HC Deb 16 April 1973 vol 855 cc24-7
20. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what estimate he has made of the extent to which the current projections of the number of aircraft movements at London's airports and the noise which they will be expected to cause in 1990 differ from those on which he based his conclusion that Maplin Airport should be constructed.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

The Civil Aviation Authority has projections of aircraft movements under study and I await its report. Any revised noise projections for existing London airports must follow on that study. I would point out, however, that Maplin is needed not only to cope with the growth of air traffic but to bring relief to those already suffering from the noise disturbance of existing London airports.

Mr. Tebbit

May I take it that my hon. Friend is aware of, even if he chooses to ignore, the fact that the progress towards quieter aircraft is much faster than he ever dreamt of at the time of the Roskill Commission, for example? May I also take it that he is aware that British Airways has announced that over the next five years its fleet of aircraft will expand by only seven? Has he noted that British Airways has now ordered a relatively noisy replacement for its Viscount fleet, which it would not have done but for the fact that he is building Maplin, which will enable still noisier aeroplanes to be operated? Will my hon. Friend publish the figures which the CAA is going to give him?

Mr. Heseltine

I have not received the figures from the CAA and therefore I am not in a position to give dates on which they might be published, but I imagine that the publication is more likely to be a matter for the CAA than for me. When we had the Second Reading debate about Maplin Airport we went very carefully into the question of the rate at which quieter engines were coming into service. The fact of the matter is that these calculations have been built into our calculations. That does not invalidate the fact that we are faced with a massive growth of traffic around built-up areas of London, and we see methods of alleviating this is by way of Maplin Airport.

Mr. Freeson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, following that debate, practically every authority concerned with this matter has questioned the rate of growth to which the hon. Gentleman referred on that occasion? Will he give an undertaking that when the figures are available they will be published and presented to the House, because we are the people who make the decision, for better or for worse, in favour of the Government's Bill? Since he has just said that the other factor to be taken into account is that the building of Maplin will result in a reduction of traffic to the existing airports around London, will he please tell us to what figures he expects that airport to reduce the present traffic at London Airport?

Mr. Heseltine

I cannot accept the hon. Member's suggestion that every authority has commented adversely on the figures produced. The authority to which I draw his attention and that of the House is the British Airports Authority, which made it absolutely clear that it believes that there is need for a third London airport, and that there is need to get it built as soon as possible. The second authority is the CAA, whose figures are not published because they are not ready and it has not commented in any way on the debate we had in the House. The fact of the matter is that we do not anticipate a reduction in existing levels because we are now faced with massive growth from not only British Airways but overseas airlines.

The objective is to contain this growth as much as we can and to divert a great part of it to the third London airport after 1980.

Mr. Jessel

Bearing in mind the existing level of noise around airports—a level which many people find intolerable—will my hon. Friend stand absolutely firm by the Government's decision about the airport on the Essex coast?

Mr. Heseltine


Mr. Mason

Does the Minister deny that the number of movements estimated by 1980 at Heathrow, judged by Roskill —which determined Maplin on movements alone—has already proved inaccurate and, therefore, the need for Maplin within the suggested time scale also?

Mr. Heseltine

I do not think that this is in any way the case. The figures continue to expand. The argument is not simply the question of which year we actually reach a given set of figures. We are bound to reach these figures soon after 1980, and we have to do everything in our power to build the third airport as quickly as possible so that the environmental benefits can be made available to the people living around London.