HL Deb 05 April 1984 vol 450 cc791-3
Baroness Burton of Coventry

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it remains their policy that, when Terminal 4 at Heathrow is operational, a reduction to 275,000 flight movements a year will be made if that number has been exceeded in the meantime.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the Government have made it clear that operators will be required to restrict the number of air transport movements at Heathrow to 275,000 per annum when the fourth passenger terminal is open.

Baroness Burton of Coventry

My Lords, may I ask the Minister who will decide which are the surplus movements, and where will these go? Secondly, may I also ask him how long before Terminal 4 becomes operational will those responsible for scheduling the air slots into Heathrow decide how many surplus movements there are likely to be?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I do not suppose that there will be many surplus movements when the day comes. The present level of movements is about 262,000 per annum—or at that rate. The number is expected to increase to about 285,000 some time next year, or perhaps later this year, and we expect that Terminal 4 will come into service some time towards the end of next year, at which point it will be necessary to reduce the number of movements, as I have said. The Government are presently considering how the allocation of movements will be awarded, but we hope very much that so far as is possible it will derive from agreement among the operators.

Baroness Burton of Coventry

But, my Lords, is the Minister aware that that is a much more rosy reply than my information would seem to indicate? Based on the figures that he has actually given, I think that that would be some 10,000 movements in excess of the 275,000 when Terminal 4 comes into operation. May I ask him where it is thought those 10,000 movements (or whatever the figure may be) will go; or are the Government proposing to leave matters until the situation actually arises and then decide that they do not have anywhere to send them?

Can the Minister answer me—because my information is to the contrary—as to who on earth is responsible for looking at this matter at the moment? Are the Government really doing it, and is it not true that they are in a complete mess over it? They have not given it the consideration that is due. Finally, who will be responsible for seeing that the ceiling is adhered to? Will it be the Government, the Civil Aviation Authority, or the British Airports Authority?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the responsibility in the end will I think rest with the British Airports Authority to ensure that the number of movements is not exceeded, and the reason for that is that the number of movements is a condition attached to the planning consent granted for Terminal 4, and that consent was of course granted to the British Airports Authority. The Government expect, and hope, that this matter of the allocation of movements will be decided by the scheduling committee which already exists at Heathrow, and which has existed for some years. But the Government are considering what further assistance can be given in that regard.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, the Question asked by the noble Baroness is very important, and does the noble Lord recall that when we were debating the Air Navigation (Noise Certification) Order I referred to the fact that a number of additional domestic routes have been allowed to come into Heathrow? Therefore, is it not wise that the matter should be considered now, rather than wait until the figure of 275,000 movements is exceeded?

Lord Trefgarne

Yes, my Lords, I agree with the noble Lord; I very much hope that the matter can be resolved, or at least a plan can be agreed, before the limit formally comes into effect some time towards the end of next year. But of course it is not only a question of the number of routes that are served from Heathrow; it is also a question of the number of flights on each of the routes, and that is I think very much a matter for agreement between the operators.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is it not the case that during the continuing growth of Heathrow—which is very irksome for people living under the glide path of the airport—the Government, irrespective of their political colours, have given continual assurances that the provision of an extra terminal would not in fact increase the movements? Throughout the whole of this time the movements have increased. Is it not possible for the Government here and now to be much more strict on this matter and to be quite firm in saying that routes must be redirected to other airports? The increase in movements at Heathrow simply cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, that is the effect of the restriction attached to the planning consent for Terminal 4; namely, that the number of movements at Heathrow after the terminal opens shall not exceed 275,000 per annum. Therefore the considerations to which the noble Lord refers were very much in the minds of Ministers when that planning consent was granted.

Lord Beswick

My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that a properly run airline has to plan its programmes ahead? When is the process of consultation to start, and who is going to initiate it?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the scheduling committee already exists. It has existed for some years, and it consists of all the operators—or certainly the principal operators—at Heathrow, and I believe that it is already in fact considering this matter.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, if the proposed Stolport in the Surrey Docks area comes into operation, will the movements between that Stolport and Heathrow count towards the total of 275,000 movements?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the planning consent for that particular development is still under consideration and I cannot anticipate what might be the outcome of that consideration. However, I imagine—and I speak without a note on this matter— that the numbers of movements at that particular development, if it comes to pass, would be very small, and I do not think that they would form part of the figure to which I have referred.

Baroness Burton of Coventry

My Lords, can the noble Lord agree with me just a little, as well as with the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and will he accept that it is not possible suddenly to deal with 10,000 extra movements? It cannot be done if one knows about it only a week beforehand; it must be arranged in advance. Secondly, does he agree that the question of who is on the scheduling committee for arranging the slots into Heathrow is vitally important, so that we get an unbiased opinion as to which are the surplus movements? Finally, will the noble Lord answer the question that I asked him originally: which committee at present is dealing with these matters?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, as I have said, the scheduling committee is already empowered to deal with these matters. As the noble Baroness may be aware, for some years there have been restrictions of a finite kind on the night movements at Heathrow, and the scheduling committee has proved itself well able to deal with that matter. Therefore I have no reason to doubt that it will feel equally able to deal with the matter now before us. The figure of 275,000 has been public knowledge for quite a long time—since the planning consent was granted—and I do not think that anyone can suggest that he has not had adequate warning.

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