§ 11.24 a.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne) rose to move, That this House takes note of the White Paper Airports Policy (Cmnd. 9542).
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
§ Perhaps I may say at the outset how much I am looking forward to the maiden speeches which we are to hear today. When we last debated airports policy in February I was perhaps guilty of underestimating your Lordships' enthusiasm for this subject. Several noble Lords sought my assurance that your Lordships would have a further opportunity to debate airports policy once my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Transport had taken their decisions on the planning applications for the development of Stansted and Heathrow airports. Four months later, I am pleased to be able to open this debate and bring to your Lordships' House a particularly comprehensive and constructive White Paper. In February several noble Lords referred to our inability as a nation to put an end to years of heart-searching and take the necessary decisions about the future of our airports. The planning decisions have now been taken and the White Paper on Airports Policy presented to Parliament by my right honourable friend on 5th June lays the framework which will take airports policy into the 1990s.
§ In the debate in February, your Lordships well recognised the importance of the aviation industry to the national economy and I think it is worthwhile restating just how important it is. Aviation directly 1404 provides for some 85,000 jobs nationally and many more in the tourist industry, bearing in mind that almost two-thirds of inbound tourists travel by air. Expenditure by air travellers visiting the United Kingdom together with civil aviation earnings amounted to over £6 billion in 1984. We have not only the world's favourite airline but two of the world's four busiest international airports. It is not a position which we should relinquish to our competitors abroad by failing to provide the vital infrastructure that the aviation industry needs.
§ Yet that is what we would do if we were not to provide for further airports capacity in the South-East to meet the forecast shortfall in the early 1990s. This the inspector at the airports inquiries made clear. There were two applications before my right honourable friends: a proposal to develop a fifth terminal at Heathrow and a proposal for expansion at Stansted. Further expansion at Gatwick was not an option proposed at the inquiry, but I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, and perhaps also my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, will have something to say about that. The Government are aware that there was considerable support for a fifth terminal at Heathrow. Your Lordships will be equally aware that Uttlesford District Council's planning application to develop a fifth terminal was turned down in accordance with the inspector's recommendation. To be frank, the proposed development was inadequate in several respects. In addition, as the White Paper makes clear, the Government are not convinced that a fifth terminal would provide the capacity required when it is needed. It is certainly not feasible on the right timescale while the Perry Oaks site is occupied by the sewage sludge disposal facilities and while no one knows whether and to where it could be moved.
Heathrow, a remarkable airport in many ways, operates on a constricted site. It is markedly smaller than other international airports with comparable passenger throughput and is not surprisingly therefore one of the most congested airports in the world. The problems of road access to Heathrow are also well known, both to passengers and to the local people. As the inspector to the inquiries remarked,
Unless the facts are faced and some attempt is made to solve the problems, the long-term consequences will be dire indeed.
§ I therefore hope your Lordships will welcome the Government's decision to invite the Thames Water Authority and the British Airports Authority to commission a study of the options for releasing the site to the airport, and their decision to commission a study of possible improvements to road, rail and Underground access to Heathrow.
§ With all these existing problems, it was clearly not possible for the Government to commit themselves to a fifth terminal before solutions had been found. But there are other factors to take into account. The Government's policies to increase competition between airlines on domestic routes and to ensure access to Heathrow for domestic services from regional airports, combined with growing consumer demand for commuter route services, is slowing down the trend towards larger aircraft. This means fewer passengers per aircraft than was expected earlier, and higher flight frequencies. It is therefore quite possible 1405 that runway capacity will be exhausted before terminal capacity, and, indeed, Heathrow's runways are already operating at capacity for a large part of each day. I might add, in passing, that these trends also affect Gatwick, but to a lesser extent. On present forecasts, full use of that airport's planned terminal capacity of 25 million passengers per annum is unlikely to be achieved until the late 1990s because average passenger loads are growing more slowly.
§ The effect of these constraints is to bring forward the date when additional airport capacity will be needed in the South-East, and to require the next major tranche of capacity to be provided where there is runway capacity to spare. The case for a fifth terminal at Heathrow is premised on the assumption that average aircraft loads at that airport will continue to increase with no substantial increase in the number of aircraft movements. But that case is, quite simply, not proven. For all these reasons, we cannot rely on Heathrow for the answer to the capacity problem in the mid-1990s.
§ Some relief will, of course, be afforded by the decision not to impose a limit on air transport movements at Heathrow. This has met with a mixed reception. The Government understand the reliance that had been placed on an ATM limit as a means of reducing noise disturbance. But, after careful examination of all the evidence, we were obliged to agree with the inspector that an ATM limit would have a barely perceptible impact on the noise climate and that this small difference was outweighed by the need to make the best possible use of such an important national asset. This does not mean that the concerns of local residents have been disregarded. On the contrary, the Government have committed themselves to doing everything practicable to ensure that the noise climate continues to show improvements. Significant reductions in the areas most affected by noise have come about through Government efforts in recent years and we are determined that these benefits should not be diminished. I should like to stress, in particular, that the Government have no intention of removing restrictions on night flights.
§ This brings me to Stansted. The inspector concluded that the capacity needed to meet demand in the South-East at the right time could be provided only at Stansted. My right honourable friends agreed and granted permission for the development of a terminal and associated facilities with a capacity of 15 million passengers a year, as recommended by the inspector. However, given the uncertainty about the rate of growth of demand in the longer term, they regarded the immediate expansion of Stansted to a capacity of 15 million passengers per annum as premature and they have therefore imposed a planning condition limiting the development in the first phase to between 7 and 8 million passengers. On present plans the new terminal will open around 1990, but it will take some time for traffic to grow to fill this capacity. At present Stansted has a throughput of only half-a-million passengers a year and a capacity of about 2 million passengers a year. The timing of subsequent phases of development will, of course, depend on the growth of traffic. The Government believe that a flexible approach is needed to enable the right capacity to be provided when it is required.1406
§ Quite separately from the phasing of the physical development, the Government intend to impose controls over the use of the airport. They will seek an early opportunity to introduce legislation which will enable my right honourable friend to establish limits on air transport movements at airports. His intention is to impose an ATM limit at Stansted commensurate with the first phase of development. Any increase in the limit would be subject to approval by both Houses of Parliament, by means of the affirmative resolution procedure. This will enable your Lordships to decide, with the other place, on the level of traffic at Stansted in the light of all the relevant factors.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but it is not correct to say that we have the right to decide because, of course, we do not vote against affirmative orders in this House. We have the right to discuss, but we do not have the right to decide.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I have described the parliamentary procedure that will be adopted. As your Lordships will be aware, there is a fair history to these things. I can remember some pretty unpalatable resolutions of your Lordships' House in connection with aviation matters, not least one of those moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, some years ago.
The Government recognise that the environmental problems associated with airport development extend beyond the airport's boundaries. The proposal for a phased development will enable the local planning authorities to programme the associated development of housing and other facilities as the need arises and thereby ensure that the character of the surrounding towns and villages is not jeopardised. Furthermore, the Government are particularly concerned to minimise disturbance from aircraft noise. I am sure that all of your Lordships, no doubt outside the House rather than inside, would agree with that commentator who remarked,I have often lamented that we cannot close our ears with as much ease as we can our eyes".As regards aircraft noise, the Government are determined to do everything practicable to minimise disturbance. Quiet take-off and landing procedures and noise preferential routes will be continued, and supplemented, around Stansted, by a noise insulation grants scheme along the lines of those already in place at Heathrow and Gatwick.
In February, many of your Lordships expressed the view that regional airports were well equipped for growth and that they should handle a greater share of the traffic. Indeed, they are, and they should. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport has all along been keen to encourage the use and development of regional airports so that they meet the maximum demand they can attract. It is a policy that has worked. At Manchester, of the 33 international destinations scheduled for this summer, 14 have been provided this year; of Birmingham's 15 European destinations, four are new this year; while of Glasgow and Edinburgh's 16 destinations, five are new this year. However, the regional airports cannot absorb the growth in demand for air services in the South-East.
The question was examined in detail at the airports inquiries because one of the alternatives put forward to 1407 the development of Stansted was the expansion of the regional airports. The White Paper deals with this point in paragraph 4.10. I shall quote from it because it summarises clearly the Government's views on this matter:The Inspector at the Airports Inquiries rejected the contention that provision of more capacity in London would prevent growth of regional airports or that faster development of regional airports would remove the need for more capacity in London. The Government agrees with his conclusions, and cannot accept a policy of inhibiting growth of traffic in the South East in the hope that it would divert traffic to the regions. Restricting the capacity of the London airports would penalise the travelling public, inhibit competition between airlines and seriously damage the country's prospects, without bringing the suggested benefits to the regions".Perhaps it is appropriate at this point to note the similarity of these conclusions with those reached by the Labour Government in their 1978 White Paper on Airports Policy. This states, in paragraph 21, that,the Government rejects the suggestion that the air transport industry should be subject to the damaging restrictions on its operations which would be the outcome of the forced diversion of traffic to regional airports".The fact is that successive Governments have rightly recognised that failure to provide the airports capacity required where it is needed will only benefit other European airports, notably Schiphol, Paris and Frankfurt. They are competing strongly for the long-haul international traffic which has made London the world's most important interlining centre. If we failed to provide the capacity or attempted to implement policies aimed at forcefully diverting traffic to the regions we would be undermining our aviation industry and the many jobs and foreign currency earnings that go with it.
But the Government are determined to encourage the growth of regional airports. As my right honourable friend said when opening the debate on airports policy on 17th June in the other place, regional airports need more flights, not more concrete. The Government's initiatives to liberalise route access will continue to help the development of services from regional airports, and in their negotiations with foreign governments the Government will give full weight to the interests of regional passengers. The five-year plan for growth being drawn up for Manchester airport indicates our determination to help identify opportunities for growth and to do as much as we can to assist in promoting a rapid development of the potential of regional airports. This is one of the major objectives of the Government's airports policy. Manchester is particularly important as the gateway international airport for the North of England.
However, the White Paper does not just stop there. Having laid down policies which will provide the capacity needed in the South-East and the services needed in the regions and in Scotland and Wales, it goes on to propose far-reaching changes to the structure of airports—that is, privatisation of the BAA and the restructuring of the major local authority airports as plcs. As your Lordships know from your recent debate on the matter, not everyone supports the opportunities and benefits that the introduction of private capital will bring. However, the Government firmly believe in reducing the role of the state and we are convinced that the way to run substantial businesses—as many airports are—is in a professional, 1408 businesslike way, within a commercial framework. These changes should ensure that British airports have the flexibility and the encouragement for innovation to maintain their leading position in world aviation.
Some regulation will be necessary to ensure that airports do not abuse their monopoly position and that charges are fair and non-discriminatory. In the light of recent events I should like, first, to reassure noble Lords that after privatisation the regulation of security will continue to be administered by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport. New regulations will also be necessary to ensure that airports act in accordance with our international obligations. Legislation will be introduced to establish the regulatory framework, in which the Government envisage that the CAA will play a major role, particularly on regulation of charges, together with the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Regulation will be kept to the minimum necessary, but in the privatised future we cannot do away with it altogether.
The Government's policies which we are considering today seek to protect our leading position in world aviation and create the right climate for continued growth, while minimising the effects of airports development on local people and their environment. When the inspector's report was published last December many commentators repeated, with some pleasure, his ringing condemnation of governmental vacillation on this issue over the last 20 years. Equally happily, they went on to quote him again.Any decisions",he wrote,will be perceived as unacceptable by a large number of people".This Government have taken the inspector's advice. He recommended that decisive action should be taken as expeditiously as possible. This the Government have done. Our strategy is realistic. It builds upon the existing London airports system and encourages growth in the regions. It sets out to achieve cooperation and not confrontation between important sectors of the industries involved. It avoids unwarranted disruption of the structure of the air transport industry, but secures a capability to provide capacity on a flexible basis for the remainder of the century. It is a well balanced and far-sighted solution and I commend it to your Lordships. I beg to move.
Moved, That this House takes note of the White Paper Airports Policy (Cmnd. 9542).—Lord Trefgarne.)
§ 11.43 a.m.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, I am certain that all noble Lords will welcome this opportunity to debate what may be the framework of legislation and regulations dealing with what is—and here I agree with the noble Lord the Minister—one of our most important and vital industries: civil aviation and our airports. Together with the noble Lord, I am certain that we all look forward to the two maiden speeches. I should like to say how pleasing it is to see so many speakers on the list on a Friday afternoon when we have some sunshine; it indicates the importance of this subject.
1409 I want to avoid a repetition of the debate on the inspector's report which we had early this year. However, I have reviewed what I, the Minister and others said on that occasion and I find that there is very little need to change what I said during that debate. I stressed then that there is a conflict of interests. We cannot ignore the interests of those in the particular areas affected, but it is a harsh fact that many people see the solution as being the development in someone else's area.
There has also been a substantial publicity campaign of vested interest, including two publicly-owned undertakings, the BAA and BA, with their massive newspaper advertisements, which I hope will he borne in mind when people talk about publicity by other bodies. There have been considerable criticisms from Government supporters of the inspector's recommendations.
I believe that the White Paper is a very clever political presentation. It leaves many of the inspector's proposals in limbo; it softens some of the controversial proposals in the inspector's report without actually rejecting them. In effect, the White Paper centres on the question of future demand but, as I said in our February debate, there must be future planning and assessments of future passenger levels, runway capacities and air transport movements. However, even the inspector's report showed that various bodies give varying and sometimes conflicting estimates of future demand. I would remind your Lordships that the inspector referred to the vagueness of forecasting and said that the forecasting of the size of aircraft and the number of passengers should involve considerable caution. In fact, the inspector said that all estimates should be treated with caution. This morning the noble Lord the Minister said that the size of aircraft and the number of transport movements may not be of the order forecast. Therefore, even the Government recognise what the inspector has said: that some of these estimates should be treated with caution.
The White Paper conveys doubts about the future size of aircraft and passenger demand. I shall not take time to quote it, but the longer-term uncertainties of these factors are set out in paragraph 4.5 on page 7 of the White Paper, and that should be read carefully. Table 5 on page 13 gives the effective capacity of the four London airports, taking account of runway constraints. It shows what is called demand planning values, a matter which has been explained by the inspector in his report. It gives a current surplus capacity of 4.5 million. In 1990 the surplus could be only 2.5 million. However, in 1995 there could be a shortage of 4.5 million. These figures must be borne in mind when we consider some of the proposals in the White Paper, particularly for the substantial additional capacity proposed for Stansted. The noble Lord the Minister has said substantially what the Secretary of State said in another place on 17th June:We have provided for 1995 and allowed room for expansion. We need not commit ourselves before we have to, but equally it would be senseless not to retain the capability to meet the demand, if it happens". [Official Report, Commons, 17/6/85; col. 36.]All that sounds reasonable. However, it also gives rise to apprehension both on environmental and on safety grounds. In particular what worries me about 1410 the White Paper is that it contains not the slightest indication that, if there should be the demand, the time may not arrive when someone says, "Enough is enough: we just cannot proceed with further development in the South-East". Surely there cannot be a limitless meeting of an expected demand in the South-East. Someone somewhere must say "No"; and then the consideration must be: What shall we do?
One only has to read the speeches of Members of Parliament of all parties representing constituencies in the Heathrow area to appreciate the present effect on people's lives; and some have said that people cannot tolerate any more. Despite ten definite statements made by the Government since 1979 rejecting the possibility of a fifth terminal at Heathrow, this still remains a possible option in the White Paper, and that will provide for a maximum of 53 million passengers per annum at Heathrow.
Even the British Airports Authority report for 1983–84—and I refreshed myself on this only last night—made clear that the authority opposed the application for a fifth terminal because what it wants is an additional runway, which it is argued could only be provided at Stansted. All these arguments are set out in various pages of that report of the authority, and particularly on page 76, which I shall not trouble your Lordships by reading.
It expresses some of the problems which would arise if there should be a fifth terminal at Heathrow. On this side of the House we do not want to see the fifth terminal at Heathrow, but should the Government decide to proceed with a fifth terminal after their various reviews, I must urge that this should not take place without either the strict adherence to the number of air transport movements (the Government have just lifted it) to 275,000 per annum, or positive action being taken on a drastic reduction of aircraft noise.
It is interesting that the Government intend to apply a limit on air transport movements at Stansted apparently on noise grounds and interference grounds, but can readily lift the one that it put on at Heathrow. One would like to have an explanation of that. Should there be, regrettably, development of a fifth terminal, this must be accompanied by considerable improvements in road access, and should not proceed in any circumstances without the definite provision of a rail link, with finances not necessarily falling upon British Rail.
The Minister has not satisfied me on why there is a decision to set aside the repeated assurances on the 275,000 maximum air transport movements at Heathrow before there is a guarantee of quieter planes. I would refer noble Lords to paragraph 8.9 on pages 40 and 41 of the report. Why have the Government rejected as unrealistic the inspector's clear recommendation that lower noise limits should be introduced on 1st January 1986? The Government have set that aside and at the same time they have lifted their limit on ATMs.
It appears that one must accept that the siting of the second terminal at Gatwick prohibits a second runway there. This is reaffirmed in the White Paper, and no doubt the noble Baroness will have something to say about that. The Government say that that particular undertaking will be firmly adhered to. But they can so 1411 easily set aside their assurances on the 275,000 ATMs at Heathrow, and would also be prepared, if necessary, to set aside their ten previous definitive statements rejecting a fifth terminal at Heathrow. I think there will be a general welcome, or acceptance, of the proposal to increase the capacity of Luton, which, while small, will assist to reduce this possible shortfall.
So now we move to Stansted. Here I must declare, in case people believe otherwise as it is known that I live in metropolitan Essex, that I do not believe that I shall be in the flight path area. Therefore, I am not speaking because of any direct interest. All I would say is that I have cycled, walked, motored, all around the delightful Rodings area—which will be affected by Stansted development—for the best part of 60 years. It is one of the best unspoiled areas close to London. The Government say that only Stansted provides a real opportunity for additional capacity. As the noble Minister has said, Stansted now has a terminal capacity of 2 million, yet even now throughput of passengers is only half a million. It might be interesting to ask the Minister, seeing that there is the demand at present and with the subsidised charges at Stansted, why there are only half a million people taking up the present capacity of 2 million there. I hope noble Lords will keep in mind what I have said about Table 5 on this possible shortage.
