HC Deb 04 March 1971 vol 812 cc1912-2078
Mr. Speaker

Before I call the Minister to move the Motion, I would tell the House that between 40 and 50 hon. and right hon. Members have indicated that they want to speak. I would ask hon. Members on the back benches to be as brief as possible. I would also like to say this to the Front Bench speakers. In the two-day debate on defence Front Bench speakers took 5 hours out of the 12 available. It may have been necessary. Yesterday, if one includes the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party, the Front Bench speakers took nearly two-thirds of the 6 hours available. Today is a Motion only to take note and I hope that those who speak from the Front Benches will have regard to this.

4.0 p.m.

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Michael Noble)

I beg to move, That this House takes note of the Report of the Roskill Commission on the Third London Airport. In commenting upon your very sound and sensible remarks, Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House that the last time that I opened a debate I was criticised by the Opposition Front Bench spokesman for having spoken too shortly.

I begin by expressing my very real admiration of Mr. Justice Roskill and his team for the quick, clear and decisive way in which they tackled this formidable problem. May 1 remind the House who they were—a professor of transport, a partner in a firm of consulting engineers, a principal planning inspector from the Department of the Environment, the professor of aircraft design from the Cranfield Institute of Technology, the deputy chairman of Courtaulds, a professor of economics at the University of London—all sitting under the chairmanship of a High Court judge.

This reminds the House of the quality of those selected for this task by the previous Government. It is worth noting that the average attendance at all meetings was 94 per cent. This and the very full opportunity provided for public criticism and comment show only too clearly the dedication of the team to the difficult task it was given. They were all very busy people.

Their report shows clearly that they recognised that the conclusion to which their work seemed to them to lead would not be a popular one. Everyone concerned, I am sure, hoped that their conclusion, when it came, would be acceptable to the vast majority of people. If this does not appear to be so today, I hope that they may draw some comfort from one of my hon. Friends who said to me that the fact that he totally rejected their conclusion did not in any way diminish his admiration for the way in which they had done their work and presented their report. The Government decided that they must give Members of both Houses a chance to study the report and then to have a full debate about it. Neither I nor any of my colleagues concerned with this problem have made up our minds. We want to listen to the voices and have time to study any new points which may emerge.

We in this House have had the opportunity of listening to or reading the reports of the debate in another place, and I thought it would help the House if I concentrated on the civil aviation problems which have been thrown up in the debate while leaving my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to deal with the cost-benefit analysis arguments and those matters falling within the planning and environmental areas.

First and foremost, this is a human problem, not only because it is primarily with passenger traffic that we are concerned, but especially because one of the most important of all the factors we have to consider is the impact of noise from modern aircraft on the community. This is not only a question of the areas which will be affected by the new aircraft, but also of the noise levels round existing airports, at Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted.

In the last nine months the volume of correspondence and the number of meetings in the Department of Trade and Industry has left no Minister in any doubt about this. The choice and timing of a new airport is closely linked in my mind with a sincere wish to provide some alleviation to people in these areas at the earliest practicable time.

I might at this point mention that the noise impact must be considered not only in relation to people living in the nearby vicinity of the airport, but also in relation to people who live at some distance from it but who are over-flown by aircraft which have not achieved a height sufficient for their noise to be dissipated. It is these reasons, as well as the others in the report, which compel me at this stage to question seriously the possibility of doing without a third London airport. In this I am comforted by the unanimous view of the Roskill Commission.

Secondly, there are the economic factors. Tourism is a vital British industry, inwards for so many foreigners who flock in increasing numbers to enjoy the skill of our forebears in preserving the best of our past in architecture, history and tradition, and outwards with the increasing millions of British people who seek holidays and relaxation in sometimes hotter or sunnier parts of the world. The great majority of our business men who maintain the vast trade of the country do so by air and we export, as the House knows, four times as high a proportion of our manufactured goods as does the U.S.A.

The net balance of receipts from our air services alone is £38 million a year. Each of these facts makes it unthinkable that we should as a nation decide to put the clock back and cut our use of air travel as a matter of policy. "Stop the world, I want to get off" is as impossible for a modern industrial nation as for the passenger on a B.O.A.C. flight half-way across the Atlantic.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)


Mr. Noble

Perhaps my hon. Friend would allow me to carry on so that I may be as brief as possible. On the economic side, it is right to give very serious thought to the viability of the new airport as an investment. If the final site, wherever it may be, has some disadvantages, the greatest effort must be made to overcome these, not only for the comfort of the passengers but for the acceptability that will flow from this for both airlines and airport.

I now come to the interesting possibilities which can be injected into the problem of the third London airport by the development possibilities of STOL or VTOL aircraft. Let me say straight away that a myth is growing that there has been a new or dramatic change in this direction since the Roskill Commission was set up. There has, I believe, been none. The Roskill Commission was given every piece of information available to the Ministries concerned and in addition it received evidence from the manufacturers. Military fixed-wing VTOL aircraft are already in existence and many hon. Members will have seen the Harrier in action for some time at the Farnborough Air Show. While it is hard to foretell the future most experts believe that the development of VTOL for civilian purposes is likely to take longer than STOL. It is therefore mainly with STOL aircraft that the case has been put forward, notably by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick in another place, for very serious consideration as to whether a third London airport is really necessary.

Enough studies have been made of this type of aircraft to show the potential it could have to solve a number of the problems which face civil aviation. The shorter runway needed, the possibility of quieter engines, the better noise shadow are all attractive features. Whatever decision may be taken on the third London airport, it is important for these studies to be continued with vigour. We do not know, and at this stage can only make "guesstimates" of, the cost of such a project, the price of the aircraft, or the operating costs, all of which would be critical for the airlines which would be the purchasers. We can continue to study the air traffic control problems, which do not at this stage look too difficult, and the other operating problems which could be involved in what would be a new system of air transport. All these important studies can and should continue.

We must realise, however, that these aircraft would be relatively small—probably 100-seat aircraft—and probably short-haul aircraft. To a considerable extent, therefore, they may tend to create traffic rather than replace the larger wide-bodied aircraft.

Whatever the outcome of these aircraft and their development over the next decade, it would, in my view, be most dangerous to gamble that they can alter the situation before 1985. I accept that it is far less risky to believe that they may make a very distinct difference by the decade after that. Therefore, such developments could mean that not all the four runways which the Roskill Commission was asked, in its terms of reference, to study would prove necessary. This is an interesting field for speculation. It is, however, speculation and it would be difficult to justify picking a site which could not satisfactorily be developed to provide four runways simply in the hope that things would change so as to make no more than two runways necessary.

It is right to consider the second part of this argument. It is said that STOL makes the building of a new London airport unnecessary. It is suggested that by a combination of a new runway at Gatwick, possibly a change of use at Stansted, increasing use of Luton, the bringing in of a STOL runway at Heathrow and the development of the airport at Lydd, or elsewhere on the coast, the situation could be held until the date when STOL was ready for full operation. It is argued that this would save the cost of the third London airport.

But all these costs at Gatwick and elsewhere need to be studied, and they will not be inconsiderable. These proposals, even if they should in the end prove attractive, would entail greater noise than otherwise at the existing airports. All in all, we would be taking a considerable gamble on the success of a quite new type of aircraft which seems likely to be able to serve only a limited part of the market. In my present state of knowledge. I do not regard the V/STOL and the third London airport as rivals. I believe that they are complementary and that both may be needed for the future of civil aviation.

A fair weight of argument has taken place about the journey times to or from the various sites. This can be psychologically important, but I urge the House not to be blinded by these times alone. Many hon. Members will have wasted hours circling over Kennedy Airport and very many minutes being held in the stack over other busy airports. It is the door-to-door time which is the most important factor and not the time spent in the air and on the ground at either end of the journey.

If that is the critical factor, both the success of air traffic control systems and the new development perhaps of faster trains could have a most important bearing. I hope, however, that Members will not make the error of believing that the speed of trains is the whole answer, as the frequency of the service is equally critical for door-to-door times. We are living in an age of very rapid technological change, but so far no modern airport has been able to rely wholly on rail services.

There are those who have regretted that the Roskill Commission was not asked to study a national airport plan rather than, in its terms of reference, an airport to cater for the growth of traffic at existing airports serving the London area". To such people I simply say this: in practice it would have made very little difference. I know that there are suspicions about the exact way in which some of these questionnaires are put and answered, but the inescapable fact remains that all the serious airport congestion is in serving the London area. Although the demand in the North and Midlands may well increase in the next decade, so will demand in the South-East, although perhaps less fast, and 50 per cent. of the travellers to London Airport are from overseas who like to start their tours from and, after I hope a good tour round Britain, generally finish them at London. No juggling with the figures will, I suspect, do more than alter the emphasis at the margin.

The House from time to time has had reason to be sceptical about estimates of growth of demand in various fields, but it is noticeable that all our experience shows that in the passenger traffic field they have been consistently underestimated.

There are two other purely civil aviation matters which I should perhaps mention—the possibility of quieter engines for the next generation of aircraft, and the question of freight. Air freight is increasingly a subject which adds to the pressure on airports just as it becomes a more acceptable method of moving goods for export of high value or special importance. Thirteen per cent. of our exports by value leave the country by air. It is tempting to suggest that all freight should leave the country from airfields elsewhere than in London in order to help relieve the pressure, but 40 per cent. of the freight passing through London airports is currently carried in passenger aircraft. This enables the airlines to provide a more frequent freight service and to more destinations.

A lot is being done on quieter engines. The 747 is noticeably quieter than the 707 and helps in reducing the number of aircraft needed to carry a given traffic of passengers. But, with all that can practicably be done, I see no alleviation in the next five to 10 years. I read the speech of the noble Lord Lord Kings Norton in the other place. He has a great knowledge of these affairs, but he said that the big change in quieter engines would come in the next two decades.

I have tried to be reasonably brief and, without bias in any of the four directions, to set out some of the considerations which any thoughtful person must balance. I hope that in this way I shall have helped the debate. Let us not forget that the four sites finally chosen by the Roskill Commission were chosen after carefully studying a total of 80. Each Member may have his views, but each of the sites has come through numerous very careful processes of sifting. It is for the Government to make the final decision which, if any, will be selected. We shall listen with the greatest care to the arguments put forward as the investment needed is no small matter and the effect on many thousands of people will inevitably depend on our decision. This is no light task.

Mr. Speaker

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his brevity.

4.18 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Crosland (Grimsby)

The Minister for Trade has set the House an excellent example by speaking briefly and I shall do my best to follow it, not only because of what you, Mr. Speaker, said, but for another very important reason. The first debate on this matter took place in another place. I counted the speeches made during the two-day debate in another place last week and they came to nearly 40. It would be a great pity if the Commons was not able to make an almost equal contribution.

The Minister said—and, for once, no one could criticise him—that the Government have pointed out that they will listen to debate. Therefore, I take no exception to the emptiness of his speech, although I shall take some exception to what he said about whether we must find a site capable of development to four runways. My own belief is that the argument so far has been about the wrong issue, namely, Cublington versus Foulness. I shall come presently to what I think is the right issue. Before I do that, however, I must pay tribute to Sir Eustace Roskill and the members of his Commission, and certainly not a merely ritual tribute. They have done a most remarkable job of analysis and they have been extremely unfairly criticised, especially by many, including some eminent men who should have known better, who rushed into print before they had any chance of reading the report at all.

At the most negative, the fact of the Roskill Report has helped to save us from having a four-runway airport at Stansted, which would probably now be in about its third year of construction. Apart from anything else, the spending of £1,500,000 on Roskill was worthwhile in order to save a faulty investment of £300 million at Stansted.

In more positive terms, they have made what Professor Peter Hall, in New Society, called, and rightly called … a heroic attempt to extend the field of rational, balanced socio-economic inquiry into a wholly new sphere.

They have for the first time brought to bear the full range of environmental as well as economic arguments on a major investment decision, and they have provided infinitely more systematic evidence on which to base an airport decision than has ever been provided at any time in any country in the world.

It is wholly untrue, as some people have suggested, that they have ignored the non-economic arguments or that they have based their entire conclusions on a dubious cost-benefit analysis. Page after page of the report deals with noise, regional planning and environmental factors, and no one who has read the Report can possibly make this criticism. Moreover, on a minor point, the Commission has done a service to the country by establishing a precedent of being the first Royal Commission which did not believe what it was initially told by the Ministry of Defence. It treated the Ministry of Defence evidence—which weighed heavily, as I know, having been President of the Board of Trade at the time of the previous Government's decision—with a great deal of scepticism and in the end forced the Ministry of Defence to come to a different view.

Whether one agrees with the Commission's conclusions or not, the Chairman and members of the Commission deserve our profound thanks.

Having said that, I have a central criticism, but it is not the popular one that they should have chosen Foulness rather than Cublington; it is that they took the problem in the wrong order and discussed the choice of sites before they discussed the timing of the need. I quote the critical sentence from the Commission's Report, chapter 5, paragraph 2: … we initially concentrated our resources on the selection of the short list and only subsequently did we start detailed work on the timing of the need. This is shown in the fact that Chapter 4, the selection of the short list, comes before and not after the chapter on the timing of the need. This was the central error that the Commission made. Its significant is immense. Here I dissent from the right hon. Gentleman. Since it had not queried the timing of the need, it automatically assumed that there was a need for a four-runway airport in the South-East and it confined its search to sites that would accommodate four runways. If, on the other hand, it had started with the timing of the need, it might well have concluded that no foreseeable need for a four-runway airport existed and it might have looked for other sites which would have been suitable for a comparatively small airport but not suitable for a four-runway airport. The whole position would then have looked totally different. The regional planning argument, the size of the airport city, the surface access model—which has been so much criticised—and the noise contours would all have looked quite different.

I should like to say a brief word on the terms of reference, if the House will forgive me, for I was heavily involved with the setting-up of the Commission. It may be that the terms of reference were at fault, as has been suggested. If that is the case, I accept my full share of blame. Certainly, we considered those terms of reference in more detail and at greater length than terms of reference of any previous Royal Commission have even been considered. As hon. Members will know, this was not a party or governmental matter. Some hon. Members will remember that we had most helpful discussions with the then Opposition, with Lord Dilhorne, who was most helpful in the whole matter, with the present Home Secretary, the present Minister of Aviation Supply, the present Lord President of the Council and others. It is fair to say—I am not trying to avoid blame, if there is blame—that the terms of reference were fully agreed at the end of the day with the then Opposition. But, though agreed, they may well have been wrong. So it is worth looking back to see what the terms said. Incidentally, it is a curiosity, as was mentioned in the other place, that this is the first Royal Commission ever not to print the terms of reference on page 1 of its Report. I quote the terms of reference: The Government will set up a non-statutory Commission with the following terms of reference: To inquire into the timing of the need for a four-runway airport to cater for the growth of traffic at existing airports serving the London area, to consider the various alternative sites, and to recommend which site should be selected."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th May, 1968; Vol. 765, c. 38.] Probably, being wise after the event, it was a mistake to refer to a four-runway airport, although we did this in good faith and with good motive, because at that time almost all expert opinion was stressing the urgency of the need and assumed that there was a need for a four-runway airport.

There was also another reason, of wanting to be honest from the start and avoid the situation which has arisen more than once before with existing airports, of starting off with what is stated to be a limited size airport which then begins surreptitiously to grow to an infinitely larger size. I was anxious to avoid any charge of bad faith if the chosen airport later became a four-runway airport whereas it started out as a single-runway one.

But even so, "the timing of the need" was the first phrase in the terms of reference, and if there was any doubt that the terms of reference were flexible, I should have thought that it was finally dissipated by an answer which I gave on the same day to the then hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley, Mr. Frank Hooley, who lost his seat, when he asked me Will the terms of reference entirely exclude the possibility of siting the airport outside the South-East, since it could gravely aggravate the congestion which it is designed to relieve? I replied: No, Sir, they do not entirely exclude that. It would be open to the Commission to say that there was no need for a third airport, or that it should be indefinitely postponed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th May, 1968; Vol. 765, c. 37-8.] To be fair, I went on to say that this would be unlikely in practice because most people thought that there would be a need.

But I should have thought, nevertheless, with no disrespect to Sir Eustace Roskill, that it was perfectly open to him on those terms of reference, as explained in my subsequent answer to the Question, and indeed, it would have been very natural, to start by examining when, if at all, we needed a four-runway airport.

So far from having started with this central question, the Commission never demonstrated the need at all for four runways and did not demonstrate the need even for a three-runway airport. This seems to be by far the most important fact about the Report, although obviously it was not intended to be so so far as the Commission was concerned. This negative fact emerges most clearly in Appendix 20 on page 244 in the table at the top of the page which shows that a third runway, on the Commission's best traffic forecast, would not even be completed at any of the four sites until 1995 and that a fourth runway would not be completed until 2002 on three of the four sites and at Foulness it could not put a date on it at all.

Forecasts of what may happen at such far-off dates as the turn of the century, as the Commission says in another context, are meaningless because of the difficulties of prediction. It is quite fanciful to try to predict the need for conventional runways in 1996 or 2002. We do not know how we shall be travelling by then, by STOL, VTOL, whether we shall have fewer and larger aircraft, completely new forms of train transport and the rest. We have no idea what the regional arguments will be, whether we need three or four-runway airports at the turn of the century, or whether they should be in the South-East or in a totally different part of the country.

If the worst comes to the worst—this is my major disagreement with the right hon. Gentleman—which I find very hard to envisage, and we need four conventional runways in the South-East some time in the 21st century, then the greatest risk we should cause by not building them now and not choosing a site which would allow four runways would be that when that need arose, instead of having a single four-runway airport, we should have to have two airports of two runways each. No doubt this is less economical from the point of view of the airlines, but surely it is infinitely better than closing all the other options now open to us.

I therefore conclude—this is the crux of my argument—that no case has been made out for a new four-runway third airport, though certainly a definite case has been made out for some additional capacity in the South-East by the early or the middle 1980s.

If this additional capacity need not take the form of a four-runway airport but something altogether more modest, two new options open out which were not discussed in the report but which I hope are being urgently considered by the Government. The first option, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, is that of having no third London airport at all—that is, that we hold on until the middle 1980s when the development, we hope, of STOL and quieter engines will revolutionise the position and remove the need for a third conventional airport altogether. This was the case, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, that was most powerfully argued in another place by Lord Beswick and Lord Kings Norton, and it is probably the option which is preferred by most of the airlines.

We should have to assume a more intensive use at all the existing South-East airports. This would involve Heathrow expanding its growth up to capacity. It would involve at Gatwick possibly a second runway but certainly computerised air traffic control.—[Interruption.]—Not necessarily. The figures can be argued that way, but I will concede that it would probably mean a second runway. It would involve at Luton a new taxiway. It would involve at Stansted the movement of most of the non-air traffic movements to another airport and a great expansion of air traffic movements. It would involve the continued use of Southend. It would involve a positive effort to divert London traffic to airports outside the South-East, most obviously Birmingham and Manchester.

It implies that advanced passenger trains in the future will cut into London-Glasgow air traffic in the same way as the existing Inter-City trains have already cut into the London-Manchester air traffic. In particular, as the Minister for Trade rightly said, it assumes that we put an intensive effort into the development of STOL which would need far shorter runways and would create a noise disturbance over only about one-twentieth the area of even the quietest existing conventional aircraft.

In other words, the view is that we would avoid the need for more conventional runways up until the middle 1980s by diversion of traffic and the more intensive use of existing airports. And we would avoid the need for conventional runways after the middle 1980s by the development of STOL. This is an option which in logic has much to recommend it. It would avoid the need for a brand-new airport in some hitherto peaceful and undisturbed site. It would be less damaging on balance environmentally, except for the noise factor, to which I will return. It has attractions from the regional planning point of view. It is interesting to note that this possibility was urged on Roskill by the Town and Country Planning Association, although the association appears to have subsequently changed its mind.

This is much the least costly solution and it cannot be wholly ruled out in terms that it is wrong on the likely traffic forecasts. After all, Roskill has already postponed the date when we need the first runway from 1974, as it used to be, to 1980. Adding to that a second runway at Gatwick, it could be postponed to 1982.

Mr. Peter Masefield, in his evidence to the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, went even further and said: we have figures which show that with a second runway at Gatwick, with more use of Stansted in the existing runway and not going to any expansion of Stansted but just using what there is to much more near its capacity and with further use of Luton and Southend we could probably get by on a middle estimate of traffic growth up to about 1985. So this option cannot be ruled out as impracticable on air traffic forecast grounds.

Nevertheless, having, like other hon. Members, considered this with—I hope—extreme care, I believe that at the end of the day we must reject this solution, unless there is some very rapid and unforeseeable technological change in the prospects for STOL or quieter engines.

Incidentally, I might just mention while I am on this that I cannot for the life of me understand why the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) should go to the trouble of tabling a Motion criticising me for having accepted this solution when I made an extremely careful Press statement saying that I thought it was not acceptable unless there was some great technological development of the kind which we cannot foresee. The hon. and learned Gentleman's Motion is wholly inaccurate.

There are two reasons for rejecting this option. The first is noise. I believe that noise more and more is the crucial issue in this whole argument, although I am very sorry that Lord Sandford, the Government spokesman in another place, put the matter in a very misleading way; because he gave the impression that a decision in favour of a third London Airport now would bring immediate relief to Heathrow, Luton and the other places, whereas it would do no such thing. It would give no relief until the first new runway was built, which, if the Government accept the Roskill date, will be 1980. Therefore, it is quite misleading to say that we must have it to give immediate relief to Heathrow sufferers.

Nevertheless, whatever the date is, at some point a new airport would give substantial relief. The relief is possible; the relief is desperately urgent, in my view; and the relief must be given.

I think that noise is increasingly becoming the critical pollution issue. I think that it will be between now and the end of the century. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution said this in its recent Report: "As for noise", which was not in its terms of reference— large numbers of the British public have reached the limits of their tolerance, and demand that they should be protected from this sort of disturbance, especially noise from aircraft and traffic. I believe that, if anything, that is an understatement. It will certainly be considered to be an understatement by the present victims of Heathrow—700,000 families, as we are constantly and rightly told—at Gatwick and at Luton where, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) keeps on reminding me, the problem is getting worse and worse at a steady pace.

I therefore believe that we cannot accept the no third London airport solution, which threatens more noise than would otherwise be the case at existing airports. We must stick to a solution which brings the earliest practicable relief.

There is another reason for rejecting this option, which I will not go into in detail. It is that it is, in my view, imprudent planning. We cannot rule it out in terms of the traffic forecasts, but it would be an imprudent piece of planning, because all the assumptions that it makes are optimistic assumptions, and not all these optimistic assumptions may turn out to be right. We could find ourselves dangerously up against airport capacity in the South-East by the early 1980s.

This solution rests on an optimistic assumption about how much we can divert to regional airports. This is always a popular thing to say in the South—"Let us divert it all up to the North and the Midlands". However, as the right hon. Gentleman said, 80 per cent. of traffic at London Airport either has an origin or a destination in the South-East. Peter Masefield put the matter very vividly the other, day when he said: London is the honeypot of all the things that count". That is true. Business traffic, tourism, Government traffic and the rest—overwhelmingly the demand is for South-East capacity.

We must face the fact, as the right hon. Gentleman did, that the short-term growth of air traffic is in the South-East. The rest of the growth is fragmented over the whole of the remainder of the country. It is so fragmented and so spread that it is not large enough, apart from Prestwick and Manchester, to command a reasonable frequency of international services. Of course, Manchester, Prestwick and Birmingham expanding and will expand and should expand, though Manchester, interestingly enough, is expanding more slowly than any of the London airports. But we cannot expect a degree of diversion of traffic to non-South-East airports which would obviate the need for new capacity in the South-East by the middle 1980s. Incidentally, if we did we would create a worse noise problem than by any other solution, because virtually every airport outside the South-East is much worse situated from a noise point of view than any of the four Roskill sites.

Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)

It is not true of Liverpool, where the broad band of the estuary goes both sides of the airport.

Mr. Crosland

I accept that fact, but Speke at Liverpool fundamentally proves my point. Here is an airport with an excellent runway, first-class airport services and no traffic. Liverpool Speke fundamentally shows the difficulty that any Government have in diverting airlines to a place to which they do not want to go. Roskill was very good on this argument. An airport must be viable if it is to work as an airport.

The non-third London airport solution is optimistic in terms of possible diversion of air traffic, and it is also probably optimistic about STOL. I am certain that this will come, and that when it comes it will revolutionise our entire airport needs. I listened with pleasure to the confident statements made in another place by Lord Beswick and Lord Kings Norton and I accept that there have been rapid developments in the last four years. I accept that seven years ago nobody could tell that the jumbo jets would come as rapidly as they did. But if we are to base our decision on that, we must be certain that by the middle 1980s STOL will be taking up almost the whole increase in traffic. That is a lot to be certain of if we base our essential investment decisions on this assumption.

There is room for debate about the likely timing and the likely viability of STOL. At one extreme many people think that the Commission was too pessimistic about it, but at the other extreme we have to be very optimistic and very certain to think that STOL can obviate the need for more conventional capacity, even with peak pricing, which is one of the most important factors in this situation.

This line of argument against a third London airport has been useful and has shown that we have a little more time and a little more leeway for coming to the right decision. It points to the urgent need for us as a nation to back the development of STOL but, at the end of the day, I believe the solution is not the right one, partly on grounds of noise, because it offers no early practical relief at the existing airports, and partly on grounds of imprudent planning, in that at worst it could mean a possible total snarl-up in the early 1980s, and at least it would mean that we would be constantly up against the limits of capacity with no reserve or bolt-hole of capacity available to us.

So I come to the second option, which is the one I strongly believe in. That is, a new one to two runway airport which need not necessarily be on any of the Roskill sites.

I will say one word about the criteria for choosing a site. The Roskill Report has given us invaluable help in suggesting the right criteria by which to decide the site. But it showed a rather excessive solicitude for the needs and convenience of air travellers as opposed to the needs and convenience of those who are on the ground. As part of this they gave excessive weight to the factor of business time when costing surface access to the airport. On the other hand, many of the Commission's critics have shown even worse indifference to some of the immensely powerful arguments in the Report.

If this option is accepted, the first question to ask is, does this new, smaller airport have to be in the South-East at all? For the reason I have already given, that the short-term problem is the growth of the South-Eastern traffic, I believe that it has to be in the South-East, otherwise the airlines simply will not use it. We already have Manchester with some spare capacity, Liverpool Speke with a great deal of spare capacity, and other provincial airports, including Elmden, which are capable of growth. If on top of this spare capacity we were to build a brand new airport on a virgin site—at Severnside or Thorn Waste—the airlines would not use it. There would be no sufficient build-up of frequencies, and without that the airport would never attract the inter-line traffic essential for the development of a viable airport. In other words, in the foreseeable future the whole thing would be an appalling waste of money and turn out to be a white elephant.

It is possible that the second runway, when the time comes, may be needed in the North Midlands and not in the South-East, and it is likely that eventually we shall need a new international airport somewhere else, but in the meantime the next runway has to be in the South-East. That is quite apart from particular objections to some of the favoured sites—for example, Thorne Waste which is a long way from everybody's constituency except mine, although people in Grimsby would welcome it. But it is open to many practical objections. I conclude that the first runway must be in the South-East. But it does not need to be very near London or as near London as Roskill assumed. This is an extremely important point because, on the basis of traffic forecasts, it is clear that this next runway will be mainly for charter and inclusive tour flights, which makes it possible to put it considerably further away from London.

I do not want to go into the question of individual sites. I have to watch the time with extreme care. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am grateful for that generous support. The site could be one of the four Roskill sites. I do not think that it could be Nuthampstead, for which no case was made out, but it could be Cublington. This would certainly run into the opposition of that vociferous lobby, which is highly organised, well-financed and has a most expensive public relations firm working for it—and it is clearly not troubled by the postal strike.

Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)

Will the right hon. Gentleman name the public relations firm concerned?

Mr. Crosland

I will ask my hon. Friend when he winds up to name it. I have the name in one of my innumerable documents.

The Cublington lobby is in danger of losing sympathy, partly by its frivolity in dealing with the arguments against Foulness and partly because it has given the impression to the Commission and others that it does not care tuppence about anybody else's noise or environment—noise in particular. I hope the Cublington lobby will put its case in as moderate a fashion as it can, bearing in mind that it is not only the people living in Cublington who dislike noise, have houses that may be knocked down and care about their environment. I will go no more into Cublington than that, except to say that, despite Professor Buchanan's intensely moving and almost poetic memorandum of dissent—[Laughter]—I am sorry the hon. Member thinks it is funny but I believe that it could go into an anthology of English prose—I am not wholly convinced by it. I recall that the Strategic Plan for the South-East said that Cublington was: not within an area shown in the Strategy as of regional significance either for agriculture or for amenity". So two views are posible even on that.

The site could conceivably be Thurleigh, which has the distinction of having generated the only body of organised support in favour of an inland site—

Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)


Mr. Crosland

I prefer not to give way, I am concerned about the time factor. Thurleigh has the only body of organised support in favour of an inland site in the Trade Union and Labour Co-ordinating Committee for the Support of Thurleigh, which has produced an admirable and robust memorandum making the case for Thurleigh, which is in many ways superior to Cublington. The economic and regional planning case is stronger and there is certainly more economic need and more local support there. There is a great deal to be said for considering Thurleigh even for this smaller airport.

On Foulness, I merely say that one has to keep the site in mind, but I believe that the Commission made an overwhelming case against it—first, in terms of damage to the environment, damage to the coastline, damage to wild life, which was most ably and eloquently put in a letter to The Times by our late colleague, Terry Boston; a strong case in terms of the need for new road and rail links, which is a real economic case and which is nothing to do with calculations of business time; a case in terms of much greater disruption of families and homes by the motorways which will be required. The Secretary of State for Environment will remember the row over West-way. When motorways are taken into account, more homes will be destroyed by an airport at Foulness than by one at Cublington. There will be much more noise in total once we take into account the indirect effects. Then there is a safety hazard, which I believe to be totally unacceptable. I was impressed with the arguments in the other place by Lord King's Norton, who knows much more about this matter than any of us, and who regarded this as sufficient argument against Foulness—and, as a layman, so do I.

But a site for this smaller airport need not be any of these four sites because it can be further away from London. What the Government must now do is to consider other possible sites in South Hampshire, in the so-called Essex gap, and a site such as Lydd and so on.

A brief word about blight. What I have suggested would have great advantage from the point of view of planning blight, which is a most serious matter. These four sites have now suffered from planning blight for a period of years. What the Government should do is to remove at least two of these sites from planning blight by saying that they will not accept them. They should take Nuthampstead and Cublington off the hook and leave Thurleigh as a possible inland site. This at least would minimise the problem of blight. If the Government decide that an inland site is not acceptable at all, then they should remove all three. The search is then confined to an alternative coastal site to Foulness.

I conclude by saying that I do not envy the Government in their decision or in having to make their choice. I am sympathetic since this is not a party issue. The choice will not be resolved, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, by glib talk about a national airports policy. While we have so much under-utilised capacity outside the South-East a national plan would not be decisively relevant on this issue. Apart from that, we have no idea what sort of runways we shall want in 20 years' time.

The great gain that has emerged is that we now see that we do not need to commit ourselves to a brand new four-runway airport on one of the Roskill sites. We have some leeway on timing which we should use to intensify work on STOL and on noise generally, including retro-fits on existing jet engines, which would cost a great deal less money than building an airport at Foulness. Meanwhile, we must find another smaller and preferably coastal site which would avoid the horrors and the economic waste of a vast new international four-runway airport, whether it be at Cublington or at Foulness, while at the same time bringing relief to Heathrow, Luton and other places as soon as practicable.

Thanks to the evidence produced by the Roskill Commission, although not the Roskill conclusions, we have a short breathing space for urgent study of these various alternatives. I hope this study is already being conducted.

