside in the matter we are discussing, and the fact that there are 26 speakers in this afternoon's debate reflects the interest in your Lordships' Chamber. As the noble Lord has indicated, it has been brought home to me very forcibly how grateful we normally are for the supply of Hansard. Trying to read the debate in another place in the photostat copies of corrected speeches makes one realise very forcibly how good Hansard is when it is available.

I have several reservations, some of which have been lessened by the speech from my noble friend from the Front Bench. I think my greatest anxiety is: will the airlines ever willingly go and operate from Maplin? Will they move willingly from Heathrow or, in some instances, from Gatwick? They will have to move their personnel. Their personnel will have to move their children. Houses will have to be sold in one area and found in another. Schools will have to be changed. Redundancy payments will have to be made. Spare engines. spare equipment and workshops will have to be transferred, with all the complicated test equipment. Is this something which will willingly be undertaken? know that the unstinted supporters of Maplin will say—and I think that, on balance. I believe that it ought to go ahead—that a new airport will attract airlines, because in the 1980s Heathrow will begin to look overcrowded and perhaps slightly run down; it will be old-fashioned, despite the changes, so mat the new up-to-date facilities available at Maplin may well attract airlines. But I have yet to he convinced of that argument. I think this is salient. Will airlines willingly set up a new base 55 miles from London, and will passengers be willing to travel that distance when they wish to catch their aircraft?

I am reminded of an instance which was reported in the House of Commons debate two years ago. when Turkish Airlines made a notification that they wanted to start a service from London Airport. They were told by the Authority that they could not operate from Heathrow but that they could operate from Gatwick. After considerable correspondence Turkish Airlines refused to give way, and the Authority went on pressing their case. The Airline then said. "With effect from 10 days' time no B.E.A. aircraft will be allowed to land anywhere in Turkey"; and immediately, of course, the knot was untied and they were allowed to go in and operate from Heathrow. I think we have to remember that we are dealing with international airlines who have possible sanctions against our own airlines if we try to encourage them to do something which they do not wish to do in their customers' or their economic interest.

One point on the cost: one has to remember that the £640 million, which was the figure that has come out in today's debate, for the first time, as the cost of the airport, and access, is to be spread over 17 years. The £600 million figure for Boissy that I have—which is comparing like with like, because it includes also. I suspect, the access road—is spread over only 8½ years. So in terms of load it is a greater load on the French economy than Maplin will be on our economy. But I concede that Maplin is a concentrated project which will take a lot of construction effort.

The latest forecasts suggest that by taking the runways at Heathrow and Gatwick, and to a limited extent at Luton, and by going ahead with the Channel Tunnel, we can meet, in terms of runway capacity, our present commitments up to the year 1980, and just about manage up to the year 1985, provided that the British Airports Authority go ahead with their ambitious plans for improving the ground-handling capacity at London airport. But these figures assume, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said, a growth; and the C.A.A. may be wrong in estimating that growth. They put it at 9.1 per cent. per annum from now until 1985. If this figure is only 1 per cent. wrong—and there are a great many variables in the equation—it will mean that not 84 million passengers will have to be handled at London Airport but 94 million—an extra 10 million persons. I therefore believe that, as an insurance in case we may be wrong, we should go ahead, carefully monitored, to a limited extent, with the Maplin project.

I should have been happier if the Government had put the arguments in the reverse order and had put a strong case, after proper consideration, for Maplin as a seaport and also secondly as an airport. I cannot help believing that London's port does now need total modernisation, and total modernisation of the roads and rails which feed that port. I can think of no better place to put a deep-water port than Maplin. I was sorry that the Government to-day gave way to pressure in another place and said they would so amend the Bill that, although Maplin might be used as an oil terminal, we are not to be allowed oil refineries or chemical plants there. I should prefer to see that option remain open, and if there were good economic reasons for those going there, they should be allowed to go there. I should have preferred to see a modern port put first; and I should have thought—and I concede this fully—that this can be done only after the National Ports Council and the Port of London Authority have undertaken a very careful consideration of the whole ports policy for Great Britain. We also have to remember that a new major port, even without an airport, would require very substantial road facilities; 90 per cent. of our merchandise in this country travels by lorry, and therefore any port must have very good road facilities. This is what I think is so archaic, trying to get in and out of London Docks through very old property and on very old roads. I was sorry to hear that the limits of primary industrial development are going to be firmly fixed and written into the Bill.

Of course, if you have a port and an industrial complex, even limited, you must have a new town to support and man these facilities. I would say that, while you have these three, it is quite logical to have another airport. I would look on these four airports as complementary: Heathrow, to the West of London; Gatwick, to the South of London; Luton, although restricted, to the North of London, and Maplin to the East of London. And increasingly I think we have to remember that not only goods but people are driving to their; aircraft. It is inconvenient for people in, shall we say, Chatham to have to drive across country to Gatwick, or, even more, across country to London Airport. It might well be that we should have the whole North Kent series of towns—Rochester, Chatham, Maidstone, and right up to Dartford—joined by a causeway and bridge further down the Thames than Ringway 3, so that all of them, those goods and those people, could travel to Maplin as their nearest airport for international travel. I would also draw attention to the fact that it would probably from the South draw its support from the areas I have defined, and to the North we have the whole of East Anglia, where people have to travel a very long way to get to an international airport. I think again they might well choose to travel from Maplin if they had the choice. And certainly Maplin would be in competition with Felixstowe as a container port.

Much planning is needed—and here I concede the criticisms of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, from the Opposition Front Bench—and also, I would think, much costing. We have been given a few figures up till now, but they are global figures and not in any way detailed.

Public inquiries need to be held on the road sitings. We are told that there is to be an eight-lane road but it will start only at Ringway 3 around Epping. How are we, therefore, to drive the feeder roads to this eight-lane road? Are they to go through the built-up area of East London? At the moment it is very difficult indeed to drive a car or a lorry through the East End and to connect up with the Southend bypass, or in that direction. Secondly, we need a survey and public inquiries on the railway sitings for the Advanced Passenger Trains. Thirdly, we need a public inquiry on the siting of the new town. I would urge my noble friend to get on with these, because all these public inquiries take an immeasurable amount of time, not months but years, before all the objections are heard and a final solution is arrived at. There is one advantage of a public inquiry: that it does not use any other resources than brain-power. Therefore you may in the end economise by making the right decision, so long as there is careful consideration of that decision.

I believe that in many ways the best investment this country could make is not in concrete but in the technology of quieter engines. We cannot export concrete runways—though I concede that they earn some invisibles—but we can export aircraft. More and more the world is going to demand, if it buys aircraft from us, that they must be an example in quietness and economic viability. If we cannot produce quieter engines we shall throw the whole world market for civil aircraft to the United States and thereafter we shall also have to buy all our aircraft from that place.

I wonder how we are going to persuade airlines to fit retrospectively, what are called "hush kits" to make their aircraft quieter. There is no incentive at the moment to do so. I wonder whether my noble friend would examine the Industry Bill. It was not a Bill that many of us on this side liked very much when it was introduced, but it is very widely drawn and allows the Minister to use public money for all sorts of purposes, so long as they are in the public interest. I should have thought that perhaps the provision of, and the modification of existing noisy aircraft to, quieter operations is a public interest of paramount importance to literally millions of people in this country. This is not a terribly costly operation. The latest figure I have for the modification of the 707 series, which are so widely used all over the world, is that it would cost £300,000 to modify all four engines. The B.A.C. 1–11, which is also somewhat noisy, would cost £140,000 for the two engines. There is admittedly some penalty, but if you are thereby able to operate your aircraft, perhaps at nights and at hours when they would otherwise be penalised, there might also be an asset in gaining more public custom and support.

I should also like to press the question: why is it that so many who complain have not thought it worth while to fit "hush kits" to their houses? The grant has been raised from £100 to £150. Perhaps the building costs are outstripping that allowance. I think that my noble friend should see why this is not being done, because now, with good sound insulation, you can make a considerable ameloriation to the tiresomeness of aircraft noise.

I wonder also whether we could not encourage a steeper glide path. Owing to Westerly winds at London Airport the majority of the time aircraft approach over the West of London, and many speakers in another place from Twickenham, Richmond, Esher, and other places have objected very strongly because of their constituents' letters. I wonder whether we could not change the three degree glide path, which has been long sacrosanct in ICAO circles, and make it four and a half degrees, because this would enormously lessen the amount of noise on the ground. I concede that when you come to flatten out you would probably have to go back to the three degrees close in. But clearly the trouble would be reduced.

Obviously, whether we go ahead with Maplin as fast as we can or not, the most tremendous progress will have to be made in the development of London Airport itself. The C.A.A. say that 27 million people passed through our three airports in 1972, and that the number will be 58 million in 1980, which is the earliest date at which one runway can be available at Maplin; so an extra 29 million people have to be accommodated at existing airports between now and 1980.

The Piccadilly tube-line is being extended, and I think my noble friend should also consider a British rail extension from Victoria. In the long run it may be necessary to remove the sewage works, though I am not convinced that we are using the central area at London Airport as economically and as efficiently as we can. I wonder whether it is essential to have multi-tier car parks there, and whether off airport parking could not be made more convenient and simpler and the space there used for passenger facilities where those are so badly needed. There are other areas than the sewage works. When driving down the Staines Road, should your Lordships still use it, you will find on the North side quite large areas of London Airport not developed. You will find also on the East side, the London side, some areas not developed. There are some ingenious planners available to the British Airways Authority, and I hope they will examine these other alternatives, because if they go ahead with moving the sewage works, first there will be a public inquiry, and people dislike sewage works being parked on their doorsteps as much as they dislike aircraft noise over their heads. This will take time.

Ought not the airport authorities to be examining every conceivable method of ironing out the peak loads, because this is where the bottle-necks appear? Increasingly people are travelling out of London on the commuter early morning planes and back in the evening on the commuter planes. This is happening at every international airport in every part of the world, and something must be done to try and reduce that peak.know that there are financial incentives; perhaps they should be even stronger.

I wonder, finally, whether we should not do everything to urge the development of regional airports, to spread this load away. I had occasion to travel with the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee from Luton airport. I know it is to be phased Out but it only took us 45 minutes from New Palace Yard to Luton. It is a very good straight road up the M.1 through my old constituency, and I wonder whether we are right to limit that airport, because it can also attract traffic and it is only about 1¼ hours drive from the Birmingham area. There you have an airport right in the country. I know that Luton itself is disturbed, and perhaps to some extent Bedford, but there are many worse places to have an airport than at Luton.

To summarise, I ask the Government to hasten forward with the examination of Maplin as a seaport. I ask them to look again at the way in which they are going to limit the industrial complex. I concede that it may not be suitable for oil refineries, because they like to be close to their markets, but I would not wish to see a sanction written into the Bill to forbid them. I urge the Government to press ahead with the public inquiries about the site for the new residential town. I urge them to press ahead with the public inquiries on the roads, and the routes these roads will take. I urge them to press ahead with the public inquiry on the rail and the route that that will take. I would endorse, as did the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that it is a wise and sensible provision that not the C.A.A. hut the Minister should have overriding responsibility. Provided we can get careful control—and we have been assured that it is going to come back to Parliament again—then I hope that my noble friends can support this Bill with these very special and important exceptions and reservations.

4.18 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, has made constructive suggestions which provoke deep thought but which alas I have no time to comment on. I regret that I cannot accept the optimism of my noble friend Lord Beswick, or reject the pessimism of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, in regard to the future congestion of our existing airports. I think that in the last ten years, or certainly twenty years, the whole world has come to realise the relevance of the Malthusian law of population, that in the absence of preventive checks the population of the world tends to press upon and exceed the sources available for its sustenance and its food. It is true that this is a mathematical formula that has been somewhat blown upon, and his idea of preventive checks are other than those we operate to-day. But I would suggest that that same law applies to motor traffic. Motor traffic in this country tends to press upon and exceed the roads available for its mobility, and I would extend that law further to air travel. I think that the noble Lord. Lord Drumalbyn, would agree that the demand for airport facilities by increasing passenger traffic tends to press upon and exceed the facilities available for the comfort of passengers. It needs of course more passage through the customs, it needs more lounge accommodation, it needs more facilities for moving luggage about and it needs more taxis and cars to be available for getting passengers to West London and the Home Counties. I do not think that the decrease in the number of aeroplanes, because of their larger size and with their more silent engines, will correct those developments.

I think it is true that events move very fast—faster than ideas. Events move at a canter while ideas move at a jog trot and sometimes do not move at all. Since we debated this whole question more than two years ago, events can be seen to have moved very fast indeed in one direction; that is, in the development of hotels around Heathrow Airport and in West and Central London. My own borough of Kensington has done its best to stem the tide, but, alas!, it began too late, as anyone emerging from the air terminal into Cromwell Road can see with the naked eye. There is the development at Shepherds Bush and the development in the neighbourhood of Heathrow, where the servicing problem has become almost insoluble. There are also the developments in Central London at Hyde Park Corner and in Knightsbridge. But I am told that, at the peak period of last year, American tourists who were willing to pay large sums of money for accommodation in the sort of hotels to which they were accustomed were unable to find such accommodation. So much for events.

There is one idea which has not moved at all, and that is the idea adumbrated by Profesor Buchanan in his Minority Report of the Roskill Commission. I spoke earlier about that idea, and indeed I quoted from the Buchanan Report. I shall not re-quote the whole of what I read but only the relevant passages. Professor Buchanan said: … the location of the airport at Foulness could … make a powerful contribution to one of the biggest social problems in the country, namely that of east London. He then referred to the imbalance of development between East London and West London. He went on: 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. He summed the matter up later by referring to … 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. I think that that idea remains relevant to-day, and I hope that it may still he cherished by many of those who are thinking in terms of a Foulness and Maplin Sands airport.

But events have altered since that Report was discussed in this House, because it is obvious that that regenerative process indicated by Professor Buchanan has, in fact, started. If you look East from Tower Bridge you will see an enormous hotel, which is not yet complete, capable of accommodating goodness knows how many businessmen and tourists. The businessmen will be within easy reach of the City of London, because they will be on the edge of it, and the tourists will have Tower Hill, the City churches, the Temple and the Inns of Court as their playground. I have no doubt that if the businessmen require facilities of the type provided in Soho, such as striptease clubs, they will soon appear in the area. Meanwhile, there are blocks of working-class flats which are capable, one presumes, of supplying the services for hotel development which are lacking around Heathrow. One also has the transformation of some of the old dock basins into a very fine marina and gardens. That development is beginning and it could, and should, continue. I think it will continue if we develop London to the East and set about that regenerative process which Professor Buchanan adumbrated. Of course it will need more and bigger roads through the East London suburbs and the small towns to the East of London. I hope it will also need a better railway service. These developments are not impossible and I think they were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. That is beginning to happen and it must happen.

But there is a price to be paid which is very clearly set forth in a paper, which other noble Lords have doubtless received, produced by the Defenders of Essex Association. They state: To carry on this development would destroy an area of very great value. They are referring, of course, to the island of Foulness. 1. Destruction of an area of greater productive capacity for high protein food than any area of agricultural land of comparable size. That is indeed true. Foulness is beautiful arable farming land and it is very well farmed by the 220 or 225 persons who live on it, who are mostly farmers, but there are a few who service the village shops. It is true that that would be destroyed. 2. Destruction of an area of special scientific interest which would have been included as an invoilable area at the Stockholm Conference, had it not been for its choice as an airport site. I cannot comment on that, because I do not have sufficient scientific knowledge. The paper goes on: 3.Destruction of an area of unique ornithological importance. Doubtless, there are many birds on Foulness Island in addition to the geese which we are told are unique. 4. Destruction of an area of great value to the defence of this country and of NATO. That is an assessment which only the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, can make, but I find it very difficult to believe that there are not large unpopulated or underpopulated areas on the Yorkshire/ Lancashire moors North of Rochdale and possibly in Scotland, although I do now know Scotland. But if military tests were conducted on the Yorkshire/Lancashire moors, more than 225 people would be displaced because there are a number of strange, bleak, grey stone villages and a number of scattered farms, some of which appear to be in decay. But I cannot believe that it would not be possible to find an alternative site for the military tests which may be regarded as necessary for our military salvation. That is the price to be paid and, on balance, I think we must pay it.

The Defenders of Essex end by stating: To give a zero value to such an area is monstrous. It would be monstrous if anybody gave a zero value to it, but the difference between a zero value and a comparative value is considerable. I am thinking in terms of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, and what conduces to human happiness appears to be full employment, housing accommodation, facilities for recreation and sufficiently high wages to enable people to go on package tours to Southern Europe when they find it tedious living on the muddy estuary of the Thames. That is the price that we have to pay, and the question at issue is: is it worth paying? I submit that it is.

Of course it is very sad to dream of the beauty of Foulness Island if you have seen it and know it, especially at the height of summer when it is very green, very luxuriant and very lonely. One is conscious of the sky and nothing else, except being only 50 miles away from London and yet right away from any urban civilisation that it is possible to know in this country. There it is, my Lords. Fortunately, one of the benefits of old age is that you can go on dreaming of beauties that you have known and that exist only in the memory, and those of us who have seen Foulness Island at the height of its beauty will go on dreaming about it even when it is not there.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I must first declare an interest in that I am chairman of the Port of London Authority, which is concerned with this Bill. Before I come on to what I have to say, may I say to the noble Baroness that I always find her words moving, particularly when she is talking about the beauty of the country; and I like the guidance she gives me as to what I shall feel like as I move towards old age. I hope I shall be as effective as she is.

This Bill is to me a very exciting one—and not only because I am chairman of the Port of London Authority. The object of providing the land for as exciting and imaginative a British project as any in our history must capture the imagination of all of us. If the scheme goes through, it will add 28 square miles to our crowded island, while at the same time deepening the approach channels to our principal river estuary so that we can, at the right time, add a new modern airport and a new modern seaport, each with unrivalled land communications. Of course there is a high cost in the use of human resources and in money, but this cost will be spread over a number of years and is surely well within our national resources. I take account of what the noble Lord opposite said about the inflationary danger of the civil engineering industry being overloaded, but perhaps he will remember that at least part of the effort here is dredging, and it will not be inflationary in that way.

Certainly, as with all great ventures, there are risks, but the risks here are not technological risks as, for example, the risks in Concorde, in nuclear power (about which I happen to have some knowledge) or in space travel. Because we know how to dredge, we know how to reclaim land, we know how to build an airport and we know how to build a seaport. We also know how to construct the land communications. The risk is different. It is that, having created an airport and a seaport at quite considerable cost, one or other of them, or both, will not be wanted, they will therefore not be fully used and there will not be a proper return on the large investment of resources. That is the risk, I believe, which has been worrying many people since the great debate began; and I must declare to your Lordships that, after consideration, I believe that risk to be very small.

But there is another risk if we do not take the decision now to make the investment—and when I say "now", I mean now on the basis that my noble friend has announced to the House—and that is the risk that we shall not have the necessary airport facilities or that other airports and those who live around them will be overstrained, and intolerably overstrained; or, in the case of the seaport, that we shall not have the facilities for dealing in a modern way with modern ships. Of course it is right to debate the timing, which is indeed powerfully argued in The Times to-day, as it has been argued by some of your Lordships; but there is another side to even that debate, for if we delay there is the risk that we shall not have the airport or the seaport at the time when they are needed —and that is what concerns me.

I must refer to the basic facility that is being created by the Bill; that is, additional land. Surely there can be little doubt that Britain needs every bit of additional land that can be economically created. The cost of this new land has been estimated by my noble friend at £10,000 an acre or thereabouts, and that is not very high in the South-East of England. Let me tell your Lordships that as a result of inquiries we have carried out at the Port of London Authority we believe that over the next century, or perhaps more, it is possible to add 350 square miles of land on the banks of the Thames Estuary, part of it in Essex and part of it in Kent, by straightening out the banks of the River Thames and making the navigation and the conservancy easier. The reclamation at Maplin may well be viewed as a first step in this. Later generations may find it easier than we have found it to keep Green Belts unviolated and to maintain more of our agricultural land.

