The Government recognise that noise is the primary concern of local communities near airports. Aircraft noise has reduced significantly over the last few decades and the Government remain committed to working with Gatwick airport, the Civil Aviation Authority, NATS, UK airlines and the Gatwick consultative committee, which includes community representatives, to reduce and mitigate aircraft noise.
I welcome the comments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but add that my constituents are still suffering from the current airspace strategy. Will he confirm that environmental mitigation will continue to be part of the consideration in the implementation of airspace strategy?
In welcoming my hon. Friend to the House, I assure him that mitigating the aviation industry’s effect on the environment has been and remains a key factor of aviation strategy. We need to strike a fair balance in our policy between the negative environmental impacts of aviation and the positive economic and consumer benefits that the industry provides.
If Gatwick were to be given approval for an additional runway, what would the Minister’s intentions be if either the airlines or the airport authorities decided to remove direct flights between Heathrow and major regional airports such as Belfast, which are the absolute lifeblood of my constituency?
Until I have received the report I am not going to start discussing what may or may not happen. What I will say is that I know how important connectivity between airports is to both Northern Ireland and Scotland. Those slots are incredibly important. I will bear that in mind, as I know Sir Howard Davies will, once we have the report.