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Heathrow: Third Runway

Volume 641: debated on Thursday 24 May 2018

10. What estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of the construction and operation of a third runway at Heathrow. (905555)

The Government have always been clear that any scheme for additional airport capacity should be financed by the private sector. The Airports Commission concluded that this was a viable way forward. As set out in the revised draft airports national policy statement, independent financial advisers have undertaken further work and agreed that expansion of Heathrow can be carried out without public finance.

I thank the Secretary of State for the answer. The report by the Select Committee on Transport on the airports national policy statement said that the Lakeside Energy from Waste plant should be treated

“with equivalent recognition as the Immigration Removal Centres and that the replacement of its facilities be accounted for in the DCO process.”

Will the Secretary of State confirm that his Department has assessed any infrastructure upgrade needed, such as that to roads and powerlines, to accommodate the relocation, and will those costs be met by the taxpayer?

First, I extend my thanks to the Select Committee, which has produced a thoughtful report. We will be responding to the report in detail very shortly; indeed, my officials are speaking to the Chair of the Committee to make sure she is fully up to speed with how we are handling all this.

Of course it is essential that appropriate provision is made for the energy from waste plant, and I think that provision should be funded by the airport as part of its work. I do not see why the taxpayer should bear the cost. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie) that the plant and other facilities, and the communities around the airport, are very much on my Department’s mind as we take these matters forward.

The Transport Committee report on the national policy statement found that the Heathrow north-west runway proposal has little, if any, advantage over other schemes, or even over doing nothing at all, for passenger growth or for the number and frequency of long-haul routes, and that the proposal would actually cut international links for non-London regions and would have little economic benefit to the UK, so are the Government pushing ahead with this hugely expensive and environmentally damaging project?

When I am ready to update the House, I will of course come back to do so in person. The Committee recommended that the Government progress with their work, and it made a number of very helpful and constructive suggestions about elements to be included within that work. I remain absolutely of the view that airport expansion is necessary for the economy of this country. The important thing is that we deliver it in the best possible way for local communities.

May I suggest to the Secretary of State that a much cheaper and more practicable alternative to the Heathrow third runway would be to use the considerable spare capacity and long runway at Birmingham airport by electrifying and upgrading the Chiltern railway line and linking it to Crossrail? This would provide for a fast, direct, non-stop shuttle service between central London and Birmingham airport and would help to solve the south-east airport capacity problem. Will he give serious consideration to this proposal?

Of course the arrival of HS2, with projected future growth in passenger numbers at our airports, will provide an alternative and will provide for a bit of competition between airports, which is no bad thing. The hon. Gentleman is right about that, but I do not think it is either one or the other.

Order. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) has had to be away for a period. We have missed him, and I think I speak for colleagues in warmly welcoming him back to the Chamber.

That is very kind, Mr Speaker. Thank you very much indeed.

Can the Secretary of State confirm whether he will be revising the airports national policy statement in the light of the 25 recommendations from the Transport Committee?

The hon. Gentleman and I sometimes spar vigorously across the Chamber, but I echo your words to him, Mr Speaker.

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I do not think it is appropriate to talk about our response to the Select Committee report before our response is published, which will happen shortly. I simply give him the assurance that we are taking the recommendations very seriously. I certainly want to see many of the recommendations embedded in our planning as these matters go forward.