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Airport Expansion

– in the House of Commons at 4:17 pm on 2nd March 2020.

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Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport 4:17 pm, 2nd March 2020

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport to make a statement on airport expansion.

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Secretary of State is very sorry that he is unable to be in the Chamber today, but he is visiting the north, as part of a long-standing commitment, for discussions with northern leaders following the Government’s takeover of the Northern franchise. It is a pleasure to respond on his behalf as Minister for aviation.

Airport expansion is a core part of boosting our global connectivity and levelling up the UK. It is crucial that vital infrastructure projects, including airport expansion, drive the whole UK economy. This is a Government who support airport expansion, but we will only permit it within our environmental obligations. This Government have been clear that Heathrow expansion is a private sector project that must meet strict criteria on air quality, noise and climate change, as well as being privately financed, affordable, and delivered in the best interest of consumers.

Last week, the Court of Appeal ruled that the designation of the airports national policy statement did not take account of the Paris agreement, of non-CO2 emissions or of emissions post 2050, and therefore has no legal effect unless and until this Government carry out a review. This Government have taken the decision not to appeal the Court’s judgment. We take seriously our commitments on the environment and reducing carbon emissions. It is a complex and important judgment that the Government need time to consider carefully. At this stage the Government will not be able to make any further comment beyond what was set out in the written statement on 27 February from the Secretary of State for Transport. Following the judgment, scheme promoters have applied for permission to the Supreme Court to appeal this decision. The Government will not comment on an ongoing legal case.

Aviation will play a key role in leading our economic growth and driving forward the UK’s status as an outward-facing trading nation, attracting investment and growing our trade links with new overseas markets. Today, our airports support connections to more than 370 destinations, in more than 100 countries. Aviation drives trade, investment and tourism, contributing £14 billion to our economy and half a million jobs. The next decade will mark an unprecedented moment of opportunity for the UK. That is why we are investing in transport and infrastructure across the country: investing in our strategic road network; proceeding with HS2; and committing £5 billion of funding to improve bus and cycle services outside London.

Airport expansion is a core part of our commitment to global connectivity, but we are also a Government who are committed to a greener future, as the first major economy in the world to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050. This Government are therefore committed to working with the aviation sector to make sure we deliver on the opportunities available to us, while meeting our environmental commitments, be it on modernisation of our airspace, innovation in sustainable fuels, or research and technology. This will ensure a prosperous and sustainable future for the whole country, and the House will be updated on next steps as soon as possible.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I welcome the Minister to her place. Last week, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Government’s Heathrow expansion plan was unlawful as it failed to consider their Paris climate agreement commitments. I would like to thank those who fought the case, not the least of whom was the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan. That we must rely on environmental campaigners and the courts to protect us from illegal and environmentally destructive policies is clear evidence of the Government’s lack of real concern about the climate crisis.

The Court’s ruling was the right one. At the time of the Airports National Policy Statement, Labour warned that the plans would cause the UK to miss its climate targets. We said that the Government were failing to take account of their commitments and that this would result in legal challenges—we were dismissed, but we were right. Why did the then Transport Secretary fail to consider the Paris climate agreement in his plans for airport expansion? What legal advice did he receive? Was the advice flawed or simply ignored? The Government said that they will not appeal the decision but will focus on “overall airport expansion”. What does that mean?

If the Government accept the ruling, they should rule out airport expansion. It would be unacceptable to amend the national policy statement to include a reference to climate commitments while simultaneously paving the way for policies that will cause them to be missed. The Government should not hide behind the courts or industry; they must say what their policy now is. It is their NPS, not Heathrow airport’s. Will the Government indemnify Heathrow Airport Limited and its backers for their wasted investment if runway three does not go ahead? What are the implications for the Government’s planned almost £30 billion road building programme, which also fails to consider the UK’s climate commitments? Those plans will significantly worsen emissions, at a time when there is a legal requirement for them to fall. What legal advice has the Minister had as to whether those astronomically expensive and environmentally destructive plans are not similarly unlawful?

It is already clear that the Government’s transport policy of road building, cutting aviation tax and airport expansions, will put the UK even further off track to meet its climate targets. This is morally indefensible, and last week’s ruling means it is likely to be legally indefensible too. Will the Minister take this as a wake-up call, by ruling out climate-busting airport expansion; introducing a frequent flyer levy; and investing in public transport, electric vehicles and active travel? The future of the planet is at stake.

