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House of Lords Hansard
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15 May 2019
Volume 797

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to review the expansion of Heathrow airport.

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My Lords, the Airports National Policy Statement relating to Heathrow is designated in accordance with the Planning Act 2008. The Government will consider carefully whether to review the ANPS, applying statutory criteria set out in Section 6(3) and (4) of the Act. The Department for Transport has established a process to ensure legally robust consideration of matters relating to the review.

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The Airports Commission suggested that Heathrow should go ahead, but it was using quite old data from the Committee on Climate Change, as well as overly optimistic projections for new technology. In view of the new date that the Committee on Climate Change has given us of 2050, and because of the climate emergency which has been declared at the other end of the building, surely it is time to rethink Heathrow and to actually reduce airport capacity in a steady way.

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My Lords, the Government take their environmental commitments very seriously indeed. The Airports National Policy Statement sets out several strict environmental red lines that must be delivered for a third runway to gain development consent. They include no expansion if the applicant cannot demonstrate that the scheme would not materially impact the UK’s ability to meet its climate change obligations both now and in the future.

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My Lords, the proposed expansion of Heathrow is likely to have a significant impact on families and individuals. Can my noble friend reassure me that a fair, adequate and equable compensation scheme will be in place to deal with the issues that these people are likely to face?

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I hope that I can reassure my noble friend. Heathrow is working closely with the communities around the site. I am pleased to say that the compensation being proposed is 10 times that which was proposed 10 years ago. It will amount to £2.6 billion-worth of compensation, which will also cover noise insulation and public facilities. I should also remind all noble Lords that this is being done at no cost to the taxpayer; the compensation will be funded by Heathrow.

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My Lords, is it not the case that since the Earth Summit in 1992 we have all been committed to proportionate measures to deal with the rise in sea and air temperatures? To go from that to shutting down airport capacity, which I think is the policy of the Green Party, would simply reduce Britain’s market share in airlines—and in some other industries by the same criterion—and allow other countries to have a bigger market share. We have to keep all these factors in some sort of proportion.

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The noble Lord is completely right. The UK has the third-largest aviation sector in the world; it is very successful indeed. The way in which we will achieve decarbonisation of the aviation sector is twofold: first, by working with all other countries around the world to reach international agreements and, secondly, by making sure that it is successful and able to put money back into innovation so that we can decarbonise aircraft and look for other sustainable fuels.

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My Lords, the percentage of people travelling to Heathrow by public transport has fallen in the last year or so, with more people using taxi services. However, the Government’s plans for Heathrow require an ambitious increase in the use of public transport—one of the red lines that the Minister referred to. That is necessary if the planned reduction in carbon emissions is to be achieved. How do the Government intend to ensure that far more passengers and employees take public transport to Heathrow?

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The noble Baroness is right: surface access to Heathrow is absolutely critical as we look to expand it in future. One of the reasons Heathrow was chosen was that it is already very well connected. There will be improvements to the Piccadilly line, as well as HS2 and Western Rail access coming from the west. I will see Heathrow on Friday and will take it up then.

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My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one has to be a supreme optimist by nature to believe that Heathrow’s third runway will be available by 2025? It might therefore be prudent to invest more in the railways serving London’s other airports so that journeys there can become shorter rather than longer, as is happening at the moment.

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I am not aware of any proposal for the runway to be ready by 2025. From our perspective, we are looking at it being ready by 2030. However, my noble friend will be pleased to know that we are already investing in railways to make sure that connectivity to all our airports is improved. We have so many; they do a fantastic job and will benefit from the expansion of Heathrow—we look forward to it.

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My Lords, I have a registered interest. Does the Minister agree that investing in alternative fuel sources for flights in the future would be more beneficial than people who use airlines regularly preaching to other people that they should stop using them to go on holiday or for commercial purposes—particularly when they have the comfort of flying first class?

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I will comment on sustainable fuels, which is probably wise in the circumstances. They are very important; so many people within the aviation sector are making great strides and are doing it as private companies. They are not being forced, but are doing it because they know that it is the right thing to do. BA is partnering with Velocys to produce sustainable aviation fuel from municipal solid waste; the plant will be in Scunthorpe. Virgin is partnering with LanzaTech also to produce sustainable aviation fuel; they have demonstration plants already in the US, Belgium and China.