4.55 p.m.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

I disagree with the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) on many of his points, but I will ease the minds of many hon. Members by saying that it would not be right for me to take up time by answering all his arguments.

I welcome the candour with which the right hon. Gentleman spoke about the terms of reference. I agree with him that it is probably right for us to think more in terms of a two-runway third London airport than the four-runway airport which he envisaged at the time the Roskill Commission was appointed. The appointment of the Roskill Commission was welcomed by both sides of the House and, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, there was consultation between the Front Benches before its appointment and its terms of reference were established.

The Government were wise to defer a decision until the matter had been fully debated in both Houses. There was a most valuable debate in the other place, and I believe that we are likely to have an exceedingly valuable debate in this House today. I hope that the Government will not then long delay the decision and that the decision will be made in the light of what has been said in both Houses of Parliament. My right hon. Friends may well find that a fairly clear consensus will emerge above the controversy.

Although in the opinion of so many people the Roskill Commission reached the wrong conclusion, it must be said that it carried out the most formidable logistical study in depth ever undertaken in this country and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, probably in any country. If genius has been rightly described as "an infinite capacity for taking pains"—though that is a somewhat cynical description—I would say that the Commission has made a brave attempt indeed. The information it has gathered is of value to Government and to Parliament in expressing their views on this matter. The information may well form a provisional pattern for the kind of approach which needs to be made to some of our modern problems. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) will be dealing with The weaknesses of the way in which cost benefit analyses were used by the Commission and I do not propose to deal with that matter other than in a general way.

The Commission cannot be blamed for not being provided with a national airports policy. It was asked to assume the need for a third London airport and to inquire into the timing of it. In doing so, it proved conclusively, in my opinion, that there is a need for a third London airport, although I agree with the right hon. Member for Grimsby that it should be a two-runway airport.

I will briefly set out my reasons for thinking why the Commission proved that to be the case. Heathrow is already handling 250,000 flights a year. The noise of those flights affects 700,000 households with 2½ million people living in them within the 35 NNI contour. That nuisance is already unbearable. We should urge the Government to reduce the use of Heathrow. With overloading, it has a capacity of 330,000 flights a year and it could reach that figure in three years' time. It could outgrow its capacity before many years have passed.

Gatwick, Luton and Stansted already produce a big enough noise problem for people who live round them, even without their flight capacities being enlarged in in any way at all by more intensive use of existing runways or by making new runways which would in any event have bad environmental results.

Therefore, it would be utterly wrong to solve the problem of the undoubted growth of air traffic in London and the South-East by a greater use of existing airports.

It is also not a solution of the problem—and here I agree with the right hon. Gentleman—to say that somehow we should compromise and get an airport which would be of use to the Midlands and the North of England as well. This is a South-East problem. We have only to turn to Table 12, on page 192, and to Table 10.5, on page 103, to realise that some 70 per cent. of the traffic now and if Foulness is chosen, 80 per cent. of the traffic in 1981, would arise from London and the South-East. Those figures prove the need for a third London airport.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)


Sir D. Renton

I am sorry, but I must help the House by getting through what I have to say and not being diverted. I do not deny that another major airport may be needed in the North of England or the Midlands at some time before very long. But I express no opinion about that nor about when or where it should go.

I hope that the third London airport will be built as soon as possible on two runways. The question is where to put it. Any site has important disadvantages. We are faced, as we are so often in important national questions, with a choice of evils. In my opinion, there are four main factors involved in the choice of site: cost, accessibility, noise, and what I briefly call "land use", in which I include the whole of the environmental problem and the whole of the planning problem. Of those four factors, land use is easily the most important in this country. That is why I am so glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment is to wind up this debate. Far too much of our land is already covered by urban development and development of one kind and another, which occupies no less than 16 per cent. of the land surface of England, taken as a separate country, and a very much higher proportion than 16 per cent. of Greater London and the Home Counties.

As Professor Buchanan has pointed out, future generations will be better educated and more prosperous, and they will demand more spacious living standards and find it even more difficult to obtain them than do people in Greater London, Birmingham or Manchester today.

I have to join issue with the right hon. Gentleman about some of his remarks on the planning aspects. We are told that 4 million more people must be accommodated in the South-East of England in the next 30 years. That means an awful lot more land will have to be used for development before we stabilise the population, which certainly we should do. Another major airport would act as a magnet. Professor Buchanan talked of 275,000, but the Commission made it clear that, if Cublington or Thurleigh were used, the airport would attract 400,000 people. Winding up for the Government in the other place, my noble Friend Lord Drumalbyn accepted that figure.

That land use factor must far outweigh the relatively narrow differences arising on the cost benefit analyses. Even if we accept the cost benefit analyses, which I do not completely, in my view the £197 million of difference is outweighed by this tremendous prospect of a concrete jungle being created right in the heart of England, if any of the inland sites are chosen.

As to noise, there again I join issue with the right hon. Gentleman. Noise is a nuisance but, with technical improvements, it may one day diminish. I happen to live on the down-wind side of what is probably the noisiest airfield in the country, Alconbury, and I have to put up with the noise of the so-called Phantoms. I would rather have the countryside there with the noise than see yet another great sweep of countryside taken for urban development and no noise at all. That may be said to be a subjective opinion but, when we are comparing these various important factors—noise, cost, accessibility and land use—we should not over-emphasise the noise factor, vital though it is.

Accessibility is obviously important and involves tremendous road and rail construction. That means more land for development and, therefore, it is tempting to use the short haul which might well have pointed to the choice of Stansted. But let us get the right sense of proportion about this. If we compare Cublington and Foulness, the Commission showed that on a journey between London and those two places, Foulness is only five minutes longer by rail. In my opinion, the accessibility factor is one which again is outweighed by the land use factor.

Let us therefore implore the Government to bear in mind above all else that, whether it is for the airport itself or for communications, once the land is developed the change of use is permanent, irreversible and irretrievable. That means, in the words of Professor Buchanan, that the choice of an inland site would be an environmental disaster. His note of dissent should be read by every planning officer, every politician and budding politician and every local government councillor. It is a classic expression by a man of great practical experience of the need for foresight and sensitivity in planning matters, if future generations are not to resent the follies of their forebears as we today have reason to regret some of the errors of the past including, in my opinion, the siting of both Heathrow and Gatwick.

Thanks to the massive opposition of over 200 members of this House who have signed a Motion rejecting an inland site or the extension of existing airports and supporting Foulness or any other coastal site, I believe it to be unthinkable—

Mr. Bernard Brains (Essex, South-East)

They had not read the Report.

Sir D. Renton

I will not be diverted by my hon. Friend except to say that I do not think that any hon. Member who signed that Motion before reading the report has withdrawn his support since doing so. Therefore I assume it to be unthinkable that any inland site would be chosen by a Government who promised "a better environment" as part of "a better tomorrow". I am familiar with each of the four Roskill sites, and I have travelled the Maplin Sands at low tide in a D.U.K.W. From a constituency point of view, my main interest lies in Thurleigh, because the choice of that site would threaten the southern part of my constituency, especially St. Neots and Kimbolton. However, there has been a recent move with regard to Thurleigh which causes some anxiety. An enlarged wartime runway there has been used for some years for experimental flights by the Royal Aeronautical Establishment, where important work has been done on supersonic flight. But now that runway is used extensively and increasingly for civil training flights by large jet aircraft by day and by night. Although I know that it is not within my right hon. Friend's responsibilities, I hope that he will be able to assure us that this is not intended to be a permanent practice. I hope, too, that he will be able to explain the Government's policy on this.

Perhaps it will not come amiss if I refer briefly to Foulness, which, by the way, seems to have been aptly named by our forebears. The coastline at the side of it has been used for many years as an artillery range. It is flat, desolate and, in my opinion, an unattractive piece of estuarial coastline. Let no one wax lyrical about it—

Mr. Braine

Except those who live there.

Sir D. Renton

Yes, and they are entitled to. As Lord Greenwood pointed out with very apt poetic quotation in another place, where one's home is, there one's loves are, and one is entitled to defend one's home wherever it may be. I stand up for my hon. Friend's right to defend his constituents in this matter but, as I said earlier, this is a choice of evils which we have to make. Knowing the country surrounding the other sites, if I were asked to make the choice I should choose the Foulness country. If Maplin Sands are reclaimed from the sea, 18,000 acres would be added to the terra firma of this island and would save many more acres of beautiful country from becoming a concrete jungle.

The Brent geese would have to find other feeding grounds, and I understand that they would do so. But if any inland site were chosen the habitat of dozens of species of smaller and, in my opinion, more attractive birds would be destroyed for ever. That is my answer to my old friend Peter Scott and my fellow members of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

I ask my right hon. Friends not to choose any inland site. Do not stab at the heart and lungs of the southern half of England!

5.11 p.m.

Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

As the debate continues I think that many of us who have critical views to express on the Commission's proposals will find that previous speakers have elaborated on those criticisms, and, therefore, our speeches should get progressively shorter.

I propose to throw away quite a lot of my speech notes, because my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) and the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) have between them expressed many of the arguments I wished to put forward. I think that by the time I have finished hon. Members will understand which parts I have skipped over, because my argument is in favour of a proposition which does not appear in the Roskill Commission Report but has been referred to by my right hon. Friend, although I think in quite the wrong terms.

I think that we are in danger of considering the Roskill Commission Report as being purely negative in so far as it has a practical application. In the view of many people, Roskill appears to have recommended in the end only where airport sites should not be located. Having considered the four sites which, for social and other reasons, I think will be rejected by discussion in this House and in another place, I believe that none of the Roskill sites will see an airport built upon it.

I was going to adduce strong arguments against Cublington. I know the Vale of Aylesbury very well. I have travelled along every road and lane between Aylesbury and Buckingham, I have been on many of the footpaths, and I can claim a wide acquaintaince, for snacks and beer with most of the pubs. I am utterly opposed to the idea of an airport in the Vale of Aylesbury. But, as my right hon. Friend suggested, I do not want anybody to be persuaded by some of the romantic arguments which have been put forward in this very expensive campaign which has been conducted by the so-called Friends of the Vale of Aylesbury, because there are some pretty squalid rural slums in the villages in Buckinghamshire. If the Friends of the Vale of Aylesbury want to make sure that there are no arguments in favour of an airport being built there, they should get rid of one argument which I know many villagers have in favour of an airport—namely, that it would give them better chances of good employment and better housing than they they now have.

I take a national view. I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire that it would be quite wrong to extend—

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Darling

No. Sorry, I shall not give way to any hon. Member on this occasion.

I do not want to see an urban sprawl coming from the outer fringes of London to the beginnings of the Midland towns, which I think would happen if the airport were built at any one of the three inland sites.

I think that, as my right hon. Friend hinted, the terms of reference were wrong. I wonder what sites the Commission would have considered if the terms of reference had been: "To recommend a site suitable for a modern airport serving a wide area, but within easy reach of London, based on modern surface transport and located on grade 5 or even worse agricultural land, and causing the least possible social disturbance."

Many sites could have been considered if those terms of reference had been accepted. One site, which my right hon. Friend has rejected in a very cavalier fashion, would obviously have been Thorne Waste. If hon. Members do not know where it is, I shall tell them. It is in the West Riding of Yorkshire, on the borders of Nottinghamshire, south-east of Doncaster and south of Goole. It is quite rightly called Thorne Waste. It is a large area of flat waste land with few villages on it and very little population. But it has tremendous advantages, provided that the qualification which I have put into my suggested terms of reference is considered—namely, that we use a modern system of surface transport to get from the airport into London; that is, for passengers who wish to go to London. I suggest that it would probably take passengers not many minutes longer to get from that area into King's Cross by a modern rail system than to get from Cublington to King's Cross, if the job is done properly.

Thorne Waste has many advantages. One is that it is almost at the centre of a unique transport system. Assuming that an airport is built there, it will be the only airport near both a north-south motorway and an east-west motorway. The motorway from Liverpool to Hull, when the M62 is built, will be only a few miles away. A spur from the M62 to Thorne Waste would provide this east-west motorway with access to the airport. The same is true of the Ml and the Al. Not only that, but a spur from the main line railway from Doncaster to King's Cross could be taken into the airport. That would be a simple engineering job.

There is a fallacy in the Roskill Commission's examination of the time factor in getting from the airport into central London. This has been mentioned by my right hon. Friend and also, I think, by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire. The passenger has to spend time getting out of the aeroplane and outside the airport. As all hon. Members know, quite a lot of time is now taken in getting through passport control, waiting for luggage to come up, collecting luggage, going through customs and finding an airport bus to get into London. I do not think that all passengers coming into Heathrow or any other airport which may be within easy reach of London will spend a lot of money on taxis.

If we had a rail system which went into the airport and the passengers came out, even from a jumbo-jet, straight into the train to a numbered seat, luggage being similiarly numbered, the luggage could be put into the train quickly, sorted and delivered to the passengers' seats, followed by the customs and the passports officers. By the time passengers had arrived in comfort from the airport at London, with all these activities taking place on the train, they would have made up for the time normally spent in getting out of an airport.

Therefore, I suggest that, if there is to be a modern train service with a train running, say, at 120 miles and hour, which would be feasible, the time taken from Thorne to King's Cross would be little over an hour. When one considers all the other advantages, this is a possibility which should now be considered. It may be that we would have to extend the present rail system—double the tracks and straighten out some of the more pronounced curves. We might have to bypass some main line stations like Grantham, Retford and Peterborough, and this will be costly, but if this train service can be provided, one must reckon the advantages, the savings and the monetary advantages on the other side.

The land which would be taken for the airport is of very little value. It is grade 5 agricultural land. I am convinced that if the grading of agricultural land were further refined below grade 5, this land would still be at the lowest level of all, because most of it is used merely for the collection of peat. The area is very big. Two or three airports could be put on it. It is there, it is almost derelict and it is almost unpopulated, so it has many advantages. If this reasonable train service could be provided, the time factor in travel to London would be in favour of putting an airport at Thorne rather than in any other place.

I want now to deal with the other advantages of Thorne, and the disadvantages of taking any one of the inland sites suggested in the Roskill Report. I should like to deal first with the question of people. Because of the nature of the land, it is largely unpopulated, and there would be very little cost in dealing with disturbance of houses and people. Close by, in the little town of Thorne itself and elsewhere, there is considerable unemployment because of the closing of neighbouring collieries. In fact, Thorne itself, which is a small town, has been almost depressed. Houses and shops are boarded up as a result of the closing of the colliery, and people are moving out.

Therefore, even if we had to move Thorne on one side, not for the building of the airport, but so that no people were affected by the noise nuisance, the cost of even that disturbance, which I do not think would arise, would not be very great. Unemployment is important, and this is an area which would be greatly served in terms of finding new jobs if this airport project went ahead on this site.

Another great problem mentioned in the Note of Dissent by Professor Buchanan, but which is skated over in the Report, is the problem of finding the aggregate—the sand, gravel and cement—for the building job. I am convinced that whatever proposals may appear in the Report about finding the aggregate for building airports in any of the three inland sites—one suggestion is to take it from Foulness or from the sea coast elsewhere—once construction engineers get in, they will say that they must get the aggregate from nearer places. That will mean building more gravel pits in this part of the country. Actually the gravel pits which we have are on the fringe of this part of the country and people do not want any more within the Vale of Aylesbury. There is also the question of where the cement will come from, so there will be more cement works built on the North Downs and the Chiltern Hills.

On the other hand, there are millions of tons of shale waiting to be used for the building of an airport at Thorne Waste, in the adjacent colliery spoil heaps. We are quite properly giving local authorities 75 or 85 per cent., dependent on where they are situated, for the costs of clearing them. Here is a wonderful way of clearing them. The cost would be very low, and the social advantages are obvious. So building here would mean that there would be less spoiling of the countryside than anywhere near the three inland sites.

Then there is the question of noise. There are a few villages which might be affected by noise if an airport were built at Thorne Waste. I cannot speak on their behalf of course, but I do not think that the few people who would be affected would be likely to object to moving to new locations if they wanted to get away from the noise, and the cost would not be very great because there are so few of them.

Incidentally, a feasibility study has been undertaken by the West Riding County Council which supports the view that the airport can be sited to avoid noise nuisance being inflicted on the nearest centres of population, which are Doncaster, Goole and Scunthorpe.

There is another advantage which was mentioned by both Front Bench speakers. That is the question of development of air freight. Even though quite a lot—I think 40 per cent.—of the air freight now carried is carried in passenger 'planes, if air freight is to develop in a big way to increase our export potential, and this should be a matter of deep consideration, then far more space will be required for warehousing, for proper packaging, getting the stuff into air containers and so on, than can be provided at Heathrow or any of our existing airports. There is space on this land where all the services which would be needed could be developed.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby says that siting an airport here would be economically disastrous, because no one would want to go there. But this area will serve, let us remember, one of the most heavily industrialised areas of the country, including the West Riding of Yorkshire, South Lancashire and the North Midlands, and once the services were provided, I am sure that the traffic could be attracted to those services, particularly because of the cheapness of the operation, brought about by the lower capital costs.

Also—this is where I part company with my right hon. Friend—we must not consider a new airport site in terms of complementing existing airports, of talking, as both right hon. Gentlemen have done, of building up the maximum traffic at Heathrow, Luton, Southend, Manchester, Ringway, Liverpool and so on, before we need consider another airport. We have seriously to consider reducing traffic at these airports because of the noise and nuisance factors, and the congestion on the roads and railwals leading to and from those airports.

From every social planning point of view, we should do all we possibly can to reduce traffic at existing airports. This—not because I am putting it forward: others have put it forward, like the Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, which are all in favour of the site at Thorne—is the most practical proposition as an alternative site to all those which have so far been suggested, all of which have solid objections to them, all of which I think should be rejected. This is the only one to which the local inhabitants have not yet put forward, and are not likely to put forward, any objections. I therefore hope that it will be seriously considered by the Secretary of State.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

I ask for the indulgence of the House in making my maiden speech.

I wish, at the outset, to pay tribute to my predecessor as the hon. Member for Twickenham, Mr. Roger Gresham Cooke, who died about a year ago. He was an absolutely first-class constituency hon. Member who would go to endless trouble for his constituents. I am told that on one occasion he travelled 400 miles to see a constituent in gaol who had asked to see him.

Mr. Gresham Cooke was unfailingly kind and compassionate, and anyone who has the task of following him as the representative of Twickenham in this House has a task indeed. He took a particular interest in the River Thames, and was founder of the River Thames Society, which was appropriate, as the Thames loops all through the constituency, enabling two-thirds of the people living there to be within a mile of it.

There are in my constituency very many beautiful riverside scenes as well as several fine parks. However, the greatest claim to fame of the area lies in its buildings, several of which are of international renown, like Hampton Court Palace, the rugby ground at Twickenham, the Royal Military College of Music at Kneller Hall and the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington. This is, therefore, no ordinary London suburb. It is a district of some distinction.

For all its undoubted advantages, my constituency suffers from one terrible nuisance, and that is the blight of aircraft noise, especially in the northern part of the area, due to the presence of Heathrow Airport four or five miles away.

Some people are well able to get used to this noise, but a great many cannot, and their reactions range from mild annoyance to quite severe misery, at times amounting to a danger to health. There was recently published in The Lancet an article demonstrating that the incidence of mental ill-health and admission to mental hospitals was much higher close to large airports than the national average.

It is in the summer that people suffer most. Their windows are open and the noise spoils their enjoyment of their gardens and spoils their indoor recreation as well. Above all, it spoils their sleep. Aircraft noise can be a terrible nuisance at night, and I would not wish it on anyone or any district that did not already have it.

It so happens that the three speakers prior to me referred, though in different ways, to the possibility of reducing aircraft noise at the existing airports in the London area; the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) and the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling).

When the Roskill Report was debated in another place last week both Government spokesmen, the Lord Privy Seal, Lord Jellicoe, and Lord Sandford, drew attention to the appalling burden of noise on people already living round London Airport at Heathrow. Lord Jellicoe mentioned the figure of 700,000 households, or 2¼ million people, in West London living under the noise blanket of Heathrow. This is 24 times as many people as would be affected at any of the four Roskill sites under discussion. Lord Sandford went on to mention the need, first to check, and then to curb the growth of noise from Heathrow."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 23rd February, 1971; Vol. 315, c. 966.] I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will share this view of the importance of reducing the existing nuisance and that this will be reflected both in his reply tonight and, later, when the decision comes to be taken, because it was an aspect that was scarcely covered in the Roskill Report, perhaps because of its terms of reference.

Earlier I referred to the effect of aircraft noise on sleep. It would be a tremendous boon to people living in the western half of London if all night flights in and out of Heathrow could he stopped. They are already restricted, but this is not enough. They should be stopped altogether and diverted from the area. To me, this means the choice of a coastal site—Foulness, Lydd, or anywhere else—because I would not like the burden which is now suffered by my constituents as a result of aircraft noise by night to be diverted to another inland site.

I believe that it is not too much to ask people who wish to fly by night to travel to a site on the coast instead of going over the residential areas where people live, even if, according to Roskill, it means a five minutes extra journey by rail or an extra 12 minutes by road. A large proportion of those who travel by night are holidaymakers making use of night tourist flights or charter flights. I have used these when going on holiday, and I see no reason why one should not spend an extra 12, 15, or even 30 minutes getting to an airport to avoid disturbing people by night.

Having said all this from a constituency point of view, I now wish to support the choice of a coastal site mainly from a national point of view. I regard our countryside as a national heritage, and there is not so much of it left unspoilt that we can afford to see another sizeable chunk of it destroyed—and it would indeed be a sizeable chunk at any of the inland sites. The area of the airport would be the size of London between the main line stations, and there would be a noise umbrella area stretching 30 to 40 miles. We do not have the right to allow the quality of the landscape to be ruined to that extent and in that way. I remind hon. Members that, speaking of Nuthampstead, the Roskill Commission said: we regard the many objections to the site, especially those of noise, planning and environment as clearly outweighing the advantages to those who would use the airport. We therefore reject Nuthampstead as the site for the third London airport. If that applies to Nuthampstead, surely it applies with equal force to Cublington. Why not? I hope, therefore, that this House will echo loud and clear the almost unanimous view of the other place last week.

We should see ourselves humbly as trustees for posterity of the English countryside, and if we fail to protect it our descendants will curse us, and they will be right to do so.

5.38 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)

It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), who has taken the opportunity to return to the tradition of making a maiden speech which is not controversial, at least in the party sense. The hon. Gentleman's speech did him considerable credit. His constituency and mine are fairly close to one another, and my personal relationships with his predecessor were most pleasant. I have no doubt that they will continue to be so with the hon. Gentleman, and I am certain that all of us feel that, both in the manner and in the content of his first contribution to our debates, the hon. Gentleman has shown that he will make further contributions which the House will hear with great pleasure.

We should, perhaps, remind ourselves that the inter-departmental committee reported in 1963 and found that a third airport would be needed for London, probably in the early 1970s. I believe that that conclusion was correct, and we are wrong in not having reached a decision on the matter long before now. Relief for those who live around Heathrow should already be under way. The recommendation of the inter-departmental committee regarding Stansted was rejected, and rightly rejected in my view, but we have failed to give sufficient urgency to the finding of an alternative and reaching a decision upon it.

If I may say so, I found myself in some disagreement with my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), greater disagreement, in fact, than I found with the Minister for Trade. Perhaps my disagreement with my right hon. Friend arose, in part, because there was more in his speech, not only in length but in content, too, but I certainly did not agree with several of the things which he said.

One general criticism which I have of my right hon. Friend's approach—this applies also to the Minister for Trade—was that he did not seem to express sufficient urgency, and there was in his speech a lack of realisation, perhaps, of the feelings of those who day by day suffer from aircraft noise. These people feel that we in the House are guilty of not having regarded as a matter of the first importance the building of a relief airport, which is how they regard it, and they are most dissatisfied that, after all the years which have elapsed since 1963 when the inter-departmental committee reported and said that a third airport was necessary, still no final decision has been reached.

I hope, therefore, that what will emerge from this debate, above all, will be a decision. Of course we need the right decision, but a decision we must have.

I am a little troubled for that reason by the suggestion which one hears that after we have looked at all the proposals covered by the Roskill Commission some other idea could be tried—what about a one-runway or two-runway airport in a much smaller place?—and so on. Such an airport could be built, but there is some justification for the proposition that one should build in a place where a four-runway airport could be carried. With two separate airports, one has not only to duplicate facilities at each airport but to duplicate the facilities for reaching the airport, constructing fresh roads and fresh railways, perhaps, for that purpose.

Therefore, it seems to me a reasonable precaution if one goes ahead with a single-runway airport, as I consider we should for emergency relief purposes—Roskill touched on this but made no final recommendation—that it should be built at a spot which permits of further development.

In my view, therefore, we ought not to dismiss in quite so cavalier a fashion as my right hon. Friend did the Foulness proposal. He did less than justice to the arguments which are canvassed, although finally rejected in the Report, in favour of Foulness, and I think that he over-emphasised the difficulties of communication, the problems of building, and so on.

It is worth recalling that the public local inquiry which was held following the decision of the inter-departmental committee about Stansted came down against that development. As I said a few minutes ago, I think that that was right. Roskill now recommends Cublington. The other House recently came down quite unequivocally in favour of Foulness. Now, Foulness is organising. There is to be some opposition from the people who actually live there against the proposal for an airport at Foulness.

What all this shows is that wherever the third airport is situated—with the possible exception of the place which my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. George Darling) has in mind—

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Thorne Waste.

Mr. Jenkins

—it is likely to have to be imposed by the Government upon the local inhabitants. It will, therefore, help if we select a place which has as few little local inhabitants as possible. It seems to me that Foulness qualifies in that respect.

Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jenkins

We have more or less established a tradition in this debate that we do not give way. The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to state his views later.

Mr. Harrison

What the hon. Gentleman has said is just not true. More people will be disturbed.

Mr. Jenkins

The Roskill Commission dealt with this matter, as I have said, and I recommend the hon. Gentleman to look at the Report.

Mr. Harrison

No, it does not say that. The hon. Gentleman himself has not read it.

Mr. Jenkins

The point I am making is that, wherever the airport it situated, there is bound to be some local opposition. In London, on the other hand, more than 1 million people day after day endure the greatest concentration of aircraft noise suffered by any urban population in the world. More people are inconvenienced here than anywhere else. Each week people move into Putney. They write me letters, furious letters. They join protest organisations. They visit me here at the Palace. They listen to the Questions which I and other hon. Members ask and to the answers which are given. The hard core of them become militant protesters. Some of them are here in the Gallery today to listen to the debate. Others decide that they will move away, or they give up and sit down under it. But no one is satisfied, because the noise continues day after day, and especially during the summer months.

In this situation the need for urgency must not be overlooked. It is worth looking at what Roskill had to say on this aspect of the matter: … about 700,000 households are already within the 35 NNI contour at the present level of operations at Heathrow—nearly four times the number of households affected at all four sites together, over seven times the households affected at Nuthampstead and about 24 times those of Cublington and Thurleigh. The point I am making, therefore, is not about relative conditions at the various sites. I am emphasising the enormously greater problem at Heathrow than at all those places put together. Again, I emphasise the importance of a decision being reached.

Why is the position at Heathrow so bad? The prevailing wind in this country comes from the west or the south-West. Aircraft still have to land into the wind, so hundreds of thousands of aeroplanes have to fly over millions of people in London in order to land at Heathrow. At Foulness, on the other hand, the vast majority of landings would be over the sea, and, therefore, the inconvenience and suffering would be enormously reduced. That is one of the arguments in favour of Foulness.

Mr. Wilkinson

Take-off at full power to the west.

Mr. Jenkins

Everyone who knows about aircraft noise or has experienced it in his constituency recognises that the noise about which people complain is landing noise, not take-off noise. People do not complain so much about the sudden roar of take-off. It is the continual whining scream of landing aircraft coming towards London airport in order to take up position, covering a distance of seven miles, which most people find offensive and about which they principally complain. When the wind changes, for about a third of the time, that is, the complaints come from the opposite direction, but for about two-thirds of the time landings at London airport come in from east to west. As I say, there would be a corresponding advantage at other sites and certainly at Foulness.

Heathrow will still remain the main internal British airport even if Foulness or another sea shore site is chosen as the international airport. One cannot say, therefore, that people living under the flight path at Heathrow will be totally relieved even five or ten years hence. That is quite out of the question. I believe that it will be necessary for Heathrow to remain an important airport, and that it is likely to remain our main internal one. But if we can direct international flights to an airport on the coast, the relief will be considerable. Therefore, what we are asking of the relatively few people who will be affected is not that they shall take away from people living under the glide path at Heathrow the burden which they are now suffering but merely that they shall share a small part.

My right hon. Friend reminded me of this fact: for some time we have been trying to live with the motor car. Only now are we beginning to realise that we cannot allow it always to go where the motorist wants to go; to some extent we must tell the motorist to go where it is in the interests of the community that he shall go. In other words, we must send him round to get where he wants to go. A similar lesson should be learnt in our attitude to aircraft noise. We should learn in these relatively early stages that we cannot allow aircraft to land always at the point where the aircraft operators want them to land. We must take into consideration the interests of the community, which dictate that the airport of the future, particularly the international airport, must be on the coast, and as far as I can see the best site suggested so far for that purpose is Foulness.

5.51 p.m.

Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)

For reasons of which we are all painfully aware, I hope that the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) will forgive me if I do not follow him very far along the line he took in his speech. His knowledge of the problem of aircraft noise and his defence of his constituents and others suffering from it are well known in the House, and I think he has made a strong case this afternoon.

It is my pleasant privilege to be the first Member on this side to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) on a maiden speech of great distinction. All hon. Members enjoyed listening to him. He was fluent, to the point and brief, a lesson to many of us who have been here for a long time. He covered a lot of ground in addition to his constituency interest. We all look forward very much to hearing him again.

I should like to pay a short tribute to Roskill. The Commission has added vastly to the sum of knowledge on this difficult question and made evident the true complexity of the decision, and also perhaps the unwisdom of originally leaving it to a Department to decide. The Roskill Commission has forced us to study and understand more about the problem of technology in our time by its work than perhaps we did before. It was right to appoint the Commission, and it is right to give praise and thanks for what it has done.

How is it, then, that the Report has aroused such widespread and highly articulate opposition, even abhorrence? In a distinguished debate in another place hardly a single speaker in two days supported the main conclusion. That is a strange prelude to our discussion, and the main theme of our discussion must be to seek the reason.

My constituency had the dubious distinction of being almost equally threatened by all the inland sites. Two were right on the border, and the other not very far away. With opposition widespread and support for the airport nil, it seemed to me that it was my clear duty as well as my inclination to oppose the choice of any of them. So it was that I and hon. Members on both sides came to form a committee which has done some work on the matter and followed the Roskill proceedings from the inception of the Commission. Our objective originally was to resist the choice of an inland site. In our work we came into contact with the societies concerned with aircraft noise at the various existing airports in the South-East—Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton. I was profoundly impressed by the plight of these people and what they suffer. We came to the conclusion that if it was right to resist the immolation of the countryside it was also right to seek to alleviate the distress of those already suffering from aircraft noise. We tabled a Motion to take account of those two objectives, and it has now been signed by well over 200 hon. Members.

It has become increasingly clear to me as time has gone on that although originally the final choice of a coastal site had seemed to be an open matter, neither of those objectives can be realised unless Foulness is chosen. I say that in the full knowledge of the implications. I am in no way insensitive to the suffering of those in Foulness and the surrounding area, or to wild life. I follow the wild geese as much as any hon. Member, and I know something of the splendour of the tideway. It causes me no pleasure to say what I have said about the choice of Foulness. The headquarters of the Society for the Protection of Birds is in my constituency, and I have read Mr. Peter Condor's letters in The Times with heart-searching. But it is a question of priorities.

