With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the proposed expansion of Heathrow airport.
The Government have a clear vision: to build a Britain fit for the future and a Britain with a prosperous jobs market and an economy that works for everyone. That is why I come to the House to mark an historic moment. Today I am laying before Parliament our final proposal for an airports national policy statement, which signals our commitment to securing global connectivity, creating tens of thousands of local jobs and apprenticeships, and boosting our economy for future generations by expanding Heathrow airport. It is an example of how the Government are taking forward their industrial strategy.
As you know, Mr Speaker, taking such a decision is never easy. This issue has been debated for half a century. My Department has met with local residents and fully understands their strength of feeling. But this is a decision taken in the national interest, based on detailed evidence. In 2015, the independent Airports Commission concluded that a new north-west runway at Heathrow was the best scheme to deliver additional capacity, and in October 2016 we agreed. We ran two national consultations during 2017 and received more than 80,000 responses. All the points raised have been carefully considered, and today we are publishing the Government’s response.
To ensure fairness and transparency we appointed an independent consultation adviser, the former Court of Appeal judge, Sir Jeremy Sullivan. Our draft NPS was scrutinised by the Transport Committee, and I thank the Chair of the Committee and her team for the thoroughness of their work. I was pleased that they, like me and my colleagues in the Government, accepted the case for expansion and concluded that we are right to pursue development through an additional runway at Heathrow. We welcome and have acted on 24 out of 25 of its recommendations. Our response to the Committee is also being published today.
This country has one of the largest aviation sectors in the world, contributing £22 billion to our GDP, supporting half a million jobs, servicing 285 million passengers and transporting 2.6 million tonnes of freight last year. The time for action is now. Heathrow is already full, and the evidence shows that the remaining London airports will not be far behind. Despite Heathrow being the busiest two-runway airport in the world, its capacity constraints mean that it is falling behind its global competitors, impacting the UK’s economy and global trading opportunities.
Expansion at Heathrow will bring real benefits across the country, including a boost of up to £74 billion to passengers and the wider economy, providing better connections to growing world markets, and increasing flights to more long-haul destinations. Heathrow is a nationally significant freight hub, carrying more freight by value than all other UK airports combined. A third runway would enable it to nearly double its current freight capacity.
In addition—this is crucial—this is a project with benefits that reach far beyond London. We expect up to 15% of slots on a new runway to facilitate domestic connections across the UK, spreading the benefits of expansion to our great nations and regions. As well as new routes, I would expect there to be increased competition on existing routes, giving greater choice to passengers. I say very clearly that regional connectivity is one of the key reasons for the decision we have taken.
I recognise the strong convictions that many Members of this House and their constituents have on this issue, and the impacts on those living in the local area. It is for that reason that we have included strong mitigations in the NPS to limit those impacts. Communities will be supported by up to £2.6 billion towards compensation, noise insulation and improvements to public amenities— 10 times bigger than under the 2009 third runway proposal. This package is comparable with some of the most generous in the world and includes £700 million for noise insulation for homes and £40 million to insulate schools and community buildings. The airport has offered 125% of the full market value for homes in the compulsory and voluntary purchase zones, plus stamp duty, moving costs and legal fees, as well as a legally binding noise envelope and more predictable periods of respite.
For the first time ever, we expect and intend to deliver a six-and-a-half-hour ban on scheduled night flights. But my ambitions do not stop there. If the House agrees and the NPS is designated and the scheme progresses, I will encourage Heathrow and airlines to work with local communities to propose longer periods of respite during a further consultation on night flight restrictions. We will grant development consent only if we are satisfied that a new runway would not impact the UK’s compliance with air quality obligations. Advances in technology also mean that new planes are cleaner, greener and quieter than the ones they are replacing.
Earlier this year a community engagement board was established, and we appointed Rachel Cerfontyne as its independent chair. It will focus on building relations between Heathrow and its communities, considering the design of the community compensation fund, which could be worth up to £50 million a year, and holding the airport to account when it comes to delivering on its commitments today and into the future.
There has been much debate about the costs of this scheme. Our position could not be clearer: expansion will be privately financed. Crucially, expansion must also remain affordable to consumers. We took a firm step when I asked the industry regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, to ensure the scheme remains affordable while meeting the needs of current and future passengers. This process has already borne fruit, with the identification of potential savings of up to £2.5 billion. I am confident that that process can and should continue, that further cost savings can be identified and that the design of the expansion can continue to evolve to better reflect the needs of consumers. That is why I have recommissioned the Civil Aviation Authority to continue to work with industry to deliver the ambition that I set out in 2016 to keep landing charges at or close to current levels. That work will include gateway reviews, independent scrutiny and benchmarking of proposals, which I know are of paramount importance to British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and the wider airline community.
I want to talk now about scheme delivery and ownership. The north-west runway scheme put forward by Heathrow was selected by the Government following a rigorous process. Since then, Heathrow has continued to make strong progress, having already consulted on its scheme design and airspace principles earlier this year. Some stakeholders have suggested that we should now look again at who delivers expansion. While I, and we, will always retain an open mind, my current assessment is that caution is needed at this stage. Heathrow is an operational airport under a single management, and I am clear that it is currently the only credible promoter that could deliver this transformational scheme in its entirety.
I welcome the Civil Aviation Authority’s April consultation, which expects Heathrow to engage in good faith with third parties to ensure that expansion is delivered in a way that benefits the consumer. However, that needs to be balanced against the need for timely delivery, and that is why my Department will be working closely with Heathrow to enable delivery of the new runway by its current target date of 2026.
Heathrow is already Britain’s best-connected airport by road and rail. That will be further strengthened by future improvements to the Piccadilly line, new links to Heathrow through Crossrail, connections to High Speed 2 via an interchange at Old Oak Common and plans for western and southern rail access to the airport. On
Even with today’s announcement, a new operational runway at Heathrow is still a number of years away. The Airports Commission recommended that there would also be a need for other airports to make more intensive use of their existing infrastructure, and we consulted on that in the aviation strategy call for evidence last year.
Apart from Heathrow, I would also like to confirm today that the Government support other airports making best use of their existing runways. However, we recognise that the development of airports can have negative as well as positive local impacts, including on noise levels. We therefore consider that any proposals should be judged on their individual merits by the appropriate planning authority, taking careful account of all relevant considerations, and particularly economic and environmental impacts.
Furthermore, in April we set out our next steps, which will see us work closely with industry, business, consumer and environmental groups to develop an aviation strategy that sets out the long-term policy direction for aviation to 2050 and beyond, while addressing the changing needs and expectations of passengers. It will set out a framework for future sustainable growth across the United Kingdom, how we plan to manage our congested airspace, and how we plan to use innovative technology to deliver cleaner, quieter and quicker journeys for the benefit of passengers and communities. Airspace modernisation has to be taken forward irrespective of the decision on the proposed new runway, and to do so we expect multiple airports across the south of England to bring forward consultations on their proposals on how to manage the airspace around their locations.
