Motion to Take Note
My Lords, I start by sharing the apologies of my noble friend Lady Sugg, who is under a three-line Whip today by her mother. She is at the Palace receiving an honour, so obviously there was no way that my noble friend was going to be able to miss that today.
My noble friend and I welcome this debate on the Government’s revised draft airports National Policy Statement, or NPS. It might be helpful if I put today’s debate into context in terms of the process the Government have followed to date. The Airports Commission reported in July 2015 and, following detailed consideration of its findings and further work, the Government announced their preference for the Heathrow north-west runway scheme in October 2016. Since then, we have published a draft airports NPS and conducted two periods of public consultation, receiving over 80,000 responses in total. We are now carefully considering those responses. It is worth emphasising that we are still in a period of consideration following public consultation and no final decisions on the airports NPS have been taken. Should the Government decide to proceed, any proposed airports NPS would be laid before Parliament and an opportunity provided for debate in both Houses.
What is the purpose of the NPS? The concept of an NPS was introduced by the Planning Act 2008, which was enacted following the Heathrow terminal 5 inquiry, which lasted nearly four years. The draft airports NPS has a specific purpose. If adopted, it would provide planning guidance for the promoter of the additional runway. It sets out at a strategic level the need for development and establishes clear, high-level policies by which an application for development consent for the additional runway would be decided.
It might be helpful if I say what the draft NPS does not do. It does not give permission for a new runway. Development consent would be sought following the preparation of a more detailed design by the scheme promoter and would require public examination of the proposals in the light of the policies set out in the NPS. It is then the role of the Secretary of State, taking into account the advice of the planning inspectorate, to determine whether to grant development consent.
Clearly, there is a need for expansion. The UK currently has the third-largest aviation sector in the world—second only to the United States and China—contributing more than £22 billion to UK GDP. In 2016, UK airports handled 268 million passengers—up 7% on 2015—and 2.4 million tonnes of freight. Our airports continue to grow their business, with more passengers passing through their doors each year. Heathrow is the busiest two-runway airport in the world. Evidence shows that unless we take action, all five of London’s main airports will be completely full by the mid-2030s.
Let me set out why a new north-west runway at Heathrow is the Government’s preference for additional capacity in the south-east. Our analysis shows that a new north-west runway would deliver benefits of up to £74 billion to passengers and the wider economy over 60 years. Of the shortlisted schemes assessed by the Airports Commission, the north-west runway scheme at Heathrow delivers the greatest benefits soonest. An expanded Heathrow would offer the greatest choice and frequency of vital long-haul routes. It would secure the UK’s status as a global aviation hub, enhancing our ability to compete with other European and Middle Eastern airports. It would provide new domestic connections —moving from eight to 14 domestic routes—and greater frequency, enabling the nations and regions to benefit from onward connections to long-haul destinations.
I mentioned freight earlier. Heathrow handles more freight by value than all other UK airports combined. Heathrow has superior connections to the rest of the UK through road, rail and domestic flights. Expansion is also expected to generate up to 114,000 additional jobs in the local area by 2030, and Heathrow Airport has pledged 5,000 additional apprenticeships.
I want to emphasise that the draft NPS makes it clear that expansion at Heathrow would be allowed to proceed only if accompanied by a world-class package of compensation along with mitigation measures to reduce impacts. Without going through all the measures, let me give noble Lords a flavour of the proposals. On community compensation, the proposed package includes above-statutory levels of compensation for property owners. Heathrow Airport Limited has pledged that home owners in compulsory and voluntary purchase zones would receive 125% of unblighted market value, plus stamp duty and costs. The airport has also pledged in excess of £700 million to noise-insulate residential properties, fully insulating homes most affected and providing a contribution of £3,000 towards noise insulation for qualifying homes further from the airport. They have also promised to set aside an additional £40 million to noise-insulate schools and community buildings. The draft NPS also requires the creation of a community compensation fund worth up to £50 million per year to benefit local communities.
Moving on to environmental mitigation, as we all know, noise is a major concern for communities around Heathrow. Under the Government’s draft proposals, the scheme promoter would be expected to deliver a number of mitigating measures to reduce the impact of aircraft noise. In addition to the comprehensive noise insulation package, these are expected to include a new six and a half-hour ban on scheduled night flights. This ban would help address noise from early morning arrivals at the airport—one of the most frequently expressed concerns of local communities. Expansion would also result in more reliable periods of respite. The draft NPS makes it clear that the Government expect noise mitigation measures to limit, and where possible reduce, the impact of aircraft noise compared to the 2013 baseline assessed by the Airports Commission.
The Government have consistently made it clear that expansion at Heathrow would be allowed to go ahead only if it could be delivered in compliance with legal obligations on air quality. It is the Government’s view, based on expert analysis, that the Heathrow north-west runway scheme can be delivered in compliance with those legal obligations, with a suitable package of policy and mitigation measures. Importantly, that analysis does not take account of any of the additional measures the scheme promoter would take to address emissions. For example, the NPS proposes a public transport mode share for passengers of at least 50% by 2030, and Heathrow plans to consider a low-emission zone.
Finally, the Government have also considered the impact of the updated aviation demand forecasts on carbon emissions. Our analysis provides further support for the Airports Commission’s assessment that any of the three schemes, including the Heathrow north-west runway, could be delivered within the UK’s obligations under the Climate Change Act.
I appreciate that there are many views on airport expansion and my noble friend and I look forward to hearing them in the debate. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for introducing the debate and for her explanation of the NPS. I welcome the debate to range over the revised draft airports National Policy Statement and the issues it raises.
I agree with the analysis of the importance of aviation to the UK economy and the need for new airport capacity. Heathrow is the busiest two-runway airport in the world. While declaring my support for Heathrow expansion, subject to safeguards, I am mindful of the perspective of London Luton Airport—a major contributor to aviation provision in the south-east—which is also reaching capacity as currently configured. I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I divert to another airport from time to time. I draw attention to my interest in the register as an advisory member of the board of London Luton Airport, a council company that owns the airport assets.
By way of history, Luton Airport was originally run as a committee of Luton Borough Council but was required to transfer its undertaking into a separate company by the Airports Act 1986—the handiwork, I believe, of the noble Lord, Lord Spicer. This was at the same time as the British Airports Authority was required to restructure into a main holding company with seven separate operating companies: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton. Along the way, the Scottish airports were privatised and the BAA, which subsequently had to divest itself of Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh, was sold to Ferrovial.
London Luton—progressively known as Luton International and then London Luton Airport—travelled a different path to ownership and development from most airports when Luton Council entered into a public-private partnership through its wholly owned company with a third-party consortium. The airport has, perhaps unusually, enjoyed considerable support from its local community. Indeed, a local election was lost by the party which sought to privatise the airport, for a derisory sum, and which has never since—at least so far—regained control of the council.
