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2 Feb 1995 : Column WA119

Written Answers

Thursday 2nd February 1995


The Earl of Caithness asked Her Majesty's Government:

    If they have considered the report of the working group to consider runway capacity to serve the South East.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The Government are firmly committed to enabling the development of additional airport capacity where this makes economic, social and environmental sense. The economic benefits to business and industry are clear, as are the advantages of greater opportunities for leisure travel. The quality of airports in the South East provides the UK and London with a vital competitive advantage and makes the UK a world centre for commerce and tourism.

The Government wish to ensure that capacity can be made available in response to future demand, but in a way that recognises and takes reasonable account of the environmental impacts, including the impacts of increased air traffic associated with additional runway capacity.

The working group on Runway Capacity to serve the South East (RUCATSE) considered a number of options for increasing runway capacity at airports in south-east England, taking account of the contribution which regional airports can be expected to make. The group considered the need for and the impacts of the provision of additional runway capacity at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton. It also noted, but did not examine in detail, the suggestion for a new airport in the Thames estuary. The group's report contains no specific recommendations, although it concluded that benefits to passengers would justify a further runway at Heathrow or Gatwick by 2010, or at Stansted by 2015. This conclusion was based on an assumption about the maximum achievable passenger throughput on the existing runways. The report was published in July 1993 and was followed by a period of public consideration. We are grateful to all the participants in the group for their assistance in producing a thorough and useful report.

The Government have concluded that RUCATSE's analysis shows a strong case for additional runway capacity in the South-East; but that more work is needed to inform decisions on any proposals which operators may bring forward for that additional capacity.

Our airports operate on a commercial basis and it is for the operators to bring forward proposals for development, where they see a business case, and take them through the planning processes. In doing so, they need to take account of the overall framework of the Government's airports policy, which indicates the factors that would weigh in government decisions on such proposals. It has been suggested that the

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Government should seek to reintroduce traffic distribution rules in order to direct air traffic to use specific airports; the Government have considered this option and concluded that they do not wish to seek to influence the pattern of demand for commercial passenger services by the reintroduction of these rules.

Three important new considerations have emerged since the group reported; these require more work. First, an independent study of runway capacity at Heathrow, sponsored by the National Air Traffic Services, BAA plc and the airlines, has produced a report suggesting that there is greater scope for increasing the utilisation of the existing runways at Heathrow than was previously envisaged. Before reaching any decisions, we are asking the CAA, in consultation with BAA and others, to examine further the gains that might be achieved and the environmental impact involved in making better use of the existing infrastructure at Heathrow.

Secondly, we are clear that BAA should not consider the options studied in RUCATSE for a third runway at Heathrow or for a second runway at Gatwick. However, it has been suggested that there may be better, less environmentally damaging, runway options than those considered by RUCATSE. We are therefore asking BAA to examine whether there might be less damaging options for development, such as a close parallel runway at Gatwick.

The above is without prejudice to the role of my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for the Environment in decisions on any future planning applications.

Thirdly, it has become clear that the issue of surface access to airports in the South-East, and particularly the scope for improved public transport links to, and between, the airports need further examination. We note that BAA has initiated a study and I will be commissioning further work on this.

The Government welcome the growth of regional airports. They recognise the benefits of liberalising air services to and from the regions. They also wish to provide the opportunity for the less busy airports in the South East to develop. In particular, the Government draw attention to the capacity available at Stansted. The Government sought to accelerate these processes recently by liberalising transatlantic arrangements for regional airports, Luton and Stansted. Even on the most optimistic assumptions, however, regional growth will have a limited effect on the demand for additional airport capacity in the South East. The Government also recognise the valuable contribution that smaller airfields can play, for example in serving business aviation.

We will continue to address the global impacts of air travel through work at the international level, to meet the goals of sustainable development; but these impacts are of very limited relevance to decisions on capacity at UK airports.

We expect the further work we have commissioned to take between two and three years.

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Lord Rankeillour asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they consider the effect will be on West Highland business and on the Belford Hospital of their decision to withdraw their subsidy from the sleeper and motorail services between Fort William and Euston.

Viscount Goschen: These are matters for the Franchising Director. He has announced that, in the light of the low level of demand and the high cost of operating these services, he does not intend to include sleeper and motorail services between Fort William and Euston in the Passenger Service Requirement for franchises. His assessment is that the level of support required by these services would be better directed towards other passenger services. We understand that BR has yet to take final decisions on these services in the light of the Franchising Director's decision.


Lord Bancroft asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with the progress that is being made by the Countryside Commission and other interested parties in developing management measures to minimise potential conflict between users of the Ridgeway National Trail, as envisaged in the Department of Transport letter of 6 December 1993, following the public inquiry of October 1992.

Viscount Goschen: The Countryside Commission was asked to take the lead in working with all parties to develop a package of management measures for the Ridgeway. The commission has recently completed a widespread consultation exercise on measures to reduce conflict between Ridgeway users and most recently, on 12 January, the Chairman of the Commission wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport confirming the content of a package of measures for implementation over the next couple of years.

I will ensure that the noble Lord receives a copy of the report, which lists the consultation responses and the proposed measures to reduce conflict between the various users of the Ridgeway.


Baroness Fisher of Rednal asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there have been any adverse effects on their policy supporting the fluoridation of water as a result of the privatisation of the water industry.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): The Government's policy relating to fluoridation is unaffected by the privatisation of the water industry. We remain convinced that fluoridation is a safe and effective way of reducing dental caries. This view is supported by the weight of medical and scientific opinion throughout the world. We will, therefore, continue to

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support fluoridation. Decisions about the introduction of fluoridation schemes are, however, properly for decision at local level, as they have been for the past 30 years.


Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many times the present Home Secretary has been found by the courts to have acted unlawfully, and what are the equivalent figures for his four predecessors.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): No specific list of judgments against the Home Secretary or the Home Office is held centrally. However, judgments are a matter of public record. To engage in a search of such judgments over the past 10 years, given the large proportion of immigration cases, would entail disproportionate cost.


Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they expect that any churches and chapels in the possession of the Ministry of Defence will become redundant, and what procedures exist for ensuring the preservation of those that ought to be preserved in the interest of the nation.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): Churches and chapels owned by my department regularly become redundant as a result of the closure of establishments on which they are sited. Not all buildings used as churches or chapels are consecrated, but those which are would need to be deconsecrated prior to disposal. Thereafter the normal procedures for the sale of government property are applied. Where there is sufficient architectural or historic merit, a building may be considered for listed building status, which would give it statutory protection. At present only St George's Church, Chatham is both listed and in the process of disposal.

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