There is one set of statistics which dominates the report, and that is the forecasts of traffic flow mentioned in paragraph 5.13 on page 26. There are five such forecasts which the Commission took into account—the research team's, two complementary forecasts from the British Airports Authority, one from B.E.A., and one from the Board of Trade's Working Party. As the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) said, figures for the year 2000 and beyond must be open to doubt, but there is a remarkable similarity between the growth curve for the years affecting the decision on the third London airport. They show a tremendous upward curve and demonstrate two things. First, there is clearly a need for the airport at an early date. [Interruption.] The number of runways is another question. Second, the need is for an airport or runways in the South-East, because of the high percentage of terminal passengers originating in the South-East. For the year 1991—

Mr. Tilney

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Hastings

I would rather go on. This is a complicated argument and I think it has been the pattern of the debate.

For the year 1991 the forecast is 80 per cent. for Foulness, 68 per cent. from the South-East for Thurleigh and 73 per cent. for Cublington.

I have no doubt from these figures that extra capacity is needed and that the need will rapidly increase. I have no doubt, either, that if the first runway is not provided soon the existing airports will have to be expanded to saturation point, and I regard that as unacceptable.

The Commission's idea on timing of the need depended on a moment when what they called "congestion costs" exceeded the cost of bringing the airport forward. It is for the Government to decide whether that timing is acceptable, or whether they can do something to alleviate the suffering of those in the noise shadow now, by taking action rather sooner than was envisaged by Roskill. I cannot believe that they will be insensitive to this problem.

I understand that the consortium at Foulness has said that it could produce the first runway by 1975 rather than 1980.

An Hon. Member

By 1976 or 1977.

Mr. Hastings

If it were 1976 or 1977, it would bring alleviation of the suffering rather quicker than 1980.

The figures for growth cause me, too, to reject two other arguments discussed briefly this afternoon. The first is that VTOL or STOL will come in time to affect the decision. Roskill is categoric about this. One important argument against it which has not been mentioned is the matter of amortisation of existing fleets and future fleets. B.E.A. is about to put in orders for 50—perhaps as many as 80—aircraft of a new generation in the airbus range, like the TriStar or the European Airbus. It is unreasonable to expect a market to develop for VTOL aircraft to take the place of those short-range carriers before those aircraft have at least had time to justify the vast investment in them.

Second, there is the question of a national airports policy, or strategy, as it has also been called in the Report. It is a superficially attractive view that this should be worked out before the decision is taken, but I hope that the Government will not be seduced by it, first, because of the growth figures, which establish a need in the South-East now, and, second, because the economic justification for major airports in the Midlands and North is far from obvious in the Roskill findings. But I would point out to those of my lion. Friends who are interested in airports in the Midlands or the North that if Foulness is chosen the economic need for a Midlands or northern airport will accrue quicker than if either Cublington or Thurleigh is chosen. I come now to the matter of the inland sites. The first and second choices depend essentially, it seems to me from the report, on two factors which outweigh all others. The first is the cost-benefit analysis and the second is the weighting of the passenger user costs, so-called, which is, of course, a part of the cost-benefit analysis. The cost-benefit analysis holds that Cublington is cheaper by between £197 million high to—167 million low compared to Foulness.

In my submission at Stage V of the inquiry, I tried to concentrate on this because, as time went on, I had less and less faith in the cost-benefit analysis and I was glad to see that the same view was taken by Professor Buchanan in his admirable Note of Dissent. On page 155, he referred to the work of the research team undertaking the analysis and said: As the Team progressed, with ever more ingenious methods of surmounting this or that difficulty or criticism, so I became more and more anxious lest I be trapped in a process which I did not fully understand and ultimately led without choice to a conclusion which I would know in my heart of hearts I did not agree with. One might ask why the team was having to use so much ingenuity if this was a truly scientific process. I do not believe that there is a true answer to that question. The best authority I have been able to discover on cost-benefit analysis is a paper or survey by A. R. Prest and R. Turvey included in "Surveys of Economic Theory", published by Macmillan in 1968. These two eminent experts had this to say about cost-benefit analysis: It is always important, and perhaps especially so in economics, to avoid being swept off one's feet by the fashions of the moment. In the case of cost-benefit analysis, one must recognise that it is a method which can be used inappropriately as well as appropriately … cost-benefit analysis as generally understood is only a technique for taking decisions within a framework which has to be decided upon in advance.— I submit that no such framework existed in the choice of this airport. It is the essence of the selection of an airport of this kind that it involves deciding about the relative importance of a whole series of imponderables. That was the position.

Subjective judgment is not always irrational. Some of the most important decisions we take in our lives are subjective. Should I fight for my country? Should I get married? Should I join the Conservative Party or the Labour Party? These are not susceptible to cost-benefit analysis! Roskill holds, on the other hand, that there is something inherently to be mistrusted about subjective judgment. He has this to say on the subject on page 11: It was not easy to see how this mammoth task could ever be begun. let alone brought to a satisfactory conclusion … It seemed essential wherever possible to avoid subjective judgments upon any part of a problem which had roused such deep emotions and that our method of analysis must be devised with this … in mind. But deep emotions were aroused and the decision to discount them was a subjective judgment in the first place. It was a value judgment.

It seems to me that this rigid adherence to cost-benefit throughout the report leads to some ludicrous positions. For example, there is the matter of Stewkley Church, a Norman church. First, the experts claimed that it could be written into the cost-benefit analysis at its fire insurance value. When they saw that this simply was not accepted as tenable, what did they do? They said: We decided that no attempt should be made to value explicitly in money terms such contentious items as the loss of wild life or churches which would have to be demolished. But churches and their demolition are an important matter. The Commission's view has discounted a whole range of things which people think important. The Wing Airport Resistance Association produced a list of about 10, and a good case could be made for every one of them. Again, the value of the countryside as such was never costed in the Report.

I come next to the enormous item of passenger-user costs—£167 million low and £207 million high. This, as I understand it, represents an aggregate of higher fares on a journey of 44 minutes as opposed to one of 39 minutes, travelled at high speed—and one does not know what form of surface transport there will be in the future. It is a matter of minutes, if not seconds. This extra money would in any case not be paid by the State or the taxpayer but by the passengers themselves. The difference is considerably in excess of the total supposed "benefit" of Cublington over Foulness.

The cost-benefit technique is still in its infancy. It is appropriate as a guide, not to accurate costs at all but to rational judgment, on certain restricted projects such as water and transport projects, research and development and, in some cases, defence. It is wholly inappropriate on this scale to this study. I am reminded of the character in Oscar Wilde who was said to have understood the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Another factor which Roskill left out of account but which I am sure the Government will take into account is the sheer impracticability of forcing through a decision on an inland site against popular resistance. I am not talking about pitchforks, although there might well be a few. I am talking about legal resistance. Essex County Council, with certain reasonable reservations, is, I understand—and my noble Friend Lord Molson mentioned this in the other place—in favour of Foulness. Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire County Councils are implacably opposed to the choice either of Thurleigh or Cublington. Unless this House is prepared to alter the law of compulsory purchase in a way which I do not think many of us would be prepared to accept, then access to every acre would be resisted—let alone any agreement reached on compensation. In this way it could be years before work could begin. It is possible to hold up even a reservoir for years in the countryside, as I know well, in an area where local people are against it. How much more difficult to impose this airport with all its inconveniences as well.

I should like to finish with a word or two about Foulness. I do not want to enter into the case too deeply. Some hon. Members have confused the noise figures in Roskill with the noise figures which would apply if the northern site for the runways at Foulness were chosen instead of the site which, for incomprehensible reasons, Roskill adopted. My noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal was asked in another place why Roskill came out for the southern site as opposed to the northern, and he replied that he did not know any more than anyone else. I hope that the Government will take all this into account and that those con- cerned with noise will realise that if the northern site for the runways were adopted the noise shadow would fall mostly over the sea and would be vastly better than either Thurleigh or Cublington in consequence.

Foulness also has the merit of flexibility. Should unexpected factors occur such as a break through in V.T.O. development or should the forecasts of traffic turn out to be unduly high or low, the situation could be coped with by altering reclamation. There is far greater flexibility at Foulness than at the inland sites. But once the Vale of Aylesbury is below concrete, even for one runway or half a runway, that is the end of the matter.

I want to mention the question of the airport/seaport, or Europort. I took the chair at a conference last October at the Hilton Hotel where learned papers were presented on this subject. I was convinced then that there was an important case for a seaport as well as an airport and that compatible advantages could be gained. I was convinced also that the case had never been deployed or examined fully during the Roskill inquiry. I hope that the Government will not neglect this. I am sure that they will not. There are certainly potential advantages. But we are required today not to decide that, but to decide on the airport. That is a big enough decision in all conscience. We are required—or the Government are required—to take it furthermore at a moment when, after two centuries of despoliation, man is beginning to stand back aghast at the results of his technical capacity and of his greed. Nowhere is this stance more important than in this crowded island. I am sure that the Government will respect it. It is not only the logic of argument which should lead them, I believe, to choose Foulness and to choose it soon, but also because of a quality which has seemed at times to have been overwhelmed during the course of the Roskill inquiry—the quality of common sense.

6.10 p.m.

Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

Hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree that so far this has been a most stimulating and at times entertaining debate to which the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) has made a distinguished contribution. I hope to make at least a meritorious contribution by being exceedingly brief. Because so much of what I would have said in elaboration of my argument has been said by other speakers, I propose to give the House the conclusion which my party has reached without repeating in any way all the argument and processes gone through to reach that conclusion.

Our conclusion is that if there is to be a new third airport in the South-East region it should be at a coastal site, either Foulness or, as the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) rather grandly put it, at some other site. That is our conclusion and it is possible, strangely enough, in this debate to be guilty of tedious repetition without having uttered more than a couple of sentences. Therefore, I leave that conclusion as it stands.

I turn to the important word "if", because as has already been pointed out, the consideration as to whether there should be a third airport in the southeast region was outside the Commission's terms of reference, at least I considered it so, despite the ingenious explanation given by the right hon. Member for Grimsby about a supplementary answer to a Question at the time the Commission was appointed.

It seems rather strange that apart from the Minister I appear to be the only Scottish Member of the House—and I do not limit the remark to Scotland—who is attempting to intervene in the debate. It would be a great mistake for hon. Members to assume that this is purely a South-East problem. We are, after all, talking of a possible expenditure of £500 million or £600 million, some say more, of public money. This is a genuine national question in which I would have thought all Members from whatever part of the country would be particularly interested.

I come to the two points on which I find myself in disagreement with the spokesmen from the two Front Benches. I believe that both rather made light of the lack of a national airports policy. This has been a grave deficiency, not just shown up in the discussion in the Roskill Commission, but for many years. I will give two examples. In the South-East of England the very fact that the British Airports Authority in its calculations does not take into account the movement of traffic in and out of Luton airport because Luton is not under its control is, I would have thought, a defect of any rational discussion of airport facilities around London.

Equally, in Scotland I am bound to say that I think we made a grievous mistake, because of the lack of a national airports policy, in spending money on building a new airport at Abbottsinch just outside Glasgow when the same amount of investment should have been spent in providing proper communications between the already existing Prestwick Airport and the centre of Glasgow. If that had been done and Prestwick had become the domestic airport for the City of Glasgow as well as an international airport, then Prestwick would be a more useful asset to the country as an international airport with transatlantic traffic, because it would at once have been linked into the domestic air services of the country. I do not share the rather light view that has been taken it appeared to me, by both Front Benches, that the lack of a national airports policy is something we have to gloss over or ignore. I think it has been a serious defect, over many years.

The second point on which I dissent from the Front Bench spokesmen is on their assessment of the possibilities of using under-used capacity in other airports elsewhere in the country. In an interesting article in the Economist on 7th February entitled "Who Needs a Third Airport, Anyway?" the following observation was made: What none of the commission's research papers have yet told is how strong the demand will be, five or six years from now, for locally based air services among people more or less resigned for the moment to travelling south to London to catch a flight because it is from London that the widest choice of flights is offered. Four out of every 10 British passengers going through London's airports now live outside the south-east (six out of 10 live outside London). This seems to be an important factor. Here I separate the argument as between tourists and business traffic. The Minister in his opening speech more or less accepted that there was nothing else to do with tourist traffic except that it must enter and leave through London. I reject this absolutely. The reason why tourist traffic comes in and out of the City of London is that that is where most of the air routes are. The tour operators, in the United States or elsewhere, suggest itineraries to their customers which begin and end at London. Even if they are going to the Highlands of Scotland they will go in and out of London.

I say to hon. Members from South-East England, whom I hope I carry with me, that it is as much in their interests as in the interests of those of us who represent constituencies well away from London to argue that this need not be so, and that we ought to be diversifying international air routes in and out of Britain to encourage more of the tourist traffic to originate from airports elsewhere.

I agree with the remark made by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), who said that there is surely no reason why we cannot, within a British airports policy, direct airlines to make use of certain airports. To take one tiny example, why is it that flights from here to Norway must go to and from London when it would be much more sensible for them to go to and from either Edinburgh or Newcastle Airports? Newcastle has an excellent airport and the country is about to spend £9 million on reconstructing Edinburgh Airport. These are the obvious, nearest places to the Scandinavian countries. It would be of potential benefit to these airports if international traffic were siphoned through them and customers transferred to the domestic routes which already exist for travelling to London.

This is not such a difficult proposition as people seem to imagine. If we travel to New York and we are unable to get a seat on a plane direct, although it may be a little inconvenient and a little tedious, none of us thinks too much of having to fly to Washington or Montreal and then catching a domestic connection to get to New York.

Moreover, not every country in the world accepts as a basic proposition that its central, international airport must automatically be in the capital. I refer in passing to the pattern in Zambia where all incoming traffic clears customs at the international airport of Ndola in the north of the country, in the mining belt, and those who want to go on to the capital, Lusaka, do so either in the same plane or in another plane, on a domestic internal flight. If we adopted that strategy we would not only cut down right away on a number of flights that come in and out of London, but by the end of the century it would be possible, if we developed land travel, to cut down absolutely the number of air traffic movements within the country.

I refer particularly to the development of the hovertrain. It seems extraordinary that this country, which was the first successfully to develop the hovercraft has not carried over with sufficient energy and priority the development of the hovertrain. My noble Friend Lord Gladwyn in his speech in the other place drew attention to the fact that there is a company called Tracked Hovercraft Limited, wholly financed by the Government, through the National Research Development Corporation, working on this. We are not according this project the priority it deserves. We have allowed the Japanese to overtake us.

I argue that we should develop this 250 mile-an-hour method of land transport because it can operate in and out of city centres and can be used effectively and noiselessly If it were brought into being in another 25 years' time it would more or less eliminate inter-city air travel altogether in this country and open up the possibilities of using other airports besides those situated in the South-East as our main international airports, because people would then be able to travel easily and quickly into the centre of the capital if they wished.

When I was at the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe I was astonished to find among the papers and reports submitted to us a report of a conference of European Ministers of Transport, in which we were a participant, which included among other things a report from consultants on the patterns of the future travel in Europe. This report included, without any fixed dates or times, charts and maps showing hovertrain routes through the Continent of Europe, from London to Birmingham and Manchester and on to the central industrial belt of Scotland. Are these to become a reality in the thinking of the Department for the Environment? If they are, as I think they should, clearly they would affect our thinking on the future pattern of the movement of people in this country and therefore the potential use of our different international airports. I hope that the Ministry will pay attention to that matter.

6.20 p.m.

Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)

As I think the House knows, Foulness is in my constituency. In my opinion, the Roskill Commission was absolutely right in rejecting it as the site for the third London airport. The great majority of my constituents who have expressed a view agree with me. But I confess that one of the difficulties which they and I have had to face has been the facile but mistaken assumption that many commentators have made, and are still making—some of them were made before the Roskill Report was published—that if runways are built on land reclaimed from the sea nobody inland will be disadvantaged, no noise nuisance will be caused, and if airlines and their passengers do not want to go there they can be forced to do so. This, as I hope to show, is nonsense.

It would be very tempting for me to say that, because the Commission was right to reject Foulness, it was right to recommend Cublington. I shall resist that temptation. I have a great deal of sympathy with the people of Cublington and all those at Heathrow and other airports who live in the shadow of incessant aircraft noise so movingly described by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) in what the whole House would agree was a most admirable maiden speech. But if an entirely new four-runway airport is needed—and, like the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), I am not at all satisfied on that point—and if the logic of the argument points away from an inland site towards one on the coast, Foulness is not the best coastal site which could be chosen.

The more I look at the problem, the more I am driven to the conclusion that, however meticulously the Roskill Commission addressed itself to its task, it was given the wrong terms of reference and it interpreted them too narrowly. It was not the Commission's fault that, instead of being asked to take a long cool look at our national airport requirements, it was limited to inquire into the timing of the need for a four-runway airport to cater for the growth of traffic at existing airports in the London area. But it was not obliged by its terms of reference to choose a site close to London, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, in another place made perfectly plain at the time.

That being so, the House may consider it exceedingly odd that the outer edge of the area within which the Commission was encouraged to search for a suitable site by the then Ministry of Housing and Local Government went within 10 miles of the Wash on the east and 15 miles of the Severn Estuary on the west. While this did not suggest that the third London airport had to be within 50 miles of London, one wonders why coastal sites within reasonable distance of London and much better placed in relation to the industrial Midlands than Foulness were deliberately excluded by those briefing the Commission. Had the area of search been drawn a little wider, the Commission might have come up with a different and better answer.

Whatever the truth of that, it seems equally odd that the Commission spent not much more than two months reducing some 78 sites within the area of search to a short list of four without detailed consultation with the British Airports Authority, and then spent two years investigating those four sites, all of which are unattractive in varying degrees to the Authority and to the airlines—Foulness being the least attractive of all.

So much has been said about Foulness that it is my duty to tell the House why it is unattractive for other reasons. Before anyone rejects out of hand the conclusions which the Commission reached, it is highly relevant to note that had it chosen Foulness instead of Cublington it would have been, not the third, but the fourth London airport since it is clear that the airlines so dislike the prospect of going there and it is so much further from the Midlands that Luton Airport, to take one example only, would continue to operate and would even expand.

That would mean, as the Commission made plain—and I am sorry that the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) is not present because he was wholly wrong on this point—that the total number of people in South-East Essex, North-East Kent and Luton who would suffer from serious noise would be far greater than at Cublington or at any other inland site. That makes nonsense of the argument that the choice of Foulness would reduce the noise nuisance to a minimum.

There is another reason for believing that more people in South-East Essex and North-East Kent alone would be disadvantaged by noise than was at first thought likely. Continental air space starts at about 30 miles east of Foulness. This gives rise to air traffic problems which would bring flight paths and stacking areas over land rather than over the sea. The enthusiasts for Foulness have forgotten that our Continental neighbours are also flying aircraft, and, for safety reasons, we cannot use limited air space as we would like. Also, since safety is a factor of the highest importance, we should not overlook the fact that Foulness is a bird sanctuary and is in the path of bird migrations which have taken place from time immemorial.

We know that birds constitute a grave hazard to aircraft in flight. The loss of an Electra with 62 lives when it collided with a flock of starlings at Boston Airport in 1960, of a Viscount with 17 lives when it collided with swans over Maryland in 1962, the near loss of a Vanguard at Turnhouse Airport, in the same year, and the near loss of two giant jet aircraft at Sydney Airport last year serve as an awful warning when it is realised that the high density of birds in these cases is also found at Foulness.

On statistical evidence alone we can be absolutely certain that there will be a major catastrophe at Foulness, if it is selected, within 20 years. Let me read what the Commission says on the point: There must be a greater risk of a major disaster at Foulness than at any inland site. The loss of life would be appalling and the public reaction would be one of horror.

Mr. Norman Tebbit (Epping)

The evidence of Dr. Schaefer—which comes partly from a lecture which he gave at Queen's University, Ontario, during a conference on world bird hazards—made it clear that there is no greater risk at coastal airfields than anywhere else. The evidence is that in the typical form of accident which occurs on a coastal air- field the hazard to life is much less. One of the accidents quoted by my hon. Friend was due to a swan flying at 3,000 ft. There is no evidence whatsoever that Foulness would be less safe.

Mr. Braine

I am content to let the matter rest with what the Roskill Commission said, but I could quote the Chairman of the International Committee on Birds Hazards to Aircraft, Mr. M. S. Kuhring who has stated that he believes that it is impossible to overcome the bird strike hazard at Foulness. I have no judgment on this matter. I merely record what others have said. But I would hardly think it reasonable to expect that Her Majesty's Government will force the British Airports Authority and the airlines, including foreign airlines, to accept a site which experts consider appreciably less safe than others which could be chosen?

On the human factor, hon. Members who have already spoken, especially the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings), who made a very powerful speech to which I listened with great interest, and the hon. Member for Twickenham have been very eloquent about the human factor. They are absolutely right in that. In return, I beg them to understand that siting the airport at Foulness, especially if this were associated with a seaport, favoured by the Port of London Authority and the Southend Corporation, and, as I understand it, by some hon. Members, would impose an intolerable strain upon the living conditions of the very large population already living in the area.

South-East Essex, which includes the County Borough of Southend, is a relatively narrow peninsula confined between the Thames and the Crouch. It is already a growth area. Our population numbers well over 300,000, and is expected to grow whether an airport at Foulness materialises or not. Our environment is already under heavy assault. At the western end, art Canvey Island, oil companies are seeking to put up refineries alongside a resident population of 26,000 on the island itself and 45,000 in neighbouring Benfleet.

My right lion. Friend knows that development of this kind is bitterly resisted by my constituents and by the local authorities. But the arrival of an airport at the other end of the constituency would begin to put intolerable pressures on the whole of South-East Essex. We are already one of the fastest growing, if not the fastest, residential areas in the country. People have moved there voluntarily, seeking to get away from the congestion of the big city, to enjoy a garden and fresh air. Many of them are elderly folk who have come to spend their retirement in better and quieter surroundings.

Because of the physical limitations of the area, which so many of the advocates of Foulness ignore, the new motorway and rail link that will have to be provided will plough right through the heart of the airport city, with all the noise and nuisance which this must cause. By what right is development to be thrust upon us which will worsen the conditions in my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden)?

Let us suppose that the decision is taken to force Foulness upon us. According to the evidence given to the Commission, the population in the relatively narrow corridor will double by the 1990s. How is the extra population to be accommodated? Unless new urban areas are to be created north of the Crouch, which the conservationists view with horror, it can only be done by adopting a density which will turn South-East Essex into near slum by the end of the century.

There are limits to the growth in the area. Whereas an airport could be accommodated, and perhaps a seaport as well, the accompanying proposal for large scale industrialisation would lead to a serious sacrifice of our environmental standards. No wonder that the Roskill Commission, when considering the planning aspects, rejected the Foulness site on the grounds that it would lead to over-crowding. No wonder Essex County Council, who began the advocacy of Foulness as a sort of reaction against Stansted and as an insurance against Nuthampstead, have begun to draw back from the implications. They now tell us that they do not mind an airport at Foulness, or a minor seaport. but that there must be no large-scale industrialisation. Having declared Foulness to he a growth point, how could large-scale industrial development be stopped? Presumably, by the use of planning controls. Is it likely that the Government, especially after the Rolls-Royce experience, will sanction hundreds of millions of pounds of capital expenditure on an airport and a seaport and then say that there must be no oil refineries, no petro-chemical works, no ore treatment plants, no steel works, when these are the very things which alone will make the investment pay?

Mr. Raison

The hon. Gentleman has just said that the Essex County Council have modified their view. I received from them yesterday a document which ends up saying that No variation of previous policy is involved in this statement. It says earlier that "An airport at Foulness would be welcomed from a planning point of view." It then gives two reasons.

Mr. Braine

I have just described that as ridiculous, and I stand by that. How can one say that he is in favour of an airport and a seaport but not in favour of any large scale industrialisation? If the hon. Gentleman reads the document he will see that it says that there. Indeed, it would be better if instead of intervening on a point which betrays his complete lack of knowledge of the geographical and planning difficulties of my area, had allowed me to move on. If one cannot stop development of this kind, how is it possible to protect the existing population against a worsening of their environment in this narrow peninsula?

Against this background, I have asked myself the question whether a third London airport is necessary. As in so many situations, the difficulty lies less in finding the right answers than in asking the right questions.

The Commission were asked to select a four-runway site and they did so. But on each of the four sites studied, the first runway would not be ready until 1980 at the earliest, the second would not be ready until 1983—with the exception of Foulness, where it would not be ready until 1986—the third would not be ready until 1990, and the fourth would emerge some time after the year 2000.

One wonders what is going to happen to aircraft technology in the relatively long period before the third runway is needed. Does it stand still? If that is the time-scale which we are having to consider it is a great pity that the Commission were not asked to look at two-runway sites. Had they done so, then entirely new possibilities would have been opened up and a solution might have been found more nearly in accord with a national airport policy, which at least some of us feel to be necessary. By that, incidentally, I mean a policy which does not assume that Britain ceases to be of any importance north of the home counties. If we could get by with a two-runway airport in the South-East and if it has to be on the coast, then Lydd springs to mind as offering special advantages. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will ask the British Airports Authority what it thinks of that suggestion.

If, however, the argument is that we need a four-runway airport on the coast which will cater not merely for the growth of air traffic from the London area but will take the heat off existing airports, which concerns many of my hon. Friends, there are at least two areas which could have been examined just outside the area of search which the Commission looked at, namely, the Wash and the Severn Estuary. While both of those sites are further from London, they are much nearer the industrial heart of the country, and the Wash is much nearer to our main industrial markets in Europe, which lie to the east, rather than to the south of Britain.

Earlier I questioned the wisdom of committing ourselves to the expenditure of untold millions of pounds on airfields which in the end may prove to be not only in the wrong place but not required at all. Why is not more regard paid to developing technology? The Commission touched briefly on two possibilities which might well affect future demand for airport capacity but did not feel able to examine them in detail. Yet both have a cruicial bearing on the problem. One is the Channel Tunnel. I understand that if this materialised and the advanced passenger train service was introduced, it would be quicker to go from London to Paris, or perhaps to Brussels and Amsterdam, by train than it is to go by air from our existing airports.

The second possibility—I will not develop this because others have done so—which might completely change the prospect is the development of V/STOL aircraft. This development is technically and economically feasible, as has already been demonstrated in the United States, and I wonder, therefore, whether my right hon. Friend was right in the cautious view he expressed. My information is that it is feasible to have STOL aircraft in service by the early 'eighties or even earlier if the Government were to make up their mind that the future of short-haul traffic really lies with this type of aircraft. After all, 40 per cent. of the movements through Heathrow is short-haul traffic, and if this traffic could be withdrawn from Heathrow and operated from other smaller airports a great deal of the noise and congestion there could be overcome.

I appreciate that there are inponderables, but we would look very foolish indeed if we were to sink vast sums into the development of huge new airfields and spend millions of pounds on road and rail links only to find, at the end of the day that much of the new infrastructure was outmoded and unnecessary. If these wider considerations are to be ignored and if Foulness is to be thrust on my constituents, then there are many safeguards they will demand. [Interruption.]

I am reacting in this way because of the insensitivity which has been displayed by some of my hon. Friends, who seem to think that the people who live in South-East Essex and North-East Kent are of no account in this matter. I wish, therefore, to take time to explain that there are certain safeguards which our people will demand and expect to get. At this stage I will mention only two.

First, South-East Essex is an area which has suffered grievously in the past from floods. The people of this area require a firm assurance from the Government that the large-scale dredging of sand and the alteration and configuration of the coastline which an airport would entail will have no adverse effects on tidal and surge behaviour in both the Thames and the Crouch and, therefore, on the lives and safety of our local community. The Commission said that it was satisfied on this point, but I am not. Some of the local authorities are not satisfied either. Our people have had to live under the threat of floods for decades and since the Commission deliberately left out of the reckoning the possible additional effect of dredging for a port, the whole question needs close and careful study.

Secondly, it was clear from the evidence to the Commission that normal life would be impossible on Foulness Island and perhaps for some distance inland. This would sterilise some of the finest farming land in the country and would drive out people whose ancestors have lived there for centuries. This poses a special problem.

The people of Foulness do not own their own farms and homes. Their landlord is the Government and they are the tenants. Their average age is high and their uprooting would cause intense distress. We would, therefore, require resettlement on the land elsewhere for our tenant farmers, decent rehousing for our old folk and fair compensation for the loss of livelihood and the destruction of our fishing and whiteweed industries. If a whole community is to be uprooted to serve the nation's need, the nation must deal with them generously. I say this because the existing law of compensation is not adequate to meet the circumstances I have described; it must be made so.

I hope that it will not come to this because it seems, on any objective basis, that it would be the height of folly for any decision to be made about Cublington, Foulness or anywhere else and to embark on huge investment before a clear national policy for airports has been evolved.

When the Roskill Commission began its work we were led to believe that the situation was desperate and that London had to have a third airport by the mid-seventies. Roskill concluded that the first runway would not be ready before 1980. The situation is, therefore, not as desperate as it was first thought to be. There is still time for second thoughts and deeper study. I hope the Government will agree.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I made a very respectful request earlier for brevity. I suggest that it is not fair for hon. Members to speak for 25 minutes. Many hon. Members still wish to take part in the debate.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

I wish, at the outset, to express warm congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) on a maiden speech which was excellent in every respect. My congratulations are the warmer because it came within my definition of "brief", being of less than ten minutes' duration. No other hon. Member has succeeded in living up to that example, though I intend to do so.

Mr. David Steel

I was brief.

Mr. Hall

I was timing the hon. Gentleman rather carefully.

My speech will be entirely negative in character. I have no expert knowledge of where airports should be sited or of the complications that arise from the infrastructure that must be developed from them. There has been complete unanimity of view on both sides of the House in this debate on one aspect, however, and that is that the siting of any airport, wherever it may be, causes untold distress and damage to the environment.

At the risk of being accused by the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) of being a public relations officer for the Friends of the Aylesbury Vale, I intend to speak entirely against the recommendation of the Roskill Commission that the airport should be sited at Cublington. As a Buckinghamshire hon. Member, I am opposed to this proposal because it affects not only that county but the surrounding counties, including Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire.

This proposal affects my constituency in part. As for the south of my constituency, the siting of an airport at Cublington might, in fact, reduce the noise nuisance, because I take it that it would mean Luton Airport closing. The southern part of my constituency suffers considerably now from flights in and out of Luton and from overflying and stacking into Heathrow. I take it that the activities which now affect the southern part of my constituency would diminish as more aircraft were diverted. From that point of view, looking at it selfishly, it would benefit the southern part of my constituency, and one would imagine that those constituents would urge me to support the siting at Cublington. However, they do not, for they appreciate the immense damage that would be done to the life of the county of Buckinghamshire if the airport were to be sited there.

In the northern part of my constituency we are likely to be affected by the noise zone. Chequers only just narrowly escapes, and perhaps the Prime Minister should bear this in mind. The neighbouring town of Princes Risborough and an area to within six miles of the heart of Oxford City would be affected by the noise zone.

The right hon. Member for Grimsby referred to Professor Buchanan's Minority Report as poetical and suggested that it should have a place in the annals of English literature. I agree. It is poetry and there are times when we should pay more attention to poets and less to technologists.

I wish particularly to draw attention to the disaster that would befall the Vale of Aylesbury if, by some mental aberration the Government should decide to accept the Roskill Recommendation. In the Minority Report, which I have in the form of an appendix to the memorandum submitted by the Buckinghamshire County Council, Professor Buchanan said: I believe, as I have said before, that the Vale of Aylesbury is a critically important part of this island. It is part of the fundamental hill and dale, forest and farmland break between London and Birmingham. It is of immense value to the nation, even more so to my mind than the Nuthampstead area which lies on the fringe of an unbroken stretch of countryside extending northwards through East Anglia to the sea. To locate the airport squarely athwart the break between the country's two largest conurbations, with the noise area extending from south-west to north-east for nearly 40 miles, and with the consequent constraint on all the modest activities that the area so conveniently accommodates at present and all those it could accommodate in future, would seem to me to constitute nothing less than an environmental disaster. Of course he is quite right. The statement of Stewkley Parish Council—and the village of Stewkley would virtually disappear under concrete if the recommendation were accepted—is a description of the life of a typical English village which once destroyed, can never be replaced.