In common with much else we debate at present, we should be mindful of the impact of Brexit on aviation and therefore airports policy. The liberalisation of air transport, with the ability of carriers to fly wholly within and wholly between other EU states and between a base and any other EU airports, has had a significant beneficial effect, added to by the advent of low-cost, short-haul flights across Europe and the growth of such airlines as easyJet and Ryanair.
There is clearly an imperative for the Government to negotiate continuing access to this liberalised regime on one basis or another, ranging from staying in the European common aviation area, a UK open skies deal with Europe or a single bilateral agreement with the EU. The issues of access to airspace and the implications for airfares, as well as safety regulation, also need to be resolved. Assuming that Brexit becomes a reality, we would argue strongly for our staying in the European common aviation area and remaining in the European Aviation Safety Agency. My initial questions to the Minister are: what progress is being made on all of this and what are the expected outcomes; and to what extent have these issues—or any of them—been taken into account in passenger number predictions, especially for Heathrow?
We should recognise that Conservative policy on the expansion of Heathrow has flip-flopped in recent times. Before the 2010 general election the party was opposed to a third runway and a sixth terminal at Heathrow. Its 2010 manifesto referred to stopping the third runway and linking Heathrow directly to the high-speed rail network. The coalition Government talked of cancelling the third runway at Heathrow, and the owners of Heathrow announced that they would abandon plans for a third runway. However, concerned lobbying persuaded the Government to look again, thankfully, hence the long-grass device of the Airports Commission.
Initially, the Government announced that they accepted the case put by the commission for more capacity in the south-east but had not decided where. Eventually, on 25 October 2016, after being pressed by constant questioning in Parliament—noble Lords will remember those exchanges in this House—the Secretary of State announced that the Government would support a third runway at Heathrow and bring forward a draft NPS. All in all, this is a disgraceful example of how the vital infrastructure needs of our country should not be handled. Political considerations were to the fore, as capacity at our most important airport was squeezed. The commission eventually unanimously recommended a new north-west runway at Heathrow combined with a significant package of measures to address environmental concerns. In making this decision, it gave weight to economic and employment benefits, as we heard: long-haul flights and connections; domestic connectivity; lower fares; surface access links; and support for freight. I support the strength of the position it has taken.
The consultation process at various stages has become a bit convoluted. In February 2017 the Government produced a draft airport National Policy Statement for a 16-week consultation. However, following their commitment to update their evidence base on airport capacity and their air quality plan, they then produced a revised draft airports National Policy Statement for yet further consultation. This sits along a range of other documents, including the Aviation Policy Framework and UK airspace policy. The Government have also announced the setting up of an Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise.
Can the Minister tell us where these further consultations leave the timetable for expansion at Heathrow and whether they expect any further adjustments to the NPS because of data changes? When might we expect the final airports National Policy Statement to be laid before Parliament, and will it be subject to a vote in both Houses? I think the answer already given to that is yes. Can the Minister summarise for us the key differences in those two consultation outcomes?
So far as the airports policy framework is concerned, it is important that we recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all and that the unique position of each airport is considered on its merits. Indeed, that is what the NPS does fairly. It is also important that the DfT understands the need to support the growth plans of other airports in the period before a new runway at Heathrow is delivered and that it recognises the contribution that these can make to capacity requirements —I speak particularly of London Luton Airport. I believe we can be reassured that Luton’s plans—which I will outline—are consistent with the development of Heathrow, but is this the view of the DfT and the Government?
London Luton Airport plays a vital role in the local and sub-regional economies, as well as contributing to the national aviation strategy. It is the fifth-busiest and one of the fastest-growing airports in the UK, and estimated to provide 22,000 jobs and £1.4 billion to local GDP by 2030. It plays a different role and serves different markets from Heathrow in the aviation sector. Its expansion can develop runway capacity and meet the specific needs of its catchment area—which of course includes London—for short-haul, point-to-point journeys. It supports the government aviation strategy in agreeing that more intensive use can be made of existing airport capacity, alongside the provision of a new runway at Heathrow. It looks to the Government to support its ambition.
At present, its passenger capacity planning permission is set at 18 million passengers per year from 2014, which was expected to be sufficient to meet demand through to 2026-27. There is a £160-million redevelopment programme to create this capacity. However, that capacity is expected to be fully utilised by 2020-21, so the focus is now on looking to maximise use of the existing runway and to maximise the benefit for the local and sub-regional economy, consistent always with managing the environmental impacts in a responsible and sustainable way. The assessment is a possible capacity of 36 to 38 MPPA, or 240,000 aircraft movements per year, with no new runway.
In their call for evidence on its aviation strategy the Government acknowledged the importance of surface access to airports and the need to link road, rail and air. A new £220-million fixed-rail link between Luton Airport Parkway—funded by Luton Borough Council—and the airport terminal will be a significant improvement on the current bus link. But transport links could be improved if the DfT were to stipulate that four fast trains per hour should call at Luton Airport Parkway as part of the base specification for the new east midlands rail franchise. Consultants have analysed that this would add minimal time to the semi-fast Nottingham services each hour, take some 70,000 car journeys off the road and save some 500 tonnes of CO2. It would create an integrated transport hub as conceived in the NPS and the aviation strategy. I am aware that this matter has been raised before, and perhaps the Minister can tell us whether any progress has been made.
We readily recognise the importance of the aviation sector in our economy, which directly supports some 230,000 jobs and contributes £20 billion per year. We further recognise that the opportunity to deliver the potential for the sector is being affected by capacity constraints at some airports, and Heathrow is the premier example. The Minister will be aware of the controversy engendered by the Government’s upping of the expected contribution of an expanded Heathrow to £74 billion over the 60-year period, and that the NPS shows this below the contribution which could come from Gatwick expansion over the longer term. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that point.
Decisions to expand airports properly involve delicate assessments of the environmental and community impacts of new build, especially runways. That is why my party has rightly laid out the four tests to be met for Heathrow, covering: how the increased capacity will be met; the need to reduce CO2 emissions from aircraft to help us meet our legal climate change obligations; the effective management of noise and environmental impacts; and the need for the benefits of expansion to be shared.
As part of the appraisal of sustainability for the north-west runway scheme, it is noted that there are a range of mitigating or supporting measures, which the Minister mentioned, to enhance the positives and mitigate the negative impacts of a proposal. There is reference to the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, but there is little detail other than that the promoter has put forward a number of commitments, which the Government expect to be honoured. This is a bit thin. Perhaps the Minister can say more in his reply. He dealt with the issue of a package to address the problems of noise.
There is a need to make progress at Heathrow as it heads for full capacity. There is also the need to press ahead with expansion at Luton as it approaches the current 18 mppa planning constraint.
