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Ann Clwyd: I hope that that is true. I have heard similar stories over the past 25 years, when I have been frequently travelling by air, yet in all those years of
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representing my area I have not been able to fly from Cardiff regional airport to any place where I want to go. Some 2.5 million journeys use other airports, with increased journey times, mainly by road, to and from non-Welsh airports, and 800,000 Welsh passengers use Heathrow. One can imagine the movement up and down the M4; in fact, I know it, because I take part in it most weeks. That route is becoming increasingly congested.

About 10 per cent. of the south Wales traffic going to Heathrow is to destinations already served by Cardiff airport, but people go to Heathrow because the service is more frequent. A further 40 per cent. of the south Wales traffic lost to Heathrow goes to European destinations that Cardiff could and should serve. Half the market that Heathrow gets from south Wales is not long haul. All those passengers access flights via road because there is no direct Cardiff-Heathrow flight. The additional surface journeys also add to the CO2 signature of those journeys compared with using the local airport in Cardiff. Unfortunately, airlines have little incentive to serve the south Wales market directly via Cardiff while they can concentrate demand via Heathrow. High-speed rail alternatives do not exist for the south Wales market to any destinations that the airport serves or would wish to serve. That is another deficiency.

In March 2006, Cardiff airport published a master plan setting out the case for the airport and the economic benefits that it generates for the surrounding community. The airport’s location permits the scale of development required to optimise its potential to be undertaken with very low environmental impact and with the opportunity to protect against future noise impact on people. That creates a competitive advantage for Wales relative to many other regions.

It is recognised that aviation could make a significant contribution to the Welsh economy and social welfare. As we have heard so often today, air services play an important role in attracting inward investment and in stimulating and supporting the growth of local businesses in an increasingly global marketplace. They are also a means by which people can enjoy the benefits of leisure travel and by which Wales can, and should, attract more direct tourism.

CBI Wales has said that it is

It also points out the necessity of air freight facilities for many hi-tech manufacturing companies and says that such companies would not locate in south Wales unless airport access and capacity were improved. Wales TUC said in response to the Department for Transport’s consultation on air transport in Wales that it saw the

The Government’s own forecasts acknowledge that an unconstrained Heathrow would adversely affect regional airports, including Cardiff. Heathrow takes significant numbers of short-haul European passengers from south Wales. As I understand it, the third runway would be aimed at maintaining the frequency of flights in the short-haul markets that might otherwise be capped or constrained at Heathrow. Constraint in the short-haul markets at Heathrow would encourage greater use to be made of regional airports such as Cardiff, thereby also reducing emissions arising from journeys by road.

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I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for sitting in the Chamber all afternoon—it is much appreciated. He will have heard the arguments from all parts of the House. However, let me say finally that Cardiff airport is ready and able to take up the opportunity that a constrained Heathrow airport would present, and it enjoys widespread support for growth. I am sorry to say that the Government’s support for the third runway flies in the face of the commitment that they made in their own White Paper:

I rest my case.

7.8 pm

Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): I have obviously timed this terribly badly, because the Secretary of State has just chosen this moment to leave.

The Secretary of State said something that many of my constituents will regard as the bare-faced truth but that was quite shocking to hear—that not only his Government but previous Governments have clearly given the steer that Heathrow is to expand in future. My constituents have been told very directly, first in the battle over terminal 4 and then over terminal 5, that each expansion was going to be the last. I remember being taken aside by Sir John Egan, who tried to explain that the then Member for Richmond Park, now Baroness Tonge, did not understand aviation economics when she said that terminal 5 would be followed by the third runway.

I suppose that to hear it said so openly is refreshing in some ways, but in many ways it is a shock. It explains much of the cynicism and concern that my constituents feel about BAA and the Government when it comes to anything to do with Heathrow.

Someone else no longer in his place, the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), talked about the third runway and the expansion of Heathrow as if that were going to lead to a new dawn. There may be a little breathing space when there is some capacity and a pleasant atmosphere but, given the way that BAA runs that airport, it will be filled to the brim even if it has to offer £4 seats. That is how the aviation industry works: if it is given some additional infrastructure and capacity, it will do to fares whatever is necessary to fill it. In only a matter of years, we would return to exactly the same chaos we have now.

Mr. Gummer: Does the hon. Lady agree that the reason for that is the financial mechanism according to which aviation companies are run? If they can keep aeroplanes in the sky, because the costs go on in any case, they can make money even if they carry just five passengers to Manchester. That is inevitable given the way the leasing of aircraft operates.

Susan Kramer: The right hon. Gentleman is exactly right. Even a whole debate would not encompass some of the complexities and biases, including the subsidies mentioned earlier, involved in aviation economics.

