Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge) (Con): I am grateful to Mr. Speaker for granting me this debate on an important issue, not only for me, my constituents and neighbours, but many hon. Membersas can be seen by their attendance in the Chamber this morning. I welcome the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck), to her new ministerial responsibility. I have a feeling that she will know more about aviation in the next few months than she ever dreamed possible. It is not exactly the best portfolio at this time, but I am sure that it will be challenging and a position in which she can make some brave and courageous decisions, which we shall welcome.
I want to start by talking about aviation in the south-east with particular reference to Heathrow. A couple of weeks ago, the master planalmost a plan of the same cunning variety as that employed by Baldrick in the television series "Blackadder"was published by the BAA and we now know more about what we suspected was the case. It allows for a third runway and a sixth terminala fact that was, interestingly, denied at most levels of discussion. Although I do not know too much about such matters, I believe that anyone with a degree of common sense would understand that a third runway would require a sixth terminal. The runway would not simply be an additional runway; the plans show that what amounts to another airport, of some size, will be deposited on the existing airport, so when people who do not understand the position consider matters and say that a third runway is needed, the fact that the plans show an additional airport is a great worry.
Those of us who are lucky enough to live in what was rural Middlesex in the borough of Hillingdon have lived for many years with the threat and the benefits of Heathrow and it would be unfair of me not to point out that Heathrow has brought jobs and benefits to the local economy. It has also brought disadvantagesnot only pollution and congestion, which I shall discuss later, but a polarisation of our economy into one particular industry. Not long ago, just after the 9/11 outrage, various Members of Parliament from the Heathrow area had to ask the Prime Minister to consider helping the aviation industry. Just as in times past some places were devastated when, for example, coal mining was hit suddenly, a whole area could be devastated. One of my economic arguments for not increasing capacity and development at Heathrow is that we do not want all our eggs in one basket.
I return to the master plan. It suggests that, initially, at least 700 homes should be destroyed. I believe that the number will be greater than that, because anyone who
22 Jun 2005 : Column 236WH
knows about pollution levels will realise that many more homes, including many in my constituency in West Drayton, particularly on the Wise Lane estate, will not be habitable because they will fall under the permissible levels of habitation because of the amount of pollution.
I have paid tribute to the Minister before and I do so again now. I have listened to her talking about housing in London in this debating chamber. It does not take a great expert to work out that if at least 700 homes are destroyed, not to mention schools, while we are expecting more jobs to be createdthat is the argument that is advancedthere will be an increased need for homes in an area where we already desperately need more affordable housing. Destroying those homes will only create more problems. Most of the people affected frankly do not know what to do, because they will have to move right away from the area. The irony is that the destruction is of nothing but villages; a lot of people would not realise that they are still villages, but they are.
The villages of Sipson, Harlington and Harmondsworth are in the constituency of my good friend the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell). He may not be my hon. Friend as far as party politics goes, but on this subject, as on so many others, I would describe him as an hon. Friend, because we fight together to try to ensure that our constituents are not threatened, and their lives are not ruined, by such development. He apologises to you, Mr. Cook, and to me for not being able to take part in today's debate; he would dearly love to, but unfortunately he has a long-standing engagement to open a new educational facility in his constituency. However, he has arranged a meeting with the Minister, who has very kindly agreed to meet representatives, so she will shortly hear another episode in this ongoing saga.
I mentioned the schools because last week we had a protest meeting of the villages to try to galvanise us into deciding what is the best action to take. It took place in one of the schoolsin fact, in the school most immediately threatened with closure. As we sit here now, many children are happily going about their normal affairs at school, while there is the threat that their community, and even their school, will soon no longer be in existence. In today's world, that is no longer acceptable. It might have been acceptable in the era of the Stalinist dictatorships in eastern Europe, or in China, where vast Government plans meant the forced moving-out of people. But we are not in that country; we now have more human rights than ever before, and such a proposal is not acceptable.
It is also true to say that this threat goes on over generations. Unfortunately, the decision cannot be taken immediately; it is not like the structure of the Olympic bid, which will allow us to know quite soon whether we have won. This threat will hang around for years and years. There is nothing that we can do, unless the Government take a different view on expansion of aviation in the south-east. People do not know what to do. They cannot move as they cannot sell their houses for an adequate price, and they do not know where their children will be educated. From that point of view, the situation is totally unacceptable.
Many of us believe that the expansion will not be able to take place because of the increased pollution. It is already known that levels of pollution around the airport are unacceptable under EU limits. We are assured from time to time that these things are being
22 Jun 2005 : Column 237WH
considered and will be sorted out, so I would like to say at the start that my constituents, and those of many other hon. Members, will want to be assured, in today's rather cynical world, that the monitoring of those air quality levels will be done in a fair way that reflects what is happening. I am afraid that, over the years, I have seen traffic monitoring done on a Sunday afternoon in summer, and have then been told that not much traffic goes down that road. I am not accusing anyone of anything in particular, but we want to make sure that the monitoring of something as fundamental as the air that we breathe is done appropriately and fairly, and that the people in my constituency understand that. The same goes for noise, and I can see hon. Friends present for whom noise is also a big issue; they may be lucky enough to catch your eye later, Mr. Cook.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey) (Con): I do not know what the situation is at Heathrow, but around Gatwick the cost of air quality monitoring falls on local council tax payers. The cost is more than £100,000 a year to Reigate and Banstead borough council. Does my hon. Friend not think that in that case, as in all others, the polluter should pay?
Mr. Randall : My hon. Friend, who during the previous Parliament was Chairman of the influential Environmental Audit Committeehopefully he will be againis right. It is unfair for my constituents and council tax payers, and those of so many others, to pay to ensure that the monitoring is done appropriately.
Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con): Given the self-evident fact that it is the noise of an aircraft on the ground that hits the eardrums of residents, disturbs them and causes stress and lack of sleep, does my hon. Friend think that it might be sensible to recognise the actual noise of an aircraft on the ground, rather than the theoretical noise that it makes in the factories when it is being manufactured?
I served on the Transport Committee in the previous Parliament. Subsequent information has shown that schoolchildren's education suffers badly as a result of aircraft noise, as opposed to traffic noise. The problem affects a wide area. Unfortunately, residents from many areas, who will be badly affected, do not understand how serious the expansion and the third runway will be for the quality of their lives. It will affect a huge area, which stretches into London and outside London, as reflected by the number of my hon. Friends who are present.
Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): I do not think that it is a question of nimbyism; we are saying that the load should be spread more fairly around the country. Is it right that 65 per cent. of the flights go out of the south-east and that we are talking about a
22 Jun 2005 : Column 238WH
model that will encourage people from the north of England to travel down our clogged roads to the south-east to take their cheap holiday flights abroad? Surely, we ought to have a model in which the north of England has its own flights.
Mr. Randall : I accept that argument. The situation is unfair for the south-east and for those living away from the south-east. I will go on in a short while, although I will not go on for a long while, to point out that we must take great consideration of where aviation is going generally.
I am not here today to say that it would be better to put extra runways at Stansted or Gatwickfar from it. There should be no further expansion of aviation in the south-east until we recognise what we are doing to our atmosphere and environment, and, without getting overdramatic, to our planet.
Climate change, as we know and as the Prime Minister has acknowledged, is the most pressing environmental issue facing our world today. One of the Government's advisers said that it is more threatening than terrorism. We should all recognise that, although climate change is not as immediate, which is one of the problems; we do not see it face to face, although funnily enough increasingly on our television screens we see extremes of climate occurring. We saw the flash floods in the northin Yorkshirejust this weekend. Although we are sometimes told that we are alarmist, I am becoming increasingly concerned about what we are doing. Most people acknowledge that climate change is happening, but Governments and citizens must take note of what they are doing themselves to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Aviation is undoubtedly a rapidly growing industry. It is also the fastest-growing source of climate change emissions. We have to tackle that.
I have seen a report that was produced for Friends of the Earth, but it was researched by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. A lot of hon. Members were at the presentation. We would agree that the evidence is pretty compelling. In 2050, if aviation is allowed to carry on at the present rate, in order to meet the targets that have been set we would not be able to produce any other emissionsnone from our homes, and we would not be able to drive.
As the Minister will be aware, there has been talk of road charging, to cut down congestion. Interestingly, yesterday, the rail operating bodies were talking about trying to limit the number of people on trains at certain times of the day. But aviation seems to be allowed to carry on and on regardless. That is not acceptable. I am not going to say that we should suddenly impose such heavy taxes or punishment on people wanting to travel that only the rich can afford to, but we have to curb the growth. We should not be making it any cheaper.
One of the Minister's predecessors, admittedly in an interregnum between ministerial jobs, said words that he might now regretalthough I do not think he does, because he is again on the Back Benches. He said that cheap air travel is not a human right. Air travel is not a human right when it not only causes untold misery for thousands of people, but is also destroying our planet.
I say to the Minister, please look at the whole issue. It is time to look at the White Paper again. We cannot go on in this way. Yes, we can destroy 700 homes
22 Jun 2005 : Column 239WH
eventually. Why not? It is only 700 homes, they will go somewhere else. But it will not be the end. Only recently in the Heathrow area, when the fifth terminal went ahead, the people at BAA said, "We do not want a third runway." Months later, they want a third runway. "We do not need a sixth terminal", they said. Now there are plans for a sixth terminal. Where will it end?
Mr. Nick Hurd (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con): My hon. Friend has made a passionate case on behalf of Hillingdon residents. As a fellow Hillingdon MP, I wholly endorse his position, but will he help me to reconcile one aspect of this debate, which is the Government's apparent support for a third runway at Heathrow? Also, the aspiration of the Ministry of Defence is that RAF Northolt, in my constituency, should become
and that is supported by the redevelopment of the site. However, my hon. Friend may recall that in 2003, during his time on the Transport Committee, the Government's view was clear. I quote from the answer to his own written parliamentary question:
Mr. Randall : I thank my hon. Friend. It is true that there are plenty more knock-on effects of a third runway. I do not think that the Government for one minute would want to lose the capacity to fly out of Northolt. After that particular question and a little publicity, the Ministry of Defence was spoken to and there was a slight reining back, but I think that that was the view.
Finally, given the number of people in this country who are increasingly aware of climate change and all the problems being caused, we ask the Government to give the matter consideration. We are a bit suspicious, because an organisation called Future Heathrow, headed by Lord Soley, is very much in favour of development at the airport. It was interesting that the Secretary of State was present at the recent launch. That sends a bad message. As I said during a debate on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill, a degree of even-handedness would be a good idea; that is all that my constituents want from this Government. They want them to take this issue as seriously as it deserves.
Frank Cook (in the Chair): Order. It will be to the benefit of the Chamber if I remind hon. Members that the convention is to start the first of the three winding-up speeches 30 minutes before the debate's conclusion. That means that Back-Bench contributions must be completed by 10.30 at the latest. Hon. Members can see how much time is now left and that Members have risen to speak; I have caught sight of four.
22 Jun 2005 : Column 240WH
Laura Moffatt (Crawley) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) on raising one of the most important issues facing us in the south-east. That issue is a big contributor, both good and bad, to our quality of life.
I am the Member of Parliament for Crawley, and Gatwick airport is wholly within my constituency. However, that is not half the story; airports have an impact not only locally and nationally, but internationally. I firmly believe that, as representatives, we Members have a responsibility to ensure that we consider all such issues and take them into account when we adopt views about airport expansion, ground transport and environmental issues, and I have attempted to do that.
My history with Gatwick airport goes back a long while. I moved to Crawley as a small baby. As a child, I remember listening, in bed just a couple of miles from the airport, to screaming BAC 111 jets taking off at all hours, and I remember how our whole environment was ruined by what was, at the time, disgraceful noise. At that time, the numbers of people who went through the airport were only a fraction of what they are now. That is why I have always maintained an interest not only in our local environment, but in the airport's impact on the wider community of Crawley.
When I joined the local authority, I was placed on the Gatwick airport consultative committee to take a proper look at what was happening at Gatwick. I was looking at expansion, which, of course, has gone on for many years, and I tried to give a reasonable response to it. I remember well, in the late '80s, setting up a noise line for local residents to ring because the appalling Department for Transport line, set up by the Conservative Government of the time, often was not even functioning, so when people telephoned they could not get through to anyone. It was important that people had the right to complain.
Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): I absolutely agree that residents should have better noise monitoring and ability to report noise. In Putney, residents are asked to phone a hotline at the moment, which at 4.30 am when they are woken up by night flights generally just takes messages and is an incredibly frustrating experience for them. Does not the hon. Lady agree that they should be able to talk to a real person and should not have to be relied on to report excessive noise that should be monitored in the first place by the airports?
Laura Moffatt : I ensure that people are able to speak to a real person around Gatwick, although it might not be at 4.30 am. I have taken a particular interest in that matter in my patch. If I have a constituent who is complaining consistently, or has genuine concerns about noise, I take it upon myself to go with them into the airport, where we look together at the noise mapping and the routing of aircraft and decide whether they have a relevant and real concern and address it in that way. If there is a concern, it can go to a noise and track-keeping group at Gatwick that considers those issues. I hope that the hon. Lady finds that helpful.
As I said, my involvement at airports is not new. I have attempted, over the years, not just to take an oppositionist view, because Gatwick airport employs
22 Jun 2005 : Column 241WH
36,000 people, on and off. It has always been my contention that no matter how we look at expansion and other issues, we have to ask whether 36,000 people living in Crawley and the wider area would have no interest in environmental issues and no concern about the air that they and their families are breathing, just because they happen to be associated with the airport. Of course, that is not the case. In fact, on the many occasions when the local trade unionists have become involved they have been much more in favour of expansion than I. I would want only to see a close parallel runway at Gatwick if ever that were on the tableit is notand they are keen on expansion because of the jobs. That is the important matter for them. If we disregard the views of people who live, work and achieve their quality of life through tremendous job opportunities in the south-east, we are not having a proper debate.
It is important that we bring people together. In 2002, before any of the White Papers were published, I brought together all the major stakeholders around Gatwick and had an e-consultation and a series of meetings in the town to talk to people. Of course, there were opposing views. Some were fiercely in favour of large-scale expansion at Gatwick and others were absolutely opposed to expansion. We have an active group, called the One's Enough Campaign, which wants to ensure that Gatwick remains a single-runway airport. In many ways I share their views. If we were to sit down as Members of Parliament, stakeholders and objectors in our communities, there would be much to bring us together. We all want to see airports maximised to their best ability; we do not want to see expansion for expansion's sake; and we want to ensure that we are making the best use of the runways that we have. The White Paper is clear that we should ensure that we are maximising the use of our existing airports.
Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): The hon. Lady has said twice that we ought to be maximising the use of our airports. Every Member of Parliament with an airport interest reflects and shares the views that have been expressed in environmental terms about noise, particularly night flying. However, does not she think it a shame that when the Secretary of State introduced the consultation document in the House, he effectively dismissed the regional airports, some of which, like Manston in Kent, are trying to develop and could make a major contribution to alleviating the pressure on the other major airports? The Secretary of State paid no attention to that at all; he dismissed it out of hand.
Laura Moffatt : I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but I do not believe that the Secretary of State dismissed it. I know of hon. Members who have been campaigning for expansion of airports such as Finningley, and it looks as though their aims and objectives will be achieved.
I understand the difficulty in and around the south-east. We have two world-class airports and, frankly, a printout of the pattern of flights over the south-east looks like knitting to me. It is perfectly obvious that we are constrained, and that there are difficulties to overcome. That does not mean to say, however, that they are insurmountable. They may preclude us from
22 Jun 2005 : Column 242WH
using some of the smaller airports. We have the same debate in and around Gatwick, and I know that hon. Members who represent those areas will know that Redhill aerodrome was making a real play to be one of those regional airports. In fact, that would cause enormous difficulty for the two major players.
As to how we tackle the environmental issues, it is no good having weasel words about worrying about the environment, and saying, "Of course, all my constituents must be allowed to fly" at the same time. We have to be much more robust in our arguments about facing the benefits of airports.
I take issue with the remarks of the hon. Member for Uxbridge about employment and being what is called a one-horse town. Recently, Sussex Enterprise undertook a survey of the many businesses in and around Gatwick and the south-east. We are extremely fortunate in the range of businesses that we have, particularly in Crawley.
Frank Cook (in the Chair): Order. I am somewhat concerned that some of the contributions and remarks are being addressed away from the Chair. For the occupant of the Chair to be able to see that affairs are conducted within rule and in order, the Chair has to be able to hear what is being said. Therefore, it does not help to have remarks addressed away from the Chair, or sotto voce. So please: to the Chair, through the Chair, at all times.
In that survey, it was very clear that companies locate in and around Gatwick because their business is related to Europe or the United States and they need access to air transport. It is obvious that what is needed is an integrated transport system that allows business to thrive. Airports therefore have a positive impact on the business community within a region, not a negative one as was felt before.
I now address some of the other difficult matters that we have to face. Environmental matters, both locally and nationally, are vital to the future of the south-east economy. We know that we are under pressure in the south-east for reasons that we understand: global warming, emissions, pollution, asthma and the ill-health of young children.
Adam Afriyie : Does the hon. Lady accept that, with the projected expansion in air travelnot only in the south-east, but throughout the countryit will be
22 Jun 2005 : Column 243WH
virtually impossible to meet the 2020 and 2050 Kyoto targets for the reduction of emissions in greenhouse gases?
Laura Moffatt : I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. Of course those are matters that we must face. What concerns me is that we can concentrate too much on the air industry. Although it is one of the fastest-growing greenhouse gas promoters, it is still a small percentage of the overall picture. It is fair that we tackle the whole issue, and important that we understand it.
I happen to be in favour of trying to tackle these matters now, and I firmly believe that emissions trading is one of the best ways to move forward and mitigate the effects of air pollution caused by the airline industry.
Laura Moffatt : That question is probably best directed to the Minister, and I am hopeful that she will be able to answer it, but I have certainly been pressing for that. Fuel duty is another key matter.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth : The hon. Lady says that we need to deal with aviation as part of the overall climate change issue. Does she not understand that including aviation in the emissions trading scheme, for example, would obliterate the ability of any other industry to emit CO 2 at all?
Laura Moffatt : That is not a view that I share; nor do I believe that that is the only way that we should tackle these matters. We are, for the first time, talking about duty on aviation fuel. The aviation community and industry stakeholders are now taking seriously the question of how properly to recognise the impact of air travel. Most of us have read recent articles on that and heard the things that are now being said in the European Parliament about fuel duty. The matter has to be tackled globally, of course, but I believe that we in Europe should start to try to persuade other nations that it is the right way forward; we should be able to do that. It is not true to say that there is no fuel duty and that nothing is being done. Almost £1 billion is raised through the air passenger duty, so it would be wrong to say that no duty is in place to try to tackle the matter.