Returning to Heathrow, the planning system involves two separate processes: one to set the policy—effectively outline planning consent—which is our national policy statement, and then, if the House votes in favour of it and it is then designated, a second process for securing the detailed development consent that the airport will require. The next steps would therefore be for Heathrow to develop its plans, including details of the scheme design and airspace change, and hold a further consultation to allow the public a further say on the next phase of Heathrow’s plans and additional opportunities to have their voices heard. Any application for development consent will of course be considered carefully and with an open mind, based on the evidence provided. The process includes a public examination by the independent Planning Inspectorate before a final decision is made.
Alongside the NPS today, I have published a comprehensive package of materials that I hope and believe will enable Members of the House to make an informed decision ahead of the vote. It is very comprehensive, and I hope that it will provide answers to the questions that Members will have.
I hope that Members will feel that the scheme is crucial to our national interest and that we need to work together to deliver it in order to create what I believe is an absolutely vital legacy for the future of this country. I hope that Members across the House will get behind the plan and support this nationally strategically important project, and I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Secretary of State for advance notice of his statement.
Today’s statement has been a long time coming. We have had 11 years of consultation and nine years since the expansion was given the green light. The Secretary of State came to the House yesterday to explain the calamitous implementation of new rail timetables. He now stands at the Dispatch Box today and expects the House to accept what he says about the most significant of infrastructure projects. I am sorry, but this Secretary of State has form. The only reason he is at the Dispatch Box is that the Prime Minister is too weak to sack him. I regret that he simply does not enjoy the confidence of the House. [Interruption.] Government Members complain, but I did not hear them shouting their support for him yesterday. In fact, the loudest criticisms came from Members on their Benches.
Labour will consider proposed expansion through the framework of our well-established four tests: expansion should happen only if it can effectively deliver on the capacity demands; if noise and air quality issues are fully addressed; if the UK’s climate change obligations are met in their entirety; and if growth across the country is supported. We owe it to future generations to get all those factors absolutely right. If the correct balance is not found, the law courts will quite rightly intervene.
I commend the superb work of the Chair and members of the cross-party Transport Committee. Their report into the airports national policy statement published in March left no stone unturned. Their support for approving the NPS is explicitly conditional upon 25 recommendations being addressed. The Secretary of State says that he has “acted on” 24 of the 25 recommendations. What does that mean? Are they going to be conditions or simply aspirations and expectations? For example, the Committee concluded that there was a high risk of the NPS breaching air quality compliance. Furthermore, the Department for Transport has not published a comprehensive surface access assessment, so it is impossible to demonstrate that the target of no more airport-related traffic can be met. His statement today takes that issue no further forward.
The Committee highlighted that there was almost no mention of potential cost and investment risk. What guarantees can the Government provide that the high-cost risks will not end up being covered by the public purse? How can the business case for expansion ensure that passenger benefits are met? The Secretary of State says he will keep charges close to current levels. What sort of assurance is that? Further uncertainties remain about the NPS as originally drawn, on noise analysis and flightpath modelling. It remains to be seen whether the revised NPS adequately addresses those and other issues.
The Secretary of State says that he will encourage Heathrow to work with communities on longer respite periods. What teeth are there in any of these proposals or promises? His claims about the benefits of new technologies have to be based on real evidence and not some fanciful expectation of future advances. Some of us have not forgotten his empty promises on dual fuel trains, which we are now told do not exist. He says he intends and expects 15% of slots to be for domestic connections. How will that be secured? Intentions, expectations and encouragements are simply not enough.
It is imperative that the Government provide guarantees to the House that the recommendations and conditions established by the Transport Committee will be embedded in the revised NPS. Yesterday reminded Members across the House that the assurances of this Secretary of State are anything but cast-iron. It is absolutely essential that the Government embed the Select Committee’s recommendations in their revision of it. I remind the House that the Committee says very clearly that the planning process should move to the next stage only if its concerns, as detailed in its excellent report, are properly addressed by the Government in the final NPS. It is our task to scrutinise the revised NPS in full detail in the coming days. Labour will faithfully follow our framework tests and follow the evidence across the 25 recommendations. We will not rely on the Secretary of State’s assurances, which are sadly not worth the Hansard they are printed on.
I think you will agree, Mr Speaker, that that was a rather disappointing response. The one thing the shadow Secretary of State did not say was whether he actually supported the expansion of Heathrow airport. I happen to believe that it is strategically the right thing for our country, for business and for jobs. I very much welcome the positive encouragement I have received from Members across the House in the past few months. I regard this project as being vital to Members of Parliament in the north of England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the south-west—I see the links to Newquay airport as being one of the real opportunities here.
The shadow Secretary of State raised several detailed points. There is a huge amount of material—thousands of pages—that he and others can read through, but let me pick up on just a few of the items he raised. He mentioned air quality. The runway cannot be opened if it does not meet air quality rules, but I have been clear all along that the air quality issues around Heathrow are much more than issues of the airport itself; they are typical of the air quality issues that face metropolitan areas in this country and elsewhere in the world, which is why my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary has brought forward an air quality plan. In addition, Heathrow Airport is consulting on a low emissions zone that would make it impossible, without a substantial charge, to bring a higher-emission vehicle into the airport when the runway is open—assuming that the parliamentary and development processes go according to plan. So that has to be addressed; it is not an optional extra for the airport—it has to happen.
The shadow Secretary of State made a point about night flights. That has to be and will be a planning condition. He also asked about the Select Committee’s recommendations. About half have been embedded in the NPS; the remaining half will either happen at the development consent order stage or are requirements for the CAA to follow up on and deliver. We have accepted the recommendations, however, and will follow faithfully the Select Committee’s wishes to make sure that its recommendations are properly addressed at each stage of the process. As I said earlier, this is a multi-stage process, and the Committee’s recommendations referred not just to the NPS but to the subsequent stages.
The shadow Secretary of State asked about landing charges, which, of course are regulated by the CAA. I have been clear that landing charges have to stay pretty much at current levels in real terms. This cannot be an excuse for the airport to hike its landing charges substantially. That would not work for consumers or our economy. Equally, the commitments on night flights have to be addressed. This project will not have credibility if such promises to the local community are not properly fulfilled.
The shadow Secretary of State asked about investability. We have had the investability and delivery date independently assured. I have also talked to Heathrow shareholders, who have emphasised to me their commitment to this project. I am absolutely of the view that the project can and will be delivered. We simply have to look at the price at which slots for Heathrow airport sell on the open market to realise that this is one of the world’s premier airports and enormously attractive to international airlines and that expanding its route network will deliver jobs all around the country.
