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Mr. Skinner : Thursday is no good.

Mr. Squire : Is the hon. Gentleman basing his remark on attendance in this House on a Thursday?

Mr. Skinner : The hon. Gentleman is talking about markets being profitable. If he compares attendance at the markets on a Thursday with attendance in this House on a Thursday, it is obvious that Thursday is not the day to have a market. The hon. Gentleman referred to the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) who opposed the Bill. He has gone. The hon. Gentleman then mentioned somebody else who has also pottered off. He said that the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert) could not speak because he is a Minister. It is just like Fred Karno's army. All the troops have left the hon. Gentleman. I could mention someone else, but I will not.

What kind of outfit does the hon. Gentleman have? If he is going to carry on he must get his troops together. We have got our people. The hon. Gentleman has lost his little army. They have probably gone to the market and are setting up stalls. The hon. Gentleman thinks that he is opposing the Bill, but his troops could be playing a double hand. They could be putting up stalls ready for a Friday market. He cannot trust people in this place because there is all sorts of moonlighting. I would not put it past Tory Members to be making money on the side in that market. The hon. Gentleman should investigate that.

Mr. Squire : I am enormously grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his suggestions. However, in all fairness I must point out that my hon. Friend the Member for Romford is not missing. He is present, but the rules of the House deny him the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield) : Why?

Mr. Squire : That is a separate point about the legislature.

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I confess immediately that one of the difficulties of having been in this place for only just over 10 years is that I have never taken part in the sort of activities for which the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has become a household name. However, I am learning.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) makes a serious point. There are a number of absentees from the Chamber tonight. I want an assurance from the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) that the right hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) is not already setting up a stall in Redbridge market and making another £200,000 per year. I feel sure that many right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House would regard it as an outrage for a right hon. Member to receive a salary of £26,000 a year after a 10 per cent. pay increase, and another £200,000 by moonlighting, when ambulance men cannot get a 10 per cent. pay rise. 9.45 pm

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) said that he was learning, and he should not be seduced from moving his amendment.

Mr. Squire : I did not realise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the hon. Gentleman's intervention was going that way. I shall not comment on it.

The hon. Member for Bolsover also spoke of absent right hon. and hon. Members. If one adds together the votes in the last Division, they amount to a large figure. Perhaps it would be invidious to inquire why a large number of right hon. and hon. Members are not in the Chamber.

Amendment No. 2 tackles head-on why Redbridge market should not open on Sunday. In the proceedings of the past hour or two, I have detected a certain flavour or--

Mr. Cryer : Nuance?

Mr. Squire : Nuance is a good word. There has been a certain free market approach from some of my hon. Friends in particular, who implied that the Bill's purpose is to do away with cobwebbed, dusty, outmoded and outdated legislation--yet they stop short of incorporating in the legislation the very provision that would reflect their belief in a totally free and unregulated market. I refer to the market's right to open on Sunday.

We should probe behind the Bill to establish why the market will not do so. Some Opposition Members may hold strong views about Sunday trading, and may have expressed them on previous occasions. However, even they might agree that legislation that purports to be a free market, one-off measure should include the right of the market to open on Sunday--when it would not compete with the one at Romford, and which would allow people to buy all the things that they want on Sunday.

Presumably the market's traders and operators want it to be successful and profitable. Instead of being open for only six days a week, it could be open for seven. Alternatively, the six days could include Sunday, so that the number of days stipulated in the Bill would remain unchanged. Either way, profitability would be increased.

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Mr. Meale : The real reason is that had Sunday opening been included in the Bill, there is little likelihood that the Government would have supported it. Another reason is the risk of provoking a revolt on the Conservative Benches because of the church and shop lobbies.

Perhaps another reason is that the Government, having got themselves in such a turmoil over the ambulance dispute, which has caused such disquiet among the public--most of whom are totally against the attitude adopted by the Secretary of State for Health--and having created so much furore after giving a heck of a lot of money to their friends in the City, and in respect of many other industrial matters--

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I cannot relate the hon. Gentleman's remarks in any way to the amendment.

