HL Deb 23 February 1961 vol 228 cc1112-64

3.35 p.m.

LORD OGMORErose to call attention to the increasing volume of air traffic in the London region; to ascertain the intentions of Her Majesty's Government with reference to the development of London Airport and Gatwick; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is a considerable time since we had a discussion on the airports in the London area, and in view of the changing times I feel that it is desirable that we now consider them in your Lordships' House. Before I start what I propose to say, may I say how I welcome the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, is going to make his maiden speech this afternoon? He served for a number of years in the Ministry of Civil Aviation and I know that we shall all listen to him with great pleasure.

In the London area there is constantly increasing air traffic, and we have to look at the situation the whole time to ensure that arrangements for this traffic are adequate. From what I hear, this is not so. First of all, let me take the situation in the air. There is no doubt that London Airport, within the existing regulations for air traffic, is one of the best in the world, hut, like all other airports, it suffers under this disability: that there is no unified air control. It is as if we had a railway system with two different methods of signalling. This would be disastrous on the railways, and I guarantee that in a few years' time, when there will be a still greater increase in air traffic, this absence of a unified air control may be disastrous in the air. Military aircraft are controlled by one system and civil aircraft by another. I know that it is the wish of the majority of operators in the civil aviation field that there should be one unified system. The Master of the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators and the Chairmen of both the State Corporations, B.O.A.C. and B.E.A., have urged the Government to bring into force a unified system in this country and to press for such a system in other countries. So far as this country is concerned, the Government are, of course, in complete control of the Departments concerned, the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Aviation.

So far as the ground is concerned, there is a different story. I think that no one would pretend that the situation on the ground at London Airport is a happy one. First of all, let me take landing charges. It so happens that London Airport is the most expensive in the world for aircraft to come into. For a Jet 707 to land at Amsterdam costs £50 at Brussels, £117; at Copenhagen. £74; at Paris, £115; at Idlewild, £122; at Chicago, £19; at San Francisco, £17; and at Los Angeles, £5. The last figure is rather surprising, because Los Angeles is so near Hollywood, where everything else is fantastically expensive. At London Airport it costs £182, and on April 1 this is going up to £243, compared with all the others I have mentioned, ringing from £5 at Los Angeles to £122 at Idlewild, New York.

What is the reason for this huge increase? There will be this increase of 33 per cent. on April 1 and there have been increases of over 150 per cent. in the fast four years. That, I think, calls for an answer from the Government, who are responsible. The airlines now using United Kingdom airports pay £3,600,000 a year for the privilege, and this additional charge means £2 million a year, so that they will be paying £5,600,000. At least 20 airlines have protested against the charge which is to be imposed at London Airport. It would be of great interest to the House if the noble Lord, Lord Mills, when he comes to reply, could give an indication of why the Government have seen fit to make this considerable increase in the landing charges there.

To see the subject in perspective, I think we should look at the aircraft movements and passenger movements at London Airport, as compared with certain other airports, because, although passengers are coming into London Airport at an ever-increasing rate, they are not nearly as many in number as at certain other airports. Midway Airport at Chicago is, I suppose, the busiest airport in the world. That airport in 1959 (and all these figures are for 1959) had aircraft movements of 432,000 and passenger movements of 9.7 million. The other Chicago airport, O'Hare, in addition to the figures I have given, had 235,000 aircraft movements and 2.1 million passenger movements. Idlewild had 240,000 aircraft movements, and 7.1 million passenger movements. Los Angeles had 316,000 aircraft movements. and 5.9 million passenger movements. Paris had 118,000 aircraft movements, and 2.8 million passenger movements. London aircraft had 130.000 aircraft movements, and 4.1 million passenger movements. So that, apart from Paris, of the airports I have mentioned, London Airport had the lowest in aircraft movements and was fourth highest in passenger movements.

A short time ago there was also imposed a poll tax of 7s. 6d. a head on people departing from London airport. This was a sort of farewell present from the British people to all who were leaving our shores—a parting kick, as it were. This has been regarded by everyone as particularly irritating. I do not think anything has irritated the airline companies as much as this parting kick of 7s. 6d. a head for passengers. It is a poll tax. It does not matter whether you are going half way round the world or next door, you still pay the 7s. 6d. As I say, it has been regarded by aircraft users and also by the airline companies as something quite inexplicable.

So far as passengers handled is concerned, there is no doubt that those of us who travel to other climes and other ports—and many of your Lordships do so continually—know that passenger handling at London Airport is no better than it is in other countries, and in some cases it may even be worse. The central buildings are already inadequate for the volume of traffic they handle; and on the North side, where the Transatlantic passengers come in and where I feel it is particularly important to have a good show—it is the gateway to Britain, as it were—they are received in old shabby hutments which have been there for a number of years and which, except that they are getting ever more decayed and broken down, seem not to change: there seem to be no improvements at all. What we should like to know—and these are not Party points; I am sure that noble Lords opposite feel as strongly about them as I do—is when it is proposed to erect at London Airport buildings which are proper in every way for the reception of visitors to these shores.

Labour relations at London Airport, for some reason, are poor. There are strikes from time to time, both in the Air Corporations and in the Ministry staff. These strikes usually take place at very short notice, sometimes with no notice at all, and they cause great inconvenience to passengers. If any of your Lordships have been out at London Airport when one of these lightening strikes has taken place, you will know that the sight of mothers with little children, even with babies in arms, and others who have urgent need to get on with their journey is most harrowing. If there is any particular branch of industry where strikes should be undertaken only with the greatest possible care and with a considerable amount of notice, it seems to me, for the reasons I have given, that it is in anything to do with air transport. After the settlement of a strike of the engineers at London Airport last month, when increases were made in the pay of 10,000 engineers and maintenance men, and these increases were accepted by the unions concerned, Mr. George Scott of the Electrical Trades Union described London Airport as "a seething cauldron" so far as labour relations were concerned. I think this description, not before, but after an agreement had been made, is certainly one which is unhappy; and if it is true there is certainly an unhappy state of affairs at London Airport.

What is wrong? So far as one knows, conditions of work are good. It is a new enterprise and everyone should be on his toes. It is an exciting sort of life. Why are there these constant labour troubles at London Airport? Where does the root of the trouble lie? It may be that there are too many unions; and there are a large number of unions concerned, owing to the nature of the employment there. But whatever it is, perhaps the Minister can tell us what, in his view, is the cause of the constant labour difficulties at London Airport and whether anything can be done to improve the position.

Then I come to the handling of freight. There has been trouble here. I know that B.E.A. would like to handle their own freight. Airlines operating at many airports can do this; and they do it at Idlewild. But at London Airport they are not allowed to handle their own freight but have to accept the services of the Ministry employees. There are no doubt arguments for and against, and I am in no position to decide one way or the other; but it is significant, I think, that one of the State airlines would like to alter the present system.

So far as the commercial use of the airport is concerned, the 26 Government-owned airfields in the United Kingdom in the year 1959–60 had a deficit of £5,520,106. Not one of them had a surplus, but I gather that London Airport just about broke even. Some believe that the best course with reference to airport handling is for it to be taken out of the hands of the Ministry and civil servants and put under a separate statutory corporation, with its own board, which would be formed to handle all the airports in the country. I feel that this idea has some advantages; certainly, at first sight, it is rather tempting. Again, no doubt, there will be disadvantages, but I feel that, even with the many high qualities which we know they possess, civil servants are not usually the best people to run commercial undertakings. I see the noble Lord, Lord Mills, smiling, and perhaps he thinks I have made an understatement. At all events, whether it is an understatement or an overstatement, it is the view of a number of people that perhaps others can run commercial undertakings better than civil servants can. If that is so, then there is a case for a board and a corporation such as I have suggested. I was impressed with the amount of commercial use that is made by the Dutch of Schiphol airport. They are an extremely frugal people, and they have not left much in the way of assets untouched and undeveloped at Schiphol. So far as I remember, they even have cattle between the runways. That is perhaps going a little too far. However, there is a great deal to be done in the commercial use of airports. Certainly it might help to diminish the present high deficiency which exists.

Now I turn from the ground situation at London Airport to the link 'between London Airport and London. One of the circumstances of modern travel by air is that you get from one place to another with extreme rapidity. In fact, to-day one leaves Paris by jet and arrives in London before one starts, in time. That is a remarkable feature and has been possible only for people who are living in our age; none of our ancestors was able to do that. He may have thought he did, but he did not. We are the only people who can land before we start. Once one arrives at an airport, particularly London Airport, it takes an extraordinary time to get into London. One of the matters upon which we should like to have the Minister's view how he thinks that this portion of one's journey can be reduced in time. As he knows, various methods have been suggested: a tube out to London Airport: a rail spur; a monorail—that is the latest—and a helicopter service. In a few years' time we may have the vertical take-off jet-propelled aircraft. I gather that the monorail costs twice as much as the railway spur, and the tube six times as much. It may be that, for the time being, improvement of road communication between the two would be the more economical, but I have no doubt that in time it will be either the two-engined jet helicopter or the vertical take-off, jet-propelled aircraft. It will be one and possibly both of those which will come into operation.

I should like to turn to Gatwick. Gatwick was opened in June, 1958, as an overflow and diversionary airport. Last summer it was the fourth in regard to numbers of passengers handled in the United Kingdom—London Airport, Jersey and Manchester being the first three. In the winter months, however, the airport is little used. I gather that the Government wish it to be used for European services by a number of airlines. B.E.A. has agreed to use this airport for some of its European services, and has also agreed to transfer half its London-Paris services to Gatwick from April 1. Air France, Alitalia, Swissair and the Portuguese and Spanish airlines have also been approached, although we have not yet heard with what result, except in the case of Air France, who, being from a frugal country, have objected strongly to going to Gatwick on the ground that it will cost them £100,000 a year, without many advantages. What will be the reactions of the other countries? Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Mills can tell us.

I personally see little objection from the point of view of the passenger who is making London the terminus of his journey. He will land at Gatwick and will get a fast train to Victoria. Unless there is a hold-up on the line, and if the train goes through from one point to the other, he will arrive in Victoria in 43 minutes. Gatwick is 29 miles from Hyde Park Corner. So far as the train journey is concerned, there is not much difference between a train journey from Gatwick to Victoria, and a bus journey from London Airport to the centre of London. A car journey, however, is much longer. It will take about 80 minutes to get from Hyde Park Corner to Gatwick. So much for the case if Gatwick is a terminus.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but as he is dealing with this question of airports, will he deal with the point of going from one airport on one flight—having gone, say, by car to London Airport—and having to come back to Gatwick with the car being at the wrong place?


