With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about airport policy.
Last year, the independent Airports Commission delivered its final report under the chairmanship of Sir Howard Davies. I would like to pay tribute to the quality and professionalism of the commission’s work and express my thanks to all its members. The commission concluded that we need more capacity in the south-east and put forward three viable options for expansion. It unanimously agreed that the proposed north-west runway at Heathrow presented the strongest case. In December, my predecessor came to the House to announce that the Government accepted the commission’s assessment of the need for additional capacity, but made clear that further work was required before a decision could be made on the location of a new runway. That work is now complete.
This is a momentous step for our country. The decisions taken earlier today, which I shall outline in a moment, are long overdue, but they will serve our country for generations to come. I know that some Members have strong convictions on this issue and that everyone in this House will understand the significance of this announcement for jobs; an economy that works for everyone; passengers; the global importance of our country; the environment; and people affected by expansion. It also sends a very clear message that this country is open for business.
It is not an easy issue or a simple process. I make no apologies for the fact that we have taken time to get it right, but today also shows that this is a Government who are unafraid to take difficult decisions and get on with the job. Before I outline the decision that the Government have reached, I want to explain how today’s announcement fits within the planning process and the opportunities that Members will have to contribute.
In the new year, we will bring forward a draft national policy statement, which will include the details of the proposed scheme. As required under legislation, it will be subject to a full and extensive public consultation, followed by a period of parliamentary scrutiny. Only once Members have voted on the final national policy statement and it has been designated will the airport be able to make a detailed planning application.
Strong connections with global partners and the ability to trade with new and growing markets are vital to securing Britain’s place in the world. The UK currently has the third largest aviation network in the world—second only to the United States and China—contributing more than £22 billion to UK GDP. We have the second largest aerospace manufacturing sector, which generates annual exports of £26 billion. Our aviation industry supports almost 1 million jobs and invests £1.7 billion every year in research and development. Last year, UK airports handled more than 250 million passengers—up 5% on 2014—and 2.3 million tonnes of freight.
Heathrow is the busiest two-runway airport in the world, and Gatwick the busiest single-runway airport. Indeed, the London system will be almost entirely full by 2030, with the exception of a small amount of capacity at Luton, and that will be taken up soon afterwards. If we do nothing, the cost to our nation will be significant, amounting to more than £20 billion over 60 years through delays, fewer flights and passengers having to fly from airports elsewhere. In addition, the wider impacts on our economy will be in the region of £30 billion to £45 billion. That is why the decision we have reached today is so important to the future of our country, not just to tackle the immediate shortage of airport capacity, but to set our country on a course to even greater prosperity for future generations.
I have spent a considerable amount of time this summer visiting the different schemes, talking to their promoters, and assessing their strengths and weaknesses. I have been genuinely impressed by the quality of choice available to us and the detailed work that has been put into the three plans. Any one of them would bring benefits to our country. At the end of its work, however, the Airports Commission made a clear and unanimous recommendation to the Government—that we should accept the proposal to build a new north-west runway at Heathrow, subject to a package of measures to make expansion more acceptable to the airport’s local community. Since the publication of that recommendation, my Department has studied in detail not only the report, but new and supplementary information that has emerged about the different options since.
The commission’s report and the subsequent information formed the basis of the discussion that took place this morning at the Cabinet Sub-Committee. As a result of that discussion, the Government have decided to accept the recommendation. We believe that the expansion of Heathrow airport and the north-west runway scheme, in combination with a significant package of supporting measures on the scale recommended by the Airports Commission, offers the greatest benefit to passengers and business, and will help us to deliver the broadest possible benefit to the whole United Kingdom. That approach will deliver the greatest economic and strategic benefits for our economy. It will strengthen connectivity for passengers right across the United Kingdom. It offers a major boost to freight operators. It can be delivered within carbon and air quality limits and, crucially, it comes with world-leading measures to limit the impacts on those living nearby.
In addition to the benefits identified by the commission, the scheme will deliver the connectivity and hub capacity that the UK needs to compete with fast-growing European and middle eastern hubs. The airport’s location means it is more accessible to business and the rest of the United Kingdom by both road and rail. Access to Heathrow is more resilient, and it is better placed as the national freight hub. Ultimately, the proposal will bring the largest benefit to passengers and the wider economy: up to £61 billion over 60 years. But we are not alone in this view. UK airlines and businesses are also clear that Heathrow is the right place to expand.
Before I continue, I would like to pay genuine tribute to the promoters of the other two schemes considered by the Sub-Committee. As I have said, both presented well-developed and compelling cases for new capacity. In particular, I would like to place on record the fact that Gatwick, despite not being selected today, remains a key part of our national transport picture and will continue to do so in the future.
I want to be clear that expansion will not be at any cost to local people, to passengers or to industry. We have to make three assurances. The first is about making Heathrow a better neighbour. We must tackle air quality and noise, and meet our obligations on carbon both during and after construction. Air quality is a significant national health issue that the Government take immensely seriously. That was why we undertook further work, which confirms the commission’s original conclusion that a new runway at Heathrow is deliverable within air quality limits. We remain committed to ensuring that that remains the case. The airport has already committed to industry-leading measures to mitigate air quality impacts. Furthermore, the Government will grant development consent only if we remain satisfied that a new runway will not impact on the UK’s compliance with its air quality obligations.
The broader issue of air quality is something that the Government take very seriously, and the updated evidence base shows clearly that the biggest challenge we face is not the expansion of an airport, but the levels of emissions in urban areas more generally. That is the very reason for our national air quality plan. As part of our ongoing work on air quality, my Department has embarked on a joint project with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Treasury to identify further ways in which we can tackle the issue. By the time a new runway opens in the next decade, we intend to have made substantial progress on tackling such air quality challenges across our nation as a whole.
On the issue of noise, no airport can be silent, but technology is making aircraft quieter. The new generation of aircraft coming into service have a noise footprint that is typically 50% smaller on departure, and at least 30% smaller on arrival, than that of the aircraft they are replacing. Although planes are getting quieter, however, they still have an impact, which is why we will expect a six-and-a-half hour ban on scheduled flights each night to be a requirement for development consent. That would also see the airport held to clear and legally enforceable noise performance targets. Even with expansion, therefore, fewer people will be affected by aircraft noise than is the case today. We also recognise the importance of providing local residents with a clear, predictable timetable of respite from aircraft noise. That is something local communities value, and we will ensure that it continues once a new runway is built.
I recognise that the decision will have a big impact on people who live close to Heathrow, which is why we have insisted on a world-class package of supporting measures. Communities affected by the decision will be supported by up to £2.6 billion towards compensation, noise insulation for homes and schools, improvements to public facilities and other measures. For those whose homes need to be bought to make way for the new runway, Heathrow plans to pay 25% above the full market value of those homes and to cover all costs, including stamp duty, moving and legal fees. That offer is significantly above the statutory requirement. In addition, I can announce the creation of a community compensation fund. Local authorities will benefit from our policy of local retention of business rates.
The second assurance is on costs for airlines and passengers. A new runway will bring in new capacity to meet demand and allow for greater levels of competition, which will lower fares relative to no expansion, even after the costs of construction are taken into account. This is an investment in our country’s future. It will deliver major economic and strategic benefits to the UK, but they must be delivered without hitting passengers in the pocket. The Airports Commission has made it clear that that is achievable, as has the Civil Aviation Authority. It is important to send the message that this is not expansion at any cost, but the right scheme at the right price. I expect the industry to work together to drive down costs for the benefit of passengers. As the regulator, the CAA will have a vital part to play in achieving that and ensuring that new capacity fosters competition. Its aim should be to deliver a plan for expansion that keeps landing charges close to current levels, and I have full confidence in its ability to do so.