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Much has been said that I do not want to repeat, but with which I would like to associate myself. Concerns have been raised about the devastating impact of the third runway on Sipson in particular, but on the entire surrounding community. Concerns have also been raised about climate change and the fact that moves to expand Heathrow fly in the face of any attempt to tackle what is probably the most serious problem of our day. I want to associate myself, too, with all the plans for modal shift and high-speed rail, which I have spoken about in this House before. Those issues have been expressed clearly.

However, because of the circumstances of my constituency, I would like to focus not on the third runway but on the plans to end runway alternation. The Government plan to approve the third runway, but there are so many impracticalities and economic issues—not just the recession, but BAA’s financial condition—and environmental resistance to the runway is growing so strongly, that I believe those plans will be set aside. The Government will then pursue an end to runway alternation, which will mean utter devastation for my local residents.

The consultation documents propose that with a full mixed-mode process—the opposite of runway alternation—an additional 60,000 aircraft movements a year become possible, which is a 12 per cent. increase. Those are not movements as we know them because the airport is currently able to pursue a policy known as continuous descent approach. In other words, aircraft stay as high in the air as possible and come down as steeply as possible, minimising the noise impact on the ground. That will disappear with a move to mixed mode, and the consultation documents are clear on that. At present, about 85 per cent. of planes use a continuous descent approach; that figure would fall to between 35 and 40 per cent. if we moved to mixed mode, which would mean the noise was much louder. The noise would be overhead all day.

The hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Alan Keen) commented that the impact on daily life would be phenomenal. That was very well said. When we look at the consultation documents, we see that the shoulders of the day would be most impacted by the move to mixed mode. One of those shoulders is the period from 6 am to 7 am. Let us imagine that being the worst hour of the day for noise in my constituency. There would be a plane overhead every 90 seconds between 6 am and 7 am. The second worst time of the day would be between 11 pm and 11.30 pm. Those would be the two most noise-impacted periods if we adopted the mixed mode. The impact would be devastating.

There would not just be an impact on my constituents, although that is bad enough. Already, little boys stop me and say that they cannot hear their television programmes because of planes overhead. We all know that people cannot talk in their gardens, and that families who want a wedding in a church garden have to pick an afternoon when the planes will not be overhead; otherwise, the whole ceremony will be destroyed. I went to the opening of a school by Sir David Attenborough. The opening of the wildlife garden was timed slightly wrong, and he had to stop his speech every 30 seconds to allow for the planes to go past. The impact is huge. However, my area is economically important, and if people will not live there because their lives are about to be destroyed, the potential of London’s economy will be undermined.

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Mr. Marshall-Andrews: I simply offer the hon. Lady another example. As I think she knows, many schools in her constituency plan their curriculum around runway alternation every week.

Susan Kramer: The hon. and learned Gentleman is exactly right. He will know that the consultation document says that if we go to mixed mode, 20,000 schools—a phenomenal number that I will need to double check, but the Minister will undoubtedly do so—will be impacted by the greater noise to the extent that they will require compensation and insulation. The impact would be huge and devastating.

I am afraid that there is a divide-and-conquer strategy behind the policy. The Minister could come to my constituents and say, “Look, if we have a third runway, you can get rid of runway alternation.” That strategy would be an attempt to divide and conquer. We have hung together because of the issues of climate change, quality of life and London. My constituents are determined, and they would not appreciate the subterfuge that I think will be presented to us.

I shall move on because I am trying to get through my speech quickly. I will make a couple of comments on the business issues that were raised, because business is my background. When I first saw the consultation document and asked for the addendums with the technical details, I thought I would see a proper analysis of business in London and what it needed in the way of transport and aviation services. It was not there. We have a generalised analysis that says, “If fares go down, leisure traffic goes up, and we assume that fares will go down, therefore leisure traffic will go up.” That is part of the mispricing process we talked about.

The analysis said that business travel was not much attached to anything—except perhaps slightly to GDP. Essentially, it said that we do not really know why business travellers travel. From talking to businesses, I find that nearly everyone is determined to reduce their carbon footprint, and they are all looking at alternatives to travel. When I ask them the simple question, “Do you want a bigger Heathrow?”, they say, “Yes, and more destinations would be nice,” , but when I ask them what they specifically want, I find that they want to get to certain major destinations across the globe with reasonable frequency, and nothing more. Heathrow provides for that, which is exactly the point I have been making. That is why the number of destinations have come down. This is not a macho situation where people say, “I move to the place with the most destinations”. Businesses want a service that works for them, which is all that they need. They need a reasonable number of services to the main destinations around the globe. They already have that, and growth is not required.

My final point relates to my constituency. Mention was made of Airtrack, and I attempted to intervene on the Secretary of State on that issue. Airtrack is a wonderful notion, and it is tied into Heathrow, not just with regard to PR matters but as a way of showing people that air quality will be managed by new public transport.

