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House of Commons Hansard

Airport Capacity and Airspace Policy

02 February 2017
Volume 620

  • With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about airport capacity and airspace policy.

    In October last year, I announced that the Government had selected a new north-west runway scheme at Heathrow as its preferred scheme for new airport capacity in the south-east. Aviation expansion is important for the UK, both in boosting our economy and jobs, and in promoting us on the world stage. Leaving the EU is a new chapter for Britain and it provides us with a great opportunity to forge a new role in the world. We are determined to seize that opportunity, and having the right infrastructure in place will allow us to build a more global Britain. By backing the north-west runway at Heathrow airport and publishing our proposals today, we are sending a clear signal that when we leave the EU Britain will be open for business.

    Today, I lay before Parliament a draft airports national policy statement and begin a period of extensive public consultation on the proposals it contains. The draft airports national policy statement is accompanied by an appraisal of sustainability, which assesses the potential economic, social and environmental impacts of the proposed policy. I have published all this information online to ensure that the process is as transparent as possible.

    Over the past 70 years, the UK has failed to build the capacity needed to match people’s growing desire for travel. Unless we take action, every London airport is forecast to be full by 2040 and almost entirely full by 2030. Doing nothing is no longer a choice we can afford to make. Without expansion, constraints in the aviation sector would impose increasing costs on the rest of the economy over time, lowering economic output by making aviation more expensive and less convenient to use, with knock-on effects in lost trade, tourism and foreign direct investment.

    The Government believe that a new north-west runway at Heathrow best delivers the need for additional airport capacity. The draft airports national policy statement sets out this rationale in full. It is expected that Heathrow will provide the greatest economic and employment benefits, delivering tens of thousands of additional local jobs by 2030 and up to £61 billion of economic benefits, not including wider trade benefits. The scheme will benefit the whole of the UK. I expect Heathrow airport to work with airlines to improve domestic connectivity, including the addition of six more domestic routes across the UK by 2030, bringing the total to 14. This will strengthen existing links to nations and regions, and develop new connections.

    Heathrow’s location means it is already accessible to business and the rest of the UK. In future, it will be connected to Crossrail, and linked to HS2 at Old Oak Common. We are also bringing forward plans to deliver western and southern rail access to the airport as quickly as possible to provide greater flexibility, accessibility and resilience for passengers. The Heathrow north-west runway would be expected to deliver the greatest support for freight. As we leave the European Union, we will need to get out into the world and do new business with old allies and new partners alike. A new north-west runway at Heathrow will be at the heart of this. In summary, a new north-west runway at Heathrow would be expected to create new global connections, create tens of thousands of jobs, reduce fares for passengers, provide new capacity for freight imports and exports, and spread the benefits of growth to the whole of the UK. Today we are sending a clear message that the Government are not only making the big decisions but getting on with delivering them.

    I am clear that expansion must not come at any cost and that we will meet our legal requirements on air quality and obligations on carbon. The airports national policy statement, if designated, will provide the primary basis for making decisions on any development consent application for a new north-west runway at Heathrow. Heathrow airport would be expected to provide up to £2.6 billion to communities affected by the expansion, including noise insulation for homes and schools, improvements to public facilities and other measures. This includes a community compensation fund and establishing a community engagement board.

    For those people whose homes need to be compulsorily purchased to make way for the new runway, or for those who take up the voluntary scheme, Heathrow must honour its commitment of payments of 25% above the full market value of people’s homes and its commitment to cover all costs, such as stamp duty, and moving and legal fees. I am also clear that the environmental impact of expansion must be minimised. Industry-leading measures will be required to mitigate air quality impacts, and Heathrow airport will be required to demonstrate that the scheme can be delivered within legal air quality obligations.

    The airport should continue to strive to meet its public pledge to ensure that landside airport-related traffic is no greater than today. Measures will also be required to mitigate the impacts of noise, including legally binding noise targets and periods of predictable respite. The Government expect a ban of six and a half hours on scheduled night flights.

    Lastly, construction must take place in a manner that minimises impacts on the environment and the local community. Outside of the planning system, I am clear that there must be conditions on cost and that expansion costs will be paid for by the private sector, not the taxpayer. The Government expect industry to work together to drive down costs. I have appointed Sir Jeremy Sullivan, the former Senior President of Tribunals, to provide independent oversight of the draft airports national policy statement consultation process.

    The second consultation that I wish to bring to the attention of the House is on UK airspace policy. I am publishing proposals to modernise the way UK airspace is managed, which will be consulted on in parallel. By taking steps now to future-proof this vital infrastructure, we can harness the latest technology to make airspace more efficient as well as making journeys faster and more environmentally friendly. The policy principles set out in this airspace consultation will influence decisions taken later in the planning process for a north-west runway at Heathrow. It is therefore sensible to allow members of the public to express views on both these issues at the same time.

