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We are pleased with one of the Government’s changes of heart: their climbdown on the mixed mode. However, we are extremely cautious about how long the commitment will last. Perhaps the Minister will comment on it. Is it just a stay of execution? As noble Lords will recall, it was this House that, after some debate, persuaded the Government not to extend night flights over London. London is always cautious about increasing the number of flights, especially night flights.

The Government have missed an opportunity on high-speed rail. I know that the Minister is a rail enthusiast, and perhaps he has converted his colleagues in the other place—I do not know whether they were enthusiasts initially. The Government have not taken our advice. High-speed rail should be a green alternative to short-haul internal flights. It should not increase airport capacity but be an alternative to flying. If it were then we would welcome some of the Statement’s initiatives on high-speed rail. Perhaps he can expand on this issue. Perhaps the Government will acknowledge that it could be an alternative to short-haul flights.

We are not happy about how the consultation has been handled. On the second day of the Report stage on the then Planning Bill, the Minister said:

“The elephant in the Chamber is the Air Transport White Paper. That issue is giving rise to a good deal of concern and it might be helpful if I state categorically that we intend to produce a national policy statement which meets in full the policy and statutory requirements for national policy statement set out in the Bill. As part of that I can say categorically that we will consult again on the airports national policy statements in line with the Bill’s requirements”.—[Official Report, 10/11/08; col. 448.]

Perhaps the Minister will comment on that. The consultation on this process has not been adequate.

I was interested to hear that there are plans for motorway improvements, on which we agree, and an announcement on money. Will the Minister tell us the timeframe? Sometimes the money is announced but we are then told that it will be in 2025. There was no timeframe for this announcement but we would like to have one.



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Under a future Conservative Government there would not be a third runway at Heathrow: it would not happen. It is clear that this Government have decided to abandon any claim they had to helping save the environment, even if this Prime Minister talks about saving the world. This new runway will undo any such claim he might make in the future. We are not happy at all with the Statement. I am sure that it will be a matter of debate many times in the coming weeks.

2.55 pm

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I also thank the Minister for his Statement. We believe that this is a wrong decision and will do all in our power to reverse it, whatever that may take. It flies in the face of the Government’s commitment to climate change. We are anything but satisfied that the Emission Trading Scheme is a robust way of reducing emissions worldwide. While I note the Minister’s references to the Committee on Climate Change, I truly worry whether that committee can take decisions on an absolutely objective basis.

I ask the Minister to reconsider the logic of his arguments about a high-speed link that is targeted principally at Heathrow. The majority of those wanting to make intercity journeys in this country want to make them to and from London, not Heathrow. Improving the rail network so that journeys to London are faster will mean that far more people travel by rail instead of air—precisely the point that the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, made. We want to get more people out of aeroplanes so that the available slots are used for the most necessary purposes. I ask the Minister to consider whether it is not premature to think about building a new link to Heathrow as the only connection between London and the cities of this country rather than expanding our existing rail network, which could be done far more cheaply.

Although I do not like using people’s names in the Chamber, I would ask the Minister what qualifications Sir David Rowlands has to lead a large engineering project. I looked at his CV in Who’s Who. He has pursued his entire career in the Civil Service. We would have expected the department to appoint a big-hitter with engineering experience—someone like John Armit, although I know that he is away now doing something else. However, it should be someone who is determined to drive the project through and with a track record of doing so. If the Minster looks carefully at Sir David’s past he will see that he has been concerned with the bureaucracy of a department, not with actually achieving anything.

The White Paper contains little commitment to any immediate improvement in railway services. Although it mentions studies into this and that and the possibility of something happening now, tomorrow or in 20 years’ time, the only substance is a mention of BAA working to bring forward the Airtrack scheme. That is not a major scheme. It is useful but could never be described as an excuse for going ahead with the proposals before us today.

I shall leave my remarks there except to ask the Minister whether there will be further opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny of this decision. I believe that this decision would be robustly rejected by the whole House.



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2.59 pm

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their responses. On the final point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, about parliamentary debate, that is, of course, a matter for the usual channels. However, I personally would welcome a debate on the proposals that we have announced this afternoon and the opportunity to explain and debate them more fully. I would also welcome the opportunity to get into the detail of the announcement and, if I may say so, because we do things more gently in this Chamber, to test some of the rather strong claims that have been made against the actual facts that may or may not underpin them.

