§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Lord BALFOUR of INCHRYE rose to call attention to the need for early decisions on future airports policy for the London and Greater London areas; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the document, Airport Strategy for Great Britain, issued by Her Majesty's Government. This is a Consultative Document as regards which the Government asked for the views of local authorities and all interested bodies. For that, they allowed six months and then said that in due course a policy document would be issued.
§ I have three purposes in undertaking this debate. The first is to say that I do not expect from the Government any great declaration of policy tonight, but that I should like to know the general lines of Government thinking so far as they have considered the problem of a policy. My second purpose is to ensure that the Government shall hear the various views that your Lordships will express from all sides of the House and, in this connection, I particularly welcome the view that we shall hear from my noble friend Lord Trefgarne, who, later in the debate, is to make his first solo from the pilot's stand on the Front Bench. My third purpose is 71 to ask the Government why we have not yet received a policy statement, in view of the fact that the document to which I refer was published in November 1975. Six months were asked for for representations and opinions to be collected, but nearly a year has passed since that six months elapsed.
§ Airport policy throws up a series of contradictions which affect our social and economic life and, somehow, those contradictions have to be reconciled in any policy of the future. Let us look for a moment at those contradictions. The first is that no one likes airports but that more and more people want to fly. The second is that no one likes seeing thousands of acres of precious agricultural land converted into great areas of concrete but, unfortunately, airports need runways. The third contradiction is that no community relishes great motorways ravaging its urban and rural environment. Unfortunately, however, airports need very quick access. The fourth contradiction is that no one welcomes rapid growth of new towns in rural areas adjacent to an airport, but that people do not wish for an explosion of population in already existing towns adjacent to an airport.
§ Air travel will grow and its growth carries with it a grim environmental picture. The growth of air traffic will not be so fast as we thought it would be in the days of the Roskill Committee, but it will be sufficient to make us all somewhat appalled by the problems that it throws up. Any figures that I shall give your Lordships will have been taken from the Consultative Document I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks. In 1976, some 23 million persons passed through London airport. This figure is calculated to rise by 1990—which I am taking as the "plannable" future—to up to 107 million persons, with aircraft movements that may well total 580,000 in one year. Yet, if Britain cannot cater for the arrivals and departures of those millions of passengers, that traffic and all that it means directly and indirectly to our economy will be lost and will probably go to Amsterdam and Paris. Therefore my submission is that, somehow we must accept that traffic for the good of the economy of our country.
§ Statistics show that of that 23 million, over 80 per cent. of passengers are 72 terminating their journey in the South-Eastern area, and 3 million are landing and going on, in either British or foreign aircraft, to some other destination. Those 3 million and the 80 per cent. destined for the South-Eastern area cannot be taken and dumped at some provincial, regional airport, far from the destination to which they wish to go; nor can those 3 million be taken and put somewhere where they cannot connect with their trans-Atlantic or Continental aircraft. By all means let us build up regional local traffic where services from provincial cities generate sufficient traffic. But the point that I wish to put to your Lordships is that there is no major solution for our United Kingdom traffic acceptance in regionalisation. There may be some relief, but there is no real answer. Equally there is no solution, except at cost to our economic wellbeing, in trying to restrict air travel by weapons of taxation, cost discouragement, rationing operational activity or compulsory direction of passengers to places to which they do not wish to go.
§ The years ahead present many problems for airport strategy. At present London has four airports: two major airports, London airport and Gatwick; and two lesser airports, Stanstead and Luton. Let me say here that I believe that the conception of a third major London airport, certainly within the "plannable" future up to 1990, is just not on. Maplin is a dead duck. There is no need to try to re-argue tonight the advantages or the disadvantages claimed, operational and technical; sufficient to say that in 1973 Maplin was abandoned chiefly because of its cost, and in 1973 its cost was estimated to be £645 million. Using the consumer price index that £645 million has now risen to over £1,000 million, and we just have not got the wherewithal to spend on a major airport requiring that kind of sum.
§ So my submission to your Lordships is that either Maplin or a third major airport is just not on, at any rate so far as the "plannable" future with which I am dealing, up to 1990, is concerned. I am forced to face a situation—and I think that your Lordships are, too—where the four existing airports, reasonably carefully expanded, must be accepted as the cornerstone of airport policy for the "plannable" future. On these four 73 airports the Government put forward the outline of proposals for each, which they consider would in total allow Britain to accept the air traffic up to 1990.
§ I should like very briefly to deal separately with each of those four airports. First, let us take London airport, the busiest airport in Europe. Runway capacity is not going to be the limiting factor for acceptance of the traffic figures which I have given and which we shall have by 1990. That is due to improved technical traffic control, and larger aircraft. But terminal facilities could well be the limiting factor. A fourth terminal is now being planned, but discussions seem very protracted, and I hope that the Minister may be able to tell us a target date for completion of the fourth terminal. I regret to say, however, that beyond, a fifth terminal will be required by 1990, if we are to accept 53 million passengers who are expected to go through London airport. This planning will not be easy because, curious to say, nowhere else in the world do we combine an airport with a sewage farm, which certainly does not help very much when making plans.
§ The employment deployment at London airport at the moment is 50,000 directly employed and probably 40,000 ancillary workers. It is interesting to know that in the Borough of Hillingdon it is calculated that a third of the population depend in some way directly or indirectly on employment in London airport. By 1990, that direct employment of 50,000 will have risen to between 60,000 and 82,000 direct, and there will probably be an increase to between 50,000 to 70,000 ancillary workers.
§ Let us take the figures for Gatwick. A second terminal will have to be built at Gatwick, raising its capacity, which this year accepted 5.7 million passengers, to 25 million passengers by 1990. Direct employment at Gatwick is at present about 10,000. By 1990 it will have doubled to 20,000. Now let us take Stansted, in which I know the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, is particularly interested. By expansion and the construction of a terminal Stansted will have to accept 15 million by 1990, compared with 2.7 million in 1976. The present employment of 1,500 will rise to 14,000. Let us take Luton. The expansion of Luton will be such that it will be expected 74 to take 10 million passengers in 1990, and direct employment will have risen from 3,000 to 8,000.
§ Those figures mean that around 50,000 new jobs involving people directly employed will be created, and probably double that number in ancillary employment. There is no other way that I can see which will enable the four airports which I have mentioned to accept the air travel which will come through the United Kingdom in the foreseeable future up to 1990. Let me say that there will be some relief for the major two airports if we segregate, so far as possible, holiday traffic, where the quickest possible run down a fast motorway is not so absolutely essential. Also, we may be able to develop the smaller airports around London—White Waltham, Biggin Hill, Elstree—to take what I call private commercial aircraft. Furthermore, we may be able to segregate pure freight services to a greater degree than at present away from the immediate main two London airports.
§ The second easement is, I think, on noise. More silent engines and larger aircraft should make for less disturbance per 1,000 passengers landing and taking off. Also, there will be some limitation of night movements. Already I see in the Press today mention of a report which is aimed at easing the lot of those who try to sleep near airports. But those are just small reliefs compared with what is necessary to tackle the main problem. The picture I trust I have painted to your Lordships shows that stupendous planning and construction work is entailed between now and 1990. I have confined myself to the "plannable" future, up to 1990, but strategy should go well beyond that date. In my opinion the weakness of this document is that it does not go beyond what I term the "plannable" future, up to 1990, but it may be that the Minister will be able to tell us something on that.
§ My Lords, I conclude as I started. No one likes airports, and when I say to anybody, "There may be an airport near you". the usual answer is, "Yes, of course I realise airports are necessary, but take it somewhere else, not just around my place I am quite conscious that in this debate there will be contentious statements, I trust, which will probably criticise in turn each of the four airports 75 which I have tried to deal with as regards figures for the future, up to 1990; but I hope—and this is almost a challenge to every noble Lord who is going to speak in this debate—that when noble Lords reject the proposals in respect of one of these airports they will please give their views, their positive views, their alternative views, on how Britain is to cope with its air traffic without their accepting their own particular disadvantage. I venture to think that there will be no positive answers as to how this can be done.
§ I admit, frankly, that I am really rather appalled at the environmental picture which I have had to paint, but there it is: it is the cost of air transport, which this country must accept for the sake of our economy. Many of us may well regret the network of air routes all over the world, but we cannot put progress into reverse without grave damage to our economic survival. We are faced with a heavy price to pay for the progress of air travel; but the questions on this price—by whom, when and where that price is to be paid—are questions to which Her Majesty's Government must give the answers. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Earl AMHERST
My Lords, we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, for initiating this debate. I want to limit my remarks entirely to the question of access for the general public as between London and Heathrow, and vice-versa, with possibly a sideways look at Gatwick. The figures I have been given vary slightly from those which the noble Lord has already given but I regard them as being reliable. As he said, at the present moment the number of passengers using Heathrow annually is approximately 23 million. If the improvements, notably the No. 2 terminal building, are completed by 1979, the number that can then be handled will be 30 million. With the completion of the fourth terminal building, on the South side of the airport, which it is estimated will be completed in 1985, the number will grow to approximately 38 million. If the plan to remove the sewage farm (an area known as Perry Oaks which lies 76 to the West of London Airport) is proceeded with and a fifth terminal building is erected there, which it is estimated could be done by 1989–90, the estimate is that the figure will then be 53 million, which I think agrees with what the noble Lord said. That is more than double what it is today.
