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Airports: Heathrow

Volume 703: debated on Tuesday 8 July 2008

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The 2003 White Paper The Future of Air Transport made it clear that, given the economic benefits to the UK, the Government support the further development of Heathrow by adding a third runway and exploring the scope for making greater use of the existing runways, subject to meeting strict local conditions on air quality and noise and improving public transport access.

Last November, I published a major consultation on the future expansion of Heathrow Airport. The consultation invited views on:

a revised proposal for a third runway and associated passenger terminal facilities, and the Government's assessment of how the strict local environmental conditions mentioned above could be met;

a proposal to introduce mixed mode on Heathrow's existing two runways as an interim measure and the Government's assessment of how the same strict local environmental conditions could be met. In considering the mixed mode options, the consultation looked at the position with or without additional air traffic movements;

the results of a review of operational procedures on the existing runways—westerly preference (the preferred direction of operation) and the Cranford agreement (which generally prohibits easterly departures off the northern runway)—irrespective of any further changes; and

an assessment of the effects of night-time rotation between westerly and easterly preference, and of the current trial of runway alternation in the 0600 to 0700 period.

Almost 70,000 individuals and organisations representing all sides of the debate responded to the Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport consultation, which my officials are still analysing. That process is itself also subject to quality assurance and peer review to ensure its integrity.

We also want to be sure, given the socio-demographic mix in the Heathrow area, that we fully understand how airport development might affect different groups in terms of race, disability, age or gender. An initial screening exercise has been conducted to look at the potentially different effects of the proposals. Further work is now being undertaken to deliver a full equalities impact assessment. We will shortly engage in a consultative exercise, focused on these particular groups.

Our work on analysing the consultation responses, on completing the equalities impact assessment and on finalising the overall impact assessment will take some more time to complete. But I intend to inform the House of my decision on the future development of Heathrow Airport before the end of the year.