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Mr Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.


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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I must advise the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister, and that there is an eight-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches in this debate.

4.28 pm

Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): I beg to move,

We are starting the debate marginally later than I thought we would. I can conclude only that the Conservatives have some reason for delaying its start—perhaps they do not want to talk about their chaotic policy on Heathrow and aviation. I note that an eight-minute limit on speeches applies, so it was rather unfair to take 15 minutes away with an unnecessary Division.

The Government’s policy on aviation is described in their amendment to the motion as a

I wonder whether the person who wrote that had any shame—I do not know whether it was written by a Minister, a Whip or an official in the Department for Transport— whether the Government are past that stage or, indeed, whether, as with much of the consultation paper, it was in fact written by someone from BAA plc, with glee rather than with shame.

As far as aviation is concerned, it seems that the Government live in a sort of bubble, in which climate change does not exist. The rest of Government policy is designed to drive down carbon emissions, making a 60 or 80 per cent. cut by 2050, but aviation somehow does not come into that picture and has to live on its own. I am interested in the comments made by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), a former Environment Minister. He said:

I think he was being ungenerous—

That is still the case.

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Alan Keen (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op): I might have been tempted, because of my constituency interest, to vote for the Liberal Democrat motion. Unfortunately, it seems to have got mixed up. Lines nine and 10 refer to

In fact the increase in intensity and distribution of noise for my constituents and those who live in the neighbouring constituencies to the east would be caused by the end of that runway alternation. I am afraid I shall have to vote against the motion.

Norman Baker: Noise will increase because of the ending of runway alternation; that is quite true.

Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): The Lib Dem motion calls for the end of the thing that my constituents value most, which is the half-day respite from aircraft noise that results from runway alternation, which the motion says is a bad thing. Furthermore, the motion does not call on the Government to rule out that problem, although it calls on them to rule out a third runway. That leaves the door open for flights over my constituency all day, every day.

Norman Baker: That is not the intention of the motion, as the hon. Lady knows very well.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Norman Baker: I have already given way twice; I must make some progress. [ Interruption. ] All right, go on.

Mr. Wilshire: The hon. Gentleman has admitted that one bit of his motion is a load of rubbish. Will he tell us which other bits are a load of rubbish?

Norman Baker: I knew I should not have given way. That intervention is not worth responding to, I am sorry to say.

I quoted the hon. Member for Sunderland, South. It is worth mentioning that in 1995 BAA put in an application for a fifth terminal, as we know, which opened with all the chaos that we saw last week. At the time, it promised that that would not lead to a third runway. Permission was given on that basis. Whenever the aviation industry says, “This is all we want,” it always goes further. It always comes back for more. It is never the final line.

BAA is like some kind of fiendish drug addict and the Government are its willing dealer, and they do not even charge a decent price or the market rate. I shall come on to the consultation document in a moment, but there are serious questions about the Government’s independence in relation to the aviation industry and whether it is subject to regulatory capture.

Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby) (Lab): I am rather alarmed by some of the descriptions of BAA. Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that BAA’s expansion plans for Heathrow are a direct result of its being the largest international airport in the world and the unprecedented demand, which produces a significant
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number of jobs in the UK and provides us with a robust industry that we want to support?

Norman Baker: I do not agree with all that. For a start, I do not agree that that is a cause. BAA has continually asked for expansion, and the Government have followed the predict-and-provide policy. Of course, if space is provided it fills up. The Government recognise that with roads. They abandoned the idea of predict-and-provide for roads but not for aviation. However, I shall come on to the economic case later.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Norman Baker: I must make some progress. I have taken, I think, six—[Hon. Members: “Come on!”] All right.

Mr. Redwood: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because this is a debate. Why does the Liberal party believe that if we restrict capacity at Heathrow that will reduce aviation? Those on the continent would be massively grateful. Charles de Gaulle, Schiphol and all the rest would expand their capacity and we might end up with more emissions rather than fewer. Surely the solution to the emissions problem is to press for a new generation of more fuel-efficient and quieter aircraft, which are what we need, rather than trying to hamstring our industry at home.

Norman Baker: I note the unholy alliance between the right hon. Gentleman and Government Front Benchers, who agree on that point. That is part of the problem. Of course we want improvements in aircraft design and want to limit emissions per aircraft if we can do so. However, providing extra capacity generates more flights. That is the point the right hon. Gentleman refuses to accept. The flights generated will partly be short-haul flights, the need for which could be met by long-distance, high-speed rail. The right hon. Gentleman, who does not like railways, refuses to acknowledge that point.

The right hon. Gentleman also refuses to acknowledge the serious impact of climate change, which nobody has so far mentioned. The impact of aviation on climate change is quite clear. It contributes about 6 per cent. of the UK’s carbon emissions, compared with 24 per cent. from road traffic, but since 1990 the proportion of carbon emissions from aviation has more than doubled. Emissions from air travel are due to rise by 83 per cent. from 2002 levels by 2020, and could amount to a quarter of the UK’s total contribution to climate change by 2038. How does that significant increase in carbon emissions from aviation square with the Government’s stated policy of securing a 60 per cent. cut in carbon emissions by 2050? Why is aviation exempt from that target?