    The consultation will set out our plans to establish an independent commission on civil aviation noise and bring forward proposals to improve how communities can engage and make sure their voices are heard. To complement this, we are proposing guidance on how noise impacts should be assessed and used to inform decisions on airspace options. These proposals aim to strike a balance between the economic benefits of a thriving aviation sector and its impacts on local communities and the environment.

    The aviation sector is a great British success story: it contributes around £20 billion per year, directly supports approximately 230,000 jobs across the United Kingdom and supports an estimated 260,000 jobs across the wider economy. I want to build on this success, and this year my Department will begin developing a new strategy for UK aviation generally that will champion the success story of the UK’s aviation sector and put the consumer back at the heart of our thinking. I want to make sure that the sector is delivering more choice for consumers and the country as a whole, and I will come back to the House to update you, Mr Speaker, and hon. Members on our plans as they develop.

    Finally, I turn briefly to what happens next. These two consultations will start today and last for 16 weeks, closing on 25 May. At the same time, and as required by the Planning Act 2008, a period of parliamentary scrutiny—the “relevant period”—now begins for the draft airports national policy statement. It will end by summer recess 2017. Although planning is a devolved matter, the consultation will be open to the whole of the UK, as additional airport capacity will benefit us all.

    Following consultation and parliamentary scrutiny, consideration will be given to the comments and points raised. In the light of those processes, should the decision be taken to proceed, a final airports national policy statement will be laid before Parliament for debate and there will be the opportunity for a vote in the House of Commons in winter 2017-18.

    I will place copies of all the relevant documents in the House; they will also be available online for Members and members of the public. I commend the statement and process to the House.

  • I thank the Secretary of State for Transport for advance sight of his statement.

    Aviation is key to ensuring that the UK remains an outward-looking trading nation post-Brexit, and Labour has consistently been pushing for a decision on runway expansion in south-east England, so after years of dither and delay, it is welcome that progress is finally being made. We have been calling for action on airspace modernisation for some time, and although we cannot see it, our airspace network is in dire need of modernisation. It is over half a century old but is still among our country’s most vital pieces of infrastructure. Modernising airspace will involve tough decisions, but the benefits are huge. It is in the national interest for the Government to ensure that they deliver a balanced and sustainable airspace solution.

    However, there are outstanding issues, including how Heathrow expansion can be squared with meeting the UK’s climate change objectives and demonstrating that local noise and environmental impacts can be minimised. This can be achieved, but only in the context of a coherent aviation strategy that works for the country, not just for London. It starts with confirming our membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency, as well as taking action on cleaner fuels and improving road and rail access to our international gateway airports.

    As the Secretary of State knows, business loathes uncertainty, and aviation is no exception. What assurances can he give that the UK’s continued membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency is and will remain an absolute priority? What does his commitment to leaving the single market mean for leaving the single aviation market? The Committee on Climate Change cautioned against relying on carbon trading for Heathrow to achieve its emission targets, as that option might not always be cheap and available. Will he provide an update on whether he plans to reject that advice?

    There is increasing concern about air quality, which is linked to 40,000 early deaths a year. David Cameron’s former aide—now Baroness Camilla Cavendish—claimed that the existing policy on air quality “overclaims and underwhelms”. Given that inadequacy, what further and stringent measures will be proposed to mitigate the expected expansion at Heathrow?

    Key to improving air quality, alongside a move to reducing vehicle emissions, is encouraging more people to use public transport to arrive at our airports. Enhancements are needed to Heathrow’s rail services if the objective of having public transport usage of 55% is to be achieved. I invite the Secretary of State to outline what progress he is making and how he can ensure that the business beneficiaries of such enhancements will make a fair contribution. If we are to secure the modal shift to accessing airports by public transport and in the context of the aviation strategy, I invite him to confirm that the National Infrastructure Commission will be asked to inquire into the issue of surface access at all our international gateway airports and seaports.

    I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to fulfilling our legal requirements on air quality and obligations on carbon, and I note the reference to Heathrow striving to meet its public pledge that airport-related public traffic will be no greater than it is today. But it is not simply about the volume of traffic; it is about vastly reducing the emissions that come from such traffic. Much of that relates to ultra-low emission vehicles, which will be key to securing our shared objectives. The modern transport Bill will hopefully progress the agenda considerably, so, finally, will the Secretary of State tell the House when we are likely to see that Bill?

  • May I start by thanking the hon. Gentleman for his support for my statement this morning? He asked a number of questions, which I shall answer, but I very much welcome the principle of support. This is a long-term project for the country, and a shared vision across this House of the need for expanded capacity is important. I know that there are individual Members who have disagreements, issues and local challenges, but his supportive comments are welcome for the project and I am grateful to him.

