HC Deb 18 July 1974 vol 877 cc675-92
The Secretary of State for Trade and President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Shore)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will now make a statement about the review of the Maplin third London airport project.

On assuming office, the Government undertook to re-examine certain major transport projects, and on 21st March I announced that I had set in hand a reappraisal of the Maplin project for a third London airport. This has now been completed and the report of the reappraisal has been published today.

Seven main conclusions emerge from the reappraisal. First, the forecasts of air passenger demand are significantly lower than was envisaged previously. Secondly, up to 1990 no further main runways will be required at any of the four London area airports at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton. Thirdly, the passenger-handling capacity required to accommodate the forecast traffic up to 1990 is not now dependent on a new airport at Maplin.

Fourthly, the noise nuisance is expected to be much lower than was forecast by the Roskill Commission. Fifthly, whether or not Maplin were built, capacity at Heathrow would need to be expanded from its present 20 million passengers a year to 38 million and at Gatwick from 6 million to 16 million. Sixthly, beyond that, further capacity would be required from the mid-1980s which could be provided through a new airport at Maplin or by some combination of developments at existing London area airports with the possibility of some diversion of London traffic to regional airports. Finally, the cost of accommodating the forecast traffic at Maplin is now estimated at about £650 million. This is nearly twice as much as the next most expensive alternative considered in the reappraisal.

In the light of this, the Government consider that the case for a new airport at Maplin has not been established, and they have decided to abandon it.

The review has particularly examined the question of aircraft noise. I am deeply conscious of the distress suffered by those who live near airports. However, the review shows that Maplin would not have had a great effect on total noise disturbance. First, if Maplin were built it could not affect the level of noise at existing airports before 1985. Secondly, by 1990 at London area airports nearly all air transport movements are expected to be by new, quieter types of aircraft. This means that, with or without Maplin, there will be a marked improvement in current noise levels at these airports. But there can be no relaxation in our efforts, and I am determined to achieve a further and progressive improvement in noise by tackling it at the source on the aircraft, by intensifying night jet curfews, by revised operational techniques and by improved facilities for noise insulation.

I asked for special consideration to be given to the rôle of regional airports. Consultants were commissioned to undertake a separate examination of the scope for diverting traffic to the regions. Three main conclusions emerged from that work. First, to achieve any significant diversion would involve transferring large numbers of passengers with origins and destinations in the South-East. Secondly, passenger demand suggests diversion to Bournemouth, Birmingham and East Midlands rather than to airports further afield. Thirdly, major diversions to the regional airports could involve noise and other environmental problems in the areas concerned. Nevertheless, I have asked my officials to consider the regional possibilities in greater depth, both to relieve the pressure on the South-East and to help in the development of other regions. I should like to see as much traffic transferred as possible.

The review was conducted in cooperation with the British Airports Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority but it was not possible in the time available to engage in consultations with the local authorities and other organisations affected. A number of submissions have been received from local authorities and we shall now be consulting them and other bodies concerned about the way the future traffic will be handled.

I am sure that the House will wish to debate the matter of London air passenger traffic as soon as it has had a reasonable time to consider the review.

Mr. Heseltine

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain how the Government have reached so final a decision in cooperation with the British Airports Authority when only yesterday the chairman of that authority said that it was impossible to make a confident forecast of future traffic? Will he now appreciate that in deciding to abandon the third London airport the Government have closed for all time the option of transferring noise away from the airports of the South-East, particularly Heathrow and Gatwick?

The right hon. Gentleman says that the major diversion to the regional airports could involve "noise and other environmental problems in the areas concerned". May I ask him to explain what is now to happen to Luton, Stansted and Southend? Will he publish the detailed plans which I, as a Minister, asked the Department to prepare, showing the precise impact of noise on the communities now condemned to live under a growing and permanent noise problem? Would it not be better if the House had debated this report before the Government made their final decision?

Mr. Shore

When the decision to go ahead with Maplin was announced three years ago by the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) there was no debate before the decision was taken. I know that this is difficult but I would ask the hon. Member to look seriously at the report published this afternoon. It indicates a substantial change in expectations and circumstances. I think he will find in it considerable reassurance to deal with his concern about noise as it may affect other airports in the South-East.