These figures have been based on the annual growth which has been going on up to date and which will continue to go on unless the traffic is restricted. Some 15 per cent. of these figures could be written down as representing the number of inter-lining passengers. By that mean passengers who, say, have come across the Atlantic by Pan American to Heathrow and have proceeded onwards by BEA to Brussels, Amsterdam, Rome or whatever. These people have no need to go to or from London. Neither do these figures take into account the number of people who go to the airport to welcome or to see off their friends, the staff or those who, on high days and holidays, go purely as sightseers—and their numbers are rather large.
Gatwick, which is sometimes referred to as a relief for the hard-pressed Heathrow, today takes care of some 55 million passengers—not quite the same figure as that which the noble Lord, Lord Balfour, gave, but near enough. If the work which is at present in hand is completed by 1980, that figure is likely to jump to 16 million. But, here again, my Lords, friends, staff and sightseers are not included. The limiting factor at Gatwick, I think, is the one-runway aspect, and possibly the inability of British Rail to increase the train frequency as between Victoria and Gatwick. At the present moment, the main access to London from Heathrow is the M4. It only needs a holdup in one of those wretched tunnels, or an accident along the overhead bottleneck between Brentford and Chiswick, and there is utter chaos, of which we have had enough experience.
The extension of the Piccadilly Tube line from Hatton Cross to the centre of the airport will obviously be of help, but cannot be a final solution. At best, it can cope only with passengers with light hand-baggage, staff and sightseers. One has but to imagine trying to cope with a reasonably heavy suitcase through the corridors, passages and moving staircases of, say, Piccadilly Circus station during the 77 rush hour to see how impossible it is. Furthermore, no fast, non-stop communication with the airport by train will be possible along these lines as it is impossible for one Tube train to overtake and pass another. There are some 17 stops between Piccadilly Circus station and the centre of the airport, and Tube trains have to stop at every single one of them.
For the same reason, a non-stop service is probably not practical on the local Waterloo—Feltham lines, and the Feltham lines would involve a short bus passage between the existing station and the centre of the airport. All the same, they provide some help. There has recently been mention in the papers of the line that operates from Broad Street in the City. It goes over the top of London, over the North of London, it goes down through Willesden and then trickles down through Isleworth and Hounslow to join the Feltham lines. That would involve a long, tedious journey, and I do not think that Broad Street station could be considered a felicitous pickup for Central London. Also, to run any fast trains down that line would probably not be practical.
My Lords, if the House will bear with me, I want to go back a few years, to when this problem was examined by BOAC, BEA and the railway companies as they were then. At that time, if memory serves me, the requirement was for a 300-passenger train running at a frequency of three to four in the rush hour in each direction from the centre of London to the centre of the airport. It was to take 20 minutes non-stop. The London terminals were regarded as Paddington and Victoria—with preference to Victoria because it was easier to get at. On the Paddington line, there would have to be a spur to the airport from Hayes or West Drayton and from Victoria to the Feltham line. If the Perry Oaks development is proceeded with, there is a line existing between West Drayton and Staines which could possibly provide a large part of any such spur. However, the great difficulty arose from the track occupancy of the lines out of Paddington and Victoria. The only alternative seemed to be to build a special line, which meant taking a great deal of ground and running into great difficulties over bridges, and the Victoria line would have to have a fly-over at Clapham Junction to clear the Brighton 78 and Woking main lines to get on to the Waterloo-Feltham line. At that time, the traffic was not considered to be sufficient to warrant the cost and the scheme was dropped. Today, with British Rail cutting back on a good many of its services, it may be possible that there is room to run a fast train from one of these services.
I am wondering whether a solution could not be found by considering something in the nature of a Monorail service over the existing tracks or even over the M4. That idea may not be so fantastic and extravagant as it seems at first sight; but whichever way the problem is to be tackled, the cost will be astronomical and no doubt the objections from the environmentalists will be considerable.
My Lords, in financing such a project, I wonder whether it is ever taken into consideration—and I make the suggestion although I am no financier or economist—that a large amount of the expenditure will go in wages and salaries, a good deal of which will find its way back to the Treasury through personal taxation. No foreign exchange is involved, the expense will be spread over a long time and an enormous number of new jobs will be created. I suggest that the airport authority and British Rail should be asked to look once again at the possibility of putting in a scheme for a fast rail connection between the centre of London and the centre of the airport. Before I sit down, may I offer my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, on his solo flight from the Front Bench.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, for introducing this debate. It is a long time since we have debated airport policy in this House. Indeed, I think that the last occasion was on the Bill which brought the Maplin Authority to an end. Airport policy is a matter of great public interest and importance and one which has attracted considerable interest in this House. When I said that I thanked the noble Lord for introducing this debate this was far more than politeness on my part. What is needed is public discussion of this important matter.
After the ending of the Maplin project, the Government document, Airport Strategy 79 for Great Britain, suggested that all development of the inevitable growth of air traffic in the South-East must take place at the four airports—Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted—at least until 1990; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, indicated, one of the weaknesses of the report is that it says nothing at all about what will happen after that date. Clearly such proposals will have enormous effects on all the local authorities, and, although much discussion has taken place on developments at both Heathrow and Gatwick, I think that nothing like so much discussion has taken place with regard to either Luton or Stansted. Before we know where we are, the development of Stansted as a major airport could be revised again without there being any real public discussion at all of this matter. It sometimes appears to me that the policy being adopted by the Government can be summed up in the phrase "planning by stealth".
Delighted as I am to see that the noble Lord, Lord Oram, is to reply to this debate, I believe it is unfortunate that the Government have not seen fit to have anyone speaking from the point of view of the environment. It suggests, at any rate, that the Government believe that environmental considerations do not matter and that the debate this evening is simply a debate about the numbers of aircraft, terminals and runways with perhaps noise levels thrown in as a nod in the direction of the people affected by the airports; whereas the development of airports on existing sites is a matter with very far-reaching implications, particularly on employment, but also on road development, on housing, and on the whole of the infrastructure of the areas around the airport.
There is also the question of safety which seems to have been forgotten altogether in the debate. But I well recall during the long debates about Maplin that this was a factor which was taken very seriously. I should have thought that with the increased numbers of aeroplanes flying over heavily populated areas such as London and Luton (to name just two of the airports) this must be a major consideration in any future airport policy. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, is to 80 speak and no doubt he will have a great deal to say from his long experience as a member of the Standing Conference on London and the South-East regional planning. I hope he will have a great deal to say on the planning side of this matter.
I wish to make only one point. I will leave it to my noble friend Lord Trefgarne when he winds up to add many other matters on this important subject. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, is right to say that we should be thinking now of long-term policies for it is the long-term projections which must cause the greatest concern. What I think is known as the "lead time" (or what I understand to be the time taken to plan for a major development in order to achieve it by a given date) is generally understood to be about 7 to 10 years. My guess is that this is a gross underestimate for the reason that it is never possible to foresee all the problems that will occur even in the next 10 years.
If we are talking about 1990, that is not very far away. Even given that many of the estimates of air traffic growth given in the past have proved to be inaccurate, some future forecasts must be made, and must be made against all the known variables: the number of passengers, the size of the aircraft, the cost of energy, the economic state of the country and of the world generally. What appears to be the case is that if all this increased traffic is to be accommodated in these four airports, there will be very severe repercussions on all the areas around the airports up to 1990, quite apart from the time beyond it.
So many figures can be quoted but I do not want to pick out more than just one. I should like to comment on the figures for employment at airports. According to the document, Airport Strategy for Great Britain, up to 1982 it is thought that there will be between 36 million and 53 million passengers using the four airports; and up to 1990 and beyond between 67 million and 107 million. It is true that this is a revision down from the figures given at the time of Maplin, but nevertheless it is an enormous number. In the intermediate phase considerable developments are proposed at all of the airports. What we need to consider is the amount of employment that will be generated up until 1990 81 at any of these airports. I believe, along with other people interested in planning, that the Government have given a gross underestimate of what it is going to mean.
I have read with great interest the document issued by the London and South-East Regional Planning Conference on this matter, and I believe that it is necessary to take not only the figures for employment at the airport itself, but to add a percentage of 10 per cent. on to those who were employed outside the airport directly in connection with the airport, to add on a further amount for ancillary services to that, and then a general growth of employment to service all those numbers of people.
If the employment figures are correct, it suggests that with the total of airport employment at Heathrow—which is given at 55,000—there will be a related figure of 161,000, and a total employed population of 330,000, which is an increase of 26,000 people over the theoretical 1973 figure. The same kind of proportions apply to Gatwick, where a total of 14,000 people are on airport employment and 41,000 airport related, giving a total population of 84,000. That is 29,000 more than the theoretical figure given for 1973. At Luton there are 7,000 more than the theoretical figure, and at Stanstead 12,000 more. It is always difficult to sec what precisely these figures mean; but if we compare them with the figures given in 1971 for the resident economically active populations, Crawley had a population of 35,300, Guildford 27,700 and High Wycombe 29,500. One needs to bear in mind that for every person employed, there will be three others supporting them to take account of the families. So we are certainly talking about enormous numbers of people.