    Let me seek to answer the hon. Gentleman’s questions. First, we have not reached a definitive position on the European issue. Obviously the negotiations have not started and we have not yet triggered article 50. I am acutely aware that aviation is one of the sectors that we need to handle with great care, working out the best way of protecting our sector and delivering the right connectivity for the future. I will come back to the House at an appropriate moment and provide more information, but, as he is aware, we are not really in a position to provide detail of the negotiations in advance. However, I appreciate that he will want to understand in due course where we have got to, and we will endeavour to make sure that we keep the House as fully informed as we properly can, given the negotiation process.

    As the hon. Gentleman said, aviation is not included in the current climate change target. It is clearly an issue, however, and has been since the recent agreement in Montreal, subject to an international strategy going forward. We are consulting today on things such as the smarter use of airspace. Through airspace reform and the technology that is now available to us, we will be able to avoid, to anything like the degree experienced at the moment, planes stacking over the south-east of England, emitting additional emissions into the atmosphere and using up more fuel. That is one of the benefits that comes from the smarter use of airspace, which will help to make a contribution, as will cleaner, newer generation, more fuel-efficient aircraft, which I think we will see extensively in this country over the coming years.

    On the issue of NOx, diesel and emissions on the surrounding roads, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that this is much more a car issue than a plane issue. It is about the propensity of congested areas to cause a genuine public health problem, so it is a broader issue for the Government to address than simply the airport. We have already made a start, with the incentives that are in place for low-emission vehicles and the expansion of charging points that we set out in the autumn statement. We will also shortly be seeing the Bill that he mentioned—it would have been here by now, had we not had a bit of other business to deal with in the House. The issues in that Bill will be important, but I am well aware, and the Government are well aware, that we will have to do much more on the emissions front. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will come forward in due course with further proposals to tackle what is a broader issue than just airport expansion. It is one that we cannot possibly wait until airport expansion happens to address, and we will not.

    The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of rail services, and we already have significant plans for their development. The arrival of Crossrail and of HS2 at Old Oak Common will make a significant difference to public transport access to Heathrow, as will the proposed modernisation of the Piccadilly line, which will significantly expand capacity on that route. We are now also starting the development work on rail access to the south and the west of Heathrow airport, and he is absolutely right to raise this issue. It is something that we are now working on and the private sector will make a substantial contribution to the costs.

    Lastly, the hon. Gentleman raised the importance of land and surface access to ports and airports around the country. I can confirm to him that we are looking at this in a variety of forums. As we move into this post-Brexit world and in a world where we need to facilitate trade, I am particularly concerned to ensure that where there are blockages, congestion points or limitations around ports and airports, we take the necessary steps to address those, and we will.

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his supportive comments, and will obviously try to keep him and the House as informed as possible.

  • Given that for 70 years we have talked the talk on airport capacity over London, it is welcome that my right hon. Friend is now laying down the plans to walk the walk and get on with building Heathrow’s third runway. Given our antiquated planning rules, is he confident that it will be completed by 2040, when the airports reach their capacity? Can he also give a commitment to local communities around all the London airports that the smarter use of airspace will be used in the interim to reduce noise and other disturbance for local communities?

  • I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his comments, and I am absolutely clear that we aim to deliver airport expansion long before 2040. What we have now is a much more streamlined process, set out in statute—it was introduced by Labour and I am grateful for that—for securing the initial consents. If, when we reach the end of this year, the consultation confirms the recommendation that the Government are making and this House does the same, I hope that we will have effectively reached a point of outline planning consent that allows the airport to press on with the detailed preparation work for the construction and the detailed planning consents.

    I think that airspace modernisation makes a real difference to communities in the south-east, because it enables us to put planes on much more exact paths. Today, sat-nav technology allows a plane to follow a much more exact route than the traditional beacons did. It enables us to manage approaches to airports, airport descent and ascent rates, and the overall use of airports so that we do not experience stacking around the south-east as we do today. I hope that the second part of the process that I have announced, which I believe is as important to communities throughout the country as the airport expansion, will allow us to ensure that the sector becomes much friendlier to the communities that it affects.

  • I thank the Minister for giving me advance sight of his statement.

    We welcome the decision to go ahead with the expansion of Heathrow and the new runway. After many years of waiting, it is time to get on with delivering that, as well as the specific benefits that it can bring. However, building a new runway is meaningless if we do not have access to the air and the EU-US open skies agreement. Does the Secretary of State intend to seek membership of that arrangement?

    The Secretary of State mentioned regional airports, which are vital, and I agree that these connections need to be made. What guarantees will he give to regional airports in Scotland, especially the likes of Dundee and Inverness, about routes and slots following the Heathrow expansion? He also mentioned the need to deal with environmental issues and tackle carbon emissions. What targets will he specify to demonstrate ambition above the legal requirements to which he referred?