Mr. Squire : You can rest assured that I shall resist the temptation to respond to that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, at the start of his intervention the hon. Gentleman made a very good point when he referred to what happened a few years ago when the House last had the opportunity to discuss Sunday trading. It is arguable that since then a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House might have changed their minds. In a number of local authorities the key point has been whether people who break the law on Sunday trading should be prosecuted.

Mr. Meale : To return to the point about Sunday trading, the Sunday Sports Bill attempted to change the legislation to legalise sporting activities on Sundays. That failed abysmally because hon. Members on both sides of the House argued and campaigned against it. The promoters of the Bill and the Government were worried about that happening again.

Mr. Squire : The hon. Gentleman helps the discussion on the amendment.

The argument on Sunday trading may have shifted substantially. Many local authorities complain because they do not know what the law is at present. They want clarification and they are not getting it. Many of us are being contacted by constituents either saying that they want the opportunity to go shopping on Sunday and buy a three-piece lawnmower or whatever, or asking why the council is not enforcing the law and saying that it is wrong that shops should be open. Tonight we have one of the first opportunities for a long time to discuss Sunday trading in the context of this private Bill. I have already said that I believe that the private Bill procedure is inadequate and should not be used for such legislation, but the House has already voted that it should. I disagree with that, but since we have it, it is only right and proper that we should explore whether Sunday trading has become more popular with hon. Members.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : I am in two minds about the amendment. I do not know whether to support it or to oppose it. What is the attitude of the people in Redbridge? Has there been a survey of the churches and the shops or any general consultation? Can the hon. Gentleman inform us about that so that we can make up our minds?

Mr. Squire : The hon. Gentleman asks a very good question. I can give him only half an answer, but it is

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germane to the amendment. Havering is next to Redbridge and they have similar-minded people. Opinions may have changed, but when Sunday trading was being considered, many people wrote to me saying that they wanted the law to be changed. They were disappointed that time. It may be different in the hon. Gentleman's constituency as I cannot speak for that area. Nor can I speak for Redbridge as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) will undoubtedly do when he returns and I hope he will address that point. My knowledge of Ilford is only a fraction of that of my hon. Friend as he has been a distinguished Member of Parliament for 10 years or more. I am sure that an awful lot of people in Ilford like going out on Sundays and would shop if they could. An awful lot of people would trade on Sundays if they could. That is one reason why I tabled the amendment.

I do not want to talk only about Sunday trading. The key point that has been made against the Bill, other than the objection in principle to the legislation being used to change the law, is the impact that it will have on the existing Romford market. Nobody could possibly know what the impact will be. All we know is that the more the new market is allowed to trade in Redbridge, the more impact, logically, that will have on existing businesses.

Mr. Meale : It will have an undoubted effect. The argument has been put in many circles, particularly in local authority circles, that perhaps a one-day market can positively encourage trade. But if it is over a period of six days--and we are talking about 480 units--that will undoubtedly have a major effect on the shopkeepers surrounding this major new marketing operation.

Mr. Squire : I am grateful for the support of the hon. Member, who makes his point well.

In our early discussions this evening we touched several times on the compensation and the way in which it had been changed. No one can deny that it has been improved. When the Bill was introduced the compensation was disgraceful and totally inadequate. It has now been amended, and that is welcomed, but only relative to what it was before. The underlying aim of the legislation remains--to prevent the existing market in Romford, which is identical to the 287 other markets throughout the country in constituencies represented by right hon. and hon. Members, from being as successful in the future as it has been in the past. There is no argument about that.

Mr. Pike : The hon. Gentleman says that the compensation is now acceptable. I remind him that in the earlier debate it was indicated that the compensation would be paid by the people who ran the market. As the people who run the market fix the rent at a certain level for stallholders, they very much influence that profit figure. So the compensation is completely in their control and may not be realistic compensation at all.

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Mr. Squire : That is one of the key points.

Of course, I could say that people in Romford welcome the compensation, and that would be the end of it. But I am arguing for a reduction in the number of days that they will trade which, logically, would lead to a reduction in the compensation. It is a measure of the concern felt by Romford and Havering that I should be saying that, although the compensation will not be sufficient, none the less we wish to see the activities of this new non- charter market, created only by legislation of this Chamber, restricted to a fewer number of days.

