HL Deb 17 October 1973 vol 345 cc289-338

2.49 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now received.

Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Baroness Young.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 2 [Reclamation and disposal of land in Maplin area]:

LORD BESWICK moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 2, line 4, after ("date") insert ("being not less than two years after the date of the passing of this Act").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, those who have taken a special interest in these Maplin proposals will no doubt have reviewed the arguments for and against that were made before we went into Recess. The developments that have occurred seem to me to strengthen the case against the project; but it may be acceptable to the House if we take this opportunity to review the problem as a whole. Her Majesty's Government seem to have made something of a review themselves and the Amendment I am now moving reflects their decision, announced by Mr. Rippon, to delay by two years the date by which the airport becomes operational. I am sure that the House will agree that it is essential that this delay of two years is used as positively and as usefully as possible so that the "Go", "No-go" decision, when made, is as sound and dependable as human ingenuity can made it. It may be said that in view of the Government concession already made and the further Amendment which the Minister will be moving to this clause my own Amendment will not be required. But I invite the House to take stock of the whole situation, including the worsened economic background and the Government's far from happy handling of this third London airport issue.

It is fair to say, I would claim, that no other national project has been so questioned, so criticised or so denounced—and from sources covering so wide a spectrum of our national life. It has been no narrow Party or vested interest opposition.The Times, the Financial Times, the Economist, the New Statesman, the academics, and the entire air transport industry have all expressed views ranging from doubts to outright condemnation. I have quoted from these views on earlier occasions and I shall not delay the House by repeating them; but I do insist on referring again to the Report of the Commission which was set up specifically to consider the question and which was set up in part as a direct result of a debate in this House. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, if he were here, would recall the discussions we had in this Chamber, and outside, about the status and the methodology to be used by the Roskill Commission. There was general agreement, that with all the differing views about Stansted and the various alternatives we should all be disposed to abide by the findings of that Commission; and an enormous amount of work went into their Report. I have never thought that the effort put into that by Mr. Justice Roskill and his colleagues has ever been properly recognised. Be that as it may, it remains that the most authoritative, in-depth study ever made of the Foulness possibility led the Roskill Commission to say—and I quote from the Report: The nation cannot afford to decide the site for this airport on the basis of a serious misallocation of scarce resources. And again: We conclude that neither direction of airlines nor subsidy of surface passenger movements is the answer to an inaccessibly-sited airport. Nothing at all that has been said or written since then about Foulness-cum-Maplin has been better based or more authoritative than that conclusion of the Roskill Commission.

Since we rose for the Recess, we have had a remarkable statement by the Chairman of the British Airports Board in which he speaks of inadequate consultation on this issue and an estimated annual loss to the public corporation, of which he is the Chairman, of no less than £40 million a year if they are compelled to use Maplin£40 million a year as the cost of moving 10 per cent. of their total effort to Maplin with all the duplication which that entails. We have also had the study of the Air Transport Committee of the British Chamber of Commerce in which they argue most convincingly for a national airports policy and say, among other things in their summary, that collectively the effects of size, noise and the likelihood of a global solution to the environmental nuisance of aircraft noise are sufficient to write off the Maplin airport proposal as at present conceived. I must also refer to the masterly review of all the facts and figures made by the man who was Chairman of the British Airports Authority until the beginning of this year, Sir Peter Masefield. Anyone who still believes that Maplin is the best solution should read that article in Flight of August 16.

As against this enormous weight of informed opinion which has substantially increased in weight since we last discussed the matter, we have the anti-noise, or environmental case. I could not be more sympathetic to that case; but there are two points which must be borne in mind and which I submit are decisive. First, the construction of Maplin will not, of itself, reduce the noise around Heathrow and Gatwick and may hinder, if not prevent, its reduction. I listened with particularly great interest to the almost passionate speech of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, when lie told us last July of the noise suffered in South Bucks. But I beg him, and others who have argued with him, to believe that laying down concrete in Essex will not solve his problem. I refrain from repeating the relevant arguments supporting this contention made by Mr. Flowerdew, the former deputy director of research of the Roskill Commission. Moreover, I would say to those who argue strongly on the environmental basis that the accident of residential location is not a conclusive argument in this case. Many now living in South Bucks, of elsewhere would, if they lived in Essex, be taking an equally strong view against the Maplin proposal. This leads me to the second point so well made by my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge in Committee, when he said that a pound spent on reducing noise is better than a pound spent on moving it away to trouble other people.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, told us that the Government policy was to provide quieter aircraft and a new airport. But great as is my enthusiasm for aviation, I do not think that this is feasible. I know that Her Majesty's Government have shown a somewhat lamentable tendency to print paper money but I refer them to the advice recently given by Lord Rothschild who says that it is infinitely better to select priorities—and this argument is about the selection of priorities; it is about how best to spend £1,000 million.

My Lords, can we identify the points on which I think there will be complete agreement. First, the magnitude of the expenditure involved is such that we must as a nation avoid a mistaken decision. Secondly, Her Majesty's Government are wise in bowing to criticism and accepting the need for a further review. Thirdly, Her Majesty's Government are also wise in accepting the assessment that the need for the new runway capacity will not arise until two years after the date that they originally put forward. Fourthly—and I hope that I still have complete agreement on these points—it would be wise to use this respite in further intensive research: checking the figures, giving those engaged in the relevant technologies the maximum time to see what they can do and, importantly, for assembling all the information about regional and national considerations, and testing the Maplin case against the national rather than the South-East criteria.

Here, if I have commanded general agreement so far, the question is whether the time of two years is reasonable and whether it should be written into the Bill. Several reasons strengthen my view that this time of two years should be put into the Bill. First, the Government have selected two years as the acceptable delay in completion. There are others, including my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, who have made out a strong case for a five-year delay, but I thought; not unreasonably, that I might get more support from noble Lords opposite if I kept to the Government's figure of two years. But why put it in the Bill? The reason is that otherwise there will be a great temptation to foreshorten the time taken in compiling the promised reports so that commitments can be made in actual construction work. The reports which, as amended, the Bill requires the Government to lay before this House cover a very wide and important field, and it is absolutely essential that the work is done thoroughly and objectively. One year for this work would not be an unreasonable period; indeed, it may be said that the period should be longer. We have proposals, much greater than first conceived, for a whole new city, virtually extending a built-up area from Shoeburyness to Hounslow. After we get the reports on all these issues they will have to be studied and assessed and Parliament has to be consulted; and I suggest that two years for all this is not being extravagant.

Another reason why I suggest that we should put that figure in the Bill is, if I may put it this way, that the Government's handling of some of these matters recently has not commanded universal admiration. There has been more than one complaint about information being incomplete when Questions were asked or votes were taken. We also recall that "half-baked" Green Paper on the Channel Tunnel and the Government's attempt to get a financial commitment from this House before we rose in July. They bowed to criticism on that issue, and it would be sensible to acknowledge the need to avoid a similar confrontation on this occasion. Moreover there is another factor. Let us face it, our Constitution requires a General Election not later than June, 1975, and it is not inconceivable that it may come earlier. Would it not be more decent to delay the expenditure of significant sums of public money on this project until after that Election has taken place? We know that the construction consortia are eager to get going, but would it not be an affront to find a successor Government making an ultimate decision inevitably influenced or pressured by the fact that contracts had been signed, especially when on the Government's own showing there is no need for haste?

That, my Lords, is my case. The sums involved are so large and the consequences so important that all available time should be used to get the facts established. On the Government's own showing another two years is available. Nothing, therefore, is to be lost; and within a field where new knowledge comes to light almost every month something important may be gained by using those two years in an efficiently planned way. My Lords, I beg to move.

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, I would say a few words in support of this Amendment as my name is attached to it and, without going through any of the background figures and reports again, reinforce what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. I agree with him on the timing. When we first discussed this subject I suggested that the period might be twenty years, but I came to the conclusion, on the final argument that he put to the House, that we should put in two years and defer the decision until after the next General Election, so giving an opportunity to the people to express an opinion, which opportunity has been denied them so far under the bogus consultations entered into by the Secretary of State for the Environment with respect to routes. People were merely offered a choice between a variety of roads approaching the airport from the outskirts of London. They were not told how the traffic was to be dealt with once it had reached the Greater London boundary, and they were not given the option of stating that they did not want the airport, or these works associated with it, at all. Therefore one can attach no importance whatsoever to the results which may be produced by this survey.

The main point here is that we have to take a long-term view and not spend £1,000 million without considering the effect of the facilities coming into use in the 1980's and whether they will still be required on that scale for something like twenty or thirty years beyond that date, so that the public money which has been spent may be properly annotised. We made a mistake in the past with respect to Concorde and I argued equally against that on September 23, 1962, in another place. My advice was not taken on that occasion, with disastrous results I may say—it was not only my advice—and I hope that we shall be a little more sensible after this short debate, so that after a period of reflection the Government and the country may come to a proper conclusion.

My Lords, when I say that one must have a long-term point of view I am reinforced in that opinion, which I have expressed before, by what is happening in the Middle East to-day. When we were talking about this matter in Committee I said that it was quite wrong for us to go ahead with planning airports, or any other large-scale capital facilities, on the basis that the West would have access to unlimited oil supplies; particularly oil supplies coming from the Middle East. That is the only place from which they can come in the time scale we are talking about, between the decision to go ahead and the airfield coming into operation. I wrote to the Prime Minister earlier this year in another context asking whether he thought it wise to continue approving the construction of oil-fired power stations. I pointed to the dangers of a Middle East conflict as being one way in which our oil supplies would be interrupted. The Prime Minister replied that he did not take as pessimistic a view of the situation as I appeared to do. Now we see what has happened. Whether or not the Middle East conflict results in any long-term interruption of our supplies, of one thing we may be absolutely certain: that the cost of oil to Western Europe, and particularly to Great Britain, will rise dramatically over the next seven years.