  • We and the Scottish Government do not always agree on everything, but I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and his party, and to the Administration in Edinburgh, for their support for Heathrow expansion. Indeed, following these exchanges, I shall be heading off to the other side of Scotland—to Glasgow—to talk about the importance of my announcement to the United Kingdom as a whole.

    The hon. Gentleman asks about regional airports. Heathrow will be under an obligation to fulfil its promises in respect of regional connectivity. I expect this capacity to open links not only between the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, but from within the United Kingdom to Heathrow and the rest of the world. That is important to airports in Scotland, the north of England, and other parts of the United Kingdom—Northern Ireland, the south-west, and so forth.

    The hon. Gentleman asked about the open skies agreement. As I said earlier, that will be a subject for negotiation. We will obviously seek to provide the best possible arrangements for the future but, whatever the arrangements, the fact remains that there were flights to and from European Union capitals long before the European Union even existed, and that will continue after Britain has left the European Union. We will have strong aviation ties around the world. Of course, this expansion is not particularly about European Union links; it will open up ties between the UK and markets around the world, including emerging markets. It will provide Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England with links to markets where there is great potential and opportunity for the future.

  • I believe that the Secretary of State is doing his work backwards. How can you consult on airspace strategy when you do not have a credible policy on how to address current noise pollution levels? How can you offer a consultation on a national policy statement when you have no credible or legal plan for reducing air pollution? How can you have consultations ending on 25 May with no credible or legal plans to address critical noise and air pollution levels?

  • Order. I have no credible, legal, or any other plans or pronouncements to make on this matter at all.

  • I know how strongly my hon. Friend feels about this. I know the concerns that have been expressed in her constituency, and I respect her very much for what she is doing. One of the difficulties involved in a big strategy decision such as this is that it is impossible to make it without some impacts. I simply give my hon. Friend my assurance that we will take all steps we can to minimise those impacts, inevitable though it is that there will be some.

    Let me say two things about pollution. First, we made our decision on the basis of recommendations made to us by the Airports Commission, and subsequent work was carried out by the Government in the wake of more recent developments relating to emissions from motor vehicles. We are clear in our view that the expansion is deliverable within the rules, but the Government intend to go much further to tackle emissions from motor vehicles. The issue of NOx––oxides of nitrogen—emissions is much more about urban congestion than airports. It is something that we have to deal with, and we will have to deal with it much sooner than when we start to expand Heathrow airport in the next decade.

  • This is a long-awaited and welcome statement. Heathrow is the right place for expansion to link with emerging markets—that is essential for our future economic success. How can the Secretary of State convince us that this really will be an integrated transport policy and that, at the same time as developing links with emerging markets, it will address critical issues of environmental concern, including air pollution? What can he do to convince us that that indeed will happen?

  • The hon. Lady makes two points. On connectivity, the plans for improved rail access around Heathrow will completely transform it as an integrated hub. The connectivity that HS2 will bring to Old Oak Common, Crossrail, the expanded Piccadilly line and the connectivity that south-west rail access will bring into Heathrow itself will mean it is much more of an accessible integrated transport centre than it has been, and there will be regional connectivity as well.

    On pollution, as I have said, we had detailed analysis from the Airports Commission and, since then, from independent consultants. The Government’s judgment is that this expansion is deliverable within air quality rules but, as I have just said, we have a big task in this country to address the much broader issue of air quality. We cannot simply sit with the status quo until the middle of the next decade when this runway opens; we need to have made a big impact before then.

  • I welcome the Transport Secretary’s statement. For my constituents in Esher and Walton, it will be absolutely critical to have tangible reassurances, including on legally binding limits for noise and air quality, the independent verification of both of those things, and a change of policy on flight paths from the arbitrary policy of concentration, which blights communities such as Molesey in my constituency, to a fairer policy of dispersal. Will the Transport Secretary guarantee to work with me to nail down those local reassurances for my constituents?

  • I am happy to give my hon. Friend those assurances. The thing that we share in particular across our two constituencies is the stack south-west of London. The changes that the airspace consultation heralds will change that fundamentally, leading to much less stacking and fuel wastage over south-east England. As a result, there will be less emissions from the aviation flying over south-east England, and I think that there will be a much better experience for my hon. Friend’s constituents.

  • The Department’s re-analysis of air quality involved a qualitative analysis of air quality showing that it was possible that limits would be breached in the areas around Heathrow when the third runway opened. Will the Secretary of State undertake to do a quantitative analysis before the consultation ends that includes real driving emissions and the contribution to air quality problems that the Volkswagen cheat devices have made? Will he give a cast-iron guarantee today that he will not use Brexit as a means of watering down our EU air quality targets?

  • On the latter point, the Government fully recognise that we have a duty to tackle this problem. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be bringing forward proposals on how we take that further in the future, and the hon. Lady will be aware that my Department has been taking more steps to support the move to low-emission vehicles.