Whether or not it is right, in the narrow sense of airports, to develop these airports is a technical matter on which I do not wish to comment. What is undeniable is that they will have tremendous effects on the areas, and to have an unplanned increase is putting on to local authorities a tremendous burden: a burden of housing, schools, social services and all the infrastructure that is related to the population that is to be employed, quite apart from anything else.
We ought to be having a full and open discussion on the policy regarding the 82 future of airports. It simply is not enough to say that the four airports can be expanded to their maximum capacity. To do so is to ignore the planning processes and procedures, to make assessments of future air traffic and then postulate ways in which that growth can be squeezed into the four existing airports. Not only do I believe such a policy to be wrong in principle, but I do not think that it will work in practice. The fact is that the power of local authorities and pressure groups will prove to be too great. The most casual glance at the history of Stanstead and the outcome of the Roskill proposals should show this, for the proposal to develop Cublington as the third London airport was defeated because of pressure by local authorities and individuals who were concerned. One conclusion can be drawn; namely, that if there is to be another airport, it must be on a coastal site. We cannot afford to take up any more of our valuable countryside. Above all, my Lords, what must not occur is gradual development without any thought of the future of existing airports.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Lord NUGENT of GUILDFORD
My Lords, I must thank my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye for moving his most interesting Motion, and also the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, for kindly allowing me to take his place in the list of speakers in order that I may complete other duties later. I should like to add a brief comment to those which have already been made. I should declare that interest to which my noble friend Baroness Young has already referred, that for many years I have been chairman of the Regional Planning Conference for London and the South-East, and therefore I am fairly well informed on the problems on the ground.
I am not going to deal in any way with the problems of air traffic or noise; I will leave that to those who are better informed. But I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Oram, what he will expect me to say, because I have already said it to his honourable friends the Ministers in his Department, that I take a serious view of the Government's proposals to push this enormous increase in air traffic into the four existing airports. The consequences on the ground are going to be 83 very serious indeed. I am grateful to my noble friend who, for slightly different reasons to mine, has promoted this debate, and I now have this opportunity to express my views in public. I recently led a delegation from the Regional Planning Conference to the Department of Trade and Industry to explain our point of view. The noble Lord already has many details on that matter.
My noble friend Lady Young made a significant point, that the noble Lord, Lord Oram, who is answering this debate, is not a Minister from the Department of the Environment. The tradition is that the Departments of Trade and Industry settle these matters in consultation with the airlines and the airports, and the local authorities are not brought into the consultations. One of the points that we are making most urgently is that we should be brought in on at least an equal footing because the implications for us are enormous. I regard the Government's policy now as literally a policy of non-planning and of simply letting things rip.
My noble friend gave the figures, I think correctly, although I was not sure whether he confused the total passenger traffic for 1990 with those for Heathrow. But not doubt Hansard will reveal that, if he did, he corrected it later in his speech. I do not think that we need quarrel about figures: they have been produced in the Government Consultative Document. I should like to develop what the consequences will be on the ground, taking Heathrow as an example. There is a proposal to lay down an additional fourth terminal, and a fifth terminal is looked to in the future but with a fairly long lead time of 12 years, with an increased passenger through-put, from 22 million to some 53 million. That is two and a half times the present through-put. I suspect there is a substantial increase in freight traffic as well.
I think my noble friend was right about the accepted factor of total employment of about double to allow for the service industries outside. So this gives us a figure of those employed on and off the airport at Heathrow of something of the order of between 100,000 and 110,000. By 1990, with the two and a half times increase, the figure will be pushed up, probably not in direct proportion but not 84 far off it, to about an extra 150,000. So we are going to be up to a total in that area of about a quarter of a million people employed on and off the airport. These figures are about right; but if the noble Lord does not agree with them, all the more reason why his Department and the local authorities concerned should put their heads together further.
Those areas are already desperately congested. There is a fearful shortage of labour at Heathrow now. Where those extra bodies are to come from, heaven knows! People are commuting from further and further out in Oxfordshire and Hampshire and from all over the place to get to Heathrow. My Lords, it will be more than doubled: that is the prospect. It will be quite impossible to find houses for them round there—and think of the traffic congestion. It is bad enough at peak times now but if it is to be 2½ times more than it is now, it will be really dreadful. It is almost unbelievable, but this is the Government's plan. All those people will have to be housed, and there will be not only the 250,000 people concerned but that number multiplied by four, to include wives and children. That brings us to something of the order of 600,000 extra people who will be in this area which is already so heavily congested.
It will be bad enough at Heathrow, and the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, will of course have something to say about Stansted. I will merely say that what is contemplated for Stansted is really quite incredible. My noble friend gave the figure of 2 million throughput now, but that is not so: it is only 200,000, which is practically nothing. Yet that figure is going up to very nearly the traffic throughput at Heathrow now—Stansted, in the middle of the country, with a new population of hundreds of thousands of people who must be accommodated somewhere in Essex, exactly where the Essex County Council and all the planning authorities do not want them. At Gatwick there is a similar problem.
It is quite certain that in the present national economic situation there will not be much money for any development anywhere in the country. The Government are going to be concerned mainly with the repayment of our vast borrowings. I entirely agree here with my noble friend Lord Balfour that the one certain 85 development concerns the airports, because even if we ourselves cannot afford to travel, foreigners can, and they will be pouring in here. They will be coming all right, and that will make a good economic return for us. So they will be crowding here into these airports.
I suppose that the Government's present policy is now based on the thought of my noble friend that "Maplin is something we cannot afford". But the noble Lord really should not think that he is going to be able to make the developments which are necessary on the ground to meet these huge increases of population, of jobs, houses and traffic, except at very great expense indeed. It will cost vast sums of money, and I daresay that by the time they are all added together it will be quite as much as my noble friend's £1,000 million estimate for Maplin. And what shall we have? We shall have this intensely congested area to the West of London and to some extent to the North, to the South at Gatwick—and on the East of London, where we have very high unemployment indeed, we shall be having no relief whatever. That is really the reverse of planning.
Therefore, I would conclude by making this observation, which will no doubt be a comfort to my noble friend. A large part of this expansion has got to go into the existing four airports because of the lead time, apart from anything else. My noble friend Lady Young is right about that. Probably for the next 10 years, it will all go there whatever happens. I do beg the noble Lord to look ahead now and make some plans for the 1990s. The lead time for an airport is a good 10 years. I would urge the noble Lord and his colleagues to go back and have another look at Roskill, That is the most comprehensive survey of airports that has ever been made.
If the noble Lord does not like Maplin, all right, let him take some alternative, if he thinks it would be more viable. The one thing that is absolutely certain is that even if we can manage, with the greatest discomfort and congestion, without another airport through the 1980s, we cannot manage without one through the 1990s. We must have another airport, and therefore I do urge the noble Lord and his right honourable friends to focus their minds on what is to happen after 86 1990. The question should be asked: Where is all the further increase in traffic to go? May I suggest that they should make a plan which would make better provision for it?
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord LEATHERLAND
My Lords, airports are rather like sewage works: everybody says, "We must have one", but everybody also says, "Don't put it at the bottom of my garden". The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, has placed before us a very sound and reasoned argument—an argument in favour of a third London Airport. But it does not automatically follow that it is an argument in favour of that new airport being sited at Stansted. We have to look 13 years ahead and the problem of forecasting over a period of 13 years is a very difficult one indeed.
I know we have had some figures officially placed before us, but we have had figures officially placed before us in the past and those figures have gone wildly astray. I have here a report called The Heathrow Airport Master Development Plan, published during the past year. It states that, because of the increased prices of fuel oil, because of the increased air fares and because of the general economic conditions, the growth in air passenger traffic has fallen very considerably and those concerned have had to revise all their forecasts. This is the way they revise one of those forecasts. For the forecast which they published in 1973 they calculated that this year (1977) there would be 44 million passengers at the four London airports. They have now reduced that figure of 44 million to 28 million. For the year 1980, whereas they had budgeted for 58 million, they have now reduced that figure to 36 million, which is a reduction of over one-third. If we are to have such an enormous reduction in the estimate over a period of three years since the estimate was first published, what is going to happen during the 13 years for which we are now planning?—because during that 13 years we shall have similar increases in oil prices and in the wage packets of the operational staff, and we cannot predict what the world economic situation will be.
There is another rather quarrelsome set of figures. In 1967 Peter Masefield, who was then head of the BAA, said that 87 by 1980 the four London airports would have to accommodate 80 million passengers. Douglas Jay, the Minister who was then responsible for these matters, was a little more modest, and he quoted 63 million. So if we split the difference and call it 70 million, we see that the 70 million forecast for 1980 has now been reduced to 36 million. That, again, is another indication of the kind of reliance we can place on some of those forecast figures: it represents a reduction of one-half.