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s comments about last week’s judgment, but I should point out that the Government were clear in our manifesto that the Heathrow expansion project was a private sector project and needed to meet the strict criteria on air quality, noise and climate change and to be privately financed in the best interests of consumers. Airport expansion is a core part of the Government’s commitment to global connectivity and investing in our infrastructure. We welcome the efforts of airports throughout the UK to come forward with ambitious proposals to invest in their infrastructure, under our wider policy of encouraging them to make the best use of their assets.

We want the UK to be the best place in the world and we are forming new trading relationships with the European Union and negotiating free trade deals around the world. Last week’s judgment is an important step in the process. Heathrow Ltd is obviously able to apply to the courts to appeal, but we take our environmental commitments seriously and they are important to how we reach our objective of net zero by 2050.

I highlight for the hon. Gentleman the fact that we are committed to the decarbonisation of aviation, as that is an important part of our efforts on climate change. That is why we are maintaining momentum by investing in aviation research and technology. We are investing £1.95 billion in aviation research and development between 2013 and 2026. In August last year we announced a joint £300 million fund, with industry involvement, for the Future Flight Challenge. We will introduce a Bill that will modernise the country’s airspace, reduce noise around airports and combat CO2 omissions.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the advice given to the Secretary of State. I understand that that advice may form part of one of the grounds of appeal of another party in the Supreme Court, so I am unable to comment while the proceedings are ongoing, but I will not take lectures from the Labour party when even Labour-supporting unions such as the GMB have called Labour’s plans “utterly unachievable”. As I have already outlined, airport expansion is a core part of the Government’s commitment to global connectivity and levelling up.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Chair, Transport Committee, Chair, Transport Committee

There are many who take the view that big-ticket infrastructure projects such as Heathrow expansion will provide both the funding and the challenge to allow our scientists, engineers and innovators to deliver not only that project but similar infrastructure projects and market them around the world in places where they really do leave a big carbon footprint. The Minister has rightly said that this issue is a legal matter for the determination of the courts and a commercial matter for Heathrow; will she confirm that, if Heathrow is successful at the Supreme Court, the Government will not intervene to stop expansion occurring?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we do lead the way in technology and innovation in this country, which is why we are investing in aviation research and development. I assure him that the outcome of any Supreme Court ruling will be respected.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

In his letter to all MPs on Friday, the Secretary of State for Transport said that the Government lost in the Court “on only one aspect” and that that was climate change. That “only” suggests that he is kind of missing the point. The Government cannot argue that the development is private and that whether to appeal is therefore up to Heathrow, while at the same time saying that airport expansion is important to the Government. A key aspect of the ruling was that expansion did not comply with the Paris agreement, which is a Government responsibility. We know that there are splits in the Government over Heathrow; is it the Government’s plan to sit back, do nothing and let events take control of themselves, rather than actually having to make a decision?

Heathrow has its own net zero plans; have the Government reviewed those plans to see how realistic they are and how they comply with the Government’s net zero plans? The Government talk about decarbonising transport, but carbon-based aviation fuels are still duty free; how will that incentivise the use of biofuels and other carbon-reduction measures? If expansion goes ahead, what plans do the Government have to protect the extra slots for Scottish airports? Finally, when are we going to get a net zero plan that encompasses all of transport, including international aviation and international shipping?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Gentleman is correct to say that we lost the judgment on the one aspect of climate change, which was brought forward by Friends of the Earth and Plan B. It is true that the joint action by the Mayor of London, the five London boroughs that surround Heathrow and Greenpeace on the strategic environmental assessment and the impact on habitats was dismissed, as was the rival scheme from Heathrow Hub Limited. I have outlined to the House the Government’s commitment to decarbonise transport. We will issue our plans for decarbonisation across all modes of transport. As I have outlined, the global aviation emissions offsetting scheme, sustainable aviation fuels, greenhouse gas removal and, eventually, electric flights—the first such flight is expected later in the year—all show that this Government are committed to growing the UK economy and also to meeting our commitments as the first major economy to introduce the target of net zero by 2050.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. We have another half an hour to go on this urgent question, so I plead for short questions and brief answers.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

I welcome my hon. Friend to her new position. It is a difficult job, and she is doing it very well at the Dispatch Box. A total of 40% of all exports outside the EU are dealt with at Heathrow airport. Any future trade deals depend on Heathrow expanding. Given that the UK Civil Aviation Authority already has a net-zero policy, does my hon. Friend agree that it is compatible for Heathrow airport to expand and for us to meet our net-zero targets?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I thank my hon. Friend for the support she has given me in this role in the Department for Transport. I also want to thank her for the work that she did during her two years as maritime Minister. She is absolutely right: airports are important not only for our economy, but for how we trade with the rest of the world. It is right to say that, obviously, the judgment took into account our concern over the Paris agreement, but it did not judge that airport expansion was incompatible with climate change.