Already, between 1970 and 1973 the jet fuel price has increased by between 30 per cent. and 110 per cent., depending on which part of the world you take, and estimates made of future increases, such as those by Mr. Kenneth Wilkinson, managing director of Rolls-Royce, predict a threefold to fourfold increase in jet fuel costs by the mid-1980s. I should like to be certain that we have taken this into account in calculating what the total increase in air traffic may be in this period, and whether it justifies the provision of facilities costing £1,000 million. I should like, also, to be certain that we have taken properly into consideration the effect of constructing the Channel Tunnel, a matter which we may be discussing within the next few weeks. If one takes the rather conservative estimates made by Cooper Brothers & Company and Lybrand Associates on the diversion of air traffic service by the construction of the Channel Tunnel, they amount to £28.7 million in 1980 and £46.6 million in 1990. I had the opportunity of discussing these figures with Dr. Barnardo, of British Rail, and I asked him whether, in the light of British Rail's experience when the North-Western line was electrified and the diversion of passengers from Ridgway to Heathrow on to the railways, he would not think that these figures were cautious. He replied: "Yes, that is so"; that nearly 100 per cent. of the passengers between Manchester and London switched from air to rail, and the only ones who continued to travel by air were the inter-line passengers who were carrying on to some further destination. He thought that once the tunnel was operational and you could travel from London to Paris in 3 hours 40 minutes, and from London to Brussels in 3 hours 25 minutes, there would be virtually a 100 per cent. diversion of the traffic, whereas of course Cooper Brothers and Lybrand Associates' estimates make provision for a lower share of the traffic being diverted.

This is without taking into account the advent of the high-speed train which further reduces the journey time between London and Paris and London and Brussels, the two which have been particularly studied. It gives the opportunity for surface transport to capture a much greater share of the market in the destinations further into Europe—Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and so on, the big Ruhr destinations, and further South into France. Also, of course, the domestic traffic: if one can travel from London to Edinburgh or London to Glasgow in four or five hours, from city centre to city centre, I daresay that most people who have to make these journeys would sooner go with certainty on the railways than problematically on the airways, particularly in the winter. You would get a large-scale diversion there on British airways motor-density populated domestic routes. So I think the high-speed train will have a vast effect on the volume of traffic being generated from London.

I think, also, my Lords, that we are beginning to consider, though not in as much detail, so far, as I should like, the possibility of services originating in the Provinces and in Scotland and going straight to Continental destinations. It is not so many years ago that I remember attending a hearing of the Air Transport Licensing Board when British Caledonian were prohibited from operating a service direct from Glasgow to Majorca because under the 1960 Air Transport Licensing Act there was a clause which said you should not materially divert from existing services. It was pointed out to British Caledonian that it was quite easy for passengers from Glasgow to come down to Heathrow and get on another plane which was already available to take them on to their holiday destination in Majorca. That has changed. People are demanding that they should be able to fly direct from Castle Donington, Prestwick or wherever it may be to their holiday destinations. This again will have a damaging effect on the growth of air traffic from Heathrow.

So, my Lords, for all these reasons, I think if we were to wait for the two years as suggested by the noble Lord in his Amendment, we should find that the Third London Airport at Maplin was completely unnecessary.

There is one further point that I want to make before I sit down, and I would ask the noble Lord who is to reply if he will deal with it. In the Evening Standard of August 31 there was reference to a confidential document, which is supposed to have been distributed to local authorities, outlining contingency plans which would need to be implemented if Maplin had to be scrapped altogether. This document is said to have been drawn up by the British Airports Authority. I am not aware that it has ever been publicly admitted to exist by the Government. But it deals with some essential points, such as the re-siting of the sewage works and various other matters that would have to be taken into consideration if Heathrow and Gatwick were to take up the whole of the increase in the traffic to be expected in the 'eighties.

Following on what the noble Lord said in moving his Amendment, here is a good example of incomplete information being given to the House and to the country. Apparently some privileged local authorities are being allowed to see it. I cannot for the life of me imagine why it should be concealed from your Lordships or from others who may find it interesting, and particularly those who live in the neighbourhoods of Heathrow and Gatwick, who would like to know what the effect is going to be on their environment. In any case, this article stated: There is a programme of improvement at both the existing London Airports costing about £100 million and aiming at catering for big increases in the number of passengers using these two airports. If we are spending that amount of money on expanding Heathrow and Gatwick, and at the same time are talking about £1,000 million at Maplin, I suggest that there is something wrong. We have to do it, anyway. We are committed, if the figures are correct, to the expansion of those two airports. There will be the passengers going through them. Yet, at the same time, this is not going to be adequate, and £1,000 million of the taxpayers' money must be spent on duplicating those facilities elsewhere. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to give us a little more information on this subject and, even more, that he will publish the Report to which I have just referred. Coming back to the substance of the Amendment, if we are given two years and people are entitled to express an opinion on it at the next General Election, I personally will be well satisfied.


My Lords, I must apologise for speaking in the way that I did, but I did glance at the empty Liberal Front Bench, and I hope the noble Lord did not mind. I assure your Lordships that I shall not detain you for long, but I am of a mind to oppose this Amendment for one specific reason, and that is that the delay which the noble Lord seeks to put into the Bill would affect development of the seaport. I take the view that this would be most imprudent; that we should do nothing to delay plans, and possibly work, which would go to the construction of the seaport. Other than that, frankly, I go the whole way with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick; and I do so for a number of reasons. I take a view which one noble Member of our Front Bench described as rather revolutionary, which I will expose to your Lordships in a few moments. First of all, the plan as now laid down has the railway terminal in King's Cross. I cannot see how that will help in connecting our existing airports with an airport at Maplin, if and when it is constructed.

The second factor which I have in mind is that we are spending a great deal of money, spread over a number of years, on the tidal barrage at Greenwich in fear of a tidal surge in the Thames. I believe that delay over Maplin would be wise, except in respect of the seaport, for the reason that planners, as time goes on, will take the view that what we are planning now is not nearly big enough. I believe that the reclamation of the sands should be extended far East of the existing planned seaport, thus narrowing the channel of the Thames, in such a way as the Dutch have done with the Scheldt, so that the tidal barrier at Greenwich will no longer be necessary.

But the great factor, to my mind, of an extension of the reclamation towards the North Sea is that ultimately this would allow for a composite road and rail access over or under the river to Kent, especially if a new airport is to be built. I think we must bear in mind that such a connection from one side of the Thames Estuary to the other would provide direct and high-speed rail connections between existing airports of Gatwick and Heathrow and Victoria, with a new airport. The Starred Question asked earlier to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, has a bearing on this. It is possible that modern forms of traction may provide a high-speed direct system which would be apposite to the whole complex. It would also provide rail transportation connecting the new docks with the South of England and, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, stressed, with the possibility of a Channel Tunnel, which I personally do not see, but which nevertheless may come to pass.

Thirdly, it will provide a road access from Essex and the Midlands to the South-East which would provide not only a direct transport system between the Midlands and the South but would act as an orbital—an Eastern orbital—highway to the whole London area, thereby relieving the pressures in the centre. This factor, I believe, is a very important one and I might go further and say that it would be a step in the direction of still more massive development in terms of reclamation on the Dutch model of agricultural land, too many acres of which are being absorbed by concrete throughout our small island to-day. Incidentally, it should be recalled that investment in reclamation for agriculture is not so much money down the drain; it is profitable investment, it is not only outgoings.

My Lords, incidentally I notice one point in the Bill that I should like the Minister to explain if possible. Clause 2(5) reads: The remainder may be— (a) used by the Authority for such recreational, amenity or other purposes"— going on— but not commercial or industrial purposes. Do the "other purposes" include agriculture and horticulture? But that is a minor point.

To conclude, my Lords, a direct highspeed service between Heathrow, Gatwick and the new airfield—and I think this should be borne in mind—would make dual provision for air crews and Air Force personnel in existing accommodation and predicted accommodation. I say "predicted" because between now and 1982 there is bound to be considerable expenditure for the accommodation of personnel in other airports. It would provide dual purpose provision for such people to commute with the Maplin airport, if and when it is built, and thus reduce the demand and the enormous expenditure required for the establishment of new accommodation there. For that one reason alone I would oppose the Amendment and would ask your Lordships' forgiveness if I disappear to a meeting a little after four o'clock. I shall be back as soon as possible. It is for that reason that I hope your Lordships will not think I was importunate or impertinent to jump up at this stage.

3.24 p.m.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will forgive me for speaking. This is the first time I have opened my mouth in any of the Maplin debates which have taken place. I have tried not to be pro-Maplin or anti-Maplin in my views but I am quite sure that we need a much more objective, disinterested and independent report before anyone can say that he is genuinely pro-Maplin. Looking back at the Roskill Commission, they had the wrong terms of reference, and anyhow their findings are now outdated technically and have proved wrong in many forecasts. Therefore I welcome the Government pledge that there will be an objective review, Let me remind the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, of his own words: 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". With those words I cannot but think that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, ought to be supporting the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. I support the Amendment because, unless reclamation work and public works are delayed for two years, we shall be half committed by the time the report is in our hands. If the Government, when they receive a report, have already embarked upon a considerable volume of expenditure of taxpayers' money they will find it very hard, if the balance is a narrow one, to come down against the project. We are half committed, I feel, if public works are allowed to continue parallel with the consideration of this report.