Other noble Lords have spoken about the airport. Two of your Lordships, who opened the debate, spent much of their time on that; and I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing on his speech, and to say that I agree with much of what he said. If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, I do not join with him in finding, as The Times has found, that it is odd to have a number of good grounds with which to back a project. If, every time we have more than one reason for something, or we adduce more than one reason, or we place emphasis on different reasons each day, we are to be accused by the editor of The Times of shifting, I think many of us are going to be in difficulties—and the better the project the more we shall be shifting.

Let me say just this about airports. It seems to me that there is no risk at all that in the 1980s we shall not want a new coastal airport well away from heavily populated areas and residential centres. I thought we decided that 18 months ago, and I am sure we were right. Indeed, do we not wish we had one now? One has only to think of those hundreds of thousands of people who live within ten miles of Heathrow along the flight paths. What right have we to subject them to a large increase in aircraft movements in the 1980s which we can avoid? For is there really any doubt but that more large aircraft will be landing in the South-East of England in ten years' time as the standards of living all over the world, including in Britain, continue to rise? It is not conceivable, my Lords, that large, fast aircraft taking off will not make an horrific noise whatever we do to quieten the engines. At best we can make them quieter, but we cannot eliminate the nasty noise. Of course I know that others of your Lordships may make different judgments about the importance of environmental considerations and of timing, and I know that my knowledge of airport considerations is substantially less than that of many of your Lordships. In my remarks today I want to concentrate, if I may, on the seaport, about which I have greater knowledge and very close and good advice, so at least to ensure that wrong arguments against the seaport, as they seem to me, do not distort the judgment on the airport.

The Times published a middle-page article to-day headed, All at sea over the Maplin Port". The heading is apt for the article and, I believe, for the author, too, who I know very well. The author, if he will not mind my saying so, has an enviable record of consistency in misunderstanding the Port of London. In speaking so about the Port of London, I am conscious that some of your Lordships may think that, as chairman of the Port of London Authority, who is, like the chairmen of other public authorities, bound by the Addison Rules, I ought not to speak in the House about our affairs. But that is not what the Addison Rules provide; and after fully considering my duty under them, and taking some advice, I have concluded that to-day it is my duty to give your Lordships first-hand evidence of what is proposed for the sea-port, and why. I shall be careful not to usurp in any way the functions of Ministers or to invade the area for which they are responsible, and I hope they will be good enough to pull me up if I do encroach on their territory. The seaport project is, I believe, of great importance in its own right. Maplin Seaport seems to us in the Port of London Authority a logical and timely development of the Port of London, converting the Port of London into the Port of Thames; and it seems to us not only of national but also of European importance. There is, in my view, no risk at all that, once established, it will not he wanted and fully used.


My Lords, I wonder whether I could ask the noble Lord to help us. I personally am grateful that he should choose to speak. It is entirely in accordance with the rules he referred to. If these conclusions had been reached, is there any reason why we should not have the benefit of the Report from the National Ports Council?


My Lords, this is difficult. The noble Lord can ask me any number of things; but I am not the Chairman of the National Ports Council or even a member of it. As my noble friend said, the matter has been submitted to the Government and approval has been given in principle—or rather it would be right to say that in principle there was no opposition to the scheme. In due course a full and detailed proposal for both oil terminal and seaport will be put to the National Ports Council. Whether it is right that we, from the Port of London, should make public the full results of the very full studies that we have done I will naturally consider; and I will see whether that is in accordance with my duty or whether I should ask the National Ports Council or the Minister to do it for me. I hope that the noble Lord will bear with me for a few more moments and then he will have a better insight into our aims and problems than he has at the moment.

In the past ten years the port industry has been passing through a period of massive change which has brought about a technological revolution in two respects. First, there is the container revolution which has transformed cargo handling methods; and second, the tremendous increase in the size of ships, particularly oil tankers but also other ships. This increase has called for deep-water ports and also a saving in time in access to the ports as well as in handling the ship when in the port. I think your Lordships know about the container revolution. The increase in productivity and reduction in manpower is often quoted as tenfold. One container berth replaces 10 conventional berths. One-tenth of the number of men are required to handle the same tonnage of cargo as when handled in the conventional way.

Terminals are highly capital intensive; the throughput on each berth is about ten times that on the conventional ones. The Port of London container port operates for 24 hours a day for 365 days a year. Since the throughput is so much greater, the berth needs a much greater area of land for stacking the boxes. The operation of loading and unloading ships is carried out much more quickly in containers, and since the deep-sea vessels are larger and of greater draught than the conventional cargo vessels, deeper water ports are required and, I repeat, a saving of time is important for ships during access as well as at the berth itself—in other words, down at the end of the estuary so that they do not require to steam up the river.

About ten years ago arrangements were put in hand for making Tilbury a first-class container port. As a result, Tilbury is now the largest container port in Britain and the second largest in Europe. But we estimate that by 1976 the facilities available at Tilbury will be fully used. In one sense, Tilbury is already out of date, for it cannot take the larger container ships that are already in service. It is true that we could construct at Tilbury a riverside berth capable of taking a 900-ft. container ship, but Tilbury is not the best place for large container ships and there is not sufficient back-up land there for further expansion. So much for containers.

I ought to explain now the need for a deep-water oil port in the Thames. There will be plenty of oil coming to the Thames for many years, whatever your Lordships may have seen written by some people in newspapers. Only 23 years ago the largest tanker afloat carried not more than 30,000 tons of crude oil. Now a 477,000 dead-weight-ton vessel has just completed trials and 532,000-ton vessels are on order for Shell. These large vessels are needed to reduce the cost, and quite substantially so, of transporting crude petroleum. There are but few ports in Europe and in the United Kingdom where the channel depths can be provided for these very large tankers. The Thames is one of those places. Moreover, the depth can be provided more certainly and more economically in the Thames than in several competing Continental ports.

I need not remind your Lordships that the Thames is within an area of very high energy demand, with a number of refineries already there and a number planned to go there. At present, the limiting draught in the Thames is 48 feet, which is about the same as that for a 100,000-ton tanker or a 210,000-ton tanker carrying over half full. It is simply not practicable to deepen the Estuary channel in the narrower part of the Thames above Southend and between there and Thameshaven sufficiently to take fully laden very large tankers. One of the advantages of the Maplin site is that natural deep-water channels come quite close to the sands, and the reclamations plans include the removal of material from those parts of the channels which require deepening.

My noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing mentioned the desirability of having an oil refinery nearer the oil terminals. We had considered that; but it would be contrary to airport safety rules and therefore we ruled it out; and it is quite unnecessary to the economics of the oil terminal. The proposal is that the oil terminal shall be linked by pipeline to the present and planned refineries on each side of the Thames and Medway. Once the new oil terminal is functioning, it will be possible severely to restrict the movements of large tankers in the River Thames above Maplin, thus protecting the river from oil spillage and from some navigational hazards. That is a significant benefit.

During the last five years studies have been in progress for the Maplin project including the hydrography both in the Thames Estuary and in the approaches to it, including the Channel as far as the Channel Islands. These studies confirm that for London and the near Continental ports, such as Antwerp and Rotterdam, the only deep-sea approach for vessels with draughts greater than about 70 feet is the English Channel, and the limiting draught for this route is 85 to 90 feet at low water. That equates with a vessel of about halfa-million dead-weight tons. Because the deep water in the Southern North Sea lies on the Western side quite close to the United Kingdom shore and because of certain problems attaching to the sea approaches to Rotterham, the Thames has considerable natural advantages in providing approaches for vessels of draughts greater than 72 feet.

I come now to what is proposed. I go back first to containers. We propose to construct two berths on an area of about 200 acres in the first phase: a deep-sea contained berth in one and a short-sea container and roll-on/roll-off berth in the other. Both can be in operation by 1977, on my judgment of probabilities, if this Bill is passed. The deep-sea facility will be able at all states of the tide to take the largest container vessels likely to be built during the present century. Additional berths can be added as required. Maplin is much better equipped even than Southampton for large vessels. But even if I am wrong in this and Southampton could still fulfil the probable container-port needs of South-East England this century, it would not be right to ban Maplin. Competition between ports is good and so is choice for the shipowners. "All eggs in one basket" is not good for shipowners or for anyone else. I fear that The Times advocate of a national ports policy would disagree with what I have just said. When fully developed, we envisage that the port would provide employment for about 3,000 people, of whom about half would be directly involved in cargo handling. The cargo capacity of the port which, excluding the oil terminal, would occupy 1,500 acres could be expected to reach 25 to 30 million tons by the end of the century.

On the oil side, where we have to cater for deep draught ships, the approach channel from the North Sea to the terminal is about 34 miles long and about half of this would be dredged. The remaining half is already deep enough. The present plans are that the dredging in the first phase should provide channels for vessels up to 73 feet draught, which equates to tankers of about 380.000 deadweight tons. The oil terminal would be sited on reclaimed land occupying a thousand acres, of which only 250 acres will be required in the first phase. On these 250 acres there will be storage tanks with a capacity of about one million tons. There will be significant benefits as a result of this new deep-water oil terminal. The present tonnage of oil imported into the Thames amounts to about 25 million tons a year, and on average one tanker comes into the Thames each day of the year. At Maplin the number of tankers will be reduced from seven a week to two a week. Since all the crude oil tankers for London pass through the English Channel and the Dover Strait, there would be the same reduction in the number of tankers on this crowded route. And if the tonnage of oil coming into Thames refineries were to double, as is forecast, the number of tankers, with Maplin, would still be less than it is to-day.

I now turn for a moment to the cost. The first phase, comprising the oil terminal and unit load berths, as I have outlined, is expected to cost the Port of London Authority about £50 million. We intend that, so far as the oil terminal is concerned, contracts made with the oil companies will be such as to back the raising of the necessary finance. So far as the container terminal is concerned, the capital works will be financed in the normal way for the Port of London, and the cost will be covered by the earnings of the new container terminal. I would remind your Lordships that the Port of London Authority is at the moment not running at a loss. I should confirm that none of this expenditure could be incurred by us without the approval of the Minister for Transport Industries under the Harbours Act 1964. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has already stated accurately to your Lordships the situation about the outlying proposals and I have referred to them.

There have been extensive discussion between the Port of London Authority, oil companies and other potential port users in many parts of the world, as well as with Her Majesty's Government. These discussions will of course continue and there will be discussions with the National Ports Council; in fact, there was a meeting to-day between the Director General, the chief officers of the Port of London Authority and the National Ports Council. In addition, there have been extensive discussions with the local authorities, particularly the Essex County Council; and there have also been discussions with the planning officers of the Kent County Council. There is a particular problem in Essex about road approaches in the interim period between the time when the first phase of the port becomes operational in 1977 and the completion of the motorway for the airport.

The container terminal will not be in operation until after a rail link has been provided, but some seaport operational traffic will need to go by road. It is reckoned that normally about half the containers arriving in the Maplin port will be transported on by rail and half by road. Your Lordships will know that I am as sensitive as anyone about heavy traffic passing through villages or towns, or nearby historic places and so on, and interfering with normal life. I recognise the problems in parts of route A.127. I understand that improvements have been planned and that urgent attention is being given to the possibility of a loop road or a by-pass being built for part of the A.127 where it passes through Southend. So that we may get the effect of the new container port on the traffic along this route in proper perspective, I can say to your Lordships that during the period between 1977 and the expected completion of the motorway it is not anticipated that more than about seven vehicles each hour each way will be going to or from the container port; and these seven vehicles each hour each way compare with about 3,000 vehicles each hour each way on that road during peak periods to-day.

My Lords, I have mentioned the road and rail access. The port is only one part of a comprehensive transport concept. It is impossible to start operating a port without road access, even with the best of railways, and the certainty of that road access is of course a vital factor in marketing the facilities of the port to potential customers and therefore satisfying ourselves again that there are sound commercial grounds behind this container port. Further detailed information may be made available to your Lordships during later proceedings on the Bill. On behalf of the Authority I have given important assurances to the Chairman of the Essex County Council which can be set out in detail. But one of these may be important to your Lordships at this stage. It relates to the establishment of industry in the port area. Because a number of large Continental ports have based their development on large industrial areas in their immediate neighbourhood, it has been thought that it was an essential condition for the viability of the new Maplin seaport that there should be a large industrial area alongside. This may be desirable at Le Havre, Dunkirk, Rotterdam, Antwerp and other places, but it is not essential at Maplin, and I have assured the Chairman of the Essex County Council that the Port of London Authority will not encourage any industrial development—which would in any event, of course, need planning approval—contrary to the wishes and plans of the Essex County Council. I am satisfied that as a result of the discussions with the Essex County Council, and the assurances which we have been able to give, we shall receive the fullest co-operation from them in everything that is necessary for the port.

My Lords, I apologise for the time I have taken, but this is the first opportunity we have had of explaining what is behind these proposals. I would end as I began, by stressing to your Lordships that in my view this is an exciting and imaginative British project. It has its risks, but there are greater risks in delay; and I think it would be a disaster to abandon it. There are many good men involved in the planning of the Maplin development area, of the airport and of the seaport, and it seems to me that after we have heard all the evidence and the arguments, and the proof that environmental requirements have been fully met, we shall want to let them get on with their work, relieved from the fear that their work will come too late. Now is the time not to draw back, as my noble friend said in his excellent introductory speech.

4.56 p.m.


My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Aldington, I have to declare an interest, in that in my capacity as Chairman of Britannia Airways I have frequently been asked, "Are you pro- or anti-Maplin?". I have managed to evade giving a straight reply to that question. I am neither pro nor anti. I am delighted to have this opportunity to listen to the debate, because it is ventilating a very important project in an atmosphere that is low in emotional "pollen" so to speak; and I am sure that we are all learning a very great deal as we go along.

My Lords, I wish to make one particular point. It is that it would be wrong to regard the Maplin project as a panacea for all our transportation problems. Just by saying that it is on does not mean that we can sterilise and stop all development at other airports. I take it that the time estimate of ten years to get Maplin operational is very likely to be exceeded. These estimates always are exceeded. During that ten years or more there will be changes in traffic patterns and aircraft types. I put it to your Lordships that it is for the wellbeing of British aviation and transportation that such improvements as are needed at London Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and anywhere else should go on. Otherwise we shall have the worst of both worlds—a big project which has not been developed, because there has not been the time, and a running down, or an overrunning, of the capabilities at the existing airports where traffic has to be handled. say this because I know that Maplin—or Foulness, to give it its more properly descriptive title—is a God-forsaken place as it stands; beautiful in its loneliness would grant, but not a good place for contractual development, and we shall find that the ten-year period needed before it is anywhere near completion will soon be exhausted. Only yesterday one of our Ministers nearly got lost while exploring the site—which gives credence to the fact that it is a little complicated—and he was late for a meeting at which he unsuccessfully tried to tell some of the local inhabitants of the benefits of the Maplin project. Obviously we must have time and we must exercise patience. Please do not let us imagine that by giving the green light to Maplin we have waved a magic wand that immediately warrants our freezing increasing the capacity at the other London airports, and the Provincial ones, too.

I would plead also for a more rational outlook on the subject of aircraft noise. It is a nuisance; it is irritating and annoying. It also seems to create all kinds of uninhibited comments both in the spoken and in the written word. When I became Chairman of B.O.A.C. I deliberately bought a house at Virginia Water, right in the flight path, so that I could have first hand experience of the noise problem. I also moved the headquarters of the airline from the West End of London down to Heathrow Airport for the self-same reason. Noise is a great nuisance, but it is tolerable. I think the tendency to extravagant oratory and highly excitable prose is awkward. As the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, said, there are hush-kits available for hushing the engines of shed aircraft; and double glazing of houses is good. One of the cheapest hush-kits that I know is to stuff the chimneys of hardly-used bedroom fireplaces with crumpled paper or sacks of wood shavings. It is surprising how much noise comes down chimneys from aircraft going overhead, and a little do-it-yourself can make a great deal of difference.

Equally, I deliberately spent last Sunday at Gatwick. It was a perfect summer day, and there was no cloud to form anything like a sound barrier. I was very much impressed by the fact that at least two four-engine jets were circling and making, a repetitive noise, presumably because there was not enough runway capacity to enable them to get down. That immediately negatives any suggestion that you can necessarily improve the noise situation by restricting runway capacity. If these aircraft had had an opportunity to get down, they would not have made so much noise. That again is an argument for not restricting airport facilities during the interim period between the time when, as I hope we shall, we say "Go" to the Maplin project and the time when it becomes operational.

My Lords, there are all kinds of problems which must be studied. There are the types of road and rail connections—we do not as yet know where they are going. The investigation into bird strikes is a very serious undertaking. These quieter engines, like the RB 211 Rolls-Royce, have air intakes at least seven feet across and a very high speed rather delicate fan revolving in that diameter. Those discs, as they are called, are already rather sensitive to ordinary usage, and a bird strike in the third engine, the one at the back over the middle of the fuselage, could be most serious, because if the fan broke up and severed any of the controls, it could create an extremely difficult situation. So I think the matter of the birds at Maplin needs extremely careful consideration.

While we are engaged on Maplin, I think a good deal of attention ought to be given to the question of making air engines quieter. For a tithe of the sum we are proposing to spend on Maplin. we could let the various engineers, Rolls-Royce, Dowty and others, develop quieter engines, which will be needed not only for their quietness, but also to give controllable thrust and braking for short take-off operations.

There is one final reason why I hope the Maplin development will go ahead, and it may seem a little unusual. There is the possibility in the immediate future of seaplanes coming back. Already a leading manufacturer in the States is talking about building a seaplane. Everybody who remembers the old days—and the noble Lord. Lord Beswick, will remember this—will recall how popular with passengers were the old flying boats. Well, Maplin would be an ideal place for a flying boat base; and that would soon lead to the development of other flying boat bases, because there is a lot more water than there is concrete in the world.

So, my Lords, let us carry on with this Bill; push on with the paper-work and send it to a Committee stage so that the Amendments the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has outlined can be considered. By this consideration, I hope we shall prevent the Maplin plan doing a stall turn on take-off and creating an awkward situation. I tun all in favour of progress in this matter.

5.7 p.m.


My Lords, I was one of those who at the time of the Roskill Report felt, on environmental and planning grounds, that if we were going to have a third London Airport it ought not to be at an inland site, but should be at what we then called Foulness; and the various amenity bodies and other bodies on whose councils I sit gave evidence to that effect to the Roskill Committee. Eventually, the Government rejected the main proposals of Roskill and came to the same conclusion. Even then there was a great deal of talk as to whether the premise on which the Government had accepted this proposal was true or not; that is to say, whether there should be a third London Airport at all. Since then there has been a great deal more talk. In fact, if one reads the newspapers to-day, one comes to the conclusion that the case against having a third London Airport has been incontrovertibly made out. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, does not agree. On the other hand, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, does agree. So I find myself once again in a position that will not be unknown to other noble Lords, in that it is extremely difficult on the evidence before one to make up one's mind as to whether or not there should be a third London Airport.

But if we do not have a third London Airport at Maplin, what is going to happen to those people who at the moment are suffering so badly from the noise at all the four airports that have been mentioned—Heathrow, Stansted, Luton and Gatwick'? The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, feels that we must not get too emotional about noise. But people who live under the menace of this noise, so far from being merely emotional, are nearly driven out of their minds. This is not merely a question of areojet aeroplanes; the same can happen if you live near a small Provincial aerodrome with little trainer aircraft buzzing around for 16 hours a day at about 500 feet. All this induces in one's mind a feeling that violence is the only answer. We must do something about this—and I will come to that later—because it has now reached a point at which it is almost intolerable. There are, I know, such things as hush kits. There is improved compensation under the Land Compensa tion Act. There are discretionary powers that local authorities can enter into with regard to sound proofing people's houses and making them less susceptible to noise. But none of these will get us very far. What is going to get us a great deal further is the question of whether aircraft can or cannot be made quieter.