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Labour/Co-operative, Feltham and Heston

Paragraph 285 of the judgment rightly stated:

“We have not decided…that there will be no third runway at Heathrow.”

As a Member whose constituency is dependent on jobs from Heathrow, I voted, on balance, to support expansion at Heathrow. Paragraph 285 goes on to state that

“the consequence of a decision is that the Government will now have the opportunity to reconsider the ANPS in accordance with the clear statutory requirements that Parliament has imposed.”

It seems to me that that should be the responsibility of Government. Therefore, aside from the appeal being progressed by the scheme’s promoters, what precisely is the reason that the Government are choosing not to do so?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Lady is quite right that the court’s judgment was not to determine whether a third runway should take place, so she is right on that point. The court’s judgment was based on the consideration of climate change in the Paris agreement. As she knows, and as I have already outlined at the Dispatch Box, the judgment ran to more than 100 pages. It is a complex judgment, which we are looking at and considering, and we will come forward with our next steps as soon as possible.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee, Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee

I, too, welcome my hon. Friend to her place. I support the expansion of Heathrow with the extra runway for the economic benefits that it brings, particularly to the north of England. I also strongly support the actions being taken in respect of our pledge on net zero by 2050, and I do not see the two as incompatible. Does my hon. Friend join me in welcoming the aviation industry’s plan for net zero by 2050 and does she commend Heathrow’s plan to play its part in that progress?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting that point and raising the profile of what the industry and sector wish to do. As I have said this afternoon, we are committed to achieving the net zero target, and aviation—indeed, all modes of transport—has an important part to play. As I have outlined, we will bring forward the transport decarbonisation plans and work with industry to make sure that we are able to achieve that.

Photo of Conor McGinn Conor McGinn Opposition Whip (Commons)

One of the reasons why I supported Heathrow expansion was the increased connectivity it would bring to regional airports such as Liverpool John Lennon and Manchester, and the associated jobs and business opportunities it would provide in places such as St Helens. Does the Minister understand the uncertainty and concern that these developments have caused in the north-west? Will she undertake to update political and business leaders there as well as in the rest of the country?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government are absolutely committed to increasing connectivity throughout the UK and levelling up and investing in infrastructure; that has been seen through our proposal for investment in roads and our rail network. As I mentioned, we are doing important work with our network of regional airports around the country. They are really rising to the challenge of their ambition: making the best use of the assets that they already have. I very much support that as the aviation Minister.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

Businesses in the north of England—in places such as Scarborough and, indeed, Middlesbrough—are keen to play their part in delivering a global trading Britain. However, they are frustrated by the absence of slots into our main hub airport and have to use Schiphol, Paris or other airports. How does it help achieve our greenhouse gas emissions targets or get the best result for UK plc if they have to use foreign flights to Schiphol, Charles de Gaulle or Frankfurt?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We want to make sure that the whole UK benefits from economic prosperity, particularly in the north; that, hopefully, is what I will be working on in the coming months in this role. It is absolutely true: as I have said, will repeat and will keep repeating, airport expansion is a core part of our increasing UK connectivity —not just in the UK, but abroad.

Photo of Munira Wilson Munira Wilson Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Health and Social Care)

As a result of the judgment by the Court of Appeal, we now know that a third runway at Heathrow flies in the face of the Government’s climate change commitments. We know that a third runway at Heathrow and the associated emissions and noise will have a significant detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of my long-suffering constituents in Twickenham, and many well beyond. We know from a New Economics Foundation report last week that expansion at Heathrow will actually take money and jobs out of the regions, which flies in the face of the Government’s levelling-up agenda. Is it not now high time that the Government revisited their national policy statement and ruled out not only a third runway at Heathrow once and for all but all other runways at other airports in the UK, given the impact on climate change?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am sorry that the hon. Lady is against our desire and ambition to make sure that prosperity and connectivity reach all parts of the UK, particularly given the importance of the south-east to the economy and being able to introduce the investments that we need in the north. As she outlined, we—this Government—are committed, under this Prime Minister, to make sure that we adhere to our environmental obligations. We have been clear that any expansion of Heathrow airport would need to meet the strict criteria around noise, climate change and pollution.

