HL Deb 27 April 1984 vol 451 cc256-8

11.15 a.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

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 what is now the annual number of passengers which it is planned that Gatwick Airport will be able to handle when fully developed; and at what date it is now expected that this capacity will be attained.

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

My Lords, the first phase of Terminal 2, which will handle some 4½ million passengers, is expected to be ready in 1987. The estimated capacity of Gatwick when the second terminal is completed is 25 million passengers a year. The Government expect the airport to reach this capacity by the mid-1990s.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply and for his forecast of the mid-1990s. Can he indicate why, in the light of the Answer which he gave me on 26th March, it is the Govern-ment's view that 25 million passengers a year can be handled effectively and efficiently by a single runway airport?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the answer to that question is that between now and the mid-1990s—that is to say, 10 years or so—there will be a continuing trend to larger aircraft and, therefore, it will be quite feasible for the single runway to handle that number of passengers at that time.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, will my noble friend nonetheless agree, as I think from his earlier Answer to me he must, that no airport in the world has so far handled anything like that number of passengers with a single runway? Is it not perhaps taking some chance, if he thinks that we can be so clever as to be able to do it in the 1990s?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I do not think we need to be particularly clever to achieve this. The size of aircraft will be progressively increasing between now and the time I have mentioned, and I have no doubt that there will be other airports as well which are able to handle this number of passengers from a single runway when the time comes.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, what effect will the figures which the noble Lord has quoted have on the Stansted inquiry?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the Stansted inquiry is a separate matter. As the noble Lord may know, the inspector has now completed his deliberation on that matter. He is, I believe, preparing his report and he will be submitting that to my right honourable friends shortly.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I should like to take the unusual course of supporting the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, to the extent of thinking it highly desirable that a second runway should be built at Gatwick?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I note with interest the noble Lord's view.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the new Birmingham airport, with its extensions and new buildings which Her Majesty will be opening later in the year, will be of considerable help to the big conurbations in the West Midlands, and will avoid that tiresome travel to Gatwick Aiport when people need to go on holiday?

Lord Trefgarne

Yes, my Lords. I am entirely persuaded about the merit of the regional airport to which the noble Baroness refers. But the fact remains that 80 per cent. or so of passengers travelling by air from this country prefer to use the south-eastern airports.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, although there has been discussion about the possibility of a second runway at Gatwick, can the Minister say whether it is a feasible idea and what is the view of the Civil Aviation Authority about that? In addition to the number of passengers, is there not the question of air transport movements? I appreciate the point which the Minister made about larger aircraft, but what is the relation at the moment to the 160,000 air transport movements a year capacity at Gatwick?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, Gatwick is operating well below maximum capacity at the present time, even given the present size of aircraft. As to the possibilities of constructing a second runway at Gatwick, the Government have repeatedly said that they have no intention that that should happen. But the noble Lord is quite right to point to the difficulties. It would have to be built to the north of the existing runway, if it were to be so, and it would be very close indeed to the town of Horley.

Lord Whaddon

My Lords, will the noble Lord bear in mind that even the largest aircraft cannot get the capacity through a single runway if that single runway should be put out of action for some reason or other? What is the present attitude of Her Majesty's Government to the suggestion of upgrading the taxiway to act as an alternative?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, planning consent has been granted to the British Airports Authority to upgrade the northern taxiway at Gatwick in order to make it into an emergency runway. I hope, therefore, that the fear of the noble Lord can be set at rest.

Lord Beswick

My Lords, could the noble Lord make it quite clear, however, that when the Gatwick site was first decided upon it was intended that there should be two runways?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, that may well have been so but times have moved on considerably since then. The Government believe that the course we have proposed is the right one.