My Lords, the noble Lord has been a great champion of Luton Airport—and good luck to him. He has admitted that Luton is pretty well full up itself now, so there is a bit of a problem there. I agreed with him when he said that the whole of airport policy was a perfect example of how not to run a government policy. The only qualification I would make is that all three parties have had their hands in this policy, so there is no party-political benefit involved; it is just that the way in which it has been handled in general is a great shame.
The report before us is in many ways rather good. It contains the best euphemism that I have so far seen to describe the present state of affairs: it says that the UK faces a “capacity challenge”. But there is one snag with the report: it is 20 years too late. It should have been done 20 years ago, when the first signs of pressure on London’s airports were already beginning to emerge. We already faced a doubling of passenger throughput every 10 years.
If we go back 30 years—which happens to be the point at which I was Minister for Aviation—we must recognise that Heathrow and the other London airports were the envy of the world. This was where all the airlines wanted to have slots. I remember that we restored grandfather rights to Michael Bishop, as he then was—he is now the noble Lord, Lord Glendonbrook—with British Midland, and how pleased he was. His whole company was pretty well set up on the basis of those grandfather rights at Heathrow; they were like gold dust.
The question arises: why have we come to where we are? In the halcyon days of London’s airport system a lot was done to support it. I seem to remember that I cut the first sod—I think that was what it was called—at Stansted Airport, Heathrow got permission to build another two terminals and Gatwick got one. We doubled the ATMS limits, we had an open skies policy, which brought great benefit to the airports, and we privatised them, which gave them access to capital. We did everything at that time to back them up.
Since then, despite the pleas of several noble Lords—such as the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, and the noble Lord, Lord Soley, who told me last night he had a very important engagement; he desperately wanted to be here today but he has not been able to make it—for the airports, including Luton, nothing much has happened. We have had commissions and inquiries, we have had government statements, and we have even had jokes. One of those was about Ministers who kept on saying “shortly”, because they thought that was the Cornish for “now or never”. In fact the correct Cornish word should have been “dreckly”; it is a great joke in Cornwall that they used the wrong word.
We have had all that, but we have not had any action, and Heathrow, for example, has moved down from being by far the world’s number one international airport to the second league. If we wanted to give a runway batting order, we would say Heathrow 2, Beijing 3 and Schiphol 6. Because Schiphol now has six runways, it is not terribly surprising that Heathrow is fading in the airport league, to the great detriment of this country.
May I take up your Lordships’ time by giving you one anecdote that sums the whole thing up for me? When I did not know that I was coming to this House, my wife and I decided to rent out our house in Westminster, which we had had when I was a Member of the House of Commons. The tenant was a Chinese gentleman whose title was chief executive of China Oil (Africa) Ltd. I got quite friendly with this man, and one day I asked him, “Why do you run your Rhodes-type operation—your empire, which you have taken over from us—from my humble house in the middle of London?” He said, “There’s one reason for that. It’s because I can get more quickly between Kenya and Zambia and the other various parts of my ‘empire’, as you call it”—he did not accept that term, and called me an imperialist—“by coming back to Heathrow and flying back from there, flying backwards and forwards between my various responsibilities. That is, until we do something in Beijing. Then I shall move out straightaway. And by the way, I may be using your humble house, but I’ve got very big offices round the corner; we have a big operation here. I shall move out the moment I discover that Beijing has better opportunities than Heathrow”.
Sure enough, two or three years ago he started to pile up Chinese goods. When the Chinese are going home they buy up Chinese goods to take home; apparently that is a clever thing to do. He piled up all those white goods in my house; then he was on his way, and that was that. That was a salutary experience for me, and a clear example of the effect of the rundown of Heathrow compared with other airports around the world, which generates business elsewhere and not with us.
The question is: what do we do about it? I think we have effectively run out of time now to do anything simple. Schiphol is such an attraction for many new routes and new businesses that it is quite difficult for us. We have gone past the point at which we can compete properly with Schiphol. The only thing to do is to be quite radical. This is not just a question of an extra runway here or there, for Heathrow or wherever. We now have to think of London as a total system, which will mean a tremendous regurgitating of the space control systems.
We need an airport with two runways to the north of London; that would have to be Stansted. We need one to the south, which would have to be Gatwick. By the way, Luton would have to be included in this too. We need one to the west, which would be Heathrow, and then perhaps, just to please Mr Johnson, we would have one runway down the Thames, which would serve the eastern side. We have to think radically, because we are now thinking about 2030. We cannot possibly be thinking about a date much closer than that: it is just not going to happen.
The Minister today gave the least cheerful government response to this issue that I have heard in recent times. She was, probably accurately, reflecting the fact that it will take ages to get through all the planning process, especially as the Government have not even decided to do anything properly yet. We have to think realistically and to have an adequate time horizon, which will be getting towards 2030, and then have a really radical scheme to meet the needs of the 2030s.
My Lords, I listened with horror as the noble Baroness the Minister laid out the Government’s rather quaint and old-fashioned plan for Heathrow expansion, with its overoptimistic, fantastical mitigation factors, and felt that the Government have not learned any lessons from all the court cases they have been taken through on issues such as climate change. The fact is that the so-called benefits of Heathrow expansion cannot possibly measure up to the disbenefits for the bulk of society—not just for the people around the airport but for the bulk of us, who will end up paying for a lot of the measures that Heathrow would like to see implemented.
For starters, Heathrow expansion will contribute to air pollution. It will negate all the measures that the current Mayor of London is putting in place in and around London. It will be impossible to keep within his plans if the expansion goes ahead. Heathrow is already a pollution hotspot that breaches legal limits. The plans include schemes that have yet to be identified and laid out clearly, and they make all sorts of optimistic claims about public transport use. I am not sure whether the Minister laid this out but I would like to hear by how much Heathrow Airport is planning to subsidise public transport. Quite honestly, you cannot expect Transport for London and London taxpayers, as well as taypayers all over the UK, to pay for this extension of public transport.
What is definitely planned is expanded car parking, with at least 40,000 to 60,000 extra vehicles a day on the roads. Air pollution from Heathrow with this expanded road capacity will shorten people’s lives—there is absolutely no way round it.
Noise from Heathrow currently impacts on 1.5 million people—a figure based on World Health Organization standard levels. It does not just impact on those around the airport. It is marvellous that a lot of insulation will be installed in houses around the airport, but, quite honestly, everybody in London is impacted at some point by the noise levels from flights overhead. We were told that £40 million will be available to insulate some local schools, but it is an absolutely paltry sum which will be nowhere near enough. Added to that is the fact that children obviously have to go outside to play, and they will be playing in dirtier air and noisier playgrounds. I do not see how Heathrow Airport can justify any expansion.