Most people, even those who have been most active in opposing Stansted development, I think would accept development up to say 5 million per annum. But we have heard this morning what the Government are proposing—a first phase limited to 7 to 8 million. But the White Paper goes on to say in paragraph 5.27:timing and capacity of further phases up to 15 mppa will in practice depend on the rate of growth of demand and the contribution made to handling the demand by the other airports in the London system".Therefore the White Paper presents us with the possibility of Stansted going up to 15 million passengers per annum. That, my Lords, will be unacceptable. That ought to be made thoroughly clear.
In Paragraph 5.35, on page 23, the White Paper even visualises the possibility of development at Stansted to take the maximum capacity of its single runway up to 25 million. That would be an appalling monstrosity which I hope no noble Lord in this House would be prepared to accept. And yet the Government are prepared to do it if the demand, they say, is there. This brings me back to one of my earlier points: is someone prepared to say at some time, "Yes, civil aviation is vital to this country, but further development in one area of this country cannot go on unabated and must be dealt with in another way"?
How will the traffic mix at Stansted be determined? Who will decide this? How will airlines be persuaded to move there, seeing that at the moment they are not moving there with subsidised charges? One good thing about the White Paper is that it suggests that the question of subsidised charges will no longer apply. Is there to be any consideration of the auction of time slots at Heathrow, or bargaining between different air lines? I hope that the Minister will refute the possibility of either of those happenings taking place.
1412 Stansted is linked to the whole question of regional airports. I think most noble Lords will recognise that any development of any kind at Stansted, even up to 7 to 8 million, will require an improved road system; the provision of the rail link to which I have referred; and all the necessary urbanisation which would have to take place, which would cost a substantial sum. Most people estimate that it would be a figure of something like £½ billion. Of course there will be bitterness in the Midlands and the North that this amount of money is again to be spent in the South-East.
It is argued that 75 per cent. of passengers using the London airports originate in the South-East. I am not allowed to quote the actual speeches of Back-Benchers in another place, but I refer to a speech of Mr. Alfred Morris, Member for Wythenshawe, who drew attention to the fact that CAA surveys classify passengers on the basis of where journeys began on the day of the survey. He said that would include regional and foreign tourists who are forced to use London airport even though they spend very little time in London. I noticed that that point was not answered by the Minister replying to that debate. Maybe the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, can deal with it. The body which represents the local authority airports argued that whereas 94 per cent. of incoming tourists fly through London airport, only some 40 per cent. stay in London overnight.
There are many words in the White Paper about possible support for regional airports. I was pleased to see in paragraph 12.11 on page 57 that:The Government recognises that too many travellers from the regions are forced to use South East airports".That is something which we have been saying for many months and which has been contradicted by the Government.
The White Paper has many sympathetic words about the regions. The Minister quite sincerely expressed those views today, but how far will the Government use their muscle on bilateral agreements to endeavour to increase the number of international scheduled flights into regional airports? It is not enough to say that the Government will give encouragement. I noticed a Written Answer in the other place given by Mr. Michael Spicer in reply to a Question about whether we had discussed with the Governments of the United States of America and of Western European countries the provision of scheduled air services to the regions. He said:It is for overseas airlines to decide on commercial grounds whether they wish to serve Birmingham and east midlands airports. At present we have no plans to discuss the possibility of such services with the United States Government, though we are always prepared to consider carefully any proposal put to us."—[Official Report, Commons, 20/6/85; cols. 224–5.]The Government have said that they will consider any demands created by the airports. But what effort are the Government themselves making to increase the number of airline flights to the regions?
A fifth terminal at Heathrow and the development of Stansted to 15 million, never mind up to 25 million, would considerably damage the development of regional airports. I hope the Government will be more positive in saying what they will do in practical measures to increase airlines going to the regional 1413 airports, rather than just expressing hopes and saying that they will give encouragement.
The only other point I want to deal with is one which the Minister did not deal with at great length. What are the real arguments for selling off the British Airports Authority's airports to private interests? The arguments in the White Paper seem to me to be very flimsy and reflect more the political ideology of the Secretary of State rather than any practical reasoning. What other modern country has its major airports completely in private hands? Perhaps the Minister can tell us. I understand that even the United States of America does not have that situation. Ministers have said time and time again that the BAA is doing a splendid job. I, along with other noble Lords, was at the topping out of the fourth terminal at Heathrow and heard the praise that was lavished on BAA by the Minister. Also its record on financial responsibility has been good. I am pleased that the BAA is to be sold as a single entity, and when we debate the Transport Bill next week maybe people will keep that in mind when the Government propose to carve up the NBC, because the two arguments will be similar.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, does the noble Lord not agree that the principle of cross-subsidy which exists within the BAA is totally contrary to the principle of cross-subsidy for the buses which it is sought to abolish?
§ Lord Underhill
Absolutely, my Lords. To be fair, the Government have said that they will ensure that there will be no cross-subsidy particularly as there is now at Stansted. But why form seven separate companies? If the Government are satisfied at present with BAA, with its financial operation and its efficiency, why form seven separate companies? Do we want to see those seven separate companies competing against each other? Surely that would be an idiotic way to run an airport system.
We have the threatened interference with local authority airports which are already in danger due to the decisions taken on the abolition of the metropolitan authorities which affect some of these airports. I do not propose to deal with Scotland, since my noble friend Lord Carmichael will cover that later.
In conclusion, the White Paper has somewhat patched up the inspector's proposals to make them more acceptable to the critics in the Government's ranks, but it leaves the economic and social imbalance between the South-East, the Midlands and the North. Incidentally, there is reference in the White Paper to Manchester, but very little reference to Birmingham international airport, which also has great potential. The White Paper leaves considerable apprehensions about the future, in particular the possibility of Stansted being allowed to drift upwards and upwards into a situation that would be intolerable.
§ 12.7 p.m.
§ Baroness Burton of Coventry
My Lords, we on these Benches particularly welcome the opportunity of saying how glad we are to have the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, back with us today and we are pleased that he is back in time to take part in this debate. It is true 1414 to say that we agree with a good many of the points that he has made. Obviously, we are looking forward to the two maiden speeches we are to have today. Having looked up various details, it seems to me that one will have a Manchester flavour and the other possibly a Scottish flavour, and so I do not doubt that our debate will be widened.
There is no doubt that the Secretary of State for Transport has been most skilful in presenting the Government's Airport Policy White Paper. However, I believe that it has a fundamental flaw and that we need have had no development at present at Stansted. Perhaps I may say straight away that I consider further development to be unnecessary, because Stansted has a present capacity of some two million passengers per annum with a throughput of some 500,000 passengers per annum and many of us believe that the surplus capacity of some 1½ million should be taken up before any further development is undertaken.
In presenting the Statement in another place on 5th June the Minister obviously could not give definite figures, but estimated the approximate cost of the first phase of development, to a maximum of seven to eight million passengers per annum, as being £270 million, plus some £2 million for local roads and about £50 million for rail infrastructure. I ask the House to note that Mr. Ridley added that it may not be economic to provide a rail link. I believe that development at Stansted without a rail link would certainly not be viable.
At the moment Stansted is sustained by cross-subsidy from Heathrow and Gatwick—a matter to which I shall come later. However, as a matter of interest I have been checking through the inspector's mammoth sessions and I noted that he was far from pleased that he had been presented with evidence making no statement about the rail link and its costs. In fact, early in January 1982 the inspector said that he thought that he had been placed in an intolerable situation because of this and asked the Department of Transport to get something done about the matter. I think it is probably apt here once more to pay tribute to the inspector, Mr. Graham Eyre. I myself and, I am sure, a great many other people were impressed with his impartiality and his thoroughness. We thank him for all the work which he undertook.
If I may revert to what I said at the beginning, I believe that the fundamental flaw in this skilfully presented policy is the proposed development at Stansted starting from the refusal to lay down a second runway at Gatwick and resisted tooth and nail by the British Airports Authority. It is necessary to state the facts about this, and perhaps the House will bear with me if I am succinct and give only facts and not opinions. These have to be on record to make my case.
They number three only. The first is that as the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation responsible for the decision in June 1954 to develop Gatwick as a major international airport, the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, declared that Gatwick was designed as a two-runway airport, adding that experience throughout the world had shown that a minimum of two runways is a basic requirement for a major airport. That was in a letter to The Times on 5th June last.
1415 The second fact is that the county planning officer of West Sussex County Council, writing to The Times on 31st May stated:It is by no mischance that the British Airports Authority abandoned its proposals for a second runway and sited the second passenger terminal astride its former alignment".The third fact is that in the House on 23rd May 1984 I was told in answer to a Question that,the present Government were not consulted about the agreement and are not parties to it. That being the case, the Government cannot be bound by its terms".—[Official Report, 23/5/84; col. 221.]The agreement was that entered into by the British Airports Authority and the West Sussex County Council, but unfortunately the Government omitted that statement from paragraph 5.22 of the White Paper that we are discussing today.
Hence it follows that the Government themselves are preventing the laying down of a second runway. As The Times said in its leader on 6th June, speaking of Government policy:It prematurely abandoned the intended second runway at Gatwick, and subsequent events have made it almost, though not quite, impossible to retrieve that beneficial proposal".Well, my Lords, I am still trying to retrieve it.
But I come now to perhaps the most serious matter of all, that of safety. I raise it only after considerable thought. There are grave fears in aviation operational circles that Gatwick's single runway will not be able to handle the 25 million passengers per annum projected by the British Airports Authority. The House may know that currently Heathrow is handling just over 30 million passengers per annum using two of its three runways. Gatwick at present is handling some 14.2 million passengers per annum and expert opinion has told me that at peak times the operational congestion on the runway is severe. Exceptional measures have to be taken to enable departing aircraft to meet their slot times. These are, in effect, international airspace reservations, with very precise timings. To miss a departure slot can mean a delay of an hour or more.
My experts—and I hope that this does not sound too grand a description—doubt that aircraft operational aspects and resultant operational strictures reach what they term "political places". When they go on to say that there is hardly a practising air traffic controller and pilot who will not say that at peak times the Gatwick runway is unsatisfactory, adding that well-documented air safety incidents support this, I feel that the time has come to bring the matter into the open.
Apart from, or in addition to, being a Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, is a qualified pilot and I am sure he will recognise the seriousness of what I am saying. Obviously the Government will investigate what I have been told and doubtless they will request the Civil Aviation Authority to produce and check records dealing with operational hazards at Gatwick Airport. Additionally to the records, could inquiries be made among pilots and controllers so that our minds may be set at rest? If there are problems—and I have a certain amount of evidence—may I say for the record that there is plenty of room for a second runway outside the present perimeter to the south or southwest having fewer obstacles that those put forward by 1416 the Government when refusing to build one to the north. May I—
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, before the noble Baroness continues, I wonder whether she would be good enough to say who these experts are who produce these views.
§ Baroness Burton of Coventry
My Lords, I would not. May I come now—and I hope that the hearts of noble Lords in the Chamber will not sink—to the 37-page document dated 5th June 1985 from the Departments of the Environment and of Transport to McKenna and Company headed, "Proposed development at Stansted Airport" and supplied to us when we collected the White Paper. I certainly am not skilled at deciphering lengthy legal Civil Service documents and I may well have got it completely wrong. If the Minister will help in some clarification I should be appreciative.
I would wish to weary the House with as little quotation as possible, and the Minister will have the document on his file. On paragraph 98.5, page 29 states:Notwithstanding the requirements of any other condition of this permission no development authorised by this permission shall be begun until a scheme of construction work in relation to preliminary site works has been submitted to the local planning authority and approved.We then have five subsections. Paragraphs 98(8) and 98(9) on page 31 deal with dates and limits for development application.
According to these paragraphs is it correct that applicants for approval of the details of the first phase of the development have a period of five years in which to make such application? Secondly, is it correct that this first phase of the development, if permitted, must be commenced before the expiration of five years from the date of this permission? If my interpretation is correct, it would seem that considerable delays could arise. Will the Minister, when he comes to reply, elucidate these points to the House?
I mention all this because of a problem stressed, I think, more than any other in another place and raised by me in this House on 11th February and 5th June: the maintenance of Stansted by cross-subsidisation from Heathrow and Gatwick to the detriment of regional airports and particularly of Luton. I wonder whether the House is aware that last year Stansted had a deficit of approximately £4 million. The exact figure was £3.88 million. As one of the Manchester Members remarked in another place, this was an average subsidy of £8 per passenger. I know—because I have read every speech in another place, and it took me some six hours to do so—that the Secretary of State said that there would be no subsidisation under his plans. But he did not say when this subsidisation would cease. And now perhaps the Minister will understand why I have been raising the question of time limits.
It is good to know that the Government have by implication at last condemned the policy of the British Airports Authority in the matter of cross-subsidisation, even though it has taken a long time for them to do so. But for how much longer is this to continue? That is my question to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and I await his answer at the end of our 1417 debate today. What disturbed me, in studying the debate in another place, was the number of times Mr. Ridley seemed unable to answer this question. All he could say was that in advance of legislation he had no power to take action. I take the line, and I believe many Members in both Houses would agree with me, that if the Secretary of State were to tell the British Airports Authority that he wanted the cross-subsidy stopped and stopped now, something would be done.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Mr. Spicer, in another place, speaking of the Civil Aviation Authority (at col. 135 of Hansard), said:[It] will be given new powers to ensure above all that airport charges at Stansted are related to costs and that the BAA is not able to attract business from airports in the north by predatory pricing.My Lords, obviously we have a choice: Mr. Ridley, Mr. Spicer, the Civil Aviation Authority and the British Airports Authority, whose policy has been condemned. Both Houses of Parliament and the regional airports will be watching to see how speedily action is taken and how genuine is the Government's concern.
Having reached this stage, I thought that I must try to say something good about these proposals. But here I have a difficulty. For example, it is good of course that the proposed ATM limit at Heathrow has been withdrawn. But of course the Minister had no choice. This was so obviously an attempt to railroad Stansted through the Commons via a back door that the standing committee concerned refused to make progress. On 9th May (at col. 465 of Hansard) the Civil Aviation Bill containing this limitation was withdrawn. It was withdrawn quietly, and the information was given in a Written Answer.
It is good of course that the British Airports Authority is to be required to sell all surplus land; but would the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, comment on the question of planning blight? At the time it was felt by many people that the British Airports Authority purchased this large area with undue haste and against strong representations from people concerned. What now is to be the position of those financially affected by the Government's decision to sell? Is any compensation to be offered?
Only last night I received additional information about the worry of people living in the area around Stansted concerning the size of the area covered by the compulsory purchase order issued by the BAA and published on 13th June. In spite of the assurances given by the Secretary of State, these residents feel—and indeed I think Mr. Ridley admits—that this area is that designated for capacity development of 15 million passengers per annum. The Secretary of State declares himself satisfied that this large area of land is required notwithstanding the proposed limitation on capacity to some 7–8 million passengers per annum. It is small wonder that the people I have been talking about have a very real anxiety, and I hope the Minister will note the reason. It is because they feel that the BAA will try to have its way by one means or another—and those are their words, not mine. I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, that that is not a very enviable reputation to have acquired.
As I made clear on 5th June in reply to the Government's Statement, we on these Benches welcome the Stolport decision and also the proposal to 1418 control the monopoly aspect of airport charge We welcome the decision on the Perry Oaks sewage works and hope that the Thames Water Authority and the British Airports Authority will bring to completion as soon as possible the joint study they have been asked to commission. We do not welcome the decision to make a public monopoly a private one, and perhaps the Minister would confirm or otherwise the fact that the British Airports Authority represents a huge monopoly; namely, some 80 per cent. of all our air passenger traffic. If that is correct, do the Government really believe it to be in the best interests of this country and of our aviation industry to sell overall control? The charter airline industry is in danger of being overlooked. We fear for its future security of tenure at Gatwick, where it has been largely responsible for building up this airport to the major international position that it now holds.
Finally, I return to where I started: Stansted. It may well be that we are not too late. I think that the Government must now consider this being a white elephant, whatever the British Airports Authority may say. As many Members have said already, Stansted does not pay its way and has a present capacity surplus of 1,500,000 passengers per annum. Surely it would be better and wiser to see this total capacity of 2 million passengers per annum fully taken up and unsubsidised—I repeat, my Lords, "unsubsidised"—before spending millions of pounds on further development.
Secondly, there seems to be universal consent that rail links are crucial to Stansted. Yet the Secretary of State himself has said that it may not be economic to provide a rail link. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne: do the Government believe honestly that Stansted can prosper, unsubsidised and without a rail link? Also, am I right in thinking that British Rail will be expected to foot the bill for any extension or is it anticipated that the cost will be met by the British Airports Authority or by the Ministry of Transport? I rather imagine it will be British Rail, but it would be helpful if the Minister could clear up these details when he comes to reply.
Does the Minister really wish to help the regions? That question has been asked by many Members in another place and not only by Members from the North. Surely it is inevitable that the level of investment envisaged for Stansted must mean less being done in the regions. Additionally, present proposals will lead to a further drain of flights away from the regional airports to the South of England. Mr. Ridley said that British Rail was examining the case for a rail link to Manchester Airport concurrently with the option at Stansted. He expected the latter study to be completed before the end of this year and the one on Manchester sooner than that. As the House probably knows, Manchester has been begging for this rail link for some 10 or 12 years. A small spur of line could link the airport to excellent communications, main line and motorway, thereby greatly improving both potential and profitability. I can assure the House that there is no question here of such a link not being economic.