I agree with those Members who think that this is an urgent issue, but we must recognise and protect the positive aspects of our airline industry. We must not allow ourselves to get into a situation where airlines go to airports outside the United Kingdom, because I have a sneaking suspicion that if that were to happen we would all be back in this Chamber bitterly complaining about the loss of jobs in our regions, when what we should be doing is looking after the interests of our constituentsmaking sure that they are well employed, that they have a decent environment and that they have the quality of life that we want for them.
This matter has been of concern for some time, and many people involved in the industry congratulate the Government on tackling it now, on coming forward
22 Jun 2005 : Column 244WH
with plans, and on ensuring that we have the opportunity to discuss openly the whole issue of expansion. This matter was kicked into the long grass for many years before the Labour Government came to power, and we should accept that we are now making progress and are having a decent debate.
Justine Greening : I thank the hon. Lady. Does she agree that last year's White Paper was fundamentally flawed? It proposed to expand Heathrow, to end mixed mode and to put in a third runway, but in its appendix it was admitted that doing so would break not only rules on CO 2 emissions but those on air qualityNO 2 emissionson the ground, and that at the moment there was no prospect of exploring that. The White Paper was incompatible with itself, let alone with any other views that people might have.
Laura Moffatt : The White Paper outlined the fact that there is no clear path forward and there are extremely difficult environmental matters to be overcome at Heathrow. However, that does not mean that we should not discuss those matters and that they should not be addressed honestly and openly in the White Paper.
That environmental issue has left Gatwick airport in a difficult position. As Mark Froud of Sussex Enterprise says, it leaves Gatwick on the subs' bench because those matters need to be settled before Gatwick will even be considered. That is after the 2019 legal agreement, which I stand by wholeheartedly, has expired.
It is good that the Government are ensuring that we consider those matters properly and have an open discussion. That is what I suggest in all the communities. This matter is raised locally, but the debate around Gatwick is not bitter; it is honest, and people are able to talk to each other. Groups invite representatives of those who are very much in favour of airport expansion as well as those who are against. We have an open debate and ensure that all the points raised in favour of and against airport expansion are given a proper hearing. All I ask of this House is that we have an open debate, that we do not become polarised, that we do not end up in a corner saying that there will be no expansion at any cost, and that we look at the bigger picture, as well as at the important matter of our constituents. We should tackle the matter as honestly and openly as we can.
Frank Cook (in the Chair): I hope that the House will pay greater attention to my remarks than has happened so far this morning. There are 19 minutes remaining and four Members who want to speak. Members should bear that in mind not only when making their contributions, but when receiving and responding to interventions.
22 Jun 2005 : Column 245WH
Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall), who has a distinguished track record of serving his constituents and standing up for environmental issues, of which this debate is a classic example.
I shall begin by talking about a matter that affects my constituents in Horley. The Government seem to think that expanding aviation is inherently an economic good and that the economic imperative overrides other concerns. Environmental issues, however, are one of the reasons why people get concerned about airport expansion. As I mentioned earlier, Reigate and Banstead council is monitoring air quality in Horley, in parts of which levels of nitrogen dioxide are above the UK target. The council has modelled forwards and, using a business-as-usual case for the airport, has worked out that in 2010, when the EU limit is introduced, NO 2 levels in those parts of Horley will have exceeded the EU limit in each of the preceding five years. Therefore without any further expansionwith or without a second runwaythere is a serious problem. NO 2 affects peoples' health. It creates smog, which is very unpleasant and can lead to painful lung conditions. We are talking about people's health as much as about the wider environmental issues that have been touched on this morning.
We all recognise that there is an economic benefit to aviation, but that must be placed in the context of its environmental impacts. As my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge pointed out, aviation is the fastest-growing contributor to climate change gases. In the previous Parliament I was fortunate enough to chair the Environmental Audit Committee, which produced no fewer than four reports on the impact of aviation on the environment. When that Committee gets up and running again, I have no doubt that it will return to the issue, so the Minister may look forward to many happy debates on the subject. I hope that she takes a more conciliatory view than her predecessor, whose attitude was dismissive and, as it turns out, factually incorrect, which is a serious matter.
At the end of the previous Parliament, the Committee said that there had been an irretrievable breakdown between its opinion and that of the Department for Transport and that it would return to the issue in the future. I sincerely hope that when it is up and running again, it does so. Recentlysince the Committee published its reportstwo significant new reports have been published. The report by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research confirms the proposition that the Committee advanced, which is that if aviation is allowed to continue growing at the excessive rate that characterises its present expansion, there will be no chance of the Government meeting their overall target of reducing CO 2 emissions by 60 per cent. by 2050. The Government and the Department in particular need to understand that and work with that proposition rather than against it.
Almost at the same time as that report was issued, help came from an unlikely source. The South East England regional assembly produced an extremely comprehensive document, put together by Roger Tyms and Partners, about the impact of aviation in the south-east. The document is highly critical of the
22 Jun 2005 : Column 246WH
Government's position. I carry no banners for the South East England regional assembly, but it has made an extremely useful intervention in this case. It points out that the basic proposition behind the White Paper is, in terms of its impact on the south-east, completely incompatible with the Government's stated objectives on sustainable development.
The hon. Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt) might wish to know that the report deals with the question of jobs. Its view is that jobs can be created through aviation, but that because of labour and land shortages in the south-east, the benefit in terms of employment and wealth creation of piling more aviation capacity into the region is significantly less than it would be if those jobs were created elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Those in the South East England regional assemblybully for themhave at last come up with a decent idea that I can support wholeheartedly.
The evidence is mounting and the Department for Transport must get to grips with it; it cannot continue to deny the impact of aviation on our quality of life, on the immediate local environment and on the wider global environment. There is a danger that if we go on as we are and if the Government refuse to engage with the issue properly, aviation will come to be seen as a rogue industry irresponsibly trashing the quality of life for future generationsalbeit providing some brief, sparkling pleasure in Ibiza in the short termand the Department will be regarded as a rogue Department within Government. Many Departments are seriously engaged with sustainable development and a huge amount of work is going on through policy and departmental practice to make the way that we govern in this country compatible with the principles of sustainable development, in recognition of the fact that we all live within environmental limits.