A fully operational, three-runway airport, open from 5.30 am, could mean that night flights jump by a third. The safeguards that should be in the NPS are simply not there, and the final decision about flight paths will not be taken until after the NPS has been signed off. Therefore, how can the Government be sure that any of those mitigating factors will be valid? Currently, 102,000 people live around Heathrow and are exposed to very high levels of noise. They are up to 20% more likely to suffer a stroke or have heart disease. Again, the noise reduction from insulation might be very effective when they are in their houses, but what about when they want to go to the shops or travel locally? Insulation will not help them then. I guess that headphones might help if Heathrow Airport would like to supply a pair to every single resident.
The NPS forecast is that there will be five domestic routes, down from the current eight, which means that regional airport capacity will shrink. That is an optimistic forecast that ignores what will happen if a future Government enforce a cap on climate change gases and aviation is hit by increased charges. If unmanaged, Heathrow expansion will increase climate change gases by a third. How can the Government feel that that is justified?
Will the UK economy benefit from Heathrow expansion? In fact, it probably will not, but the owners of Heathrow will. Over half the new passengers will never leave the Heathrow shopping mall, as they will be on international connecting flights. The benefit might go to a few shops but the general population will not benefit from more jobs and more sales.
The NPS also includes tunnelling the M25 and diverting some major roads. I would like to know just how much Heathrow Airport is putting into that expense. I would like some clear figures, because it has been very difficult to get them. The upgrading of trains on South Western Railway and Southern rail are mere aspirations, yet there are meant to be an extra 200,000 trips per day by public transport, a lot of them relying on the Metropolitan line and the Elizabeth line, which are already being expanded to cope with other over- crowding problems.
I would like to quote from a BBC article by Roger Harrabin which has been published today. It concerns a report produced by four Commons Select Committees —the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, the Health Committee, the Transport Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee—which have been rather critical of some of the Government’s actions. They want a new clean air Act and a clean air fund financed by the motor industry. These will impact on Heathrow expansion because, even before that happens, Heathrow will again be in breach of all sorts of legal limits. I would love to read out the whole article because it is fascinating. Roger Harrabin says:
“The report—the first time that four committees are thought to have collaborated—urges the Treasury to take greater account of the costs of air pollution when setting tax and spend policy”.
But of course, allowing Heathrow expansion to go ahead is something that the Government will also have to take into account, given that air pollution will almost certainly increase. It already has a huge impact on the NHS, which is having to deal with people’s heart and breathing problems, and it will have an impact in the future because of the thousands of children whose lungs have already been stunted by air pollution and who will need care from the NHS far into the future.
The Government’s long-term target of abolishing cars driven only by petrol and diesel by 2040 is also rather feeble. The article points out that India has made the same pledge but for 2030. There is also the fact that replacing cars with more cars is not necessarily the answer. Electric cars can also be polluting if their source of electricity is not renewable.
Finally, the article states that,
“recent reports have drawn a possible link between attention deficit disorder, dementia and air pollution”.
Therefore, again, not only is air pollution having an impact now but it will do so far into the future.
I end by pointing out that there is no guarantee that air pollution will not get worse. In fact, we can probably guarantee that it will. There is no guarantee that regional airports and jobs will not go into decline as Heathrow favours international routes—perhaps the Minister could comment on that in his reply. There is no guarantee that taxpayers will not be landed with a multibillion pound bill for new transport infrastructure to support Heathrow Airport. There is no guarantee that several hundred thousand residents in the south-east—not just around the airport—will not find that their sleep is even more disturbed than it is now. And there is no guarantee that climate change will not get worse as a result of Heathrow expansion. Quite honestly, this national policy statement on Heathrow is a joke. It displays an old-fashioned way of thinking about the problems that we face, and it really is time that the Government started to think in a very much greener way.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a former pilot who has taken a detailed interest in aviation matters, in the UK in particular.
Fifty-one years ago, my noble friend Lord Vinson and I produced a pamphlet entitled Helping the Exporter. I looked at it again last night and it re-emphasised the need, even then, for Heathrow Airport to expand, with, in particular, the building of a special exhibition centre adjacent to it to help our exporters. That was a long time ago and a lot has happened since. The people who really suffer from a lack of expansion are the whole of our nation which is, is by and large, a manufacturing and trading nation. I represented the largest industrial town in Europe—Northampton. The manufacturers there need to export, and we need them to export to provide livelihoods for the people of our nation. However, they are desperately constrained in that regard.
I welcome what has been done at Luton Airport. Indeed, I live on the flightpath of that airport and have done so for close on 50 years. I have no objections to the expansion of Luton Airport. As I take a wider interest in this issue, I am consistently asked by my former constituents, “Why is it that we in this country seem totally incapable of ever making a decision on almost any major infrastructure project, but particularly on London airports?” My noble friend Lord Spicer tried hard to make a major contribution on aviation, but we have fallen behind Schiphol, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Dubai, Doha, Istanbul, and a couple of others. Why can we not get a grip on these things? We are losing out.
I thank my noble friend on the Front Bench for the fact that the report has arrived today. It has taken 18 months to produce but it is here. On behalf of my former constituents and all those who have an interest in exporting, I say to my noble friend and his colleague, who understandably is not present, “Please get on with this”. Of course, we understand that there has to be consultation and noise is one of the key determinants of the problem. However, nobody ever mentions that by the time the third runway is built, the average commercial aircraft that will fly in and out using the third runway will be 50% less noisy on take-off and 20% less noisy on landing.
The other afternoon I went to Twickenham to see England, for once, beat the Welsh. Aircraft came over and you could hardly hear them, so if that noise is reduced by 20% for landings you will hardly hear them. Of course, those who live directly underneath the flightpath will be affected. That is why it is vital to pay compensation to the close on 800 homes that will be affected. At last, the pleas a number of us have made that when anybody’s home is compulsorily purchased to benefit the rest of society, they should get not the market price for their property but the market price plus 25%, have been heeded. That is the way the French have done it for decades, and it works. Of course, those people should be helped and, of course, help should be given in the other areas referred to in the report.
This has gone on for far too long. I recognise the skills of certain local MPs, who have built up a plethora of reasons why this should not happen and that should not happen. One of them resigned and did not succeed very well after that. Certainly, he was not successful in becoming the London mayor. Others are vociferous too. My noble friend said that there had been 80,000 responses to the consultation, and that the relevant staff are still looking through some of these responses. Of course, I have no objection to consultations but I ask the Government to please remember that the people of this country took a decision on Brexit. That means that we have to export, which requires us to have the ability to export. Given the financial and manufacturing dimensions of that decision, it is vital that our means of exporting abroad are lined up and ready to go.
I wish to cite four of the conclusions reached by Her Majesty’s Government in this very good, if rather long, report. There are four short but absolutely key conclusions. The report states:
“Expansion via the Heathrow Northwest Runway scheme would provide the biggest boost to connectivity, particularly in terms of long haul flights”.