The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, is a fair minded man and I think that he would accept—how can I put this delicately?—that his party’s policy on this issue has not been entirely consistent. This lock, stock and barrel opposition to Heathrow expansion in any form, which is now the policy that he has been required to enunciate from the Conservative Front Bench, is not the policy that his party has consistently followed in the past. Indeed, I seem to recall that when the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, was Transport Secretary—he is in his place—he said that airport expansion in the south-east of England might well be necessary, for precisely the economic reasons that we set out in the Statement. Therefore, a debate might help to bring out—how can I put it?—the diversity of views held on this matter within the parties as well as between them.

The noble Lord said that the announcements other than on aviation were “cover”—I think that that was the word he used—for the announcements. He then went on to say that he knew that I had been a strong proponent of rail investment and change. I can tell him and the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, that these announcements are not cover; they are absolutely sincere and serious proposals.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has misunderstood the proposal in respect of the high-speed line. It is for the development of a plan for a high-speed line from London to the West Midlands. We have asked the new company, which Sir David Rowlands will chair—I will come to Sir David in a moment, because I believe that the noble Lord’s remarks about him were very unfair—to develop the plan for that line, which will include an option for an interchange station also serving Heathrow, the Great Western main line and Crossrail. But the noble Lord is absolutely right that the principal market for any such line will be London to the West Midlands.

However, being a believer in integrated transport policy—it is something that I have believed in for many decades, as has the noble Lord, but which has been too often wanting in the past—surely the noble Lord agrees that it is sensible for us to plan our next generation of rail infrastructure in hand with our next generation of airport infrastructure. The great bane of transport planning in the post-war decades was the failure to integrate planning effectively. After all, for the first period of its existence, until the Piccadilly line was extended much later, Heathrow had no rail links whatever. I say to the noble Lord, who I thought was a proponent of integrated transport policy, that it ill

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behoves him to come to the House this afternoon to condemn what could be the most forward-looking exercise in integrated transport policy that we have seen in this country in recent times.

As for Sir David Rowlands, I think that the noble Lord has misunderstood the nature of the company in the first instance. There is nothing to engineer until you have a plan. What we are doing in respect of the north-south high-speed line is precisely what happened in respect of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link on the one hand and Crossrail on the other: we are establishing a small company at the outset to develop the plan for the line, after which the Government will need to take a decision about whether to proceed. At that point, of course, it becomes a major engineering project. But there is no major engineering project until you have the detailed route plan and environmental assessments in order to take it forward. Sir David Rowlands is eminently suited to chairing a company to produce the plan for the high-speed line. He is not only a former—and very effective—Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport, but was head of its rail division for a long period and was the official who, more than any other official in government, saw the Channel Tunnel Rail Link through from design to completion. I see the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, nodding, so I hope that the noble Lord will reflect on those comments. Generally speaking in my experience of politics, when people are doing things with which you basically agree, it is a good idea to say so. The noble Lord and I basically agree on these rail projects. It would be good if we were able to voice our agreement.

In respect of the aviation points that have been made, there was a lot of hyperbole and not enough facts underpinning it. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said that this was a bleak day for those near Heathrow. I should point out that a considerable number of those near Heathrow work at Heathrow and have a significant personal interest in its success. Something like one in 10 people in work in the London Borough of Hounslow works at Heathrow. Therefore, I think that individuals will have very different views depending on their perspective.

However, we have stood robustly behind the commitments that we gave in respect of air quality, noise and local public transport access, and we have added to those commitments, on which we have consulted, new commitments in respect of climate change, which will further enhance the capacity of Heathrow to expand without unacceptable environmental effects.

I should have thought that the noble Lord might have welcomed those additional steps that we have taken in respect of climate change. They are not pie in the sky. The target of 2050 for reducing aviation emissions below their current level is one that the Sustainable Aviation initiative—the group that brings together all the key players in the aviation industry—believes is achievable. If we can generate the next generation of planes in as efficient a manner as each successive generation has been achieved so far, the next generation of planes alone will be up to 40 per cent more fuel efficient than the present generation. The current generation of jets is about 70 per cent more fuel efficient than the jets of 40 years ago.