I have an open mind as to whether it should be one day or two days and I thought it only right that I put down more than one amendment--indeed, they have wisely been grouped together--because this would, in theory at least, give hon. Members on both sides of the House the opportunity to say which they thought was the better. Both are significant cuts in the six days presently included in the Bill.

Mr. Skinner : The hon. Gentleman should also consider what will happen in the area where the market is situated when it is not operating. On different days during the week different activities can take place. The mind boggles at the extent to which--

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : They could sell shares.

Mr. Skinner : My hon. Friend says that they could sell shares. They could be like yuppie street traders. The area could be a car park. Football could be played on it. If the hon. Gentleman considers the matter he might find that there are possibilities for large groups of his constituents and other people's constituents to engage in all sorts of leisure activities on that area. If he is a bit unsure of his ground, he should think in terms of what could happen on the market place when it is not being used for a market.

Mr. Squire : Not for the first time, I am indebted to the hon. Member for Bolsover. I promise not to release that in Bolsover, if he promises not to do so in Hornchurch. He rightly said that Redbridge should be more imaginative about the site.

Mr. Meale : Will the hon. Gentleman enlighten me about compensation? The Government are pushing for the privatisation of local government management services. What will happen if the management services are privatised--

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Further consideration adjourned till Thursday 8 February-- [The Chairman of Ways and Means.]



That, at this day's sitting, the Civil Aviation (Borrowing Powers) Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.-- [Mr. Patnick.]

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Civil Aviation Authority (Borrowing Powers) Bill As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

Clause 1

Borrowing powers of Civil Aviation Authority

10 pm

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) : I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 8, leave out £500' and insert £450'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : With this, it will be convenient to consider amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 8, leave out from million' to end of line 11.

Mr. Wilshire : I move the amendments as one of the Members of Parliament representing Heathrow airport. Some 70,000 electors will be seriously affected by parts of the Bill if certain plans go ahead.

I felt compelled to table the amendments earlier this week because of what has occurred since the Standing Committee considered the Bill on 18 January. On 23 January, British Midland Airways published a report calling for exactly the changes at Heathrow that were discussed when the money resolution was debated on 17 January and when the Committee considered the Bill on 18 January. The report estimates the cost of the changes at Heathrow at £50 million--exactly the sum that I seek to delete, thus making it impossible for the Civil Aviation Authority to spend money on what was suggested in those discussions and in the report.

On Second Reading, the Minister for Aviation and Shipping gave two reasons for wanting the Bill to be enacted, one of which concerns us now. He said :

"One project is the central control function ; it has been called the tunnels in the sky concept. It involves a major restructuring of the airspace over south-east England and will increase capacity in the terminal manoeuvring area over the south-east by at least 30 per cent. when it is fully in place in 1995."--[ Official Report, Second Reading Committee, 20 December 1989 ; c. 3.]

So far so good. I have no objections if the Bill does that, but the problems start when one asks where the 30 per cent. will land. When the Bill was considered previously, various hon. Members urged the CAA to spend money to enable much of that extra 30 per cent. to land at Heathrow airport.

Two suggestions affecting Heathrow were made in those previous discussions, both of which will need the use of the borrowing powers if they are to be implemented. They are, first, ending the daily runway switch at 3 o'clock and, secondly, allowing more night flights. Those were the common themes that ran through much of the discussion on how further to utilise Heathrow. Surprise, surprise, those were two of the five proposals put forward by an independent airline, which it costed at £50 million, the amount which I seek to delete from the Bill. In case anyone doubts whether an independent airline's proposals for Heathrow affect the CAA, I tell the House that in order to get the details of what was being proposed by British Midland Airways I had to ask the CAA for them. So it is involved and must be stopped.

Let us look in some detail at the purpose of trying to spend the £50 million that I am anxious to prevent being

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spent. It is to try to create 75,000 extra slots--extra landings and takeoffs--at Heathrow. That would represent about 22 per cent. additional traffic movement a year through that airport.

