HL Deb 13 July 1995 vol 565 cc1830-3

3.6 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether at the public inquiry on a fifth terminal at Heathrow they will oppose proposals for its construction.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers)

No, my Lords. The planning applications for the construction of a fifth terminal at Heathrow were called in for a public inquiry by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment in March 1993. He is therefore in the quasi-judicial position of being an adjudicator on the applications.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that Answer. I realise that the Question is not worded quite as it should he. I meant to alter it but I forgot. However, putting that matter on one side, is the Minister aware that the proposal has been somewhat misunderstood? It is believed that because this is the fifth terminal its effect will he to increase the movements of aircraft by one-fifth? On the contrary, it is intended that the movements shall he up to double.

Does the noble Earl appreciate that living under a Heathrow flightpath can he unfortunate and that many people are suffering a lack of quiet enjoyment? If aircraft movements were to be doubled the situation would become unendurable. Having regard to that, will the Government take a sceptical view of the inquiry, which I know is taking place hut which will not reach a conclusion for a considerable time? Will the Minister nevertheless keep a very beady eye on it?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, surprised me when he said that he had not worded the Question as it should have been. I thought that that was quite unusual. Naturally, I answered the Question as it was worded, which seemed to be perfectly simple.

Of course, the Government will keep an eye on all such matters but it would be wrong for my right honourable friend to take any view about this matter because, as I said in my Answer, he is an adjudicator.

The noble Lord referred to the number of movements being doubled. The purpose of the new terminal is to take advantage of the existing two runways. Whether more traffic is allowed and whether the aircraft which use the runways make less noise are totally separate matters from the inquiry.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that it is believed that there will he fewer, but larger planes? Is he further aware that the London Tourist Board considers the fifth terminal to be absolutely essential if London is to maintain its valuable tourist earnings, which are increasing at a rate slower than in any other European capital?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that is one of the matters that will come out in the inquiry. My noble friend is right in saying that the likelihood is that aeroplanes will he larger and will make less noise.

Baroness Platt of Writtle

My Lords, is my noble friend also aware that if we do not allow an increase in air traffic at Heathrow we shall lose that traffic to other European airports, because people need transfers? However, the new noise regulations should make the situation more acceptable to people who live around the airport.

Earl Ferrets

My Lords, my noble friend makes a useful addition to the matters which no doubt the inquiry will take into account.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, perhaps I may take this opportunity to congratulate the noble Earl on his appointment. Is he aware that I believe that by the time the report lands on the ministerial desk he and his colleagues will have no cause for worrying about quasi-judicial responsibilities, or any political responsibilities whatever?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, for the courteous observation with which he began his question. When I moved from the Department of Trade to the Department of the Environment I thought that I had lost the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. I am glad that I have not. It enables me to answer his perfectly absurd questions, which are of no relevance.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, is the Minister aware that he can run but he cannot hide?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, this is interesting. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, would stick to his normal briefs, but I understand that he cannot run at all.

Lord Dixon-Smith

My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that counting chickens is a hazardous occupation?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, we all do it from time to time with various degrees of success.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, the House will he very glad to hear that the Government have not prejudged the issue of the public inquiry into the fifth terminal for London Airport. Can we be assured that, in reaching a final judgment on the issue, they will bear in mind the need for an airports policy which encompasses the whole of the United Kingdom and which builds on the strength of developing international airports in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow to ensure that the whole of the United Kingdom is served by the airports that we have available to us?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the airports policy of Her Majesty's Government is one thing; a planning application is another. When my right honourable friend determines the planning application, he will address his mind to the substance of that application.

Lord Geddes

My Lords, is it not the case that, as a generality at Heathrow, the slot space availability is just about at saturation point? In this regard we are addressing the question of fewer executive, smaller jets and more of the large passenger carrying jets.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I do not think that we are necessarily addressing that. What is being addressed is whether there should be a fifth terminal at London Airport and all that goes with that. All those matters will he considered. The point which my noble friend makes may be one such matter, hut it certainly is not the only one.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that it is not only air traffic movements that we have to consider? We must consider also ground traffic. Can the noble Earl give me an assurance—

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone


Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, gets better at heckling with every day that goes by. He is improving with age.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

Like good wine.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, will the noble Earl give me an assurance that the objectors—and in particular, the individual objectors—will be properly financed in putting their case to the public inquiry, which I believe will be a very long and expensive one?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, it is for everyone to pay the costs of the inquiry. The costs of running the inquiry are likely to be £2 million or £3 million. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, is concerned about roads, access and so on. I should point out that there are four or five major inquiries taking place under this whole umbrella: the Heathrow Express—the train from Paddington to Heathrow—which comes under the Transport and Works Act; the extension of the Piccadilly Line to Terminal 5, which is under the Transport and Works Act; and the Highway Agency, which is promoting the spur off the M.25 for Terminal 5. There is also the delightful prospect of moving the sewage farm from Perry Oaks to Iver. All those matters must be considered.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that Stansted is an excellent airport which is under-used and which does not have the traffic problems created at Heathrow? All those matters should be kept very firmly in mind as the inquiry proceeds along its tortuous way. The original proposal, which it is hoped will be changed, provided for the M.25 to become 14 lanes but those lanes would finish up on the M.4 which has four lanes. That would cause traffic paralysis in that part of the world. Let us hope that there will be no fifth terminal but perhaps a greater use of a very fine airport.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, it seems to me that the points which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, makes should be addressed properly to the inquiry. I have no doubt that he is one of the 11,011 objectors but the others do not have the privilege of having a seat in your Lordships' House which gives the noble Lord the opportunity to publicise this matter, as he has done.