Here again, I am in exactly the same position as I described to yourLordships a few moments ago: that the evidence put before me, not only during our debate to-day but in the newspapers and so on, is contradictory. On the one hand, we have the words of Mr. Flowerdew, which were quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. I am inclined to believe that he is right in saying that in fact we can and shall be doing someing about the noise of aircraft engines in the very near future.

On the other hand, the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, while admitting that if we were to spend more money on reducing the noise of aircraft engines we should get somewhere, said that whatever is done there will still be pretty noisy aircraft, and that we cannot get away from that fact. So here we have two directly opposing views: one to the effect that, do what you will, there will always be noise from aircraft up to a nearly intolerable degree; and, on the other hand, what 1 might call the Flowerdew view, which is that we shall indeed put this matter right in the very near future. This is really one of the central points of the debate, because the question of what we are going to do about noise must in part influence our feelings about Maplin.

I should not like to see something of the order of £1,000 million spent on developing Maplin if, for a variety of reasons, it is going to be useless. A great many of those various reasons have been touched upon this afternoon. One of them, however, has not so far been touched upon; that is, the energy crisis. I had hoped that one of my noble friends would say something about this. It is no use spending an enormous amount of money on a new airport to be ready in the 1980s if, by the 1980s, there will not be enough aviation fuel to have the number of aeroplanes we have all been talking about. There is also the question of the seaport and to what extent we shall be able to rival Rotterdam. I was very interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, because he made what I thought was a very strong case for the kind of seaport in the Thames Estuary that this bold and imaginative scheme would produce. That is as may be; but I do not believe it is going to rival Rotterdam in quite the way he thinks.

There is also the question of industrial development. Here again I am not quite sure how much the Government have in mind with regard to industrial development. There seems to be some difference of opinion as to what kind of development, if any, there is to be. There are also difficulties over transport. Do people, particularly foreign airline operators, really want to come to a place with difficulties over access to London'? What damage are we going to do the environment of London and South-East Essex by providing the kind of access that will be necessary? Nor do I really care for the argument that we shall be producing a lot of good new land at £10,000 an acre. As against that, we have to set the loss of something which is becoming increasignly rare in this country—something almost unknown in South-East England —and that is land which is not part of a concrete jungle. Such things as this will be done at our peril.

If all these difficulties are going to make Maplin useless in the long term, that would indeed be too high a price to pay for taking the pressure off the other airports in the London area. In any case, such pressure will not be taken off for something like eight to ten years, and during that immediate period the noise which people now find intolerable at those other aerodromes is going to be mitigated, not by the advent of Maplin, but by more money, more effort and ingenuity being expended on reducing aircraft noise. I am convinced—and this is why I accept the Flowerdew view—that we shall in fact reduce this noise. Indeed, the noble Lord. Lord Thomas, said that if we spend money on trying to get over the noise problem of the aero-jet, we shall do it very quickly. Supposing, for example, it had not been merely desirable but essential to do away with noise; supposing it had been a kind of wartime operation. I am convinced that we should have had virtually silent aircraft already. If we had devoted the amount of money that we have spent on Concorde in trying to produce a silent aero-engine, I am sure that we should now be leaders of the aircraft engine industry and not tagging on behind with an aircraft which is not only the most expensive on fuel, but the most noisy of all and which nobdy wants.

However, having said about Maplin, I want to make it absolutely clear that the amenity arguments do not all point the same way. I want to rebut any suggestion that opposition to Maplin is necessarily the proper course for anyone who has the protection of the environment at heart; because that is not so. I wish I knew the answer myself. As I have said, I originally supported Maplin. My faith is slightly shaken by the arguments that I have heard against it and, like many of your Lordships, I simply do not know the answer. Therefore I think it right that the Government should be made to look at this project again. Governments, like other people, very often adopt attitudes which they then defend to the last, regardless of anything else. The forceful way in which the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, made his speech earlier to-day made me feel that the Government have already made up their minds on the question and are determined at all costs to push the project through. I feel there is evidence that successive Governments did the same thing over Concorde—and look where we have got to there! I believe there is evidence that the Government are doing the same thing over the Channel Tunnel.

Each of these investments is to cost something of the order of £1,000 million pounds. I take what has been said about over-heating the economy, and £1,000 million pounds is not very much if what you have decided to do is right; but if what you have decided to do is wrong then it is a great deal of money to waste. It is still not all that much; but if what you have decided to do is not only wrong but is something which takes you altogether in the wrong direction, then not only is your £1,000 million lost but you have promoted something that is wrong and irretrievable. That, my Lords, would be a disaster from which it would be extremely difficult to recover.

For those reasons, I hope that the Government will accept the sort of amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, suggested would give teeth to Parliament, to make sure that the Government are in fact not taking up a stance from which they cannot withdraw but rather looking at the situation in the light of the very rapidly changing evidence which is before us every day.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to start by saying that I am sure your Lordships enjoyed as much as I did the very able and informative speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Aldington. It seemed to me a shining example of the advantage that comes to this House through the membership of it of many men and women who carry the sort of wide responsibilities that are carried by the noble Lord, Lord Aldington.

I suppose that my speech is likely to be about as great a contrast as can be imagined, to his because I speak wholly as a layman. My only first-hand experience of air navigation in the vicinity of London was derived from an occasion during the war when I flew a small aircraft into the balloon barrage. On emerging therefrom and returning to my airfield I received a severe reprimand from the Air Commodore, not for having flown into the balloon barrage but for having flown out again without losing my life. Those of us who are laymen cannot hope hope to master all the technical arguments on which the experts themselves do not seem in agreement. Nevertheless, because the experts are not all in agreement, we laymen, at the risk of oversimplifying some of the problems, must come in and share the responsibility for a decision. That is my only excuse for speaking briefly this afternoon, because there may be others who are in exactly the same position as myself.

My Lords, this is the moment for your Lordships to produce your "hush kits" —an article of equipment of which I did not know the existence until this afternoon. I have read and listened to, as opportunity has offered, the rival arguments, and as a result the following impressions have been left on my mind. May I give them to you in rather telegraphic form? My noble friend Lord Drumalbyn reminded us that Governments have been applying their minds to this problem for 12 years. With a nationally essential industry like air transport, which is growing at the present rate, and with the prospective growth rate, it does not make sense to postpone a decision much longer. Secondly, the vertical take-off, short-run aircraft, and even the noiseless aircraft, seem to be a long time coming. Thirdly, until they do, and perhaps after, airports should be kept away from densely populated areas if possible, even at the price of somewhat longer ground communication links. The distance of ground communication (I think it is 55 miles) seems to be a defect, but fast and frequent communications are feasible which would go far to compensate for the longer distance between airport and city centres. I was interested in the typically forward-looking speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, with her interesting idea for the regeneration of the Eastern portions of London. I hope that will come about.

The next point that is left on my mind is that the charts of estimated future growth of air transport do not seem to indicate any less sharply rising curve. Almost too much emphasis has been put on the adequacy or inadequacy of Heathrow and the other London airports in the year 1985, and not enough emphasis on the probable expansion of the volume of traffic after 1985. It seemed to me that that was a defect in the letter of Sir Peter Masefield which recently appeared in The Times. Then there must surely he a maximum tolerable size for one airport. Already these huge airports in which passengers suffer inconvenience by the distances they have to walk, the areas in which they have to mill around and the degree of centralised organisation involved, are becoming nearly intolerable in some places. Even at their present size, airports are becoming inhuman establishments. This is one of the reasons why industrial relations at them are not better than they are at the present time. Therefore, so far as I am concerned a solution by major expansion of existing airports to the extent—I think I am right in saying after listening to the speeches to-day—of three or four times is likely to be intolerable to passengers and is a prospect that terrifies me.

My next point is that in selecting investment priorities, provision for air travel, which shows no signs of ceasing to expand, must take precedence over a new venture such as the building of the Channel Tunnel, even though the Channel Tunnel, if finance was available, would probably be a sound scheme. The estimated costs have been mentioned. Huge as they are, they do not seem to be impossible when spread over a period such as 15 years. If they were to come on sharply, particularly on the construction industry, clearly they would be most damaging from the inflationary angle.

Lastly, on environmental grounds Maplin seems to me to be easily the least damaging solution suggested. The sea reclamation project is positively an attractive element-14,000 acres of land reclaimed at an estimated 1972 cost of £10,000 an acre is, as my noble friend Lord Aldington has said, surely not an unreasonable price. I believe that we are going to have to look at some major land reclamation schemes from the sea, apart from this area, on their own merits in the years to come. The views expressed by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing, who is an expert, I found very convincing.

These, my Lords, are the reasons why my vote as a layman, as a man in the street, comes down in favour of proceeding with the preparatory work authorised by this Bill, and with the numerous studies which, as my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing said, will stem from it.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, I have in no way modified the views that I expressed some three or four years ago about the undesirability of having the Third London Airport on any inland site. On that occasion, some of your Lordships may remember, I initiated a debate upon the subject; and the fact that not a single one of your Lordships was in favour of the adoption of the Roskill recommendations may have had a good deal to do with the Government's rejection of the recommendations of the Roskill Commission and their decision in favour of Maplin. If a Third London Airport is needed, there is an unanswerable case in favour of siting it at Maplin. I am bound to say, however, that the further researches and studies which have been made in the past few years make me wonder whether in fact it will be necessary to have a Third London Airport. In any case, it seems fairly clear that it is not a matter of as much urgency as we had supposed.

The Civil Aviation Authority's Report to the Government, Forecasts of Air Traffic and Capacity at Airports in the London Area, undoubtedly throws a new light upon the likely outlook up to the year 1985. Their conclusion, at paragraph 10.10, is: … in 1980 there would be about 14 per cent. surplus passenger-handling capacity with a Tunnel and 9 per cent. with no Tunnel. What is also very striking is that at paragraph 2.3 the C.A.A. indicate that a number of official studies have been made which are still unpublished. My Lords, before any decision is taken on a matter of this great importance it is of the utmost importance that there should be the fullest disclosure of the latest studies upon this matter. At paragraph 2.3 they say: Subsequently, there have been a number of unpublished studies of major elements of this calculation. It is true that in arriving at the conclusions which I have quoted the Civil Aviation Authority have taken those exercises into account, but the fact that they have had access to these studies and have taken them into account in arriving at the conclusion that in any case there will be surplus capacity in the London area in 1980, does not in any way alter the fact that Parliament and the public should have access to these studies before any decision is taken upon the matter.


My Lords, would my noble friend forgive me? He said that in any case there would be a surplus capacity, but the Report says specifically that the middle figure suggested would be surplus capacity but the upper limit forecast suggested that available handling capacity at Heathrow and Gatwick may be fully used by 1980.


My Lords, the middle figure, yes. I assume that there is no need to take the maximum figure as being the basis upon which the calculation is to be made. And it has also to be remembered in making this calculation that they are leaving entirely out of account short take-off and landing aircraft and reduced take-off and landing aircraft. It may well be that anything in the way of vertical aircraft are not likely to be in operation by 1980, but I should have thought it extremely probable—and the other papers which have been circulated to noble Lords indicate this—that before then the use of existing runways will be very much more scientific and intensive than it is at the present time. Anyway, it seems to me to be quite clear that there is no need for such urgent hurry as to preclude sufficient time for the studies to be made. It must be remembered, too, that aviation and the design of aircraft and their performance are probably now changing more rapidly that at any time in the past and in my view it would be most unwise to jump to any premature conclusion upon this matter.

My Lords, to-morrow I am asking a Question of the Government as to the precise reasons why they consider it necessary that decisions should be taken with regard to the Channel Tunnel at such extremely short notice, by July 31, when at the present time—or certainly up to last week—a number of the studies to which they were referring are still unpublished. There can be no justification, in my view, for two such great and important decisions being taken without the fullest information being available. I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Amory that there is a very much stronger case for Maplin than there is for the Channel Tunnel. But one thing I do feel very strongly is that there is no justification for undertaking both of them at the same time.

I found myself in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, when he gave warning against this country's undertaking excessive capital expenditure at the present time. We were reminded by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing. in a debate on the Channel Tunnel, of the vast sums which it is likely to be necessary to invest in a whole lot of our nationalised and other industries. There is a figure of something like £3,000 million, I believe, planned over the next 10 or 12 years for the reconstruction of the steel industry; the railways are asking, I think, for £1,700 million; and now, on top of that, we have a proposal for Maplin, at £825 million, and the Channel Tunnel, at something like £750 million, without, as I understand it, any estimate of the cost of widening and modernising British Railways in order to make the fullest use of the Channel Tunnel when it is built.

As the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said —and it certainly is a view with which noble Lords on this side of the House will agree—inflation is the greatest menace which this country is facing at the present time, and unless we are prepared to save out of our income the total amount that is necessary for these vast capital expenditures over the next 10 or 12 years, this capital expenditure must inevitably result in further inflation. I therefore hope that the Government will bear in mind that these projects, desirable and attractive as they may be, must been seen in the general ambit of the economic future of the country; and that to arrest the inflation which has been the bane, and almost the downfall, of successive Governments in this country is surely the first and most important thing they have to bear in mind.

This is a hybrid Bill and the private interests which may consider themselves adversely affected by it will be able to present their cases upstairs. Being a Hybrid Bill, it also is in part a Public Bill, and it is for Parliament to take a view of the national interest. I thought that the leading article in The Times to-day set out cogent reasons for taking a slightly prudent view, and I hope that that view will commend itself to Parliament. It was significant that a revolt of Conservative Members in the House of Commons resulted in the addition of Clause 25 in order that there should be an opportunity for further consideration. I believe that there is need not only for further consideration but also for further inquiry and time to see more clearly than we can at the present time what justification there is for those aviation experts who say that there will not by 1980 be any need for a third London Airport. I gladly welcome what my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn said: that the Government are prepared, as a result of the successful revolt in the House of Commons, to insert a provision that work upon Maplin is not to he undertaken until Parliament has had a further opportunity of considering the matter. I do not quite know what form the provision will take, but I hope very much that it will be a requirement for an Affirmative Resolution in each House of Parliament.

My Lords, I deeply regret that I may not be able to remain for the end of this debate. I therefore apologise to the House for intervening to make these few remarks.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Molson, particularly remembering the valiant and effective lead he gave to this House when we rejected Cublington, which in my opinion is about the best thing this House has done since I have been here. It is also a great pleasure to follow my noble friend and Chief Whip, Lord Beswick, not in my case a routine posture but none the less agreeable for that. I should like to adopt the same attitude, though from a much lower level, that the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, adopted. I am a pure layman. I know nothing about any of the technicalities, and emphatically do not want to. I feel that this is one of the biggest decisions this Government and this country have to make and it is feeble for Back-Benchers not to express a view briefly, however wrong it may be, particularly when, as in my case, they have no special axe to grind, which so many people by location or constituency inevitably have. I live near Primrose Hill and I am much more worried by Lord Zuckerman's hyenas than I am by aircraft noise; it is a happy place from that point of view. But I am acutely conscious of the misery caused to my fellow citizens around Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, and I believe that relief for them is of the very highest priority.

It seems to me that the issue to-day is a simple one, and so far as my personal value judgments are concerned it is a question first of amenities and only secondarily of economics. There are times when the quality of life must be put before profit and even convenience. I felt this with passion over the plans for an inland solution of the third London Airport, and I opposed both Stansted and Cublington with all my might. I even asked my noble friend the then Leader, Lord Longford, whether I might make my maiden speech on the Stansted issue. He begged me not to and I refrained; I have always felt that was rather a pity.

I thought, and think still, that it would be better for us as a nation to lose some hypothetical business in the future than presently to ruin such a large acreage of our homeland. An uncertain economic calculation of what is likely to happen in the 'eighties is not a strong enough argument to balance certain ruination of large areas in the 'seventies. If there had to be a third London Airport, and we were then told there had to be, then I was perfectly clear it must be Foulness and not Cublington. But at the end of the months of discussion some informed critics began saying that we could manage without a third airport at all. That formidable figure Sir Peter Mascfield three years ago was quite content to ruin a large part of England to provide a third London Airport. He told us in The Times that we have enough capacity now to deal with anticipated traffic up to 1985, and his case is based on calculations, which have been referred to several times this afternoon, in the Civil Aviation Authority's Report. This gives us five additional years we had not got before, before Maplin or a third airport, on present figures, is necessary.

The aviation lobby, which was the most telling protagonist for a third London Airport in the Cublington days, has changed course and now says we do not need one—at any rate not yet. Doubtless if they were offered Cublington instead of Maplin they might switch back again, but their change of heart is extremely significant. I think they feel —and the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, made the point—that Maplin simply will not do, but that things are changing so fast that something will turn up in the way of technical progress to offer a solution not yet contemplated. They remind me of the American electronics industry where things are changing so fast now that they say, "If it works, it's obsolete!".

We can now state the issue crudely in these terms. The economic argument, which was the main argument in favour of Cublington, is now at half-cock and certainly cannot be used to justify such a huge and speculative investment without much more study. So the question turns on the relief of the sufferers around the existing airports. I think myself, if I could be assured that Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted would be completely relieved of noise within a few years, I should be tempted to go ahead. But this does not seem to be the case. There is no question, it seems, of closing Heathrow or Gatwick, whatever may happen to the smaller fields. Until Maplin becomes operative, it is clear that the intensity of the nuisance is certain to increase, not diminish, between now and 1980, whatever anybody does. It is agreed, on the authority of the Department of the Environment, that a significant reduction in noise levels may be counted on between now and 1985 due to technical progress. The weakness of this case is that frequency of noise is a greater nuisance than volume, and frequency is bound to increase until an alternative airport is operative. So, even with the prospect of Maplin, I believe the sufferers arc deluding themselves if they look for any relief other than from technical progress in the next ten years.

It seems to me, therefore, painfully obvious that it must be better to concentrate spending on hastening technical progress, which is already showing some results, and to postpone any decision on this vast expenditure, which will have such certain and violent effects on such a large area, for a period of further examination. My right honourable friend Mr. Roy Jenkins suggested in another place a postponement for five years. I think that is about right. Within that time we should be able to see whether intensive research was succeeding in reducing noise significantly. It would still be not too late economically to carry on with the alternative plan if the research failed to come up to scratch.

May I make it clear that my conclusions are a result of looking at the wood and not the trees. I am quite incapable of assessing all the technical arguments involved; nor have I the slightest ambition to try. Those who are capable, as the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, said, come constantly to opposing conclusions, based perhaps on where they or their constituents live, and in the end we—ordinary men—have to choose. My fear is that the sufferers around the existing airports have no hope of relief from Maplin before 1980, even if it goes ahead now; and as for Heathrow and Gatwick, both of which will continue operative and represent far the greater proportion of sufferers—in my opinion they have no hope at all. We know from building motorways that traffic increases with capacity, and the same thing will happen here. Surely, £1 spent on technical research against noise is worth much more than £1 spent in moving it away to annoy other people. If we were to spend £10 million, £20 million or even £50 million for a year or two on pushing the research, we are much more likely to relieve the sufferers than by any other course open to us.

My Lords, I have touched on one side of this question only. I have not referred to the problems of the seaport, on which I found the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, consoling because up to the moment he spoke we had no idea whether or not the plan fitted into a national plan for ports. I have said nothing about the road question, which involves enormous destruction of homes and countryside. I have said nothing about the extraordinary reversal of normal planning in producing an enormous conurbation or industrial area in the South-East of England when the North-West and undeveloped areas are crying out for labour. This is exactly opposite to all we wanted to do. I have said nothing about conservation, or the Brent geese which I feel sure I can leave safely in the hands of the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook.