The report, in seeking to spend that money, suggests that five alterations should be made. They are that mixed mode operations should alter the runway switching ; that there should be a reduction in the lateral separation of aircraft as they are flying around the airport ; that there should be new taxiways to make it quicker for aircraft to get off the runways ; that there should be an extension of the working day ; and that airline efficiency should be improved. When the Bill was considered previously, those of us who opposed such matters were described unflatteringly. My hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen), for example, said in Standing Committee :

"The environment lobby groups--comparatively few--suggest that all the people around the airport are up in arms about noise. That is not true. It is a not in my backyard' approach, because while they are happy to have the M25 and other major roads nearby for their convenience, a lorry driving along the M25 creates much more noise than an aircraft".--[ Official Report, Standing Committee A , 18 January 1990 ; c. 6.]

My hon. Friend went on to try to persuade everybody that quieter aircraft would get rid of the problem.

I give that quotation to make the point that my opposition and that of my constituents to some of what is proposed is not a mindless, knee-jerk, "not in my backyard" approach to everything that might be suggested for Heathrow airport. My constituents and I have no objection in principle to some of the money that is to be borrowed being spent to improve air traffic control. Indeed, if that makes life safer for us, we are happy. Nor have we any objection to the money being spent on improving the taxiways, and if it means spending money to improve airline efficiency, we would welcome that. But if any of the £50 million is to be used to enable mixed mode runway use to take place at Heathrow or to increase the number of night flights, I must make it crystal clear that I and all my constituents, irrespective of party, will fight the proposals tooth and nail.

In trying to persuade the House to clip the wings of the Bill, it is vital that I explain to the Minister in detail what bothers me and thus give him a chance, if he can, to reassure me that the money that is to be spent will not be spent on the aspects to which I have referred.

What is it about mixed mode runway use to which we object so much? At present, at Heathrow airport at 3 o'clock each day the runways are switched round so that a runway used for takeoff in the morning is used for landing aircraft in the afternoon, and vice versa. That came about because an aircraft taking off makes much more noise than an aircraft landing. That is equally true of quieter aircraft and older noisy aircraft ; there is still more noise on take-off.

Switching runways was felt to be a way of helping people living near the airport to come to terms with the situation, so that they would have trouble in the morning and less trouble in the afternoon. They would know where they stood and at what times the switch would take place.

Lest the House does not think that that is important, I will explain what goes on in my constituency. People get to know the switching times for the week. If they must go shopping or visit friends, they do it when the nearest runway is noisy. If they want to be at home or do

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gardening, they look up the runway arrangements for the week and plan their lives accordingly. So it is as relevant now as when the scheme was first introduced.

If the CAA is tempted to spend some of the money to make it possible for that 3 o'clock rule to be relaxed, it should be warned that not only will it be resisted but that is will be wasting its money. When the Bill was considered previously, two points were made about the arrangement, and we should consider them because they show what happens when people who are not connected with the airport are allowed to try to pose as experts and tell their colleagues what is going on.

When the money resolution was debated, my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams said of the arrangements there :

"I wonder whether my hon. Friends are aware that at Heathrow every day at 3 o'clock the runways are changed, rather like the changing of the guard. That results in about a half-hour gap in operations as the CAA changes the runway pattern."--[ Official Report, 17 January 1990 ; Vol. 165, c. 362.]

When the Bill was considered in Committee the following day, my hon. Friend said :

"Heathrow is closed for about 20 minutes as the runway configurations are changed."--[ Official Report, Standing Committee A, 18 January 1990 ; c. 4.]

Within a matter of hours, half an hour had become 20 minutes. This afternoon, I rang up national air traffic control services to double check that my memory was correct. It confirmed that the switch round at 3 o'clock is almost instantaneous. It does not stop operations and there is no drop in the hourly rate of aircraft movements in that hour. As well as being opposed by us, if the CAA is tempted to spend any of the money in getting rid of the 3 o'clock rule, it will not find any more slots from that manoeuvre. There seems to be a suggestion that some of the money could be used to increase the number of night flights. The British Midland Airways report does not say that. It says, "Let's not get into the argument about night flights. Let's turn night into day and extend day-time by half an hour at either end." Instead of having a ban from 11.30 pm until 6 am--not a complete ban, but a very severe curb on flights in and out of the airport so that my constituents can sleep--and instead of giving them peace and quiet during those hours in the summer, it is suggested that the hours should be midnight to 5.30 am. Again, it is suggested that that does not matter because aircraft have become quieter. My constituents are not overfussed about whether they are woken up abruptly or gently ; they simply object to being woken up. Until my hon. Friend the Minister, the CAA or British Midland Airways can come forward with a silent aircraft, we are implacably opposed in my constituency to any increase in night flights or any tinkering with times, so that, by a sleight of hand, people can say that it is not night time after all.