“Expansion via the Heathrow Northwest Runway … would provide benefits to passengers and to the wider economy sooner”,
than any other scheme, and that:
“Heathrow Airport is better connected to the rest of the UK by road and rail. Heathrow … already has good road links via the M25, M4, M40 and M3, and rail links via the London Underground … and Heathrow Express”,
and, in future, Crossrail and HS2. The report also concludes:
“The Heathrow Northwest Runway scheme delivers the greatest support for freight”,
in other words, manufactured goods.
Therefore, my plea to my noble friend on the Front Bench is that within 12 months both he and my noble friend who is unable to be with us today come back to this House and tell us that they have consulted fully, have come to a decision and are putting a proposal before both Houses. That would bring joy to all our manufacturers up and down the country, wherever they may be located.
My Lords, I am grateful to the House for allowing me to make a short contribution in the gap. I could express a lot of views on airports but today I shall concentrate on the NPS and airport costs. I support everything that my noble friend Lady Jones has said. I too believe that the NPS is out of date because it comes with baggage which dates from when just one company owned all the major airports around London. We still have this anomaly whereby one company seeks to control and regulate Heathrow’s development but none of the others. All five of these airports are now in separate ownership. One could question why they need this type of regulation at all in terms of the detail that the NPS goes into. My understanding has always been that the Government’s policy is that the five airports should compete with one another. Perhaps the Minister will comment on whether there should be a bigger review of the NPS soon to ensure that it sticks to airport policy and does not get into the minutiae of what happens at Heathrow.
My problem, which I want to share with the House, is that, in terms of costs, Heathrow is being regulated as a monopoly in a very similar way to how Network Rail is regulated. The regulator’s role is to make sure that a company stays within its costs and that these are passed on to customers in an equitable way. That is fine but it does not address whether the costs are necessary to produce the outcome that the promoter, or Network Rail, or Heathrow Airport wants. Mr Walsh obviously has a vested interest in the actions of the CAA. He says that the fault lies with the CAA, which,
“rewards the inefficient use of capital : the more it spends on capital projects, the cost of which can be passed on to airlines, the more it makes for its shareholders”.
My solution is to bring competition to Heathrow. Perhaps the Minister would like to consult the CAA and consider whether the five or six terminals that may be built at Heathrow should not be sold off into separate competing operations, and leave the BAA in charge of infrastructure, which should involve not only the runways, the services and the air traffic control, but the access, which many noble Lords have spoken about. The question then becomes: who pays for the access? Can the Minister say who is going to pay for all these lovely new rail accesses that are planned for Heathrow? It now has the worst proportion of passengers coming by rail of all the airports around London, I think, and it would be wonderful if the new accesses happened. But who is going to pay for them? On the same basis, can we have Heathrow Express removed from that structure so that customers do not have to pay £27 for a single journey, as I think it says in the briefing? I am sure that contributes some way to the number of people driving to Heathrow.
There is a long way to go on this, but I would be very interested to hear the Minister’s response.
My Lords, obviously the draft airports NPS will be the basis for the Government’s decision on the development consent application for a north-west runway at Heathrow Airport. I confess that I live under the flight path, so I suffer daily—I was woken this morning at 5.30, which has been very frustrating after the late hours that we have been here. I have long opposed expansion at Heathrow, well before ever becoming engaged in politics, on national as well as local issues.
It is often taken as given that there is a strong economic case for expansion at Heathrow, but that is exceedingly questionable. I am sure the Minister will be aware that the Davies commission agreed that it was clearly stated that the case for a third runway at Heathrow depended on a hub model of aviation prevailing over point-to-point. However, the shift in the industry is clearly towards point-to-point because, frankly, passengers hate changing planes. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Spicer, that his Chinese tenant is the exact example. People put up with this problematic hubbing, having to change planes and wait for hours in terminals for a second flight, until there is the opportunity to fly direct.
We are in an era where flying direct is becoming dominant. That is one reason for the rise of airports all across the various continents, and for a very fundamental change in the pattern of aviation that passengers themselves are demanding. What we have is a hub airport at Heathrow that is primarily and almost solely functioning on an outdated concept. The passenger forecast for the third runway is that there will be 41 million additional passengers a year, but that 22 million of them will simply be changing planes at Heathrow. I pick up the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones: those 22 million contribute absolutely nothing to our national economy. A large part of the investment and the cost that we are carrying is to support literally half the passengers, who bring no specific benefit.
The economic case is also based on an assumption of a direct correlation between GDP growth and an increase in passenger numbers, particularly at Heathrow. That is very simplistic. We got a glimpse into how simplistic it was during the work of the Davies commission when it released the technical documents. I give credit to Justine Greening MP, who, at that time, through a number of FOIs, was able to get more information on the cost-benefit analysis, and it was clear that there really was nothing. Many people think that somehow there had been work with businesses in London to work out what the future demand would be; there was none. They thought that there had been a look at historical correlations; there were none. It is simply meant to be a given that as GDP goes up, there is a corresponding increase in demand for flights out of Heathrow. I say this with a warning, because the rail industry has had to cope with the fact that what it assumed was an unbreakable link between GDP growth and passenger demand for rail has now been clearly broken. For example, in London, the Tube has seen its passenger numbers this year down by almost 4 million. So the economic case is extremely simplistic and very unreliable.
None of the analyses ever included the negative impact on businesses from noise, poor air quality and, above all, traffic congestion, so the work has been inadequate. But, interestingly, even in that inadequate work, the latest piece of work done by the Government shows that a second runway at Gatwick is a better generator of long-term economic benefit than a third runway at Heathrow—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton.
A number of key airlines, including BA—Willie Walsh’s name was quoted just now by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley—have turned against the project because of the charges which they know they will have to pay and then have to pass on in ticket prices. No-one I talk to believes the cost of £17 million, which is often thrown around as the right number for this project. That number completely fails to include any realistic costing of the plans to move and then reinstate the M25 or, alternatively, to tunnel it. Until we get some reasonable costings, it is going to be very difficult to assess this, but £17 million is way too low, and any contractor will tell you that. To break even—even on that understated price—Heathrow will need to require the new runway to operate at 38% capacity from day one. The only way to achieve that kind of increase in flights at Heathrow is to lure flights—especially high-value flights by US airlines—away from Gatwick, Stansted and Birmingham, and possibly even farther afield, which would seriously compromise the viability of those other airports. This issue has never been properly examined and it bodes very ill for regional development.
Heathrow will incur a huge debt load as a result of building the third runway, and the pressure to service that debt means that Heathrow will inevitably focus its new capacity on long-haul popular destinations, where planes can be filled very quickly. That means New York and other near-US destinations, not flights to new developing markets in Africa and Asia. Even the NPS forecasts that the airport will reduce its network of domestic flights to serve, at best, only five domestic airports, compared with the eight that it serves today.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, talked extensively and so well on climate change. To meet the carbon targets in the Climate Change Act 2008, the third runway would require off-setting cuts across our regional airports. Passenger numbers would need to be cut by 36% in the south-west, by 11% in Scotland, by 14% in the north-west and by 55% in the West Midlands. Without that, carbon emissions from aviation would constitute 25% of our carbon emissions allowance by 2050. Again, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, described that far more effectively than I can.