My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend will allow me to intervene. I hope the House will not go off on a wrong tack over this. It is quite plain that until the order is made none of the major expenditure can take place and the limit of the expenditure that can be debited to the Maplin Development Authority when it takes over is £2 million.


My Lords, if the Government refuse this Amendment public expenditure would continue while the consideration was going on and until the Government had made up their mind. The Government decided that the first runway must be completed by 1980, and now we are told that 1982 is adequate and sufficient. We were told that 1980 was vital, was important, and that civil aviation would suffer severely if the first runway was not opened by 1980. We are now told 1982, without any supporting evidence that the harm the Government expected has in fact been dissipated by subsequent events. I do not think we should confuse the need for a third London airport with the need for new terminals. It is a very popular idea, widely spread, that the discomforts, the delays, the inadequate facilities which we all suffer from at London and other airports will be put right if we have the new Maplin airport. We can make new terminal buildings of comfort and adequacy without having to make a new airport. When we consider Maplin we should remember that fact.

My Lords, there are many risks to Maplin which I hope the Committee which is going to investigate will go into, and I mention but one. I believe the bird risk is something that should not be shrugged off lightly, as the Minister for the Environment did in another place when he said: There has apparently never been a fatal accident attributed to birdstrike on a United Kingdom revenue-earning aircraft.… Most birdstrike incidents of any kind appear to have very little effect."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons; 8/2/73, col. 672.] The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, referred to Sir Peter Masefield. If Sir Peter Masefield's words are to carry any weight, the birdstrike menace is something so severe that it alone would nullify the Maplin project. If a bird weighing 2 lb. hits an aircraft going at a reasonable speed its force is no less than 20,000 lb. Birdstrikes cost the Royal Air Force £1 million last year. One birdstrike in a thousand take-offs is something we cannot afford to risk.

My Lords, that is but one factor which I hope your Lordships will be able to consider and which will also be considered by the other place. I should like there to be an inquiry which would go more deeply than has been done so far into birdstrikes and other risks. At the end of the day I believe that Maplin may well he a "dead duck". The Minister for the Environment has said we are going ahead. A junior Minister, Mr. Eldon Griffiths, is never tired of saying how necessary and how vital Maplin is to our best interests. When I read statements such as these, I ponder on the question: when does determination stop and obstinacy start? I do not know the answer, but I rather begin to think that we have gone over the line of determination and are now coming into the field of obstinacy. I may be wrong, but at any rate I can see no harm but only good coming from supporting the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick—the taxpayers' money should not be committed for another two years from now.

3.32 p.m.


My Lords, I found it difficult to follow the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. He said that in two years' time a third London airport may not be necessary. He did not say why. He went on to talk about the future cost of fuel. He may well be right, but I have no doubt that even if fuel went up by 50 per cent., or even 100 per cent., it would not stop people from travelling, either in the motor car or in the aeroplane. It might reduce the number of flights, and in this connection I heard this morning that aviation fuel may well increase in price by 90 per cent. by next summer. I dare say the airlines will put up their fares but I feel pretty sure that most people will still travel. Flights may well have to be cut, but it still does not help in the problem facing the Government regarding airports.

I would say to noble Lords opposite—and there are quite a number of them here who were Members of the 1945–50 Parliament—that they carry very grave responsibility for the conception and the layout of Heathrow Airport. There has never been a bigger muddle: never. It is not so much the movements of aircraft, as I understand it, but the movements of people and the congestion. Every building within the apex of the triangle is congested—it is impossible to make sense out of it: it is stark, raving mad. Of course, even now it is not too late, as my noble friend has said, to build terminals round the perimeter of London Airport, and probably at minimal cost.

I am not sold on the idea of Maplin by any means, though I am perhaps a little nearer to it than I was before the Recess; but I believe that the Government have got themselves into these difficulties entirely through their own fault. They have not conveyed to the people and Parliament the facts. A great many things need to be known if you are going to change the environment in this kind of way. I still do not know when the railway may be in operation and whether it will be above ground or below ground, and, for instance, how long it will take to get to the centre of London. Communications are very important in a matter such as this. I quite agree with my noble friend who has just spoken about a new harbour: we could very well do with a new harbour. Could we not reach a compromise on this point with the land reclamation project? Land, once reclaimed, may be worth £40,000, £50,000, £60,000 an acre. As he said, it is not money thrown away. But I think we should ponder very carefully before we start building the new airport itself. Here again I support my noble friend in what he said, but I would not vote against the Government. I am prepared to give them a chance to see whether they can convey to Parliament and the public more information. We all need to know very much more about it. The case has not been made out by any means. Even to this day, since 1945, when the noble Lord, Lord Winster, went to London Airport and lifted the first sod—I think it was January 1—we still have not got a direct railway into Heathrow. Successive Governments carry a very grave responsibility in this respect.

I want to know how many aircraft will be operating in the 1980s and what size they will be: will they be large or small ones? Will the Government follow the example of the United States Government in efforts to reduce the noise level of aircraft? The Government were questioned on this subject when the matter was raised a few months ago and they are not prepared to admit—or they were not in the summer—that the Americans are making far more progress than we are in trying to reduce the noise level of jet engines. Can we be told more about that? I would say to the Government, "Get busy and inform the public. Give them as much detail as possible. They are paying for it, when all it said and done, and they are entitled to know."

3.36 p.m.


My Lords, I must support my noble friend's Amendment. I supported him on Second Reading and I am happy to do so again now. I asked at that time for a five-year delay, but clearly if the issue is a two-year delay I shall be happy to go along with that. Most of the arguments in favour of this Amendment have been put forward already. I shall not go through them again, but I think it might be helpful to sum them up. The balance is between a number of certainties and a number of uncertainties. The certainties are the destruction of a certain amount of good agricultural land, the urbanisation of a quiet and peaceful district and the destruction of a most admirable sailing area (and sailing is a growing amenity in this country). The greatest certainty, of course, is the expenditure of an enormous sum of money, and anyone who talks about a thousand million in 1973 will by 1983 quite clearly be talking about something very much larger. By far the most important thing, in my view, is spending this sum of money in the one place in the whole of the British Isles where it is important not to urbanise, and thereby making it impossible to spend such a sum of money in the areas where it is required. The last certainty is perhaps the most distressing of all. Everybody seems to be agreed that whatever we do in the way of a new airport, whether at Maplin or anywhere else, nothing will bring relief to the persecuted people around Heathrow and Gatwick within ten years. My Lords, those are the certainties.

The uncertainties are the present estimates of increased passenger and freight traffic. As the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, pointed out on Second Reading—though he did so in a different sense from my own—a one per cent. error can make a difference of 10 million passengers; that is, from 84 million to 94 million upwards. Of course the same error can do the same thing downwards. A margin of one per cent. is very low. The chances are that the estimates now being made about passenger and tourist traffic are really very unreliable indeed in relation to the rapid development of every kind that is going on. The second uncertainty was well brought out by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury: that as alternative means of transport get so very much better, will people want to fly so much? I should have thought not, but nobody knows. It is entirely uncertain. The same thing applies to the Channel Tunnel. The third uncertainty is whether the Government or anyone else can bully the airlines into using this place, because at the moment they seem absolutely determined not to go there. The fourth uncertainty concerns oil, and no one can tell where the trouble will stop.

It seems to me, therefore, that we ought not to decide on doing irreparable damage at a very great cost with an absolutely uncertain dividend. It could be that after two years the Government might be able to give better and more accurate estimates and to convince us that there must be a third London airport. I am not convinced now, but I could be convinced, and if I were I should be inclined to say that its siting at Maplin would do less harm than anywhere else in the South of England, though I can see no reason whatever why it should be there. But until we have better information surely we ought to ask for time, which is all that this Amendment does.

The arguments over the birdstrike, I think, are frightfully important. The first time I ever heard of this was about five years ago when sitting at lunch next to Mr. Peter Masefield. We were talking about Foulness as an alternative to Stansted, to which I was bitterly opposed, and he said that the real argument against Foulness was the birds. Nothing whatever has altered that situation. It is extremely dangerous and, from a natural history point of view, it is a fearful pity. There are occasions on which I would think it reasonable to move a feeding ground of a unique species like Brent Geese, but I would need good proof before I accepted it, and we simply have not got that.

Probably the most important uncertainty is the possibility of improvements (a) in carrying capacity, (b) in noise and (c) in take-off of aircraft. My noble friend Lord Beswick has spoken about these matters; nobody knows how quickly progress will be made. I should like to repeat my plea made on Second Reading that £1 spent on these matters would be worth a great deal more than £1 spent on this wild gamble on the Maplin Sands. I have great pleasure in supporting my noble friend's Amendment.


My Lords, I should like to rise in support of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for three overwhelming reasons. The first is a personal one: of all the queries I raised on Second Reading not one has been answered. Secondly, as the Government say they are not going to build Maplin for another two years, why cannot they therefore say that they will put in the Bill that they will not build it for two years? A third reason is that it seems to me that some sloppy thinking has gone on with this airport business, by the previous Government regarding Stansted, and by this Government over Maplin. Before we spend these vast sums of money we must get the answers right. I am not yet convinced that we have got them right and therefore I support the noble Lords, Lord Beswick and Lord Avebury.


