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Lord Lucas: I beg to move that the House be now resumed. I suggest that the Committee stage begin again not before half past eight.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

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Stansted Airport Aircraft Movement Limit (Amendment) Order 1996

7.26 p.m.

Viscount Goschen rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 20th May be approved [21st Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Stansted is the UK's and Europe's fastest growing international airport--and has been for the last four years in succession. A total of 41 scheduled destinations are served by direct flights from Stansted, operated by 13 carriers. Air UK, a British airline, is the biggest operator at Stansted, with 20 routes, mainly to European destinations. The airport is very popular with passengers, and the new terminal has won over 25 awards for design, passenger comfort and environmental friendliness.

Stansted has outline planning permission to around 15 million passengers per annum (mppa) but when that permission was given it was decided that development should be phased in line with the rate of growth of demand and the development of the associated infrastructure. The first phase was to allow development up to 7 to 8 mppa.

This draft order will, if approved, enable Stansted Airport to reach an annual throughput of 8 mppa, and therefore the full potential of the first phase of development. The order will amend the existing Stansted Airport Aircraft Movement Limit Order 1987 by raising the air transport movement (ATM) limit at Stansted Airport from 78,000 movements to 120,000 movements per annum.

The existing ATM limit of 78,000 movements per annum was intended to equate to a throughput of around 8 mppa, and assumed that average aircraft loading would be around 100 passengers per aircraft. In fact, the airlines operating commercial passenger flights from Stansted Airport since 1987 have chosen to use smaller aircraft than had been anticipated, with the result that the average number of passengers per aircraft is far lower than had been calculated in 1987.

This means that the current ATM limit of 78,000 movements will in fact equate to just over 5 million passengers per annum, which is likely to be reached in around 1997. In addition, the number of movements at the airport means that stand space on the existing two satellites will become increasingly congested and development of a third satellite will soon be required.

In July 1995, BAA plc, the airport operator, applied to the Secretary of State for Transport to raise the limit from 78,000 to 150,000 movements per annum. BAA plc assumed that the 150,000 movements would be reached in about 2008, and envisaged that it would be equivalent to the passenger throughput of 15 million passengers.

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The Secretary of State decided to consult on that limit and indeed on a lower limit of 120,000 movements. That lower limit was based on adjusting the existing ATM limit upwards to take account of the lower than expected average aircraft loading but retaining the link to 8 million passengers per annum. Based on the latest information about passenger loading, an ATM limit of 120,000 movements would enable Stansted to achieve a throughput of 8 million passengers per annum.

A total of 70 responses to the consultation exercise was received and they played an important role in the decision-making process. When all factors had been carefully considered, it was decided to recommend to the House a revised limit of 120,000 movements.

The draft amending order is in just two articles. The first determines when the order shall come into effect and the second substitutes the figure of 120,000 for 78,000 movements in Article 2 of the earlier order.

The revised limit of 120,000 will meet concerns expressed by local authorities in the consultation exercise that the development of Stansted should be phased with the development of local infrastructure and is consistent with the conclusions of the planning inquiry that the timing of the further development of the airport should depend on the rate of growth of demand; but it will also allow BAA plc to continue to develop terminal facilities as business grows.

I commend the order to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 20th May be approved [21st Report from the Joint Committee].--(Viscount Goschen.)

Lord Mountevans: My Lords, I strongly support the approval of this draft order, which, as my noble friend explained, will authorise the combined total of aircraft landings and take-offs at Stansted Airport to be raised by 42,000 units per annum. Having listened to my noble friend's speech, it seems to me that that "phased" increase--that it the word he himself used--strikes an equitable balance between BAA (Stansted's owners) and the concerns of local communities. As he pointed out, there has been no lack of consultation.

My noble friend mentioned that Stansted is the UK's and Europe's fastest growing airport and he cited the past four years. My memory goes much back further than his brief. It goes back to the mid-1970s when Stansted, then as now, was the London airport of choice for almost all the Scandinavian charter airlines that served London. In those days, London was Scandinavia's second or third most popular charter destination.

Stansted, largely with the help of the Scandinavians, had perhaps 400,000 passengers in a good year. For the Scandinavians, it was very much the airport of choice because it was outside the potential congestion of Heathrow and Gatwick. It was a matter of in or out over the North Sea. In those days, they generated up to 70 per cent. of Stansted's traffic and if they caught a cold, Stansted more or less went into intensive care.

