Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I beg to move,
That this House
approves the National Policy Statement on New runway capacity and infrastructure at airports in the South East of England, which was laid before this House on
This is a very important moment in the history of the House and the history of the country. If the House endorses the proposed national airports policy statement today, it will move on from decades of debate and set what is, to my mind, a clear path to our future as a global nation in the post-Brexit world.
Let me explain to Members what we are doing today. The proposed policy statement does not grant final planning consent; what it does is set the policy against which a promoter of an expanded Heathrow airport can deliver more detailed design and participate in the detailed planning process that can lead to final consent.
I thank the many Members on both sides of the House who have gone on the record to support expansion at Heathrow, and who have made considerable efforts to persuade others of its importance to all nations and regions of the United Kingdom. I know that this debate is divisive for many, but there is also strong support across the House for what I believe is a very important step for our nation, and I am grateful to all those who have been involved in supporting the way forward that I believe is right for our country.
My right hon. Friend has mentioned divisiveness. I personally think that this development is well overdue, and, although I know that it is not on the cards, I would support a fourth and a fifth runway, at Heathrow and at Gatwick. Does my right hon. Friend accept, however, that—just as with HS2—when constituency matters come into the equation, it is understandable that some people feel that they are unable to vote for this Government motion, and might find themselves called away?
I would never criticise any Member for representing the views of his or her constituents. After all, whatever position we may hold in the House, in government or in opposition, we are all ultimately constituency MPs, and it is absolutely right for us to champion the issues that affect our constituents.
I also want to thank people outside the House. It is unusual for me to find myself campaigning on the same side of the argument as Len McCluskey of Unite the Union, but the trade union movement has been a strong supporter of this, as have business groups in all corners of the United Kingdom.
I will join the Secretary of State in the Lobby tonight because I think that the third runway is a piece of infrastructure of national importance that will benefit the whole nation. However, what it must not do is increase the disparity of wealth and income between the regions of this country and London and the south-east. Can the Secretary of State tell us what extra funds he will invest in the regional airports to ensure that they can make their contribution? It cannot be right, at a time when this investment will lead to a great deal of public expenditure in the south-east, that Manchester airport is expected to pay for the station for HS2.
I absolutely take on board the hon. Gentleman’s point. Of course Manchester airport is a great success story, and a great international success story. I have been working with the airport management to help it expand its expertise internationally and will continue to do that.
What I would say to reassure the hon. Gentleman is that, as he will be aware, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority has indicated that the region of the country that will secure the highest proportion of Government spending on transport in the next few years is the north-west. That is right and proper—a sign of our continuing commitment to deliver improvements in the north of this country that are long, long overdue.
The Secretary of State is absolutely right: Members of Parliament have a duty to stand up for their constituents, and I will do just that. Can he confirm that the expansion of Heathrow puts an end to the daft estuary airport idea, and that the long-term provision of air capacity needs can be met at Gatwick?
The Airports Commission looked very carefully at the estuary airport concept, concluded that it was not viable and made this recommendation. I see no way how, off the back of an expanded Heathrow, an estuary airport would become a viable option, so I reassure my hon. Friend on that point.
In terms of the benefits for the regions, does the Secretary of State accept that the expansion opens up the opportunity for over 500 jobs for Northern Ireland, £5 billion of economic growth, a £10 million airline route development programme, and a logistics hub that, if based in Northern Ireland, will increase productivity and jobs and make Northern Ireland a key part of this development programme? Does he support that hub being in Northern Ireland?
This project, including the development hub concept that Heathrow has been promoting, will make a contribution to the economy of all parts of the United Kingdom. I know the hon. Gentleman has a keen eye on making sure that the hub goes to Ballymena; I cannot make any promises to the airport on the plan, but I know the hon. Gentleman will carry on making that argument very robustly.
Whether it is pre or post-Brexit, does the Secretary of State accept that, to be an open, liberal, market economy, we need an airport that can compete against the likes of Paris, Schiphol, Istanbul, Dubai and Doha? On the issue of the regions, does he accept that Birmingham airport also has a part to play over the skies of the UK?
Order. Before the Secretary of State answers the two questions in that intervention, may I say that interventions should be short and should make one point? Otherwise, it is not fair to Members at the end of the incredibly long list of speakers I have here. Those making interventions now at great length are taking time away from the Members who will be trying to speak, having sat here until after 9 o’clock tonight.
Also, there are lots of conversations going on around the Chamber; perhaps Members are negotiating which way they are going to vote this evening. If they are, will they do so either more quietly or somewhere else? The rest of the House wishes to hear the Secretary of State.
I say in response to my hon. Friend Mark Pritchard that this is absolutely crucial to the UK as a whole. He is right that Birmingham airport is probably the most directly affected, although of course HS2’s arriving at Birmingham airport will create fantastic connections to that great airport from around the country.
Our forecasts show all regional airports growing, which is an indication that we need to provide the capacity at Heathrow. We can do so without damaging the prosperity of the regions. Indeed, it will enhance the prosperity of the regions, as their airports grow and their connections improve.
My right hon. Friend should be commended for finally, at long last, bringing forward this vital measure of national infrastructure. Will he confirm that although, according to Sir Howard Davies, London and the south-east will benefit to the tune of £52 billion economically, the north, Birmingham and the rest of the country will benefit to the tune of nearly £80 billion?
My right hon. Friend is right, and it is interesting how much support there has been from around the whole United Kingdom: not a single regional airport has opposed the expansion of Heathrow, and I have talked to business groups up and down this country, all of whom support the expansion of Heathrow because they believe it will make a huge difference.
Although airport expansion is crucial to our economic success, does my right hon. Friend accept that from 2014 unfortunate changes to the pattern of aviation movements from Heathrow, made without consultation, have created a much worse noise situation over my constituency and adjacent constituencies? Will he ensure that a proper noise reduction programme is in place from now on? We do not like the existing level of noise, let alone an expanded one.
I absolutely understand my right hon. Friend’s concerns and will make two points to him. First, we intend to move ahead quickly with setting up the independent noise monitoring body, which is needed to make sure the rules are kept to. In addition, I believe the modernisation of air space, and proper enforcement of the way air space operates, will mean we can use it in a smarter way, give communities more relief and avoid the kind of change that affected my right hon. Friend’s constituency. I give him the assurance that I will work with him, and make sure that NATS and others work with him, to ensure that the issue he is concerned about is addressed in the future.
I will make a little more progress, and then take some further interventions.
The need for an additional runway in the south-east is greater than ever before because—this is the reason why we have to do this—all five of London’s main airports will be full by the mid-2030s, and Heathrow is full today. We are seeing business leave the UK and go to airports like Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris, which have made additional capacity provision. If we sit here with our “Plane Finder” app on, we can watch planes flying overhead from the United Kingdom so that UK business passengers can go to Schiphol and then fly around the world. We are losing those connections to other countries, and we are losing the investment that goes around those connections. That is an important part of why this expansion is necessary.
I also need to be clear that this is not at the expense of growth at our other airports. It is simply not the case that other airports will lose business as a result of the expansion. All of our forecasts show every airport around the UK continuing to grow and expand. The UK’s Regional and Business Airports Group, which represents 40 airports, wrote to hon. Members saying:
“Heathrow expansion would mean more UK airports have vital access to a truly unrivalled network of routes...to destinations around the world.”
With expansion at Heathrow, non-London airports will continue to experience that strong growth—80% by 2050—and, importantly, they will have the capacity to accommodate that growth.
I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. This is clearly more than just about the constituencies around Heathrow and London; it is about connectivity for all the regions, as he has outlined. It has been said that Belfast City, Belfast International and Londonderry airports will gain by some 15% in new domestic routes. Can the Minister confirm that the increase will be of 15%?
My expectation is that we will see substantial growth. I would not put an exact percentage on it, but I have said that I will use the public service obligation mechanisms to set aside 15% of the additional capacity at Heathrow for links around the United Kingdom. We will use the PSO mechanisms to ensure that airports such as those in Northern Ireland, which are already thoroughly successful, benefit from this connection, and we will do the same in Scotland, the south-west and at other airports in the north and potentially north Wales, where this can make a difference.
How many airports per region will be protected by that “up to 15%” promise in the document? I have been led to understand that the Department will only protect one per region.
That is simply not the case. Heathrow itself has set out a long list of airports that it expects to benefit and where it will make provision for those links to happen. I believe that setting aside that 15% will result in links being provided to airports all around the United Kingdom. We will use the PSO mechanism to make sure that the expansion delivers improved links to all around the United Kingdom.
This proposal for a third runway at Heathrow was first published in 2002, whereas Hong Kong published theirs in 2011 and it will be built within five years. Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we are to remain internationally competitive, we should get on and build the runway?
Aviation already has a uniquely generous allocation for climate emissions, which basically means that passenger numbers can grow by up to 60% by 2050, but according to the Secretary of State’s own Department, passenger numbers are expected to grow by 93% by 2050 even before expansion at Heathrow, so when is he going to start looking at demand-side regulation—perhaps including a frequent flyer levy—rather than simply carrying on growing more and more supply? Or is he content to follow the advice of Michael Fabricant and basically cover the whole country in concrete?
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I would have expected better from the hon. Lady. She claims that I have said that I want to cover the whole of the country in concrete. Not only is that deliberately untrue but I think she should withdraw that falsehood.
The hon. Lady has made her point, and the hon. Lady—I mean the hon. Gentleman—[Laughter.] I will start again. The hon. Lady has made her point. The hon. Gentleman has made his point, which is not a point of order for me, but the matter is dealt with, I think.
Let me touch on the issue of climate change, which I was planning to come to in a moment. We are confident that we can deliver the expansion at Heathrow within our obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008. Any increase in emissions that would have a material impact on our ability to meet our obligations would lead to a refusal. I can tell the hon. Lady that the independent Committee on Climate Change wrote to me two weeks ago setting out its views on the NPS. It works to a target that aviation emissions in 2050 should be no higher than they were in 2005. With more efficient aircraft and engines, improved ground operations and the use of biofuels, the CCC’s analysis estimates that the UK can accommodate that increase in air travel by 2050 while meeting our climate change observations. We believe that an expanded Heathrow airport and a new runway are consistent with this target.
I want to make some more progress, then I will give way a couple more times.
Let me touch on the benefits to the wider economy and the connections to Heathrow airport on the ground. Surface access is one of the questions that is regularly raised. People ask why this location is best and what the benefits will be for the United Kingdom. Heathrow is already Britain’s best-connected airport by road and rail, and this will be further strengthened by improvements to the Piccadilly line, by new links to Heathrow through Crossrail and connections to HS2 via an interchange at Old Oak Common, and beyond that by the development of western and southern rail access to Heathrow.
A point that people often miss about Heathrow airport is that it is also crucial to the economy because it is our biggest freight port by value. It carries more freight by value than all other UK airports combined, nearly all of it transported in the belly-hold of passenger aircraft. This expansion will bring a real trade boost to the United Kingdom, providing a greater choice and frequency of vital long-haul flights to international markets for passengers and goods than could be achieved by any of the other options that were available to us. These benefits will be felt all around the United Kingdom.
My right hon. Friend knows about the case of my constituent, John Coles, a British Airways engineer who sadly passed away in an accident at Heathrow. I support a third runway, but the Secretary of State has not yet mentioned health and safety. Will he ensure that the health and safety of the 75,000 employees and 78 million passengers will be front and centre in his mind?
Absolutely. What happened to my hon. Friend’s constituent was tragic. I know that it is an accident that all at Heathrow bitterly regret, and they have worked to learn lessons from it. Of course, at a major facility such as Heathrow—and, indeed, any other airport—safety has to be our priority. Aviation is one of the safest—if not the safest—modes of transport around, but that should not in any way allow for slippage on health and safety.
Manchester airport employs thousands of people in my constituency, and it has 28 million passengers a year, with a capacity for between 50 million and 55 million. Obviously, it is doing a lot more than hub; it has global connections as well. Given the investment in northern powerhouse rail and in the north-western and northern economy, can my right hon. Friend assure me and my constituents that we will have even more benefits from this new proposal?
All the expectations we have are that Manchester airport will continue to grow strongly. There has been a £1 billion investment, and I was there recently to see the start of the development of the new terminal building. Manchester airport is a fantastic success story. It is a real asset to the economy and to the country as a whole. Manchester will also gain through the additional connectivity to new and emerging markets that we get through a hub airport. This is a good news story for Manchester, and it is also part of the ongoing success story of the north.
We have been very clear about two things. First, this runway cannot open if it does not meet air quality standards. Secondly, the air quality issue in west London is much bigger than the airport itself. This is the kind of challenge that we see in any busy metropolitan area. That is why we published our air quality strategy last summer, and it is why we need to get on with the job of making our car fleets much greener through lowering emissions. We are pushing ahead with low emission vehicles as fast as we can in this country.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that Heathrow is a vital economic hub, but because of that, the traffic congestion that surrounds it is a really serious problem, particularly in parts of my constituency, where the emissions levels are high and the roads are almost impassable. Can he give me an assurance that, in looking at the development of a third runway, attention will be given to improving the infrastructure so that these areas can in fact benefit?
That has to happen. This is not just about infrastructure. My Department has already been in discussions with South Bucks Council about some of the issues that my right hon. and learned Friend’s area will face and about how they can be mitigated. One of the options is to improve the environment around the Colne Valley, and I am keen for my officials to work with him and the local authority on that. The provision of a community fund from Heathrow as a result of this will make it easier to fund projects such as those.
My right hon. Friend has said that Manchester airport will gain from this proposal, but the reality is that the modelling that his own Department and the Transport Select Committee have done shows that Manchester airport will have 11% or 12% fewer international flights by 2030 as a result of the Heathrow expansion. I spoke to the chief executive of Manchester airport today, and he explained to me that its catchment area for passengers is very different, so it is simply wrong to say to the House that Manchester will somehow benefit from this proposal.
I refer my right hon. Friend to the tables that we have published, which show that Manchester will grow international routes throughout the 2030s and 2040s, as will Heathrow. This is an important part of delivering growth around the United Kingdom. The reason for a hub airport is that, if there is a new destination such as an emerging city in China or a new, growing economy in Africa or Latin America, there is often simply not enough of a market from an individual location to support that new route. A hub brings together passengers from around the United Kingdom to make that route viable.
I am pre-empting some of the remarks that I will make in my speech later, but as a Manchester MP, I thought I should speak for Manchester airport on that point. Manchester airport refutes the figures in the forecasts, because it believes that it will exceed those passenger numbers even before the Heathrow expansion is on stream. The hub argument is not the right argument to make for Manchester, because most of its connectivity involves direct flights. There are other reasons that Greater Manchester MPs have come together to support this proposal, but that particular argument is not the one to make.
Order. I am not going to stop interventions being made, but they must be short if we are to get through all the speakers.
We want to ensure that passengers who are flying to a hub airport from points in the UK can do so through a UK airport and not, for example, through a middle eastern hub. Manchester airport is a great success story and, on behalf of this country, I am hugely proud of how much it has achieved. I have been trying to work with the management of Manchester airport to help it to win business internationally, because I think it has a great model that it could take to other countries. I think that this will be a win-win. It will be a win-win for the north of England, for Manchester, for Liverpool, for Leeds, for Newcastle, for Edinburgh, for Glasgow, for Aberdeen, for Dundee, for Belfast and for Newquay.
I listened carefully to my right hon. Friend’s remarks about climate change, which will clearly require an upgrade to surface transport. Will he confirm whether the statement lays out the polluter pays principle and that the developer will be expected to pay a contribution to the surface transport upgrades?
Absolutely. Improvements to nearby roads and paying for parts of the rail projects that are due to happen are built into the plans. It is absolutely essential that that is the case. Heathrow airport will make a substantial contribution to that.
The last time this House took a decision on this matter, in January 2009, the Secretary of State voted against a third runway. Since then the case for Heathrow has got worse on every indicator, whether it is the economic case, the cost to the public purse, the environmental case or the effect on the regions. Why has he changed his mind in the face of all that evidence?
We commissioned an independent review that asked where we should site new capacity in the south-east of England. The Airports Commission came back with a very clear view. We have studied that view and talked to all those who are promoting individual schemes, and as a Government we believe that this is the right thing to do. We stood on this in our election manifesto last year. I believe it is the right thing to do for Britain.
The Secretary of State said earlier that not a single regional airport has opposed this scheme, but will he not acknowledge that Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham and the East Midlands have all expressed opposition to it, not because they do not believe that they will see growth, but because they believe that whatever growth they do see will be in spite of Heathrow expansion and that it will be less?
The key point is that they will see growth. The opportunities are there right across the United Kingdom. As I said a moment ago, the body that represents regional airports has been very robust indeed in its support. I genuinely believe that this project brings benefits right across the United Kingdom, including at least 100 additional flights a week for Scotland, and potential new routes for Northern Ireland, unlocking the benefits of tourism and advanced manufacturing. We believe that this will deliver, across the United Kingdom, the kinds of connections we need for the future.
Let me touch briefly on a couple of other issues that have been raised. First, I have been very clear that this airport NPS says that expansion can happen only if the delivery is compliant with our legal obligations on air quality. I am very confident that the measures and requirements set out in the NPS provide a very strong basis for meeting those obligations, including a substantial increase in public transport mode share, and it could also include an emissions-based access charge to Heathrow airport and the use of zero or low-emission vehicles. Heathrow is already consulting on the potential of a clean air zone.
Crucially, communities will be supported by a package of compensation worth up to £2.6 billion. That is absolutely vital. It is not possible to deliver a project such as this without some consequences for people who live in the area—I am well aware of that. Our job is to make it as easy as possible for those people in what is inevitably going to be a very difficult set of circumstances. There is, therefore, a world-leading package of compensation, ensuring that homeowners who lose their homes or who live closest to an expanded airport will be paid 125% of the full market value of their property. It includes a comprehensive noise insulation programme for homes and schools, and a community compensation fund of up to £50 million a year, which can help in places such as the Colne Valley. The Government will also consider how local authorities can benefit from a retention scheme for the additional business rates paid by an expanded Heathrow.
To mitigate the noise impacts of expansion, the proposed NPS makes it clear that the Government intend to implement a six-and-a-half-hour ban on scheduled night flights, which could mean that some communities will receive up to eight hours of noise relief at night. That is a really important part of the proposal. It may be uncomfortable and difficult for airlines, but it is the right thing for local communities.
It is important to note that that those measures will not be optional; they will be legally binding. Let me explain how we will ensure that that happens. We are governed by the Planning Act 2008, a good piece of legislation passed by the Labour party. Following a period of statutory consultation by a promoter, any subsequent application for a development consent order will be allocated to the Planning Inspectorate. At the end of the examination process, the inspectorate will report to the Secretary of State and the mitigation measures needed to comply with the NPS will be imposed on a successful applicant as requirements in the development consent order. The Act grants the relevant planning authority significant powers to investigate a breach of the requirements and ultimately to apply for an injunction or prosecute for failure to remedy a breach. In the Crown court the fine is unlimited and, in determining the level of the fine, recent judicial trends have tended to look to the benefit gained from the offence.
I can also confirm that expansion can and will be privately financed, at no cost to the taxpayer. It has to be delivered in the interest of the consumer, which is why in 2016 I set out my ambition to keep airport charges as close as possible to current levels, and why I have commissioned the Civil Aviation Authority to work with the airport to keep landing charges close to current levels. So far, that process has identified cost savings of £2.5 billion.
May I take the Secretary of State back to the issue of climate change, which he glossed over? His policy statement says that passenger numbers can grow by 80% by 2050 and we can still meet our carbon budgets, but the Committee on Climate Change says that they must not grow by more than 60% by 2050. He has outlined a set of measures in his sustainability appraisal, but is he not just adopting the Micawber strategy of hoping that something is going to turn up on climate change?