I did not need reminding of that, because I was just going to mention that point, but I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving me a reminder. The question is an important one. If Gatwick is not the terminus or, equally, as the noble Lord has pointed out, if a passenger lands at London Airport who wanted to get an aircraft going to Gatwick, the situation is different. Take the case of a man from Paris who lands at Gatwick, who wants to go to Manchester, and who has to catch a plane from London Airport. That is a great nuisance, and I fully sympathise with anyone put in that unfortunate predicament. It may be said that he ought to get an aircraft from Paris to London Airport. But there may not be one when he wants to travel, or he may not be able to get on it. Again, he may arrive at London Airport and want to go on a flight which goes from Gatwick. Frankly, I do not know what the answer to that is, and I doubt whether the noble Lord, Lord Mills, does.

This is happening in about five weeks' time, and no one has yet been able to give an indication of how one must get from one to the other except by going by train to Victoria and taking a bus to London Airport. In time, it may be a helicopter or a vertical jet aircraft service between Gatwick and London Airport. I think that is essential. I do not believe it will be practicable to try to work it without a connection between the two. In the meantime, if no such thing as the helicopter or the vertical jet is available, I think they will have to put on a light aircraft to fly from one airport to another. It is too much to land people at Gatwick and expect them to make their way to London Airport. I do not think we want to repeat the blunder of the railway age, which was to create railway stations around the perimeter of London with no connection between them. For the last hundred years railway passengers have had the difficulty of getting right across London with all their luggage. That is another point. Passengers must get from one place to another with their luggage, right across London, at their own expense.

Finally, I wish to say a word about the naming of London Airport. From April 1 Gatwick will be known as London (Gatwick) and London Airport as London (Heathrow). It is interesting to find the name of Heathrow coming back again. It was the name of a little cluster of cottages, particularly well known to the highwaymen of Hounslow Heath. Perhaps the airlines of the world will feel that the highwaymen's spirit dominates the place still, and that they have worthy successors in the Ministry of Aviation, who will be calling upon the airlines in the traditional manner to "Stand and deliver!". I beg to move for Papers.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for raising a matter which is certainly going to be of very great concern to us all. It is a matter which raises very big questions of cost and finance, and in taking Gatwick into consideration we are able now to look at the position with regard to London. Incidentally, we might also bear in mind the fact that Hurn is a possible diversion aerodrome.

I should like to deal briefly again with this question of the extent of the increase in air traffic in the London area. Certainly there has been a very large increase in passengers, but in fact the number of aircraft movements have declined so far as the figures I have been able to get show. Some figures were published inFlightwhich suggested that the number of movements in the London area aerodromes had declined by 18 per cent. between 1958 and 1959: the exact figures were 210,000 compared with 258,000. This at least suggests that the London air space, except in so far as larger aircraft need more room to manœuvre, is not necessarily getting more crowded. It is rather tempting to wonder whether possibly even the charges that have caused such a fuss recently may be a factor in this matter. I shall have more to say later on the subject of charges, rather on the lines of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore.

I think we ought not to consider that we have achieved anything like the best possible utilisation either of London Airport or of Gatwick. It is in that direction that we should consider this problem, and see how far the Government and the Ministry of Aviation are getting London Airport and Gatwick into a state to handle the traffic which undoubtedly will come in the next few years. While it is certainly right that we should criticise a number of aspects of administration of the airports, the fact remains, as the Millbourn Report made clear when it was published in 1957, that at that time, anyway, the plans which had been laid in 1946 had given us an airport which is generally recognised as one of the finest in the world and has also provided a structure "which we believe can be adapted to serve future traffic of four times the present volume". That was in 1957. There have certainly been great improvements in a number of international airfields, particularly in America and in Europe, where Copenhagen, Brussels, Orly, and even Rome, airports show very striking improvements. The criticisms that the noble Lord has made, and which I want to take a little further, concern primarily the actual development on the ground of London Airport. I think there is little to criticise at the moment with regard to the actual air traffic control at the airport. There may be something more to say about general control in the air, and I shall have a word to say about that later.

Taking London Airport, the Millbourn Committee made a number of important recommendations. That Committee reported four years ago, and it cannot but be argued that there has been a greater delay in implementing their proposals than the Millbourn Committee considered was desirable. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to the position of the long-haul operators and the deplorable conditions of the present buildings that are available. The Millbourn Report recommended that a long-haul passenger building should be completed early in 1961. So far as we can tell, it is likely to come into use some time this year, but only partially so. Then again there has so far been none of the development, which was such a fundamental part of the Millbourn Report, in regard to the building of piers; and this is quite fundamental to the efficient operating of a modern airport. At the present moment it is necessary to use these rather costly and inconvenient buses. We have all experienced the absurdity of walking down a long ramp. getting into a bus and going for a bus journey of 150 yards and getting out again. There is really no excuse, other than the financial one— which I do not dismiss lightly— for not having these piers working.

Arguments have been put forward about the difficulties of noise, fumes and so on with big modern aircraft, but they are working elsewhere. I think the first requirement at London Airport must be the carrying out very much more quickly of the carefully considered conclusions of the Millbourn Committee. The Committee had no less than twelve plans in front of them, and this is one that could now be very nearly completed. There is, too, a need for other buildings. There is no doubt that the present short-haul building, the building most of us know, is rapidly getting inadequate; and B.E.A., in particular, have been pressing for their own building. I know that your Lordships may feel there are disadvantages in this. There are the disadvantages which come not merely in moving between airport and airport but also in moving between building and building. But other buildings will have to be put up, and B.E.A., who have shown their capacity for efficient operation and for making a profit, judge that they can get a great improvement. They talk about an almost wholly electronically operated building (whatever that may mean), and certainly there is great scope for real increase of efficiency.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred briefly to the question of freight handling. I should like to say something about the handling of passengers' luggage. I suppose it is essential that the luggage should first go upstairs and then go downstairs; but it really is an extraordinary operation when one gets into the Customs shed. One sees a large number of passengers queueing up, playing a sort of game of "lucky dip," trying to grab their bags— there are usually not enough porters to do it. I am sure the nervous strain on some people must be very great. One can see their anxiety when they desperately look and think they see their suitcase and then realise it is not theirs. The bags then have to be carried over (most people carry their own), put on the Customs table, lifted up— and sometimes they are quite heavy— taken back, put on to the belt, taken downstairs; and the passenger goes on again. Then somebody asks him for his luggage ticket, which he has forgotten, and he has to produce it.

I am sure there is some scope for intelligent "organisation and methods" work here. At the West London Air Terminal they have a circular belt on which the luggage goes round, giving passengers time to pick it off. I should have thought that something along those lines would be a great help to passengers at London Airport; and it may well be, too, that the development of piers will help us. It may be that the development of what I think is called the "trickle approach", which avoids the situation of people all arriving at the same moment, may reduce the congestion in the Customs at any particular moment; and it would certainly simplify the difficulty of handling passengers on landing and the problem of the treatment of invalids. I had occasion the other day to meet a party coming back from Switzerland; and, naturally, they included four or five who had suffered a broken leg. There was nobody to help them. There was not even, so far as I know, the traditional bathchair of British Railways. I do not doubt that there is a bathchair, and I do not doubt that the Airport officials and the air operators do their utmost to be helpful. We know how much trouble they do take over young people and old people. But I am quite sure that here again the development of piers may help this matter.

There is in fact a rather surprising conflict of interest here. The airlines take the view that the passengers belong to them. The airport authorities, the Ministry of Aviation, naturally taking a proper interest, regard the passengers as belonging to them. The result is that there is some duplication, and people are not always quite sure to whom they should complain. The other day a noble Lord spent a long time, to my knowledge, trying to find somebody to whom to complain because a certain weighing machine was out of order, and there was nothing equivalent to the station master's office to go to. Whether he should go to the Ministry of Aviation officials, wherever they may be, I do not know, but this is a matter which I think needs to be considered. There is also this duplication of responsibility with regard to the loading of aircraft. Certainly it is most wasteful at the moment that both the airline operators, who are responsible under the Act for the safe loading of aircraft, should themselves be duplicating the work of Ministry of Aviation baggage men.

May I make one other point on the handling of passengers? There is one other aspect which again your Lordships will have noticed. It is quite intolerable that tourist passengers do not have numbered seats. Whether this is a matter for the airlines or one for the Ministry of Aviation, I do not know. But so far as we are concerned with the development of airports, here again we see the building up of this nervous queue of people, some of whom think they are safer in the back of the aircraft, and others preferring an aisle seat— as I do, so that I can put out my feet and trip up the hostesses.


My Lords, may I intervene for one moment? I think I am right in saying that it is not only the tourist class that is affected: all classes of passengers on short-haul routes do not have numbered seats.


I think it is true that the short routes do not have anything but a tourist class, but I believe that on other routes this matter of seating is one great inducement that the airlines hold out to attempt to persuade people to go first class. But whatever it may be, this manœuvring and scrambling that goes on, and this nervous walk to the aircraft of people not wishing to appear to be getting into the front of the queue but wanting to get a good position, is something that might be investigated.

I admit that this is a fairly critical speech, but it is right, I think, that we should bring out these criticisms and it is no reflection on the efforts which undoubtedly are made by the people on the spot. Undoubtedly, one of the most serious problems, in regard to London Airport, in particular, will be that of the traffic jam. Last summer we had one traffic jam in which the traffic lined up right back through the tunnel. It has only happened once, but if it has happened once it is obviously going to happen again. I would say that the Ministry of Aviation have been slow (to some extent this must be regarded as a matter of Government responsibility in regard to the provision of funds) in building multi-storey car parks. It may also be necessary that entry to London Airport should be restricted. Undoubtedly, it is one of the great shows at the moment and hundreds of people come there for the pleasure of seeing it. I do not know whether there are still any free car parks left there. There certainly were some.

