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Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, we very much welcome the order on this side of the House. Indeed, judging by the words that the noble Baroness used when introducing the order, it could have come from a Conservative Minister--encouraging, as it does, the private sector to work with local authorities, contracting out, and so on. Therefore, I am very pleased that the noble Baroness and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions now see the sense in encouraging private sector involvement in this area.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Stansted Airport Aircraft Movement Limit (Amendment) Order 1999

11.37 a.m.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 16th June be approved [23rd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I hope that it will be helpful to noble Lords if I set out why Stansted, alone among UK airports, is subject to a limit on passenger air transport movements.

In 1985, following public inquiries into the proposals for development at Heathrow and Stansted, the then government produced an airports policy White Paper setting out their response to the inspector's report. The government accepted the inspector's recommendation that Stansted airport be granted planning permission to cater for about 15 million passengers each year, but recognised local concerns about the rate of expansion.

The planning permission, therefore, had conditions attached. One required the phased expansion of the airport, the first phase restricting the size of the terminal to cater for 7 to 8 million passengers per year. The Airports Act 1986 provided a power enabling a limit to be set on the number of air transport movements. This was to control the rate of development at Stansted so that it did not outpace the ability of local road and rail links and housing to cope with it, and to assure residents that a balance would be struck between aviation and local interests in the use of the airport.

In 1987, an order came into force accommodating the first phase of development by setting a limit of 78,000 passenger air transport movements. In 1996, the limit

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was increased to 120,000 movements. The recent increases in traffic growth at Stansted mean that passenger numbers are now approaching the 8 million provided for in phase 1 and air transport movements are close to the current limit.

Given the long lead time which major development requires, British Airports Authority plc applied last October for detailed planning permission for phase 2 to develop the airport terminal for about 15 million passengers. At the same time an application to increase air passenger movements was made. Permission for the phase 2 expansion of the airport was granted in April by Uttlesford District Council, leaving the movement limit to be decided.

The Government issued a consultation paper seeking comments on BAA's application in January this year. Over 130 responses were received from a wide variety of interests. Having carefully considered these, together with BAA's case for an increase, the Government decided to recommend to the House an amending order which sets the limit at 185,000 movements. The draft amending order contains two articles. The first determines when the order shall come into effect. The second substitutes, from 1st March 2000, the figure of 185,000 movements in Article 2 of the Stansted Airport Aircraft Movement Limit Order 1987, as amended in 1996. Article 2 also sets an interim limit of 120,000 movements from when the order comes into force until 29th February 2000.

The new movement limit will provide BAA with sufficient assurance to proceed with the necessary investments in the airport, facilitate investment by airlines and other service providers including bus and rail companies and help the local and regional economy. It will also enable the airport to reach the capacity envisaged in its planning permission which the Government are satisfied can be done without overburdening the local infrastructure. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 16th June be approved [23rd Report from the Joint Committee].--(Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton.)

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, once again I am grateful to the Minister for explaining the order to the House. However, I must say that I have been somewhat surprised by the reaction to this order in certain quarters, which I do not share. It was always envisaged--going back to the Airports Act 1986--that Stansted would expand in its second phase to 15 million passengers, and that that expansion would come into effect by an increase in air transport movements. It would also require planning permission from the local authority for the development of the terminal. I should declare an interest in that I am a director of a small airline which has just started a service into Stansted. But as only a 34-seat aircraft is being used at the moment it will not make a big impact on the figures that we are talking about today.

There has also been criticism, or questions, about whether the Clacton sector of air traffic control can cope with this increase. I am under the impression--perhaps

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the Minister can confirm this--that the Clacton sector has recently been divided into two to give it extra capacity. In any case there is absolutely no possibility that more aircraft would be allowed into the Clacton sector than air traffic control can cope with. That is the way it works and that, as far as I am aware, is the way that it will continue to work. Therefore I am surprised at some of the reaction there has been to this order. The Minister has stated that the infrastructure on the ground is being improved to take into account the increase in numbers. I gather that the train service will be increased from twice an hour to four times an hour and that the roads in the area will also be brought up to a higher standard in order to accommodate the extra number of passengers.

There is only one slight query which is perhaps legitimate; namely, that of the ATM limit being raised to 185,000, which is probably rather more than was originally envisaged to cope with 15 million passengers, but that is probably because the size of the aircraft in use has been somewhat less than was predicted at the beginning. From these Benches I fully support the order. As I say, I am somewhat surprised at the reaction to it that has occurred in certain quarters.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the British Air Line Pilots Association. I wish to raise in this context an ancillary point which is causing some concern. Apparently the increased number of flights that will be available from Stansted will include certain flights from overseas operators, including those who operate from Ireland. Perhaps my noble friend will confirm that point, but I assume that it flows directly from the way in which the draft order is submitted.

The development to which I wish to draw attention is the following. The Irish authorities have quite recently validated the licences of Yugoslav pilots and issued them with Irish work permits, enabling them to operate aircraft out of Stansted for an Irish operator. The latest information that is available to me on the validation of foreign licences is for the year up to March 1996. In that period Ireland validated 280 and Portugal 960, yet neither country can sustain that number of foreign licence holders. The reason for that is that their own industry is simply not large enough to do that. Both are effectively dumping their surplus on to other EU countries and operating what I might call a "back door" into Europe. Further, I believe that a number of additional validations have been issued by the CAA. I say frankly that this has not been confirmed to me, but perhaps my noble friend can confirm or deny that or provide information on that point.

In addition to 215 European licences validated, the CAA has, I believe, validated 94 licences from various countries, 22 of which are from the United States. The sponsoring operators are refusing to give information as to how they intend to train resident employees to fill these positions in the longer term. I believe that this used to be a requirement, which is now being ignored. Why is it being ignored? The only conclusion I can draw is that these operators have simply no intention of

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replacing foreign labour in the longer term. What they want to do is to avoid the cost in time, effort and money of training resident labour.

I believe that these developments are disturbing. Left unchecked they will damage employment prospects for pilots in this country and indeed in the EU as a whole. Other operators, who currently have a more responsible approach to the recruitment and training of UK/EU pilots, will be forced to follow in the steps of their less scrupulous competitors. In addition therefore to the problem that may arise in relation to this draft order, this will operate as an incentive to such activities. I am sorry that I was not able to give my noble friend notice of the point that I proposed to raise. If she is not in a position to reply, perhaps she will write to me. However, I express concern on behalf of the British Air Line Pilots Association and myself about this development.

I believe that the problems to which I have alluded would not arise in other EU countries. Such practices would not be permitted in France and Germany for example. I raise that point because, in a way, it is convenient to do so as an ancillary point to this draft order. As I say, I hope that if my noble friend cannot reply to this point today she will write to me.

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