Photo of Peter Gibson Peter Gibson Conservative, Darlington

Does my hon. Friend agree that regional connectivity, such as the connectivity from Teesside International, which was duly saved by Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, is important? It is critical to levelling up and providing one nation government—a pledge that this Government were elected on. What steps is the Minister taking to achieve that?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the great work of our Teesside Mayor. The work that is being done to improve the economy up there is quite exciting; I look forward to visiting soon. In my new role as aviation Minister, I feel particularly passionate about connectivity around the country and levelling up. I am completely in line with the Prime Minister, and will be spending my time over the next months ensuring that we are able to push the boundaries and deliver on the ambitious target that we have set ourselves.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith

This is embarrassing. The Government have to come off the fence on this issue. We know which side the Prime Minister would like to fall on; perhaps the Minister should follow his example. She just said that the ANPS is of no legal effect until the Government conduct their review. She must at least give us a timetable for that review, and tell us when we will get the decision so that we can put Heathrow out of its misery.

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

As I have said, the judgment is over 100 pages long and is extremely complex. It is right that the Government take time to consider that and come back to the House with the next steps. I hope that the hon. Gentleman would not want a Government to make a quick decision on such an important topic.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford

Will my hon. Friend reassure the House that this decision does not reopen the prospect of a Thames estuary airport which, as she well knows, was very much opposed by colleagues and constituents in north Kent and south Essex?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I thank my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour for raising this matter. She knows very well my position on the Thames estuary airport proposal—prior to being appointed Minister for aviation.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

I am disappointed at the new hands-off approach to Heathrow expansion that the Minister has outlined today. It is vital for regional connectivity from airports such as Newcastle. As Mr Goodwill said , stopping the expansion of Heathrow will not stop the expansion of Düsseldorf, Brussels or Amsterdam—exporting jobs and prosperity abroad, rather than actually affecting our own economy. When will the Minister publish the new airport strategy because, without Heathrow, the Government will be driving a cart and horses through the present strategy?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The right hon. Gentleman knows that the decision was taken by the courts last week. We are analysing the complex judgment and will bring forward the next steps. I have been quite clear that airport expansion is a key part of levelling up and increasing the national economy. We are determined to deliver on investing in our infrastructure and aviation, and airport expansion is a part of that.

Photo of Paul Maynard Paul Maynard Conservative, Blackpool North and Cleveleys

May I welcome the aviation Minister to her new role and wish her more luck in the job than I clearly had in it? Can she name a global metropolis city that has successfully operated a twin hub airport?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, with whom I have worked closely in other roles. I thank him for the work that he has done on this portfolio, and will look to him for advice and support. He is quite right that airport connectivity and hub capacity are important in the UK and beyond, and I will be taking a close look at that. I will also be looking to report back to the House on the next steps in relation to last week’s judgment.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit)

Many people will be bewildered and disappointed by the Government’s attitude towards the judges’ decision on this nationally important project, which is also important to places like Northern Ireland in terms of a hub for international connectivity. Given its importance, why are the Government not challenging this judicial interference in investment policy? Does the Minister not realise that by not doing so she is giving a green light to the environmental Luddites who will use the insidious Climate Change Act 2008 as a means to smash every major investment project in this country?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The right hon. Gentleman will know that we have been very clear: the Heathrow expansion project was a private sector project financed privately and not at a cost to the taxpayer, but it had to be done in the best interests of consumers. We were clear within the ANPS that any proposal that was brought forward would need to meet the strict criteria with regard to noise, pollution and climate change. We understand that Heathrow Ltd will potentially appeal this decision. That is something for it to do, bearing in mind that this is a private sector project.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Conservative, Vale of Glamorgan

May I congratulate the Minister on the way in which she is responding to the questions that have been asked? Does she recognise that it is innovation and technological advances that will help us to meet our climate change challenge? Does she further recognise that the expansion of Heathrow is a key plank of economic development opportunities on the western side of the UK?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct that the way in which we are able to reach our target of net zero is with technology and research, investing in that technology and research, and really backing industry leaders and the talented people we have within the aviation sector to develop these technologies that will help not only the UK but other countries to reach their emission reductions. Absolutely one of the things that I am most excited about is the potential of the first electric flight this year.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth

Last week, the New Economics Foundation released its report, “Baggage claim”, in which it found, using DFT aviation forecasts, that if runway 3 at Heathrow goes ahead, there will be 17 million fewer passengers departing from non-London airports and 27,000 jobs locating to London as a result of that expansion? Does the Minister agree that not expanding Heathrow is an opportunity to rebalance the north-south divide and to continue economic and transport support for non-London regions?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Lady will know that we are committed to delivering economic development and levelling up the whole of the UK. That is why we are already investing in our rail and our roads, particularly in the north, which is why the Secretary of State is unable to be here today to answer this urgent question. We are committed to airport expansion, as we believe that it is a core part of our plan. I will make sure that we are hopefully able to continue to deliver on that.