As for the hon. Gentleman's point about being confident about any airport strategy, I would have thought that the one thing which both sides of the House might exercise was a certain humility when dealing with airport planning. I have in mind not just Maplin but Stansted before that and the Royal Commission's recommendations for Cublington. We would all be ill-advised to say that we know now and for all time just what is the right solution. What I say is that I think we have sufficient information to make a reasoned judgment against Maplin and that, further, we shall have sufficient time to consider alternatives in changing technology in the years ahead.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Will my right hon. Friend accept the congratulations of an overwhelming majority of hon. Members on this side of the House on an obvious and sensible decision? Will he assure the House that there will be no question of heavy compensation for contractors and others who were so obviously licking their lips at the invitation of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite?

Mr. Shore

I shall have to consider the second point put by my hon. Friend. I should not like to think of anyone licking his lips, at any rate without due and proper reason to do so.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I do not think that it is possible in any statement on airport policy to have, as it were, unanimous support. However, I think that the statement will be warmly received in many parts of the country.

Mr. Richard Wainwright

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the abandonment of the Maplin project is welcome to, amongst many others, the Liberal Party, although we regret that it is not presented as part of a national airports policy?

I should like to put one question on what the right hon. Gentleman described as the further capacity which would be required from the mid-1980s. Is he satisfied—if so, will he explain why—that an examination by his officials of the regional possibilities is adequate? Will he consider asking his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for a wider inquiry into the co-ordination of internal and international transport?

Mr. Shore

I am not yet satisfied that we have given anything like a sufficient examination to the possibilities of the development of regional airports and the diversion of traffic from the South-East. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we already have in hand—I do not claim credit for it; it was set in hand by my predecessor—a whole series of studies being conducted under the auspices of the CAA in different regions of the country assessing their future airport requirements. We are coming soon to the point where we shall have, as it were, a clearer map of the country in terms of airport needs and development. On that basis it should be possible to move towards a sensible and thought-out national airports plan.

Mr. Newens

I wholeheartedly welcome the statement made by my right hon. Friend. As one who had serious doubts all the way through about the case for a third London airport, may I ask my right hon. Friend to make it clear that there is no question whatsoever of using Stansted as the third London airport on the scale that was originally proposed in the mid-1960s? Many of us who took part in the campaign against Stansted would argue that we were, and have been proved, correct. Will he now make it clear that there is no possibility whatsoever of reverting to that option?

Mr. Shore

I understand my hon. Friend's concern. I should have to refresh my mind on precisely what was being proposed in the previous report for Stansted. Within the report that is now available to the House three or four options are described. They include different patterns and mixes of traffic among the four existing airports in the South-East. One point that I think will emerge from it, to give my hon. Friend some reassurance, is that in all four options the number of people who will suffer from the noise contour—I am taking the 35 NNI contour—will reduce over the period ahead.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman about the implications for Stansted, in which I have a close constituency interest, in the context of this possible pattern or mix of uses to which he referred? Will he ensure that if and in so far as there is any consequential increase in traffic at Stansted, it takes the form of a switch to passenger traffic in substitution for training flights, and thereby brings a welcome abatement of noise? Further, will he bear in mind in the future use of the airport its optimum use not only from the aviation point of view but from the environmental aspect with special reference to the effect on amenities at Bishop Stortford, Sawbridgeworth and adjacent villages?

Mr. Shore

These are valid points. These and no doubt other considerations, not only from the Stansted area, will have to be thoroughly examined and consultations held with all concerned before any decisions are made.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the people of Essex generally and, in particular, of Tower Hamlets will be pleased about the report. May I, without prejudice, ask about an ancillary problem connected with the seaport at Maplin? Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that that will not be adversely affected by this decision because, as he will know, there is a vast difference? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Will he keep a completely open mind and look at the seaport as a different subject?

Mr. Shore

I agree that there is indeed a separate argument about the future need for a seaport at Maplin or further down the Thames. However, it is not for me to make a decision on that matter. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is considering the proposals put forward by the PLA.

Mr. Hordern

Has the right hon. Gentleman received the representations of the West Sussex, East Sussex and Surrey County Councils on the consequences to West Sussex particularly if Maplin is not proceeded with? Is he aware of the great concern which would be experienced by industrialists in Crawley in my constituency who suffer from an acute shortage of labour and will now be competing for labour with Gatwick Airport? Is he also aware of the destruction of the environment in West Sussex and of the problems of noise which are bound to occur if the decision is carried through?