The third assurance is about how the expanded airport will benefit the whole of the UK, not just by creating jobs across the airport’s UK-wide supply chain, but by giving even more of the UK access to important international markets by strengthening existing domestic links and developing new connections to regions that are not currently served. The airport expects to add six more domestic routes across the UK by 2030, bringing the total to 14. That will strengthen existing links to nations and regions such as Northern Ireland, Scotland and the north of England, and allow the development of new connections to regions such as the south-west.
I am determined that Heathrow will meet those pledges and that the Government will hold the airport to account on them. Furthermore, the Government will take all necessary steps, including, where appropriate, ring-fencing a suitable proportion of new slots for domestic routes through public service obligations to enhance connectivity within the United Kingdom. It is important to stress that this is a decision in the national interest; it is not just about the south-east of England.
A new runway will strengthen the aviation sector across the whole nation, but we need to do even more. Our airspace is out of date. Modernising it will boost the sector and help to further reduce noise and carbon emissions. We will soon introduce proposals to support improvements to the airspace and to manage noise, which will include a consideration of the way in which affected communities can be engaged and whether there is a role for a new independent aviation noise body such as the commission recommended.
Let me turn to what happens next. There have been recent suggestions in the media that the process has been slowed down or somehow delayed. In fact, the opposite is true. Members will remember the saga of the planning process behind terminal 5, which took years to resolve. Following that, the national policy statement process, which was created by the previous Labour Government in the Planning Act 2008 and improved through the Localism Act 2011, was designed to speed up major projects, but in an open and fair manner. By setting out now why we believe that there is a need for new runway capacity, along with the supporting evidence, we will fulfil our legal obligations to consult the public and allow Members to vote on the proposal before it becomes national policy. That is what the law requires. That means that Heathrow will be able to submit a planning application safe in the knowledge that the high-level arguments have been settled and will not be reopened.
Today, the Government have reached a view on their preferred scheme, and the national policy statement that we will publish in the new year will set out in more detail why we believe it is the right one for the UK. It will also set out in more detail the conditions we wish to place on the development, including the supporting measures I outlined. We want to make sure that we have considered all the evidence and heard the voices of all those who might be affected and, of course, of those who will benefit. The consultation will start in the new year, and I can announce today that I have appointed Sir Jeremy Sullivan, the former Senior President of Tribunals, to oversee the consultation process. This is an independent role, and Sir Jeremy will be responsible for holding the Government to account and for ensuring that best practice is upheld.
The issue of runway capacity in the south-east has challenged successive Administrations for decades. There are strong feelings both for and against a third runway at Heathrow. This is not the scheme that was previously promoted in 2009. It does much more to mitigate environmental impacts, to compensate communities and to distribute benefits across the nation. This is an issue of vital national interest that touches every part of our United Kingdom. It is vital to the economic prosperity and global status of our nation, and I commend this statement to the House.
Although I thank the Secretary of State for giving me advance sight of his statement, it cannot pass without comment that this decision has been widely leaked throughout the media during the past number of hours in advance of it being sent to me and of being announced to the House. It is simply unacceptable for such a decision to be announced in this manner; it is totally disrespectful to Members and the House. Be that as it may, aviation is crucial to our nation’s economy and our future as an outward-looking trading nation. That will be even more the case in the light of the vote to leave the European Union, so we welcome the fact that a decision on the preferred location has now been made. I hope we can put the years of procrastination and delay behind us.
Despite the Secretary of State’s proclamation that the work is now complete, today’s announcement is not the end of the process, but merely the start of it. It beggars belief that it has taken Ministers more than a year since the publication of the Davies report even to make a start. Just what have they been doing for all these months, apart from worrying about splits in the Cabinet, or about the Foreign Secretary throwing himself in front of the bulldozers and former mayoral candidates triggering by-elections? There is no justification for dithering on this scale. The Secretary of State has failed to provide the shorter timescale for getting to the national policy statement that was set out by the Transport Committee.
We cannot bring back the time that Ministers have already wasted, so over the coming months it will be vital that there is proper engagement, and full and fair consultation with all the interested parties, so that we secure an outcome that stands the test of time. It is essential that there is proper forensic examination and scrutiny. Labour has consistently said that support for any such decision will be conditional: first, on sufficient capacity being delivered; secondly, on meeting the UK’s legal climate change obligations; thirdly, on local noise and environmental impacts being managed and minimised; and, fourthly, on the benefits not being confined to London and the south-east.
Labour fully recognises the need for runway expansion in the south-east of England, but following today’s announcement, it could be a decade before an additional runway is operational. We face capacity challenges here and now, but we heard nothing in the Secretary of State’s statement about how the Government intend to tackle the immediate shortage of airport capacity. What are his plans to utilise existing capacity in the south-east at Stansted and Luton—and, indeed, elsewhere?
There was also no mention of more utilisation of our international gateways. What message does that send to Stansted, Manchester, Birmingham and East Midlands, and what message does it send about the Government’s commitment to the so-called northern powerhouse and the midlands engine? Surface access to many of our international gateways around the UK needs improving, yet it is unclear what action the Government are taking. That is why Labour is calling for the new National Infrastructure Commission to examine the road and rail needs of airports outside the south-east. I urge the Secretary of State to support that proposal as well as Labour’s call to update the West Anglia line to improve rail services to Stansted, and to have better connectivity to Luton airport.
The Government must ensure that we do not fall short of our legal climate change obligations. We have but one planet, and it is essential that the UK plays a leading role in ensuring that agreed reductions in carbon emissions are met. Sustainable Aviation believes that UK aviation could reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by up to 24% by 2050 through the deployment of sustainable alternative fuels. Other countries have made considerable progress but, sadly, the lack of commitment and clarity from our Government caused the collapse of the British Airways green sky project. May we hear more from the Government about what steps will be taken to meet our climate change targets, particularly on developing sustainable fuels and progressing the consultation on the inclusion of aviation in the renewable transport fuels obligation?
After the Davies commission, the Government announced that they wanted to look further at environmental matters and, in particular, at air quality. As was revealed in The Guardian last week, David Cameron’s former policy adviser at No. 10 warned the then Prime Minister a year ago that he was “exposed on Heathrow”, because the Government did not have an answer about the effect on air quality. Indeed, the need for further work on air quality was the reason given for the delay, yet there was not a single reference in the Secretary of State’s statement to explain what work on that has been completed or how such work has informed his position. Will he publish—I hope he will—the additional work that he tells us the Government have done post-Davies so that those inside and outside the House can scrutinise it properly?
It is essential that the unacceptable levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulates from diesel engines are reduced because their direct impact on the health and wellbeing of tens of thousands of citizens simply cannot be ignored or tolerated. Direct measures are needed to lower emissions across the nation, especially in areas with a high concentration of emissions. I urge the Secretary of State to be unrelenting in his pursuit of improved air quality.
The commission recommended establishing an independent aviation noise authority, so will the Secretary of State immediately advise us about the Government’s intentions in that respect? Our air traffic management infrastructure is ancient, and modernisation would secure great dividends not only in terms of carbon emissions, but through considerable mitigations on noise and air quality. What steps is he taking to ensure that the modernisation that is so urgently needed is prioritised and progressed?
On our fourth test that the benefits of expansion are not confined to London and the south-east, it is essential that landing slots affording better connectivity and trading links for our nations and regions are maintained in the longer term. Any assurances that the Secretary of State can give in that respect would be most welcome. Will he also assure the House that the entire UK will be afforded a proper opportunity to engage in the construction process? Perhaps some of the HS2 Ltd protocols can be adopted. You never know, but we might be using UK steel.
