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Airport Expansion: EU Referendum

Volume 614: debated on Thursday 15 September 2016

5. What assessment he has made of the effect of the result of the EU referendum on the timetable for a decision on Heathrow expansion. (906359)

8. What assessment he has made of the effect of the result of the EU referendum on the timetable for a decision on Heathrow expansion. (906363)

The Prime Minister will begin the negotiation for Britain’s future relationship with the EU and will also take the decision about when to trigger article 50 and start the formal process of leaving the EU. As I said a moment ago, as we move into the new world beyond our membership of the European Union, it is important that we are an outward-facing nation with strong business ties around the world. The decision on runway capacity is an important part of that, and it is important that we get it right. We will take that decision and move ahead with our plans, ensuring that we have the right links for the future.

I am sure that the Secretary of State shares my enthusiasm about the referendum result giving us vast opportunities to forge new links around the world. The Airports Commission estimated that the economic benefit of expanding Heathrow would be up to £23.6 billion for the south-east, as opposed to £12.4 billion if Gatwick is expanded. Expansion at Heathrow would greatly benefit Buckinghamshire. Will my right hon. Friend think about putting a date on this and letting us know when he will make a decision? Will he commit to an integrated transport strategy that benefits the people of Bucks—unlike HS2?

I will not give an exact date today, but I assure the House that we intend to take the decision soon. It is important that we move ahead with these plans. I hear what my right hon. Friend says about Heathrow. I have seen three effective, well-crafted proposals for the Government and this House to consider. We will reach a view shortly about what recommendation we will seek to make.

The Prime Minister has claimed that she wishes to govern in the interests of the whole country. The expansion of Heathrow would deliver more than 8,000 jobs for Wales and contribute more than £6 billion to the growth of our economy. Does the Secretary of State agree that the expansion of Heathrow is the only right answer for the economy of Wales?

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and he clearly has a strong view on this matter. As he will have seen, strong views are held on both sides of the House and on all three sides of this argument. I note what he says about the importance of proper air links for Wales. This Government will always focus on the best way we have at our disposal to help Wales, but we have to take a decision about the interests of our collective United Kingdom and which option is better, and that is the decision we will take.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, now that the British people have decided to leave the EU and free our country from the interference and over-regulation it brought, the Government have new opportunities to support regional connectivity? Will he look closely at the opportunities that a decision on Heathrow would bring?

It is worth saying that whatever decision we take about airport expansion, it is important that we have in mind the need to make sure that we have good connectivity around the UK, and I assure my hon. Friend that that will be a priority in our considerations.

Will the Secretary of State reassure me that he will not be diverted by claims about the difference Brexit makes to airport expansion and will address the costs to the taxpayer of road and rail infrastructure that would be required for a third runway? Will he also look at the comparative costs for other alternatives, such as Gatwick?

It is clearly important that we take our decision in the interests of the nation and that we foster ties around the world and within Europe. We are not leaving Europe; we are leaving the European Union. We want to retain good, strong economic ties with our neighbours in Europe. It is important that we take the right decision for the whole of our nation, and that is what we will do.