Norman Baker (Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Transport; Lewes, Liberal Democrat)
I am grateful for that intervention, and for the hon. Gentleman sharing his knowledge on the matter.
I deal now with noise pollution in particular. There is no doubt that the expansion of Heathrow will result in extra noise pollution for local residents. The key figure quoted by the Government is 57 dB, as that is the level at which community annoyance sets in. BAA has estimated that more than 250,000 people now live inside the 57 dB contour. They are therefore affected already, but the proposed expansion will make the problem much worse.
In fact, the problem is even more serious, as the World Health Organisation has challenged the Government's view on noise thresholds. It has argued that 50 dB is the appropriate level for determining annoyance, and that 55 dB constitutes serious annoyance. Therefore, even according to the BAA figures, it is clear that all the people in the immediate area are experiencing serious annoyance, according to the WHO definition.
In November 2007 the Government published a study entitled "Attitudes to Noise from Aviation Sources in England", and Ministers will know that it reinforces the WHO's argument very strongly. Although there are "only" 250,000 residents in Heathrow's 57 dB area, another 2 million people live within the 50 dB area. Adding those figures together gives us the total number of people the WHO believes are being affected by noise pollution at the present time, so what will the total be if the planned expansion goes ahead?
The Government said that they would not go ahead with Heathrow expansion if the number of people living in the 57 dB area increased. How will the Government square having a third runway with that pledge on noise? We have heard nothing about that.
In addition, the new flight path will pass over such places as Heston, Chiswick, north Hammersmith, Kensington and Chelsea, Langley, Slough and Maidenhead. A total of 150,000 people live in those areas, but do the Government believe that they do not count?
On top of all that, Heathrow expansion would have significant impacts on health. The 1999 study into public health impacts at large airports that was carried out for the Dutch Government found evidence to suggest that exposure to the air pollution levels observed within an airport's operations system—and in that sense Heathrow is the largest airport in the world—was linked to higher mortality rates, and to more frequent hospital admissions as a result of the aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular problems. The study also found that air pollution was linked to decreased lung function, and an increase in chronic respiratory conditions. What assessment have the Government made of the current health implications for people who live near Heathrow, and what assessment have they made, seriously, of the implications if a third runway is given the go-ahead?