Of course, there are local issues. Getting passengers to and from the airport is a nightmare, both because of the impact on air quality and because of road and rail congestion. NOx emissions and particulates are severe around Heathrow even today, and legal limits are regularly breached. All the local access roads are heavily congested, so dispersal is not even possible. Even the London mayor’s plans for ultra-low emission zones does not solve the problem. In fact, this basically destroys the effectiveness of any of those plans, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, described. She talked about the health impacts of poor air quality, something we are becoming more and more aware of. So there are serious consequences to the air quality impact of a third runway.
The Government have promised that a third runway will lead to no more cars on the road—they do not say that about freight; we will have freight on the road but no more cars. Frankly, that is impossible. Every scheme to provide more rail access from London to Heathrow falls to pieces either because it requires tunnelling on a major scale at a huge cost or because it triggers the level-crossing problem. I will explain the level-crossing problem. In my former constituency of Richmond Park, the position of the River Thames, Richmond Park and the railway lines means that several thousand people can get in or out of the area only by using one of four roads that have level crossings. The rail lines are so busy that the level crossings are often down for 50 minutes out of the hour. A train service to Heathrow, which all agree—if passengers were willing to use it —would have to be a fast train running every 15 minutes with no more than one stop, would in effect close those level crossings completely, trapping the local population.
Transport for London has estimated that providing surface transport to support a third runway would cost £18 million, of which Heathrow has said it would pay £1 million, with the rest to fall on the taxpayer. That includes not a penny for resolving the level crossing problem. No engineer has found any solution to that, so we are talking about the impossible.
Last but not least, noise is a fundamental issue. I was astonished to hear praise for a six-and-a-half hour night flight ban. That ends at 5.30 am, and the traffic between 6 am and 7 am is what drives the community most insane. Also, the airlines constantly fly exceptions, created by some circumstance of weather or another, that always breach their current limits, and that will undoubtedly continue. It is an ongoing problem.
The noble Lord, Lord Naseby, talked about much quieter planes, but the problem is flights coming over in a constant stream so that there is never any relief from the level of noise, so even making planes quieter does not necessarily deal with that problem. There is an additional problem: Heathrow with a third runway will be running planes on two parallel runways. As the noble Lord knows, noise fans, so in the area between those two runways, the fan effect of two planes flying at the same time will be extraordinary. The operation of those two runways at the same time means that areas once affected only by take-off will now have take-off and landing.
I am not sure where the noble Baroness gets her information from. If one got the information for, let us say, two fighter jets taking off together, one would see that the increase in incremental noise is very small. Surely, since those are fair noisier than the aircraft that I was talking about, her facts are totally wrong.
I will ask the Richmond Society to forward to the noble Lord the detailed modelling that has been done to show the impact of double noise on a significant section of the population. He may find that rather interesting.
Opposition to Heathrow comes from the overwhelming majority of residents in south-west London living under the flight path, four local councils and MPs of all political colours that represent that area. My party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Greens have consistently opposed expansion. When any of us hear of the mitigations, we apply that against our own experience. I lived in the area when Heathrow applied for the fourth terminal and we were assured there would be nothing more. Then came the fifth terminal, and we were assured again that anyone was foolish to suggest there would be a third runway. Then came a third runway and we were told, of course, there would be no sixth terminal. Now we hear of a sixth terminal to go with the third runway. This pattern continues regularly. In the same way, the mitigations—noise is a good example —never live up to their billing. Sitting outside—most people have the right to sit in their garden—is not helped by noise insulation inside a house; that works only provided all the windows and doors are closed, with the consequence that quality of life is severely affected.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness. She quite rightly talked about more and more terminals. Does she have a view on the view expressed by the noble Lords, Lord Spicer and Lord Naseby, that we should be talking about probably four runways, if not five, to keep up with Dubai and Amsterdam?
I think the noble Lord, Lord Spicer, was perhaps more honest than most. A lot of the PR that comes from Heathrow and much of the aviation industry suggests that every new increment will always be the last and it never is, because there is always a rationale and always money to be made from continually trying to expand capacity, particularly when the underlying strategy is to strip flights out of other airports in the UK. That ownership is no longer held in common has added great fire to that underpinning strategy.
I hope that the Government will reconsider again the whole notion of a third runway at Heathrow; there are other and better options. I understand that it is in some ways a sop to business because business tends just to assume that a third runway would be good without looking into the detail. This seemed a way to pacify businesses infuriated by Brexit.
My Lords, there are many regional airports—I personally look at Birmingham as the most obvious way to expand and it is part of our regional strategy. There are many alternatives to the third runway at Heathrow that were not considered by the Davies commission. There are mechanisms. Rail will be taking a different part of the strain domestically in future, so we are part of a changing pattern.
I do not want to keep the House longer.
My Lords, it is with some trepidation that I rise to participate in this debate, partly because of the passions that have been expressed and partly because I have a bit of a ragged speech having had some trouble working out what this document does. I thank the noble Baroness the Minister for her explanation, but can the Minister who is responding further clarify the legal structure that we are debating a part of here? There must be some primary legislation somewhere that allows the Secretary of State to consent to the demolition of 783 houses; he cannot be doing it on his executive privilege. I assume that this document, along with the Planning Act 2008 and some other Act fit together in a way that gives him that power. It is important to understand how that power is exercised because I think that Minister said, albeit not in so many words, that in the final analysis it was at the Secretary of State’s discretion, because he receives a report and then makes a decision. I think I heard her say that we would get a second bite of this cherry in the autumn. By then, I would like to be fully up to speed—I have to say that chasing it up through Google has consumed many hours of my time to no great effect.
The Labour Party’s position on Heathrow needs to be stated without too much comment. My noble friend Lord McKenzie has already done it, but it has to come from the party spokesman from the Front Bench so I will read it out. The Labour Party supports the expansion of airport capacity in the south-east subject to our four tests being met. Is there robust and convincing evidence that the required increased aviation capacity will be delivered with Sir Howard Davies’ recommendation? Can the recommended expansion in capacity go hand-in-hand with efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from aviation and allow us to meet our legal climate change obligations? Have local noise and environmental impacts been adequately considered and will they be managed and minimised? Will the benefits of expansion be felt in every corner of the country, not just the South East of England, and will regional airports be supported too? It is against those tests that we will comment in greater depth when we get our second bite. I must apologise to my noble friend Lord McKenzie that, as far as I know, the Labour Party does not have four similar tests for the expansion of London Luton.
