The Airports Commission Report: Carbon Emissions, Air Quality and Noise Contents


1.In September 2012, the previous Government asked Sir Howard Davies to chair an independent commission to identify and recommend options to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub. The Commission produced an interim report in September 2013 and its final report in July 2015. The final report unanimously recommended the construction of a new, third, runway at Heathrow Airport. In its final report the Commission considered two other options: the construction of a new, second, runway at Gatwick Airport and the extension of the existing northern runway at Heathrow. The Prime Minister has said the Government will make a decision on whether to accept the Commission’s recommendations “by the end of the year.”1

2.Our aims in undertaking this inquiry were to assess the implications for wider environmental policy of the Airports Commission’s recommendation and to scrutinise the way in which the Government addresses the questions of carbon emissions, air quality and noise in making its decision. The purpose of this report is to identify some of the key issues that arose in our evidence and which the Government will need to address if it decides to support airport expansion at Heathrow in line with the Airports Commission’s recommendation.

3.We have adopted a two-stage approach. In the first stage we issued a call for evidence on the Commission’s recommendation. We received nearly 100 submissions from a wide range of companies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), campaign groups and members of the public. We are grateful to everyone who submitted written evidence for taking the time to do so. We also held four public hearings with Sustainable Aviation, the Aviation Environment Federation, Transport for London (TfL), the London Borough of Hounslow, the 2M London Boroughs, Heathrow Airport and Sir Howard Davies alongside former colleagues from the Commission. Again, we are grateful to all our witnesses for giving the time to appear before us.

4.The Government has said it will set “a clear direction” on airport expansion by the end of the year.2 If the Government is minded to go ahead with the Commission’s recommendation, it is likely that this will be followed by a further period of consultation. The Government should use this period to address the recommendations in our report, before making a final decision on whether to go ahead with the scheme and seek the approval of Parliament through a National Policy Statement or Hybrid Bill.

5.We intend to invite the Secretary of State for Transport to appear before the Committee, should the Government proceed with expansion at Heathrow in line with the Commission’s recommendation. As such, this can be regarded as an interim report.

1 House of Commons debates, 1 July 2015, Col. 1473

2 Official Report, 1 July 2015, Col. 1485

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Prepared 30 November 2015