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Heathrow Terminal 5

4.28 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. The Statement is as follows:

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    "I have also agreed with the inspector on the need to promote the use of public transport. So I have imposed conditions, as he recommended, requiring the extension to Terminal 5 of both the Heathrow Express and the Piccadilly Line before the new terminal is opened.

    "And I have agreed with the inspector in cutting the provision of car parking spaces for the airport as a whole below that in the original proposals. I am imposing a condition limiting total spaces to 42,000 rather than the 46,000 proposed by BAA. Of these only 17,500 rather than the 21,700 originally proposed, will be available for employees.

    "The terminal proposals also included widening of the M4 between junctions 3 and 4b. But I agree with the inspector that widening would not be appropriate. I have therefore refused approval for it.

    "As to timing, I have imposed conditions requiring that work to implement any of the planning approvals should not start until a separate approval has been given to the essential scheme for diversion of the twin rivers that flow across the Terminal 5 site. That will ensure that there will be proper opportunity for full examination of that scheme.

    "I should touch on three further points. First, the tragic events of 11th September and the effects of those terrorist attacks on air travel. In reaching my decision, I have noted that the inspector has based his conclusions on forecasts as far ahead as 2016; and clearly, Terminal 5 is expected to be in operation much longer than that. Planning decisions such as this require a lengthy time horizon, and I believe that my decision is well justified on that basis.

    "Secondly, honourable Members will know of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights delivered on 2nd October in the case of Hatton and Others v. the UK. This concerned night noise at Heathrow. The court held by a majority that there had been an infringement of the convention. I am considering that judgment, which does not become final until at least three months after it was delivered. Quite apart from my decision on Terminal 5, I will of course wish to ensure that the night noise regime at Heathrow complies with the European Convention on Human Rights.

    "Thirdly, I am well aware of the length of time that was taken by the process of the public inquiry into Terminal 5. In saying that, I mean no criticism of the inspector; but there must be an issue as to whether such lengthy inquiries are appropriate. Accordingly, I announced on 20th July that we were considering a package of measures to streamline the handling of major infrastructure projects in the planning system. This included a commitment to publish up-to-date statements of government policy before major infrastructure projects are considered in the planning system, to help reduce inquiry time spent on debating the policy, the introduction of new arrangements to give Parliament the opportunity to approve projects in principle, and

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    improved public inquiry procedures. We shall be publishing further details for consultation in the next two months.

    "Taken together with the other steps we will be proposing to improve the operation of the planning and compulsory purchase systems, these measures will both safeguard the rights of people to have their say and reduce the time that is taken in future to reach decisions on major infrastructure projects.

    "My decision and the reasons for it are set out in full in the decision letter which I have issued today. Nothing I say here today should in any way be seen as a substitute for what is in that lengthy decision letter.

    "Giving the go-ahead for a fifth terminal at Heathrow is essential if we are to maintain Heathrow as one of the world's leading airports and bring benefits to the British economy both locally and nationally.

    "I have no doubt that the national interest requires that this project should proceed as long as we put in place measures to safeguard local people and their communities. This I believe my decision achieves and I commend it to the House".

4.40 p.m.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I would like to thank the noble and learned Lord for repeating the Statement made by the Secretary of State in another place. Perhaps I should first congratulate the inspector, who has produced an extremely good report. It is a mammoth feat considering that the public inquiry took four years. The Government's will be welcomed by the airlines.

The Secretary of State has had to balance difficult considerations. On the one hand, there is a need to maintain Heathrow as a major European hub to compete with Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris and to benefit the aviation industry in this country. On the other hand, there is the contrary need of safeguarding the interests of those living near Heathrow.

The Minister has outlined some of the steps that the Government believe should be taken before Terminal 5 is opened. I should like to comment on some of those steps and to ask a number of questions.

The noble and learned Lord said that there would be a limit of 480,000 flights and that that would be a planning condition. We welcome that. Can the Minister give an assurance that there will be no increase in the number of night flights? We believe that there should be a presumption against night flights over residential areas unless it can be proved that there is a real need for them. We are as concerned as the Government about noise. The report states that there will not be a final decision until 2003. Why will it take so long? Will the effect on sleep disturbance be considered?

The Minister said that the Government will insist that rail and tube links are improved. We welcome that. Can he explain why there will be a limit on the increased usage of the Heathrow Express? I do not understand why there should be such a restriction.

