Stansted Airport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:06 pm on 28th April 1987.

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Photo of Mr Bowen Wells Mr Bowen Wells , Hertford and Stortford 11:06 pm, 28th April 1987

I welcome the order because it keeps a promise that the Government made to those who live around Stansted to limit the number of passengers who use the airport to 8 million per annum. It is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst) has said, a feeble instrument, especially when it falls to be considered in an hour and a half's debate after 10 o'clock. I ask the Minister for an undertaking that any future increase of the limit will receive a full-scale debate in the House in prime time. That would be in line with the nature of the promise that the Minister and the Government gave to those whom I represent. Anything less would be a subterfuge, because the promise was that the Government would limit the number of passengers using Stansted to 8 million a year in the first phase, and that that phase would not be exceeded until and unless the House had given its approval. In my view that promise would be fulfilled only in the light of a full debate. That would give the opportunity for those who represent other airport areas, including Manchester, to raise the contentious argument why Stansted should be used for chartered aircraft. There is no reason why chartered aircraft movements could not take place at Birmingham, Manchester or Scottish airports. There is no need to fill Stansted with such movements.

I remind the Minister of other promises that have been given to the House on the expansion of Stansted. First, the Government undertook that there would be no cross-subsidisation of Stansted by other London airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick. It seems that the promise has not yet been fulfilled because cross-subsidisation can take place under the umbrella of the British Airports Authority, which is to be privatised in July. In other words, Stansted will continue to lose money for many years hence. I am not certain that it will be making money even when it has 8 million passengers per annum. When it makes losses, they will have to be met by the profits declared by the authority's umbrella holding company. Thus cross-subsidisation will, in my view, be taking place. I should like an assurance from my hon. Friend the Minister that he will fulfill the Government's promise by some means.

We in Bishop Stortford have been promised that the Minister will limit the number of houses generated by the airport's expansion to 8 million passengers per annum to a proportion of that which was forecast in the public inquiry, which preceded the announcement of the Government's policy. Already Bishop Stortford has received applications from developers for more than 15,000 houses, which would double the size of the town within months of the new policy outlined by the Government. We are having extreme difficulty in resisting the pressure for development. Indeed, the Department of Environment is considering the means by which the Government will be enabled to fulfil their promise of a green belt round Bishop Stortford. That is the only means by which we could control the housing development resulting from the expansion in this order. So there are two more promises which I am looking to the Government to fulfil in the near future.

I am grateful that the Government have kept their pledge. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden, who has put much effort into making certain that the Government did keep their promise both in the Civil Aviation Bill that did not become law and in the Airports Act 1986. So I ask the Minister to ensure that his colleagues address these difficult questions, continue to fulfil the promises they have made and honour their good faith to the people of Bishop Stortford and my constituency.