The location of an additional runway cannot be the sum total of aviation strategy, so I urge the Secretary of State to press ahead with the full range of measures that are necessary to sustain our successful aviation industry. We must also ensure that the best interests of all the United Kingdom are served, and that the legitimate environmental concerns that have been raised, and that will continue to be raised, are fully addressed. We must do all that we can to protect our precious planet for the generations to come.
I will start with the point about the announcement. You know, Mr Speaker, how seriously I, as a former Leader of the House, take such issues. You will also be aware that this matter is highly price sensitive. Indeed, when the Airports Commission published its initial reports, they were launched in a way—they were announced at the start of the morning—that was consistent with a market announcement. That is the approach we have taken with this announcement. I have come to the House at the earliest opportunity to make a statement, and I will take all the questions that Members have for me.
On the timeframe, the hon. Gentleman asked me what we have been doing for the past year. We have been doing precisely what he asked about: working on the issue of air quality. Today and over the coming days, we will publish additional material so that Members, the public and others who are interested will be able to scrutinise in detail the work we have done and the route we have followed to reach this conclusion. Given the particular importance of air quality, he would expect us to make sure that we had done the additional work to satisfy ourselves that this can be done in line with what we all accept are our necessary priorities for reducing emissions levels.
The hon. Gentleman talked about what will happen during the coming months. As I said earlier, yes, there will be a full and proper consultation. That consultation is set out clearly in statute—[Interruption.] Despite the murmurings of Opposition Members, the consultation is set out in an Act that Labour rightly passed to improve the process of going ahead with such a national project. That is the process we will follow. We will do so in as timely a way as we can, but we cannot short-change a process set out in primary legislation.
On the capacity challenges here and now, there is absolutely nothing to stop new routes being set up tomorrow. We have capacity at Stansted, and new routes have come into Heathrow and Gatwick in the past 12 months. We are not preventing the airports around London that still have capacity—
The hon. Gentleman talks about not doing anything. With respect, the Opposition do not appear to understand that the airports themselves go out to sell opportunities around the world and bring in new routes. The leaderships of those airports sell Britain as a great destination to fly to and do business in. They will carry on doing that.
There are clearly some big surface access issues to address in connection with this new scheme. However, I remind the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald) that we are close to completion of Crossrail, which will make a major difference to connectivity to Heathrow, we will shortly be starting improvements to the M25 between Heathrow and Gatwick, and the new Thameslink routes are due to open in about 18 months’ time, which will significantly improve links to Luton airport. Things are already happening to improve surface access links to our airports.
Climate change is a very important issue that we take very seriously. I was delighted by the agreement reached at the International Civil Aviation Organisation summit in Montreal recently, which sets a way forward for the aviation industry with international agreement. That is a significant step forward. We agree that a significant challenge remains that we must monitor very carefully, but the Airports Commission said very clearly that the expansion could take place and we could meet our objectives. That is what we intend to do.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned sustainable fuels, and good work is being done on those, by Virgin in this country, for example, and by airlines around the world. The technology will improve as the years go by.
The hon. Gentleman asked what we are doing on air quality. I agree with him that it is a bigger issue for our country, affecting very many of our urban areas. It requires a broad-ranging response to deal with it through clean air zones, as set out in our national air quality strategy, and other measures that we are working on that go beyond that strategy and continue a process of improvement over the coming decade.
I said in my remarks that I would consult on a noise authority and that we would bring forward plans for airspace modernisation. On regional connectivity, I am happy to restate our commitment to hon. Members from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, northern England and the south-west. We are very clear that this expansion must include binding provision for links to those parts of the country. This has to be a benefit to the entire United Kingdom and it will be. On the hon. Gentleman’s last point, Heathrow airport is committed to ensuring that the project will be built using UK steel.
Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge, in the light of the very courageous decision he has announced to the House, that in the 10 years before the extra runway at Heathrow is available great pressure will descend upon Stansted, to which he has referred? Does he understand that my constituents will expect the same level of compensation and care for them against noise disturbance, and wish the recommendations of the West Anglia task force to be implemented as soon as possible, as life will otherwise become intolerable for everyone on that railway line, whether passengers, employees at the airport or regular commuters?
My right hon. Friend has been a passionate advocate for the communities around Stansted for a very long time; I remember visiting the airport with him when I shadowed this brief a decade ago. This is something we must be immensely sensitive to, and I give him a commitment that we will be. We are now looking very carefully at the proposals he was involved in shaping and the set of recommendations that he published recently. I want everything done as soon as is practical to make sure that the links to Stansted are as good as those to London’s other airports.
I welcome the Secretary of State to his place and thank him for early sight of his statement. After what has been world-leading prevarication from his Government, we welcome this decision, which finally almost ends what the Scottish Chambers of Commerce has called the “economic illiteracy” of failing to make a decision. True to form, however, the Government’s indecisiveness could not resist one last piece of bad taste fudge to stick in people’s throats. The lack of a vote in this House for more than a year will not allow people and companies a true end, and the soap opera will therefore continue.
That said, we welcome the announcement of Heathrow as a preference. Although airport expansion of this type disproportionately benefits the south-east of England, it has strategic consequences for Scottish air routes. In preparation for this announcement, and after more than 18 months of meetings with, among others, airports, campaign groups, business bodies and the UK Government, the Scottish National party Scottish Government have agreed a memorandum of understanding with Heathrow that will bring, among many other things, jobs, an engineering hub and route support to Scotland.
It is now time for the UK Government to ensure a full and fair deal for Scotland. We must see a commitment to addressing those needs. A lot is required. Will the Secretary of State commit to meeting the following wider challenges? First, as he has intimated, will he work with me and the Scottish Government to develop genuine route support and public service obligations, and address Scotland’s needs in relation to this development? Secondly, will he make a proper commitment to supporting aircraft biofuels and giving genuine encouragement to carbon-reducing technology in aircraft? Thirdly, will he go further than he did in his statement and commit to starting immediate work to replace the airspace strategy for the UK, which is more than 50 years old?
I am grateful to the SNP for its support for today’s announcement. The hon. Gentleman talked about the lack of a vote. I remind him that this is the law. We are following a process that is set out in statute—he is surely not suggesting that we should not follow that process. We will do so in as timely a way as possible, but we have a duty to follow primary legislation.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the benefits the expansion can bring to Scotland. I absolutely agree and will be delighted to work with his party and my counterparts in other parties in Scotland to ensure that Scotland gets a good deal out of all of this. It is not just about Scotland, however, but about the whole United Kingdom. It is about Northern Ireland. It is about making sure that skills development happens in Wales. It is about ensuring better links to the south-west of England, and good links to the north-east—I am going to Newcastle tomorrow, and the north-east is one region that I hope will benefit from today’s announcement. This is about the whole United Kingdom and so I have every intention of ensuring that our work is about the whole UK.
The hon. Gentleman raised the airspace modernisation programme. The CAA has already started preparatory work on that, and we need to press ahead with it, not simply because of today’s announcement but because we need to change many of the things that unnecessarily use up fuel and cause additional carbon emissions, such as the stacking structures. That work is beginning. We will consult on it extensively over the next two years. That modernisation has to happen alongside the development of the runway plan.
The Government have chosen a course that is not only wrong but doomed. It is wrong because of the million people who will suffer directly on the back of the environmental harm this project unavoidably produces. It is doomed because the complexities, cost and legal complications mean that the project is almost certainly not going to be delivered. I believe it will be a millstone around the Government’s neck for many years to come—a constant source of delay, and of anger and betrayal among those people who will be directly affected. There are so many questions one could ask at a statement of this sort that I would not know where to begin, so I simply use this opportunity to put my absolute opposition on the record.