The key thing that is happening right now on climate change and aviation emissions is a transformation of aviation technology. As I said earlier, the new generation of aircraft are already much more fuel efficient. We expect the introduction of biofuels and further technological changes. We have been not only working very carefully with the Airports Commission, but listening very carefully to the Committee on Climate Change. This House will form a view today, but we believe absolutely that we can deliver this expansion within our obligations.
In the past, Heathrow has scored poorly on accessibility for people with disabilities. Will my right hon. Friend make sure that, as part of this expansion, Heathrow improves its accessibility for people with disabilities, particularly people with wheelchairs?
That is a really important point. It is not something that can and should wait until 2026. There have been one or two unfortunate incidents recently in the aviation sector, which should be as disability friendly as any other mode of transport. All airports and airlines have a duty to do that.
I am going to conclude because there is a long list of Members who want to speak. My message to the House is very simple. I believe that this project is in the strategic interests of our nation and that it will unlock prosperity in all the regions of this country. I think it will set us fair for the post-Brexit world. I believe this is essential for all our constituents, with the jobs it will create and the connections it will bring. We have to deliver it in a way that ultimately stretches every sinew to do the best we possibly can for the communities affected. My commitment to them is that we will do that. We will ensure tight rules around the permissions that are granted, and we will make sure that the commitments made by the airport and by this Government in the run-up to today’s vote are kept, enshrined in law and delivered for the future.
Ultimately, this is a project this country needs. It has been delayed for much too long. It falls to this House of Commons to take a decision today and I urge it to do so.
Order. Before I call Andy McDonald, I warn Members that we will start with an eight-minute limit but it will soon drop to five minutes.
Airport expansion in the south-east of England has been a deeply contentious and divisive issue for 50 years. If the motion is agreed to, it will generate many winners, not least the shareholders of Heathrow Airport Ltd, but it risks making losers of many, including the communities in which thousands of people will lose hundreds of homes. I regret to say that the Government have not been direct and clear with those communities and, as I will point out, the Government are demanding that they make sacrifices based on flawed information. Their potential loss should not be ignored or devalued.
I respect voices in industry and the significant voices in the trade union movement who have concluded that the best interests of the country are served by proceeding. Having faithfully and carefully assessed Labour’s four tests against the revised national policy statement, I have to respectfully disagree.
My hon. Friend mentions the trade unions. Will he confirm that the Trades Union Congress and Unite the union—they have written to all Labour MPs—support this project? Will he also confirm that Michael Dugher who, as shadow Secretary of State for Transport, wrote the four tests has come out in support of going ahead with Heathrow expansion today?
I respect the point of view expressed by my hon. Friend, who has been entirely consistent in his support for this project for many years. I acknowledge his point about union support, but there are unions that support Heathrow expansion and those that do not. My predecessor was responsible for writing the tests, and it is my job to implement them—my predecessor has a new career.
I remind the House that the UK’s aviation and aerospace industries are world leaders. They bring services to hundreds of millions of passengers, generate tens of billions of pounds in economic benefits and support nearly 1 million jobs. Labour wants successful and growing aviation and aerospace industries across the UK. The industries and their workforces deserve a sustainable and strategic plan for the future, and they currently have neither.
“I hope that the Secretary of State recognises that as a result of today’s announcement, nobody will take this Government seriously on the environment again.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 486, c. 366.]
Those are not my words, but the words of the current Prime Minister during a 2009 debate in which she opposed the expansion of Heathrow. Nearly 10 years on, I entirely agree with her. Given how she and her Transport Secretary have approached this issue, nobody should take this Government seriously on the environment.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, given the glaring absence of any genuine carbon mitigation policy framework, tonight’s votes will break down into two camps of those who believe we can negotiate with climate physics, and those who do not?
I must confess that I am a waverer on Heathrow expansion. I do not like the air quality dangers we face or the Government’s target to do something about air quality by 2040, by which time 1 million people will have died. People in the north of England, in Yorkshire and in Huddersfield want to know what investment they will get. This is yet another massive investment in London and the south-east.
My hon. Friend raises two significant points about air quality and investment across the United Kingdom. I hope to address them in great detail as I proceed with my speech.
I will make some progress, because I am aware that many Members want to speak.
This has not been a great year so far for the British transport system, with meltdown on the railways and growing frustration across the transport industry about the Government’s “It will be all right on the night” approach to Brexit. Last week’s news from Airbus struck like a thunderbolt, so the proposal to undertake a large-scale infrastructure project in the UK should be a good news story. The expansion of our hub airport should be very good news indeed—except it is not.
The Government have not done the work to support the development of this project. Their case is riddled with gaps and is fundamentally flawed. Yet again, this Secretary of State has made a complete shambles of a vital national project. Yet again, he is not putting the relevant facts before Parliament. Today’s vote has been scheduled just days before the Government’s own advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, is due to publish a report that is expected to warn that increasing aviation emissions will destroy Britain’s greenhouse gas targets. It appears that the vote on the national policy statement has been planned for today so that hon. and right hon. Members are left in the dark about how much the Secretary of State’s plan will obliterate the UK’s climate change commitments. That is not only reckless, but shows contempt for Parliament and for the environment.
Is not my hon. Friend slightly missing the point? Aviation—across the world and into Europe—will continue and grow, so the real question is whether it will be going into Schiphol, Frankfurt or Charles de Gaulle airports, or whether we will create investment, protect the well-paid, unionised jobs at Heathrow, and create opportunities for the youngsters of the future.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention but, of course, we must always ensure that any growth is delivered sustainably—that has to be the point.
Hon. Members will not have the opportunity to see the hugely important Committee on Climate Change report before they vote. Global warming is the single most important issue facing the world, yet Members of this House are being asked to vote today without full knowledge and without the full set of facts.
That is outrageous behaviour from the Government, and from the Secretary of State in particular. The Justice Committee said last week that his multi-billion pound reforms to the probation service in 2014 will never work. In his two years as Secretary of State for Transport, he has laid waste to the railways, slashing and burning and leaving a trail of scorched earth. Rail electrification cuts, franchising meltdown and timetabling chaos have caused misery to millions. His mismanaging of airport expansion, as he has mismanaged other areas of transport, will present much bigger risks, with immensely more serious consequences.
The Transport Secretary has consistently demonstrated poor judgment and a reliance on incomplete, unreliable and non-existent evidence, yet he stands here today and expects the House to take his word for it—to take a leap of faith with him. Labour has been clear that we will support airport expansion only if the very specific provisions of our four tests are met. We are not against expansion; we are against this option for expansion, as presented.
The north-west runway is too risky and it may be illegal. There are simply too many holes in the case. There are too many hostages to fortune for the taxpayer and for any future Government.
I am grateful to the shadow Secretary of State. He says that climate and the expectation of meeting our climate responsibilities are vital, but does he accept that Professor Dame Julia King, who is a member of the Committee on Climate Change, sat on the Davies commission and fully endorsed its report?
The critical word is that it “could.” That is the important point—not that it will, but that it is quite possible that it could. There is an awful lot of work to get from one place to the other.
My hon. Friend is setting out a powerful case regarding the four tests. The Secretary of State said that one of the key selling points is connectivity with our regional airports, but that will be only up to 15% of the new capacity. He has already indicated there will be 100 extra flights a day from Scotland, and as that 15% of new capacity is for all the regional airports and the Crown dependencies, it does not sound like a very good deal to me.
There are grave misgivings on the whole issue of regional connectivity, which I will address, but first I will deal with the tests.
Can the airport actually be built? It is not clear that it can. Heathrow’s borrowing costs depend on whether it can increase landing charges at what is already the most expensive airport in the world. The Government have provided no guarantees that landing charges will be held flat. Astonishingly, there are no details or costings on the upgrades to the M25 and the wider transport system in London and around the airport that are required for expansion. That uncertainty risks yet more transport infrastructure investment being sucked into the south-east of England at the expense of the rest of the country. It is simply staggering that this information has not been provided.
The cost-recovery clause that the Government signed with Heathrow, as highlighted by Justine Greening, is an enormous liability for future Governments and represents a significant risk to taxpayers. For those reasons, Labour has concluded that the third runway is not in fact deliverable.
Ensuring the health and safety of our country for our children and grandchildren should be the most important priority for each and every Member of this House. Some 40,000 people die prematurely each year because of poor air quality. Despite the superficial public relations initiatives from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, this Government have dithered and delayed on dealing with air quality and carbon emissions.
I am listening carefully to what my hon. Friend is saying. He makes a good case for why he will not be able to support Heathrow, but what would his alternative be, given that growth in the sector will happen whether we have Heathrow or not? We will simply be handing business to other airports.
The hon. Gentleman is listing names from overseas, but how about others—Birmingham, Newcastle, Manchester?
On test 2, we are being asked today to support a significant expansion in UK aviation capacity without a plan from the Government for tackling aviation carbon emissions. The Secretary of State did not even mention climate change in his statement to the House on
I am going to plough on, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind. Plenty of people want to speak. I know he has just walked into the Chamber, but I want to crack on.
The Government have still not set out aviation’s place in the overall strategy for UK emissions reduction, despite their having a legal requirement to do so. According to the Department for Transport’s own projections, this plan for Heathrow expansion will cause the Government to miss their carbon emission limits. The Government argue that they can reduce emissions through technology, but their only proposal is a hypothetical case study by a consultant that contains a disclaimer professing that there is
“significant uncertainty around the results of the study and the conclusions that are drawn”.
That is not a credible position.
The economic case for Heathrow is unarguable, but the environmental case is unconscionable. The Department’s analysis—this is from the study my hon. Friend talks about—refers to two ways to reduce carbon emissions from flights: one is single-engine taxiing; the other is ensuring that 12% of fuels in aeroplanes are renewable. Neither of those is currently in operation in Heathrow or any other airport in the world.
My hon. Friend makes a very powerful point because this whole process is predicated on banking technological achievements that do not currently exist. We must be more thoughtful about this.
The Committee on Climate Change’s last progress report saw the UK failing to stay on track to meet its 2030 carbon targets. The CCC publishes its latest report on Thursday, and it reportedly will detail just how badly the Government are performing. The third runway will increase the number of flights by 50%, as per the Airports Commission report—table 12.1; page 238—yet any increase in aviation emissions will require other sectors to reduce their emissions beyond 85%. That is astonishingly imbalanced. The Department’s own projections show that a new runway at Heathrow will directly lead to a breach of at least 3.3 million tonnes of the 37.5 million tonnes carbon dioxide limit for 2050 set by the CCC without new policies to mitigate emissions.
I thought the right hon. Gentleman was going to provide some clarity from the Dispatch Box about the breach of the CO2 limits that I have just described, but instead he asks that question. In fact, we know that we are talking about considerably more than that. It is utterly absurd for the Government to ask the House to vote on expanding Heathrow without a plan for reducing aviation carbon emissions. Under the revised NPS, there is a very real risk that aviation’s carbon emissions will be higher in 2050. Furthermore, the Department for Transport is not due to publish a new aviation strategy until 2019.
My hon. Friend is right that the environmental case against Heathrow expansion has always been unarguable; what has changed is that the economic case is also now very strongly against it. The net present value is plus or minus £2 billion to £3 billion over time. The case for Gatwick, which would be much easier to build and would involve far less grief, is much easier than that, so whether on economic or environmental grounds, Heathrow is a non-starter.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. He makes a powerful point, which many commentators have identified, about the various economic arguments.
I will not take any further interventions; it was well timed, but too late.
This Parliament will not know the Government’s plan for keeping UK aviation emissions at or below 2005 levels by 2050 until next year—talk about carts and horses! This scenario, where aviation targets are exceeded, would place an unreasonably large burden on other UK industries. I do not believe it is acceptable or fair to ask other sectors of the economy to make reductions to compensate for aviation emissions. The UK Government call themselves a climate leader, but only last week the EU raised its carbon reduction target to 45% by 2030, which is above that set by the Paris agreement, whereas this week the UK Government support an aviation plan that will increase emissions without a clear plan to reduce them. The revised NPS is simply not consistent with the obligations set out in the Climate Change Act 2008. We are being asked to give the Transport Secretary a blank cheque on the environment. On the issue of climate change, this fails to meet test 2.
Airspace modernisation is vital to the future of this country. Only through modernisation can we improve the structure and management of UK airspace, to handle growth and realise the economic benefits. The process and consultation to make these changes is at an early stage and there are many years ahead, yet airspace modernisation is critical to noise levels at an expanded Heathrow. Once again, we are being asked to accept promises on noise without a broad framework for the future. That is not good enough and this is yet another gaping hole in the Government’s case.
It is difficult to clearly assess the noise impact at Heathrow until the airspace modernisation programme is more advanced. Precise details of new flight paths will not be known for several years, and this represents another significant uncertainty. The Transport Committee’s excellent report called on the Government to set clear noise targets, but in the revised NPS they are not proposing any new targets. Do they really care about noise levels?
The revised NPS states that
“the Secretary of State will consider air quality impacts over the wider area likely to be affected, as well as in the vicinity of the scheme. In order to grant development consent, the Secretary of State will need to be satisfied that, with mitigation, the scheme would be compliant with legal obligations that provide for the protection of human health and the environment.”
That provides no indication as to how the air pollution can be managed. Much of the additional air pollution is largely outside Heathrow’s control. The Government have been repeatedly dragged through the courts over their failure to address the air pollution crisis, so it would be generous to assume that they will now suddenly address these issues in the context of a decision over an expanded Heathrow. That the key issue of tackling air pollution could turn on the judgment of the Transport Secretary does nothing to afford us any comfort whatsoever.
What of the regional economic benefits? The revised NPS says that if the third runway is built, up to 15% of all new routes will need to be reserved for the domestic market. There are considerable uncertainties around that pledge. The Government say that public service obligations will ensure compliance, but “up to 15%” could mean as little as 1%, and PSOs apply to cities rather than airport-specific locations. Late last week, the Government announced they would use PSOs to ensure domestic connectivity. They have not said where they will be used, how many will be used, what percentage of routes will be guaranteed through this method or if they will be permanent. In addition, PSOs would make domestic routes exempt from air passenger duty. That tax cut was not considered in the business case, and the Government have not stated its cost to the public purse. Surely this represents an uncosted subsidy to Heathrow Airport Limited. It is simply incredible that the Government would announce such a subsidy at the eleventh hour before a vote on the NPS.
The Government’s stated case for expanding Heathrow is dependent on a number of other conditions being met, including measures to constrain growth at regional airports in order to ensure that Heathrow expansion can meet the UK’s climate change obligations. I cannot support the restriction of other UK airports to facilitate expansion at Heathrow. Rather than improve regional connectivity, it has been said that a third runway at Heathrow will have a substantially negative impact on the UK aviation industry as a whole. Regional airports will also lose around 17 million passengers per annum, as Heathrow’s share of the UK aviation market rises from 21% today to 27% in 2050.
Government claims for the economic benefit of expanding Heathrow do not include the costs of the improved public transport links needed to keep road traffic at current levels. Transport for London estimates that expenditure of £10 billion to £15 billion is required for new surface access; Heathrow and the Airports Commission say the figure will be closer to £5 billion—so what is the correct figure? The absence of clear proposals, projections and costs in relation to surface access are a major failing of the revised NPS. Labour is not satisfied that the taxpayer interest will be protected. We are also concerned that the lack of a clear surface-access plan will result in yet more transport investment being sucked into the south-east of England. Furthermore, our view is that there are too many uncertainties that could undermine the economic benefits of a third runway at Heathrow. We are not assured that the number of jobs that have been promised will be forthcoming, given the number of variants that could undermine the economic benefits of the case.
For all those reasons, I am not convinced that regional connectivity and shared economic benefits will in fact be delivered by the proposed expansion. I acknowledge the case made for expansion, but I believe that the price of a third runway at Heathrow is currently simply too high. I am greatly aware that right hon. and hon. Members from all parties will wish to weigh up the issues carefully before they cast their vote, and I of course utterly respect the decision that each and every one of them will make. But, given my grave misgivings as to the process itself and the manner in which it has been conducted, I can only conclude that to proceed at this juncture, given all the circumstances, would be the wrong thing to do.
I rise to oppose this national policy statement, which is why I resigned from the Government. I did not resign willingly; I greatly enjoyed my seven years in the Government. I spent four years in the Government Whips Office, keeping the show on the road during those difficult coalition years; I carried out the 2015 spending review—controversial in places—which is now bearing fruit as we see the deficit at a record low; and I was at the very foundation of the Department for International Trade to help the Secretary of State for International Trade to make the crucial preparations for having our own independent trade policy for the first time in 45 years. But I am also surprised to be resigning from the Government as I had always been led to believe that the decision on this issue would be a free vote.
I always knew, however, that I would vote against this proposal. At the 2017 general election I made two unequivocal pledges:
“Greg will be voting against the proposal when it comes before Parliament, expected later this year”, and:
“Greg is against Heathrow’s 3rd runway and will vote against it, in Parliament.”
So for me, this is not just a debate about Heathrow, important though that is; it is also about being true to one’s word and to one’s election pledges.
Regrettably, this is a truncated debate, but I am joined by several right hon. and hon. Friends who have similar views about Heathrow, including my right hon. Friend Justine Greening and my hon. Friends the Members for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) and for Windsor (Adam Afriyie), and I know that they will make a lot of important points. I have three points to make, briefly. The first is about the impact on the environment in an urban London context; the second is about whether a large hub airport is in the nation’s interests, and the arguments about London’s connectivity; and the third is on night flights and the need to remove this wholly unnecessary stain on the liveability of our great capital city.
On London’s precious urban environment, Heathrow already exceeds legal pollution limits, before any single plane has landed at the third runway. Heathrow is seeking to have an extra 28 million passengers visit the airport each year, but somehow without a single extra car journey. Furthermore, Heathrow has not yet identified the future flight paths, so it is impossible to tell who and where will be affected by this big increase in flights. An awful lot of Londoners currently have no idea that they will be overflown by planes every 90 seconds.
I salute my right hon. Friend’s principles on this issue. Does he agree that the lack of information on where the new flight paths will go makes an absolute mockery of all the consultations that have been doing the rounds over the past couple of years?
I wholly agree with my hon. Friend. It is perfectly possible to show where the flight paths are going to be or are likely to be. I conducted my own consultation, because both Heathrow and the Department for Transport initially refused to do a consultation in my Chelsea and Fulham constituency. I eventually had them come to the constituency, but even then they were unwilling to provide such basic information.
The pledge to build a freight hub is absolute madness when we already have excellent freight hubs that are well away from population centres, such as those at East Midlands airport and Stansted. Surely freight hubs should be created away from population centres, not in the middle of urban environments. The Secretary of State’s argument centres on this essential proposition: that the UK needs a hub airport—and by implication only one—to compete. I fundamentally disagree. A hub airport suits Heathrow and it suits the British Airways’ business models, but those are not the same as the national interest.
Most hub airports tend to be in medium-sized cities, and there is a reason for that. I fundamentally believe that London is best served by its five airports. It is about the difference between a city of 8 million to 10 million people and a city with a population of 1 million, 2 million or 3 million. New York has three large airports, as does Moscow, and Tokyo has two large hub airports. Most successful hub airports are in medium-sized cities. The Secretary of State gave the examples of Frankfurt and Amsterdam on Conservative Home this morning, but those are both cities with a population of fewer than 1 million. They cannot generate that level of traffic themselves, so they need to hub to create and boost their connectivity. It is not a choice for them; it is a choice for London.
Why should London prefer a set of orbital airports? The answer returns to the question of the size of London, with its 8 million, and growing, population. Travel times across London to one hub airport will very often exceed the two-hour median flight time. That is why, while Amsterdam and Frankfurt need a hub, London needs a set of orbital airports.
