Heathrow

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 25th November 2008.

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Photo of John Barrett John Barrett Shadow Minister, Work & Pensions 2:30 pm, 25th November 2008

What recent representations he has received on the proposal for a third runway at Heathrow.

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Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

The Department for Transport received almost 70,000 responses to the "Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport" consultation, which closed on 27 February this year. An equalities impact assessment consultation has since been undertaken to consider how development at Heathrow might affect equality priority groups. Responses showed a wide range of views on the proposals, and we are still considering the position. We have made it clear that the expansion will go ahead only if air quality, noise and public transport commitments are satisfied.

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Photo of John Barrett John Barrett Shadow Minister, Work & Pensions

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. He will know that the Liberal Democrats were the first party to oppose the third runway and to support a high-speed rail link. Does he accept that many of the hundreds of daily short-haul flights that go to Heathrow from constituencies such as mine could be replaced by a north-south high-speed rail link, which would be good for the environment, good for the economy and would remove any need for a third runway?

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Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

As I have made clear, this is not an alternative—we are not posing expansion at Heathrow as an alternative to high-speed links. It may well be that, on economic grounds, both are required. That is why I have taken forward urgently work in the Department for Transport to look precisely at how we can develop new capacity, new rail links and, if necessary, high-speed rail links. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have regard to the views of the chief executive of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, who clearly represents the views of Scottish businesses. He said:

"Heathrow's international route network is a national asset that is therefore every bit as important to Scotland's future as it is to London's."

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Photo of Martin Salter Martin Salter Labour, Reading West

How does the Secretary of State answer the representations made by Lord Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, this week that the construction of a third runway at Heathrow would make it impossible to meet legally binding targets on air pollution?

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Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

The Environment Agency made a submission to the consultation. That, of course, will be taken fully into account alongside the other submissions that were made during the relevant period.

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Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Assistant Chief Whip (Commons)

Will the Secretary of State be able to give us a definite idea that the decision will be announced before Christmas? Once that decision is made, will we be able to vote on it in the House?

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R

I note that the Secretary of State will not be drawn on the question of whether Members will have a vote on this.

Submitted by Roger Dewey

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

It is certainly my intention that the decision should be announced before the Christmas recess.

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Photo of John Grogan John Grogan Labour, Selby

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Cabinet Minister best qualified to judge whether the third runway will reach air quality and noise standards is the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and will he take his opinions particularly into account?

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Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

My hon. Friend will be well aware that the Government in this country operate on the basis of collective Cabinet responsibility, and I am sure that all my colleagues will express their views in their usual fashion.

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Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening Shadow Minister (Treasury), Vice-Chair (Youth), Conservative Party

The Secretary of State will be aware of the controversy surrounding the so-called fantasy plane that has been used in the modelling essentially to force-fit the environmental tests and make them met? From which aircraft manufacturers and jet engine turbine manufacturers has he had confirmation that that plane will ever be in existence?

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Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

Of course, I am aware of the controversy. I know that the hon. Lady has researched these matters assiduously, so she will be aware that the assumptions made about that particular aircraft were not helpful in relation to any argument about noise or air quality. It was not a particularly noisy aircraft.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

Every single plane that flies from London to north America flies directly over the north of England. Does my right hon. Friend recognise that if they landed, say, at Manchester, they would save half an hour of flying time, 400 miles of fuel on a round-trip and, if a north-south fast railway were built, passengers could be in London as quickly as if they had landed at Heathrow and had to fight their way in from the suburbs of London? Is it not time to think about that seriously as an alternative to a third runway at Heathrow?

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Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his suggestion. The last time I looked, I was the Secretary of State for Transport in the Government, not the chief executive of British Airways.

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Geoff Hoon seems to have overlooked that the underlying premise of Hugh Bayley’s question was the existence of a...

Submitted by John Byng Continue reading (and 1 more annotation)

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

How many children will have their education affected by a deteriorating noise environment if the Government press ahead with their plans for a third runway and mixed mode at Heathrow?

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Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

The hon. Lady knows full well that a number of schools are in the immediate vicinity of Heathrow. Action has been taken to provide noise insulation at those schools. Clearly, in the event of there being any decision to expand Heathrow, further action would have to be taken to ensure that those schoolchildren were able to attend and participate in lessons in the way that they do already.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

According to the local authorities affected, 114 schools and around 100,000 children will suffer from serious noise problems if a third runway goes ahead. Meanwhile, around the world, air traffic is falling, Stelios is telling the easyJet board that the days of exponential passenger growth have gone, and yesterday's pre-Budget report predicted a fall in demand for aviation. Is it not time that the Secretary of State revised down his aviation growth forecasts and scrapped his plans for a third runway and mixed mode at Heathrow?

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Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Department for Transport

Unfortunately, the statistics that the hon. Lady quotes are not additional to any decision to build an extra runway. She simply gives the number of children currently affected. I anticipated that in the answer that I gave a few moments ago. She needs to ensure, when she is putting forward this case, that she has her statistics right and that she deploys them accurately as far as the House is concerned, so that we can have a proper debate about these matters. As I made clear at the outset, no decision has been taken on the matter. Any decision that is taken, will be taken in the light of air quality, noise and public transport arrangements.

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