But I do not think one wants to speak with certainty on this subject. I do not feel that one can reject Maplin out of hand. I feel that we are being offered a solution which is at this present moment not properly worked out; that an expenditure of the kind of figure that is referred to, without far greater detailed estimates, is quite unreasonable. Therefore all I am asking for really is what I think the noble Lord. Lord Orr-Ewing, asked for: that the work should be carefully monitored and carried on to a limited extent. I want to see five years' grace before we are totally committed to this vast enterprise. I believe this is reasonable. It is not hostile to the enterprise: it is just a question of whether in fact it makes sense, and I hope very much that in Committee we shall be able to persuade the Government to take this view.

5.51 p.m.


My Lords, if ever there was a case of one's becoming wholly confused over a subject, I believe it would be difficult to equal the example of Maplin. It is hard to recall an issue where so many experts have devoted so much time to arriving at so many different conclusions. Of one thing I am sure, as evidenced by a number of speakers to-day, which is that the House will examine and discuss all the complexities of Maplin, not in the spirit perhaps expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, in his somewhat pessimistic letter to The Times last week, which, with respect to the noble Lord, seemed to give little credit to the intelligence of Members of this House. Indeed, if the noble Lord will recall the Stansted debate, when the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, with his usual persuasive argument, destroyed Stansted, I think he will agree that the House has a good record —or perhaps a bad record. If the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, had not been so persuasive on that occasion it is unlikely that we should be debating Maplin to-day.


My Lords, I accept the strictures of the noble Earl, but I hope he will recall that in the Stansted case the essential difference was that in those days there was a Labour Government which did not command a majority of votes in this House.


My Lords, I do recall that, of course, but in fact I do not think the House was divided on Party lines.

The last occasion on which we discussed this issue of a third London Airport was a debate on the Report of the Roskill Commission. At that time my own view was that the Roskill Commission had suffered, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick has said, from the handicap of being strapped, early on, into a straitjacket by the terms of their reference. The consequence of that limitation was for the Commission to offer only one possible coastal site in the last four sites it recommended. Along with other noble Lords I was delighted with the Government's decision not to accept the Roskill Commission's first choice of Cublington—a choice which seemed to smack right against the trend of protect ing our environmental heritage.The Government's decision to choose Maplin was, I believe, the only logical option open to them if they were not to abandon completely the Roskill recommendations. When one considers the pressures on the Government at that time by many of the leading aviation bodies, deeply concerned with the potential lack of airport capacity in the 1980s, it seems an odd quirk of fate that so many experts now are condemning the Government for pressing ahead with Maplin. I am quite convinced that if the Government had decided not to proceed with any of the Roskill sites they would to-day be faced with an even greater storm of abuse for adding to the damaging uncertainty of the issue and for neglecting the future of civil aviation.

To show best how confused one can become over the technical information, which seems to be constantly changing, I would quote, as others have quoted, from a recent letter in The Times by Sir Peter Masefield. Sir Peter, of course, is well known to the House as being one of the most respected aviationists in the country. His letter, which seemed to be singularly well timed for this debate, advocated that, taking the latest figures on air traffic forecasts, runway capacities, ground area capacities and noise forecasts, the need for Maplin as another international airport has been put back to 1985. I hope it would not be breaking Sir Peter's friendship if one were to recall that in 1970 when he was Chairman of the British Airports Authority, he was one of the foremost advocates of the need for urgency for the Government to reach a decision. I well remember that he put forward then very convincing figures to support his attitude. Sir Peter's letter emphasises again that the whole question of Maplin, and indeed of the planning of the future of our airports, is one of continual change and the forecast to-day will be as out of date (as indeed no doubt the cost) in three years' time as the forecast on certain figures given to Roskill in 1970 appear to-day. For that reason I, for one, find it difficult to attach great importance to some of these forecasts.

Since the publication of the Maplin Bill there have seemed to me to be two crucial questions that go to the centre of all the controversy. The first is just what degree of benefit would Maplin eventually give to our environment, and the second is what chance has it of becoming the monument of all monuments to a white aviation elephant. As to environment, one has a natural sympathy with the Defenders of Essex in their claim that what with new motorways, new rail links and new cities a great deal of Essex will be ruined and a great deal of their environment will be spoilt.

Set against this is the aircraft noise argument, which, as we have already heard from my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, concerns millions of people in the London area. At the time of the Roskill Commission I was personally not convinced that this hardship could not be corrected even before Maplin was built, by the new generation of quieter engines and even by hush kits for the existing aircraft. Since then I have personally witnessed on many occasions, and have seen in such journals as the Lancet, the medical effects of noise levels—the effects of deafness, mental illness, the disturbance in schools, hospitals and offices, all of which, in my view, add up to the unacceptable face of our technological progress. I accept that nothing the Maplin Bill can do now will relieve the noise problem for the next seven years, and residents will have to rely on quieter and less frequent aircraft movements for comfort. But I have also come to accept that this argument in itself is no good reason to delay a Maplin decision for another five years, just because the capacity of existing airports can he increased.

The other aspect in favour of the environment argument—and I believe it is a very important one, particularly around Heathrow—is the danger of accidents. I foresee that the "Do nothing for five years brigade would be silenced at a stroke if by one appalling chance of fate a Jumbo—or perhaps even two Jumbos —crashed on their approach to London Airport. The enormity of such an accident and the possible scale of loss of life on the ground could be horrific. The cry then for an urgent coastal airport would be deafening. As to Maplin, or, for that matter, any other coastal airport, becoming a white elephant, ignored by airlines and underutilised for years, this is clearly a matter for the Government to plan against and to overcome. Governments are not wholly impotent in these matters, even if the threat of a B.E.A./Turkey situation should arise. Indeed, I think we have here a good forerunner in the case of the French new international airport at Roissy, due to be opened next year.

I would expect that a great deal of the charter operations could operate very successfully from Maplin, and one would naturally hope that the Government would, as a first step, request British Airways Airtours Division to move to Maplin. I would also expect and hope that a number of foreign charter groups and American supplementary carriers would move to Maplin. This is one aspect on which my noble friend might perhaps comment later. What happens between now and the opening date of Maplin? Has the Government already set up study groups to consider and plan what will go where?

Turning to the Brent geese at Maplin, I should also like to ask my noble friend whether, as a precaution against the geese not being persuaded to move from the airport surrounds, thought has been given to having no grass at all on the airport but only gravel and concrete. The conflict between the Brent geese and the Government is an intriguing one and I hope that, for the sake of the geese and for the future safety of aircraft and passengers, mutual agreement will be reached. A further specific point that I should like to put to my noble friend is what progress is being made with the clearance of the Ministry of Defence bombing range alongside Maplin? Is there any question of the highly difficult task of clearance taking a good deal longer than was at first anticipated, so possibly holding up the progress of the airport?

My Lords, my own view on the whole vexed question of Maplin is that despite the latest forecasts, and the report of the C.A.A., there is a clear need for the concept of airport planning which a case such as Maplin offers. There is a need for a new, international, 24-hour, coastal airport; there is a need to reduce the disturbance from inland airports; and there is a need to make use of regional airports to suit the particular regional requirements. Whether or not Maplin was the best choice of a coastal site is a matter that could be argued, no doubt indefinitely, but to examine it thoroughly would mean another Roskill Commission, a further delay of perhaps five years, and then little hope of agreement. The Government have taken the decision, and, assuming that that decision is practical—practical as to construction, practical on the safety angles, and practical on the operational use—it is a decision that I would support; it is a decision that I believe offers tangible environmental benefits in the next decade and tangible benefits for aviation.

I came to-day, like other noble Lords perhaps, with certain reservations on the Bill. A number of those reservations have already been dispelled by the announcement of my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, in his excellent and comprehensive speech at the beginning of the debate. I particularly wish this Bill every success now during its passage through the House, and I hope in the interests of civil aviation that this new airport will prove the best far-sighted investment any Government have made since the clays of Suez.

6.3 p.m.


My Lords, like several other noble Lords, I must declare an interest, for the Crown Estates of which I have the honour to be First Commissioner own much or all of the seabed around Maplin, and some of the foreshore, and will benefit greatly if an area is to be filled in with sand, and so forth, from the seabed. However, the role of the Crown Estates is a passive one in this connection, as it will do as it is told; and so I feel that it is in order for me to speak. I do not want to follow many of your Lordships, who have shown what experts they are on the aviation question, on the pros and cons of it from the overall aviation point of view. Rather I want to look at it from a broader point of view which I feel is appropriate in a Second Reading debate.

I recall that three or four years ago in this House we had a debate on the development of the South-Eastern part of Great Britain, and almost all of your Lordships at that time were very anxious at what prospect there was of a drift of population from other parts of the country, with millions coming into that area. That was a time when the Channel Tunnel was a cloud in the sky which we had had for decades and did not care very much about. Maplin was not even in the sky. Now the Channel Tunnel iooms ominously, and Maplin, I fear, even more so. The Channel Tunnel will lead—if the project goes through—to an investment of perhaps £1,000 million or more, and with it will go every type of industrial development, and transport development, whatever the planning authorities at this time may say about it. Maplin is even worse. Not only are we going to have about £1,000 million spent on the airport, but we are also going to have a great new town. We are going to have a great port for containers and monster tankers. Whatever may be said about Essex County and the Ministers having to agree, an inevitable sequel will be another great industrial development.

I have been fascinated at the way the "pro-Maplinites" (if I may use the term) develop their arguments and how, if one thing does not work, they go to another. To-day the port becomes a must. We heard the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, outline what was in mind and I must say that as he outlined it I became more and more worried and fearful. We have to compete with Rotterdam or with the French; we have to be able to take huge tankers for the next decade. My Lords, is there not something called the North Sea oil discoveries, which in 1980 are expected to provide 50 per cent. of the oil requirements of this country? Have we not got others ports all over the different parts of the country—Southampton, parts of Wales, and Scotland—which are deep harbour and surely could handle what was necessary? It is that kind of thing which is so worryin. Over the last 50 years successive Governments, whatever their colour, have manfully striven to deal with the problem of what used to be known as the "depressed areas" and what are now called "development areas". Tens of millions, hundreds of millions, have been spent to try to hel the industrial development of Northern England, Wales and Scotland. That is surely right. But is it right at this moment that we should spend several billion pounds on developing the South-Eastern part of the country? If we must have Maplin, let us stop at the airport and at all costs do not let us go into such questions as ports, industrial developments and new towns.

The noble Lord, Lord Molson, made a very good point when he said that there is a real problem of inflation. We must face up to that and cut down on what may be attractive from an individual point of view but not from the nation's point of view in the way of expenditure. I beg the Government to consider the picture once again from the point of view of the country as a whole. I am fearful that the Government, in their efforts to win the battle of Maplin and the battle of the Channel Tunnel, will lose the war on something which is far more important; namely, a balanced economy for the nation, with industry well spread geographically and its workpeople content and equally well spread throughout the nation.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, I propose in the few minutes I should like to take of the time of this noble House to say a word about planning. I would only make this observation on the very interesting speech by the noble Earl, that as far as the location of a third London Airport goes, about 80 per cent. of this increasing air transport traffic is connected with the South-East region, and therefore for better or worse some extra capacity has got to be found, whether it is to he at Heathrow and Gatwick, as noble Lords opposite are advocating, or whether in some new airport. The question of the seaport is obviously what might be called an optional extra but if it is good for the trade of this country clearly it is something that cannot be ignored. But let me say immediately that I entirely sympathise with the noble Earl's general point, that always in all these regional development plans we need to keep in perspective what we are trying to do nationally in our policy to boost flagging developments in other areas of the country, and, so far as we can, to try to restain the dynamic tendencies in the South-East. Perhaps I might deal with this in a little more detail later in my speech.

I should like to say as a start, picking up a point made by my noble friend Lord Amory, that we have been discussing this question for 12 years, and when the noble Lord, Lord Peswick, says we must not jump to any premature conclusion, I feel that 12 years' con sideration by the nation could hardly put us in a position where we are to be blamed for that. And when he asks the Government to set up yet another inquiry, I very much wonder what will happen at the end of that—whether we shall be told that things have changed since they started and a new set of considerations have come along. My feeling is that the Government are right in asking the nation to make up its mind and take a decision.

For myself I should like to welcome this project. I think it is an imaginative one. It appeals to me very much to reclaim 14,000 acres from the sea, and I agree with my noble friend Lord Aldington that land ready for development in the South-East at £10,000 an acre is by no means a high figure. I should also like to congratulate my noble friends on the Front Bench on something on which nobody has congratulated them yet, that they have freed this area of the Shoeburyness Range, or are about to, from present use as artillery and other kinds of range for approved purposes, in order to bring it into general civilian use, and to that extent this area, which has been largely denied to the public, will be used very much for their benefit.

There are two general points I should like to deal with before I come to the planning point. The first is on the substance of the case of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that the C.A.A. Report of forecast capacity shows a greater capacity in Heathrow and Gatwick than the Roskill Commission predicted. Indeed it does, as we all agree. My noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing, I thought, made a good point here, that a I per cent. per annum error here could completely throw out all these forecasts and leave us in a terrible jam by 1985. But if you take the middle figure, as my noble friend Lord Molson was suggesting, that shows that there is extra capacity there up to 1985.


My Lords, I was not quite certain about this 1 per cent. The noble Lord will recall that the C.A.A. give as the least favourable consideration a 9 per cent, surplus capacity.


Yes, my Lords. I do not want to detain the House. This is very fully discussed in the Report and it is there for everybody to see. I simply make the point that because of the, anyway, rapidly increasing rate of demand for air transport a small error would have a very serious effect, and we certainly would not have spare capacity by 1985. But the general point I want to make here is that made very cogently by my noble friend Lord Amory, that the world does not end in 1985. During the 1980s, the C.A.A. Report predicts, the rate of increase of passenger transport will still be at the rate of some 7 or 8 per cent. Perhaps the figure for freight is lower, but the trend is there as well. This will continue without any doubt right through the 1980s into the 1990s, and it may even be going faster by then. Everybody in the world seems to want to travel more and more. If that is so, by 1995 the passenger demand on these London airports will not be 84 million but 160 million. Can anyone possibly imagine, whatever is done to Heathrow and Gatwick, that you could possibly accommodate those figures? In other words, this necessity for a third London airport is coming along eventually some time in the '80s, whatever happens.

Dealing very briefly with the noise point, I feel very strongly about noise. The noble Lord said that he lived in the flight path at Heathrow. I live only on the very corner of the noise shadow from Gatwick, but it is enough to know what noise is about. To-day, there is no doubt that millions of people are suffering very much indeed from noise. There has been a good deal of reference to Peter Masefield's letter in The Times yesterday. But let me refer to the other letter in The Times yesterday, from the spokesman of all the various residents' societies who suffer from these noise troubles. Those people are expecting action by the Government long before the 1980s; they are expecting action jolly quickly, as fast as possible. They are expecting the Government to do something positive, and in that context they see Maplin as something which can bring positive relief. I should like to quote one figure on Maplin. I certainly pick up the point that 90 per cent. of the air movements from Maplin will be over the sea. What a relief that is, instead of being over people's houses! The figure that I have is that there are only 500 houses—I think the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said 1,360 houses within the 35 N.N.I. contour at Maplin—compared with 700,000 at Heathrow. That gives one some idea of the relief from noise to be obtained by going to Maplin.

Let me now deal with the planning point, which I think has not been dealt with before, and indeed has not entered into this general discussion; although let me say immediately that of course it was examined very closely by the Roskill Commission. I wish to deal with the regional planning considerations that affect the locations of these airports and how they operate. Here I should declare an interest in that I am Chairman of the Standing Conference for London and South East Region Planning, and therefore in contact with planning authorities throughout the region. Let me give the employment figures at Heathrow and Gatwick to start with, because these will give noble Lords broadly the picture of what we are dealing with.

At the present time Heathrow, with two runways, directly employs about 50,000 people. In addition, employed immediately outside, in hotels and such places directly connected with the airport, are another 9,000. The employment in services and social facilities for airport workers in the general surroundings and throughout Surrey and adjoining counties is some 45,000 to 50,000 people. The families of all these workers number about 150,000 to 200,000. That gives us a population base for existing employment at Heathrow of 250,000 to 300,000 people. These figures are to a certain extent estimates, but they are reasonably reliable, having been compiled by theSurrey County Council. I should, of course, mention that Heathrow is growing all the time and will have another 10,000 in employment by 1980. So there will be a population base then for employment on the airport of 300,000 to 350,000.

Gatwick at present employs about 10,000 people, with a population base of probably about 50,000 or 60,000, and by 1980 that will have gone up to something like 17,000 employed and a population base of 85,000 to 100,000. But these figures give us a measure of the amount of employment that is involved in operating an airport. If there is to be no third London Airport at Maplin, and the future growth of air transport is to be contained at Heathrow and Gatwick, the growth of employment at Heathrow and Gatwick would be roughly equivalent by the end of the 1980s, or let us say by 1985 or certainly by the end of the 1980s, to Rosk ill's figure for a third London Airport with two runways; namely, an additional 45,000 employees. This would be roughly the number of directly employed people on a two-runway airport, supposing it to he made at Maplin. I would concede to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, to assist his argument, that there would be some reduction in employment due to a reduction in the number of flights. A resultant reduction in flight crews would, of course, make some saving.


My Lords, I wonder whether I could clarify this point. I am not sure whether the noble Lord said that this was his personal estimate, or an estimate of the Committee of which he is chairman. Surely he is not saying that if there are 45,000 people wanted to operate a new two-runway airport, an additional 45,000 would be required at London Airport for an additional number of movements? The fact of the matter is that you would be using more intensively people who are already working there.


No, my Lords; the noble Lord is using a fallacious argument. There are two aspects of this question. One is Heathrow, where the noble Lord's proposal is that that should be stretched using the two existing runways and using them more intensively, and the other is that Gatwick should have a second runway. It is by using the second runway that there might be a prospect of containing the traffic which he is suggesting up to 1985. The noble Lord shakes his head. If he thinks that he could really do this on one runway at Gatwick, I think that he had better get up and say so.


My Lords, for a start may I make it clear that I have not said categorically one thing or the other. What I have suggested is that we have the benefit of the studies the Government can offer to us. I have never said that a second runway at Gatwick would be essential, although I think that a short runway would add to the total London capacity.


My Lords, I am not quite sure how the noble Lord's answer will look when it is studied in print. In my judgment, any prospect of his proposition succeeding would depend on a second runway at Gatwick as well. The broad proposition that I am putting to your Lordships is that if these suggested 84 million passengers transported through the London airports by 1985 are to be carried at Heathrow and Gatwick—and continue to be carried after 1985 to the 1990s when of course the numbers are still increasing, because the airports have to continue after 1985—by the time you have reached 1990 we shall require the equivalent of the capacity which would have been given by a new airport with two runways, and the employment involved in that would be of the order of 45,000. If you knock off, say, 5,000 for the reduced number of crews because the number of aircraft movements is smaller, most of the rest of the employment on the airport—and I put this point quite cogently to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick—the handling of passengers, personnel generally, the handling of baggage, the handling of freight, all the supporting services, will go up directly in proportion to the number of people and the amount of freight going through. Therefore, there will be a massive increase in employment both at Heathrow and at Gatwick, and certainly by 1990 that will be of the order of an extra 40,000 people employed at those two airports. I am leaving out Luton and Stansted. Heaven knows what will happen to them or what the local people will have to say about the matter! Taking a figure of 40,000, that has to be multiplied by a figure of five to six, so that we are up to an extra population of about 200,000 who have to be located in areas adjoining those two airports.

Broadly, the position now is that at both those airports—and at Heathrow in particular—while there is an acute labour shortage, wages are very high in order to attract the existing number of employees, and any additional employees could only be employed there by some major development of housing and all the supporting social services. The same applies to Gatwick. This would be directly contrary, first of all, to the strategic plan for the South-East region, which was adopted both by the Government and by local authorities, and it is entirely contrary to the development planning of the county councils concerned. On the other hand, if a third London Airport were put down at Maplin, with these implications that by the end of the 1980s there would be two runways there and employment of an additional 45,000 on the airports, Essex development planning is quite prepared to accept this development in South-East Essex. This very much agrees with the sort of view that the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, was taking, that this idea would be entirely advantageous to East London. Certainly it is acceptable to Essex.