I think that is all I want to say about figures, except perhaps this. The inter-departmental committee—in other words, the body of civil servants which plans these things—said in 1963 that this third London airport would have to be ready in the mid-1970s. The Government were a little more precise: they said it would have to be ready by 1974. My Lords, it is now 1977 and the extreme urgency which was then foreshadowed has not yet arrived. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour, who takes the strategic report as his bible, suggests that Stansted will have to be enlarged to take 15 million or, as the book itself says, 16 million passengers by 1990. That is more than two and a half times last year's passenger list at Gatwick, and it is equal to the 1970 passenger list at Heathrow. It is a gigantic project and, as an Essex man, it leaves me feeling rather like a lioness who has been called upon to defend her cubs.
The inter-departmental group of civil servants, which, as I said, is responsible for planning these matters, has been trying to urge the adoption of Stansted for the third London Airport for the last 20 years. They are the people who planned Heathrow, they are the people who planned Gatwick, and there are very many people in the country today who think that the siting of both Heathrow and Gatwick were mistakes. So that does not increase the confidence that we might have in the proposal which they put forward for expanding Stansted to 16 million.
If Stansted is expanded to that degree, a hospital will have to close, 20 schools will have to close, 10,000 acres of farmland will cease producing food, 5,000 extra vehicles per hour will be thrown on to the road system, and there will be a 88 constant din troubling 7,000 houses, with screeches and screams several times every hour—this in a district which for centuries has been a haven of peace and quiet. There are charming little towns like Saffron Walden, Dunmow and Thaxted, together with the National Trust's 1,000 acres of Hatfield Forest. Green Belts are being raped in every part of the country, but, surely, this is one delightful little corner which ought to be preserved and safeguarded.
For what will happen if the airport is built there? There will be the runways—one scheme says two runways, while another scheme says four runways—there will be a huge set of buildings to accommodate 16 million passengers; there will be bulldozers ripping up the fields to provide major roads; there will be factories built around the periphery, and there will be houses needed for 14,000 people working directly at the airport, and 14,000 people indirectly employed in the factories and in providing the ancillary services. That is twice as many houses as have been built in Basildon New Town. And what is to happen to all the little villages? Their whole character of life is to be changed. The whole life style of the population is to be changed. But surely people should figure in a project of this kind, as well as the mechanical aspects.
Roskill did not include Stansted in his four nap selections, and Roskill was not alone. The Ministry's inspector, who conducted the 31-day inquiry into the Stansted proposal, said that to build the aiport there would be a calamity; the London and South-East planning organisation is against it, the county council is against it, all the Essex MPs are against it and all the local population are against it. Modest though I am, I say that I am against it myself. Why should Stansted be put in the dock again by back-door methods, when it has twice faced open trial and been acquitted?
Of course, we are not talking only about Stansted; we have to talk about London, too. If 28,000 workers, many of them skilled, are to be brought into this area, many will come from London, and that at a time when we are told that the drift from London has been overdone, and that something needs to be done to restore the capital city's industrial prosperity.
89 It is not an easy question to argue about, because all the arguments are not on one side. For example, I believe that Stansted, with a million passengers at the moment, could perhaps have its passenger load increased to 4 million. But there would have to be an irrevocable ceiling built over those 4 million, for otherwise the authorities would surreptitiously come along and boost it up to the 16 million set out in the plan, and that is something which we do not want to see.
There is one positive proposal that can be put forward; and we have to bear in mind that circumstances have changed considerably since the day of Roskill. The passenger explosion has not taken place. I think that there are good grounds for having a new investigation, one carried out not by aeronautical experts alone, but by environmentalists, local government, agricultural interests and industrial interests. That inquiry need not content itself with examining or re-examining the four Roskill proposals. I think it could perhaps take a broader view.
I plead with your Lordships not to be seduced by the highly expert, highly—I think—imaginative proposals for Stansted that have been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour. I would say to him, with a merry twinkle in my eye, that he should strap on his parachute, take a jump and bring all his Stansted ideas safely down to earth.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Lord PITT of HAMPSTEAD
My Lords, I am very pleased to be able to follow the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, because in County Hall we have a suspicion that the Government are trying, by stealth, to introduce Stansted as a third London airport. We think that there should be a third London airport, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, for what he has said, because I shall not now need to say many of the things I had intended to say. I will content myself merely with reading the recommendation of the GLC, and then relating to your Lordships what has happened since.
The GLC stated that it,Wishes to see the London airports retain their position as the premier airport complex in Europe.90 Nobody disputes that. We are not suggesting that there should be any downgrading of the airports which serve the city. But we are,…concerned at the lack of co-ordination of capital investment for airports, the areas immediately surrounding them and the transport infrastructure essential for their proper performance.We went on further to say that we are,…unable to endorse the expansion of the passenger-handling capacity of Heathrow to 38,000,000 passengers a year without improvements to existing roads, including the building of the Hayes by-pass, the urgent construction of the M25 and other public works contiguous to the airport, as well as positive evidence of substantial improvements in the environment around Heathrow.We then said that we are,…strongly opposed to any expansion at Heathrow beyond the 30,000,000 passengers a year…without the concurrent development of a third major London airport wherever that might be situated.We press,…the Government to undertake an urgent examination and produce additional proposals within the next two years"—that was last year—for the long-term provision of air transport services in the South East which will be compatible with regional and environmental policies and priorities.Those are the main observations which we made to the Government.
But yesterday, in the Transport Committee, we were presented with a recommendation for a fourth terminal at Heathrow Airport. Of course, the BAA do not have to consult us, so it is not a statutory consultation. They are exempted by the law from planning control, and therefore they do not have to ask us for planning permission to build a fourth terminal. However, they have consulted us and I will tell your Lordships what we are saying to them.
We are saying that construction of a fourth terminal at Heathrow must be decided upon only as part of an integrated long-term airport strategy for the South-East, which includes firm proposals for development of a third major London airport. We are saying that while the Council intends to see that the London airports retain their position as the premier airport complex in Europe, the BAA should be informed that the fourth terminal should be built only after the 91 condition regarding the decision about a third London airport is met and if the following conditions are satisfied.
First, undertakings must be given by the Department of Transport that the necessary road improvements will be co-ordinated with development of the fourth terminal and other airport facilities. In view of the national interests involved, assurances are required that extra Government finance over and above the transport supplementary grant will be provided to necessary airport related ground access improvements. Necessary schemes include completion of the M25 motorway before the terminal is open; construction of the Hayes by-pass by 1985 to cope with increases in general traffic as well as airport-related traffic; a grade-separated intersection with the M25 spur at the South-West entrance to the airport, and other improved intersections, especially on the A30.
Secondly, agreement must be reached with the Department of Transport, British Rail, the London Transport Executive, the British Airports Authority and adjoining passenger transport authorities (a) to increase the provision of direct bus and coach services to Heathrow from residential areas where a significant proportion of airport workers live before the fourth terminal is in use; (b) to consider further the provision of rail links to the airport (and that until such consideration is complete the British Railways Board be asked to reinstate the safeguarding of the route from Feltham to Heathrow), efficient passenger transport within the airport, and the financing of public transport, especially revenue support.
Third, agreement must be reached with the BAA on car parking and access policies with a view to reducing the proportion of airport workers travelling to work by private car and easing peak hour congestion on the road network. I will dilate on that point. Our survey showed that 80 per cent. of the workers at Heathrow Airport travel to work by road, either by private cars or by taxis. Therefore to expand in the way that is planned will present us with headaches that we think we are incapable of tolerating.
Outside London, firm support is given in county structure plans and local plans 92 and in Government statements and decisions to the principle of restraining development, including that arising fom pressures generated by Heathrow, in accordance with regional objectives. Of course, all this expansion will automatically affect the whole of the regional plan for the South-East and the attempt to concentrate development on certain growth areas while allowing other areas to remain free. The closest discussions should be undertaken by the BAA with the authorities concerned at an early date, and well before any formal consultations, on the design and siting of the terminal so that the noise screening effect of buildings will be used to the full and in order to ensure that visual appearance and landscaping, including ground modelling and also the access arrangements, are acceptable to the council.
I thought I should spend the few minutes I have in explaining to your Lordships what line the council is taking. The expansion of these airports will have serious environmental consequences for Greater London. For once the noble Baroness and I are on the same side. It is not in order that their expansion should take place without proper consideration of the consequences.
I should like to ask the Government to look again at Maplin. The Roskill Commission proposed a four-runway airport for Maplin, but one does not necessarily need four runways. One runway would be enough to start with. The Government should look at the corresponding cost of a one-runway Maplin and at the proposed expansions in terms of not only the employment gains in the Southeast but the reduction in the environmental hazards that can be gained. I ask the Government to look again at Maplin. They should stop looking at Roskill just in terms of a four-runway airport; they should forget that idea.
I agree that we cannot afford a four-runway airport, but the Government should look again at the idea in a much smaller way. If you balance if off, it may well be a little more expensive, but none of these expansions will be cheap; they are all going to be expensive. It is a question of weighing the relative costs and the relative consequences. Therefore I say again to the Government that they should look at Roskill, just as the noble Lord, 93 Lord Leatherland, asked them to do. However, they should look at Maplin not in the way that Roskill looked at it but in a much smaller way to find out whether or not it will cost much less and, in environmental terms, be more valuable.
