Norman Baker (Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Transport; Lewes, Liberal Democrat)
I beg to move,
That this House
recognises the urgent need to curb carbon dioxide emissions to tackle climate change;
condemns the Government for following policies that will instead lead to significant growth in emissions from the aviation sector;
particularly condemns plans to allow a third runway at Heathrow;
believes that the consultation paper Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport was deeply flawed and is concerned at the undue influence BAA played in the drafting of the paper;
notes that the paper significantly overstated the economic case for a third runway while greatly underplaying the serious environmental consequences, including, as well as the extra emissions from flights, the increase in intensity and distribution of noise for those living under the flight path through runway alternation and the threat of forced relocation for the inhabitants of Sipson village;
and calls on the Government to withdraw permanently plans for a third runway at Heathrow, to keep the present cap of 480,000 flights per year as opposed to the 700,000 envisaged in the consultation document, to rule out any further increase in airport capacity in the South East, and to indicate to the aviation sector that it will have to live within its existing infrastructure capacity.
We are starting the debate marginally later than I thought we would. I can conclude only that the Conservatives have some reason for delaying its start—perhaps they do not want to talk about their chaotic policy on Heathrow and aviation. I note that an eight-minute limit on speeches applies, so it was rather unfair to take 15 minutes away with an unnecessary Division.
The Government's policy on aviation is described in their amendment to the motion as a
"balanced and sustainable aviation strategy".
I wonder whether the person who wrote that had any shame—I do not know whether it was written by a Minister, a Whip or an official in the Department for Transport— whether the Government are past that stage or, indeed, whether, as with much of the consultation paper, it was in fact written by someone from BAA plc, with glee rather than with shame.
As far as aviation is concerned, it seems that the Government live in a sort of bubble, in which climate change does not exist. The rest of Government policy is designed to drive down carbon emissions, making a 60 or 80 per cent. cut by 2050, but aviation somehow does not come into that picture and has to live on its own. I am interested in the comments made by Mr. Mullin, a former Environment Minister. He said:
"During my 18 undistinguished months as a minister"—
I think he was being ungenerous—
"whose responsibilities included aviation, I learned two things. First, that the demands of the aviation industry are insatiable. Second, that successive Governments have usually given way to them. Although nowadays the industry pays lip service to the notion of sustainability, its demands are essentially unchanged. It wants more of everything—airports, runways, terminals."
That is still the case.