When the Maplin scheme was put to the Standing Conference, except for some reservations in Kent it was generally acceptable to all the planning authorities in the South-East in terms of the regional plan and the development of the regional strategy as a whole. I would urge that here is a factor that the noble Lord did not deal with, that none of the protagonists for this solution of stretching Heathrow and Gatwick has dealt with, and that at both airports a very large amount of new employment would be created, yet there is no capacity within good development planning to cater for that at the present time. It would be strongly opposed by the local planning authorities concerned.

I would urge that this point should be put into the scales along with the other factors that we have been considering. It was certainly considered by the Roskill Commission, and it is a very important factor. Just as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, made a good point about the national policy for regional planning, I am making the further point of good regional planning within the South-East region, and Lord Beswick's suggestions would certainly conflict with that. I hope that this point will be taken into account, and that this Bill will get a Second Reading.

6.29 p.m.


My Lords, the words: A measure will be introduced to facilitate the building of a Third London Airport at Maplin. were contained in Her Majesty's gracious Speech which she made in this Chamber on October 31 last, at column 4. I men tion the date because it is only eight months ago. It shows that the Government have acted with commendable promptness on their plans; it also shows how deep are the complexities which have gathered even since that date. Listening to what my noble friend Lord Molson said about the fact that this is a hybrid Bill and of course will lead to further inquiries, I think that developments seem to show how prudent some measure of hesitation has been. For this reason I believe that the Bill should be pushed onwards, and of course it will leave this House amended in many important respects.

I shall now "shoot a line" which I have shot before and which I believe is a real contribution to our considerations, though it may be a little out of proportion. What I want to ask is: does this Bill go far enough and is the timing right? I ask whether it goes far enough because I feel that the whole conception might well be extended, which would mean an extension of the timing. Why do the Explanatory Memorandum and Clause 2 of the Bill omit the word "agriculture"? It is because that word is omitted that I feel that the Bill does not go far enough. Why not reclaim several hundred square miles of potential agricultural land, as the Dutch have done, which is within the bounds of possibility? I say that we should reclaim the land, get it under crops and wait until it is clear beyond peradventure that a third airport is necessary. But we would have to begin with an area designated for the use of an airport, which is bound to be built at some later stage. It is as well to bear in mind that agricultural land reclaimed from the sea has certain outstanding financial advantages.

The objection to the present scheme, from the points of view of the airways and of the travelling public, must be the remoteness of Maplin from the existing airports at Heathrow and Gatwick. The present proposal to channel road and rail transport from any new airport into London seems to me to be quite unacceptable, especially if the rail route is to terminate at Kings Cross, of all places. I cannot picture myself flying from Edinburgh to Gatwick, getting a train to Victoria and travelling across London to Kings Cross, in order to go to Maplin to catch another plane. Furthermore, the large and complex road systems, which anyone can see in the plans, would bring about serious environmental damage.

If a really massive reclamation were undertaken to embrace the whole area from, say, Clacton to the Herne Bay-Ramsgate area, two desiderata would be achieved. First, the channels of the Thames would be restricted so that the mechanical barrage at Gravesend or Greenwich might no longer be required. I think your Lordships will agree with me that we heard a most interesting and influential speech from my noble friend Lord Aldington, but I was tempted to ask him what he thought was the answer to the barrage which might be necessary. I believe that the danger from high tides might be largely mitigated by massive reclamation and by a narrowing of the channels from the North Sea and the English Channel—the Downs—to the new Maplin port which my noble friend described. Secondly, such a reclamation would provide an opportunity for a road and rail link from Essex to Kent; and a fast monorail, or a high-speed non-stop system, could connect the third airport with Gatwick and Heathrow and, I hope, with Victoria. I am one of those people who believe, as does another noble Lord who spoke to-day, that the day cannot be far off when there is a rail link between Victoria and Heathrow. It should be remembered—and I was impressed by the speech of my noble friend Lord Nugent, who mentioned the problem of staffing—that a great deal of money could be saved in the housing of staff for a third airport if there were really rapid transit between it and the other air centres where accommodation for staff exists to-day.

An eastern orbital highway to London could connect the Midlands with the Channel ports. In saying that, I should point out that I am one of those who believe that the Channel Tunnel is a nonstarter, because it would be so inflexible. If a fraction of the money that it is contemplated will have to be spent on the Channel Tunnel were applied to research into vehicle-carrying hovercraft it would serve a much more important purpose, and such craft, together with modern, fast steamers, would provide a flexibility which was greatly aided by an orbital highway. What is more, such an orbital highway would provide road connections for the Thames port which my noble friend Lord Aldington pictured and which he admitted would mean an injection of heavy traffic into the existing system in London.

In passing, I would say that I was most interested in the speech of my noble friend ford Molson, which was a contribution to our thinking, and I agree with him about pushing ahead. Turning to the plan for a seaport, I agreed very much with my noble friend Lord Perth when he said we should remember that there are other ports in Britain and that North Sea oil is introducing complexities which are only just being appreciated. I know that in the North and in central Britain it is felt that more use should be made of our two deep-water prospects—Hunterston and Milford Haven—and that more money should be spent on them. I should like to ask whether the Scottish Council's Oceanspan proposal is still a runner. I doubt whether it is in its entirety, but some adaptation of it may well lit into a port development such as might spring from the careful examination which is bound to be made of the Thames port where, I admit I was surprised to learn from my noble friend Lord Aldington, 45,000 tonners will be able to manage the new docks.

Another point is the flexibility of air services. I have no doubt that this is a problem which the C.A.A. have examined closely, but one aspect is practically impossible to forecast. As traffic between Scotland and the Continent grows, many transit passengers will not be travelling to London. This is a point which we must bear in mind, and some element of financial encouragement of more direct services from Ringway, Glasgow and Turnhouse, and now, with the oil developments, from Dyce, to the Continent might be deserved. I can sum up my views in this way. First, is there not a middle course before us, to examine a scheme for agriculturally developing a large area in some return for the thousands of acres which have been turned into concrete jungles by transport developments of recent years and which would at the same time provide a location for a third airport, if and when it is needed? Secondly, should we not provide an eastern orbital highway for the whole London area and a direct connection by rail, certainly using the same river crossings, whether by tunnel or by bridge, between existing airports and the new proposal? Finally, I feel, particularly after hearing the speech by my noble Wend Lord Aldington, that it is clear that we should push on with the Thames container port development in the terms which he indicated, but always bearing in mind the advantages of the far cheaper deep-water ports on the Western coast.

6.41 p.m.


My Lords, I have followed the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, more than once and it is always a pleasure to listen to his fluent speech so late in a long debate. By contrast, I always feel that my ideas are in bits and pieces, and that, so late in a debate, they are difficult to deliver with any effect. It seems to me that we are to-day taking part in one of the later stages of a 20-year rise to power of the environment. From a position of practically no power at all, it now operates on a great many fronts, and there have been many successes; for example, in the de-pollution of rivers, where of course the Thames points the way to the whole world; in the de-pollution of London's air and the departure of smog; in the de-pollution of the land, and the dismissal of that awful morning silence in spring, indicating that the birds are back. Even to-day, the least of the birds, the Jenny Wren, flew out of their nest near my house—and they have been absent for many years. Now we are onto something equally great and perhaps greater: de-polluting our neighbourhood of a hideous neighbour—and that is what the international airport is. I am not in the least against airports. Indeed, many people of minor affluence (as, for example, myself; up to the age of 60 I never could afford a journey abroad by air) enjoy charter flights at off-peak and inconvenient periods at night. Why should they not? Surely Maplin is the place where, whether in silence or in thunder, they can do it all round the clock without making life hideous for everybody else.

I noticed that in the debate in 1967 on the Third London Airport the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that the airport had been under consideration since 1953 and that Stansted was the earliest choice. So we have had twenty years of the Third London Airport, and not 12. The debate in 1967, when Stansted was hotly defended by the Government of the day, was many years after 1953, and it is now many years behind us. The contest has throughout been a contest between experts and the environment—and so it has been to-day. As a kind of adjunct to this debate we have had information about plans for the port. It was put by the Government speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, as an adjunct to the main idea of a third London airport. It was so interesting that I join with others in wondering whether if Hansard does not appear before long, we could have a copy of what he said, because in his speech the noble Lord poured out new material which I had not heard before and which is of the greatest interest. Perhaps before long we can have a debate on ports—that means freight—and include in it the freight aspect of London's airport, which I understand is the third in terms of value of all our ports, coming third after London and Liverpool.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, I thought spoke with the authentic, honest voice of the expert in airways management. He told us bluntly what others are trying to conceal: that not only do we need Maplin but we need expansion at all the other four airports as well, making a total of five. He said it plainly for us all to hear; and, with the weight of his authority, surely the experts are not so very confused. They do not want to go to Maplin, but they know jolly well that extra runway capacity is urgently required. We have had it straight from the horse's mouth in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas.

As regards the noble Lord's remarks on noise, I have taken my own customary imperfect census of opinion outside, consulting the clerks of the county councils of Surrey, East Sussex, West Sussex, Kent and Essex. These are people I have consulted and asked for their opinion. The opinions of other elected representatives of the people have poured in without being asked for; and whereas the last time we debated Foulness there was only one "Yes" in favour of one site—and that was from Essex—to-day the people outside Parliament are saying with one voice, "Maplin must come! Put the hideous neighbour out to sea, and do not delay." In fact, many have written expressing dismay at the clause which was inserted for the purpose of achieving delay. The Government ought to be delighted at the massive affirmative behind Maplin after the immense negative, "No", to every single site everywhere that we had only such a short time ago.

I feel that after 20 years of this discussion the Government have reached a point where, like a general in war, they have to take their decisions. As Napoleon said, the general who wins is not the one who makes no mistakes but the one who makes fewest. Mistakes will be made, but those who champion the environment (that is, the people) against the experts (that is, the exponents of mechanisation and machines) are the people whose victory we look for, and I am sure it is looked for by all the people who live in the shadow of these noises.

It is not only the noise that I think is intolerable. Many people say that if the noise was only half as great it would be twice what they would wish to hear. Again, there is the danger—a very great danger in the built-up area of West London—of aircraft ploughing through built-up areas. Lastly, there is the congestion and the noise of the surface traffic which exasperates and irritates everybody. For these three reasons, if we go back on Maplin we shall have a violent resistance, and it is more than likely that the people who cannot tolerate these things any more will sabotage the machines which render their lives such a misery. Maplin has been held out as a hope; and we cannot go back.

As a last remark on what I have to say, I would quote the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, at the end of the debate in 1967. He said: It would be wrong to ignore what has been said today, but it would be equally wrong to suggest that Her Majesty's Government after all these inquiries and studies with the best professional advice available to them should attempt to dodge their duty of making the decision simply by the easy expedient of appointing another Committee of Inquiry. I am thinking in this connection not so much of any particular inquiry suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, to-day but of something like seven or eight suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Orr Ewing. This recommendation seems to me the only appropriate action to take at the present time. There is nothing new in the so-called quiet, vertical, short take-off and landing aircraft that is not known to all the people who have communicated with me and who have told me that they have studied them and are not satisfied that in any case there are other factors besides noise, and that Maplin is a "must".

6.51 p.m.


My Lords, at this hour in any debate it is usually the fact that whatever one had in mind to say has already been said by somebody else. One is reduced to repeating what other people have already said. I am going to do something even more boring, I am afraid, and that is to repeat something which I once said: namely, when we had the debate so ably initiated by the noble Lord who sits just in front of me which had the effect of killing Cublington—and an excellent debate it was. Curiously enough, on the first day of that debate most speakers confined themselves to killing Cublington.

On the second day, quite a number of speakers raised the question of what in those days we referred to as Foulness and whether it was necessary to have the airport or not. I myself took some slight objection to the tendency there was on the Front Bench on that particular day to state that it was necessary to get on with a third London airport somewhere in order that the volume of noise which was being suffered by people living in the vicinity of Heathrow and Gatwick should be lessened as soon as possible. I spoke on that occasion with regard to the noise at Heathrow. I asked the question whether it was unacceptable and several noble Lords said that it was. I then said that if it were unacceptable, then all that I could say was that it is going to be very much worse by the time the first runway on this new airport—assuming we had 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 a new airport at once and that the unfortunate people at Gatwick and Heathrow will then be relieved. I shall not bore noble Lords any more with what I said then; but I still believe it to be correct—and I was glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, for whom I have the greatest admiration, for he has to deal with so many different kinds of things in this House, did not stress that aspect quite so much to-day. If this decision is going to be taken it should not be taken on the assumption that people living round Heathrow and Gatwick are going to be relieved of noise in the fairly near future.

Now, as many other noble Lords have asked to-day, can we afford it? I have no doubt that this estimate—there have been various arguments to-day as to the figure—will be exceeded both in time and money. I have never known of any project which did not end up in that way. Had the Government of the day—I think it was the Macmillan Government of that day—got up at the Dispatch Box in another place and announced the figure which Concorde has now cost the nation, that other place would never have agreed to the building of Concorde. Therefore I have no doubt at all that whatever figures are mentioned—there was some disagreement about the figures to-day—will be exceeded, I do not know by how many times, and that the time will be exceeded too. The first runway will be ready in 1980? Oh, yes! It may not be ready until 1985 or 1990. We must bear those possibilities in mind.

We must also bear in mind that we are not the richest nation in the world. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Molson, asked earlier, can we really afford Concorde, the Channel Tunnel and Maplin all concurrently? We are absolutely committed to Concorde and there is no going back that I can see now. I am in favour of Concorde. I think it is bound to increase our technology. Nevertheless, can we afford this when we remember that we are not the richest nation in the world?


My Lords, would my noble friend consider in that context the annual load on our construction industry? We are spending £1,100 million a year on our roads. The peak load of the Channel Tunnel would be £70 million. The peak of the complex at Maplin would appear to be about £150 million, perhaps. It is a small load compared with just the roads alone at £1,100 million.


My Lords, I accent what the noble Lord said. I am asking the question: can we afford all these things at the same time?


My Lords, the road programme has just been cut back by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


My Lords, the noble Lord has put something in my mind which I shall mention later.

Thereby hangs a tale. On this line of argument, that we are not the richest country in the world, perhaps I could be permitted to tell a little story. I flew to America last year, as I often do. We were stacked outside Kennedy for one and a half hours. The captain then told us on the "blower" that he was beginning to run out of fuel and was getting leave to get out of the stack. We went on and tried to get down at Philadelphia, but failed. We came down finally at Dulles International Airport at Washington, where we stayed for two hours, and then were allowed to fly back to Kennedy. All this was highly inefficient, but there were these rich American businessmen putting up with those conditions whereby they got to New York five hours later than they had expected.

As one who uses Heathrow twice a week, once in and once out, I, like everybody, have been in the stack over Bovingdon Beacon—but never for more than 20 minutes or half an hour. Yet the richest nation in the world has to put up with the conditions I have mentioned. That is no good reason for us to put up with them. I fully accept, but this may not be the best way of spending an enormous sum of money when other countries manage with the facilities which they have got. On purpose, I did not go into all the figures mentioned in the Roskill Report, or the ones that I mentioned ip my speech. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, was good enough to say at the end of the debate that they were correct, so why should I argue with him now? Those figures were set out to prove that the capacity of the various existing airports was great enough to carry us on further.

Finally, I want to make this point, which I think was made by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. It would be so much better, perhaps, to spend large sums of money on research and development, which would keep this country in the forefront of technological development, than it would be to spend them on yards and yards of concrete. I remember being present at the Paris air show eight or nine years ago and watching the crowds gasp as the Short vertical take-off plane, the SC.1 rose from the ground. Where is it to-day? So often in the past we have been in the front of development and we have thrown it all away, and some other country has been allowed to develop it. I do not pretend to be an expert, but I believe that there is a case for what I am saying. If it is a fact that existing capacity, perhaps even without the second runway at Gatwick for which I was arguing 18 months ago, would suffice for the foreseeable future, I should have thought it would be better to spend these vast sums of money on technological development, rather than on yards and yards of concrete. If I were asked where I find myself tonight, I should say that I find myself approximately in the same Lobby as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and perhaps a little less "Content" than the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to the problems with which we are faced. Naturally, we must give the Bill a Second Reading and I shall be delighted to do so, but I hope that the Government will appreciate that in this noble House there is a certain unease about the future, and if some middle way could be found—I am sorry not to be more expressive—I believe it might be for the good of us all.

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, we are being asked to approve an enormous amount in public expenditure which has been partly justified in another place by the use of selective quotes. Therefore, not being an expert in aviation and finding difficulty in telling the difference between a Tiger Moth and a Concorde, and having a nasty suspicious mind, I consulted other people and researched into documents. As a result I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in her reply to the debate can assuage my considerable doubts which have been raised by this research. The Civil Aviation Authority Report suggested that the capacity of London's airports was half a million movements a year. This does not include a second runway at Gatwick. In February last year 17,253 aircraft took off and landed at Heathrow, and in August, 25,412, or as good as a 50 per cent. increase. Before I am accused of selective quoting I would say I admit that those are 28-day and 31-day months. This shows, as everyone knows, that the airline business is very seasonal. Could it be that Maplin would be useful only in the summer months? The C.A.A. Report certainly hinted at that.

These figures, together with the fact that aircraft movements are not increasing even as fast as Roskill forecast, make plain to anyone who can add that airport capacity is not the real issue. Here we are talking about a political problem raised out of a new consciousness, a very welcome consciousness, of the environment and of noise. Let us, for a change, look at the environmental damage which would be caused by Maplin. An unspoiled area of mud will be wrecked. Not many people see it, not many people go there. But this mud is more or less in the state that God made it. Here is one of the very few parts of England of which that can still be said, and we must seriously weigh our responsibility to future generations before we lightly put it under concrete. The approach routes will make a large, rough-sharpened, sabre gash through the East of London and the Essex countryside. All this, my Lords, is quite acceptable provided, and only provided, that it can be shown to be essential.

Now, my Lords, let us look at the noise factor. From figures produced by the Department of Trade and Industry and published by the Department of the Environment it has already been calculated that the N.N.T. contour of 35, that is nuisance value, which now embraces 2¼ million people will, by 1985, be affecting only a quarter of a millon. This noise nuisance index was used as the basis for two Government social surveys carried out in the last decade, and it assumes that a reduction of noise is going to take place without another penny being spent on jet engine research. It is all based on existing technology.

We must accept that terrific advances have been made in reducing noise. The TriStar carries two and a half times as many passengers as the Trident, and is half as noisy. The proposed Europlane is quieter than the venerable DC3. Then, if we were to develop the restricted take-off and landing aircraft, that is one, as I am sure your Lordships have already been informed, that took off in a 4,000 foot runway and had a 6 degree rate of climb, as opposed to the 6,000 foot runway and 3 degree rate of climb of the jets we now know, then the noise index I was talking about earlier shrinks until it is almost within the present Heathrow boundary. Why have the Government refused to give Rolls-Royce, B.A.C. and Dowty the few millions they asked for to produce hush-kits for their existing Spey engines in the Tridents and F1-11s? These account for one out of every three aircraft using Heathrow. Hush-kits could be installed within two years at a cost of only £70,000 for each engine, bringing an immediate reduction in noise for the people living around Heathrow Airport. Only last week Flight magazine suggested that for the many millions of pounds that the Government are ready to earmark for building Maplin they could buy a staggering amount of research into new, silent engines—even taking into account the money which could be, or should be, spent on improving Heathrow. Could it be that noisy Tridents are an argument for Maplin? Here is my suspicious mind again. My Lords, £20 million is not much compared with all the golden crutches being handed round, quite rightly, to ducks suffering from sprained ankles.