I have tabled two amendments. My hon. Friend the Minister is keen to have 30 per cent. more aircraft circling over London. I do not necessarily oppose that. British Midland Airways is keen to spend £50 million of the money that we are considering tonight to divert 75,000 of the extra slots to Heathrow. The test we have to apply is to consider for what the money will be used. For what will the £50 million--which my amendment seeks to restrict--be used? If it is to be used for airline efficiency, that is fine. I support it if it is to be used for better air traffic control. I also support new taxiways, but unless my hon.

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Friend can assure me that the money will not be spent on more night flights, that it will not be used to turn night into day and that it will not be used to scrap the arrangements that have been worked out over the years to protect the interests of my constituents, I hope that all hon. Members will join me in opposing spending money in that way, which will harm my constituents and will do no good to civil aviation.

The Minister for Aviation and Shipping (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) on his ingenuity in tabling amendments to raise some of the serious issues which concern me and all hon. Members who have constituencies around Heathrow airport. With some precision, my hon. Friend quoted some of the comments made on the money resolution and in Committee. I am sure that he has also noted in those debates the words of our hon. and learned Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Ground), who put the case well for the residents in the area, although I know that my hon. Friend was not a member of that Committee.

I hope I can go some way to reassure my hon. Friend that the money that we are talking about is not intended to increase the amount of time for night flights. I answered a question from my hon. Friend on that matter just yesterday. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has rejected the CAA's argument for a relaxation of the night restrictions, because of some of the well-known fears that my hon. Friend and his neighbours have put to us many times. There is no intention of changing the night-time restrictions until 1992, when they will be reviewed. We will need to see where we go then. The money is not being used for that. I ask my hon. Friend not to press the amendment to a vote.

10.15 pm

I should emphasise that we are not adding £500 million to the CAA's borrowing limit. The CAA is already close to reaching the existing limit of £200 million, which was set in 1980. The limit represents an increase of £300 million. As my hon. Friend will be aware, the CAA is embarking upon an ambitious capital investment programme, amounting to £600 million over the next 10 years. Much of the programme will need to be financed by borrowing, because many of the individual projects are long term, and the CAA will not be able to recoup all the cost from the airlines which use the improved air navigation services which will result until the equipment is fully operational. Therefore, it will take time.

The new equipment includes a new en-route centre costing £200 million, a central control function at £30 million, Scottish radar at £18 million and computer ware at £22 million. The list is substantial. If my hon. Friend were to push his amendment as drafted, it would reduce considerably the borrowing powers of the CAA and impede the programme which it is important to accommodate. It would also mean that we would need further legislation in the not-too-distant future.

The Bill is in two parts. First, it allows for a borrowing requirement of up to £500 million and, in due course, a possible extension to be given by affirmative resolution of the House. Therefore, there will be other opportunities to see whether the CAA is spending the money as my hon. Friend wishes, and whether it is investing and providing the efficient utilisation of air space that we all want.

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I commend my hon. Friend on the way in which he presented his proposal. I hope that I have reassured him that the money is not meant to get rid of the mixed mode operation or to end night-time restrictions. I understand my hon. Friend's concern about that. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is present, also understands his concern. I hope that my hon. Friend will not press the amendment to a vote. We have heard loud and clear his message on the two issues that he has raised.

Mr. Wilshire : I hear what the Minister has said, and I thank him for it. Perhaps I could do a deal with him. If I were to withdraw the amendment, perhaps he would be

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willing on occasions to come and have tea with me at 3 o'clock so that I can remind him of what happens. Perhaps from time to time, or even tonight, if the debate goes on a little longer, he will have a nightcap with me at 11 o'clock or half-past 11 so that he can notice how much quieter Spelthorne becomes when the planes stop rumbling overhead. If that is acceptable to him--I hope that he will nod his head vigorously--

Mr. McLoughlin indicated assent.