That is the most important thing for everyone in the House to bear in mind, whether they are in Scotland, the north of England, the south-west, Wales or Northern Ireland, and we should not forget our Crown dependencies and Gibraltar either. They also depend on air links to the UK. This project is a way of making sure that our citizens—the people we represent—and the businesses they work in have access to the strategic routes of the future that they will need. If we are to be a successful nation in the post-Brexit world, we will need advances such as this one that can make a real difference to the future of this country.
I am disappointed, therefore, that the Labour party has not said that it supports expansion in principle. I do support it, as do Members in all parts of the House, and in the coming days we will have a vote—we have 21 sitting days before the deadline for that vote. In the time ahead, I and my officials will happily talk to parliamentary colleagues about the details and, I hope, reassure anyone with doubts that this is the right project for the country.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement—the report that the coalition Government asked Howard Davies to produce was very comprehensive, and he has acted on it—but will he say a little more about how he will ensure that the costs are properly controlled? He is absolutely right to say that at the end of the day Heathrow has the great development opportunity that it wanted, but that development must involve reasonable costs that do not impose ever growing pressures on both operators and passengers.
My right hon. Friend has made a crucial point. That is, obviously, a matter of great importance to the airlines. They do not want fares to rise, and nor do we. This should be a development that leads to more choice for passengers, as well as more competition and, as a result, lower fares. One of the benefits of expanding the network will be for the United Kingdom, because we need more operators within the UK, and we may be able to achieve better competition on routes into Heathrow.
I have statutory powers, which I have already used on two occasions, to enable the Civil Aviation Authority to monitor the costs of the project to ensure that they are driven down. I renewed those powers recently, and I will continue to do so whenever necessary.
I thank the Secretary of State for giving me early sight of his statement.
This has been another polarising issue, and aspects of the UK Government’s approach in the past and the delaying tactics have not helped matters. However, I welcome the progress that is being made, and the fact that a vote appears to be imminent. The option of Heathrow expansion was recommended by the Airports Commission. It was also backed by the Transport Committee, as we have heard, and I pay tribute to its work in scrutinising the national policy statement.
To be fair, Heathrow has engaged fully with the Scottish Government, and has signed a memorandum of understanding in relation to commitments to Scotland. It refers to a construction logistics hub, and, for selfish constituency reasons, I should like that to be based at Prestwick airport. There is also a commitment to a £10 million route development fund, and a commitment to promoting Scotland in the future. I must be honest: for me, supporting expansion at Heathrow from a Scottish perspective was initially counter-intuitive. However, all but one of the Scottish airport operators support it. So do the various Scottish chambers of commerce, because they recognise the business benefits that it can bring to Scotland, including up to 16,000 new jobs. That helped to sway me, and the Scottish Government have reiterated their support.
Let me ask the Secretary of State some questions about his statement. He spoke of benefits for nations and regions, and an expected
“15% of slots on a new runway to facilitate domestic connections across the UK”.
However, he has still not explained how he will ensure that that happens. Will conditions be imposed, and will he consider Scotland’s needs? How will he ensure that what is proposed for Heathrow will increase passenger numbers at Scottish airports? He said that he had recommissioned the CAA to work with the industry to keep charges close to their current levels, but he did not make clear how there could be certainty that future charges would be kept under control. What will happen if Heathrow cannot commit itself to the longer period that the Secretary of State has just thrown into the mix, and what will he do to ensure that there is more transparency on new flight paths? Finally, given the UK Government’s failures to date and their defeats in court in relation to air quality, what will be done to ensure that air quality impact assessments are robust and that the correct control measures are introduced?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, the Scottish Government and the Scottish National party for their support. I think it important for us to ensure that Scotland is well served by the expansion of Heathrow. I think the hon. Gentleman understands, given the support that has come from the Scottish regional airports and the Scottish business community, that by providing more strategic routes for the United Kingdom from Heathrow we will provide links to important new developing markets around the world.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the protection of slots. We are considering what is the best mechanism. It seems that the public service obligation mechanism may be the best, but I want the most robust legal mechanism to operate by the time we reach the development consent order process, in order to protect the allocation of slots to regional connections in the United Kingdom. I do not want, and will not accept, circumstances in which slots somehow disappear and are allocated to a long-haul route rather than a UK route. This must be a project that benefits the whole United Kingdom. As for passenger numbers, our forecasts show that virtually all regional airports will continue to grow, and I expect the hon. Gentleman to see growth at Scottish airports as well as on routes to and from Heathrow.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the setting of charges. The CAA sets the charges, and it has absolute regulatory power to set them at the level that is appropriate for the airport. It has the teeth to deliver that at the moment. He asked about the respite issue. Let me make it clear that the night flight ban is an absolute requirement. We would reconsider that only if both the airport and the local communities agreed that something different should be done. The local communities would have to come back to us, with representatives of the airport, and say, “We would like to do something slightly different.” From the Government’s point of view, the ban is a non-negotiable element.
As for the hon. Gentleman’s final question, given that there are opponents of the scheme, I think it highly likely that it will be challenged in the courts. We have done exhaustive work, and there is a huge amount of material for the House to consider. We are following a statutory process, and only if there is a supportive vote in the House of Commons can the project go ahead. I hope that that is enough to set the project on the right path.
This decision is not only wrong for the UK and its competitiveness; it is wrong for the London communities who will be blighted by the pollution from an expanded Heathrow. The Secretary of State says that the runway cannot be opened unless air quality conditions are met. The document “Heathrow Airport Ltd: statement of principles” contains a cost recovery clause for Heathrow in case the project does not proceed following this decision. Can the Secretary of State confirm that taxpayers might have to pick up a bill for billions of pounds?
The project cannot pass the development consent order stage unless the airport can demonstrate that it will follow air quality guidelines. We have been very clear about that, which is why Heathrow is consulting on a potential low-emission zone. The whole point about air quality, however, is that it is a broader problem, for London and other cities, which will need to be dealt with well before 2026. That is why the Government have issued air quality proposals, and that is why we are determined to see changes in society that tackle the air quality issue.
I welcome the statement, and the Secretary of State’s acceptance of the points made by the Transport Committee. We look forward to examining the detail in the final national policy statement. We said that an expanded Heathrow must deliver for the whole of the UK, not just the south-east of England. Can the Secretary of State explain how public service obligations can guarantee that a new runway will result in more domestic routes which will be distributed fairly across the regions and nations of the UK, and can he tell us how this proposal fits in with his Department’s plans for high-speed rail connectivity between cities in the midlands and the north?