If reducing noise is the Government's over-riding consideration, by how much will the building of Maplin reduce the noise around Heathrow knowing that the gradual introduction of the new jets is going to reduce it substantially anyway? If it cannot, and the life around the capital City is still going to be insufferably mutilated by noise, then surely it is only sensible to close Heathrow as an airport, sell the land for development, build houses on it and, with the money, build a bigger and better Maplin— perhaps with four runways like the O'Hare at Chicago which handles 560,000 air movements a year. Admittedly that has a VNC method of aircraft control and not an ILS, and my technical friends tell me that there is some difference.

Another argument for Maplin is that the ground handling facilities at Heathrow are not good enough, even though a spokesman at the British Airports Authority has told me that they are now at least as good as those at Orly or Kennedy. If more room is required at Heathrow there is a sewage works in the middle of the airport, and there would be no difficulty about using this land for airport extensions. To raise the ground handling issue as justification for an entire new £1 billion airport is, my Lords, as frivolous as saying that because the roof of your Lordships' House was leaking when we were discussing the Water Bill—as it was—we should build a new House of Lords, possibly on land reclaimed from the Serpentine.

Other parts of the country are applying to expand their airports. Birmingham, from which until recently one could not make a round trip to Paris in a day, has expansion plans. Manchester is applying for a second runway. Leeds is applying for a licence to fly to Paris; you can already fly from there direct to Amsterdam. Half of all the journeys to and from Heathrow are short range, 500 miles and under, and a large proportion of the passengers must be affected by the Channel Tunnel if it is built. All this goes to show that the system of multiple gateways is coming here, as it has already come to the Eastern seaboard of the United States.

My Lords, you have listened to me now too long, but before I sit down I should like to tell your Lordships of a nightmare vision that I had. We, as taxpayers, will have spent thousands of millions of pounds on Maplin, on a new ocean port, on Concorde, and others will have spent millions on super-tankers, bulk carriers and container ships. The vision is of all those expensive toys in a Great Expectations situation—Concorde covered in cobwebs, grass growing between cracks in the runways; doors slamming on the passenger terminals, empty but for the ghosts of Ministers and civil servants of the D.O.E. and the Brent Geese rusting super-tankers, all because we have run out of oil to propel them. Perhaps, my Lords, that is too fanciful. If my doubts, and those of others, can be settled, let us build Maplin. If the noble Baroness cannot settle them, please let her accept the Amendment which is going to be introduced in Committee. After all, there is no great hurry. Mr. Douglas Jay, in his stubborn insistence on trying to build Stansted, was saying that saturation point was arriving at Heathrow in 1969. After all, my Lords, one of the outstanding abilities of Tory Administrations throughout the ages, from Wellington onwards, whether it was Catholic emancipation, the Corn Laws, the second Reform Bill, or even the floating of the pound, has been their ability to change their minds (there is no need for noble Lords on the opposite side to grin) when presented with reasoned arguments. All these, together with the most recent—the Government's change of heart on incomes policy—have been of great benefit to the country.

My Lords, I say again that I am not anti-Maplin; I have an open mind. But as the great grandson of one of Mr. Balfour's poodles, I will not become a Heath one, to be barked through the Lobby for less than overriding logic.

7.13 p.m.


My Lords, I have a slight interest to declare, as the house where spend most of my time is within 22 miles of the proposed airport at Maplin. The Roskill Report puts the noise shadow at some 33 miles for a two-runway airport. I understand now that it is 24 miles, but I shall still be within that limit. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, spoke about a noise shadow of eventually three miles. I cannot remember what date he said that would come about, but I fear it will be quite a long time ahead.


I said 1.5 square miles, and it would be for the year 1979 or 1980.


As soon as that; that is very cheering. It is a great pity that my noble friend Lord Amory is not here, because he was dubious as to whether there would be any decrease in aircraft noise. If he had read the Government's Consultative Document which they published in 1972, he would have seen that they revised their forecast for noisy aircraft. We have the DC.10 and the TriStar coming into operation this summer, and they have much quieter engines. But if the Government's main concern in building Maplin is the noise question, I am quite convinced that by the year 1985 there will have been a great improvement in the noise of aircraft. I am not suggesting that aircraft should side-slip in, but if they approached at a steeper angle, and if one could get what is called in aviation language two segment approaches, that also would be an advantage. For a short time I ran a small airline, but I have only an amateur knowledge about this.

My Lords, I am so confused about this matter. I have been bombarded with papers on it, and the only conclusion I can reach from them is that the only thing the experts are agreed on is that air passenger traffic in the London area will more than double by 1980. As we have heard, aircraft are going to get much larger. I understand that air transport movements will be up by one-third by 1980. On the average, aircraft in 1980 will carry 120 passengers, as compared with 70 to-day. They will carry 140 in 1985, and 200 in 1990. But, of course, that will mean fewer aircraft movements in relation to the number of passengers.

The question I want to ask the Government is this. Allowing for the fact that we must have a third major airport, must it be in the South-East? After all, about 25 per cent. of the passengers flying from the South-East do not come from the South-East. We have British Railways developing trains to run at 150 m.p.h., and in a few years they will have trains running at 200 m.p.h. Why not have this major third airport in the industrial North soon a short train journey to London—or even in the Midlands? I would, of course, prefer it to be in a depressed area, and surely we could have it on the North-East or North-West coast. It would bring tremendous international trade into the area.

I live in the South-East of England, and I know that if you want anything built (even a henhouse, though of course, I would do that myself; but supposing I could not) you cannot get anyone to do it. The whole of the South-East area is overloaded industrially. You cannot get labour; you cannot get craftsmen; you cannot get anybody to build factories or houses. If we are to have the Channel Tunnel and Maplin Airport, I ask the Government to remember how difficult it is to get the labour and the craftsmen. We are completely overloaded in the South-East; certainly we are in Kent. I hope the Government will take that into consideration.

My Lords, regarding the seaport, I think this is a good site. However, the idea of tankers up to 500,000 tons using the port makes one wonder. I think one has to be careful, because, as we know, the English Channel is already congested, and there have been several accidents there in the last year or two. If the Government decide to build this airport at Maplin, for heaven's sake let them build the roads and railways first. I know the two Southend roads, and even to-day there are traffic jams most of the time. If we try to build the airport and the port before the communications we shall be in a real mess. I therefore hope that the transport system will be built first. I suppose quite a lot of construction material can be taken by sea, but you cannot do the same with a vast labour force. They will have to go by rail or car. On the question of cost, I am not sure that we have had a true figure. I believe my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn first mentioned £825 million, and then I believe he talked of £1,000 million.


My Lords, if my noble friend will forgive me, I mentioned £1,000 million as a figure which has been bandied about; it is not one that I bandied about.


I thank my noble friend. My experience of Civil Service estimates is that they go up each year by about 15 per cent. I imagine that when the airport comes to be built the cost will be more like £2,000 million. But to be fair, we must presume that if we do not have this airport, as my noble friend said, we should have to spend a great deal of money on Heathrow. Gatwick, Luton and Stansted: we might have to spend between £600 million or £700 million on improving airports. So one has to deduct that from any expense involved at Maplin. I agree with other noble Lords that one has to be very careful about inflation, and if we are going to have the Channel Tunnel as well things will be made even worse, inflation-wise.

I should like to say just a word about Kent. I live there, and this project will affect the county a great deal. I understand that 14,000 acres or so are to be reclaimed from the sea. Obviously, if there is to be large-scale industrial development it will affect coastal areas of North Kent adversely: it will certainly affect the coastal towns and, of course, the Medway area. I believe the Government have undertaken not to have primary industry there, but I remember the old Biblical saying about not putting one's faith in princes. Unfortunately, promises are not always kept by Governments, especially by successor Governments. We are concerned also with the flight path. In this connection I hope that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will ensure that there will be consultation with the Kent County Council. I believe this can be done without any difficulty under the Airports Authority Act 1965. There also arises the question of noise damage to buildings. Clause 22 of the Bill gives discretionary powers to compensate for damage and for reclamation. I should like to ask the Government whether they could extend these powers to cover noise damage. For instance, there is the possibility that this land reclamation in Essex might silt up the Medway. I know that experiments have been conducted with a hydraulic model. They appear to have been satisfactory, but one cannot always go by models. If there is any siltation in the Medway I hope that compensation will be paid.

Referring to the Maplin authority, I believe that North Kent should certainly be strongly represented on its membership. I wonder whether some arrangements might not be made for continuing consultation both with the Kent County Council and the interested parties. I have had some little flying experience. I once started a very small air service on an airstrip beside the sea. On the question of bird strike, I should like to take the opportunity of wishing pilots the best of luck. I have been in a light aeroplane which hit a small seagull and it was a highly unpleasant experience. So, God knows what would happen if one were to hit a Brent Goose! The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, said that the air intakes on the new aircraft will be seven feet across—so they could probably take in a few Brent Geese and the result could be disastrous. As a naturalist, I am bound to say that I shall be sorry to see Maplin Airport come into existence. It strikes me as rather odd that yesterday we had the Government straining at a gnat over the question of spending £3 million on free contraceptives, and to-day they appear quite prepared to swallow a camel —an £825 million camel.

Finally, may I say that I hope the Government will move very cautiously and will give this project more consideration. I should certainly much prefer to have this airport sited somewhere in the North, in an under-developed area. There would be little transport difficulty with the very fast trains that are coming along, and it would certainly help the underdeveloped areas, and provide a better-balanced economy for the United Kingdom.

7.27 p.m.


My Lords, I must confess to feeling slightly dazed, having listened to the speeches of two of my noble friends. Perhaps they might happily be persuaded to get togther one day so that my noble friend Lord Onslow may be able to give a rusting aero-engine to my noble friend Lord Massereene for use as a hen house. But that is not likely to happen. I am probably the "odd man out" in this debate because I do not really agree with my noble friend Lord O'Neill of the Maine, who said that he was probably in agreement with most of your Lordships in being against airports. I confess I am against airports—but I do not suppose anyone will take much notice of that when I say that I am also against electric telephones and the internal combustion engine. With those two things we are, of course, pretty well stuck, just as we are stuck with airports—and what are we going to do with them now that we have got them? I believe we shall be faced with the necessity of building the one at Maplin.

The debate, as was quite inevitable, has brought out an enormous number of facts and figures. So far as I have been able to follow them (probably not very far), the figures have been used to prove almost diametrically opposite things, and so have some of the facts. Into this maelstrom I do not propose to plunge. I must confess to having still a certain feeling of scepticism. A number of estimates have been given as to how much the project will cost and what it will be like in the end, and there is a remarkable unanimity of disagreement—so much so that one might almost think that this debate was taking place in another place. My scepticism stems from the fact that I do not really take much stock of what we are told is likely to happen in the way of technological development and aircraft design. Aeroplanes may get quieter; they may go straight up and come straight down they may get wider and also fewer. All these things may happen; but even if they do, I am certain that they will become more and more of a burden to all of us. Motor cars have got bigger and quieter. However, I find very little comfort in being told that a 40-ton lorry which knocks the corners off the houses in the small Sussex town in which I live would have been much more noisy 20 years ago. It is quieter and bigger, but I do not think it is going to be less numerous, and I do not think aeroplanes are going to be less numerous, either. We have a kind of Parkinson's Law which ensures that as the opportunities for operating aircraft increase with the runway capacity, so will the numbers of aircraft and the nuisance increase.

I look at the whole subject basically from the point of view of nuisance and danger. There is an actuarial statistic which I am afraid I cannot quote exactly, but I have seen it recently. It is roughly to this effect: a major accident at an international airport is to be expected, I think, once in two years. We have been lucky; so far we have not had a Tokyo or a New York type of accident. We had an accident at Staines in open country. Sooner or later we must take it as a certainty that we shall have one aeroplane carrying anything up to 400 people crashing on Kensington—not literally on Kensington, but somewhere of that kind. It will happen. If this is going to happen it should happen over the sea, where the passengers would have some chance of escape.

Therefore I should like to know whether or not in planning the airport at Maplin thorough consideration has been given to the question of fitting the approach routes to Maplin into the existing pattern of air routes. I do not like to put words into anybody's mouth, or he unduly suspicious, but I have a nasty feeling that I might be told that it had and my fears will be realised. I am quite certain that this must not happen. We cannot take these new over-the-sea approach and take-off routes and fit them in the existing pattern. If this is to be the great, vast project it unquestionably is, affecting the quality of life of the country, it must be part of a new pattern of new routes which will, by some means or other, avoid vast numbers of enormous aircraft flying over the middle of London. This will mean replanning all the air routes probably West of Berlin. This appears to me to he absolutely necessary if we are to make a success out of Maplin.

Now the question of noise and the subsidiary question: What is it? My noble friend Lord Thomas described it as a nuisance, an irritation and very annoying. He introduced those definitions by the injunction, "Let us he rational about noise". It may be all those things, but I think it is something more than that. I do not go along altogether with the noble Lord's description of what we might do with our hush kits. I do not care to think of anybody living in a house in the country or town who has friends to stay for the weekend taking newspapers and blankets to block up the chimney of the spare room. My noble friend suggested we might do this. What sort of a world are we going to live in if we have to block up our chimneys to keep out the noise of aeroplanes? This is the thinking with which we are becoming perfectly familiar.

We are becoming more and more familiar with noise to the extent that we do not notice it. Some people do not notice it, some do; and some people are driven practically "up the wall" by it. Its effect varies on the individual. This brings me to the matter of the Noise and Number Index, by which is calculated the effect on the hearer on the ground of aeroplanes flying overhead, partly from noise and party from the frequency of their flying. Some will say that the noise is more important; some will say that frequency is more important. We have heard both these statements made this afternoon, and both of them have appeared in the Press. Which is it? Which does one find more annoying: the noise of one aeroplane flying overhead, and then another one, and another one later on at half hour intervals, or the noise of a quieter aeroplane flying over more frequently? That is almost impossible to answer. What would you say about a dripping tap in a room where you were trying to sleep? Few things can be more infuriating. Would you prefer the tap to drip once every five seconds, or once every ten seconds? Some people say once every five seconds because you can get used to it more easily and then ten second interval is intolerable because of the strain of waiting for the next drip. Other people will say the other way round: that the ten second interval will give you time to go to sleep, if you are lucky. If I suggested that the tap should be allowed to run continuously, which will provide the maximum noise, that might turn out to be the best of the lot because you could get used to it and go to sleep.


My Lords, may I support what the noble Earl has said? Many of my local authority correspondents question the validity of the N.N.I. in itself and the basis of its calculation, and they do not accept it at all.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl. Neither he nor I are alone in this. There are large numbers of people, local authorities of one kind and another, who consider that the N.N.I.'s data should be changed. These include experts. I have some small knowledge of this: I am connected with an organisation concerned with the abatement of aircraft nuisance. I will not specify the organisation but it is one which is not unknown to the Government. The N.N.I. has been falling into disrepute for years, but it has come up in this debate over and over again as something which is sacred. I do not believe it makes a ha'porth of difference which way you take it, if you get aeroplanes flying overhead. The more of them there are, the worse it is; and the noisier they are, the worse it is. It does not matter how you work it out, the interference in our lives by aircraft is increasing and will increase. It should be diminishing. I believe it is dangerous, whether one notices it or not.

It is a kind of occupational hazard to live under an air route, even if it is not very close to London. It seeps into the unconscious mind and does great damage. If one lives near London or a major airport the damage can be intense. My noble friend Lord Kinnaird, in his maiden speech in March (on a debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, on noise), quoted a survey carried out in the neighbourhood of Heathrow. I cannot quote directly from the survey, but it reported that in that neighbourhood admissions to mental hospitals were eight times the national average. It would be absurd if you said that was entirely due to noise coming from Heathrow. It would be equally absurd for anybody else to say that that had nothing to do with it. I do not think anybody would say that.

Because of these things I believe we must build the airport at Maplin. I do not like it; I do not want it; I think there are great drawbacks to it, all of which have been mentioned. It has to be done and it ought to be got on with; but I make these provisos: I do not want the existing pattern of air routes to continue. I should like to know whether consideration has been given, or will be given, to re-routing the red and amber routes, for example (which cross almost over my roof, but that is incidental), so that aircraft landing and taking off at Maplin should approach our shores over the water. By some means aircraft should also, so far as possible, be diverted from flying over London. I do not know how it is to be done but I believe it is vital that this should be achieved.

Also, what about the traffic that comes in over the water and is unloaded on the ground? I am not talking about the seaport. Air cargo will be unloaded on the ground and it will then be put on to lorries or railway trains. What consideration has been given to continuing its voyage by water, possibly at a cheaper rate for slower delivery, of netting it into the inland water transport system, of sending it up the Thames or sending it round by coastal shipping to minor ports? All this, it appears to me, is part of the advantage that can be got from having an airport at sea, and this ought not to be avoided. Finally, the sine qua non, in my opinion, of building an airport at Maplin, the only justification ultimately in the long run, is the running down, and if possible the closing, of Heathrow and Gatwick. If we can achieve those things, the project, which is gigantic in cost, will be gigantic in its effect on the whole life of the country.

7.41 p.m.


My Lords, so far as I am concerned this has been a long debate but a very useful exercise. My noble friend Lord Thomas told us—and Lord Cork and Orrery has referred to it as well—that Lord Thomas bought a house under the aircraft flight path and that the noise did not worry him. I respect his judgment, but I must disagree with his estimates of noise. From the people I have spoken to, the noise is quite intolerable. Again, the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said—I think I have his words correctly— that the Government must look at it again. Frankly, my Lords, the Government have never stopped looking at this problem before and following the Roskill Commission Report. In my view the decision is long overdue, and I feel that the time is now quite ripe for it.

In the remarks I am going to make I hope sincerely that I shall not be considered too parochial, but I am deeply concerned for the county in which I live live and the welfare and health of the people in that county. I am supporting this Bill for a third London airport to be sited at Maplin, for the longer we delay over this airport decision the worse the situation will become West of London. It will become worse and worse for those 700,000 householders (I should imagine at a conservative estimate something like four people to a house) who live in south Buckinghamshire and neighbouring districts. Seven hundred thousand is a very large number. Aircraft taking off from Heathrow in increasing numbers make life utterly miserable, with the intolerable shattering noise of aircraft jet engines, especially, of course, for those who live only a short distance from the airport, and now seriously affecting Datchet, Eton, Slough, Burnham, Taplow and even Beaconsfield and High Wycombe.

I live on the perimeter of this noise zone and can well understand the storm of protests Coming from South Buckinghamshire. As soon as one aircraft is airborne another one is landing and another preparing to take off—all this on top of the almost continual noise, except at night, from low flying helicopters. I know that what I have said is nothing to do with the Maplin airport; the airport I am referring to is Heathrow. The general picture is a very miserable one. It is not unusual to have four or six of these ungainly flying grasshoppers in some kind of loose formation overhead making even telephone conversation impossible. Unfortunately—and I hesitate to say it—they are probably flying towards the Prime Minister's residence at Chequers.

So far as schools are concerned, the noise in the sky is seriously interfering with education. Lecturers and teachers in Buckinghamshire are frequently unable to be heard and there is always the ever present risk of an aircraft crashing in a heavy populated area. The Trident crash at Staines was only just over the border of Buckinghamshire. Those of us who live in Buckinghamshire are entitled as much as anyone else to at least a peaceful weekend after a hard working week. It was with this in mind that the threat of a third huge airport at Cublington was quite abhorrent to most people. In this case, the whole of the county would have suffered; with Cublington in the North and Heathrow in the South, those living in between would have been the meat in the sandwich. But most sensibly this site was turned down by the Government. If you now try to alter the routes or the spread of the noise by air traffic control beacons—and this has been tried and, like so many theories, in practice it does not work—you are only tinkering with the problem and inflicting this noise on one lot of people at the expense of another in close proximity, with aircraft constantly deviating from the agreed route. An obstacle of this kind can be removed only by relieving the pressure.