The related question is on connectivity, and it is not just about Heathrow but about London’s airports as a whole. Much has been made of Frankfurt and Amsterdam overtaking Heathrow in respect of connectivity, but that misses the point. What about the whole nation’s connectivity? And Heathrow is actually already pretty well connected. It may surprise people to know that 10 Chinese cities—Beijing, Shanghai, Changsha, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Qingdao, Sanya, Wuhan and Xian—are currently connected directly to Heathrow each day. And to London as a whole, 28 US cities are connected to London airports, along with 13 Polish cities, seven in India and eight in Canada—more than either Frankfurt or Amsterdam. The growth of destinations served by London airports has been huge, and they have been point-to-point flights. The direction of modern aviation is towards point-to-point direct flights.
My right hon. Friend is making important points. We have just seen the very first non-stop direct flight from Sydney to London. Does he agree that there is no reason for people to want to hub unnecessarily, and that it is therefore wrong to have a 20th century hub strategy instead of a 21st century direct strategy?
My right hon. Friend makes a very important point about the introduction of the first point-to-point flight from Australia to London. It returns to my point about what is in not just my constituency’s interests but London’s interests as a whole and the national interest. Creating the super-hub at Heathrow clearly suits the interests of British Airways and of Heathrow. I have nothing against that. I am a Conservative and have nothing against companies doing well, but we should not equate that with the national interest.
I promised to say a few words about night flights.
I respect the position in which the right hon. Gentleman finds himself. Birmingham airport could take 17 million extra flights now on the existing infrastructure, and that capacity could be unlocked if we built the high-speed loop that was originally proposed. The cost of that loop would be about half that proposed for the new runway at Heathrow. Should we not look again at using high-speed rail to unlock capacity we already have rather than bring forward a proposal that will drain 43,000 flights from our airport?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I support high-speed rail. With regard to the sort of solutions that one could come up with with the money being spent here, I certainly think that that is probably an example of the sort of thing that could increase the UK’s connectivity as a whole.
On night flights, the situation is untenable. There are allowed to be up to 16 flights each night, starting from 4.30 am. I hear these planes at 4.30. I frequently receive letters about them from my constituents. One can almost time the first flight coming over at 4.30. This is done in the interests of a few thousand people. These are important people travelling from the far east to this country to do business; nevertheless, we are talking about a few thousand people measured against the convenience of many hundreds of thousands of people living directly under those flight paths, many of whom are some of the most economically productive people in this country, paying a lot of taxation. We should not ignore their interests. We need to ban night flights—6 am is early enough. Even if this proposal is to be adopted, the minimum quid pro quo should be the abolition of all arrivals before 6 am. We definitely do not want this stealthy smoothing.
I have just outlined a few of the arguments against this policy statement. The proposal is fundamentally flawed, but this vote is also about integrity and about the pledges that we make to our electors. It is to be regretted that we will not now have a free vote, but I urge colleagues to vote against the proposal tonight.
I am a civil engineer by profession and so have an appreciation of the importance of infrastructure investment. For too long, successive UK Governments have not invested enough money directly into infrastructure. The correct infrastructure projects can lead to increased productivity, increased connectivity, a possible increase in visitors, a possible increase in trade and contributions to growth in the economy. Clearly, those are all the hoped-for benefits of the additional runway proposed for Heathrow.
When it comes to decision-making on infrastructure, Governments are often too frightened to make decisions because of potential impacts and disruption. Heathrow has been a case in point: the expansion and additional runway have been spoken about for decades. It is only right that the pros and cons are assessed, and this must be done with a balanced perspective. The Airports Commission recommends the additional runway at Heathrow, and the National Infrastructure Commission has said that it wants it to proceed. The Scottish Government have spoken in support of it in principle, and I have spoken in favour of it, although I have highlighted some concerns.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He mentions the support of the Scottish Government. Until 24 hours ago, the SNP Scottish Government said that they supported expansion at Heathrow airport and looked forward to Scotland seeing the benefits. What has changed in the past 24 hours?
Sometimes when we take an intervention, we worry about what is going to come and trip us up. That was so obvious that I did not see it coming. If the hon. Gentleman waits and is willing to listen to the rest of my speech, I will set out where I am going.
After forensic analysis, the Transport Committee recommended approval of the national policy statement, but with a considerable number of recommendations for consideration. The proposed expansion at Heathrow has the support, on record, of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, plus Inverness, Ayrshire, Glasgow, and Edinburgh chambers of commerce. Clearly, it has the backing of the GMB and Unite the Union. As the Transport Secretary said, it has the support of the Regional and Business Airports Group; it has the explicit support of Glasgow, Highlands and Islands and Aberdeen airports; and it has the support of Airlines UK.
As we will hear over the course of tonight, there are concerns about the proposals. Some environmentalists will never support air expansion of any kind. Clearly, there are local objections to do with the impact and disruption; I appreciate that MPs should represent the concerns of their constituents and I can understand why some are against the proposal.
However, given the general support that I have outlined, the Secretary of State should be able to pull this off, and for me this is where he has come up short. He has come up short on addressing the concerns of the Transport Committee, but where he has really come up short is on the protection of slots for domestic flights. My predecessor, my hon. Friend Drew Hendry, previously raised the issue of protection of slots and the need for point-to-point public service obligations. The Transport Committee highlighted the fact that further clarity was required on national slots in paragraph 3.34 of the national policy statement. This is where the UK Government are, frankly, all over the place. Paragraph 3.34 states:
“The Government recognises that air routes are in the first instance a commercial decision for airlines and are not in the gift of the airport operator.”
The Government then state that they will hold Heathrow airport to account. That is clearly a contradiction: they are saying that it is the airlines that hold the slots, but that they will hold Heathrow airport to account.
I do not understand what difference it makes where the flights are going to. If we want trade and business with the rest of the world, why does that matter? We want that business—why does not the hon. Gentleman?
The hon. Gentleman is making a very powerful speech. I have a simple question. Does he want the extra 100 flights that an expanded Heathrow will provide for Scotland? Can he give me a simple yes or no?
I want that, but I also want guarantees of protection. I will come on to that point, so, again, I ask the hon. Gentleman to show a bit of patience and wait.
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Can he confirm whether Heathrow airport has this afternoon agreed with the SNP and the Scottish Government that it is prepared to set aside 200, not 100, slots at Heathrow airport for connections to Scotland? If that is the case, why are they continuing to object to Heathrow’s plans?
Obviously, 200 slots are preferable to 100 slots. The thing is that only the UK Government can provide the protections. Heathrow has always said that it is willing to work with the Scottish Government, and with the UK Government, but it is only the UK Government who have the powers to provide the guarantees and protection.
My hon. Friend is making some very important points; what he raises here is a real issue. Let us put this into context. One hundred flights means 50 arrivals a week—seven flights a day. We are talking about Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Prestwick and Inverness. It is simply not enough. Is it not the case that Prestwick has held out its hand to the Scottish Government, but it is the UK Government who have not stood up to protect Scotland’s interests? That is the point.
I will elaborate on my right hon. Friend’s point later in my speech.
The Government have still not responded properly to recommendation 10 from the Select Committee on Transport, regarding the 15% of new slots for domestic connections. They have fallen short on clarity. Paragraph 1.60 of the Government’s response to the recommendations states:
“The Government expects the majority of these domestic routes from a potentially expanded Heathrow to be commercially viable”.
Expecting the majority of routes to be commercially viable falls a long way short of cast-iron guarantees that the UK Government are going to protect those slots. There is a concession that
“the Government will take action where appropriate to secure routes through the use of Public Service Obligations (PSOs)”, but, crucially, the Government do not explain how these will be managed. We are advised in paragraph 1.61 that:
“The Government’s expectations on domestic connectivity will be detailed as part of the Aviation Strategy Green Paper”, which is not expected until the second half of 2018. Having to wait months after tonight’s binding vote in order to get clarity on these points is simply not good enough.
As someone who represents one of the regions of the United Kingdom, I understand that the hon. Gentleman wants certainty and clarity about this issue. But does he accept that an expansion, by its very nature, will necessitate more domestic passengers and, hence, more routes will open up locally?
That is not the case. It all comes back to the protection of slots. Airlines operate the slots. If no protections are put in place, the whole concern is that domestic slots will be lost to more lucrative international flights. That is why I am asking for this protection. I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman, who represents airports in Northern Ireland, would be grateful that I am looking for this guarantee from the Government.
But by necessity more passengers will be required to travel through Heathrow. Those passengers are going to come from Northern Ireland, Scotland and the north of England. That is a fact. Some 700,000 passengers annually already travel from Northern Ireland. That number will expand, and it will also expand for Scotland.
But that is not guaranteed, which is why we need these protections.
Over the years, domestic connectivity and the number of domestic slots have been cut massively because of the way in which the airlines have operated the existing slots. If we are going to get these increases, we need protections in place.
I have a great deal of respect for the hon. Gentleman, speaking up for Scotland as he does. But does he not agree that whether there are 100 or 200 extra flights a week—whatever the figure is—an expanded Heathrow would provide more flights than Scotland currently gets?
It comes back to the anticipation that 15% of new slots will be available for domestic connectivity. Quite frankly, every regional airport wants a cut of that action. The hon. Gentleman’s local airport, Northern Ireland, Scotland and airports in the north-east of England all want some of that 15%. At the moment, we do not know how that 15% is going to be broken down, or what is going to be provided.
I do not recognise the exact figure mentioned by the right hon. Lady, but I do accept that Department for Transport figures suggest that increased direct connections and international connectivity will not increase as much if the Heathrow expansion goes ahead. Yet Scottish airports themselves do not express that concern and they do back the expansion of Heathrow, so I also have to trust their judgment on the matter.
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Scottish National party’s view is that because it is not sure how big Scotland’s bit of the cake is going to be, there should be no cake?
I have also spoken up for other regional airports, because I would expect them to want the same protections that I am asking for when it comes to Scottish airports. It is up to the Secretary of State to give these guarantees and satisfy us on these points.
Paragraph 1.62 of the Government’s response to the Transport Committee’s recommendations explains that the Crown dependencies are also included in the 15% of additional slots. How will the figure actually break down between the Crown dependencies and all the various regional airports?
I think that my right hon. Friend was making a rhetorical intervention.
I raised my concerns about slot protection when the Secretary of State came to the Dispatch Box and made his statement about the NPS. He will be aware that I followed up in writing to seek clarity and assurances, including on the fact that Scotland could have several PSOs if necessary. I asked him how many slots would be protected and what the reality of “up to 15%” would be. I also asked him whether there would be an absolute minimum that the UK Government would seek agreement on, and what percentage of the 15% would be for new routes rather than just additional slots. Just prior to that, a few days after giving the statement, the Secretary offered me a meeting. I stated I was happy to meet him and work with him, but I was instead left with last-minute phone calls with the aviation Minister, who is an unelected peer—not accountable to this place and not even able to come to the Dispatch Box tonight.
Following that there was a letter and DFT public announcements, which were pre-planned anyway. I acknowledge that there has been welcome movement in terms of airport-to-airport PSOs, and the Government have set out the fact that Scotland can have more than one PSO. But I repeat: there is no clarity or assurances regarding how these can or will be implemented. We do not even know whether any money has been set aside or whether there has been any cost analysis of the Government saying that they will provide these PSOs.
If the Heathrow expansion goes ahead and the airlines do forego their domestic slots for more lucrative international slots—in, say, eight years’ time—what actual obligation is there on a UK Government at that moment in time to act and bring in PSOs? I would suggest that there is none. We cannot bind a future Government, especially given how the provision is set out just now, and that is a critical concern.
The hon. Gentleman says that he seeks clarity and certainty on what extra slots Scotland will get if the Heathrow expansion goes ahead. I put it to him that the clarity has come from the Secretary of State—that, without Heathrow expansion, there will be no extra slots for Scotland. Will the hon. Gentleman support the expansion this evening?
Well, it is a daft point because it assumes that, if Heathrow goes ahead, the slots will somehow magically be there for Scotland. That is not the point, and that is why we are asking for these guarantees.
I really appreciate the hon. Gentleman giving way again because it is absolutely essential that the House understands that four out of eight of the domestic routes that are already available go to Scotland. Scotland already stands strong in this area. It does not need protection measures. Indeed, British Airways has already expanded its routes to Inverness.
The fact is that Scotland has lost a lot of domestic connectivity over the last few years, so the hon. Gentleman is not quite right. It is good that he sees Scotland as strong, but we want to be stronger and we want further connections.
As we have already heard, the Department for Transport said that there would be 100 extra flights a week to Scotland. Although it is now saying that there could be 200 flights coming from Heathrow, it is up to the Government to provide the protections. Let us take the figure of 100 that has been quoted. If, say, Dundee and Prestwick get the new suggested slots, even just a twice-daily service from each of those airports would equate to well over half that figure of 100 flights. When we take the rest and spread it over the rest of Scotland’s airports, it is not actually a great deal of increased connectivity. That is why this falls short of our expectations.
Heathrow airport has made it abundantly clear that it is willing to work with the UK Government on the matter, and acknowledges that it is a Government function to deliver that protection. As has been touched on already, Heathrow has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Scottish Government. The airport has been very open and communicative with both me and my predecessor in the SNP’s transport spokesperson role. I believe that it really wants to deliver on its commitments to Scotland, including the preconstruction logistics hub, for which I appreciate it is currently doing an ongoing assessment. I hope that that assessment concludes that Prestwick airport is successful, because that would be really good for my local area. There is also a stated minimum value of £300 million construction and supply chain contracts for Scotland, and a minimum peak construction job creation of 100 jobs.
Heathrow committed to a £10 passenger fee discount to Scottish airports, and, to be fair, it has since increased that reduction to £15 per passenger. It committed £1.5 million to advertising through a Scotland-specific marketing fund, and it has delivered on that, with only £250,000 outstanding, which it has pledged to use to promote the new V&A museum in Dundee. It has also confirmed that is now working with VisitScotland to provide a takeover of a gate room to promote Scotland for a five-year period, equating to some £300,000. Cynics will say that it is bound to do these things to keep Scottish MPs and the Scottish Government onside. However, it seems to me that it has delivered to date, and over-delivered in some aspects, so I can only take it at face value.
In the bigger picture, 16,000 jobs are predicted to be generated in Scotland through an expanded Heathrow. These are certainly benefits that I want to see delivered.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with his namesake, Keith Brown, the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy in the Scottish Parliament, who supports the expansion of Heathrow and spoke about it very strongly in 2016? Does he not agree that the jobs he mentions simply will not come if there is not an expansion?
As I said, I have spoken in favour of expansion before. The Scottish Government have also spoken in favour of it—that is why they have signed a memorandum of understanding. We are just looking for protections and deliverability.
Some people have asked, why Heathrow and not further expansion in Scotland? We have to acknowledge the reality that Heathrow has been the hub airport for the UK for 40 years, and there is not the critical mass in Scotland for getting such a hub-status airport. That is why the Scottish airports have supported the principle of Heathrow expansion.
No, I need to make progress.
Some of my other concerns relate to the UK Government’s responses to the Transport Committee. The Secretary of State said that he had acted on 24 out of 25 of its recommendations, but that painted a more proactive representation than what the Government have actually taken on board. Their responses have not been robust enough. I am sure that the Chair of the Committee will cover these aspects later on. My key concerns include the response to recommendation 12, which is about airport charges being held flat in real terms. This would address some of the wider concerns about the cost of the expansion being passed on directly to the airlines. The UK Government have said that expansion cannot come at any cost, yet they are passing the buck to the Civil Aviation Authority.
Recommendation 25 is about policy and ways to maximise other runway capacity across the UK. That is not a make-or-break condition, but it would have been nice if the UK Government had got this policy in place at the same time as they are bringing this proposal forward. On the air quality issues in the Committee’s recommendations 3 to 6, the Government need to confirm that Heathrow’s triple lock is sufficient and that development consent will be robust enough to address those issues. More importantly, it needs to be confirmed that the expansion of Heathrow will not compromise obligations on climate change.
I have outlined my concerns—
I was going to fast-forward there, but I think the House wants to hear me speak for a wee bit longer, so I am quite happy to do that.
This is a project where people tailor their arguments to try and bring other people onside. In a recent Westminster Hall debate, I had Tory rebels urging me not to vote with nasty Tories, and Tory and Labour MPs expressing their concerns about what Heathrow expansion would mean for an independent Scotland. I heard concern from Justine Greening that this investment will take away infrastructure investment in Scotland. Frankly, these are all false arguments.
The announcement of a multi-billion-pound infrastructure project should be good news. The predicted job growth and opportunities for Scotland should be good news, and certainly businesses see the merit in the expansion proposals. As I said, I want the jobs to come to Scotland, I want a logistics hub at Prestwick, and I want the additional regional airport connectivity—but crucially, I want these aspects guaranteed, and that is where the UK Government have fallen short. I have been supportive to date. I certainly will not vote against these proposals, because of what I hope the opportunities are for Scotland, but given that the UK Government cannot and will not provide these guarantees, I also cannot, unfortunately, vote with the Government.
There is no doubt that large-scale infrastructure projects will always be controversial, and no doubt that this is a large-scale infrastructure project that is incredibly controversial. That is one of the reasons why the coalition Government asked the Davies commission to do a report. That was supported by the House at the time, including by the Opposition. It was an attempt to try to get an expert opinion to take us forward through a report that we could take a proper decision on.
I am incredibly disappointed by the way that the SNP has responded today, because a big issue like this needs cross-party support to take it forward. These things do not happen in one Parliament; they go forward over many Parliaments. I heard Alan Brown question the Secretary of State on
“To be fair, Heathrow has engaged fully with the Scottish Government, and has signed a memorandum of understanding in relation to commitments”.
He went on to say:
“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…16,000 new jobs. That helped to sway me, and the Scottish Government have reiterated their support.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 642, c. 175.]
Well, support means votes. It does not mean trying to abstain at the end of the day when an important decision like this comes about. However, I can assure the SNP that the Secretary of State for Scotland will carry on making the case for Scotland in the House of Commons and at the Cabinet table, and so will my 13 colleagues who represent Scottish constituencies. The people of Scotland can feel let down by the SNP for playing party politics, because that is absolutely all that this decision is about.
I thank my right hon. Friend for the important point that he is making. Will he join me in paying tribute to Scotland’s best representatives—the team of Conservatives who would not play party games like those we have just heard and who are acting truly in the interests of Scotland and the Scottish people?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. I urge SNP Members, even at this late stage, to change their minds on this and follow through on what they say they support with their votes, because this is too important a matter not to do so.
It is now 50 years since the Roskill commission first started its work on expansion. I was first made a junior Minister in the Department of Transport in 1989. I was originally told that I was going to be the Minister for roads, but the then Secretary of State, Cecil Parkinson, informed me that I was going to be the Minister for aviation and shipping—which was a bit of a surprise to me, especially bearing in mind my fear of flying at the time. In 1989, there were 368,430 air traffic movements at Heathrow airport. We have gradually seen those grow, up until 2006, when the figure was 477,000 movements a year, peaking in 2011 at 480,000. There has been growth and expansion at Heathrow, and during that time NOx emissions have in fact reduced. That has come about partly due to newer and better aircrafts. I think that Heathrow has got the message that it has to improve on environmental issues, and that has moved substantially up the track.
Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the other change at Heathrow over that period is the massive improvement in connectivity? HS2, which he contributed to, will be part of that process, and Crossrail is another part of it. Heathrow is massively more connected now than it ever was in the early 1990s.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend and agree with him.
I fully understand that my colleagues who represent local seats say that this is wrong for their constituents, but one question they need to address is: change or no change? Without the expansion, there will be no change. With the expansion, there will be a number of changes—not least, an extension of the ban on scheduled night flights to six-and-a-half hours, legally binding noise envelopes, predictable periods of respite for every local community, extending compensation to more than 3,000 additional properties, a £1 billion compensation package for local people, a new independent community engagement board, a new independent noise authority and 10,000 apprenticeships. That is why it is rather disappointing to hear the Labour Front Benchers change their tune today, in a way that some leading trade unionists who support the project have not done.
“The benefits of a third runway at Heathrow to our members are clear and compelling: 180,000 new jobs, doubling the number of apprenticeships to 10,000 and £187 billion in economic benefits.”