Let me deal with the last point first. I think that we will need both. Creating a rapid link between our great cities is a necessary part of doing business domestically, and that will mean connectivity to airports as well. However, I think that the real benefit of expanding the runway is the linkage that results from the ability to fly, for example, from Edinburgh to Heathrow to Shanghai if a direct flight is not available. The local market will simply not be big enough for a regional airport to deliver the direct route.
As for the public service obligation process, we will introduce the strongest measures to ring-fence those slots. We will ensure that they cannot simply be taken away, and that should mean that they must be provided at a cost that is affordable for UK domestic aviation. If routes that are strategically necessary for the United Kingdom require PSO support financially, I have no doubt that this Government, and future Governments, will wish to ensure that those routes are provided for as well. We already apply that to some key routes.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on pushing through a decision that probably should have been made 10 years ago. Does he agree that to gain both the economic and full environmental benefits of this decision a significant increase will be required in the rail links into Heathrow—not just the ones already planned, but some that are still some way off? Will he also expand on what he said in his statement about the new rail lines planned from different parts of the country so that people have proper public transport access to what will be a hugely expanding airport?
I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend and thank him for his supportive comments. On the mix of rail services that will service this new runway, if Parliament gives it the go-ahead, in the short term there will be the arrival of Crossrail services and the upgrade of the Piccadilly line. The HS2 station at Old Oak Common will also open. In the investment plans for control period 6, we have planned funding to develop a western rail access into Heathrow for connections to Reading and the west country. We are in the process of discussing with private sector investors proposals for the southern rail access which will connect the south-western rail networks into Heathrow airport. In addition, we are beginning work on an option that is very relevant to you, Mr Speaker, which would take the Chiltern line into Old Oak Common—there is already a line that connects into Chiltern—and as we see more development on the Oxford-Cambridge corridor, that will provide an additional route into Heathrow from that important growth area. I think this is a pretty holistic package of planned rail improvements.
How does the Secretary of State reconcile his claims about regional connectivity with the fact that Heathrow expansion is opposed by all the largest regional airports—Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands and Bristol—as well as those in the south-east, Stansted and Gatwick? Since these communities are represented by Members from different parties, does he agree that it would be appropriate to have a free vote on the NPS when it is put before Parliament?
It is clearly up to every individual party to decide how they will approach this vote, but my experience is not what the right hon. Gentleman has just communicated to me: my experience is that around the United Kingdom there is huge support from regional airports and, crucially, regional business groups for the expansion of Heathrow airport. We have looked at the projections, and they show growth at almost all of our regional airports, and I do not have the sense of opposition from the regional airports that the right hon. Gentleman is describing.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, but, without wishing to compromise him in any decisions he may have to take in the future, I cannot help noticing that he has indicated very clearly that it will take some years for there to be wheels on tarmac and a new runway at Heathrow. In the interim, we have to make the best use of existing runway capacity, and, in that context, and post-Brexit, I hope the Government will look favourably on maximising the use of available existing runways in Kent.
How can the Secretary of State say that the cost of expansion will not fall on either taxpayers or airline passengers when the airport and airlines are not prepared to fund the essential transport infrastructure around Heathrow that is needed to address the air quality and appalling traffic congestion we already have, and when the Transport Committee report in March found that the environmental impacts on London and the south-east have not been fully monetised and need to be addressed?
As the hon. Lady will find when she reads the updated NPS document, that latter point is one of several recommendations from the Committee that we have addressed, and we have added additional information to the NPS.
On the hon. Lady’s comments about access to the airport, I have just given a firm commitment that we should deliver a package as broad as that to support this. One Select Committee recommendation was to strengthen the wording about western and southern rail access, and that has happened; we are very committed to both of those. This is a broad-ranging package that will transform surface access to Heathrow.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Does he agree that as Heathrow is the UK’s hub airport and this expansion will bring forward new routes, improved connectivity to Heathrow will bring important benefits to the people and economy of Yorkshire and other parts of the northern powerhouse?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. One of the disappointments recently has been a reduction in the number of flights from Leeds Bradford airport to Heathrow. Creating more capacity at Heathrow will create greater competition and allow new entrants to regional markets, and will allow some of the routes that have not been there in recent years to reappear.
It beggars belief that the words “climate change” did not pass the Secretary of State’s lips once during the statement. In his Department’s most recent aviation forecast there is no scenario in which expansion at Heathrow is compatible with meeting the Government’s own commitments under the Climate Change Act 2008 to limit air passenger growth to 60% by 2050. And those same projections imply that if this runway is approved aviation will take up over half of the UK’s entire carbon budget by 2050, which is absurd. Given that the Committee on Climate Change has said “Don’t use international offsetting,” can the Secretary of State explain how on earth this proposal is compatible with our climate change objectives?
As the hon. Lady will know, the Airports Commission looked at this issue very carefully and formed the view that we could meet our climate change objectives and expand Heathrow. Of course in the aviation sector there is a transformation of the technology that means aircraft are much more fuel-efficient and therefore emit less, so technology is helping us move towards achieving the right approach.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, and many in my constituency will benefit economically and directly from this expansion and are supportive of it. Does my right hon. Friend recognise, however, that the issues around air quality, and indeed pollution generally, are not just confined to aircraft movements, but are also affected by the entire traffic management in the area around Heathrow? He will be aware that parts of my constituency, particularly Iver, are seriously blighted by the existence of Heathrow as it is at present, and if this development is to go ahead there will have to be the necessary infrastructure investment to alleviate that.
I absolutely agree with my right hon. and learned Friend. He will be aware that we have had a number of toings and froings over the months about whether it will be necessary to build a depot at Langley; that has now been resolved and that depot is not now happening, which will simplify the process of delivering western rail access, and I hope will ease many of the pressures. One of the factors that will have an impact in my right hon. and learned Friend’s constituency and the large number of people who travel to work at Heathrow is that western rail access will not only deliver better connectivity to the west country but will make it easier for staff to get the train to work.
It may be long overdue but this is the wrong decision, and it flies in the face of what the current Prime Minister has previously said, not to mention the last one with his “No ifs, no buts,” no third runway comment. So does this U-turn, like the abandoning of the feed-in tariff and like the embrace of Hinkley Point, show that this Government’s green dalliance and “hug a husky” phase is now well and truly over?
I gently say to the hon. Lady that I appreciate that this is a difficult decision for communities immediately around Heathrow and the Members who represent them. We cannot take a decision like this one without having an impact, and we will do everything we can to work with the airport to make sure that impact is minimised. The hon. Lady talks about previous commitments, and I simply remind her that we fought a general election last year on a manifesto commitment to pursue this process, and that is what we are doing.