I noted earlier that the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, wanted to know when the fourth terminal will be built. I can assure the noble Lord that it is already under active discussion. However, the consequences of a fourth terminal must be faced before it is built.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Lord GAINFORD
My Lords, first I rise to thank my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye for inaugurating this interesting debate and to congratulate also my noble friend Lord Trefgarne. I look forward to what he is going to say from our Front Bench.
My contribution tonight is based on what one might call two interests or loves—railways and air travel. First, in connection with railways I am delighted in the interest that the Greater London Council is showing in the invigoration of the North London Line. I travelled on this railway in past years and found it very useful indeed. I was very sorry when it seemed to be getting forgotten or ignored. Its appearance on the London Underground map will be very helpful.
The problem we have before us tonight is the future policy for our airports. However, I should like to speak on ways of getting to our airports. If ever I am given the choice of which airport to use when I go on an air journey, immediately I say that I prefer Gatwick. Victoria Station is not far from my home, and there is a leisurely rail journey to Gatwick station. There the platform is only a few yards away from the main hall where you check in your baggage.
Only last Wednesday I had contact with Councillor Daly of the Greater London Council. He is chairman of the GLC Transport Committee, and he was speaking at a meeting of the Railway Invigoration Society combined with the National Council of Inland Transport, of which I have the privilege to be president. His arguments in favour of the North London line connected to Heathrow were very impressive. I think possibly turning 94 Broad Street into a terminal for Heathrow would be highly advantageous. It is very close indeed to Liverpool Street station, and a number of would-be travellers would be coming in from East Anglia, Essex and also the South-East, because it is not difficult to get to Broad Street and the Liverpool Street area from such stations as Charing Cross, Cannon Street, London Bridge and even Waterloo.
The noble Earl, Lord Amherst, told us some of the geography of the line, which will save me going through it again. The connections with the Southern Region are between the stations South Acton and Gunnersbury, and the link-up between Broad Street and Feltham, I support wholeheartedly. There are two disadvantages so far. One has already been pointed out, namely, that the line is not very good for fast travel, it curves a great deal so that trains cannot get up high speeds. But even a leisurely moving train, not having to stop at intervening stations, could get passengers from the City of London right out to near Heathrow within about half an hour. That represents a magnificent saving in time considering how long it now takes to get out to the airport. So the first part of my speech is to support the use of the North London line.
The second part is slightly longer and is concerned with certain forms of air travel of which I have already spoken. Considering airports, as we have been doing, they seem to evoke a great deal of mixed feeling. In fact "airports" is quite a new word in the English language. When I was a boy we spoke only of "aerodromes", which were simply grassy fields from which pioneering young men in helmets and goggles took to the air in simple aircraft, usually with open cockpits. Right up to the 1930s they were still grassy fields. One is reminded of the famous visit of Neville Chamberlain to the gentleman who was then known as "Herr Hitler". Mr. Chamberlain's departure and arrival were on these grassy fields, one of which I think was Heston.
Then we were plunged into the Second World War, involving the creation of many new airfields. Huge amounts of concrete were thrown down very hastily where new airfields were needed, to create all-weather runways for the increasingly 95 bigger and better bombers which fought the Nazi tyranny on the mainland. They were certainly important factors in bringing the war to an end. In 1945 there were literally hundreds of these concrete runways scattered throughout the length and breadth of Britain, from Culdrose on the Lizard to the Northernmost tip of Scotland; but the bulk of them were in the flat farmlands of East Anglia.
During the war, when future civil aviation policy was being considered, it was decided that London would need a much larger airport than Croydon. So Heathrow was born, although earlier I think it was called Stanwell. I remember as a boy of 13, in about 1935, seeing this interesting new aerodrome being constructed. After the war we had gleaming modern airliners, the earliest ones being directly designed from bombers. They made it possible for hundreds of people to get across the world cheaply and quickly. Twenty years later, by the mid-1960s, there were airfields with runways nearly 3,000 feet long, as at Heathrow, and then they had to be extended up to 12,000 feet. We now have in common usage the term "jumbo jet". Then there occurred the gradual increase in the size of aircraft, and the residents around Heathrow began to become restless and nervous. Larger aeroplanes seemed increasingly to be much noiser and to need ever-larger areas of land for runways. Where would it end?
In the 1960s the term "protest groups" began to crop up; the word "environment" became common, and since then the new phenomenon of environmental awareness has swept the world, although earlier it had been used only by a few people. Now here we are, in the '70s, with the situation changed considerably and I am afraid rather for the worse. Residents near Heathrow are becoming more and more alarmed by mounting noise levels caused by the bigger jets. In 1972 there was a most unfortunate air crash, with horrible loss of life, and I think many Heathrow residents were thankful that the aircraft had not landed on them.
In the short space of 20 years the dream has become a nightmare. Twenty years ago, in 1957, it was still exciting to travel by air. It was a great feather in her cap for a young lady to become an air hostess. It was still quite fun to go 96 to see somebody off at an airport. There was hope for a big period of expansion in aviation industries, but today everything concerned with aviation seems to be going wrong. We hear that corruption has increased with the ever-larger sums of money involved in both civil and military aviation deals; there are hijackings, midair collisions, death and disaster, pollution and noise.
I take no pleasure in reciting this because I have such a love of flying and the romance that seems to 20 with it. But I should like to draw the attention of your Lordships to a plan recently put forward by Friends of the Air, of which I have the pleasure of being a member, a new aviation society which has been registered in London. The plan drawn up projects a seemingly miraculous transformation of the existing Heathrow airport into a virtually silent airport, with even larger numbers of air-travelling passengers than are using it at present, arriving and departing without any disturbance to the residents of West London. This need not be in the dim future.
I must confess that I was rather startled when I first heard the details of the plan, but having studied it I recommend it to your Lordships for consideration. The plan centres around the construction of a fleet of robust modern airships buoyed by safe non-flammable helium gas. The first advantage of the plan is that, because of the great advantages this could offer to foreign travel and foreign trade, rapid modern airship development could be funded by the World Bank.
Secondly, improvement of employment, on which we have just had a debate—unfortunately, I was not able to be present for very much of it. In fact, step by step we could have a three-stage development of a completely new form of air transport. The first step would be the development of a small type of twin-hulled modern airship, rigid and robust, with a payload of about 30 tons. A suggestion for the use of this, I would say, would be Royal Navy operations over coast and sea. A little over a week ago I was privileged to go to RAF Kinloss and fly in a Nimrod aircraft on patrol over the North Sea, and I saw the magnificent work these aircraft do. The Navy, by using airships, could help the Nimrods and extend their own services. Past 97 history has also shown that it is sailors who often make the best airshipmen because of their instinctive feel for wind and weather close to the surface.
If the Government were to initiate such a development programme now, we could have the first prototypes flying next year or the year afterwards. Having spoken about Broad Street as an air terminal, I now put forward what seems to me logical—I admit it does sound fantastic, but it could be done. So far as I know, there has been no claim yet to that derelict dockland area to the East of Tower Bridge. That could be developed into a series of airports for airships. The small area to the East of Tower Bridge—I think it is called the Western Dock—could take about six airships; the region of the Surrey Dock could take about 50.
There are also new ideas to take into consideration. Often the picture of the airship of old was of one moored by its nose. The new design that has been worked out is an airship held down to the ground not by its nose but by its centre, a pinion to the ground to hold it there and hold it safely. Travel for passengers between the City, say, and the first stage of Europe could be much more leisurely. It takes about three hours by the fastest possible means to get from the City of London to the centre of Paris. By this means we could have leisurely travel in two hours. Then when the demand improves there could be a transatlantic service, about 30 hours' travel, sleeping on board and avoiding such discomforts as that awful jet lag.
In the policy for a new airport, if we are going to turn Heathrow into a silent new airship port for long-haul airships, there will be a need for a new airport. I am certainly not, and neither are my friends who are members of Friends of the Air, trying to abolish aircraft. We very much support the use of aircraft. They have their own particular uses, particularly for fast travel. But a lot of us do not want to travel in a hurry. Maplin has been mentioned, but I think it is like the proverbial "dead cluck". There has been mention of the Thames Estuary, and suggestions have been made that a suitable place might be Chile on the South coast of the Estuary. There, there is not such bird trouble as at Maplin. Having, mentioned the building of an 98 airship airport in the centre of London, such an airport could be helped by small airships ferrying passengers to and from this airport, which would save on the land transport.
I know that this is a case of plugging a favourite theme of mine. I have shortened my arguments tonight as much as possible, because I think we should leave opportunity for longer discussion on it. I am making arrangements at the moment for asking an Unstarred Question on lighter than air transport. Possibly some of the teams doing work on Concorde might be interested in giving assistance. However I now leave these ideas to your Lordships' consideration.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Lord STRATHCARRON
My Lords, I should like to start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, for introducing this debate. It is a subject which has generated many words in the past, and some of them indeed rather strong words, but words which are not often followed by decisive action. During the lengthy debates in the past on the future of London Airport—Gatwick, Stansted, Maplin in the past—the need for better facilities for general aviation in the London area has been largely overlooked. Yet there is a steady expansion, particularly for business journeys to and from the Continent of Europe, where flexibility of movement becomes a great commercial asset. In fact, the air fares now between London and Paris and London and Amsterdam have become so high that it is as cheap for four people to club together and go in a chartered twin-engined small aircraft.
