Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:19 am on 1st July 1983.

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Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes 11:19 am, 1st July 1983

Outside the House half-time is traditionally 15 minutes. In no way have I been discomfited. I am surprised at how quickly I have reached agreement with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) — I did not expect it so soon in this Parliament. I thank the House also for the maiden interruption during my maiden speech. It will get me used to interruptions in the further contributions that I hope to make.

Night flights destroy the peace which we believe to be our basic right when we are trying to sleep. Night flights, however quiet the modern aircraft is claimed to be, are very destructive of the chance to rest, since, when removed from the clamour of day time, their effects are exaggerated, particularly for those who sleep lightly, such as the elderly.

I admit that modern aircraft design—apart from that of the otherwise beautiful aeroplane, Concorde — has reduced the level of aircraft noise from the absolutely unacceptable to the merely unbearable. However, I believe that design improvements have now gone as far as they can and I have no confidence that to double the number of passengers using Heathrow will leave the current level of aircraft movements as they are. Greater efficiency of aeroplane use is greatly to be desired, but it has not been achieved by any airline to its satisfaction in the past and it is unlikely to be more than a dream in the future.

While I pay tribute to the excellent safety record of the British Airports Authority, to double the number of people crossing central London each day must increase the probability of a dreadful accident. I am not being alarmist, merely recognising the fact that any accident when approaching Heathrow would be catastrophic. I have a duty to point out our fears. What matters to the people who live under the flight path is not how many passengers are in each plane, but the number of occasions on which planes fly overhead. If this increases—even the British Airports Authority believes that it will—the risk must increase proportionately.

Richmond and Barnes has an even greater problem—the worst traffic record in the Greater London area. The south circular road, which sounds as though it has some similarity to the more efficiently constructed north circular road, is not at all the same structure. It is famous for its inappropriateness and inability to cope with existing volumes of traffic. It has 36 zebra crossings, 144 bus stops to block the traffic, 30 miles of single-lane road and 330 side roads. In the heart of my constituency it even makes a 90 degree turn from the upper Richmond road west into Clifford avenue. It is plagued by the heaviest traffic in Greater London, with international freight lorries thundering past narrow domestic avenues. It is admitted to be a major scandal, but no Government nor any GLC administration has been prepared to find a satisfactory solution to the waste of man-time and damage to the environment that the system causes.

The blockage caused by such chaos leads normally law-abiding citizens to throw away all moral decency and consideration and to resort to that anti-social habit of rat running. "Rat running" is when a car driver, or, even worse, a lorry driver, departs from the main route and dashes down domestic side roads to gain some small time advantage. The only occupants of those roads at those times of day are likely to be children with their mothers, the elderly and even the blind, believing that they walk in peace. No amount of road blocks and clever local traffic schemes can answer this peril; only a reduction of traffic volume on the main roads.

The recent map by the British Road Federation Ltd. of roads under construction or in the planning stage shows that the south circular road is part of a vacuum of ideas for the improvement of London's roads. It is not that there are no improvements under construction—they are not even being considered. In order to divert more of its money to the London Underground and bus system, the GLC recently scrapped any alternatives, such as the west London relief road. The north circular road, a genuine bypass for heavy traffic, is controlled by the Department of Transport and is constantly being improved.

The M25 will have some effect—estimated at less than 25 per cent. when finally constructed—in reducing cross-Channel lorry densities. However, it will have no effect on passenger movements by car 'or those travelling to Heathrow and the north from south of the Thames area, which must inexorably pass through Sheen and Kew. All this is before the completion of the fourth terminal at Heathrow.

The south circular road and its inability to cope with current traffic levels deserves urgent action. I will ask for the GLC's road responsibilities to be removed and handed over to the Department of Transport, where funds are more often available in the national interest.

I approve of the measures introduced in the last Parliament for making heavy lorries safer, quieter, of a maximum size and, by having an extra axle, cause less damage to the environment. However, I cannot express strongly enough my belief that any measures which increase lorry size will be resisted strongly by the people of Richmond, as the roads were not built for lorries of even half their current allowed size. I shall continue to oppose such orders until the heavy international freight lorries are taken off our residential tree-lined avenues and a proper alternative scheme for south and west London is proposed, such as making better use of railway lines and resuscitating the west cross route. We believe that our community has already suffered enough at the hands of aircraft noise and traffic densities. Any increase in noise or road use volume would be intolerable.

The south circular road and the way in which it is unable to cope with current traffic levels deserves urgent action, and further development at Heathrow would only make its problems far worse. During the election campaign my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for the Environment, the present Secretary of State for Transport, visited me at my office on upper Richmond road west. He, like two other Cabinet Ministers and, indeed, the Prime Minister before him, were seriously delayed by the volume of traffic. He even ditched his car and walked to our meeting, one hour late. It has been Government policy not to support the prospect of future development at Heathrow. Perhaps the experience of the Secretary of State for Transport will help him to agree that two of London's greatest problems—the south circular road and the development of Heathrow—deserve urgent solution.

I should not like it to be thought that I shall be obsessed merely with these two difficult problems. I give notice that I shall strive to the best of my ability for pensioners and will call on the Government to give them the increases which they richly deserve through a healthier economy.

I shall work for good race relations, as I believe that had race relations are far more likely than nuclear warfare—thanks to our effective deterrent—to cause blood to flow in the streets of London in the foreseeable future. The constructive attitude of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police and the new sensitivity and understanding of our police force, to whom I cannot pay greater tribute, can help to produce good race relations and a reduction in our epidemic crime figures.

I shall work for a reduction in man's cruelty to animals; I shall strive for rating reform, and, above all, I shall work to improve the quality of life of those who live in Richmond and Barnes. I thank them for giving me the great honour of being here to serve them for as many years as they choose.