The Department for Transport has a blind spot, particularly when it comes to aviation. It seems to have got the message on cars to some extent. The problems of cars are relatively easy to solve because of new technology and new enginesinterestingly, in the air quality surveys carried out in my part of the world it is estimated that NO 2 levels will fall outside the airport environment because of improved efficiency in cars, but in the airport area itself they are predicted to rise because of aviation. I ask the Government, the Department and the new Minister to engage seriously with this issue.
It has been mentioned before but it is important to reconsider the White Paper, which I believe to be profoundly flawed. It should be parked and the Government should look again at the evidence. The White Paper was based on certain assumptions: that demand for aviation would grow at 4 per cent. a year until 2030; that the cost of travelling would fall by 1 per cent. a year until 2030; and that the price of oil would be roughly static, at about $25 a barrel. The price of oil is now $50 a barrel. The assumptions behind the White Paper are unrealistic, and it is those assumptions that have led to the Department's position, which is to predict and provide for excessive and environmentally unsustainable growth. Let us revisit those assumptions and scale down the future forecasts of aviation growth.
By all means, let us use emissions trading if it will work. However, I have grave doubts that by 2008, which is when the new emissions trading scheme is likely to be
22 Jun 2005 : Column 247WH
introduced, there will be any hope of getting aviation included in the scheme. There are real difficulties, particularly since France and Germany seem to be profoundly hostile to the idea of trading and favour instead a tax system to deal with and dampen growth.
Let us consider using fiscal measures more bravely than we have before. No oneat least, no one sensibleis talking about halting aviation growth. We are talking about curbing the excessive demand on which the Government's current policies are based. No one will thank us if this generation of politicians adopts policies that are wholly incompatible with the interests of future generations and that contribute to the potentially catastrophic risk of climate change.
Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): By speaking solelyand brieflyabout the role of business aviation, I wish to give some hope to my hon. Friends the Members for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) and for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) and the hon. Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt).
I represent Farnborough, which was voted Europe's No. 1 business aviation centre by the operators. Farnborough has the opportunity to provide some relief for Gatwick and Heathrow by providing business aviation services. It has authorised limits of 28,000 movements a year, which means that 28,000 movements are taken away from places such as Heathrow and Gatwick, thus spreading the burden. Moreover, it provides an extremely valuable service, because approximately 400 jet and turboprop aircraft are operated in this countryI exclude those that come in from overseasserving businesses and international business.
I am delighted that when the Conservative party was last in power, my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), then the Transport Minister, designated Farnborough as the business aviation centre to serve London and the south-east. Unlike Northolt, which my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Hurd) is privileged to have in his constituency, Farnborough has a runway that is capable of providing a sufficient facility to enable a Gulfstream GV to take off and travel non-stop to the west coast of the United States.
I apologise to the Minister for not being able to stay to hear her response to the debate; I have another meeting to attend. I suspect that she will say little about business aviation, but may I flag up just one point? Farnborough needs better facilities and better support from special branch and the immigration services. It is a relief airfield in the sense that it takes business that would otherwise be directed to Heathrow and Gatwick, so it is incumbent on the Government to ensure that they provide the services necessary to sustain the international operations that take place at Farnborough. Farnborough adds enormous value to the United Kingdom; the aerodrome is used by high net worth individuals and by the Heads of State of other countries because it is discreet, secure and close to London. Farnborough has enormous advantages, but it
22 Jun 2005 : Column 248WH
needs better services. I hope that the Minister will be able to write to me to let me know what the Government plan to do about that.
Frank Cook (in the Chair): Order. I am not a Deputy ChairmanI am either the Chairman, or Mr. Cook. Please will all hon. Members also take note of the fact that I cannot assume that they want to speak unless they indicate that by standing erect?
Mr. Heald : Thank you very much, Mr. Cook. Stansted airport is right next to several villages in my constituency, including Cold Christmas, Little Hadham and Braughing. For many years those villages have experienced problems with noise from the airport, but I believe it is generally accepted that we should have our airport in the countryside at Stansted. We are, however, against massive expansion of the airport and building a second runway. When the inspector on the original inquiry into Stansted considered how many runways there should be, he made it clear that it would be an environmental catastrophe if there were more than one.
We need to question the whole idea that the focus for cheap holiday flights from Britain should be on the south-east of England. Some 65 per cent. of air traffic goes from the south-east at present and the assumption for the future seems to be that we should try to suck holiday travel passengers down from the midlands and the north by road to fly from airports such as Stansted. That is ridiculous. We must ask ourselves if that assumption is not partly driven by BAA and what it wants to happen. It seems to feel that it is entitled to cross-subsidise from Heathrow to Stansted in order to make use of its dominant market position, even though that means higher costs for passengers and is unfair to other airports, as we have heard in the debate. The time has come to question seriously whether BAA should be able to demand that the south-east bears the burden of all the extra air traffic and to consider whether BAA should retain its monopoly of 93 per cent. of the airports market in this country. We must think about whether it should be broken up.
It is wrong to propose building a second runway at Stansted and not even to consider how to pay for the infrastructure. The roads in my part of the world are clogged and the rail services are so full that people have to stand on the trains, yet the infrastructure is supposed to be able to sustain a huge extra expansion of housing and airports. Frankly, that just does not add up.
Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): Thank you, Mr. Cook. I will keep my comments brief. I echo the concerns already expressed by hon. Members on the sustainability of the development of aviation in the south-east. My concern is about Heathrow. Planes come in to land at that airport directly over Putney, and my postbag is full of letters from people who are extremely worried about the proposals in the latest White Paper for a third runway, the potential end of mixed mode, and the ongoing review of night flights with the impact that that will have on noise and the general quality of life in respect of air pollution in my constituency.
At present, there are no noise monitoring sensors in Putney or in Fulham, which is slightly further away from the runway. My first question is, can the Minister investigate whether the Civil Aviation Authority, and therefore BAA, can be compelled to put those sensors in place and to monitor the noise? Secondly, noise mapping feeds into many of the decisions taken on Heathrow and its sustainability, but that is mapping of average noise, which is the equivalent of my travelling to Rotherham to visit my family, getting done for exceeding the speed limit and then being told that it is okay because my average speed was under the limit so I stayed within the law. Can the Minister confirm that she will consider whether noise mapping should monitor peaks and troughs and excessive noise, not just average noise? The letters that fill my postbag complain about excessive noise.