Having discussed this for almost a decade, it will be almost another decade before the first plane takes off from the new runway, so when the Secretary of State said that the time for action is now it was hardly an overstatement. He is right to claim that this will benefit regional airports such as Exeter in my constituency, Newquay, Bristol and others. I suggest, however, that rather than getting local authorities to come up with expansion plans, this should be the responsibility of the Government if they want a fully integrated aviation system. Also, while Heathrow and Gatwick will see certainly more regional flights using them as a hub, that will again raise the issue of air passenger duty, and I urge the Secretary of State to talk to the Chancellor of the Exchequer soon about taking this opportunity to revamp the whole APD issue.
On the planning process, we think it is better that decisions on smaller expansion projects—typically under 10 million passenger expansions—are taken locally in full light of the impacts on local communities, both positive in terms of the economic generation but also other impacts on communities around them. Where a project is bigger than that, we think we should continue to use the NPS process; we think that provides the right balance, ensuring that local decisions are taken about projects of an appropriate size, but that if a future project is on a much more substantial scale this House continues to play the part it does today.
I welcome this statement, and I support expansion at Heathrow; it is absolutely essential for the national interest and for international connectivity. This plan is supported by Liverpool’s John Lennon airport. How can the Secretary of State guarantee that the promised link between the expanded Heathrow airport and Liverpool will materialise?
First, I thank the hon. Lady for her clear statement of support. She has a distinguished record in this area. She and I served on the Transport Committee when we were first elected. She is a very experienced person in the transport world, and I am grateful to her for her support and for sharing my view of the strategic importance of this decision. On protecting the right of access, Heathrow has made a number of specific commitments. Ultimately, this will require airlines to be able and willing to fly those routes, but my view is that the opening up of Heathrow to new carriers—some of the low-cost carriers that have done well elsewhere and that dominate the other airports—will ensure that those routes happen. I will have to ensure that the slots are there for those carriers to fly to and that, in places where there is a social need but not an economic one, we continue to provide support through the public service obligation system.
The Secretary of State has already emphasised the preparedness of Heathrow, but the truth is that we do not know how the third runway can be reconciled with air pollution limits or with our climate change targets, as has already been mentioned. We do not know how many communities will be brought under the new flight paths and how many hundreds of thousands of people will be affected by that. We do not know how many tens of billions of pounds of public money will be needed to facilitate access to and from Heathrow, and we do not even know how Heathrow will finance this project. What we do know, following a dramatic revision by the Government of the benefits to the economy and to connectivity, is that Heathrow is now on a par with Gatwick. Can my right hon. Friend understand why, for so many people, this looks not only like a blank cheque being given by this Government to a foreign-owned multinational but like a whole book of cheques signed by our constituents?
I very much respect my hon. Friend’s view on this. He and I have not shared the same view, but I very much respect the vigour with which he has argued his case, not just over the past few weeks but over a long period. On the economic value of Heathrow versus Gatwick, it has been shown—and as the documentation published today shows—that once we get past the 2060s, the economic case for Gatwick catches up with and overtakes the case for Heathrow. Between now and then, however, the economic case for expanding Heathrow is stronger. We have used the methodology that the Airports Commission chose to use, and it does not factor in the significant strategic importance of freight at Heathrow, which is not counted. Heathrow is the biggest port by value in the United Kingdom, and this element will also deliver a huge economic benefit for the UK.
I welcome today’s statement and support expansion at Heathrow. Newcastle international airport is vital for the north-east economy, and the Secretary of State has already mentioned the support in the regions for Heathrow expansion because of increased connectivity from airports such as Newcastle. May I kindly suggest that, before the vote, he publishes the exact details of how those slots can be maintained, because a lot of that regional support is conditional on getting those additional slots?
I am happy to provide any further information that hon. Members require, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support today. As he will remember, when we first announced our provisional decision last year, I made my first visit to Newcastle airport. It is a very good airport, and the leadership there told me how this project would help them to develop their business and help the economy of the north-east. I will certainly look to provide extra information, but I would say that some of the detail will become clear further along the process. At the moment, the advice I have is that we are probably best to use the public service obligation requirements to guarantee that those slots are available. Of course, the airlines will have to be willing to fly them, but as I said a moment ago, in a more competitive market in which new entrants are able to compete—as they do all around the United Kingdom but not at Heathrow—we will see routes appear that should have been there a long time ago. They are not there now, but they will be in the future.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend and completely support this decision, which has been a very long time coming. There will be efforts to try to delay the process, and he has mentioned the possibility of judicial reviews. What assurance can he give me that he and the Government will be absolutely behind this project, to overcome the hurdles and ensure that we meet the programme? The European airports are not going to wait, and we do not want to lose the opportunity that this will give us.
We have taken careful legal advice as we have been through this exhaustive process, and I want to pay tribute to my team at the Department for Transport for doing a fantastic job of assembling a vast amount of material for the House to study before the vote and to demonstrate the case that we are making today. If we are challenged in the courts, it is essential that we can demonstrate that we can make our case, but this is a matter for our elected Parliament. This House will decide whether I should designate the national policy statement, and I very much hope that that will carry weight as we go through the rest of the process.
Such a significant expansion in aviation capacity raises major environmental and ethical concerns, but given the recommendations of the Transport Committee, I believe that this is the right option, provided that it delivers for regional economic growth. Businesses and residents in Newcastle deserve just as much access to direct flights as those in the south, but given that network economics make that impossible, what additional capacity will the Secretary of State guarantee for Newcastle airport and for how long, regardless of how he makes that work?
The important thing to say is that the reservation of slots for our regional airports is not a time-limited thing; it is a permanent feature. We would not countenance putting in place a legal mechanism that could be eroded away over time. That is what has happened in recent times: regional connections to Heathrow have diminished in number, and regional routes have been replaced by long-haul routes, but I can give an absolutely categorical assurance to the House that the legal mechanism that will be put in place will prevent that from happening again.
I congratulate Ministers on finally making a tough decision that puts the national interest, prosperity and business confidence ahead of politics—an approach that I hope will apply in our other big decisions. I echo the views of the former Secretaries of State, my right hon. Friends the Members for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin) and for Putney (Justine Greening), on the importance of cost control. Does the Secretary of State agree that the Heathrow hub proposal, which would extend over the M25 and be cheaper, quieter, quicker and less environmentally damaging, has much to commend it, both at Heathrow, where it was rejected by shareholders who perversely will make more money from a more expensive scheme, as well as at other airports around the country? Would he encourage such a proposal for other airports?
A lot of innovation went into the Heathrow hub proposal, and we considered it very carefully when we reached our initial recommendation. There were a number of drawbacks to it. For example, it would give much less respite for people around the airport by operating in the way that was proposed. However, I have no doubt that its promoters, who are smart people and who have developed some innovative ideas, will be using those ideas to encourage change in other places around the world and hopefully building an international business for themselves.
