Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Heathrow Airport

9. Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): To what extent Government decisions on the number of permitted flights at Heathrow are informed by projected levels of carbon dioxide emissions. [66809]

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): The current limit of 480,000 air transport movements a year at Heathrow is a condition of the 2001 planning consent for terminal 5 and was fixed primarily on grounds of noise. We believe that the best way of ensuring that aviation contributes to the goal of climate stabilisation is through a well designed emissions trading scheme, which is why we are pressing that in Europe and internationally.

Dr. Cable: I welcome the Government's commitment to the CO 2 emissions trading system, but as it will not become effective until 2012 at the earliest, would not it be useful if the existing cap on flights at our major airports were to serve wider environmental purposes as well as narrow, local concerns?

Mr. Darling: I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern about the level of carbon dioxide at Heathrow and other airports, which is due not just to aircraft but also to other activity—the air quality at Heathrow is affected by the amount of traffic, primarily on the M25 and the M4.

A range of things can be done. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the fuel efficiency of aircraft has improved by 50 per cent. over the past 30 years; today's aircraft are about 75 per cent. quieter than in the 1960s. Other measures are being taken at Heathrow to improve air quality and if road pricing is introduced in this country that, too, will reduce the overall level of harmful emissions in the environment. In relation to aircraft, it is important that we do everything we possibly can—whether it be looking at landing charges or the emissions
2 May 2006 : Column 827
trading scheme—to reduce the amount of CO 2 , which, as the hon. Gentleman says, is a matter of legitimate concern.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): As the Secretary of State knows, aircraft movements at Heathrow are under his control, because Heathrow is a designated airport under the Civil Aviation Act 1982. Fairness requires that an airport that is even busier than Heathrow was when it was designated—namely, Nottingham East Midlands airport—should also come under the Secretary of State's control. Will he bear in    mind that the air pollution littered all over Leicestershire is just as bad as the air pollution that covers the constituency of the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable)? Does not he think that it is high time that the Department for Transport got its head round the environmental pollution that is wrecking Leicestershire just as much as it is wrecking west London?

Mr. Darling: The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right to say that we should be concerned about the environmental consequences of airports and aircraft, but the east midlands economy has greatly benefited from the presence of the airport. It has created jobs and a lot of freight arrives there, so whether we are considering the east midlands airport or Heathrow, it is important to strike a careful balance, to ensure that we meet our environmental obligations while recognising the economic importance of such airports, which are well used by the hon. and learned Gentleman's constituents and others.


10. Mr. Keith Simpson (Mid-Norfolk) (Con): What criteria his Department is using to assess the need to dual the A47 in Norfolk. [66810]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): The Department is not currently assessing the need to dual the A47 in Norfolk. The A47 was assessed through the Norwich to Peterborough multi-modal study, which reported that dualling was an issue for the longer term, but that some sections should be reviewed towards the end of the decade.

Mr. Simpson: Many of my constituents will find that   disappointing and unsatisfactory, in particular Mrs. Andrea Jackson, whose son was tragically killed on the A47 at the Mattishall junction just west of Norwich. I accompanied her to No. 10 to hand in a petition signed by 10,000 local people from a small area in mid-Norfolk, urging the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister to consider, at the very least, remedial action at that junction, which the Highways Agency has been looking into for some time. Surely, death and injury must be the most important criteria, so I am sorry to say that the Minister's answer was not satisfactory.

Dr. Ladyman: Remedial action at a particular junction is one thing; a requirement for us to dual an entire stretch of road, over many, many miles, is another thing entirely. We are indeed looking at the report into the tragic accident to which the hon. Gentleman referred and when we have completed our review of it we will
2 May 2006 : Column 828
report to him and the local community on how we shall make that junction safer. Safety is one of the factors that we take into account, but only a limited amount of money is available. Of the £1.9 billion for the three years up to 2007–08 that the Highways Agency will spend on the entirety of English trunk roads, fully a quarter will be spent in the east of England so the hon. Gentleman and his constituents are actually doing rather well.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): Is the Minister aware that one of the worst parts of the A47 is the stretch through Middleton and East Winch in my constituency? Both parish councils have been pressing for a dual carriageway bypass for many years. When can they expect action from the Government?

Dr. Ladyman: As I have just explained, the multi-modal study suggested that a case may be made for certain parts of the A47 to be considered for dualling at the end of the decade. Currently, there are no short or medium-term plans for dualling along its entire length. Considerable improvements have been made already to parts of the A47, but we must balance the priorities across England and, indeed, across the east of England—and currently, the region and the local county councils are not suggesting to us that dualling the entire length of the A47 is a priority.

Sea Transport of Goods

11. Mr. Jim McGovern (Dundee, West) (Lab): What steps the Government are taking to support the transport of goods by sea. [66811]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr.    Stephen Ladyman): The Government have introduced several measures to support the transport of goods by sea, including water freight grants, of which £22 million has been awarded since 2000 for shipping projects. A further measure—the tonnage tax—provides certainty and clarity about tax liabilities for those shipping companies that choose to opt into the regime.

Mr. McGovern: The Minister may be aware of a recent report from an organisation called Sea and Water, which suggests that, until road pricing is introduced, which would impose a fair charge on hauliers, there is a case for the Government to support more businesses that wish to transport their freight by sea. That view certainly has support in Dundee, where the Michelin tyre factory, which employs more than 600 people from Dundee and the surrounding area, has real concerns about the reduction in ferry crossings on the Rosyth to Zeebrugge route from five to three sailings a week. What plans do the Government have in the short-term to ensure a level playing field in the near future between businesses that transport freight by road and those that do so by sea?

Dr. Ladyman: My hon. Friend will realise that specific support for the scheme that he mentions would come under the responsibilities of the Scottish Executive, so I cannot comment too much on that, other than to say that the Department for Transport and the Scottish Executive collaborated to provide £11 million to start that ferry route. He makes a very fair point, however, in
2 May 2006 : Column 829
saying that we must encourage the movement of goods by sea. Short-sea shipping needs to be considered as an important option for people who need to move goods. That is why we have the freight facilities grant scheme, which is making substantial sums of money available to people who consider short-sea shipping as an alternative to road transport.

Vehicle Emissions

12. Danny Alexander (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (LD): If he will make a statement on progress being made in lowering the average level of emissions per vehicle. [66812]

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): Since the early 1990s, pollutant emissions from petrol cars have reduced by around 95 per cent. Diesel cars have delivered up to 80 per cent. reductions. Over the same period, the average level of CO 2 emissions from new cars has fallen by about 11 per cent. The House may be interested to know that Britain's top 10 best-selling cars are all cleaner than the Lexus.

Danny Alexander: I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that reply, but as the UK still has the fourth highest emissions from new cars in the European Union, will he impress on the Chancellor of the Exchequer the need for much stronger incentives for fuel-efficient cars with the banding of vehicle excise duty, while assisting the drivers of such vehicles in remote and rural areas, where a car is a necessity and fuel prices are at the highest, by taking advantage of the derogation allowed under EU law to decrease fuel duty in such areas?

Mr. Darling: On incentives, the changes that the Chancellor made to the company car tax regime have resulted in a much more fuel-efficient fleet. We are also introducing the renewable transport fuel obligation, which will result in the equivalent of 1 million cars being taken off the road.

On the present voluntary agreement among European car manufacturers, the time has now come for us to consider mandatory agreements, because not enough progress is being made and most people would expect car manufacturers right across Europe to make cars cleaner than they are at present.

Next Section IndexHome Page