I very much respect the sincerity of the views that my hon. Friend holds and the commitment he has made to his constituents on this issue. I know how strongly he will disagree with the decision we have taken today. I hope that he will at least respect the fact that all of us in politics have to do what we believe is right. I am doing today what I believe is right. His views are very much what he believes is right. Not all of us can get it right all of the time, but we have to do what we believe is best for our country, and that is what I am doing now.
The decision to build a new runway at Heathrow is the right one, but it is absolutely vital that the Secretary of State delivers on his pledge to ensure that the benefits of expansion are felt in every nation and region of the UK. The Davies commission noted the difficulties in reserving slots for domestic flights from regional airports posed by the EU slot regulations. Now that the UK has voted to leave the EU what assessment has he made of the decision for potential measures to protect and enhance domestic connectivity?
The slot issue is one avenue for us to follow. We want to have a detailed discussion with regional airports, airlines and Heathrow itself about the best mechanism. I am absolutely clear that the planning consents, which I hope and believe will eventually be granted, and the national policy statements we prepare must contain provisions that protect connectivity. We need to work out the best way of doing it. It is not just about having a handful of slots at 11 o’clock at night; it is also about connectivity with international flights. We have to get this right for the whole United Kingdom and I give a commitment that that is what our agenda will be.
Respected outside experts have estimated the need for £11.5 billion of taxpayer support for the third runway and even the Airports Commission suggests up to £5 billion, yet post the Cabinet meeting this morning, the Government website says that the expansion costs will be paid for by the private sector. I listened carefully to the Secretary of State’s statement, but he did not reiterate that commitment. Will he tell the House how much the taxpayer will have to put in for runway 3 and the associated surface works?
The most fundamental point is that Heathrow has committed, and will be held, to a plan that: first, does not increase the current level of road transport to the airport; and, secondly, increases public transport access to the airport to 55% of those using it. Those will be obligations that it will have to fund. The Government’s financial advisers have said that that is viable and investible. There are question marks about what schemes are actually part of the surface access. Some of them we have to do anyway. For example, we are about to start improvements to the M4, which will benefit Heathrow and improve access, but they are not solely about Heathrow. There are, however, some very clear obligations in terms of actual deliverables that the airport will have to meet and pay for.
I welcome the fact that the new Government have made this important decision and I welcome the fact that they have made the right decision. In Northern Ireland, there is a wide consensus that Heathrow is the right decision. It will lead to thousands more jobs, and major investment in tourism and business. I therefore warmly welcome what the Secretary of State has said. I also welcome what he said about slots and domestic connectivity, but may I press him on whether there will be any Barnett consequentials through investment and infrastructure?
First, I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support, and for the support of his party and colleagues in Northern Ireland. It is very much my belief that Northern Ireland will benefit enormously from this decision, and so it should. I hope it benefits not simply in terms of connectivity: I hope to see some of the work being done in Northern Ireland as we aim for a UK-wide supply chain and encourage the airport to achieve that. On other aspects, we will work hard to ensure that we deliver the best possible outcome for all parts of the United Kingdom, that we listen and consult, discuss issues such as the one he raised and try to make sure it is as beneficial as possible to the people he represents.
As the chair of the Gatwick co-ordination group, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on this announcement and make clear to him the relief with which this somewhat overdue statement will be received by all the people represented by colleagues in the group. It will have been clear that keeping Gatwick in the game has delivered welcome improvements in the Heathrow proposition, but, as everyone who uses the Brighton main line will know, the Gatwick proposition, frankly, was not practical. Local authorities would have had to have found housing for the workforce to support the Gatwick option. Before this process began, Gatwick management ran the best single runway airport in the country and had a very good set of relationships with local communities. Will he now invite Gatwick management to go back to those priorities now that the scheme is over?
My hon. Friend has strong feelings about Gatwick expansion, as did many of those in his constituency and in his neighbouring constituencies. What I would like to say about Gatwick is that we need to understand the important role it plays in the economy of the southern part of the country—the Surrey-Sussex economy—and in the economic development of that area and the south coast. I recognise the very real amount of work that Gatwick airport put into its proposal, which, as I said, was very impressive and carefully crafted. I know it will be immensely disappointed with today’s decision. As I said earlier, I believe Gatwick will continue to be a really important part of our transport infrastructure and I send it all my best wishes.
The Secretary of State said in his statement that he plans to bring forward proposals to support improvements to airspace and how to manage noise, including the way affected communities, such as mine in Hounslow, can be best engaged. He stated that that would include consideration on whether there is a role for a new independent aviation noise body, but he also said that the commission had recommended one. Why has that been downgraded?
I have not downgraded it. I want to make sure there is proper independent noise monitoring. It is just a question of working out the best way to do that. The commission did not set out detailed plans. I will be discussing with interested parties how best to secure that.
A global trading nation clearly needs world-class infrastructure and I think this is the right judgment in the national interest. Will my right hon. Friend reflect on the damage done to our international competitiveness by this country maintaining the highest level of taxation on aviation?
Air passenger duty creates a lot of debate in this country. I am absolutely certain that none of us on the Conservative Benches would wish to maintain any tax higher than we needed to. We are, by instinct, a low-tax party, but we are also dealing with some quite challenging financial and public finance circumstances and therefore cannot always do the things we wish to do. Nevertheless, I am sure the Chancellor will have heard my hon. Friend’s wise words, ahead of planning for the next two financial moments.
In 2009, the Committee on Energy and Climate Change suggested that a maximum 60% air passenger growth to 2050 could be compatible with UK climate change goals, provided various fantasy conditions are met. However, the Government’s own analysis shows that even without a new runway there will be 93% growth by 2050. That implies that aviation will take up to two thirds of the UK’s entire carbon budget in 2050, a scenario that is quite simply incredible. Given that the Committee advised against taking international offsetting as a substitute for domestic action, will the Secretary of State explain how this decision can possibly be compatible with our climate change objectives?
We listened to the Airports Commission, which did detailed work on this. It recommended that this was an approach we could take and meet our obligations. We have validated that work since and we still believe that to be the case. I was encouraged, as I said earlier, by the ICAO agreement, which I hope will make it easier for the aviation sector to meet those obligations.
The business opportunities arising from the expansion are substantial for Buckinghamshire. Bucks Business First and the Buckinghamshire Thames Valley local enterprise partnership have both welcomed today’s announcement. It will continue to reinforce Buckinghamshire as a prime location for businesses to locate to. However, will the Secretary of State undertake to do an assessment of the impact on the local economy of the potential disruption and cumulative effect of having two major projects, namely Heathrow expansion and HS2, being constructed within the same timeframe and in close proximity?
Clearly, we have to work to ensure that the impact of two major projects on surrounding communities is minimised to the maximum possible extent. I know everyone involved in both projects will seek to do that. Undertaking two ambitious, modern future-looking projects is a sign of the direction that defines the approach we are taking to governing the country. We want to prepare for a stronger and better future for Britain.
Is not the biggest loser from the Tory civil war over Heathrow neither the Foreign Secretary nor the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) but transport everywhere else? For over five years, there has been an obsessive focus on London and the south-east. While welcoming this decision, may I ask the home counties-based Cabinet to listen to what William Hague has said today, and set out in the autumn statement a clear timetable for HS3, linking Manchester Airport to the great cities of the north?
I am not sure that Manchester Airport needs to be linked to the great cities of the north, since it is in one of the great cities of the north. Let us be clear first about what we are doing in the north. Across the north of England, a wide range of essential transport projects are happening: £350 million is being spent on improving the rail network in the right hon. Gentleman’s home city of Liverpool, and the construction of the link road between the M56 and the M6. Those are two long overdue projects. He knows that support for the next generation of the Manchester Metrolink is also happening. This is a Government who are doing things for the north of England. I have to say that if I look back on the Labour party’s years in government, I see that these projects were always on the drawing board but never actually happened.