What has changed since the setting up of the Davies commission is the revolution on the Labour Benches, which has seen John McDonnell assume the role of shadow Chancellor. I accept that he has long been an opponent of this scheme, but the truth of the matter is that setting up the Davies commission in 2012 to do a detailed investigation into the right way forward was the right thing to do. It was not just Howard Davies, but also John Armitt and Professor Dame Julia King, who is a leading expert in the environment.
In the past 10 years, we have seen £12 billion of investment in Heathrow airport, which has been very beneficial to the airport and to the country. Part of that—[Interruption.] Sorry, I thought the shadow Transport Secretary, Andy McDonald wished to intervene, but he does not. That investment has been very welcome, and it has led to a better facility for passengers.
One thing that the Government have to do—I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State takes this fully on board—is to ensure that this expansion is done to budget. There have already been trimmings on the cost of the original scheme, and I congratulate the Secretary of State on driving that. The CAA must ensure that that happens, so that we do not put too much extra cost on travelling passengers or indeed the plane operators. That will be very important for the future of Heathrow, and it is well aware of that. We are seeing investment proposals.
I agree with my right hon. Friend. When the Secretary of State made his statement three weeks ago, I raised that point with him, and he was very clear on it.
This is one of the biggest infrastructure projects that the country faces over the next 10 years. We have been better on infrastructure over the past few years. We are about to see the opening of the Elizabeth line, which will make a tremendous difference, including to Heathrow airport, and that has been part of the investment cost. This is long planned and long overdue. I believe that this is the right scheme to go for, and I congratulate the Secretary of State on bringing forward these proposals.
Fast, reliable and affordable transport has the power to make a real difference to people’s lives. That is why I am a passionate believer in the transformative power of improving transport. If Britain is to have any chance of succeeding in a post-Brexit world, improved connectivity, both outside our islands and around them, is key. Among the most pressing of the challenges facing our transport system is the need for additional airport capacity in the south-east of England. Failure to address that challenge will mean less choice, more disruption and higher air fares for UK passengers. Along with the other members of the Transport Committee, I agree that building an additional runway at Heathrow is, in principle, the right answer to our aviation capacity challenge, provided there are safeguards and mitigations to protect passengers and affected communities.
The Secretary of State has already set out the economic benefits that could be achieved with expansion. The case is compelling, but have the Government been as candid with MPs and the public as this decision deserves, acknowledging not just the benefits but the costs and risks? Ensuring that the NPS properly reflects the weight of evidence in the supporting documents was the first objective of the Transport Committee’s report. Our Committee’s detailed analysis of the Department for Transport’s forecasts revealed that future passenger growth, and the destination and route offering at the UK level, are broadly similar over the longer term to those of the other schemes. That is not reflected in the final NPS.
At the current costs anticipated for the north-west runway scheme, there is a very real possibility that domestic routes from Heathrow will not be commercially viable. Ministers have told us that they intend to use public service obligations to guarantee regional connections, yet their own 2013 guidance on the use of PSOs states:
“Government considers it unlikely that PSOs would be appropriate for new routes from the regions to London.”
What has changed since 2013 to make a policy that was ruled out then viable today? Even if PSOs could be used, it is not clear what level of subsidy would be needed and whether those subsidies would be provided in perpetuity.
That is an important point, and it has not yet been raised—PSOs will require subsidies. For example, in Cornwall, Cornish taxpayers are subsidising the PSO, but those flights are to Gatwick. If Heathrow has a PSO, it will be way more expensive for taxpayers, and they are unaware of that.
I hope the Minister addresses the issues around PSOs in his closing remarks.
The analysis supporting the decision is extensive; what is lacking is a fair and transparent representation of the information in the NPS to the House. For example, the Committee’s scrutiny revealed that the Department’s methods of presentation hid compelling noise modelling showing that more than 300,000 people are estimated to be newly affected by significant noise annoyance due to an expanded Heathrow. The total number of people in the noise annoyance footprint is estimated to be more than 1.15 million. Our investigations also indicated that those estimates are likely to be toward the lower end of the scale of potential impacts.
I hear what the hon. Lady says, but will she confirm that I made that clear in my statement to the House on the publication of the draft NPS? I also indicated that we expected that that would be a temporary process while technology changed, and that those figures assumed no mitigation measures, whereas we intend significant mitigation measures, including, for example, the night flight ban.
The Secretary of State has clarified that issue. I simply want to ensure that Members have the full range of information in front of them before they vote this evening.
There are many instances where the assumptions underpinning the analysis misrepresented what was likely to occur in practice. For example, the Department has assumed that all the capacity will be filled within two years of an opening date in 2026, yet Heathrow’s own business plan expects phased expansion over five to 10 years. Earlier this month, the Secretary of State told the House:
“We have accepted the recommendations…and will follow faithfully the Select Committee’s wishes to make sure that its recommendations are properly addressed at each stage of the process.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 642, c. 174.]
These are fine words but, disappointingly, they are not matched with actions, and the NPS has not been updated.
The second objective of our Committee’s scrutiny was to ensure that the NPS provided suitable safeguards for passengers and affected communities. We know that the Government have been struggling to deal with air quality in London for years. The Committee made two recommendations on changing the wording of the NPS to provide air quality safeguards. The Government did not accept these recommendations. On noise, we wanted to ensure that there were clear safeguards for communities, including guaranteed respite. The Government did not accept most of our recommendations to safeguard communities from noise impacts. On surface access, we recommended a condition of approval to ensure that the scheme would not result in more airport-related traffic on London’s roads. The Government did not accept that recommendation.
Will the hon. Lady confirm that if there is a point of disagreement between us, it is simply that we accepted the Committee’s recommendations but also said that the appropriate moment to insert them would be at the development consent order stage, rather than the NPS stage? Will she confirm that we have very clearly said that we will insert those at the DCO stage?
I confirm that that is the Secretary of State’s view, and I will come on to my concerns about that approach in due course.
On protections for communities, we recommended that compensation be independently assessed and reviewed once the full impacts were known. The Government did not accept this recommendation. On protection for passengers, we recommended a condition of approval in the NPS that passenger charges be held flat in real terms unless not doing so was in their interests. The Government did not accept this recommendation.
No. I am conscious of time.
The Committee did not make a specific recommendation on carbon emissions, but the NPS scheme must be compatible with our climate change obligations. As others have already said, this remains very uncertain. The Government have told us that our recommendations will be dealt with during the development consent order process, in consultation with communities and other stakeholders, but our recommendations were made on the basis that there were not enough safeguards in the DCO process to ensure that high-level policy objectives on noise, air quality, surface access, regional connectivity and costs could be achieved.
The third objective of the Committee’s recommendations was to limit the risk of legal challenge, yet not providing fundamentally important information on possible environmental, health and community impacts seems to be a point on which a judicial review may be focused. Baroness Sugg told us recently that making the meaningful changes to the NPS we sought would add a six to nine-month delay to the process. Given the potential scale of the impacts of this scheme and the decades it has taken to get to this point, a few extra months may seem an appropriate price to pay, especially given the Government’s self-imposed delays since the Airports Commission reported in July 2015.
This is a vital decision about our national infrastructure. Additional runway capacity must be delivered. I do not doubt the Government’s intent, but rather their ability to deliver. Some of my Select Committee colleagues will accept the Government’s assurances, but I intend to be guided by the evidence. I have no doubt that the Government intended their air quality plans to ensure compliance with legal standards, but three times the courts rejected them. I am certain that the Department for Transport intended to electrify 850 miles of railway and to introduce new rail timetables successfully but, as we know, the reality has sometimes fallen short of the ambition. This NPS leaves too many risks: the risk of a successful legal challenge; the risk of harming communities; the risk of rising charges; and the risk of a failure to deliver new domestic connections. If a substantial proportion of the Committee’s recommendations had been incorporated, I would have felt able to vote for the motion. I wish that I could do so but, without them, I am afraid that I cannot.
I do not think that the proposal before the House will be seen as Parliament’s finest hour. It is very easy to dismiss the contributions of MPs who perhaps have communities overflown by Heathrow planes, but nearly 3 million Londoners will be affected if this expansion goes ahead. However, this is actually a vote that will affect all our communities in one way or another.
I think that the story of Heathrow is a story of broken promises, broken politics and broken economics. Those of us with communities around Heathrow know about Heathrow’s broken promises better than anyone else. There has been no action, despite promises, on night flights. The first flight over my community’s homes today was at 4.29 this morning. Under this proposal, we will actually end up with more early morning flights, not fewer. There has been no action on sticking even to existing rules on respite. I have been at public meetings at which the current Heathrow management has said that the previous promises made by previous managers should never have been made. Regional MPs who are banking on promises from Heathrow should bear that in mind when they sign up to this proposal today.
Of course, the ultimate broken promise was when the fifth terminal got planning permission. There was an express condition for local people of having no third runway, but look where we are today. The bottom line is that any assurances in the development consent order are literally not worth the paper they are written on. Dare I say it, but with the greatest respect, Ministers will be long gone by the time those Members who are promised that their regional airports will get extra connections find out that those connections have not materialised. Such a “facts of life” explanation to them from a future Minister will be that their county council has to pay perhaps £10 million a year for their route to Heathrow. The problem, however, will be that no airline will want to provide it, because that is not a big enough subsidy, and doing so would be uneconomic. There have been broken promises in the past, and there are more to come for other MPs from Heathrow Airport Ltd.
What about broken politics? As we have heard, MPs are not being shown any kind of proper planning for a third runway. There will be 28 million extra passengers a year, but there is a promise from Heathrow that not a single extra car journey will happen. How is that going to be achieved? We do not have a plan for that. West London is illegally breaching air pollution limits, and there are similar problems in my own community. Expanding Heathrow makes that significantly worse. There is no plan at all.
No flight paths have been published today for communities to see. There is no plan on tackling carbon emissions. There is no plan on how to ring-fence domestic routes, as promised. Members might be interested to hear that the regional air connectivity fund set off with 11 new routes in 2016, but just two are still operating, and those are doing so at reduced frequency because they were not economic. There is no plan on how to have a freight hub in such a congested area. There is no assessment of how the resultant congestion charge that will become necessary will affect the west London economy.
Of most concern to people in this House is the fact that there has been no formal safety review—yet—even though the crash risk goes up by 60% in the most densely populated bit of the country, including my own community. When the Health and Safety Laboratory did its estimate of that crash risk, it asked DFT officials whether they wanted the population numbers impacted by the crash risk to be modelled, and they were told no, that was not necessary. Safety has been far from the top priority of the Department for Transport.
The process to create what little planning there is has been totally flawed. Consultations are never—I repeat, never—listened to. The Airports Commission got its numbers wrong. MPs have been given erroneous impressions of the impact on regional airports. The Government have had to reissue the draft NPS because its numbers were incorrect. Parliamentary questions have not been properly answered in the very short time MPs have had to ask them since the statement was first made. People simply get ignored in this process. They have to be either a big business or a big union before their voice counts, and that is totally unacceptable.
After all that, the DFT disagrees with its only analysis. It picks the project that it shows has a lower level of total benefits to passengers and the wider economy than Gatwick. It picks the project that is likely to need the biggest taxpayer subsidy. It picks the project that is the most risky by far. It picks the project that cannibalises the transport budget for the rest of the country. It picks the project that harms the growth of regional airports. That is why this is a story of broken economics. Even Heathrow knows that this is risky, which is why it has a poison-pill cost-recovery clause in the pre-legal contract, effectively outsourcing the economic risk to taxpayers.
Heathrow knows that there is a massive risk of the project going belly up. When that happens, it will be in a strong position to turn round and ask taxpayers to pay. When it turns out that the problem of air pollution is insurmountable, we will be asked to pay for the runway that it cannot use.
My right hon. Friend is making an excellent, forensic speech. It has been said in the debate that without cross-party support we cannot hope to deliver an infrastructure project of this magnitude. Three of the four main parties in the House are not in favour of the scheme. Does she not think that that adds to the undeliverability of the project?
Absolutely. This requires cross-party support, which is simply not there. Heathrow’s problem is that it is a hub airport in the wrong place, which means that it is expensive. Passenger charges are 40% more expensive than at rival European airports. That is why Leeds Bradford routes have been cut. It is not because there is not space—it already has space—but because those routes are simply uneconomic.
No, Leeds Bradford has tended to hub out of Schiphol because it is cheaper. This is about economics, which matter. The bottom line is that in expanding Heathrow the economics and the expensiveness of the airport become worse, putting more pressure on domestic flights, with a loss of flights to emerging markets. Flights to places such as Dar es Salaam and Osaka, for example, have been cut.
In today’s vote, Heathrow Airport Ltd is seeking to go one further than outsourcing economic risk to the taxpayer. It wants to outsource political risk to MPs who are prepared to sign up to its project today. We know that in the end it will not deliver for the regions or communities. I am not surprised that the Scottish National party has begun to see through the proposal. I hope that it continues to see through it, and I wish that it would vote against it today.
There is an alternative: a proper regional strategy for airports around the UK, including in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and around our country in England, which would bring connectivity to the world for communities that need and deserve it, and regional economies too, bringing investment direct to the door. As I said, we have just had the first non-stop flight from Sydney to London. Direct flights—people being able to go from A to B—are the future of aviation. Low-cost carriers are moving into that market. They want to operate out of cheap airports, on the doorstep of communities and regions that need them—not an over-expensive airport at Heathrow.
In conclusion, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you asked me to come up with the most backward-looking, ill thought-through, poorly bottomed-out, badly articulated, on a wing and a prayer, bad value-for-money, most polluting airport plan I could find, this would be it. It is hugely polluting for my local community. To have only a four-hour debate on such a monumental infrastructure decision is an absolute disgrace. I am staggered that the House is seriously contemplating voting for the fantasy economics attached to such an expensive and risky airport plan. If we vote for that tonight, it will be proven that the House has not done due diligence properly, and people should rightly hold us to account for that. I will certainly vote against the proposal, not just on behalf of my community but on behalf of my country.
I call John McDonnell. The time limit will go down to six minutes after John McDonnell.
I shall seek to go under eight minutes if I can, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thank the Speaker for allowing me to speak from the Back Benches, given the direct impact of the proposal on my constituency and my constituents, who find the whole debate heartbreaking.
Occasionally in the House there are defining moments, and I think that this is a defining moment on a number of issues. It is a defining vote tonight. As we have heard in the debate, it is a defining vote, first, on climate change. The evidence from the Select Committee on Transport and others basically outlines the fact that if we are to tackle climate change, as the Committee on Climate Change said, we have to restrict the growth of aviation to 55%. However, as has been evidenced in the debate, it looks as if it might hit 90% or 100% by 2050. As a result of Heathrow expansion, that means that regional airports will have to be constrained or, as the Committee on Climate Change said, other sectors of industry will be constrained within our economy. To be frank, on past evidence we will not meet those targets, so we will jeopardise our potential to tackle climate change.
The second issue that has been raised in our discussions is whether we are going to tackle the grotesque inequalities of investment geographically across the country. Tonight, we have learned from some of the views that have been expressed that we will not do so. The economic benefits were announced by the Airports Commission: we were meant to gain £147 billion. The Government reduced that figure to £74 billion, then to £72 billion. Now we know that that was the gross benefit, and that the present net value ranges from £3 billion over sixty years to minus £2 billion. If there is a 1% delay in the project, that is completely wiped out. Costs will not be borne by Heathrow Airport Ltd, because it has a leverage rate—a debt to asset value—of 85%. If it expands that will be over 90%. When the Government—not with my wishes—privatised the National Air Traffic Services, we prevented companies from bidding if they went anywhere near 65%. Heathrow will not find the money—the cost will be borne by taxpayers. The biggest taxpayer burden will be the surface infrastructure, assessed by Transport for London as £15 billion.
That money will come from investments, but they will not be in London and the south-east, and we will see delays and the ending of investments in transport and infrastructure around the country. We have heard about the growth of regional airports being held back, but the proposal will hold back growth in road and rail, along with all the benefits of infrastructure.
Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the much needed infrastructure promised as part of this statement—the southern and western rail links, along with Crossrail—have been on the cards for many years, and are needed for the existing number of passengers at Heathrow?
It is an obvious point that we have made time and time again in the House. We have been pressing for investment in infrastructure for the existing airport, but it has not been forthcoming.
We do not even know what the infrastructure plan is for the area. Last time, the infrastructure plan included a road through my local cemetery. We were meant to disinter the dead to enable access to Heathrow. We have still not seen the infrastructure plans. No wonder my constituents are angry about this. That is the third defining point. Does the House stand up for people and communities, especially working-class communities, or does it stand up to protect the interests of a corporate cartel that has ripped us off for decades? Ask how much—
I would respect the hon. Gentleman, my constituency neighbour, if he accepted a runway in his constituency south of Heathrow, but he refused.
Look at how much corporation tax has been paid by this company over the past 10 years: £24 million. It has been borrowing to pay dividends more than its profit ratios. That is the nature of the company we are dealing with. It is a company and an operation at Heathrow that has lied to my constituents. When it got the fifth terminal, a letter was sent to my constituents. I had meetings with the directors of Heathrow and they were beside me saying, “We will not seek a third runway.” Within 12 months, they were lobbying for one. We were told by a former Conservative Prime Minister, “No ifs, no buts, no third runway”. They never told us that promise was for one Parliament. The existing Prime Minister backed that guarantee to my constituents.
These are the consequences for my constituents that hon. Members need to know: 4,000 homes will go; 8,000 to 10,000 people will be forcibly removed from their community, the biggest forced removal of human beings since the Scottish highland clearances; and a church, a temple, community centres, open spaces and even our hospices are now threatened. That is what it means to my community. Two schools—where will they go? It is no good offering them 125% compensation. You cannot compensate for the loss of your whole community. We have a housing crisis in our area on a scale not seen since the second world war. We cannot house our existing population. Where will they go? Two schools, at least, closed, with another one, most probably, after that. We have not got enough places for our existing pupils. Where will they go? We cannot find sites to build the new schools we currently need.
Those who get forced out might be the lucky ones, because the ones left behind are already breathing in air that is already poisoned above 2010 EU limits. No effective mitigation measures have been demonstrated to us tonight. We know the health consequences—respiratory conditions and cancer—yet the Government have refused to undertake a comprehensive health assessment.
Is my right hon. Friend as surprised as I am that there is nothing specific in the revised national policy statement that adequately sets out a framework for dealing with our air pollution crisis?
We have 9,000 people a year in London dying from air pollution, yet there is nothing in the Government proposals that goes anywhere near even thinking about tackling these issues. Those are the consequences for my community, despite all the promises they have been given that their homes would be secure. These are villages that have been there for 1,000 years, to be wiped off the face of the earth—and for what? To ensure that a company maximises its profits. This is a company owned by Ferrovial, which was founded by Franco contracts, by the Chinese state and by Qatar. It is shipping profits abroad, rather than reinvesting in this country. That is what this vote is about tonight.
I will finish on this point, because other Members want to speak.
This decision tonight will likely go through, but there will inevitably be legal challenges from a cross-party group and the London boroughs, as well as the Mayor of London. I believe, like last time, that those legal challenges will win. We will be left, yet again, with not tackling the real problem of developing a real aviation strategy that builds on the five airports around London, develops the regional airports we need, and connects them up with the rail and road infrastructure we desperately need. We will be back here yet again, having failed. I tell Members this as well: if the courts do not decide this, there will be a campaign. This will be the iconic, totemic battleground of climate change, which will attract protesters and campaigners from across Europe. This issue will not go away.
Before Members vote, I want to leave them with one thing in their mind: remember the name Armelle Thomas, resident of Harmsworth. Her husband, my friend, died a short while back. Tommy Thomas came to this country during the second world war to fight for this country against fascism. He flew airplanes for the RAF on some of the most dangerous secret missions into France. Armelle is his widow. His home that he built up with Armelle is in the centre of what will be the runway itself. There are human costs to this decision that Members need to recognise and contemplate before they vote tonight to worry and blight my community once again on a project that will never—pardon the pun—take off.