BAA Airtrack sounds wonderful. People can get on a train at Heathrow, go through Staines, Twickenham and Richmond and end up at Waterloo. Who could complain about that? But in developing this proposal, BAA and the Government forgot my constituency. I only heard that this project was to be made real some
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days ago, through an accidental comment made by a reporter. I have met BAA since, and it understands my concerns. It is finally going to hold an exhibition on this project in my constituency as part of their consultation.

About a third of Richmond Park is bounded to the north and east by the river and to the south by a railway line. There are four level crossings on that railway line and, according to Network Rail, those level crossings will be down for 45 minutes out of the hour at peak time because of the Airtrack project. About a third of my constituency will become, in effect, landlocked. People will not be able to get out to work, school or the shops. We will not be able to get police, ambulances or fire services in—we are landlocked. The consequences will spill on to the major arteries—the A316, the A205 and the south circular—making them impossible. Nobody considered the matter—it did not even occur to anybody. No one picked up the phone to Richmond council when developing the proposal. It is phenomenally daft. It happened because, when they hear the word “Heathrow”, BAA and the Government think about the airport and the passengers and forget the surrounding communities.

I ask the Minister to help me. I have attempted to arrange a meeting with the new Minister responsible for rail. BAA had the courtesy to send its chief executive to participate in the conversation, and I hope I can get that commitment from the Minister in his winding-up speech.

We have demonstrated the lack of concern for people who live near the airport. The airport is where it is because neighbouring residents are willing to allow it to be there. However, if we try everyone’s patience too far, we will begin to threaten Heathrow’s continued existence. That would be devastating.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. There will now be a 10-minute limit on Back Benchers’ speeches. I hope that most, if not all, hon. Members can contribute to the debate.

7.21 pm

Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab): Most hon. Members referred to the extent to which Heathrow is creaking at the seams. That reflects not neglect or negligence through the failure of Governments in the past 30 or 40 years to expand facilities, but the fact that expansion at Heathrow is inherently problematic. Every proposal for expansion has encountered strong opposition, and the public inquiries that examined the proposals for terminal 5 and, before that, terminal 4 highlighted the conflict between economic, environmental and quality of life arguments. I shall return to that shortly.

First, I want to reflect on the conclusions of the mammoth inquiry, over which Roy Vandermeer QC presided. He reported on terminal 5 after a five-year inquiry. At the end of an eight-year process, the Secretary of State agreed Vandermeer’s proposals for terminal 5, with a clear understanding that there would be a cap of 480,000 flights a year because of the need to protect the environment and people’s quality of life. It is worth quoting Roy Vandermeer’s report. He said:

He emphasised restoring public confidence partly because his predecessor Ian Glidewell, who presided over the terminal 4 inquiry, also suggested that if terminal 4 went ahead, it should be accompanied by restrictions. However, no restrictions were imposed in that case. That was in the lifetime of a Conservative Government, so no one should make party political points—Governments of all persuasions probably have something to answer for. However, no restriction was imposed and people felt angry. Roy Vandermeer reflected in his report the anger at the fact that the assurances that had been given could not be believed.

Those of us with long memories have a sense of déj vu. Once again, we are presented with economic arguments for further expansion at Heathrow, which would make a mockery of the conditions that Roy Vandermeer set down and that the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Tyneside (Mr. Byers), accepted in 2001, and which would expose those living on the flight path to even worse noise and more prolonged noise disturbance than they experience today.

The proposal for a third runway and mixed-mode operation would increase capacity at Heathrow to up to 720,000 flights a year, compared with the 480,000 that Vandermeer felt was the maximum that could be accommodated. As we have heard, it would involve the demolition of 700 homes at Sipson and the destruction of the community there, as well as having an adverse impact on other surrounding communities. It would intensify noise nuisance for millions of people.

John McDonnell: I was at the inquiries for the fourth and fifth terminals. My right hon. Friend will remember the RUCATSE study in the early 1990s, which informed some of the inquiry discussions. It stated that the expansion would render 4,000 homes unliveable, and therefore potentially affect up to 10,000 people.

Mr. Raynsford: My hon. Friend, who made a forceful speech, rightly highlights the huge adverse impact that the proposal would have on large numbers of people in his constituency.

As the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer) rightly said, ending runway alternation would have serious consequences, not least because of the prolonged period during which people would be exposed to noise without the benefits of the alternation system that currently operates, and because of the ending of the continuous descent approach, about which she made a specific point. That is important to me, in a constituency many miles from Heathrow, where the continuous descent approach means that aircraft are at a relatively high altitude when they fly over Greenwich. Ending CDA would compromise that, and, with several flights coming in very much lower, the noise problem, which is already significant in Greenwich, even at our distance from Heathrow, would become much worse.

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