This is a matter in which efficiency has to be considered most carefully. As the efficiency of air traffic control goes up and we are able to land aircraft in all conditions, we may find a position in which anything up to 50, 100— or more— aircraft, with several thousand passengers, will land, one after another, in thick fog. But that will be as far as they will get: they will stay in London Airport, unable to move. However costly this problem of the rail link with London Airport may be, I do not think we can put it off for ever. The Millbourn Committee recommended that a rail link should be established. I think they went into the matter most carefully, and they reckoned that within a reasonable time that rail link would pay. There is no doubt that in many ways the Gatwick rail link is much more satisfactory. It is more satisfactory for the operators. It saves the need of a London terminal building, and I think it is a credit to British Railways that they have cooperated so well. I do not think they could have made much out of it, but there is no doubt that the service is working well. I am told, indeed, that virtually no aircraft have ever been held up through failure of passengers to arrive, which is something that can happen often so long as there is a possibility that transit between the centre of London and London Airport may take—as it does on occasion —as long as an hour and twenty minutes. This dislocation has a multiplying effect throughout the day.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to the use of Gatwick. I do not think that there is a solution to this problem of moving between different airports. It will be a serious problem unless we provide a land link. I do riot think that the number of passengers who will want to ferry across will be able to do so for a considerable time, bearing in mind the sort of helicopters, or even the light aircraft, that are available at present. But I should like to know what is the Government's policy with regard to the use of Gatwick. British European Airways have their headquarters at London Airport. They are the principal users: their maintenance is there. On the other hand, we hear that the French airlines are refusing to use Gatwick, although British European Airways are not allowed access to Orly Airport. If this is true, then I think there are grounds for quite serious representations by the Government, to make it clear that if British European Airways are going to have to make sacrifices they would be much less of a sacrifice if the French airlines were to do the same— that is, to use Gatwick rather than—


My Lords, is it not a fact that, originally, British European Airways refused to use Orly before development started there? They had the chance of doing so, but said that they preferred to stay where they were.


My Lords, that may be so— I do not know. None the less, they may have had a perfectly good operational reason at that time But events move on; and furthermore, Orly is a different airport to-day from what it was when British European Airways may have refused to use it.

We should be interested to know from the Government something about the development of control and, particularly, of landing aids. We know that a great deal of this will depend on the equipment which will go into new aircraft. We should like to know how the new civil and military control is working. The only information I have been able to find is what the Minister of Aviation said in another place— namely, that something like 90 per cent. of the upper air (that is, over 25,000 feet) is under control. Have we, in fact, got on far enough with the job? How far and how well does that tie in with the EuroControl Agreement? That brings us to the subject of the "near-miss" or the air-miss which took place recently. We had hoped that this sort of thing was rapidly becoming impossible. There is no doubt that when this sort of incident occurs it causes a great deal of anxiety. I do not expect that the Government can say much to-day, but I hope that we shall hear about that in due course.

There is another aspect of the functioning of the Ministry of Aviation which I should like lightly to touch on but which I hope some other noble Lords will refer to—namely, their attitude to private aircraft arid particularly to executive aircraft. So far as the users of these aircraft are concerned, they consider that the Ministry of Aviation are determined not only to do nothing for them but to discourage them in every possible way. Whether they are justified in this, I personally cannot say. There is no doubt there is very little help and encouragement of the kind that is given in other countries.

There has been an important development in these last few years. The situation in regard to the use of executive aircraft has completely changed in the last four years. The development of modern aids and instruments makes it possible for even relatively inexpert pilots to navigate with safety in a way that was not possible in the past. But the treatment of such aircraft in this country is very different. I was told that one executive aircraft was allowed to use London Airport— it belonged to the Shell Company— but I learned to-day that even that has now been removed from London Airport. Where are all these aircraft to go? Surely the noble Lord himself would be interested in this matter from the business point of view. The Ministry of Aviation certainly should make provision of the kind made by other countries, where executive aircraft are welcomed.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to the "highwaymen of Heathrow". There is one aspect of their activities there which is quite startling: that is, the cost of the rentals they charge. I myself have recently been concerned with rental prices in the West End, and I know pretty well the kind of rentals charged in the Oxford Street area and thereabouts, which may be up to 30s. or even a little more per foot. At Heathrow one is liable to be charged 43s. 4d. per square foot, and the figures are of a kind which are bound to have a serious effect on the efficiency and profitability of our own publicly-owned airlines, who are the principal users. I would ask that Her Majesty's Government should consider this matter, and consider whether or not there ought to be independent valuations in regard to the use of space at London Airport.

I should have liked to deal a little with the question of labour troubles, but I do not wish to take too long. I do not feel we ought to let the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, pass without noting that tremendous efforts have been made, with a good deal of success, by airline operators and some trade union leaders to improve what has certainly become a notoriously bad industry from a labour point of view; and I should be sorry if we were just to assume that there was nothing to be done about it and there could be no real improvement.

In conclusion, I would turn to the most important question of all: the cost to the operators of these airports. The last statement which has come from Her Majesty's Government was that made on February 13 last when the honourable gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 634 (No. 52), col. 924]: I do not think that our charges are out of line with those of other major international airports. The figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, show that that is simply not so. I will not myself repeat those figures, but they are so striking as to give ground for the most serious consideration; and they have certainly aroused the positive fury of the operators. It is argued that the difference between London Airport and, say, Idlewild, is that there are all kinds of hidden concessions made at Idlewild in other directions which we, being more honest, do not attempt to deal with in that way; and that we charge the full price. But even when those are taken into account— and I have made an estimate and would ask Her Majesty's Government whether they can dispute it, for it is a matter on which we must get the facts— the difference is that the real cost of landing a Boeing aircraft at Idlewild is £120 (the actual official figure is about £43) and the real cost at London Airport is about £280. In other words the difference is some two and a half times.


My Lords, could the noble Lord say whether, in fact, Idlewild does not make supplementary charges, above the basic, which bring the figures much nearer?


My Lords, that was the point I was trying to make. The paper figures of comparison are £43 to £240, but by the time adjustments are made it has been calculated that the real charge at Idlewild comes to £120 and at London Airport £280.


My Lords, I gave the figure of £122 for the reason which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has given. I was aware that the basic charge is £43 but I thought it fairer to give the figure of £122.


My Lords, there is no difference between the noble Lord and myself on this. If the figures of the noble Lord and mine are wrong, I hope the Government will tell us so. In another place the Minister has suggested that if anyone wants to check them he can go to the International Civil Aviation Organisation Manual of Airport and Air Navigation Facility Tariffs. I have been to it, but, not having a computer available, I was not able to make the necessary calculations.

The real point is that the American Federal. Aviation Agency spend prodigiously greater sums in subsidising civil aviation. Their last total figure that I have is 567,995,000 dollars, as opposed to the £5 million to which the noble Lord referred, which represents the Ministry of Aviation's loss on aerodromes. Even if that Ministry is spending money on other items, I doubt, from my own examination of the accounts— and I am not sure that even those come in—whether they can represent more than £1 million. The Federal Aviation Agency underwrite 50 per cent. of terminal buildings and runway costs and it appears to me they will be carrying the interest charges on those; and those charges, of course, are quite a considerable item. I do not want to press this matter very much further, but I think we ought to know whether the Government reckon we can follow a policy of economic self-sufficiency with regard to our aerodromes.

It is perfectly arguable, and an attractive proposition which I feel we should consider sympathetically, that the British taxpayer should not have to subsidise these operations any more than some other operations, and there is no doubt that in one way or another aviation gets a good deal of the taxpayers' money. But the consequence of our unilateral action in this matter—and I stress "unilateral"— in comparison with other nations (and again one can look at the figures and see the difference) is that our own British operators, especially for British European Airways, who do about 60 per cent. of the short-haul movements, suffer. That will affect our competitive position to a far greater degree than those of other airlines who come to London Airport only among a large number of other airports. I suggest it is really quite out of the question, unless there is international agreement, to transfer these charges to the operators. It may well be that more ought to be done in the way of these transfers, but, much as we dislike hidden subsidies, and aware though we are of hidden subsidies given to other airlines operators in the world, I do not think we can afford to let our own national operators, whether publicly or privately owned, be at quite such a disadvantage.

I do not know what the solution is. I do know—and I am sure this must be so—that the Government have to give very careful consideration to what is the right policy, and they must consider whether or not the administration of these airfields is rightly left directly under the Ministry. May I again make clear that there is no criticism of the high standards of safety of air traffic control, but there are grounds for suggesting that the administration is not as commercially-minded as it should be, and particularly in regard to the exploitation of concessions. I believe that at some airfields in some parts of the world as much as 50 per cent. or 100 per cent. of the revenue is obtained from non-aviation sources.

I think that the noble Lord, who was concerned with transferring atomic energy from the direct control of the Ministry of Supply to an independent public authority, would not himself be prejudiced one way or the other in this matter. It is not a question of private versus public enterprise. There is no suggestion that the administration of these airfields should go to private enterprise. But already we know that in other parts of the world independent authorities are successful in operating them. The New York Port Authority, for instance, have their own division which is concerned with operating the airports, and the hoard has twelve members, six from the State of New Jersey and six from New York. The Port of London Authority is another good example with Government representatives on it and, above all, representatives of the users and the operators. And if we are to get a more ruthless commercial approach to this matter, at least we ought to consider this possibility. I am not to-day advocating it, but unless the Ministry of Aviation can meet the growing wave of criticism that is arising with regard to the airports, then we shall have to consider whether or not Civil Service control is really suitable in these circumstances.

But in the long run, my Lords, it will depend on the Government themselves to make up their minds as to their policy with regard to the financing of this operation. It may well be that, even if there is an independent body, the Government and the Ministry of Aviation will have to carry a good deal of the cost, in the same way as the Federal Aviation Agency does. But thereafter it would seem to be desirable that whoever control the airports go about it in a really determined commercial way, determined to get the greatest efficiency, if necessary with borrowing powers of the kind the Corporations have, and that they should be able to develop the airports in a different way and at a speed greater than is happening at present.

4.33 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for initiating this timely debate. It would seem to be timely in view of the following considerations. The 1953 White Paper, London's Airports, Cmd. 8902, stated that as the number of scheduled flights within the next ten years was expected to double, the decision had been reached that London needed three airports; that is, Heathrow, Gatwick and Blackbushe. But, my Lords, Blackbushe has now been closed down. A doubling in air traffic or in air traffic density is also expected by the monthly periodical World Airports, in one of their articles, between now and 1970. They refer in that article to a radius of 90 miles around Heathrow.

