|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The hon. Lady makes a fair point. Once I assumed this position, the consultation having been completed, I regretted that on legal advice I was unable to meet communities. I visited the area, and went carefully around the perimeter of Heathrow, visiting the various places affected [ Interruption. ] The hon. Lady should
listen, instead of getting exasperated. Now that the consultation has concluded and I have made the decision, I am in a position to meet those communities, and I would be delighted to do so.
Alan Keen (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op): I have campaigned across party political lines, under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell). We all understand his passion. I say to the Secretary of State that it was with massive relief I heard him announce that he would not press ahead with mixed mode. That will affect not only my constituency, but Brentford and Isleworth, Richmond Park, Twickenham, Putney
The decision will also affect Battersea and places further east. I am most grateful to the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister, who listened carefully to our arguments. Even though the Cranford agreement is going, which I am sad about, that will at least benefit the constituents in Maidenhead, Windsor and places like that. We have to give and take on such issues.
Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend; he has campaigned vigorously on behalf of constituents, and has done so successfully, if I may say so. I looked carefully at the results of the consultation, and it is clear, as I mentioned in my statement, that people value the alternation of the existing two runways. The ending of the Cranford agreement will allow a more even distribution of noise. It will reduce the noise impact on large numbers of people. I am extremely grateful for his efforts, and for drawing those matters to my attention.
Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): The constituents of Richmond Park will be standing shoulder to shoulder with the constituents of Hayes and Harlington and the people of Sipson in this continuing campaign to oppose the third runway, and I believe that we will succeed. The Secretary of State did not say what would happen to the 700 families in Sipson that will lose their homes and, as yet, have nowhere to go. The history of Heathrow has been one of continual broken promises: they are abandoned as soon as they become inconvenient. My constituents will be relieved to hear the words he has said on mixed mode, but how can they have confidence in what he has said, rather than consider it as a temporary measure to abate opposition while progress on the third runway goes ahead?
I have to make similar remarks to the hon. Lady as those I made to the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker). The history of Heathrow is inevitably a history of expansion. It is a history that reflects the demands of the people of the United Kingdom and, no doubt, the demands of the hon. Ladys constituents, to travel on business, for pleasure and to visit family and friends around the world. The expansion of our airports is a direct result of the expansion of that demand. If the population of the United Kingdom did not wish to travel, airlines would not be providing services and, in
turn, airports would not need to develop. I assume that she believes that only those who are sufficiently wealthy to afford ever higher air fares should be the ones who can take advantage of travel. That is not the position of the Government. We believe that we must respond to peoples increased demand for travel in all ways, which is why it is important to put the statement about transport infrastructure in the context of what we have to do to satisfy that demand for travel in the 21st century. Sadly, her partys policy is mired somewhere in the 19th century.
Ruth Kelly (Bolton, West) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on what is truly a courageous and far-sighted decision to give the go-ahead to a third runway at Heathrow, and to consider seriously the case for new high-speed rail. I welcome, too, the commitment in his statement to look at the economic regulation of airports. Is it not now the time to consider tough new service standards for passengers? For example, any new runway that is built could not ever run at 99 per cent. capacity, as the current runways do, so passengers will benefit not just from a bigger Heathrow, but from a better Heathrow.
Mr. Hoon: First, I thank my right hon. Friend for all her work as Secretary of State for Transport, which allowed this decision to take place. I must say that there have been times when I wish that she had taken the decision, but she nevertheless contributed greatly to the ability to have the decision taken. As she emphasises, the need for the decision results from the existing capacity at Heathrow. When the House debated the matter before Christmas, several Conservative Members referred to the importance of improving the airport, which no one can argue against. However, one of the practical problems faced by users of the airport, and their biggest complaint, is delay. Those delays are the direct result of operating an airport at 99 per cent. capacity. The slightest difficulty in the organisation of the airport leads to long delays, not only of hours but sometimes of days. The Conservative party needs to think about that.
Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton) (Con): Heathrow is a fixture and is important for the south-east economy as well as that of the rest of the country. Therefore, it needs to be efficient, and on that basis I welcome the Secretary of States decision. The issue is an emotional one, but my constituents will benefit, particularly if stackingone of the consequences of lack of capacity at Heathrowis reduced. Secondly, I welcome his efforts to constrain the environmental effects, because that will pull through new technologiesmodern aircraft such as the A380 have a much smaller noise footprint over a given area. But will he comment on the alternatives offered by rail? The problem is that rail transport per kilometre and per passenger gives off more CO2 than an equivalent use of aircraft. If energy is consumed on the basis of what we produce currently from gas and coal, the CO2 emitted is far greater. At least the French have nuclear energy, which reduces the impact of their rail travel.
I had the privilege of shadowing the hon. Gentleman when he was a Minister with responsibility for technology, and saw his rigorous approach to scientific and technological matters. I am delighted that he continues to take that approach in the same independent manner.
We should improve not only the operation of the airport but peoples access, which is one of the conditions that we set out in 2003. I have set out a number of proposals that will undoubtedly improve access. In answer to his question, however, it is often overlooked that running diesel engines at high speed is carbon-inefficient, whereas running electrified engines at high speed, particularly on the basis of the changes proposed to ensure that more renewable electricity energy is generated, will make a real difference to the carbon impact of our transport network.
Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): Although there is not nearly enough in the Transport Secretarys statement to drag me into the Lobby to vote in favour of a third Heathrow runway, it would be churlish not to acknowledge that the dropping of mixed mode lifts the immediate threat of intensifying aircraft noise across communities as far afield as Reading, Watford and High Wycombe. The longer term prospects, however, are grim. Surface access to Heathrow from the west is a joke, as his Department acknowledges. We need direct rail access to London Heathrow airport. Is he giving the go-ahead today for a third runway at Heathrow, or two and a half runways, as suggested by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change?
Mr. Hoon: I think I am grateful for my hon. Friends observations. Certainly, it is right not to pursue the short-term benefit that would otherwise flow from mixed mode. It is right to take account of the impact of that in the surrounding area, and that is why I reached my conclusion. I agree with him that it is necessary to improve surface access to the airport, and there are several proposals under way that will do that. In addition, I mentioned in my statement BAAs proposal in relation to Airtrack and direct surface links into terminal 5. My high-speed proposals will also significantly improve peoples ability to travel into the airport by public transportafter all, it is a major ambition to reduce the number of people who drive their cars to Heathrow, to reduce their carbon impact.
Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): Few people will take comfort from either part of the Secretary of States statement today. My constituents already suffer considerable noise pollution from Heathrow. The statement contains no real commitment to Airtrack, no money to extend Crossrail, no commitment to a third Thames bridge in my constituency and nothing to reduce pollution. Has not the Secretary of State merely proved the old adage that the emptiest vessel rattles the loudest?
Mr. Hoon: I will send the hon. Gentleman a briefing on Crossrail, as he has misunderstood. The funding for Crossrail is in place. [Interruption.] The only threat to Crossrailperhaps the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs. Villiers) is giving us the benefit of her point of view from a sedentary positionis from the prospect of a Conservative Government. The Conservative partys proposal contains an unfunded gap. If the Conservative party cuts transport infrastructure as it proposes to do, Crossrail might not have sufficient funding.
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab):
The country will not understand how we, in the mother of Parliaments, representing our constituents, cannot have a vote on such a crucial issue. Perhaps the Secretary of State will
be honest and explain to the House[Hon. Members: Oh!] I am sure that he is always honest; I mean that in the widest sense. Is he worried that if we had a vote, his decision on the Heathrow runway would not command the support of the House?
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend has been a Member of the House for far longer than I have. During that period, she has seen Ministers make a range of uncomfortable decisions in relation to planning and infrastructure, and such decisions have never been the subject of a specific vote. Clearly, the House must express its opinion on a wide range of issues, and as a former Leader of the House I would strongly support that. However, individual planning decisions have never been subject to a vote of the House of Commons. Recently, when the Planning Bill went through, it was not accepted by the House that specific planning projects should have specific votes. I hope she will accept that throughout her time in the House, it has never been the case that such votes took place.
Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): South-east London residents will be bitterly disappointed by the Secretary of States decision today, as they will inevitably suffer increased pollution and noise as a result of a third runway. Is the Secretary of State not concerned that our children and grandchildren will inevitably suffer because of his decision?
Mr. Hoon: I do not know exactly how many of the hon. Gentlemans constituents work at Heathrow airport, but some 100,000 jobs, directly and indirectly, depend on it. It is the largest source of employment in the south-east. Many of those people about whom he is concerned will thank the Government for the decision, as they will know that their jobs and livelihoods are being protected and preserved.
Mr. Andy Slaughter (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) (Lab): If my right hon. Friend understands that mixed mode would cause additional misery to those on current flight paths, why does he not understand that tens of thousands of peoplemany of them my constituentswho will be affected for the first time by a third runway will have their quality of life severely depleted? If he is wedded to airport expansion in the south-east, why does he not consider alternative sites, which would cause a fraction of the disruption?
Mr. Hoon: I assure my hon. Friend that we did consider alternative sites. If he has another look at the 2003 White Paper, he will see that some 400 alternative sites were considered. A shortlist was drawn up, and those sites were considered in still more detail. Necessarily, my hon. Friend makes representations on behalf of his constituents; I understand that. I hope, however, that he and they will look at the improvements in technology since 1975the significant reductions in noise and in the impact on air quality. That will continue; the process will not suddenly draw to a halt. Significant improvements, such as aircraft engines causing less noise, less pollution and less harm to his constituents, will continue.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con):
The Secretary of State has said that he expects the new runway to be operational early in the period between
2015 and 2020. Can he assure us that if that does not prove feasible, he will reconsider the issue of mixed mode? Many people who use Heathrow are very worried about the possibility of the airports becoming redundant.
Mr. Hoon: At the heart of my decision is a recognition that it is important to provide Heathrow with greater capacity. To that extent, I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. We have set out a way forward in terms of providing extra capacity for the airport, subject to strict environmental conditions, but I do not foresee any difficulty resulting from the decision that we have just made.
Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): Residents of south-east London will welcome the decision not to proceed with mixed mode, but they and everyone else will also be concerned about the impact of my right hon. Friends proposals on climate change. Can he clarify the role that the Climate Change Committee will play in overseeing the environmental measures that he has announced? Will it merely comment on those measures, or will it have to assess the likelihood of their success in achieving the goals that he has set out before any approvals are given? If my right hon. Friend cannot clarify that, people will lose confidence in the committee, and in all that he has announced today about the environment and the third runway.
It is clearly important that, in presenting arguments for expansion as I have done today, we recognise the significant climate change implications not just for aviation but for all transport. That is why I have set out a clear path forward that will allow the Climate Change Committee to present its proposals for how the Government should meet their 2050 obligations. There will be a detailed programme of work, involving the committee, to ensure that the Government are on track to meet not just their general target, but specific aviation and transport targets.
Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Having been embarrassed into doing so by local pressure, the Government have announced proposals to widen the heavily congested A14 around Kettering. Will my constituents have a chance to examine the details of the plan?
Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West and Royton) (Lab):
If NOx exceedances are already well above permitted European Union levels, how can they conceivably be brought below those mandatory ceilings if there is a 50 per cent. or even a 25 per cent. increase in flight movements? Have the Government sought from BAA precise details of the mechanisms that are intended to bring them below those ceilings, and by how much each mechanism is expected to do so if there are 600 additional flight movements per day? If the Government have that
evidence, will they publish it now, in full? If they do not have the evidence, is it not irresponsible for them to rely on BAA assurances without evidence to support them, especially given that the present level of exceedances will lead to EU fines of perhaps hundreds of thousands of pounds per day after January 2015?
Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend will forgive me if I am slightly puzzled by his observation. He will know from his ministerial experience that air quality testing is an independent exercise, conducted quite separately from BAA, and that the exceedance figures are published and readily available to Members of Parliament. He will also know from his previous experience that the EU air quality directive is measured in relation to people and their homes, and that testing takes place throughout the country.
As I made absolutely clear in my statement, we do have problems with exceedances, which are far greater in some parts of the countryincluding parts of central Londonthan at Heathrow. I am not making any excuses for Heathrow in saying that, but what is critically important is for us to ensure that those exceedances are brought within the terms of the directive, if possible by 2010 but if necessary, following an application for an exemption, by 2015. That will depend crucially on action in relation to motor vehicles, not aviation.
Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con): I fear that the proposal has been given an over-optimistic greenwash, and that it relies heavily on a particular type of plane for its delivery. Can the Secretary of State tell me which particular plane he has in mind, or which particular group of aerospace companies is proposing to deliver the plane by 2015?
Mr. Hoon: I am sorry that the hon. Lady has put her question in that way. This is not about a particular plane. Every new aircraft that comes into service has reduced carbon emissions, improved efficiency and lower noise levels. As I made clear earlier, steady progress has continued in that regard since the mid-1970s. We have far more efficient aircraft today. Every time the airlines bring new aircraft into service, there is a marginal improvement in their emissions.
Mr. Hoon: It is not a question of any plane will do. I have made clear that it is necessary to ensure that the newest, most efficient, most up-to-date aircraft fill the new slots, but that is something that the airlines themselves will accept and encourage. If the hon. Lady looks at the kind of aircraft that generally operate from Heathrow, she will see that most airlines use their newest, most up-to-date aircraft in those existing slots.
Ms Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington, North) (Lab): My right hon. Friend understands the symbolic significance of Heathrow expansion in the context of the climate change agenda. Does he accept that there is enormous scepticism about the compatibility of the increase in flights and aviation emissions with Britains capacity to meet our reduced carbon emissions target by 2050? Can he tell us what proportion of that target will be accounted for by aviation emissions?
Mr. Hoon: That will be something for the Climate Change Committee to determine, but I am absolutely confident that we can satisfy the commitments that we have made generally on carbon change within a regime involving aviation. We are not simply saying that aviation will get a free ride, or that it can go on expanding at the expense of other parts of our economy. There will be a determined effort, both nationally in terms of the target that I have set out on behalf of the Government and internationally, which means persuading other countries to accept a similar approach as part of our Copenhagen negotiations.
John Mason (Glasgow, East) (SNP): If we are serious about the environment, surely we need to move as many people as possible out of planes and on to trains. That is particularly relevant to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Should not speeding up the west and east coast main lines be a priority, especially beyond Preston? The line between Preston and Carlisle is a problem.
Mr. Hoon: As I said in my statement, it is an equal priority. We must not only ensure that we speed up journey times across the United Kingdom to improve our transport infrastructure in the United Kingdom, but recognise that we need effective communications around the world. We must do both.
Joan Ryan (Enfield, North) (Lab): It seems to me that, difficult though the decision is, it is a decision about the national economic interest and not just about London. It is perfectly legitimate for the Conservatives to take the position that they have taken, but it is not legitimate to ignore the impact on the national economy. I hope that in the coming months the Secretary of State will take time to ensure that we fulfil our responsibility to make certain that the population know what the impact of the Conservatives policies would be if a third runway did not go ahead.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|