We on these Benches should like the rail link to Manchester Airport to be a firm commitment now. That would give the airport, the region and 1419 Manchester a tremendous boost. Would this not be one way for the Government to show their genuine concern in regional development by indicating their support in advance for the Manchester link? It would be something concrete, benefiting a wide area: something that would be permanent. We all know that the Government have been making much play about new routes. The Minister mentioned it today and I was glad to note in the House earlier this week the figures stating that regional airports were getting busier. But these can be taken away when governments enter into political bargaining one with the other. As was remarked in another place, "history shows this can happen". We suggest that the Government offer something concrete now.
I believe that the sad story behind all this is that the Secretary of State has had to blur the issues and postpone firm decisions in order to get his policy through another place. He has bowed to pressure from the British Airports Authority who have been determined to have Stansted however many expert and public enquiries have found against the proposal. He has refused to allow Gatwick its full potential while the Government's stated position is that they do not consider themselves bound by an agreement to which they were not a party. Surely, having stated this, the Government should have had the courage to press on and ignore local political pressure.
Eventually this second runway will have to come. Why not now? The roads are there; the rail links are there; and, above all, the space is there. Gatwick has everything except the goodwill of this Government. A second runway would cost a great deal less than the proposed Stansted development. It would be viable economically and it would allow Gatwick to develop to its full potential.
In the debate in another place on 30th January there was almost total condemnation of the proposal to develop Stansted as London's third airport. The White Paper we are discussing today is a most skilful package designed to diffuse that opposition. But the hard decisions have been merely postponed and one day all this will come home to roost.
§ 12.31 p.m.
§ Lord Sanderson of Bowden
My Lords, before I speak on the subject of airports policy, may I say how grateful I am for the kindness shown by all Members in all parts of this House to a very new Member? I happened to be introduced on 11th June of this year, exactly 50 years to the day since a fellow Tweedsider, John Buchan, the first Lord Tweedsmuir, was introduced to your Lordships' House. I cannot help recalling that John Buchan, as a famous novelist wrote a book called The Thirty-Nine Steps. It was fiction. I feel that when we are dealing with airports policy, a discussion which seems to have gone on for 20 years without any real decisions, we are talking about fact, perhaps a factual book entitled One Hundred and Thirty-Nine Steps. I hope that we are reaching the top of those steps now. I applaud the decision of the Government to get on and produce a comprehensive policy at this stage after so much debate. As my noble friend the Minister said, 85,000 jobs mean a lot of people employed in the aviation industry alone and 1420 they require, indeed they are entitled to expect, a clear lead from the Government at this stage.
I have worked all my life in travelling. I have sold for my living. If I did not sell, employees did not have work. As has been pointed out earlier in this debate, budgets, sales forecasts can be wrong, but they have to be made. I would just remark that competitors are fickle people as well. I think that the underlying principle in the Eyre Report is that the customer comes first. If I want to take a flight to Paris, I do not usually book on a flight to Lyons. I think the net result of casting a blind eye to the wishes of the customer from abroad, in particular, will mean a boost for the airports of Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris.
I was grateful to hear my noble friend the Minister give his assurance this morning that a pricing system will in future exist that will not distort the demand for air transport between Britain's airports. They call it transparent accountancy. There will, no doubt, be many more words spoken today on Stansted and the problems of cross-subsidy, but I have heard disparaging noises regarding the Government's treatment of the regional airports from many people who have listened and know a lot about airport policy in general. I am heartened, however, by people who are actually working in the industry, and in particular the Chief Executive of Manchester Airport, who said that the White Paper was good news for Manchester and good news for job prospects in the North-West of England. I am also very interested to read in today's paper that British Midland have announced that they have a profitable route running from Leeds-Bradford Airport to Heathrow; no mean achievement. There is a big increase in passengers owing to more frequent and faster flights using DC9 jets. On what I would say is a very short flight, this must help that airport with its extended runway and its increasing number of flights to survive, to be economical, and to serve the area as it should.
There is, however, one area to which I should like to turn for just one moment. It is fact; it is here, and it is a problem. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, might like to agree on this point, because I know that in the past she has had something to say about it. I travel regularly to Heathrow by tube; 18 stops, one change. When it is rush hour, it is very busy and one has to strap-hang. I do not think it is particularly impressive for customers, visitors to the United Kingdom—and we must bear in mind that two-thirds of foreign tourists come by air to Britain—to have to subject themselves to these conditions. The contrast in the comparison between the Gatwick Express and the Heathrow tube is enormous. I should like the Minister just for a moment to consider the words of the White Paper where it says:Such a link is unlikely to be financially viable on current assumptions".There is a limited amount that can be done to improve the road network to Heathrow. I understand that a study of options is now under way. I hope that that study will be fruitful. I hope that if we are bearing customers in mind we shall realise only too well that, yes, we have an underground that runs right into the airport, but surely there must be a better way to satisfy those who carry a lot of luggage, probably bringing children with them to this country for the first 1421 time—and first impressions do matter. I shall not go into the question of rail links to Manchester—there are people in this House who are far more knowledgeable about that particular aspect of policy than I am—but I would say that it is something that ought to be considered very seriously indeed in the whole of the airports policy that this Government are putting forward.
As has been alluded to earlier, I come from Scotland. I am a Scot. I have worked in Scotland all my life. I welcome the White Paper, and particularly some of its aspects relating to Scotland. The shuttle services from Edinburgh and Glasgow, owing to the enormous uplift in competition which has helped pricing and the service, are something not to be talked down. Over the last five years there has been a great improvement and an enormous increase in the number of passengers using those services. As to Prestwick and the Freeport, we wish them well. But there is a hard sell ahead and I hope that the Government's decision will be proved correct when it comes to be reviewed in 1989.
There is, however, one area which concerns me greatly, so far as Scotland is concerned, and here I welcome the Government's attitude to the lifeline routes to the Highlands and Islands. I hope that before very long Inverness will not be considered a lifeline route. It should not be, because the growth of industry and population in that area will surely mean a viable airport in Inverness. I know that Scottish Office support is considerable through the taxpayer, and the scope for savings in franchising, management, etc. under the CAA may be possible. But of one thing I am absolutely convinced, and it is that, in the overall consideration of airport policy in the United Kingdom, the lifeline links to these far-flung places is an essential part of the United Kingdom network, and should never be given up. I know them only too well because I travel a lot on them myself, and I also know that, although the numbers of population may be few in those areas, they rely very heavily on airport links.
In conclusion, I agree with the views expressed by both this Government and, I believe, the Labour Government in 1978, when they said:We will not avoid the need for additional airport capacity in the London area".I think that is correct, because customers must be allowed to go to the destination of choice. Let us ensure in the United Kingdom, against a background of European airports expanding capacity ahead of demand, that we do not lose our prime place. We must remain in the lead.
§ 12.42 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, it is a very great privilege and pleasure for me to be able to follow the noble Lord who has just contributed such a distinguished maiden speech to our deliberations this afternoon. He has expressed himself with cogency and with an ease which many of us might envy, and I am sure that all of us will welcome his further contributions to our discussions in the months and years to come.
I also have great pleasure in sitting behind my noble friend Lord Underhill, who has returned to our Front Benches this morning. We have missed him very much 1422 indeed. I am in an unusual position—and I share the position with the noble Lord whose maiden speech we have just enjoyed—because, for a change, I find myself largely in agreement with what has been said from my own Front Bench. That is a welcome situation which I hope both of us will be happy to have repeated in future. I have one point of disagreement with my noble friend, and I shall touch on that in a moment.
But I should like, first, to refer to a point which he came to more properly than I am doing at the end of what he had to say. He spoke with regret, as indeed I do myself, about the Government's decision to extend their ideological mania into this area. The notion that it is a good thing to privatise airports authorities and, in particular, this airport authority, seems to me to be one where the theory of the whole thing which I understand the Government hold is surely taking precedence over what would be reasonable practice.
I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, will say about that. I rather hope that, with his experience, the reverse will occur and that he will be able to tell us very shortly that on this particular subject, at any rate, he disagrees with the Government and hopes they will leave it in public hands. If he does not do that, in which case I will be disappointed—and it will not be the first time—I hope that my noble friend who is to wind up for us will tell your Lordships that a Labour Government will rectify the situation and will restore public ownership as quickly as possible.
I say that because, if there is one area where it is desirable to have a public interest rather than a private one, it is that of the monopoly, as the noble Baroness said. If one has to have a monopoly, it should be a public monopoly rather than a private monopoly. This is particularly the case in this instance, where the cross-support which one airport can quite properly give to another—there is nothing at all wrong with that—can be much more easily and properly done in the case of a public authority than in the case of a private one. My knowledge of this matter does not equal the depth of knowledge which the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, has—few of us would think that we could match the range of her knowledge of the subject—but it extends over a long period and what I wish to say to your Lordships this morning concentrates on one main issue.
I have a personal interest, as distinct from my noble friend, in the fact that I live under the glide-path to Heathrow and have done so for the last 25 years. So I have personal knowledge of what it has been like during that period. What has been happening is that, while successive Governments have dithered about what they were going to do on this subject, no action has been taken in practice. The consequence of that has been that a build-up has taken place inexorably, year after year. Movement after movement has concentrated on Heathrow and, in terms of both noise and number, the situation under the glide-path has become absolutely intolerable. I can go along with the noble Lord in saying that we can, at least, congratulate the Government on coming to a decision. We can discuss among ourselves whether or not it is the right one, but, at least, they have tackled the problem and have said that they intend to do something, though not precisely what the inspector recommended.
1423 What I think the Government are saying about those thousands, perhaps millions, of people who endure the problem of aircraft noise at Heathrow is rather equivalent to what sometimes used to be said to beleaguered units during the war; that is, that they will bring them all possible aid, short of actual help. This is precisely what the Government are saying here, because there is a contradiction. On the one hand, they say in paragraph 4.10:The Government … cannot accept a policy of inhibiting the growth of traffic in the South East in the hope that it would divert traffic to the regions. Restricting the capacity of the London airports would penalise the travelling public, inhibit competition between airlines and seriously damage the country's prospects, without bringing the suggested benefits to the regions".But they also say on page 62:The Government will continue to support the use of noise-related airport charges".The secret of getting people to go where they do not want to go—and this, after all, is what it is about—is to make it cheaper for them to do so. Therefore, one reason why I think it is desirable for this whole matter to remain in public hands is that it is right and proper for a public authority, which has taken into consideration the public interest, to say that it will make it expensive to land at Heathrow, and cheaper to land elsewhere. If you do that, you can, without any effective procedure of regulation and control, divert the traffic in that direction.
What about the other London airport? So long as Heathrow is relieved a little, I would not mind whether it was Stansted or Gatwick. Personally, I think it should be both. I have long taken the view that a second runway at Gatwick is desirable from many points of view—from the point of view of aircraft safety, apart from anything else. Regardless of whether having only one runway is dangerous in practice, anybody who knows anything about air transport realises that the existence of a second runway available for use if by any chance the first runway should be out of action is a tremendous reassurance; and it should be at the airport at which one is proposing to land, not at another one some miles away. It would be a good thing to have a second runway at Gatwick. It would also be a good thing to develop Stansted as well. I am pretty sure that before long my noble friend Lady Fisher will be putting forward the claims of Birmingham which, after all, is not all that far away. But there is no reason at all why we should not make it attractive to aircraft operators to diversify and use different landing points in this small country of ours. Great benefit would ensue.
To sum up, I am saying that the Government's position is like that of a doctor who is looking at a patient who has chronic bronchitis which is getting worse and worse all the time. The Government are rather inclined to say, "Oh well, he's had it a long time. He will have to put up with it. Somebody over here has a slight cold and he really ought to have our attention. After all, if we are not careful, he might get upset and we must look after him." The situation at Heathrow is severe and is getting worse. What the Government propose here is inadequate. Personally I was sorry to see that they abandoned the limitation on movements. That was, to say the least, a little unfortunate.
1424 Again I congratulate the Government on taking a decision. Let that decision be a multifarious one. Let them say, "Yes, we will"—I do not think it will cost much more—"have a second runway at Gatwick. We will build up Stansted. We will in fact distribute the nuisance of aircraft noise". In distributing the nuisance of aircraft noise they will also distribute the benefit and prosperity to those areas which are sorely in need of it. It is that policy, which is rather fundamentally different in one single sense, but in general terms not fundamentally different all through, that I urge upon the Government. I urge them to take the view that it is time something was done about Heathrow. I hope that their action will result in aircraft noise being spread over a wider area. I hope, too, that there will be incoming flights to different parts of our own island, with all the advantages, disadvantages and benefits that that will involve.
§ 12.53 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Manchester
My Lords, it is by no means easy to speak on the complex and controversial matter of airports policy in a maiden speech while observing the long-established conventions of this House, but I am encouraged by the splendid example which has been given by the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, who has also made his maiden speech today.
Perhaps it will be safest to begin with a reference to history long past. I should like to take your Lordships in imagination to a spot on the Manchester ship canal a couple of miles from its terminus in the Salford docks. At Barton, where the great 19th century spring bridge now spans the canal, one can think back to the mid-18th century when the Industrial Revolution was in its infancy. It was at that time that the Duke of Bridgewater enlisted the services of the remarkable engineer James Brindley, the man who constructed a new canal to carry coal from the duke's mines across what was then the river Irwell and into the heart of the growing urban centres of Manchester and Salford. There the new factories were growing which were to turn these cities and surrounding Lancashire towns into cotton capitals of the world, creating much of Britain's wealth.
Transport—canals, and later railways—played a key role in the growth of that Industrial Revolution now ended. Transport—road, rail and, crucially, air—now has a major part to play in meeting the great problems currently faced by these older industrial areas in the Britain of today. It is to be welcomed that the White Paper before us clearly recognises the role that airports play in the economic life of a depressed region. Paragraph 2.5 of the White Paper states that,an airport also creates employment which will give rise to a demand for additional housing and other facilities and services. The beneficial consequences of such development are likely to be widespread".During the debates in recent years on airports policy many of us living in the north of England have put forward the view that such a policy must recognise the great regional disparities in our country at the present time, the socioeconomic divide between north and south and the grave dangers which this can bring to our cohesion as a nation. The North of England Regional Consortium was formed in 1981 to ensure 1425 that adequate attention was drawn to these vital matters before final decisions were taken, especially over the development of Stansted as London's third airport. Its aim is to promote a policy which encourages the regional airports, particularly in the north, to meet their full potential.
Perhaps it is not irrelevant to tell your Lordships that churches in the north of England have to some extent been involved in this debate. As one of the presidents of the Greater Manchester County Ecumenical Council I wrote to the Minister some two years ago along with my Roman Catholic and Free Church colleagues. We expressed the view that the further development of Manchester international airport was vital to the future of the area and the wellbeing of our population. We urge that such investment should be concentrated in the regions rather than in the South-East, with its comparative prosperity. Your Lordships will I am sure be aware of some of the facts underlying the assertion that there is a north-south divide which must be taken into account when airports policy is being determined.
Unemployment is of course widely spread in Britain, as we know, but the northern regions are suffering to a far greater extent than the South-East. The Northern region now has an unemployment rate which is no less than 8 per cent. greater than that of the South-East, caused by the great decline in manufacturing industries in recent years in what were once the heartlands of the Industrial Revolution. I am well aware that there are limits to the contribution that regional airports can make to arresting industrial decline. I also know the argument that airport passengers and airlines cannot all be directed into conforming with a national policy framed with social objectives in mind. These matters are well examined in the White Paper now under our consideration.
I note the Government view, quoted by the noble Lord the Minister, that restricting the London airports would among other things,seriously damage the country's prospects, without bringing the suggested benefits to the regions".That can be found in paragraph 4.10 of the White Paper. But there is no doubt that the better use of regional airports can make a real contribution to the regeneration of depressed economies, encourage new economic activity and so create new employment opportunities. Perhaps I may give one specific example. A multi-national company is far more likely to locate a new development in the great conurbation stretching from Liverpool through Manchester and Salford and across the Pennines if it knows that its senior executives can travel easily and directly to overseas destinations from regional airports, Manchester in particular, rather than have to go to Heathrow or Stansted.
There are therefore a number of features in the White Paper which must be welcomed in the light of the considerations I have been putting forward, even if many of us might wish that the paper had gone even further in encouraging the regions. We see here a framework for a regional airports policy, a clear recognition of Manchester airport as a regional hub airport and a gateway for long-haul services, an acknowledgement for a potential for tourism in the regions and restrictions on the development of 1426 Stansted. All these points are to be warmly welcomed and many of us hope that the main lines of this policy will be implemented in the years ahead.
However, there are a number of questions which need answering and which create anxiety still in the industrially-depressed areas of the north. One is the matter of controls on the development of Stansted. Unless those are adequate, the proposed policies on the development of regional airports, particularly Manchester, will be damaged.
Although the White Paper proposes planning permission limiting the size of the first phase terminal building at Stansted and limits on aircraft movement per year, I ask whether they will be sufficient to act as a constraint on the development of Stansted in the days ahead. There is also anxiety—and this point has already been well explored by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton—about the extremely low charges at present obtaining at Stansted because of the substantial cross-subsidy from Heathrow profits which according to my information is equal to £6 per passenger. I noted with interest the figure of £8 that was mentioned. It must be asked whether that subsidy is fair to the development of regional airports in the immediate future, especially those under authority control.
In regard to Manchester Airport, another area of some anxiety concerns the granting of licences to foreign airlines. The White Paper recognises the fact that foreign airlines have a role complementary to British carriers in developing the Manchester hub. Those who care for the development of Manchester Airport, with consequent benefits for the northern region as a whole, look for speedy and sympathetic consideration of applications from foreign airlines for direct flights to Manchester. Finally, there is no firm promise, as has already been noted in this debate, of investment in the all-important rail link with Manchester Airport—something that has been begged for over the past 10 or 12 years.
At the beginning of my remarks I took your Lordships, in imagination, to a spot on the Manchester Ship Canal, as a reminder of the importance of canal transport in the years of the Industrial Revolution. The people who now live in those areas have immense problems over unemployment, housing, education and social services. However, it would be a mistake to end my speech on emphasising the problems alone. These are days of opportunity and there is vigour and enterprise in abundance in the north of England. It needs encouragement from the development of a sound airport's policy, for the benefit of all.