Stage 1 of the Gatwick construction plan has now been satisfactorily concluded. We were told the operation has now been in service since June, 1958. It would seem to me that possibly Her Majesty's Government may now be in a position to say whether it would not be an appropriate moment to consider starting on stage 2 of the plan which was detailed in the 1954 Report, Cmd. 9215. It would also be interesting to hear from Her Majesty's Government (this point was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton) what further recommendations of the Millbourn Committee are to be implemented with regard to London Airport.

Without wishing to weary your Lordships with detailed figures, I should like to quote a few which show, I think, a steady increase in aircraft movements and in air passengers. These are official figures, I believe, and I should like to consider the month of October in 1958, 1959 and 1960. At Heathrow the air movement figures were 10,231, 11,147 and 12,311 respectively. The passenger figures rose from 294,000 to 364,000 and then to 465,000. At Gatwick the aircraft movements also increased in October, 1958, 1959 and 1960, from 956 to 2,022 and then to 2,566. The passenger figures rose from 11,000 to 20,000 and then to 29,000 last October.

That brings me now to the question of utilisation and development of Gatwick and Heathrow. I would agree that certain services will have to be transferred from Heathrow to Gatwick, as has been stated in an interesting article on Gatwick Airport which appeared on February 13 in the Financial Times, with a view to easing the congestion at Heathrow in air traffic control and in passenger handling. Here, my Lords, as there is to be this transfer of air control, I would ask whether consideration could be given by Her Majesty's Government to extending the present runway at Gatwick. This could possibly be considered in conjunction with stage 2 of the Gatwick development plan. It was, I would add, considered feasible in the Gatwick Report to which I referred earlier on, Command Paper 9215.

I think that this extension of the existing runway, as well as putting in hand the construction of Stage II of Gatwick, would have the effect of attracting a greater number of operators with jet aircraft to use that airport. Naturally, I am conscious of the fact that, for instance, Boeing 707s and D.C.8s need long runways, on take off particularly, but I have not in mind those particular aircraft when thinking of Gatwick for jet aircraft. However, I would urge Her Majesty's Government to reconsider to some extent the question of which international services should operate from Heathrow and which should operate from Gatwick.

The 1959– 60 Report and Accounts of British European Airways states that their international services from Gatwick to Dinard and to Cologne and Hanover started on May 15, 1959. On November 29 last, in another place, the Minister of Aviation said that B.E.A. were proposing to transfer some of their London—Paris Services to Gatwick as from April 1 of this year; and, as has been mentioned by other noble Lords, Air France have been asked to do likewise. As I said, I agree that certain transfers are necessary, but I think that the emphasis with regard to Continental services should be more on medium-haul services than on short-haul services.

My reasons for this request are as follows—and I should like your Lordships to consider the London— Paris service, which is, in effect, a short-haul service. Whether one flies by Vanguard, by Viscount or by Caravelle, the flight duration ranges from 45 minutes to one hour. I think that, on such short air journeys, the time spent on reaching the airport or one's destination assumes far greater proportions. As has been mentioned earlier in the course of this debate, passengers travelling via Gatwick can go either by rail or by road, but the through trains from Victoria run only every half hour and take around 41 minutes, and I believe I am right in saying that, by the congested Brighton road, the time taken from Hyde Park Corner to Gatwick is in the region of one and a half hours. In this respect, it should be remembered, too, that the departures of aircraft can seldom be timed exactly to coincide with train arrivals, and, therefore, there can be a slight delay there.

On the return journey, the clearance of, for instance, a 100-seater aircraft at Gatwick would take in the region of 45 minutes. Some passengers may be able to get on a train immediately, but it may well be that the 'passengers who get through later will have to wait for nearly 30 minutes; whilst at Heathrow passengers may +immediately board a coach on leaving the Customs, or may leave by car. I think one should also bear in mind the fact that when the Hammersmith flyover is completed access from London Airport, Heathrow, to the centre of London will be greatly facilitated. On average, I think lit is fair to say that, from the moment of touchdown of an aircraft, it takes double the time to reach the centre of London from Gatwick that it takes from Heathrow. However, Gatwick is very accessible to a large number of persons who live South of London and in the surrounding counties. I believe that one independent operator considers that the air-passenger potential is in the region of 14 million persons. But, for the Londoner, or for the foreigner wishing to come to London, I feel that, at present, Heathrow is more accessible.

Now I should like to come on to this question of the splitting of services of one company for one destination. It has been mentioned that B.E.A. have agreed to operate some of their services from Gatwick to Paris, so there will be a splitting of services. Some will take off from Gatwick and some will take off from 'Heathrow. I think this will involve the airline in considerable expense; and the same applies to Air France, who have been asked to transfer some of their services to Gatwick. There is also, I think, the question of freight, which is an important one. With regard to bulk consignments, these are often divided between different aircraft, so that freight arriving at Gatwick may then have to be forwarded on to the main depôt at Heathrow for Customs clearance.

That brings me to the question of landing fees. Here, I do not propose to go into the question of the cost, but shall refer to a question of principle. This concerns mainly the charging of these fees at Gatwick and Heathrow. It seems to me basically wrong that an aircraft which has had to be diverted from Heathrow to Gatwick, simply because work is being carried out on the runway or on an extension of the runway, should also have to pay a fee when it lands later, without a payload, at Heathrow. I think there is a case here of a dual landing fee; and in view of the fact that the aircraft has no payload but is just repositioning itself, it seems to me wrong that it should be asked to pay another landing fee.

Finally, my Lords, I should also like to speak on a question which was touched on extensively by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and that is the question of piers at Heathrow. On March 28 of last year, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation said, in effect, that at London Central Terminal, at peak periods, 5.02 per cent. of all arriving passengers and 65.5 per cent. of all departing passengers had to board a bus to take them from the Terminal building to the aircraft. With regard to off-peak periods, the figures were 48.3 per cent. and 65.9 per cent. respectively. As has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, this is clearly an extra inconvenience for those passengers.

I should like here to quote some words which appear in the 1957 Millbourn Committee Report. They are as follows: The piers are covered ways extending from the passenger building and giving access by gates to the aircraft stands which are arranged alongside. …The introduction of piers at London Airport would lead to radical changes in the present apron layout, but we believe that their use would result in substantial economies in manpower and operating costs.…We recommend therefore that a pier system should be adopted. These views are also quoted by British European Airways, in their 1959–60 Annual Report and Accounts. British European Airways say that the continuing absence of the piers recommended by the Millbourn Committee in 1957 to bring aircraft within reach of the Terminal building, and eliminate use of passenger buses across the aprons, makes for congestion and delay at London Airport. So, on the one hand, by the introduction of piers substantial economies would be achieved; on the other hand, there would be substantial improvement in congestion and delays.

To sum up, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, will be able to give us some guidance on the following points— namely, whether Her Majesty's Government are considering starting work on stage 2 of the Gatwick Airport construction plan; whether the noble Lord can say anything on the question of transferring the medium-haul services to Gatwick, rather than the short-haul services; whether it would be possible to avoid, in the early stages, split services (which, I think was mentioned by one noble Lord on these Benches, Lord Derwent, who felt that there was an inconvenience if one left one's car at Gatwick, having left that airport by one service, and returned by another service landing at Heathrow); and, lastly, whether the noble Lord, Lord Mills, can say anything with regard to dual landing fees, and on the construction of piers at Heathrow.

4.52 p.m.


My Lords, I take this opportunity to address your Lordships for the first time, and I do so briefly and in a not too controversial manner. However, that must not be taken as a precedent, because I cannot always promise that I shall be both brief and uncontroversial.

So far as the Ministry of Civil Aviation is concerned, there has been criticism of its aerodrome policy and administration. I should like to divide this criticism into two. I shall be a little critical, but it will be of Government policy and not of the administration within the Department. No one has mentioned this afternoon that in 1945 Heathrow was a collection of fields and a few tents. Yet, in spite of all the problems of reconstruction and rehabilitation which faced the Labour Government in 1945, that Government set aside part of our resources for the planning and building of London Airport. The central buildings now standing were planned and constructed during the lifetime of the Labour Government, and when that Labour Government fell in 1951 the buildings were ready for use, although they had not been officially opened. The present Government have been in power since 1951, but have done nothing towards the development of passenger-handling facilities at London Airport.

Reference has been made to the wooden huts and the Nissen huts on the North side. They are the huts which were placed there between 1945 and 1951 as an emergency measure, and they were temporary structures. It is true, as has been suggested this afternoon, that the central buildings, which we anticipated during that period between 1945 and 1951 would be sufficient for some time to come, are already overloaded. The point I am making is that the general planning and construction of London Airport is a credit to this country. The central buildings are good, although they are perhaps, overloaded. But the North side and the temporary hutments are a disgrace, and they should not have remained there for all this period of time.

Some mention has been made of civil servants. May I say that it is quite easy to make a gibe at them. However, Ministers rely upon them, and as one who has seen something of business operations in the outside world I say that civil servants are as effective, efficient and businesslike as the operators of normal commercial undertakings. If they are requested to carry out commercial operations, they can do that just as well. As to the departmental operation, I think the administration is good. It has been my privilege to travel fairly widely. There are noble Lords in all parts of the House who have travelled much more widely than I, but my experience— and I expect it is the experience of all such noble Lords— has been that, so far as the general standard of passenger handling at London Airport, at Gatwick, or at any British airport is concerned, it stands quite good in comparison with the treatment one gets abroad, whether that be in America or anywhere else. We have nothing to be ashamed of in our passenger handling, in our air traffic control arrangements, in our navigational aids, or in the arrangements which we make to deal with emergencies for which from time to time we have to be ready. I think our standards are equal to those anywhere in the world.

