Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Dr. Ladyman: I am unsure whether the hon. Gentleman is on foot or on horseback. When the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) introduced the Bill, he made it clear that Conservative policy was to designate all airports, but the hon. Member for Canterbury seems to be arguing against designation. Which is it?

Mr. Brazier: We are broadly in favour of bringing all airports on to the same footing, but we appear to have a funny situation in which the Secretary of State is giving himself incredibly detailed powers in relation to one category of airport, while another is unaffected.

I should like to turn finally to the dog that does not bark at all in the Bill but has filled a significant amount of the deliberations today: the proposals for airport expansion. We have set out our three cardinal principles: we must have robust emissions trading before we have airport expansion; there should be no cross-subsidy; and we need greater, genuine help for those who suffer blight. There is, indeed, a difficult decision to take on whether we need a new runway—it involves balancing the real requirement of the airlines for more capacity in the south-east at current growth rates against the environmental concerns that that growth rate may be more than the conditions for CO 2 and NOx emissions can stand—but, surely, the conclusion that we can firmly reach is the exact reverse of the one that the Government have reached. There is no case for building a new runway at an airport that has failed to attract any long-haul passenger business at all, that is operating below capacity and that has by far the longest of the three train services from London—a service that is deteriorating.

Overall, the Bill, if not a mouse, is at least a lot less than the House was hoping for. Little is firmly decided in it, and what has been decided is dubious and unbalanced. This week, we are celebrating at sea the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar: England expects something better for aviation.
27 Jun 2005 : Column 1104

8.51 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Ms Karen Buck): This has been a very thoughtful and balanced debate among hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber, although I am left a little confused by whether the official Opposition are arguing that we are doing too much or too little. The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) certainly appeared to be making both points during a single speech.

As a new Minister, I am grateful for the fact that, both today and during last week's hour-and-a-half Adjournment debate on airports in the south-east, we have covered a wide range of issues that pertain to airports and aviation, quite a lot of which is outwith the purpose of the Bill, so I shall refer to it fairly briefly.

We have heard some extremely good individual contributions from hon. Members whose constituencies contain airports or are close to them and from those with a great deal of expertise in representing their constituents. My hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt) spoke very positively about the need and potential for developing local partnerships and argued that airports can be good neighbours. I thank her for welcoming the Bill. My hon. Friends the Members for Vale of Glamorgan (John Smith) and for Dundee, West (Mr. McGovern) also welcomed the Bill in making helpful and pragmatic contributions.

Adam Afriyie: The hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (John Smith) seemed to suggest that he would love to have a significant expansion of the air traffic into Wales. Will the Minister pursue that issue with him in any way?

John Smith: That is in the White Paper.

Ms Buck: As my hon. Friend suggests, I can only confirm that our policy on regional airports throughout the United Kingdom is spelled out in the White Paper, and we are strongly supportive of the growth of regional airports in principle, not least because that will reduce some of the pressures on the south-east.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Alan Keen), who always champions his constituents extremely effectively. He can be assured that I should be delighted to seek his advice on this and other subjects at any time.

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) asked how restrictions will impact on Coventry airport, and the answer is that such things depend on local circumstances. Of course, the statutory consultation committee in Coventry will pursue some of those issues, but I am happy to discuss them with him in more detail.

The hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) made a number of important points about Nottingham East Midlands airport, to which I shall return in a little more detail. He and a number of other Conservative Members expressed a common theme about the fact that airports might be reticent about exercising the powers that will be given to them under the Bill, and I shall return to that issue. My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) made a similar point.
27 Jun 2005 : Column 1105

The hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Syms) made a thoughtful and balanced contribution. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Graham Stringer), who has a great deal of expertise in this area, put aviation in an economic context and pointed out that if the United Kingdom is to earn its living in a globalised world, aviation must play a vital role. I support what my hon. Friend said about the importance of developing regional airports.

The hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk) made the case for his constituents on noise emissions. I remind him that any shift away from movements will be subject to consultation, and the consultation that is taking place on night noise is based on the existing arrangements. There are no proposals to remove the limits on day movements.

This debate and the debate last week on airports in the south-east ranged widely. Before moving on to some of the detailed issues covered by the Bill, I shall say a few words about the wider context of the Government's policies on aviation. We support a sustainable way forward that recognises the importance of air travel to our national and regional economic prosperity. Not providing additional capacity where needed would significantly damage the economy and our national prosperity. We recognise that people have a desire to travel. In a globalised world, and in an international city such as London, south-east people want to travel and to take advantage of the affordability of air travel. However, we have a duty, locally, nationally and internationally, to minimise the impact of airports and air travel on those who live nearby.

I respectfully point out to some Opposition Members who have criticised the Government on this issue—I think that the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), who is no longer in his place, was one, as was the hon. Member for Putney (Justine Greening)—that the Government introduced the commission that considered the project for the sustainable development of Heathrow, which is undertaking precisely the research that the hon. Lady and others have said is so necessary.

We believe that over time aviation should pay its external cost and that the activities that it imposes on society should be reimbursed. The price of air travel should reflect the environmental and social impact. The Bill is one of the ways in which we are seeking to implement that. That is line with the principle—

Mr. Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): Bearing in mind the social impact, can the Minister give me some assurances that aircraft using airports in the highlands and islands, an area which is probably the cleanest in the United Kingdom, will not be penalised in any way, especially when some particular aircraft are required, such as the Twin Otter which lands on the beach on Barra, for instance?

Ms Buck: The hon. Gentleman makes a specific point. I am sure that he has good reason for wanting to raise the matter. It is difficult for me to comment on the particular issue without knowing the details. I am sure that in principle we would seek to do just that.
27 Jun 2005 : Column 1106

Mr. MacNeil: Smaller airports might be limited to smaller and particular aircraft. They should not be unduly penalised when there is modernisation with a more efficient type of engine.

Ms Buck: The thrust of the Bill makes it clear that airports should work with partners, with the airlines, to strike a proper balance between the commercial interests of aviation and the noise and emissions that are produced. Local circumstances should be taken into consideration.

Mr. Garnier: It is all very well to talk about local circumstances, but the Government never decide what they mean by "local". Local may mean, for Nottingham East Midlands airport, the five-mile radius around the airport. My constituents consider the deleterious affects of the airport to be local. They are in the same county and the aircraft fly over their heads. If there were a freight truck company driving lorries through their villages all night, every 90 seconds, somebody would do something about it. If a factory were spuming out obnoxious fumes, somebody would do something about it. As it is the aircraft industry and because we are dealing with an airport and with flights, everybody seems to say that it is somebody else's business. I am not sure that the Bill gets to grips with that.

Next Section IndexHome Page