§ 1.2 p.m.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, my first and most pleasant duty is to offer the congratulations of your Lordships to the right reverend Prelate who has just resumed his seat after an immensely impressive maiden speech. I am sure all noble Lords recognised how excellent was the right reverend Prelate's grasp of the problems of the people in his great diocese. I am sure they will be grateful that he devoted his maiden speech in your Lordships' House to this subject and to their needs.
It is to me, as a member of the Church of England, very gratifying, as showing the modern approach of 1427 that church, that the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate should be devoted to airports policy. It shows that the Church moves with the times. If I may add another personal note, after our experiences of the past few weeks it is a very real pleasure to be able sincerely to congratulate a right reverend Prelate on a speech.
I should like also to congratulate most warmly my noble friend Lord Sanderson of Bowden on, again, a most excellent maiden speech dealing with realities from his knowledge of particular parts of our country. I was very touched by his reference to the Highlands and Islands airports for which a few years ago, as chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, I was directly responsible, and of which I have the most pleasant memories.
I know that my noble friend will feel, as I do, very great pleasure at the way in which those scattered airports—the smaller of them very lightly staffed—have coped so successfully with the problems of distance, of climate and of economics, and have prevailed. I am particularly glad in that context that my noble friend the Minister recently informed us that his department's idea then of taking those airports away from the Civil Aviation Authority has now been abandoned and that they will remain in the hands which have shown themselves so competent in developing those airports.
This is a very important debate. In joining in the very sincere welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, on his return to our councils, and in congratulating him on looking so very well, I am delighted to say, after his illness, I repeat what he said: that it is a considerable indication of your Lordships' assessment of the importance of this subject that on a warm Friday afternoon, after some weeks which have not been the least preoccupied in the history of your Lordships' House, so many noble Lords have put down their names to speak on this subject. It indicates—just as the right reverend Prelate's speech indicates the modernity of approach of the established Church—that your Lordships' House is fully in touch with the enormous importance of civil aviation to our country's development.
I shall now turn to a measure of criticism of the line adopted by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. He may allow me to say that he seemed somewhat restrictive and somewhat grudging in his approach to the provision of proper facilities for British civil aviation. Indeed, the noble Lord said that there had to be a limit, and that demand could not be limitless. I find that approach a little depressing.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to intervene, I was referring not to the possibility that we might need to meet demand throughout the whole of the country, but to the possibility that at some point there might have to be a measure of restriction in the south-east, if there was continuous demand.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I fully take that point and I shall come to deal with it at adequate but I hope not inordinate length.
1428 I take a different general approach from that of the noble Lord. Civil aviation, with which I have had some association on two occasions in the past, is an activity which this country does extremely well; in which we are adept, skilful and successful; and in which our future is almost unlimited. It is a sunrise and not a sunset industry. It is an industry in which expansion is the order of the day. It is not an industry that goes hands outstretched for a subsidy from the state, but one that goes for competitive activity, is prospering, is growing, and is expanding.
I suggest to your Lordships that civil aviation is an industry which, from the point of view of the whole economic future of our country, we should back to the limit. This is where airports policy is so crucial. Unless we provide civil aviation with adequate airports, it cannot grow. As one noble Lord has said already, if we do not provide in those parts of this country to which airlines believe their passengers want to come landing facilities and reasonable standards of comfort, efficiency and speed, then a great many of the international airlines will go to other airports. I am thinking particularly of those which the noble Lord mentioned, and they are very clear in my own mind: Schiphol, Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt. All of those airports—particularly Schiphol—are setting out very energetically to attract the long-haul North Atlantic and Far East traffic.
If your Lordships will consider where that may lead, it is not only that we shall miss out on those particular flights, and those particular passengers, coming to our country. It will mean also that the odds are that our airlines will lose those passengers to foreign airlines which cater more fully with the foreign airports I have mentioned. It is therefore absolutely crucial to the development of this great, growing and successful industry that we should provide fully for the needs of airlines by way of airports.
"That is all very well", say noble Lords—the noble Lord, Lord Underhill said it a moment ago—"but why not provide it in other parts of the country?" You cannot, simply by providing a nice airport, force airlines and their passengers to go to places that they do not wish to go to, and it is a fact that the majority of long-haul international passengers wish to come to London. They do it for a variety of reasons: partly because London is a great business centre and they come on business, partly because it is a great tourist centre and they come as tourists for pleasure. They come, too, because London has admirable means of communication, including interlining flights to other parts of the country, which are greater in extent than at any other airport centre in the country; and to those parts of the country which cannot be reached very easily by air, such as the south coast, rail facilities are available.
So it is not a question of saying that you can neatly plan and that it would be a good thing to have airports in the provinces taking more and more of the London traffic, and therefore the growth of the London airports will be stunted. If you do that, you will simply stunt the growth of the traffic, and that would be a most serious matter. I am all in favour of the development of the regional airports; indeed when I was at the CAA I did my best to forward it. I very much wish that the spirit and approach of the right reverend Prelate the Lord 1429 Bishop of Manchester would infect some of his brethren in other parts of the country where public opinion seems to be so antipathetic to the introduction and expansion of airports. I should have thought that the right reverend Prelate's approach, with its practical grip on the fact that a developing airport is one of the best generators of good employment that can be found, was one which would set an example to other people in other parts of the country. The noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, pointed to the opposition that is met whenever one tries to develop an airport and I experienced this when I was the Minister concerned with the original decisions to develop Gatwick. Every sort of environmental interest is ranged against you, and it is well organised and vocal. When, as in this case, you have an alliance of those who take the opposite view of airport development, but want the airport development in their area, it makes it a singularly difficult matter to handle.
From my experience over Gatwick, may I convey to my noble friend one small piece of practical advice which he may want to contemplate? I know he knows Gatwick, so he may know the story. When we took the decision to develop Gatwick in the summer of 1954 I managed to obtain from my right honourable friend the then Chancellor of the Exchequer permission to buy, at district valuer's price, any land adjoining that which we needed for the airport where, because of the starting of the airport, the owner desired to leave. I am happy to tell your Lordships that that concession cost nothing. A lot of people went, but they disposed of their land for a great deal better price than that of the district valuer; because, of course, if you introduce an airport of this weight and calibre, then the oil companies, the tourist companies, the airlines, the pilots' messes—all the related interests—require property. They put up the value of property and they put up the need for employment. Indeed, to make one more personal reflection, I recollect that a couple of years ago I was asked to go down to the Gatwick area to open a new housing development there which had been necessitated by the fact that the number of jobs in and around Gatwick was such that accommodation was urgently needed for the labour that was being brought in. In the Britain of today that is a very happy situation, and I would commend it particularly to those who are now objecting to the development of Stansted.
I shall add only one further word before I leave Gatwick, and that is to say that I found myself, not for the first time, in full agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, and, what is much more rare, in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, on the suggestion of a second runway at Gatwick. I need only to say—I do not want to waste your Lordships' time with this—that two runways were in the original plan, which was well thought out and carefully considered, and, as I have ascertained from Parliamentary Answers of my noble friend, there is no airport in the world with the prospective passenger movements of Gatwick which operates on one runway only. Some of them have two runways, some may have three and some may have four. It is therefore taxing one's credulity a great deal to believe that Gatwick will develop satisfactorily and safely on a single runway.
1430 I know that there is this foolish agreement which the British Airports Authority signed some time ago—under another chairman; I should make that clear—with the West Sussex County Council; hut that does not bind the Government. I do not know whether it would bind the successor company that takes over Gatwick, but even if it does, it is an agreement which surely can be dealt with by way of compromise, since the damages which could be said to flow from a breach of it would be very small indeed. Indeed, it could be argued that the West Sussex County Council would suffer no loss but would gain from the further development and the increase in rateable values of properties in their area.
So I say to my noble friend—and it is not simply because it has been for some years a belief of mine, but on the cold facts—that it is a great pity that the Government do not help to deal with the problem of airports in the south by going ahead with the second runway at Gatwick. There is room for it, though they probably will have to take in additional land. But to go ahead with one runway will hazard the development of the airport. I understand it is already causing difficulties. If an aircraft misses its slot for take-off, because it is held up for some trivial reason, it may be an hour or more before it can get another place in the queue for take-off. It is that kind of thing which, in this very competitive industry, discourages an airline from operating from there. I say this with great confidence. My noble friend knows all about aviation and all about Gatwick and he is far too good a Minister to admit to his own beliefs in this; but I know that when one is talking to him at least one is not talking to the deaf.
Finally, I want to congratulate the Government on their courage in coming forward with the main Stansted decision. It is not unamusing that it is just over 21 years since the Government of which my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel was Prime Minister decided on the development of Stansted. So none can accuse Her Majesty's Government of indecent haste in coming forward with this decision now. But it is quite plain, on the traffic figures and the traffic forecasts, that, nothing having been done for some years—and the record, I think, of all Governments in respect of airport developments over the last few years is not one of which any of them can be proud—the only way of dealing with the immediate problem, by which I mean the problem of 1990 or so, is by the urgent development of Stansted. It is the only way it can be done quickly enough.
Therefore I hope that this proposal will go ahead and that as few hostages to fortune by way of commitments about second runways and so on will be taken. In fact if Stansted is a success we ought to reinforce success, and if it catches on, as I hope it will, then we ought to welcome its expansion. I welcome very much—and I say this also with gratitude to my noble friend who may well have had something to do with it—the abandonment of the foolish 275,000 air traffic movements a year limit which it was sought to impose on Heathrow. Deliberately to restrict the use of that enormous asset and to inconvenience the travelling public in so doing would have been an act of utter folly. I am very glad indeed that it has been withdrawn.
1431 Noble Lords opposite will say, "Oh, but what about those who live under the flight path?", of whom, it so happens, I am one when the aircraft land towards the west. It cannot make all that much difference when in the 17 hours out of curfew there is already an average of 700 movements a day. The effect of another 100 movements on those suffering from the noise will be very marginal. On the whole I doubt whether the ordinary citizen will even be able to tell the difference.
One regrets the nuisance of noise, although as aircraft develop that is becoming less acute, but it is perhaps worth pointing out that the great majority of the houses round Heathrow were built and occupied since the airport started, very often for the reason that the occupier had good work in and about the airport. It is essential in the national interest that we should make the fullest use of Heathrow. I hope that the exploration of the issues with the Thames Water Authority and the British Airports Authority about the use of Perry Oaks goes ahead. That is not a short-term solution; it is a fairly long-term solution of the problem. I hope that we shall have a coherent policy involving going ahead with Stansted, pushing on with the possibilities of the fifth terminal at Heathrow, pushing ahead with the second runway at Gatwick and, at the same time, doing all that we can to help the regional airports.
I have one final word of consolation for those who have pleaded their case. The more that British civil aviation develops the better for all airports, including the regional ones. The more aircraft that come into Heathrow the more interlining flights—as we have even heard today—to Bradford and to other provincial cities. It would be a very short-sighted view—and I say this again to your Lordships—to think that by crippling the provision of airports where they are most wanted, and crippling therefore the development of British civil aviation, we should benefit anybody, least of all those who by their enterprise in running airports are seeking to serve the civil aviation industry. I therefore wish my noble friend, in the very interesting years that he has ahead in this development, all good fortune, just a bit of luck and perhaps even just a little more wisdom.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I point out to him that if the development of Stansted is not to relieve the frightful aircraft noise over Heathrow, the enthusiasm of a large number of people for the development will be very much less than it is at the moment?
§ 1.23 p.m.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
My Lords, I join in the congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, and to the right reverend Prelate on their maiden speeches. I shall perhaps concentrate a little more on the inclinations of the right reverend Prelate than those of the noble Lord. That is perhaps a reversal of the way that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, was leaning. As my noble friend Lord Jenkins said, I shall be making quite sure that Birmingham is on the airport map. Why should I not? The Government 1432 White Paper has far-reaching implications for the West Midlands. The level of investment either currently envisaged or proposed for the South-East must have an effect upon the depressed areas, including, as the right reverend Prelate said, anybody who lives north of Watford. If there is a limit to the amount of Government expenditure, if money is spent on enlarging Stansted there will be less to spend in other parts of the country. Once again we find this divide.
The Minister gave a figure of 85,000 for those employed directly or indirectly in the aircraft industry. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, elaborated at length on that and told us how many more people may be involved with the extension at Stansted. The noble Lord, unfortunately, may not know whether the figures I am about to give are correct. Ah! he has finished his conversation. I was referring to him and I should have hated him not to hear.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness. The noble Lord opposite was kindly taking up a point that I made in my speech, so it was not wholly irrelevant. But I apologise for apparent bad manners.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
Thank you very much, my Lords. They were two nice apologies. I shall repeat briefly what I said for the noble Lord. He amplified the employment figures which the Minister gave of those already employed in the aircraft industry—in transport and in other subsidiary aspects. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, went into detail of how further jobs would be involved if Stansted went ahead. That is what perhaps concerns us. More jobs will go to areas where there are already greater job opportunities than in many parts of the country. It behoves those of us not from the South-East to speak on behalf of people who are less fortunate. In the West Midlands unemployment is creeping up to 17 per cent. of the region's population. The regions could easily benefit from future investment and it would make a tremendous difference.
I take Birmingham as an example. The authority has built a new airport and gone all out not only to try to capture more travel facilities for the public but also to enlarge its cargo-handling capacity. In doing so it is trying to create more job opportunities. Products can be moved faster by air to Europe or to the United States. We see the White Paper as jeopardising job opportunities in the West Midlands and in all the other depressed regions. Between now and 1995 the White Paper allows for an increase in the effective capacity of London airport from 51 million passengers per annum to 70 million and over. That is allowing for the development at Stansted and a further expansion at Luton. The result will be to continue the circumstances in which traffic is naturally attracted to the South-East where the airlines are more than happy to continue operating.
Many noble Lords see The House Magazine, and I shall quote from it. The vast majority of passenger demand will be coming from the tourist industry and 1433 therefore perhaps from chartered aircraft. On 28th June The House Magazine had a one-page article by a spokeman for British Caledonian. He said:However, if Gatwick is to fulfil its role and be truly competitive, there must be effective follow-on policies for the logical distribution of traffic among the London airports. Our earnest recommendation is that priority must be given to dedicated year-round scheduled services, with charters, including our own, progressively moved to Stansted".Does that really mean to say that we are going to expect more and more of the charter flights to go further and further away from the passengers who want to use them? Sixty per cent. which is the figure already given in that article, of the people using Gatwick are to be further inconvenienced because 60 per cent. of the people who are at the present moment using Gatwick are travellers from the north of Gatwick. These people are to be further inconvenienced for further travel to Stansted, which is a much more difficult airport to get to than even Gatwick is. Perhaps I may say that anybody who uses Gatwick airport at the present moment to go on package holidays during the summer months, because of its location, because of the early morning mists, is more often than not delayed for an hour or two hours. The noble Lord looks puzzled. I speak from experience.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
My Lords, then perhaps mine is more recent than that of the noble Lord. It was unfortunate. Perhaps I may also say that for those of us who have to travel to Gatwick at present, the early morning flights are much more expensive. That is because one has to take hotel accommodation overnight. There is no way that one can get from any of the regions to Gatwick to catch a aeroplane at 6, 6.30 or 7.30 in the morning. This obviously means that it is much more expensive for people travelling from the regions.
One of the points that I think is also particularly disturbing is this. Tour operators, through their travel magazines, are very often offering flights from regional airports. People make their bookings in quite good faith that they will leave from Birmingham or the East Midlands. They quite often find that four or five weeks after they have made their bookings, they receive letters saying that their flights have been cancelled and that they have been re-routed to Gatwick. This is most unfortunate. One has to either demand one's money hack or put up with the inconvenience.
However, Birmingham airport is a new airport. It has great opportunities for tourists who do not want to come only to London. If one speaks to many American tourists, I think one will find that when they have been to England once and they have done what they call "a London" on their first trip, on their second trip they like to visit the rest of the country. One of the main venues that they visit is of course Stratford-upon-Avon, which is very close to the Birmingham area.
Other noble Lords and the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, have said how important it is to have a good rail link; how important it will be, if Stansted is to be successful, for it to have a good rail link, and how important for Manchester to have its rail link built. I would support that. However, at Birmingham the rail 1434 link is already there. There is a train service that runs every half an hour from Euston to Birmingham, stopping at Birmingham International Airport before it reaches Birmingham New Street station. One could not have a better service than that. It takes an hour and 20 minutes to get to Birmingham International station. One alights at the station, turns left and proceeds for about 100 yards before boarding the MAGLEV service. MAGLEV is an electric magnetic overhead coach which takes one straight from Birmingham International railway station to right inside Birmingham airport. Thus, there is no need for a link to be built. The links are already made there.
Perhaps I may also say that Birmingham New Street Station is an intercity station and practically all the intercity rail networks pass through the Birmingham area. Even if one can only get as far as the Birmingham New Street station from all parts of the country, one can connect with a train to Birmingham International Airport every 10 minutes. So one could not have a better interlocking service than that. Thus, there is no need for rail links to be built in the Birmingham area.
The emphasis that the Government are giving to encouraging the use of airports is very welcome. The bilateral negotiations are welcome. However, surely the Minster is not satisfied that they are sufficient at the present time. As other noble Lords have said, the present structure of fares has to be considered. There are massive differentials which can apply between London area fares and those from the regional airports. Quite obviously this has to be tackled. If the fares are to be much more expensive from the regions, it is quite obvious that the people will try to take the cheapest air fare possible. The Minister admitted that fares are discriminatory. I think it is incumbent upon the Government to answer this point. Perhaps the noble Lord, the Minister, will be able to do so. Can we envisage a date when this will be changed? It is important for the regional airports to know at some stage when they will be level pegging.
It is also important to bear in mind what other noble Lords have said: that Stansted is very heavily subsidised. I shall not use the figure of 6 per cent. or the figure of 8 per cent. I shall use the information that was given to me that the subsidy is the profit from the duty-free shops at Heathrow and Gatwick and that is what keeps Stansted going. I would not know whether that is 6 per cent. or 8 per cent. but that was the information that was given to me.
