I beg to move,
That this House
has considered the matter of adding capacity to Heathrow.
I am grateful to the House and to the business managers for agreeing to this debate. I very much welcome this opportunity to discuss the issues surrounding the future development of Heathrow airport. It is of course not the first debate on this subject in the House, but it is the first time that I have had the opportunity of taking part as Secretary of State for Transport. I am looking forward to hearing the views of right hon. and hon. Members. I know that many here today have particular points that they wish to make about Heathrow; indeed, some have previously asked to meet me personally. However, with the consultation on Heathrow now closed, it would have been extremely difficult for me to meet particular individuals or interested parties without invoking criticism that they were being given undue influence. That is why I asked for this debate to take place. The great benefit of today's proceedings is that they are on the record and give all Members an equal opportunity to have their say before any final decisions are taken.
As my right hon. Friend Ruth Kelly informed the House in her written ministerial statement on
The House will be aware that the Government completed a very extensive consultation on the future development of Heathrow earlier this year. I am acutely aware that airport development in general, and the future of Heathrow in particular, arouses strong feelings. Indeed, we received almost 70,000 responses to the consultation from individuals and organisations across a whole spectrum of views. It is worth emphasising at this stage that this consultation was not about the need for new capacity at Heathrow. The Government made clear their views in the 2003 White Paper "The Future of Air Transport", which supported the case for future development of Heathrow, including a further new runway and additional terminal capacity.
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