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select alternate input data for the environmental predictions until they got the right results.
They did it by removing international flight arrivals from the calculation and by other spurious and misleading devices. As a result, I wrote later in the same month to Stavros Dimas, the EU Commissioner for Environment, asking him to make his own investigation to decide whether he thought the third runway was compatible with EU air quality and noise standards. I received an answer in July, which stated in the third paragraph:
Technical reports underpinning the Heathrow expansion suggest that nitrogen limit values near Heathrow will be significantly exceeded in 2010, the year in which those limit values become mandatory, and that this will be the case even after 2015.
Even if the derogation occurs, 1 January 2015 is the final date by which the mandatory targets become operable. In my view, that settles the argument. There is absolutely no way, when NOx levels are already significantly above the required limit, that adding nearly 250,000 additional flight movements can somehow reduce them. This project is not supported by the Governments own Environment Agency; it does not command a consensus, as we have seen so clearly today; and if the Government recklessly press ahead, the EU is bound to block it. Now is the time for the Government to have another very close look at the issue.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): What is wrong with Britain when we can never take any big decisions in a sensible manner? I happen to think that airport expansion is notfor reasons associated with climate changethe way forward. If it really is necessary to have more airport facilities, it would be sensible to do what every sensible nation has done, which is to put them somewhere where aircraft do not have to fly over large numbers of people. That seems perfectly obvious to me. Why we cannot take such infrastructure decisions defeats me.
It is depressing in the extreme to see a former Minister laugh at the idea of doing something about high-speed rail, when he used to be in charge of the railways at a time when nobody was working for the railways, and
then suggest that it is somehow inappropriate to demand what every other nation in Europe has done about similar problems.
We then heard the Secretary of State suggest that it was somehow disgraceful for Members to be against Heathrow expansion on the grounds that their constituents were affected. He sought to distinguish me from my colleagues on the basis that I had a high-minded view whereas they had a low-minded view, which seemed to me to be intolerable. It is not taking a low-minded view to say that peoples constituents deserve a better quality of life than the one they will get if we go ahead with a third runway at Heathrow. I will not be distinguished from my colleagues in that way simply because I do not have a constituency interest in the matter. I have a very big interest in it, which is the interest of my children and my grandchildrenand unless we bite the bullet and face the fact of what climate change really means, we might as well give up the Climate Change Bill and all the rest of it.
I read carefully what the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said:
Only if Britain plays its part will a global deal in Copenhagen to cut emissions be possible, so far from retreating from our objectives, we should reaffirm our resolve.[ Official Report, 16 October 2008; Vol. 480, c. 935.]
What does he then do? He goes to Copenhagen and says, What I want you to do is to follow the British route. We are going to build a new coal-fired power station in Kingsnorth without any kind of carbon capture or sequestration. We are going to expand the airport at Stansted. We have already increased the number of airplanes there. What is more, to show our commitment to the battle against climate change, we are going to have a third runway at Heathrow. What kind of leadership is Britain going to be able to provide in Copenhagen if the Government fail to understand that joined-up thinking is a necessary part of fighting climate change?
The truth of the matter is that we have a real opportunity to set the world on the right course. It is no good wittering on about the fact that this or that country has not done it, so until they do, we are not going to do it. We did not win the battle of the industrial revolution by saying, We are not going forward with industrialisation until they have.
In the new green revolution, we have to take these decisions for the economic future of our country. I remind the Secretary of State that the quality of life report was written by someone who did not have a constituency reason for writing it and he did so at the point at which the Conservative party took the ideas on boardnot for short-term, local constituency reasons, but for the longer-term reason that we cannot cut our emissions by 80 per cent. by 2050 and build a third runway at Heathrow at the same time. We simply cannot do that.
The Secretary of States problem is simple. He must recognise that there comes a moment in the life of any politicianit is a very frightening momentwhen he has to think about how he is going to tell his grandchildren about the decision he made. This right hon. Gentleman is truly a right hon. Gentleman; if he does not have grandchildren, there are many surrogates to help him. He is a right hon. Gentleman and he knows very well that it is not honourable to do in the short term what he knows will destroy the policy of this and any other
future Government of this country in the long term. The building of a third runway at Heathrow will make any possibility of Britain leading the world on climate change absolutely impossible. To suggest that we would replace present capacity by means of a sensibly placed airport somewhere in the estuary is reasonable, but a replacement is what it must be.
People speak with forked tongue, if that is not a unparliamentary phrase, when they sayas my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) saidthat we are not talking about expansion while asking, as he did, for more airport capacity to allow flights to Bangalore, Osaka and other such cities. It cannot be said that this is merely a matter of tidying up the airport; the intention is to expand the airport, to allow more flights, to increase emissions, and to make it more difficult for people to live nearby. That is the purpose of this proposal.
What is more, as the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) pointed out, the same arguments will emerge next time. I have been in the House for a long time, and I have heard them all before. I have heard it said that we must have a fourth terminal, we must have a fifth terminal and we must have more capacity, because otherwise Heathrow will collapse, the British economy will collapse, and the world will collapse. That is not true, and the figures have to be fiddled to make that argument appear true. I realise that every time I look at the figures, and I hope that the Secretary of State will be honourable enough to look at them again.