Mr. Shore

Representations were indeed made. Written documents were sent by the counties concerned. Again, while I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's anxiety, I think that these matters will be better understood and more sensibly discussed when the report has been read and properly examined. Some of the anxieties about the environment and noise—I am almost surprised to say this—are notably diminished in the forecast period ahead.

Mr. Moonman

I think that to save £650 million is a good afternoon's work. Although my right hon. Friend has urged humility in the matter, may I say that this is a specific example of a Labour Party commitment and pledge at the General Election which has been kept? Therefore, will he encourage his right hon. Friends now to speed up many of the decisions which have not been taken during the last few years in anticipation of the inquiry on, for example, road building and improved siting, and to advance resources to the new town of Basildon?

Mr. Shore

I think that, provided that the House is satisfied on the general argument, it will inevitably feel satisfaction that a substantial saving in public expenditure will be achieved by this decision.

Mr. Kirk

While we must study with some care the paper which I understand the right hon. Gentleman has laid, may I ask him at this stage to refresh his memory to the extent that two public inquiries have come down against any kind of third London airport at Stansted? Secondly, will he indicate what consultations he proposes to have with local authorities in future? Thirdly, will he indicate when we are to have a debate on the matter? Fourthly, when are we likely to have any definitive decision about the use of airports like Stansted, Luton and Gatwick?

Mr. Shore

It is absolutely right that in our thinking about the proper pattern and distribution of air traffic in the period ahead we should not only pay close attention to what has previously been said, because some of the material in the reports which are available is of value, but take full account of the representations made by those who are representative of the communities which are likely to be affected. I have no kind of absolutely preconceived view about how best to carry out the consultations, but I want them to be thorough, because I fully understand that we must get the maximum amount of understanding and acceptance by those who are affected.

I am sure that the House will wish to debate the matter, but that is for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to decide.

Mr. Tom Ellis

In offering my congratulations to my right hon. Friend, may I ask him whether he agrees that congratulations are due to the Secretary of State for the Environment, who laboured while in Opposition towards this end?

Mr. Shore

Many hon. Members would wish to endorse that generous tribute to my right hon. Friend, who for a number of years, and at a very early date, expressed deeply-held scepticism about the project.

Sir S. MeAdden

The Minister will not be surprised that I am delighted to hear of his decision. Is he aware that I am particularly gratified that the information he has had from these independent and non-political bodies, which has led him to this decision, has merely confirmed what I have been urging on successive Ministers for years; in particular, the question of tackling noise at its source? Is he aware how gratified we are to know that he intends to tackle this problem in this way rather than by transferring noise from one place to another?

Mr. Shore

I think anyone living in an area where it is proposed to build a new airport would take the view that the wrong way to deal with noise is to transfer it from one area to another. Equally, those who live in areas where airports already exist can be expected to take a somewhat different view. The important thing here is that serious consideration has been given to the problem by people who are reasonably qualified to do it—I say "reasonably" because there is a great element of judgment and discretion in the whole thing—and have come out with the report which has led my colleagues and me to our conclusions.

Mr. Sedgemore

Would my right hon. Friend accept that this is a decision welcomed not only in Britain but particularly in those places where people are capable of taking a wider interest and view? Can he say whether any discussions are taking place about the future control of Luton Airport? Is there any question of handing over control from the local authority to the British Airports Authority? Can he give any projected estimates of passenger movements in the mid-1980s at Luton Airport?

Mr. Shore

I cannot reply to that question without notice. I am aware that a considerable amount of concern has been felt by people living in the Luton area about the plan and the activities of the Luton authority. I have looked at representations made to me and I shall be watching the situation very closely.

Sir G. Sinclair

Is the Minister aware that his statement will bring a sense of shock and anger to a great number of people living in the South-East and affected by Gatwick Airport? What steps does he propose to take to limit the growing congestion that spreads out from Gatwick into the green belt area, in view of the proposal that 16 million, instead of 6 million passengers will be passing through the airport every year? What steps will he take in the meantime to limit night flights in the area?

Mr. Shore

Those are particular problems. It would not be right for me, in presenting a document at the present time when we are considering options for the future, to say in detail how particular problems will be dealt with if we adopt particular options.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

Would my right hon. Friend accept that most of us on the Government side feel he has made a very sensible, correct and comprehensive statement? Will he also accept that there is a need for two further statements? First, there is, all over the country now in municipally-operated airports such as Castle Donington, a great deal of uncertainty about the future. Would he accept that we should have a statement on the national airports policy very soon? He has admitted that we have a need to augment the programme of research and development into quieter aircraft engines. Accepting that this is the only genuine solution to quieter aeroplanes and aircraft noise, will he now give due consideration to augmenting the programme of research and development carried on by his Department into quieter aeroplane engines?