Justine Greening: I am slightly perplexed, because the Liberal Democrat motion mentions ruling out any further expansion in the south-east. It therefore seems to suggest that a plane taking off from Manchester somehow emits less CO2 than one taking off from Gatwick. Is that what the hon. Gentleman is saying, or is it another mistake in the motion?

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Norman Baker: The reality is that the motion does not mention flights from Senegal, but that does not mean that we are not interested in flights from Senegal. That was a ridiculous intervention by the hon. Lady.

I shall move on to other aspects of the environmental impact of the proposed third runway.

Mr. Wilshire: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Norman Baker: I will not, because I have given way on eight or nine occasions and I am six minutes into the debate.

Let us consider the other impacts of the third runway, apart from the impact on climate change. The Government admit that air pollution at Heathrow will exceed the EU legal limits if a third runway is built. They have had to get BAA to try to massage the figures to find a way of getting round that problem.

There are particular issues in relation to road transport. The Department for Transport estimated in a parliamentary answer I received the other day that a third runway at Heathrow would create an extra 1.2 million journeys on the underground, 2.3 million journeys on heavy rail and 10.2 million journeys by car and taxi. The assumptions made in the “Adding capacity at Heathrow” document—a loaded title if ever I heard one—are simply not credible. It estimates that the public transport annual mode share will increase from 36.2 per cent. in 2004 to 41.7 per cent. in 2030, more than doubling the number of passengers. Where will that capacity on public transport come from? There are no plans to provide it in the Government’s expansion plans.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly): What about Crossrail?

Norman Baker: Crossrail is very welcome, but it will not provide sufficient capacity to enable more than double the current number of passengers to be transported to Heathrow airport. That increase is in addition to the anticipated growth in demand for London underground services, which is estimated to be 50 per cent. by 2020.

The consultation document also states that a third runway would require the provision of rail services to manage 1,600 passengers an hour—two thirds of the current capacity available on the Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect services. Those calculations are based on actual passenger numbers and do not include a consideration of the additional journeys to be made by people accompanying friends and family to the airport. It is perfectly plain that the Government are making no plans to take properly into account the extra journeys that will be made to the airport, whether by road, underground or heavy rail. There are no plans for investment to meet the predictions of the journeys that will be generated.

Mr. Wilshire: The hon. Gentleman has got some facts wrong, and clearly some of his research has not gone very far, either. Has he not come across the proposal to build a brand new railway, AirTrack, through my constituency, which will go a long way towards solving the problems he is talking about?

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Norman Baker: I maintain my point that the more than doubling of the number of people expected to travel by public transport cannot be accommodated by one project.

Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Government have not committed the funding that would enable AirTrack to be built in such a way that it did not completely close off most suburban commuter services through south-west London, including by bringing down level crossings for 45 minutes of every hour at peak time?

Norman Baker: That point is very relevant, and of course the Conservative party has not committed itself to that project, even if it did have the beneficial effects to which the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) referred.

There is also a problem with air pollution. The 2003 aviation White Paper stated that air quality levels must remain consistently within EU limits coming into effect in 2010. Of course, that would represent an improvement in air quality in residential areas compared with what obtains today.

How is it possible for that target to be met, if the Government are anticipating yet another expansion of Heathrow? It seems to me incredible that the Government can imagine that more flights, runways and terminals will lead to less pollution, lower emissions and fewer environmental problems. However, that almost seems to be what the Government’s consultation document claims.

Another problem is the impact on the local area. If plans for a third runway were to go ahead, BAA has estimated that at least 700 homes in the area would have to be demolished, affecting some 1,600 people. In addition, the village of Sipson would disappear off the map by 2020, and many ancient buildings would be destroyed. Residents at Harlington and Harmondsworth would be evicted, and thousands more would be seriously hit by the increase in noise and air pollution. Other villages such as Cranford and Longford would also be affected.

Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe) (Lab): I have some sympathy with some of the hon. Gentleman’s points about the aviation industry, but is he aware that the union Unite has said that a cap on the number of flights such as the one proposed in the motion would cause as many as 20,000 jobs to be lost in the local area?

Norman Baker: No, I do not accept that.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): I should like to say something about Unite, of which I am a member. Employers always find the unions that they need when it suits them, and unions always foolishly swallow it. It was always claimed that there would be social and political armageddon in south-west London when duty-free finished, but that was nonsense. By the same token, it is utter rubbish to suggest that there will be employment implications if the Heathrow expansion does not go ahead. Moreover, accepting that proposition on employment for terminal 5 means accepting it for terminals 6, 7, 8 and so on forever. I love the Unite union very much, but that suggestion is complete rubbish.

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