My Lords, may I say one word in support of the Amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury? If we invest these large sums in Maplin we shall be investing in the past; and I think we should be investing in the future. This country was at its most powerful when it was exploiting its inventions and innovations. Before we are committed to this vast expenditure we should try to assess whether not only new forms of surface transport are likely to be developed rapidly in the next decade, but also whether the kind of aerial transport which we have talked about in the past is likely to develop at the same time. We are in grave danger of building an airport which will be completely out of date by the time it is finished. Already in the Royal Air Force there are vertical take-off aeroplanes, and Hawker Siddeley are about to build a short-take-off and landing civil aircraft. These are developments which in the next decade could progress with the greatest possible rapidity, both here and abroad. We should try to make some assessment of the rapidity of these developments as well as the developments of surface transport before we commit ourselves to this great project; and two years is just about the time in which this could be done. I should feel a great deal safer if this provision, as proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Beswick and Lord Avebury, were introduced into the Bill.

3.43 p.m.


My Lords, we have certainly had an extremely interesting debate on this Amendment. I thought I detected a certain degree of frustration from among certain speakers, particularly in the references to the amount of information that had been made available to the public and Parliament. Perhaps we have not been very fortunate in this matter. On the Second Reading debate I did my best to inform Parliament and I did so at perhaps undue length; and then, unfortunately, Hansard did not appear so the opportunity was not as I had expected. Very many questions have been raised to-day on this Amendment, but these are just the questions on which the Government have undertaken to report, and I shall be referring to this again in what I have to say. I am quite certain noble Lords will not wish me to examine in detail to-day the questions that have been raised because I would be making another excessively long speech.

The effect of this Amendment would be to impose a statutory delay of two years from the date of Royal Assent before the date which the Secretary of State could appoint, by an Order under Clause 2(9), as the date on which the Maplin Development Authority could begin to undertake the reclamation works authorised by Clause 2 of the Bill. If the Amendment were accepted the effect would be that the Secretary of State could make an Order at any time, but the date appointed by the Order could not be before the end of October, 1975. We envisage that an Order under Clause 2(9) would not be made until the Maplin Development Authority were ready to set in motion the procedures for the letting of the reclamation contract. Allowing six months for tendering, selection of a contractor, letting a contract, and a mobilisation on the site, an Order authorising reclamation to begin in October, 1975, might be laid in March or April, 1975.

The grounds on which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has justified the need for his Amendment amount to the fact that he wants to have the fullest possible inquiry. He is not deeply enamoured of the project itself, but I do not think he allowed this to cloud unduly his moving of the Amendment to-day. He referred to the reference which the Secretary of State for the Environment made in a speech on September 12 as to the date on which the runway is likely to be required. What my right honourable friend said has been widely misunderstood. The burden of his remarks then was that financially and economically we could afford to press ahead with both the Channel Tunnel and Maplin, and should do so if they were justified on their merits. The Secretary of State showed how the expenditure on these two projects together related to the national resources. He pointed out that in peak years of expenditure on them, towards the end of the 1970s, the combined expenditure would be about £150 million a year at 1972 prices.

In making his statment the Secretary of State clearly had to take account of the latest information about the likely timetable for expenditure both on the Channel Tunnel and on Maplin. The Maplin timetable now shows an airport opening date of 1982; and as timing of expenditure was the main point at issue the Secretary of State decided that it would be right to mention this date. When the Government made their original announcement about Maplin we said that we accepted the Roskill Commission's view that the first runway at the new airport would need to be operational by "about 1980". Since then we have said that it is our intention to have the new airport operational by the early 1980s; and a 1982 opening date is clearly consistent with this.

If I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, made too much of the postponement by two years as he represented it. What we have been saying is that the new airport should be operational by the early 1980s and, as I said, 1982 is consistent with this. In addition, I am sure it is only right to take into account the report of the Civil Aviation Authority.

The Secretary of State's statement did not, therefore, represent any deliberate deferment of the Maplin project. It is simply that our planning for Maplin has now reached a stage at which it is possible to give a reasonably realistic date by which the airport could become operational; and it was essential to the general line of the Secretary of State's argument that this date should be stated. The fact is that the whole period between now and spring 1982 is need for the statutory, design, and construction activities essential to opening the airport in 1982. To meet the 1982 opening date we must therefore press on with our planning for all the aspects of the Maplin project. The study to which the Government are committed need not lead to any further delay, for planning and preparatory work will proceed in parallel. But an arbitrary decision to defer the start of reclamation to October, 1975, would delay the opening of this Maplin airport, and this in its turn might well lead to a need for considerable extra expenditure at existing airports.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, argued that a start on reclamation before October, 1975, would be inconsistent with the production of an adequate report to Parliament under Clause 2(9). For that reason, it would be useful for me to give a broad outline of the Government's intentions with regard to the study. The study will cover—I am not ashamed to use the word which I used on Second Reading, to which the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, referred: all the factors affecting the need for the project". The first task will be to look again at forecasts of demand and of capacity up to 1990. This examination will take account of the various ways in which critics of the Maplin product have suggested that previous forecasts in this field may now prove to have been unsoundly based. So we shall consider the effects of the Channel Tunnel on air traffic, which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, suggested; we shall consider the effects of trends in aircraft size; we shall consider the effects of technological developments such as reduced take-off and landing, to which the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, referred; of the prospects for the future supply and price of aviation fuel, which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, also mentioned; and of the likely growth in traffic passing through regional airports, which has not been mentioned quite so much as I expected. In looking at this last point we shall clearly take account of the views on regional airports recently put forward by the Association of British Chambers of Commerce.

The noble Lord, Lord Balfour, referred to bird strike. My noble friend Lord Kinnoull asked the Government a Question last June, to which my noble friend Lord Mowbray replied, about the plans to examine how the various animals and birds would be affected by the reclamation. He then said that the Government had commissioned the Natural Environment Research Council to undertake a programme of research into Maplin wildlife. This will be going on, and, as I have said, all relevant matters affecting the project will be examined, and I have no doubt at all that this will very much include bird strike.

In the light of this examination of the demand and capacity situation it will be possible to consider the various alternative ways in which the expected growth in air traffic in the South-East might be handled—either with or without Maplin. Since the last debate on the Bill, the British Airports Authority have made clear, in their latest Annual Report, their view of the implications for their existing airports if Maplin were abandoned. They suggest, for instance, that by 1990 Heathrow would have to be taking two and a half times as many passengers as to-day and Gatwick seven times as many, with a doubling of the number of flights in and out of Gatwick. In addition, Stansted would have to be expanded to become a major airport, busier than Gatwick is to-day—that is about 12 times, or more, the number of passengers they are taking at present. We shall, of course, be looking at all this in our study, but the picture presented by the British Airports Authority gives an indication of the likely scale of the problem.

Perhaps I might mention at this stage that the British Airports Authority are to spend some £100 million, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, on the development of London Airport in the next few years. This is simply to keep up with the rising demand that will go on rising. But our idea is that there is a limit to which it can be allowed to go on rising, and of course there is no doubt at all that very much more money would have to be poured into Heathrow if Maplin were not developed. It is not in any way a duplication of expenditure at Maplin. If Maplin were abandoned, as I said, still further expenditure on Heathrow and Gatwick would be needed. But the £100 million is perhaps a useful indication of how much it costs to handle extra air traffic at existing airports.

My Lords, when we have a view of the various ways in which traffic might be distributed among the various airports we shall then assess the alternative strategies which are open to us. This assessment will cover three main fields. First of all, noise. In the light of the latest information about the development of quieter aircraft engines, we shall produce noise and number index contours for the various airports on the basis of alternative strategies. Our assumptions about aircraft noise will be based on the best information available to us. I should like at this point to refute the suggestion made in the Press some time ago—I think in August—that the Government are suppressing information about quieter engines which has been supplied to them by the National Gas Turbine Establishment at Pyestock, and are deliberately not encouraging the development of quieter engines in order to bolster the case for Maplin. Our report to Parliament will contain the best information available to us on all relevant matters, without any concealment or distortion. And our policy of encouraging the development of quieter engines will continue, for we have always made it clear that, with Heathrow and Gatwick continuing as major airports after Maplin is operational, in our judgment it is only by a combination of encouraging the development of quieter engines and of building Maplin that we can bring really substantial relief to the people around these airports—a view which has received recent support from the Noise Advisory Council, who have stated, in the light of their consideration of the whole question, including the prospects for quieter aircraft, that, solely on noise grounds, a third London airport is needed as soon as practicable.

I turn to infrastructure. We shall consider also the other implications of major airport development for the surrounding areas. Our proposals for Maplin—a corridor containing a new motorway and high-speed link and a major New Town—are well known. But, of course, requirements for access links and major housing development would arise if provision for the expected air traffic growth was made at existing levels. As to cost, again, the gross cost of reclaiming land at Maplin and of building the airport, seaport and new access links is well known: we gave a figure at Second Reading of £825 million at 1972 prices for development up to 1990. We shall need to review this estimate, and, more important, to work out in detail the costs that would be involved in providing the necessary airport facilities, and the supporting infrastructure, in other ways—costs which are usually overlooked by the opponents of the Maplin project.