    We have carried out further work since the Airports Commission reported, as well as since the Volkswagen emissions issue emerged. It is still the judgment of my team and our advisers that the expansion can be delivered within the current rules but, of course, we intend to go much further than that. We cannot afford not to be much more transformational between now and the middle of the next decade. The problem is to do with not this airport, but our urban areas generally, and we have to deal with it.

  • I know that it is going to take a lot more than a builder with a bucket of tarmac to do this as the project will involve an investment of not far off £20 billion. It will give a great boost to post-Brexit Britain, on top of the expansion at London City airport. Can the Secretary of State give me his best estimate of when the first plane will take off from the north-west runway?

  • My hon. Friend and I share an aspiration to achieve that as soon as possible, but the working assumption is that the first plane will take off in the middle of the next decade. Perhaps we should have come to this decision a long time ago, but at least we are doing it now and we will get on with it as soon as possible. However, we have to do it in the right way and sustainably, taking great care of the surrounding communities.

  • I welcome today’s statement, but for this to be a truly national policy, it has to include the interests of regional airports such as Newcastle, which is so important to the economy of the north-east. This is not just about infrastructure; it is also about taxation. Today, the Scottish Government are halving air passenger duty and they will abolish it by 2021. Will the Secretary of State urge his Treasury colleagues to address the question of air passenger duty for regional airports, because it could damage their ability to compete?

  • I know the importance of this announcement for Newcastle. When I made my statement to the House in October about the Government’s proposals, I went to Newcastle the following day and met its chief executive. There is clearly enormous support in that area for the expansion of the airport. On APD, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman’s comments will be noted by Treasury colleagues in the run-up to the Budget.

  • Order. I thought that one Member who was seeking to catch my eye had exited the Chamber at one point during the statement, but it might be that I was experiencing an optical illusion.

  • Following the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab), I should like to point out that the lethal combination of the new technology, the much more precise flight paths and the Government’s current policy of concentration rather than dispersal will lead to a disaster for the people who are right underneath those routes. It should be possible to use the new technology to create an artificial degree of dispersal, as happened before under the analogue systems. Will my right hon. Friend advance on this consultation with the knowledge that this is a very important issue to address for many of our constituents?

  • To be slightly parochial, I can say that those of us who represent Surrey constituencies are well aware of the issues around Gatwick airport and the flight paths that planes have been using there recently. My hope is that the consultation will lead to a system that will enable us to be much more careful about managing flight paths so that we can provide respite to communities and decide exactly how to handle approaches to airports, instead of having a rather haphazard set of flight paths. I can assure my hon. Friend that I think we will end up with a better system for his constituents and those in neighbouring constituencies.

  • I should like to ask the Secretary of State about certain references in the Airports Commission surface access strategic road network proposals, which were published by Highways England in October. The document includes proposals to widen the M4. The Government made a statement to the media two weeks ago to the effect that that would not go ahead, but the answers to written questions that I have received have not been so clear. Will the Secretary of State confirm that those proposals will not go ahead, and that there will be no land or property acquisition in Heston?

  • I can be absolutely clear about this. I saw those BBC reports. There is no plan to widen the M4, although there is a plan to create a smart motorway on the M4, as the hon. Lady will be aware. There is no plan that I am aware of—or that I have discussed in any way, shape or form—to start buying houses in her constituency for a wider M4, and I have not seen a budget for that either, so she can take it from me that there is no plan to widen the M4.

  • I commend and support my right hon. Friend’s statement. Will he give me an assurance that the rail link to Gatwick airport will continue to be invested in and upgraded?

  • I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. He will be aware that the Government are bringing forward plans to fulfil Chris Gibb’s recommendation of spending £300 million on the route in the short term. We clearly have a modernisation challenge beyond that, and we are looking at how best we can fulfil it. The other issue for Gatwick is the station, and we are in discussions with the airport and Network Rail about what we can do with it. Ensuring that Gatwick has proper modern surface access for the future is also our priority.

  • I welcome the national airport policy, although I note the warning that aviation could become less convenient to use, lowering economic output. Unfortunately, many airports are turning themselves into long, tedious, meandering shopping malls, which inconveniences travellers. Glasgow airport, for example, has a quarter of a kilometre meander that not only hinders those needing to travel, but inconveniences people with mobility issues, particularly those going to gates for flights to the islands. I exclude London City airport from that criticism, but will the airport policy consider travellers as well as shoppers by at least providing a shorter route for them?

  • I know what the hon. Gentleman means—we do spend a lot of time walking through the shops—but the counter-argument is that shops are one of the factors that keeps the cost of aviation down, making it more accessible. I am unsure whether I can promise him fewer shops.

  • Will you look at it?