I should like to draw attention to the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Underhill. This is a cross-subsidy. We shall be talking about cross-subsidies, I suppose, in the next few days in relation to buses. Buses of course have cross-subsidy because they feel that those subsidies should be used for social purposes. I think that will be what we on this side of the House will be saying. However, we cannot say that it is intended to use the subsidy at Stansted for social purposes. I do not think anybody's imagination can stretch that far.
I shall conclude by saying this—and this is where I went along with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, regarding the Civil Aviation Authority. If the Government are sincere, it behoves the Civil Aviation Authority to be charged with the need to promote the growth of services to the regional airports. 1435 The regional airports are already there. They are there to be made use of. They are existing assets. I envisage that the Government in the future should be taking great care that these are used to full capacity.
§ 1.40 p.m.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, as this is a Friday and there are still another nine or 10 speakers due to take part, by which time our proceedings will have advanced fairly far into Friday afternoon, I shall seek to be as brief as possible. I should like to congratulate most warmly my noble friend Lord Sanderson, particularly for his mention of the north-west Highlands. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of air services for the people who live there. There is no hospital in the north-west Highlands to speak of. Anyone who is ill is brought by aircraft to Glasgow. This is a great social service of enormous importance. It is impossible to exaggerate the change that it has brought to the area. I also much enjoyed listening to the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Manchester. He said what is fundamental—that the whole economy depends upon transport. That element, if I may say so with great respect, is underestimated in the White Paper.
We are really discussing today a framework for the next 25 years, perhaps longer. It is important to remember that if we get this framework wrong we cannot afterwards correct it. I should like to take one example of where such a framework has gone seriously wrong. I refer to what the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, said about Gatwick. A friend of mine founded Gatwick about half a century ago. Many people were establishing airports then. He chose Gatwick deliberately because of its close proximity to the railway. He saw the significance of that. I can only say that those in authority—I suppose that that means those within the department responsible for civil aviation—should have made Gatwick the central airport for London. That chance was lost, perhaps irretrievably lost. But it is important to remember.
I am a little sorry that more has not been said about the attitude of flying control or regional control. It is only through the efficiency of this body that the concentration of aircraft in the neighbourhood of Heathrow becomes possible at all. It may be argued that such has been the advancement in equipment that this is all quite simple and that there is full control. It matters not. I am unfamiliar with the advances that have taken place. I should however, have liked to hear the comments of those carrying this responsibility.
The problem is that at one end of these islands we have spare capacity, while the South-East is grossly overcrowded. I do not myself feel very attracted to Stansted as an airport. It has no economic base of great value to serve. Access is frankly, appalling. I drove on one occasion from London in order to travel via the Hook of Holland to East Germany. I would much prefer to go through Checkpoint Charlie than to travel through the north-west of London. It is the worst exit of any from London. And, let us be quite frank, it will take years to clear up. People complain about the access to Heathrow. It is infinitely better than access to Stansted will be over the next 40 years.
1436 Much importance is also attached to the train service. I invite your Lordships to imagine what will be the situation with 10 million people going to Liverpool Street to catch the train to Stansted. I do not know what the City of London thinks. But it is an appalling prospect. It is very badly situated. I wonder also what will be a safe period to allow for transferring from Stansted to Heathrow to catch another aircraft. I would say that it will be four to five hours. For all these reasons, Stansted is not a particularly good choice. We are told that it is the only choice. My guess is that it will not prove to be extremely popular at all.
I wish to emphasise that what is revealed in Mr. Graham Eyre's conclusions and repeated in the White Paper is that people of London are privileged. Mr. Eyre says:Passengers wishing to fly out of the London airports system should not be forcibly diverted to other airports and, in any event, there is no sensible mechanism available or likely to become available which would achieve such an aim".For years, I took the train from Edinburgh and then boarded an aircraft to take me to America. Everyone does this. They have been doing it for years. Why should London people be grossly overprivileged? I can see no reason. Twenty per cent. of the population live in London. What about the other 80 per cent? Not enough consideration has been given to them. Then, there is this terrible threat that they might go to Frankfurt. Many aircraft from the Far East stop at Frankfurt in any case on their way here. I thought that this little added threat showed the narrowness and the inconsequence of some of the arguments put forward for concentrating on London.
My main point is that the absence of proper communications from the great industrial areas of this country, from Scotland and elsewhere, is a serious disadvantage that we suffer. The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, has talked about Birmingham. I agree. There should be adequate services from that centre. Yet it is argued that people will not want to go there.
I am afraid that I do not accept what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said. He mentioned one argument of interest. He said that people want to go to London for morale purposes. That is, I believe, true. A number of countries want an air service to London. It sounds awfully important. But is it in the economic interest of this country to some extent to starve the northern industrial areas of this important and essential line of cummunication? I do not wish to give an absurd example. But let us suppose that the London and North-Eastern Railway had stopped at Newcastle on the ground that there was no demand for it to be extended to Edinburgh. The railway would have been a gross and extravagant failure. In fact, this does happen. If you travel up the M.6, it stops at Carlisle. To my mind, the whole emphasis should be placed on developing the northern part of the country.
I wonder, too, whether this concentration on London is even to London's advantage. Most of us will recall the start of the development of new towns—by Sir Stafford Cripps, I think—in different parts of the country. So far as I know, this policy has been a great success. The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, is, I believe, engaged in building one herself. Do we want to continue the process of all roads running to London, all railways running to London, causing congestion in 1437 our streets here that is becoming increasingly intolerable? The noble Baroness talked about road works and the added difficulties that were caused. I believe that this has an anti-economic effect on the efficiency of London. It is of the utmost importance that London should become less congested. The proposal that we are now discussing will increase congestion. I know that the Government are not wholly unaware of this and that they make a number of promises about what they will do for the regions. I shall only say this. I remember very vividly the late Lord Portal, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, saying that when the Government stated that they would do their utmost to do something, what they really meant was they would do the least they could get away with. I hope, however, that they will take the matter much more seriously than appears to be the case from the document before us.
§ 1.48 p.m.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, I, too, should like to open my remarks by congratulating our two maiden speakers, the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, not only on their speeches but also on the sincerity and the well-informed nature of those speeches. It seems to me that too often in this country we find ourselves in a situation where market-place demand of whatever kind cannot be satisfied by the public sector. Smear tests and the treatment of those consuming illegal drugs, and indeed the prevention of such consumption, are two rather sad examples. The problems posed by coach traffic demand for access to central London are perhaps a more relevant example. But all three are cases where demand is outrunning a publicly-provided facility.
I was delighted to welcome the statement which was repeated by the noble Lord the Minister when the White Paper was published. Now that I have had an opportunity to read the White Paper, I can only re-emphasise that welcome for a document which has addressed itself squarely to ensuring that, in this particular instance, supply will be available when demand, based on available forecasts, arises.
As an idea, Heathrow's Terminal 4 just saw the light of day in March 1976 in a British Airways Authority strategy document, and present plans call for that terminal to be brought into operation in February or March next year—10 years from concept to operation. With timescales such as these in the airport industry, it was essential that the Government addressed themselves to the provision of airport capacity in the South-East of England in the future. Having argued for Stansted when we last debated the inspector's report, I welcome the decision which the Government have taken.
As the noble Lord the Minister said in opening today's debate, we must protect the strength of our airline and tourism industries. We must defend London's position as the world's air traffic gateway, and we must ensure that that traffic is not diverted to competing countries because our South-Eastern airports are saturated. For me the decisions regarding Stansted, Stolport—which has hardly been touched on today—and Luton will protect the national interest and deserve our strong endorsement.
1438 It has been argued that provision of additional capacity in the South-East will be detrimental to the growth of our provincial airports. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill—and I, too, am delighted to see him back among us and in full voice—addressed himself to this topic in terms of provincial passengers being forced to use London airports. However, further investment in provincial airports will not resolve that particular problem. There is a superb airport at Prestwick, but its existence does not by itself bring in the aircraft or the passengers; nor indeed does it encourage traffic out of Scotland to overseas destinations.
Cardiff International is an excellent airport but whenever I transit, it seems to me to be a staggering example of over-investment in over-provision, a fact which is brought out in the table of utilisation in the White Paper. Liverpool is another case in point: it is an enchanting 1930s airport, but it has no planes.
I have discussed the situation with those who manage Plymouth airport and they feel—obviously they have a vested interest in Stolport—that interlining over London rather than direct foreign services is their way ahead. On the other hand, Newcastle is actively pursuing new international schedules to add lustre to its 50th anniversary this year, not least in co-operation with the British Airports Authority and others in exploring the possibility of through European routes serving two British provincial airports.
I am confident that traffic through provincial airports will continue to grow and that the Government's investment and licensing policy as detailed in the White Paper will encourage this growth. However, if London interlining offers scope for growth, may I ask the noble Lord the Minister whether he can amplify the remark in paragraph 11.10 on page 52 of the White Paper that fair access to Heathrow and Gatwick for domestic carriers cannot easily be reconciled with those airports' status as international hubs?
Have the Government any further views on ensuring the preservation of this essential access? For those provincial airports which are making a conscious effort to develop international traffic—and, because several noble Lords have mentioned tourism, may I say parenthetically that among the northern airports it would seem very much easier to get money to take expensive advertisement in The Times than it is to raise money to develop serious tourism promotions for the North of England—may I ask the Minister to give us an update on progress in bilateral negotiations with European and other governments? The topic is raised in paragraphs 6.31 and 6.38.
Several noble Lords have touched upon the problem of surface access to our airports. While welcoming the proposal for improved access to Heathrow, perhaps I may remind your Lordships that a rail link was being canvassed and indeed was costed in the early 1960s, and I should like to ask the Government to push on in this context with the same vigour as they have shown elsewhere in the White Paper. I echo the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in hoping that the cost of Stansted will not fall solely on BR and solely on BR's ability internally to fund its investment. Perhaps one should consider the practice indulged in elsewhere in Europe 1439 in the Stansted context, and, if the British Airports Authority is to contribute to the cost of transport infrastructure to the airport perimeter, it can certainly co-operate and explore ways of contributing to the cost of the rail access, which I believe to be essential to Stansted's eventual viability.
Turning to the Manchester links, I wonder whether a rail link will serve only to divert to Manchester much provincial traffic, detailed in paragraph 6.32 of the White Paper. Will Manchester's future growth be fuelled by diversion from other northern airports? Lastly, I wonder whether there really is a case for even investigating a railway station serving Prestwick, given that Prestwick's future beyond the late 1980s is uncertain and may, I fear, become more so when separate accounts are published and cross-subsidy banned.
I have sincerely welcomed this White Paper and the policies that it enshrines. I congratulate the Government and wish them well, not perhaps in getting the show on the road, but rather on getting it off the ground.
§ 1.56 p.m.
The Earl of Dundee
My Lords, I should like to begin by congratulating both the right reverend Prelate and my noble friend Lord Sanderson on their excellent speeches. Although, unlike my noble friend Lord Sanderson, the right reverend Prelate is not a fellow Scotsman, nevertheless Manchester is much nearer to Dundee than it was because for the last two years since Air Ecosse has operated from Dundee airport, and provided I have not had a very late night, I have been able to see the local aeroplane out of the window on its way to Manchester early in the morning. The existence of this inter-regional service has already done much to help with local business and employment, and I should like to endorse the right reverend Prelate's remarks on that point. On the problem of providing proper lifeline services to the Scottish Highlands and Islands, I should equally like to endorse the comments of my noble friend Lord Sanderson.
Irrespective of the nature and details of current Government proposals, it is heartening to note that the need for a clear airports policy itself is not in order to arrest any decline or failure within the British aviation industry, but rather to establish for the foreseeable future the best ways of dealing with its success and healthy growth pattern. One of the main criticisms of the White Paper to which noble Lords have referred has been that the development of new capacity required by the 1990s should not have been planned for the South-East of England, as it has, but instead should have been allocated to the regions which suffer higher unemployment levels and which suffer less good living conditions. Certainly it is the case that capacity at regional airports as a whole is under-utilised. Another fact is that about one quarter of passengers who now use London airports have origins or destinations other than in the South-East. However, even if a significant percentage of this proportion were able to be transferred from the London area to a regional airport, it is estimated that London area demand would still outstrip its capacity during the 1990s.
1440 On the questions of how, where and when to proceed with this further development in the London area, which constitutes the second main criticism of the White Paper, the choice of Stansted for phased expansion over the next 20 years is surely a sensible decision. Of course events as they unfold in the 1990s might reveal the execution of the present plan for Stansted, and maybe its first phase alone, to have been premature. Judging by detailed forecasts concerning demand and capacity, on the other hand, that is unlikely.
However, even if events did come to reveal this, spare capacity other than at an enlarged Heathrow airport will still be necessary to the London area in order to cater for numbers and categories of flights beyond the 1990s. Clearly Gatwick has a very important part to play in long-term plans and there is the separate problem there of safety, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, and my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter have already referred. Yet action taken now with Stansted, accompanied as it is by guarantees to limit the scale of the operation and to protect the local environment, can serve to remove much uncertainty and to reassure the industry over this important and long-term planning issue. However, while the decision to develop Stansted makes good sense it should be asked as a separate question whether enough is being done to stimulate the growth of aviation in the regions. The number of passengers there in 1984 was about 22 million. The forecast for the year 2000 is 43 million at an average annual traffic growth rate of 4 per cent.
Regarding a strategy to maintain these levels and, if possible, to improve upon them, it will be generally agreed that the Government should continue to work for new short-distance and new long-distance international flight connections with regional airports. If airlines are always encouraged to compete for whatever services may exist, then passengers can hope to enjoy further reduced prices over a wider range of airports. And the present air traffic ratio between London and the regions of roughly 75 per cent. to 25 per cent. respectively can hope to change to some extent in favour of the regions without working against market forces, and without inhibiting unnecessarily the potential growth pattern of either grouping.
Turning to the question of Scottish airports, taken together the four main ones made a profit of about £4 million last year. But Prestwick in its own right made a loss, and has done so since 1980. One reason for this given at that time was the termination of Laker flights to the United States. Among other grounds now for believing that airlines can be attracted back to Prestwick is the present tendency, welcomed by the industry, for smaller aircraft to fly longer distances.
Does my noble friend the Minister agree that every effort should be made to help recreate the numbers supported by Prestwick in the 1970s of about 400,000 passengers a year? Would he also agree that as part of the campaign to assist that airport a railway station should be constructed at it on the existing Glasgow to Ayr line?
In contrast to Prestwick, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, which deal with domestic and European flights, have performed particularly well recently; and a principal factor accounting for the 11 per cent. 1441 growth in 1984 over the previous year for traffic on the trunk routes between London and Scotland has been the introduction of British Midland and the healthy competition which it has given.
Another important category of course consists of smaller regional airports. Until 1983 Dundee Airport hardly ever accounted for more than 8,000 passengers a year. But this annual figure rose to 22,000 for both 1983 and 1984, during which time Air Ecosse have operated regular services to Heathrow and to Manchester, which I mentioned earlier. As a result of the increase in flights, local commerce and industry have already benefited. Coinciding with this, and run by the SDA, the Tayside region and Dundee district, the Dundee project, which has established free enterprise zones in the city, is now about to develop another at the airport itself, where proximity to the city is a great advantage.
On future prospects it is considered that the airport could now attract and support a significant volume of air freight and a number of direct flights from abroad. Yet such endeavours are currently inhibited by Customs and Excise procedures. Owing to the potential impact on local business and employment, would my noble friend the Minister agree that certain Customs and Excise restrictions should be revised in order to accommodate benefits as outlined in this case, and in order to accommodate similar potential local benefits where they arise in the cases of other small airports in the United Kingdom?
On the whole, current Government proposals considered today provide a useful framework for the efficient management of different categories of airports near London and in the regions. As a result there can be every hope that British aviation will continue to make a significant contribution in the years ahead to many parts of the economy, including the tourist industry, to prospects for new local business and employment, and not least to opportunities for leisure and travel.
§ 2.4 p.m.
§ Lord Mulley
My Lords, I hope that the noble Earl will understand if I do not attempt to follow his interesting speech, particularly about Scotland, both because I lack the detailed knowledge and in the interests of time. I have every confidence that my noble friend Lord Carmichael will deal with some of the interesting points he made. I should like to join all those in all parts of the House who have welcomed hack my noble friend Lord Underhill. I should also like to express my congratulations on the two excellent maiden speeches that we have been privileged to listen to today. The fact that we had two maiden speakers, and the width of this debate in your Lordships' House on a Friday, indicates the great importance of the subject we are discussing.
I should like to congratulate the Government on at least making a decision. I make it clear that this lack of decision-making involves not just the present Government but has been shared by Governments over a long period of time. I rather regret that the decision is in the nature of a compromise and that, as my noble friend Lord Underhill said, a lot of difficult and controversial matters have either been fudged or left in limbo, but at least we have a decision. As a 1442 Permanent Secretary told me many years ago, a decision in Whitehall is almost as rare as golden nuggets. I never found any such nuggets, and I am bound to say that in my view we did not have as many decisions as we should have had.
It so happened that as Minister of Aviation I received the first inspector's report on Stansted as long ago as 1966. It had already been announced, however, that the Ministry of Aviation was to be wound up, and its civil aviation functions were going to the president of the Board of Trade. At that time of course there was no Board of Trade but there was a president; and that indicates how long ago it was. Although my inclination in 1966 would have been to say, "Yes, we should go ahead with the development", in fact no such thing happened and we have had a whole series of public inquiries, and indecision, and the rest.
The only field in which, so far as I can see, we have exceeded in the number of public inquiries is roads. Unfortunately this tendency for everyone to seek a public inquiry about everything under the sun is symptomatic of the decline of this nation's industrial and competitive capacity over the last decades. To sum it up, I would say that for everyone who is trying to do something there are at least two people, and usually many more, determined to stop them.