At last! After years being wasted under the coalition Government, we now at last have a Government who are taking a grip on this issue. This decision should have been taken years ago. With Crossrail coming, my constituents in east London and people in Essex and Kent will greatly benefit from this decision, and I welcome it. Can the Secretary of State assure me, however, that there will be no further delays because of divisions in his Cabinet?
First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for that resounding statement of support. This matter was discussed at the Cabinet this morning. The Airports sub-Committee met earlier this morning and reached its view, and the Cabinet was informed of it. I can tell him that the Cabinet gave almost entirely universal support for it.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, particularly his outlining of the five new rail lines that would support Heathrow’s expansion, but I contrast that with there being no proposals to support any new rail capacity at Gatwick. It is on the busiest commuter line in the country, and he is only too aware of the problems there today. The Opposition spokesman gave a masterclass in how to avoid making a decision if one is in that political position, but does my right hon. Friend agree that if we are to discharge our duty to future generations, having analysed and consulted on the proposal to death, now is the time to make a decision?
Now is definitely the time to take a decision. I agree that transport links to Gatwick need to improve, which is why Gatwick station is one of the projects that we are working on with the airport at the moment, but I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s support.
The north-east is a global-facing region, and links to an international hub are critical for its economy. A third runway at Heathrow is a strategic necessity and essential to Durham Tees Valley airport, which is in my constituency, and Newcastle airport. The Secretary of State says that 15% of slots will be for domestic connections, but how can he guarantee that? Will domestic slots be ring-fenced? What are the implications for Durham Tees Valley airport?
Durham Tees Valley is one of the airports that Heathrow has identified as a potential beneficiary of the expansion, and I am clear that there will be legally binding mechanisms in place to reserve slots for regional airports. That is part of the core rationale for making this decision, and the project would have much less credibility without it, so I have every intention of ensuring that we deliver those protections for our regions.
Although not before time, this decision is great news not only for UK plc but for regional airports such as Leeds Bradford, which have too long been hampered by a lack of slots into our major hub airports, and for customers who have had to connect at airports such as Schiphol or Charles de Gaulle, which plays into the hands of our competitors. I read in the newspaper that there may be some barriers to the actual construction, so may I offer my services as someone with some experience of driving bulldozers?
I will speak to Heathrow airport this afternoon and get someone to send my right hon. Friend a job application. However, whether the project will use some of the heavy equipment that he has at his disposal is a different question.
Past polling suggests that my constituents are, on balance, in principle in favour of Heathrow’s expansion due to the support that will be provided to small and medium-sized enterprises and the employment that is dependent on Heathrow. However, they are rightly concerned about noise, pollution, respite and night flights—the issues that have been discussed today—and confidence in Heathrow is not high, based on past performance. Flight paths are a significant issue, so will the Secretary of State ensure the publication of any proposals as soon as possible? That information should be available to Members before we vote. Will he also confirm that the criteria on which he will assess southern rail access will consider the regeneration benefits in addition to access from Surrey and from Waterloo?
On the last point, my view is that we just need to make the southern rail project happen. That is why we are looking to get the private sector to do it. It is a project that can be delivered by the private sector, and private consortia are interested in doing so. As for flight paths, it is necessary to work off the back of Heathrow’s initial design work to consider the requirements for them. That involves setting out the exact geography of our airports and then mapping what we need around them. That is the process, and a major reorganisation of our airspace will happen in the early 2020s. That would have had to happen anyway, and this proposal will bed into that.
Manchester airport is a key transport hub, handling almost 28 million passengers a year and driving the economic progress of the northern powerhouse. How will my right hon. Friend ensure that the north feels the benefits of this announcement?
Manchester will be in an interesting position, because it will be connected with Heathrow by air and by high-speed rail. The linkage between the two airports will become a strong strategic benefit for the UK. I expect Manchester to have more flights to Heathrow, but I also expect more trains linking the two to provide a real interchange between Britain’s two most substantial airports.
Connecting the regions and nations of the UK to opportunities and markets abroad has to be about more than how much they can have routes through a national hub in the south-east—however important that national hub is. Does the Secretary of State agree that airports such as Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and East Midlands for freight are international gateways in their own right, not simply regional airports as he described them? While every Minister to whom I have spoken about this has said that they want to support all the UK’s international gateways, few of them have said what they will actually do to make that a reality, to utilise existing capacity and to ensure that the potential of those airports grows in the time it will take, which could be a decade or more, to build the new runway—if indeed that goes ahead. What will the Secretary of State do about that?
We have a thriving aviation sector, and I am unsure whether regional airports need ministerial help to grow because they are doing a pretty good job already. Every time I visit a regional airport, I am surprised by the range of international destinations. Cardiff airport has recently launched a route to Qatar, and a whole variety of different European, transatlantic and other international routes have been developed at our regional airports. I expect that to continue, but the reality is that, apart from some of the most strategically important routes, there is often not enough of a market in a regional area to justify the launch of a route. The purpose of a hub airport is effectively to assemble a market to justify such routes and strengthen the whole UK.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement today. Given that the Heathrow is the UK’s biggest port by value for exports outside the European Union, does he agree that its expansion will be crucial to British businesses all over the country in the post-Brexit world?
Absolutely. It is important that Heathrow is planning to source services, products and manufacturing from all around the UK. As Alan Brown said earlier, we want this project to create not just connections for the whole UK but opportunities for businesses around the country.
Why is the Secretary of State so much in support of the unpopular expansion of Heathrow airports when airports such as Bristol are looking to expand, which would make much more environmental and economic sense to my constituents in Bath and to people across the south-west? As Richard Burden pointed out, regional airports are international airports in their own right, so why the obsession with London airports?
This is not about one thing or the other. Bristol airport has done a fantastic job of building up an international network, serving more than 100 destinations, and it is a great airport and a great success story. However, that does not remove the need for a hub airport to deliver strategic connections that only really operate from a single centre, with a market assembled from several destinations within the UK and, indeed, internationally to make such routes viable.
While I acknowledge the Heathrow runway expansion decision and welcome a decision finally being made, will the Secretary of State assure me that that will not detract from the necessary infrastructure investment at Gatwick airport, particularly, as my hon. Friend Crispin Blunt said, investing in upgrading the station and rail capacity into Gatwick?
