Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Darling: I am aware of the issue at east midlands airport. Several local authorities have asked us to designate it in terms of noise control. At the moment, we do that only in south-east England. Obviously, those are all things that we need to look at as part of the consultation in relation to any development, but just so that I do not inadvertently, not mislead, but encourage my hon. Friend to think things that he should not be thinking, I am not holding out any hope of reversing my recent decision in respect of east midlands airport.

Mr. David Chidgey (Eastleigh): In examining the options for expansion at Southampton international airport, which the Secretary of State will know is in my constituency, can he tell me whether it was discovered that the M27 motorway, the main coast railway line to Portsmouth and the little matter of Southampton city ruled out the construction of a second runway, as a previous study concluded? Is that still the case?

Mr. Darling: I know Southampton international airport. In fact, a couple of weeks ago I spent some time waiting for my train looking at it and its runway. The consultation in relation to Southampton does not envisage a second runway there but considers how Southampton and other airports in the area can be developed further and what their role should be. If anything is canvassed in the consultation that the hon. Gentleman disagrees with, or if there are matters that he thinks that we should examine further, this is the perfect opportunity for him to do that.

Mrs. Irene Adams (Paisley, North): Does my right hon. Friend agree that devolution to Scotland was about delivering services and power nearer to the people who are represented? Will he therefore ensure during the consultation that the highly successful Glasgow airport, which is in my constituency and employs 5,000 people, is not sacrificed if the Edinburgh Parliament suddenly develops what might be described as a natural inclination to draw services to itself, and that the spirit of devolution continues to serve all the people of Scotland equally?

Mr. Darling: I am glad that my hon. Friend chose to blame the Edinburgh Parliament rather than the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central, who is of course well aware of the competition or rivalry—call it what you will—between our two cities. The consultation with regard to central Scotland looks at what scope there is to develop both airports. There has been growth at both. It also raises the question whether we should try to develop a hub airport, which would probably only be at one airport. In order to make it work and to get the destinations that many people in Scotland want, not just to the south of England but to Europe and the United States, it would be necessary to achieve a certain density of traffic: it might be difficult to achieve that with a hub of two airports. I hope that as Edinburgh and Glasgow are 44 miles apart, although the airports are slightly further apart than that, all of us could see the common interest in doing that, and I say that an as Edinburgh Member.

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet): The Secretary of State will be aware that, given the necessary but—in transport

23 Jul 2002 : Column 862

terms—relatively modest costs of improvements to the rail service, Manston airport in Kent is about 50 minutes by train to central London. In the light of his earlier answer, does he seriously suggest that Manston's potential is not under consideration in the document?

Mr. Darling: Manston is mentioned in the document, as are most major airports. My point was that, in terms of a large international hub airport, the option in Kent that is being looked at is Cliffe. In relation to Manston or indeed other airports in the region, the whole point of the consultation is to allow people to make representations. At this stage, the Government have not reached a conclusion. We will do so when we reach the stage of publishing a White Paper but there is nothing to stop the hon. Gentleman or other Kent Members making representations if they think that there is a better solution.

Margaret Moran (Luton, South): I welcome the significance that has been afforded to London Luton airport, which is a particularly successful public-private partnership, one of our largest employers and handles the second largest number of business passengers in the United Kingdom. I welcome the proposals for expansion, although not for a second runway, which the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Collins) seemed to be advocating, since that would mean tarmacking over half of Luton, probably including my house. Is my right hon. Friend aware that expansion of London Luton is predicated on the need to deal with junction 10 of the M1 and its widening? Can he advise us when a decision is likely to be made on that point?

Mr. Darling: My hon. Friend is right that, in relation to all these airports, surface communications, whether motorway or rail, need attention. I cannot tell her when a decision is likely to be made in relation to the M1. I would also say, as she raised the matter, that the options at Luton include a new runway to replace the existing runway, because, as she will know far better than I do, the topography of Luton means that it would not be possible to put a second airport there. As she will know, however, significant capacity over the next 30 years should allow Luton to develop successfully.

Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar): The Secretary of State spoke repeatedly about the need to attract a hub operation. Does he understand that that is not entirely within his gift, and that many airports in the world with spacious termini and multi-runways have never been able to attract a hub because they lacked critical mass and the co-operation of a major carrier? Given what is happening in France, Germany and the Netherlands, and the recent failure of British Airways to create a successful hub at Gatwick, what makes him think that there is a possibility of creating an additional hub at Stansted?

Mr. Darling: The hon. Gentleman is not quite right. What I said was that, clearly, Heathrow is a very successful international hub airport—one international passenger in six start and finish their journeys in the south-east, and many do so at Heathrow. The question is whether we can maintain Heathrow's position. Does it need an extension in terms of an additional runway, or would it be better to operate Heathrow in conjunction with

23 Jul 2002 : Column 863

a second airport such as Stansted? Alternatively, should we accept that Heathrow cannot expand enough, for whatever reason, and move the hub airport elsewhere? I accept that that does not lie entirely in the Government's hands. The people who build the airport, operate the airport and own the airlines are not the Government. Clearly, however, Government can influence these matters. We can listen to the industry and the airlines, and, because of the powers available to us, set up a framework against which all those people, as well as residents, can plan for the future.

I accept that not all these matters lie in the hands of the Government, but the logic of the hon. Gentleman's position is that the Government should stand back and see what others do to sort it out. I do not think that he is saying that. I do think, however, that the consultation period allows time for people to focus their minds. As he raised the point, I hope that it focuses the minds of everybody concerned, as it is in all our interests that we come to a firm decision sooner rather than later.

Alan Keen (Feltham and Heston): Would the Secretary of State add another telling statistic to those that he is beginning to compile? I am the third Heathrow Member to speak this afternoon. One of the other two has always opposed major developments at Heathrow, while the other has always supported them. The latter has changed his mind, and I shall add another to the list of those who have moved across: because of the people living around Heathrow, I do not agree that it is possible to expand outside Heathrow without causing dreadful damage to people's lives. People are already suffering greatly, as I hope that the Secretary of State understands, but they carry on and make a major contribution to one of the world's greatest industries. Two people have therefore switched over this afternoon.

Mr. Darling: I do not quarrel with any Member who advances a particular view because it is in their constituents' interests to do so. My hon. Friend is, therefore, entitled to take that view. All I would say to him, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), is that the three of us are concerned about the future of Heathrow. The question is whether it can continue to be the international airport that it is without extending its capacity further. If, at the end, the consensus is yes, that is fine. But if it is no, all of us—including Members who represent Heathrow constituencies—have to face up to the fact that, at the moment, the airport is responsible, directly and indirectly, for the employment of about 100,000 people. We must take decisions in the next year or so that will determine the future of Heathrow over the next 30 years. There is not an easy answer, as I have said time and again, and all of us have to consider both sides of the argument before reaching a view.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): Just 12 months after the opening of the second runway at Manchester airport, the possibility of further development would cause real concern among the communities living around it. Will the Secretary of State take on board the fact that when an airport, such as Manchester, is so close

23 Jul 2002 : Column 864

to a conurbation, there must be an upper limit on development? Does he accept that the airport cannot continue to grow indefinitely?

Next Section

IndexHome Page