We are told about the cost benefit analysis and how it is adapted to the loss of churches. Stewkley church is 800 years old and is regarded as one of the finest examples of its kind in the country. How can a cost-benefit analysis be adapted to that? What price can be put on a heritage which, once destroyed cannot be replaced?

In a sense this is not a technological problem, it is an emotional problem. The time is coming when we should stop to consider exactly what we are trying to do. We are obsessed with technological advance, with increasing our gross national product, developing our productive facilities, getting to places faster, cutting minutes off our journey time, although if one asks travellers what they do with the minutes they save, they find it difficult to say.

What is the result of all this activity? Is it designed to make us happier? One cannot think so if one looks at the world population today, and when one sees the increase in the population of mental asylums and the increase in the number of people suffering from mental diseases and the modern strain diseases. Is it not time we stopped to consider what we are trying to do?

Is it right to spend so many millions to allow a very limited number of people to travel faster and more often from A to B when the effect on the people living around the area over which the aircraft pass will be so great? Is it right to encourage more and more flights of aircraft, with all the pollution that comes from the burning up of the fuel and potential long-term damage caused by the vapour trails that are left in the sky? We should stop and consider these matters.

I do not want to suggest where an airport should be. I feel, as other hon. Members do, that perhaps we do not need a third London airport, although we might need another national airport. I beg the Government to look at this problem again, to consider the problem nationally and, above all, to keep in mind the normal things which make life worth living in this country. I ask them not to do something which will destroy these amenities and the things which we enjoy. That is all I ask the Government to do. If they fail to do that—and I am sure they will not—let me remind them of a quotation from G. K. Chesterton which refers particularly to the area for which I speak. It is an extract from one of his poems: Prince, Prince-Elective on the modern plan, Fulfilling such a lot of people's Wills, You take the Chiltern Hundreds while you can— A storm is coming on the Chiltern Hills.

6.55 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)

I hope the Minister will take up the invitation which he has had from several hon. Members, including the hon. Members for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) and Wycombe (Mr. John Hall), to say something on the question of a national airport policy, even if it is merely to indicate the broad ways in which further studies might be developed by the Government. This should not prevent us looking fairly and squarely at the more immediate problems that face the South-East, even though I speak as a Northerner who takes it for granted that anyone who wants to go to Scandinavia should use Newcastle Airport to do so.

I want to speak tonight to some extent on behalf of the National Trust, on whose executive I serve, and the Town and Country Planning Association, on which I also serve, and to express the clear views of two other bodies with which I have close connections, the Countryside Commission, and a movement I helped to found, the Youth Hostels Association. All these bodies take a similar view, that the Roskill Commission recommendation should not be accepted and that the threat to the area of countryside involved in all three inland sites would not be acceptable.

The Cublington site recommended by the Roskill Commission would affect the National Trust severely. Three major properties would be involved, and the wide Ashridge Common area which is frequented by many people at all times of the year. Waddesdon, Ascot and Claydon all attract large numbers of people. Last year about 100,000 people visited these three properties. Taking Waddesdon as an example, the enjoyment of that area would be largely if not completely destroyed if an airport were to be sited at Cublington. The Chairman of the National Trust in a letter to The Times said that the problem would be comparable to that faced by the people who go to Kew Gardens. I think that it would be a good deal more severe than that. This terrible concentration of noise would be enormously damaging. My right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) was right in welcoming the growing recognition of the damage caused by noise. This is a major consideration which cannot be quantified in money terms. Any attempts at analysis would be hopeless.

My right hon. Friend referred to the Town and Country Planning Association and said that its views had changed somewhat. They have no doubt been modified, but the association still holds to the view that almost certainly there is no necessity for a third airport to be a four-runway airport—which is close to the view expressed by my right hon. Friend—and that urgent consideration should be given to more modest proposals. On the whole the association favours the Foulness site as being more satisfactory from many planning points of view. It strongly supports the minority recommendations of Professor Buchanan and stresses the importance of development on the east side of London as against the over-heating and over-concentration to the West. No doubt it would agree with some of the ideas put forward by the Essex County Council whose views we have heard criticised but which takes the view that it is practicable to have a modest development in Essex which could be of considerable value to the people living in the area as well as meeting the early needs for airport development.

The other body to which I shall refer is the Countryside Commission. It interests me to find that the Commission, whose remit is to advise on broad countryside questions and matters of amenity, takes the view that as between the four possibilities with which latterly the Roskill Commission was concerned the Foulness proposals would do least damage to amenity and countryside questions though the Countryside Commission fully recognised, as we all do, the damage to and concern for wild life in the area. But taking that matter fully into account, the view of the Countryside Commission is that of the four alternatives Foulness would be the right site to choose.

I accept my right hon. Friend's view that we do not need to be tied to this if we move ourselves away from the assumption that we need a four-runway airport. It is conceivable that there might be another site on the coast which would be preferable to any of those proposed so far. We should not rule this out. We must be clear in our minds that we must take action as soon as practicable to help to tackle the noise problem which already affects so many people. I hope that it will not be accepted that we should only build up existing airports and so increase still further the trouble many people are suffering today. We should not accept that as a tolerable alternative. I believe that we must find another site which at least could meet the more modest needs which now may be thought to be necessary.

We know that very many of the complaints against the Roskill proposals appear to come from an extremely well-organised body of people, who are often professional people and who know—and this is no complaint against them—how best to make their complaints and to whom to make them. However, I am attracted by the fact that complaints are also being made by a body like the Youth Hostels Association, which speaks for a large number of people whom we want to encourage to use the pleasures of that great stretch of countryside.

I hope that very careful thought will be given to the suggestion which has been made by my right hon. Friend that we should not accept the assumption that a four-runway airport is absolutely vital. There are alternative possibilities, of which Foulness may be one, but there may be other sites on the coast which should be considered.

7.5 p.m.

Mr. W. Benyon (Buckingham)

I am sure the House would understand if I were to deal with the Roskill Report in purely emotional terms because, if this recommendation were accepted, my constituency and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) would face the destruction of over 2,000 houses; over 7,000 people would be displaced from their homes and in many cases their livelihoods; ancient buildings would be destroyed, including the gem of Norman architecture which has already been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall); and thousands of acres of some of the finest country, both agricultural and scenic, would disappear under a mass of concrete and tarmac. It involves bulldozing flat a site five miles long and two-and-a-half miles wide—a site three-and-a-half times the present size of Heathrow. It involves imposing on 50 sq. miles an intolerable noise burden and on 350 sq. miles what is described as noise nuisance. I hope the House will be under no illusion about the human and environmental consequences of accepting this recommendation.

This part of Buckinghamshire has a proud and ancient history. Turner described it as "mid-most unmitigated England". Hon. Members will appreciate that when Roskill talks about the destruction of the breeding grounds of the Brent goose at Foulness in the same breath as saying that the Buckinghamshire communities will be directly affected, it is a Freudian slip which has caused the greatest anger and resentment in my constituency.

Emotion, however understandable, must take second place to reason in this debate. No matter how much we admire Mr. Justice Roskill and his team, no matter how much one accepts the time, devotion and deliberation given to this mammoth task, I do not believe that any reasonable person reading this Report can accept the majority conclusion.

However, I completely accept two of the basic arguments in the Report. First, there is an urgent need for a new airport—and whether it be two or four runways does not matter—and, secondly, the airport must serve the Metropolis. Much as I would like to support the proposals for Severnside, Liverpool, Humberside, and so on, I do not believe that these can stand up to the Roskill evaluation; neither do I accept that the probable advances in aircraft technology permit delay. We have heard a great deal about this topic today, and we shall hear a good deal more about it in the coming months.

I was interested to hear the Minister's opening remarks. I have studied all the evidence carefully, but I can find nothing to support the view that vertical or short take-off aircraft will sweep the board in the foreseeable future. In any event, heavy cargo and inter-continental supersonic aircraft will still need conventional airports with conventional runways.

If we are to relieve the intolerable burden at existing London sites and at the same time avoid the environmental disaster of Cublington, I come to the inescapable conclusion—I come to this conclusion with a certain amount of regret because I have a great personal feeling for Foulness—that Foulness is the only site that makes sense. I was interested to hear the speech of the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland). He seemed to lead us up the garden path, and then suddenly stop. He mentioned Lydd and one or two other sites. But this would mean starting the Commission all over again. We must accept that Roskill has looked very carefully at all the sites in the south-east of England.

Foulness makes sense, especially from the planning point of view. Whether one accepts Professor Buchanan's Minority Report or the views of the South-East Economic Planning Council, the London Regional Planning Council, the Town and Country Planning Association, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Civic Trust, the Countryside Commission, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, or the National Trust, all of them without exception reject Cublington as the site for the proposed airport and opt, instead, for Foulness. It would make a mockery of planning if my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is just about to announce his approval of the new South-East Plan, threw the biggest possible spanner into the works by accepting the Roskill recommendation.

The North Buckinghamshire area is the last stretch of open country between London and Birmingham. Contrary to what has been suggested, it has no unemployment problem. There is evident prosperity in the area, with the prospect of its being more prosperous in the future. To place such a major growth creator as an airport with its potential for 65,000 jobs in such an area would, at one and the same time, destroy the countryside for ever, would join the London and Birmingham conurbations together and, in planning terms, would result in severe over-heating. It would, as Professor Buchanan has said, be an environmental and planning disaster.

Foulness, on the other hand, would achieve a planning objective. It fits into the regional strategy, and it will relieve certain pressing social problems of East London and South-East Essex, as the Essex County Council itself point out. Uncertainty has been expressed about the prospect of a motorway. However, we should still need a motorway in South-East Essex whether the airport went there or not. So that is not a valid argument.

The second major weakness of the Roskill Report is the cost-benefit analysis. I know that other hon. Members are hoping to deal with this point in greater detail. I content myself with repeating what the Report itself says. It is a sophisticated tool, but one which is in its infancy. When it is used for a straightforward study like the Victorian Underground line, it makes sense. However, it breaks down when it comes to deal with intangibles. What value is to be put on the planning considerations when one adds to them the full amenity value of the countryside? The experts advising the Wing Airport Resistance Association have put an extra cost on Cublington of £400 million for this alone. The Commission disagree.

The Wing Airport Resistance Association has done a magnificent amateur job. It did not employ full-scale public relations consultants, as the right hon. Member for Grimsby seemed to indicate. It had help in running three Press conferences in London. However, it was a spontaneous effort, and when hon. Members suggest to me that the association overplayed its hand and that it was an organised lobby, all that I can say is that, if it had been, hon. Members would not have been subjected to all this literature. It is because the protest has been unorganised and spontaneous and has stemmed from the people of the area that it has been so successful.

I am sure that what the Minister and the Treasury will bear in mind is that Foulness will cost the taxpayer less than Cublington in terms of capital expenditure and extra operating expenses. The lion's share of the Roskill Commission's differential is the extra cost to the air traveller. However, it works out at about 20p per journey, which is minute in relation to the total cost of the project and the cost of the journey itself. The cost-benefit analyses are suspect. Equally suspect is the Commission's suggestion that Foulness might not be economically viable.

If the Government mean to alleviate the intolerable conditions of the existing London sites, they will have to impose restrictions, especially on night flying. That must apply to Cublington as well as to the existing sites. What is sauce for the inland Heathrow goose is equally sauce for the inland Cublington gander—

An Hon. Member

And Foulness.

Mr. Benyon

I want to urge strongly upon the Government the need for a quick decision to be made. If it were only because of the anxiety and fears of the people involved, it would be bad enough. However, so much else hangs on the decision. The future planning of a large part of South-East England is being held up, and vital economic decisions are being delayed. I urge the Government to act quickly and to choose Foulness, thereby keeping us in the forefront of air transport developments without creating the environmental disaster envisaged by Professor Buchanan.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

As my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) will appreciate, I cannot agree with everything that he has said.

I am sorry that there are not more hon. Members on the benches opposite to listen to this debate. As the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) rightly said, this is a national problem in which the Opposition should be taking their proper part.

The Action Committee against Foulness Airport and the Sheppey Group—I happen to be a joint chairman of the latter—were criticised in The Times yesterday for not mounting a bigger public relations campaign against the airport being sited at Foulness. However, we are not rich groups, and we do not repre- sent rich people. We have very limited funds. The reason why we have not mounted a major public relations campaign, however, is that we have rested our case on the findings of the Roskill Commission after deliberations lasting two and a half years. Even if we could have afforded a P.R. campaign, which was quite out of the question, it would have been improper to wage a publicity campain against the possibility of the Government not accepting the recommendation of the Commission. That is not my interpretation of the way in which our parliamentary democracy should be worked and how a Government decision should be made.

I do not blame those living round Cublington for their vigorous action and their £50,000 campaign. They are in a very difficult position. Their area has been very strongly recommended by the Commission as the site for the new airport, and they have a great deal to lose. I do not blame them for their bonfires and balloons and the hue and cry that they have raised, even if they had not read the whole Report when they began their campaign. They have no time to lose. I do not blame them for saying that it must not be Cublington. But I condemn them absolutely for the arrogant and insensitive manner in which they have said that it must, therefore, be Foulness.

The people of Cublington do not want the airport in their part of the country, for all sorts of reasons. At the end of the day, their case rests on the environmental question and the loss of precious countryside in the Vale of Aylesbury. But they have no right to say that anyone else can suffer as long as it is not them, and I am sure that that argument will carry no weight with a single member of the Cabinet, because this will be a Cabinet decision.

There has also been a serious misunderstanding about the number of people who would suffer from noise pollution at Foulness compared with the number at Cublington. Misunderstandings have again been expressed today, and there has been considerable misrepresentation in the Press. As recently as 12th January, the Daily Telegraph said that 284 persons would be affected at Foulness. The figure, in fact, is over 62,000.

This propaganda campaign by the various resistance associations has tried to suggest that the Foulness site presents no environmental disadvantages. It is a disgraceful distortion of the truth, and Parliament must hear the facts if there are still rumours, vague ideas, loose statements and anxious thoughts about this problem in the massive decision with which we are faced. Now is the time to put up the facts for examination, so that the Government can consider them and then come back to us with their recommendation.

The Roskill Report is the result of two and a half years' work. Here are the answers to almost every question. There has never been such a thorough examination of a planning decision. I think that it was right that it should have been so long, detailed, painstaking and thorough.

The Commission looked at 78 sites and took evidence from over 160 organisations and individuals and—this, I think, is important—from seven Government Departments. The Commission properly recognised the full depth into which it had to go to recognise the great width of the consequences of its recommendation and ultimate decision.

The Roskill Report—276 pages long—is not light reading. It must not be treated lightly. It cannot be cast aside and tucked away in some dusty file in Whitehall. After all, when the Conservative Government were in opposition in 1968, when the Roskill Commission was set up and announced by the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), they were consulted before the right hon. Gentleman came to the House and made his announcement. On that occasion my right hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield), now the Minister of Aviation Supply, said: The Opposition have throughout taken the view that it is highly desirable that the Commission should be in a position to reach a conclusion on the most suitable site without the risk of that site subsequently being rejected by a local planning inquiry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th May, 1968; Vol. 765, c. 33.] The Liberal Party also indicated its welcome of the establishment of that Commission. As the chairman of one of the protest groups against an airport in Kent at that time—the Sheppey Group— I also welcomed the decision. The members of that protest group were prepared to accept that the Commission was the only way for a full and fair examination of the total problem of the Third London Airport to be made.

When the list of sites was narrowed down to four—we were glad that Sheppey was excluded—whilst we were against the choice of Foulness, because we knew that it would affect people living in Kent, we said that we would accept the decision of the Commission even if it had gone against us. We made this clear, and I made it clear on many occasions when speaking in public. If the decision had gone against us we should have pressed the Government for everything possible to be done to minimise the problems which people in Essex and Kent would then have had to face. We had never adopted a dog-in-the-manger attitude on the matter. I have always tried to see the problem in its total context of a national requirement.

We put our case to the Roskill Commision at the Stage 2 and Stage 5 hearings fully and forcefully. We were determined that the Commission should not fail to recognise the environmental disadvantages to a great number of people if Foulness was chosen. Those disadvantages, as has been evidenced in the debate today, were not, in our opinion, readily apparent. We also argued that there were important factors concerning the economic, social, agricultural and air safety aspects at Foulness which made it vital that Foulness should not be chosen as the site for the airport under any circumstances.

The Roskill Commission, which considered the whole of the problems which would be created by the formation of an airport at Foulness, considered the effect on the environment, the economic result, the social effect, the effect on agriculture, and the suitability of the site for aircraft operation. I should like to look at those five points as Roskill examined and reported upon them.

On the environment, Roskill found that Foulness would have a direct noise effect on fewer households than at Cublington. The figure for Foulness was 20,300 households compared with 29,400 at Cublington. But it is necessary to consider the effect which would be caused by the increased use of existing London Airports and also that Luton was seen for certain to have increased usage as a result of the choice of Foulness. The Roskill Commision—this I believe, because it is the only possible and positive evidence on which I can go—reported that at least another 25,000 households would be affected by increased traffic at Luton.

Another point which must be made on this question—many hon. Members are rightly concerned at the present intolerable noise pollution at Heathrow—is that if Foulness were chosen and proved to be an unattractive site to airline operators both in Britain and from overseas, there would inevitably be no let up whatsoever for Heathrow, and there would be a build-up at Gatwick with a demand for a second runway there, and a build-up at Stansted and at Luton. In paragraph 13.18 Roskill says: More householders would be affected by Foulness and Luton combined than by either Cublington or Thurleigh. On economic grounds, Foulness is stated by Roskill to cost in capital terms over £100 million more to develop than Cublington. The most important economic consideration is the success or otherwise of the new airport. Because of its distance from London and its general inaccessibility, Foulness is seen by Roskill, by the British Airports Authority, by the two British airlines, and by many major overseas airlines, as unattractive. Many airlines would prefer to use the other London Airports which I have mentioned. Charter flights might decide to bypass the London Airports altogether and flights from America might go direct to Paris, to Amsterdam and to Frankfurt.

The question of surface access has been fully stated. There is no doubt that Foulness is considered too far away and on the wrong side of London.

The social and planning effect has been mentioned by many hon. Members. There is no question that Foulness will require much longer road and rail links, and extensive development throughout southeast Essex involves not only high capital cost but a greater land requirement. We read in the Report that an airport city would have to be developed there, requiring accommodation for a further quarter of a million people.

We are sometimes told by those in opposition to the Roskill recommendations that, concerning the agricultural effect, land in south-east Essex is not so valuable. But Roskill did not agree. In paragraph 6.62 Roskill states: The agricultural advantages of the smaller land demands of the whole Foulness scheme—airport and urban developments—are nullified by the high quality and productivity of the area thought by the consultants to be required for urban development. The Commission concluded that the loss of agricultural land was likely to be worse at Foulness than at Cublington.

There is one last point, the fifth point, which I wish to make which Roskill also stressed—namely, the suitability of Foulness for aircraft operation. This is a disputable and arguable case. The danger of bird strike is very real. I speak as one who has been involved in bird strike in an aircraft during the war. Two of my friends were killed in an aircraft hitting a kite hawk over India. It is difficult to say how great the danger is today. I know there are hon. Members present with considerable experience of aircraft operation. Modern jets have great power and can endure the loss of one engine on take-off or landing. But we have read and been told today that there were two incidents at Sydney Airport last year involving large passenger traffic and that a disaster was only narrowly averted. The danger remains, and that thought should be in our minds as we consider this problem and in the Government's minds as they make their recommendation to Parliament.

Roskill has said that it is not certain, but that all it can say from the evidence which it heard is that the danger from Foulness was much greater than at an inland site. It is my experience and evidence that birds do not fly away. Statistical analysis, I am told—I consulted an expert on this in the airline business this week—estimates that there would be a major disaster at an airport at Foulness once every 20 years, which means that it could occur in the first year or the twentieth.

Do we need a third London airport at all? That is the other question. Will not VTOL and STOL make it unnecessary? My investigations show that VTOL is a development confined to military operating aircraft. The expensive fuel and the poor payload are, naturally, enormous considerations. But STOL is a possibility. I am advised that it cannot be ready before 1980 at the earliest and that 1985 is more realistic.

Perhaps the Government could encourage the development. There are such aircraft of a passenger airliner type already flying in the United States. I should like to think that the Government did not neglect the opportunity to investigate this development, but I believe it to be a long way off and it cannot encourage us to tuck this problem under the carpet.

Meanwhile, while this is still being thought of as an idea for the future, London is still Europe's main cargo and passenger staging post. This must be a vital factor in our economic planning, economic opportunities and further development.

The reason for this, as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade said, is that the frequency of North Atlantic flights from Heathrow is double that of the biggest other airport in Europe with international traffic, Orly. The value of cargo going out of Heathrow is also almost double the value of that going out of Orly, and very much higher than that which travels internationally out of Frankfurt. London attracts this inter-port trade and cargo traffic.

I was discussing this in France at the weekend, and found that if a textile manufacturer wishes to ship textiles by air to Chicago, he flies them not from Paris-Orly but from London, where there is a much better chance of tucking them under the floor of the aircraft. As the Minister said, a great proportion of cargo is carried under the floor of passenger aircraft; it is because of the high frequency of flights from London on the North Atlantic route that London is so attractive.

But France, Holland and Germany are doing their best to overhaul us in our economic advantage. We could be bypassed. We could lose our present advantage by making a wrong decision now or in the near future on the siting of the new airport. We must recognise the economic and commercial elements in this decision. Roskill did; Parliament and the Government must.

As Roskill also said, in paragraph 2.11: Generally it has been accepted that there should be a third London airport and that this country should not purchase peace and quiet at the price of cutting itself off from the world's air routes. Every solution has its price. It is no good siting this airport far away from London, where it will not serve its purpose as an airport. Of course there is no ideal site, but we must make a balanced judgment. We have to make our decision in the interests of the whole nation. As we face that judgment, we must contain the environmental problem and obtain the economic advantages. That is the challenge which faces the Government.

I am very glad that it is the Secretary of State for the Environment who is to wind up the debate. I, and, I am sure, all other hon. Members with anxieties about this choice, have confidence in the Government for the high priority which they give to environmental questions. But, at the same time, this country cannot afford to sacrifice its economic opportunities as it considers those important questions.

7.36 p.m.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

I do not know what the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) meant when he said that the real Opposition were not present. I have often thought that I am the real Opposition. Perhaps the quantity of the Opposition is not here, but the quality is.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) made the case for the third London airport being in Thorne Waste, which is a long way from London. I am sure that those of us from Liverpool could argue the case much better, because the facilities which he says should be there we already have. Therefore, if one argues on those lines, Liverpool would stand a little in advance of Thorne Waste.

There is a fine airport in Liverpool which is being under-used. Yet I have a difficulty in arguing for its greater use. If it is used more the environmental background of those who live there will be much worse. I accept that planes come in along the River Mersey, but when there is a diversion of aircraft because of fog from Manchester to Liverpool the complaints about noise level increase. A much greater development of Liverpool Airport will increase the noise problem and the antagonism of those who live in council houses around the airport.

So I am torn between arguing for the further development of the airport and recognising this problem. For once in my life I am not sure on which side to come down. There is a very good case on both sides. This is, of course, one of the greatest conurbations in the country. It is absolutely essential that we have a national airports policy. I recall making speeches urging this four years ago, yet such a policy does not exist. One must exist if we are to have the proper development of our airports.

I intervene in this debate primarily because I have been asked to do so—that is, by an organisation of trade unionists calling itself the Trade Union and Labour Co-ordinating Committee in support of Thurleigh. The members of this organisation are represented in this House by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but they have asked me to express their point of view, possibly because they thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite would not express it forcefully enough. It is understandable that hon. Gentlemen opposite should complain about the possible development of another inland airport.

Of the four sites considered by Roskill, the members of the Trade Union and Labour Co-ordinating Committee are in support of an airport being sited at Thurleigh. It is surprising to find people who live in an area supporting the idea of an airport coming to that area. These people may not comprise the majority of local inhabitants—although they do represent the majority of workers in the locality—but their views should be heard. They say: As far as we know, we are the only spontaneous group to emerge in favour of an inland site for the Third London Airport. On this issue, at least, we are not a sleepwalking, unrepresentative minority in a rural area [Interruption.] I appreciate that some hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like this and would prefer Foulness or one of the other suggested sites. This Committee represents 33 affiliated organisations, including district committees and trades councils in the area. These people are not saying, "We intend to campaign for an airport in our part of the world" but just that if an inland airport is to be sited some- where, it should go to Thurleigh. They go on: Buchanan grossly underrates the value of the amenities that would be affected by Foulness. The coastline of Northern Kent, dear to thousands of working-class holiday makers, is dismissed contemptuously by Buchanan in his dissenting note as 'an area popular for caravans and chalets'. True, Sheppey may not possess for Buchanan the unspoilt charm of rural Buckinghamshire with its historic homes and weekend-cottages. But the Kent coastline happens to be a popular spot for trippers trapped in the most heavily urbanised part of England. They then make this valid point which must be taken into account: Buchanan fails to distinguish between Cublington and Thurleigh … What he does not point out is that much of the area affected by Thurleigh is in East Anglia, well outside the growth corridor. The problem in East Anglia is not lack of green acres but lack of industry of any description, which is the reason why average earnings per capita are lower in East Anglia than in any other region in the country (apart from Ulster) and why so many villages, populated mainly by the middleaged and elderly, are slowly dying. They then say under the heading of "Environmental Benefit of Airport": The airport and airport induced development will create new employment, force up wages, improve working conditions, increase leisure through reduced overtime, create new entertainment amenities and improve public services, most notably public transport. All things being equal, a major new airport should be sited in a deprived area where these benefits will greatly enhance 'the quality of life', and where the advantages of an airport outweigh the undoubted disadvantages". As this Committee represents 33 organisations, its case must be considered.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) made an absolutely first-class contribution in which he made a powerful case not for a four-runway third airport but for a two-runway one, for which a good case can be made. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) underlined this and pointed out that we need something to relieve the present congestion as quickly as possible.

In all conscience I cannot suggest, as much as I would like to, that the third London airport should be sited in Liverpool, although I am in favour of Liverpool being used more. Other hon. Members have other parts of the country in mind. We must be realistic, and clearly it must be sited somewhere below a line drawn across the middle of Britain.

Mr. Tilney


Mr. Heffer

I will not give way. I wish to be brief and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to make his own speech.

If it must be an inland airport, then the case put forward by the Trade Union and Labour Co-ordinating Committee in support of Thurleigh is as good as any that can be made. Frankly, it is the first time that I have heard a group of people living in an area saying, "We are in favour of an airport coming here". Usually it is the other way round.

As I explained, I appreciated the views of those who object to airports being sited in their areas. As I drive along the A5 I go through the Cublington area and appreciate the beautiful villages. I have read the posters and, as I say, I appreciate the opposition of the people there to the possible siting of an airport in their midst. We must remember that such opposition will come from any area where the siting of an airport is suggested.

I hope the Government will pay attention to the case presented by the Trade Union and Labour Co-ordinating Committee, which supports an airport being sited at Thurleigh. If it is finally decided to have an inland airport, it might as well go there, where it will at least be welcomed by many ordinary working-class people.

7.50 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings)

I shall offer a commentary on two aspects of the Roskill Report which, in my view, have not had sufficient attention, but, before coming to that, I must say how difficult I find it to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), who advocated the positioning of an airport in the constituency in which my mother-in-law lives.

I shall address myself, first, to the question of need and, second, the question of the kind of airport required. First, on the question of need, there is a great danger that out of all our discussion and deliberation will come a political compromise, a compromise which will involve an increase of utilisation of Heathrow, an extension with a second runway at Gatwick, and a realignment of runways and facilities at Luton. Nothing could be worse, and I regard it as essential to identify that danger in terms of the need.

I can illustrate the point in this way. Everybody pays tribute to the fact that air transportation is the fastest growing trade in the world, but a simple quantification of that rate of growth is worth while. For every one passenger who flew in 1950, 100 fly in 1970, it is predicted that 150 fly in 1975, and 250 by 1980. It is essential that, in our thinking about the need for a new airport, we realise the magnitude of the problems facing us.

The British Airports Authority estimates that by 1980 about 44 million passengers will pass through London alone. This tremendous pressure is continuing even at a time when most people consider that world aviation and air transportation is in a kind of recession. Last year, that recession was represented by a growth of only 10 per cent. as against the 13 per cent. predicted. But the pressure is there, and we must recognise it.

There will be a change in the style of airport demand. The very nature of the increase in passenger traffic is not matched by an increase in the number of aircraft movements. For instance, at Heathrow last year there was an increase in the number of aircraft movements of only 3½ per cent., although the number of passengers rose substantially. So the type of airport which we are contemplating is very different from that which we have been accustomed to use over the post-war years.

How can one justify the need? It can be justified by a reiteration of some of the fundamental characteristics of air transportation. First, there is the very nature of speed itself—and the more so with the advent of Concorde not far off, I hope—a characteristic which draws air transportation business to the airline desks. Every possible 12-hour journey increases air transportation demand.

Two hundred years ago, one could get as far as Thurleigh in 12 hours. Now, one can go to Los Angeles. With Concorde, one will be able to go as far as Tokyo.

The frequency of operation steps up demand. As range increases, so people find it easier to go to places. The ability to pay is growing as world prosperity rises, as disposable incomes rise—a point which we hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will bear in mind. Next, there are the fare reductions. These are made even at a time of inflation. In 1950, it took two-thirds of a person's average annual salary in this country to buy an air ticket to New York, whereas now it takes only one-sixth.

The need to fly is increasing all the time. Not only is there a considerable increase in the world population but that population is drifting towards urban areas. Whereas there are now about 750 million people in urban areas in the world, there will be 3,000 million by about the year 2000. Education has increased people's demand to travel. Whereas they used to come to Hastings for their holidays, they now go to the Costa Brava, and in 10 years—good luck to them—they will probably go to the Caribbean.

The demand is there and the pressure is there. We must beware of ignoring that pressure in relation to the need.

Now, the question of the type of airport required. Here I agree with the hon. Member for Walton about the need for a national airports policy. One criticism which I have felt regarding the Roskill Commission—it was almost admitted today by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland)—was that the terms of reference were far too limited. The Commission's destination was to consider the third London airport, but the myopia inherent in its terms of reference has, I feel, influenced our whole debate today.

Roskill did not explore the question of the type of airport required. I have commented already on the change of style in air transportation, with fewer but bigger aeroplanes and many more people travelling. The Roskill Commission did not really look at the fundamental effect of these changes on the ultimate type of airport. Although it is easy to jump back from a consideration of four runways to two, I preach some caution about an easy jump backwards of that kind. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Grimsby gave me the impression towards the end of his speech that there were likely to be more and more Royal Commissions in sight with fewer and fewer runways, and that, whereas we have VTOL and we shall have STOL, his prescription was to eradicate it all with a kind of "Dettol".

The types of runway configuration proposed for each of the four airport sites are almost identical, and, in my view, as an aeronautical engineer, inherently dangerous. They are for four parallel runways in tandem, and quite unacceptable in terms of the long-term operational demand for aircraft movements as it steps up in the way I have described.

There is not in the Report nearly enough meteorological information regarding the problems of the Foulness area. Frankly, I am not so worried as one of the noble Lords in another place about the problem of bird strikes, because the birds in the Foulness area are there because of their breeding habits. It may be rather a rash thing to say, but, if one fills the area with concrete, they will have to go elsewhere.

Mr. Wilkinsion

will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Warren

No; I am trying to be brief.

Mr. Wilkinson

There are enormous numbers of winter migrants.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

They do not breed there at all.