First, a calculation must be made on the basis that the airport is a place where people come in and go out. To make the figures work it is necessary to include both the number coming in and the number going out, but that is not what is actually happening: only one movement is involved. It is possible to halve the percentages, which is supposed to be so important, merely by getting the figures right. Then there is the comparison with rail travel. It is 13 times as sensible to travel to Paris by rail as it is to fly there, but the only way to contradict that statistic is to pretend that no one is on the train and everyone is on the aeroplane. If a full aeroplane of the most efficient kind is compared with a train containing one person in each carriage, it can indeed be proved that the aeroplane is more efficient. That is not a true representation of what is happening, but it is what must be done. The Government stand accused of being prepared to use any figures that are around to prove a case on which they have already decided.
That leads me to the subject of the consultation, and, indeed, to the speech of the Secretary of State. Let me say frankly to him that it is not acceptable to turn to the House and argue that because the Government have met the requirements of 2003even if they have notthe case has somehow been proved. The case that the Secretary of State must answer is this: how does he explain the expansion of Heathrow in terms of the commitments on climate change that are being considered at this moment in both Houses of Parliament? How does he explain the expansion of Heathrow in terms of what will be the 2009 Copenhagen statement? What will the Secretary of State tell the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change that he should say when he goes to Copenhagen? I have written one or two speeches in my time, but I would not like to try to write that speech. What is more, I do not think that he would accept it.
Mr. Hoon: The right hon. Gentleman is a good European. He argues strongly for a European solution to climate change as well as for international agreement, and that is the way in which we will solve the problem that he has set out We will solve it by adopting a consistent approach to aviation and shipping across Europe and internationally.
Mr. Gummer: I am a good European, and I am proud that the answer to these questions is a European answer, but we must take the lead. After you, Claude is no policy for a serious Government. I resent the Secretary of States suggestion that, because I am a passionate European, I am right, in a curious way, to believe that Europe will decide this. What will happen is that countries in Europe will take the lead, and we cannot take the leadin the way that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change suggested we ought toif the step that we take is a backward one. We cannot expect Europe to take a common view if we pre-empt that at the outset by expanding Heathrow airport in this way. It is because I am a committed European that I believe that my role in Europe is to lead and not just to follow.
Mark Hunter: I have agreed with virtually every word that the right hon. Gentleman has said so far. He speaks eloquently on behalf of his constituents. I endorse all that he has said about the third runway extension at Heathrow, but what does he think of the proposal for a new London airport in the Thames estuary?
Mr. Gummer: I believe that if it were possible to build a better airport in the Thames estuary to replace the current airport facilities, the proposition would be perfectly reasonable. What is not reasonable, however, is to build a new airport in the Thames estuary to expand the airport facilities that we already have. There are two different arguments, and I am clearly on one side of both of them.
I cannot understand why we do not take seriously the opportunities presented to us. Between a fifth and a quarter of flights out of London airports go to places that are already well served by the train and that get there within the same time scale. Why can we not remove those flights and, if necessary, use their slots for long-haul flights? Why is it still more expensive to land a long-haul flight than a short-haul flight? Why do we not take the issue of railway development seriously, and why have the Government no policy for high-speed rail? Why do we not allow the hypothecation of revenuethat very important issueso that the present subsidy for aviation can be transferred to the railways? Why do we not have a joined-up transport policy?
I believe that this Secretary of State is capable of changing the face of British transport, but to do that he must stop the Department for Transport doing its usual thingproceeding with road building until someone says no, and proceeding with airport building until someone says no. He is the man who must say no. In doing so, he will gain the support and, indeed, the admiration of Members on both sides of the House, because he will have stood up for what is right.
Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab):
It is a genuine privilege to follow the passionate contribution of the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer),
although he made many of the points that I had intended to make about the credibility, or potential lack of credibility, of the United Kingdoms position at Copenhagen. I strongly endorse what he said about political leadership, andI say this in as comradely a spirit as possibleI regret the tone of the Secretary of States opening speech.
This has been an emotional debate, and I think it right and proper for Members to stand up for their constituents interests in the House, because we are first and foremost constituency Members of Parliament. I pay tribute to the strong contributions from my hon. Friends the Members for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) and for Feltham and Heston (Alan Keen) and, in particular, from the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall). Their constituencies stand to be devastated by the consequences of proceeding with the third Heathrow runway.
I, too, have an emotional attachment to Heathrow. As I said in an intervention earlier, I was born in Bedfont, and many members of my family worked at Heathrow airport. For a number of years I was a cargo handler and union steward at Heathrow, and I know the area well. I know how important the airport is to the local economy; I know how an airport can drive a local economy, and how vital it can be to jobs. I know how much support Labour Members have from many of our colleagues who represent constituents containing regional airports that would have the potential to expand if Heathrow were not seen as the be-all and end-all of British aviation policy.
I also speak as a signatory to early-day motion 2344, and, until I am told otherwise, as vice-chair of the Labour party group on the environment.