The airport part of the study will therefore cover all the arguments about Maplin that have been aired, both in Parliament and outside, over the last year while this Bill has been before the House. I am bound to mention particularly, especially as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, mentioned it, the article by Sir Peter Masefield which appeared in Flight International magazine on August 16. Although there are a number of points in Sir Peter's analysis with which I would fundamentally disagree, I think that the broad picture that he presented gives a very good indication of the ground that our study will have to cover. I think that Sir Peter is right, also, to reject the idea that we can simply do nothing about the London airport problem, or that we should now seek another site for a new airport as an alternative to Maplin. As he says, the choice is basically between going ahead with Maplin and extending existing airports. His answer to this question is different from the one which the Government have reached. But we agree that he has asked the right question; and it is on providing a detailed answer to it that our study will concentrate.

As I have made clear, the main emphasis of the study will be on the factors affecting the need for the airport. But we shall not of course neglect the seaport proposals which are an important part of the Maplin project and which my noble friend Lord Ferrier in fact considers to be more important than the airport project. If he will allow me to say so, I found it difficult to understand how he could support that while at the same time supporting the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, in all that he said. Here we shall be consulting the National Ports Council in accordance with the Amendment to the Bill moved by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and carried at the Committee stage. Perhaps I can here remind your Lordships that the P.L.A.'s plans for the seaport, which my noble friend Lord Aldington explained to the House in the Second Reading debate, would be affected by an arbitrary delay in the start of reclamation. As I have made clear in earlier debates, the Government are in no way committed to the P.L.A.'s proposals or to the target date which they have set; but it would not be sensible to erect an artificial obstacle to their realisation if the need for them is proved. Finally, there is the question of regional policy. The Government have put down an Amendment dealing with this which will be discussed shortly, and I shall explain then our intentions in this field.

Our study will be carried out in consultation with the bodies named in Clause 2(9) and also other appropriate bodies and, as that subsection requires, the report to Parliament will accurately reflect the views of the bodies whom we consult. This study will be a substantial undertaking. Work has already started on it, and is being pressed ahead with all speed. It is too early to say exactly how long the study will take, and we shall keep an open mind on the timing in the light of the way in which the study develops. At present, however, we see no reason to believe that the carrying out of a comprehensive study is inconsistent with getting a decision in time for Maplin to be operational by 1982 if the study shows that this is the right course.

In conclusion, may I say that, looked at against this background, I cannot recommend your Lordships to accept the Amendment. There is no question of a two-year slippage in all the aspects of the project. Rather we need to press ahead with all aspects of planning if the 1982 date for the opening of the airport is to remain achievable. Clause 2 as it stands surely provides fully adequate safeguards for those who are not convinced of the case for Maplin. The Government have to produce a report in consultation with all the appropriate bodies, and there will then be a further stage of Parliamentary procedure before reclamation can go ahead. In the end, therefore, it will be for Parliament to decide at that time whether the Government have made out their case. Meanwhile, we have said that we will not commit ourselves to any major construction contracts, either for the reclamation or for any other aspect of the project.

The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has argued that, as there is bound to be an Election not later than the early summer of 1975, we should give the new Parliament (as I understood him) an opportunity to decide whether or not to go ahead with the project. So in effect the longer we put off the final decision, the better. If we were to adopt his philosophy we should never be in time in making any provisions that were necessary for the future. I give noble Lords this assurance: we intend to approach this decision objectively. We shall reach it on the basis of the best forecast that we can obtain and after considering all the relevant data we shall then bring our findings to Parliament. To tell us now that if Parliament agrees that the outcome of the review points in one particular direction, namely, Maplin, we are to sit with folded arms and do nothing, possibly for months and months, even if a new Parliament had not been minded to reverse the decisions—because there could be a new Parliament in the meantime—surely that would be a travesty of decision-making on important issues.

I must tell your Lordships that there is no time to be lost if the runway at Maplin is to be available in 1982. If it is not to be available in 1982 we shall probably have to make alternative provisions. I strongly suggest to your Lordships that this Amendment would add nothing of value to the clause: rather it would be highly undesirable, making it impossible for reclamation to start before October, 1975, and thus arbitrarily deferring the opening date for the airport and seaport. It would surely be quite pointless at this stage to write into the Bill a statutory time limit of this kind. It would be quite unnecessary if for one reason or another it transpired that we could not in any case get the reclamation started until October, 1975. But if our report to Parliament confirms that Maplin is the right solution and that it is needed earlier than the starting date for reclamation would allow, it would surely be absurd to have to wait until this date to make a start. As the final decision will be for Parliament when the report and Order are laid, I submit that no purpose is served by Parliament's taking a view, before the facts are put before it, of the earliest date which the Order should appoint as the date when reclamation can begin. So I hope that, despite what has been said in this debate, noble Lords will not support this Amendment.


My Lords, we are obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, for the points that he has put before us, but I am bound to tell him that they do not dissuade me from supporting my own Amendment and that in the name of my noble friend, and I hope that the House will see fit to put this delay into the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, made a great point of the fact that there had been no delay announced by the Government. I know that since Mr. Rippon made that Statement there has been some attempt to put a different gloss upon it, and Mr. Eldon Griffiths, too, made a Statement in which he purported to explain what was meant by Mr. Rippon when Mr. Rippon said that the date would be put back by two years. According to the Financial Times of September 25, Mr. Eldon Griffiths said at the end that he regretfully concluded that 1982 was a realistic date and that we ought to make this clear so that people would no longer be working on the basis of the 1980 target". That is what he said. There has been a delay of two years and it really is not helping the Government's case to try to twist words which have been uttered by a Government Minister. There has been a delay of two years. All I am saying is that we should, in a deliberate, planned way, use these extra two years which we now say we have, in order to make certain that the decision, when taken, is as soundly based as possible.

The noble Lord said that they had to press ahead with their plans: of course they must press ahead with the plans and most commentators have said that there should be research going on. I am not against making the plans. My Amendment will affect the actual construction work. That is what the two years' date relates to. Also I suggest to the noble Lord that the time I am giving is time that can be fully used to assemble the information that they have now said they will bring before the House. In the Bill it is required of the Government—and I have thanked them and others have thanked them for putting this in the Bill—that the Secretary of State shall consult with the Civil Aviation Authority, the British Airports Authority, the National Ports Council, the Port of London Authority, the Maplin Development Authority and such other persons as appear to him to be appropriate, and shall lay a report of those consultations. I want to make certain that these are not just consultations which conform to the letter of that law but not the spirit. I want to make absolutely certain that those consultations are as full as possible. I want to get all the facts. The noble Lord knows as well as I do of the work that is going on now in the Gas Turbine Establishment, and at Farnborough and elsewhere, and as I have said, almost every month we get new information as to the problems and some of the solutions. Not always is the thinking going in one direction; sometimes it may be decided that this is not right and that another avenue should be explored. But if we have two years, let us not try to have these consultations rushed through to satisfy the wording of the Act, simply to try to get work started. By all means let planning continue, but bear in mind, too, that against the wishes of the Government we now have this undertaking to consider the national aspects of the seaport.

The noble Lord himself said on the Recommitment stage that although his noble friend Lord Aldington made the speech he did, no proposals had yet come forward from the Port of London Authority. When those proposals do come they will have to go before the National Ports Council, and it was the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, who said that this would take time. That was his argument against accepting that Amendment, but that Amendment is now in the Bill, and that time will have to be taken. I say to the House that this two-year period is not going to be a period of delay; it is going to be a period that can be fully used, so that when we start we shall start on the basis of the fullest information that we can obtain.


My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting? What we are really talking about is if, as we think, a report based upon the necessary consultation with the appropriate people is ready, is it right to delay artificially the starting of the reclamation if we find we do not need all the time the noble Lord thinks we need? Is it right then not to get on with the job that has to be done so as to leave the maximum time possible for the work on the ground before the time when we need the first runway in 1982?


My Lords, the noble Lord can put it that way, but I can put it another way. The Government can get on the telephone to some of the various authorities and can say, "We want this information by Christmas" They can say that. I go even so far as to say that in certain cases they may have said that already. But if they are going to have their consultations in that way, that is not doing the business in the way I think the House wished it to be done when we accepted the Amendment in the first place. These consultations have to be as complete as possible. I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, would seriously controvert this. If all is done not only for the specific matters relating to Maplin but in relation to the deep water possibilities in Southampton, on the West Coast of England and in Scotland, and those possibilities are to be fully considered before making a decision about the Port of London proposals, if all

that is gone into as well, as it ought to be, the two years is not too long a time. I therefore suggest that we accept this Amendment. It will not hurt anybody. On the Government's own calculations it will not put back the date at which we can get this airport in operation if we decide to go ahead with it.

4.14 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 67; Not-Contents, 105.