Mr. Shore

I said I shall pay more attention to regional airports. I hope that very soon we shall have the remaining regional airport studies, which will be of great assistance to us. I have no doubt that quieter aircraft will play an enormously important part in the future in giving relief to many people who are at present suffering from the noisy jet aircraft of today. I will certainly consider any practical steps that I can take to increase or improve our research and development effort.

Mr. Heath

Is the Secretary of State aware that we shall study the report carefully, perhaps with a certain scepticism?

What has now been announced completely fits in with the prejudices of the Government when in Opposition. It is now known that the staff of the Maplin Development Authority were stood down, or were told that they were to be stood down, when the Secretary of State announced his review, without even waiting for the results of that review.

Leaving that on one side, is it not correct to say that what the Secretary of State has announced today to Londoners in particular and to people around Gatwick, quite apart from Stansted and Luton, is that double the number of passengers will be brought into these airports—with all that follows from that, including road congestion, communications congestion and congestion of every other kind, as well as noise—and moreover that that will be permanent? That is what the Secretary of State is now telling Londoners and all those who are affected by the airports at Gatwick, Southend, Stansted and Luton. Those are the hard facts of the case.

Secondly, the Secretary of State says the further facilities will be required by the mid-eighties—by 1985. As in this country it takes between eight and 10 years, alas, to create a major airport, it is evident that decisions should be taken now about what is to happen in 1985, otherwise the situation for Londoners and those living in the South-East can only become even worse than what the Secretary of State announced this afternoon.

Of course it is understandable that those with constituencies affected should feel very strongly about it. Those who feel that they have been relieved from Maplin may express their thanks. Others in other parts of the country may take the simple view that money will be saved. But there is beyond all this a national interest, and a very large national interest at stake both in personal communications and trade communications. I do not believe it can be in the national interest for the Secretary of State to indicate that we are to have the worst airport facilities available of any European. North American or Australasian country.

Mr. Shore

I know the right hon. Gentleman has a particular personal investment—I do not mean that in any derogatory sense—in the Maplin airport project, because it was while his Government were in office that the project was given the go-ahead. Before he accuses us of making prejudiced decisions I ask him to look at the study. Not only will it give him food for thought but, in addition, he will find part of the answer to the worries which he claimed that Londoners and others would be feeling about this decision.

I shall take two points to illustrate this. First, even if we had gone ahead with Maplin nothing could have prevented the massive development of London Airport and other airports in order to accommodate the traffic growth which is expected between now and 1985. That was inevitable because it would take that period of time, 11 years, in order to bring Maplin into action.

The right hon. Gentleman will also find that when Londoners and others actually examine the content of the report they will discover not just that traffic will increase but that there will be a noticeable and substantial reduction of noise, so much so that all the scenarios in the document, which is now available, indicate that the noise levels will come down in 1990 to about one-fifth or one-sixth, at the worst, of what they are today.

Sir Bernard Braine

Is the Secretary of State aware that, as far as his announcement goes, it will give considerable relief to the people of South-East Essex, although I can understand the feelings of some of my hon. Friends who have airports in their constituencies. However. it does not altogether remove our anxieties. Take, for example, Southend Airport. May I have a firm assurance that that airport, which is ringed around with population, will not, on the excuse of abandoning Maplin, be expanded at the expense of my constituents?

Mr. Shore

The hon. Member should rightly stand up for his constituents. As he will see from the report, there is no serious likelihood of Southend being expanded, but he must not ask me to close the door on consultation and consideration before the discussions which I have already announced take place.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Will my right hon. Friend ask the Secretary of State for the Environment to make an early statement about the future of the seaport at Maplin? To most of us the scheme seems more ridiculous than ever now that the airport has been dropped. Does my right hon. Friend realise that he has carried out only half the election pledge about which my right hon. Friend spoke earlier?

Mr. Shore

These are two quite different matters. While I am certain that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will be anxious to come to an early decision, I am sure also that he would not wish that decision to be hurried or made without due regard to the port needs of Britain, and that includes the Port of London as well as Southampton.