Mr. Warren

The next point to which Roskill did not attend as much as one hoped was the question of air traffic control. The Commission seemed to think that air traffic control was not, so to speak, a movable feast, that one could do nothing about it, that one could not move beacons, and so on. We must ensure that air traffic control is our servant. We can route aircraft exactly where we want. This has been one of the failings at Heathrow; people have tended to accept that aeroplanes must fly over London.

Again, on the question of the type of airport, we should be more willing—I wish that the Roskill Commission had taken this line—to accept general aviation and the business aircraft, because that could be a way of cutting down the amount of ground transport required. Also, we should be more interested in providing successful interfaces with other forms of transportation right from the start. In my mind there remains the searing memory of the fact that, since 1946, we have talked about a rail link with Heathrow Airport, yet we are still not at the building stage.

We ought to consider Foulness and the other Roskill sites in relation to the concept of a total European gateway concept. One cannot consider a large international airport as a site on its own. It fits not only into the whole structure of the United Kingdom economy but into the concept of a gateway to Western Europe. We should have considered the third London airport site in terms of its relationship with Schiphol in Holland and Paris Nord in France. One of the best points I can think of for a third London airport would be Northern France.

Next, on the question of the location of the airport, conservation is far more critical than concrete. I hope that it will be generally recognised that, whatever kind of airport emerges from all our deliberations, and with all the great steps forward offered by technology—STOL, V/STOL, quiet engines, and the rest—the majority of aircraft using the new airport will be those already flying today.

Not much can be done to those aeroplanes to make them less noisy and less polluting of the atmosphere. In my view, Roskill completely failed to take account of the incoming population. At whichever site be chosen, about 250,000 people will probably come in as an additional group to the area concerned, but Roskill did not include them in its studies of the effect of noise.

Further, in considering the question of the style of air transportation and the type and location of the airport itself, and accepting that technology can help us by reducing the number of runways we need, it is essential to bear in mind that such arrangements can be come to only with the general compliance of international organisations like the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Air Transport Association, and with the compliance of the member States at the destinations to which the aircraft go. It is no good having the capability to launch them into the air from an airport in this country and then finding that there are not adequate facilities for them to land somewhere else.

I believe that in this choice of an airport we are quite rightly looking at the choice of the last large airport in this country, but we must not believe that technology will make much difference to the style of airport needed compared with those used since the Second World War. Therefore, it would be wrong of me to recommend any site. Although Lydd, near my constituency of Hastings, has been mentioned today, I would not wish to promote it any way because we have the problem in selection of foisting one place onto another.

There is no easy solution, but I plead with right hon. and hon. Members on both sides to avoid the political compromise which I see looming large. The greatest danger in this exercise, for which I castigate Roskill, and from which all aspects of aviation have suffered so much in the past few years, is that, given the myopia that Roskill had, things can go so sadly wrong.

I apologise to the House because I may not be able to stay through the succeeding speech owing to a previous engagement. I ask the permission of hon. Members to withdraw in due course.

8.1 p.m.

Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelly)

Hon. Members with constituencies encompassing Cublington, the other inland sites and Foulness may be rather surprised that a Member for a Welsh constituency should seek to intervene in the debate. I assure them that my intervention will take less than 10 minutes, and that it is made for good reason and not out of some kind of Celtic malevolence—though perhaps it will be understood that my enthusiasm for Norman churches might not be as great as that of some other hon. Members.

I take part in the debate because should the third London airport go to Foulness there is a very strong possibility that the Shoeburyness gunnery range, which will have to move as a result, may be visited upon the village of Pembrey in my constituency. The Roskill Commission recommended that the first runway of the third London airport should be operational by the middle of 1980. The Army has said that it could move its gunnery range by 1973. However, if it could not acquire the Pembrey site and had to go through the motions of finding somewhere else, facing another public inquiry and awaiting Ministerial decisions, it might not be able to move by 1973 and, in the words of the Commission, the timetable for the completion of the first runway might be rather tight. In other words, if the airport is to go to Foulness and the first runway must be operational by 1980 the relocation of the Shoeburyness gunnery range may become a matter of extreme importance.

In view of the hostility which the proposal to bring the range to Pembrey aroused, a public inquiry was held last summer. The report is in the hands of the Secretary of State for Wales, who has not yet announced his decision. I am sorry to have to say that despite repeated exhortations the right hon. and learned Gentleman has refused to release the contents of the inspector's report for public discussion. It seems that the inhabitants of Buckinghamshire and Essex are to be allowed publicly to discuss their fate, if such it be, but that this fundamental right is to be denied the people of Carmarthen-shire.

Therefore, I intervene so that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Secretary of State for the Environment may be fully cognisant of the fact that an airport at Foulness will not only impair the environment of Essex but may have detrimental consequences to the environment of a large area of my constituency. I urge them in their consideration of the matter to read the submission of the Welsh Tourist Board to the Roskill Commission, in Document 6004, and to look at the studies of the Pembrey area prepared by the Nottingham College of Art and Design and a further study prepared by Mr. Max Nicholson and his firm of Land Use Consultants. They will read in those documents that the area the Army requires is of considerable natural beauty and enormous development potential. There is a stretch of sand extending for more than seven miles and far surpassing anything in the south-east of England. It is surpassed only by a very few stretches of coastline in the whole of the United Kingdom. Already 30 per cent. of the coastline of Carmarthenshire is under the control of the military. If the range is allowed to come as a result of the location of the airport, that will be increased to over 40 per cent.—and 40 per cent. of the best and most desirable coastline of the county at that.

Let not the Government think that these environmental problems will be outweighed by the 600 or so jobs that the Army promises. At a time of rising unemployment one can but be extremely reluctant to oppose any project that creates employment. But we should resist the offer of jobs, desirable though they might be in the short term, because the employment offered will be bought at too high a price. It will be bought at the price of damage to the environment and the loss of 14,000 acres of extremely valuable land. The very existence of the amenity of this area of coast, provided it is sensibly and sensitively developed and is untrammelled by a gunnery range, is a valuable asset in the ever more difficult task of attracting new industry to West Wales. An airport, for all the environmental problems it creates, at least produces and generates growth. A gunnery range will merely stifle it. Some would say that one of the reasons for the comparatively low rate of growth of the Shoeburyness area has been its long and continuous association with the Army.

The decision as to whether the range comes to my constituency will be taken by the Secretary of State for Wales. However, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said that he intends to consult his colleagues. My fear is that he will not be able to make up his own mind on the matter, that it will not be decided on its merits but that a decision may very well be forced upon him in consequence of the needs and requirements of a third London airport.

Many of my constituents are convinced that the airport will not go to Cublington. Whatever the planning arguments, or whatever the Roskill Commission may have said, they instinctively feel that a Conservative Government in particular is hardly likely to cause such a massive disruption in one of the richest counties, if not the richest of England. They go further. They prophesy that if the airport is required and the first runway is to be completed by 1980 the gunnery range will come to Pembrey regardless of the merits of the case, regardless of the inspector's report, if that be against the Army, and regardless of any private views to the contrary that might be held by the Secretary of State for Wales.

Some would say that my constituents who hold such views are cynical, but they would claim that they should be called realists. Let the Government prove that the cynics are wrong on this occasion by showing that they have as much concern for the village of Pembrey in Carmarthenshire as no doubt they have, and will demonstrate that they have, for the village of Stewkley in Buckinghamshire.

8.10 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Jones (Northants, South)

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) showed us another side to his character tonight. I think that it is one which I prefer in that he has brought to the deliberations in this debate those measured and very careful considerations which we know he brings to many matters, but not often on those benches. He was speaking, of course, for some of his colleagues in the trade unions. I am wondering whether they will consider that he presented their case forcibly enough tonight. But he presented it very well and most adequately and made the point that the site he proposed was the only case referred to in the debate where there was local support.

There is widespread support for the Foulness site, including the Southend Council. The site is not in the area of the municipal borough. It lies in the Rochford Rural District Council. The Southend Corporation is a member of the Thames Estuary Development Company and I am sure that it must have had regard to the effects which the choice of the Foulness site would have on the residents of the borough. The site lies in the county of Essex. There again there is support for it. Essex County Council says: The mass of evidence collected … over the past six years indicates that in the national interest the Third London Airport should be sited at Foulness subject to conditions aimed at securing proper environmental standards. Here, in the very location of the proposed Foulness site, is support from the local borough authority and the county council.

When one looks around the counties which have declared their interest in the location of the third London airport, one finds that there is a very substantial measure of support for Foulness. Herefordshire, for example, although it qualifies its support says: The proposal to go to Foulness and the employment that it would generate would fit in very well to the proposals of the South-East Economic Planning Council. It has a formal county council resolution against an inland site. Hertfordshire says the same—that an airport at Foulness would be welcome from the planning point of view. Bedfordshire has a county council resolution of implacable opposition to Cublington or any other inland site. As one goes round the compass from one authority to another—I cannot quote them all—one finds that almost without exception they are in favour of the proposal for Foulness.

Mr. Burden

What about Kent?

Mr. Jones

I shall be coming to Kent. I am going round in an anti-clockwise direction.

Buckinghamshire's case has been most adequately presented by those with constituency interests. The view of the Buckinghamshire County Council is: To use the Cublington site would involve perhaps the greatest disruption of villages and country life which has ever taken place in this country… In Northamptonshire, in which my constituency is situated, there is a council resolution to the effect, That the Council affirm their previous resolution that no inland site merits serious consideration. There is widespread support for that opinion by a very large number of parish councils in Northamptonshire.

Then we get to Surrey, West Sussex and East Sussex. Their concern is essentially over the possible extension of Gatwick, on the premise that a site at Foulness, even if chosen, would not be successful owing to its alleged outlying position. I am somewhat sceptical of that opinion myself, but that is the line these three counties are taking.

The Berkshire County Council supports the view of the Standing Joint Conference on London and South-East Planning that an airport at Cublington would bring a major new source of employment which would be not contrary to the strategy for the South-East.

I come now to Kent. As I understand it, Kent is generally opposed to being "contaminated"—the word used in one of its documents—by noise from Essex. I think that most hon. Members will have had the letter from the Borough of Queenborough-in-Sheppey, containing a council resolution which supports the county council and other local authorities in North Kent and the Sheppey Group in their opposition to the siting of the airport at Foulness.

The Greater London Council has given support for some time now to the Foulness proposal, and I have a copy of the G.L.C. Council minutes dated 24th February last year in which it is stated: The choice as we see it is between Cublington and Foulness and we have no hesitation in saying that the preference should be Foulness. The South-East Economic Planning Council has also come out in favour of the Foulness site, fitting in, as it says it does, to the whole conception of planning in the South-East region.

Finally, the Town and Country Planning Association, in a Press release on 15th February, added its powerful weight to the case for putting the third London airport at Foulness.

So there is this substantial evidence of opinion among those who represent their local communities, and that evidence is in support of my advocacy for the siting of the third London airport at Foulness.

8.17 p.m.

Sir Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)

I count myself fortunate in following my hon. Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones) because he has been at great pains to tour the country in order to discover that everybody wants the airport at Foulness. No hon. Members want it in their own constituencies, but they all want it in mine.

I should at once declare an interest. I live in Thorpe Bay, which is six miles from where the proposed runways would be. Therefore, I have some interest in the subject. But I also happen to know Foulness, which used to be in my constituency. I share with its present Member, my good friend the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), a great many of the views he so vigorously and rightly expressed.

I am sorry that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) is not here because I thought he was rather contemptuous of the people who live at Foulness. He did not like its name and implied that there was hardly anyone there and that those who were there were not very important anyway. That was going too far. Had he known anything about Foulness, he would have known that the reason why there are not many people there is that one is not allowed to go there without a permit from the Ministry of Defence. If the Ministry withdrew its activities from the whole of Foulness Island and its surrounding area, a great change would arise. It is foolish of people who desire to run down Foulness to run it down in that way.

I am more interested in how the Roskill Commission came to be set up. I recall that it was done in order to get the last Government off the hook over Stansted. They were determined then that they would never get into such a mess on planning again. Therefore, a high-powered Commission was set up. Everyone has paid tribute to it. It had terms of reference agreed by the two Front Benches.

We have heard nothing from those who have spoken except how important it is that we should have a coastal site. It was not mentioned in the terms of reference. The two Front Benches never thought, three years ago, that the only possible site was a coastal site. The two Front Benches came to the conclusion that they should look for a suitable site for the third London airport. It is only in the last 12 months or so that there has been this great agitation for it to be at Foulness.

Mr. Braine

The Labour Government in their 1967 White Paper looked at coastal sites, including those in the Thames Estuary, and rejected Foulness.

Sir S. McAdden

I am interested to hear that piece of ancient history. What is interesting me is this enthusiasm for a coastal site. I wonder whether it could be that a good deal of time and money has been spent on public relations work in selling this scheme to Members of Parliament, who have suddenly realised that this is a good thing because it will get it away from their constiuencies. So they are tumbling over themselves to extol the virtues of Foulness, of which most of them had never heard. They do not know what it is like; yet even before the Roskill Report was published they were demanding, in a Motion, that it must be a coastal site; in other words, it must be Foulness. This is the height of irresponsibility.

They might have given Roskill the benefit of the doubt. The Commission put in some hard work and came to the conclusion which I thought it would be bound to come to in the first place. I had never played any enthusiastic part in the campaign for or against Foulness since the scheme first started. I was convinced by my own study of the position that Roskill would be bound to turn it down. I did not think it was a suitable site at all. The consultations I had with people who know the area well led me to believe that this simply was not on and that the cost would be prohibitive.

Nevertheless, I did not go around trying to crab the scheme, and I only began to get a little cross when I found that other people were going around trying to force this issue instead of leaving it to the experts. Indeed, I have discovered that the Noise Abatement Society ought to change its name to the Noise Transference Society. It simply wants to transfer the noise to where I live. I do not like this, and I support the view of my old friend, the hon. Member for Essex, South-East that we should have another look at this and see whether if is necessary to have the third airport, and, if we do need one, whether it should have four runways or two.

However, having invited the advice of people who have lived with this problem for two and a half years, let us not turn up our noses at the Report, as some did even before it was published.

8.24 p.m.

Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South)

I am glad that I have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, as the effects of Roskill's selection of Wing as the site for the third London airport has many far-reaching consequences for my constituency of South Bedfordshire. May I first say that, although I disagree with its conclusions, I cannot help but respect the Roskill Commission for the enormous, painstaking effort it put into the production of its Report. I found myself agreeing with my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) when he hinted that what it should have looked at was a third national airport and that, had it been looking at that possibility, no doubt at the top of its priorities would have been the desire to find an area where there was local demand for the construction of an airport, and there are such areas, rather than an area where there is intense local opposition to it.

Burdened with the need to site the airport near London, the Commission in looking at inland sites was thus being asked somehow to squash the airport in among the intensive housing and industrial development in the South-East. In his Note of Dissent from the Report. Professor Buchanan refers to the fact that practically all those airports that have survived are badly situated, being tucked into re-entrants in closely developed urban areas, causing widespread nuisance as a result. We have a particular example in Bedfordshire, which I have no doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) and my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Simeons) will wish to refer to if they succeed in catching your eye, Mr. Speaker, and that is Luton Airport. if Wing were adopted as the site, we should be compounding the folly of badly planned airports with a vengeance.

I would like to mention briefly section 4.32 in which the Commission deals with its consideration of Hockliffe in Bedfordshire as a possible site and makes a comparison with Cublington. The Commission says: The advice on regional planning which we received indicated that Hockcliffe would be particularly bad if in that it would prevent Luton and Dunstable from developing up the North-West corridor towards Milton Keynes and the Midlands and as a result the upward pressure of growth from London north-westwards, might be diffused horizontally on the London side of the airport and spread into the high amenity areas of the Chilterns. In addition, Hockcliffe was badly placed near a Greater London Council development. It would involve the diversion of the A5 and possible diversion of the M1. We therefore decided that the balance of advantage lay with Cublington. In forming this opinion we were well aware of the objection to the Cublington site because of its proximity to Aylesbury and Leighton Buzzard and to the high amenity areas of the Vale of Aylesbury and the Chilterns. I submit that the arguments against Hockcliffe can also be used against Cublington. Cublington, if it were selected, would prevent the sensible—I emphasise that word—development of Luton and Dunstable and would aggravate the labour shortage in the area. Cublington would spread into the high amenity area of the Chilterns. Cublington, too, is near G.L.C. development, and it would involve the diversion of the A5 and probably the M1.

I should stress that the county of Bedfordshire is not a dreamy little rural backwater which somehow needs an airport as a super-generator of employment. The housing and industrial expansion that has occurred in the county in the last 10 years has thrown a great strain on both schools and social services and it would be wrong to place an even greater strain on these vital services. There is one further point. Many of my constituents work in factories in an atmosphere of continuous noise. It is, in my view, asking too much that when they come home from the noisy factories they should be asked to put up with noise from an airport.

For 30 years the Government and local authorities have accepted that there should be a green belt immediately around London and an outer country ring. To place the third London airport at Wing would destroy this policy for good. In the middle of that outer ring we should bulldoze flat an area three and a half times the extent of Heathrow Airport. A total of 50 square miles would suffer from severe noise nuisance, something that is intolerable to live with, and 350 square miles would be subject to outer noise nuisance.

We must not forget the genuine anxieties of Milton Keynes Development Corporation. It has undertaken one of the major social tasks of the century; namely, the building of the largest urban project this country has yet seen—not the building of an airport city. An enormous amount of intensive preparatory work has already been done, and if Wing were chosen it would mean that the estimates of the employment based on this new urban Eldorado would be completely altered—quite apart from the obvious dislike of the new inhabitants towards living near a major airport.

Since the war Governments have tried, with varying degrees of success, to reverse the trend from the regions to those parts of the Midlands and the South-East which are not in need of more development. To select Wing would undo 25 years of effort, for it would become a sort of London-Birmingham airport, which is desirable neither on social nor on economic grounds.

The central issue before the Government is how to keep the balance between industry, housing and countryside in the already overcrowded London and South-East area. We are manifestly short of land in the South-East, and, therefore, we should not use what we have for airport construction. We are short of countryside, and we should not destroy what remains. We are burdened with excessive noise nuisance at all existing inland airports in the South-East. We can only reduce it by constructing an airport where the noise nuisance is mainly over the sea. We do not manifestly need new employment or development near Wing. More than ample development is already in progress.

If it can be proved that we need another South-East airport rather than another national airport, then everything points towards a coastal site. But one thing is certain: we have spent a great deal of time and effort in the past 30 years trying to remove the grime, muddle and decay from our cities that we inherited from the last century. The selection of Wing as a site for the airport would be a giant step backwards, for we want the next generation of South-East planners to concentrate on new and socially responsible forms of development and not spend their working lives clearing up the mess of an inland site.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)

I am grateful for the opportunity of intervening in this debate. While my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden) may have had Foulness in his constituency and my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) has it in his constituency, at the next General Election it will be in the Maldon constituency which I have the honour to represent.

I am appalled at the ignorance of a number of Members who have spoken in the debate about the effect which an airport at Foulness would have on people—and it is people who matter. The Roskill Report points out that The roads required in the south Essex corridor are likely to do damage to urban areas on a scale which will not occur in the corridors between London and either of the inland sites … It goes on to explain that if roads have to be pushed through the Rochford Hundred, not only will considerable quantities of Class 1 agricultural land go under concrete, but more homes and houses will be disturbed than would be the case with any of the other sites. This must be considered.

The trouble is that we have been shilly-shallying about another airport for too long. The original choice was Stansted, but it is alleged that a Member of Parliament who was also a member of the Cabinet refused to have this possibility discussed. For that reason consideration of Stansted was dropped as long as that hon. Member for Saffron Walden was in the Cabinet. Subsequently the matter was investigated by an inter-departmental committee which recommended Stansted, and Stansted was accepted as the right answer.

A decision was made by the Labour Government—and credit should be given to them for at least making a decision. But what happened? There was a bit of a furore and they backed down when all the vested interests raised their ugly head. The case of vested interests and special pleading have been put forward in this instance. We have had public relations firms organising Press conferences in London and there have been emotive campaigns throughout the country to move the noise to somebody else's area rather than accept the recommendation of a very skilled Commission.

It was accepted that the right answer to this problem would be found by the Roskill Commission. Millions of pounds were spent on the Commission and—[Interruption.] The sum of £1.2 million has been used by the Commission. Considerably more has been used by other authorities and people in putting evidence before it. The total expenditure is well in excess of £2 million. Therefore, I stand by my statement that millions of pounds have been spent on adducing evidence.

Is all that money to be used merely to make people make up their minds in the opposite direction to that recommended by a very intelligent and highly skilled Commission? We want to have our heads read if we get important people to spend several years working on this problem and then, out of hand, we reject their recommendations to the biggest pressure group that we have in the community for a particular area.

Another matter on the subject of finance is the additional money which will be required if we go against the Roskill Commission's recommendations and if Foulness is used, which will run into tens of millions of pounds, if not hundreds of millions of pounds. It is my opinion—I have been right every time so far in the 15 or 16 years that I have been in the House—that when we have had an estimate of round about this figure, we can put a multiplier of at least two, and sometimes five, on that. There is the additional cost of building an airport at Foulness, involving the runways, the stabilising of the sand, the stopping of the floods, and the additional work required to keep the Dengie Hundred and the Rochford Hundred safe from the floods. After all, the sea came over the wall on the night of 1st February this year, and that wall will have to be raised. If we are to block a great lump of the Channel and the Thames Estuary, we shall have to put two or three feet on the walls in that area and a bigger barrage in the Thames around London. The cost would be enormous.

I make one plea. Having spent all this money and employed a number of extremely intelligent men to give us a recommendation, let us accept that recommendation, cut the cackle and get on with the job of building the new London airport.

8.37 p.m.

Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)

I was much interested in what my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Brian Harrison) said about the floods. In 1953 a cousin of mine was drowned in the great flood near that area.

I am opposed not only to the Foulness site but to the other three sites as well. I am possibly odd in the Chamber in wanting the third London airport, or half of it, anyhow, north-south runway as well, near my constituency.

I was much interested in reading the very moving prose of Professor Buchanan. He refers to Sir Patrick Abercrombie, whom I so well remember as Professor Abercrombie, when he was Professor of Civic Design at the University of Liverpool. He, more than anyone else, started the decentralisation of London. I hope that the Government will take another step towards that decentralisation. Professor Buchanan goes on to say that a site at Foulness would … undoubtedly represent a severe environmental loss. But he admits the conviction of his colleagues that Foulness would not be a viable economic proposition.

These are prophetic words: When I look at a map … in the central regions, ranged round in the urban crescent stretching from Liverpool"— that, I think, is the only mention of Liverpool in the whole of this Report— … to Birmingham there are some 18 millions. Of a long-term airport policy for this second area, which contains much of the industrial strength of Britain as well as a great deal of its poverty and dereliction, I can find no evidence. He goes on to say … I think a case could be developed for not putting the so-called third London airport in the south-east at all, but for locating it in the central regions. Liverpool Airport would be a temporary answer to the problems facing the Government so that they could at least check up on the statistics. The concept of a Liverpool but English National Airport depends upon the co-operation of British Railways. Our air conditioned trains, which now take only 2¼ hours from the Liverpool Airport site to Euston, would have to be speeded up. In those trains it would be necessary to have, as was suggested by the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling), the documentation and the customs. If the very fast railway track which now exists between London and Liverpool could at the near approach to the London terminal be switched on to the Central Line into the hardly used Marylebone Station, we should then have an air terminal in the heart of London.

When last summer I travelled on the footplate of one of our fast trains I noticed that freight trains go at only about 60 miles an hour, whereas passenger trains go at up to 100 miles an hour. If that freight could be switched from the North-Western line to the Midland line, all the trains on the North-Western line could go at three-minute intervals at about 100 miles an hour.

Therefore, the concept depends upon telescoping the documentation and the customs, which every traveller must go through, with the travel to London. Passengers would arrive only between half and hour and three-quarters of an hour later than if they had landed at any of the other sites. They would have travelled in comfort and through a beautiful part of England. The other sites suggested by the Commission cannot be telescoped because the distance is too short. The cost of such special trains should be set against the very great savings on the buildings for customs and documentation. Other countries have customs trains. Why cannot we have them?

Liverpool has an air strip of 7,500 ft. Next door to it could be put an airport bigger than the present Heathrow on flat land which has less fog than Manchester, which in turn has less fog than London. Those who know South Lancashire must admit that there is less to spoil there—I say this regretfully—than there is in the Vale of Aylesbury and even Foulness.

At Hale there is a very nice church and a manor house both out of the flight path, but it already has an airport right up to its very doors. The landing and the take-off would be over the estuary. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) spoke about potential noise. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Fortescue), in whose constituency Liverpool Airport is, tells me that up till now he has not received one complaint. Landing and take-off would either be over the broad estuary of the Mersey or over industrial or derelict land.

The fast electric train service has already revolutionised transport between Liverpool and London. The railway goes on the very edge of the site. Therefore, we have very good communications.

I thank the Minister for Trade for sending me, in a letter which arrived today, the Origin and Destination Survey. It is on these figures that the location of the third London airport in the South of England is based. The sample taken was under 1 per cent. for three months between 15th August and 14th November, 1968. Every fiftieth passenger for half a day was questioned about his or her origin or destination. Those who travelled on by air to Liverpool, Manchester, Yeadon, Newcastle or Scotland were not asked. The origin of anyone who said he would be spending more than 24 hours in the South of England was said to be the South of England. I therefore suspect the figures on which this airport plan is based.

If one draws two almost equal circles, one can see that within 76 miles of Heathrow there are 19,600,000 people. Within 76 miles of Manchester and Liverpool there are 18,100,000. On those figures, the South should not want three major airports while we in the North have to be content with less than one. I say less than one because I am told that the runway in Manchester will have to be resurfaced, and so that this can be done another runway will have to be built at a cost of £20 million. This is all the more reason why there should be a joint authority for Liverpool and Manchester.

In our part of the world the air is not congested and little time is wasted by aircraft circling round waiting to land. My advisers calculate that the cost of an airport in Liverpool of the size of Heathrow would be about £116 million at present prices. This is a small fraction of the cost of the other proposed airports. There is a work force nearby. The infrastructure is there. There are homes, roads and the railway. If the noise is bad, even though the aircraft fly over the estuary, the cost of double-glazing by the State would be minute in comparison with the immense savings there would be. There is one runway in operation, but this could be made international at a cost of only £6 million. It could be in action within a few years because we own the land for extension to 10,500 feet.

I agree with the hon. Member for Walton that Thorne-Waste, or even the Bristol Channel if it is reclaimed, would be much more expensive. We have the infrastructure already there and the most up-to-date instrument landing system. There are refineries opposite so that the fuel could be pumped under the Mersey, so having the clutter of tankers on the roads. The old site of Liverpool Airport could afford an admirable area for maintenance and the light industry which so often comes with any big airport.

When Liverpool was a great passenger port, no one had to sail from London to get to America or Africa. They came by train up to Liverpool. Time rather than distance is what is important. Although trains are slow as compared with aircraft, one could consider a bonded train, such as was suggested by the right hon. Member for Hillsborough, as a continuation of the aircraft.

I should like to call in aid the Roskill Commission itself which said We recognise the force of the argument of British Airports Authority and of the airlines that existing assets should be used to capacity. That is exactly my argument, namely that we should use this country's assets. By adopting my suggestion we would cut the costs by several hundred million pounds, provide jobs where they are wanted, and fully use what is now only half used. We should take full advantage of the infrastructure, the homes, the roads and railways we now have.

I appreciate the Prime Minister's assurance, which has been backed up by the Minister, that this idea will be looked at. Surely it is better to spend several million now to test demand and to carry out experiments in Liverpool so that we might be able to save hundreds of millions of pounds and avoid spoilation of the countryside. The Conservative Party believes in infrastructure and we have said time and again that we are against giving money to companies, rich or poor, in development areas or elsewhere. What better infrastructure can South-West Lancashire have than the first national airport?

8.52 p.m.

Mr. William Clark (Surrey, East)

It is a pleasure to take part in a debate in this House on a subject on which there is no party difference, though there would seem to be a constituency difference. I do not intend to discuss the details of the Roskill Commission, which did a wonderful job of work. My only conclusion is that its conclusion is wrong. This has been proved because the general public are sick to death of being pushed around. We all know what happened at Stansted, where there was an upsurge of public opinion against the imposition of an airport. We must realise that the general public has its rights. We surely all want to live comfortable, quiet lives. We do not necessarily want great concrete blocks all round us.

One of the arguments against Cublington is that it will mean loss of agricultural land and, consequently, loss of amenity I do not imagine that any Government would possibly impose on the nation an airport at Cublington. There would be such an uproar of public opinion as to make such a suggestion impossible. I believe that this applies to any other inland site in the county.

Some hon. Members opposite have said that there has been a great public relations exercise by protesters. It must be remembered that this is all a voluntary effort that started up by people who have gone round collecting money from various residents. They have pitted their strength against the great strength of the British Airports Authority and the Roskill Commission by getting the best barristers, the best advice, and all the rest. We should not deride such efforts.

One thing proved by the Roskill investigations is the sad lack of a national airports plan. I understand that in the Ministry there are what are known as "terrible twins", such as Birmingham and Coventry—which would be a nonsense as a concept if we were planning intelligently—Southampton and Bournemouth, and Liverpool and Manchester. It is such proliferations which worry the general public. The possible deferment of a decision on the third London airport brings in the situation of Gatwick, which to a certain extent affects my constituency in East Surrey. If we are to have this proliferation, it may be suggested that Gatwick should be extended by the addition of another runway. Alternatively, it may be pointed out that Stansted has a greater air traffic capacity now since training flights have been transferred to Thurleigh. However, if we play about like this, we shall make our existing airports even more of a nuisance to their surrounding residents. The lack of a national airports plan is a disaster and, before setting up the Roskill Commission, the Government of the day should have tried to plan our airports.

As a consequence, in order to avoid proliferation, be it at Gatwick, Stansted or anywhere else, a decision is urgent. In view of our shortage of good agricultural land, to say nothing of our beautiful countryside, obviously we should be con- sidering a coastal site. However, in doing that, we must not spoil our coastline. If we can reclaim land, there can be no objection.

A great deal of research has gone on into the possibilities of Foulness. I have no financial interest in the Thames Estuary Development Company, although I give it financial advice from time to time. Its proposals make up a very exciting scheme. The Maplin Sands development and its accompanying communications centre will solve a number of problems. We have to remember that the Thames Estuary cannot take the huge oil tankers which will continue to come from the Middle East. Rotterdam is taking them, but we cannot. We have to decant oil from Rotterdam and bring it here. The Port of London Authority is closing a number of its docks in the Thames, and it will have to find a deep water berth. The Roskill Commission provided an opportunity to deal with a complete complex. By reclaiming land, we could set up a communications centre, establish a port in the Thames Estuary and at the same time provide reclaimed land for two, three or four runways.

The evidence over the past few months has proved that the only way in which we can get any viable scheme for such a huge complex is by means of a partnership between private enterprise and the Government. I site as an example the partnership with B.P. In the Maplin Sands area, 18,000 to 20,000 acres of land could be reclaimed. That would be sufficient for an industrial complex, a deep water port and as many runways as we required. The sands belong to the State, but I am sure that private enterprise could provide the necessary capital for the reclamation work. That would mean that the taxpayer would not be burdened with the expenditure until the airport and the seaport were viable.

When choosing a site for an airport, people's amenities must be taken into account. If the Roskill Commission proved one fact above all others, it was that no London Airport should go to an inland site. It also proved that the necessary air traffic capacity will not be made available by extending existing airports, because that only increases nuisance to people.