May I begin by first commending my right hon. Friend Greg Hands for resigning on a point of principle to stand up for his constituents in the way that he made public at the last election? Similarly, in two general elections, 2015 and 2017, I stood on the position that I would support airport expansion in south-east England. That is why, this evening, I will be supporting the Government. However, I want to make a few points about the local impact of that decision and some broader points on the capacity of this country to make strategic decisions about the infrastructure it requires in future.
I came to the decision I did in 2013 because, on balance, the socioeconomic impact on my constituency was positive if we expanded capacity in the south-east of England, at both Gatwick and Heathrow. I am in favour of the expansion of both airports for that reason. It did not go unnoticed—I promise hon. Members that my postbag was large—that the impact of noise in my constituency was significant and, indeed, had grown, as my right hon. Friend John Redwood said in an intervention, because of the unilateral decision by the National Air Traffic Service to change the flight pattern, with no prior notice to anybody—including the airport itself. That impact has been significant. Despite that, I have stayed true to my word, recognising that an expansion of airport capacity in the south-east is, on balance, to the benefit of my constituents.
I say to colleagues on both sides of the House: let us be realistic about the world in which we live. In this post-Brexit world that the country voted for, there is little avoiding the fact that we are going to need intercontinental connections. This is what the country voted for. It is going to have an impact on the environment, a point made so eloquently and passionately by John McDonnell, but it is what the public voted for. Until we invent a means of transport that flies through the air and does not rely on the combustion of fossil fuels, that is going to be the case. I therefore ask the Government to recognise that fact and that they need to take the issue of noise in particular seriously—I know they do: they have made some assurances today for that reason. But they must also recognise that the way the world works at the moment is not sustainable.
We must look at how the global economy works and the impact that that is having on the need for people to travel. All travel at the moment involves carbon dioxide being released into the air. As far as I am concerned—it is 17th-century physics—that is having an impact on the environment. It is extremely important that Britain takes that seriously and engages internationally on this issue.
I will not take all of my time, because I know colleagues want to speak. My final plea is on strategic thinking. Take a look at how long it took to build terminal 5. As I recall, it took eight years to get planning permission. Take a look at how long it has taken to build HS2—I am not a big fan of HS2: the future is fast data, not fast people, and I struggle with the justification for that project. Take a look at the world that we are growing into—an ageing world where, in future, transportation may be more domestic than international, because we need to look after our elderly. Take a look at the future in terms of who we are competing with and who we want to trade with. Do we want to trade with countries if it then involves significant pollution from the transport of their goods by boat and plane to our shores, or do we want to trade with countries closer to home?
If I look at the decisions that we have made as a country over recent decades, involving both political parties, what comes out at me is a complete absence of strategy. The Government should create a unit that looks at the long-term, strategic approach of this country in the world where we currently live, and the world that we are growing into. That is long overdue. If we are going to make such decisions, we need to make them quickly. The world changes even more quickly now than it did when we first started talking about airport capacity. We need to be agile. Above all, we need to be competitive, but in being competitive we cannot lose sight of the impact that it will have on our local communities and the wider community across the globe. If Britain wants to be successful and lead the world in protecting our globe—our planet—it needs to get real about its long-term strategy.
I welcome today’s debate. Finally, after decades of dithering, this House is being asked to trigger the process that could approve a third runway for Heathrow, the UK’s only hub airport. The debate on the expansion of aviation capacity in the south-east has always focused on balancing the importance of international connectivity with its impact on key local and international environmental issues, such as noise and emissions, but taking a decision has been put in the “too hard” box for far too long.
I support a third runway at Heathrow: the case for jobs and the economy is overwhelming. Heathrow has been virtually full for a decade for both passengers and freight. Failure to take a decision has already had consequences. Airports in the regions have not benefited; instead, the UK has lost out to other hubs—to places such as Frankfurt, Paris, and Schiphol, and further afield, Dubai. Only this week it has been reported that Munich has now overtaken Heathrow for international connectivity. That has impeded the development of much needed trade outside Europe, and it has severe consequences for the economy. A 10% increase in air connectivity brings a 0.5% increase in per capita GDP.
Heathrow is particularly important for freight, especially to countries outside Europe. Adding one flight to each of Heathrow’s five routes to China would deliver an extra £16 million per annum to our economy, creating 530 jobs, and that cannot be done without the expansion of Heathrow. All the main business organisations, including the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors and the British Chambers of Commerce, have repeatedly warned that cargo capacity to pivotal trading markets in Shanghai, Delhi and Dubai is virtually full. The CBI is concerned that if additional capacity is not available by 2030, we could lose £5 billion per annum in trade to Brazil, Russia, India and China alone. These concerns are echoed by the major trade unions. We ignore these warnings at our peril.
Expanding Heathrow is not an alternative to supporting airports in the regions. Airlines take commercial decisions about where they will fly; if Heathrow is full, the alternative has been another hub, such as Paris, Frankfurt or other airports—it has not been to move to the English regions. I support all efforts to develop airports in the regions, and that includes improving surface access, but the shortage of slots at Heathrow has weakened regional connectivity. Liverpool was squeezed out by Heathrow decades ago because of the shortage of slots. The commitment for 15% of new slots in an expanded Heathrow to be reserved for links to the regions is to be welcomed. For Liverpool John Lennon airport, Heathrow expansion offers a direct connection to international flights, plus a logistics hub, with the potential of a lasting legacy of construction and engineering skills for future generations, but it is essential that that is delivered.
The economic case for expanding Heathrow is overwhelming, but environmental concerns are critical as well. They could, and should, be addressed through the development consent process and other methods, such as taking steps to impose legally binding targets, better aircraft design, much improved public transport and a new use of airspace strategy.
Today is a watershed. We must draw a line under decades of dithering and take the bold decision that is required in the national interest. Expansion at Heathrow will link the UK to vital emerging markets, make it possible for airports outside the south-east to be connected to the hub, and bring jobs and opportunities across the country. The House should now take the responsible decision: support the national policy statement and back a third runway for Heathrow.
I rise on behalf of my constituents to say that, in my judgment, this development is one that should be supported. About 750 of my constituents are directly employed at Heathrow airport, but many thousands more are economically dependent on its success.
It might well be that if we were starting from scratch, Heathrow airport would not be developed on the site where it is at present, but the reality is that in a country that is very crowded, particularly in the south-east of England, we have been quite successful in getting quarts into pint pots and minimising the environmental impact that might take place elsewhere if another hub airport had to be developed. The idea, for example, that we could successfully build one in the Thames estuary without vast amounts of environmental damage is simply fanciful. I am also convinced that we need a hub airport and that a capacity is being reached.
All those things take me to the view that this development, if it can be achieved within the environmental parameters, to which I shall come back in a moment, ought to be supported. I say that, I might add, even though I am probably going to be personally affected: living where I do in Hammersmith, I have absolutely no doubt that I shall be directly under the northern flight path into the airport.
My concerns, however, are these. First, there has been a consistent lack of strategic planning about the area around Heathrow airport. At the moment, many of my constituents, particularly in Iver, which is closest to the airport, have their lives blighted by the consequences of that. Developments that were allowed to take place during the second world war, which are now linked to the airport’s success, provide a level of planning blight that is exceptionally bad. Just to give an idea to the House, in Iver village, where two heavy goods vehicles cannot pass each other without going on to the pavement, one HGV per minute goes through the village street. All this is linked to the fact that Heathrow airport is an economic hub and presents real difficulties for my residents that, I might add, are going to continue even if this development does not go ahead.
Secondly, there is the problem of noise. It is difficult to make a judgment as to what the noise levels will be from the construction of a north-west runway, but there is no doubt that even today in the southernmost bit of my constituency, people are affected by the noise of aircraft on the ground. That, too, is going to have to be addressed, and I am very concerned that the current project does not necessarily envisage some of those residents being entitled to compensation. I was glad to hear from the Secretary of State today that that will be reviewed.
My third concern is about the entire environment in which I live. The Colne Valley is an area of biodiversity. It is also exceptionally attractive, and could be made much more so, if the proper investment went in. One of the things I look to from the development of a third runway is that some of those developments will be facilitated. If they are forthcoming, these developments, be they putting in the proper road infrastructure and an Iver relief road or environmental improvements in the Colne Valley, are capable of delivering a better outcome for my constituents and the environment than they have at present. That is one reason why, at this stage, I am prepared to support the scheme.
I am left with a slight sense that people see this vote as final. One should read what the NPS actually says. Paragraphs 112 through to 120 make clear the targets to be met if the Secretary of State is ever to sanction the development. If they cannot be met, as John McDonnell has correctly said, there will be successful legal challenges. In those circumstances, I would want those legal challenges to succeed: I will certainly not condemn my constituents, or those of any other part of London or its immediate and adjacent areas, to levels of pollution that do not meet the environmental standards to which we have said we will adhere. I see that as a major challenge for the Government to meet.
My right hon. and learned Friend has made an important point. The problem is that the assessment would come after Heathrow had spent probably billions of pounds on a runway that it was then unable to use, and it would seek to recover that from the taxpayer.
I take my right hon. Friend’s point, but the modelling that will have to take place even before the development proceeds ought to be capable of identifying whether that will happen. If it is to fall on the taxpayer to compensate for the failure of the scheme once it starts, that is something the Secretary of State will have to take full account of before giving any approval.
For those reasons, and because I happen to believe that a hub airport is a necessity and cannot be avoided, and because I also believe that there are real economic benefits for this country that cannot be ignored, I am prepared tonight to support the Government—but, as I say, my support is conditional. If this project is to deliver a better future for our country generally and for local residents, the Government will have to show that they understand the wider considerations of environmental benefit and improvement that must go with it.
Order. After the next speaker, I am afraid that I will have to reduce the time limit to four minutes, and I remind people that interventions mean that others might not be able to get in. I say that particularly to people who have already spoken.
I start by expressing my respect for Greg Hands for having resigned from the Government over this issue. I, like him and quite a few other Members, am concerned partly about our own residents and partly about the wider national interest. We are being criticised in some quarters for being nimbys, but in this case our backyard is very large indeed. At present, 1 million people are affected by the 51 Leq—equivalent continuous sound level—noise contour, which is a good definition of serious impact, and that number will increase substantially.
The aspect of noise that I want to focus on, however, has already been alluded to by John Redwood and others, and this is the deliberate creation of what our residents now call “noise sewers”: the deliberate concentration of flights along particular routes. The problem is aggravated by the absence of regulations governing the angle of take-off, which is judged by airlines specifically according to fuel savings. Tens of thousands of residents under take-off paths as well as landing paths are subject to extreme and prolonged forms of noise pollution. The question now is: how will the expansion of Heathrow affect that?
The number of flights is to increase by more than 50%, and the NPS says it would like to keep the proportion of people additionally affected to around 10%, so almost by definition those who will experience the greatest hardship and environmental damage will be those under the existing flight paths. I invite the Minister in reply to give some reassurance to those who have to deal with this noise sewage problem and say how that can be alleviated within the overall policy. We do not know the future flight paths or whether the Government will regulate to deal with some of the effects, but perhaps they could give us some assurances.
On the wider national picture, I strongly agree with the analysis of John McDonnell. I do not necessarily agree with his approach to public finances, but on the financing of the airport he is absolutely right. Heathrow Ltd is an exceedingly dodgy company by any reckoning: last year, its profits were just over £500 million, but it remitted in dividends over £700 million; it extracts rent in the form of monopoly rent from its existing holdings, particularly its monopoly control of carparks; it has very little interest in development; and its balance sheet position is terrible—it has run down its shareholder funds from £5 billion to about £700 million and it has doubled its debt. It has no interest in development and no competence in managing the kind of risky project now envisaged. The only way the Government can cope is by underwriting the company. We know in practice, however, that the regulator, because of the regulatory asset base system of regulation at the airport, will increase landing charges to enable the investment to remain profitable. The worry expressed by people such as Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British airways, is that passengers—or a combination of the taxpayer and passengers—will pay for the overrun.
The other aspect of cost that the right hon. Gentleman rightly referred to is the complete lack of a definition of who pays for the infrastructure costs outside the perimeter fence. We have a wide range of estimates, from £5 billion, in the Davies report, to £15 billion from Transport for London. The Government say they do not recognise the lesser figure, but what figure do they recognise? The developers have said they will come up with only £1 billion, so where will the remaining billions come from? I know that “the odd billion between friends” might be a good way of looking at this, from the Government’s point of view, but we need some precision and some protection for the public finances. Billions of pounds of public investment are ultimately likely to be involved, and given how the Treasury operates, with the rationing of capital, this will come at the expense of infrastructure projects in other parts of the country.
In my remaining minute, I want to say a bit about that regional impact. The assumption in the Government’s statement is that the regions will benefit, but they patently will not. There will be a rationing of capital and of landing rights because of carbon dioxide limits. Every one of the seven leading regional airports—Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, East Midlands, Bristol, and others—have made it absolutely clear that they oppose Heathrow expansion because it inhibits their own potential for developing point-to-point routes to other parts of the world. In terms of the aggregate picture, we have already been told that the net present value is close to zero, and actually heavily negative if we take out international transfer passengers, and on the specific issues, such as the availability of flights outside Europe for business passengers, only 2% of all flights fall in this category. For national and local reasons, therefore, I oppose the motion.
We have heard about some of the human and environmental consequences of the decision that we may be about to make, but it is worth repeating them.
Heathrow is already the noisiest airport in the world, and a third runway will obviously make that problem worse. The Heathrow area has been in breach of air pollution laws for more than a decade. Expansion will mean 250,000 more flights, 25 million more road passenger journeys, and therefore, plainly, more pollution. A third runway will mean the destruction of old and entrenched communities such as those described by John McDonnell—I pay tribute to Armelle and her campaign against the third runway, which goes back many years. Thousands of homes will be destroyed to make way for the new runway. Families will be displaced and simply told to start again. Official forecasts tell us that Heathrow expansion is not reconcilable with the Climate Change Act 2008. Those are just some of the consequences of the way in which we are potentially likely to vote tonight.
Members would only sign off those costs if they believed that the economic upside justified it, but so much of what we have heard about the economic benefits is propaganda. It is not even very sophisticated propaganda. Heathrow bosses must be laughing out loud when they tell us that expansion can deliver 250,000 more flights without any extra car journeys, or that a third runway will mean that fewer people will be affected by noise.
Let me briefly say something about the economic case. In its 2014 report, on which the Government’s decision was based, the Airports Commission estimated that Heathrow expansion would deliver £147 billion worth of total economic benefit. The Government lapped it up, but then, in last year’s draft NPS, they quietly revised the figure down to between £72 billion and £74.2 billion—less than half the original estimate. Today’s NPS uses the same figure, but admits that it is a gross figure which does not include the actual economic and financial costs of the proposal.
Does my hon. Friend agree that if the runway were ever built—in fact, it would be half a runway—it would be the most expensive place on earth on which to land, and that that would knock out the economics of improving our trade and connectivity?
As would be expected, my hon. Friend has made an impeccable point.
The net present value, a metric which does include all the costs and benefits, reduces the figure to between £2.9 billion and minus £2.5 billion over a 60-year period. So the upside has gone from £147 billion to minus £2.5 billion, yet the Government’s position has not budged.
It gets worse. A report from the New Economics Foundation shows that three quarters of any new capacity from a third runway will be taken up by international-to-international transfer passengers who never leave the airport. The Department for Transport’s own guidance says that they add nothing whatsoever to the economy, and should not be counted. If they are excluded—as the Government have recommended to themselves—the NPV is reduced by a further £5.5 billion, which produces a minus figure. DfT analysis also shows that an overrun in Heathrow’s costs of just 1% could be enough to negate the overall benefits of the scheme.
None of that, by the way, takes into account the point made by Sir Vince Cable about Transport for London’s estimated £15 billion price tag for a link between the Heathrow expansion and surface level. It also does not take into account the legal and planning complexities that are unique to Heathrow. A gigantic legal challenge, backed by local authorities, City Hall and numerous organisations, is waiting around the corner from tonight’s vote.
This is what is so utterly perplexing. Why would we choose the most polluting, most disruptive, most expensive and least deliverable option, when the alternative is at least as economically beneficial, and vastly simpler to deliver? It is not because Heathrow will deliver more connectivity. According to every metric and every analysis, Gatwick and Heathrow deliver the same. Even the discredited Airports Commission’s own analysis predicts that whichever airport expands, the UK as a whole will achieve almost identical connectivity.
That brings me to the NPS. I am having to skip whole chunks of what I was going to say. The NPS is a horror story. The Secretary of State told the House that Heathrow expansion would “enable” growth at Birmingham, Newquay, Aberdeen, and other regional airports. That is nonsense. The Government’s own analysis shows that Heathrow expansion hinders growth at regional airports. It does not “enable” it. The Transport Committee found that if expansion goes ahead, there will be 74,000 fewer direct international flights per year to and from airports in the non-London regions in 2030, and that the figure will double by 2050.
In the last few seconds available to me, let me ask the Secretary of State to take this opportunity to put the record straight, because he has misled the House. We are being asked to approve a monstrous scheme, and I urge—beg, even—Members to look at the details before they cast their votes.
I do not believe that a third runway at Heathrow is necessary or desirable, for all the reasons that have been set out so powerfully by other Members. I shall certainly vote against Heathrow expansion tonight. I entered the Chamber totally opposed to it, and what I have heard has convinced me that it is an absolute and total nonsense,
I do not wish to be wholly negative about the need for airport capacity, especially to serve the capital and the south-east. I have one major and specific alternative proposal to advance, which is serious, sensible and practicable. Let me say first, however, that it is clear that maximum use must be made of existing airport capacity in and around London. Indeed, that was been emphasised in at least one Government policy statement, although another that was published at about the same time mysteriously missed out the reference.
This capacity will, of course, include London Luton airport, whose passenger numbers are rapidly increasing, and where substantial investment is happening now to cope with future demand. Luton airport is a major part of our local economy, and a booming success story. With new parallel taxiways and the coming generation of composite-bodied aircraft, our airport will able to accommodate long-haul flights and millions more passengers. My primary concern today, however, is to propose an expansion of airport capacity to serve not just London and the south-east, but the midlands and beyond.
Very simply, my proposal is to link Birmingham airport to central London with a direct fast electrified rail link. The Great Western line linking Birmingham Snow Hill to Marylebone and Paddington should be electrified, and should include the rail link from Leamington Spa to Birmingham airport. With some modest upgrading and the restoration of a few miles of four tracks on the line and a direct link to Crossrail at the southern end, rapid direct services to and from central London will be possible. Indeed, that could also provide for a rapid rail service between Heathrow and Birmingham, again using Crossrail, in a hub-satellite relationship. That would be useful for Members, who would be able to take the Jubilee line from Westminster to Bond Street and then immediately get on to a train which would take them straight into the heart of Birmingham airport. The airport has a long runway to accommodate large, long-haul aircraft on intercontinental flights, and has at least 50% spare capacity.
Notwithstanding his vision for Birmingham, does my hon. Friend recognise that, according to official Government figures, there will be 40,000 fewer international point-to-point flights from Birmingham in 2040 if Heathrow expansion goes ahead?
I thank my hon. Friend for making that powerful point.
There is massive extra capacity at Birmingham, and that seems likely to expand in the future. There is a railway station actually in the airport, linked via Leamington Spa to the main Great Western line. It is not a remote parkway station, but can provide direct rail travel right into the airport, much as happens at Gatwick. With 125-mph electrified trains, non-stop on the main route, journeys would take less than an hour from central London, and would be convenient and easy with no train changes required.