Photo of Bim Afolami Bim Afolami Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden

The Minister will recognise that because of the court judgment there are huge amounts of uncertainty in places across the whole country in relation to their own airports and potential options for expansion. As somebody campaigning against the expansion of Luton airport, can I ask her to be very clear that any expansion of any regional airport in Luton or anywhere else must meet stringent environmental criteria on climate change, pollution and the rest? Will she make that point firmly at the Dispatch Box?

Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Engagement

The Minister has talked about the Government’s ambitions, shall we say, to reach net zero, but they are way off meeting their targets, and we do not need communities that live near airports such as Heathrow to tell us about the environmental impact that it can have on their lives. Will she join me in paying tribute to my right hon. Friend John McDonnell, who has campaigned on this issue on behalf of his constituents for a long time? Will she make an assessment of what implications the Court judgment on Heathrow might have for major road building projects?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

As I have outlined, we will look carefully at the complex judgment and bring forward next steps. I would like to highlight the fact that we will shortly introduce a Bill on the modernisation of the country’s airspace, with the objective of not only reducing noise around airports but combating CO2 emissions.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Conservative, South West Wiltshire

This judgment will potentially simply export carbon emissions to our competitors, together with UK jobs and prosperity, and it is particularly bad news for the south-west. What analysis has the Minister done to determine whether regional airports—particularly Bristol airport—can now take up some of the potential that airport expansion offers?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. He is right: regional airports and connectivity around the country are key to many parts of the UK, not just the north. I am from Kent, and we are blessed with many airports locally. I have a small airport in my constituency—Rochester airport—and I see how much such airports contribute to the local economy, enabling business growth and enabling people to get around the country and go abroad. In this role, I would like to assess regional capacity, to ensure that all parts of the UK benefit.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

However much Government Members might wish it were otherwise, there is no quick technological fix that will solve this problem. The Committee on Climate Change is really clear that zero-carbon aviation is “highly unlikely” to be feasible by 2050, which means that demand management and, indeed, demand reduction will be essential. Can the Minister set out what steps the Government will take to reduce aviation emissions by reducing the demand for flying—for example, by introducing a frequent flyer levy, which is a fair way of distributing the ability to fly?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Lady will probably not be a stranger to the fact that this Government are investing in roads and rail, to increase connectivity. This Government have now pledged their commitment to HS2, which is why the Secretary of State is in the north. We have, of course, been carefully considering the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, but transport and the use of airlines by our consumers—our constituents—who want to travel around the country and globally is something that I am not prepared to put a curb on today.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

What is the Government’s policy on Gatwick airport?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I refer him to our policy statement. We will continue to look at airport expansion and connectivity throughout the UK.

Photo of Janet Daby Janet Daby Labour, Lewisham East

The Minister mentioned air quality and noise, which is a serious issue and health concern for residents in my constituency who happen to live under the flightpath of both London City airport and Heathrow. When will the Government introduce regulations to prohibit soundwaves from exceeding acceptable World Health Organisation limits?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

As the hon. Lady will have heard me say, we are committed to publishing a Bill on modernising our airspace, which we hope will tackle some of residents’ concerns about noise.

Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Conservative, St Austell and Newquay

This further delay will be a great disappointment to businesses in Cornwall, particularly as we are about to lose our current Heathrow slot. Does the Minister share my view that the expansion of Heathrow is essential to us achieving our global Britain ambitions, but that this is not the end for Heathrow, and it is right to appeal against this decision? Will she join me in wishing it well in that appeal and confirm that Government policy on Heathrow has not changed?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I thank my hon. Friend for his absolute defence and representation of the south-west. He always talks about connectivity and about people in the south-west being able to move around the country. I have said a number of times at the Dispatch Box today that this Government are committed to airport expansion and levelling up. It is a core part of the Government’s commitment to delivering on our global connectivity and investing in our infrastructure, and also—and this is key—making sure that it can be delivered within our environmental obligations.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

