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Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con): May I first acknowledge the courtesy of the Secretary of State for Transport in letting me know last week that he would have to attend the European Council today?
I thought that, when I got hold of the Bill, I might have some high hopes. I hoped that it might contain a coherent, strategic vision for the aviation industry in which environmental concerns would be tackled intelligently and effectively, thus enabling airlines to prosper, while becoming committed allies in achieving our environmental goals. What we have instead is a strange collection of miscellaneous pieces of mopping up.
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The Bill is a hotch-potch of all the loose ends that Sir Humphrey will have been badgering Ministers about for years. It has a bit on noise, a bit on emissions and a bit on ensuring against corporate failure, but none of it coheres into a convincing overall shape. All its contents are predominantly permissive, thus leaving us uninformed about what will actually happen, and they do not constitute a comprehensive policy on either noise or emissions. By contrast, that is exactly what the Opposition have tried to do for the past few years, and my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) outlined our objectives very clearly when he held my job. First, we are utterly determined
Mr. Duncan: We published detailed proposals, which I am sorry the Minister did not have the diligence to read. I shall reiterate exactly what we said. First, we are determined that Britain should be a full participant in any EU emissions trading regime covering the aviation industry, beforethis is a crucial pre-conditionany expansion in runway capacity in the south-east is given the go-ahead. Secondly, it is our policy to review existing compensation arrangements so that they become much more generous to those people whose homes are blighted by any proposed airport development. This, after all, is the practical expression of a simple principle: that the polluter should pay.
Mrs. Dunwoody: The hon. Gentleman has said something very interesting. Does he assume that this approach will relate only to people who live in houses that are affected by decisions in the civil aviation sector, or is he thinking of extending the theory to cover people who are disturbed by roads?
The Bill does offer no coherent shape to those objectives; nor does it offer any similar or comparable approach. Its structure is muddled. Indeed, it is even self-contradictory. Its contents are completely piecemeal.
To be fair to the Secretary of State, he is the victim of previous Conservative Governments' successes. In the late 1980s, the predominant concern in aviation was to turn organisations that had hitherto been shackled by
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government into profitable enterprises that added to the nation's wealth. We have seen a dramatic increase in air travel, combined with the emergence of new airlines with almost bafflingly low prices for many tickets, internet purchasing and intense competition. Our airports have attracted massive investment.
For people on every level of income and of every background, the opportunities to travel are far beyond the dreams of earlier generations. People can book themselves flights on the internet over lunch and jet off on the weekend, and the cost of doing so lies within most people's reach. The openings for business have been equally monumental, and more than half the passengers on the new low-cost carriers are business men and women.
Passenger numbers have increased dramatically, up from 51 million in 1982 to 189 million in 2002, rising by 7 million in 200102 alone. BAA has invested more than £6 billion since it was privatised in 1987, and passenger numbers at its seven airports have risen from 55 million then to 127 million in 2002.
My sympathy for the Secretary of State and the Government begins to wane because the Government are prisoners of their own policies. In 2004, the Sustainable Development Commission published a report highlighting the contradictions between the Government's White Paper on aviation and their stated desire to deal with climate change. The Environmental Audit Committee described Ministers as being "superficial and vague" about the environmental damage done by Government policy. The Bill does not even begin to answer any of that.
Admittedly, other new problems have emerged, such as health concerns including deep vein thrombosis. Air traffic control has become ever more challenging as controllers have to handle growing congestion in our skies. The issue of security requires us to keep that essential step ahead of any evildoer who would threaten our safety. It is now blindingly clear that the greatest challenge is the threat to the environment caused by our unquenchable thirst for travel.
Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman say something about the smaller airports such as Coventry, where environmental issues arise because they are trapped, for example, by a lack of parking facilities, traffic-flow problems and, more importantly, safety and noisy night flying? Does he have a view about these matters, which the people of Coventry have experienced as the airport has expanded?
For the moment, I shall stick with climate change. Research conducted by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which is published on the Friends of the Earth website, claims that at the present rate of growth aviation would wipe out all the emissions savings made by other sectors in the economy. If that is the case, it will be almost impossible for the Government to meet their stated objective of reducing CO 2 emissions by 60 per cent. from 1990 levels by 2050. Indeed, aviation on its own explains why CO 2 emissions have
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increased since the Government took over. Not even higher oil prices seem to be arresting the continuing growth.
The Government concluded in their White Paper that there was a desperate need for additional runway capacity in the south-east. With development at Gatwick blocked until 2019, if their demand figures are right, it can only mean looking at Heathrow airport, which is the favoured choice for the big airlines. What hampers development there is that heavy levels of pollution from the M25 already make air quality around Heathrow an environmental problem. In addition, Heathrow's new terminal 5 could generate up to 50,000 car trips every day across London and in the south-east. Ironically, it is the Government's proposals on Crossrail that may undermine both the existing Heathrow express and the imaginative new proposals for a link to Waterloo. If they fail to get that right, people will simply return to their cars. Instead of grappling with that, the Government have fastened on Stansted for expansion, yet that brings them into direct conflict with the established principle that there should be no cross-subsidisation by BAA.
The second runway at Stansted is expected to go into service by 2013. However, Stansted is not fully utilised now and operates no intercontinental business. Nine tenths of flights leaving Stansted are operated by Ryanair or easyJet. Those airlines are highly profitable, but airports derive income from passenger numbers, so the revenue that short-haul carriers bring is much less than the revenue from wide-bodied jets. Nobody believes that Stansted could possibly finance the hugely expensive expansion in infrastructure required for a second runway out of its own revenues. It can only happen with massive cross-subsidy by Heathrow and Gatwick.
So what do we have? A runway where the market clearly does not want it and little thought to proposals that could make a runway environmentally acceptable where the market does want it, and a professed desire to tackle climate change, but also a desire to expand capacity. In short, the Government have piecemeal preferences but no overall strategy. In the context of all that, the Bill is neither one thing nor the other. It is really a bit of everything and a bit of nothing, and it illustrates the confusion in which the Government find themselves on aviation matters.
The Bill allows airports to design and include stipulations about noise and emissions in their contracts with airlines. It is, to put it mildly, bizarre that the airport companies that have a fundamental interest in attracting airlines to use their facilities should also be the ones that set noise and emissions requirements for their customers. That is potentially deeply perverse. It is also bizarre, and something that compounds the peculiarity of the structure, that they should then be empowered with the authority to fine their customers for breaching criteria that they have no especial interest in enforcing. The Bill asks the poacher to police the gamekeeperor perhaps it is better described as one poacher policing another. Although the Bill pays lip-service to both noise and emissions, it lacks an all-embracing regime into which the criteria would have to fit.
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