In July of last year a navigational beacon was installed at Taplow; it helped to reduce the noise for the heavily populated areas of Slough but it increased the misery for those people living directly under the route. There is only one answer: the introduction of quieter aircraft, possibly shorter take-offs and landings, further extension of sound-proofing grants, which is a very expensive item, and the construction of a new airport at Maplin.

Noise is not Buckinghamshire's only problem; the British Airport Authority forecast a big growth in air transport movement at Heathrow to meet all traffic demands, and by 1980 it is estimated that the total employment at the airport will grow to over 60,000. To meet the growth in traffic, I understand that there are proposals for the widening of taxi-ways, apron development, terminal modifications and other new construction work. If Maplin does not open by 1980 and the growth of traffic, passengers and freight, continues at Heathrow, the noise and traffic congestion will be just about unbearable. But where are all the extra people to be employed?


Has the noble Lord not been told by Ministers or other spokesmen for the Government that if Maplin is opened and Stansted and Southend are closed the traffic at Heathrow will be just as great or greater than it is at the moment?


I have never been told that. Where are the extra people employed going to be housed if Heathrow is to be increased in size? Housing land in Slough is hard to come by and adjoining the airport is a regional park and the metropolitan Green Belt. At one time I myself—and I said this when we debated Cublington a year ago—was not convinced of the need for a third London airport of the size envisaged, but I realise that the progress of the air transport industry must continue to grow. If this is so, the burden of noise, traffic congestion and of housing pressures must be shared between East and West without delay—Maplin in the East and Heathrow in the West. Those of us who live in the areas West of London must be given some hope and not left in despair to see more and more capital being invested in a monster Heathrow airport bringing with it all its most unpleasant trappings.

The safety valve is Maplin to relieve pressure and distress. The Eton Rural District Council, the Buckinghamshire County Council and other local authorities in Buckinghamshire, right down to the humble parish council, are all more than alarmed at a possibility of the Maplin project being delayed or even stopped by any amendment to this Bill recently passed in another place. If the Bill does not go through, the mood of the people is such that the Government could well have more than just a mild protest on their hands. The people, my Lords, must be considered; sharing the agony with other neighbouring villages and towns will only spread the net over a wider zone. I ask you on the grounds of equity, common sense and long term planning to give this Maplin Development Bill its Second Reading.

7.49 p.m.


My Lords, having taken part in the earlier debate on the third London airport, I very much agree with what my noble friend Lord Howe has just said, that Maplin is the safety valve. But let us start at the beginning, back in 1963, with the Interdepartmental Committee on the Third London Airport, and the successor document. I brought these with me to-day, in a portable library. I felt that I would not inflict an enormous amount of detail upon your Lordships but would deal with two significant, and to me overriding considerations which I feel we should bear in mind in considering the Second Reading of this Bill. To me aircraft safety is an overriding factor, and therefore I was particularly glad that my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery mentioned the question of the great statistical likelihood of a serious accident over a major city in this country. We know, of course, of the Trident tragedy at Staines. It is significant that only a few days before the 1967 debate in this House on the Stansted airport. there was a Question before your Lordships on the throttling back of aircraft engines on take-off in order to reduce noise and thereby comply with regulations. This in my speech at that time I felt to be of the greatest significance, and therefore the Maplin solution on that occasion seemed to me to be the right one. I hold to that to-day. On both take-off and landing the Maplin site appears to be a more desirable one than any of the existing alternatives, and indeed with regard to the overriding consideration of safety of the neighbouring population.

There are other factors to be taken into account. The question of aircraft strike mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, seems to me one which, with careful design and indeed alteration of existing air intakes, could be overcome or at least mitigated. It seems absurd that an unguarded nacell intake should be over seven feet wide without apparently any means of deflecting birds as large as a Brent Goose. Further, on the question of the feeding grounds of the Brent Geese, I feel that, thanks to the great emphasis which was placed upon this matter by the Government, we may have some ornithological solution put forward. But surely birds, as humans, are creatures of habit, and there is going to be a massive destruction of bird life in the area before the birds come to the conclusion that an alternative is desirable. Nevertheless, I feel sure that research in this matter will be greatly accelerated by Government sponsorship, and I hope that early consideration is given to this matter in conjunction with the United States' Air Force which has done so much in this connection, especially relating to the use of predators.


My Lords, it may be that as their feeding grounds change the birds will, or may, move on.


My Lords, I feel sure that my noble friend is on to a very important solution here. Nevertheless, it is always a matter of anxiety as the land area of this country diminishes under concrete that there will he sufficient areas of open feeding ground left available for such internationally important geese as the Brent Geese; they of course require remote areas.

One of the principal reasons why I find this Bill so attractive is the winning from the sea of a large area of land, approximately 28 square miles. A further point I would place before your Lordships is that there is a differentiation between the costs. Ten thousand pounds an acre has been quoted as an approximation. I wonder whether this is an average, because it was noted in the Press only a few days ago that the Crown State Commissioners have won areas from the sea for as little as £800 an acre in the area of the Wash. It is of course obvious that the shallower the water the cheaper it costs. Nevertheless, for a figure of £800 this appears to be nationally very good business indeed, and I would commend the remarks of my noble friend Lord Ferrier, to regard this as part of a great national policy of increasing the land mass of the United Kingdom, indeed of the British Isles as a whole.

The other point about the differentiation between costs is this. I should like to draw the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the site chosen and to the alternative. The site alternative known as "C", which is the one chosen and nominated and set out in the Bill, is the one which the Government in their wisdom came to regard as the most desirable. I would remind Her Majesty's Government that site "D", the more North-Easterly one, the more expensive one, and the more difficult one from a land use and reclamation point of view, has great advantages so far as the noise nuisance zone is concerned. I hope that some further compromise will be reached in that the area concerned, site "D", is given a second thought.

7.55 p.m.


My Lords, I confess to an awful feeling of deja vu about this subject: it is so many times round we have been on the third London airport in recent years. First of all, the House will remember that twenty years ago the Government carried out certain inquiries, which were not public, and came up with the answer that Stansted was the right place. I still carry the scars of trying to convince this House of the truth of that proposition. The Government were driven off it principally on the ground that the inquiries which led to the conclusion had been in private and this was the wrong way to conduct Government business. There is some force in that view. So the Labour Government then set up a great public inquiry—the biggest public inquiry there had ever been in the history of this country—and that came up with the answer that the third London airport should be at Cublington. So this too was presented to the House. But however public the inquiry had been, it would not do, and the Government decided, after no inquiry at all, that it should be Maplin. So a private inquiry will not do; a public inquiry will not do. The question that faces the House to-day is: Will a conclusion based on no inquiry do?

It is not automatic that it will not. One may very well get the right answer by guess and by God. But I think there is a certain vagueness—many of my noble friends on this side and noble Lords opposite have spoken of this vagueness. Let us look at some of the phrases that have been used in the House of Commons in presenting this proposal to Parliament. Mr. Rippon spoke of reclaiming "some land which we shall be able to sell." He pointed out that the Strategy for the South-East (that is a planning document) shows South Essex as a growth area. And so indeed it does; but there is a considerable difference between an area being the right one for growth like that and being the right one to accept an enormous airport, an enormous port, an enormous new town and all the infrastructure which goes with that.

The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, whose expertise in these matters is second to nobody's told the House that the County of Essex was ready to accept this development. My Lords, I should think so. What county would be not? It would mean an immense accretion of wealth to wherever it goes. But our business—the business of the Government and the business of Parliament—is to decide whether we want it there at all; whether Essex is the place for this enormous investment. Airport policy I think has been mainly dealt with, so far as this side of the House is concerned. by my noble friend Lord Beswick in his earlier speech. I want to concentrate on some of the other things.

We have not mentioned—have we?—the question of high-speed trains. When all this is ready, we are supposed to be going to have trains travelling at 200 or 300 miles an hour. What is going to be the impact of this on domestic air traffic; and of course on short-haul traffic to the Continent given a Channel Tunnel? If one can reach there at an average speed of 200 or 300 miles an hour, that in practice is going to beat aeroplanes, city centre to city centre. What will be the effect of that? Most important of all, what about regional policy—the familiar thread of regional economic policy? Is the South-East the place where we want this colossal development? The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, spoke eloquently and in a homely manner—and it is my view, too—about the condition of the building industry in the South-East, about the building trade shortages which are known to everybody by direct experience or by the official returns. The South-East with the Green Belt, with the need to keep some nice places near London—compare that with the North-East, the North-West and the other parts of England where ships could come to even if aeroplanes could not—and I expect the aeroplanes could. Unemployment at the moment is going down in those areas; yet we know that if it goes up again it will not be in Essex and it will not be in the South-East that it will be felt; it will be felt in the North where we are not going to get this "goody", this excellent national economic biscuit.

Before passing this Bill I think we should like to know about the farmland. A great deal of land is going to be taken on the shore. Is it good farmland there compared with farmland that would be taken if the port, especially, were to be put somewhere else in the country? We also want to be informed more closely than we have been about how all the stuff that is needed for the building and development during the five or ten year period when it is being built is going to be conveyed there. A statistic was quoted by the Minister concerned, Mr. Eldon Griffiths, in the House of Commons which has not yet been picked up to-day. He said that every possible ton of material would be taken by sea—that is good; that every further possible ton of material would be taken by rail—good. But he also said that that would leave 125,000 tons per year of stuff—fill, goods, God knows what!—to be taken through the little roads of Essex, before any new link is built, to this site. Do we want to face that?

I want to speak first about one or two detailed matters which will arise if the airport is built according to the programme of the Government. The first is the matter of bird strike, which I believe has been very much neglected in the public debate so far. We know that the incidence—I avoid the word "risk", because it is not always a risk to life—of bird strike at Maplin will be three times over and above what it is at an ordinary inland airport site. Very often we imagine that if an aeroplane hits a bird, the aeroplane falls down and everybody is killed, and that is a rare disaster.

I should like, however, to draw to the attention of the House a report on Bird Hazards to Aircraft which was published by the relevant Minister of the Canadian Government last year, which throws a light that I found startling on this matter of bird strike. It painted a picture of what really happened, and happens quite often. A big aeroplane takes off, one engine is knocked out because a bird gets into it. There is no danger to life and limb. The engine is ruined, the aeroplane has to circle, ditch its fuel in order to reach a safe landing weight, come back, everybody is late and the aircraft is out of service for some days while the engine is changed. This Report quoted a 200,000 dollar cost for changing the engine (that is just the beginning) and it said that one airline—it did not name it, but I think it must be an American airline—had published a figure of £1 million sterling-worth of mechanical damage each year through bird strikes. No loss of life, just a million pounds lost. Comparable figures are reported by several airlines. That is what happens.

How seriously has this economic loss to the airlines been taken into account, losing engine after engine in this way? I know that the airlines have taken it into account and this is one of the reasons why they do not want to go to Maplin. What do the Government think about it? How many C.F.104 fighters—called "the widow-maker" in Germany because more than a hundred of them have been lost by the German Air Force—have fallen down because of bird strikes and because they are particularly vulnerable to it? I should like to have those figures set out at some stage during the passage of this Bill.

Continuing with the details, I should like to know where the Shoeburyness gunnery range is to go to. The Government have been congratulated here today on having succeeded in finding a way of removing it. But where is it going to? I have seen no announcements. I think we should he told the economics of that. I think also we should be told at the relevant stage what is to he the effect on the Thames flooding risk of putting a lot of land into the water. If you narrow an estuary you bank up the flood surges that go up the estuary. We all know the flood risk to London, and the plan for the barrier. Can we be told at some stage in hard numerical terms what increase in flooding, whether in London or down river, will be affected by the proposed development at Maplin?

Let us be told also what fill is going to be used to reclaim this land from the sea. Are borrow pits going to be opened? Is half Essex going to he despoiled by the digging up of gravel and useful bits of earth to plonk down on Maplin Sands to raise the levels, or is it going to be done by dredging from the sea'? Is the dredging going to affect the flooding situation? Is there any hope of bringing those awful heaps of coal spoil from the beaches of the North-East by sea to do this job? Personally, I should like to know all this before the Bill becomes law.

We heard a remarkable speech from the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, who really got the bit between his teeth about the economic beauties of the port, and I want to speak now about the seaport. He spoke as Chairman of the Port of London Authority and he spoke very clearly to the effect that as regards the Port of London it would be a great improvement. I think we can all accept that, but what we want to know is whether it will be an improvement as regards all the ports of the country. We want the report of the National Ports Council, not on the question of whether this is good policy for London, hut on the question whether this London policy is good for the country as a whole. We have not had that yet, and I do not think we should pass this Bill until we have had it. I hope it will come soon.

The noble Lord, Lord Aldington, echoed what had been said by the Government in the other place about the intrinsic beauty of container ports and very large ships. I shall return to this point in a moment. Of course it is true that if you can use very large crude oil containers and bulk containers, you get your imports cheaper per ton. That is a cost-benefit analysis in narrow trading terms, but what is the social cost-benefit analysis? It is always taken for granted (is it not?) that it is a good thing to throw people out of work in the docks by having bigger ships, simpler procedures, fewer men employed, more land to pile the boxes on—in the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Aldington. This may be true in broad social terms. I should like to see a human social cost-benefit analysis. The Roskill Commission (of blessed memory) of course specifically reported against having a seaport at Maplin if the airport were to be located there. I think that was probably the most thorough planning and social inquiry there has been into the matter yet.

One would like to know also about the question of oil supplies on a large scale over the next thirty years. The whole thing is based on oil in two ways: first, a large new airport pre-supposes cheap fuel for aeroplanes in order for people to be able to afford to fly as opposed to going some other way. A busy seaport is largely based on the presupposition of ever increasing oil imports. It is for the convenience of oil imports that this vast tanker port is proposed. We all know the predictions about the rapidly rising price of oil towards the end of this century, but the seaport and the airport will last for 100 years if they are well built, as no doubt they will be. What inquiries have been made about this? What is the reality of the nightmare experienced by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, of the whole thing rusting away, not because there is no more oil in the world but because what oil there is is so expensive that nobody can afford to use it, and when the whole power of the country is based on nuclear generated electricity and people are going everywhere in extremely fast electric trains? Is that going to happen? One would like to know.

What about the use of the land? We have been told about the reclaimed land, 2,500 acres: 1,000 acres for the seaport and 1,000 for the airport, and 500 acres for seaport-related development. What is it? We have not been told. May we be given a concrete picture? What sort of industry? We have been told that it is not to be heavy industry. What is excluded under the phrase "heavy industry"? The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said in this House only the other day that although the effects of the Channel Tunnel would be calculated in their impact on Maplin, the effects of Maplin have not been calculated on the Channel Tunnel. It would be a pity to build either before the effects of each were calculated on the other. Once again, a lack of preparation.

In presenting the Bill to the House of Commons on Third Reading, Mr. Eldon Griffiths said that the decision in principle on the seaport at Maplin had been taken by the Government; that is to say, that they wanted it, and they were submitting the proposal to Parliament. Perfectly true. The Government have always said that there are many details to come later which we shall settle; but it is clear from the whole presentation of the Bill that we are expected to approve not only the airport but also the seaport. This Bill is the "Yea" or "Nay" moment, and I doubt whether we have enough details to decide that properly.

What are the terms of reference of the National Ports Council's inquiries into this matter? We should like to know that. Are they broad enough really to cover the social realities of the matter? Then again, what is the financial structure of the seaport to be? This is all a bit vague so far. The Government in the House of Commons, when the Bill was going through, insisted that they were giving only planning permission. They said, in effect, "We are giving only planning permission and nobody really ought to want to know what is going there or who is going to pay for it, or what the thing is". But it is very unusual for Parliament to give planning permission. Usually it is the local authority or the Minister who gives planning permission. If Parliament is to give a planning permission by Statute it must be as well informed as the local authority or the Minister would be if the normal procedure were followed. It is not at the moment, and I think that it ought to be.

We want to know also what is the relationship between the Port of London Authority, the Maplin Development Authority and something called the Thames Estuary Development Company. It was stated in the House of Commons at Committee stage that the Thames Estuary Development Company was a body which included among its members the Port of London Authority, naturally, and also Rio Tinto Zinc, Town & City Properties, Southend Corporation and Shell United Kingdom. What are they all going to do? Who is going to pay money to whom, for what, how much, and when? I confess that I have no idea of the answer to any of these questions. We are told that some land will be reclaimed which we may be able to sell.

Let us look beyond this seaport to its effect on the sea. We all have a picture in our minds of what a seaport is like on the land and in the hinterland. What will happen at sea? We are told that there are to be half-million ton tankers coming into this place. They cannot come now because there is no channel deep enough. So a channel has to be dredged. Where will the channel be? Does the dredging operation present any special difficulties? Will it be ordinary sand and gravel or will there be a problem, as some allege, of dredging mud which is not often done or London clay—which I see alleged is some of the stuff that has to be got from the sea? Does it mean that new types of dredgers will be needed to do that? I have seen that alleged, but I do not know with what truth.

Then comes the question of what happens to the sea when you get half-million ton tankers attracted into the estuary—because it is still an estuary, the Thames estuary. It has recently been stated with precision and eloquence, in my view, by a Ministry of Defence spokesman that what used to be called inshore waters are now, in this day of the half-million ton tanker, called pilotage waters. These mammoths have to get down by narrow pilotage through channels. It does not need stating that the bigger the ships you have then the fewer you have, and therefore the less, we hope, will be the incidence of collisions between ships. But, of course, for every collision that happens the greater will be the disaster in terms of pollution, loss of money and loss of life. I think myself that that is swings and roundabouts—fewer collisions but much worse damage when you do get them. The Channel and the Thames approaches in the Southern part of the North Sea are the most crowded seas in the world. The Government have recently, to their great credit, begun to institute a rather loose and easy-going form of traffic control, but are they prepared to make that really firm and to make that bite when they are by a deliberate act of investment policy bringing in these half-million ton mammoths? I think we should know before the Bill is passed whether they are.

Do the Government intend to do anything about the scandal of flag-of-convenience tankers? Let us reflect on the fact that last year 29 per cent, of all tanker tonnage above 10,000 tons was sailing under flags of convenience. The point about a flag-of-convenience ship is that the master or owner cannot be disciplined. Have the Government reflected on the fact that the accident and loss rate for flag-of-convenience ships is well above the rate for ships belonging to what we loosely think of as the developed nations, the O.E.C.D. nations? The rate of loss of O.E.C.D. nation ships is X per year—I forget the figure—the rate of loss of Liberian registered ships is 2X and the rate of loss of Panamanian registered ships is 3X. There are other flag-of-convenience States which have achieved an even higher multiplier than that over the rate achieved by the developed countries. What about that? Is it safe to attract the mammoths without seeing to that? I very much doubt it.

We then have this eternal down-river movement in all ports. We do not think about it. It is always taken for granted that if you go down river it will be bigger, and bigger is better. There are hundreds of thousands of dockers up river or living in existing social capital—houses, schools, hospitals—but they are to be thrown out of work. We go down and build a new place at the £1,000 million or £800 million we have been hearing about. People live in the old ports. Do we necessarily rejoice if the port moves? I should like to quote—because I find it psychologically indicative—a remark of Mr. Eldon Griffiths also in the Committee stage in the House of Commons. He said: I say again that I believe that the prospect of providing at the ourskirts of our capital city a modern, efficient port capable of taking the largest foreseeable vessels, is one that the Committee should be seizing with the greatest satisfaction. I wait to hear why. He goes on to explain why: … here we have a prospect of London and South-East England—and the nation as a whole—having an opportunity to berth the kind of vessels which will not be able to go into Rotterdam and the Rhine. We have a national opportunity. We belong to the European Community. Is it a matter for national rejoicing that we shall be able to take trade from Rotterdam and the Rhine? Would it not be better to have some community planning, with the help of the Commission, to see which ports it would he best to invest in Community-wide and which it would not? Is it not time to abandon at long last the "Ever bigger" battle cry and turn to the battle cry of "Ever more" human arrangements for people who are alive now and who want work?