Albemarle, E. Fulton, L. Phillips, B.
Amherst, E. Gaitskell, B. Platt, L.
Archibald, L. Garnsworthy, L. Popplewell, L.
Arwyn, L. George-Brown, L. Rathcreedan, L.
Avebury, L. [Teller.] Gifford, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Aylestone, L. Hale, L. Rowallan, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Hall, V. Sainsbury, L.
Beswick, L. Henderson, L. Segal, L.
Birk, B. Henley, L. Shackleton, L.
Blackett, L. Hoy, L. Shannon, E.
Blyton, L. Jaques, L. [Teller.] Shepherd, L.
Brock way, L. Kennet, L. Shinwell, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Kings Norton, L. Slater, L.
Champion, L. Leatherland, L. Somers, L.
Chorley, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Strabolgi, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Summerskill, B.
de Clifford, L. McLeavy, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. MacLeod of Fuinary, L. Wade, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Meston, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Douglass of Cleveland, L. Molson, L. Wright of Ashton under L[...] L.
Energlyn, L. Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Evans of Hungershall, L. Onslow, E. Younger of Leckie, V.
Foot, L. Pargiter, L.
Aberdare, L. Effingham, E. Limerick, E.
Aldenham, L. Elliot of Harwood, B. Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Elton, L. Long, V.
Alport, L. Emmet of Amberley, B. Loudoun, C.
Atholl, D. Erskine, of Rerrick, L. Lyell, L.
Auckland, L. Falkland, V. Mancroft, L.
Balerno, L. Ferrers, E. Margadale, L.
Balfour, E. Ferrier, L. Maybray-King, L.
Barnby, L. Garner, L. Merrivale, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Goschen, V. Mersey, V.
Belstead, L. Gowrie, E. Milverton, L.
Berkeley, B. Grenfell, L. Monck, V.
Bledisloe, V. Grimston of Westbury, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]
Brabazon of Tara, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Moyne, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, B. Hankey, L. Northchurch, B.
Cawley, L. Hanworth, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Cholmondeley, M. Harvey of Prestbury, L. Oakshott, L.
Clwyd, L. Hawke, L. Penrhyn, L.
Coleraine, L. Hayter, L. Perth, E.
Colville of Culross, V. Hereford, Bp. Porritt, L.
Colyton, L. Hodson, L. Rankeillour, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Hood, V. Rathcavan, L.
Courtown, E. Hurcomb, L. Reigate, L.
Craigavon, V. Hylton-Foster, B. Rochdale, V.
Daventry, V. Inchyra, L. Rochester, Bp.
Denham. L. [Teller.] Ironside, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Drumablyn, L. Kinloss, Ly. Salisbury, Bp.
Dundee, E. Kinnaird, L. Sandford, L.
Eccles, V. Lauderdale, E. Sandys, L.
Stamp, L. Stratheden and Campbell, L. Vernon, L.
Stocks, B. Strathspey, L. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Stonehaven, V. Teviot, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Strathclyde, L. Thomas, L. Windlesham, L. (L. Privy Seal.)
Strathcona and Mount Royal, L. Tweedsmuir, L. Wise, L.
Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, B. Young, B.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.22 p.m.

LORD BESWICK moved Amendment No. 2: Page 2, line 23, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this Amendment which I now move is to enable the Government to explain a point which they failed to explain in another place. It was raised there but there did not appear to be time to have an adequate discussion. What is being said here is that the Government are giving to the Authority power to take over far more land than is necessary for the seaport and the airport, and the question arises as to why they want so much. One estimate I have seen suggests that they are making provision for seven times as much land for the airport as would reasonably be expected for a two runway airport. Also they have the power compulsorily to acquire land in Clause 6 and in Schedule 4, to acquire rights or to institute rights over other land, and again the question is asked for what purpose is this land needed.

Of course, the Government will say that the purpose of the land is for the functions of the Maplin Development Authority in relation to the two projects, the airport and the seaport. But there is this phrase: "and for purposes connected with those matters". The question I am putting to the noble Lord is, will he define what are those "purposes connected with those matters"? It can be said that anything that is done or will be done in that part of England, if they have the seaport and the airport there, will be in connection with the purposes of the airport or the seaport. One can well understand that there will be arguments in the future that the Maplin Development Authority are compulsorily acquiring land which was not envisaged at the time Parliament passed this Bill. I think, therefore, that it should be made quite clear exactly what they have in mind, what are these purposes, how limited are they going to be, and, moreover, why the Government are making provision for taking over land in such quantities. I am only asking for information here; I shall not press it to a Division. But I would be grateful to the noble Lord if he could answer some of these questions which are asked in all good faith. I beg to move.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has asked why it is necessary to have any land that is extra to the precise requirements for the airport and the seaport, and he has said that this has not been made clear. He quoted a figure that I understand he had read somewhere which suggested that the amount of land extra to those requirements could be as much as seven times that of the airport and seaport. I should like immediately to repudiate that figure. I cannot imagine where it came from. The figure that has been quoted of the amount of land that might be surplus—and I emphasise "might"—is about 3,000 acres of the reclaimed land.

The reason why this surplus land arises is, as I understand it, a technical reason to do with the reclamation of land. Tests are being carried out at Wallingford on the effects of reclamation, the effects on the sea and the various operations connected with the reclamation project, to see what is the best shape and size for the reclamation of the airport and the seaport. It is thought that this will lead to some extra land being available when all this is concluded. I cannot say precisely how much this will be because it will be determined by the scientific investigation at present going on. That is the answer to the first question, as to why there is land which is extra to requirement.

We then turn to the question of what should happen should there he land extra to requirement, and this is set out in Clause 2, subsection (5). I should like to repeat the assurance that has already been given, that there will be no major industrial complex at Maplin on the reclaimed land. Furthermore, we have indicated in the Bill and at Second Reading that any commercial undertakings or any other kind of undertaking will of course be subject to all the statutory controls. Use of any extra land would, of course be covered by the structure plan of the Essex County Council and would be subject to all the normal planning controls of a local authority. Furthermore, as is stated here, it must meet with the approval of the Secretary of State. So that as far as any other proposal for this extra land is concerned it would be subject to this double safeguard of the normal statutory procedures as well as meeting with the approval of the Secretary of State.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Baroness could tell the House if there is any estimate at this stage of the amount of land we are hoping to reclaim at Maplin in aggregate?


My Lords, is the noble Viscount asking about the total amount of land required for the airport and the seaport?


My Lords, I am asking how much land we are hoping to reclaim under the whole scheme from the sea. Do we know that? Have we any figure for that?


My Lords, the first part of it is about 14.000 acres. This could be extended.


My Lords, who on earth would be likely to want land for recreational or amenity purposes next door to an airport?


My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Somers, has asked the question about who on earth would want extra land. I should have thought that if there was one overriding problem in the whole of the South-East of England it is the question of land. It seems to me that almost every issue in matters of planning comes down to this. Here we have an opportunity to increase the amount of land. I should have thought a recreational use would not be incompatible in this situation.


My Lords, the noble Baroness has rather loosely paraphrased what I tried to say. I did not say that the power of the Authority should be limited to the precise land that would be required for the airport and the seaport. Of course I did not say that, and I understand that there must be a margin for possibilities. But I am not quite certain that the noble Baroness explained why such a large margin should be provided for. Certainly the figure of seven times that of the land required for a two runway airport related to that part of the land which will be reclaimed for the airport, and I take her word for it that this is an exaggeration; but it still remains the fact that, as the Bill now stands, we shall be giving power to the Authority to take over, to compulsorily acquire, and to reclaim, far more land than would appear to be needed. I am not certain why she said this was necessary.

She did not answer my point about the vagueness attached to the words in the Short Title of the Bill, where it says, required for the construction and operation of the airport and the seaport and for purposes connected with those matters. If they have the powers in connection with such a really wide definition there is a liability of some trouble in the future. I wonder whether the noble Baroness would give thought to defining rather more clearly what those purposes are likely to be.


My Lords, perhaps I should have made clearer in my original remarks the point about the extra land. Clause 2(2) makes clear that the intention is to reclaim the amount of land that is required for the airport and seaport. I hope that I have explained that because of this research that is being undertaken the exact shape adopted could lead to something extra. The second question was what were the "purposes connected therewith". This would cover the access roads connected with the airport on the reclaimed land. The Maplin Development Authority has no power to undertake anything other than reclamation. It is not seeking powers to use land for any purpose at all; it is simply there to reclaim the lands. It reclaims them for the purposes of the airport and the seaport, and, if part of that land is required for access, for that purpose.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

4.35 p.m.

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 3: Page 3, line 15, at end insert ("and shall state in that report his assessment of the likely effect on other regions of any development to be carried out in or near the area in which land is to be reclaimed")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. At the Committee stage the noble Earl, Lord Perth, put down an Amendment which would have required the report to Parliament under Clause 2(9) to include an assessment of the regional implications of the project. In the light of comments on the drafting of the Amendment the noble Earl did not himself move it, and when it was moved by the official Opposition it was narrowly defeated. The Government thought about this again, and the effect of the Amendment which they have now put forward is to provide that the report will cover the sort of factors that were referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and other speakers in the Committee stage debate.

There are various ways in which the regional implications of Maplin will need to be considered. First, there is the question of regional airport policy. The extent to which we may expect to see a larger proportion of total United Kingdom air traffic handled at regional airports will be covered in the report under Clause 2(9). The Civil Aviation Authority have commissioned studies of the airport needs of the regions in the next few years, and we shall be taking account of the results in our study as they become available. We shall be considering the recent publication by the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, with its major proposals for airport development in the regions.

Second, there are the regional implications of the proposed seaport, with which I think my noble friend was more concerned. As with all major port developments, the Port of London Authority's proposals for the Maplin seaport will require authorisation under Section 9 of the Harbours Act 1964. Before giving authorisation the Secretary of State is obliged to consult the National Ports Council, who will consider all aspects including the viability of the proposals and their implication for other ports generally.