At least it is significant that we have a decision. While I regret that in assessing our aviation needs so much emphasis has to be placed on the south-east, it is a fact of life that that is where people want to come to and to go from. My noble friend Lady Fisher was concerned about Birmingham. The reason, I suspect, that flights going to or from Birmingham were cancelled was that there were insufficient passengers for that charter and several had to be put together where the passengers come from in the south-east area. The economic facts are such that if one does not have passengers one cannot afford to run services.
I will not develop the argument in detail, but we ought to profit from the lessons learnt from what has happened to sea tranport, particularly sea freight. Rotterdam now enjoys a large part of the business that previously used to come to London and Liverpool. It is now an entrepot where loads are broken down and distributed all over Europe. Many people and much freight that might have come here if we had continued to have satisfactory services will go direct to Europe and not come to this country if we make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to do so.
While I understand and accept that the Stansted development has to be phased, I rather regret that it cannot be made clear that for planning purposes regard should be paid to the increased number of 15 million. I agree with the wisdom of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, at the time of Gatwick, in taking steps to safeguard the necessary land that might be required. I should hope that both at Heathrow and at Stansted similar provision will be made. I agree completely with those who regret and seek to minimise aircraft noise. Internationally, quite properly with the development of technology, we shall have quieter aircraft.
The noble Lord was concerned with the development of Gatwick 30 years ago. Twenty years ago I was receiving deputations from people in the Gatwick area, presumably on land that the noble Lord 1443 sold at a profit. When visited by a deputation of some 20 or so on one occasion I said that I could understand the problem if they had been living in the area before the airfield was created and had had to suffer the noise and inconvenience. I asked, "How many of you lived there before the airfield was started?" In fact there was not a single one: all had moved there later. If someone buys or takes a house on the edge of an airfield he must surely expect a certain amount of aircraft noise, and of course this has happened.
Another instance of the same problem arose when I was faced with having to decide where the perhaps rather noisy American tanker aircraft, the KC 135s, should be sited. These were necessary to ensure that the NATO reinforcement capability should be placed in this country, and Greenham Common near Newbury was one of the proposed possibilities. Although that airfield has been reserved as a military airfield since the end of the war for the possibility of American use and reinforcement, the planning authorities have allowed new houses to be built all round the periphery of it. In retrospect, it may be true that the residents would have preferred that use to the new use for cruise missiles and the associated protest movement. But clearly steps should be taken to safeguard the immediate periphery of airfields from building so that people can be protected from moving into an area where they have to suffer the increased problem of noise.
The main point I want to make in this debate is that I greatly regret the decision to privatise the British Airports Authority. I was the last Minister directly responsible for airfields. I think the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, previously had to exercise that responsibility, because I took office between the passing of the Act and the Act coming into effect. But I am sure it has been a great success. I do not share the view that some Members opposite and a larger number of members of the Government take that competition provides a magic formula for industrial growth and efficiency and a panacea for all problems.
While I accept that there is room for argument as to the extent to which our industries and activities should be privately owned and to which they should be publicly owned, I feel that transport is an outstanding case where there is a need for monopoly and for a monopoly that is publicly accountable. At least, I welcome the fact, contrary to the fears that were expressed, that if the British Airports Authority is put up for private ownership, it will be put up in one piece and not be split up into seven parts as was suggested. With my noble friend Lord Underhill, I cannot see the possible point of seven subsidiary companies, nor can I see any point in requiring the local authorities to form their local airfields into public companies under the Companies Acts.
I believe—and this is a point which no doubt will arise in the next days when we are discussing the current Transport Bill before the House—that, in transport, if one is to provide a service there must be elements of cross-subsidy of a character which it would be a dereliction of the duties of directors of a privately-owned company to undertake. If, as I believe, in transport you need public monopolies, they should be, in my view, publicly accountable. There is 1444 an even stronger case for not repeating the mistake that has been done in the case of British Telecom, which has merely transferred a public monopoly into a private monopoly. Indeed, I wonder how they can comply with the requirements of the Companies Acts in drawing up a prospectus to sell these shares, having regard to the powers that it is indicated, quite properly, will be given to the Secretary of State to regulate the whole character and the number of aircraft movements, and to the Civil Aviation Authority, of which the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, was a distinguished chairman for a long period of time. I do not dissent from their having responsibility. Listening to the clap of thunder outside, I hope that my remarks are not responsible for this external reaction! It may be that something in Wales has given rise to it; I am not sufficiently informed. But, as I say, I do not dissent from the Civil Aviation Authority's having the power to regulate charges so that the monopoly situation will not be exploited.
At the same time, I think there is bound to be a conflict of interests between the directors, who are bound by statute to consider, first, the interests of their shareholders and, one hopes, those of their employees but have no responsibility at all for public policy. It could be that decisions either by the Secretary of State or by the CAA, might make it impossible for the company to earn the profit that it would otherwise wish to do. There is a further complication in regard to having the proper development (as I suggested) in terms of the acquisition of land. Such a commercial company would not have the powers of compulsory purchase and, in my view, would not have the means of controlling the planning. I hope that they will not be obliged to resort to the anachronistic and expensive procedure, every time they wanted a little bit of land, of having to produce a Private Bill and have it voted through both Houses of Parliament.
All these matters ought to be fully considered further. As I have said, I fail to see how an honest prospectus could be put out to sell the shares with all these reservations on the powers of those who would be responsible for administering the company. I agree completely that in the public interest we need regulations to carry out the necessary development and control of aviation, but I believe that it should be done by a public and not by a private monopoly. I hope, but with not much faith in the case of this Government which decided to privatise the Royal Ordnance factories, that they will have second thoughts about this matter.
§ 2.19 p.m.
§ Lord Bethell
My Lords, I should like to join with others in congratulating the Government on this White Paper which, I think, goes a long way towards satisfying the demands of one of Britain's most successful service industries. The White Paper, I believe, has struck a good balance between service to the community and the travelling public, concern for environmental issues and the maintenance of the prosperity of this great airport complex which is so vital to Britain's industries. If I make some remarks in the course of my speech which seem like special pleading, I should confess at the outset that Heathrow airport is in the constituency which I represent in the 1445 European Parliament and I see the area in North-West London as being the central point in the hub of Britain's communication network with the outside world, and particularly with the other nine European Community countries. Therefore I make no apology for putting forward in particular the case for Heathrow and the surrounding district.
I agreed with my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, when he said that you cannot force passengers to use an airport they do not want to use. He went on to say, "They want to come to London". I would go further, and say that they want to come to Heathrow. It was the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, who remarked on the fact that only half a million people at the moment use Stansted, even though four times as many could. I wonder how many will use Stansted even after the proposed developments are put into effect.
The fact of the matter is that, with the best will in the world, there will never be fast communications from central London to Stansted or to Gatwick as are, and could be, available to Heathrow. Heathrow must remain as the most convenient and substantial airport not only for central London passengers but also for those from the west country and the midlands. Our road and rail network makes that an inevitable fact of life. The exit points of the motorways M.4, M.25, and M.1 all prejudice one in favour of Heathrow.
Sadly, though, as my noble friend Lord Trefgarne pointed out, Heathrow suffers from one great disadvantage: it has reached saturation point. There are only two runways—two wonderful runways—in use at Heathrow. We wish that there could be a third, but it is not on to create that. There just is not the land available and the only way that a third runway could he built would be by wholesale destruction of housing in the vicinity in a way which would be unacceptable locally and nationally.
Noble Lords have pointed out that the number of 275,000 movements per year has already been passed at Heathrow, and we cannot really envisage going much beyond that at that great airport. We will not be able, in spite of the tremendous improvements over terminal facilities at Heathrow to get a 400,000-movement demand into a 300,000 Heathrow pot. Therefore one has to look for ways to improve Heathrow within its present capabilities. Of course I hope that the proposals for Stansted and Gatwick will go ahead so that some pressure will be taken off Heathrow by the proposals put forward by the Government. But Heathrow, I think, must remain as the No. 1 nodal point, and the proposal that I am about to make will help that to be the case.
Up to now I do not think anyone in this debate has mentioned Northolt Airport, which I remember from the days of my youth as being the main London airport. Over past decades it has been used as a RAF station and in recent years a small number of business aircraft have begun using Northolt. I welcome the proposals in the White Paper for facilities in and out of Northolt for business aircraft to be simplified and improved. In particular, I welcome the new rules put forward that make it easier for passengers from other European Community countries to pass through Northolt without complicated immigration special facilities having to be made available. I believe that it would be possible to exploit Northolt on a level slightly 1446 beyond that proposed in the White Paper. The White Paper envisages only an expansion of business movements, I believe up to a maximum of about 15,000 to 16,000 a year; three times the present level. I believe that it might be possible to envisage a service of small short-haul, low-noise aircraft flying into and out of Northolt at least up to the level of a Stolport—perhaps a little beyond it.
We know that certain aircraft are acceptable to local people, even in a built-up area, because of the very moderate threat that they place on the environment, particularly as regards noise. The de Havilland Dash 7 is the best known aircraft in this category, but there is also the Short 330 and 360 and the ATP. All these aircraft are suitable for short haul and, I believe, would not arouse great objection from environment pressure groups or interests in the areas of Hillingdon, Brent and Harrow that surround Northolt airport. I would emphasise that a number of these turboprop aircraft are still in use at Heathrow. They fly to such modest—in distance terms—destinations as Norwich, Birmingham, Cornwall and Newcastle.
I wonder how efficient it is to have aircraft of this type flying into and out of Heathrow. They use up a very large amount of runway time because of the time they take to land and take off. In short, they rather block up the works on the two runways available at Heathrow. I wonder whether it would not make better sense to have some of these domestic and short-haul aircraft land at Northolt airport. I dare say that a whole host of objections will immediately leap to the minds of noble Lords. What about air traffic control, the length of the runway at Northolt, the lack of immigration customs facilities at Northolt, and passenger terminal buildings? I believe that none of these objections is incapable of solution. In particular, I have in mind the possibility of building, if you like, a Terminal 5 or a Terminal 6 to feed the Northolt sector and to make Northolt usable in tandem with Heathrow.
It is a great pity that the Hayes bypass has not been built already. Promises were made about the Hayes bypass years ago. I hope that in spite of the demise of the Greater London Council—which most of your Lordships applaud—the Hayes bypass will still go ahead. It could be used as a link between Northolt and Heathrow, and a bus shuttle service between the two airports could be arranged on a regular basis. I put it to the noble Lords that it would be no more inconvenient to travel from a Terminal 6 at Northolt to Terminal 3 or Terminal 4 for an onward medium-haul or intercontinental flight, than to travel from Terminal 1 to Terminal 4 for an intercontinental flight, because the journey would take about the same amount of time.
The proposal, then, is to use Northolt as an overflow point for a certain type of flight; domestic shorthaul aircraft, which do not disrupt the environment and to which there are not strong objections from the local people. I believe that this would consolidate the three boroughs of Hillingdon, Harrow and Brent as the hub of Europe's links with the European Community and other countries. It would provide greater capacity for the Heathrow area or the Heathrow-Northolt complex which would thereby be created. I believe that this is a possibility which the Government could 1447 well consider on top of the views put forward in their White Paper, and I ask my noble friend if he will indicate to the House whether he will be prepared to examine the feasibility of it.
§ 2.31 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I begin, as most other noble Lords have done, by extending a very warm welcome and congratulations to the two maiden speakers in our debate. I listened very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson of Bowden, had to say and I look forward to enjoying on many future occasions what he has to say, because he undoubtedly speaks with knowledge, wisdom and wit. If the noble Lord will forgive me for saying so, I listened with even closer attention to the remarks of the other maiden speaker, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. I intend to strengthen and consolidate the case that he made so excellently. He demonstrated quite clearly, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said, that he is a modern model of a bishop, which I find all too refreshing, in his willingness and ability to make a case on behalf of the people whom he seeks to represent. I look forward very much indeed to hearing the right reverend Prelate on many occasions in the future.
This is the second opportunity we have had since the turn of the year, to debate airports policy and in the earlier debate I had the privilege and opportunity of making a contribution. In January we commented on the Eyre report and today we debate the Government's response. In any context, but particularly in this context, a debate in your Lordships' House is a very important debate indeed.
I read the report of a comparable debate in another place, and I was particularly struck by the remarks of my right honourable friend Alf Morris, the Member of Parliament for Wythenshawe, who spoke on that occasion, although he wears other hats, as the chairman of the North of England Regional Consortium. He spoke powerfully and with passion and conviction, because he leads what is not only the case for the north, but an all-party case for the north. He was able to deploy parliamentary concern, but also great parliamentary skill and flair. He knew what he was talking about.
He dramatically drew the contrast between the fortunes of the people of Eccles and Esher, of Failsworth and Farnham, of Wythenshawe and Windsor, of Salford and Stansted, I believe that the way in which he drew the Minister's attention to the problems facing those people—real people living in real places every day—is something that needs to be read into this debate.
When your Lordships' House debated the Eyre Report a number of contributions were made underlining the demand made in the other place for an imaginative policy for regional airports development. In my submission, noble Lords must judge the adequacy of the Government's response in the light of that specific demand. The response must also be judged in the way in which it makes a contribution to one of the major problems facing the north—the growing disparity among the economic and social fortunes of regions of this country.
1448 A further factor is whether the development of Stansted on the scale described in the Government's White Paper is necessary and is in the wider national interest. I live in Edmonton/Enfield. Residents there are well aware that if indeed there is undue excess development at Stansted they will certainly face noise pollution, road congestion and environmental distress and disturbance. I take nothing away from what other noble Lords have said in terms of the possible benefits flowing from the development, but those are some of the detrimental effects. That is why the Enfield Preservation Society, which speaks on these matters with authority and stature, expressed grave disquiet about what might be in the White Paper.
Stansted has become a symbol of the North/South divide. Never before has a single investment decision generated such outright opposition and hostility from all walks of life in the regions. Resolutions opposing Stansted have been adopted in Conservative constituency associations. A resolution was adopted at the Conservative Central Council meeting earlier this year in Newcastle, which is my home town. It is Labour Party policy and the policy of the Alliance Parties to oppose a major development at Stansted. Employers' federations and the chamber of commerce have taken a similar view. The trade union councils in Yorkshire, Humberside, the North-West and the North oppose Stansted, and more than 600 firms and business people have expressed similar views. They are all concerned at the fact that Britain is being, shall I say, "South-Easternised"; with major road investment in London, new towns in the green belt, a second Dartford tunnel, 60 per cent. of new firms going to the South-East, more centralised decision-making in Government and industry, the Channel tunnel, the closure of branch plants outside the South-East, reductions in regional aid and on housing and environmental improvement, and in some areas of the region—the Northern region—one person in three unemployed. The list is endless and depressing. Stansted was rightly seen as the last straw breaking this camel's back. It is a tragedy that the Government have failed to respond in the broadest possible terms to the point I am making about regional disparity. I urge the Government to make a statement on the disparity and to allow a full debate to take place at the earliest opportunity.
The regions are rightly concerned that the limitations on the development of Stansted agreed upon by the Government are only a sop to environmental and regional interests. I have a question for the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, which he might like to answer in closing this debate. If he and his colleagues in Government are prepared to afford Parliament the opportunity to agree to any further expansion at Stansted beyond 7 million to 8 million passengers per annum, why was not a similar opportunity afforded to Parliament to agree to the initial expansion? If only to achieve consistency this should have happened. It will be no answer if the noble Lord says that such a course would have brought the planning system into disrepute. I can think of nothing that has brought the system into more disrepute than allowing one of the biggest single investment decisions to be taken for many years to be considered as though it was a proposal to build a garden shed in the green belt. If we are to learn anything from the Stansted saga, surely it 1449 is the inadequacy of the conventional planning system for projects which raise major national issues. I trust I have the support of many noble Lords when I express the hope that the Government will take the opportunity to think through the implications and perhaps bring forward some proposals in the not too distant future.
As I said, I live in Enfield which is but 10 miles from Harlow. I can tell the noble Lord the Minister that there is great concern in Harlow about the development of Stansted, from this standpoint. There may very well be benefits financially and in other ways, but people are concerned as to where the future expansion of Harlow, taking account of Stansted, will come. It can come either to the South-West of Harlow, which is towards London, or to the North-East of Harlow, which is towards Stansted. The Minister should know that from the representations I have had, if expansion is to take place it should be to the North-East towards Stansted.
I shall turn now to some of the specifics of the White Paper. It is gratifying that the Government have grasped the nettle that subsidies to Stansted should be limited; that any investment in the infrastructure of the area should be both economical and cost effective. That is a major step forward. Having said that, I would add that there remains concern that under the structure put forward in the White Paper for the London airports it will still be possible for Stansted to be given more than a helping hand. The regions demand the elimination of subsidy, and of that the Government should have no doubt. The regions tell me that they will be looking very closely at the fine print of the legislation in the autumn, to test the Government's sincerity on this vital matter.
I welcome the thrust of the remarks made by my noble friend Lady Fisher of Rednal, especially when she mentioned in passing the issue of consolidation: the extent to which individual passengers, having hooked their holidays, are very often told, at scant and disgracefully short notice, that they have to leave from another airport, on another day, and at another time. They are sometimes told that they will even have to fly to a different resort. That is called "consolidation". The noble Baroness mentioned very fairly how fed up are the travelling public. The Ilkeston Consumer Cooperative Society, which is very well known to me, informs me that during a short period earlier this year, 1,000 of the bookings it made were subject to variations from the precise details of the holidays booked. We also have the problem of mounting evidence that surcharges are made for currency and oil price fluctuations. There may be a case for such surcharges, and this is not the occasion to debate them. I speak in the presence of not only my noble friend Lady Fisher of Rednal but also of the noble Baroness, Lady Burton. They are both closely concerned with consumer matters. No doubt those problems will not go away and we shall return to them at some future time.
The biggest test of the Government's sincerity will be in relation to what they say about the regional airports. The recent history of regional airports has been dogged by the unfulfilled promises of successive Governments. A regional airports policy that makes a genuine contribution towards eliminating disparity is 1450 not simply a paper exercise. It demands a social commitment by a host of people to make it work. It demands also an open skies policy.