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Therefore, it is not pie in the sky to believe that, with a will and the right incentives, including the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the other measures that I set out in the Statement, we can over the medium to long term get emissions below their current level. Of course, in the short term they will rise, though proportionately much less than the increase in flights. However, the Emissions Trading Scheme is designed to cope with precisely that eventuality. There is no point in having traded emissions if you do not allow people to trade emissions. The whole basis of the scheme is that increased emissions from the aviation sector will be traded with decreased emissions elsewhere in the economy.

Like the noble Lord, I end on a slightly grand note. I believe that this is a very good day for the country’s transport infrastructure—not only for the capacity of Heathrow to meet the social and economic needs of the country, but for integrated transport planning—and an excellent day for the future of our railways.

3.07 pm

Lord Soley: My Lords, as someone with an interest in the future of Heathrow, I strongly welcome the third runway and, above all, the proposed link to the railway system. The Minister will know that I wrote to the Secretary of State two or three years ago saying that this was crucial if we were to get in line with our European competitors whose hub airports are integrated into rail and road. Will he reconsider one area of mixed mode? I understand why the current decision has been made, but without some degree of mixed mode, even if it is flexible for certain areas, you will not be able to prevent stacking over London, which is particularly bad for the environment. It will also be very difficult to deal with delays, which damage Heathrow’s reputation. This is a difficult area. I am not necessarily asking for an answer right now, simply that he takes this away and further considers whether there can be some flexibility to prevent stacking and delays. That is very important in the context of mixed mode.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I welcome my noble friend’s support for the main elements of today’s announcement. He is right about the importance of linking the development of rail infrastructure with air infrastructure. At the moment, about 24 per cent of passengers arrive or leave Heathrow by rail. The comparative figures are about 27 per cent at Frankfurt, 35 per cent at Schiphol and 40 per cent at Oslo’s major airport. We believe that it is possible to get that proportion up higher still with the measures that I set out, including the existing expansion that is taking place in capacity on the Piccadilly line, which we should welcome. I understand the point that my noble friend makes about mixed mode, but my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has made his decision in respect of mixed mode and will not be revisiting it. The points that my noble friend made about stacking are precisely parts of the argument for building the third runway sooner rather than later. The Statement made it clear that, if the relevant planning processes are satisfied, we envisage it being possible for the new runway to come into operation in the early part of the period 2015 to 2020. That is the best long-term way to deal with the congestion issues that my noble friend raised.



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Lord Mawhinney: My Lords, I start by declaring an interest in that I believe that I was the last Conservative Transport Secretary who reported to Parliament on a review of airport capacity in London and the south-east. When we undertook that survey, we did not grasp the nettle of the third runway at Heathrow, although as the Minister made clear I did say that it was an issue that would have to be revisited, for all the arguments that he has deployed today, which were the same arguments as we had. I commend him for grasping that nettle, but I do so in the context of the comment made by my noble friend Lord Hanningfield. Those of us who offer support do so conditionally on the Government being serious about the environmental framework within which any third runway is built. That is extremely important and should not be offered, either to Parliament or to the nation, as a sop to cover a transport initiative.

Just before I left my post as Secretary of State, I initiated an inquiry into whether it would be possible to have a rail line that linked Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick with intersections with the M25, so that there could be off-site car parking and delivery, thereby reducing the overall environmental pressure at Heathrow. I left before that report was produced. Clearly, none of my successors at this point has looked at it or resurrected it, but I recommend that the Minister does so, because there is more railway interaction with airfields and airports that could be of benefit not only to the travelling public but to the environment.

Finally, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, that I had the pleasure and the privilege of working with David Rowlands, who offered distinguished service to our Government, as he has to this Government. I would deprecate any attempt to suggest that he was not an appropriate person to head this review.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord’s comments, not only in respect of Heathrow, which made it clear that there is a diversity of opinions on this issue. If I may put it again gently, those who actually have responsibility for the national well-being may sometimes take a different position from that taken by those who feel that they have to make shorter-term political points. The noble Lord is now an elder statesman and has no responsibility to persuade anyone of the need to vote for him in the short term, so his judgment is probably better than anyone’s in the House. Those who have responsibility for these issues have tended to come down in favour of expansion, with appropriate safeguards in respect of environmental considerations, particularly for those near the airport, to meet the economic and social needs of the country, and the noble Lord set out why.