I hope that the Government will make an early decision. I hope, too, that they will decide to put the airport on a coastal site, whether it be Foulness or somewhere else.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Chapman (Birmingham, Handsworth)

I do not live in, nor do I represent, any area which was considered by the Roskill Commission. This may be a point of weakness or of strength. However, I must declare a vested interest. As an architect and town planner I should count it a privilege to be able to defend and, indeed, support the dissentient to the Report, Professor Buchanan, who said that to site the airport at Cublington would be nothing short of an environmental disaster.

Three factors govern the planning and position of a modern airport: economic, technical and environmental. With respect to Mr. Justice Roskill, I think that too much emphasis was put on the economic and the technical and too little on the environmental.

We must recognise, in the last third of the 20th century, that the functions of airports have become more complex as the years have gone on. In the old days aerodromes were sited near cities to be near the potential passengers. Modern airports do not need to be, and, indeed, should not be, sited near areas of high population. The size and the noise of modern aircraft and the inherent danger which they cause should be subjects of the gravest concern. I hope that I do not sound a killjoy, but I believe that our whole attitude towards the siting of airports would, and, alas, will, be changed when a jumbo-jet crashes into the middle of a town or city. On the law of statistics, it is bound to happen. Therefore, we have a clear duty to site modern airports away from urban areas, if possible.

We must recognise that the modern airport has three distinct functions or requirements: first, for scheduled flights; secondly, for charter flights; and, thirdly, for freight.

For scheduled flights, airports should, within reason, be sited as near as possible to the people they serve, but it should be nearness in time rather than nearness in distance, a point which was well brought out by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney).

It is interesting and relevant to the debate to note that New York is considering sites for its fourth airport 60 to 75 miles away from Manhattan, and that Paris is considering for its third airport a site 100 miles away, near Le Havre. We should not be afraid of siting airports well out of urban reach.

For charter flights it is not necessary for airports to be near where people live. I go so far as to say that the person who goes on a charter flight probably enjoys the charabanc trip to the airport as much as the flight itself—probably considerably more.

The third function of a modern airport is as a freight depot. Therefore, it should be as near as possible to manufacturing areas.

I do not believe that it is necessary for airports to fulfil all these functions. Indeed, I think that it would possibly be harmful if they did, as unfortunately most airports do today.

There is a need for a national airports policy. It is a pity that two and a half years, over £2 million and 8 million words were devoted to the possible siting of a third London airport instead of to an inquest into a national policy for airports.

Some of my hon. Friends may disagree with me, but I think that there is a need for a new international airport in this country to take the long-distance large supersonic aircraft and the jumbo-jets. I am forced to the conclusion, though it can only be a general proposition—I share the indignation of my hon. Friends the Members for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) and Maldon (Mr. Brian Harrison), and others—that any new airport must be on a coastal estuary or—I hope that it does not sound as stupid as it may initially—a sea site. I do not mean that the only consensus which we have in this Chamber tonight is that it should be on the Dogger Bank. But, recognising that we are an island, it is not so stupid to site a large international airport on the sea, if not on the coast or in an estuary.

One other point over the planning of a modern airport which has not been brought out enough is that it means, in effect, building a new town. It would provide the livelihood for families who would total up to a quarter of a million people. So its siting should be part of an overall national Government strategy.

Many of us may quarrel with the Roskill Report on one or two points. It goes to town with great effect on cost benefit analysis but it made a market approach to this rather than a planning approach. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) said that cost-benefit analysis is all right for putting figures on items which it is possible to evaluate in money terms. My complaint is that one cannot quantify handsome landscapes or buildings. I would wax lyrical over the Norman church at Stewkeley. But it is not so much the buildings: their setting is equally important, and one cannot quantify or evaluate noise nuisance or intrusion for the many hundreds of thousands who would suffer if the airport were sited at Cublington. One cannot make human value judgments of that sort.

I hope that I will not get into trouble with my hon. Friends, but I do not believe that the Cublington site is the most beautiful of our countryside or even the best part of the Vale of Aylesbury, from my limited knowledge of it. The critically important thing is that Cublington is countryside where countryside is most desperately needed.

I would go so far as to say that the airport should not be put at Cublington, not just because of the 12½ square miles of countryside which would be destroyed, not just because it would affect people in 400 square miles who would suffer from noise nuisance, but because it would put paid to any idea of keeping any green or pleasant land between Birmingham and London. That part of the country, incidentally, does not in any case need what is euphemistically called "economic stimulation".

Fifty years ago, the preservation of the countryside was a matter of importance only to those who were fortunate enough to live in the rural areas. Today, thanks to the relatively increased wealth of our nation, and certainly because of the increased mobility of the nation, it is just as important for the townspeople to preserve our countryside as it is for the countrysiders themselves. Therefore, to site the airport at Cublington would be a curse for the people of this country. I do not believe that any Government would be lightly forgiven for allowing an airport to be put on that inland site in particular.

9.10 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (East Grinstead)

Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Chapman), I have a close interest in the development of airports, for practically every 'plane which flies in and out of Gatwick goes over my constituency. That does not mean that my hon. Friend and I disagree. On the contrary. I agreed with everything he said. However, I speak from a more limited point of view—some may say a more parochial one. I do not wish to add to the Government's difficulties, but it would be unwise for the Minister to leave this debate without an hon. Member speaking on behalf of people who are already affected by Gatwick.

I realise the important decision which the Government must make and I sympathise with them in their difficulty. I urge them, therefore, not to be tempted to make a decision which, in my view, would be tantamount to running away from the problem by inviting increased airport capacity by allowing the present airports in the London area, including Gatwick, to expand. I have no doubt, however, that increased capacity is shown to be needed by the Roskill Report.

Using Gatwick as an example, I will demonstrate why such a decision would be wrong and how it would be as appalling, if not more so, than the construction of a major new airport at Cublington, not least because such a policy of expansion at Gatwick or at any other London airport would condemn even more people than is at present the case to intolerable levels of noise, and certainly more than the level envisaged at any of the proposed new airport sites.

In stating this opinion, I want my right hon. Friend to be absolutely clear that I am not just expressing a personal view. This general proposition is shared by all my hon. Friends who represent constituencies in the vicinity of Gatwick. We are united on this point. If my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) had been able to speak, he would have confirmed this, as would my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair), in whose constituency Gatwick is located. Unfortunately an important and unavoidable family commitment prevents his attendance. Had he been here and been called to speak he would have sought to emphasise the misery which Gatwick already creates and the important environmental problems which have resulted from its development; and he would have argued for the development of a coastal site.

When considering the possibility of allowing Gatwick to expand—and no doubt this will be put to the Government from many influential quarters—I ask them not to under-estimate the strength of public opinion that exists over this issue. This is one matter about which we all accept that public opinion merits special attention by the Government. There has undoubtedly been in the few years that I have been the hon. Member for East Grinstead a hardening of public opinion towards the development of Gatwick.

It is not good enough for the Chairman of the British Airports Authority to suggest, as he has, that people exaggerate the misery that has already been caused. In New Society for 22nd October, 1970, the Chairman of the B.A.A. was quoted as having said: I feel that opposition is being whipped up by a few kindly—one might say sensitive but I'd use another word—people. I do have every sympathy with those people who are especially susceptible to noise, though. And the commentator in the article writes: But he is mildly contemptuous of people who, he says, 'parade round … womens institutes … seeking for signatures for a petition.' The real issue, when people say, 'What about building a third London airport instead?' is that we've run out of time. So the faster we get on with it, the better. Heahrow's saturated, Luton's saturated, Stansted, as far as that is possible, is saturated. There is only one other place. We must expand Gatwick or we lose air traffic. People have had 16 years' advance warning we would expand there". It is shameful that that sort of comment should be made by the chairman of a public authority. No wonder people wax cynical about this sort of development when a man in that position makes such a remark. I hope that the Government will not be deceived by Mr. Masefield's blandishments about the people in the vinicinity of Gatwick having had 16 years' advance warning.

In 1946 the Ministry of Aviation gave an assurance that Gatwick would be restricted to charter flights and private flying. That is why we went ahead with the planning of the new town of Crawley, which now finds itself on the edge of a big and important airfield. In 1949 the Labour Government decided to develop Gatwick as an overflow airport for Heathrow, and in 1954 a White Paper published by the then Conservative Government gave an assurance—what a mockery it has become—that Gatwick will not be used intensively all the year round. Its principal purpose will be to receive aircraft diverted from Heathrow Airport when visibility is poor there, and this purpose could not be achieved if too many regular services were based at Gatwick". So much for official assurances. It is a shocking story of a piecemeal betrayal in the light of some of the proposals which were put to Roskill by the British Airports Authority, and some of its own ideas put forward elsewhere for the development of Gatwick which would make it larger than Heathrow is today.

It is this history of the betrayal of the public almost as much as people's present experience of living within the shadow of this airport which has done so much to embitter public opinion. This is why I strongly advise my right hon. Friends not to dismiss the protest with the contumely with which the present Chairman of the British Airport's Authority has treated it.

My second argument against the development of Gatwick is based on more technical and planning considerations. The Roskill research team forecast that the earliest date by which the additional capacity would be required—I think that we can all agree on this—would be 1981, and the Report stated clearly that, there is no reason to anticipate that the capacity of Heathrow, Luton. Stansted and Gatwick with one runway will be exhausted before the earliest date by which the first runway of the third London airport could be operational". So the Report rejected the assumption that a second runway was necessary at Gatwick from a purely technical operational point of view. But it is when we consider a second runway at Gatwick and the development of such an airport there from an environmental point of view—many of my hon. Frends have emphasised this—that the case for a second runway is seen to be not only a technical monstrosity but a planning obscenity.

I have no time to develop this point, but I urge my right hon. Friends to study the views of the Surrey County Council, that West Sussex County Council and the East Sussex County Council. There is a joint report by their planning officers. In a nutshell, one can say that all those councils are of the firm opinion that two runways at Gatwick are unacceptable because of the impact of noise and because of the urbanisation which such a development would entail for the surrounding sub-region.

There are conflicting demands already in this part of Britain. There are the present demands of the airport, which, if allowed to expand, would conflict with the present plans for the development of the area as a whole. It is a fast growing area, like some others in this country. If a second runway were to be developed at Gatwick, it would entail an increase in population of 100,000 by 1981. It would double the already fast rate of growth of population between now and 1981.

It is not right that the local authorities should be asked to perpetrate that type of development, with all the problems of urbanisation which it would impose, on a part of Britain which is still a pretty place to look at and a very fine place in which to live.

There are other problems, too. In Crawley, a new town which many people regard as one of the most successful in Britain, there is a growing demand for labour from the prospering industries there, and this, too, would conflict with the growth of a large international airport. There is also the need to house people from Brighton, the overspill from there, and the need to conserve, not destroy, the natural amenities of a beautiful part of Britain, not to mention the need to preserve and sustain the value of agriculture.

The case is overwhelming. What appears in the Roskill Report, the views put forward by people with local knowledge, by people not only with local experience but with fundamental responsibility in planning the development of the area—it all points inescapably to the conclusion that the Government should not seek to dodge the problem by allowing the expansion of this or the other London airport.

People will say, "We must use our investment. We are not a very rich country." Some hon. Members have said that if we have airports off the beaten track people will not come to Britain. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth went a long way to answering that point. Some people have used the American example. People should go to Washington and see Dulles Airport, which is 40 miles out, or a 40-minute drive. It is quite a way. I have come into Washington from Dulles Airport. It is said that not many people use it. That is true, but one can go as I did last year to the Lincoln Memorial, one of the finest public buildings in the world, in a most beautiful setting, and find that the harmony of that setting is utterly destroyed by the procession of aeroplanes, one after another, at rooftop height. That is the miserable condemnation to which people have been subjected by the modern technological advance of the aeroplane. It is not an example for us to follow.

Perhaps there could be differential charges between one airport and another. Surely that is one way in which we could control the use of airports and at the same time not sacrifice the quality of our environment?

9.21 p.m.

Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)

The essential lessons from the Roskill Report are, first, that Foulness is a practical proposition, and, second, that the third London airport is necessary.

The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) suggested that it is necessary only to look for two runways, but he asked Roskill to seek four because of the possibility of expansion. That is a very real possibility, and it is why it is necessary still to look for a four-runway airport.

Therefore, we must see what is available. Cublington has received universal condemnation because of the damage to the environment and particularly because of the noise factor, which is measured in the very inadequate terms of the 35 NNI contour as 29,000 households being disturbed.

My constituency is neatly balanced some five miles from Cublington and some five miles from Luton. Whatever happens, we are bound to suffer considerable damage to our amenities, as indeed we do now. The Roskill Report envisaged that if the Foulness site were chosen Luton would expand, provided that the Government permitted it. That was why, when it was suggested earlier tonight that it was inevitable that Luton would expand, I pointed out that the Government must not permit it.

The right hon. Member for Grimsby today rather shied away from his Press handout in which he had said that we must make more use of existing airports. That was a speech he made some time ago, which resulted in a Motion to which he objected.

Mr. Crosland

I must make the position absolutely clear. If the hon. Gentleman will read that Press statement, which I sent to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), who put the Motion on the Order Paper, he will see that it said that that solution is acceptable only—I repeat, only—on the condition that there is a new technological break-through with STOLs and quieter engines.

Mr. Allason

My name was second on that Motion, and the right hon. Gentleman did not send that statement to me. I took it from what appeared in the Press that what the right hon. Gentleman said was pretty definite. It is reinforced by his noble Friend, Lord Greenwood, who was also quite definite in another place when he said that we must develop the use of existing airports to the very maximum."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords. 22nd February, 1971; Vol. 315, c. 824.] Therefore, it is reasonable that the House should consider what developing Luton to the very maximum entails.

At present Luton is capable of 30,000 movements a year, and this has an effect on 13,000 households as compared with the 29,000 at Cublington. Simply putting in a taxiway would almost double the number of movements to 54,000 a year. That would increase the noise nuisance by 50 per cent.—from 13,000 households to 20,000. That is the suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman made, but I am happy to say that, on this occasion, he has withdrawn from it. Nevertheless, Lord Greenwood in another place has not withdrawn from it. Nor has Roskill.

There is worse to come because at the moment only aircraft of comparatively small size use Luton. The runway will not take jumbo-jets. If it is to have a full-length runway, the runway must be realigned and Luton Corporation is already prepared to do this. The realigned runway would take even jumbo-jets. But it would point neatly at the new town of Hemel Hempstead, five miles away; so every aircraft would have its flight path over Hemel Hempstead. Roskill says that at the moment only 25,000 households are affected, but with even one runway at Luton we are getting into the range of the Cublington nuisance which is so unacceptable.

If one wanted to develop Luton to maximum capacity, one could put a second runway down, which would mean that 108,000 movements would theoretically be possible. Roskill was so merciful as not to calculate the number of houses affected then, but it would, clearly, be intolerable. I make this protest—that even a very small increase at Luton would provide almost as great damage as four runways at Cublington.

It is a matter not just of noise but also of damage to amenity. We have heard lyrical terms about the Vale of Aylesbury and the National Trust property there. What about the Chilterns and the National Trust property at Ashridge, which is far more beautiful country and which equally would be destroyed—indeed, is being destroyed at this moment by Luton Airport?

Therefore, I ask that we should have no expansion at Luton as is envisaged by Roskill. I believe, however, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) said, that we have to provide for expansion quickly. Therefore, we need a coastal site as soon as possible. I ask the Government to take an early decision against Cublington. I ask them to announce even immediately after this debate that Cublington is now no longer under consideration. That would help considerably, because many planning decisions are blighted at present because of the threat hanging over Cublington. For example, the bypass to the A41 cannot be announced until a decision on the airport has been taken. It would be intolerable to have to wait until the Government had made up their minds finally about what they want to do about the third London Airport, for, obviously, that may take months.

I ask the Government to take a very early decision against Cublington and to decide on a seaside site with four runways—and we know only one at the moment. A very early start to that should be made so as to relieve the pressure on existing airports. Immediately that airport is available, there should be the transfer of the most objectionable services, by which I mean the night jet flights, to that airport. Thereafter there should be a steady run-down of the existing inland sites. There should be no development of Luton as envisaged by Roskill, and, while we are at it, we may as well have the abandonment of Luton Airport since it is just as much a menace to environment as Cublington would be.

9.30 p.m.

Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)

I qualify to speak in this debate on the basis that one of the sites is Thurleigh. I was surprised to hear the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) say that he would recommend that the airport should be on that site. In this at least he is consistent in that he accords with what was said by his noble Friend Lord Greenwood in another place. We have listened to and read the speeches in another place, and out of 41 only one recommended Thurleigh. All the rest recommended that it should go to Foulness.

Hon. Members


Mr. Skeet

I am quite prepared to defer to some of my hon. Friends who will be able to carry the analysis a little further and suggest that something should be done.

I wonder whether the right hon. Member realises what the implications would be for Thurleigh. The villages within the 50 contour NNI would include Lavendon, Turvey, Stevington, Carlton, Pavenham, Felmersham and Milton Ernest. These have not been assessed by Roskill in his excellent Report because he says that village life and such things could not be assessed in any cost-benefit analysis. This is understandable, because they are intangibles.

It is even harder for those actually on the apron or involved on the site. Villages such as Bletsoe, Thurleigh, Colmworth, Bolnhurst, Kesoe and Little Staughton would be eliminated completely. To put this into realistic terms—because we have to be practical when making constituency points—taking first the area within the airport site of 12 sq. miles, there would be no fewer than 600 households involved. Within the 50 contour NNI, an area of 73 sq. miles, there would be 4,800 households, and those affected by noise would be included in an area of 350 sq. miles, involving 25,600 households. Is the right hon. Member for Grimsby suggesting that these should be eliminated?

Let me give a thumbnail sketch of the situation. An area of about 12 sq. miles would need a population growth of about 65,000 people to operate the terminal, and the total population by the end of the century would be no less than 1 million. This is a major airport, three or four times the size of Heathrow.

Anyone who has given the Report a thorough examination realises that if the airport should be placed anywhere the only location is on the coast. I am quite prepared to accept the view that so many of my hon. Friends have put forward that Foulness is the place. There may be other locations which will conciliate some of my hon. Friends who would like the site to be a little further up the coast or down the coast—or in the country. It might just as well go to France.

I should underline an important point which the right hon. Member for Grimsby mentioned. I will give him the reference so that he can look it up. On page 139 the Roskill Report states: We can only affirm that we have examined the redeployments said to be required if the airport were to be at Thurleigh and have been persuaded that to avoid them would compromise the defence of this country. It is the fact that such redeployments are necessary rather than their cost which is in our view a substantial disadvantage of Thurleigh". It was said that the question of defence was looked into very carefully and that it had been possible to persuade the defence experts that changes could be made. That is what emerges from the Report.

It is said on page 52 of the Report: Agricultural considerations clearly do not point to the Thurleigh area as a desirable location for the airport". Even the University of Cambridge would be in a bit of a jam. It is pointed out on page 40: The University was concerned about the pressures on that city which would build up not only if the airport were to be at Nuthampstead but also if it were at Thurleigh". We should also bear in mind the scientific establishments of some importance. The Royal Aircraft Establishment at Bedford would have to be closed and the wind tunnels would have to be transferred. The Lord's Bridge Observatory which caters for radio astronomy, would also have to be closed. Several departments of the Cranfield Institute of Technology would have to be moved. Major manufacturers would have their operations interfered with. The Cardington balloon station would have to be moved. Unilever's research station at Sharnbrook would have to go. All these establishments would be tossed into the melting pot.

It has been said that we have not looked at the matter in a European context. The nearest that we are likely to get geographically to the centre of Europe is by siting the airport at Foulness. That would be the centre of the Common Market, whether we join the E.E.C. or not. It would be the nearest English centre that we could get. An airport at Foulness would add to communications and expansion of freight across the Channel.

Mr. Crouch

I would rather that we had a Channel tunnel.

Mr. Skeet

We may have a Channel tunnel as well. But if we want to go to Paris we might as well go part of the way by a cheaper form of transport; namely, rail. The vast expansion which is taking place in Europe is on the littoral of Europe—the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Here we are reluctant even to place an airport on the coast in an area where vast expansion would greatly contribute to this country's wealth. It would lead to a vast reclama- tion of land. It would probably provide a new province for the United Kingdom. It would be a great mistake if we were to overlook this opportunity.

I appreciate what Members representing Liverpool constituencies have said about a regional airport. As for Birmingham, if they are going to find their business travelling south, they will be disfranchised over the course of time. Why not put an airport in the central region of the United Kingdom where there are no fewer than 18 million people? Why make them travel right to the South-East, where about 17 million are located?

I should have thought that to apportion an airport to the north would be a sensible objective. Locating a third London airport, or any major airport, is like placing a steel magnet. It would draw industry to itself effectively, like iron filings are drawn to a magnet. Therefore, to avoid over-heating in the London-Birmingham region, it would be advisable to ensure that the airport goes to that area where expansion could be accommodated over the course of time. Foulness has been sanctified not merely by the South-East Survey—the South-East Survey examined this matter—but by many other reports. I support an airport on the coast.

9.41 p.m.

Mr. Norman Tebbit (Epping)

Unusually, I start by commenting on one or two of the other speeches we have heard today, principally on that of my right hon. Friend the Minister. He spoke of taking a gamble on the possible development of STOL. He implied that we should not take gambles. But surely it is an incredible gamble to assume that STOL will not happen and start pouring concrete, which would be an irreversible decision, all over the place or over most of the place.

The Minister's thoughts on the growth of air freight are not quite correct. The major growth in air freight has been in the bellyholds of passenger aircraft until now, but this will not continue as specialist freight aircraft come more and more into use. If one looks at the timetables, one sees that freight aircraft originate their services in Manchester, because that is where the freight is.

I comment on the splendid speech of the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland). I could almost call him a right hon. Friend today. I found myself agreeing with him very much. The only point on which I disagreed with him was a major one, on which I also disagreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), and that is the question of hazard caused by birds at coastal airports.

It is most unwise to start this scare going. It is highly likely that we shall finish up with coastal airports. It will be most unwise for hon. Members to suggest that there is something inherently hazardous about this. All of us who have flown to any extent around the world have flown into and out of many coastal airports. They are no more hazardous than others. Indeed, it has been shown that the main hazard from birds to aircraft is caused either by very dense flocks of small birds, such as starlings, on take-off, and there is no evidence that there would be a particularly great hazard of this sort at Foulness. Certainly there is no evidence of this, and indeed, the probability of bird strikes there would be lower than at Auckland airport, which, as hon. Members will know, could not be more of a coastal airport.

The other hazard is from striking large birds such as swans, birds on migratory flights, and this does not happen in this part of Europe. This is a hazard in parts of the United States and has caused accidents, but it is not a hazard here.

I should like to add a little more on the general issue of what Roskill said. It seems that we should at least be grateful, as politicians, to Roskill for one thing. One often hears suggestions, "Why not leave it to the experts? They always know the way. Politicians muck it up." We got a bevy of experts, and then we all turned to the politicians to un-muck it because nobody liked the report which the experts provided. That is what might be called the spin-off these days.

Roskill is unacceptable to the public at large. That is obvious from speaking to constituents and listening to the speeches today. Part of that unacceptability comes from a deep feeling of unease about some assumptions made early in the growth of the argument in that Report.

The assumptions I question are threefold—first, the traffic estimates; second, the capacity of the existing London airports and the degree to which technical changes, either VTOL some time ahead or STOL more shortly in the future, and improved techniques and better passenger handling will enlarge that capacity; and, third, the extent to which even before radical new developments, aircraft can be expected to become quieter.

Essentially the traffic estimates can be calculated in two ways. Roskill tried it both ways. They can be extrapolated from past trends without additions of opinions of one's own. I have described this in the past as the tadpole method. One looks at a tadpole on the second day of its life; one looks at a tadpole on the seventh day of its life and extrapolates and concludes that one will have a whale in six months' time. The other way to do it is to look at the past trends and say, "I know that it will not be a whale. You know that it will not be a whale. It will be a frog, will it not?" One could be caught out; it might be a newt, so even that is not infallible. It is a very subjective judgment and Roskill tends to warn us against subjective judgments. Either way, in the end the conclusion was that traffic would continue to grow at about 9 per cent. compound because that was what had happened in the past.

Similarly, the guess was that the size of aircraft would expand in such a way that the average passenger load on aircraft would be doubled in a period of approximately 12 years. It is on those estimates that so much of Roskill is based, together with the estimates of existing airport capacity.

Are those estimates right? Hon. Members have raised the question of the influence of the Channel Tunnel and of advance passenger trains. I utter this warning. In the last 25 years, during which this trend of travel expansion has been established, air fares have fallen sharply. At the same time the product has improved enormously in quality. An example is the journey to New York, which 25 years ago was one of perhaps 20 or 30 hours, via two or three stops, and is now one of 7½ hours direct.

We should be optimistic if we thought that we were in for another such period when the price would fall and the quality of the product would improve at that sort of rate. Indeed, the only improvements I can see to the product for the customer is the growth of supersonics. The only improvement that I can see for the community is the quieter engine and probably STOL not too far away. Technology will be asked to make air transport, not more attractive to the customer, but more acceptable to all those of us who live in this small island.

Nor should we assume, as Roskill did, that the great base of expansion will be in the South-East. So much of the future expansion will be holiday traffic. The north of England has for years traditionally lagged behind the South in economic development. We have seen the explosion of holiday traffic from the South. I hope that we shall see it before long from the North.

So we begin to wonder if the estimates of where the traffic will come from may not also be in doubt.

How many passengers? How many aircraft? How much can the local residents put up with? This is the key to how much we can get out of our existing airports. The number of passengers can obviously be expanded rapidly. The North American experience shows us that we can get more aircraft into and out of our airports in a given time. There will be delays at peak times, but should we assume that air transport of all industries is entitled to an absolutely free run, to have ideal conditions provided for it at public expense? I do not think that we should. We also hear the argument that operators would rather expand their frequency of service than the size of their aeroplanes. That may have been true in the past, but we are now getting to the stage where, if an operator has four or six services a day to New York, or an hourly service to Paris, he is more interested in expanding the size of his aeroplane than the frequency of the service.

There are many other points I would like to raise but I know that many hon. Members are wanting to take part in the debate. I close by suggesting that the Government should take certain actions. They should agree very shortly that there will be no new four-runway airport for London so far ahead as they can see. We should allow traffic to expand at Heathrow, and we can do a great deal to make it less objectionable. I am sorry to disagree with some of my hon. Friends, but I think that we should allow the second runway at Gatwick. This would be less of a disaster than the pouring of concrete all over the countryside. We should also encourage regional airports. Some of the money we receive could go to promote vertical and short take off and landing research which might save our churches and our coastline and possibly also do a great deal for our aircraft industry.

9.51 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)

My interest in this matter is as a Member representing a London Constituency, Acton, whose constituents suffer a great deal of noise. I am also interested in this subject from a non-partisan viewpoint. I saw this matter originally as an anti-Stansted situation, and ever since that time I have been in favour of an airport site at Foulness. From that point of view I want to comment on some of the deficiencies of the Roskill Report.

First, it lacks an essential dimension, the dimension of history. The provision of air terminals is the fourth stage of a continuing process in London in which different techniques have required a different geographical response. The first stage was river terminals—Queenhithe and Billingsgate. The next was stage coach terminals. The third and most lasting stage has been the great railway stations. The fourth stage is air terminals, and there are already nearly as many air terminals as there are major main line stations.

This is not a new subject for the House of Commons. In 1846 the House appointed the Metropolitan Terminals Commission which was confronted with a similar situation to that which exists today. The same elements were present over 100 years ago. Land, on which houses had been built, was required for terminals. The new railway engines produced noise and smells. The railways brought people into the centre, disgorged them and required servicing areas, marshalling and storage and this inevitably attracted industry and provided opportunities for employment. From the railway stations there was foot traffic, passengers required hotels and interchange to a new mode of transport to get them to the West End or the City. Although those modes were horse cabs and horse buses, and later the underground, the principal is the same.

The situation today is similar, but with this great difference, that, while many hon. Members have been thinking of the damage a new airport would create, we are not just thinking of the next 10 or 20 years, any more than the Metropolitan Terminals Commission was concerned with the period between 1846 and 1856. We are thinking of putting in an installation which will be there for posterity. Therefore, we must be well aware of its implications.

I have said that I do not believe that the dimension of time was written into the Roskill Report. It had a biased attitude in favour of the mode. In other words, the Report's attitude is like that of people in 1846 who said that railway stations must come to the centre to attract traffic. We have had reliance on mathematics. We all know that mathematics will work where one can quantify and where the position is foreseeable, but can we see beyond the next five or 10 years? Yet we are planning for centuries ahead. That is the first deficiency I find in the Report.

The second deficiency is on the question of users. We have not figures in the Report on which to base a real positive judgment. The airlines say that they must meet the needs of the users. That is quite right, but what are those needs? We know that 30 per cent. of air travellers who pass through Heathrow are travelling for business purposes. We also know that charter traffic is on the increase for all sorts of different reasnos, people travel for different reasons, fares are paid for in different ways and travel is organised in different ways—often through various types of transport wholesaling organisations. These figures are just as important as the global figure.

Roskill in all its 30 lbs. of published evidence does not give any split in the number of air passengers as between British nationals wanting to go out and other people wanting to come in. One gathers that the split is roughly fifty-fifty. I suggest that the characteristics of that traffic are different. This matter has a great significance for the location of an airport.

Most important of all there is no estimate in any detail in Roskill as to the growth between scheduled and chartered traffic. In Paper and Proceedings, Volume VIII, Part 2, Section 1, paragraph 4.7.1. we read: The division between scheduled and charter traffic is different and again growth rates for these two kinds of service are different. But nowhere in this mountain of documents can I find where these growth rates are projected. It is a major omission from the research. Therefore, we have to look at the fundamental needs of passengers, why they want to travel, how it is being paid for, and so on.

I said that the global figure was misleading. It has not been mentioned that the monthly figures of passengers going through Heathrow vary by a factor of three from February to July. But that covers something much more significant; namely, the question of the weekend peaks, and particularly summer weekend peaks. Therefore, when talking about the need for an airport it is acknowledged that we are concerned not with global totals but with the peaks. When we talk about saturation at London Airport that refers to the top peak of the summer months. The situation is much more complex than that. The need of passengers is not the need for an airport. The airport need is based on air traffic movements. That brings in, as Roskill points out, the size of aircraft.

Therefore in these projections we get the tadpole example which has already been mentioned. A most extraordinary mathematical situation pertains when we look at volume VIII, part 2, section 1, paragraph 4.4.3: The forecasts are derived by dividing the passenger forecasts"— which are somewhat variable— by the estimated average aircraft loadings … so that we are dividing hypothetical figures by other hypothetical figures.

In talking of need the Report does not deal with the matter in terms of the character of the traffic, nor even in terms of the figures that we already know. I believe that this has great significance for the sort of regional case which some hon. Members have been making in this debate. Sites such as Thorne and possibly further north can be within two hours of London with bulk rail traffic, particularly in regard to excursion holiday traffic. This puts a different complexion on the whole situation. I suggest that, whereas the Metropolitan Terminals Commission was thinking of London and Britain, we must think of the whole of Britain as the Commission thought of London, and of the whole world as the Commission thought of Britain, because I submit that this is the historical parallel.

I want now to turn to Foulness. As I have said, I have a bias in favour of it. The Report, on the other hand, has a bias against it—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Ordered, That the Proceedings on the Motion relating to the Third London Airport may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour during a period of two hours after Ten o'clock, though opposed.—[Mr. Monro.]

Question again proposed.

Mr. Spearing

I will begin by suggesting that the name Foulness is a misnomer. The site is not on Foulness Island but on the Maplin Sands. As a name, Maplin is not only more attractive but geographically more accurate. Therefore, I shall refer to Maplin, because I think that it is better in every respect.

The Report, for some reason, links expansion of Luton with Maplin, and the two are linked in the statistics in terms of noise and all sorts of other factors. That is an example of the Commission's bias.