I have consulted, and have been advised by, experienced railway engineers who, like me, are convinced that this scheme would be perfectly practicable and inexpensive to build. I have also discussed the scheme with Paul Kehoe, who was recently chief executive of Birmingham airport, and is an old friend who was formerly airport director at Luton. He, too, considers the scheme to be eminently feasible and perfectly practicable. Many Members rightly believe that we should seek to develop our regional economy economies, with more emphasis on regional airports. I believe that developing Birmingham airport will meet that challenge too, while also making a potentially massive contribution to south-east aviation needs.
I urge Ministers to give serious consideration to what I propose, and to think again about Heathrow expansion.
Just outside the boundaries of my constituency lies a charming little village called Cublington. I mention that because 50 years ago, in 1968, the Roskill commission started its inquiry on airport expansion in the south-east. Its conclusion was that a new airport at Cublington should be recommended. Fifty years on, we are still dithering, and the time for a decision is now.
I have been a member of the Transport Committee for the majority of my time in this House. I have been part of two inquiries into airport expansion. The first, which was in 2013, was not scheme-specific, but looked at the general pros and cons of all the options for London and south-east: Boris island, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and the others. Since then, I have been part of the current Select Committee’s inquiry on the scheme-specific proposal for Heathrow.
I started my journey with an open mind—I did not have a preference for any airport. Indeed, I was not even convinced that we needed airport expansion in the first place. I looked favourably on suggestions that a proper high-speed rail network would free up enough domestic capacity at our international airports to create space for the long-hauls. However, having looked at all the evidence in detail, I am convinced that we do need the expansion of a hub airport over point-to-point capacity—both are important, but we need the hub option—and that the location for that should be Heathrow. Gatwick has many advantages, but it is on the wrong side of London for most of the rest of the country. It is also one of the primary freight hubs, and we need that freight capacity in the holds of passenger aircraft to make many routes viable. It is essential for our long-term international trading interests that we have this expanded capacity.
I was agnostic about whether we should choose the third runway or the Heathrow hub option. Neither of the options is perfect; each has its advantages and disadvantages. We also have to contend with the uncertainty of forecasting many decades into the future.
It is important to point out that the current Select Committee’s inquiry looked only at the current Heathrow option; it did not conduct a comparative analysis of Gatwick or the Heathrow hub option. That was not in our remit, but had we done that, I am sure we would have found shortcomings in the other schemes as well.
We also did not look at the comparative costs of not proceeding—the huge economic cost to this country of not building new airport capacity at this point, when Schiphol, Frankfurt, Charles de Gaulle, Istanbul and Dubai would mop up our markets. What is the opportunity cost environmentally of not proceeding at this point, given the emissions from aircraft both circling in the air and on the ground now?
I am satisfied that the Government are listening to the Select Committee’s recommendations, if not in the NPS then at some other point in the process. I am also satisfied that technology will help to address many of the justifiable concerns that people have. Aircraft technology will deliver quieter and less polluting planes. Electric vehicles will remove many of the surface access concerns, and there are solutions so that moving aircraft from the stand to the runway involves less emissions. All in all, we cannot afford to delay this decision.
I will spend most of my speech discussing a cross-party letter that myself and 21 other MPs from Greater Manchester wrote to the Secretary of State last week in support of Heathrow expansion, and also asking the Government to renew and restate their energy and focus on delivering the vision of a northern powerhouse transport strategy that is fit for purpose. Before I do so, however, I will say a couple of things about Heathrow itself.
I am for national infrastructure projects. I think that they boost jobs and growth—in this case, high-quality jobs—directly and indirectly. The economic benefits of a hub airport in London are unquestionable, which is why trade unions such as Unite and the GMB are in favour. We must also remember that that capacity would go elsewhere if it was not at Heathrow. Obviously, there are concerns—environmental, noise and air quality concerns in particular—and they need to be addressed throughout the process.
I see today’s decision as a gateway decision, not a final decision, but if we are in favour of major infrastructure projects, as I am, we also have to be in favour of taking the difficult and tough decisions to make them a reality. There are always reasons to oppose things, which is why we have seen such delay and dithering in relation to Heathrow over many years. I totally understand and respect the issues that local Members of Parliament have, and they have done themselves a great deal of justice in putting them forward.
I want to turn now to the issues relating to the north. Let us be honest: over the past few weeks, the optics of transport infrastructure in the north have been terrible, with “Northern Fail” and all the problems that have arisen from that. Unfortunately, this has given the impression that the northern powerhouse ambitions are second-order priority for this Government, and that there is always something more important to focus on. That was why we came together as a cross-party group of MPs to ask the Government to now give the same energy and focus that they have given to Heathrow expansion over the past few years to truly realising the northern powerhouse vision. It is a great vision. If we can get the agglomerative effect of connecting all our great cities with our fantastic airports in the north, including Manchester airport, we can really rebalance the economy for good.
Manchester airport has come up a few times in the debate. We want the Government to recognise the fact that it is not like any other regional airport. It is the second best connected airport in the country. It serves many direct routes, including trade and business routes to China, Africa and many other places, and we want a bespoke strategy for Manchester airport that acknowledges that. In particular, that strategy needs to focus on the HS2 stop and on connecting northern powerhouse rail to Manchester airport. We want the same deal that other airports have had in relation to who is going to fund that HS2 stop. We are being asked to fund it, but we do not think that that is fair. Birmingham is getting its stop funded by the Government, and connections to Heathrow and Gatwick have been funded by the Government through many years of rail investment. We want the same. We will support this decision tonight, on the basis not of the hub being connected to Manchester airport, but of the benefits to the country as a whole, but we now want the northern powerhouse vision to be realised.
Let me spend the first couple of minutes of my speech addressing some of the issues that have been raised this evening. We have had the 2009 vote thrown back at us—that was when my party voted against Heathrow—but since 2009, the arguments have been about the Airports Commission report. In 2009, I personally would have supported an airport in the estuary, and there are still common-sense arguments in favour of that, particularly in relation to the environment. An environmental trade-off between people and wildlife would have to be made. It is still the case, however, that we asked the Airports Commission to look at all the issues, and it came up with a clear conclusion.
I want to pick up on a point made by my hon. Friend Iain Stewart. There is a serious cost to not making a decision. We have been frigging around with this for 50 years, one way and another, but we finally have to grasp the nettle and make a decision.
I also want to address the points about hubs made by my right hon. Friend Greg Hands. His argument is addressed by the relative success of Incheon airport in Korea, which has taken the cluster of airports around Tokyo to the cleaners, economically, as has Chicago when compared with New York, which has three separate airports around the city. The economic lessons about the success of hub airports are there to be learned.
Andy Slaughter made several points about Gatwick, and I want to address them as the chair of the Gatwick Co-ordination Group, which brings together colleagues in this House, councillors from the affected local authorities, and representatives from the voluntary and charitable sectors with a key interest in the decision. We submitted our own response to the Airports Commission. The House needs to understand that there are two total showstoppers as far as Gatwick is concerned. One of the masterstrokes in my campaign was to drive the then Transport Secretary in a straight line from central London to Redhill, which is just over halfway to Gatwick. It is a distance of 30 km, and it took us two and a half hours using the main arterial route to Gatwick from central London.
Gatwick hangs off one rail access route: the Brighton main line, the busiest commuter line in the country. Those of us whose constituents are served by and use that line have all experienced the agony it has caused over the past four years. If there were a proposal for additional rail access to Gatwick, it would at least have some credibility, but Heathrow will have five new rail accesses to serve the extra runway. There is simply no comparison, not least given the obvious point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South that Gatwick is the wrong side of London for the vast majority of the country.
The final point I want to make in the very limited time available is about the workforce. When we submitted evidence to the commission in 2015, we totalled up all the people who were unemployed and claiming benefit in a vast area centred on Gatwick who could try to service the estimated 122,000 primary and secondary jobs that would come from expansion at Gatwick. Today that number is under 20,000. If we want to add to the massive housebuilding demand in areas of the south-east that we cannot even meet now, that would be one way of doing it.
Today’s decision is about much more than airport capacity in London. This is a major national infrastructure project that can affect every region of our country, and it is on behalf of my own region of Teesside that I speak in favour of Heathrow expansion.
I pay tribute to Heathrow for its commitment to setting up logistics hubs, which will make sure that jobs and investment can be shared across the UK. Spreading the supply chain across the country in that way is a first for a national infrastructure project such as this and a key reason why I will vote in favour of expansion.
The South Tees Development Corporation site—a former steel site—in my constituency has been shortlisted to be one of those four hubs. I was pleased to welcome the Heathrow team to Teesside last month to show off the infrastructure and the local skills we have to offer. British Steel, with sites at Lackenby and Skinningrove on Teesside, also has aspirations to provide steel for the project, supporting jobs in our region. Heathrow expansion has the potential to give a boost to local economies such as the north-east. It is supported by the North East chamber of commerce, and additional flights are expected to generate £1.5 billion in additional economic growth.
After completion, a bigger Heathrow will be a driver for growth across our country, delivering new connections to open up Britain and links to the rest of the world. On Teesside we have investors from all over the world—from the US and Australia, to the middle east and Asia—who are looking for good transport connections when developing their projects. Heathrow expansion would deliver a boost not just for passenger flights, but for the movement of goods and services to both domestic and international markets. More than 550,000 international visits were made to the north-east in 2016, generating expenditure of more than £400 million.
It speaks volumes that more than 40 UK airports, including my own local airport, Durham Tees Valley, which states:
“We strongly support the expansion of capacity at Heathrow”, support the expansion and the new connections it will bring. Durham Tees Valley airport is currently cut off from the UK’s hub. Amsterdam and Aberdeen are virtually the only destinations it is possible to fly to directly from the airport, which has been named by Flybe in its route map for Heathrow expansion, and easyJet is also considering it for a future Heathrow route. That connection would be a big boost for our local economy and for businesses and holiday passengers alike, and the interest demonstrates the appetite for more domestic connections in our hub.
To ensure that our regions can benefit, I welcome Heathrow’s promise to support ring-fencing a proportion of slots for domestic flights and the commitment to reducing domestic passenger charges. Factors such as air passenger duty can be a drag on the affordability of domestic flights to regions such as mine, and that, along with the environmental commitments, is a commitment to which I and many other colleagues will hold both Heathrow and Ministers.
To conclude, for too long we as a country have been putting off this decision. Our national hub is at full capacity, and if we do not want to fall behind other countries we have to expand. Heathrow expansion is good for the British economy, good for jobs across the UK, and good for British Steel. Let us stop dithering and get this project off the ground.
Of course I rise to defend my constituents, and I think everyone in this House would expect me to do so. Given the idea of Windsor castle being triple glazed and of 7 million visitors to Windsor being overwhelmed by the noise of aircraft, I can do nothing but object to the proposal. It would require the demolition of hundreds of houses. The noise levels experienced across the entire Windsor constituency and in Bracknell Forest, Woking and everywhere else in the area are already dreadful and would get much worse. We know about the pollution levels and I am pretty sure that everyone present will have experienced the congestion on the M4. It is a very bad idea to expand Heathrow.
People would expect me, as the MP for Windsor, to say these things, and they would expect me to be a nimby but, frankly, with my background in business and my having studied economics, my major objection to the third runway at Heathrow is to do with the national interest and national economics.
I have to ask a few questions. First, why do we believe we will have more flights to the regions? I have been an MP for 13 years, and I know how easy it is just to read the briefings and go with the flow, but the Government’s own data and analysis say that every single region of the United Kingdom will have fewer connections than they would have had if Heathrow were not expanded.
I will not give way because of the time available.
Every single region, particularly the south-east, will have fewer flights. The second area where it is easy to have some fairly lazy thinking is the hub-and-spoke concept. The facts have clearly changed, and it is now about point-to-point travel. Nobody wants to get on an aircraft and then change to get somewhere else. Everybody wants to fly direct. The aircraft that are being purchased today by every single airline are point-to-point aircraft. Ninety-seven per cent. of all aircraft ordered are for point-to-point travel.
Aircraft can get from London to Sydney direct. Why are we showing our age? Why are we showing this lazy thinking, that we need a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem? I know it is difficult, because Heathrow has a huge amount of propaganda. Heathrow has a lot to gain. It paid £1 billion in dividends to shareholders while making only a £500 million profit. Of course it is in Heathrow’s interest to try to get this decision in its favour and to try to slow the process so it can continue to drive up landing fees.
Lastly, it upsets me as a Conservative to sit on these Benches and see us all nodding our heads and saying that we should go ahead and create the most expensive airport in the world at which to land. Why on earth would we commit to such a project?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. The way to make both Gatwick and Heathrow more expensive is simply to create no more slots by having no more capacity.
Funnily enough, I have some sympathy with that view. I agree with my hon. Friend on having an offshore airport to address the country’s very long-term interests. An offshore airport slot would be a lot less expensive than a Heathrow slot. It costs just six quid per passenger to land at Gatwick, but it costs £24 per passenger to land at Heathrow. It is crazy to invest further in Heathrow to create a £34 per passenger cost for the airlines. That makes no sense whatsoever.
I cannot support this, and I hope that, in the coming months, as they begin to realise that Heathrow is pulling a fast one on them, the Government will begin to back off. We will then all gradually begin to change our minds.
The decision to expand Heathrow is complex and contested, with competing projections and a range of criteria that must be considered—more than I can do justice to within the four-minute time limit.
As we have heard, my party’s Front Bench remains unconvinced, with the four tests not being met. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State for Transport and his team for sparing their valuable time to discuss the issue with me in depth.
My good friend the Mayor of London and the No 3rd Runway coalition have put cogent arguments to me for why the third runway should not be built. Conversely, my local council, Slough Borough Council, has come out strongly in favour, as have the Trades Union Congress and unions such as Unite and the GMB, which represent thousands of local workers. I have listened very closely to their representations.
First, on climate change, we must bear traffic noise and air quality in mind. Yes, a new runway will mean more flights and more traffic, but what would be the impact on our environment if we do not build a new runway? The sad truth is that, if we do not build it, others will. New runways would be built in other parts of Europe, and the net result would be no different. The Government and Heathrow airport contend that they will have electric vehicle fleets and less noisy, less polluting aircraft, along with other mitigation efforts.
Secondly, expanding Heathrow will boost the national economy by tens of billions of pounds. In addition to creating apprenticeships, a new third runway will purportedly create more than 100,000 jobs across the UK, nearly doubling the size of the current workforce. Many of those jobs will be skilled jobs, jobs with prospects, unionised jobs, well-paid jobs.
Thirdly, there is the local economy and the benefits for Slough. The people of Slough sent me here to look after their interests, so of course I will be looking very closely at the impact of expansion. I am grateful to the many hundreds of residents who have shared their views with me. Heathrow is firmly in our backyard, given that the proposed runway will be built on Slough Borough Council land, and the people most directly affected by Heathrow airport must also be those who benefit the most. There must be fair compensation and clear benefits for local people.
I have argued with the aviation Minister, the chief executive of Heathrow airport and others that a greater share of the business rates must rightly come to Slough. The waste facility in Colnbrook would need to be rebuilt in Slough, along with a training and skills hub. More than 4,000 Slough residents rely on Heathrow for their living and a further 3,600 Slough people work in related industries. The expansion of Heathrow will protect and boost those jobs, while helping to tackle youth unemployment in the surrounding areas.
Fourthly, on the UK’s transport infrastructure, let us not forget what this proposal means for thousands of people who will be able to use a new runway, as customers, to travel to destinations unknown to previous generations. As our Parliament deliberates on whether we build one new runway, it is worth reminding ourselves that India will be building 50 new airports and the Chinese will be building 136 new airports by 2025. When weighing all this evidence, and with the Slough people foremost in my mind, I will be voting in favour of expanding Heathrow when the House divides. I will do so without any sense of jubilation, nor am I handing Ministers a blank cheque. I will be keeping an eagle eye on how the Government implement this project. Ministers and Heathrow airport will rue the day they seek to renege on their promises in principle to the people of Slough.
In many ways, I vote in favour of expansion with a heavy heart. I am concerned about the environment and of course we must weigh up these various issues, including the uprooting of people from their homes. However, we are faced with a binary decision to make at this stage, without all the requested clarifications and answers, including on flight paths, the six and a half-hour night flight ban, local apprenticeships and the western road into Heathrow and discounted car parking.
We are extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is now able to breathe.
Governments in democratic polities struggle with big, long-term, strategic decisions, and that affects our infrastructure particularly. They struggle because those who make such decisions rarely get the credit, as they are long out of office once the impact of the decisions has been felt; because there is no political payback, typically, in a five-year period; and, more nobly, because they are reluctant to tie the hands of their successors. For those reasons, successive Governments over time have tended to duck the kind of issues we are debating tonight, and it is to the credit of the Secretary of State, his Department and this Government that they are taking such a decision. That they are doing so is not surprising, given their history. When I was a Transport Minister, we took a very big decision about road investment, with the biggest road investment strategy of modern times. Crossrail was a product of a long-term decision of the kind I am describing. And when I was Energy Minister, our coalition Government took a big decision about nuclear power, so this Government have a disproportionately good record against the backdrop I have described. It is right of course to consider the impact of such decisions, and the issues that have, understandably, been raised tonight in particular concern air quality, noise, traffic and compensation. Air quality is about a much bigger issue than just airports. We need to reconsider what we do about air quality and the Government have done that. The work we have done on the electric charging infrastructure, autonomous vehicles and trying to move towards cleaner means of travel will have a real impact on emissions over time. Technology will change, too. It is likely that all modes of transport will become cleaner and less polluting than they are now, but we are making the decision now and it is very hard for us to see that, hard to imagine what the world might be like in 20, 30 or 40 years’ time.
Compensation is being paid as a result of the consideration of the Government, the inquiries that we made and the record consultation—the one on this subject was one of the biggest ever. As you know, Mr Speaker, the compensation package that will be paid to those directly affected, including many of the constituents of Members who have spoken in this debate, is going to allow them to take steps in their homes and in their communities to mitigate some of the worst effects that have been described to us in this short debate. More steps can be taken on noise, and so the Secretary of State has been clear about night flights, about how noise can be controlled and about how surface noise can be dealt with.
Before I come to the exciting culmination of this thrilling address, it is worth saying that one or two valid points were made by Members on the Opposition Benches. We do need to look more closely at how people get to and from the airport, as we have been too blasé in our assumptions about those kinds of issues and their effect on noise, disruption, congestion and so on.
Finally, this debate is about 40,000 more jobs, 5,000 more apprenticeships and a £44 billion economic benefit to our capital city. In the end, it is about a huge economic boost to our capital and to our country. It is right that we take account of the environmental considerations, and we must take them seriously, but the economic case is one that is made.
It was the Mancunian entrepreneur and industrialist Daniel Adamson who coined the phrase “northern powerhouse” in 1882, when he wanted to create a single economic region stretching from the Mersey estuary to the Humber estuary. The process of building the Manchester ship canal took up three years of parliamentary time.
The Department for Transport has done an astonishing piece of work: from two Prime Ministers ruling it out, as my right hon. Friend John McDonnell said, within three years it has gone from consultation to a national policy statement to this motion. One can only hope that the Government will have the same laser-like focus and energy when they talk about the regional aviation strategy, northern powerhouse rail and HS2. In his letter to Manchester MPs, all that the Secretary of State said was that he hopes that regional airports fulfil their potential. There was no promise of Government support for them.
Let me state my position. All the major trade unions have come out in favour of the expansion of Heathrow, and the north-west CBI has said that the proposal will create 15,000 jobs in the north-west of England and add around £16 billion-worth of growth to our economy. That is why I will vote for the motion tonight.
Today, first thing in the morning, I had the great honour of celebrating Manchester airport’s 80th birthday in my own constituency. Some 28 million passengers went through Manchester airport last year, making my constituency one of the most visited in northern England. It is the only airport outside the south-east with two runways and has a rail station that serves 5 million passengers a year. Those runways have the potential to bring 55 million people into that northern hub and, as the Secretary of State knows, the airport is investing £1 billion in a transformation programme. Only 1.6% of passengers who use Manchester airport use Heathrow.
