Stansted Airport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:45 pm on 28th April 1987.

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Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland 10:45 pm, 28th April 1987

The hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) said that the order is the only way in which the House can influence, restrict or have some control over future developments at Stansted airport. On that basis, we should consider just how effective this order is. In previous debates on airports, during debates on airports legislation and during more general debates on airport policy, my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) has said that the appropriate level of passenger throughput at Stansted would be 5 million. The throughput implicit in the level of ATMs suggested in the order is between 7 million and 8 million. That exceeds my hon. Friend's figure. However, the figure in the order is substantially—almost 50 per cent. — lower than the approved planning permission figure that Parliament might be expected to approve in future to allow for such expansion. It is therefore important that we should have this opportunity to debate whether such expansion is desirable.

We must first consider whether such expansion is environmentally desirable. That matter must be of considerable interest to the constituents of the hon. Member for Saffron Walden. They have to bear the brunt of the aircraft noise generated by 78,000 movements in addition to the other movements not included in that figure. I agree with the hon. Member for Saffron Walden about the need to look for other ways — apart from limiting aircraft movements—to minimise the environmental impact on those who have to live under the flight paths into and out of Stansted and other airports.

My second point was hinted at by the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape), who said that we must consider how the aircraft movements and the passengers involved have a consequence for the general development of airport policy, not least for the importance that we and the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East attach to the development of airports in the regions in England and Scotland. Manchester airport has already been singled out as having considerable potential for attracting more traffic, and it has generated considerable support for its case for more traffic. It would be surprising if I did not put in a plea for the considerable future role that many Scottish airports have for international flights and in that regard I want to mention particularly the further marketing and development of Prestwick airport.

It is important that Parliament should have this opportunity to put some control over future developments at Stansted because, so many other consequences will follow from those developments with general regard to airport policy. It would also be fair to ask to what extent the order is effective in achieving that objective. The hon. Member for Saffron Walden rightly explained that there are a number of possible variables in this matter. The Minister referred to a number of ways in which the 78,000 air traffic movements relate to the level of expected passenger throughput.

What level of future development of domestic passenger transport does the Minister foresee for Stansted? It has often been suggested that, if Stansted airport is to secure its long-term future, one of our domestic airlines should have a base at the airport. Does the Minister share that view? Domestic airlines have fewer passengers, and if the expected passenger throughput is to be reached in the longer term, that would imply many more air traffic movements. That would obviously have environmental consequences, so it is something on which we would wish to have his views.