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Since then, there has been the Roskill Report in the early 1980s; the choice of Stansted as London's third airport; the planning inquiries; the prize winning terminal building; the popularity with passengers; and the awards. The last were mentioned by my noble friend. There has been the success story that he described in his speech and I would like to add to that a tribute to Air UK, Stansted's dominant carrier, as having contributed to the airport's success.

But looking beyond the past and the present there are reasons for supporting the order. My noble friend mentioned 41 destinations--I suspect that he and his officials have the same source materials as I have. The 27 European and the three intercontinental destinations are the ones that concern me. The three intercontinental destinations--I count Israel as intercontinental--disappoint me. But it seems to me that by increasing the opportunities for small and medium-sized aircraft to come to Stansted on short haul flights the opportunities for long haul traffic will also increase, and Stansted cannot lose. If we accept that the Channel Tunnel Stratford station terminal proposal creates opportunities for East Anglia, we must accept the same arguments for Stansted.

Furthermore, I believe that intercontinental open skies will come. A step forward was taken last week with the proposed BA-American Airlines alliance. That will generate additional demand in the London area--additional demand both for airport capacity and by outgoing passengers. Intercontinental growth and short haul growth together have made Gatwick into the success story that it is. I hope that with the growth of Stansted short haul (if I may call it that) and allying that with open skies, Stansted long haul will also grow.

Thinking further ahead, as does this order, it is nice and prudent to take a 10-year to 15-year timescale. Furthermore, I believe that if this order is approved, it will add--I stress the word "add"--to the remarkable success of this Government's airport and aviation policy. Hence, I strongly support my noble friend's Motion.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, first, I should like to thank the Minister for explaining the purpose of the order. I do not feel that we should be drawn into a widescale debate on aviation or airports as a result of what is an order of very limited effect. But we need to have such a debate, particularly in the light of the extremely important developments which occurred last week, to which the noble Lord referred. I do not wish to be drawn into a conclusion about that issue, nor, I think, would the Minister. That is extremely important--I mention it in a sense peripherally so far as the order is concerned--since a decision may well be made when this House is not sitting. I hope that the debate will be conducted with the maximum measure of transparency possible in the circumstances.

I discussed the issue informally with the Minster and he knows how I feel. I do not at all wish to put those discussions on the record. However, there are major issues on which the consumers, the travelling public, are entitled to have all points of view expressed as openly as possible. On any showing or any conclusion, it is an

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extremely important matter for British aviation and the passenger traffic in the United States and this country. I shall not say any more than that.

So far as concerns the very limited order that we are considering, I entirely agree with what the Minister had to say. Stansted has an extremely attractive and in many ways remarkable terminal building. Like the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, I agree that Air UK has helped in a measurable way in ensuring the success of the airport. It deserves commendation for that.

The limited but desirable effect of the order is an important way of being able to promote the completion of the first phase of the development of Stansted, a development which I, as a former aviation minister, thoroughly believe is absolutely essential for a coherent regional and national airport policy. In due course we shall have to consider the potential and limits of all London airports within a framework of national transport, not simply air transport, policy. But that is a debate for another day.

We have to recognise that some of the people around Stansted who were extremely anxious about the potential of that airport before it was built have had those anxieties allayed by experience; others remain anxious about even the limited development that is contemplated. They are worried about the supporting infrastructure, congestion and compensation for disturbance. I hope that the points raised in another place by Sir Alan Haselhurst relating to compensation will be taken very seriously by BAA plc. It is intolerable that there should be unnecessary and undue delays in the payment of compensation for disturbance. It does not help in creating confidence for further development. That is something to which I hope the company will pay proper attention, and it is something which the Minister in another place, Mr. Steven Norris, was urged to take up. I believe he said that he would pass on those representations to the company. Perhaps the Minister could let us know whether he is in a position to do that tonight; otherwise he may like to write to us as to the effect of those representations on BAA plc. I emphasise that it is an important element in building confidence, and that is the significant point.

One must recognise that there is always another side to the coin and the development of Stansted has led to enhanced employment and better access to an airport more people want to use. It is convenient for many more people than the other airports in the London regional area, including Luton, which is an important part of the London airport scene. What all of us who have an interest in this matter want to see--I am sure the Minister will use his best endeavours to see that his influence can be brought to full effect in this regard--is Stansted becoming more effective, attracting new services and playing a major role in the development of aviation in this country.

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