Let me deal with the point about political leadership. I think I know where the majority of members of my party stand on this issue. I think I know how proud we all arewith the exception of a few right-wing nutcases on the Opposition Benchesof the letters that we are receiving from members of the public, from members of the World Wildlife Fund and Friends of the Earth, congratulating us on voting through the worlds first climate change Bill. We take the advantages, and we take the praise and the plaudits, but we must not abuse that by negating much of the good work that we have done in this Chamber over previous months.
The arguments in favour of a third runway are fundamentally flawed on three counts: the environment, surface access, and the organisation of Heathrow itself. There were clear commitments in the aviation White Paper on surface access and the environmental consequences. I want to read into the record the following passage:
To tackle local impacts around airports, the White Paper prescribes a range of measures to be applied nationally and locally. These include new legislation and economic instruments as well as improved technology and stringent planning conditions attached to airport development. The Governments under-pinning objectives are to limit and, where possible, reduce noise impacts over time, to ensure air quality and other environmental standards are met, and to minimise other local environmental impacts.
On surface access, the White Paper stated:
Increasing the proportion of passengers who get to airports by public transport can help reduce road congestion and air pollution. We expect airport operators to share this objective, and to demonstrate how they will achieve it in putting forward their proposals for developing new capacity.
Let us consider surface access. I represent a constituency that is some 25 miles from Heathrow airport. I was a member of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in the late 1990s, and Committee members regularly caught the 9.05 flight to Belfast. To arrive at Heathrow on time, I would leave my house for what was a 25-minute journey at just before six oclock in the morning, because that was the only way to beat the gridlock on the M4. Why did I not take public transport? There is a public transport link, I suppose, if I want to travel 60 miles by journeying 40 miles into London and then 20 miles back out again.
The former Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, South (Mr. Harris), talked about Crossrail and the opportunities it provides, but the big flaw with Crossrail is that there is no western rail access into Heathrow. I work closely with the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) and with the Thames Valley Economic Partnership. It represents the six major corporates in the Thames valley, which is the hub of the dynamic sub-regional economy; 23,500 jobs depend on those six corporates alone, and last year they spent upwards of £12 million on taxi fares running clients backwards and forwards from Heathrow because there is no sensible public transport surface access from the Thames valley. That is complete nonsense.
The White Paper gave the commitment that surface access must improve as a precondition of expanding the airport, but years later there is precious little evidence that we will see anything tangible. Before anyone cites Airtrack in reply, let me say that Airtrack is a slow route, and that it will not deliver what business needs by providing fast, efficient transport into London Heathrow from the west.
John McDonnell: Is my hon. Friend aware that the consultation document gives the figure for additional surface traffic movements as 25 million a year, and that we now believe that that is a severe underestimate of the actual number of additional movements that will be required if there is a third runway?
Martin Salter: I was not aware of the precise figures, but it would be fair to say that millions and millions of pounds are lost to business and the UK economy every day of the year because of gridlock in and around London Heathrow airport. One can only imagine how much worse the situation will get if we increase capacity by up to 50 per cent.
The Secretary of State said we are not hitting European air quality targets now because of traffic and exhaust emissions. That will not wash. If we know that there will be a massive increase in exhaust emissions because of increasing capacity at Heathrow, how much further away will we be from delivering on our 2003 promise to comply with internationally agreed air quality targets? That is why the Government are already looking at a derogation from the 2015 directive.
There are wider issues as well. There was talk of noise. I do not want to get into detailed discussion of the topic, but I remember as a youngster seeing people run screaming into their house when prop-engine planes such as Comets and Viscounts came so low over the roofs that eventually people could not take it any morethey had had enough. Living under a flight path is
stressful. I am sure that is why I have a loud voice. Irrespective of property prices, we must think about quality of life.
My hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Alan Keen) talked about the contribution airport workers have made to the success of Heathrow airport, and that is true, but this is not about just getting a nights sleep. There are probably more workers working shift patterns around Heathrow airport than anywhere else. Any increase in numbers of flights and noise at any time of the day will disadvantage communities and family life and ruin the quality of life for many people.
I have looked at the figures for flights in and out of London Heathrow. The last set I saw showed that about 475,000 flights use Heathrow each year, but some 100,000 are to destinations to which there are alternative means of travel, and about 100,000 are some of the short-haul hops that I suggest are not vital to sustain Heathrow airport as the nub of the sub-regional economy. Therefore, the argument that we need a better, rather than a bigger, Heathrow gains credence from these figures.
Mark Hunter: I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentlemans speech, and I have yet to disagree with a single word. Given the compelling argument he and many other Members have made today, why does he think the Government have set their face so firmly in favour of the third runway at Heathrow? Might they have listened too much to BAA and not enough to the public at large, or does he have another theory?
Martin Salter: I would like to apologise to the House for giving way to that intervention. The Government have clearly made no decision. I am a loyal member of the parliamentary Labour party, and I hold in my hand its briefing. It clearly saysit is the job of Back-Bench MPs to read this into the recordthat:
No decisions on Heathrow have yet been taken,
so Members can proceed with this debate with a degree of confidence. It also says:
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