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Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): Is the Secretary of State aware that his thought-provoking statement deals with making better use of runway space at Heathrow—not building a new runway but perhaps opting for mixed-mode use, pioneered by British Midland in 1990, which will give much more opportunity for airlines to land without the building of a new runway? Is that what he is proposing in his White Paper? Will he confirm that he will not allow cross-subsidisy from Heathrow to Stansted to finance what Stansted wants to do? Will he ensure that BAA opens to competition any new building of terminals?

Mr. Darling: Cross-subsidy is a matter for the Civil Aviation Authority, which regulates these matters. On the mixed-mode operation at Heathrow, the hon. Gentleman will no doubt be aware that there is a limit on air traffic movements. If mixed mode were to be pursued and if the limit were to be breached, there would have to be consultation. I think that a limit was laid down of 480,000 movements. Mixed mode, depending on whether it was peak hour or all the time, would have an impact on that. It would need to be discussed.

Alan Keen (Feltham and Heston) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend and the Government for embarking on a planning exercise. It is a long time since a major industry saw Government involvement in planning. May I thank my right hon. Friend for listening to my constituents, and remind him that there were no page numbers for the Opposition spokesman to quote last

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time there was a major expansion at Heathrow because there was no Government involvement, no planning and no consultation? I much appreciate what my right hon. Friend has done this time.

If there is any thought of mixed mode at Heathrow airport, I ask my right hon. Friend to listen to us before deciding to use the northern runway for take-offs to the east for the 25 per cent. of the time that takes place. The Cranford agreement has prevented that for the past 30 to 35 years. It is unacceptable for my constituents in Cranford to have planes taking off over the top of them when they are so close to the end of the runway.

Mr. Darling: As I was saying to the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen) a few moments ago, partly because mixed mode may well result in an increase in aircraft movements, it will be necessary to consult. I am also aware of the Cranford agreement, which has been in place for a long time. I appreciate what my hon. Friend has said. He, like many others, has made representations arising from his concern about the environmental impact. I welcome what he said about the importance of the Government being clear as to where they stand—who knows, we might one day find out where others stand.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): I thank the Secretary of State for his unequivocal rejection of Redhill and the claims made for it by the promoters, including the claim that local people were indifferent. Is he aware that that means that I shall not have to pass on to him 6,000 letters, on behalf of about 10,000 of my constituents, which are sitting in my office as part of the consultation process?

May I ask the Secretary of State about the position of Gatwick as the reserve if development at Heathrow cannot go ahead? Has he not opened up the possibility that he will end up with three two-runway London airports as the end product if development at Heathrow is not possible? Will he answer two specific questions? Would it not have been better for that reserve position to be a third runway at Stansted, given that he will in any case have to build the infrastructure to get a second runway at Stansted? Secondly, how long will the people around Gatwick have to wait before they know whether a third runway at Heathrow is feasible?

Mr. Darling: If the hon. Gentleman had had a mirror he would have been fascinated to see the expressions of some of his colleagues sitting behind him. No, we do not think that there should be a third runway at Stansted. As for Gatwick, our position is that we think that in the south-east of England over the next 30 years there needs to be two new runways. That remains our position. In relation to Redhill, I will be extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman if he keeps the 6,000 letters. I think I speak on behalf of my staff at the Department for Transport when I say that they will be even more grateful than me, given that they have already dealt with many thousands of letters. If the hon. Gentleman can see his way to storing the 6,000 letters in his office, I think my staff will be very grateful.

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Points of Order

1.46 pm

Mr. Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Last week I tabled a series of written questions, four to the Ministry of Defence and five to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, all of them on specific issues that had been raised by my constituents. They were all due to be answered under the named-day procedure on Monday 15 December. Eight of the nine questions came back with the answer "I will answer shortly." Many of them do not involve particularly complicated issues. Bearing in mind the fact that the House is due to rise in two days' time, can you tell me what action I can take as a Back Bencher to pursue these legitimate concerns on my constituents' behalf?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): I can only advise the hon. Gentleman that his point will have been heard and will be on the record. It is to be hoped that the Minister will be able to respond.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As you will know, I am not one who likes in any way to imply criticism of the Chair. However, we have just had a lengthy statement that affects Members in many parts of the country, and there has not been a proper geographical balance in the Members who have been called. I would hope that that could be recorded.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Certainly.

Matthew Green (Ludlow) (LD): Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. More than 24,000 individual letters were sent to Members from the Halfpenny Green or Wolverhampton business airport in the constituency of the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack). No Member from the area was called following the statement, although many of them were standing. Can we not have a future statement on the matter?

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Given that Luton, the first airport in the south-east to which the Secretary of State referred, is the only one that will involve immediate expansion, also the only one that involves approval of a proposal that was not consulted on during the consultation period, it struck me as strange that no Member from that area was called, and that the issue of Luton was not raised. I wonder whether it will be possible to extend at an early date the discussion that has just been terminated.

Madam Deputy Speaker: I realise the importance of the White Paper to many right hon. and hon. Members, but the occupant of the Chair has to protect the rest of the business of the day. There are times when perhaps the Chair will disappoint certain Members. We must protect the business of the day. There will be other opportunities to discuss the points made.

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Orders of the Day

European Parliamentary and Local Elections (Pilots) Bill

As amended in the Standing Committee, considered.

New Clause 2

Additional provisions in respect of postal voting

'Before making any order under sections 1 and 2 which provides for all-postal voting, the Secretary of State must be satisfied that the manner in which the election is conducted (which may or may not be modified by pilot orders under section 2) ensures that—
(a) all ballot papers returned are accompanied by a verifiable form of identification;
(b) each elector who has returned a ballot paper is given an acknowledgement by the returning officer;
(c) in the event of any disruption of postal services on any day or days appointed for voting under the pilot order, alternative collection points for ballot papers are available, and are in any case available and accessible to those who prefer to deliver their ballot papers in person; and
(d) any recommendation or recommendations of the Electoral Commission to reduce the incidence or possibility of personation or other electoral offences or malpractice are given effect.'.—[Mr. Heath.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

1.49 pm

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: new clause 5—Additional provisions in respect of postal voting (No.2)—

'(1) The Secretary of State may not make any order under sections 1 and 2 which provides for all-postal voting unless the chief executive of each of the postal authorities involved has made a written statement that there will be no difficulties with the postal arrangements for the ballot.
(2) The Secretary of State must place a copy of each statement made in pursuance of subsection (1) in the Library of the House of Commons not less than two months before the election.'.

Amendment No. 3, in clause 4, page 2, line 39, at end insert—

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