People have said, "Nowhere but here"; but we read in paragraph 6.2.3. that the Essex County Council favours Maplin for planning reasons. The Report does not make it clear whether it is in favour or not, although I hear from the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) that it is. We also hear that Southend, which is the biggest urban complex in the area, has put local government money into a development on Maplin. In other words, far from everyone saying, "Not here", at least the major planning authorities are saying, "Put it at Maplin".

There has been some confusion about the land take. We are told that the major land take for Maplin is involved in roads and railways. If the opponents of Maplin have come down to that level, we are getting somewhere. The land take for the airfield is nothing. All the land take that there is is for the town. We have no figures for this. The nearest that I can get is in volume VIII, part 2, section 3, page 83, where we are given a table of agricultural land which would be used. We are told that at Cublington there is a take of 29,000 acres of agricultural land, whereas at Maplin it is 18,000 acres. But nowhere do we find a split of the figures between the airport site and the urban take. However, we know that at Maplin there is no agricultural land taken for the airfield. In fact, as the Report says, there is a gain, because the War Department land which is already in use would be put back to agriculture. We know that the estimated take for a Maplin Urban development in South-East Essex is 18,000 acres. That is town development. I share the feelings of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), who says that that is impossible.

That brings me to another main factor which is not sufficiently emphasised in the Report and has not been sufficiently emphasised in today's debate. It is that this is a debate less about an airport terminal and far more about regional planning. If it is not, it should be. We are told in the Report that the Commission's instructions and calculations were that there would be "an airport city" numbering between 200,000 and 300,000 people. That is what we are discussing. We are discussing not an airport but a large new complex, and that is not just for 50 years ahead but for ever.

I take issue with some of the assumptions behind it. Admittedly the urban multiplier shows that, on the Heathrow model, this would be the sort of airport city with which we should have to deal. But it all depends on the function that the airport is designed to serve. If we take the Heathrow model, it could produce X number of jobs. But if we say that an airport at Maplin or Thorne will be a specialised airport for a particular purpose, then it may not be anything like that number, because the number of people given jobs there will be related directly to the function designated to that airport. This can vary a lot.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Essex, South-East is here. We may say that we will or will not have servicing for aircraft and that it will be a mere transit camp where people go through quickly. We may or may not allow industry directly involved with air traffic and freight, or we may or may not allow industry indirectly concerned with the airport. This is of fundamental significance, because the hon. Member for Essex, South-East said that there was not room.

We have already what amounts to a double linear city between Southend and London. We must not forget that this is a London airport in many ways. We already have two rail lines operating an intensive suburban service. There are three if we count the Tilbury branch. There is spare capacity and reverse flow.

The question of urban take and the number of people involved is open, particularly in view of the points which I have raised about the functions of the airport.

We have heard about a motorway. I shall be radical. Do we need a motorway to a site at Maplin? We may need local roads. But do we need the kind of motorway which would produce an urban sprawl and a lot of traffic for London? We cannot have a lot more traffic pouring into London in individual units.

It might be possible to have a rail conveyor belt. On this matter, too, it has been assumed that there would be one terminal in London. Why? We have not been told. There is no reason why railway lines, by the extension of existing lines or new ones, should not go straight through tunnels to perhaps three or four different terminals, thereby giving a choice. We might even have one going right through to Heathrow to give a direct interchange.

I turn to the noise situation at Maplin. Hon. Members have mentioned runways and their alignment, but on the maps the flight paths for some flights turn abruptly parallel with the coast and some go over Sheerness and Faversham. Why not turn the lot? Why must aircraft heading towards the Atlantic go over land? Why cannot they go round, as has been suggested? If so, the numbers affected by noise on the Maplin development would be reduced, as the maps show.

This is an historic situation, which the Report has not grasped; nor, I suggest, has the House. We must have a look at journey purpose, the type of demand, the proportion of expansion between charter and scheduled traffic, the projections of peaking and what peaking is likely to do. I believe that it is likely to increase rather than diminish.

We must look at the national distribution of overflow airports at certain times. For that reason, I believe that the Maplin development is a necessary first stage for an overflow. We should have a national airports policy in which Maplin plays a part in providing a safe, efficient means of access to London.

I believe that the Commission has put too high a value on an assumed passenger convenience. Its mathematics and figures have tried to be accurate in a sphere where accuracy is not possible.

The Commission on Metropolitan Terminals, appointed on 8th April, 1846, which reported on 27th June the same year, stated: We have stated that the advantages to the public of such accommodation as would be afforded to them by bringing the railway stations further into the City appear to us exaggerated. Then, missing out a bit, it goes on: "it is manifestly impossible"—[Interruption.] I could read it all. I miss out this part for the sake of brevity.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I understood that the hon. Gentleman was going to take about 10 minutes; he has already taken about 19 minutes.

Mr. Spearing

The Report goes on: it is manifestly imposible to calculate the direction and extent of the traffic which takes place to and from the different parts of London and its suburbs, with the accuracy which is expected in dealing with ordinary lines of railway; but because the want of such evidence has compelled us to found our conclusions rather upon the judgment of persons of experience, and upon our own observation, than upon numerical returns.

10.10 p.m.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

I should first like to welcome the Labour Party back into the debate. The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) may have spoken at some length, but he spoke a great deal of good sense.

I was also interested in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit). For an ex-airline pilot to say what he said about the danger of air strike was a significant contribution to the debate. I was particularly interested in his comment that the very rare cases of air strike which have occurred have often been brought about by flocks of birds including starlings. The village of Aston Abbotts where I have a house which is 200 yards from the end of the runway is famous for the quantity of its starlings.

My constituency of Aylesbury runs up right against the proposed site of the airport at Cublington. The fine villages of Whitchurch, Weedon and Hardwick would be rendered totally uninhabitable if the airport came. The consequence of the airport would be a devastating effect on the Vale of Aylesbury. There would be noise, concrete and the appalling, endless stream of trucks carrying aggregate, sand, gravel and so on, while the airport was being built.

I need not stress that, or the fact that my constituents are inordinately concerned in this problem. There is a deep unanimity of revulsion against the proposal to site the airport at Cublington. This feeling is as strong in the area around Chesham as in other parts of my constituency. I have here a pile of petitions which I will not read out, which all come from the Chesham area.

These are the people who are at the moment affected very badly by Luton, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) spoke so strongly and sensibly. According to the Roskill view, their plight would be eased by siting the airport at Cublington, because Luton would go, but among them there is a very strong feeling against siting the airport at Cublington.

To suggest, as my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Brian Harrison) suggested, for example, that this was a mere pressure group speaking is far from the truth. This is a popular movement. Anyone who came to the mass meeting at the Wing Equestrian Centre at the beginning of this year, when 10,000 people turned up, would have felt their depth of feeling and could have sensed that the whole countryside, the whole population, was at one on this issue. This cannot be written off as a slick public relations campaign.

Like many others, I do not want to under-rate the report. When Mr. Christopher Foster said in The Times today that it was far in advance of anything that anyone else had done, he was making a fair point. It is an impressive report. The effort which has gone into it, the depth and seriousness of purpose, are deeply impressive. For the most part, I accept the Roskill material. It is its conclusions, above all its judgments, with which one quarrels.

I do not want to cover ground which has been covered so often already today, but there are one or two points to be made. First, there is the planning point. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Sydney Chapman), who had no axe to grind, and who is an architect and town planner, spoke to remarkably good effect on this issue. I am sure that the House was impressed by what he had to say.

The Roskill conclusion was that Foulness may be preferable on planning grounds to Cublington or Thurleigh. I thought that that was a gross understatement, and the evidence in Roskill itself should have led to a much stronger conclusion than the word "may". It is partly that the sheer environment and beauty of the place is much stronger even than my hon. Friend understood, because one of the points about this district is that it is in a sense a concealed place. It does not lay out all its charms on a plate. One has to get to know it to get the best out of it.

That is perhaps arguable, but I am certain that, in assessing planning and environmental considerations, the Commission under-rated the sheer importance of the human side of the living communities which are there. Why this was so I do not know, but I think one reason was that the members of the Commission did not really get to know the sites as they might have done. This is understandable because quasi judicial inquiries do not normally spend a great deal of time on the spot. Usually they just receive evidence and pass judgments.

I have been trying to find out whether even all the members of the Commission visited the Cublington district. I have asked questions privately of Ministers and have even tabled Parliamentary Questions. I have also asked the Secretariat and have scoured the volumes of Roskill, but I have not been able to get an answer. Indeed, a stone wall appears to resist my inquiries. Clearly, Professor Buchanan spent a lot of time there, and we know what impact that had on him. I am not sure that all the members of the Commission fully understood what was at stake, and one message which I hope will go out from this debate is precisely what is at stake.

I do not want to go in detail into the noise question, though one point which has been made about Luton is extremely important. Roskill assumed that Luton was there to stay and would grow ever larger. There is no reason why we should accept this. If we do not like Luton and if we feel that it is doing a great deal of damage, there is no reason why we should not put this view into effect. For example, we could make it a condition of Luton's licence that it cannot have more than a certain amount of traffic. There are all sorts of ways in which we could intervene if we thought it proper to do so.

The crux of the Roskill case lies in its arguments about cost. The essential line in the whole of the Report is that which shows a £207 million disadvantage in passenger user cost in its cost benefit analysis. If one could get rid of that, the cost balance would be in favour of Foulness.

In any event, this analysis contained certain fallacies. For example, the attempt to cost passenger time has been legitimately criticised. Is it fair to say that businessmen travel only in working hours? I think not. I also believe—I hesitate to tread such complex ground—that there were fallacies in the gravity model that was used. For example, Professor Peter Self argued that they were counting the cost on accessibility three times over; the money cost, the time cost and the loss of potential passengers cost. I will not develop this point.

Even supposing that Roskill is right—and one must accept that it is right—in saying that Foulness would be more expensive, we must consider whether this is a price that we are prepared to pay. In particular, we should take into account the possibility of using Foulness to relieve the appalling burden of night flying, with its endless noise, at Gatwick, Heathrow and elsewhere. In other words, it is a reasonable argument for Foulness to say that we could channel there a great deal of the tiresome traffic which now goes elsewhere.

In short, Roskill was haunted by the fear of having a white elephant—of having another Dulles Airport—and perhaps it was right to have had that fear. However, it should have been haunted by something else, and that is the fear of destroying a marvellous place and its life.

In the past year I have come to know this area extremely well. As I explained, I now have a house at Aston Abbotts, and perhaps I should declare this as an interest, though it is only a rented house. I have come to know that this is a place which has vitality. It is made up of living communities, and the sheer force and effectiveness of their protest is contributing to the vitality of the place.

It is an area of exceptional beauty, including the road in my constituency which runs to Waddesdon, about which Professor Buchanan wrote movingly. Another road matches it, and that is the one that runs from Weedon to Aston Abbotts, where I live, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon), with its views across the Vale of Aylesbury. This and other local spots are breathtaking. If one walks down the road to my house, and then down a muddy field, one suddenly comes across a vista spread out which really takes one's breath away. To my mind, it is heart-rending that this might be destroyed. But, in a sense, that is nothing, for I have been there only a short time. I can move and go somewhere else. But the people who have been there, they and their forebears, for centuries in this tight community have a stake in it which it would be totally criminal to destroy.

I hope that by our debate today and the recent debate in another place, the Government will be persuaded that it would, as Professor Buchanan said, be an environmental disaster to select Cublington, and I very much hope that when he winds up tonight my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will join in that well known slogan and say, "No to Wing airport".

10.20 p.m.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

This has been a somewhat emotive debate because the environmental circumstances have in many instances overcome the practical considerations in this whole case. As one would have expected, we have heard some strong constituency political arguments against the selection of certain areas for the construction of the third London airport.

I shall dwell upon my own constituency, because the selection of Foulness has been strongly supported by several of my hon. Friends. I had the impression that, so long as they could get the airport away from their own back yard, they did not care one bit in whose back yard it was put.

For my part, I assert unequivocally—I know that several of my hon. Friends from North-East Kent agree—that we shall have no conceivable economic benefit from Foulness but the people of that whole area will suffer very much of the distress which many hon. Members who have urged the choice of Foulness now suffer or would suffer. I hope, therefore, that others will accept that we in North-East Kent are extremely interested in this matter.

We have heard little of the economic arguments in the case. My right hon. Friend's difficulty is to balance the environmental considerations with the pure economics of the matter. Let us be frank about it. What we are proposing for a third London airport is a huge economic concept. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Of course, an international airport is a large economic concept. This is why the British Airports Authority is told that it must make a profit out of the airports which we have.

I have made inquiries about it, and there are matters here which my right hon. Friend ought to take into consideration. The international airlines and both B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. are firmly against Foulness.

Mr. Hastings


Mr. Burden

Yes, they are. My hon. Friend has had to say. No one interrupted him. I ask him now to hear the other side. The airlines do not like the idea of Foulness because of the conditions and circumstances which will prevail there.

Mr. Hastings


Mr. Burden

If my hon. Friend will keep as quiet while others are speaking as others kept quiet when he was speaking, he will help us to get on.

The Foulness site is about 50 miles from London. Road and rail communications are extremely difficult. It is in the most congested rail area in the whole of the South-East, and considerable new road construction will be needed. In view of what we are told, it is impossible at this stage to envisage how British Rail could possibly provide an efficient rail communication to Foulness.

I have been reliably informed that the cost would be in the region of £500 million. That is quite a reasonable assessment, if we take into consideration the necessary road construction.

We see from the Roskill Report that there is some doubt about what construction difficulties could be found at Foulness and what might happen there during construction. The Commission could not arrive at a firm decision on the cost of construction because of the circumstances. Moreover, because of the fog that is quite prevalent there it is almost inevitable that in addition to the normal fire services an air-sea rescue service would have to be maintained. I am convinced that the international airlines would insist upon that in any case. In addition, there would have to be constant supervision and in many instances repair of the sea wall. In view of all those factors, it is on the cards that the airport would economically be a permanent heavy-loss airport. Apart from the environmental considerations, the country now has to bear in mind the economic circumstances more firmly than it ever has done

I repeat the airline operators do not want the airport at Foulness. My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) made it perfectly clear that his constituents and his part of the county are not in favour of it, and the county of Kent, which will have no conceivable economic advantage, is definitely against it.

Therefore, we should look into the whole question of whether a large new four-runway London airport is necessary. Circumstances have changed even since Roskill started to form its opinions. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look at the circumstances as they are today and as they will probably prevail in a few years' time. There is no doubt that STOL is one of the necessities of future aircraft development in the interests of the whole world. If my right hon. Friend permitted an additional runway at Gatwick—here I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit)—and another runway at London Airport, and could save the cost of a new four-runway airport, it might well be that the Government could afford to give assistance in the development of a STOL aircraft, which would be of great benefit.

Quite a number of hon. Members seem to say, "It does not matter where else you have a new airport, it does not matter who else is subject to a lot of noise, as long as it is not us." There is a great impetus among aircraft manufacturers to reduce engine noise. The 747 is much quieter than the 707. It might well be desirable and practicable to put more flights into existing airfields with a diminution of the noise of individual aircraft rather than to spread new noise over a vast new area. This should be given very serious consideration.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will also give careful consideration to the establishment of a body to look into the whole question of a national airports policy.

I ask my right hon. Friend to do so because—no one has mentioned this today—general aviation has grown and is growing at the moment faster than the airlines' scheduled services. Corporate aircraft ownership is growing very rapidly in this country as well. 1 believe that this should also be taken into consideration in future planning. The Government should look at this point closely, and certainly in the context of the saturation of Heathrow and Gatwick. At the moment, both of them are used for general aviation, including corporate aircraft, and probably that would help to increase the availability of slotting scheduled aircraft into these two major airports. I ask him to look at the possibility of making available another airfield in London, perhaps Northolt, developing it perhaps for light, twin-engined aircraft which are having to use Heathrow at the moment for customs clearance when they go on international flights. That, I believe, would help.

Mr. Ernle Money (Ipswich)


Mr. Burden

No. I am sorry but I want other hon. Members to get in as well.

I come back to the major point that there has been a lot of talk about Foulness because it would remove from the political difficulties of several of my hon. Friends the fact that other sites are being considered. I ask them to look at the disadvantages, not only to those who would be affected by the siting of an airport there, but also through the difficulties in operation and construction. They must also consider the impossibility of making it a viable economic prospect. If they do think in these terms, I am sure that they would think again.

10.33 p.m.

Mr. Charles Simeons (Luton)

For several weeks we have been concentrating our attention on ensuring that Rolls-Royce engines continue to power our aircraft. Today our thoughts have gone in another direction. Half the hon. Members here have said not that they do not want our aircraft but that they do not want them to fly over their back gardens. The other half have been totally honest and have said, "Send them to Luton". I have a vested interest. I live at the end of the runway at Luton.

My attitude is not just that I do not want noise but that I believe that there is immense danger in congested areas. Also at the end of the Luton runway is Vauxhall Motors, which employs 20,000 people. Again, it is not only the congestion which worries me, but the insurance especially, and this is a point which no one has mentioned but which is immensely important. It has a greater effect than anything else in deciding where our airports should be.

For the sake of the argument, I will take the figures Vauxhall Motors gave the inquiry on Luton Airport. The greatest number of people working there to be concentrated in one building is in AC block, at the end of the runway. Altogether, 5,500 people work in it. Next door is the canteen, which can house 3,000 people at once. Vauxhall Motors has insured its plant and equipment for £97 million. If there were to be an accident, what would the situation be? My right hon. Friend would rightly point out that the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, gives total liability to the insurers. What aircraft company or airline is insured for this expense?

In February, 1970, when there was a different "management"—although I have no reason to believe that the policy has altered—I put a Question to the Minister of State as to what the compensation would be. Suppose that 3,000 people were maimed, which is not a very high proportion out of 8,500. If we look at recent awards made by the courts it will be seen that £25,000 for an individual award is not out of the way. I have spoken to a friend in the insurance business today and he has confirmed that this is not unreasonable. It depends on age. To begin with, then, we have com- pensation of £75 million. If we add to that the consequential loss of profits, it would not be difficult to get to £100 million.

A letter I received about this said: I can confirm that Section 40(2) of the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, imposes an absolute and unlimited liability upon the owner of an aircraft in respect of damage caused to persons or property on the ground. This applies to United Kingdom and foreign registered aircraft alike. United Kingdom legislation does not require an airline to insure against this liability or against its liability towards its passengers. The Air Transport Licensing Board, however, is required by Section 2 of the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act, 1960, to take into account the provision made against these liabilities by a United Kingdom airline before granting it an air service licence. The requirements imposed upon foreign airlines by their own governments vary in this respect, but so far as United Kingdom legislation is concerned a foreign airline could operate into Luton Airport without insurance against the absolute liability imposed upon it by Section 40(2) of the Civil Aviation Act, 1949. Imagine a foreign aircraft seeking permission to land. There might be an emergency. The town clerk is in no position to ask: "Are you insured?" One gets out the fire tender and copes with the consequences at the end.

It would be easy for me, in terms of the Roskill Report, to say that I support Cublington because this would shut Luton down. I believe that would be quite wrong. I believe if for no reasons other than the ones I have mentioned—and not because I am at the end of the runway—that all airports should be based on the water's edge. We shall immensely reduce the hazard that I have mentioned if that is done. I hope that my right hon. Friends will look into the matter very quickly.

10.38 p.m.

Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)

I am a little puzzled by the different reports we get about Luton Airport. Earlier someone said that Luton Corporation had all the plans ready to put in a runway able to take jumbo-jets if necessary. Presumably there is strong feeling in the Luton area about the expansion of the airport.

There seems to be some sort of an unholy alliance building up—which I find difficult to understand—among those who are seriously affected by existing airports and those who are saying that the airport should go to Foulness rather than to Cublington. It seems that if we are to take any notice of the Roskill Report at all, and a large number of hon. Members seem to be ready to ignore it, then we must look at what is said about the likely expansion of air traffic at Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton. It is important to choose the site of the next airport in such a way that, if possible, we can reduce the burden on the people living in the vicinity of these airports.

The Commission is quite clear on this. It says: An airport at Cublington or Thurleigh would effectively bring to an end air transport operations at Luton. An airport at Foulness would encourage further growth of such operations at Luton. It may be that one or two hon. Members will say that they do not like Luton Airport but we cannot alter the commercial fact of life that it seems that Luton Corporation wants it to go on expanding, and presumably the airlines want it to go on expanding, too. This authoritarian note creeping into the Conservative benches strikes me as a little out of place. They are saying that we should prevent the airlines from using Gatwick, Heathrow or Luton and force them to go to an airport they know to be uneconomic. The fact of life is that this new airport is designed and intended for commercial reasons.

The figure mentioned in Roskill is that we could have up to 100,000,000 passengers by the year 2000—an enormous figure. If we make a mistake on the siting of the airport, we shall be discouraging large numbers of people from travelling to it and large numbers of airlines from using it. No matter how many Government edicts are issued, the commercial facts of life are that people will not go where they do not want to go.

Many hon. Members on both sides of the House talk about increasing exports, invisible exports and prosperity. We cannot do that unless we ensure that we have airports in the right places which will continue to attract tourists and commercial visitors.

I have so far referred only to Luton. But it was equally clear that Roskill regarded the Foulness site as the site least likely to help the people in the Gatwick, Luton and Heathrow areas.

We cannot ignore blithely everything that Roskill has said. For instance, it said: The choice of Foulness would undoubtedly increase the already powerful attraction of Heathrow and Gatwick to air traffic and to airlines. Hon. Members who represent those constituencies and some hon. Members who advocate that the airport should be at Foulness are doing some disservice to their constituents. There is this unusual unselfishness appearing in the debate. But if we are talking of creating a national airports policy, which obviously sounds logical and attractive, it does not alter the fact that we have to make unpalatable decisions; namely, whether we have a second runway at Gatwick, and where we locate the next London airport. A national airports policy cannot alter that fact and would probably be based on those two decisions.

If people accept the logic that there should be a national pattern, they must also consider the logic that when one considers the noise impact of a new airport one should take into account the consequent effects on other airports as well. This is where Roskill is absolutely right to add the noise impact on people at Luton together with those who would suffer from an airport at Foulness. The total of those two airports would mean without a shadow of doubt that Foulness would be as near as environmental disaster to the people of Essex and Kent as any of the other short-listed sites.

I refute the point made by the hon. Member for Action (Mr. Spearing) when he suggested that the Roskill Commission was biased against Foulness. That is, clearly, unfair, and unlikely, because the one thing Roskill would have liked to do would have been to pick a site which commended general and widespread support and did not invite an immense hostile reaction. It was clear that people generally—for a long time I was one of them—had the idea that the offshore estuary site would be a no-noise airport. Roskill would have loved to commend this to the country but the facts of life were absolutely against it. There is a saying that "Nothing in life is more tragic than the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of brutal facts." That is exactly what happened.

Roskill established, beyond doubt, that the Foulness airport was unacceptable, not just in terms of distance but because of the massive additional construction costs—a second motorway, new rail links, and so on; because it would have heavier initial construction costs, would cause just as much environmental damage as the inland sites, and would be unattractive to passengers and airlines. On all those grounds the Commission made an effective case. That is why I deplore the way in which those who understandably are loth to see the airport go to Cublington have said that, regardless of all these considerations, the airport should go to Foulness. They do not do their case much good by posing this as the alternative to Cublington.

A large number of hon. Members have avoided this battle between the two sites and have tried to look outside Roskill for a general solution. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment would certainly increase his popularity in the country if he could find a solution outside Roskill. However, the opening remarks of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade gave me the impression that it would be one of these four sites. If it has to be one of these four sites, then the Roskill recommendations must be accepted.

It has been 10 years since the Estimates Committee said that it was urgent that we had a third London airport. There have been White Papers and reports, millions of pounds have been spent, and tens of millions of words have been uttered. We are still in a state of total confusion and uncertainty. The mind of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has hardly been helped by the number of different opinions which have been advanced today. We have had this objective Report. Yet the views which have been expressed are: we should have a one-runway airport; we should have a two-runway airport; we should have a four-runway airport; it should be any one of the four sites; or it should be none of them.

The only objective opinion that exists is one that has been obtained at enormous cost. It is the only objective opinion that we are likely to get. In these circumstances the only politically sensible exercise to perform is to accept the judgment of the Commission.

As the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) said, the question of noise is crucial. Many hon. Members have said that we must stop night flights at inland sites and transfer them to Foulness. I remind those hon. Members that thousands of people on the North Kent coast and in Essex would suffer just as much from noise. This problem is not solved by transferring an environmental disaster from one county to another. Therefore, we should accept the Commission's recommendation, if it is not possible to find a solution outside it.

10.48 p.m.

Mr. Peter Hordern (Horsham)

My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) will not be surprised to hear that I do not agree with him; nor am I in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden).

Rather surprisingly, I found myself in agreement with the speech of the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland). The right hon. Gentleman's views seemed to be quite different from those which he expressed, or which he was reported as having expressed, some time ago. I was glad to hear his speech today and surprised that he is the only representative of the Labour Party present now.

One of the main difficulties facing the Government is that the worst, most damaging and most expensive decision of all is to allow any further delay in reaching a conclusion on this issue. That is why I heartily welcome the tone of the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade. If they meant anything at all, they meant that he has decided that a third London airport will be constructed as soon as possible and that he will announce where it is to be built as soon as he has had a opportunity to consider the debate. That is at once the best and the most important decision to make.

From it flow a number of consequences which are well brought out by the Roskill Commission, and which I believe are irrefutable. First, the Commission did not accept the British Airports Authority's high forecasts of the growth of traffic, which were, clearly, based on a number of unjustifiable arguments. It is also clear, incidentally, that the Airports Authority is in any case moved by a desire to make the best use of existing assets, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham referred, and the Government search for the best long-term solution cannot be governed by that consideration.

Secondly, the Commission clearly found that the earliest date by which additional capacity—that is beyond Heathrow, beyond Gatwick with one runway, Luton and Stansted—would be required would be 1981, and that the first runway of a third London airport at any of the four sites, including Foulness, could be operational before then. The Commission was, therefore, unable to accept the view that in estimating the timing of the need for a third London airport it should accept the construction of a second runway at Gatwick—and quite right, too. The conclusion on this point is quite plain in Roskill.

I have listened with great interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) in his eloquent defence of the countryside round his constituency, but the Roskill Commission made the point that existing airports are in general less well sited in relation to residential areas than are the four recommended sites. It is this point which I wish to develop for a moment.

My constituents already suffer as much as, if not more than, anybody else from aircraft noise at night. If a second runway were built at Gatwick the noise shadow would pass over a large section of Crawley New Town, and the noise levels round Horsham, particularly at night, would be intolerable. The noise problem is already well known. What is not so well known is the effect that the building of a new runway at Gatwick would have on my constituency and on the general environment of West Sussex.

Six months ago the County Councils of West Sussex, East Sussex and Surrey published the Crawley/Gatwick Sub-regional study. This showed that existing plans allowed for an increase of 113,000 people between 1966 and 1981, or 30 per cent., simply to allow for the growth of service and manufacturing industry already present. But if the British Airports Authority's draft land use plan which incorporates a second runway at Gatwick were allowed, an extra 90,000 people would be superimposed by 1981. Such expansion is quite unthinkable for two reasons.

First, the character of my constituency would be completely ruined for all time. It would no longer be a rural countryside, but a great bit of ugly noisy agglomerate, or series of agglomerates, and the effect on West Sussex would be far more profound than on any of the other sites mentioned in the Roskill Report.

Secondly, the natural growth of Crawley would be brought to a halt. I cannot believe that it is the intention of the Government to stunt the development of Crawley industry, with its good record of growth and in exports, but there is no question that that would be the effect. Gatwick would be competing for the same labour force at Crawley, and the existing constraint on growth at Crawley would mean a firm limit to the expansion of Crawley's industry. It cannot be the Minister's intention to make such nonsense of his strategy for the new town.

For once, reason, logic, evidence, proof and the natural inclination of the Minister to carry out his principal duty—that is, to preserve the environment—all march in the same direction, that there should be no second runway at Gatwick, and that an early decision should be made on London's third airport.

10.54 p.m.

Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)

I have the utmost sympathy for those people who are defending Foulness, and making a very brave show of it, because I live near London Airport and know exactly what this problem amounts to. I speak for the people who live round London Airport, and, in particular, for my constituents.

The decision not to build a third London airport would be an absolute disaster for all those millions of people affected by London Airport. On the other hand, I agree with Professor Buchanan that to choose Cublington would be "an act of madness". I do not agree with several hon. Members who said that we should now have a great inquest on whether there should be a national airports policy.

I believe that in the public debate which has taken place in the last few months following the Roskill Report, there is now a consensus that there should be no new development of inland sites, either by new construction or by the development of traffic at existing sites.

I went to Cublington to look at the site there. The first thing that struck me was the hilly nature of the countryside where the airport would be sited. I cannot believe that any member of the Roskill Commission, apart from Professor Buchanan, actually went on the ground and saw this site. There are 200 ft. differences between the tops of the hills and the bottoms of the valleys. Of all four sites, this one is the "little Switzerland". It seems inconceivable that whole villages of 1,200 and 700 inhabitants, with Norman and Saxon churches, should be bulldozed away to make way for this airport. Never, not even in wartime, did we suggest or carry out any works of this sort.

We read a great deal in the Press about saving great pictures and other works of art. The greatest work of art in this country is the English landscape, which is one of our most treasured possessions. There is nothing like it in Europe. We in our generation have destroyed a great deal in two world wars, including much of beauty in the major cities of Europe. I believe that the saving of this area of countryside between London and Birmingham can be our moment and that future generation will say "This at least they saved."

If I may take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), it can be seen from looking at the map that the Foulness site is more or less an island or at least peninsula—certainly as much of a peninsula as is Hongkong in relation to mainland China. I have great sympathy for my hon. Friend's point of view. On the matter of bird strike, I would bet him that I have more sea gulls on morning and evening flights between the gravel pits and rubbish heaps than my hon. Friend has Brent geese between the mud flats and potato fields.

I believe the time has come to regard human needs as of as much importance as economic needs, and, indeed, more so. We need a reassertion by human beings of our basic rights for a reasonable life and for survival. If the decision goes the right way, it will be a triumph for man over materialism and perhaps the dawn of a new and more hopeful era.

10.57 p.m.

Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)

Although I have been preparing this speech for three months, I shall try to condense it into three minutes.

My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) said that we cannot force an airline or airline passengers to go where they do not want to go. Are we not approaching the time when we shall have to start thinking of telling airlines where to go? My hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) mentioned the situation in Washington, which highlights the appalling situation in a great city with two airports. One airport in Washington which is a long way from the centre is not much used, and the other, which is near the centre of the city is much used and creates appalling difficulties. The time is coming when the national airport there will be closed and Dulles will be used and those concerned will have to provide a swift form of land transport.

The question of airport location involves the whole matter of zoning. If the British Airports Authority has its way, the third London Airport would be in the middle of Hyde Park. We must put the B.A.A. in perspective. It is people who count, and they should have a chance to have their say. The choice of an airport must be made where people want it to go and not just where airlines want it to go.

I have been pursuing the Government for some months to try to find out the attitude to a national airports policy. I do not want to embarass any of my hon. and right hon. Friend, but a certain amount of confusion is in evidence. One answer which I received recently from the Department of Trade and Industry to a question about a Severnside airport was: It is, in the first instance, for local interests and authorities to consider whether a new airport is required to serve the needs of this area."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th January, 1971, Vol. 809, c. 185–6.] I am waiting for Mangotsfield and Chipping Sodbury councils to put in their claims for an airport. If we run our airports policy in this way, then every parish council can put in its claim.

When I asked the Minister for Trade whether his Department would initiate a nationally co-ordinated policy for the location of airports, he replied: No, but preliminary economic studies are being undertaken by the Department in the light of which we can decide whether such action seems necessary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December. 1971; Vol. 808, c. 318.] As the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) said this is a question of a national airport planning policy, yet it seems as if the Department is only now beginning to think about whether it should be thinking about it. The thinking should stop and acting should start.