Mr. S. James A. Hill

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the transport infrastructure and the investment that were planned were intended for both the airport and the seaport, and that there cannot be one in isolation? Will he advise the Secretary of State for the Environment that a complex which will support only a seaport is no longer economically viable, and that the remarks by the Chairman of the British Transport Docks Board that Southampton is the most appropriate area for the new extended container port should be acted upon now?

Mr. Shore

This matter has yet to be decided, but the view which the hon. Member expressed is certainly not shared by the PLA.

Mr. MacCormick

Does the Secretary of State appreciate that his announcement will be widely welcomed in Scotland where there was a great deal of worry at so much money being spent on Maplin? In view of the industrial developments in Scotland, should not an urgent opportunity now be taken to consider the airport situation there to provide increased internal services and more links between Scotland and abroad?

Mr. Shore

We are giving serious consideration to the undoubtedly growing needs of Scotland for improved airport facilities.

Mr. McNamara

In half congratulating my right hon. Friend, may I remind him that the concept of Maplin was not only for an airport but for a major seaport complex? Will he bear in mind not only the responsibilities of the Secretary of State for the Environment for ports but his own responsibilities for the changing nature of seaborne traffic? Does he not now think that the influences of his Department should be brought to bear to cancel the seaport project?

Mr. Shore

I would certainly not come to such a conclusion prematurely, and I would not necessarily come to such a conclusion at all. I insist, however, as I am sure my right hon. Friend will, that the matter should be looked at in a serious and sober way.

Mr. Grylls

The Secretary of State has behaved in an arrogant way over this issue. He has taken a decision on a report that everyone knew was being prepared, and has turned a scheme down in a rather petulant way, telling the House the decision without the House having taken any part in it. Of course there is a downturn in traffic at the moment as a result of the international situation. In the past these downturns have been shown to be only temporary and the traffic turns up again in a year or two's time. There will then be increased traffic at the airports nearer London, such as Heathrow and Gatwick. Will he give an assurance to people living near Heathrow that there will be no increase in the number of flights in view of the greater use that will be made of wide-bodied aircraft? That is what the people are worried about. They fear a big increase in flights and noise.

Mr. Shore

There will be a great increase in traffic. The central estimate is 85 million passenger movements by 1990. That is the centre of a range. There could be more people travelling if more optimistic asumptions are made about traffic growth, or there could be fewer. The airport capacity and the runway capacity will be there, however.

Mr. Dalyell

Does the reference to regional policy mean that in these studies consideration has been given to positive action for direct flights from, say, Edinburgh to Brussels, Frankfurt and Copenhagen, and that sort of thing?

Mr. Shore

We must first establish the regional airports. The services which use those airports are a most important but secondary matter.

Mr. Allason

Does the Secretary of State accept that those living in residential areas and suffering from aircraft noise do not want to export it to other people; they want to export it over the sea? That is the only sensible solution. Does he realise that his statement about a reduction by one-fifth or one-sixth of the present aircraft noise will be regarded with great disbelief by the whole population? His claim will be closely examined. We would not accent merely four-fifths or five-sixths of present aircraft noise. Does he realise that those who suffer aircraft noise are now fed up with it and want to suffer it no more in the way he is threatening them they will have to put up with it.

Mr. Shore

I understand how the hon. Member feels. Like many other hon. Members, I live in an area which is plagued with aircraft noise. It is no good the hon. Member claiming for himself a kind of monopoly of emotion and feeling on the matter on behalf of his constituents. Many of us have constituents affected by aircraft noise, and we have to find the right solution. I did not say that aircraft noise would be reduced by one-fifth or one-sixth. I said reduced to one-fifth or one-sixth.

Mr. Hastings

Does the Secretary of State recognise that in spite of what he said, and the plaudits he received, literally hundreds of thousands of people living around London's airports will be deeply disturbed at the implications of the decision? Will he refer to the report he has received recently from the county councils of East and West Sussex, Hertfordshire and Surrey which deals with the planning implications of abandoning Maplin? It is not simply a question of handling freight and people. It is a question of new schools and services, houses, and so on. It is a question of the pressure on labour that the decision will inevitably create. Did the British Airports Authority agree with the decision?

Mr. Shore

The British Airports Authority and the CAA contributed heavily to the work done in the report. They contributed significantly to the document which produced the range of options. The decision is for the Government, and I have not thought it right to ask those organisations whether they supported the decision or not. That, no doubt, is something they will wish to make plain.