I believe that this decision is misguided and not ultimately in the nation’s interests. Will the Secretary of State assure me that in the consultation and scrutiny to come there will be good and adequate scientific data, because the evidence will show that Heathrow expansion is neither possible nor deliverable? In the Minister’s words, we do not want expansion “at any cost”; this is the wrong scheme and the price is too high.
I know how strongly my hon. Friend feels about this issue. I give her an assurance that we will do this job properly. The appointment of Sir Jeremy Sullivan—an exemplary former judge who led an important part of our judicial system, as those who know him will acknowledge—will, I hope, give people comfort that we intend to take the consultation process properly and seriously.
The Secretary of State will know of my campaigning on the establishment of an independent aviation noise authority. About 70% of Edinburgh airport’s traffic goes over my constituency, and a recent flight path trial—the first in 40 years—caused havoc. This noise authority is for everyone in the UK; it should not be dependent on this decision. Will the Secretary of State include me in the discussions as an interested party and bring them forward as soon as possible?
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on taking the right decision in the interest of the United Kingdom. Will he remind us of how much passenger traffic, and particularly freight traffic, is currently being lost to mainland European airports as a result of lack of capacity in our south-east? Does he agree that in order to bridge the gap, we need to use all the currently available capacity?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is important for people to understand this issue. It is sometimes argued that connecting traffic does not add value to the United Kingdom. However, connecting traffic combined with our own domestic traffic can often make viable a new route to an important trading centre. Winning back some of those transfer passengers in order to ensure that routes to developing markets can be opened up from this country is therefore an important part of securing our trading future.
With news of the replacement of the route to Chengdu with a new route serving New Orleans, why are the Government putting the commercial interests of an expensive airport whose primary passengers are tourists ahead of the health and quality of life of 300,000 people, the costs to passengers and the costs to the taxpayer?
I have talked to the boss of IAG, the parent company of British Airways, about the Chengdu decision. It has a number of routes to China and other parts of Asia. It has simply taken a commercial decision that the Chengdu situation has not proved viable. The issue is not about an individual route, but about connectivity for the future and the opportunity to open up new possibilities. It will not always be British Airways that opens up those routes; other airlines might choose to fly from developing markets to the United Kingdom. Those are the opportunities that we will need for the future. That is why we believe that expansion is necessary. If we are to open up new trading opportunities around the world, we must have the capacity to offer those new links. If we look at the price at which a slot trades at Heathrow airport, we realise that demand far exceeds supply.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It does have that support, as well as support from business and the trade unions. That is not to say that the Gatwick proposals were not strong or attractive, but the Heathrow option was undoubtedly the one that gained the most support.
Heathrow has clear advantages over Gatwick for the south-west of England, both in respect of access to Heathrow and the hoped-for slots for our regional airports such as those at Exeter and Newquay to connect internationally. The Secretary of State must say much more about what he is going to do about air quality. He is quite right to say that road transport contributes by far the bulk of our emissions and our pollution, but he has not today said a single thing or produced a practical policy to tackle road transport and diesel in particular.
If the right hon. Gentleman wants a specific example, I can tell him that this morning we published the consultation document that will pave the way for significant expansion of the availability of electric charging points around the country. My view is that we all need greater diversity of our car fleet for the future, and we are already moving ahead with plans for low-emission zones in our cities. This is not an airports issue but a national one, and active measures are already in place to encourage diversification of the car fleet. Electric vehicles are being built in this country—for example, the Nissan Leaf is being built in Sunderland, which is the main centre in Europe for the production of that vehicle. We are seeing more and more of these cars on our streets, and I think that will continue into the future.
I commend my right hon. Friend for his strong statement. It is great to see the Government making some forward progress on this issue. Will he assure my constituents and many people in the local area that full consideration will be given to the environmental impact and noise control?
It is really important to find the right balance. Around Heathrow, a large number of people, particularly those who work there or whose family members work there or whose businesses depend on the airport, support the expansion. There is a significant amount of support for what I have announced today, but those people will rightly expect that we ensure we look after the environment in which they live, that appropriate compensation will be in place where necessary and that appropriate measures are in place to support local communities. I give my hon. Friend an absolute assurance that that will be the case.
Hallelujah—a decision has been made. The right hon. Gentleman should be in line for a “Minister of the Year” award. This is good news for Doncaster, good news for the north and good news for the UK. However, when we look at investment in infrastructure, we find that Crossrail costs £15 billion—nine times the combined expenditure for the rail projects planned for Yorkshire and the Humber, the north-east and the north-west. We see this as an opportunity for our regional airports, including my own, so will the right hon. Gentleman meet me and other MPs with regional airport interests to discuss how we get people to our airports to take advantage of the new slots?
My right hon. Friend will not be surprised to find out that I, too, support everything in his statement. This United Kingdom is open for business, and Heathrow is the doorway. He said he wanted to make Heathrow a better neighbour. The neighbourhood for Heathrow is considerable, and it includes the effect of stacking over areas that affect Gatwick—with a detrimental effect on people in my constituency. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that when the Civil Aviation Authority looks at airspace, it reflects on the opportunities to make Gatwick a better neighbour as well?
The modernisation of UK airspace will hopefully make all airports better neighbours. This is a system that has barely changed for decades, and it is certainly not designed for the current patterns of usage. We very much believe that we need to modernise the use of airspace in a way that reduces stacking, for example. I know, because my constituency adjoins that of my hon. Friend, that stacking certainly affects our area. This modernisation is better for passengers and better for people on the ground; and it will also save fuel and thus reduce carbon emissions.
A majority of Labour MPs and a majority of Conservative MPs support the expansion at Heathrow. Given that this project is likely to span multiple Parliaments, will the right hon. Gentleman take the opportunity to set a good example for both parties and ensure that collective responsibility will apply to any votes in this House?
The Prime Minister has been very clear that she does not want to force—indeed, I do not think the public would expect us to force—MPs who have long-standing principles of disagreement over this issue to go against their own views. There are different views on both sides. There are senior figures on the Opposition Front Bench and on the Government Front Bench who disagree with this decision. The hon. Gentleman is right that the majority of Members believe that Heathrow is the right place for expansion. Of course, the whole House will, as part of this statutorily defined process, have to vote and approve the decision. I think we should respect people’s long-standing views and not ask them to go against what they have argued in the past.
This is a devastating decision—for the national economic interest as well as for my constituents, hundreds of whose homes will be bulldozed, and for the millions of people affected by the very loud noise from Heathrow airport. Notwithstanding that—we could rehearse the arguments for ever—if during the consultation period the facts, the economics and the timescale on which the decision has been based, or Heathrow’s commitment to invest in the project, are called into question, will the Government have an open mind about changing their decision?
The Government decided very clearly today on their recommendation, which will have to be validated in the statutory process. It must be voted on and confirmed by the House, and that is what will happen. However, we are not entering the process with a view to changing our minds
If the vote took place tomorrow, the Democratic Unionist party would give the Government their support, because we believe that this is good for Northern Ireland. We welcome the Secretary of State’s assurances about extra slots, extra routes, and a place in the procurement process for firms from Northern Ireland. In the meantime, however, will he tell us whether slots that are currently available for airports in Northern Ireland will be safeguarded at Heathrow, and also whether there are any Barnett consequentials for the Northern Ireland Executive?
I hope that the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds) will forgive me: I forgot to answer his earlier question about Barnett consequentials.
This project is funded by the private sector, and there are no Barnett consequentials in a private project. There are Barnett consequentials when we invest in our infrastructure in the public sector, but I fear that there will not be any as a result of spending by Heathrow airport shareholders. As for the question of slots in the meantime, we always want to protect connectivity with Northern Ireland—indeed, we have just done so in the case of the route from Londonderry to Stansted—and we would be extremely concerned if routes to Belfast were in any jeopardy.