  • We will be holding a consultation on the national strategy, so the hon. Gentleman is welcome to make that point, which we will consider carefully. More important is providing better links through Scotland’s airports to Heathrow, and better links to his constituency from airports such as Edinburgh and Glasgow. That is important for better connectivity, which is why the proposal will make difference for him, too.

  • I am grateful for your indulgence, Mr Speaker, for reasons on which I do not need to expatiate. This is a matter of grave concern to my constituents and I want to pick up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab), who is no longer in his place—[Interruption.] Okay, he has moved to a different place. His point was about consultation and engagement with local communities, particularly in Surrey and the areas around Heathrow. That is vital for what is an excellent proposal. I just want to hear the Secretary of State reiterate his commitment to engage with local communities.

  • A few people have asked why we are holding a consultation at all. Quite apart from the statutory process, we want to hear from people how the proposal would have an impact on them. Regardless of whether Parliament decides that we should go ahead with the proposal, it is essential that, if we do go ahead with it, we listen carefully and, if necessary, refine it to make improvements for those communities. The airspace reforms also provide an opportunity to make a real difference to areas around the airport that are exposed to take-offs and landings.

  • I continue to support the third runway at Heathrow as the best option for my constituency in Sheffield, but given the delays we are still roughly 10 years away from the runway being up and running. In the meantime, Heathrow is running at around 98% capacity at certain times of day, and demand will continue to increase during that 10-year period. What are the Government’s plans to manage that increased demand over the 10 years before the runway opens?

  • The truth is that that is a constraint. There is still capacity around London’s airports, and there are some first-rate regional airports near the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. The east midlands and south Yorkshire have access to good airports in Leeds Bradford and East Midlands, both of which have done phenomenally well in recent times and are providing more and more international links. However, we are constrained by the fact that the decision was not taken a long time ago, which is why we need to get on with it now.

  • I have written to the Secretary of State on numerous occasions, so he will know well that airspace management over parts of west Kent, particularly of night flights, is becoming a serious problem for many constituents. While you, Mr Speaker, can enjoy your nights undisturbed, my constituents sadly do not have that luxury.

  • That is an important point. I have been examining the issue and it is being dealt with in some innovative ways around the country. We will be able to glean from the consultation the public’s views on how we can best manage night flights to minimise the impact on communities. Being able to follow more exact flight paths will make a significant difference and will address some of the issues that I have seen in the many communications that my hon. Friend has received from his constituents that have been passed to me.

  • Since Cardiff airport was rescued from loss-making private ownership by a public-private partnership, it has earned a top environmental award and is now the fastest-growing airport in the United Kingdom, with passenger numbers increasing 16% last year. Will the Secretary of State welcome the Welsh Government’s purchase of the airport? The Airports Commission report says that connectivity will be improved between the regions and nations of Britain, so will he also guarantee that one of those links will be with Wales?

  • Cardiff airport has been a great success story, and I pay tribute to all those involved. The hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) asked about what will happen in the coming years, and we are fortunate in having some very good regional airports that can not only take up the slack in the coming years but will be a crucial part of our overall airport strategy in the future.

  • As the Heathrow decision goes ahead, demand and inward investment in the west of England, bringing jobs and growth, will ever expand. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that our excellent west of England mayoral candidate, Tim Bowles, will be able to join me and colleagues from the west of England in expressing our views on joining the western main line to Heathrow?

  • As my hon. Friend knows, I have received extensive lobbying from his constituency and elsewhere, and from Tim, saying that that is an important part of what we are doing. Rail access to Heathrow will be a crucial part of ensuring that we can deliver the growth that we anticipate without having the impacts on the local environment that massively increased road traffic might generate. I assure my hon. Friend that we are working very hard on that.

  • I nearly missed the Secretary of State’s statement this morning because my train was cancelled, which is not an unusual occurrence—it happened yesterday, too. There are already strains on the rail network around Heathrow airport, the draft NPS commits to no net increases in journeys by road and TfL estimates that the cost of upgrading rail infrastructure to meet that commitment will be in the region of £19 billion. Heathrow has committed only £1 billion of those costs. The Secretary of State has told me that he does not accept TfL’s estimates, so what are his own estimates? Will they be funded by the taxpayer?

  • The hon. Lady and I had the same experience yesterday. My train was not cancelled but, as she is aware, a power failure caused problems on the route—that does happen, unfortunately.

  • Renationalise them.

  • It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman says that, because of course Network Rail is in the public sector and it was a Network Rail problem. On the subject of airport expansion and the importance of ensuring that in the constituency of the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) and in other affected areas we do the right thing for local people, I assure her constituents that we will work immensely hard to listen to their views in the coming weeks and to look at ways of minimising the impact of airport expansion. It is something that we need to do very carefully and with sensitivity to those communities, but I simply do not accept TfL’s figures. Heathrow airport will have an obligation to meet the targets that it has set, but I am afraid that TfL’s estimate of £19 billion or £20 billion is just plucked from thin air. I see no evidence whatever to support that estimate.