We have been let down by the “northern fail”. Public transport penetration and journey times are key to Manchester airport’s growth, but the journey to Leeds takes 16 minutes longer on the new timetable. We have no agreement about how the HS2 station is going to be paid for, about the east-west alignment at Piccadilly station or about the extension of the Metrolink to the terminal 2 building. We are still awaiting a lot of promises.
I respect my hon. Friend’s position. It is horrible when City and United fans fall out, but when people born in Wythenshawe fall out, the gods weep.
Heathrow and Gatwick have benefited from huge subsidies, including £15 billion for Crossrail and £500 million of public funds for western rail access. Manchester airport could meet 75% of long-haul needs for the whole country. I was astonished to hear SNP Members, who would not let me intervene, talk about Heathrow being vital to Scotland when they want independence. If they wanted vitality for Scottish airports, they would use their power over airport passenger duty, which would lead to an increase in passengers in Scotland, but they again bottled implementing that devolved power just earlier this month.
I agree with Justine Greening that point-to-point is the model for the future in London. At the moment, we have a cartel situation. People from Manchester airport fly across the world and when they land they see BA aeroplanes, but we cannot get those same BA aircraft from Manchester to anywhere else in the world. BA should be done under the Trades Description Act; it should be renamed “Heathrow Airways”, and it should be done pretty quickly. The Secretary of State has given northern stakeholders few assurances that there is an integrated plan for the north of England. I will be supporting the motion this evening, but we will be holding the Government’s feet to the fire about a bespoke plan for the northern economy.
Order. A three-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches will now have to apply.
With no availability at its main hub airport, London is beginning to find that new routes to important long-haul destinations are set up elsewhere in Europe, rather than in the UK. Other UK airports are increasingly squeezed out by Heathrow, with passengers from the nations and regions obliged to transfer through other European airports. That is the hub—literally—of this debate.
Although I respect my hon. Friends who oppose the proposal for Heathrow airport for constituency reasons, I respectfully say that they are wrong. The future is of hub airports. We can look, for example, at Dubai, South Korea and Bangkok. All the airports where there is major expansion are hub airports. My hon. Friends suggest that we should spread the service across five London airports. All that will mean is spreading the misery across far more communities in London.
John Spellar put his finger on it when he said that if we do not adapt to what the world is facing, we will simply outsource air travel and pollution to other countries in Europe, and that really would not be very sensible. Of course, my hon. Friends want the greatest protections they can possibly have against the environmental damage and noise aspects of the airport, and I support them wholly in that.
Let me make my final point in the very short time that I have available. In paragraph 2.32 of the Airports Commission report, it says:
“Another important trend is that of rising inbound travel into Europe from emerging market economies. IATA’s forecasts…predict that over the next two decades the growth of the origin and destination (OD) market in China alone is predicted to be greater than that in the US, UK and Germany combined”.
If this country wants to succeed in a competitive world, it has to expand its airport at Heathrow. I am chairman of the all-party trade and investment group. I can see only too clearly what will happen if we do not remain competitive. Hong Kong started its consultation on this matter in 2011. Within the next five years, it will have completed a hugely difficult airport policy into the sea around Hong Kong. We must remain competitive. The world is changing around us.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to speak in today’s debate. Heathrow plays an essential role in our national economy. My constituency is located on the gateway from Heathrow to London, with Heathrow being a powerful global symbol of our internationalism and our diversity.
I have been sceptical in the past about expansion, and indeed campaigned against the last proposed third runway. Today, on balance, based on jobs for the next generation and on what we need for our economy, I will not be voting against the motion, but let me be clear that much more reassurance is needed from Heathrow and the Government to ensure that any application does not fall to a legal challenge and that they can deliver for the country and local communities.
A majority in my constituency is in favour of expansion —every poll in recent years has shown that, and it is generally in the ballpark of 2:1. Tens of thousands of my constituents work, or have worked, at the airport. London’s first airport was in my constituency, in what is now Hanworth Air Park.
For many of my constituents, Heathrow is more than just a global hub for transport and shipping. It is the place where they go to work every day—not only flying the planes, running the air traffic control and policing the UK border, but driving the trains and buses, cooking the meals for passengers and, in logistics, delivering British goods to destinations all over the country and the world. They have developed a diverse set of skills to serve the needs of the aviation industry. Heathrow depends on them and they depend on Heathrow. But residents are conflicted because they want Heathrow to grow, but they also want a fair deal. It is vital that they have a fair deal.
Families have told me that they support expansion but that they have felt neglected when it comes to noise compensation. Residents wake up before 5 am if planes come in to land too early and they are unable to open their windows in the summer for the noise, including noise from hangars behind their homes. They also face traffic congestion to and from Heathrow, pollution from cars stuck in traffic and night flights. Respite and other protections are critical for their quality of life.
I campaigned alongside Hounslow councillors for Heathrow to reach out and do much better with regard to these issues, regardless of a third runway. But in my discussions with residents in recent weeks, they have cited reasons for supporting the expansion, including jobs, apprenticeships, more opportunities, a fair deal for small businesses and improved local transport. Local unions have also come out in support and residents highlight international competitiveness.
Today it is a disgrace that we are unfortunately being asked to vote before we have all the information, including sight of new flight paths and analysis of how people will be affected. If the Government get support for the NPS tonight, it will be for them to hold true to their word that the development consent will not be given unless detailed proposals show how environmental impacts will be mitigated in line with legal obligations, and all other commitments adhered to.
I rise to support the Heathrow expansion and the national policy statement on airports.
Connectivity to regional airports is absolutely vital to Scotland. Aberdeen International airport is in my Gordon constituency. Some 3.1 million passengers passed through Aberdeen in 2017. It is the busiest heliport in Europe, is vital to the oil and gas industry, which supports 300,000 jobs in the United Kingdom, and it serves half a million people in the north-east. Without Heathrow’s expansion, this will be undermined. That is why I am stunned that the SNP is voting against Scottish jobs.
Heathrow’s international success has admittedly squeezed out regional domestic routes since 1997. These have dropped from 62,000 to 40,000. Passenger numbers have dropped from 6.7 million to 4.8 million due to capacity restraint. How can the SNP not support Scottish jobs? Carol Benzie, the managing director of Aberdeen airport, joined 40 UK airport bosses supporting this strategic growth, which the Scottish Government did support until first thing this morning.
Heathrow is vital as a hub connecting the regions with the world and it is vital to Scotland’s tourism. Inverness is benefiting by £8 million due to the route from Heathrow. How can the SNP possibly want to block Scottish votes? The expansion is vital to exports such as Scottish smoked salmon, which I believe comes largely from the highlands through Heathrow. Scottish business has been stifled by cargo capacity. The expansion is good for every single Scottish constituency, so why would the SNP possibly block it? This is where the Union works at its best, with an airport of international significance serving the regions. That is why the SNP will not vote for it—because it has something to do with the Union.
The expansion of Heathrow will mean at least 100 additional Scottish flights a week. Alan Brown agreed that we do want more flights, but tonight he is rejecting those flights. Heathrow and the national policy statement on airports are vital to the nation and to Scotland. Conservative Members will vote for jobs tonight—and the SNP will vote against Scottish jobs.
Five and a half years ago when I became an MP, I became a member of the Transport Committee. At that time, we were doing an inquiry into the three options for south-east airport expansion. I went into it completely open-minded, but at the end of the inquiry I was absolutely convinced that Heathrow was the only viable option. Five and a half years have passed, and I have seen this Government and the coalition pass the buck on making a decision on this important topic—whether there was a general election or a mayoral election coming up—so I am really glad that we are now having the vote.
However, the issue has been ignored and put on the back burner for 50 years. In 1968 the Roskill commission on south-east airport capacity was launched, and since then we have been on the continuum of not grasping the real opportunity to invest in our infrastructure. I contrast what we have done with what has happened with Hong Kong airport. The difference is that that airport is owned by the state and there is a very clear commitment and understanding that investing in a country’s infrastructure helps it to grow.
I recognise the difficult time that many MPs have had in making the decision on how to vote. I completely understand the role of constituency MPs in serving the views and opinions of their constituents. But I would ask everybody else for whom this is not a direct constituency issue to think of the national interest, and what will happen to our economy in 10, 20 or 50 years’ time if we do not invest.
I say this for a particular reason. During the Transport Committee inquiry, we had some of the big international airlines come and talk to us about what their preferred option was. They said, “Actually, this is not an issue for us any more because we plan 20 years ahead, minimum, and so we have already started to discount the UK as our hub.” I know that we are in a race against time, but I want us to be putting forward a really clear message that we will invest in the infrastructure and in the people of this country. I am therefore very proud to be voting for the Heathrow option.
I am also very pleased that John McDonnell is in his place, because he made a number of remarks about my position on Heathrow expansion. I have always supported Heathrow expansion—that must be said for the record. I find it extraordinary that he, who is supposed to be a bastion—a supporter—of workers’ interests should be turning his back on that and voting down a proposal that will boost jobs in the south-east, particularly in his constituency and mine, to the extent that this proposal does. It is not just me who is saying this—it is also a man called Len McCluskey, that great champion of capitalist interests and the cartels that the right hon. Gentleman talked about. That supporter of cartels would have us believe that Heathrow and the union he represents have shared interests in the expansion. He has said very categorically that it is a step in the right direction.
Heathrow expansion has been debated for 50 years. My right hon. Friend Justine Greening lamented the fact that this debate would last for only four hours. That is completely wrong. We have been debating this issue for 20, 30, 40 years. The hon. Member for Rotherham mentioned the Roskill commission in 1968. I would suggest that that was before half the Members here, certainly those on the Conservative Benches, were even born. It is extraordinary that Britain, of all the advanced economies in the world, should be spending so much time and effort debating building, not an airport, but a single runway in the south-east, which has had no increase in capacity for 50 years. It is a shame, and I am embarrassed, that it has taken us this long, but I am also very grateful and pleased that we finally have a Secretary of State and a Government who have taken this step forward—who have actually had the gumption and the courage to address what is a serious national problem.
The House of Commons should take its head out of the sand, collectively, and look at what is happening outside in the world—look at Dubai and the other hubs that are expanding. As my hon. Friend Crispin Blunt said, we should look at Incheon airport in South Korea or O’Hare airport in Chicago. These are the rising powers in aviation. As we debate and dance around these pinheads, the rest of the world is expanding, and we have to compete with that expansion. That is why I firmly recommend the Government’s position and will vote in the Aye Lobby tonight.
I thought it might be difficult to do justice to 30 years of my own and my constituents’ opposition to Heathrow expansion in three minutes, against a series of reckless, greedy and selfish operators of Heathrow airport, but actually I can simplify it down to three propositions. First, can the third runway at Heathrow be justified given its catastrophic human and environmental cost, especially if there are alternatives? Secondly, are those alternatives better or worse than Heathrow? Thirdly, is it feasible and will it actually happen? To the last, I would say, whether we believe in it or not, that it simply will not.
We have heard in the debate the fact that thousands of homes will be demolished; that Heathrow has been exceeding pollution targets for 10 years already and there is no plan to get those levels down; that the effect on public transport will be to suck up all the spare capacity in London, for which we worked for decades; and that there are no plans to expand the M25 and the M4, which are already two of the most congested roads, because apparently there will not be any additional cars. We have heard about the issue of safety, with 700 additional planes going across London a day. We have also heard about safety within Heathrow and the tragic case of John Coles, who was killed at Heathrow airport, and it took an hour and eight minutes for an ambulance to arrive there.
We have heard that 9,500 people die prematurely in London every year because of air pollution; that 300,000 additional people will be severely affected by noise, with 3 million people affected in total; that 28% of everybody severely affected by aircraft noise in Europe will live around Heathrow; that the cost is 40% to 50% higher than other airports; that the gearing ratio is over 80%; that there will be a 24% suppression in the growth of regional airports; that there will be a £10 billion to £15 billion cost to public transport, which the public purse will have to pay; and that the net present value over 60 years is somewhere between plus £2.9 billion and minus £2.5 billion, which is a worse economic case than Gatwick, and if we take out transfer passengers, it is worse passenger growth than Gatwick.
Are we really going to fall for this? If the House does fall for this tonight, there is a well-organised and well-funded operation. My borough has set up a residents’ commission chaired by ex-senior civil servant Christina Smyth, and we, along with the Mayor of London and other boroughs, are funding legal action that will delay this until people’s eyes are opened. When the flight paths are revealed and when the economics fall apart, Heathrow will no longer have the support that we may see today. I resigned 10 years ago to fight this, so I hope we are not back here in 10 years’ time debating this, because it is a doomed project.
I will be supporting this proposal tonight, but I must also make the case for our regional airports. The NPS suggests relatively little scope to redistribute demand away from the south-east region to heavily underutilised capacity elsewhere. I recognise fundamentally that despite all the scenarios considered by the Airports Commission to manage demand away from Heathrow, regular airline passengers will still want to fly internationally from Heathrow. Other markets such as freight and budget flights are already put off from Heathrow. As it says in paragraph 4.65 of the interim report,
“the relatively high landing charges and congestion at Heathrow already render it largely unattractive for charter flights, dedicated freighters…business and general aviation.”
It is important that the market demand for additional capacity at Heathrow is addressed. I recognise that long-term alternative locations do not satisfactorily offset that demand, but I think that more could be done to help reduce the pressure on Heathrow.
The scenarios in the interim report do not really look at the full potential for nudging demand towards our regional airports. It only seems to look at how many potential air passengers would instead use HS2, rather than how many Heathrow passengers might use HS2 or other rail projects as a means of accessing alternative airports. Both Birmingham and Manchester are planned to have direct connectivity to HS2, with a projected journey time between London and Birmingham Interchange of 38 minutes, so it will be comparable to other airports serving this market.
I stress that we need to support Stoke-on-Trent with improved airport connectivity. While we are fortunate to have four international airports within an hour’s drive of the city, rail access to our regional airports is not good enough. We must use HS2 and other rail improvements to strengthen connectivity to our regional airports in cities such as Stoke-on-Trent.
Our ambitions for a global Britain mean that we need to be linked to a greater number of global destinations. This is important for both passengers and freight services. East Midlands airport, for example, is hugely important to the national economy for cargo flights, and is second only to Heathrow. A significant proportion of Stoke-on-Trent freight goes through East Midlands airport.
I recognise that benefits from Heathrow can come to other parts of the UK. I particularly welcome the proposal for construction hubs supplying Heathrow to be located around the country to spread the benefits from construction more widely. I, of course, hope that Stoke-on-Trent’s bid for a hub will be successful. Airports provide not only the wider economic benefits, but significant employment and local economic advantages for the communities surrounding them and right across the wider UK.
Unlike Mr Dhesi, who kept us waiting for four minutes—until the last sentence of his speech—to know whether he was going to support this project, may I say at the very start that I and my colleagues will be supporting the Government on this tonight? This is a project of national interest. It is one on which our economy depends, and that will help us in our pursuit of increased productivity, in our pursuit of being a global trading nation and in regenerating the regions. As someone from Northern Ireland, that is an important aspect of this particular project, because we rely on connectivity.
We have had Members telling us today that we can have regional airports or hubs in different regions all across the country, but the truth of the matter is that most regional airports are not in the centre of populations that can support all the international connections that are needed, and we therefore need an international hub. If we are going to have an international hub, we need to have local connections. Given that places are currently at a premium at Heathrow, the only way to get those connections, despite what the Scottish nationalists have argued, is to expand Heathrow. They cannot wish for more flights into Heathrow and say that they are ambivalent about whether it should be expanded. This is important to us for that reason.
Northern Ireland is of course an exporting part of the United Kingdom. High-value engineering exports and high-value food exports depend on having a good cargo infrastructure to enable us to send our goods across the world.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the biggest domestic cargo trade between Heathrow and any regional airport is that to Belfast City, which will double if Heathrow is expanded?
That is what we are hoping for. In fact, one of our asks is for a guarantee from the Government that the 15% of additional places will be ring-fenced for regional airports so that there is such access. The other thing is that this is a national project, and different regions of the United Kingdom should therefore be able to have an input into the work generated from it. I am pleased by the discussions we have had between Mid and East Antrim Borough Council in my constituency and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council in looking at the possibility of one of the hubs being located in Ballymena, which would of course provide jobs for Northern Ireland as a whole.
Many contradictory arguments have been made tonight. On the one hand, we have been told by John McDonnell that these capitalists intend to squeeze every penny out of the United Kingdom. On the other hand, Justine Greening has told us that this project is so uneconomic that the Government are going to have to subsidise it. One of the two has to be wrong.
On the one hand, we have been told that this is going to wreck our climate change targets. For those who find that an important issue, the only answer is of course to reduce the number of passengers. However, nobody has suggested that; they have all suggested that we should have passengers flying from regional airports. Well, those passengers will still produce carbon dioxide, and they will still contribute overall. If they fly from Schiphol, they will still burn carbon to get to Schiphol and from there to wherever they are going. Either it affects climate change or it does not. In fact, the only honest person was the Member from the Green party, Caroline Lucas, who wants people to stop flying, but I do not believe that that is an alternative.
For these reasons, we will be supporting this motion and walking through the Lobby tonight.
Behind the inquiry and report of the Transport Committee on the national policy statement on airports was our genuine desire to assist MPs when reaching their decision tonight. I have always been struck by the similarity of the NPS designation to the manner in which a local planning authority makes a local plan before developers promote site-specific applications for planning permission. Even if the NPS gains support this evening, Heathrow Airport Ltd will have to submit a development consent order for approval.
The Committee’s report included several recommendations that, in hindsight, would have been better addressed through the design process rather than the NPS. The Committee drew the following conclusions. We recommended that both Houses of Parliament allow the planning process to move to the next stage by approving the final NPS, provided that the concerns that we identified were addressed by the Government in the final NPS that it laid before Parliament. The issue is whether the 25 recommendations that the Committee made have been addressed. The Government maintained in their response to our report that they have largely done so, stating:
“The Government has welcomed and acted upon 24 of those recommendations, disagreeing with only one.”
Reviewing the Government response, the Committee Clerk found that the 24 recommendations were not to be found in the final NPS. I believe that the Government have taken note of our 24 recommendations, and taken action, but not necessarily within the NPS. In many cases, the Government do not believe that the outline planning NPS process is the right avenue for design-specific recommendations. They believe that the right place is in the development consent order or at a later juncture. As a result, the Government maintain that they have fully implemented or exceeded the action that we proposed; partially implemented the recommendation by updating the NPS or by publishing additional information; confirmed that proposals would be addressed later in the planning process; confirmed that action will be taken through other mechanisms or regulators; or agreed with the issue raised but disagreed that the NPS was the correct mechanism, believing that to be the development consent order process.
The Transport Committee has, in the last three parliamentary terms, been a supporter of Heathrow expansion rather than the alternatives. Our report supported expansion, provided that our concerns were addressed, and I believe that the Government have done so. This procedural difference in opinion is not going to stop me voting for Heathrow expansion this evening. Britain’s airport capacity is scheduled to run out by 2030. It was clear from our evidence sessions with neutral airlines that support all airports that we had to proceed, and that Heathrow was the only option on the table.
Apparently the Foreign Secretary could not be with us today because he is in Afghanistan. He has got his Khyber pass—what a carry on! We are in a situation where other Members, however, have spoken honestly and passionately about their constituencies and their constituency concerns. That is partly why we are here as Members of Parliament, but we are also here, even if our constituents are put at a disadvantage, to think about our country’s national interests. The SNP seem to have taken the ball off the field, and Labour Front Benchers are telling me that officially we are to abstain on the motion, which is a bizarre position, although some of us will vote—[Interruption.] It is a free vote—exactly.
