HL Deb 10 March 1986 vol 472 cc498-9WA
Baroness Burton of Coventry

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in elaboration of their reply to Baroness Burton of Coventry on 27th February (col. 1165) concerning capacity at Stansted Airport, they will give details of the further information referred to in the reply.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (The Earl of Caithness)

I reproduce below the text of the letter to the noble Baroness to which I referred on 27th February:—I am sorry that you thought I had misled the House in answers to questions from yourself about passenger figures at Stansted. I do entirely accept that in answering your supplementary question on 16th January about passenger throughput, I inadvertently gave an inaccurate answer in referring to a present passenger throughput of about 1 mppa. I apologise for that. I hope that you will accept my assurance that I was not attempting to mislead you or the House in any way. There have been no further inaccuracies in my statement on this matter. My Written Answer of 11th February was 'On the present pattern of traffic using Stansted the capacity of the airport is about 1 million'. The words that I have italicised are the key to explaining why that statement is compatible with estimated capacity of 2 mppa given in the White paper on Airports Policy published in June 1985. At the time of the Public Inquiry into BAA's application to develop Stansted to 15 mppa the capacity of the existing facilities was assessed at 2 mppa. This was qualified by the BAA in their evidence as being 'dependent upon the nature and hourly pattern of traffic using the terminal in future'. It was thought appropriate for purposes of assessing the need for additional capacity in the South East to use the conservative planning figure of 2 mppa. This figure was used by the inspector in his report on the Airports Inquiries, and also by the Government in the White Paper. Annual capacity is only a reflection of the hourly pattern of traffic using an airport. In the last year or two the traffic at Stansted has become increasingly peaky, and there is no indication that this situation will improve as traffic grows. On the basis of this traffic pattern BAA believe the present facilities, which have a rated hourly throughput capacity of about 600 passengers per hour in each direction, will not be able to handle more than about 1 mppa. A capacity of 2 mppa could only be achieved on the present pattern of traffic by either investment in improvements or by accepting a considerably lower standard of service to passengers who would suffer increased congestion and delay. If you would find it helpful I would be happy to meet to explain the above in greater detail, but I hope you will accept in the light of this explanation that there was no attempt on my part to mislead the House. I am sure the House would be grateful if you were to put down a written question so that the full text of this letter can be published in the Official Report for the benefit of those interested in this subject".