I should like to make two or three small points about the document. I start with paragraph 1.15:
“The policies in the Airports NPS will have effect in relation to the Government’s preferred scheme, having a runway length of at least 3,500m and enabling at least 260,000 additional air transport movements per annum”.
There is a certain nostalgia for me in this part of the document, because for eight years I flew as a co-pilot operating jet aeroplanes off the two runways at Heathrow. I looked up how long they were, and they were surprisingly long: 3,900 metres for one and 3,655 metres for the other. They always seemed a great deal too long, because I spent so much time taxiing down the parallel taxiways to get to the end.
Heathrow is now consulting on a scheme with the third runway being 3,200 metres long. That is all over the web. If it presents a scheme for 3,200 metres, does paragraph 1.15 mean that the document is invalid? It seems to say that the only scheme that the Government will consider is one for 3,500 metres. My personal experience is that 3,000 metres is more than enough for virtually all modern jet aeroplanes. Have the Government got themselves in a trap where their provisions and the newly preferred scheme by Heathrow are incompatible?
My next detailed point, which has been referred to by several noble Lords, especially my noble friend Lord Berkeley and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, concerns paragraph 5.18:
“Where a surface transport scheme is not solely required to deliver airport capacity and has a wider range of beneficiaries, the Government, along with relevant stakeholders, will consider the need for a public funding contribution alongside an appropriate contribution from the airport on a case by case basis”.
That would seem to me to be a promise of public money. Because the Government have examined the Davies report and said that they broadly support it, they must at some point have evaluated how much public money that paragraph commits them to spending. It is a surprisingly light amount of text for what I should have thought could be a substantial amount of money. I never got that sort of money out of the Government with so little text.
The general tone of the document seems to be, “Obey all these different laws about all these different things but, if it is all too difficult, ask the Secretary of State for discretion”. In a lot of places, it is not very tight. One paragraph that is pretty tight—I should like to know if the Minister agrees—is paragraph 5.41:
“The Secretary of State will consider air quality impacts over the wider area likely to be affected, as well as in the vicinity of the scheme. In order to grant development consent, the Secretary of State will need to be satisfied that, with mitigation, the scheme would be compliant with legal obligations”.
That would seem to me to say that, if it does not meet the air quality requirements, the scheme is dead. Can the Minister confirm that? He will know that, in many parts of the capital, we do not meet air quality requirements, and many people are sceptical that this can be achieved at Heathrow. The key question is: is this an area where the Secretary of State would not have discretion? Would it in fact kill the scheme dead?
My final point is on the important area of community engagement. It is referred to in the document on page 84. I have nothing against page numbers, but it feels as though it is a bit of an afterthought. It states:
“The applicant must engage constructively with the community engagement board throughout the planning process, with its membership (including an independent chair), and with any programme(s) of work the community engagement board agrees to take forward”.
This seems very narrow and very soft. Can the Minister say anything to firm up this commitment and make it broader, because the key stakeholders who must be drawn into the scheme as much as is reasonably practical are the local communities, and particular emphasis should be placed on community engagement?
My Lords, it falls to me as co-pilot to land this debate, which had a smooth take-off with my noble friend Lady Chisholm at the controls. I hope to land on schedule. During the flight, we had in the cockpit two qualified pilots, two former Transport Ministers and a number of aviation experts. All said that they had been on this flight before several times and were used to being stacked for long periods. The journey was smooth, but with some turbulence as we flew over Richmond and Moulsecoomb, and there was a request to divert to Luton.
This has been an excellent debate, and I welcome the informed scrutiny that this House has, as usual, provided. I will try to answer the many questions raised; if I cannot, I will write. As I said, the speakers have been well qualified. For my part, I was Secretary of State for Transport for two years, with responsibility for airport policy, but my recollection is that I was constrained from articulating it for fear of prejudicing the inquiry into Terminal 5, which was under way at the time. At the time, I was Member of Parliament for Ealing Acton, so the future of Heathrow has always been an interest that has generated concern: concern about noise from some constituents but, I must say, counterbalanced by the employment generated for others, either those directly working at Heathrow or those working for businesses whose success depended on proximity to Heathrow. I suspect that there is that same tension in many other parts of west and south-west London.
There is a wide range of views on this subject. That is why we have undertaken one of the largest consultations ever and were keen to ensure that all the consultations were full and fair, giving everyone an opportunity to have their say. In response to the final point made by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, I hope that that engagement with the community will continue as we move to the next stage in the planning process.
I was asked about consultation by the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie. I should like to write to him about the timings, but we are carefully considering the responses to the consultations—both the one under way and the separate one undertaken by Heathrow. We do not expect any further contributions to the Government’s consultation, but that is dependent on our analysis of consultation responses. We anticipate a debate in both Houses ahead of the Summer Recess, and the Government are committed to a vote in the other place.
The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, asked me about the EU safety agencies, which is an important issue. We want to explore with the EU the terms on which the UK could remain part of the EU agencies that he mentions, such as the European Aviation Safety Agency.
The process of parliamentary review that we are participating in is a vast improvement on the years of public inquiry into the need for schemes that bogged down infrastructure before the Planning Act was introduced, and I shall say a word about that in a moment. My noble friends Lord Spicer and Lord Naseby made it clear at the outset that we have delayed far too long in resolving the calls for additional runway capacity in the south-east. The Government are anxious to bring this decades-long debate to a satisfactory conclusion. The revised aviation passenger demand forecasts show the need for additional capacity in the south-east is even greater than previously thought.
The opportunities and challenges that Brexit brings only strengthen the need for investment to improve links with the rest of the world. Across the economy our national infrastructure needs modernisation. That is why we are pressing ahead with the delivery of HS2, rail investment, broadband, road schemes, energy infrastructure and this proposal for a 3.5 kilometre additional runway. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, asked me whether anything less than that would invalidate the NPS, and the answer is, yes, it would.
The noble Lord also asked under what powers the Secretary of State could acquire the properties he referred to. The answer is that the Planning Act 2008 enables compulsory purchase, but the draft NPS rightly holds Heathrow to its public commitment to provide 125% of unblighted market value for the homes of those subject to compulsory purchase.
The Government are clear that they expect the number of domestic airports with connections to Heathrow to increase. Heathrow Airport Limited has set out a number of pledges to help strengthen existing routes and deliver new routes to the regions and nations of the UK. These include discounted charges for domestic passengers. Air routes in the first instance are a commercial decision for airlines and are not in the gift of an airport operator. The aviation strategy—I will say a word about that in a moment—will consider the level of connectivity our nations and regions require to support economic growth, whether the market is able to provide this and what the role is for Government support.