Then there are the wider regional questions that arise. Basically, what we are concerned with here is the impact on the total national economy of the major expenditure of money and construction resources that will be involved in the Maplin project as a whole—including not only the reclamation and the construction of the airport and seaport, but also the associated access links and new town.

As was pointed out at Committee stage, much of this additional expenditure is basically a function of the decisions on the location of the airport and the seaport. Broadly speaking, if the results of our study show that there is a need for new airport facilities in the South-East, then the provision of these facilities will represent a major call on construction resources and on public investment wherever they are provided. For instance, a major growth of air traffic handled at Stansted would require massive public investment in new access facilities and in urbanisation. The study will identify the overall costs of the various alternative ways of dealing with the need for new airport facilities, and will thus enable us to identify how far the Maplin project would actually involve extra investment in the South-East, compared with providing extra facilities at the existing London airports.

But we accept that, even when all these comparisons have been made, there remains a perfectly valid question about the implications of major public investment in the South-East for the other regions. I can assure noble Lords that the Government fully understand this. Indeed, that had already been made clear in the Statement which the Secretary of State for the Environment made on September 12 at the time of the publication of the Channel Tunnel White Paper. In that speech the Secretary of State put into perspective the call on resources which the two major projects—the Tunnel and Maplin—together would involve, and showed that, even in peak years at the end of this decade, the gross annual expenditure would represent about 0.3 per cent. of gross domestic product. In terms of the load on the construction industries the two projects would, at their peak, represent less than 4 per cent. of present national output of contracts on new works, and might require some 10,000 workers out of the total national force of over 1½ million.

On the basis of these figures the Secretary of State concluded that, large as these projects are, they are manifestly not so large that they will overstrain our resources, either nationally or regionally. Moreover, the Secretary of State made it clear that the Government are determined to continue to support growth in all the regions, and that their pursuit of major projects which need to be in the South-East, and which are essential to national expansion and prosperity, is in no way inconsistent with this aim.

My Lords, we recognise that Parliament, when it comes to consider our report, will want to see a fuller statement of these issues. As was argued at Committee stage, it does not seem necessary to include in Clause 2(9) a full list of all the issues to be studied, and we have not attempted to put one there. If, when the report is laid, Parliament takes the view that an important issue or important issues have not been properly covered, then the remedy will be in its own hands. However, we recognise the very real concern about regional issues, and are therefore glad to give these special prominence in the Bill. I beg to move.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, I think we have very nearly, or perhaps entirely, got Clause 2(9) right now. We have got in the words "the National Ports Council", and now we have this Government Amendment, which I think embraces the points in all the worries that we had at Committee stage and is better worded than the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, other noble Lords and I put down at that time. So I think it would be right to welcome this Amendment. But before I do that wholeheartedly, I should like to touch on one or two things that the noble Lord said about the report. Not only do I assume that it is going to cover Maplin, the airport and the seaport and the New Town, but I hope, since it is an integral part of the whole of the South East, that the Channel Tunnel will also come into the general assessment. I think it is an essential part of the whole. I should be grateful if the noble Lord could give us some assurance that that will be the case.

Generally, I think my anxieties, and indeed the anxieties of all the noble Lords who spoke on Committee stage, concerned such worries as the vast expenditures involved on these vast new projects, and how much they might upset the economic balance of the country as a whole. We have heard certain reassuring things about this, but I think it is something we want to know much more exactly after the studies have been made. Then, we know that if all of this goes through it will change the face of the country and will change the whole balance of transport—not only air, but all the roads, and so forth. Again, I assume that this aspect will be covered in the report. Lastly, and most important, it will inevitably lead to the magnet of the South East drawing more and more people from other parts of the country. It is bad enough already, but this is inevitably going to make it worse. I think it is very important that in these studies the degree of what may happen is very fully considered. But on the assumption that all these matters will in fact come out in the reports, and in particular making the point that the Channel Tunnel is an integral part of the whole in the sense that it must be considered, then I, for one, would support this Amendment and thank the noble Lord for it.


My Lords, I am glad that the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said that we had nearly got it right, because I think the clause would have been better had we accepted the Amendment about two years. I say that because if one looks at what is involved here one sees that we are putting upon the Secretary of State and upon Her Majesty's Government a very important responsibility. They are undertaking to assess, but if they are going to assess the situation properly with regard to the other regions of the United Kingdom then they are going to need every bit of the time that I suggested we should provide for in the Amendment. However, having said that, I, too, should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, that I appreciate the fact that they have got a form of words which is probably better than the words which were defeated on the last occasion—by 86 to 88, I think it was. They have a superior form of words, and I am very happy to accept them. Will the noble Lord tell us what is the time-scale which they now envisage for this matter? When do they expect to be in a position to lay before the House the results of their inquiries, their consultations and their assessments? When can we expect that they will be coming to us for approval for further work?

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the two noble Lords who have spoken for their reception of this Amendment, which is a genuine attempt to meet the points of view which they expressed. I can give the noble Earl, Lord Perth, an assurance on the subject of the Channel Tunnel. In fact, I have already said that this will be one of the matters which will be looked at in conjunction with the airport and seaport of Maplin; and he will have noticed that the Amendment refers to: any development to be carried out in or near the area in which land is to be reclaimed". We thought that this covered the situation completely in the way he would wish it covered. It is because we recognised the magnet effect, as he called it, of the South East that, on further consideration, we decided to put this Amendment down, to make quite certain that this magnet effect will be taken into consideration. In making this provision, we are doing it in order to meet a specific need arising in the South East and one which would have to be met otherwise, and are trying to ensure that it will not go beyond the purposes that we have in mind. We have to look at it from this point of view, and I think the noble Earl knows perfectly well that, from his point of view and mine, the interests of the regions are likely to be very carefully studied in the whole of this matter.


My Lords, I am afraid the noble Lord has not answered the specific question I put.

LORD DRUMALBYN My Lords, the noble Lord asked me a specific question which I am afraid I am not in a position to answer. It would be wrong for me to give a definite answer on this point. I think that, in a sense, he is doing exactly the opposite to what he was trying to do in the first Amendment. He is now trying to tie me down to a particular date. I am afraid I cannot he tied down. We shall take the time that we need to take in order to fulfil our undertaking.


My Lords, I am not trying to tie the noble Lord down at all. I know he cannot say that it will he Tuesday the 22nd January, or something like that, but can he not give us any indication of the sort of thinking which the Government have? They strenuously resisted the Amendment I put down; they must have had something in their own mind as to what their timetable would be. I ask the noble Lord to give us some indication of the sort of progress which they expect to make within a given time.


My Lords, I am afraid I cannot do this, but I will convey what the noble Lord has said to the Secretary of State, and it may be that in another place he will be able to give that indication.


My Lords, I welcome, of course, the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. I wonder whether I may be allowed to say, without getting into the question of the time-scale, how important it is from my point of view, as a practising airline operator, that the go-ahead for Maplin should not automatically mean that all airport development in the regions will be frozen and sterilised. There will be the inevitable extrapolation and increase of traffic during the 10, 11 or 12 years before Maplin is operational, and I think it would make confusion all the more confounded if no provision were made for looking after some of that ex-pansion at the existing regional airports.


My Lords, I think that this is something which will have to be looked at in the survey, but at present it is a matter of discussion. I assure the noble Lord it is not something that is being let go by default.

Clause 10 [Havengore Creek]:

4.51 p.m.

THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE (LORD SANDFORD) moved Amendment No. 4: Page 6, line 4, at end insert ("and the Authority may provide installations for facilitating the use of the channel.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 4 and to suggest that it might be for the convenience of the House to consider with it Amendment No. 5, for much of what I have to say will cover both. We now move to subjects of rather a different nature and scale from those which have occupied us so far on this stage of the Bill but they are of great importance to those whom they concern; namely, that large and growing number of people who enjoy "messing about in boats" including those who (totalling about 500 a year) make use of Havengore Creek, and, in particular, those small sailing vessels which are capable of using this passage and between them making about five passages a week. The Amendments are not only of particular importance to this group but also of signifinance in showing in a general way an earnest of Her Majesty's Government's: intention to deal sympathetically and generously with all the legitimate interests that could be adversely affected if, after the review that we have been talking about has been considered. Parliament gives a "green light" to Maplin.

As your Lordships will recall from what I said on the earlier stage of the Bill, the clause which is amended, Clause 10, was inserted by the Commons following the Report of their Select Committee. It was considered by our Select Committee and it was further considered on recommitment by this House. The purpose of the Amendments to the clause is to make it still easier (subject to the limitations already specified in the clause) for the boats which go through the Havengore Creek now to do so in the future. This has been achieved in two ways. First, the Maplin Development Authority are given further powers by Amendment No. 4 to provide installations for facilitating the use of the channel through the creek. These could include moorings or slipways to help those sailing vessels which pass under the bridge who can do so only by lowering or up-stepping their masts and other similar facilities to easy passage under the bridge. These would not be needed for sailors as expert as the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, who, I understand, can do it under weight; but it is conceivable that there might be sailors who would he glad of somewhere to moor up for this operation. The power in the first Amendment is to provide the wherewithal for the M.D.A. to provide these installations. Subsection (2A), contained in the second Amendment, gives the Secretary of State discretionary power to make grants towards the cost of facilities of that kind.

