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I shall take my argument a step further. Sir Nicholas Stern rightly argued that there would be an economic cost to tackling climate change, but that doing so now would ensure that the cost was less than if we failed to act and instead waited for the inevitable catastrophe 50 years down the line. He also said, in a less noted and less cited part of his report, that the up-front cost could be minimised and made achievable only if we tackled climate change in the most cost-effective way possible, allowing trading between different sectors of the economy.
Carbon-intensive industries that could convert relatively cheaply to less carbon-intensive methods would then be funded by industries that currently do not have much choice about how much carbon to emit, such as aviation.
If a true cost is put on carbon, people in business will be faced with the true cost of their actions. Forcing polluters to buy permits would mean that emission cuts took place wherever in the economy they were most cost-effective. If we do not allow people to choose how they want to make their sacrifices, and if we force them through rationing to make fewer flights, we will face a tremendous backlash against our climate change objectives and people will not trust the Government, or any party that seeks to be in government, to take the necessary action in future.
In the end, I believe that the matter comes down to an old-fashioned debate between using rationing to shape individual choices and achieving what we want by shaping outcomes through the market mechanism. If we can do that through trading, people will ultimately be much more satisfied, as they will be allowed to make the choices that they believe suit them. The proposal to bring aviation into the European trading system is therefore an absolutely vital but proportionate step in dealing with the threat of air emissions, which in future will be capped across Europe below 2005 levels. In such a system, reducing capacity at Heathrow would be equivalent to granting Schiphol or other airports a licence to expand further. That would be a real economic loss to this country, with no environmental gain whatever.
It is incumbent on our generation to make the European trading system work. It was the UK that pushed for aviation to be included in it, and the UK must continue to be at the forefront of efforts to broaden trading to other regions of the world. Ultimately, the solution has to be globala worldwide emissions trading scheme for aviation. That is why I commend the efforts of the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick), and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who have been pressing for the inclusion of aviation emissions trading at the International Civil Aviation Organisation and elsewhere. I hope that the new President, President Obama, will hold good to his commitments to tackle climate change, too. Alongside any increase in capacity, we need an overhaul of the regulatory system to put passengers first.
Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): The House will be aware that I have set out my constituents concerns about the expansion of Heathrow many times both in the House and outside. We feel that the consultation that the Department for Transport and Ministers went through was utterly shambolic. To that end, many Members will remember that I asked the Secretary of State to come and meet residents of my constituency and talk to them. I asked him whether he had ever met any residents who would be affected by his decision, and he said:
I visited the area, and went carefully around the perimeter of Heathrow.[ Official Report, 15 January 2009; Vol. 486, c. 368.]
I hardly think that that can have given him a particularly good understanding of how residents will be affected. However, he seemed to suggest that he would come to Putney. I was therefore very disappointed when we had yet another broken promise on Heathrow; I received a letter a couple of days ago telling me that the meeting would take place not in Putney but in the safe confines of Westminster. Apparently, I am allowed to bring three residents, but for every resident I bring, thousands would have relished the chance to talk directly to him.
Will the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick), who is in his place, explain why the Government received legal advice that, perversely, they could not meet residents before the decision was taken? They clearly met BAA, so why not residents? That is clearly inequitable, but in the world of the DFT and this Government, somehow residents do not seem to come even remotely high up the list of people who should be talked to directly about decisions that will affect the public.
I wish to tackle the impression, which the Secretary of State gave in his statement last week, that he would somehow be able to reassure Members by making concessions. On noise, the concession was apparently that there would not be mixed mode. None of my constituents is convinced by his assurances, because not one promise on the expansion of Heathrow has ever been kept. We were promised that environmental tests would be met, and that without them no expansion would go ahead. That promise has been broken.
Adam Afriyie: There also appeared to be a commitment to cap the number of night flights, but it appears that that will no longer apply beyond 2012. Clearly, night flights are deeply concerning; an interrupted nights sleep can ruin the entire day.
Justine Greening: My hon. Friend is right. Perhaps it is a good time to remind the House of the night flights consultation. Phase 1 asked people what they thought about night flights and everybody responded that they did not like them. In phase 2, the Government suggested that we should have more night flights. When I checked, I found that only three out of the approximately 2,500 people who responded to the consultation had asked for more night flights, yet they took precedence over everyone else.
