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The Department for Transport published its latest assessment of the likely effects of a third runway at Heathrow Airport on local air quality in the "Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport-Impact Assessment" document in January 2009. A copy of the impact assessment and earlier technical reports on the air quality modelling have all been deposited in the Libraries of the House.
We are already in breach of European air quality directives. Does the Minister not accept that, as a result of the extension of the third runway, air and surface pollution will increase and it will be impossible for us to meet our air quality obligations?
No, I do not accept that. When in January 2009 we announced our decision to proceed with the third runway at Heathrow, we made it clear that we would have in place stringent requirements on air and noise pollution. We have worked with the Committee on Climate Change, which has indicated that, even at the most pessimistic level, we would be in a position to meet growth in passenger numbers of some 60 per cent., or a 54 per cent. increase in flights. However, we have made it clear that we will have in place a legally binding agreement that there will be no further expansion beyond 2020 without ensuring that we are on target to meet the stringent requirements that we set out.
Given that the EU has already-in December-thrown out the Government's shameful application for an exemption on particulate matter, which is especially dangerous in relation to respiratory diseases, do the Government really propose to go ahead with an application on nitrogen oxides?
We certainly believe that we should continue, because what we cannot do is put at risk UK plc and the requirements of businesses in this country, or bury our heads in the sand about the requirements for aviation. At the same time, however, we have to make sure that we meet the stringent requirements on environmental pollution and noise levels for all concerned that we set out in our announcement in January. It is important that, instead of suggesting that we do not need to meet the requirements of those who require aviation services, we meet the challenge, show leadership and go forward.