Adam Afriyie : Does my hon. Friend agree that it is one noisy aircraft, at night or during the day, that disturbs people? That certainly seems to be the case in Datchet, Old Windsor, Wraysbury, Poyle and Colnbrook. Does my hon. Friend think that we should consider measures that take into account a single noisy aircraft rather than the general noise quotients, which seem to hide a multitude of sins?
Justine Greening : I certainly do agree with my hon. Friend. It is time that we took responsibility for the noise created by individual planes that land at airports. We need to take a fresh look at the economic case for developing Heathrow; I would argue that as well as people flying in close by, my constituents also deliver a fair amount to the London economy.
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): It is a pleasure to participate in a debate initiated by my friend the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall). I respect his views on flight, whether powered or otherwise.
There is clearly some agreement this morning on some of the Government's proposals, particularly those on making better use of existing resources, airports and runways. Unfortunately, that is where the consensus ends. It is worth reminding Members that the background to this debate, as mentioned in today's Metro and other papers a couple of days ago, is that CO 2 emissions in the EU rose by 1.5 per cent. in 2002, with Britain one of the worst offenders behind Italy and Finland. The Minister may believe that aviation can take a smaller cut in its emissions because other industries will pick up the slack, but that clearly will not happen. Other industries are already failing to meet their targets for reducing CO 2 emissions.
22 Jun 2005 : Column 250WH
As the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) said, perhaps there is a consensus on the Department for Transport's recognition that there is a problem on the roads, which is why it has proposed road pricing. I do not think that the Minister's officials are rogue officialsthe hon. Gentleman suggested that the Department might become a rogue Departmentbut there is a problem with the Government's approach to aviation. The freedom-to-fly approach is almost a free-for-all, and Government documents are peppered with phrases such as "capacity running out", "runways are full", "we need to provide more" and so on. There is not much focus on sustainability; the priority always seems to be providing more capacity.
John Barrett (Edinburgh, West) (LD): My hon. Friend will be aware that one major problem in the south-east is the number of short-haul flights. From my constituency in Edinburgh, 75 flights will today take off for the south-east. Does he agree that a high-speed rail link would not only provide a desirable rail substitute but free up slots at airports for international flights, for which there is no alternative mode of transport, without increasing capacity?
Tom Brake : I thank my hon. Friend for his helpful intervention. We know that the Secretary of State for Transport has talked about looking at high-speed rail linksalthough he should do more than just look at themand providing trains as an alternative to short-haul flights. I question whether the Government's approach is sustainable.
Several hon. Members have referred to the Lancet report. It examined 3,000 children aged nine to 10 in Britain, the Netherlands and Spain and the impact on them of aircraft noise. It found, perhaps not surprisingly, that chronic exposure to aircraft noise impairs children's reading comprehension, that schools close to an airport are not a healthy educational environment, and that there is a link between aircraft noise and stress and a reduced quality of life.
What action have the Government taken since the report was published? Is the Minister satisfied that all the schools in the vicinity of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick are sufficiently insulated? Is she satisfied that, if a third runway at Heathrow or a new runway at Stansted is built, schools in the vicinity will be sufficiently protected from the increased noise? Will she commit to a review of noise standards to see whether the Government need to respond to anything in the report?
The industry, rather belatedly, has produced its own sustainable aviation strategy, which the Minister has welcomed. It talks positively about aircraft manufacturers reducing emissions and improving fuel efficiency by 50 per cent. per seat kilometre. Does the Minister believe that the proposals can deliver a sustainable aviation strategy? Can she confirm that the Government's plans already take into account the industry's estimates for emissions reductions and that, therefore, those estimates are not an improvement on the Government's plans for the reduction of emissions?
Another point made by the industry is that airlines will develop solutions for the inclusion of CO 2 emissions in the EU emissions trading scheme. When will that scheme be introduced or when will aviation be
22 Jun 2005 : Column 251WH
incorporated into it? Given that the likely date for introduction will be 2012 or beyond, will interim measures have to be taken? In any case, can the aviation industry adopt a sustainable strategy when someone like the chief executive of Ryanair, Mr. O'Leary, is quoted in the papers today saying that if people are worried about air pollution, they should sell their car? Does the Minister think that that is a sensible approach? If some industry players are not going to contribute to reducing CO 2 emissions, what can the Government do about them?
Mr. Peter Ainsworth : On the subject of the industry's ability to sharpen up its act and reduce CO 2 emissions, is the hon. Gentleman aware of what Mike Clasper, the chief executive of BAA, wrote last spring? He said:
Tom Brake : That is a worrying statement. I am pleased that others in the industry, such as the outgoing chief executive of British Airways, Rod Eddington, have adopted a different approach and suggested that the short-haul flights to which my hon. Friend referred a few seconds ago are entirely inappropriate.
It is clear that the projected increase in emissions is unsustainable. As hon. Members will know, if growth in aviation continues unmanaged, by 2030 the demand for air travel will be slightly less than 500 million journeys a year in the UK, and carbon emissions will quadrupletaking into account the multiplier effect that applies to emissions at high altitude, the increase will be greater still. Demand management is now the name of the game.
In terms of demand management, there are solutions that the Government could consider. Could slot auctioning be a solution, provided that safeguards are in place for some flights from more remote areas? Could personal carbon allowances provide a solution? What about the high-speed rail links that have been mentioned?
The aviation White Paper seemed to accept two important planks of Liberal Democrat aviation policy: first, that a "predict and provide" approach is the wrong approach for future requirements; and secondly, the principle that the polluter must pay. The Minister has an opportunity to prove that her Government are not just paying lip service to those principles but are prepared to implement them.
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) on securing this debate, timely as it is with
22 Jun 2005 : Column 252WH
the Civil Aviation Bill due to have its Second Reading next week. His constituents already know how extremely hard he works for them. I received the aviation and shipping briefs a few weeks ago and his extraordinary environmental knowledge extends across both sides of my new parliamentary interests. His speech was powerful, and it moved us all.
