HL Deb 19 July 1978 vol 395 cc314-7

2.55 p.m.

The Earl of CORK and ORRERY

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government by what date, if a fourth terminal should be constructed at Heathrow, all four terminals at that airport may be expected to be fully and simultaneously operational.


My Lords, the three existing passenger terminals at Heathrow airport are not yet operating to full capacity. Subject to the outcome of the public inquiry, the British Airports Authority expect that the fourth terminal might be opened in 1983, but that it will be some time before its full capacity is used.

The Earl of CORK and ORRERY

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that Answer. Is he aware that the date of 1983 which he mentioned is estimated by the British Airports Authority as the earliest date by which that fourth terminal can be opened? There is another statement that has been issued by British Airways, of which I hold a copy in my hand and from which perhaps I may quote: More terminal capacity is urgently needed at Heathrow in the first instance to provide decanting space so that major modifications to the existing central area complex can be carried out without hindrance to current operations". Does this not imply that the new terminal may be used initially to relieve pressure on other terminals, and therefore it would be much later than 1983 or 1984 before it came into use for the purpose for which it was designed, which was for taking new passengers?


My Lords, the noble Lord has made two points. What I said was that the fourth terminal might be opened in 1983, but BAA have explained that 1984 is expected to be the first full year of operation of the terminal and it is unlikely to be operating at full capacity until 1987 at the earliest. The noble Earl was good enough to show me the British Airways hand-out on this point. My own feeling is that it was a somewhat partisan document, and it is a point that no doubt BAA will make at the inquiry.


My Lords, may I ask a not unexpected supplementary on this matter? Irrespective of the date of opening of any of these terminals, is it not correct that the number of passengers will greatly increase? Could the noble Lord give us an assurance that in any inquiry the Government will ensure that the facilities for public transport from central London to our main airport for travellers will be examined thoroughly?


My Lords, from my limited knowledge of this subject it seems to me that the problem is being examined from almost every aspect. As the basis of the White Paper, I think over 1,000 individuals and organisations were called upon to give evidence.


My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us when the inquiry is likely to finish its deliberations? Further, when it has done so, shall we then be afforded a full report on the inquiry or, if that is not possible, the findings and the reasons behind the findings?


My Lords, I understand that the inquiry should be completed by the end of this year, and since it is a public inquiry its findings, by implication, must be made public.


My Lords, having myself been involved in the planning of one of the existing air terminals, may I ask the Government whether they, when planning any further terminals, would bear in mind that the previous estimates of the growth of air traffic have proved wholly unreliable?


Yes, my Lords, that is one of the things one learns through experience. I understand that the present brackets are between 66 million and 89 million passengers a year by 1990, which is a 23-million wide bracket.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether there is any estimate as to what this fourth terminal is going to cost at today's prices?


My Lords, that is another question.


My Lords, may I ask whether, when this new terminal is built, they will take into consideration the need for facilities for the disabled and wheel chairs?


My Lords, I will bring that very sensible point to the notice of my right honourable friend.