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Heathrow Airport: Third Runway

Volume 666: debated on Thursday 24 October 2019

15. What recent assessment he has made of the financial viability of the proposed Heathrow third runway. (900122)

My Department and the Civil Aviation Authority have conducted assurance work on the financing and affordability of expansion proposals. This has concluded that, so far as can be assessed at this stage and assuming current market conditions, Heathrow is in principle able to privately finance expansion, but we will continue to monitor this as plans mature.

Given the compounding costs and constraints on a third runway at Heathrow, it seems unlikely that it will ever be built. What Heathrow has succeeded in doing is blocking its more competitive rivals from building extra capacity. In that light, when will the Government review their decision?

The airports national policy includes a requirement that any developers should demonstrate that their scheme is cost-efficient and sustainable, and that it seeks to minimise costs over its lifetime. It is a responsibility of scheme developers to follow the process set out in the Planning Act 2008 and to submit proposals to the Planning Inspectorate. We will consider the merits of potential schemes before referring them to the decision-making Minister with the recommendation.

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the right hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) says it is “bonkers”, the Transport Secretary doubts that it stacks up financially and yesterday the Prime Minister told me that he has “lively doubts” about it. When will the Government stop playing with the lives of millions of people in the west of London and cancel this disastrous project?

The prudent thing for the relevant Minister to do is stick within the airports national policy, which was endorsed by this House with a large majority, and the decision by the House to back a third runway at Heathrow, which was also endorsed by an overwhelming majority.

Does the Minister at least agree that it is important to give people and local communities the information they need to understand the decision that has been taken? Notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s words in Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, the Department is still pressing ahead with this very unpopular transport project and neither reviewing, nor reversing it.

In an attempt to seek some degree of agreement with the right hon. Lady, since I came into this role I have made a point of meeting community groups across the south-east, as well as the airports, to understand their concerns and how we can try to resolve some of the trust deficit that clearly exists between the two sides.

Given the direct air connectivity between Northern Ireland and Heathrow, and indeed the Greater London airports, will the Minister ensure that he discusses with the Treasury the ongoing issue of air passenger duty, where our airports are at a significant disadvantage to those in the Irish Republic?

I am always cautious at the Dispatch Box not to trespass on the territory of APD, which is a matter for the Treasury, but I am sure the hon. Gentleman would welcome the renewal of the public service obligation to service the City of Derry airport.