My hon. Friend is right. Indeed, as he said yesterday, we have two important pieces of engineering work coming up that I hope will increase the reliability of that railway line, which has already seen a big increase in capacity. Gatwick station also needs to be addressed. The proposals that I have announced today about local decisions on smaller expansions will allow airports around the country to enter into dialogue with local authorities about their future without all such decisions being taken at a national level.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement. When the expansion proposal comes before the House in the next few days, I will support it not only because it is in the national interest but because Heathrow is committed to a robust UK supply chain built on four construction hubs throughout the country. Will the Secretary of State commit to supporting that supply chain in every way necessary to ensure that the jobs created by expansion benefit my constituents as well as constituents in the south-east?
Absolutely. One of the key benefits is that this multi-billion pound project will serve the entire United Kingdom. Both the airport plan and the supply chain that supports it will create thousands of jobs and thousands of new apprenticeships. The supply chain will be across the United Kingdom, and it will create jobs and opportunities, in the Year of Engineering, for a new generation of engineers.
As a member of the Transport Committee, I thank my right hon. Friend for accepting our recommendations. As the champion of the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge corridor, I am heartened by his proposal to link the Chiltern line into Heathrow. I urge him to bring forward those plans as soon as possible, because that connectivity will help to realise the Government’s wider ambitions for Britain’s brain belt.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend on that latter point. I am working with HS2 to make sure that provision is made in the development of Old Oak Common to put in those Chiltern line platforms. The Oxford-Cambridge corridor is crucial to the development of our economy. It will need connections into our premier hub, and this is the best way of achieving that.
This is not even a robust plan for London, and it damages and stunts regional airports. The Secretary of State has given no details about flight paths, and has no coherent plans for air quality, surface access, jobs or controlling public subsidy. He is well known for his reverse Midas touch but, on this issue, should he not listen to Justine Greening? She said this morning that we need a UK-wide airport strategy, not this expensive and incompetent botch job.
I know that the hon. Gentleman has a particular view on this proposal, so I did not expect to find him supportive of it. We will work very hard to ensure that the areas affected by expansion are treated as decently as possible and supported by what will be a world-leading package of community support, which I hope will mitigate the impact of this project of national strategic importance.
There is capacity at a number of our regional airports, which continue to grow. Birmingham airport will continue to grow. If we expand Heathrow, there is no doubt Birmingham airport will face greater competitive pressure than many of our other airports, but that does not mean that it will cease to be a success story. Birmingham airport is already a great asset for the west midlands, and that will continue. It has attracted a number of important international routes in recent times, and I have no doubt that that will continue.
For all the talk of balancing economic growth and boosting the regions, it is the same old story—the bulk of investment, spending, jobs and benefits is always in London and the south-east. Why could the Government not show a bit more imagination by expanding Birmingham airport and getting behind the regions? Birmingham airport is actually the best connected airport in the country. It is on the motorway network and, if HS2 were taken to Heathrow, it would be quicker for passengers to get from Heathrow to Birmingham than it now is for them to get from Paddington to Heathrow. That would mean that we in the midlands would get our fair share of the jobs, the investment and the benefits.
I make it clear that I expect there to be benefits and jobs all around the country, including in the west midlands. Birmingham airport is a very good airport. I have no doubt that it will continue to attract passengers and routes, and to be a success story for the west midlands—that is the way it should be. There are particular reasons why the United Kingdom needs to build on its principal strategic airport hub, but that will not prevent other airports from growing. The measures I have announced today will enable those airports to do so.
I warmly welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement of the long-overdue decision to expand our national hub airport in the national interest. I assure him that this announcement will be warmly welcomed across the south-west, particularly in Cornwall.
I thank the Secretary of State for his specific reference to Newquay airport and for his commitment to ensuring that slots are available for regional airports. In that vein, does he agree that a direct link from Newquay to Heathrow would offer huge opportunities for greater exports from Cornwall and for inward investment into Cornwall? I ask for his support to ensure we can achieve that.
Newquay is one of the principal future beneficiaries of expansion. There is a real opportunity to increase air links to a part of the country that is quite distant in existing transport terms. I am strongly of the view, as is my hon. Friend, that Newquay has the potential to flourish with Heathrow expansion, and I will happily work with him to do everything we can to make sure that happens.
The project will likely span multiple Parliaments, and certainly successive Administrations, so does the Secretary of State agree that it would be frankly incredible for a party of government not to have a clear position on this proposal when it comes to be voted on in Parliament? Will he therefore confirm the whipping arrangements for his own party? Can he suggest any mechanisms that might allow some individuals to take a different view while maintaining collective responsibility?
It is for each party to decide its own whipping arrangements—I have no doubt that is what will happen. On the timetable, I expect to reach the completion of the DCO process late in this Parliament. I hope we can get going on building this runway in the early 2020s, if the House gives its consent over the next couple of weeks. I hope all parties that aspire to govern this country in the post-Brexit world will unite behind a proposal of vital strategic importance.
I congratulate the Secretary of State on at last moving this issue forward. Does he agree that the delays, which have been caused by successive Governments, have caused the UK to lose a lot of business? For example, Dublin is already getting on with expanding its airport. I know that there are restrictions and difficulties, but may I ask him—so that this country does not continue to lose air business—to move this issue on as quickly as possible?
I give my hon. Friend that assurance. Like many other Members, my view is that this decision should have been taken a long time ago. At least we are taking it now, and I want to get on with the job.
Transport for London has estimated that it will cost some £20 billion to link the third runway to London. Will the Department be designating that as UK spend or as England-only spend? If the Secretary of State cannot answer that question now, will he make sure that the Government officially outline their position before we are expected to vote?
As I have said before, I do not recognise that figure. We have a well-designed plan to deliver the transformation of surface access to Heathrow—some privately funded and some already in the investment pipeline—such as on Crossrail and HS2, all of which is reflected in the settlements that exist across the United Kingdom for capital spending.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Does he agree that the chance to promote skills in construction and engineering out in the regions, particularly at the manufacturing hub near my Mansfield constituency, is a massive chance both to provide the kinds of high-quality jobs for which my constituents are crying out and to raise aspiration and social mobility in such areas across England?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is the Year of Engineering, and projects such as the expansion of Heathrow and HS2 have the ability to provide opportunity and excitement for the new generation of engineers that we will need if we are to have a successful economy. This project is much more than a transport project; it is about the development of skills and job opportunities for the whole United Kingdom.
Londoners, especially those such as my constituents who live under Heathrow flight paths, already face unacceptable levels of air pollution and noise pollution, not to mention the grave risks we all face from climate change. Why does the Secretary of State think that noise pollution, air pollution and climate change are not important enough issues to influence Government policy?
We have carefully considered issues such as noise, air quality and climate change, which was why we commissioned the Airports Commission to do its detailed work, and why we have updated that work so that the House has all the information it needs. Of course, the other thing we have to take into account is the potential for our economy, which is why I am grateful—perhaps unusually—to the Unite trade union and Len McCluskey, whom the hon. Lady knows well, who this morning again expressed his support for the project.