  • I welcome the broad thrust of the statement, given the vital role that Heathrow plays as the hub airport not just for London but for the whole south-west of England. Will the Secretary of State reassure me that there will be proper co-ordination between this airport strategy and delivering the type of infrastructure, such as a resilient railway and the dualling of the A303, that will be vital to making sure that this is a success?

  • I can absolutely give that assurance. My hon. Friend knows that we are now moving ahead with the development process on the A303. I have made funding available for the next stage of work to develop the right solution to the problems at Dawlish. Of course, the other thing that will benefit the south-west is improved aviation links. Newquay airport, which is a bit further west than his constituency, is one of the regional airports that will benefit from that increased connectivity.

  • The Secretary of State wants 250,000 extra flights over one of the most densely populated parts of Britain—2 million people live in the area—but he has no concrete proposals for dealing with congestion, noise or air quality. How is he going to deal with diesel and other emissions? What about increased freight, which will go by road, not rail? Does he not know that the increases in public transport are already needed to meet local demand? Is he not just passing the buck to somebody else to solve these problems, and not for the first time?

  • No, I am not passing the buck to anyone else. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the plans for improved public transport connectivity around Heathrow, as I described, he will see that Crossrail, HS2, an improved Piccadilly line, the south-west rail access and the western rail access will entail the kind of transformation to access that Heathrow has never seen before. My belief is that, with tight commitments on the airport developers to ensure that they meet their promises, we can deliver this with lower-noise aircraft, a smart compensation package and benefits for the United Kingdom.

  • The economic case for HS2 is partly built on the fact that we would reduce the number of internal flights within the UK, yet reports suggest a dramatic increase in their number when Heathrow expands. Can my right hon. Friend clarify the position? What commitment is he making to expand regional airports so that they have international flights and people do not have to come to Heathrow?

  • On that latter point, if my hon. Friend takes a look at what some regional airports have achieved, he will see extraordinary amounts of international connectivity. I went to Bristol airport recently to open its expanded terminal building, which is going to serve more than 100 international destinations. Our regional airports are already a great success story, and this is meeting an additional need, not replacing what they do. The great benefit from HS2 is not only the connectivity it generates, but the capacity it releases. We have such congestion on the rest of our rail network. In his part of the world, HS2 alone will deliver thousands of extra commuter seats into Euston in the morning rush hour, in an area that is already heavily congested, by taking those express trains off the existing route. So the business case for HS2 is much broader.

  • I welcome today’s statement and the comments that have been made about long, tedious, meandering shopping malls. I know the Minister accepts Northern Ireland’s uniqueness, but 60% of those who fly from Northern Ireland go to Gatwick, Stansted and Luton. I heard what he has said about Gatwick, but can we make sure that we expand and look after all those airports, so that this suits everyone in Northern Ireland and the other regional airports?

  • Absolutely, that is important. Those airports are all a central part of our future strategy for aviation and for transport generally. The expansion of Heathrow will have direct benefits for Northern Ireland—for example, Heathrow is recommending a route to Belfast City. It is important that we maintain the best possible links from Northern Ireland to our principal hub airport and through it to those international destinations which are important to businesses in Northern Ireland.

  • One may wonder why a Member who represents the hills and valleys of mid-Wales should be speaking in this debate. It is simply because my constituents will benefit from the expansion of Heathrow. Therefore, may I ask my right hon. Friend to proceed as quickly as possible to development?

  • My hon. Friend makes an important point, as the impacts of this proposal will be felt up and down the country. It will be felt in small businesses producing equipment for the new airport. It will be felt in colleges that are training apprentices to work on the new airport. It will affect the regional economies of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. He is absolutely right in what he says and I am grateful to him for his support.

  • On jobs at Heathrow, would support for the right hon. Gentleman’s proposals not be strengthened if employers such as British Airways treated their workforce decently? He knows that the mixed fleet cabin crew dispute is still going on because this underpaid, mainly female, workforce are being treated appallingly by BA. Will he intervene and ask BA, “Why don’t you make an improved offer and settle this matter?”

  • The hon. Gentleman makes his case well, but he would not expect me to become involved in a dispute of this kind. I simply say that I very much hope that BA and the union will be able to reach a resolution that is mutually acceptable.

  • I welcome today’s decision, as I think it is the right one for the UK. However, the Secretary of State will be aware that on 23 January we had a black alert on air pollution in London, with 12 local authority areas signalling red alerts. That means there was toxic air, and this is at crisis point in London. If we are going to reassure the people of London so that they continue to support this decision, we need a much more comprehensive air pollution strategy, not the Government’s current plans, which the courts said are “woefully inadequate”.