When airlines seek to exploit market opportunities in the regions, there should be no need for all-party campaigns over something like a 12-month to 18-month period to allow carriers such as Singapore Airlines to be allowed to operate from Manchester airport. The Government should welcome such airlines with open arms. A regional airports policy demands additionally the promotion abroad of regional tourist attraction. It is not enough to say in the White Paper that the Government look to airlines and tour operators to exploit tourist opportunities, when it is the Government's policy to promote solely London abroad.
Tourism policies need urgent review. I hope it will not be too long before the inquiry headed by the noble Lord, Lord Young, completes its work and this House has an opportunity to debate its conclusions. As ministers in another place made clear, the package received a mixed reception in the regions. That was because it is a very clever package. There is no doubt that the efforts of the North of England Regional Consortium has imposed drastic changes in the proposals originally put forward in the Eyre Report. Equally, there is no doubt that there exists deep concern that the South East is once again receiving all the investment, leaving the regions with only promises and crumbs. We want words translated into action. The requirements for a positive regional airports policy have been identified. The regions are ready to play their full part. It is now up to the Government to prove that they are ready to play their part. The North of England will be watching the Government every step of the way. Finally, it would be remiss of me not to pay tribute to the Northern Consortium for the campaign it has promoted and which I have been happy to support. The Government must now be worried that the North no longer has any intention of being just good losers.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ The Earl of Lindsey and Abingdon
My Lords, I also should like to congratulate the two noble Lords who have made maiden speeches this afternoon, and wish them well. I hope that we shall hear them on many occasions in the future.
We have had a long and constructive debate on a very important subject, and it is my intention to speak to your Lordships for only a minute or two. All the points in the White Paper which needed airing have been taken into account by previous speakers, and we are waiting for the winding up speeches to conclude this Friday afternoon. The conclusion that we have reached in this and previous debates is that, though everyone knows where Stansted is, no one wants to go there. I for one, belong to this school of thought and I have not changed my views over the years. I shall just mention that throughout the 1960s and 1970s I lived within 10 miles of Stansted and it is understandable therefore that I have followed the progress of the Stansted saga from the Roskill Report down to the present White Paper.
We are discussing today the implications arising from the recommendations of Her Majesty's 1451 Government. I congratulate the Government on this White Paper and would like to raise just one or two points in relation to Stansted and another point in respect of the Scottish Lowlands airports.
As regards Stansted and its surface access feasibility, referred to in section 5.29 of the White Paper, it is described as a high quality access location. I should like to tell your Lordships that I have to contradict that statement. Having spent 20 years driving in the area and trying to get into London, I know from experience that it is not a high quality access location so far as London is concerned. Even with the arrival of the M.11 and the completion of the M.25 and the possible extension of British Rail's access to the airport, which is subject to the ability of British Rail to finance this project, I still think that with the numbers involved, increasing from the preliminary estimate of 7–8 million to 15 million and possibly 25 million, it is just not on. I do not think the Government have done a proper study on this aspect and I must return to the suggestion made by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, as I backed her up in our debate last February, that the second runway at Gatwick is the only alternative.
I turn now very briefly to the Scottish Lowlands airports in which I have more interest possibly because I now live nearer to Glasgow and Prestwick than to Stansted. In this White Paper there seems to be a double standard in respect of regional airports. I say this because Stansted, as has already been explained this afternoon by many speakers, is subsidised by Heathrow and Gatwick, whereas Prestwick is not. They are both described in the White Paper as international gateway airports.
I ask my noble friend to give me a clear answer to the question of why is it that Prestwick is limited to international flights only? In section 6.34 to 6.37 of the White Paper, where it refers to Scottish regional airports, the Government state that Prestwick will be subject to a Government financial review in 1989, if it does not make it on its own. Why cannot Prestwick be allowed to have a limited number of domestic flights within the United Kingdom, especially to the South-East? I should be pleased to hear from the Minister if there is a reason why that cannot be done. I note that both Edinburgh and Glasgow are being allowed to increase their short-haul European flights.
In conclusion, I would just say that I am pleased that the Government have decided to keep the BAA under one holding company when it is finally privatised. Otherwise I congratulate the Government on the White Paper.
§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, there are two reasons why I shall be brief: first, because most of the points have already been covered; and, secondly, because there are celebrations beginning in which I want to take part.
A noble friend of mine was unkind enough to ask as we started the debate whether I considered that if there were by-elections simultaneously in Twickenham, Richmond, Saffron Walden and one of the Surrey constituencies Maplin would suddenly come back on the agenda. If the Government or the noble Lord ever 1452 considered the reprieval of Crickhowell as a way of winning by-elections, they have changed their view.
It is inevitable, as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said—and I, like everyone else, welcome him back to our deliberations—that we go somewhat over the same ground that we went over in our last debate on the air report. At that time I referred to forecasts. I was most interested to hear what the Minister had to say about the projections for Heathrow and the questions of larger aircraft. In fact the trend seems to be slightly in the other direction at the moment and that has an impact on the need for a fifth terminal.
I think that we have to be extremely careful about turning forecasts into planning decisions. Even if they are by the most expert people, forecasts do not always turn out to be correct. For instance—dare I mention it again!—public opinion polls do not always indicate the right result, even on the day of a by-election. I must say that Mr. Worcester has sauce on his face. Whether his prediction was deliberately intended to be inaccurate I find difficult to say; but it is time that we looked at some of the forecasts on which people make decisions.
There are other matters which are not treated in any great detail or at all in the White Paper—for instance, the impact of the Channel tunnel on traffic movements in the South-East of England in the future. That is a long way away, and it may have a relatively limited impact. Certainly the reference to Stolport is greatly welcomed. Although it will not have a major impact on the totality of air traffic movements in the South-East, it is an important aspect. I was fortunate enough yesterday to go down there to look at the site. It is derelict today, and it is very sad when one thinks back to the great days of merchant shipping in this country; but it is extremely impressive to think that it is to be resurrected and turned into an important gateway to this country. It will take only a maximum of something like 1 million passenger movements a year, so it will not impact on total traffic movements. Nevertheless, in the near future it will be an important facet of business travel in and out of greater London.
The Government, towards whom I feel a certain benevolence this afternoon, as your Lordships will understand, have not turned up such a bad report as one might have feared. They to have to a certain extent grasped the nettle in the way in which governments have not done in the past. I think I said in the last debate that I should not like to have been the Minister of Transport dealing with this problem. It is not an easy problem. I think the Government have dealt with it as best they can.
I think that to a certain extent there are some cosmetic things in the report. As many noble Lords have said, the decisions on Stansted are not as straightforward as they appear on the surface. Once there is a rail link into Stansted, then of course inevitably the development will go to 15 million or even 25 million movements a year, although in fairness to the British Airports Authority, they have now said that it is certainly not their intention to think in terms of the larger figure in the future. I hope that that will be the position.
It is very difficult to conceive of Stansted being a successful airport, as various noble Lords have said, 1453 without a rail link. Yet, once there is a rail link, and particularly if the terminal is built on the eastern side of the runway and the rail link goes in a tunnel underneath the runway, then it is almost essential that the maximum number of movements that the runway will take is reached in order to pay for the cost of that rail link.
Again, the road links into Stansted are totally unsatisfactory, not at the Stansted end but at the London end. Albeit that it is possible to feed into the M.25 circuit and the North Circular Road and so on, nevertheless direct access into London by road is almost impossible, even at the moment. To contemplate going by bus from here to Stansted is more than flesh and blood can stand.
It will be interesting to know what will happen to the M.25 and that traffic if, as we hear in this morning's paper, the Ministry is contemplating privatising the tolls on estuarial crossings. It seems to me that the cost of the Dartford Tunnel, which is now an integral part of the M.25, will become rather expensive. We all know that estuarial crossings do not pay for themselves, and if they are to be privatised, the cost of tolls will be increased enormously. Thus, there are a number of different facets to this whole planning process and this whole forecasting process which we still need to consider in more depth.
So far as Heathrow is concerned, I must say that I welcome the move of the sewage works, although I still maintain my total reservations about the possibility of a fifth terminal at Heathrow. It is not possible to contemplate that unless there is a proper rail link and unless greater consideration is given again to the road traffic movements coming into London and around that part of the M.25. For all kinds of reasons, including the one that the Minister mentioned, I do not see the possibility of a fifth terminal in the foreseeable future and I cannot feel sorry about that.
Much emphasis has been placed on regional airports. I welcome both maiden speeches today. It is the convention that none of us speaks of maiden speeches after the next immediate speaker has given the good wishes of the House, and yet we all seem to do it all the time so I do not see why I should be refused that privilege. Both maiden speeches were excellent. However, if your Lordships will forgive me, I have more interest in the speech of the right reverend Prelate, being a Mancunian myself in my origins and, as I think I have said before to your Lordships, having a sentimental attachment to Ringway. I was at the opening of that airport in 1948 when the latest aircraft were on view, in the shape of the new bomber, the Fairey Battle, which I suppose dates me. I believe that Manchester has a tremendous future. I think that the city fathers in those distant days did a very good job in laying out that airport. I should certainly want to see it as a hub of activity for the North-West region. I do not delude myself, however, that this is going to answer the problems of South-East England. It will marginally, but it will not solve all the problems.
We come back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, that there must come a point when we have to say to ourselves, "Can we afford, in environmental terms, to go on putting more and more people into the South-East of England?". I believe that in contemplating that lies part of the answer to the 1454 problems of Manchester. We are, in volume terms, talking largely about the tourist trade. Some of the most beautiful parts of the country lie within easy distance of Manchester airport. What is needed is for the tourist boards to be given encouragement and finance to put together the sort of packages that will entice Americans in particular to make their entry into this country via Manchester.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I can speak on behalf of the tourist boards. I have worked in this dimension. We have tried hard to do this. As I said in my speech, advertisements in The Times have tended to be a rather more appealing way of spending money than the assembling of finance for this sort of marketing programme. I would also point out that this year's boom in North American visitors does not consist of those who are prone to explore other parts of Britain. Many of them are first-time visitors. They are spending their time in London. In the fullness of time we hope that if they enjoy their stay in London, they will come back in five or 10 years' time on a second visit when they will be prone to visit the North of England.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, I understand what the noble Lord says. I would have thought that his remarks tended to underline the point I was making. It is precisely to encourage those people to come into the north that more finance is needed to put together the sort of packages that will be attractive to first-time visitors to this country. I give an instance that was suggested by the people of Manchester. The Lancashire coast and the Scottish coast have some of the finest golf courses in the world. A package tour which encouraged Americans to do a tour of those golf courses would be very attractive. However, because of the degree of fragmentation of the tourist boards, that sort of thing, I understand, has never been done. It is being done, if at all, by the people at Manchester airport themselves. That sort of imaginative idea, with a little Government backing, could produce results.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, it has been done, and, funnily enough, it was done by the noble Lord's beloved Manchester—I am sorry, Lancashire—in the first instance, not by Manchester airport.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, I am grateful for that correction. But it needs to be done rather more than on a county basis. It is bringing the counties together that has been the problem for Manchester. Individual county tourist boards have been operating very much on their own. One needs to bring together North Wales, Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire and the lot to encourage this sort of input. I still say that this is not going to solve the problems of the south-east.
There are other things that would improve the situation in Manchester in relation to licensing, particularly of American airlines. There has been reference to Singapore Airlines. That was a very silly case. There is need to examine the Bermuda II arrangement under which it was agreed, I understand, that Manchester could be a departure point for United Kingdom airlines but not a reciprocal point for United States airlines. The rail link to Manchester has been 1455 mentioned at some length. It is a very short spur that is needed. I have no doubt that with these developments Manchester could become the focal point of a considerable amount of air traffic.
Birmingham has been dealt with admirably by the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal. I tend to think of Birmingham as London's fourth airport. This is a matter that needs to be fed into Government thinking. It is far better to go to Birmingham and catch the train for Euston than to try to drive in from Stansted. The whole question of rail links is crucial to airport policy. The reason that people are happier with Gatwick today is that you can get on a train at Victoria and travel quickly and cheaply right into the terminal. Therefore, I very much subscribe to the view, mooted by my noble friend and indeed by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that if there is any possibility at all of a second runway at Gatwick—on which I rather poured cold water on the last occasion we debated this—by all means let us go ahead, because Gatwick is one of the most attractive airports in the country at present.
The Government are to be congratulated on grasping the nettle. We are a very long way from having solved the problems of our airports. We have to do much more thinking about the extent to which we are prepared to sacrifice the environment in the south-east of England to even greater numbers of people, even though those people bring prosperity to the area. We must draw a line somewhere and say that we cannot afford the destruction of our environment to continue any more, even if we are somewhat poorer in the future than we otherwise might be. There is a greed factor here which we must examine. This has been a very useful and wide-ranging debate, but I am certain that we shall return to the subject many times in the future.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove
My Lords, I think that we are all grateful that we have had this debate today, although once again we are going over a great deal of the ground that was covered in a much earlier debate, supplemented by the Statement that we had some weeks ago. I believe that it is due to the persistence of the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, that we have had this debate today, and we should be grateful to the noble Baroness for that.
After the first mention of maiden speeches, it is not normal to say anything further about them. However, it would be very wrong of me not to welcome back my noble friend Lord Underhill, who has obviously almost returned to his old robust self. My noble friend is a very deep well of information, particularly when dealing with the subject of airports. It is also important to note that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, who made his maiden speech today, spoke importantly to the subject and gave a view on something that is really basic to the whole debate—the regional aspects of the north-south division, which seems to have been developing in this country.
I feel a certain privilege in mentioning the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, as he comes from the same part of the country as I do. He and I are frequent straphangers on the way to Heathrow, which is another 1456 important point that has been raised in the debate. I hope that within about an hour I shall be hanging on to a strap, or even perhaps be lucky enough to have a seat, on the way to Heathrow. However, as has been said in the debate, at most times of the day when going to Heathrow it is almost impossible to get a seat.
The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, whose views I have always found to be extremely original—and I have learnt a great deal from him since I came into your Lordships' House—also spoke of the importance of access to airports. Both noble Lords, together with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, spoke of the importance of the Highland routes and of Highland airports. Last month I had the great privilege of taking some English visitors to the beautiful island of Barra. We did not go by air because we wanted to experience the sea journey, which is very nice in the summer. It was a calm day and the sun shone, but I can understand that the fact that the sea journey takes six hours would not enable the island to develop to any great extent. We took advantage of going round in the post bus and spent some time at the airport.
Those are two examples of community involvement in making a place accessible to a great many people to whom otherwise it would not have been accessible. It also makes life on the island that much more tolerable than it would be if the only way of reaching hospital, as a noble Lord mentioned, of taking advantage of higher education or even of doing major shopping was by undertaking a six-hour sea journey. We spoke to many of the islanders. It is not that they use the airport a great deal; it is the fact that it is there which gives them the feeling that they have contact. This is important to them.
The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, talked about the difficulty of getting to Stansted, and other noble Lords have also mentioned that difficulty. This must also apply at some point to Heathrow. If you are going to develop Stansted you must have dedicated rail links with perhaps two or three stops, and not the 18 stops that there are on the way to Heathrow picking up general commuter traffic. They will have to be dedicated. We do not yet know the figure for Stansted. Is it going to be 8 million, or 15 million, or ultimately going up to the 25 million?
The White Paper, at 11.9, quotes the inspector's report. It says:Stansted … will have the primary role of accommodating such services as are to be transferred from Heathrow and Gatwick and of providing facilities for new airlines concerned to set up and operate leisure oriented services in the London airports system".It looks as though the long-term logic of Stansted will be that the shuttles, and the Inverness and other services from airports in the rest of the country, will ultimately be slid into Stansted. If we did not have a dedicated rail service from Stansted into London it would be a great boon to British Rail, and particularly if they brought in their advanced passenger train on both the East and West coast lines.
My noble friend Lord Underhill asked at the beginning of this debate—and he was pulled up about it—a question of how far one can go in the South of England. The last time I spoke on this subject I said that I was not in any way anti-London. I accept that London is one of the great cities and one of the great capitals of the world, and will always attract a large 1457 number of people. But if you continually assume that this is the only part of the United Kingdom you will be trapped into the fact that you can never think outside it. You will always have to put more and more in to make life more tolerable there. My noble friend Lord Underhill tried to emphasise this.
A reasonable example was given by the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, when he asked, what do we do with the coaches in London? A point of saturation can be reached, and coaches in London are now reaching saturation point. You are suddently needing to find a way of dispersing them, or of finding other ways of dealing with them and getting them away from the centre of London. Despite the fact that they bring in a great deal of money and are essential to tourism, they have reached a point of saturation where we have to do something about the situation. Many of us believe that the same applies to the congestion that more and more airports and more and more passengers will suffer in the London area.
We are told that even internal passengers are nearly all anxious to come only to Heathrow, and that few want to go from the regional airports and particularly on long distance flights. I doubt this very much. I doubt whether much attention has been given to it. I am rather sceptical of the bland assumption that if people from, say, the United States, or the Middle or Far East, cannot land at London Airport, they would go to Frankfurt, Schiphol, or Paris, rather than Manchester or Birmingham. If I were going to America I would look for the nearest airport from where I could get a reasonable land service. When the air traffic controllers were having difficulty I could understand the planes going to Schiphol or de Gaulle, but that would be an airways decision and not a passenger decision. I can hardly believe that a passenger coming from Washington specifically to Britain would necessarily go to Schiphol because he could not land at Heathrow. Not enough attention has been paid to this.
The figures I have from the Civil Aviation Authority on internal passengers who come to Heathrow need a great deal more investigation. The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, was amused with the polls, and obviously there is room for scepticism about them. I believe more investigation is required on the figures given for international flights leaving Heathrow and for where the passengers come from. It is said that 68 per cent. come from the South-East, 3 per cent. from Scotland, 1 per cent. from the North and 2 to 3 per cent. from the Midlands. I doubt these figures. I know it is extremely unreliable to use one's own examples in making assessments. I am sure that noble Lords who have already spoken about their experience of Heathrow and about travelling from Heathrow will seldom travel to Glasgow or Edinburgh without seeing many other fellow passengers carrying duty-free goods—more than in the figures given in the assessment by the Civil Aviation Authority. I know that this is not reliable, but it is a rule-of-thumb way of making assessments. Every week when I travel down on the aircraft many more than one or two of my fellow passengers are going abroad. It seems that it is all the other passengers.