With general aviation in view, it is essential to keep all the present airfields in the London area in operation, for if one was to close it would very much overload the neighbouring airfields. In addition, it is essential to have at least one airfield with full customs facilities and navigational aids, one which should remain open for 18 hours a day and be equipped for night landings, with facilities for hiring self-drive cars and also easy access to London, both by road and by rail. Airfields such as Northolt or Farnborough spring to mind as being suitable.
For five years Gatwick was used successfully by general aviation, but the British Airports Authority have made it 99 quite clear that they do not wish to encourage light aircraft. They have done this by charging exorbitant prices, such as 90p an hour for parking a small singleengined aircraft in a space which would not be used by larger aircraft. In spite of the nearness of Orly, Le Bourget, and Charles de Gaulle airports to Paris, there is a most excellent airfield such as I have been advocating in the Paris area; this is at Toussus le Noble, which is situated on the outskirts of Versailles.
Planning permission to improve local airfields is often withheld unnecessarily. There is, for instance, a dire shortage of hangars. Yet a well-designed hangar painted to blend with the countryside need not necessarily be unsightly, and, unlike a factory, it is not noisy; nor would it cause any offence to those in the vicinity.
If the possibility of laying a hard runway is mentioned, local action groups leap into action and have visions of jumbo jets and all kinds of large aircraft spoiling their environment. Yet a hard runway is a great safety factor, particularly in winter. Control is often sought by restricting the number of movements per day or per month, yet a more sensible approach would be to limit the maximum weight of aircraft to ensure the most suitable use of the airfield. For the larger aircraft the main airports would always be available. In this respect consultative committees already exist. It is important to extend them for a constant exchange of views between the interested parties. This can lead only to better understanding. One example of this could be a slight deviation in the climb-out to avoid excessive noise over houses in a particular area. Noise abatement could be agreed by voluntary consent.
A scheme put forward by the Business Aircraft Users' Association is in use whereby, with suitable notice being given at category C airfields, customs clearance can be granted to genuine business travellers holding British passports. The customs officer of course has the right to supervise the departure, but often the details are filled in by air traffic control at the airport. If this scheme could be extended to other airfields it not only would be a convenience for the businessman but would advantageously alter the 100 time-consuming task of making an extra landing just in order to clear customs. It would also cut down the number of unnecessary aircraft movements.
Given forethought and understanding of the problems, general aviation will expand to the benefit of commercial life in this country and will continue to give pleasure to many thousands of private pilots who wish to pursue their hobby with the minimum inconvenience to those below. Let us hope that the needs of general aviation are fully understood and that suitable action will soon be taken.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Lord BOSTON of FAVERSHAM
My Lords, I should like to join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, for introducing this debate. I was also heartened by what the noble Lord had to say about Maplin, partly because the fact that that particular duck is dead means that the Brent goose, which migrates to and from the Maplin Sands area, is still very much alive.
I intervene only briefly in order to refer specifically to the references that have today been made to Maplin. I do not intend to rehearse all the arguments about that, far less the figures about it. However, it is true to say that the spectre of Maplin has again been raised by one or two Members of your Lordships' House. The noble Baroness made mention of a coastal site, admittedly in a very tentative and delicate way—perhaps even a passing way. It occurs to me to wonder whether that passing reference to the possible need for a coastal site in the future means that Her Majesty's Opposition are slowly edging their way back towards a reconsideration of the Maplin question.
It is only a few months since the Maplin-Foulness proposal was laid to rest, when the Maplin Development Authority Dissolution Act 1976 received the Royal Assent last October. In my submission it would be absurd to resurrect it now. The project would have been an economic, and indeed an environmental, disaster. It was debated for nearly 10 years. It was exhaustively scrutinised by the Roskill Commission; it was painstakingly scrutinised by Parliament, including the lengthy processes to which the 101 Maplin Development Authority Bill was subjected, with Petitions to Parliament which were examined by Select Committees of both Houses. It seems now that it was discussed interminably in the Press, on radio, on television, and indeed elsewhere. Before its end the project had received widespread condemnation. Roskill did not recommend it. The airlines did not want it. It would have been a gross inconvenience for passengers and freight. The cost would have been monumental, including costly new road and rail access routes which would have had to be provided through Essex and London. For those in the areas affected, including both Essex and Kent, it would have been devastating on noise and other grounds, and for wildlife in the areas it would have been highly destructive.
It would have done nothing to relieve the employment needs of East London. Perhaps it is worth reminding ourselves also that local authorities and other bodies in Kent and Essex opposed it, as did organisations elsewhere, including national bodies of various kinds. In the end it received almost universal—if not universal—condemnation in the Press. Eventually it was opposed by noble Lords in all parts of your Lordships' House and, indeed, by Members in all parts of another place. The present Government finally saved the nation from what would have been an environmental and economic disaster, after yet another thorough review had been carried out, by announcing the abandonment of the scheme.
Tonight I am sorry to find myself in disagreement with my noble friend Lord Pitt of Hampstead, who suggested that perhaps Maplin might be reconsidered in a different way from that in which Roskill looked at it, by considering it in terms of a one-runway airport or at least in terms of an airport of less than four runways. However, if such a grandiose scheme, involving all the costly access routes and the very expensive land reclamation that was needed, made no economic sense and would have been an environmental disaster in terms of a four-runway airport, how much more of a disaster and a nonsense it would be if all that sort of preparatory work, especially the costly access routes and land reclamation, were to be needed and carried out only for a one-runway airport!
102 In my submission, the project made no sense in national or international economic terms; nor indeed in national or international airline terms. It made no sense in local economic terms, nor on environmental grounds. The nation could never afford it, even at the time when it was seriously being considered. How much less can the nation afford such a scheme now with all the talk of the need to keep public expenditure in bounds!
I hope fervently that Her Majesty's Government will resist any temptation—often strong in circumstances like these—to feel that they must be courteous or polite, or forthcoming, by saying some such thing as, "We are always willing to have another look at something." Apart from all the other considerations which go with a scheme like that, there is at least one substantial practical reason for resisting any such temptation; namely, major planning projects create blight, even when they are just barely hinted at. People in the areas, and indeed properties which would have been affected by this project, suffered nigh on 10 years of uncertainty. They should not have to go through all that again. I can assure my noble friend, if he needs any assurance, that this scheme would be resisted at least as strongly on any future occasion, if it were to be misguidedly resurrected, as it was before. So do let us have none of the madness of Maplin or the folly of Foulness.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Lord TREFGARNE
My Lords, as other noble Lords have already said, we are all very grateful to my noble friend Lord Balfour for introducing this matter to us today, because it gives us an opportunity to hear the Government's thinking on a matter which so vitally affects the lives of so many people in the South-East of England as passengers, workers, or one of those living in what is called the footprint of the airports. The noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, was asking whether Her Majesty's Opposition were moving towards a reconsideration of the Maplin project. I am sorry to have to disappoint him, but Her Majesty's Opposition, in so far as I am speaking for them tonight, are not moving towards any particular policy in this matter. It really is not practicable or wise for an Opposition of whatever Party to form a very definitive 103 view on such a complex matter as this; a matter which relies so heavily on detailed technical information available only to the Government, and also upon the skills and opinions of professional planners and specialist advisers within the Department and elsewhere, all of which is not available to us on this side of the House or to my right honourable friends and honourable friends in another place.
We recognise that the Government have provided helpful sources of information in their Consultative Document, which is a voluminous and comprehensive work, but that alone is not adequate to enable us to form a definitive view of what the best solution of it may be in 10, 20, or 30 years' time. May I say in parenthesis that the Government published yet a third Consultative Document only yesterday, relating specifically to noise at Heathrow and Gatwick—in fact, night noise. I must ask the noble Lord whether he is satisfied that the document will get sufficient publication, because apparently, as of today at least, there is only one copy in existence and that is lodged in the Library in the House of Commons. When I asked for a copy in our Library they had to fetch the copy from the House of Commons. When I asked for a copy in the Printed Paper Office, I was told that it had not yet been printed. They would do their best to get me one. Knowing the resourcefulness of the Printed Paper Office, I shall no doubt get it very shortly, but even the experts there were not too optimistic.
We are entitled to press the Government now for a clear statement of their intentions, and to draw attention to the shortcomings and difficulties of the present arrangements and the problems which these will create in the near future. When considering how to accommodate future growth in air traffic, we first have to recognise the three principal restraints which together dictate the point at which we shall have to say that we can accept no more aircraft movements. These three restraints are, in order: runway capacity (that is to say, the point at which the runways cannot accept any more aircraft, which is of course coupled to environmental considerations); terminal capacity, which has already been touched on by many noble Lords this evening: and, finally, environmental capacity.
104 There is much woolly thinking about exactly when the environmental limit is reached with regard to the major aerodromes, but it is the point at which any appreciable increase in the use of the aerodrome imposes an unacceptable burden upon those living in the vicinity by virtue of aircraft noise, road traffic, et cetera. These limits are again going to be difficult to define in the future, because with the introduction of the modern wide-bodied aircraft with quieter engines, the burdens upon those living in the vicinity will not be as great as they were under the older aircraft.