The Secretary of State talked about concessions and having only 125,000 extra flights by 2020. The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change is in his place, and I tell him that that is not a concession. It was always the plan, as he will see if he looks at page 136 of the consultation document. It is no concession, and it is disingenuous of the Secretary of State for Transport to suggest that.
Air quality is important, and we know that the Government will allow the UK to breach the EU air directive, which will become mandatory, and sets limits
for 2010. The Government intend to ask for a derogation from it. Yet the Departments assessment of environmental risk on air quality was high. I have a copy of the Departments risk register, and I will use the Departments words, not mine, in describing the perception of the risks of going ahead with the project. Risk 1.2.1 states:
Mitigation measures identified to achieve air quality targets are too costly or impractical to implement, or politically unacceptable.
New modelling suggests that EU limits for NO2 in 2010 will be exceeded around Heathrow (without new development) necessitating capacity constraints.
Solutions to road congestion in and around Heathrow prove difficult to deliver, politically unacceptable or airlines refused to support, threatening further expansion.
Constructive engagement with BAA and airlines.
will outline the possible measures for handling exceedences in 2015 rather than details modelling.
Lack of clarity in DfT over approach to exceedences on the Strategic Road Network exposes inconsistency in policies and frustrates search for solutions.
The Government clearly admit that there is an inconsistency in their policies. Again, the inherent risk was assessed as high. Surely that has proved correct. Risk 1.3.7 deals with surface access and states:
Surface access modelling is insufficient to demonstrate how increased passenger numbers will be accommodated.
The final risk that the document assesses is whether terminal 5 will be a botch-up. That risk was assessed as low. That shows how much credence we can give to the Governments transparency and the reliability of their facts, and to the consultation process that has just taken place.
Why is all that important? We know that not meeting air quality targets will be detrimental to public health. The Environment Agency said that the Governments plans could increase morbidity and mortality rates around the airport. I have tried to follow that up with the Secretary of State to ascertain how on earth a responsible Government can ignore their own Environment Agencys warnings about public health and go ahead with the project. I received a letter from him yesterday. Even he now admits that public health is at risk. The letter states:
I note your reference to comments from the Environment Agency about possible increases in mortality and morbidity rates. However, the work done by AEA Energy & Environment, a respected organisation
that works alongside Defra on air quality matters, suggests that such fears have been greatly exaggerated.
published alongside the recent announcement
that there are only marginal physical health impacts of an expanded airport in 2020.
If ones family is suffering from the physical impacts of an expanded Heathrow, that is not marginal. It is not marginal to the possibly thousands of people who will be affected. It is the first time that the Department has admitted that there are genuine public health impacts.
The Government have spent more than three years modelling noise and air quality effects. They will not release the detailed datathat is why the Environment Agency is concerned about morbidity and mortality. The Government have not convinced residents and Ministers will not even come to the affected areas and meet people. Why is the Department so secretive? Clearly, hon. Members of all parties are worried about the impact of the plan, so why not allow access to data that would set peoples minds at rest?
Much of what I have said comes down to democracy. Ministers have said that we should not vote on such matters. We had a vote on Iraq, because that was viewed as exceptional. Many hon. Members feel that the third runway has such profound consequences for the day-to-day lives of their constituents that they view it as similarly important. We have had a consultation, to which residents have responded overwhelmingly by saying that they do not want the plan to go ahead. Despite all those points, Ministers still seek to override peoples will. That is deeply worrying. I am sure that Ministers will not change their minds. They are wrong not to be concerned about public health and wrong to avoid being clear about the risks. They are so out of touch with people and their concerns that it will take an election to get some sanity into Government policy on Heathrow.
Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab): The debate has been curious. I do not support the expansion of Heathrow, but I was disappointed in the speech of the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs. Villiers), which failed to rise to the occasion and showed that the Opposition still face a steep learning curve on aviation and transport policy.
I applaud Labour Front Benchers efforts to mitigate the consequences of Heathrow expansion. I applaud their efforts to set limits and restrictions, especially focusing on climate change concerns, to try to square the circle of environmental objectives and the interests of the economy and aviation. However, I do not believe that their position is tenable long term. The location of Heathrow means an inherent conflict between quality of life and environmental objectives, about which many hon. Members feel deeply, and the interests of the economy and aviation. I fully endorse the Secretary of States view that we cannot sacrifice the latter without losing competitiveness to other countries. We must address the issue of how we can provide some additional capacity for aviationwhich I believe is necessaryin a genuinely sustainable way.