On the county council submissions, I accept wholly that it would not be enough simply to look at these matters from the point of view of the numbers of air traffic movements and things like that. We must look at the wider planning implications. In any consultative process that we embark upon I shall certainly see to it that the Department of the Environment and the other Departments are involved as much as we are, so that all these factors can be properly considered.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We must stop some time. I will call two more hon. Members from each side.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

In congratulating my right hon. Friend, may I ask him whether he will assure the House that the important saving here will not be frittered away in expenditure on other airports such as Stansted, Luton and Southend but that public expenditure on transport will be more and more concentrated on the form of public transport which affects 95 per cent. of the people of this country—buses, railways and similar methods of transport?

Mr. Shore

My hon. Friend has gone on to a different point, although obviously a very important point, in wishing to see the total amount of expenditure on transport reviewed as a whole and not just in terms of one particular service. I can only say that I have primarily to consider the anticipated growth of air transport and how it can best be accommodated in the airports of this country.

Mr. Crouch

The right hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to be told that my constituents at Whitstable and Herne Bay will be very relieved at his decision to abandon completely the idea of an airport on Maplin Sands. I welcome that wholeheartedly because I believe that is a correct decision in the national interest. I have felt that it would be wrong to build an airport there on the ground that it was the wrong place for an airport and that it would never have been successful or have served the nation, particularly the Midlands and the North.

May I ask the right. hon. Gentleman to tell the House, if not today then later, at an appropriate time, whether he is determined to kill Maplin and lay the ghost of Maplin altogether and not allow a seaport to be developed there in the terms already described and anticipated by the Port of London Authority—a seaport to take tankers of 500,000 tons in the narrows of the Thames Estuary when, particularly with the advent of North Sea oil, we may well become oil exporters rather than oil importers and the location of such an oil terminal may have to be in a more advantageous site?

Mr. Shore

In my statement I have done the best I can to lay the ghost of Maplin airport, but it would be quite wrong of me to start trying to lay other ghosts, particularly the ghost of Maplin seaport. That is a matter for a separate study and must be subject to a later announcement. I well remember the hon. Gentleman's original scepticism about Maplin. Of course, there was always a strong case against it, even on the earliest assumptions, just as there was always a case for it.

Mr. Sandelson

Will the right hon. Gentleman take it from me that while a majority of residents in my constituency, many of whom live in areas adjacent to London Airport, will congratulate him, on balance, on the decision he has taken with regard to Maplin, there is very deep concern throughout the whole of this area and in other constituencies around London Airport about the whole issue of air noise, air nuisance, pollution and so on? May I ask the Secretary of State whether, in view of the feeling that no Government have yet given sufficient attention to these problems, he will consider setting up a special inquiry in regard to the whole question of air noise, to give people in this and other areas throughout the country the assurance that proper consideration is being given to these problems at national level?

Mr. Shore

I will give consideration to what the hon. Gentleman has suggested but I would reiterate what I said in my statement—that I was determined to achieve a further progressive improvement in noise by tackling it at source—the aircraft themselves—by intensifying night jet curfews, by revised operational techniques and by improved facilities for noise insulation.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Given that the growth in air traffic requires a massive increase in the size of London Airport, how can it be said that there is no need for an airport at Maplin? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my constituents and millions of the people living around London Airport—there are millions—will hear with profound scepticism his forecast of noise reduction in the light of their experience of similar promises and what has subsequently happened over past years? Does he realise that the decision which he has announced today means that as far ahead as we can see there will be night movements at Heathrow and also that the noisier types of aircraft which have not yet been phased out, and will not be phased out in the next seven to 10 years, will still be operating from London Airport, whereas had Maplin been built both the night movements and the noisier types of aircraft could have been moved there? This announcement will therefore produce profound disappointment, in some cases amounting almost to despair, in areas immediately adjacent to London Airport.

Mr. Shore

May I repeat to the hon. and learned Gentleman that if the decision I have announced had been precisely opposite, had I said that we would go ahead at full speed with Maplin, we would not have brought it into operation until 1985? In that 11-year period we would have had to cater for a very substantial volume of increased air traffic movement at the existing airports of London and the South-East. What we are dealing with beyond that is a very important and significant fact, that new types of aircraft are coming into operation increasingly and that, on all the estimates available to us, a very substantial change for the better in the noise situation will emerge.

    1. c692
    3. c692