It is, however, for consideration as to how we should define the environmental capacity of any airport. It is not just a question of aircraft noise; there are the added problems nowadays of vehicle noise and atmospheric pollution. One noble Lord, I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, mentioned that 84 per cent. of passengers travelling to and from Heathrow do so in private vehicles. If the prognostications of future growth of air traffic in terms of the number of passengers are borne out, then the number of cars is surely going to increase by at least the same proportion.
May I consider now these criteria at each of the principal airports which we presently regard as London airports. First, Heathrow. Of the three constraints that I have mentioned, all three are already creating difficulties. There is clearly no possibility of further runways at Heathrow, so the only scope for increasing the runway capacity is to spread the utilisation. But there are limits to what we can do there because there are already restrictions on the use of Heathrow at night, quite rightly so, and these will become more and more biting; and they will bite harder and harder in the future, and again quite rightly so. So to increase the runway capacity, or to increase the number of aircraft that can use the runways at Heathrow, we have to spread the existing load.
This indeed presents more difficulties, because it is not possible to dictate to passengers precisely at what time of day they can travel, particularly on the short and medium haul routes. Businessmen want to travel out in the morning and travel back again at night. It is no good 105 telling them that they can travel out in the evening and back again the following morning.
Again, the advent of the larger aircraft will ease the problem somewhat, but not exclusively so because it is not always possible to introduce these aircraft on to the less dense routes. It is not possible, for example, if one is presently operating two services a day with a small narrow-bodied aircraft to merge those two flights and operate one flight a day with a wide-bodied aircraft, because the standard of service one is then offering is significantly less, and one can be assured that the wide-bodied aircraft would not he filled.
As we all know, terminal capacity at Heathrow is presently a considerable problem and we hear of plans for a fourth terminal towards the West on the site of the sewage farm at Perry Oaks. That is all very well, but I fancy that finding a new site for the sewage farm will be as difficult as finding a new site for the third London airport.
May I turn now to Gatwick. The proposal to construct a second runway there is apparently now dead, like the ducks at Maplin, the reason being that because of geographical problems the new runway would have to be constructed so close to the existing one that it would not be possible to use both the runways to full capacity. Indeed, I am told that a new runway at Gatwick constructed to the North of the existing one would only increase the airport capacity in terms of aircraft movements by about 10 per cent. This would clearly not justify the enormous expense involved.
We hear that there is a proposal to construct a second terminal at Gatwick. I am not sure exactly where it is proposed it should be constructed, but I believe it would have to be some distance from the existing one, which would cause special difficulties. Frankly, it should have been put on the site occupied by the recently opened new freight terminal. At present the problem at Gatwick is not runway nor terminal capacity nor even environmental difficulties but, rather, the restrictions imposed by the small size of the parking area for visiting and resident aircraft. Much of Gatwick's traffic is charter flights of a seasonal nature and in winter therefore there is a 106 problem in regard to aircraft parking. Another important use of Gatwick is long-haul cargo charter flights and these aircraft also cause a similar problem because in the main they take much longer to load and unload than passenger aircraft.
As for Stansted, the problem there, at present anyway, is one of environmental difficulties. Major development at that airport is clearly undesirable for the reasons eloquently advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland. However, I believe that the use of that airport is so minimal at present—indeed, the figures advanced by Lord Balfour were I think one decimal point out; the present passenger load there is, I believe, in the region of a quarter of a million passengers annually—that there are some steps we could take now or in the near future to ease the position at Gatwick without imposing unduly on the people of Essex.
There is already one major freight line operating from Stansted, and in my view it would be highly desirable if the two smaller but not insignificant companies operating from Gatwick were encouraged to move to Stansted. British Caledonian Airways also has a substantial freight charter business, but I am doubtful about the possibility, or indeed the practicability, of having them split their operation down the middle, with half at Stansted and half at Gatwick, and I would not propose it.
A few words about the position of general aviation operations, which were so well described by my noble friend Lord Strathcarron; that is, the use of business and training aircraft at the airports we are considering. I am sorry to say that, since the departure of Sir Peter Masefield, the record of the British Airports Authority in this matter has been less than satisfactory. I believe that these operators are just as entitled to facilities as the major airlines and indeed the construction of the general aviation terminal at Gatwick some years ago was a greatly welcome step forward and a recognition of that fact. Sir Peter was of course a famous champion of small Aeroplanes—which, incidentally, cause little or no environmental problems—and the BAA's disappointing record since his departure is greatly to be regretted.
107 There is at present in any case no shortage of runway capacity at any of the London airports, except possibly at Heathrow during peak periods, so the action of the Authority at Gatwick last autumn was wholly inexplicable and, I would submit, unacceptable. I very much hope that the Government will use their influence with the Authority to secure a reversal of this unhappy trend; namely, the prevention and active discouragement of all general aviation except possibly at Stansted which the operators find so inconvenient.
In conclusion, while there is no immediate difficulty over runway capacity nor are there any insurmountable difficulties in regard to terminal capacity, both of these factors will become increasingly important towards the end of the decade and it is therefore necessary to begin to consider now what steps we should take at that time. The progressive but not wholesale introduction of wide-bodied aircraft will give us a breathing space, but no more. I am totally convinced that the new London airport, whenever it may be needed—20 or even 30 years hence—will have to be at a coastal site, and I urge the Government therefore to begin active planning now, because time is running so very short.
§ 7.55 p.m.
My Lords, with other noble Lords who have taken part in this fascinating debate, I wish to add my tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, for having initiated it; his knowledge and great experience of these matters are well known and valuable and they were forcefully demonstrated in the speech with which he opened the debate. I wish also to congratulate and welcome to his new position the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne. Straight away I will deal with the point he made about the new Consultative Document. Copies of it have been sent to MPs, local authorities and amenity groups— there has been a wide dissemination—although I acknowledge there was a slip from the point of view of the House of Lords Library; I had made a note to deal with the matter and I am glad that the noble Lord raised it.
We have had a most useful debate and I can assure the House that the wide range of views expressed will provide a further 108 valuable contribution to the Government's current review of airport policy. This review, which is now nearing completion, had its origins in the Government's decision in March 1974 to reappraise the Maplin Airport project and subsequently to abandon that project. The review has been conducted with the greatest possible emphasis on consulting those who are affected by airports and their development and who will be concerned with future airports policy.
There has, I know, been considerable concern—which is expressed in the Motion before the House and which has been voiced today—about the time which this process has taken. This point was particularly emphasised by Lord Balfour. The Government fully appreciate the desire on the part of airport authorities, airline operators, airport workers, local authorities and not least people living in the neighbourhood of airports, for the uncertainties about the future to be resolved. But delay—if that is the word—has been the price that we have had to pay if we were to learn from the past.
I suggest that in the past decisions about airports were reached without those affected having a proper opportunity to express their views on proposals in which they had a direct and material interest. Developments proceeded which have led to an over-provision of airports in some parts of Great Britain and to problems elsewhere; and in the past there has been no coherent policy against which the demand for air transport and the provision of facilities to meet that demand could be assessed within a national context. I make no Party points in my references to what happened in the past because the criticisms I have made can and have been levelled against Governments of both political Parties.
However, the present Government in their consideration of airports were determined to undertake for the first time a comprehensive examination of the problems of the London area within a national context and to work towards a truly national airports policy. The Government, recognising that decisions about the development of airports will have a profound effect on a considerable number of people, were convinced that all those who might be affected should have a full opportunity to marshal their arguments 109 and subsequently to present their views so that these might be taken into account before conclusions were reached and decisions announced. This inevitably takes time.
I was glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, asked for a full and open discussion; that is the purpose of issuing Consultative Documents and the reason for the time that is being taken. She and my noble friend Lord Pitt wondered in this connection whether the Government were proceeding to "planning by stealth". I can assure both the noble Baroness and my noble friend that that is the very opposite of our intention and our method. Indeed, there is more justification for the opposite criticism that we are being too open and, inevitably, having to take more time than, on other considerations, would be desirable.
The review of airports policy undertaken jointly by the Departments of Trade and the Environment has been a four-stage process and I shall deal with those stages. First, however, may I take up the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, about my appearance here instead of someone representing the Department of the Environment? This was, I acknowledge, expressed in courteous terms and was no criticism of me, but there was a suggestion that the Department of the Environment ought to be more fully engaged in this matter. I have stressed that the consideration of policy is being jointly undertaken by the Department which is traditionally responsible—that is, the Department of Trade—and the Department of the Environment because of the considerations that have, quite rightly, been put forward by noble Lords. Indeed, my honourable friends the Ministers for those Departments in another place have been receiving representations in joint meetings. I believe that one group was led by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent. So there is no difference between us on the need to involve both Ministries, but one cannot have two Ministers speaking at the Dispatch Box at the same time.