There was a lot of interest in surface access and who pays for what. Heathrow is already well connected, with links to the M4 and M25, access to the Tube via the Piccadilly Line, and rail services from Paddington. In addition, later in 2018 Crossrail services will start to the airport, replacing the existing two-train-per-hour Heathrow Connect service. From December 2019, six Crossrail trains per hour will run from the airport directly to central London. TfL plans to upgrade the Piccadilly Line with new trains, more capacity and a faster, more frequent service. From 2026, HS2 will connect to the airport via an interchange at Old Oak Common, providing an express route to the Midlands and the north. A western rail link is planned to allow passengers to travel directly to the airport from Reading and Slough. The scheme is currently being designed in detail before seeking its own planning powers. Building is underway to upgrade the M4 to a smart motorway between junctions 3 and 12 to provide additional capacity.
As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport has said, we can see great potential in a southern rail connection to the airport, which would enable journeys via Woking, Waterloo and Clapham Junction. That would be of great benefit to those coming up from the south-west. We have already had initial approaches from a number of would-be private sector promoters that are interested in developing this.
On the question of Transport for London, we do not agree that airport expansion would require £15 billion to £20 billion of new infrastructure improvements on top of the billions we are already investing in improved transport. TfL’s number includes a range of other projects in London, which may or may not be needed in the future to deal with general population growth unrelated to airport expansion. The revised draft airports NPS sets out targets for the public transport modal share of journeys made to and from the airport by both passengers and staff.
HAL has pledged to meet the costs of any surface access proposals that are essential to deliver airport expansion. This would include works on the M25, A4 and A3044, as well as a contribution to the cost of the rail schemes. The plans for the runway to cross the M25 would be subject to the proper planning process and would be designed to minimise disruption to other users during construction.
On the question of the Government’s contribution, which was raised by a number of noble Lords, the Government would only consider contributing to surface access costs where they were not needed purely for airport expansion and they benefited non-airport users, as may be the case for the proposed western and southern rail access schemes, for example. The CAA will decide how the costs of any capacity-related surface access schemes will be treated as part of the regulatory settlement, including which of these costs would be recoverable from airport users.
Moving on to some of the other issues, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, asked about car parking. Heathrow is currently consulting on its proposed plans. Any application for development consent must include details of how the applicant will increase the proportion of journeys made to the airport by public transport, walking and cycling to achieve a public transport modal share of at least 50% by 2030 and at least 55% by 2040.
The noble Baroness also raised an issue regarding the Environmental Audit Committee. By ending the sale of conventional new diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040, the UK is going further than almost every other European nation. Air pollution has improved significantly since 2010, but we recognise that there is more to do, which is why we have a £3.5 billion plan to reduce harmful emissions. We will carefully consider the Joint Committee’s report and respond in due course.
Environmental and health impacts were again mentioned by a number of noble Lords. The Government take account of the WHO guidelines in developing policy. It is important to note that they refer to noise from all sources, not just aviation. The draft airports NPS makes clear that the Government would expect noise mitigation measures to limit, and where possible reduce, the impact of aircraft noise compared to the 2013 baseline assessed by the Airports Commission. The details around the operation of any scheduled night flight ban, including the exact timings, would be determined at a later stage in consultation with local communities and relevant stakeholders, in line with the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s balanced approach to noise management. I will ensure that they take on board the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, on behalf of those who live in and around Richmond.
It is the Government’s view, based on expert analysis, that the Heathrow north-west runway scheme can be delivered in compliance with legal air quality obligations, with a suitable package of policy and mitigation measures. To answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and to be absolutely clear, expansion will be allowed to go ahead at Heathrow only if it can be delivered within air quality obligations.
I turn to the impact of noise for those living underneath the flight paths. Airspace modernisation will give the opportunity to make the most of quieter modern aircraft, referred to by my noble friend Lord Naseby, and will also provide more predictable periods of relief from noise, as well as reducing the need for stacking. The CAA has introduced a new and more rigorous process from 2 January this year. Looking ahead, the design of new flight paths is technical and can take some time. Again, I will ensure that the comments made in this debate are taken on board.
On the question of benefits and economics raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, the Heathrow north-west runway is expected to deliver the greatest benefits to the UK economy, because it will deliver the largest increase in connectivity, particularly long-haul flights. This gives UK firms the opportunity to access markets around the world. International transfer passengers make this connectivity increase possible by supplementing local demand to make more flights viable. More flights means more capacity to carry goods to markets around the world. Details around the operation of the night flights ban will, as I said a moment ago, be determined at a later stage in close consultation with local communities. Once a ban is in place, compliance with the rules will be mandatory and not discretionary.
On the question of costs raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, the revised draft airports NPS requires the promoter to demonstrate that the scheme is cost efficient and sustainable, and seeks to minimise costs to airlines, passengers and freight owners over its lifetime. The Government have set out a clear expectation for HAL to work with airlines and the CAA to drive down the costs for the benefit of passengers, with the aim of keeping landing charges as close as possible to current levels. Beyond landing charges, the increased competition between airlines operating at the airport is expected to result in lower ticket prices for passengers.
HAL has already identified options for expansion, which it says have the potential to reduce the overall cost of expansion by £2.5 billion. On deliverability—or whether or not this can be done—Heathrow Airport is privately owned and any expansion will be privately financed and must be delivered without hitting passengers in the pocket. The Airports Commission concluded that the north-west runway scheme at Heathrow was commercially viable and financeable without government support, including where an additional 10% capital expenditure was required. The Government have considered this analysis and are content that the scheme is viable.
On the other points made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, we are aware of the alternative proposals for expansion at Heathrow which he mentioned. We would encourage any third parties to engage with the economic regulator, the CAA and HAL with a view to reaching a possible commercial agreement. He also touched on the broader issue of the aviation strategy, looking beyond Heathrow. Our new aviation strategy will indeed look beyond the current debate on a new runway at Heathrow. It will set out an ambitious long-term vision for the sector which will support economic growth across the whole of the UK. It will consider how we can make best use of existing capacity at all airports around the country, including Luton, looking at any future need for new capacity away from Heathrow while tackling environmental impacts.
Going through the hundreds of pages of briefing that I was generously given, I was struck by one reply from Caroline Low, who gave evidence to the Transport Select Committee on 4 December last year. It concisely explains the reasons for the Government’s preference: “In terms of maintaining a global hub, regional connectivity, the number of flights and destinations, and passenger benefits, where Heathrow sits in the country it comes out every time on top”.
The Government are still considering the responses they have received and parliamentary scrutiny is ongoing. We will take on board all the comments made during this debate, and I will write to any noble Lord whose queries I have not answered.
Because it summarised in one sentence the case for Heathrow. Caroline Low works for the Department for Transport and is obviously a very able civil servant who can summarise an argument concisely, which is exactly what a Minister looks for.
Subject to any revisions to the Government’s proposals in the light of this process, we plan to bring forward a final airports NPS by the end of June. I hope on the basis of what my noble friend and I have said today, your Lordships will feel able to support the airports National Policy Statement.