I congratulate the Government on grasping this nettle, although I personally believe that the Heathrow hub was a cheaper and less disruptive option, and I am sorry that it was ruled out.
I feel that an opportunity has been lost here. As a party, we believe in competition. Surely it would have been better to agree on extra runway capacity at both Gatwick and Heathrow, which would have settled the matter for a long time henceforth. What is Gatwick’s future following today’s announcement?
I pay tribute to the promoters of the Heathrow hub scheme, having already paid tribute to the other promoters generally. The scheme was very innovative and very different, but for two prime reasons we felt unable to endorse it. First, it did not allow respite for the surrounding communities, because the same two corridors would be used for taking off and landing all the time. Secondly, the scheme’s promoters could not ultimately provide the certainty that it would be built and adopted by Heathrow airport, if we opted for it rather than for the main route. Those, to my mind, are two strong reasons. However, I pay tribute again to the promoters. It was a very innovative concept, and we gave it very serious thought. After visiting and listening to the promoters, I considered very carefully whether it was the best option. In the end, however, my judgment was that the north-west runway was the better one for Britain.
“I hope…the Government will recognise…widespread hostility to Heathrow expansion and say no to a third runway.”
Those are not my words, but the words of our present Prime Minister. Why are the Government disregarding “widespread hostility”, and bulldozing through a third runway which will inflict crippling noise, significant climate change effects, health-damaging pollution and catastrophic congestion on 1 million Londoners?
Because we do not believe that it is going to do those things; because we do not believe that it will create the air pollution to which the right hon. Gentleman refers; because we do not believe that it will impose catastrophic congestion—I have already explained the position relating to public transport access and improved infrastructure around the airport—and, most fundamentally, because we believe that it is in the interests of the United Kingdom.
As my right hon. Friend knows, a decade ago I was among those who were most sceptical about this proposal, but there are times, are there not, when the House must look beyond the immediate issues, on which he touched today, and out to the next 30, 40 or 50 years. In view of the decision that the country has made on Brexit, now is surely the time when we must grab that future and build at Heathrow in order to create a link with the east.
I think the message that Britain is open for business is one of the most important messages that we can send to the world. When are we ever going to create this gateway to the future if not now, at a time when we are changing our role in the world? I think we all regret the fact that, notwithstanding our ambitions, it still takes time to do, but we really must get on with it now.
The Department’s answers to questions that I tabled asking what protections there were from noise pollution at City airport for constituents such as mine were woefully inadequate. It is clear that once expansion has taken place there will be scant regard for protections for the public, whether from industry or the Government. It is hardly surprising that people roll their eyes when the Secretary of State comes here and tells us that there will be all these environmental protections. In order to convince people that he is in earnest, would he be prepared to make those requirements legally binding, with penalties in place, before any permission is granted for this expansion, so that people can be confident that there will indeed be environmental protections?
I am glad to say that I have not lost my wallet, Mr Speaker.
I warmly welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement, but if Heathrow is to meet its emissions targets a large number of people will have to be persuaded to travel by rail rather than car, so will he say something about the western rail link proposals? Will he also consider providing fast rail links between all London’s airports?
Both the western and the southern rail links are part of the schedule for Network Rail’s future projects. Heathrow airport is due to pay part of the cost of those links, since they involve broader issues than this project alone, but as a result of today’s decision their construction will need to be accelerated. Links between airports are not currently being considered, but if the economy of the south-east continues to grow and develop, they may well be considered in the future.
I do not share this cosy consensus on airport expansion. Half the population each year does not fly; for environmental reasons, I have not flown for several years. The Secretary of State said today that this expansion would “further reduce…carbon emissions.” What a joke! Because of climate change, the Government should not be in the business of encouraging people to fly and encouraging more air freight, let alone subsidising increased airport capacity and higher total emissions. I urge the Secretary of State and the Government to think again.
We take the issue of climate change very seriously, and the Government have introduced a raft of measures to address it, but we must also ensure that we have the prosperity that enables us, for instance, to fund our national health service and our old age pensioners. Having a thriving, modern economy with strong links around the world is an important part of that.
I was pleased to hear the Scottish National party’s spokesman, the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry), confirm that we are “better together”. I was also pleased to hear the support from the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds) for bringing the four nations of the United Kingdom together.
I strongly welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement, which is very important to the south-west of England. Will he redouble his efforts to ensure that he holds the promoters to their commitments about regional connectivity, which he said he would do in his statement? Will he also ensure—my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) referred to this—that people in my constituency and elsewhere in the south-west can travel easily to the expanded Heathrow airport, and thence to the world?
My hon. Friend is right about the need for a commitment to the south-west of England in particular. I was in the south-west last week. We talk a great deal in the House about transport in the north and transport in the midlands, but I think that we also need to talk about transport in the south-west. There are many projects that are necessary to secure the economic future of the south-west. This project is part of ensuring that there is connectivity with places such as Newquay, and easy access for people such as my right hon. Friend’s constituents. That is why the western rail link must be a good priority for the future.
The Prime Minister was right when she said that the third runway was a bad idea. She may have caved in to the Heathrow lobby, but will the Secretary of State accept that the level of opposition from councils, mainly Tory-controlled, from local communities, and from Members of Parliament—most notably my right hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell)— means that the chances of the toxic third runway being built are vanishingly small? Will he be sure to keep the Gatwick option open? We are going to need it sooner than he thinks.
I know how strongly Members in London feel about this decision, but, having listened to Members today, I have a sense that the balance of view around the country is that we need this connectivity because it is in the interests of the whole United Kingdom. As a Government who believe in delivering an economy that works for everyone, we must operate in the interests of the whole United Kingdom, and that is what we are doing today.
I welcome the quick decision by the Secretary of State since taking up his position over the summer, but I regret the decision not to include Gatwick at least as one of the options. Will he agree to look again at the Gatwick option as the one that is deliverable in the short term and that is more open for competition, for the benefit of passengers long term?
I know that a number of people have said, “Can’t we do both?” I am clear that today we are looking at the Airports Commission report, which set a clear path and said that a new runway would be needed by 2030 and that potentially there would be a need for further capacity by 2050, but only if that could be achieved alongside carbon limits. Therefore, today is about taking the long overdue decision as to how we take that path to 2030, and that is where our focus is.
As the MP representing Newcastle airport, I know that the airport and the wider north-east business community welcome this decision. It enables both the safeguarding and growth of our connectivity to the UK and the rest of the world. However, given the time it has taken to arrive at this point, may I urge the Secretary of State to have some urgency in getting spades in the ground? When will we see the increased capacity and trading opportunities we vitally need in the wake of Brexit uncertainty?
I can save myself and my office a phone call today by telling the hon. Lady I will be visiting her constituency and her airport tomorrow to make precisely the point about the importance of regional connectivity. [Interruption.] No, I probably will not have a spade with me; I do not think Newcastle airport wants me digging it up.
I want this to move ahead as quickly as possible. There is a statutory process we have to follow. There is then a detailed period of design. This has always been something that will be ready for the middle of the next decade. I would love to wave a wand and have it quicker than that, but these things take a long time to design and construct, quite apart from the regulatory process. I know, however, that everybody involved will want to move as quickly as possible.
This is the right decision for Wales, as it is for the whole of the UK. Will my right hon. Friend say a bit more about what specific powers are available to him and whether he needs to seek further powers to ensure this becomes an outstanding example of British procurement, so that we maximise opportunities for our labour pool, supply chain and, not least, the steel industry?
