Stansted Airport

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

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt , Bury North 11:11 pm, 28th April 1987

This is a comparatively small country. Consequently, the activities of Stansted or any other south-eastern airport have an impact far beyond their own immediate environment. That is why the development and growth of Stansted up to and including this order have been of interest to, and have led to controversy for, northern Members and their constituents. My constituency of Bury, North is no exception.

I speak, therefore, as a man of Manchester airport, proud, like colleagues on both sides of the House, of the achievements of that airport over the past few years in enormous growth, more routes and more facilities. We have just seen the completion of a marvellous new hotel and the airport has a continually growing number of passengers. We all pay tribute to the excellent management of Mr. Gill Thompson and his team who perform such wonderful feats against a difficult and restrictive background such as the nonsense of international air travel, hedged around as it is by so many agreements, preventing the free commercial enterprise and development of airports and of airlines and their routes.

What effect, therefore, do restrictions and limitations on air traffic movements have beyond Stansted for airports such as Manchester? In so far as air traffic is geographically mobile, the limit at Stansted is to be welcomed by all who support regional airports, including Manchester. There is some such air traffic, but not much. Of much greater significance is the Government's responsible and supportive attitude to regional airports summed up in the most recent White Paper, about which Mr. Gill Thompson said that it put regional airport development policy where it should have been under the Labour Government when they published their White Paper. The order stems specifically from that policy. Therefore, the north will be grateful to the extent that its case has been recognised. To the extent that the limit acknowledges that, its voice has been heard.

But much more remains to be done, I caution the Minister that Manchester continues to watch carefully Stansted's growth and the performance of the Government and BAA. I said earlier that there was some mobility in air traffic movement, but not much. Most of the mobility is exercised by my poor constituents who have to climb into cars or buses to travel to different parts of the country to get flights that they would like to get from Manchester. That is the mobility that concerns them most. We used to see much more of that than we do today. The developments at Manchester under the general umbrella of the Government's regional policy have helped to improve the position. We are all most grateful for that.

That will change, not because of any relationship with the Government but because of the changes that are already taking place in the north. I believe that people will see the south-east for what it is—over-congested, overdeveloped and over-priced—and will realise that there is more to the north of England than they ever thought. As they move their businesses north, they will find a perfect vehicle for their international transactions on their doorstep, and in Manchester airport they will find the place that they need to help them to expand their businesses further. Those factors will determine the growth of regional airports in the future. I hope that we will find that the fears of Conservative Members about the expansion of Stansted and future orders will not need to be realised.