I remind the House of three simple statements first articulated by my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) in his former shadow Cabinet position. First, he said that before any expansion in runway capacity in the south-east is sanctioned, we will use our best endeavours to ensure that Britain is a full participant in an EU emissions trading regime covering the aviation industry. Secondly, he said that we will ask BAA to review its compensation arrangements with a view to being much more generous to those people whose homes are blighted by airport development. That is of course a simple example of the principle that the polluter, whether by emissions, or in this case by noise as well, should pay. Thirdly, he said that we will oppose the cross-subsidy of airport development costs, which is something that used to be accepted across the political spectrum.
To the three points made by my hon. Friend I should like to add a fourth. We need to address seriously the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) and others about why so much aviation is focused on the south-east and, in particular, on the three big airports controlled by BAA. At this point, I welcome the Minister to her new post, and I look forward to her winding-up speech.
Airlines should be seen as an integral part of the nation's public transport network. They provide transport to every corner of the globe as well as throughout this country. Although we are discussing the less desirable features of airlines, it is important to remember that for people well down the economic scale the growth of low-cost carriers has brought opportunities for tourism beyond the dreams of earlier generations. That growth has also had enormous benefits for business, and more than half the passengers on the new low-cost carriers are business men and women.
Nevertheless, most speakers today, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Uxbridge and for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth), have reminded us just how strongly the environmental features, especially those relating to global warming, are being challenged.
I also attended the worrying presentation by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. It claims that if aviation continues to grow at its present rate, it could wipe out all savings made by all other sectors of the economy, making it completely impossible for the Government to achieve their CO 2 emissions targets. Indeed, it is a straightforward historical fact that since this Government took office, aviation on its own has been responsible for CO 2 emissions going up rather than down.
Tom Brake : Does the hon. Gentleman agree with my earlier point that far from aviation making any savings and being able to access savings made by other areas of industry, the evidence shows that our emissions are going up?
22 Jun 2005 : Column 253WH
Mr. Brazier : Our emissions are indeed going up, although even the Tyndall study accepted that through efficiency measures there is scope for savings of about 2 per cent. a year. There are a number of other objections to its analysis. It has not taken account of the impact of the growth of fuel prices on demand, which is a market correction of its own. Further, its extraordinary claim that one must multiply by a figure of 2.7 is not borne out by scientific evidence.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, but I must say to him that his last point was incorrect. The figure of 2.7 is a Treasury figure that is applied for very good reasons as a multiplier to the climate change impact of aviation.
Mr. Brazier : We do not have time for a long debate, but as one example of a study from the other side, I quote the analysis of the three days after 9/11 when there were no flights in America at all. If one considers temperature movements during that period, it appears that aviation trails have some effect of reflecting sunlight. There are profound disagreements within the scientific community, but there is a general recognition that the impact of aviation in such an area is huge, although it is difficult to quantify.
I do not want to foreshadow the Civil Aviation Bill that will be discussed next week, except to say that we strongly support the view that the polluter must pay. There are issues where we can build on relationships with the industry and I welcome the initiative that was announced a day or two ago that the industry wants to become part of a robust European emissions trading scheme, which would allow it to trade permits with other European airlines. Along with its contribution, we shall be debating other ways in which we can consider the matter on Monday.
As for compensation, we all know that planned airport expansion worries local people and can have a devastating effect on house prices. My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge said that that happens many years before the bulldozers move inif, indeed, they do. Many people find that their houses become unsaleable because of the prospect of development although they live outside those areas that are covered by the existing, narrowly drawn blight compensation schemes. BAA plc is a highly profitable organisation, which enjoys a 93 per cent. virtual monopoly in the south-east. Frankly, it can afford a more generous scheme.
I come now to my third policy point. It used to be accepted by all parties that there should be no cross-subsidy within the near-monopolistic giant that is BAA plc. Yet the Government have committed themselves on a tight timetable to an expansion at Stansted of a second runway, despite the fact that Stansted has failed to attract intercontinental business; 90 per cent. of its flights are carried out by Ryanair and easyJet, both profitable airlines, but the relatively small aeroplanes that they use and a business that pays per passenger obviously only generate a fraction of the business that is generated by wide-bodied jets. No one seriously believes that Stansted could finance such an expansion from its own revenues.
The Government concluded in its White Paper that there was a serious need for additional runway capacity. With Gatwick blocked until 2019, if the Government's
22 Jun 2005 : Column 254WH
demand figures are right, if the present growth of aviation is allowed to continue and if it all happens in the south-east, that could only mean Heathrow. However, those are very big ifs.
It is not only the direct impact on local people that is worrying; there are also transport issues, but time does not allow me to elaborate on such matters. Heathrow airport's new terminal 5, which is almost complete, could generate up to 50,000 car trips each day across London and the south-east. While welcome in other ways, the Crossrail proposal may undermine the existing Heathrow Express service and the imaginative new proposals for a new link to Waterloo. Meanwhile, the train service to Stansted is becoming worse. Two new stops will be introduced soon.
The Government's policy in the White Paper is a mess. It lacks a coherent vision. The Government want to tackle climate change; they want to expand capacity in respect of the most serious polluters. They are willing to allow airport expansion, but chose the wrong site in the wrong place with an inadequate infrastructure and a deteriorating train service. They are egging on the promoters of the Heathrow extra runway on the one hand, but doing remarkably little about pollution control on the other.
The truth is that we need a bold, joined-up vision for aviation in this country. Serious questions need to be asked, such as how much growth is sustainable, how much of it should be in the south-east and how it will fit into the other areas of transport, particularly rail and road services. Such matters needed to be studied in the round. Sadly, the Government's White Paper and current policy do not do that.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Ms Karen Buck) : I congratulate the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) on securing the debate and I congratulate other hon. Members on their contributions. The discussion has ranged widely, extending to matters beyond aviation in the south-east, the specific title of the debate. I accept why that has happened; such matters cannot be put in a box, but I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I cannot deal with each issue that they raised as comprehensively as it would probably warrant in its own right.
The hon. Member for Uxbridge made a number of points, some of which I will try to address in my speech. I recognise his long-standing concern for his constituents, and it is right and proper that he and others, as constituency Members of Parliament, should champion their constituents' interests. He mentioned the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) was unable to be here today. He, too, has consistently championed the cause of his constituents and their concerns and he asked me to apologise for his absence.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt) in particular for bringing to bear in the debate her very long-standing experience and expertise on behalf of her constituents. I was pleased to hear her reflect a degree of balance that was missing from the other contributions, as I hope to be able to explain. I also very much appreciate the tremendous expertise, built up over a long time, of the hon. Member for East
22 Jun 2005 : Column 255WH
Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) in his capacity as chair of the Environmental Audit Committee. He raised many important issues, which warrant many other debates and to which I am sure we shall return. The hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) raised specific issues and I will write to him. In the next few minutes I will try to pick up some of the issues that other hon. Members raised.