Then we come to subsection (2B), the second part of Amendment No. 5, which gives the Secretary of State discretionary power to make grants towards the conversion of boats needing more than four metres clearance above water level habitually passing through tile creek at the date of the passing of the Bill to enable them to pass under the bridge, the present bridge being one which could be lifted to allow the passage of such boats. This use of this grant would normally apply to enable masts of sailing boats to be lowered and if other works are required they would not be ruled out.

My Lords, while speaking to this Amendment I should like to tell the House that, at the instigation of my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary in another place, the Yachting Association and local interests have been approached in order to set up a working party to deal with the various issues, aspects and possibilities that are involved in the Maplin project and in cases similar to those that I have just described in order to provide a forum in which problems like this could he tackled. Your Lordships might like to be reminded that the power and duties which are now available to regional water authorities and the Water Space Amenity Commission can go beyond what I have been saying and the powers of the Maplin Development Authority under Clause 2(5) to provide for the recreational use of land reclaimed but not needed directly for the purposes of the airport. I should like to commend these two Amendments to your Lordships. I think that we can now say that the interests of the local sailing community have been very fully considered and in particular that we have done all that can be reasonably asked of us to secure the continued use of Havengore Creek to the extent that it is now used.


My Lords, before my noble friend Lord St. Davids poses a much informed series of questions or makes a much more authoritative intervention, may I ask one simple question? Does what is provided here make it possible for the Authority to dredge this channel or not? What is meant by "providing the installations"? I was persuaded by the argument made on the Committee stage of the need for dredging the channel. I understood that it did not involve much work and that it would have met all or most of the objections being put forward. I cannot see from the Amendment or from what the noble Lord has said whether, in fact, the Government with all the good will they are showing (so I am told) still are leaving themselves the possibility of meeting this requirement.


My Lords, I must thank the noble Lord for putting down this Amendment. If the rest of the Bill is right, this clause is not only right but a matter of natural justice. At the moment Havengore Creek is a public waterway with a public right of navigation dating from time immemorial. It is a right unlimited to any particular person and also a right unlimited in height. In other words, craft with masts of any height can pass through it. This right is being taken away. I know that there are arguments about this, but in my opinion I think the noble Lord has got it right and a right of navigation of unlimited height craft must be taken away. To begin with, I cannot imagine that the height of the bridge suggested by local navigators could possibly have been viable. It was enormous. It would have been a brute of a thing, even if it were possible to finance and build it. What is more, the access ramps on either side, not only for roads but also, and even more terrific, for railways, would have been something quite out of this world.

I had more sympathy for their second idea, that a tunnel should be built under the waterway to allow access to the new airport and seaport. I think the proposers of this got it slightly wrong in that they called it a "tunnel". They might have got more sympathy had they pointed out that it was a simple dig in soft earth and that the waterway would have been carried across this in a very light aqueduct. So really it would be a cutting with an aqueduct rather than a tunnel. Even this would cost a great deal of money though less than a bridge, and in my opinion it would still not have made matters right. I cannot believe that the one bridge, or tunnel-aqueduct, or whatever one may call it, would have been all that would be needed to connect up the airport and seaport with the rest of Britain. I feel sure that many other bridges would be needed in time. Not only will the waterway need to be bridged for road and rail, but also power and telephone cables and oil pipelines and other things will have to be stretched across it. It would be quite impossible to put any of that work underneath the waterway or at any considerable height above it and therefore the Government are right to fix a reasonable height which could be attained at a reasonable price and to say that that is to be the navigation height.

There are two things that I should like to add. One is that it would be possible cheaply to increase the navigation height and the usefulness of the waterway extensively, as my noble friend Lord Beswick has just said, by digging the channel deeper. I do not know what effect this would have on the tides flowing through the channel, but it should be possible to find out fairly easily. In my opinion, it should be possible to prevent any bad effects by fitting a tidal door at the Thames end of the waterway which would equate its effect with that of the existing hump of sand at the Broom-way. If this were done, there should be no objection from a physical point of view to this waterway being deepened, and this would be a very cheap way to make navigation far easier and more useful to vessels of a certain height.

Nevertheless, my Lords, there still remains my other point; that is, that we are taking away a right which has existed from time immemorial; and those people who use the right have either to be compensated financially, if the right is to be abolished, or aided to adapt their vessels to taking a channel of a new size. I am sure therefore that this Amendment is very valuable. My own opinion is that what is proposed will cost the Development Corporation very little money. Many of the larger vessels have very deep keels and could not take Havengore anyway. The bigger vessels find it more convenient to go round the land rather than through Havengore simply because the nature of the tides in the area means that it is quicker to go round rather than to hang about waiting for high water through the creek. It is the small craft which cannot take the outer sea-route in safety which will need this, and the number of small craft is growing rapidly for a whole number of reasons. The number is growing because the proportion of small craft to large craft is changing. More small boats are being built than big ones; perhaps taxation has something to do with that. And, of course, because the area is becoming built-up, more boats will be used there.

In these days small craft are usually built with mast-dropping gear in any case. Very few are not designed to take mast-dropping gear. I do not think it will cost much money to change any of these small craft over to lowering masts. I believe that the noble Lord is conferring a slight benefit on the yachting community, though he may not realise it, by increasing the number of craft with mast-dropping facilities, because I believe it to be safer than fixed masts which are normally used in small craft. It will force yachtsmen to examine their gear carefully. Often small boats have gear aloft which is not examined from year to year. It cannot be examined by climbing the mast because it puts a strain on the mast. There was a recent case in this connection published in the yachting papers this month. The idea that dropping masts should be pushed and even subsidised is one that I approve of.

There is one small thing about this clause that I do not like. It does not seem at all clear how much of the cost of installing mast-dropping gear will be borne by the Exchequer. Will the Exchequer pay 100 per cent. or 10 per cent. of it? That is something that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, might tell us. If the owners of craft are having this right taken away, and are to be put to the extra cost of dropping a mast every time they go through the creek, the proportion of the cost borne by the Treasury ought to be nearer 100 per cent. than 10 per cent.


My Lords, I am grateful for that reception, and glad to know that the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, feels that this small further Amendment will be useful and appreciated by those whom it was concerned to help. May I deal with the question posed to me by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick? The position that is secured by the Bill is that the Maplin Development Authority has a duty to maintain the status quo, as it were, in the channel under water; that is to say, to keep it dredged to the extent that it is dredged at the moment; no more and no less. There are two authorities here which have certain duties. There are things they must do and things that they might do. They have the power to close the creek altogether during the period of construction and also they have the power in exceptional circumstances, which are not thought likely to arise, to close it altogether if quite untoward expense seems to be required to maintain it arising from unexpected siltation in the creek. That is provided for in Clause 10(4) but it is not a power which could be exercised without the Affirmative Resolution of Parliament. This is not to say that the Regional Water Authority, which also has duties in recreational matters, might not subsequently exercise their duties to make the greatest recreational use of the water for which they are responsible by causing the channel to be dredged so as to make it available to some boats that are not able to use it at present. That, I think, is the position as it stands at the moment about who has to dredge the channel or who might dredge the channel in all those various circumstances. The noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, asked me about grants. The intention is that the grant should meet the full reasonable cost of doing this work. I beg to move.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether the short answer to my question is: No, the authority will not have the power under this Amendment to dredge the 20 or 30 yards wide hump of sand which is giving the trouble?


My Lords, if I had to compress my answer to one word, it would have been "no".


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 5.

Amendment moved—

Page 6, line 17, at end insert— ("(2A) The Secretary of State may, out of moneys provided by Parliament, make such grants to the Maplin Development Authority towards the cost of providing the installations mentioned in subsection (1) above as he may, with the consent of the Treasury, determine. (2B) If it appears to the Secretary of State that, before the passing of this Act, the owner of a vessel requiring clearance above water level of more than four metres habitually navigated Havengore Creek in that vessel and—

  1. (a) that, without a reduction of the clearance so required, the channel maintained in accordance with this section would not allow or have allowed such access by it as is mentioned in subsection (2) above; but
  2. (b) that the clearance so required has been or could be sufficiently reduced by conversion of the vessel at reasonable expense;
he may, out of moneys provided by Parliament, make to the owner such grant for or towards the cost of the conversion as he may with the consent of the Treasury determine."). —(Lord Sandford.)

Clause 25 [Interpretation]:

BARONESS YOUNG moved Amendment No. 6: Page 14, line 28, leave out ("undertaker' ") and insert ("undertakers' includes the Post Office and otherwise").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a minor corrective Amendment to include the Post Office in the definition of statutory undertakers. Clause 22 of the Maplin Bill gives the Maplin Development Authority power to make payments to local authorities or statutory undertakers whose expenditure is increased as a result of the reclamation and development of land at Maplin. As originally drafted, Clause 25 of the Bill defined the statutory undertaker by reference to the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. But while the Post Office are generally regarded as being on a par with statutory undertakers such as the gas and electricity undertakings, they are not formally included in the Town and Country Planning Act definition, and it is anomalous for the Post Office to be outside the scope of Clause 22. The Amendment puts this right. I beg to move.

Schedule 4 [Acquisition of land]:


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 7, and at the same time to speak to Amendment No. 8. These are both drafting Amendments corresponding with general usage and with the definition in Section 290(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 22, line 11, leave out ("undertaker") and insert ("undertakers").—(Baroness Young.)


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 8.

Amendment moved— Page 22, line 13, leave out ("undertaker") and insert ("undertakers").—(Baroness Young.)