I also greatly appreciate the noble Lord’s comments about Sir David Rowlands, who is a very distinguished public servant. I cannot think of anyone more suitable for taking forward this project or who would give me as a Minister more confidence that the work will be done well and will give us a basis on which to make a good decision afterwards.

The noble Lord said that it is important that our commitments in respect of CO2 are real. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme is for real. Under the scheme,

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aviation emissions cannot increase from 97 per cent of average 2004-06 levels in 2012 and 95 per cent in 2013 without our trading carbon savings elsewhere. The European Commission has forecast that this will lead to an EU-wide carbon saving of 194 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020. That was the EU Emissions Trading Scheme that Her Majesty’s Government played a critical role in bringing into being. There are other issues that I mentioned in respect of green slots, the next generation of lower-carbon aeroplanes and the international emissions standard, which we will be pressing in respect of new planes, just as happened with the standard recently agreed for new cars, to further limit emissions in the generation ahead. For all those reasons, it is absolutely credible that we can during the period to 2050 get carbon emissions from aviation below their current level, even allowing for the expansion of aviation, which is manifestly to the benefit of our economy and society.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, is it not clear that the Opposition had absolutely nothing to say about the three European airports mentioned by my noble friend? They had nothing to say about jobs in or around Heathrow Airport. They had nothing to say about the new generation of aircraft that are coming on line. Are these not highly relevant as far as the issue that we are considering is concerned? Has not the expansion that is envisaged by the Government regarding high-speed rail networks and road networks been advocated by BALPA and me over many years? Is that not relevant to this issue as well?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right about the importance of jobs and looking at wider international experience in respect of aviation. I have always regarded it as a good maxim of public policy that, when our major European partners are conducting major policy initiatives, we should at least take serious note; we may not agree with them, but we should at least take serious note. That has been a significant factor in my own thinking on high-speed rail. There was a lot of scepticism about high-speed rail when the Japanese first started their bullet trains in the 1960s. I remember that people thought that it might be suitable for Japan but would not be suitable for us. Now that most other major European countries are building or have completed high-speed rail networks, it is clearly sensible for us to look at extending our high-speed network beyond the short stretch that we have from London to the Channel Tunnel.

My noble friend is also right in stressing the importance of looking at the experience of other major European countries in respect of aviation. Frankfurt has three runways and is currently building a fourth. Frankfurt serves 262 international destinations, against only 180 for Heathrow at the moment. Schiphol has five runways and Charles de Gaulle has four runways. Munich, which is the second airport in Germany, has two runways and is planning a third. It now serves more destinations—244—than London Heathrow. Those must be relevant factors in our decision. Noble Lords may choose to reject them, but it is not right to fail to address them squarely, as I believe we all have a responsibility to do.



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The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, on the subject of motorways, I am surprised that the trials on the M42 were successful. Can the Minister say how often the hard shoulder was already occupied by stationary vehicles during the trial? My second question is about the railways. I welcome the glimmer of hope for a high-speed line leading ultimately, perhaps, to Scotland. Will the Minister reconsider how far the initial part of the line should go? I strongly recommend that for credibility in Scotland it is necessary that the railway be planned to go to Preston. North of Preston, the west coast main line is less used than it is down south.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I note the noble Earl’s comments on the first stage of any high-speed line. In fact, the most congested part by far of the west coast main line is south of Rugby. Being able to significantly improve that line would have a hugely positive impact for all destinations further north. However, I appreciate the noble Earl’s concern that we build it to reach as far as possible towards Scotland. I would only point out that with the high-speed line that we are talking about, it will be possible to run high-speed services to destinations significantly beyond, with commensurate time savings. It will be possible to have significant time savings to destinations in Scotland. I know that to the Scots that will be a very attractive feature of the scheme.

I was very careful in the Statement to talk about the first stage. As with other countries that have developed high-speed networks, one would hope that one stage will lead to another. We have High Speed 1 and we have just created a company called High Speed 2. I can tell the House that the Government have also taken over new company names and lodged with Companies House the names High Speed 3, 4, 5 and further large numbers. That may be of some comfort to the noble Earl.


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