As to the four-stage process, the first stage followed the publication of the Maplin Review Report in July 1974. We sought the views of the main bodies concerned on the report on how future 110 United Kingdom air traffic might be handled. Secondly, in the light of these comments and further work undertaken within the Departments of Trade and the Environment, and with the technical assistance of the British Airports Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority, the Government produced in November 1975 the first part of a Consultation Document that has been referred to by a number of those who have spoken; that is, the document entitled Airport Strategy for Great Britain. This dealt with the airports in the London area. There have been a number of references to this and criticisms of some of its contents and I have noticed that some speakers have suggested that this is the Government's plan. I would stress that that is not so. It is a Consultative Document and the ideas put forward are simply ideas that have been expressed so as to get the reactions of the very many organisations and people to whom the document was directed. It is not a plan; it is a Consultative Document.
For the third stage we embarked upon what was in many ways the more difficult task of producing the second part of the Consultation Document covering the regional airports. This second part of the document, which was published in June last year, examined for the first time in depth and within a national context the role of regional airports and the way they might develop over the years. The Department of Trade wrote to about 1,000 local authorities, airport authorities, airline operators, employees' organisations, amenity groups and other bodies throughout Great Britain inviting them to comment on the Consultation Documents. There has been a massive response to that invitation. The Department has received many hundreds of written comments, all of which will be taken into account, and in addition my honourable friends the Ministers in the Departments of Trade and the Environment have met a number of the major interested groups to hear their views.
However, the time for consultations is drawing rapidly to a close. I recognise the urgency of the matter, which was stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour, and we shall shortly begin the fourth and final stage of the review. This will involve the assessment of all the advice 111 which has been received leading to the formulation of a national airports policy and its presentation to Parliament. My right honourable friend hopes that it will be possible to announce the policy in late summer or in the autumn. I cannot anticipate the form that statement might take, but its objective will be to establish a framework within which airports might he developed initially over the period to 1990, and to outline how future policy beyond that date might be determined in response to continuing assessments of the demand for air transport.
The noble Lord, Lord Balfour, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, stressed the long-term aspects of this matter, saying that 1990 will soon be upon us and that we need to look beyond that date. I agree thoroughly, and our assessment will look beyond that date. Thirdly, we shall be considering how to indicate the way in which individual airports throughout Great Britain might develop.
I am sure that your Lordships will recognise that it would be quite wrong for me to comment on individual airports in any great detail while the consultation process is continuing and before my honourable friends have had an opportunity to consider the views expressed in this debate this evening, and, more particularly, before the Government have reached their conclusions. Nevertheless, within the debate, there have been many most useful observations put forward and I should like to comment on as many as time permits. First, a question has been raised by a number of noble Lords about Maplin. My noble friend Lord Pitt raised this, as did my noble friend Lord Boston of Faversham, and others, including the noble Lord who opened the debate. I feel that the question of a new airport, though not specifically tied to the suggestion of Maplin, was implicit in a number of speeches which were critical of the concept of simply developing the existing four airports.
I think I should say that events since 1974 have reinforced the Government in their view that the decision to abandon the Maplin airport project was correct. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour, not only likes to call a spade a spade, but a dead duck a dead duck. He put forward a figure and it is indeed true that perhaps the most 112 fundamental objection to Maplin is that it would be prohibitively expensive. It is some time since the costs were worked out, but we can be sure that they are going up all the time and I do not think that the estimate of £1,000 million put forward by the noble Lord was very wide of the mark. That is a consideration of great importance. This does not mean that new airports can be ruled out for all time, but we remain to be convinced that we should be considering such projects in the present circumstances when expected traffic levels are much lower than envisaged at the time of the Roskill Commission and in circumstances where there is an overwhelming need to maintain stringent controls on public expenditure.
§ Lord PITT of HAMPSTEAD
May I intervene, my Lords? The point that I was making was that the project was for four runways. What I was asking the noble Lord to do was now to consider the matter in terms of one runway.
Yes, my Lords, I have noted that; but if my noble friend will forgive me I cannot deal with every detail due to the fact that there is a time limit to this debate. However, I should like to deal with the point which was particularly drawn to our attention by my noble friend Lord Leatherland and to which other noble Lords also referred, concerning Stansted, and I can indeed understand their anxiety about it. I should emphasise that the Government have reached no decision on this airport, but there are perhaps two general points about it that I should make. Not all comments that we have received have been opposed to the development of Stansted. Indeed the South-East Economic Planning Council, through its chairman, expressed concern at the serious under-use of the resources presently available at Stansted. I should stress that the project which was considered by Roskill was a very different one from the developments which are discussed in the Consultation Document, which are based on the existing single runway and within the existing boundaries of the airport.
A number of speakers, particularly again the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, raised the question of the effect of airport development on the 113 surrounding environment and the need to involve local authorities in consideration of policy. The question of employment was particularly referred to as well. I fully recognise the great importance of these issues. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, that the local authorities have in no manner been disadvantaged in the way that we have proceeded, and amenity groups have had the fullest opportunity to express their views, as have local authorities— and they have had the opportunity to comment on the analysis by the Department of the Environment on the non-aviation matters dealt with in the Consultation Document. So the approach to the local authorities and their welcome response is an important part of the consideration that is being given.
The second speaker in the debate, the noble Earl, Lord Amherst, together with the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, dealt at considerable length and in an interesting way with the question of the rail link with Heathrow, and so on. The question of a rail link between Heathrow and Central London is considered in Part I of the Consultation Document. We have received a number of interesting views on the subject during the consultation; and we have had a number more from the two noble Lords during the debate. We shall certainly look at the suggestions that they both have been putting forward.
The question of the fourth passenger terminal at Heathrow was raised in several ways, notably by my noble friend Lord Pitt of Hampstead—and if I refer to him again I hope that he will not interrupt me this time. I should stress that the proposal for a fourth terminal at Heathrow is rather different from the long-term strategy which is the subject of the airports policy review, since it is a much more immediate requirement. Indeed, when the decision to abandon Maplin was announced, it was made clear that, irrespective of that decision, a fourth terminal would be needed at Heathrow. Decisions on the fourth terminal are, in the first instance, a matter for the British Airports Authority, which is currently consulting the local planning authorities about the project; and because that is the situation I am afraid I am not able to respond in specific terms to the question about the date by 114 which the fourth terminal is expected to be made available.
The last group of points on which I might comment was raised first by the noble Lord, Lord Strathcarron, who was backed up by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and it concerned general aviation. The Government recognise the need for proper provision for the accommodation of general aviation, and particularly for business aviation. My right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Trade and for the Environment are at present considering the advice on general aviation in the South-East submitted to them by the Civil Aviation Authority and the Standing Conference on London and South-East Regional Planning, and particularly the bearing that this might have on a national airports policy.
Finally, I should like to emphasise once more the importance which the Government attach to the process of consultation which has characterised the present policy review. I am sure that I do not need to recall the history of airports policy in this country in the past 15 years, except to point out that we believe that the two main lessons—the need to adopt a national approach, and the importance of seeking directly the views of those who will be most seriously affected—have been learnt, and they have been reflected in our work. But the determination of policy is the responsibility of Government and we are under no illusions that the Government's conclusions and decisions on future airports policy will receive universal acceptance. In this matter, perhaps more than in most, it is not possible to please all the people all the time. However, we hope that all concerned will feel that they have had an adequate opportunity to express their views, and that as a result the decisions themselves will be better informed and, hopefully, receive a wider understanding.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Lord BALFOUR of INCHRYE
My Lords, in asking leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers, I should like to say "Thank you" to all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has had to leave the Chamber because I think that hers was the only unfair speech this evening—when she said that the first two 115 speakers before her had ignored the environmental aspect. If she will look at Hansard tomorrow, she will see that I used the expression that I was really appalled at the environmental problems which face us in the times ahead. Therefore, I trust that she will reconsider her indictment of the noble Earl, Lord Amherst, and myself—the first two speakers. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, made a most interesting speech based upon the figures which he thought were wrong. I am not competent to say whether they are right or wrong, but according to my memory, and from statistics from the Department of Trade, in the Consultation Document Stansted was rated to come up to a capacity of 16 million.
Finally, may I say that although the speeches of my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, were most interesting, I searched every word they said to find something constructive, and I found nothing except destructive criticism and not a single constructive suggestion as to how we are to cope up to 1990, if the traffic estimates are at all accurate.
One must not sit on the fence indefinitely until the mud of Maplin seeps through. One must say whether or not one approves of Maplin. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, it is no good saying that the Opposition ought not to say what they want to do. For goodness sake, take a view on Maplin! It struck me that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, and the noble Baroness were giving the kiss to the sleeping beauty of Maplin and saying, "Don't worry, dear, don't worry—about 1990 we will come and wake you up".
§ Lord TREFGARNE
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt him as he mentioned me by name, and I see we have five minutes or so left. If we in Opposition said now that we were in favour of building a new airport at Maplin, with the political situation as it is and the prospect of a Conservative Government in the near future, would we not be creating planning blight without backing it up with the proper information and the proper knowledge to do that?
§ Lord BALFOUR of INCHRYE
Personally, my Lords, I would say, "No". I would take a view on the knowledge I 116 had and on the knowledge I could obtain. I admit that they might be wrong, but take a positive view, that is what I think. My Lords, I thank those noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.