I have been very clear, and this drives to the heart of the debate about costs. I understand the point made by some of the airlines about wanting to ensure that the best possible value is delivered in this project, because ultimately the cost is borne by their passengers. I want to see the maximum possible benefit across the UK. I have extended to the Civil Aviation Authority the power to have a strong supervisory role over this process, not to dictate how the project is designed in detail, but to make sure that there is value at the heart of both the supply chain and the contracting. I want to make sure that this is a value-for-money proposition and that it delivers what we need at a price that is right for passengers.
The advent of Crossrail means my constituency on the London-Essex border has enormous potential to capitalise on the benefits for Heathrow, both for passengers and for business and jobs. I therefore welcome the Transport Secretary’s statement. When does he anticipate the third runway being open for business?
On the current timetable, in around nine years’ time. I wish it were quicker than that, but it is not. That is the length of time it takes to go through a process such as this—not just the regulatory process, which has been greatly simplified since 2008, but the sheer complexity of design, the acquisition of land, the preparation of sites and the construction not just of a runway, but of the terminal buildings. So this is not a short-term project. I know the decision on the issue has been kicked around for years, but the new Prime Minister and I have wanted to move as quickly as we could. We wanted to take the time over the summer to ensure we really understood the three projects before we decided today. We have done that; we now want to get on with it.
In the national interest, I welcome the Government’s confirming what the Airports Commission has said is right for this country, and I also welcome my right hon. Friend’s warm words about Gatwick. Can he give assurances that surface access to Gatwick will continue to be enhanced, particularly the rail route, as we go forward?
I do not think that any of us could think that the Brighton main line was the priority, for a whole variety of different reasons. We have to deal with the short-term issues and challenges, but we also need to think about how we can best deliver the necessary improvements for the medium and longer term. There is no doubt we need a modernisation programme, but we also need a programme that causes the minimum possible disruption to passengers.
Connectivity to Heathrow is essential for areas in Greater Manchester and beyond. However, does the Secretary of State agree that in tandem with expanding Heathrow, new point-to-point routes with emerging economies are essential from other international gateway airports, such as Manchester, and what is he doing to encourage that?
To be frank, I am not sure I need to do anything to encourage Manchester airport as it is doing a cracking job already. It had its runway expansion a few years ago and has made good use of it. It is a thriving airport with links around the world. I am hugely impressed by what it has achieved.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and the benefits it will clearly bring for British business and trade, but he was also right to acknowledge concerns about the environmental impact of the airport expansion and the potential that may have of interfering with our international commitments to reduce carbon emissions. As well as putting in place welcome consultations on electric cars, what other incentives does he envisage to encourage business to comply with these international commitments and reduce carbon emissions?
There are three elements to what we are doing. The first is the air quality strategy and the desire to put in place an environment which requires lower emission vehicles in terms of both carbon dioxide and diesel. This is about, first, a regulatory environment in our cities; secondly, incentivising the purchase of low-emission vehicles—something the Government now do extensively with incentives to buy electric vehicles, for example; and thirdly, fiscal incentives to change, which we have already introduced through the car tax system, and on which I have no doubt the Chancellor will be doing more in the future.
Given today’s announcement that the expansion of Heathrow is in the national interest, not just that of the south-east of England, will the Secretary of State commit today to have route connectivity and public service obligation support between Dundee airport and Heathrow?
I am not going to pick individual routes today, but I recognise that Dundee is one of the airports that can benefit. The hon. Gentleman will not expect me at this stage to be setting out detailed slot allocation plans, but it is precisely areas like Aberdeen, Inverness and Dundee that can benefit from greater capacity on this route and better connectivity within the United Kingdom.
As the Secretary of State has correctly and repeatedly said, this sends a very clear signal that Britain is open for business, but does he agree that if we are to compete with the likes of China and South Korea we must deliver this rapidly, and what reassurance can he give on minimising any administrative and judicial burdens that may be used to slow down this project?
I am not in any doubt that there will be obstacles on the road towards delivering this project, but that will not stop us seeking to move ahead as quickly as we can, and clearly the scheme promoter will want to do so as well, but we are also subject to due process and in a democracy we have to respect that due process.
This is indeed a hugely important project for the whole country, and the Liverpool city region stands to benefit, as other regions do, especially through freight and business travel, so I welcome the Government’s wholehearted support for the expansion of Heathrow. On the nine-year promise that the Secretary of State has now made, that will be challenging and there must be robust planning and consultation processes, so how will he make sure he gets through that and delivers on the nine-year programme?
Essentially, the way it works is that we have this overall process of the national policy statement over the next 12 months, which we will publish in the new year. Now that the recommendation has been made, my officials will prepare that detailed policy statement. It will be published in the new year, and then there will be a statutory period of consultation both outside and in this House, followed by a vote. That effectively seals the big picture stuff for the Planning Inspectorate. There is then the formal process of its submitting its detailed plans and the debate about the minutiae of the application. The Planning Inspectorate does not look at the big decision of whether we should have the runway in the first place; it looks at matters such as the details of the design for consistency with local planning laws.
This statement has been long overdue. Some countries will have developed three entire nuclear power stations and five airports in the amount of time this has taken to be kicked into the long grass by two Labour Prime Ministers and I am afraid a Conservative Prime Minister too, and it is a reflection on this Prime Minister that the decision has finally been made. But why can we not still be talking about expansion at Birmingham International airport and indeed at Gatwick, too?
I have no doubt that others will have views about the further expansion of regional airports, including Birmingham. Right now, though, the focus of the Government is on this process, which was after all set up to identify additional capacity in the south-east following a recommendation by an independent commission. This is about delivering what has been recommended to us.
We very much welcome today’s announcement, as have my other colleagues from Northern Ireland, but my party is pushing for expansion at both airports. The chief airlines that fly from Belfast International airport, such as EasyJet and Ryanair, have given a new life to many people in Northern Ireland. Can we not keep the door open to expansion at Gatwick, to ensure that we make the most of that and all the other regional airports, because that will help all of us?
As I said earlier, Gatwick will remain an extremely important part of our national transport system, but today’s announcement is all about ensuring that we meet a very real need, as identified by the Airports Commission report. I do not think that this is the moment to start getting into a broader discussion about other airports. Let us concentrate on getting this job done; it has taken much too long to get even to this point.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement today. Now that the decision has been made, can my constituents be assured that the blight to their homes that they have suffered for more than a decade because of the threat of a peninsula or estuary airport is at an end and that those proposals are finally dead?
The Airports Commission looked very carefully at the issue of an airport in the Thames estuary and came to the view that that was not a viable option. I too have looked at the issue and I share that view. The Government have no intention of reopening that discussion.
Transport for London has estimated that the cost of associated transport infrastructure to service a third runway at Heathrow would be about £20 billion. Can the Secretary of State give the House a cast-iron guarantee that any public money used to pay for that work would result in full Barnett consequentials? Or is he saying that the routes identified by TfL would be paid for fully by private sources?
It is important to look at the committed outputs. Heathrow airport has committed to an expansion without an increase in the number of motor vehicles using the airport, and to an increase in the number of people accessing the airport by public transport to a level of 55%. That is the objective it has to meet, and it has agreed that it has a financial obligation to get to that point. Some projects are already in train. Crossrail is nearly complete, and the western and southern routes already in Network Rail’s plans will also make a contribution. There is clearly an obligation on the airport to meet those objectives.
My right hon. Friend has not said a great deal about the already horrendous congestion on the M25 north and south of Heathrow. Does his Department monitor the extent of the existing traffic jams, which are already really bad? Will anything be done as part of Heathrow’s expansion to try to improve capacity on the M25 so that people can get to and past the airport?
As I indicated earlier, the situation around the south-west of the M25 in particular is a matter for concern. Highways England has plans in place to start to address some of those problems. My experience is that the worst jams occur to the south and the north where four lanes go into three, and I have asked Highways England to look at how we can address that issue, starting with the junctions to the south-west.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to developing new connections to the regional airports, but is he aware that it takes at least two and a half hours to get from west Cumbria to our nearest airport? Will he also look at how Carlisle airport could benefit from the expansion at Heathrow?