With regard to Gatwick, this is the only airport, in the London region at any rate, that has good surface communications. May I make it clear that Gatwick was developed at the request of B.E.A. Gatwick Aerodrome was going to be handed back to its owners, to give them an opportunity to develop the racecourse, but when Peter Masefield was made chief executive of B.E.A., he said immediately that at some period in the not too distant future there would have to be a division between the peak short-haul traffic of B.E.A., and the long-haul traffic both of B.E.A. and of B.O.A.C. It was, in his own terms, in fact a separation of main line and branch line working. He requested the Minister of the day, who was then the noble Lord. Lord Nathan. to give him an opportunity to develop Gatwick, and had that decision been made earlier perhaps the new town which surrounds it would not have been built, because permission to build the new town was given only after there had been a rejection of Gatwick by the previous management of B.E.A.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred to labour relations. As I understand the Motion which is before your Lordships, it concerns London Airport. I did think, if I may say so in the friendliest of terms, that it was a little unfair to bring in normal industrial relations in the Corporations to the discredit of London Airport as an operational unit. The industrial problems in London Airport have been comparatively few. It is true that there have been some in connection with the porters; but in these days of full employment, it is perhaps a little difficult to secure, on either side, the discipline that one would like. But the general standard of labour relations within the Ministry has been good, whatever might be said about the Corporations, and of course they have the opportunity of dealing with these in the normal way.

Reference has been made to high landing fees. Again this is a question of Government policy. Are the aerodromes to be provided, equipped and run as a service, or are they to be undertakings that are required to pay their way? If they have to be viable as undertakings, then it is bound to be the case that rents for space and concessions within the aerodromes and landing fees have to be high. The provision of all the facilities needed, including air traffic control, navigational aids, crash crews and all the rest, is very expensive; and if these expenses have to be met, then the charges are bound to be high. If I may say so, I could not understand the reference of my noble friend Lord Shackleton to the fact that while rents in Oxford Street are 30s. a foot (which seems to me a bit low), 40s. is asked at London Airport; and a little later my noble friend was wondering whether civil servants were sufficiently skilled in extracting high rentals. He cannot have it both ways; either they are doing well in getting 40s. at London Airport when the figure in Oxford Street is only 30s., or it is the other way round. It is purely a question of Government policy throughout the whole field of transport.

Mention was also made of the link between the city centre and London Airport. It is the case that a Tube, railway, monorail, or whatever it may be, cannot be provided on a viable basis. During the lifetime of the Labour Government we had discussions with London Transport about the provision of a Tube from Osterley Park, and with the Southern Region of British Railways about the provision of a railway. What we found was that the type of transport required could not be provided by either of these undertakings on the basis that it must pay its way. Here we have the Government wanting their aerodromes to pay their way, London Transport to pay their way and British Railways to pay their way. If the sole condition in all these undertakings is to be that of viability and not of service, then, of course, these provisions cannot be met. The Government must make up their mind about the extent to which they are prepared to give the Civil Service the means of providing for this public need.

Comparisons have been made with charges and facilities abroad. We have to be fair, and if we are going to make comparisons, they ought to be of like with like. As my noble friend Lord Shackleton said, the accountancy within the Civil Service administration in this country is on a high standard and we do not try to hide things. But other Administrations in various parts of the world use all sorts of devices to hide charges and make it appear that costs are met when, in fact, they are not.

The point has been made this afternoon as to whether we should change our system of operation from the departmental administration of aerodromes to administration by an independent Board. This is an arguable point, but I should say that all the operational and administrative "know-how" gained by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in the postwar period of sixteen years has enabled them to develop all branches of the service to an extremely high standard. Any deficiences have been on the basis of Governmental policy, in not giving them the resources to deal with the improvements they would have liked to make. Speaking personally, I should hesitate to throw away this acquired skill and develop on the lines of an independent Board, particularly if the functions of the Board were to include the general arrangements for air traffic control, the development of navigational aids and the rest.

There was within the Ministry, and I presume there is still, a research department, with highly qualified men who, over a period of time, have been undertaking experiments and giving a great deal of thought to the development and improvement of air traffic control. There was, too, in spite of the two different air-control systems, very close cooperation between the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and I have no reason to believe that that does not still exist. I would not lightly throw this away. I have no doubt that, given the opportunity of developing the aerodromes in the manner in which they ought to be developed, and given the resources which the Government ought to provide, the departmental operation and administration of the aerodromes will be effective and efficient. The only point on which I have any fear is that the present Government do not appear to be at all air-minded, either in regard to the provision of facilities at the shop-window we have at London Airport, or in regard to the provision of adequate amenities.

5.9 p.m.


My Lords, my first task this afternoon is a very pleasant one. It is to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, on his maiden speech. He spoke extremely clearly, obviously with great experience and knowledge, and we much look forward to hearing him again often in future. I am told that the noble Lord arrives in your Lordships' House with a reputation for being a glutton for hard work. I am sure that noble Lords on both sides will be grateful for that, particularly those who sit opposite me. I congratulate him very warmly: we are delighted to have him sitting with us.

I would say a few words about private and executive aviation, on which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has already touched slightly. I believe that this side of aviation is not being looked after at the present moment. It is, however, most important because it brings in the matter of exports. Every day we are told that exports must rise, and that the more we can do to help in this matter the better it will be. More and more business men and business firms are at this moment taking to executive flying—owning their own machines and flying to various places both within the country itself and abroad. I am told that one firm reckons that if a man has an aircraft he can do three times as much work as he can do if he has to go by other means of transport.

The real difficulty, surely, is that there are no airports near London at the present time properly fitted out for this type of flying. Let me take one or two examples. London Airport, as we know, is not for that type of flying, but I have heard (and I believe it to be true) that the Minister is going to make a new regulation under which certain types of executive aircraft which are fitted to comply with regulations will be able to use it, and pilots licensed to comply with regulations will be permitted to fly these aircraft. London Airport is at the moment very heavily loaded, and will be even more so; and this also applies to Gatwick Airfield. In fact, some well-informed people tell me that they soon will become what is called "swamped".

I understand, further, that next month (I think it is) at London Airport, and later on at Gatwick, however bright the day, all landings will have to be made under fog conditions. If you combine that with all the other difficulties, London Airport does not seem the place for this executive flying. We all know how difficult it is. A little time ago there was a light aircraft, without radio, which got slightly lost; the pilot came down a little to see where he was, and the first people to find him were London Airport controllers. As he had no radio, there was panic and alarm for some time because nobody could tell him to go away. Obviously, that type of flying is impossible anywhere near the London Airport control area.

What Customs airports are there to which these executive 'planes can go? There is the late-lamented (shall I call it?) Croydon, which would be ideal for this type of flying. It has been said that it would cost too much money to increase the runways and so on, but I do not think the runways would have to be increased for the type of aircraft I am now discussing. Then there is Hendon aerodrome, which belongs to the Royal Air Force. I am not quite certain what is happening there. I am told that in the middle of the runway there is a most expensive piece of radar equipment which precludes any aircraft from landing. It is a roost expensive piece of ground. Surely there are other places for radar to be put. But Hendon, again, would be quite a good airport for this type of flying. You can go further afield to Southend, to Lympne or to White Waltham. Southend and Lympne are Customs airports. White Waltham is a grass airfield, and is quite a good one, but has no Customs facilities. I live practically within the sound of it, and I know that in rush-hour traffic it takes some time to get there. But we hope that this time will be reduced soon by the Maidenhead by-pass.

I would, therefore, ask. Her Majesty's Government where they feel this type of flying should be based. It is important for business executives to be able to fly when they want to, and not when these big airports say they may. There was a case the other day of a big contracting firm which had a project in Italy, and something went wrong. There was a frantic burning of telephone wires, and the people in Italy said that this was no good and they would not have it. The firm here owned its own aircraft, and they took off on a Saturday night, arriving in Italy in the middle of Sunday morning. They got the necessary inspections done; they telephoned to London and had the stuff back on Monday They not only got that order back, but another £120,000 order as well. That is just one example. So I feel that we must pay attention to this side of flying.

Then there is the ordinary private pilot, who presents a much more difficult problem. To fly for fun is an expensive business now. It is difficult to get anywhere near London. I feel that this type of pilot will have to be centred a little further away. But all types of private flying lead to other things. In the old days this country used to export many types of old aircraft (I do not propose to go into them, because we are discussing not aircraft but airports), but to-day in the small aircraft field we do nothing but import, chiefly from America. From July, 1959, to January, 1961, there were 145 of these machines imported from America, and about 8 from other sources. If the aircraft manufacturers can see where civil flying and executive flying is going, and know that it is going to be looked after by the Government, it is more likely that we shall once again be able to make, and even export, our own aircraft. I hope that the Ministry will drop the idea that executive flying is a necessary evil and will adopt the attitude that it is a part of aviation which should be encouraged and helped as much as possible.

5.18 p.m.


My Lords. I should like to add my congratulations to those of my noble friend to the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, on his maiden speech, which shows very much the old hand that he is. I, for one, am looking forward to the time when he makes a controversial speech. I hope that he gets as much pleasure out of us as we are undoubtedly going to get out of him. Then I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for giving us this opportunity to discuss the subject of London Airport and Gatwick. Many of the points I was going to make have already been made, and I shall not weary your Lordships by repeating more than is absolutely necessary.

I should like to start by saying that, personally, I congratulate the Government not only on the foresight which they have shown in building up Gatwick to what we see to-day, but also on the imagination they have exhibited as to what is likely to happen in the future by leaving space there to take the airport on a stage further if the necessity arises. Undoubtedly a greater passenger-handling capacity will be required, but no doubt the Government have that in hand. A criticism by which the Government might have been led astray was that money for building up Gatwick might have been used at London Airport. As anyone knows, you cannot enlarge an airfield and its capacity beyond a certain number of aircraft movements per hour. Unless you were to bulldoze the houses for miles around, and add three more parallel runways, no amount of money spent on London Airport could possibly do that.

Surprisingly enough, I understand that Gatwick has helped very much on diversionary flights. I, for one, was afraid that when Blackbushe— which the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, mentioned— disappeared from the map, the only place to which aircraft in fog would be diverted would be Hum. But I believe that, over the last eighteen months or so, Gatwick has been able to take something like 50 per cent. of these diversions. So much for the criticism that Gatwick would be unable to do so.

The noble Lord has said that communications from Gatwick are fairly good. I should like to ask whether there is a possibility of fitting in a single-coach train on the main line, even if it is only once an hour in each direction, which would run direct from Gatwick to Victoria and would cut down the 42 minutes journey to something like 30 minutes. I know that the density along that line of the Southern Region is fairly high, but if this were possible I am sure it would help passenger convenience considerably. Perhaps one of these days we shall have a faster road to Brighton, which may bring Gatwick even nearer London.