Mr. Wilshire : --I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. Amendment by leave, withdrawn.

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Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.-- [Mr. Nicholas Baker.]

10.18 pm

Mr Snape : The House will have heard the plea both for late-night drinks and for less aircraft noise from the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire). We have noted the Minister's reply. Perhaps he does not want to say in public whether he will meet the hon. Gentleman later in his constituency ; we can understand if he wants to keep that quiet. The plea of the hon. Member for Spelthorne about aircraft noise is common. Like him, I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) speak about it earlier in a cavalier fashion.

I have some questions to put to the Minister. I hope that by so doing I shall not unduly detain the House or prevent the Minister from keeping his late-night tryst with his hon. Friend, either within the confines of the Palace or in his hon. Friend's constituency. Nevertheless, I think that the House needs some reassurances from the Department about the effect of the measure, especially its effect on air safety.

First, can we be assured that the Civil Aviation Authority has enough capital to make the investment that will be necessary for all the new safety and capacity requirements envisaged for the aviation world in the 1990s? A second question arises directly from that one : can the Minister give us any assurances about the accuracy of the CAA's forecasting over the next decade? He will, I hope, agree--or he may agree ; I had better not put words into his mouth--that the CAA made a fundamental error in the early 1980s in cutting the number of air traffic controllers, and that it has taken us until now to recover from that decision. I hope that he can assure us that the predictions about aviation in the 1990s will prove more accurate than those of the last decade.

Did the Minister see the "Scottish Eye" programme on Channel 4 on Saturday evening? It raised a number of disturbing questions about air traffic control and aviation safety. The travelling public--or at least, those who watched the programme--will have been alarmed to see air traffic controllers expressing fears about what they described as the cutting of corners in air traffic control training, and referring to considerable under-investment in such training. Perhaps most important and worrying of all was what air traffic controllers said about the under-recording of "near misses": it seems that recording them reflects badly on air traffic control procedures, and on traffic controllers themselves.

The Minister looks a little pained at that. I did not see the programme-- although I know that some hon. Members on both sides of the House did--but I feel that some of the questions that it raised are serious enough for him to examine and answer.

I was even more concerned--these will be my last words on the subject of the television programme--to learn that the air traffic controllers who were interviewed were silhouetted rather than shown full-face, and that their voices were distorted to avoid identification. If those safety fears exist--and the fact that they were expressed in the programme suggests that they do--why should those expressing them have to do so in semi-secret, in order--as they put it--to avoid persecution and disciplinary problems at work?

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Have the Government considered the impact of deregulation in the 1990s, especially on air space? We must bear in mind the fact that more smaller aircraft are likely to use British airports as airlines make use of the fifth-freedom rights that the Government believe will be introduced during the decade. Is the extra demand on air traffic control being catered for, and can the Minister assure us that an increase in the number of smaller aeroplanes will not lead to a reduction in safety measures, or even to more delays?

If my memory serves me right, it was at last year's Conservative party conference that the Secretary of State for Transport announced a new control centre to replace the one at West Drayton. That was one of the few good things he said. One could be even more cynical and say that it was one of the few things he said, but, as cynicism would be inappropriate from Opposition Members--especially at this time of night--I think that we should hear more details from the Minister. Now that the tumultuous applause at the party conference has died down, I think that he should tell us when the work will begin, where the new centre will be and when it will come into operation.

Mr. McLoughlin : Can the hon. Member tell us when the Labour party debated transport at its conference, or whether it is still reviewing its policy?

Mr. Snape : The Minister surprises me. Strictly speaking, that is not a matter for this debate, but I hope that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will allow me to reply briefly. If the Minister had been tuned in to the Labour party conference on the Tuesday--

Mr. McLoughlin : Was the hon. Member there?

Mr. Snape : Actually, I was not there, but I had a very good reason. I was ill and unable to attend the conference at all--the first time for over 20 years that I had been deprived of a fraternal week by the sea.

I think that it was on the Tuesday of the conference week that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) made his usual pugnacious contribution, which--remarkably for a Labour party conference, because we do not usually go in for these things--was greeted with a standing ovation. It was not quite as tumultuous as the one that greeted the Minister's right hon. Friend, but then it was not as well rehearsed as the ones--

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