  • We have, of course, taken careful note of the High Court decision and such a plan is in development at the moment, but we are doing things in the meantime. In the autumn statement, we released hundreds of millions of pounds of additional funding for low-emission vehicles, including low-emission buses, and more money for charging points. This is clearly something we have to deal with now. We have to find the right way to migrate the nature of the cars and other vehicles on our roads to a point where they are causing much less of a pollution problem than they do at the moment.

  • Very shortly, there will be a UK mainland airport from which passengers and their luggage will be able to fly directly into a UK international airport without any security checks on passengers or their luggage. The decision by Highlands and Islands Airports to remove security checks, particularly for Campbeltown into Glasgow, is an unnecessary relaxation of a system that has worked well. Were the Government aware of that, and are they happy to see passengers and their luggage flying into a major UK airport without undergoing the security checks that every other passenger and their luggage has to undergo?

  • I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing that to my attention. I was not aware of it but will look into it.

  • The Secretary of State may be aware that today the Scottish Government will pass their budget—an austerity budget that cuts £327 million from public services at the same time as slashing air passenger duty. Incidentally, the budget is supposed to go through with the support of the Green party. Will the Secretary of State tell me what assessment his Department has made of the legal requirement for air quality around Heathrow and other UK airports as a result of the slashing of air passenger duty in Scotland?

  • The hon. Gentleman identifies clearly the inconsistencies we all too often see in policies coming from both the Scottish National party and the Green party, and he makes his point articulately. On the emissions around Heathrow, as I said earlier, it is much more an issue of land transport—cars, buses, trucks and vans—than of aircraft. That is why we have to focus our efforts on dealing with the challenge on our roads rather than focusing on aviation. The issue will be dealt with and the pressure taken off Heathrow by our sorting out the issue on the roads.

  • As I explained in the debate on triggering article 50 yesterday, many in the aviation sector think that Brexit may lead to the sector shrinking, thus negating the need for an additional runway. Given the fact that air service agreements lie outside conventional trade agreements and the ambit of the World Trade Organisation, will the Minister confirm whether any talks have taken place with the Trump Administration on a US-UK open skies agreement?

  • I can confirm that no talks have yet taken place, but I am expecting to meet my US counterpart in around a month’s time. Discussions took place with the previous Administration and there is good will on both sides to make sure that there is no hiatus in transatlantic air traffic.

  • I welcome today’s statement, particularly the talk about connectivity with HS2, which will of course be greater if we get an HS2 hub at Crewe. Will the Secretary of State confirm that, once there are three runways at Heathrow, the proportion of slots available to domestic traffic will remain at least the same as it is now?

  • I am looking carefully at how best to do this, because I do not want a situation in which we retain a proportion of slots, but they are always at 11 o’clock at night. It might not be simply about slots; it might be about getting the right mechanism to make sure that there is the necessary capacity to ensure that connectivity. I probably will not say simply that it will be x slots; we will want to make sure that the package is right to ensure the fair treatment of regional airports.

  • The Secretary of State will know that 9,000 people have died unnecessarily in London because of poor air quality. Will he guarantee that, post-Brexit, the Government will not dump EU air-quality regulations? He did not give that guarantee in response to an earlier question from the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh). What will he do if the airport cannot be delivered within the legal air obligation limits—proceed anyway, change the air-quality objectives, or pull the plug on the runway?

  • It is very clear that the airport will not be able to secure its development consent order if it cannot demonstrate its ability to meet those targets. It is binding: it will have to achieve them. On the broader strategy, after we have left the European Union, the air quality standards in place in this country will be UK air quality standards, but it is not the Government’s intention to reduce air quality standards; it is our intention to deliver a strategy that cleans up our air, which we will do shortly.

  • Will the Secretary of State’s airspace policy consultation include new measures to protect the public from the danger of drones? Given the recent reports of airspace near misses, will he act now, before a tragedy occurs?

  • I can confirm to the hon. Lady that we are indeed consulting on the best regulatory framework for drones. I suspect that that will inevitably lead to some form of licensing for drones of a scale that could be a threat to the public and some limitations on where they can be used. We are listening to the views of the public, the drone development industry and others with a relevant interest to work out the best framework.

  • I, too, welcome the launch of the consultation. Will the Secretary of State commit to a vote on the national policy statement by the end of this year? I also welcome the inclusion in the statement of the fact that Northern Ireland will enjoy the benefits of Heathrow expansion. In the statement, he refers to six more domestic routes across the UK. Will he ensure that Northern Ireland is one of those?

  • It is certainly my hope and aim that we can have that vote by the end of the year, because I want to get on with this as quickly as possible. Belfast City is one of the airports identified by Heathrow as being a likely extra route, and certainly it is right that Northern Ireland should have a proper slice of this cake when it is there.