My noble friend Lord Mulley said that one of the great things about the White Paper was that the 1458 Government had made a decision. I do not believe that it was an easy decision; it must have been a very complicated decision to make. However, we shall have the build-up at Stansted of the original 7 million increasing to 15 million and then, who knows, to any figure suggested. I accept that this matter has to return to Parliament for ratification, but as was pointed out by one noble Lord, this is a very unsatisfactory system under which to make such an important decision. The other place was given an hour-and-a-half for discussion on this subject. We have had a discussion but we have no control over the matter in the sense that by tradition we are unable to vote against it.
The Government still have time to think of solutions. For example, what is the reason for not having a second runway at Gatwick? Is it because of a certain undertaking, or is it, as I have been told, a technical impossibility. We must consider the question of the shifting of a huge complicated sludge works at Heathrow, but I cannot see where there are technical difficulties at Gatwick. It would be interesting to receive an answer on this from the Minister.
If the Government decide to go ahead with Stansted, I hope there will be no question of doing so without immediately providing a rail link. The Government have made a decision and we are grateful for that. They should leave the British Airports Authority on its own to get on with this matter, without trying to privatise it. However, as has been said by many speakers this afternoon, if they are to privatise it, it should be privatised as a going concern, as an entity. There would be nothing worse than to have competing airports, to have Gatwick, Stansted and Heathrow in this corner of the south-east competing with good airports with plenty of capacity in the north of England.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have heard this debate. I shall read at leisure some of the important points that have been made by other noble Lords.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, when I replied to our debate on the inspector's report on 11th February I was not able to respond to many of the points made by noble Lords for fear of prejudicing the quasi-judicial role of my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Transport, who had to take the difficult but necessary decisions on the Stansted and Heathrow planning applications. But these decisions have now been taken and announced so that that constraint no longer applies. Consequently, I hope to be very much more helpful than I was on that occasion in dealing with the questions that have been raised in today's debate; although in deference to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and the celebrations to which he now plans to proceed, I shall try not to do so at inordinate lengths. It has been a long and arduous week and I would not wish to make it more so.
The noble Lords, Lord Underhill and Lord Carmichael, if I may say so, manfully defended their party's policies particularly with regard to the regional airports. However, I was glad to detect a more moderate tone in their contributions than that which prevailed in the other place where the honourable lady who spoke for the Opposition referred to our 1459 proposals as "a slap in the face for regional airports". The more balanced reaction that we would have expected—and indeed received—from noble Lords at this end of the corridor is therefore very welcome. The regional airports, particularly Manchester, have professed themselves satisfied with what the White Paper has offered and with good reason. Moreover, the policies that the Government have put forward are not far removed from the statements made by the last Labour Government, particularly in their White Paper in 1978. I ventured to quote some of those words in my opening remarks.
So far as the policies of the Alliance parties are concerned, the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, and the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, put forward a shopping list of proposals during our debate last February, almost all of which have been met. They asked for the withdrawal of the proposed air transport movement limit at Heathrow; and that has been done. They asked for expansion of regional airports, particularly Manchester; and that has been done. They asked for limited development at Stansted as the need arises; and that we have done. They asked, too, for a second runway at Gatwick, which we have not done; and they asked for caution on a fifth terminal at Heathrow until means had been found of improving surface access; and that, too, we have done.
Perhaps I may now turn to some of the points that have been raised during the course of this afternoon which—
§ Baroness Burton of Coventry
My Lords, if I may intervene, I think that it is time that the Government ceased to take any credit for the withdrawal of the ATM limitation. They had no choice. The standing committee refused to make progress and the Government just had no option but to withdraw.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, if the noble Baroness wishes to take that view, then she is entitled to do so.
§ Baroness Burton of Coventry
My Lords, if the Minister wishes, I shall give him the column numbers of the Hansard of the Commons where this was withdrawn quietly by a Written Answer.
§ Lord Trefgarne
Yes, my Lords, it was withdrawn; but the noble Baroness said that we had no choice. I would not accept that for a moment. However, in any event that is what she wanted and that is what we have done.
§ Baroness Burton of Coventry
My Lords, I do not mean to become a nuisance but it is really and truly not correct. Standing Committee F in another place refused to meet until the Minister had withdrawn this ATM limit. If he refers to the minutes of that Standing Committee, the Minister will see that that is the case.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I am well aware of the proceedings which took place in another place on this matter but I come back to what I said just now: that the removal of this limit is what the noble Baroness had in mind, I understand, when she spoke in 1460 February, earlier this year; and that is what the Government have done. I hope that she does not seek to pursue me for that.
My Lords, there are several inter-related reasons, nonetheless, why an ATM limit at Stansted does make sense. This matter was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in his earlier remarks. Generally, the White Paper explains the role that the Government see for ATM limits in the context of traffic distribution between airports serving a single catchment area. ATM limits will enable the rate of traffic growth at airports to take due account of an individual airport's potential, the developments at other airports and the impact on local residents and the surrounding areas. In other words, ATM limits are a tool for controlled and balanced traffic growth.
Perhaps I may now continue with the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. He expressed some doubt as to whether demand would grow at Stansted from its present level of half a million, which has stayed low even with the cross-subsidy, to which some take such exception. The answer is that demand in the London area has grown at a rate of 8 per cent. compound over the last 24 years. Last year it grew by some 10 per cent. When there is no room at Heathrow and Gatwick for new services or operations, traffic will need to be accommodated. Stansted and, to a lesser extent, Luton will help in that respect.
In a related question, the noble Lord asked what would be the traffic mix at Stansted—I think that point was also in the mind of the noble Baroness, Lady Burton—and which airlines would go there. The inspector saw it initially as catering for low-cost leisure traffic, mainly charter, but with room for scheduled services as well. That is how Gatwick started and that is the basis on which most of the regional airports have developed. The Government will seek the advice of the CAA on traffic distribution between the London airports, and of course the aviation industry will be consulted.
The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, also asked me about privatisation. There are no major airports overseas in private hands at present, but that is no reason for not privatising United Kingdom airports. United Kingdom civil aviation is a world leader and we must look ahead, not back at early development days. The BAA will be set up as seven airport companies under one holding plc, to achieve, among other things, transparency of accounts and to inhibit cross-subsidy.
Turning now to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Burton, she referred in particular to the timing conditions in the Stansted decision letter. The position is that outline planning permission has been given. The details must now be negotiated by the British Airports Authority with the local planning authority. The decision letter provides for work to begin either within five years of outline planning permission—that is to say, five years from 5th June 1985—or two years after detailed permission is given by the Uttlesford District Council. The planning law provides for reference to the Secretary of State if necessary, to prevent indefinite delay. These conditions (that is, the five-year and the two-year conditions) are, I am told, normal provisions such as apply to any planning consent.
1461 The noble Baroness also suggested that the delay of the Stansted development might delay the ending of cross-subsidy. As my right honourable friend made clear, the Government expect the first phase to be completed by 1990 and that charges at Stansted will increase steeply as soon as construction starts. Furthermore, the BAA proposals for investment would be expected to show an acceptable rate of return. However, as the noble Baroness has herself pointed out, traffic there amounts to only half a million passengers per annum at present, despite the low charges—Luton in fact has 2 million passengers per annum—and this does not suggest to me that it is an important factor at present, although it may be later.
§ Baroness Burton of Coventry
My Lords, I am sorry to keep interrupting, but if the noble Lord goes fast I shall not be able to ask him. I asked him about two very important points. The first was when the cross-subsidisation of Stansted would cease quite definitely; and the second point I asked about was whether he believed honestly that Stansted was viable, unsubsidised and without a rail link. Will he answer these two questions?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I have a great wad of material in front of me and all of that will emerge from the answers I shall give in due course. The noble Baroness also raised the question of the rail link to Stansted. That could indeed be a very desirable development but it must await British Rail's evaluation. If it proves justified in financial terms British Rail will wish to invest in it, and I see no reason why m), right honourable friend should not approve the investment. Clearly such services, if priced at the right level, can pay for themselves, provided of course that there is enough traffic.
The noble Baroness, Lady Burton, also asked me about the second runway at Gatwick. Of course she and I have discussed this matter before. So far as that is concerned, the noble Baroness has said that from the point of view of the aviation industry and the customer, to develop Gatwick only as a single-runway airport is a mistake. However, it would be equally mistaken to fail to take into account the impact of a second runway on the people of Horley and Crawley and indeed on the people of Charlwood, whose homes would probably disappear. The White Paper states that the Government believe that this impact would be unacceptable. Furthermore, because Heathrow and Gatwick are so close, air traffic control constraints make it uncertain whether in fact the second runway could be fully used. For these reasons I have to say again to the noble Baroness that the Government do not see a second runway at Gatwick as either desirable or practicable. I know that this answer will also disappoint my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter who drew attention to the constraints of Gatwick's single runway.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, the noble Lord has referred to me and has made reference in his very recent remarks about air traffic control. Is the noble Lord aware of the fact that the original Gatwick plan with its two runways was taken in full knowledge of all the air traffic control problems involved?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I would not want to dispute that, because of course the noble Lord was intimately involved in that consideration nearly 30 years ago. But I imagine that my noble friend would agree that air traffic control considerations in those days, taken as they were so long ago, may well look very different today. Indeed, as I said in my opening speech, and as paragraph 4.22 of the White Paper states, the terminal—that is, the second terminal at Gatwick—is not likely to be used to full capacity until the mid-1990s. This does not mean that Gatwick will never reach the 25 mppa that the terminals can handle, but that it will take a little longer to achieve than we at one time thought. This, together with runway constraints at Heathrow, reinforces the need to provide additional runway capacity in the South-East and justifies the decision to develop Stansted, an airport which already has a full-length but under-used runway.
Perhaps I may now deal a little further with the question of cross-subsidy which was very much in the mind of the noble Baroness and on which she questioned me again just now. I well understand the concern on this matter. The White Paper envisages safeguards against it; and I should explain what we have in mind. Subsidy to airports is not a new issue which arises only in relation to Stansted. All airports which are being developed have to lay out cash to build terminal facilities, roads, drainage and other services. They must fund this investment either from charges or from other sources. Stansted is in exactly this position. Now that development is approved, we should expect the BAA to increase the traffic charges to reflect the cost of providing the new facilities.
We understand that the BAA will be reviewing their charges with this in mind, but they clearly cannot finance the whole of the investment from charges on the existing traffic. They will need to borrow in the early years of the development and repay the money later from revenue. It is the intention that this borrowing, whether from internal funds of the BAA or from elsewhere, will be at commercial rates. These arrangements will actually be more stringent than those which obtained when the local authority airports were being developed. For example, Manchester, Birmingham and others received capital grants from the Government towards investment during the early years of their development.
There is then the question of losses. There is no intention that Stansted should make continuing losses. There is no reason to suppose that a private sector BAA would want to subsidise any of its users; and the arrangements that we shall put in place for the regulation of airports will, in any case, provide safeguards against predatory pricing to attract traffic. They will ensure, for example, a framework for fair competition among all the United Kingdom airports so that no airports can be damaged by price cutting by others, and that the charges related to costs are fair and non-discriminatory. Powers which we intend the CAA to have will be included in the Bill which we shall be introducing at an early opportunity. Of course, your Lordships will have a chance to consider that in detail.
While on the question of BAA airports, may I refer to a point made by my noble friend Lord Dundee, particularly about Prestwick which is indeed currently 1463 making losses. We have made it clear that we look to the management of the BAA, and to the other interests, to improve its financial performance, using its considerable advantages. My right honourable friend's decision to maintain Prestwick as the designated gateway for long-haul services to and from Scotland will remain, but it will be subject to review in 1989 in the light of improvements in Prestwick's financial results. That decision will not be affected by the arrangements that we shall be making on cross-subsidy, which will not prevent temporary losses being incurred in these circumstances. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, asked me about regional services from Prestwick. There is really no reason why those should not develop now. There is no constraint upon those; merely the wishes of the airlines to mount such services in the light of the modest traffic.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, is my noble friend really contemplating closing Prestwick in 1989? May I also ask him why it is that for 20 years no station has been put beside Prestwick, although the railway runs right past the aerodrome? Those are two questions to which I should like to have some kind of answers.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, the proposal is that in 1989 we should look again at the future of Prestwick, in the light of whatever may happen between now and then. The fact of the matter is that in recent years Prestwick has made continuous losses of a quite considerable kind and, clearly, it is not right that those should be allowed to continue indefinitely. There are some signs that those losses may be reduced or even eliminated in the years ahead, and if that happens I am certain that Prestwick will have an assured future. But I do not think there is any panacea to the problems of Prestwick, like, for example, the construction of a railway station, but doubtless that would have some benefit if it were to come to pass. The important solutions for Prestwick would lie in additional traffic feeding additional services, so that the airport would not continue to make the sort of losses that it has made recently.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, made something of the noise climate around Heathrow. The noble Lord explained that he has lived in the area for 25 years and, of course, he represented a constituency which is just to the east of Heathrow for a number of years as well. But I am not sure that the situation is quite as bad as the noble Lord imagines. The White Paper in paragraph 8.3 and table 10, makes clear that the noise climate around Heathrow has actually improved quite considerably since 1974. For example, the area within the 35 NNI contour, which is generally regarded as representing the onset of disturbance, has fallen by over 300 square kilometres in that time. This is largely due to the Government's efforts on noise certification of jet aircraft which aims to reduce aircraft noise at source.
The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, asked about progress on bilateral negotiations on air services. There are three liberal bilateral agreements in place with West Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Discussions are now under way with 1464 Italy, Switzerland, France and Scandinavia. It was announced in the other place last week that negotiations are to begin shortly with the United States Government on the basis on which United States airlines can fly direct scheduled services to Manchester. That point was raised by at least one other noble Lord as well—
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves the aircraft noise problem, will he recognise that, while it is true, as he says, that by various means the contour has been improved, if under these proposals Heathrow is allowed to continue to grow the improvement which has been secured will once again be threatened and, therefore, the actual fact of large numbers of aircraft flying over the capital city is, in itself, an undesirability?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I understand the fears of the noble Lord in this matter. But I think I can assure him that in technical terms, anyway, the prospects are for a steady improvement in the noise made by aeroplanes, and I believe that there will be a steady improvement, too, in the noise environment around Heathrow.
Returning to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, I would add that the noble Lord also sought an assurance that domestic operators would continue to have access to Heathrow. I am pleased to be able to give him that assurance. The Government recognise the importance of Heathrow to domestic route networks and have no intention of denying domestic operators continued access.
Perhaps I may return again to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Dundee and, particularly understandably, perhaps, to the problems of Dundee aerodrome. He asked me especially about the Customs problems. I understand that the Customs and Excise have recently announced that they are reviewing the criteria for the provision of duty-free shops at airports. Whether that will include the provision of such a facility at Dundee I am not certain, but my noble friend will no doubt ensure that appropriate consideration is given to that. But I think my noble friend really had in mind the procedures for passengers, cargo and the like proceeding through Dundee airport, and perhaps I may be allowed to look into that problem and write to my noble friend.
The noble Lord, Lord Graham, asked why the Government did not allow Parliament to take the decision on Stansted. The answer is that the planning procedures used do not provide for parliamentary decisions. When the Government invited the BAA to bring forward proposals for developing Stansted in November 1979, Parliament agreed that these proposals should be the subject of a wide-ranging planning inquiry. This inquiry has taken place. It lasted 258 days, hundreds of witnesses were heard and thousands of documents considered. The Government then took the very unusual step of publishing the inspector's report in December last year. The report was fully debated in the other place on 30th January, and then in your Lordships' House on 11th February. The Government listened to and bore in mind the 1465 views of Parliament as witnessed by the White Paper, but the formal planning decisions under the planning laws enacted by Parliament were for my right honourable friends.
My noble friend Lord Bethell made some interesting points about increasing the civil use of Royal Air Force Northolt. We recognise that Northolt is an extremely valuable facility which in certain respects is being under-used. At present civil use—about 15 movements a day—is well below the ceiling agreed some years ago. That is why the Ministry of Defence and other Government departments have taken a number of steps to encourage greater civil use, and they are mentioned briefly in the White Paper. I think that my noble friend has some more ambitious plans in mind, and he referred to these. I shall certainly give such plans further consideration alongside the similar proposals which I have received from the civil aviation industry. But it would be necessary for any expansion scheme to show a commercial return, to incorporate adequate environmental safeguards and to be fully compatible with the continuing military use of the airfield. That may be hard to achieve.
Finally, I was asked about rail access. I think many noble Lords had the problems of Stansted in mind. As your Lordships will know, we have asked British Rail to look at this matter. Work is needed to establish what type of rail link would be financially justifiable, taking into account traffic forecasts and phasing of development. We have invited British Rail to undertake a detailed study of the options with the British Airports Authority. It seems likely that a more modest rail scheme, probably operating into Liverpool Street, as does the present rail link, would show a satisfactory financial return rather than the more expensive scheme which was proposed at the inquiry. But there are one or two other possibilities as well and those will all no doubt be taken into account.
This debate has made clear the diversity of the problems with which my right honourable friends have had to grapple. I think they are to be congratulated on what their decisions and the White Paper have achieved. The Government have provided for the capacity that will be required in the South-East to meet the clearly foreseen levels of demand in the mid-1990s with the capability and flexibility to provide more if required. We have provided a framework for the development and growth of air services to and from regional airports with a firm commitment to further positive action to achieve that. In short, we have provided for a national airports policy. In addition, we have proposed a radical restructuring of both BAA and local authority airports. By privatising BAA and enabling major local authority airports to introduce private capital if they wish, we are opening the gates for expansion, innovation, customer responsiveness and continued success. The White Paper represents a good deal for all the United Kingdom's airports, for local people and the environment, and not least for the consumer. I commend the Motion to the House.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at sixteen minutes before four o'clock.