Stansted Airport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:18 pm on 28th April 1987.

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Photo of Mr David Mitchell Mr David Mitchell , North West Hampshire 11:18 pm, 28th April 1987

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I phrased my remarks carefully. He will find that there is no conflict between what I have said and what my colleagues have said at the appropriate times.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford raised the matter of housing. I understand his point, but it is more a matter for the planning authorities who have control over these matters than it is for the Department of Transport. My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden welcomed the instrument and recognised that it was the fulfilment of a Government promise. He asked me a number of penetrating questions and I shall do my best to answer them.

First, my hon. Friend asked how it was that at Gatwick there were 102,000 air traffic movements to provide for 7 million to 8 million passengers a year, while at Stansted the same number of passengers appear to be provided for by only 78,000 air traffic movements. He asked if I could explain that quite remarkable difference, and I can. At the time when Gatwick was developing some years ago, aircraft were much smaller than they are now. Therefore, more aircraft were required to carry the same number of passengers. The larger aircraft in service today compared to the aircraft in use at the opening of Gatwick are a major reason for the difference. At Stansted, more passengers can be carried per aircraft.

The other significant factor is that there was a helicopter link between Gatwick and Heathrow. That helicopter counted as an air traffic movement, but it might have carried only four or five people at a time. Therefore, it accounted for a significant number of air traffic movements for very few people. I hope that that clarification helps my hon. Friend.

My hon. Friend also asked me what about what would happen if, during the course of a year, it suddenly appeared that the number of air traffic movements will exceed the limitation before the year was out. In that case I am quite sure that I or my successors in the Department of Transport will find the operator from Stansted knocking on the door and asking for parliamentary time for the passage of an order similar to the one that we are debating.

My hon. Friend asked whether the exclusion of general aviation would leave a big loophole in the system. I can tell him that that will not happen. Last year there were 4,337 all-cargo movements at Stansted, including mail flights, but of those only 584, or less than 14 per cent.. were jet aircraft. The vast majcrity. over 86 per cent., were small and relatively quiet aircraft. Therefore, he need not feel unduly worried about that point. I give him the undertaking that I will, as he asked, keep this matter under review.

My hon. Friend asked about noise limitation. In the general sense, noise standards have recently been considerably developed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, in which the United Kingdom plays a leading role. From 1 January 1986, British registered subsonic jets unable to meet basic standards, that is to say, non-noise-certified aircraft, have been banned from United Kingdom airports. From 1 January 1988, foreign registered subsonic jets unable to meet the basic noise standards will also be banned. That means that the noisiest aircraft will not be around; that will be a great relief to people living in the vicinity of our airports.

My hon. Friend's next question was about insulation. He is perceptively feeling around the area of ways in which his constituents may be affected by the increasing use of the airport. A noise insulation grant scheme will he in place by the time the passenger throughput reaches 2 million per year, and that is a long way down on the limitation that we have before us. Noise limits will be fixed for aircraft departing by clay and by night, the noise level standards for night departures will be lower and the noise levels will be monitored. The new night restrictions for Stansted will reflect the outcome of the present review of night restrictions at Heathrow and Gatwick, taking into account local circumstances.

Hon. Members asked about a full day's debate, should a revision of this instrument be necessary. My answer must be the answer I gave earlier to another question: that hon. Members are likely to be a little greyer, perhaps a lot greyer, by the time that situation arises.