I listened with great care to the admirable speech that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Ruth Kelly) made. She focused in a very intelligent way on the importance of international measures, particularly the introduction of a system of carbon trading that could be applied to aviation in order to achieve the necessary effect. That is part of the answer, but it cannot address the other tensions that are inherent at Heathrow, including the problem of its location in the middle of a densely populated area of west London in which hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people live under the flight paths and are subjected to intolerable noise pressures.
Nor can such a measure deal with the problem of a highly congested road network that is responsible for many of the air quality problems that the Government are trying to address. However effectively we reduce the emissions from aircraft, the emissions from motor traffic around Heathrow will remain a crucial constraint. Furthermore, as one or two hon. Members have said, there remains the separate but equally important issue of the impact on the people of Sipson and the surrounding areas, whose homes will be demolished to make way for this expansion. I do not believe that it is tenable to set that aside and not treat it as a serious issue.
The question ultimately must be whether Heathrow is the only site on which we can achieve the maintenance of a hub airport capacitywhich I believe is necessary and important to our economywhile meeting our environmental objectives. The answer is that I do not believe that Heathrow holds out that possibility, and that we have to look at the alternatives.
Last Friday, I had the good fortune to travel to the Thames estuary, in the company of the Mayor of London and Douglas Oakervee, to explore a site that is the focus of a study being undertaken by Doug Oakervee into the feasibility of an estuary airport. In absolutely filthy weather conditions, we embarked on a barge from Sheerness and travelled to an extremely remote site some 8 miles out into the estuary. It was the site not of a wind farm but of a world war two anti-aircraft battery that had been placed there to defend London from a different type of aviation in the 1940s. Interestingly, it is still there today.
We could not have been given a clearer message that the site should be considered for an airport, if that were feasible. It is several miles from either shore, and therefore very remote. Also, aircraft would be able to take off and land over water, which would avoid the degree of conflict that is caused by noise problems in surrounding communities. That would give it a huge advantage over Heathrow. Furthermore, the river is relatively shallow at that point. The very fact that anti-aircraft batteries could be located there is living proof of that.
As I said in an intervention on the Secretary of State earlier, Doug Oakervee was the chief engineer and project director responsible for the Hong Kong airport, and he is now the chairman of Crossrail. He is an extremely distinguished engineer, and he made it quite clear that, in engineering terms, it was a feasible option. He also believes that it would probably be feasible financially. It would be very expensiveno questionparticularly because of the need for all the ancillary infrastructure, including the high-speed rail links and other links, necessary to make it work.
Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): I am sure that the whole House will join me in congratulating my right hon. Friend on his birthday, although he appears to have had his birthday treat a few days ago. As a result of his maritime exploration of the estuary, is he suggesting that the new airport could totally replace Heathrow? Or could it enable Heathrow to retain its present position without further expansion?
Mr. Raynsford: I will await the full results of Doug Oakervees study before reaching a fully informed view, but my present view is that, if the new airport were located in the estuary, it would be able to provide the basis for a hub. However, it would take a while before that function could come into operation, during which time there would be a need for joint operation between Heathrow and the estuary airport, just as, in Germany, the two hub airports at Frankfurt and Munich operate in parallel. I believe that that option is a possibility.
I certainly do not see the possibility of the closure of Heathrow, for which some people have argued, in the foreseeable future. That is neither desirable nor feasible. It would be possible, however, to ensure that the most damaging kind of aviation going into Heathrowparticularly night flightswas immediately relocated to a site in the estuary, where, because of its location, there would be no problem about a 24-hour operation.
All these matters will have to be looked at much more thoroughly by people who are experts in all the operational aspects involved. Nevertheless, following my visit on Friday, my conclusion was that this is definitely a possibility that needs to be explored. It also needs to be explored because it is entirely sympathetic with the Governments wider objective of developing the Thames Gateway in order to rebalance the economy of south-east England. One reason for the problems around Heathrow is that there is enormous pressure for people to live, work, build offices and operate in that densely occupied area.
Mr. Tyrie: The right hon. Gentleman appears to support the view that we must do nothing to impede the expansion of aviation. That point was also made by the right hon. Member for Bolton, West (Ruth Kelly), on whom I tried to intervene earlier in order to support her. She spoke a lot of sense. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will feel able to join me in the Lobby to support the motion in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, because all that it asks is that we
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