In 2009, the Gordon Brown Labour Government made the decision to support Heathrow. That position was right then, and it is right now, in the national interest. I will vote in accordance with the position taken responsibly by Labour in government—not to have a free vote, but to say that these matters are in the national interest. I do so, too, as chair of the all-party group on Crossrail, knowing that my constituents in Ilford, and many other people in north-east London, Essex and Kent, will benefit greatly when Crossrail halves travel times from Kent and Essex, and from north-east and south-east London, across to Heathrow. That will be in the interests of jobs, prosperity and inward investment in our constituencies. The reality is that Crossrail will cut travel times.
The alternative to the proposal is delaying, stopping the process, and hoping that we will somehow go to remote and badly connected Gatwick. The hon. Member for Reigate (Crispin Blunt) was absolutely right to point out the difficulties with that. There is one decision, and only one decision, that we should be taking today. We need national leadership. At last we have a recommendation from this Government, but why were nine years wasted under the coalition and the previous Conservative Government? Let us go and do it now.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate. I support the proposed expansion of Heathrow and will vote accordingly. I will do so not because I do not accept there are many real and heartfelt reasons why Members feel, as they have explained today, they cannot support it, but ultimately because I believe that, on balance, it is in the national interest that we progress as a country by building a third runway at Heathrow. Frankly, as someone who can remember these debates growing up in the ’80s, we need to get on with it.
There are two points I want to talk about. A number of Members have referred to emissions and carbon reduction targets, outlining that they do not think we will be able to achieve those targets. I think it was Mary Creagh who asked for a plan on carbon reduction targets. Plans from this place or from Whitehall will not allow us to meet our carbon reduction targets. Those targets will be achieved due to the innovations that are occurring at Boeing, Airbus, Embraer and so on. It is the planes on which we travel on our holidays this summer that will ensure, through the use of carbon fibre and biofuels, that we start to meet those targets. A Boeing 737 that took us on holiday in the 1980s produced 36% more emissions than the Boeing 737s that will take us on holiday right now. The next generation of Boeing 737s will be 20% more efficient still. That is exactly how we deal with the emissions problem.
Members have rightly talked about economics. When I took my economics class, economics 101 was about monopolies. We have a clear monopoly in Heathrow. A small number of operators have, for whatever historical reasons, got hold of a number of slots and are using them. Less than 0.5% of new slots—taking off or coming down—have been given to new operators in the past few years. The situation is also seen in the frankly extortionate cost of the secondary market in the trading of those slots. Scandinavian Airlines System sold two slots to American Airlines for £75 million just so that American Airlines could take off and land twice a day. An old airline, GB Airways, was sold in 2008 for £100 million. It had 15 aircraft, 36 destinations and hundreds of people. It also had five slots at Heathrow, which went for another £100 million. If that is not the epitome of a monopoly and a market that does not work, I do not know what is. It is for that reason, and for the national interest, that I support Heathrow expansion. I look forward to voting for the motion.
As co-chair of the all-party group on regional airports and the MP representing Newcastle International airport, I know that there are very passionate and strongly held views on all sides of the debate. Delivering aviation capacity is one of the most pressing infrastructure issues this country faces. It will be critical in shaping the UK’s economy, particularly given the very obvious challenges we will face with Brexit in the months, years and decades to come.
I have long made the case that where we build new airport capacity is not just an issue for London and the south-east, but a strategic, nationally important decision with implications for the whole UK, including the north-east. I firmly believe that expanding Heathrow, as set out in the national policy statement, is the right strategic decision for both the north-east and Britain as a whole. Indeed, Newcastle International airport, the single largest employer in my constituency, has also been very clear for the past decade that expanding Heathrow is the right decision for the north-east and that the decision needs to be taken now.
At present, the north-east benefits from up to six flights a day from Newcastle to London Heathrow, carrying half a million passengers a year, over 70% of whom use Heathrow as a hub to onward international destinations, many of which are long haul. It is clear, however, that without additional runway capacity at Heathrow, UK domestic routes such as those serving Newcastle will gradually be squeezed out as capacity is increasingly used by larger long-haul aircraft.
Indeed, Newcastle is already starting to see that pressure build, with the Heathrow-Newcastle route reducing to five flights a day in winter 2018-19. Many cities and regions in both the UK and overseas are seeking the Heathrow international hub link. The north-east needs to hold on to its well-established link, maintaining that frequency, because in the face of Brexit and all the challenges that that will bring, particularly for an exporting region like ours, the north-east can ill afford to lose further access to what is already its biggest hub airport.
Of course, Newcastle airport’s position on Heathrow expansion is echoed by the North East England chamber of commerce, which represents 3,000 businesses of all sizes across my region. It supports Heathrow expansion not just because of the clear connectivity benefits, but because it is determined to ensure that a significant proportion of the thousands of good new jobs and apprenticeships created will come to our region.
Teesside has put in a bid for a logistics hub. Does the hon. Lady agree that this kind of sharing of the benefits of Heathrow expansion shows why shadow Front Benchers have got themselves into a really ludicrous position?
I agree that we need to share in the advantages. Just one of the firms that could benefit is Hart Doors, a family-run firm in Westerhope in my constituency, which has already supplied Heathrow with its high-performance security shutters for terminal 5. It said:
“Hart Doors has developed new products as a direct result of Heathrow’s procurement ethos…a focus on quality has required Hart Doors to find innovative solutions to meet Heathrow’s specific needs. The knock-on impact has been the development of new products that have subsequently been supplied to over 40 airports across the world. But Heathrow is not just a customer. Hart Doors also benefits from Heathrow’s international routes bringing in customers from long-haul destinations, allowing sales into markets that otherwise would not have been possible. Because of this, Hart Doors firmly believes that if Heathrow falls behind then Britain falls behind.”
This is undoubtedly why Heathrow expansion is supported by not just business, but the TUC, and the Unite and GMB unions nationally. They want to ensure that the UK can remain a world leader in the aviation and aerospace sectors, which are industries that mean high-quality, unionised jobs.
I recognise the important concerns that are being raised about noise, air quality and the potential impact on our climate change commitments. I would not support the proposal if I was not going to hold the Government to account on the mitigation that has been promised, but I feel strongly that this national decision must be taken in the national interest today.
I rise to support the motion and I will vote for this historic event. The decision is long overdue, and it is urgent that we now make it and move forward on increasing capacity at our international hub airport.
Aviation will be absolutely vital for the future prosperity of our nation. It is growing around the world. The only question is whether the UK will be part of that growth in the future, because if we do not increase capacity at our hub airport, we will miss out. We will not stop the growth in aviation; it will simply go to other airports around the world, to the detriment of our economy. That is why I believe that for the future of investment, trade and tourism in our nation, we should back the decision this evening and allow it to move on to the next stage of the process.
I am absolutely delighted that the Government have said that their absolute intention is that around 15% of the new slots at an expanded Heathrow will be available to regional airports. I was delighted that the Secretary of State came to Cornwall on Friday—
I will not take an intervention because we are very short on time.
In visiting Newquay airport, the Secretary of State saw the enthusiasm for an expanded Heathrow and the potential of a Heathrow link for Cornwall. It would be such good news for our local economy. It would be good news for our trade exports if we could export our high-quality goods from Cornwall directly through Heathrow to other parts of the world. The development would also be good news for our tourism.
At the moment, for example, we have a Gatwick link, but more overseas tourists to Cornwall come from Germany than from anywhere else, and Heathrow has five times more connections to Germany than Gatwick. A direct connection from Cornwall to Heathrow would therefore open up Cornwall to significantly more German tourists. We can multiply that by all the connections around the world that Heathrow would offer. If the success of the PSO that supports our Gatwick connection could be transferred to Heathrow, it would be another boon for our local airport and economy. A Heathrow connection would put us on the map by raising the status and profile of our regional airport, bringing other operators in. I am delighted to support the motion tonight. It is right for our country, right for Cornwall and right for Newquay airport.
The case for runway 3 is as bad as ever for my constituents, and now weak overall, as the economic case has not been made—and that is based on the Department for Transport’s latest figures. The proposal keeps coming back—16 years, I think, it has been—and I have been campaigning against it all that time. It keeps coming back not because of an unwillingness to make a decision, but because successive generations have realised that the arguments for expansion do not stack up. The generously funded Heathrow lobby keeps bringing the proposal back and will continue to do so until it gets the answer it wants. Meanwhile, we have not moved on to seriously address alternative solutions as part of a nationwide UK aviation strategy.
On noise and air quality, which are the issues affecting my constituents most of all, more than 300,000 people in our region of west London and the Thames valley will experience significantly worse noise than they do now. Most of them are not aware that they will be under the final approach path to the third runway. Those under the present approach paths to the existing two runways currently get eight hours respite; that will be cut to six hours and perhaps less. On night flights, the Secretary of State has suggested that the cap will be relaxed, despite promises. Runway 3 will bring 50% more passengers. Heathrow says that there will be no new traffic, but there is nothing in the NPS to justify that claim.
I thank my neighbouring colleague.
There is nothing in the NPS to justify how Heathrow can get away with saying that there will be no new traffic despite 50% more passengers, a doubling of cargo, and additional flight servicing and staffing. It is absolutely impossible. As everybody acknowledges, all the proposed rail infrastructure is needed now to meet current traffic pressures. Our roads system has ground to a halt, and our air quality has already been in breach of EU limits for many years. The Government will continue to lose legal challenges as a result.
There is nothing in the NPS on the air pollution generated by aircraft, and there is nothing on climate change obligations that will satisfy the Committee on Climate Change, as we will no doubt hear on Thursday. All the additional passengers arising from expansion will be outward leisure passengers and transfer passengers. The increase will bring nothing to the economy and will take the tourist pound away from the UK’s beautiful tourist destinations. Heathrow expansion means more intense use of existing routes such as New York. It will restrict growth at non-south-east airports by 24%—those are not my figures but the Department’s—reduce domestic routes to Heathrow from the current eight to four or five, and mean 160,000 fewer international links from regional airports, thus making our regions less connected to the rest of the world than they are now, according to page 27 of the Transport Committee’s report.
The hub airport model has been superseded by a preference for direct point-to-point flights among passengers and businesses who would rather not change, and also by the new ultra long-haul planes. Unused capacity outside London could, without Heathrow expansion, mean a growth of 62% in flights and 96% in passengers. Without Government intervention, domestic slots from regional airports to Heathrow cannot be guaranteed. The Government appear to have written a blank cheque to Heathrow by signing an agreement with a clause reaffirming the company’s right to sue the Government if Ministers back out of the scheme—a clause not included in the agreement on the Heathrow hub or that with Gatwick. It is increasingly evident that the Government are supporting the most expensive, most complex and highest risk scheme. Heathrow should be better not bigger.
Let me start by commending those who have spoken today. The issue of airport expansion has been around at least since 2008, and Members have been campaigning on both sides of the argument since long before then. I recognise that those on both sides have strong views, but I think we can all agree that the tone of today’s debate has been relatively comradely.
As we have made clear throughout this process, Labour recognises the need for airport expansion in the south-east, but our support was conditional on the meeting of our four tests. The draft NPS was published in October last year. In a Westminster Hall debate in January, I—along with other Members—highlighted a number of issues about which we were concerned. The Transport Committee scrutinised the draft NPS, and published an excellent report in March which made 25 recommendations to the Government. The Secretary of State claimed that he had acted on 24 of them, but the final NPS is largely unchanged.
The Government had the opportunity to listen to Members in the House and in the Transport Committee. They could and should have improved this document and given Members up-to-date, detailed information allowing them to make an informed decision about one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the country. Instead, Members are being asked to vote this through, and any concerns that they have will be dealt with by the Secretary of State at the development consent order stage. Given the Secretary of State’s disastrous handling of the railways, and given the Justice Committee’s recent comments on his reforms of the national probation service, I—and, I am sure, many other Members—will not have confidence in him to carry out that process. He should have listened to the Transport Committee and embedded its recommendations in the final NPS.
As I said earlier, our support for the NPS was always dependent on its meeting four tests. Throughout the process we made it clear that our final decision would be based on evidence, and, having looked at the evidence, we do not believe that the NPS has met our tests. The first warning sign is that the entire document contains only one mention of cost, which is shocking, given the £14 billion cost of the project. There is the big question of how the Government will keep landing charges flat in real terms. If they have to increase them, it is likely that the airlines will pass the cost on to consumers. The NPS does not guarantee that that will not happen. On surface access, the NPS provides no details of the costs that may fall on the taxpayer. There are also no details about the proposed changes to the M25 or the new rail scheme, and how they will be funded. The Government could have addressed those issues if they had implemented the Transport Committee’s recommendations.
The UK has a legally binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Climate Change Act. However, the Government have failed to publish a strategy for UK emissions reductions in the NPS. Their new aviation strategy is not due to be published until 2019, so we will not know their plan for reducing emissions until next year. The Transport Committee asked the Government to amend their outdated air quality population figures and adopt a more stringent air quality compliance interpretation, but again the Government did nothing. It is also telling that tonight’s vote has been scheduled before the publication of a Government report warning that surging aviation emissions would destroy Britain’s greenhouse gas reduction targets. Not only are Members being asked to vote for the NPS when it includes out-of-date figures and presents no clear strategy on how climate change targets will be met; they have also been denied the opportunity to see a report that will provide key facts about the impact of aviation emissions.
The Government have failed to address noise and environmental concerns. They have not updated the 2013 baseline figure, or defined an acceptable noise level target. Noise level targets for noise mitigation was another Transport Committee recommendation that the Government chose to ignore, as was extending the respite period at night to seven hours. The Government have failed to give any detail on how they will secure slots for the regions. Given that the slots are owned by airlines and not the airport, it is unclear how the Government can guarantee the slots will be used for domestic routes. The Government have said that the public service obligation will ensure domestic connectivity; however, they have not said how, and given that they would make domestic routes exempt from air passenger duty, one wonders how this tax cut would be funded. Given the lack of detail on how the surface access plan will be funded, we are concerned this will lead to more transport investment being taken from the regions, and specifically the north of England, and used up in the south-east instead. We are not convinced that the third runway scheme will bring benefits across the country so it has failed our fourth test.
We have been clear from the beginning of this process that our support was dependent on our four tests and our decision would be based on the evidence. The NPS has failed our tests, and therefore I will be voting against the motion today.
This has been a generally well-tempered and constructive debate on a very important topic; indeed, it is a topic of such importance that no Government have been able to solve it for the previous 50 years, and it is therefore with great pride and delight that I put this question to the House today.
We have heard a very wide range of views and there has been great engagement, but the fact remains that the need for additional capacity in the south-east is more pressing than ever, and, as colleagues across the House have mentioned, there is a cost to doing nothing—an opportunity cost that we cannot ignore that forces us to act. We have acted so far by calling a review, and series of consultations, a statement, an urgent question, a debate, and I myself have signed 75 or so parliamentary questions; we have had a very extensive wider debate about this topic, and rightly so.
I have been very surprised, however, by the attitude of some of the Opposition Front-Bench teams. The spokesman for the SNP declared that his own Scottish chambers of commerce were in support and that he himself and the Scottish Government had spoken in favour of this proposal, yet they now find themselves against it, and at a time when airports in Inverness, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and the like all stand to benefit. [Interruption.] There were many speeches in this debate and they deserve to be paid attention to. The SNP position, however, is clarity itself compared with that of the Labour Front Bench, which has managed to pull together the astonishing combination of itself being against the motion, while ordering a free vote for its Members and recommending abstention, as Mike Gapes mentioned; I have seen sludge from the bottom of the Thames with more clarity than Labour’s position on this topic.
The fact remains that a new runway at Heathrow is the best strategic solution to this critical issue: it is well located, and it will provide the greatest connectivity by the introduction of new domestic routes and additional and frequent long-haul routes. The north-west runway scheme would deliver the greatest quantified benefits most quickly up until the 2070s. Crucially, this is not a scheme that will only benefit the south-east; its advantages will be felt across the entire United Kingdom, as we have heard from speeches from the entire United Kingdom during this debate.
The Government are committed to protecting and expanding these domestic routes, increasing them from eight to at least 14, and 15% of them will serve domestic flights to deliver even more opportunities for greater connectivity across the UK, benefiting passengers and businesses.[This section has been corrected on
The Minister has referenced some of the points that I have made. What he did not do, however, was to guarantee to protect the slots for Scottish airports.
After this much discussion and documentation, the idea that the Scottish National party can hide behind the lack of a formal guarantee is frankly an insult to the process and to this House. To abstain, as the Scottish National party is doing, and not to reach a decision, is to say that it will give up the at least 100 additional flights per week. It will mean no more slots and no more economic growth for Scotland from this proposal. Frankly, that is a risible position.
I am afraid that I must make progress and continue to respond to the points that have been raised.
We will further improve the excellent rail connections that already exist. As my hon. Friend Crispin Blunt said, those rail connections distinguish Heathrow from Gatwick. The Elizabeth line will connect the airport directly to central London. The planned western rail link will greatly improve access from Slough, Reading and beyond, and I welcome the support of Mr Dhesi. The proposed southern rail access would directly connect the airport to south-west London and the South Western rail network. The interchange at Old Oak Common will allow easy access to the airport via HS2 from the midlands and the north. Of course, Heathrow will pay for any surface access works that are essential to the delivery of the airport expansion. That includes works on the M25, the A4 and the A3044. It will also pay its fair share of the cost of any new rail connections.
Labour has put four tests to the Government on this topic, covering growth across the UK, climate change, air quality and noise. We have responded to each one of those four tests.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there will be many benefits for regional airports throughout the United Kingdom, up to and including Scotland, and for Prestwick airport in particular, as well as the potential for one of the four construction hubs for Heathrow to be placed in Scotland?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that the opportunities lie not only in the increased connectivity but in the potential for hubs across the UK.
Both the independent Airports Commission’s analysis and our own show that a new runway can be delivered in line with our obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008. That position has been strengthened by a recent communication with the chair of the Committee on Climate Change. The Government’s clean growth strategy published last year also sets out how the UK will reduce carbon emissions across all sectors, including transport, across the 2020s.
We must also recognise the continued progress that industry has made in this area—[Interruption.] My colleagues have had a chance to make speeches, and it is right that we should recognise them. I was pleased to hear support from many Members across the House, and I wish that we could have had the support of Lilian Greenwood, the Chair of the Transport Committee. She rightly said that the economic benefits were compelling, and I noted that other members of her Committee did not share her concern and will be supporting the proposal. I am delighted that the Committee supported the proposal at such a crucial moment earlier in the debate.
Our work on air quality shows that Heathrow can be delivered in line with our air quality obligations. It is a central requirement of the NPS that expansion will not go ahead—[Interruption.] I can tell Andy McDonald that expansion will not go ahead unless the scheme meets strict legal standards. Any application to build a new runway will have to show how air quality issues will be addressed. This could include an emissions-based charge to reach the airport, as the majority of air quality issues at airports stem from cars, not from planes.
The NPS also sets out specific measures to address noise impacts, including the provision of more predictable periods of respite through a runway alternation programme, an expected six and a half hour scheduled night flight ban, and clear noise performance targets. The details of these measures will be developed through consultation with local communities and will become legally binding through the development consent process. This is a historic moment for this country. It is the moment when we call on the Government and all Members across the House to show leadership. Any failure to support this NPS will have detrimental effects across the whole country. I am delighted, therefore, to urge all Members to support the motion.
The House divided:
Ayes 415, Noes 119.
The determination of time available is not a matter for the Chair. The right hon. Lady has expressed her own view in characteristically succinct terms, leaving us in no doubt as to her dissatisfaction. All I would say to her and to other Members, on whichever side of the argument, who feel similarly, is that I have a sense that there will be a great many more debates on this important matter, in which we will hear from the right hon. Lady and from others similarly aggrieved this evening. I hope that that is helpful to the right hon. Lady.
Surprise, surprise, the right hon. Gentleman has not communicated with me today and I feel sure that he has other pressing matters on his agenda. I have received no notification that he will not be present and correct for Foreign Office questions, so I feel sure that he will be. I anticipate that the hon. Gentleman will look forward to those exchanges with eager anticipation and bated breath.