If there are more slots available at Heathrow and there is a market to fly there from Carlisle, there will be an opportunity for the air operators to do that. As I have said, I am keen to ensure that we protect the capacity of our regional airports, but exactly where and how that happens, and at which airports, will be a matter for the future.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement. There is no doubt that this will be in the best interests of the nation and of all our constituents in the south-west, where my seat is. Will he kindly confirm how many direct rail links there will be from the south-west to Heathrow, as that will be absolutely key for my constituents and everyone else in the region?
There are two options, depending on which part of the south-west you are coming from. The plan is to have a southern rail link that will join up with the South West Trains network and a western link that will join up with the Great Western network, so my hon. Friend will have a choice. The train paths will obviously be a matter for the train operators at the time, but he will have a choice of routes to follow.
This is indeed the right decision for the UK and for Scotland, but will the Secretary of State confirm that any additional slot capacity for domestic airlines will be guaranteed either in the planning process or in legislation? Furthermore, will he undertake an ongoing assessment of the ability of regional airports such as Edinburgh to attract direct routes following Heathrow’s third runway coming on stream in nine years’ time?
We will look carefully at what the right mechanism should be. It might not be as simple as guaranteeing a number of slots, because I want there to be the right connectivity. For example, I do not want a regional airport to be given a tail-end slot at 11 o’clock at night that does not allow proper links between that airport and international destinations. We have to think carefully about how this should be done and what the best mechanism is for doing it. However, I have given a guarantee that there will be protections for the regional airports and the connectivity that they need.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, but with the best will in the world, it will be several years before the new runway comes into use. Will he therefore urge his Friends in the Treasury to allow zero or reduced passenger duty rates on new routes from regional airports such as Manchester, which already have the capacity to expand?
I welcome the fact that the Heathrow proposals include the potential for a logistics hub at Prestwick airport, and I urge the Secretary of State to involve all the relevant parties to ensure that that happens. May I also ask him, in relation to strategic thinking, to consider Prestwick when making the spaceport decision? This would give Prestwick sustainability and a long- term future.
I know that the spaceport decision is on its way. I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman thinks the United Kingdom’s choice for the spaceport’s location should be Prestwick. That would cement the bonds that exist between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, showing that we are all part of one United Kingdom.
We need more airport capacity but, with respect to the Secretary of State, Heathrow is the worst of the choices available to the Government, particularly for my constituents. Will he confirm that the final decision will be made here in this House and that we will be free to reject Heathrow?
First, let me say to my hon. Friend, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Dr Mathias) and others, that I know this is a difficult decision for a number of colleagues to accept. I respect their views and have every sympathy for the pressure that we are putting them under by doing this. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry) is my constituency next-door neighbour and I have worked hard for him in his constituency. I was delighted when he won. All the same, he will understand that the Government have to do what is in the interests of the whole United Kingdom, and these decisions are sometimes difficult for colleagues. The matter will have to be approved by the House, which will have the final say on the national policy statement. If that national policy statement does not secure the approval of the House, this cannot happen.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement. The Democratic Unionist party was the first political party in the United Kingdom to back Heathrow, and we have always been clear that its expansion would support growth in Northern Ireland and strengthen our Union. More cargo travels from Belfast through Heathrow than from any other UK airport. Will he commit to continuing that vital link in the supply chain between Northern Ireland’s businesses and their clients in every corner of the globe?
That is an important part of what this announcement is about, although it is not always at the top of the agenda. Heathrow is the United Kingdom’s biggest freight hub and an important point of connectivity that enables businesses around the UK to ship their products around the world. This is absolutely an important part of the way forward.
This is yet another major transport infrastructure investment in the south of England. Will the Secretary of State show similar decisiveness in supporting new long-haul routes from Manchester airport, a new road link for Leeds Bradford airport, the electrification of the trans-Pennine routes, the Manchester and Leeds legs of HS2 and maybe even a new junction 24A on the M62 near Huddersfield?
As my hon. Friends who represent seats in the north of the country know, I am very much of the view that we must do a better job for our regions in the north—and, as I said earlier, in the south-west and the midlands. Having shadowed this job 10 years ago, which involved going around the country and seeing schemes that should have happened, but which were sitting on the drawing board year after year, one of the most pleasurable things that I have found after arriving in my current job is finding so many projects that we have actually done or are doing. More are on the way. I look forward to delivering more improvements to help the constituents of more colleagues in this House.
In reaching the decision, what weight did Ministers give to the benefit for UK supply chains? People in Corby, for example, will be pleased with Heathrow’s commitment to use British steel because that will be good for jobs in our steel towns.
My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) warned us that court decisions will prevent a decision taken by this House from being implemented. Has my right hon. Friend considered any legislative remedy to stop that, notwithstanding the fact that he has already told us that this is, after all, a democracy?
From what I have read in the newspapers, I suspect that there may be attempts to challenge the decision. However, such court cases usually hang on whether we have given a decision careful consideration. We have looked at the matter exhaustively and considered all the issues. We understand the challenges and the hurdles that we have to overcome. This is a rational, measured, thought-out decision about what is in our country’s best interests. Our elected Government are there to take such decisions and I hope that the courts will not seek to challenge that.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement. It showed respect for the work of the independent Davies commission, which had already rejected the bizarre, pie-in-the-sky idea of an estuary airport due to delivery, structural and environmental concerns. I thank the Secretary of State for making the right decision on the basis of the evidence and in the national interest.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. The commission did a first-rate job of looking at all possible options, including the concept of an estuary airport. It came out with a clear view in the end. Sir Howard Davies recently emphasised his strong commitment to his commission’s recommendation. When Governments set up independent commissions and ask them to make recommendations, they should listen carefully; that is what we have done.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement, but will he assure the people of west Kent, in particular the residents of Edenbridge, Penshurst and Tonbridge, that a decision regarding Gatwick will not come up in the next few years and continue to blight their lives? Will he also say a little more about the six-and-a-half hours’ relief that he is quite rightly offering to people near Heathrow? Could that ban on night flights, from which we suffer all the time, be extended to Gatwick?
I am very aware of the issues around Gatwick, including the concern about noise, which is very much on my desk. I have talked to the CAA about how best to find the right balance for residents in areas under Gatwick’s take-off and landing routes. Today’s announcement is about the decision to add new runway capacity. The Airports Commission’s view was that we needed one new runway in the south-east by 2030. That is what the Government have sought to implement.
I congratulate the Secretary of State on finally making a decision, which will be great news for Torbay businesses that export their seafood via Heathrow. Does he agree that the decision now makes even more urgent the resolution of another long-standing question: the dualling of the A303 and the riddle of Stonehenge?
For a hub airport to benefit the whole country, regional airports such as Leeds Bradford need increased access—more than the status quo. While I welcome the statement, may I push the Secretary of State on how many more slots will be available to regional airports? I also emphasise that landing charges must not work against internal flights.
I am keen to ensure that we do not see a big uplift in landing charges as a result of the project. I have been clear that the project must be brought through affordably and delivered in a way that represents best value for everyone involved. As for connectivity, I am not in a position to start setting out details about numbers of slots or exact mechanisms. I simply commit to the House that those things will be a binding part of what we eventually conclude.
I, too, welcome the commitment about regional connectivity, not least because flights between Leeds Bradford and Heathrow have become increasingly popular. It is also important that passengers are able to get to Leeds Bradford airport. Will the Secretary of State meet me to explore how to make progress on the campaign for a rail link up to the airport, which would account for only a teeny-weeny amount of the money being spent on Crossrail?