Now may I turn to London Airport for a moment? We have heard criticisms of London Airport and those horrible huts on the North of the airfield, which we all deplore. But the large buildings which have been built, and the new ones which are being built in the centre, do not go up overnight; and obviously it is impossible to scrap the huts on the North side until the other passenger handling capacity is available. The size of aircraft has gone up so much over the last two or three years, with the arrival of jets and eventually of the Vanguard, and with the number of passengers rising from something like 40 up to 140 or so, that this must obviously be creating a problem of passenger handling which will have to be looked at with vision.

At London Airport much of the delay is caused not so much by the ordinary passenger passing through, but by immigration or emigration. I am not saying anything about the Customs men. They work extremely hard, and as swiftly as they can, and I have nothing but praise for them. But it seems to me that our system of Customs in this country is archaic, to say the least. Most of your Lordships have travelled abroad. whether by car or by air, and know that the difference between our Customs and those abroad has to be seen to be believed. We come back to the creaking horse-buggy stage. I think it is about time that the Home Office (as they have been asked to do on many occasions) pulled up their socks, not only to speed up passenger travel in this country but also to win the tourist trade, upon which we say we rely for many hundreds of thousands of dollars but which we seem to do nothing to encourage. Many of your Lordships have mentioned the communications between Gatwick and London Airport. I am sure that the Government will think up some way in which people arriving at one airport will be able to get swiftly to the other to catch their connections

I come now to the subject of air traffic control. Having had a debate and questions on the subject, we all know the story of Decca. It has been proved time and time again— and I think some of these near misses have proved it too tragically— that something more than the present system is needed. I believe that even the American airline companies are having another try at their own authorities (though I doubt very much whether they will succeed) to get the Decca system into the big airfields. The small airfields do not need a system like that, but airfields like Idlewild, London Airport and Orly, with high density traffic, do need that sort of thing. To think that they are prevented from having a system of air control merely because smaller airfields do not require it is a fantastic argument, and one can only hone that somehow, some way, Her Majesty's Government will be able to bring pressure to bear so that we may eventually get this system. If not, we shall have tragedies, and tragedies in the air become bigger and bigger as aircraft get larger and larger.

One other point, which has been mentioned already— and I apologise for mentioning it again, but I think it is one which needs emphasising— is the near miss which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, mentioned. I know there is a Committee sitting on the subject of unification, but I hope they will expedite their work, and that the result of their work will be that the air control between civil aviation and the R.A.F. will be unified. My noble friend mentioned private aircraft, and I should like to say that I agree entirely with everything he has said. We cannot lose sight of the fact that there is still private aviation, and it must be catered for.

I do not think there is anything more I wish to say, except this. We are not far away from the day when big aircraft —and small aircraft for that matter—are going to be of the vertical take-off type, arid we shall not need these enormous airfields. Therefore, I hope that, although we may fit up airfields to be as efficient as they possibly can, we shall still keep an eye on the fact that one day they will not be required. I hope the Government are looking for a site nearer the centre of London where, when the time comes, vertical take-off and landing aircraft will be able to operate, and so shorten even more the time between city centres. I am glad that the Government were not deterred from building Gatwick into the airport it is now; and on that note I will sit down.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, as an unscheduled speaker, I will not take up much of your Lordships' time. I should like to underline one particular aspect of the Motion which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. He asked, among other things, Her Majesty's Government's intention with reference to the development of Gatwick Airport. Although a considerable amount has been said about that airport in your Lordships' debate, I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Milks, has been asked to mention any of Her Majesty's Government's future intentions about it. When the decision was made— and it was no easy decision—that an airport for the purposes of diversion and overflow from London Airport should be established at Gatwick, the situation was, I think, very different from What it is today. It has now arrived at a point Where I cannot believe that Heathrow is going to be able to cope as the main airport for London for very much longer. I am no expert on this subject, but if you stand even in Kew Gardens and watch the stream of aeroplanes which go over every two minutes into London Airport you begin to wonder how much longer this flow of traffic can be accommodated there.

Nor do I think that this country is by any means as air-minded as it is going to become in due course. The internal services in this country increase in popularity and in traffic every year; and certainly so far as Scotland is concerned there is considerable mourn for even more improvement. I think this must be the way in which the mind of Her Majesty's Government is working, in so far as the very titles they have now chosen for the two airports have been established as London (Heathrow) and London (Gatwick). Gatwick, therefore, now seems to me to be not only a diversionary and overflow airport but one of the main London airports, and if that is so its status as presumably enhanced, and so, too, should be its facilities. As it is, it is used by a large independent British commercial airline, and for all I know, by others too, as well as being a diversionary airfield for international scheduled flights. And now it is also to be used by one, at least, of the British State Corporations. Therefore it is quite clear that Her Majesty's Government must have intentions as regards its future.

Gatwick Airport has only one runway, and it is obvious that one runway is not enough for a full-scale international airport. That runway runs East and West, and presumably if another runway it to be built it will go more or less North and South. My noble friend in front of me shakes his head; I shall no doubt be corrected if I am wrong. At any rate, in that part of Sussex, as the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, said— and, if I may, I would add my congratulations to him on his maiden speech— there is established the new town of Crawley. Your Lordships will all know what a noise is now made by jet aircraft when taking off. I should imagine, therefore, that the enlargement of Gatwick Airport is not going to be a popular feature in the surrounding parts of Sussex and the Surrey borders. No doubt my noble friend's right honourable friend the Minister of Housing will have considerable views on the subject. However, if this is a matter of policy on doubt policy can be arranged between the various Departments.

But I would ask the noble Lord to say whether he has intentions of increasing the capacity, both in runway and in terminal facilities, at Gatwick, and whether he can tell us in any way what those are to be Because I am convinced that London is going to be in the same position as other great international cities, in that it will need more than one international airport. The decision has been taken that the other shall be Gatwick; and Gatwick, therefore, must be put on a proper full-scale international footing.

As one appendix to this remark, the access to Gatwick, or at any rate the really successful access, is by the Southern Region railway service, which is very efficient and frequent and is immediately adjacent to the airport terminal itself. There is only one snag, and that is that the rolling stock into which passengers get is of the normal Southern Region standard, and of course it is rolling stock which takes considerable punishment in the enormous rush hour traffic that it carries. But, none the less, as the first introduction of the international traveller to British transport facilities and the British way of life it is no exactly enlightening or particularly exhilarating to get into one of those trains I would therefore support some such suggestion as the noble Earl, Lort Gosford, has made: that there should be some special one-coach trains, or possibly more than one coach, running between Gatwick and Victoria which might be of a slightly higher class than the normal non-corridor Southern Railway rolling stock. If my noble friend Lord Mills could give any encouragement on those lines I think it would be widely welcomed, not only by the State Corporations but also by some of the large private operators who at present depend on Gatwick and make full and expensive use of it.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, I should first of all like to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that I was wrong in my intervention during his speech. I have since ascertained that seats are allocated by B.E.A., at any rate on all their first-class services, but not, of course, on their tourist class. The real reason I am rising for just a few minutes is to ask the noble Lord, Lord Mills, whether anything is being done to eliminate the most appalling chaos which took place last summer— in fact to some extent it takes place all the year round, particularly at London Airport Central —with regard to car traffic. Chauffeur-driven cars sent out by travel agents and others last summer to meet incoming passengers were almost driven mad. They were chivvied from pillar to post, and, so far as I can see, the attitude taken by the officials at London Airport was that they were a nuisance; and it was practically indicated that the passengers should have come in and out from town in the ordinary bus.

The tendency these days is for more and more people to go by car to London Airport, and I think it vitally necessary that better facilities should be provided for cars. A very bad impression is given to visitors from overseas—and, incidentally, the unfortunate travel agent responsible for their arrangements—if, when they get to the airport, they cannot find the car and it has no hope of getting up to the door of the Terminal to pick them up within a reasonable time of the aircraft's arrival. Moreover, for those who use their own cars to the airport the car-parking facilities are already quite inadequate. In some cases it is necessary to go a long way from the Terminal; on many occasions you have to cruise round the building for ten minutes or half an hour before you can find anywhere to park. I should be very grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Mills, would say what is being done to remedy this really disastrous state of affairs.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we have had a very interesting and useful debate. Most of our debates are interesting. We cannot claim they are all useful, but this one is certainly useful, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has done well to draw attention to the outstanding importance of the London district as the great centre of our civil aviation, both for the ever-increasing number of those who travel by air and for freight.

I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, on his maiden speech. He promised us that in the future he will be controversial. I am sure that none of us will mind that. But I am sure he will not object if I take the opportunity of correcting for the Record one statement he made. He said that nothing has been done by this Government since 1951 in this field. I would remind the noble Lord that a White Paper, which was the basis for a great deal of development, was issued in 1953; that many of the facilities came into use in 1955 and that the Millbourn Report itself was dated in 1957. So I think he might agree with me that at least something has been done.

The White Paper of July, 1953, on London's Airports stated that one and three quarter million passengers went through the London Airports in 1952. Passenger traffic last year had grown to 5.8 million passengers, and there seems little doubt that this expansion will continue, in view of the general increase in prosperity— enabling more and more people to travel— coupled with the technical advances in aircraft design and efficiency and the fall in the real level of fares. I think the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton said that there had not been much increase in aircraft movement. I should like to give him the figures. They were up in the London area by 3,000 between 1958 and 1959, and by 14,000 between 1959 and 1960. Incidentally, the greatest increase in the last two years has been in the domestic services—that is, between London and other airports in the United Kingdom. That was a matter referred to by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, and I think it is a most heartening sign that people are getting more air-minded.

Perhaps your Lordships would permit me to outline what has been done to provide and equip airports in the London area to meet not merely the present demand but the demand we foresee in the future. The White Paper of 1953 in which the Government outlined their plans for London's Airports envisaged that there would be three main airports serving the London area: London (Heathrow); London (Gatwick); and Blackbushe. Of the other airports then serving the London area, Croydon, Northolt and Bovingdon would cease to be used as civil airports, and Stansted would be put into reserve as soon as Gatwick had been sufficiently developed. Gatwick was to provide, with Heathrow, the facilities for London, to serve as an overflow for peak traffic in the short-haul services, and as a base for the smaller operators who would be displaced by the closure of Croydon.