May I wish the Minister well in her new position? I support a third runway at Heathrow, which can benefit the whole of the United Kingdom, and particularly Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister promised connectivity for all parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The tried and proven flight connections between Heathrow and Belfast City airport could do even better, boosting the economy and creating more jobs, and it is vital that they are built on. Can the Minister confirm that airports in Northern Ireland will not be disadvantaged because of this decision?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I thank the hon. Gentleman, and he will know that my predecessor was able to make a number of visits to the airports in Northern Ireland. He will also know that, in my role in Government, I will always take into consideration Northern Ireland, and the concerns and wants of businesses and consumers in Northern Ireland, in how we develop the strategy.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

I know that hand washing is now de rigueur, but that should hardly extend to the Government’s approach to their own NPS, approved by a large majority in this House, when the judgment addressed the narrow point that the NPS had not been assessed against commitments made by the Government in Paris. The Government’s desertion of Heathrow at this point is very bad news for early delivery of global Britain in reality, and it is very bad news for confidence in the whole of the Government’s commitment to their own national infrastructure plan.

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I understand my hon. Friend’s concern. I just want to reiterate that we are committed to airport expansion. We took the decision not to appeal, because it was a private sector delivery scheme, being privately financed. Of course, the instigators will be issuing an appeal. I understand his frustration, but it is right that any airport expansion or infrastructure project of this nature meets the key criteria for environmental protections. As I have already said, we are analysing the judgment and we will come forward with the next steps as soon as possible.

Photo of Jason McCartney Jason McCartney Conservative, Colne Valley

I very much welcome the Government’s commitment to levelling up our transport infrastructure across the country. Having given HS2 the green light, does the Minister agree with me that we now need to crack on with Northern Powerhouse Rail and the TransPennine rail upgrade going through my local town of Huddersfield? Does she agree that regional airports such as Manchester and Leeds Bradford airports also have important roles to play in global connectivity?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I thank my hon. Friend, and he is absolutely right. He will note that the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend Andrew Stephenson, who is the Minister responsible for Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2, is sitting on the Front Bench and has heard his comments. Our recent announcements have been on our ambition for Northern Powerhouse Rail, High Speed 2, the A66 northern trans-Pennine link and the £5 billion of funding to improve bus and cycle services outside London. We are really proud and motivated to make sure that all of the UK benefits from the investment of this Government and that we do achieve such levelling up.

Photo of John Stevenson John Stevenson Conservative, Carlisle

The Minister has confirmed that the Government will give support to regional development and the expansion of regional airports, which I assume will include Carlisle Lake District airport. If the airport is to succeed—it has only been open for a year—it is going to need Government support and a degree of subsidy until it is fully established. Will the Minister give that support?

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I thank my hon. Friend, and I am very happy to meet him to discuss his newly formed airport. I very much look forward to watching that and working together to make sure that that regional airport is a success.

Photo of Craig Mackinlay Craig Mackinlay Conservative, South Thanet

I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. India and China have 320 new airports planned for the next 10 years, yet here we are once again with a continuing national debate about the expansion of just one. Is my hon. Friend aware of the potential of Manston airport on the border between the constituencies of North Thanet and South Thanet? It is spade-ready to deliver important aviation infrastructure for a new global Britain in the shortest possible time.

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

As my hon. Friend is aware, I know Manston airport, and I know his passion for it, and that of his neighbours, regarding the ability of that small regional airport to come back on stream. He is right: regional airports, connectivity—everything that I have mentioned and spoken about today—are key to levelling up and to economic growth throughout the UK. This Government are determined to deliver and invest, and I am extremely excited to be part of how we deliver that in the future.

Photo of Richard Drax Richard Drax Conservative, South Dorset

I welcome my hon. Friend to her place and wish her well in her new role. The last time that judges interfered with decisions made in this place, there was outrage. There is a strange muteness from the Government about this latest decision, despite a decision being made in this place, after many years, with four to one in favour of the extension going ahead. Can I persuade the Government to get on with this? We are leaving the EU, and we need this expansion for the economy and future prosperity of this country.

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My hon. Friend is correct. For us to be outfacing and truly global, we must ensure that our connectivity, transport and infrastructure is able to deliver not only on levelling up, but on playing a big part in our economic growth and trade with the rest of the world. This is an exciting time for the UK, with lots of ideas and ambitions. I assure my hon. Friend that we are determined to deliver on that, and ensure that airports are part of that solution.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. Before I call Tulip Siddiq to ask her urgent question, it may be helpful to say that Mr Speaker has been advised that there will be a statement in the House tomorrow on coronavirus. This urgent question is very narrow, and relates only to the matter of prisoners held abroad.