No one will be surprised that I do not intend in these comments to deviate from the broad thrust of the air transport White Paper, which, 18 months ago, for the first time in decades and possibly ever, set out a strategic framework for the future of the aviation industry in this country and for air transport. It recognised, rightly, that the economic, personal, cultural and social benefits of air travel must be balanced against the undisputed environmental impacts at both local and global level and the needs of the communities that airports serve.
I feel that the economic arguments were peremptorily dismissed by the hon. Member for Uxbridge and others. That is sad, because many Opposition Members represent constituencies that gain directly and indirectly from the economic benefits that aviation has brought to this country. Some 200,000 jobs depend on the industry directly and one third of all UK exports are delivered by air. Aviation is crucial to tourism: 70 per cent. of all visits to the UK in 2003 by overseas residents were made by air. Indeed, 20 per cent. of all international flights in the world in 2003 began or ended in the UK.
We must be careful, in an era of intense international competition, not to jeopardise the prosperity and employment opportunities that accrue to London, the south-east and Britain as a whole as a result of aviation. Simply acting as if we are not operating in an international context is not good enough. We know what is happening at Schiphol, Frankfurt and Charles de Gaulle, to mention just some airports that are only an hour away from us. Not to consider the growth in their role as hub airports is to miss something important in the international context. We must be aware of that for our future prosperity.
The economic benefits include low flight prices, but again they were swiftly dismissed by the hon. Members for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) and for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake). My 11-year-old son has travelled far more than I had done by the age of 21. In fact, I did not go abroad until I was 21, and that phenomenon was replicated in my generation among people from lower-income backgrounds. We must be careful not to shut down the personal, cultural and social opportunities for travel that, frankly, everyone in this Room enjoys for themselves.
Mr. Heald : We were told that Stansted was an airport in the countryside, serving our area. Yes, we all use it; we go on holiday from there. But we are against the strategy of making people from the north of England and the midlands come down to Stansted before they go on their holiday. Why can they not go from their own airport?
Ms Buck : Is that a declaration of independence for the south-east? I think colleagues should be told. One of the enormous strengths of the air transport White Paper is the strategic approach to the development of airports in regions across the country. One of my first tasks as a
22 Jun 2005 : Column 256WH
Minister was to go to Bristol airport to welcome the first international flight into Bristol from America. That is part of a deliberate approach to encourage the growth of regional airports for their own economic prosperity, for the benefit of the country and to relieve pressures on London and the south-east. [Interruption.] I just want to finish this point. We need to be wary of opportunism. When the Department launched a debate on road pricing, there were Opposition Members who immediately leapt in to say that it was a war on the motorist. That argument is against a background of a fall in the real costs of motoringa fall that opens up the possibility of debate on options for roads. To call that war on motorists while saying that the opportunity for cheap flights is almost a moral wrong strikes me as deeply inconsistent.
Mr. Ainsworth : I hear what the hon. Lady says about low-cost travel, and I tried to make it clear that there is a need to curb future demand, not deny people the right to travel now. Would she not say that there is something quite odd about a situation in which it costs 10 times more to park a car at Gatwick airport for two weeks than to fly to Marbella and back?
Ms Buck : That is partly to do with the marginal cost of tickets. It depends on what tickets someone gets. It is not, strictly speaking, comparing like with like. As the hon. Gentleman is well aware, the point about surface access to airports is very much integral to the debate on pollution that was rightly mentioned by a number of hon. Members. If we are serious about tackling the air pollution problems that we all recognise exist around airports, we must accept that surface access arrangements, discouraging the car and using public transport alternatives are absolutely central to that argument.
The Government's approach is absolutely not to predict and provide. We have taken the overall view of looking forward to a level of aviation that meets pressures on existing airports and future demand but is absolutely at the lower end of the unconstrained level of provision. Our first priority is to make efficient use of existing capacity at existing airports, but as we made clear in the White Paper, that would fall a long way short of a lasting solution. That is why we support two new runways in the south-east: one at Stansted andprovided strict environmental conditions can be metan additional third short runway at Heathrow.
Time is running out, so I shall quickly focus on Heathrow, as it was central to the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Uxbridge. We have made it absolutely clear in the White Paper that, as a precondition for expansion at Heathrow, three core tests must be met: there must be compliance with air quality standards, in particular on nitrogen dioxide; there should be no further increase in the size of the 57 dB average daytime noise contour; and there must be
22 Jun 2005 : Column 257WH
improvements to public transport across the airport. I shall skip the point about public transport to focus on air quality.
A key requirement of expansion is that we must be confident that EU air quality limits, which will be binding on this country from 2010, will be met. Air quality around Heathrow would not meet European standards for nitrogen dioxide if those limits were applicable today. Work done at the time of the White Paper suggested that they would not be met in 2015 at Heathrow if there were further development. In some cases, the work predicted that many hundreds of thousands of people would be exposed to nitrogen dioxide levels over the limits that will be mandatory from 2010. That is a clear recognition of the scale of the problem and the need to tackle it as a precondition for expansion.
There is a lot that I could say about the monitoring arrangements to be put in place. There is to be peer review and independent scrutiny, on both aircraft emissions and surface transport. I am sure that we shall discuss that when I meet the hon. Member for Uxbridge and others in the near future.
We also recognise the importance of noise limits. The hon. Member for Putney (Justine Greening) asked about monitoring. Noise is currently monitored at airports, and controls are operated with respect to certificated noise in accordance with international practice, but I will look into her specific question about Putney and come back to her on that.
We cannot act unilaterally on emissions. By far the most effective wayand the right wayto proceed on climate change and aviation's contribution is to work in an international context. That is why we are committed to working for an emissions trading scheme with the EU by 2008, or as soon as possible thereafter. There are positive negotiations going on about that, and it will be a centrepiece of the Government's negotiations during their chairmanship of the EU. I hopebut do not necessarily expectthat that will give some reassurance that the Government are approaching the issue strategically and with a clear balance between the economy and the environment.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|