This plan has been effectively carried out. The first stage of Gatwick has been built, and the civil air operations have ceased at Croydon, Northolt and Bovingdon. It has also been found possible, as a result of the development of Gatwick and other developments, to dispense with Blackbushe; and the future of Stansted is now currently being considered in consultation with the airlines. The result of this process of rationalisation has been to reduce to two the effective number of airports serving regular air traffic in the area—London (Heathrow) Airport and London (Gatwick) Airport as they are now described. These airports, suitably developed, are considered adequate to meet the needs of the London area for transport airports for the next few years—say up to 1970. How, in fact, have these airports been developed to meet the growth and, as many noble Lords have queried, what plans are there for their further expansion?

The first big step in the development was the completion in 1955 of the block of buildings in the central terminal at Heathrow, with facilities for the short-haul passenger services that then moved over from Northolt, an air traffic control tower and extensive facilities for the general public. The next major decision was to proceed with the construction of a new airport at Gatwick in accordance with the proposals of the White Paper of 1953. The first stage of this airport was completed by early summer, 1958, as planned.

Between the completion of the new passenger block in the central terminal at Heathrow and the completion of the new airport at Gatwick, a Committee was set up, under the chairmanship of Sir Eric Millbourn, to take stock of progress and to make proposals for a further stage of the development of Heathrow. As I have said, this Committee reported in 1957. Its recommendations were accepted in principle by the Minister, and the development of Heathrow has since followed the broad pattern laid down by that Committee, though with modifications necessitated by new developments. I do not think it is correct to say that lack of money has held up this development—in fact, there has been slightly more spent than was envisaged in the Millbourn Report.

I should like just briefly to touch upon what has been done at Heathrow. First of all, there is the construction of the new long-haul passenger building. The first part of this passenger building will be completed towards the end of this year. It will serve as a base for B.O.A.C. and the associated airlines, who will then move over to the Central Terminal from the North Terminal. This will reduce the traffic through the North Terminal and relieve the congestion which occurs at peak periods. The remainder of the new passenger building will be completed in the spring of next year and will provide the most up-to-date services for passengers on the long-haul routes.

The Millbourn Committee proposed that the aircraft stands in the central area should be increased from 50 to 100. Half the additional stands will have been completed by the end of this year. To achieve this, virtually a continuous programme of construction has been going on in the central area since 1958, and it will continue until about 1966. Runway No. 5 is being lengthened from its present length of 9,800 ft. to 11,000 ft., in order to accommodate the large jet aircraft, such as the Boeing 707 and the DC-8, carrying full load; and the future development at Heathrow will continue to follow the lines of the Millbourn Committee's recommendations.

To prevent congestion developing in the short-haul passenger building, some of the services will move to Gatwick this summer, and other moves are expected to take place later. Meanwhile, improvements will be made to the interior of the short-haul passenger building so as to increase its capacity, and the accommodation for the traveller on the internal routes is also to be enlarged in order to provide for the exceptional increase in domestic traffic. So far as freight is concerned, it has been carried mainly in passenger aircraft, and there are still only a few all-freighters. After a period of detailed examination, with the airlines and the freight agencies, of the future requirements for freight, and the best way of handling it, the Ministry have decided to build the first section of a permanent building in the central area which will be available for B.O.A.C. when they move into the new long-haul terminal.

The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, rightly referred to the question of piers. The Millbourn Committee recommended that piers should be incorporated in the design of the passenger buildings at Heathrow to enable passengers to go on foot between aircraft and the main buildings. It remains the intention to provide the buildings with piers, but because of the problems of handling large jets in the proximity of piers it was decided not to build them immediately but to study the performance of the large jets in much greater detail first.


My Lords, might I interrupt the noble Lord?—and I apologise for doing so. At San Francisco, and many other airports in America, they are operating large jets from piers quite satisfactorily, and I fail to see why extended study is needed when this operation is already going on.


My Lords, that, of course, is part of the study.


My Lords, perhaps I, too, may interrupt the noble Lord the Minister. Her Majesty's Government have been giving this explanation for a long while. It is now over three years since this recommendation was made. All the main United States airports have piers. Why cannot we now have a decision to go ahead and build them here?


My Lords, the decision has already been made. It is a question of exactly what form they should take. Terminal buildings have been designed to fit into whatever scheme is eventually chosen. The matter is having attention and it will be done. The probable result will be that some aircraft—this is the result of studies to date—will be served by piers, and more remote stands will be served by some form of vehicle, of which a number of new and interesting designs are under consideration. The provision of further facilities for car parking is also having attention.

May I now turn to the development of Gatwick Airport. That airport was built, in accordance with the recommendations in the 1953 White Paper, for three purposes: for diversions from Heathrow; as a base for independents, and for services to the Channel Islands and the Continent of Europe. And on all of these points it has proved its value. As an airport for diversions it has taken 60 per cent. of the total diversions from Heathrow. As a base for independents it now accommodates nine airlines, besides British European Airways; and its existence has enabled the Ministry to close Blackbushe. British United Airways, who formerly had a large base at Blackbushe, are now concentrating all their operations at Gatwick. I should just like here to say a word of tribute for their pioneering work in getting Gatwick going.

Traffic at Gatwick has expanded from 367,000 passengers in 1959 (which was the first full year of operation) to 475,000 in 1960. The traffic will naturally expand as the business of those who are now located there expands; but there will still be capacity to spare here. Meanwhile the pressure at Heathrow also will increase, with the threat of serious congestion in the short-haul sector. To prevent such congestion, and to even the load, some of the services are to move to Gatwick this summer, and the services of other airlines will follow before long, in accordance with a progressive and phased programme of expansion at Gatwick. I will bring to the notice of my right honourable friend the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, and other noble Lords, with regard to splitting services, because that is certainly an important matter.

It is the intention to develop the facilities of Gatwick Airport as the traffic requirements of both passengers and freight expand. These facilities may well include the provision of a second runway, and the possibility of this, and its location, is under close examination at the present time. In any event, the existing passenger building will require to be modified and extended to cater for the growth in traffic, as will the terminal area to handle it. All these matters are under examination, and plans are being drawn up so that the extra facilities can be provided in good time. The need for another airport to supplement Heathrow and Gatwick does not seem likely to arise for a few years, but in the meantime Stansted will be in reserve and can be put into use at comparatively short notice, should it be required.

I propose now, my Lords, to deal with some of the specific points raised in the debate, so far as I have not already done so. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, raised several points. He referred to an incident where a Boeing 707 landed at Northolt in error last November. I can say that no blame could be attached to air traffic control, which provided the aircraft with all the assistance to be expected of it in the excellent weather which existed at the time. Then there has been reference to an "air-miss" which occurred this week between a Comet of the United Arab Airline, and a D.C.-8 of Trans-Canada Airlines at London, three miles out of Epsom. From preliminary inquiries it appears that air traffic control instructions had provided for the correct separation between these aircraft, but the circumstances are still being investigated.

The noble Lord made a suggestion about unified control as between the Royal Air Force and the civil airlines in order to improve air safety. In the United Kingdom Airways and Terminal Areas control is exercised by the Ministry of Aviation. Aerodrome control is exercised by the authority responsible for the aerodrome. Arrangements exist for military aircraft to cross the airways under radar control by military radar controllers, in accordance with agreed procedures. This system has been accepted by the Air Traffic Control Board as providing safety for both civil and military aircraft flying in controlled airspace in the United Kingdom. In the airspace above 25,000 feet a radar service is provided from the Royal Air Force radar stations for civil aircraft on a joint civil-military basis.

Requirements for aircraft control in the next decade are being examined by a committee under the chairmanship of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hubert Patch, which has been set up by the Air Traffic Control Board. I am informed that this committee is considering the ways in which the present system should evolve to meet the developing requirements of the new generation of aircraft and that this will include consideration of a unified, as distinct from integrated, civil-military control. I was glad to have the testimony of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, as to the efficiency of the present arrangements, too.

The noble Lord referred to possible connections between Heathrow and Gatwick. One very interesting possibility (because I am sure the noble Lord is correct in thinking that this matter should be solved) is the introduction of a helicopter service, and I am glad to say that the airlines are giving serious consideration to this proposal. British European Airways already have a permit to operate a service, and it is understood that other airlines also have it in mind to apply to the Air Transport Licensing Board for permission. But it should be borne in mind that a service between Heathrow and Gatwick with helicopters would be very expensive. In New York, for example, similar services have not been able to operate without a subsidy. But, as the Minister announced in another place on Monday last, the Government are considering an arrangement for assisting in the proving of a helicopter based on the Belvedere. So this question is very much in mind.

In regard to the question of a link between Heathrow and the centre of London, to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and other noble Lords referred. the Government fully appreciate the importance of enabling passengers to travel easily and quickly between airports and city centres, and to this end have set in motion a big programme of road improvements and development. The Chiswick flyover is to be followed this year with the Hammersmith flyover. Next year the new Hyde Park Corner arrangements will be in full working order. Then, more important, the first section of the new fast motorway from London to South Wales will be started this year, and will be completed in 1963. It will have a special spur leading directly South to the airport, passing under the Bath Road and connecting with the tunnel in the central area. In consequence, the journey time from and to London will be very considerably reduced.


My Lords, did the noble Lord say "passing under the Bath Road"?


Yes. These improvements, which will cost about £21. million, will of course benefit the general public as well as airline passengers.

With the excellent road connections of the fairly immediate future, it is for consideration whether there is a case for providing Heathrow with a direct rail link. Studies made some time ago showed it to be practicable, though at considerable cost. And—as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, mentioned—we have also heard something about a monorail. The Government are willing to examine detailed and fully worked out proposals for a monorail link. As already stated in another place, it would be an attraction to the Government if any such project were financed by private money and were not a burden on public funds. Another proposal, to extend the Piccadilly line from Hounslow West to the Airport, was examined some years ago but was not thought to be a good solution because of the nature of the London underground system.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore—and he was not alone—referred to the question of the high landing fees and passenger charges enforced at the London airports. I also have been studying this volume by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred; and, as he says, one needs a computer to work out what it really means. However, while our charges are undoubtedly high, I suggest that my right honourable friend the Minister of Aviation is right to ensure that, so far as possible, the users of the airports bear as much of the costs as is reasonably possible. At present, a great deal is falling upon the taxpayer.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, gave some figures. It is, however, most difficult to attempt general comparisons between airport charges. Some charges are based on the cost of the services, some charges are based on weight, some have surcharges and some have a petrol levy, In some cases, the airlines provide and pay for their own passenger buildings; in some cases the State pays for certain services. All I can say here is that my right honourable friend will continue to drive for all possible economies and to expand other earnings.