I think that one can only mistrust the paucity of information which accompanies this Bill in its passage through this House. We are at the beginning of a new age in land economics. This Bill marks the beginning of the time when reclaimed land is going to be nearly as cheap, as cheap, or even cheaper than existing land with full development rights on it. The figure has been quoted to-day of around £10,000 an acre. How is our country going to face this challenge for the first time? What response are the Government going to give? Are they going to respond to this new matter by seeing that the first pieces of economically reclaimed land are disposed of after examination and thought and inquiry, all of a full and public nature? Or are they going to do so by opening the jampot to private grab? I do not say they are; I do not know. We cannot know. I want to know who is going to get the land and the money and what for. Much will depend on what we are told during the later stages of this Bill.

I was rather appalled to learn that in the House of Commons Committee individual Members had to get their own explanatory material from the Port of London Authority who supplied it to them very courteously, and they had to bring it to the Committee room. These were Backbenchers doing that; the Government did not do it. I hope that nothing as deplorable as that will be repeated in the Select Committee stage of this House. I believe much will depend on the work of our Select Committee, and on the quality of the information which will be laid before it, not only by the Petitioners but also by the Government. I hope that we shall do better than the House of Commons was allowed to do by the Government in that matter. I hope that the Select Committee will be allowed to go beyond merely the height of this bridge or that, or whether a certain waterway is kept open, or a certain field taken in East Essex—important as these are—and to look into broader questions of the real economic viability of this plan over 50 or 100 years, because that will affect the people of Essex. I wanted to get that on the Record because I know that what is said in the full House often affects proceedings in a Select Committee.

Lastly I should like, if I may, though I do not think that it is possible to do so, to reinforce what was said by my noble friend Lord Beswick in starting this debate about the importance of the Amendment which we hope will commend itself to the full House later on. The House of Commons passed an Amendment which said that certain things must not be done until more information is available to Parliament. The Press considered that this was a great change and a victory by the Backbenchers against the Government. I fear that that was an occasion when the Press got it a bit wrong, because the things that the authorities may not do until further information is available are not a very impressive list. I forget what it says, but they certainly may not go to the cinema on Sunday afternoons; they may not climb up the church tower and wave a flag; they may not speak French during working hours. But in that list there is no statement that they may not begin the airport or the seaport. We on this side think it probably should be changed so as to bite, so as to have some effect, and that it should cover not only more information about the airport but also badly needed extra information about the seaport. Having said that, it only remains for me to confirm that we on this side do not oppose the Second Reading, but we imagine that the later stages of this Bill are going to be exceptionally arduous.

8.20 p.m.


My Lords, we have listened to-day to a very wide-ranging and interesting debate in which a great many people with expert knowledge have taken part. It seems to me that the debate has centred on the question of the need for the airport; and if not the need, then the urgency of it, and the choice of the Maplin site. A great many other issues have been mentioned as well. I will try in conclusion to answer the major points that have been brought up, but I hope the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will appreciate that I really could not take in all his questions, and as he indicated that he wishes them to be answered in the course of the Bill we will do our best to provide the answers during the Committee stage.

I think the first question raised was that of access routes. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, asked whether Petitions concerning access routes and the proposed new town could be laid on this Bill. I should like to confirm what my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn said on this point later in his speech: that the Bill does not deal with access routes and that therefore Petitions concerned with those would not be in order. However, as I indicated in answer to a Question which the noble Lord raised last week, there will be this additional consultation document about access routes, and everyone will have the normal statutory rights and safeguards for objections which can be considered.


My Lords, I am not quite sure what the "normal statutory rights" are so far as consultations are concerned. Does the noble Baroness mean that there will be an Order or some form of Statute laid before the House concerning this, against which Petitions can be laid?


My Lords, what I mean is that there will be the consultation document on which people can make observations and representations, and then when the road line is agreed there will be opportunity for objections, as is the usual procedure. That is what I meant by the normal statutory procedures.


And a public inquiry?


And an inquiry. The Government have already made it clear that there will be a motorway link between Maplin and London, to be in operation by the time the airport opens, or sooner if possible. There will be a rail link, operating initially with highspeed conventional trains, between Maplin and Kings Cross. And there will, of course, be this proposal for a new town of some quarter million people by the end of the century. These are very big projects and will affect the lives of a great many people in South Essex. The Government have felt it right, therefore, that there should be an opportunity for public discussion of these matters, and it is for this reason that the consultation document on the road/rail access and corridors will be published shortly.

The next major point which was raised was the question of cost. The estimated expenditure up to 1990 is £825 million at 1972 prices. The breakdown of these costs is approximately this: reclamation of the land, stage 1, £140 million; the airport construction would be £480 million—that is, with its five terminals; the access links £160 million; and the seaport £50 million. The new town area is not included, because it is an investment which probably would have to be undertaken in any event. I hope that this makes clear what the breakdown of these figures is. The point was raised that the building of Roissy Airport was considerably cheaper than this, and that we were getting very bad value for money, but my understanding is that the figures that have been given estimate that the cost of the Roissy Airport is about £130 million to £140 million for providing one runway and one terminal, together with the necessary control tower and various airport facilities, but excluding access costs or anything extraneous to the airport. I think on all these figures the important point to be borne in mind is that if an alternative to Maplin has to be found, all the facilities that would be required for handling the extra aeroplanes and passengers would have to be found either at Heathrow or Gatwick or alternative airports. So one cannot say that one is going to get a saving of £825 million if Maplin is not built.

I should now like to turn to the question of wild life which a number of noble Lords have raised. They have referred to the effects of the reclamation and the operation of the airport on bird life. My noble friend Lord Drumalbyn referred to the clause in the Bill which deals with consultation with the Nature Conservancy. A substantial study of bird life at Maplin, and other sites in Kent and Essex to which birds displaced from Maplin might go is under way. This covers the problem of the Brent geese and also other birds to which noble Lords have referred, and it will produce information on patterns of migration. This study is due to be completed in 1975, but some results will become available before then and will enable decisions to be reached on the provision of substitute sites, if this is shown to be desirable. But the main aim of the study to which I have referred is to find ways of preserving bird life at Maplin by identifying suitable substitute sites.


My Lords, would the noble Baroness tell the House what means of publication corresponding to the London Gazette the Government propose to adopt in order to inform the migratory birds about the substitute sites?


My Lords, that is the sort of question I shall have to think of for a very long time. I think it is really we who need to know about sites, and I apologise for the mistake.

The noble Lords, Lord Thomas and Lord Sandys, referred to the question of bird strike. The Roskill Report accepted that the risk of bird strike at Maplin was somewhat greater than at an inland site, though no airport is entirely free from the risk, but they took the view that this could not be a decisive factor against Maplin and there are countervailing safety advantages in having all landings and take-offs over the sea. I accept that this is an important point.

I turn now to the question of the seaport. I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Aldington, who gave us a most important and valuable speech explaining the whole of the history of the seaport and the need for it. It was very helpful to have his confirmation that the seaport proposal can proceed without the need of heavy industry, which is often associated with other seaports. It was agreed to in principle by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, who told the Port of London Authority in February, 1972, that he was prepared to consider detailed proposals for an oil terminal and a unit-load terminal: but no final decision has been reached. The Port of London Authority will have to demonstrate the commercial viability of their proposals, and the Secretary of State will have to consider their submissions and the implications of their proposals for other ports in the light of the advice which he receives from the National Ports Council. My understanding of the position is that it will be open to Southampton or any other port which wishes to do so to make out a case for having a terminal there, and their case will also be considered by the National Ports Council and again put to my right honourable friend.


My Lords, if the noble Baroness is finishing with that point, may I say that I am grateful to her for putting into its proper perspective the interesting proposals that the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, was outlining. Do we understand now that what he has said will in fact only be done if the Government decide so? May we now be told when the decision of the Government, following consideration of the Report of the National Ports Council, will be given to the House?


My Lords, I do not think that there is any contradiction in what I have said and what my noble friend Lord Aldington said. He has said merely that it is outside the process of the negotiations that have taken place between the Port of London Authority and the National Ports Council. The information will be published when it is available. I am afraid that I cannot give the date now because I do not know quite how far this procedure has gone, but it will eventually be made available.


My Lords, following up this point, may I ask whether Parliament will have an opportunity to comment on what may be the decision of the Port of London Authority or the Minister concerned?


My Lords, my understanding is that my right honourable friend said that in principle he had no objection, and that he was prepared to accept a seaport at Maplin. I have no doubt that the reasons that were given were the reasons stated by my noble friend Lord Aldington. There are very good reasons, but that is not to say that the decision has already been agreed, because the Port of London Authority must still make out its case to the National Ports Council, and it must, in turn, be agreed by the Secretary of State before the seaport can go ahead. I hope that that makes the position quite clear.


My Lords, with respect, the noble Baroness has not made it clear. She said that the results of the National Ports Council consideration will be given in due course. I am asking her when. Is she seriously saying that we are going to go through the Committee stage without knowing what the Government have decided in this area?


My Lords, the Maplin Development Bill that is before us is a Bill to reclaim land, and it gives planning permission for a seaport and an airport; that is all. I cannot give the exact date, but I cannot see that it will affect the Bill, which does the things that I have enumerated.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether the procedure is not this? The Port of London Authority in due course has to apply for permission under Section 9 of the Harbours Act, which I mentioned earlier this afternoon, for expenditure on those two proposals, the oil terminal and the container port. In order that it should justify its case, it has to show that the marketing of these projects indicates that there is a need for them and, in particular, that the container port will have people who will definitely want to come to it. This process of marketing has begun already, but it is not possible for the Port of London Authority to submit firm proposals to the Government until after the Bill is law. Then the Port of London people can say to likely users of these two terminals, "The Bill is law; the Maplin project is going ahead; let us now enter into agreements to do this, this, and this." Until we have done that, I cannot satisfy my right honourable friend that the work that my people have done justifies his approval of the project.


My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Aldington for those remarks. While we are on the question of the seaport, I would confirm once again that there is no question of a heavy industrial complex growing up around the port. Indeed, this was confirmed by my noble friend Lord Aldington. The then Secretary of State for the Environment made it quite clear in his statement of February 2 that the Government did not think it appropriate for primary industries, such as steelworks, oil refineries, or petro-chemical works, to be located at Maplin, whether in association with the seaport or separately, both on grounds of regional policy and because development of this kind would create serious problems of incompatibility with a large international airport. This has been repeated by Ministers (notably by the Secretary of State for the Environment on Second Reading of this Bill in another place), and, as a result of discussion in Standing Committee, the Government are exploring the possibility of including restrictions on heavy industry in the Bill itself. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that the Roskill Commission were in fact against the Report, but my understanding is that they were against a major industrial complex, and the Government themselves have rejected this.

I turn now to what has really been the centre of this debate to-day, and that is the question of the need for the airport. In his opening speech my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn restated our views in more detail why, in spite of the Civil Aviation Authority's Report and subsequent newspaper articles, we feel that the third London airport should be opened at Maplin at the earliest practicable date. I agree with what he has said and I do not wish to go over the ground that he has already covered, but I should like to deal with some of the difficulties which have subsequently arisen. The first argument that has been raised is that really there is no urgency about this at all, and that we could easily wait for another five years and think about it then. To take such a course overlooks the fact that unless the British Airport Authority know that they will have Maplin they will need to put in hand very soon the planning of extra facilities at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted over and above those already planned. We all accept that there is some expansion both at Heathrow and Gatwick planned between now and 1980. Not only is there that consideration, but, as my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford explained very carefully, there are all these other major planning considerations for the new town and the necessary houses and all the other ancillary services that will be needed to service the airport and to provide somewhere for everybody to live. Therefore I do not think that there can be any question of delay for another five years for these very pressing reasons, quite apart from the fact, as has been stated several times, that we have already been discussing this subject for 12 years.

So the argument has gone on, "Well, there is ample capacity at Heathrow and Gatwick and the other airports, and therefore we do not need Maplin at all". On the figures in the Civil Aviation Report, which will remain subject, I am certain, to continuing debate, surplus runway capacity of 9 to 18 per cent. is shown as existing in the London airport system in 1980, and commentators have seized on this to state that Maplin is not necessary and that the additional traffic could be crammed in to fill up this 9 to 18 per cent. One must ask whether this is a very sensible way to plan. It leaves no margin over for any errors. If a runway was out of use for any particular time, if any of the figures of demand were "out" at all, we should find ourselves in very considerable difficulty. It does not seem to me that it is right for a Government to plan on the basis that future statistics indicate that everything is perfectly all right, when I think that it is very difficult to draw that conclusion from the figures that have been given.

The next point is that the airport at Maplin is much too far away and that nobody really wants to use it.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness, but when she insists that this margin of 9 per cent. or 18 per cent. really is not sufficient, is she taking into account the fact that the C.A.A. Report was based on the assumption that the Government would deliberately restrict development at Heathrow and at Gatwick and would be closing down both Stansted and Southend, with restriction also at Luton? If she is wanting a margin, the margin would be there, in the possible reasonable use of those other three London airports.


My Lords, I think that is very much a matter for argument, and I just cannot accept that the C.A.A. have necessarily got the figures right. It may well be that one could use all of this additional capacity, but we do not know whether the other figures which they have produced on the numbers of passengers will prove to be right. To leave oneself without any margin or with only very little, except by the expansion of a number of airports, would not be a sensible way to plan.


My Lords, if the noble Baroness is saying that the C.A.A. have not necessarily got it right, and the C.A.A.'s figures were compiled from the Report in conjunction with the British Airways Board, the Department of the Environment and the Department of Trade and Industry, who is to say that they are wrong?


My Lords, when my noble friend is answering that question, will she also explain to us what will happen after 1985?


My Lords, I do not think that anybody—the C.A.A. included—would say that they can be absolutely certain that their figures are right. This is not really something that anybody can argue. They have made the best calculations that they can, but, as my noble friend Lord Nugent has said, they have not explained what is to happen after 1985. We do not know that. All I am saying is that they leave no room to cope with any kind of difficulty at all. The next point that is made about Maplin is that it is too far away. But if we look to see what other countries are doing we discover that in New York, for instance, they are considering a fourth airport which is 50 or 60 miles away, and in Tokyo they are opening an airport which is 40 miles from the centre. I use those two examples to indicate that other major cities recognise that it is perfectly possible to have a major international airport at this distance.

Having dealt with those two questions, I think the major point of concern has been the question of noise; nearly every noble Lord who has spoken has talked about it. We all hope that there will be new types of aircraft which will be quieter, and we have reason to suppose that they will be. This is a very welcome factor in the future of aircraft. But the point is that existing aircraft will be with us for some time. The Boeing Aircraft Company, for example, which is the largest manufacturer of civil aircraft in the world, is still selling 707s, 727s and 737s, as well as the Jumbo-sized 747s. With the possible exception of the 707, the company plans to carry on producing these aircraft for the rest of the decade. As an aircraft has a life approaching 15 years, it is clear that some of these types will still be flying into the 1990s.


My Lords, is it not also true that the Boeing Aircraft Company is producing "hush-kits" for all these aircraft, so that they will he making only half as much noise and will be coming down nearer to the level of the TriStars than they are at the moment?


My Lords, I cannot confirm that fact; but even if it is true there are other aircraft of British make which may not necessarily be so fitted, and the fact is that there will be older aircraft flying on into the 1990s which will be very noisy. Furthermore, I do not think that that is at all the end of the argument, because there is conflicting advice as to how quiet aircraft are going to be. In a Paper submitted to the Civil Aircraft Research Committee of the Aeronautical Research Council last month, the Directorate of Operational Research and Analysis in the Civil Aviation Authority's Chief Scientist's Division said: There is thus hope of continuing improvement, with airports eventually becoming only modest noise emitters, but there is little hope of relief in the short term. Such relief as can be given must be sought from alternative operational procedures, movement limitations and a limited amount of retrofitting. Whilst this may make the environment at some smaller airports fairly tolerable, it will make little impression on the problem area of Heathrow. Of course we are left with the fact that even if all aircraft are much less noisy than they are now, and even if Heathrow and Gatwick are used to full capacity, there will inevitably be more aircraft, and there is the very great question of whether it is even more intolerable to have a less powerful noise more continuously than we have at the moment. Quite apart from any of these points, I think those noble Lords who have spoken as ordinary members of the public will recognise that what the public are prepared to tolerate in future is likely to be considerably less than is the case to-day, so what we need is both less noisy aircraft and Maplin.

I should now like to turn to the question of putting the new airport into the regions, because that has also been Suggested as an alternative. An airport is not a very desirable neighbour and, although there have been suggestions of developments and increases at Gatwick, Luton, Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh, all these proposals have met with very real opposition from local people. It has been suggested that the new technological developments of VTOL and STOL will again meet the need, and this point was made in the debate on the Roskill Commission's Report. We have looked at it again, and my understanding is that the prospects of a breakthrough here seem to he less promising than they were before.

The last point that I should like to make on the need for the airport really concerns the consumer, because we ought to ask ourselves what it will be like for the ordinary passenger to be crammed in with these very large numbers of people who will have to go through Heathrow and Gatwick. We know that there will be some increase up to 1980, but can we seriously face the prospect of a threefold increase? This point was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks; and the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, himself said that of course we do not know whether the consuming, public would tolerate conditions of that sort at airports, or indeed, whether they would like to fly in these prospective 1,000 seater planes. None of these points is an established fact.

We have had a very long debate and there are innumerable points that I have not answered. I know that they will be raised again during the Committee stage, and I hope that we can give an answer later on. I hope that those noble Lords whose points I have not answered will understand that as time is getting on we should draw this debate to a conclusion, but I should like to say how grateful I have been for the support of my noble friends. I now want to bring the House back to what seems to me to be the central issue of this debate to-day. I ask your Lordships to support the Second Reading, because by voting for this Bill we shall keep the options open. My noble friend Lord Drumalbyn explained clearly the purpose of the Amendment which we shall move at a later stage, and I repeat the assurance that he gave. The Amendment will give us the opportunity to consider again, and to vote in Parliament upon. these highly technical matters, the arguments about which are in dispute by experts. If the Bill does not have a Second Reading, there will be no opportunity at all, in the light of any evidence that may he produced, to have a third airport at Maplin. And may I remind noble Lords why Maplin was chosen? It was chosen entirely for environmental reasons; not because the airlines wanted it, nor because it was cheaper—no one has ever suggested that—but because it was thought, and I believe absolutely rightly, that public opinion would not tolerate another main inland airport in this crowded island.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness to clear up one point, which I think everyone would like to have clarified? The noble Baroness has again said, and rather more clearly than her noble friend, that we shall have an opportunity of voting again. On what should we he voting? Should we be voting on an Order, or in what form would the proposal be put before us?


My Lords, we shall be putting down an Amendment, and I want to give the assurance in general terms now that we shall have this opportunity to consider this matter again. One of the options which giving this Bill a Second Reading will hold open is the opportunity to close Stansted and Southend, severely restrict Luton, and stop further expansion at Gatwick, together with the opportunity to introduce further restrictions at Heathrow. It does not mean that, by voting for Maplin, we shall still have exactly what we have now. We shall have our problems until Maplin is open, but thereafter all the airports can look for relief. I would ask those who are against Maplin to consider, in the light of the history of both Stansted and Cublington, the difficulties that we should face with any alternative.

My Lords, I have done my best to answer the points raised in this debate, and I hope your Lordships will agree with me that by voting for and supporting the Second Reading of this Bill we are giving ourselves the chance to keep open all these options.


My Lords, the Question is that this Bill be now read a second time. As many as are of that opinion will say "Content". To the contrary "Not content". I think the "Contents" have it. Clear the Bar.

My Lords, Tellers for the Not-Contents have not been appointed pursuant to Standing Order No. 51. A Division therefore cannot take place, and I declare that the "Contents" have it.

Bill read 2a.