We all know that noise is a problem. In a somewhat disturbing answer which I received from the Department of Trade and Industry to another Question on 18th January about aircraft noise, I was told: Studies so far carried out do not show any definite link between aircraft noise and illhealth."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th January, 1971; Vol. 809, c. 171.] More study is clearly needed there.

Four Roskill sites, three unacceptable inland sites and one unsuitable coastal site is my impression of what Roskill has come up with. I entirely reject an inland site, and Foulness seems ridiculous, since it would mean all the traffic from the rest of the country pouring through London. We know the attitude of the airlines to Foulness; it is not acceptable to them at all.

There is a fundamental difference in the attitude of people in the South-East to airports and the attitude of those in the rest of the country. It is significant that people in Yorkshire, Lancashire and the West Country want an airport: people in the South-East do not seem to want another airport. If we were to close down Heathrow and Gatwick, is it not possible that the millions of people who use the two London airports might find the journey to Manchester, as the nearest airport available for international flight, a little inconvenient?

If there is no inland airport, please can we get the right coastal site? Severn-side is a site which has been mentioned, not by myself, initially in this debate. The M4 and M5 motorways will interchange at Almondsbury. They will be opened in 12 months from now and will put Birmingham and London within motorway travelling distance of such an airport. British Rail will—not "may"—be introducing its advanced passenger train on the London—Bristol main line for operational service by 1978. As the first Chairman of the Brunel Society, I am proud to say that this is because of the foresight of Brunel, who built the line to the broad gauge. Thus, the trains will be separate on tracks, and will be able to move at speed. Severnside will be one hour from Central London in six or seven years.

As we in the West Country are building Concorde, we accept the responsibility for having an airport in the area where Concorde can be flown and aimed across the Atlantic.

I plead with the Government for only one thing. Let us not have the wrong site now when surely it is better to look for the right coastal site later.

11.5 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)

I make one short plea to my right hon. Friend. In view of the lessons which have been learned from London Airport, I ask my right hon. Friend to make an early decision to start constructing a third London airport. The lessons which we have learned from London Airport are absolutely conclusive. My constituency has been almost completely ruined by the flight paths of no fewer than 288,000 aircraft movements a year. If another runway were to be built at London Airport, that figure could rise to 400,000.

Windsor is in the green belt. Yet people find it almost impossible to live there without having their windows closed all day; they have no sleep at night, and they can never, at the weekends, have any form of relaxation without a constant stream of aircraft noise. My constituents genuinely feel that life is becoming intolerable and that many parts of the constituency are no longer a desirable residential area.

That being so, I suggest that my right hon. Friend should make some alternative arrangement to take some of the burden from my constituents. As soon as the new airport is constructed, I suggest that most of the night flights and all of the Sunday flights from London Airport and, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) said, from Gatwick, should be transferred to the new airport I do not want to reiterate my hon. Friend's excellent argument for Gatwick. I think that our arguments are similar, but the case of London Airport is greater because the amount of traffic is greater.

In view of the lessons which we have learned from London Airport, I believe that unless a coastal site is chosen there will be the same noise problem created elsewhere. Therefore, my right hon. Friend's choice is limited to a coastal site.

I shall not go into the merits of Foulness or anywhere else. However, I believe that it is possible, with modern means of transport, with the existing two railways coming into London, by extending them and building a monorail and perhaps combining a monorail and road link, to travel from Foulness within a reasonable time to London. It is no use saying that international air carriers will not go there. If we provide good facilities and speedy travel from the terminal to London then the air companies will go there. I know that they cannot be forced to go there, but if we provide proper facilities they will go there from choice.

I think that what we want from my right hon. Friend is an early decision on a coastal site and, what is more, alleviation of the misery caused by aircraft noise to people living in areas surrounding not only London Airport but Gatwick and Luton. Let them see that the Government are capable of appreciating the misery and suffering which they are enduring and are helping to solve it now.

11.8 p.m.

Mr. R. A. McCrindle (Billericay)

A large number of hon. Members have, understandably, spoken from a constituency viewpoint. I shall be no exception. However, I shall perhaps be one of the very few who will give a qualified welcome to the prospect of the third London airport being settled on one of the two sites which are fairly close to my constituency.

It seems to me that hon. Members who have spoken so far are divided between those who just want the whole idea of a third London airport to go away—some-what like a bad smell—and those who, sensing that it will not go away, are trying to convince themselves that it will not, after all, be needed. I am sure that it is needed, unless life around existing airports is to become completely intolerable. I am equally sure that if it is needed, a decision must be taken by the Government at a very early date. For a great many years now we have had the continuing charade of, first, Stan-stead, then Cublington, now Foulness, and who knows where tomorrow.

My constituency is not far from Foulness. I regret that I must part company from my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), who presented his case against Foulness in the rumbustious manner which caused me to recollect an eve of the poll meeting that he addressed on my behalf.

Like most hon. Members, I feel that if the third London airport comes to Foulness, I have to concede that life in my constituency and the surrounding area will not be, and cannot ever be, quite the same as it is today. Yet, taking a balanced view and trying to see it from a national standpoint, I believe that bringing the airport to Foulness would cause less upset to the life of the community in Essex and, dare I say, in Kent, though I understand their point of view, than would be the lot of people in the Cublington area.

From that angle, and from all the conversations that I have had, I believe that Foulness is acceptable by and large to many of the people in my area. In fact, one can see some marginal advantages in terms of better roads to London, and so on. But, while the amenity of the area is vital if life is to retain some quality, it is the prosperity of the area which is of special concern to me. I believe that southern Essex has to expand its industrial activity, no matter where the third London airport goes. But, if it is to be Foulness and if the deep water port and the industrial development area are part of the decision, the prosperity of the people in my area is more assured.

My views on the effect on my constituency are as follows. First, I do not believe that the effect on the amenity of the area is as great as Essex opponents of Foulness would have us believe. Secondly, the hastening of improved communications to London is to be welcomed. Thirdly, if the right site at Foulness is chosen, the noise factor, which is a real point to bear in mind, should be little greater than the present effect on the people of the area arising from summer holiday traffic. I base that on the best information that I have been able to obtain. Fourthly, the associated industrial development must be of great benefit to the people in the area and could bring to an end the situation whereby Essex has been the step-child of the Home Counties for far too long.

In wider national terms, I believe that the gloomy predictions that Foulness will not be used by the airlines and that it will turn out to be a white elephant are quite unjustified. There will be every reason to use Foulness airport if the communications to London are better from there than they are from Heathrow or Gatwick. It is up to the Government, if they decide to site the airport at Foulness, to make sure that they are.

From a local and national viewpoint, my vote, albeit in a qualified fashion, goes to FQulness. In saying that, I am probably the first hon. Member moderately to welcome the prospect of the airport coming to the area which I represent.

Finally, I urge the Government to end the uncertainty of years and give a decision at a very early date.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)

I suggest, having listened to the entire debate, that tonight's argument boils down to one question: who wants the noise of a third London airport in his constituency? Indeed, if nothing else comes out of this debate, I hope that the occupants of the Government Front Bench now appreciate how many of us feel about this sort of noise and that some of us believe that aircraft noise has not been treated with the seriousness it deserves.

Over the years we have tended to regard this question along with the whole problem of noise, as something we must put up with because there is no cure. It is now suggested that if only we can move this projected new airport away from an inland site, we can relieve ourselves of the noise burden. Let us not kid ourselves into believing that the siting of a third London airport will make any difference to the suffering of the people who now live near Heathrow, Gatwick, Lydd, Luton or any other airport. The situation will, I regret to say, remain as it is for another 10 years, for this new airport will not be operational until 1981.

Some suggest that we need only find a coastal site for this airport and this intolerable noise level will be diminished and all will be well. Roskill never argued that the establishment of a third London airport would solve the noise problem. I would draw the House's attention to some words used by Lord Kings Norton in the other place during their Lordship's debate because they relate to a factor which has not been mentioned in this debate. The noble Lord is an expert on aeronautics and is Chairman of the Air Registration Board, the body which will implement the Noise Certification Act which we passed last year. He said that the noise and number index which Roskill quoted was that used in Sir Alan Wilson's 1963 Report on "The Problems of Noise". After explaining the complicated mathematical formula which makes up this index he said and I quote if you already have a high frequency of occurrence of noise, the increase of frequency will be less and less noticed the more and more the frequency increases. In other words, where it is bad, you cannot make it much worse."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 23rd February, 1971; Vol. 315, c. 988.] Set against that argument, our belief that existing noise levels at London airports will be greatly changed by an airport which will start coming into service in perhaps 10 years' time seems somewhat futile. I would rather be told that the £500 million—or is it really £1,000 million?—that will be spent on this airport will be spent on retro-fitting existing aircraft or in providing "hush kits" for the fleets of B.E.A. and B.O.A.C., or at any rate on something that could make an immediate difference to the noise burden.

The next question which we must consider if we are to accept that Roskill's arguments for a third London Airport hold water is to ask whether the forecast of aircraft movements made by him for the 1980's is correct or whether it is based on an assumption which has clouded this debate, and that is that the environmental unpleasantness of noise and the attended evils of aircraft are such that the British Airports Authority or the Government will not have the courage to develop the existing airports around London to their full capacity.

If we do develop these airports to their full capacity, Roskill's saturation figure of 480,000 aircraft movements by 1980, no longer holds good because B.E.A. has estimated that London's airports, assuming a second runway at Gatwick, could take in 650,000 movements. This means that we would not be reaching saturation level until 1985.

It is important to bear that date in mind because it is the date when a V.T.O. airliner could be operational. My right hon. Friend suggested that there were some special difficulties with developing a civil vertical take-off aircraft. Are there? Dornier has not found them, with its civil V.T.O. aircraft although I admit it is a test vehicle. Hawker Siddeley has not found them with its Harrier, or Shorts with its SC1. But apparently my right hon. Friend has found some insuperable difficulties.

I remind the House that Hawker Siddeley presented a brochure to the Roskill Commission in which it argued that there was no insuperable difficulty in developing a vertical take-off aircraft and said that one could become operational in the mid-1980's.

Again, on the short take-off and landing argument, my right hon. Friend must know that the French flew the Breguet 941 in about 1965—I flew in it myself—and that it is this aircraft which the Americans are at this moment evaluating.

If, as I believe, we stand on the brink of one of the greatest technological breakthroughs in aviation, namely, getting rid of the runway and making aircraft lift vertically, what is the use of wasting £1,000 million on an airport which for 10 years can make no difference either to the noise problem or to aircraft movement in the United Kingdom.

I put it to the Government that they have 10 years in which to decide whether Roskill's rather dubious forecast is true. If they have so much money to spend on what seems to me such a doubtful proposition, why not do something which will really change the environment of our land? Why not take a step towards the future, not by laying down miles of concrete runway and imagining that we can avoid the noise difficulties by choosing a coastal site, but by developing that technological breakthrough in which Britain now has a lead over every other nation in the world?

11.21 p.m.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)

It is difficult to follow such a moving, eloquent and technically well argued speech as that just delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson), but I wish to remind the House of Professor Buchanan's Note of Dissent and the fundamental point which he made in stressing the grave disadvantage under which the Commission laboured in not having a regional airports policy first.

Professor Buchanan emphasised that the North and the Midlands had been grossly overlooked. As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) pointed out, there is a larger population, a larger catchment area, from the industrial North than from the South-East.

Professor Buchanan argued the matter well. He said: … a good case could be argued first, for locating a new airport in an area where it will help to create equality of wealth and opportunity, and second, for ensuring that it does not tend to concentrate still more activities in the London area to the possible impoverishment of the rest of the country. By this reasoning I think a case could be developed for not putting the so-called third London airport in the south-east at all, but for locating it in the central regions. I heartily agree, and I think that the arguments put by my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade bear that view out. My right hon. Friend said that for tourism we should need a new third London airport. I suggest not, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit). My hon. Friend pointed out, as did the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel), that inclusive tour and charter operations should increasingly be concentrated on the regions. This is right. Tourism should not necessarily gravitate inexorably to London.

My right hon. Friend said that business traffic, export work and freight must inexorably gravitate to London. That is not so, either, as my hon. Friend the Member for Epping said.

It has been an amazing feature of this debate that the more expert people are in aviation the more convinced they are that the third London airport is not necessary. The same was true of the debate in the other place. The noble Lords Lord Beswick, Lord Kinnoul and Lord Kings Norton all argued the same case. The Beswick case, if I may so call it, that Foulness, which some see as a solution without tears, would in fact be a gross misuse of public funds."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 23rd February, 1971; Vol. 315, c. 939.] is an admirable summary of the matter. The point was well put by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East, who emphasised the importance of channelling this great financial investment correctly. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Trade suggested that we must not think that we can stop the world and get off. That is exactly what my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East said. He pointed out that we should be spending £500 to £800 million on technical developments to make a third London airport unnecessary. So did Sir Barnes Wallis in a cogent letter in The Times on 28th January. Over the past quarter of a century Sir Barnes has shown more expertise and wisdom in matters aeronautical than probably 500 Members of Parliament in half a century.

To summarise the point which Sir Barnes made in his letter, we should spend the money—which could be 100 times the amount to be spent on, say, family income supplement or as much as the cost of Concorde—on producing vertical take-off and landing aircraft, the silencing of jet engines, the planning of an ideal airport on a regional basis with short runways, or, lastly but not to be overlooked, on the further development of computerised methods of air traffic control, which is the key to the whole problem.

I ask my right hon. Friend not to overlook what I call the domino effect, so eloquently and movingly put by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. Denzil Davies). If the airport is situated at Foulness, not only will South-East Essex suffer, but another wilderness like Foulness and Maplin Sands, where the Brent Goose lives, will be destroyed. The south-west coast of Wales is a far more beautiful and lovely place even than Maplin Sands. That the industrial population of Wales should lose their best outlet to the sea and recreation is a monstrous scandal. Therefore, we should not forget the domino effect. We should pay regard to the technical possibilities.

I remind my right hon. Friend that when he forbade the extension of the Leeds/ Bradford runway at a cost of £900,000 as opposed to the cost of £500 million to build a four-runway airport, he took pride in the fact that he was the first Minister to refuse an airport runway extension on the ground of noise. I am sure that he is not likely to take pride in having created a monstrous airport of four runways of inter-continental status.

11.28 p.m.

Mr. William Rodgers (Stockton-on-Tees)

We have had a very full debate. We have managed to get as many speeches—40—under your guidance, Mr. Speaker, as Members of the House of Lords got in during two days. Some speeches have been passionate. All have been very serious. But they have been good humoured as well. We had the most relevant and effective speech from the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel.) We have become so accustomed to seeing him about this place that some of us were surprised to learn that he had not made his maiden speech before today. We hope to hear him speak on many future occasions.

I felt that when my hon. Friends spoke they were intruding on a private quarrel, because the debate has been marked by a great willingness by hon. Members opposite to do each other down. The main object of almost all the speeches was to demonstrate that, whereas there might be a case for a third London airport, it did not matter where it was provided it was not in one's own constituency. This is a very reasonable view to take, but it has meant that speeches have not been marked by their objectivity. We heard in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. Denzil Davies) what the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) interestingly called the domino approach—a contribution to the language of airport planning which I congratulate him on.

We have also heard some very interesting domestic details. We have heard of the mother-in-law of the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren), of the brother-in-law of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and of the cousin of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), who, alas, died in the great Essex floods of 1953. The overwhelming wish, which was well expressed by the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. McCrindle), was that the problem would go away altogether. We all wish that there did not have to be a third airport anywhere, and that is what we shall fervently pray tonight before we go to bed.

The hon. Member for Hastings thought that Northern France was the right place. The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden) talked of a noise-transference society, and the hon. Member for Wavertree made the most interesting suggestion that people might fly from Manchester to Liverpool to continue the journey to London by rail. If I may make a contribution, I think that there is a very strong case for Ronaldsway, Isle of Man, which is only half a day by surface travel from the centre of London.

It was only the hon. Member for Billericay late in the day, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling), who advocated Thorne Waste, which I thought was mainly marsh land in which jumbo-jets would quickly sink; and the hon. Member for Wavertree who showed any interest at all. But I would say to the hon. Member for Wavertree that complaints about noise vary directly with the growth of traffic to the point of stalemate. If he were to succeed, as the charge of Liverpool Airport on the rates declined so his correspondence would vastly increase, because the truth is that people do not like airports losing money, but they do not like airports being noisy, because they do not like airports—precisely the point with which we have been trying to deal tonight.

The position falls very much between something said by the Minister for Trade in opening and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland). The right hon. Gentleman said that we cannot put the clock back and check the growth of aviation. I accept that wholly. It has been interesting today, whatever has been in the back of the minds of right hon. and hon. Members, that there has been some understanding that aviation is bound to grow and that it brings essential benefits. But my right hon. Friend said that we cannot predict the next century. As I think the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) implied, the decision must fall somewhere between the two—between not checking the growth of aviation but at the same time not trying to do more involving predicting the future and making decisions which are irreversible.

The decision, whatever form it may take, is one which the Government cannot evade. We cannot have the same debate on another Royal Commission in a year or two's time. It must be faced, however hard the decision may be.

There has been a very interesting vision of England today. It is attractive, but I wonder how true it is. England, as I understand it, is covered with Norman churches and ancient manor houses. They stand on the finest agricultural land. The country is surrounded by seas rich in rare shellfish and beautiful rare birds, and it is inhabited wholly by sturdy yeoman stock. Britain, in fact, has been miraculously preserved from time immemorial, and it is only the aeroplane which is causing any disturbance now. When I listened to the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) I thought that the ghost of William Cobbett rode again. Although I wish that that vision were true, it is not quite like the England that I know.

Amenity, the expansion of people's lives, and the widening of horizons does not mean only the preservation of the Vale of Aylesbury but also people travelling to places where they have never travelled before. It is a very good thing that more and more people are free to go to other countries and enjoy things previously denied them.

I appreciate entirely the deep unanimity of revulsion, to use a phrase of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), felt in many of the areas which he thought were challenged and threatened by the recommendations of the Roskill Commission or any of the alternative sites canvassed. I have rather more time for Mr. Justice Roskill than for Professor Buchanan. I prefer him when he is not trying to write prose poetry. I think he is talking a good deal better sense.

I agree with what my right hon. Friend said about Professor Peter Hall's comments on the Roskill Commission, and with what the hon. Member for Aylesbury said about the article in The Times by Professor Christopher Foster. Both have rightly pushed the balance back somewhat from where it swung during the discussion after the first announcement of the Commission's Report. I hope that as it swings—

Mr. Raison

Professor Hall came down against the Roskill Commission.

Mr. Rodgers

What my right hon. Friend said was that Professor Hall paid tribute to the Roskill Commission in that article and said that it had been challenged very unfairly on its analysis, which was a remarkable job of work. That is what Professor Hall said and it is that with which I agree. If the pendulum has been pushed back some way, I am glad. I think that Mr. Justice Roskill and his Commission have not always had justice done to them.

I express a personal opinion when I say that if—and I say "if" very clearly—the Government had to make a decision to have a four-runway airport on the original timetable, I should have accepted the Roskill Report. I should not in any circumstances accept Foulness as a way out. It is not an easy option and the passionate speech of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) helped to redress the balance against those who said that they did not want it for themselves and asked, therefore, whether it would please go somewhere else.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) that many arguments must be considered. I am not saying that the decision is simple. I am confirming all that was said in the Roskill Report and again today about the difficulty of the decision, but there is a case for Cublington, argued not only by the Roskill Commission, and it is certainly not right to rebound from Cublington and say that Foulness is the easy way out.

My right hon. Friend put it very clearly this afternoon. I was not in his Department, as I was later fortunate to be, at the time he made his decision to set up the Roskill Commission and, not in his Department, I was uncertain whether it was the right decision to make. I had become a little impatient with my Gov- ernment in a number of respects. [HON. MEMBERS: "Very wise."] I expected that. I thought that this might have been evading a decision.

But I was certainly wrong and I am sure that all hon. Members now agree that my right hon. Friend was correct in that decision some years ago. I should like to pay tribute to his decision then and to say that I wholly accept the solution which he put forward this afternoon as being the right one, given the timetable and the changed circumstances.

My joy is a little qualified. I am more sceptical about the prospects for short take-off and landing and vertical take-off and landing than many, including the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson), who have contributed to the debate. Many hon. Members are again looking for the easy solution.

But even if I were prepared to see vast sums of money put into the aircraft industry, and some of us would have our hesitations about that at this time, I am far from sure that the goods would be delivered on time and at the right price. I do not think that we can rely on VTOL and STOL as providing a way out. Nor am I sure, and there has been only a passing reference to this, that high speed surface transportation such as we might expect to get would provide a solution, even a partial solution.

I would agree with much of what has been said about, for example, a national airports plan. But I assure the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) that it is not as easy as it seems. It has been the policy of consecutive Governments since 1945 often to let local authorities take over their own airports, and if we are to have a national airports plan, it means all the major airports in the country must be under a single authority, and I know what Manchester Corporation and Glasgow Corporation will think about that. This is the only way to solve the problems of Prestwick and Abbotsinch, Liverpool and Manchester, Birmingham and Coventry, and Newcastle and Tees-side. Again it is not an easy way out, but it is a problem to which I hope the Civil Aviation Authority will be able to give its mind.

The decision that is now required is as to a one or two-runway airport for the South-East which will be open as soon as possible. I cannot say what the site would be, since I do not know, but I do not think we need to be committed to any of the four sites mentioned in Roskill. It will mean some expansion at other airports. Whereas I hope it will not mean another runway at Gatwick, it is foolish to assume that growth of traffic will not involve a growth of nuisance of one kind or another. I do not envy the Government their decision, while still wishing that we were there to make it.

11.40 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Peter Walker)

I wish to begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) on his maiden speech. I do so as a former resident and indeed voter in his constituency. His speech was lucid, cogent and greatly appreciated on both sides of the House. Our former colleague and friend the late Roger Gresham Cooke would have been proud to have witnessed the speech of his successor.

I do not know which has concerned me most in Parliamentary terms—whether it has been to see the Tory Party divided in its presence or the Labour Party united in its absence. Both aspects have been a feature of this debate. There were four hon. Members in this debate who with some courage, bravery and skill advocated an airport near or in their constituency, namely my hon. Friends the Members for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), Bristol, North East (Mr. Adley), Billericay (Mr. McCrindle) and the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling). We all witnessed with some admiration their cogent arguments. One thing I have decided at an early stage is that the third London airport will not be in Worcester.

The interesting feature of the debate has been that most hon. Members have paid tribute to Roskill and the manner in which it tackled the task and the interesting analysis of information provided. In terms of the study of a problem of this nature, it is a considerable step forward. The other interesting feature is that in the debate in the House of Lords not one person—and in this House only one hon. Member—advocated accepting the Roskill conclusion. It is remarkable that throughout the debate nobody, other than my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) has specifically advocated that Cublington should be accepted as the proposal for a third London airport.

I do not regard this as any reflection on the skill and diligence with which the Roskill Commission tackled its task. It shows the Government were correct in stating that they would give a period of time for views to be expressed, not only in Parliament but in the country, on the findings of the report. The views which have been expressed have been more cogently expressed because of the considerable detailed analysis of Roskill than otherwise would have been the case.

As for the views expressed by the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), I would point out that one or two views expressed previously about his attitude to this problem were, in fairness, taken from Press reports of the speech he made. He was kind enough to send me a full copy of his original speech on this topic. The abbreviated Press reports of that speech give a rather wrong impression of his position. Today he stated one or two factors of importance with which I agree. His hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. William Rodgers) was a little encouraging when he said he agreed with the solution provided by his right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby. Although I waited for the nomination of the site he was proposing, no specific solution was forthcoming.

Irrespective of the problem of deciding our future strategy for airports we do need further facilities in the South-East. This is not in any way to suggest that in future we will not have to be careful with our planning in other parts of the country. At present there is no problem of capacity in other parts of the country, but there is a problem of fast-growing capacity in the South-East. In an interesting speech my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) mentioned that it might be that the tourist trade would lead to growth in other parts. What is also true of tourism is that the increase in overseas visitors will largely be centered on the South-East because the fact is that incoming holiday traffic particularly affects this area.

My hon. Friend the Member for Epping, and others particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) asked why we do not encourage technical projects such as VTOL or STOL rather than provide for the possibilities of a third London airport. I agree with the right hon. Member for Grimsby that this would be a very serious gamble to take and, I think, an irresponsible one. While there is no discouragement to these developments, and people interested in the environment will do all they can to help, to speculate that they will be successful, that there will be a breakthrough, when all the world's airlines are currently committing themselves to heavy investment in conventional aircraft would be a mistake, landing this country with serious problems. It is something we would regret in a short time. I accept the problem in terms of studying our needs carefully and looking at the requirements on a rational basis.

The problem of the expansion of trade is a vital topic in relation to airport strategy. All available evidence held by the Government, and that produced by Roskill—and there has been no further technical breakthrough—shows that it would be irresponsible of the Government not to face the reality of the needs of South-East England.

In looking at the use of cost-benefit analysis it is always easy to be critical but that does not mean that we should not attempt it and try to use the figures. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) was correct to say that there are factors that cannot be put into a cost-benefit analysis but he would agree that the figures were interesting and it was perfectly correct for the Commission to try this technique. In fairness to it, it did not argue that the cost-benefit analysis was the sole reason for its conclusion. I agree that in a position of this kind such a technique is not sufficient on its own. The Commission agreed that to deal with the problem of environmental quality in such terms is an almost impossible task. Historic buildings, Norman churches, wild life sanctuaries—all of these matters are incredibly difficult and important topics.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) expressed the very important land-use argument which must be taken into account. Certainly in the talks that my Department will have with the Department of State for Trade and Industry we will naturally weigh carefully the total land-use factors. But it must be the total land-use factors, it is not just the site of the airport, it is all the communications to the airport and all the infrastructure which must be taken into account.

In terms of communication I must give a warning about the high hopes of some hon. Members for various forms of railway communication. I apologise in that I was absent during the speech of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) who asked what is happening to the hovertrain. The right hon. Member for Hillsborough mentioned the possibility of the airport's location near his own constituency, where we would go and land, and jump on the train, and the Customs and immigration officials and our luggage would all be there and we could quickly depart from the aeroplane.

I passed a comment to the right hon. Member for Grimsby. It would be rather difficult for his constituents, who, to get to Grimsby, although it is only a few miles away, would have to go to London to get their luggage.

There was a time when, looking at the future of British Rail in terms of London, I carefully examined the possibility of a terminal in London, where everything was done there and one would be taken to the place where the aeroplane would take off. There are difficulties in this for immigration officials. Once one is on the train one is in the country. I can see one or two people jumping off at various signal stops.

There are considerable problems in developing this concept of a train which will solve all the problems while travelling at a fast speed. The right lion. Member for Hillsborough said that the train traffic to London would be slightly more. My word it would be, because, on any calculation, with a third London airport there would be a train about every one and a half minutes. There would be a need for new buildings and railways. He said that we could by-pass the odd town on the way down, but the amount of land used in this concept would be considerable.

In looking at this superficially attractive solution to our problems, we must recognise that the locality chosen for any major airport will have to have considerable communications, both by road and by rail. That is a very important factor. One must not look just at roads in isolation, in terms of putting an airport in a particular place and the cost of roads to that airport, but what roads would have been needed for that locality or region in any case. Part of the Government's consideration must be to look at the road pattern that would be necessary whether or not an airport was built in a particular locality, and to compare the cost with the additional factor.

Other very important factors, I assure my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite, will be taken carefully into consideration. The safety factor has been mentioned. On this problem, I am slightly confused as to whether Aylesbury starlings are more dangerous than Brent geese. I have always thought that ducks were more the concern of Aylesbury than starlings. I take the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) that Aylesbury is in a starling-infested county, and that we must be careful there.

My hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Simeons) pointed out the dangers of siting airports near to major complexes where people were working or gathered together and the gigantic damage which could be done by having failures here. This point is of considerable importance.

I differ somewhat with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby—perhaps I am wrong in interpretation of his speech—when he rather suggested that at least we should eliminate two of the four potential sites and look at alternative sites. I emphasise the important topic of trying to make a decision with as much speed as possible. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that there are a number of reasons why a speedy decision is necessary. I do not mean by "speedy" that we shall announce a decision next week.

It is important that we take into consideration all the factors raised in the debate and elsewhere in the country. But within that context, it is important that the Government reach a speedy decision, for a number of reasons.

First, it is important—not immediately but in the foreseeable future—to relieve some existing airports in the South-East to see that people do not suffer too much from noise.

My hon. Friends the Member for Horsham (Mr. Hordern) and the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn) raised this topic. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) mentioned fairly strikingly that it was a little tough for his constituents that they suffered from noise all day in their factories and were suffering from the noise of aircraft at night.

One of the tasks of the new Department of the Environment is not just to try to conserve the rather good environments that already exist, but to improve the environment for those that suffer from a particularly bad environment at present. This point was cogently made by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), by my hon. Friends whose constituencies are adjacent to Gatwick, and by many of my hon Friends whose constituencies surround Heathrow.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East and the right hon. Member for Grimsby laid great emphasis upon the importance of noise in terms of our total environmental and pollution problems. I agree with this. It has been one of the great areas of neglect, because this is one of the forms of pollution to which people can become accustomed without recognising the full extent of the damage caused to people in terms of both physical and mental health.

There are many problems created by noise. This is a topic in which Governments must take a close and constant interest. I am glad that the Noise Council is doing a great deal of work on this question. It is a topic to which Governments must pay far more attention. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East that we are concerned to look at every possible technical method by which the situation can be improved.

Another important reason why I am anxious that there should be a fairly speedy decision on this topic is the appalling problem of blighting. So long as there is indecision, whole areas are blighted, not just in terms of the adverse effect upon those living in these localities, but also in terms of government. Many major decisions as regards roads and regional planning have to be made.

The South-East Strategy reasonably tried to take into account all possibilities for a third London airport. My Department is frustrated in making numbers of important decisions because of the importance to those decisions on coming to conclusions on the problems of the third London airport.

Nor do I want the blighting to be extended. To leave for a long time even two of the four sites in uncertainty and at the same time to be looking at various other sites, each one of which would become blighted as it was considered, could cause considerable problems for the South-East. This is another reason why the Government should try to reach a speedy and sensible conclusion.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

How speedy is "speedy"? Is it not next week but the week after, or is it before Easter, or what?

Mr. Walker

This is difficult, because obviously the Government want to look in detail at the various factors which have been raised in to debate. I emphasise that we want a speedy decision and not a great deal of indecision.

Another reason why there is a need for speedy decision is all the preparation which is required for a third airport, wherever it may be sited. There are considerable procedures to be gone through in terms of planning for the increased provision of transport and housing. There are all sorts of factors, depending on the site chosen. My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) said that, if a site was chosen at Foulness, he and all his constituents would be very interested in such problems as potential flooding and arrangements for compensation. Almost every site which is a possibility would have problems which would have to be examined by the Government and overcome in the best possible way.

For all these reasons, there is a need for a speedy decision. Of course this is a difficult decision. I believe that the new Department of the Environment, because it co-ordinates planning and transportation under one roof, can help to make a better quality of decision than would otherwise be the case.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Chapman), in a very moving and important speech, rightly said that the economic aspects are obviously one factor but that it is important for the decision to be a decision based upon good planning reasons. That will certainly be the Government's object. I am grateful to those who have taken part in the debate for the constructive and varied suggestions that they have made to help us in reaching our decision.

Mr. Speaker

That concludes the 41st speech in this debate, according to my calculation. I am most grateful to right hon. and hon. Members who by their self-denial have made it possible for so many speeches to be made.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of the Report of the Roskill Commission on the Third London Airport.