The CAA and NATS have already started work on airspace changes and the consultation on them. This is vital because it can have two big effects. First, it makes the future management of our airspace possible. At the moment, airspace is extremely congested, with conflicts between airports, and we need to modernise and to use new technology. Secondly, it enables a change to the management of aircraft as they come into the UK’s airspace in a way that can substantially affect stacking, which is also a huge benefit. The proposal of the third runway does not change the need for reform; it simply adapts that reform to fit the more detailed design as it emerges.
The estimates fluctuate somewhat but, in essence, we are talking about the number of additional jobs created being in the high tens of thousands. Obviously this depends on how we measure and estimate them, as well as on the rate of expansion of the airport, but about 100,000 extra jobs should be created.
There is strong support for the proposal from Swindon businesses and residents, particularly hard-working families looking to book holidays. May I also stress the importance of the western rail link, as it would give my constituents direct access to Heathrow in less than one hour?
My hon. Friend is right about the importance of the proposal in terms of not only connections to places such as Swindon, Bristol, the south-west and south Wales but, as I said earlier, providing better opportunities for staff who live more locally to get to work on the train. I absolutely accept the importance of the project. It is part of our investment plans for the next control period on the railways, and my expectation is that it will be open in good time for the runway.
The Secretary of State will know from my questions in the Transport Committee that I wanted his Department and Heathrow to do much more about getting people to the airport by public transport in a two-runway world, let alone in a three-runway world. We need to see the money, not just hear the soundbites, so will he assure us that western rail access is now fully funded? How much of the funding will be contributed by Heathrow?
As far as I am concerned, that is fully funded, and we intend to extract as much money as possible from Heathrow for all the improvements—it needs to make a substantial contribution to this, but the project will be delivered.
May I warmly welcome this comprehensive statement? I wish to pick up on a point that my right hon. Friend made about freight transportation, because I believe that was omitted from the otherwise excellent Davies commission. Will he confirm that, and will he also confirm that adding in freight transport significantly increases the economic value of Heathrow?
Yes, I was surprised that that was not taken into account, but the Davies commission did not seek to monetise the freight potential of an expanded Heathrow and factor that into its findings. We have carefully followed the same methodology as it used, because we judged it to be wrong to change methodology mid-stream, but the numbers do not include freight. Heathrow is our biggest freight airport by value—it is our biggest freight port by value. It is central to the economy of many parts of the UK, ranging from the north of Scotland, from where smoked salmon products are shipped internationally via Heathrow, to more local businesses in the London area. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that freight is a crucial part of this decision.
I warmly welcome the statement. Let me be clear that expanding Heathrow is about not just London, but Torbay—it is about businesses getting out to markets, and seafood being shipped out to China every day through this port. Will my right hon. Friend reassure me that we will now get on with this and very quickly have the vote on the Floor of this House so that we show just what support the plan has?
The answer to that is most definitely yes. As a result of the statutory process, we have to get on with the vote—it will happen shortly. Clearly the business managers will announce the detailed dates of the business, but I want to get on with this as well.
On behalf of the businesses and people of the north-east of Scotland, I thank the Secretary of State for his announcement. Sectors including UK oil and gas, as well as economic growth in my part of the world, are reliant on numerous slots to the south-east and beyond, so I thank him. To put this beyond any doubt, will he confirm that the decision will mean a growth in connectivity for Scotland, and for Aberdeen in particular?
Absolutely. Aberdeen and the oil industry are clearly one potential beneficiary from all this. The oil industry is to be found in disparate parts of the world, and we have enormous expertise in Aberdeen. The routes that people in the oil industry need to take would not automatically be served by a regional airport, which is why a better hub airport with more international connections is a particular benefit to industries such as his in Aberdeen.
I call Huw Merriman.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is a pleasure to get through your stacking system ahead of Air Corby.
I thank the Secretary of State because, as a member of the Transport Committee, it is a delight for me to see the Committee, across party, collaborating with the Government—I think that this is the best of it. Our recommendation 22 dealt with the Lakeside Energy from Waste plant. Will he confirm that there is still a commercial opportunity for a more up-to-date waste management capability to be purchased? That is the only recommendation that has not been followed by the Government.
I had a lot of sympathy with what the Select Committee was saying, but we did not accept that recommendation because the plant is not an asset categorised as strategically important for the UK. Clearly discussions are already taking place between the airport and the owners about what should happen to that plant. Had it been of strategic importance, we would absolutely have accepted the Committee’s recommendation, but the truth is that it is not, so this really is a matter for the different organisations involved.
It is always good to get through at last call, Mr Speaker.
What difference does my right hon. Friend think this decision will make to our international trading prospects and to UK steel supply chains? Let me also tell him that in Corby we certainly want one of these new construction hubs.
I suspect there will be quite a lot of competition for those hubs. I have no doubt that Corby will do a great job in attracting business as a result of this project. Its particular importance relates to the events of the past few years. We will shortly be entering the post-Brexit world. If this country is to demonstrate that we will remain an outward and internationally focused trading nation, such a project will be of vital strategic importance to us. Whatever anyone’s view might be about the Brexit process, I hope that all Members will accept that we are much better off demonstrating to the world that we want to be connected, involved and trading post-Brexit. As a result, I hope that people across the House will get behind the proposal to make sure that it is carried, when it comes to a vote, and that we send a powerful message to the world that Britain is in business.
If the point of order relates to that which we have just been discussing—I think it does—I am happy to take it now.
Mr Speaker, the statement omitted to mention when the national policy statement debate will be. That is important, because Members will of course want to table written questions to find out more about the copious documents that have been published. I am concerned that there is not much time to table named day questions and receive answers in time for the debate. What would your advice be on that?
My advice in the first instance is to see, here and now, whether the Secretary of State can provide any illumination on that matter. Depending on what he says, I might have further advice for the right hon. Lady.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. The formal process in statute is that the vote has to take place within 21 sitting days of my tabling the NPS. That took place this morning, so the vote has to take place within 21 sitting days of now. The exact date will be a matter for the business managers, but we will want to ensure that Members have sufficient time to look at the material tabled today. As for written questions, I will make sure that my Department expedites responses to issues raised by Members so that they can study them in good time before the vote.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that response to the point of order raised by Justine Greening. Flowing from it, my perhaps unsurprising advice to her is that she should press ahead with her tabling of questions with dispatch. In the light of the commitment that the Secretary of State has given, it is to be expected that colleagues interested in this matter, and the Chair, will keenly attend to the speed and comprehensiveness with which ministerial replies to those, in effect, urgent questions are provided.