My Lords, might I interrupt the noble Lord? This has been one of the main contentions of the debate. As he said, one needs a computer. The Government have some computers. Furthermore, the airlines cost their operations in enormous detail. It should surely be possible to establish genuinely comparative figures, and we were pressing that the Government should produce them and let us have the facts.


My Lords, I have pointed out some of the difficulties. Different Governments do not follow a standard method. The methods are very varied; and it does not necessarily follow that we have knowledge of all that is paid for by Governments and not charged on the users.

I come on now to the question of concessions. There has been an impressive increase in revenue from concessions and amenities.


My Lords, could I interrupt the noble Lord? Has he finished with the question of landing fees?—because, if he has, I should like to ask him whether he can say anything with regard to the point I raised: that is, that airlines have to pay a dual landing fee when they are diverted from Heathrow to Gatwick. It was a question of policy rather than a question of charge.


I was coming on to that matter when I dealt with the points which the noble Lord put to me. With regard to revenue concessions and amenities, here again comparison with foreign airports can be misleading. For example, some airports charge a levy on aviation fuel, which some regard as concession revenue, others as a charge on aviation. A detailed comparison with the concession business at many airports abroad has confirmed the view that there is an exceptionally high level of exploitation at Heathrow. That does not mean, of course, that there may not be room for additional revenue, but I have satisfied myself that all proposals that are made to that end are carefully examined, because the Ministry themselves are most anxious to increase the revenues of their airports in arty reasonable way.

The suggestion was made that there might be something in the proposal that London's airports should be handed over to a public utility, like the Port of London Authority. That is one which has been given much public attention lately, and I will inform my right honourable friend the Minister of Aviation of the mention of it in your Lordships' House. I cannot think there is any basic objection to such a proposal. It is more a question of timing. One has to remember that, with the exception of London Airport, most of these airports are losing large sums of money.

Now the question of relations with staff has been raised and commented upon. Of course, it cannot be said that staff relations within the Corporations are as good as they would like them to be; but aviation employees for some reason seem hard to handle in other countries too. The industry is growing bigger and more complex at an unprecedented rate. It embraces a large number of occupations, so the negotiating machinery is necessarily elaborate. But one tends to hear more—and this is natural—of its dramatic failures than of its achievements. It has a very solid body of detailed agreements to its credit, and a history at union level of patient negotiation and of recourse to arbitration where necessary. The comparatively small amount of trouble, but none the less very substantial trouble, has often been of local making, and there is reason to think that this is under better control at the moment.

The Minister has no statutory responsibilities in the field of negotiation of terms and conditions of employment. Those are matters of day-to-day administration and, therefore, function's of management. Nevertheless he is, of course, directly concerned that labour questions should not seriously affect the Corporations' operations and public service.


My Lords, may I intervene here merely to point out that there has been a strike quite recently of the Ministry's own employees, and there, as the noble Lord knows, the Minister is directly concerned.


Yes. There again, I have looked into it, and while there was recently a strike, the record is not a bad one. There has been a long period of freedom from trouble, and I hope it will continue.

The noble Lord raised a question on the handling of freight, and pointed out that British European Airways would like to handle their own. That is not an easy matter. Arrangements might be made for B.E.A. to handle their own, but what about anybody else who wanted to handle their own? For the moment, it is felt that it is wiser to continue to have a centralised operation looked after by the Ministry. Several noble Lords have referred to the question of trains from Gatwick, and the need for an efficient, clean service. That is being discussed now between the Ministry and the British Transport authorities. I quite agree it is a shop window display, and we ought to do everything we can to see that it is as efficient as possible. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred to transport movements, and I think I have already given him the figures. He also raised the question, as did the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, of numbering seats for tourist passengers. I can only say that I will bring that matter to the notice of those concerned. With regard to the question of traffic jams, all the extensions have in mind the necessity of eliminating traffic jams.

Lord Shackleton also referred to the attitude to private aircraft, as did my noble friend Viscount Goschen. The Government is really concerned that private and executive flying should prosper. A Committee is sitting continuously under the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation, on which the flying interests are fully represented, and this Committee has this problem under review. Gatwick Airport is open to all private flyers whose machines are equipped with suitable radio and the facilities of the airport are widely used by private flyers. As the noble Lord recognised, London (Heathrow) is primarily used by scheduled air services, and is inevitably restricted for use by private flyers. As the noble Lord mentioned, there has recently been a relaxation of restrictions, but there can still be no landing or take-off during the busiest hours. The traffic level is already near the ceiling which traffic control permits at these times. The question of Croydon Airport, which the noble Lord mentioned, has been under examination. Its future has been the subject of a public inquiry, and my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing now has before him his inspector's report. I am unable to give the noble Lord any information about the rentals charged at Heathrow, but I will see that the matter is looked into, and that he is advised of the result.

In connection with the question of charges, the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, said that it might be that our unilateral attitude to charges was a handicap to the operation of the airlines. I am quite sure my right honourable friend has that fully in mind in his present proposals; but I shall probably be answering a Question which has been put down by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, for next week, and before I do so I will see that this particular aspect of the matter is considered.

My noble friend Lord Merrivale put several questions to me. He asked me about stage 2 of Gatwick, and I think I have answered that in the course of my general remarks. He referred to the transferring of medium-haul traffic rather than short-haul traffic, and to the necessity of avoiding the splitting of services, and I have already promised to bring that matter to the attention of my right honourable friend. Then the noble Lord talked about dual landing fees. That subject was dealt with in another place by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aviation on February 13 last. This is what he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 634 (No. 52), col. 923]: The provision of alternative airports involves expenditure, and I see no raison why the taxpayer should have to bear the full cost of the commercial risk of bad weather. Most of these diversions, of course, do spring from bad weather, and I see no reason to disagree with those remarks.


My Lords, might I intervene? It was not so much a question of bad weather. I was concerned about diversions caused by work that had nothing to do with the airlines —work on runways, and so forth—at Heathrow. Therefore, the airlines, and particularly B.E.A., I believe, are the sufferers in this matter. Weather has nothing to do with it; it was work which is beyond the airlines' jurisdiction in any form whatsoever.


My Lords, I will bring that matter to the attention of my right honourable friend, but I am told that most of these diversions are due to bad weather. Then the noble Lord's last question was with regard to piers, with which I think I have dealt.

I was obliged to the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, for his suggestion in regard to the single-coach train from Gatwick to Victoria, and that matter will be looked at too. He also referred to the fact that, in his view, the system of Customs was archaic. It has certainly been in force for some time, and all I can say is that I will bring his view before those responsible for the Customs. Then the noble Earl referred to Decca. I should like to say this, just to have it on the Record. The international standard short-distance navigational aid is not Decca, and the majority of aircraft operating at London Airport are not fitted with Decca. Whilst my right honourable friend the Minister of Aviation has power to make the carriage of Decca mandatory at London Airport, it would be against current practices of basing procedures for international airports on the use of I.C.A.O. standard aids. Euro-Control is determining operational requirements for a future short-distance navigation system, and has already prepared a provisional requirement. My right honourable friend the Minister is considering with the Decca Navigation Company what further steps should be taken. The noble Earl also referred to the question of vertical take off, and asked if the Government were considering suitable sites. I can reassure him on that point.

The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, referred to the second runway at Gatwick and to the bad rolling stock, with which points I have already dealt, and also to the question of noise. I need hardly assure him that everybody is concerned with this question. Certain instructions have been given by the airlines to their pilots which should have the effect of cutting down noise. All British aircraft are fitted with suppressors, but that is probably not the ideal way and the subject is under close investigation. The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, referred to the question of car traffic, and that matter is having attention. The now long-haul building will have a much longer space for cars to turn in. My right honourable friend is very aware of the traffic congestion, and I am sure that he will read with great interest what the noble Lord has had to say.

My Lords, I think that I have answered all the questions, though perhaps not to the satisfaction of every noble Lord. But before the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, says so, I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, because it has been most instructive and helpful.

6.32 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to reiterate what the noble Lord, Lord Mills, has said and thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, particularly the noble Lord himself. This is no empty word, because this is not his Department, and I know well what a strain it can be to answer a lot of fairly technical questions for a Department which is not your own. I know that he has gone into this personally at considerable length. I do not say that we are satisfied, but that is not his fault. He has given us the information that he has been given. But some of his answers have given us satisfaction, and at least the subject has been ventilated. There has been a good deal of talk outside and writing to the Press. I think it has been healthy that Parliament has considered this matter to-day. Therefore, it is with a real sense of gratitude that I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mills, for his helpfulness to us.

I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren. He is a man who is a great enthusiast for transport. He has spent all his non-Parliamentary working life on the railways, and in Parliament was connected with the Ministry of Civil Aviation. To him transport of all kinds is a matter for enthusiasm, and I am sure that we shall hear from him on many occasions of this sort. Your Lordships have had an indication to-day of how forceful a debater he can be, and I am sure he will be a great asset in our discussions. He is one of the many Life Peers on all sides of the House who add so much to our debates. The only regret I have about Life Peers is that so far none have been accorded to the Liberal Party. However, I hope that that will soon be put right and that we shall have some who will support us in the way that Life Peers have supported the other Parties.

There is only one point I want to make, a comparatively minor one, but to me it has some sentimental interest. I am glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Mills, that at London Airport the central block will accommodate B.O.A.C. before the end of the year. About ten years ago, it was decided that as people came off the great airliners coming in from the Atlantic the first thing they would see would be the statue of Sir John Alcock and Sir Arthur Whitton Brown, the first people to fly the Atlantic. I know that it is often said that it was Lindbergh who first flew the Atlantic, but it was not so. The statue of these two brave pioneers was put there for that purpose, and I hone that the noble Lord will make representations to his colleague in another place that when B.O.A.C. go across to the central building, this statue will go with them and will be put in a place where it has the same significance that it now has. Once more tendering my thanks to all noble Lords, both those who have contributed to the debate and those who have listened so patiently, I ask leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty-three minutes before seven o'clock.