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Members will appreciate that analysis of the responses is not a quick process. Officials will use the report of the consultation to prepare advice for ministerial decisions on the consultation issues. I remind colleagues that the final decisions will draw on all the available evidence, so that the right decisions are reached. Hon. Members will appreciate that until that analysis has been completed it would be premature for me to comment on the outcome
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and the nature of any decisions. What I can say is that we are keen to reach decisions as soon as possible—we hope that that will be later this year—so as to end the period of uncertainty. Following that, if policy support is confirmed for some or all of the proposals, it would be for the airport operator to undertake the further detailed work necessary to prepare for the planning process.

I turn to the local impacts of Heathrow. I have made it clear that we recognise that Heathrow expansion will have very real impacts on those living around the airport and further afield. The hon. Gentleman specifically asked me to comment on Cherry lane cemetery, and I can tell him that BAA plc has confirmed that roads for a third runway would not go through the cemetery and residents will continue to have access. It is completely wrong to say that graves would be destroyed. Planning work carried out by BAA has been deliberately designed to avoid the cemetery. If a new runway goes ahead, BAA does not envisage any disruption to Cherry lane cemetery beyond the possibility of temporary road works on existing roads.

As I was saying in respect of the local issues, none of our ambitions at Heathrow can be realised unless we meet the strict local environmental conditions on noise, air quality and transport access set out in the 2003 White Paper. The “Adding capacity at Heathrow airport” consultation, which was launched last November and closed in February, met the commitment to consult on options for meeting those tests. We presented our evidence, and invited scrutiny and comment from all interested parties. It is our continued belief that the three core tests strike the right balance between the competing interests relating to expansion. This is absolutely not “expansion at all costs”.

The hon. Gentleman raised the question of the air quality directive and the Government’s seeking a derogation. The Government remain committed to meeting their obligations on air quality under the European Union directives. The national air quality strategy, which was published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2007, made it clear that the relevant limits for pollutants may not be achieved within the original 2010 time frame in some major urban areas in the UK and alongside busy roads. That would be the case with or without expansion at Heathrow. Subject to a full public consultation, the Government will therefore likely need to apply to the European Commission to take advantage of the flexibility provided under the new directive for extended compliance deadlines on nitrogen dioxide. This is not just an issue for the UK; other member states are also expected to apply for extended compliance deadlines, so we are talking about moving the deadlines somewhat and not about a complete derogation.

The hon. Gentleman also raised again the issue of alternative housing in the event of a third runway. In our Adjournment debate in December, I explained the statutory position, as well as BAA’s voluntary schemes to help guarantee the market value of freehold properties until such time as any planning permission has been announced and compulsory purchase procedures triggered. I understand that following recent exchanges on the Planning Bill—the hon. Gentleman mentioned those—my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government has written to my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) confirming that there
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are a number of organisations that provide assistance to communities affected by planning matters. Planning Aid, for example, has recently had its grant funding nearly doubled, from £1.7 million to £3.2 million in the current year, to help individuals and community groups engage in the planning process. Its activities would be expected to include providing advice to people whose property is subject to a compulsory purchase order.

I also spoke last time about the position as regards leaseholders and tenants, and those in social housing. I have to say there is no grand plan to relocate entire communities. Clearly, some people will wish to remain in the area, and I appreciate the pressures that already exist on the available housing supply. That is something that will need careful handling and management. We would expect BAA to play its part in helping to find an acceptable way forward, in particular, by working with the local authorities to address the issue of displaced social housing tenants.

Moving on for a moment from the local issues to the Government’s global environmental responsibilities, I wish to refute the suggestion made by some that our policy is incompatible with the Government’s commitments on climate change. We have a comprehensive approach for addressing the climate change impacts of aviation. This includes the use of economic instruments and measures to develop more efficient aircraft technologies, to make operations more effective and, crucially, to bring aviation within the European Union emissions trading scheme. By bringing aviation into the EU scheme, its emissions will be capped at 2004-06 levels. The aviation industry would then have to either mitigate within the sector or pay other sectors for any additional emissions it required.

These are all incredibly important issues, but in conclusion I remind the House that the consultation did not ask whether people supported a third runway because we
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had already announced in 2003 our support in principle for expansion, subject to local environmental conditions being met. This consultation has not re-opened the issue of a third runway from first principles. Rather it has presented the evidence on which the Government now believe, on the basis of extensive further work, that those conditions can be met, and asked for views from people and organisations.

Mr. Randall: Will the Minister also acknowledge that the consultation mentioned the third runway but did not mention a sixth terminal?

Jim Fitzpatrick: I acknowledge that that was the case. The documentation is public, and comments have been received from many thousands of people on all aspects of it. As I have said, some people have also made comments on issues that were not in the consultation document because they took the opportunity to express their views on Heathrow and Government policy on aviation. We will publish the responses in due course, as we do with every consultation.

Heathrow’s future is not an issue that we can put off any more. Delay—in every sense—has affected Heathrow for too long. We are committed to making the right decisions, based on clear evidence, sound scientific research and a full understanding of the costs and benefits, which reflect full consideration of the very large number of consultation responses that we have received, including of course from those most directly affected.

I know that my response will not satisfy the hon. Gentleman or many of his constituents, or my hon. Friends and their constituents, but I can assure them that we will announce any decisions as soon as possible and we fully expect the dialogue to continue until, and even after, those decisions are made.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at three minutes to Three o’clock.

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