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What will be done to improve the rail links from the west? At the moment, if you get on a train to Heathrow from the West of England you have to stop at Reading and get on a bus. We believe that, at the very least, there should be a western rail link, if not, indeed, a southern rail link as well.

When coming to their decision in regard to Terminal 5, did the Government consider the capacity of other London regional airports such as Stansted, Luton and Gatwick? Indeed, did they look at whether there was a need for a new runway in the South East? The noble and learned Lord explained the need for increased capacity but, at the end of the day, if capacity is to rise at that level, will another runway be needed to cope with it? Can the Minister confirm that a new runway is not in the Government's plans at the moment? Can he confirm that there will be no need for an additional runway at Heathrow when Terminal 5 goes ahead?

In coming to their decision, did the Government consider the House of Commons Select Committee report published in 1995-96, which stated that consideration should be given to constructing a new airport in the Thames Estuary?

This has been a mammoth inquiry which has cost more than £83 million. It has taken far too long—more than eight years—and it will be at least another six years, if all goes well, before Terminal 5 can be opened. The Minister announced plans to change and streamline the planning process for major infrastructure projects. We are concerned that the Government's plans should not undermine local involvement when considering such projects.

4.43 p.m.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, we, too, welcome the Statement made in another place and repeated by the noble and learned Lord. I wish to concentrate, particularly, on the issue of access to the airport.

We learn from the papers that the motorway will not be expanded. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, I, too, am concerned about surface access by rail from the South West, the West and the North. It is apposite that we are considering the report at the same time as the CAA has published its first report into the funding of airline landing charges for the next five years. In terms of improved access to the airport, nothing in that report gives any comfort. It will happen if someone else pays. We believe that it should be either a condition of planning consent or that we should change the rules—which are to go before the Competition Commission—so that money is set aside for decent surface access, including the extension of the Piccadilly line and the Heathrow Express.

It says in the Statement that those lines are to be extended, but it does not say how that is to be paid for. They have to be paid for, and we believe that they should be paid for by airport users. We should not forget that "airport users" include not only passengers but "weepers and greeters" and people who work at the airport and travel there every day. The present means of access are either very inefficient or very

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expensive. We want these issues addressed because, inadequate as it is, the Airport Express is not a suitable way for workers to get to the airport.

We welcome the fact that the Minister will look at the planning system. This inquiry is a monument to inefficiency and has cost a vast sum of money. It is time that we moved towards an inquisitorial system and away from the adversarial system which was used here. The inspector should ask questions and people should not read out long statements. Several improvements can be made. But, whatever the outcome, inquiries should be held efficiently.

We know that there will be more noise. Unfortunately, that will be one of the effects of this decision and it is one of the crosses that people who live near the airport will have to bear. It is an area of bad air quality, which will get worse. There will be more car parking spaces than there are now. We believe that a real attempt should be made to deal with the issue of decent surface access above all others.

4.47 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their welcome for the decision. I shall now deal with the points that they have raised

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, referred to the 480,000 flights limit and asked for an assurance that there will be no increase in night flights. There can be no change in the night flight regime without consultation. My right honourable friend in another place said that he would consult about the night flight regime in the light of the concerns expressed. That consultation will be thorough and detailed and concluded by 2003. It is right that the process should be detailed, thorough and take some time.

The reason for the limitation on the number of Heathrow Express train journeys from Paddington is to deal with traffic around the Paddington area. The Secretary of State deals with that issue in paragraph 55 of the decision letter, where he sets out his reasons.

As to capacity at other airports, the report of the inspector deals in great detail with the issue of capacity at other airports in the South-East of England. He refers to capacity at airports in the country as a whole, but he obviously deals in detail with capacity in the South-East.

The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, referred to the fact that it will take another six years, if all goes well, before Terminal 5 is completed. He drew attention to the fact that the procedure has taken too long. With respect, we agree that the planning stage of major infrastructure projects needs to be dealt with in a way that will lead to a quicker result than occurred on this occasion.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said that access to the airport should be paid for by the users of the airport. The British Airports Authority is committed to encouraging the introduction and use of additional public transport services at Heathrow. The Secretary

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of State expects the BAA to fulfil that commitment, including additional rail services—to which paragraph 54 of the decision letter specifically refers.

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